Monday 26 May 2014


For the first time in my life I’m questioning whether I love football more than Chelsea FC. Of course I do appreciate how ridiculous that sounds; that such a question has no place in the life of a healthy and happy grown-up, but hey, that’s testicles for you.

The most exciting season in the history of the Premiership was heading to a conclusion. Chelsea were playing away at the footballing cathedral that is Anfield. Liverpool as a city was enveloped in emotional hysteria for the 96 dead at Hillsborough, fired up by a team flying high, playing beautiful flowing football towards the phenomenal goal-scoring partnership of Daniel Sturridge and arguably the finest striker on the planet, Luis Suarez.

The Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, is a brilliant tactician. Scrupulously, he plans and prepares like no other in the game. Sadly, his forte is ‘not losing’. From the first minute of that match against Liverpool it was clear that Chelsea’s players had been instructed to waste time.

Yes, they defended with great discipline, but that’s how Chelsea beat both European giants Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Yes, they beat Liverpool, 0-2 at Anfield, in a famous victory.

But there it is, in plain words. I just typed ‘they’ in reference to Chelsea. A subconscious choice which not very long ago would have been ‘we’.

Time wasting from the start? Chelsea?

More than likely you’re simply delighted to have your TV schedules back. Have you spent a miserable six months flipping the channel-up button on your remote, muttering out loud to yourself “Football, football, bloody football! Why don’t they show any dramas? What about a good comedy? Is that too much to ask?”

No, my grumpy friend, it is not. To enjoy all of the above, simply abandon your channel surfing and watch the football instead. The Beautiful Game can satisfy those needs and add a touch of poetry too.

If only you better understood what you just missed. This season was phenomenal.
Cue twinkly-dinkly harpy music and wavy TV screen. Husky male voice:

“Previously on The Premiership...”

In a land not very far away at all, the Very Ancient King from the Very Far North, victor of countless battles leading the United Clan of the Not Really North stood down from his throne. 

To replace him he called upon the blue-eyed Younger King of the Blue Not Really North But By The Sea Clan. Like the purple-nosed Very Ancient King, this young pretender was also from the Very Far North.

Unfortunately for the United Clan of the Not Really North, that was where the comparisons ended. A new time was born: a time for all who had suffered under the rule of the Very Ancient King to rise up, to fight back ... to make amends ...

Thrones were dangerous seats to sit upon this season. Only 11 of the 20 managers that started the Premiership survived in their jobs. Chelsea started this trend 10 years ago, when money arrived in the shape of oligarch owner Roman Abramovich, alongside power in the handsome charismatic style of Jose Mourinho. 

The capricious entity that had previously been Chelsea FC, a vagabond collection of footballing artists and piss artists who played brilliantly one day and just couldn’t be bothered the next, turned into a corporate entity.

All that corporate entities require is results. Yes, it was great to win back to back League titles - brilliant! - but now I sit and cringe as a Chelsea fan.

Yet my love for football grows. Away from all the hyperbole of insane wages and grown men falling over far too easily, I cannot remember a season that I have enjoyed as much as this one. The fact that Chelsea won nothing at all doesn’t bother me in the least. That might sound strange. To be honest, I’m a bit confused myself.

My bonds with Chelsea were attached to a series of shared experiences with my father, setting them firmly in reinforced emotional concrete. I will live and die a Chelsea fan, even though my loyalty has been sorely tested this year. Happily, as they say in footballing parlance, “Hat ve hend ov da day, Brian, football was da winna dis year!”

Alongside Liverpool, Manchester City delivered exquisite football, both teams scoring over 100 goals in the 38 games, and I am delighted that City won the league: they were the best team. Liverpool absolutely deserved to come second, and along with these two great footballing sides there was so much to love this year.

There was the miracle of Sunderland, where like a latterday Moses, Gus Poyet took over a dejected dressing room from demented manager Paolo di Canio and delivered the Black Cats from the bottom of the table to the Promised Land of Safety.

