Saturday 31 December 2016

2016 Awards cancelled as Team DV goes WEXIT!

In a bizarrely-worded statement released yesterday morning, Team DV announced they had taken the unprecedented step of leaving the planet:

“That’s all folks. We’re out of here. Stopped the world and got off. That’s what we’ve done. The full WEXIT. We’ve tried to inject a bit of satire into the drudgery over the years, but after looking back at the last 365 days, we simply lay down and wept. Satire died upon the arrival of that brace of blonde idiots, with enough sanity and power between them to eradicate our species before teatime. Farewell, good luck and as they say, thanks for all the fish.”

Err, hello? 
This is Malcolm from Bognor, the caretaker of DV Tower. It’s all gone a bit mental here. The phones don’t stop ringing and there’s TV crews from all over the world outside. I new the DVs were big alright, but I didn’t realise it’d be like this, with everyone calling up trying to get the latest on the 2016 Awards.

I keep telling them to call back tomorrow. Trouble is they do. It’s all driving me a little nutty, truth be told. Seems like they won’t go away until somebody comes up with some DV Award winners.

Trouble is, nobody’s turned up to work for days. Word is they’ve all naffed off and left me behind. Scarpered, they have, had it on their legs, and they’re not coming back to planet Earth any time soon.

Right then, so then, seeing as how that’s the situation then, and seeing as how I want bit of peace and quiet, I’m just going to have to knock out the awards myself. How hard can it be? Now, where’s the ‘on’ button on this computer thingy…?

...several hours later...

Right, so, welcome to the 2016 DV Awards. We’re going to start with this year’s Pablo Picasso DV for Recreating Guernica, which goes to The West, for the Shame of Aleppo. While we faffed around feeling sorry for ourselves about Trump and Brexit, Putin expanded Russia’s military front, from The Persian Gulf to the Baltic States. 

While the UN sat back and liberals like me and you denied our governments the right to intervene, Russian warplanes rained hell unopposed.

I’m only the caretaker, so what would I know, so tell me, if you can, why the media is willing to use the word ‘atrocity’ when the killing is on the ground, but not when apocalyptic slaughter falls on innocents from the skies? 

Phew, that was all a bit serious. This awards malarkey isn’t as easy as it looks. Maybe there’s a reason they were on the keyboards and I was up a ladder.

Moving swiftly along to one of our annual faves, the Through The Looking Glass DV for Nothing Being As It Appears goes to all the Street Food restaurants that have recently opened in Galway.
Call me stupid, but Asian Street food sounds a heck of a lot like food that is served in Asia on a street. 

Okay, so it doesn’t have to be in Asia, but once it’s cooked under a roof supported by a solid structure, otherwise known as a building, it ceases to be street food and is just … well … food.

Quay Street now has two noodle restaurants, while the tiny road mourns the loss of a pair of Galway institutions: Camilla Cutler’s Druid Lane Restaurant and the Galway Pet Store, who (hopefully) shared nothing in common, save for being independent businesses run by terrific characters.

Couldn’t get through this year without mentioning the 1916 Easter Rising Centenary. Everybody else did, all the time. Given that back in 1916, swathes of Dublin’s population felt antipathy towards Republicans, because the food on their tables was paid for by the unfortunate bastards fighting in the trenches, I wonder: had the British Empire not behaved as the British Empire always did, and instead of creating martyrs, had spared the lives of those brave men, would this Republic now exist as 26 or 32? 

Mind you, that ‘Home Rule is Rome Rule’ crew were already ironing sashes in the north. Some things never change.

To that end, this Brit announces the First Annual Britain Means Britain  DV, which naturally goes to all those magnanimous compassionate souls who voted for Brexit. Broke my heart. Not the leaving of the EU, but the way scapegoating proved so effective a tactic.

Next comes the Volvo Ironman DV for Promising Millions To The Local Economy, which of course goes to Galway’s nomination as Capital of Culture 2020. Let’s hope 2020 will truly fulfil its potential, because Galwegians have had their fill of major events promising to bring wealth, which instead leave long trails of unpaid locals.

This year’s Marie Antoinette Let Them Eat Cake DV for Ignoring The Poor and Needy is shared by the tragic double act of Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny. While trying to ‘save face‘ with global corporations, they made international arses of themselves, by refusing a sum of tax due equivalent to this nation’s annual health budget.

