Monday 24 February 2014

GALWAY CITY HAS A NEW SUPERHERO: DONKEY-TICKLE-GIRL!

 Kitty in post ear-tickle bliss!

What is it about the moment when she goes? That feeling in my chest as I watch her car drive down the bohreen, waving to me as she sets out to visit her family and friends back in England.

Part of me has been looking forward to the time I’ll spend here alone, and doubtless a substantially larger part of her is pleased to get way from me for a while too.

So there I am on the front step, waving goodbye, with a wistful ripple of beautiful melancholy wafting through my chest. In the words of the great Labi Siffre, ‘It must be love!’

In that instant I wish I’d given her more of a hug, wonder why I’d said that to her, or not more readily forgiven her for saying blah blah blah. I create artificial anxieties about how her leaving might have been more pleasurable for her, more easy, more loving.

As husband and wife, you live together, share your stresses and create new ones, have your ups and downs and live out languorous lists of clich├ęs such as this.

Rarely do we think of our partners as heroic, because each day we experience all of their wonderfully human fallibilities. Sadly it’s often only when we’re apart that we realise our partners are heroes.

We all think we’re heroes at one time or another. However, in the same way that it’s impossible to be ‘cool’ if you think you are, real heroes tend to be people who do not announce their heroism.

Your scribbler has been known to declare that he is a hero. When feeling fragile and insignificant I’ll announce that I was a hero today, and watch the Snapper try desperately to form an impressed look upon her face, as I reveal that single-handedly I’d finished the laundry, or mended a picture frame, turned the compost or cleared a drain. Whatever it was that I’d done, heroism had no place in it.

So this morning, as I watched the Snapper’s car disappear into the distance, I remembered a stormy night over the Christmas period.

It could have been the first of these many mighty storms that have been assaulting us here on the Atlantic edge of Europe. The gusts were shaking the foundations of the house, and the Snapper returned after taking our collie-lab Lady around the garden for her late night peeper (the dog, not... oh you know!)

Excited and pumping energy, she explained how she’d found both wheelie bins blown over, and the full gas cylinder rolled across the lawn. Somehow, with dog on lead in tow, in storm force winds, she’d picked up all the loose papers, cartons, goodness knows what nonsense, returned it all to the bins, which she then secured with the gas cylinder on the leeward side of the house.

I’d been sitting watching TV, picking my toenails.

I told her she was an absolute hero, and wondered how on earth she’d been able to make all those mini-journeys to and fro, picking up the trash, with an excited 3 year-old dog on a lead, eager to explore the storm.

“No problem babe!” she said, and then proceeded to relate how earlier that day, she’d been a hero.

Thankfully her story was the exception that proved the aforementioned rule, as she truly had been heroic.

On her lunch break, she walked up to Eglington Street, where the choir from St. Patrick’s School were singing carols, raising money for the Galway Hospice, if I remember correctly.
To add some festive charm to the occasion, there was a donkey upon which sat a lass playing the part of Mary, and the whole scene filled the Snapper with a warm glow of Christmas wonder. In fact it made her feel quite emotional, the warmth of the Galway moment bringing back happy memories.

Meanwhile, a woman with a hessian shopping bag had moved close to the donkey, who was showing a fondness for hessian, in much the same way that donkeys show a fondness for everything. With part of her bag now in the donkey’s mouth, the woman pulled back, and a comical tug-of-war ensued, much to the delight of the Virgin Mary, who looked down on the tussle, giggling beautifully.

The Snapper loves horses and donkeys and in turn, they adore her. Over the years her experience with horses has helped me to become more relaxed around them. Indeed, when I lived near Killala, Co. Mayo, Kitty the donkey was not only my next door neighbour, but one of my best friends.

Behave.

The Snapper knew that as long as the woman pulled on her hessian bag, the donkey would pull back all the more emphatically. So she wandered over and started to tickle the donkey in the ear.

There’s a certain art to donkey ear-tickling which I confess, I’ve never mastered. Donkey ears are not entirely void of substances, and sometimes a waxy residue which isn’t very pleasant can end up on one’s fingers. Maybe I just don’t love donkeys enough, because Kitty never used to enjoy an ear-tickle from me, but when the Snapper does it, as she now demonstrated on that Galway street, the donkey goes into a tripped-out state of ecstasy. 

The animal’s eyes glaze over ... its jaw slackens ... its mouth drops open ... and before you can say “Madam, you may shop on!”

the donkey’s owner had taken advantage of the Snapper’s help, timed his pull perfectly and released the bag.

As the Virgin Mary clapped and the woman smiled, the Snapper walked into the distance, a female version of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Man With No Name.’
Doubtless, people turned and asked

“Who was that donkey-tickling stranger? She’s a hero!”

She’s my hero.