The top of the table changed 25 times. Every single match mattered throughout, yet the very best thing about the Premiership is that even when it doesn’t matter, teams play their hearts out. No other league in the world offers the passion shown by lowly Crystal Palace, also playing Liverpool, on a night now known as ‘Crystanbul’.

0-3 down to the Champions-elect, the home crowd roared in a frenzy of support and Palace manager Tony Pulis injected pure passion into players who had nothing to play for but pride. 
Lo, the score became 3-3. Every lover of football felt proud.

So sport haters, football offers you Game of Thrones drama, political thrillers, crime, sex and soaps, but my favourite moment of the season was pure comedy.

Sitting on a bar stool in Sweeney’s Village Inn, Killala, I wore a smile the size of the equator as Chelsea beat the Gooners (Arsenal) 6-0.

Such is the cult of personality prevalent in the Premiership, that with the Arsenal manager’s job contract under discussion, BT Sport billed the game not ‘Chelsea v Arsenal’ but:

Mourinho v Wenger !”

As the goals piled up, the Chelsea fans started to sing:
“Arsene Wenger ... we want you to stay!”

©Charlie Adley

Monday 19 May 2014



Don’t want to put you off your cuppa by describing in any detail my deliberations and deliveries on the loo, so suffice to say I like a good selection of reading material in there.

One book above all others is a permanent fixture: Mark Forsyth’s Etymologicon is a toilet treat. The brilliant and hilarious Inky Fool blogger takes a circular journey around the English language, allowing the passing visitor (pun intended) to dip in and out of his book and forever be at least interested; sometimes amazed.

Then there’s the weekend tabloid TV magazines and The Guardian’s ‘Guide’, with which I make a half-hearted attempt to stay in touch with popular culture. Throughout the course of the week I read about all the films, plays and exhibitions that I’m missing, give a glance to the TV soaps to see if anything vaguely interesting is happening in them, so that I can better make small talk with the stranger at the bus stop.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking down my nose at the soaps. Decades ago I used to be addicted to Corrie and Eastenders, and Brookside before that. Who couldn’t love Jimmy Corkhill?

Then, when I lived in a quiet farmhouse in north Mayo, I stopped watching all of them, completely. There I was, surrounded by ancient trees, with a heron on the rock by the river, and here were all these vile people shouting at each other on my TV screen. Why would I want to listen to them?

When the stress levels are high or the IBS is kicking in, I can require fairly lengthy visits to the loo library. For such sessions there is more meaningful reading matter available. Arthur Schopenhauer’s ‘The Horrors and Absurdities of Religion’ might not sound like it’s a laugh a minute book, but the pure authority of the 19th century philosopher’s voice rarely fails to make me giggle.

Unshackled as he is by the political correctness of our 21st century liberal agenda, he feels neither shame nor guilt in dismissing everyone’s religious faith. Where any writer would today have to declare their respect for the rights of others to believe in what they wish, brazen as a battering ram Schopenhauer suggests on the very first page:

“I can’t see why, because other people are simple-minded, I should respect a pack of lies. What I respect is truth, therefore I can’t respect what opposes truth.”

It’s immaterial whether I agree with him or not. I simply envy his arrogance.

Sometimes a trip to the loo library requires a little light reading, so equally important yet just a smidgeon less intellectually demanding than philosophy, I might pick up a tiny tome called:

‘I Could Chew On This’ and other poems by dogs.’

 Writer Francesco Marciuliano has somehow managed to persuade our furry four-legged friends to dabble in poetry, with remarkably successful results. My personal favourite is entitled ‘Unleashed’ which goes like this:

‘I’m free, I’m free, I’m free, I’m free, I’m free, I’m free, I’m free. I’m lost.’

Always, without fail there will be a couple of ancient National Geographic magazines available, for those middle-of-the-night missions when reading is out of the question. 