Finally, the Dónal Óg Cusack DV for Bravery In The Face Of Ignorance goes to two women who shared the twitter handle @twowomentravel. By live-tweeting their enforced journey to England, they gave voice to many thousands of the unheard, who’ve gone before.

Oh lorks! Run out of space. 
Always wondered what editors do and now I know. 

Anyway, until they come back from wherever they’ve gone, this is me, Malcolm the Caretaker from Bognor, DV Tower, County Galway, signing off.
©Charlie Adley

Saturday 24 December 2016

Charity? It's a very personal business...

 Charity working at its best in the shape of our beloved Lady Dog.

 Every Christmas many of us try to take the spirit of giving beyond our families and friends by donating to charities. Whether it’s through the cards we buy, the SVP envelope through the door or a bucket shaken in the street, we extend our generosity to others who need our help.

Some used recent charity-related scandals as an excuse to stop giving, but not this scribbler. If a charity is registered I consider it worthy, and anyway, for me, giving to charity is a personal matter.

Rather than getting dazed and confused, wondering which charity deserves the most, I simply follow my feelings. 

Many cannot understand how anyone can donate to help doggies and donkeys while there are people starving to death in the world, but we humans are a wonderfully mixed-up bunch, and what twangs your heartstrings might make no music on mine.

My Christmas cards go three ways. Croi, for my father who died after many strokes throughout a long decline; Crumlin Children’s Hospital, for the loss of Alana, and the Galway Hospice, for Sonja and for helping me and so many others.

I give what I can afford and then I give a little more, because for goodness sake, it’s not as if I’ll be going without, compared to so many others.

However, a few weeks ago I discovered that when it comes to charitable giving, I do not like to be bossed around. Two parcels arrived at the same time, from two different charities.

The first I opened was from Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, an incredible crew of creative people who have overcome the most challenging disabilities to express themselves through art.

Thankfully I’ve some idea of their challenge, as I’ve been watching Landscape Artist of the Year on TV. One of the painters was a Thalidomide victim, born without arms. It was moving and inspiring to watch as he drew a precise line pencil plan of his painting with his toes, and then painted the colours into the picture with a brush in his mouth. 

He explained that unlike able-bodied artists, he could not apply paint while standing back and looking at the picture as a whole. Instead each brush stroke had to be pre-planned to perfection, as he was forced to paint incredibly close to the canvas.

What a shame then that the marketing strategy of this charity decided the best approach was to send me cards and a letter telling me how I’d be happy to pay for them.

I need to be clear about this: I think it’s a wonderful charity, but if only they’d sent me a leaflet, or an invitation to order some cards, everything would’ve been different.

Instead I felt as if they were making an assumption about me and my money, and when I looked for an envelope to return their cards, so as not to waste them, I found none.

Somehow the experience just turned me off. Up until then I hadn’t realised how important it is for me to decide to whom I give, yet their strategy left me feeling guilty and wasteful as the cards are not the kind I’d send anyway.

The other package was a small cardboard box, sporting only a sticker saying: #stopkeepingmum. The box had been addressed to me as a Tribune Columnist, so clearly someone wanted publicity. Curiosity developed into intrigue as I opened the box to find no letter, no leaflet, just a very cute little blonde toy doggie, wearing a #stopkeepingmum label.

I’ll never know if the charity were aware of how much the toy looks like my own Lady Dog. Maybe it was happy coincidence, but my interest was now piqued, so I put #stopkeepingmum into my web browser and arrived at a home page with a short tragic video about the plight of the mothers of puppies at puppy farms:

“The first thing that will hit you is the stench. Once your eyes adjust to the darkness you’ll see them. They’re kept in cages, covered in their own faeces and soaked in urine. They have no bedding and limited access to fresh water. They are nameless mothers who have never known daylight. To the people in charge they are breeding machines, forced to have litter after litter until their bodies are exhausted. Their only experiences with people have been cruelty and neglect.”

Nothing had been presumed. I didn’t feel lectured. At the risk of sounding cold-hearted, their marketing was perfectly pitched.

As a species, the absolute least we must aspire to is to be benign. Being cruel and vile to intelligent animals for monetary gain is not something anyone needs to do.