Gotham City had Batman. Now, thanks to recalling this memory, I can pass the time until she returns playing with the idea of Galway’s new superhero: Donkey-Tickle-Girl!

©Charlie Adley
13.02.14

Monday 17 February 2014

USUALLY I’M THE LAST ONE TO ACCEPT I’M DEPRESSED!



The most startling aspect of my depression is my ability to deny it. When I’m not depressed, which thankfully is the vast majority of the time, I joke about how invariably the first symptom of my depression is my denial of it.
 

I work hard at my own personal development. I know I can be a prize prick, a raging bull and at times of writing fiction, a serial solipsist. If there are bad patterns in my life, I try to identify them, break them up and create better ones.
 

So when I realised that the majority of heinous social crimes I’d committed in the past could be filed under ‘Dumping my stress on an innocent friend’, I worked hard to change. If my family is my life blood, my friends (despite being scattered all over the world) are my home. I cannot afford to piss them off, so I worked on it and changed my behaviour. Now, instead of lashing out at people, I withdraw, try to let my heated emotions cool down, so that I can understand whether anyone is in fact guilty of anything.
 

I’m constantly trying to become all self-aware of myself and my mind, a little bit of CBT, a dash of mindfulness, a pinch of meditation and a whole dollop of peaceful space cadet staring out the window at the clouds. I’m on the case.
 

Unfortunately though, the ‘case’ in this case is the case of a man with temporary mental difficulties, (which, dear colyoomistas, you are at present experiencing vicariously, as you try to reap threads of sense from my scattered mental process) and even though I know well my habit of denying depression, when it comes along, it’s just so bloody inconvenient, I go into denial about it all over again.
 

This one was quite easy to deny, because life was offering a mosaic of scenarios which individually would make anyone feel a little blue and collectively prove too much. Hence my denial. Depression is a very rude guest. It moves in just when it wants to, with no consideration for the timing of its arrival.
 

In the past I would be floored, alienated, lost altogether to depression. In 1993 I was walking up Lenaboy Avenue when I doubled over, as if hit in the belly by Mike Tyson. To this day I have no idea what kind of physical chemical imbalance could cause that reaction, but the moment I straightened up, I had my Black Dog walking by my side. 
 

Whether it’s just the passing of time, the result of eating bananas or fish oil, my depressions of the last decade have been far less debilitating. Although in many ways this is a good thing, in several others it has proved far more of a challenge than the older darker immobilising bouts.
 

As a self-employed writer/teacher/editor, if I don’t go out there, create the business, do the job and then get paid, life becomes hard. If I caught the flu, I’d accept being laid up in bed, nursing my fever, willing to let my body do what it must. Yet sometimes those same symptoms come one at a time, One day I’ll have a cough, another a sore throat, the next I’ll be a snot machine and the next I’ll ache all over. During those periods it’s easy to fool myself that I’m fit enough to go out and work. 
More, I’ll order myself to keep going, because I have to work and fortunately, I love every aspect of my work.
 

However, to do my work well I have to have all my faculties up and running. So when depression presents itself to me like those scattered cold symptoms, it’s fairly easy to ignore each individual one.
I simply don’t have the time for it, so I pretend it’s not happening. Inside my head, it sounds a little like this:
 

Ahh, has lickle Booboo got tears lurking behind his eyes? 
Tough poopers Batman! You’ve a meeting to go to!
 

Spiralling helixes of fearful thought wake me at 4am, as they battle for Prime Time viewing in my brainbox with the pain in my foot. 
Pah, get over yourself Adley! It’ll all feel better at sunrise.
 

Never mind the endless pummelling of Atlantic storms, those winds and the sideways rain, hail and sleet. Who wouldn’t be feeling beaten up?
Of course I’m not depressed. It’s just that time of year. 

Keep going you fool, keep going. You have a life to support, three mouths to feed (only 2 human!) but oh. 
Oh I feel so tired. 
Dizzy on the feet tired.
What of that ache in the pit of my soul that wonders the point of it all?
Ah, it’d be the same for anyone going through this winter, wouldn’t it?
 

Finally this ridiculous period of denial comes to an end. I’m sitting in my armchair. The dog is walked and fast asleep on the hearth rug, in front of a blazing fire. There is live Premiership football showing on my TV. The wind and rain are lashing outside, but the room is cosy and lovely. In a few hours my delightful wife will return from work, the dog will go mental with joy ... and there’s whiskey in the jar-o.
 

Nobody could paint a finer picture of my dreams, yet I am lost, wondering how on earth I’m going to get through the day.
 

In that instant the denial is gone. How could I be so stubbornly unaware? Why, once again, has it taken weeks to admit I'm depressed?
 

My head screams in response:
‘Because it’s such a bloody inconvenient time!’
 

Yet there is no good time for a bad thing. 
When I first wrote about depression in this colyoom in 1993, the outpouring of desperate response revealed how deep was this country's ignorance of mental health.
 