Beautiful vistas of soaring mountain peaks; fascinating close-ups of microscopic viruses and a good long look down the gaping jaws of a Great White Shark, flush, wash hands, return to bed.

Works a treat.

Occasionally there's a guest appearance made in the loo library by one of those brochures that try to sell you things you never knew you wanted. For some reason I find them fascinating, even though I have not the slightest inclination to buy bed-sheet suspenders, or a gadget that’ll warm the inside of my car by draining its battery. I don’t need 8 chopping boards in different colours and cannot imagine why anyone might, but by virtue of their presence in the little catalogue, many people will feel the need to own them

Lurking on the windowsill behind the reading area are various guide books to nerdy subjects such as stars and planets, rocky seashores and weather, as well as more mainstream topics like scandal and food. As with any good library, there must be sufficient choice so that there’s always something to match my mood.

Sometimes however there comes an interloper. A few weeks ago there was inserted in The Guardian newspaper what they described as a free supplement called “Appetite for Life”. It was packed with hot tips about how to beat stress and live a long, joyful and healthy life.

Filled as it was with lots of lists, tiny paragraphs under bold headings and fun photos, it looked interesting enough to qualify for a place in the loo library. However it turned out to be nothing more than a corporate wolf in altruistic clothing.

Purporting to care for our collective health, it advised that:

“Doing a simple thing like reading a book actually reduces stress levels by 68%, beating listening to music, having a cup of tea and taking a walk.”

Fascinating. Who'd have thought it? Then my eye wandered a mere two inches to the right, where another item declared:

“You've heard it before, but we’ll say it again. Exercise is the ultimate stress-busting endorphin-releasing prescription, .”

Oh for goodness sake. You’re pretending to help us, yet offering conflicting advice on the same page. Who put this load of tosh together?

Further careful scanning revealed that the entire supplement was in fact an extended advertisement for Shredded Wheat. They didn’t want me to live longer. They just wanted to flog me their bloomin’  breakfast cereal.

Such devious double-standardry has no place in my loo library. As the Snapper suggested, the only time we might have a use for that kind of rubbish is if we ran out of toilet paper.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 12 May 2014


 Kidney stones - ouch!

My friend Soldier Boy is in hospital. Five days ago he woke up with the worst pain he’d ever endured and headed off to A &E, where he was admitted with a suspected kidney stone.

After being told to fast, so that they could operate on him, he slept the first night on a trolley in A&E’s corridor (correction: he didn’t sleep, because he was on a trolley in A&E’s corridor!) since which he’s been on a ward, fasting every day, hoping that the operation might happen.

At 9pm each day the doctor has come around and told him that the operation wouldn’t be happening that day, so he doesn’t need to fast any more, but he has to fast from midnight as they might operate on him the next day.

Soldier Boy then has 3 hours to find something to eat, after the hospital kitchen is closed.

For the first few days he was quite understandably in a rage, but now he seems accepting of the process.

“I’m in a washing machine, Charlie. I have to wait for the end of the cycle.”

I have been a very poor visitor, my platitudes feeding his rage, his rage making me wish I wasn’t there.

At the age of 17 I spent 6 weeks on an orthopaedic ward, after snapping both my femur and tibia in two. Hospital days start early, then seem to drag on forever. You dream of the calm and quiet of the night but, when darkness finally falls, one of the patients on your ward throws a crazy fit and robs your sleep, until you’re longing for the daylight again.

For a while I was that crazy guy. They put me on 4-hourly morphine injections which had me screaming shouting crying out in opiate-fuelled delirium. I felt as if I was clinging to the ceiling, looking down on the ward.

After a few days one of the lads further down the ward told me that there was a plot to kill me. Driven demented by my explosive vocals, the other patients had decided that if I didn't shut up at night, there’d be one morning when I might not wake up.

Incentivised somewhat by that vital little sliver of info, I refused to take any more painkillers. I was going be in pain for months anyway, so I might as well get used to it.