What did #stopkeepingmumwant from me? How much was this going to cost and for what?

The first commitment their website asks for is merely a promise to ask to see a puppy’s mother before you buy one. Then comes an invitation to share your promise on social media and only then, finally, comes a chance to donate money.

Did I send them a wedge of my hard-earned green folding?


I didn’t, because I’d already contributed through Christmas cards and must now put all my remaining resources into the needs of my family, which alongside the Snapper includes one Lady Dog, aged five and three quarters, adopted years ago from - the most splendid charity, whose hard work has deeply enriched our lives, as well as providing a lost soul with a loving home.

Donating money can be complex, but compassion is not. 
Combine the two and the world becomes a better place.

Enjoy a peaceful loving Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice and Diwali, and may your God be with you.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 18 December 2016

Don't mention the ketchup in the coffee thing!

I’m on the FB2 Flybus from Oslo to the airport and having trouble keeping my eyes open. Come on man, don’t miss the little you’ll see of Norway outside of the city.

Beyond the bus window the grey light of a winter dawn reflects off the dusting of snow on the barren rolling fields.

The weekend visiting my good friend Blitz and his far better other was gentle and most pleasant, as had been the two days I’d spent in 
London with my mum on the way to Oslo.

However, I’d felt exhausted for weeks before I left and as the trip approached, it became a kind of self-fulfilling worry prophecy.

Oh no I am so tired. Will I be able to do it? Should I go at all? Will I cancel one bit of it? Which bit will I cancel? How can I explain that?

Instead I went online and booked a triangle of tickets from Dublin to Heathrow to Oslo to Dublin, and - oops, there goes the chin, dipping again. 

Stay with it Adley. 
Don't be dribbling in front of the locals now. 
You’re in public. 
Look at Norway out of the window and then sleep on the plane. 

Yes, I know it’s only a two hours flight, but bloody hell that’d help. Any sleep I can grab will prove vital, because I can’t be dropping off like this in four hours, when I’m sitting at the wheel of my car, doing 120kph on the motorway home.

At the airport I manage to get myself into a sweaty lather, by walking at speed, up and down the Departures Shopping area, increasingly desperately looking for a newspaper. Despite it being obvious they have no international newspapers, my minuscule brain refuses to accept that fact.

Slumping into a chair I glance around to see everyone staring at their phones; thumbs stroking the screens of their tablets; fingertips flying over the keyboards of laptops.

I’m a dinosaur. I want a newspaper.

The fights with SAS were exceptionally cheap and when I see the plane I understand why. Crammed to the rafters, we are wedged into tiny aged seats, clothed in fabric that reminds me of 1973.

As ever, I’m by the window and the bloke sitting next to me is of slight build, yet somehow as he lands in his seat he manages to take control of the armrests on both sides. Then he enthusiastically spreads his knees wide sideways, as if myself and the unfortunate on the other side of him do not exist.

Never mind. I’m putting in the earplugs and will hopefully wake up in two hours with half a head of crushed flat hair, that’s been resting on the window as I slumber.

That’d be lovely, except, oh, there he goes, off to the loo, just after take-off, so I’ll just drop off while he’s gone and - Oh! There he is, back from the loo. And there he is, pressing the button for the flight attendant. And now he’s drinking wine, and now he’s buying presents for his two daughters which I’ve seen on the screen of his iPhone. 

Now he’s off to the loo again and now he’s buying Duty Free and at no point in the entire flight does he sit still, except when finally, just as we start our descent into Dublin, he collapses his head back, mouth hanging agape, snoring through a bumpy landing.

Long before, I’d removed my earplugs and given up on feeble dreams of sleep. Reaching into my bag I discovered that his spread thigh had been resting on my chocolate bar. 

Not only had the bastard been keeping me awake, he’d also melted my bloomin’ Twirl.


I stare at his sleeping face with darkness and begrudgery in my soul.

Then it’s off to the car and a plan to stay alive by keeping awake. I decide I can make it to that roundabout in Athlone with the McDonalds and the petrol station. I’ll make it there, down a double espresso for boost and a quarter pounder for ballast and that’ll get me home.

The motorway comes to an end at the Athlone bypass yet for some reason I sail around it and am heading west without sight of the roundabout. Now on the M6 to Galway, I’ll have to go all the way to Plaza Services to find sustenance.