Thankfully, the nation’s awareness of depression has since vastly improved.
Now I just need to work on taking responsibility for my own mental health.


©Charlie Adley
17.02.14

Monday 10 February 2014

WITH A FRIEND LIKE ‘THE BODY’, LIFE IS A LOT MORE FUN!


It was a moment of pure madness. I’d almost managed to pull myself back, just before I made a complete arse of myself, but sadly it was too late. Ever on the ball, The Snapper had sussed out exactly what I’d been about to do.

We were sitting in the back of a taxi, driven by my excellent friend The Body. He was dropping us outside Aniar on Dominick Street, where I was taking my beloved for our non-Valentine’s Day Valentine’s Dinner. Being a natural romantic, I can’t stand Valentine’s Day, because nothing kills romance as fast as falsity and force.


So each year it’s my pleasure take her out for dinner on a night that’s not Valentine’s, and this year she said she’d like to return to Galway’s Michelin star success story. Fortunately, the small change coin jar in my bedroom was full to the brim, so I emptied it, counted it and called to book a table. 

There was some kind of pleasing poetry to the process: Michelin star on a coin jar.
 

Just before stepping out of The Body’s taxi, I’d made an impulsive forward movement and then hurriedly pulled back.
From the tips of my toes to the top of my curly hair, I’d shocked myself.
 

“Oh my god! What was that about?” I exclaimed.
Ever helpful just when I don’t want her to be, The Snapper announced
“You were going to kiss him!”
“Ohmygoodgord! Yes, yes I was! What I was thinking? Must’ve been miles away, but I don’t even know where that was! Ah sure, I’ll kiss him anyway! Come here, ya big lump of manhood!”
 

Leaning forward I tangled and mangled myself around my mate as he laughed and shook me off.
Nothing more was said, the matter consigned to the crammed cellar wherein are stored Charlie’s Immaterial Moments of Madness.
 

To be honest, I don’t think I really and truly wanted to kiss him. Some severed synapses were dwelling in another place and time, but where, when and with whom I have no idea. The thing is, though, that if any man in Ireland deserves a kiss from me, it’s probably The Body.
 

Throughout my life I've been exceptionally fortunate to be surrounded by the best of friends, and thankfully when I moved to Ireland back in 1992, that luck continued. A couple of weeks after arriving in Galway City, I was approached by Blitz one night in the Jug o’Punch, a pub beside Monroe’s, long ago destroyed by fire. We hit it off straight away, talking laughing drinking and smoking, then dancing at Setanta’s, as you did back then.
 

At that time Blitz was sharing a flat with The Body, while Whispering Blue, who had just returned from Berlin, was sleeping on their sofa.
 

I was overjoyed to meet these three local lads. Nearly everyone I’d encountered in Galway up to then had been English, either Crustified or New Agey, and while I bore no ill will to either, I hadn’t moved to Ireland to hang out with white Rastas from Reigate. So it was magical to meet this trio of local lads.
 

A few days later, I was sitting outside Neactain’s, when The Body walked by and took me around the corner to an Tobar. At that time the tiny little pub on Mainguard Street was humming and thriving, buzzing with gobshites and creative types, home to the lost souls of Sean McDonagh’s Quays. To my greenhorn eyes the place seemed thrilling. It felt as if I’d been given a special pass into local life.
 

Blitz and The Body’s flat was just around the corner from my house, so I’d pop over on a regular basis, always cautious not to outstay my welcome.
 

Then one day The Body turned to me. 
“Charlie, have to say, you’ve been causing a lot of tension in the flat. Tension and bad feeling.” 
My heart sank. What had I done? How could I make amends?
 

“Well it’s like this. When Blitz or I ask you if you want to stay for dinner, from now on you’ll say ‘Yes!’ All your politeness is making us nervous.”
 

That was 22 years ago, and ever since The Body has continued to take me by surprise verbally. 
Whenever I take myself too seriously he mocks me in a gently absurdist yet very effective way. When the Black Dog moves into my head and I can no longer see the point of life, The Body is the only person able to make me laugh.
 

When I moved to America in 1995 it never crossed my mind that the lads might keep in touch. By that time I’d copped on to the way Galway City worked: you had to be in it to win it. If you were away, you didn’t exist.
 

Yet The Body telephoned me regularly when I lived in San Francisco. He knew I was having a difficult time and when I told him how grateful I was for his calls, he said something that made my heart swell.
 

“You’re good blood Charlie, and there’s not many of ‘em.”
 

Years later, returning to Ireland in a quivering emotional mess, I took up residence on the Body’s sofa. I remember him screening telephone calls on my behalf, on the days when I wasn’t up to communicating with anyone else.
 

My friend has been through the most testing of times over the last few years, so it has been my pleasure to try and support him as well as I can. Sometimes my attempts to help him or cheer him up feel feeble to me, so maybe somewhere in my subconscious I felt guilty.
 

