Sunday 20 December 2015


There’s a plate in front of me crammed with a fresh fillet of PJ McDonagh’s cod wrapped in golden batter and a steaming mountain of chips. Normally I’d be stuffing this wondrous food into my gob with gusto, but not tonight.

I’m not a well man. Haven’t been for a while, but over the last few weeks the needs of others have taken precedence.

Tonight however is all about me. Despite the way my body feels like a damp wrung flannel, I’m going out for my Staff Christmas Party. Just because I work for myself I see no reason to miss out on this tradition, so every December I celebrate with one of my organic Galway rambles.

There’s only one rule: no arrangements; let Galway do it to you.

My Staff Christmas Party had to be postponed last week, as sadly I was in England for my Aunt’s sudden funeral. Earlier today I contemplated calling in sick, but the Boss told me attendance was mandatory.

Easing more of McDonagh’s heavenly ballast into my belly, I sign up for the Silly Bugger Olympics: a competition between my mental health and my physical wellbeing. By the application of craic and whiskey, I’ll poison either this debilitating virus or myself before bedtime.

On her way back from work, the Snapper spots me looking out of the chipper’s window and pops in to wish me well for my night out.

“Town’s totally dead!” I say.

“Perfect!” she replies. “Just the way you like it, you antisocial git!” 

With a kiss goodbye she heads home, as behind her I whisper:

‘ … but when town’s like this, you can see who you want to see.’

Ignoring the fact that all I want to see right now is the underside of my duvet, I head over to the Quays, where I sit outside under the heater, armed with my first Jameson of the night.

Within minutes I feel released from a straightjacket of stress and anxiety that I didn’t even realise I was wearing.

I’m free! 

For a few wonderful hours nobody wants anything from me and I do not have to be anywhere or do anything. It’s been far too long since I felt like this. First victory of the night goes to my mental health.

Over the road a man is tying his young husky puppy to a bollard as he nips into Number Ten. His pooch is nervous and her owner is wonderfully concerned about being out of sight. A woman sitting outside the Quays walks over to the dog, strokes her, and reassures her owner that she’ll look after the pup until he comes back.

God, sometimes I just love the human race. Down here on the street, luxuriously far from mayhem and slaughter, people are pretty damn fine.

By the time I’m on my second Jamie my thinking has strayed into deep philosophical issues, pondering how Number Ten is really No.10 Quay Street, if that building over there is No.6 and this one is …2, 3, 4 …no … 4, 6, 8 … ah, who cares?

Sip. Swallow. Breathe. Relax.

Hmmm and who was the marketing genius that decided to award names to our Atlantic storms this Winter? 

As soon as we were introduced to Storms Abigail, Barney and Clodagh I knew that this naming was depression-creating. Desmond nearly drowned us all and by the time we’re being hit by Storm Pontius Pilate, we’ll all be ready to crucify ourselves.

Why did I just give that guy all my change? Even though he had a drip needle stuck in his arm and seemed like a genuine bloke, I still felt I was being done, but I gave him the dosh anyway.

A fool and his money are easily parted, or so my dear old Dad used to say, but this time

Karma kicks in quickly, in the shape of a surprise early Christmas drink from the lovely lass behind the bar in Neactain’s. She knows
I’ll not be out again before the New Year and her friendly greeting engraves onto my face a smile that I have no desire to relinquish.

There is no finer winter barstool than the one in the corner of Neactain’s middle bar, facing the fire. I’m in temporary heaven.

“There's no one from Galway in here at all!” exclaim the couple from Tralee. They’re delighted to be chatting and socialising in a way that Kerry’s capital cannot offer.

“You're in Neactain’s!” I explain, slightly whiskiedly. “If you want to meet locals there are plenty of local bars where local people drink locally.”

They look at me as they well might, but show no enthusiasm to move, so I do it for them. 

A lovely comfy Jamie tucked into the bar in Murphy’s, followed by another in Freeney's, and then up the cobbles with the wind behind me into Coili's, just in time to find my excellent friend Dalooney strumming up a storm, alongside four fiddles and many other instruments with strings, skins and holes.

Two women leap to their feet and dance, straight backs, ankles flying. Gradually they encourage a very shy lad to join in and the entire bar is transfixed as he glows with joy.

I wonder at how a little goodness goes a long way, and then I wonder how it's taken me over four hours to travel from the bottom of Quay Street to Johnny Massacre Corner. 


Later, as I enjoy a nightcap outside Neactain’s, a man stops and smiles at me.

“O’Reilly’s!” he declares. 

Long-since Lohans, no other pub’s name could strike such a personal chord. Tuesday afternoons in 1992; my first local in Ireland.

He needs petrol to get back to Clifden. I give him my last bit of cash, caring not if he’s driving home or having me on.

The party’s over, the battle’s done, and I award a Gold Medal to my mental health. Very possibly erroneously, I truly believe that my elevated spirits - arf! - will chase that virus out of me.

© Charlie Adley

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