With the belly rumbling and my focus crumbling, I just about make it. Stumbling into the restaurant area, where everything seems bright to my sleepy eyes, I order a big burger and a tall double grande large espresso americano with extra coffee.

Falling into a seat, I find myself unable to eat the burger. Just get that coffee into me; keep awake.

I drag myself over to where sugar and wooden stirrers are available, but where is the milk?

If I drink this much caffeine without milk, my gut will kick back so powerfully I won’t need the car to get me home.

Where’s the milk? Where’s the bloody - ah! A plunger! That must be it.

With urgency I shoot two large dollops of tomato ketchup into my coffee and freeze.

Did anyone see that?
Do I care?

Carefully stirring only the upper half of the drink, I slug back two-thirds of it, with not a trace of tomato hitting my palate.

The caffeine kicks in at Oranmore.


By the time I get home, I’m wide awake, mad as a hatter and twice as fruity, muttering mysteriously and maniacally to the Snapper about how nobody needs to know about that ketchup thing.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 12 December 2016


(Admirably, Bádóirí an Cladaig teo - the Claddagh Boatmen - insisted they wanted me to write a purely positive progress report: please find below. However, in my opinion, this splendid community group have constantly been hampered and harassed by bureaucratic incompetence and small-minded officials, lacking courage and vision.)

As 2020 Capital of Culture approaches, there’s much discussion about what is and is not Galway culture. About Galway’s boats there can be no debate. Take a look at artist Eamon O’Doherty’s Quincentennial Sails sculpture in Eyre Square: the essence of Galway culture, those sails express the vital relationship between Galway and its unique boats.

Nothing more wholly represents Galway culture. History and poetry combine in those black hulls and russet sails; in that blend of bay, boat and Burren.

Despite recently facing extinction, hookers are now being restored and sailed once more.

Thanks to community group Bádóirí an Cladaig teo - the Claddagh Boatmen - a new generation are being taught how to build hookers; how to sail them; how to navigate and maintain them.

With centuries of expertise in their genes, this group of Claddagh men decided to revive Galway’s maritime tradition, and on the way gained the support of our entire community.

After restoring their first boat in 2009, the Boatmen nurtured a vision of hookers moored from Spanish Arch to Jury’s hotel. On Culture Night this year, six restored hookers were moored along that wall.

They had made their dream a reality.

As group secretary Peter Connolly explained, that vision has now grown.

“The Regatta has been a phenomenal success over the last 4 years, and May 2017 will see the launch of our new initiative, in support of 2020. The Navigational Trust has allowed the use of the Claddagh Basin, so the sailing communities of Claddagh, Connemara and Kinvara will come together to showcase 14 boats in full sail, for an entire week, subject to weather conditions.

“Each boat will carry an emblem of a Tribe of Galway, and they’ll sail together over the next four summers, in the build-up to 2020. 

"We’ve also invited two 40 foot Viking boats from Bangor, while the 47ft Chicago-built hooker ‘Naoimh Bairbre’ sailed across the Atlantic, to be left in the caretakership of Bádóirí an Cladaig teo for 10 years, for training and tours on the bay, with all income to be reinvested into our project.

“All these crews, owners and countless others support this project, yet nobody has asked for any money. Not one person. Why is that? They love the Galway hooker. It’s in their blood.

“Only a massive combined community effort could achieve so much so quickly. We’re grateful for the support of small businesses, the general public, the Latin Quarter, West End Group and Galway City Partnership, and we’ve had tremendous support in the council chamber. Now that the city hierarchy is fully behind the project, the work feels so much easier.

“Nothing would be possible without the partnerships we’ve developed. The DSP seconded 35 trainees for work experience and the GRETB supplied a support builder and six others. Everyone has enabled our project to succeed.

“We needed young people on board, to build skills through training and education, and that has happened. We needed a team to maintain the boats. That has been done.

“Next came the training of confident crews and skippers, and thanks to the expertise of people from Connemara, we’ve now 10 skippers trained up and several very competent crews.

“Finance has been a problem since recent scandals concerning charities. There was a government drive to support Community Groups, but sadly they’re so concerned with correct corporate governance, it makes a mockery of the grant process.