What seemed to a teenager like a singularly sensible and conveniently macho decision has taken its toll on my life, because during the ensuing weeks, I built a tolerance to pain that has ill-served me.

Pain is there for a reason. It’s your brain’s way of telling you that there’s something wrong with your body. Through a combination of hospital horrors, English Public School rigours and not wanting to look a wuss, I’ve serially ignored pain over the years, only seeking treatment when what was once a mere injury has developed into a permanent condition.

Sorry if I’m getting all medical on you. It’s part of my culture. Jewish people are as obsessed with illness as the Irish are with death. In the same way that Irish conversation is peppered by the passings of people you barely knew, Jewish chit-chat is riddled with illness.

It’s not just a matter of establishing who is suffering from what. Oh no, there’s a world more to it than that. Once you’ve revealed your illness, you have to be ready to field a barrage of questions:

Is it chronic? Is it terminal? Who’s your doctor? Did you get a second opinion? Who’s your surgeon going to be? Do you know her success rate? Have you checked out other surgeons who might have better results? What drugs have they got you on? What dosage? Are you feeling side-effects? How long will you be in for? Right, I’ll be there first thing tomorrow morning.

When one of my family is in hospital we don’t so much visit as move in and set up home. During my much-missed dad’s long decline, we spent months as a family sitting all day in hospital rooms. We’d swap shifts, eat endless Marks and Sparks sandwiches and prepare the patient for the specialist’s weekly visit.

"Don’t just tell him you’re fine, Dad. He needs to know."

To pass the time I used to take breaks from my father’s room, walking in circles around the corridors, where I discovered that it wasn’t only us who were obsessed with health, medical matters and moving into the hospital as a family.

Nearly all the BUPA rooms were taken by either Jews or Arabs. The sight gave me comfort, even amidst those desperate months of sadness. It made perfect sense. Of course, the trouble stems not from our differences but our similarities: our attitudes, behaviours and yes, the obsessions we recognise in them yet dislike in ourselves. If the stories are to believed, we’re all family. Both Judaism and Islam came from Abraham.

I’m bringing Soldier Boy a copy of Ken Bruen’s ‘Purgatory’ to read. A big fan of the Jack Taylor series, I love the way Galway City is a co-starring character in each book. 

Poor Soldier Boy is stuck in his own purgatory, waiting day after day to be operated on.

Oops! I’ve missed a call. There’s a voicemail from my doctor.

My blood tests are back. Can I please call the surgery?
Now it’s too late to call. The surgery’s closed.

Well, look who’s in his own little Jewish purgatory now. I’m sure it’s nothing. A vitamin deficiency; a cholesterol blip; maybe I’m anaemic again.

But my, those test results came back within a few hours. 
The doctor told me they wouldn’t be back for days.
What’s the rush about?

I’m not being a hypochondriac. I'm just fulfilling my cultural imperative!

©Charlie Adley

Monday 5 May 2014


“Your itinerary is all sorted out!”

Across the room, sitting on my mother’s sofa, my brother flinched.

“Oh no please don’t-”
“No no don’t be silly. I was joking and-”
“It’s just that we don’t want to-”
“I know. I know. Don’t worry.”

Sentences are rarely finished in the Jewish living rooms of north west London. My brother once synthesised our family dynamic perfectly by interjecting

“Stop talking while I’m interrupting.”

In the same way that Indigenous Australians breathe circularly to play their didjeridoos, we circularly speak to and listen to several people at once. To gentle C of E types such as my beloved Snapper, our cacophony seems at first overwhelming. However, once I explained that she’d remain forever silent, if waiting for a pause in conversation, she leaped in and never looked back.

I had been teasing my brother about his trip to Ireland. He and his wife like to take extended weekend breaks, rather than long chunks of holiday. They want to come and see us, visit our home, as well as enjoying the splendours of the West of Ireland together.