Maybe I felt grateful for his friendship over two decades and guilty because, even though I know there’s nothing much I can do to help, I want to do more.
 

Maybe that cocktail of emotions got the better of my motor functions, and made me lean forward to kiss him.
 

I really hope not!


©Charlie Adley
30.01.2014

Monday 3 February 2014

NOTHING IN IRELAND IS EVER MERELY A BIT OF A SHAME!

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At last I thought I was able to use that most archaic of Irish expressions: “Shame on you!”However, I’m not sure how it works when there’s more than one entity to blame.

Part of this particular shame is deserved by the waste management company who decided to supply plastic bags to their customers in the country.


The other tranche of blame and shame has to go to the customers who then stuff all their garbage into these bags, leave them outside for the dogs to rip apart and then fail to clean up the mess.


I don’t know who you are, but I know an unhealthy amount about you. Clearly you live near me, because you left your garbage bags close to my house. Ever since the storms, your life’s detritus has been drifting down the bohreen, lacing itself around the hedges, dowsing itself in the mud and puddles as, like a glacier of filthy sludge, it makes its slow but inexorable journey to my garden.


I know what you eat. I know you like those fancy shmancy crisps, and I know your favourite brand of yoghourt, what puddings you like and where you do your shopping. Unfortunately I also know which brand of disposable nappies you use, and I know the consistency of your baby’s turds.


How do I know all this?


I know this because when it became apparent that you were never going to clean up your mess, I did it myself.


Well, I cleaned most of it, up to the point where my own wheelie bin was crammed with your crap, my stomach churning, its contents gurgling and retching their way up to where they don’t belong.


So yes, I had to leave behind piles of your wretched rubbish, laying defiantly all over the ground as if it were sneering at me, teasing me with the absolute certainty that as the wind blows, it too will ooze and squelch its way towards my home.


The remaining mess is still up there, and you can't live far away, because it’s where you chose to leave your bags. You must see it every day.


Unless you are physically incapacitated and unable to clean it up, I say “Shame on you!”


Maybe the waste management company supply the bags because people can’t afford their wheelie bins. If that’s that case then they have a duty to ensure that their wheelie bins are offered at affordable rates. It’s just not good enough to offer your customers bags, when you know it’ll screw up the countryside.


Tragically, the hedgerows around this area are becoming strewn with long and expanding trails of trash, spreading like a vile disease that we humans have inflicted on our environment. 


So shame on you too, whichever company you are, for not giving a damn.


I’d better go easy on the shaming, because this is my first run out with the word. Well, no, I’ve used it many times in an English context, but never with the full force the word carries here in Ireland.


Of course originally it meant the same in England as it does here, but the two cultures use it differently now. Over there you’ll hear it all the time, in sentences like


“Oh what a shame, you missed your television programme!” or, more often, simply “That’s a bit of a shame, isn’t it?”


We English can still use the word as the Irish do, but here it carries a power and heat that demands it be used rarely and precisely.


I used it above because littering and the dumping of trash disgusts me, but even as I wrote it, I felt like an intruder, an interloper, because I’ll never really fully understand what the word ‘Shame’ means to the Irish.


I failed to grasp the significance of its Irish meaning until I watched that awful anti-drink driving advert on the TV: the one with young man playing football, then drinking pints, driving home drunk, hitting the kerb, another car and then rolling his car over a stone wall, crushing the little boy playing football in his garden. As the distraught father dashes out of the house to his dead child, the voiceover asks


“Could you live with the shame?”


The first time I saw it I was outraged. What on earth were they talking about? Who gave damn about the shame? It sounded to me as if they were more worried about what other people might think than the young boy lying dead on the ground, murdered by an irresponsible drunk driver. But clearly, as they’d chosen it as their tag line, the word shame meant something more to you than it did to me.


Then I noticed that on Facebook, people were posting the single word ‘SHAME’ in capital letters, and then others clicked that they 'liked' it. It completely mystified me, but I love the Irish and know you to be the most compassionate and caring of people, so I now know that nothing here is ‘a bit of a shame’.


Shame is powerful Irish voodoo, a legacy I suspect of the Church’s influence, a by-product of sinning, as the more secular and Protestant culture in England allowed the power of the word to diminish.


The Snapper returns from walking the dog.


“What is WRONG with these people?” she screams. “Up there, two miles onto the bog, they’ve just dumped a fridge, a cooker, piles of household waste and furniture. They live in such a beautiful place, so why do they make shite of it?”


Why indeed? Why fight for so long for independence and then waste your freedom by despoiling the very land you finally won back from your oppressors?


It’s beyond me. I know it’s powerful language, but all I can think of to say to all these vile polluters is 
“Shame on you.”






©Charlie Adley
23.01.14