“Groups like ours have to spend 25% of our grant on public liability insurance and another 25% on accountancy and audits. We are left financially strangled. There has to be a way of doing this which allows us to apply all the grant money to the purposes for which it was granted.

“Our fundraising has matched all grants for the last five years, yet we can’t afford to develop the website. We wouldn’t dare do that before we bought a nail. Buying nails comes first. A certified nail from Glasgow is much more important than spending money on a website.

“We completely respect everybody’s contribution, and believe we’ve spent every cent efficiently. We work 6 days a week, but when you see the smiles of people from all over the world, and particularly the young people of Galway, it’s wonderful. The usual comment is that they feel privileged to have sailed on Galway bay on a Galway Hooker.

“This is no longer the vision of Bádóirí an Cladaig teo. This is now Galway’s vision. When a fleet of hookers are in full sail, with hundreds of people taking photos on Claddagh Quay, we might ask:

“Is our dream is too big? No. Does Galway deserve this? I think we do. Is this part of Claddagh? Yes it is. Is this real Galway? Yes it is.”

Well said sir. What better way to launch Capital of Culture 2020 than a fleet of 14 Galway hookers, the greatest symbols of Galway’s culture, sailing up the Corrib, bearing the crests of all the Tribes?

If that sounds perfect, please give everyone you know a beautiful Bádóirí an Cladaig calendar this Christmas. Then, when you first sail on a hooker in Galway bay, you can feel proud that you too had the vision to support the Claddagh Boatmen’s magnificent dream.

Calendars available at: Woods, Roundstone. Joyces, Recess. Morans, Carna. OMaille, Rosmuc. Hooker Bar, Eannach Mheain. Zetland, Cashel. Slemons Daybreak, Furbo. Post office, Kinvara. Clarks Supervalue, Barna. Charlie Byrnes Bookshop, Middle Street. Londis, Newcastle Rd. Nestors Supervalue Fr Griffin Rd.


© Charlie Adley

Monday 5 December 2016

Trump is a problem but he’s not the problem!

Trump is a problem but he’s not the problem.

A vacuous psychopath, Trump had to win the game, but he’s  just another contestant in an evolving show. To focus on Trump is to miss the point entirely.

Politics is not about Left or Right any more. This is a revolution from all sides of what used to be the political spectrum, from Trump to Podemos; Corbyn to Le Pen; alt-Right to Syriza; Bernie Sanders to Alternative für Deutschland.

The only thing that these disparate types have in common is that they all want to erase what was.

Trump’s victory was another manifestation of the frustration of people who live in a system that no longer works for them. Successive electorates have spurned traditional voting patterns, because they see that Western Democracy has been dying for decades.

The Irish know first hand, having voted against two EU treaties only to have their rejections ignored. Hillary won a million more votes than Trump and lost, so half of America feels unheard. Half of the UK population want to stay in the EU, the young and urban at odds with the older and rural.

Wherever you look there are too many people feeling ignored.

Time was when governments governed and leaders lead. However, over the last 30 years there have been extraordinary changes in the way the world works, which combined to negate the effectiveness of our old political system.

Once governments were active, imposing ideologies upon their people. For some time now they have been able only to react to global economic conditions; the fluctuations of currencies; the mood of the markets.

Through systemic tax avoidance, trade deals like TTIP and trading blocks like the EU, corporations are now powerful enough to dictate to governments; to intervene in the running of previously sovereign nations.

Now businesses are able to sue governments for loss of profits they might have earned in the future; workers’ rights, guaranteed hours and job security have eroded into dust; overseas entities are able to operate inside other nations’ health and eduction sectors and universally, voters are outraged that their politicians serially fail them.

As is their wont in matters of democracy, the Greeks led the way by electing Syriza, followed by the UK with Brexit.

Then America, as ever contributing on the grandest of scales, illustrated that politics as we knew it is dead, by choosing a businessman to lead them into this new corporate order.

Admittedly, politicians were never a perfect bunch, but as the entire political and financial world continues to metamorphose, our decrepit democratic systems have become sadly unable to satisfy us ever again.

Whoever might lead your country, no government will be able to improve the lot of its people unless their needs happen to mirror the needs of the abstract notion of global economy.

Why else would we suffer the obscenity of an Irish government appealing against a ruling requiring a corporation to pay taxes equivalent to this country’s annual health budget?