We’re very excited to see them, as due to ill health and living in what appears to Londoners a pretty inconvenient spot, we haven’t yet been able to show our home to any members of either family. So yes, you’ll be very welcome and beyond that, I hope you both have a wonderful holiday.

Not one bit of me wants to risk my bother’s ire by setting an agenda, but my love for this life and area of land on Ireland’s Atlantic coast demands to be shared. So don’t see this as an itinerary, brother. Just some suggestions; mere nebulous puffs of ideas that might anyway be shattered in sheets of savage sideways rain, or cloud that creeps to touch the ground, rendering nearby mountains invisible.

You’re arriving at your hotel in Salthill on Friday, so I’ll leave a copy of this for you at reception. Weather permitting, walk into town along the Prom, looking across Galway Bay to those limestone hills of Clare. I’m really glad you’re going there. You and I have already shared times in Connemara, so its good that you’ll both see West Clare for the first time together.

It is a magical place. When I first started wooing the Snapper we spent a lot of time getting lost in the Burren. The hills look huge, but these slopes are built on limestone terracing rather than the mountainous bog of their Connemara cousins. You can walk up them at a pleasant rambling pace, feel achievement at the top and enjoy views of the Arran Islands and Galway Bay, along with the undulating grandeur of the Burren itself.

At this time of year those hills might be crawling with botanists. Seeds of rare and beautiful plants are borne on the North Atlantic Drift. They lodge themselves in the millions of cracks and eaves in the limestone, erupting into life around now, to be recorded and observed by those who feel the need to write such information down.

‘Gentle’ is a word I use often when talking of West Clare. The slopes; the people; the smell of the air. I believe that to some extent local people reflect their landscapes. No doubt the folk of both Yorkshire and Connemara are hewn from granite, while the locals in Clare are  more open, as is the rock beneath them.

Follow the Prom down to South Park, and walk up Ireland’s shortest river, the Corrib. It might be tiny, but there are 46 kilometres of Lough Corrib (the lake we live near) powering it, so its roar rarely fails to impress.

As you look across the river to the city, stop for a while to admire the Galway Hookers moored in the Claddagh basin. My friends the Claddagh Boatmen have done a splendid job of resurrecting these historically and culturally vital boats. At sunset, a Galway Hooker’s rust sail set against the amber shades of the evening Burren is a wondrous sight.

You’re pretty familiar with Galway City by now, but remember not to come into town too early in the morning, as the narrow cobbled streets will be filled with trucks unloading. Even though the general pace of life has speeded up since I first moved here, Galway is still a relatively late starter. By 10:30 it’s splashing water on its face, getting ready to look good for you.

You could take a wander into the Galway City museum, just across the river from the Claddagh, and then head back through Spanish Arch into Quay Street. The Saturday market will be bustling by then, so turn left by Tigh Neactains, (the blue and yellow pub on the corner of Quay Street that you and I have been to before) and head towards Market Square.

Some love the market; others find it a thronging crush. To Londoners such as yourselves, it’ll probably feel fun: its characters, produce, baking smells and the sound of laughter always worth investigating.

After that, well, it’s up to you. You are free to roam, as they say in the brochures! I’ll bring you out here late Saturday afternoon, where you will I hope feel the calm and peace that I'm enjoying today.

On Sunday, as you drive to Lisdoonvarna, stop at the observation point lay-by half way up Corkscrew Hill, and on your explorations, take a visit to Lahinch, where a beautiful beach abuts a typical West Clare town.

Mind you, it’s May Bank Holiday, isn’t it! Ah well, however full the place may be, it’ll still seem relatively empty to you. Your home town houses almost twice the population of this entire country!

Tonight, depending on the weather, I’ll meet you either inside or outside Neactains around 6pm, where the Snapper will also join us. Whatever you do, thanks for coming to see us! Have a fun holiday and despite all the above suggestions, feel free to be free!

1000 words
©Charlie Adley