Stop crying foul and start asking the right questions.

Here’s one: if Donald Trump had walked up to you five years ago and told you that he’d be president of the USA one day, would you have believed him? Did you believe that he was really going to build a wall equivalent to the distance from Rome to Moscow? Did you really believe he really believed anything he said during that vile campaign?

Yet still yourselves and the media ask the old questions, as if he meant what he said. 

Everyone focuses on Trump, rather than those who voted for him, yet if he'd needed to be further to the left than Bernie Sanders to win the election, he would’ve made Lenin look like Dubya.

Vacant and vain, obsessed only with winning, Trump is the natural leader of the way the world now works. Avoiding the dangers of having to face journalists in traditional media, he addresses the nation via You Tube and Twitter.

Telling analysis came from Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of Trump’s book, ‘The Art Of The Deal.’ Having worked one to one with Trump for years, he described the President-Elect as having the "intelligence and attention span of a 9-year old with ADHD.”

An empty vessel, utterly out of his depth, Trump doesn’t worry me. The people around him, who do know what they’re doing, scare the hell out of me.

In Mike Pence we have a Creationist a mere choked pretzel away from the presidency. The US National Security Advisor is the person who collates information from all the military and security agencies and combines it to advise the president on what to do. 

Shame then that it's Micael Flynn, who was sacked by Obama for incometpency, after leaking confidential information and coming out with what became known as 'Flynn Facts', such as that fear of Muslims is rational. He also tweeted 'Not any more, Jews!' which is more than a little disturbing. 

Chief strategist Bannon is on board to keep the hate alive, as Trump concedes each of his more aggressive and ridiculous election pledges, one by one.

While he needs to be seen working with Tea Party types, Trump realises that to win this new reality show, his pragmatism has to kick in fast and bigly.

Tragically, Trump’s presidency will see a rabid and regressive hijacking of the Supreme Court, with women's rights, workers’ rights, gun control and even the separation of church and state all suddenly vulnerable.

Western democracy now leaves millions of voters on all sides of the political arena frustrated and furious.

We must stop trying to find a solution within the old system and accept that we have created a society driven not by the needs of the many, but the needs of conglomerates.

Then we might start the process of devising a representative political system for that world; our new world.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 27 November 2016


The other night I was spacing out in front of the fire, staring at a box of Marks and Sparks ‘Extremely Chocolatey Milk Chocolate All Butter Biscuits’ on the coffee table.
Wonderful, I mused. They’ve called their biscuits exactly what their customers want to see.
Imagine a brave new world where the nanny state runs amok and truth rules. How much would you want to reach for ‘Fat Free But Stuffed With Tons Of Sugar So You’ll Still Be A Fat Basstid Frozen Yoghurt’, or, as The Snapper suggested, ‘Incredibly Addictive Diet Cola Crammed With Known Carcinogens.’
Irish elections would be contested between the ‘There’s Bugger All Difference Between Us And Them Party’, the ‘We’ll Screw You In A Different Way To Them Party’ and the ‘We Collectively Sound Like Miracle Workers But We Don’t Have The Money To Make It Work Alliance.’
Within the self-serving confines of the Irish legal system, Tribunals would become ‘Lawyer Feeding Frenzy With No Chance Of A Meaningful Verdict Fiasco.’
We’d have the ‘We’ve Got A Richer Foreign Criminal Than You So We’ll Win It Premier League’, while Irish and Australian teams would play the ‘We’re Just Going To Beat The Crap Out Of Each Other International Rules Test Match.’
Evidently M&S think their customers incapable of grasping the fairly simple idea that there’s a whole heap of chocolate on these biscuits, because below their extremely explicative name on the box, yet another line of copy claims:

Whoosh … my brain's lost, pondering the deep philosophical matter of whether a chocolate biscuit can actually still be a biscuit, if it is 

Truth be told, I don’t know what’s worse: the way my tiny mind works, or that I share it in public.


So rarely in life do you get to say the funny thing at the right time. When somebody upsets you or when you feel you have a point to make, the words just don’t come. You dip your chin in the face of your enemy, because in the heat of battle your brain dries up.
You know that you’re capable of a killer line, but it comes to you days later, with a stab of sorrow at four in the morning: it’s too late. 

If only you could've said that back then, everyone would think you such a witty whizz.
Yet others rarely judge our ability to slice the air with sharp strokes of verbal swords. I like to think that as a species we are slightly more substantial than that.
But boy oh boy, when the right words come, I don’t care how shallow I’m being. Last week I was walking down Shop Street, looking across Johnny Massacre Corner to a large crowd of tourists standing opposite the Kings Head pub.
Their tour guide was shrilly explaining how  "... nobody knows the identity of the executioner of England’s King Charles I, but -”
at which point he was interrupted by an energetic local lad, coming up the street, who turned to the crowd, stretched a smile on his lips, raised his arm in the air and cried with exuberant triumphant pride:
“He was an Irishman!”
at which the crowd laughed heartily.
Despite a healthy sense of humour, my head was racing with the crassness of this guy’s misplaced pride. Frantically searching my brainbox for something to say, I was about to come face to face with himself the Historical Proclaimer.
It had to be quick. Neither he nor I had slowed our brisk walking pace. In seconds we’d be past each other and the crowd, walking in opposite directions.
This was not the moment to suggest that Gunning, their ‘Irishman', probably wasn’t the man who executed King Charles I, because another bloke called William Hewlett was later convicted of regicide, after Charles II returned to the throne.
Anyway, it wasn’t yer man’s historical inaccuracy that irked me.

No, the hottest potato baking inside my brainbox was wondering how the killing of that English king did the Irish any good.
And then it came to me. Just simply exactly what I wanted to say. In retrospect, I’ll admit it looks rather feeble, not much of a witty gem at all, but at the time it just seemed perfect.
As the two of us walked past each other, I turned to the crowd and shouted:
“Yep, he did exactly what Cromwell wanted!”
Then I walked on, leaving himself to ponder that little baby, and the tourists to wonder if they had just experienced some kind of wonderful Irish street theatre.
Did any of them give a damn about who was right or wrong?
Did any of them care that a mere 3 years after the king’s execution, Cromwell declared himself Lord Protector, which did the Irish very few favours?
Not a single one.
Had I in any way inhibited yer man from feeling good each and every time the Irish walloped the English?
About as likely as him wearing a Glasgow Rangers shirt.
Nevertheless, as I walked down the road I felt a spring in my step and a thrill in my heart. Even though I’d impressed nobody but myself, I was delighted.
For once, I’d said the right words at the right time, and in my sad little existence, I savour these tiny harmless victories like ripe berries on the bush.

©Charlie Adley

Tuesday 22 November 2016


When Galway-based writer Mike McCormack's novel Solar Bones won both the Goldsmiths Prize and Novel of the Year at the 2016 Bord Gáis Book Awards, I was just a little bit too excited. 

His triumph brought with it a minor victory for me, on both a personal and professional level, as throughout my life I’ve had a difficult relationship with literature. 

Thrust ahead a year at school by educators who didn't understand the difference between intelligence and academic ability, I found myself surrounded by incredibly clever students. 

English Public Schools exist to produce candidates most likely to succeed at Oxford and Cambridge. While many from that class proceeded to do just that, for me university was never an option.

Every teenager needs to go through a phase when nobody appears to understand them, and this was mine. Everyone in my life kept telling me how clever I was; that my failures were the result of sloth and indifference; that if only I worked a bit harder, I might just surprise myself.

School reports through the years inevitably said the same thing: ‘Could do better.’

Nobody listened when I tried to explain that I had genuine trouble assimilating information from text books. Then a powerful cocktail of hormones and Punk Rock met this onslaught of expectation, and I reacted in a predictably adolescent way.

It went something like this:

‘You insist that I read your books? Well I won’t read them. I won’t even go to university, because I'm fed up to the back teeth with being told to learn. Yes, of course I want to learn, and will continue to do so joyously throughout my life, but there’s more to learning than books by old fogeys and fathomless farts whose language I cannot take in. I will work in a warehouse, ride a motorbike and reject your academic world, where I feel inadequate and stupid. I will hitchhike thousands of miles and learn from that as much as your high literature will ever teach me.’

So I did, and along the way devoured books that I read of my own volition. Woody Guthrie’s autobiography Bound For Glory served to rip apart the cosy confines of my bourgeois mind, showing me a braver way. Inspiring and wonderful, I still read it every couple of years.

In my early 20s I found two of my favourite writers. Richard Brautigan wrote with more of a brush than a pen, creating gentle lyrical ethereal prose that kisses poetry. His writing marries romance, wit and magical realism, elevating me to a better place and leaving a wry smile on my face every time.

Charles Bukowski could not appear at first more different, with his low-life misogynistic alcoholic profane guttural. Disgusting and shocking, his own anti-hero, I find him irresistible, as I do Brautigan, because both men are phenomenally honest.

On every course that I teach, a student will ask:

“Can I do this, Charlie? Can I use three narrative voices? Can I tell the story backwards?”

“Yes, you can do anything you want. Absolutely anything at all, as long as it works.”

The advice is a tad oversimplistic, because what works for one might not for another. When I read John Banville’s Booker Prize winning novel The Sea, I was transported back to those dark classroom days. 

The fact that I didn’t like the melancholy drudge of the tone of the book was my own problem: a matter of subjective taste, but I hated feeling excluded and ignorant because I wasn’t familiar with the paintings and artists alluded to so often throughout the book.

That didn’t work for me, because I felt as if he was only writing for a few people; those who might fully appreciate how much he knows.

Absolutely not my kind of book.

Through the guidance of my friend and teacher Iris Leal, I have overcome my dread of anything considered high literature. 30 years ago she insisted that I read Anna Karenina, and I was astonished to find Tolstoy's language so simple and accessible. She led me to Boyhood and Youth, by JM Coetzee, where I adored his uniquely simple voice, and amazed myself to find I loved the work of a Nobel Laureate.

Moving to Galway, I was entranced by Walter Macken’s grit, honesty and grá for the West of Ireland, and recently I've been swept away in a wonderful wave of new Irish writing. 

Lisa McInerney’s Glorious Heresies was a tremendous piece of storytelling, as shocking and exciting as Paul Abbot’s Shameless, when it first appeared on TV. 

Donal Ryan’s Spinning Heart was a huge hit, but it’s his short stories that occasionally make me catch my breath. Eimear McBride's Lesser Bohemians and Kevin Barry's City of Bohane lead the charge with their stylised language and alternative takes on reality.

My friend Claire-Louise Bennett’s astonishing debut Pond has taken the literary establishment by storm. A reviewer claimed she had reinvented the non-novel, and no, I don’t know what that means either, but away from all the literary la-di-da, her book is a great read.

My little victory?

As I joined in the single sentence that is Solar Bones I felt no fear. Immediately aware that this book was Mayo man Mike McCormack's masterpiece, I felt deeply thankful that it never once impressed upon me the weight of its own cleverness.

A slice of West of Ireland Zeitgeist; a philosophical pondering on life and death; a fascinating insight into the mind of an engineer; a perfectly drawn microcosm of the political attitudes of this nation, past and present and a comforting illustration of a loving family’s life, Solar Bones is a triumph.

More than that, for me it felt great to love a book that others then classified as high literature.

There’s hope for me yet.

© Charlie Adley

Sunday 13 November 2016


“How ya doing?”

“Mighty. And you?”

“Good thanks. Bit tricky this, but your mate with the northern accent, the lad we were drinking coffee with outside Pura Vida? I’ve known him for years. We’ll often stop and chat. Thing is, I’m not sure of his name.”

As my friend stares at me over the table I’m not sure if I’m about to be reprimanded or helped out. How could I possibly be so shallow as to say I know someone, when I haven’t a clue what they’re called?

His mouth drops open, his eyes stare at the table as a gathering red flushes up from his chin to the crown of his head.

“Jeeze Charlie. Now that you mention it, I’m not sure myself. I think he’s married to the sister of that Dave from the market, because it’s his brother I was talking to. Not the brother from Letterfrack, he’s not been around, the other fella, the one who married the Yank and moved over there and came back after the crash, he’s working in Thermo King now I think, and …”

As he rambles I find myself forgetting who it was I was asking about in the first place and no longer caring in the slightest. Over the last couple of decades I’ve become used to this.

U2 sang about the land where streets have no names, but the truth is that sometimes in Galway City, people don’t need them either.

Even though this city has changed in many ways since I moved here in 1992, all the things I first loved about it remain almost intact, so I was saddened to hear Whispering Blue and Soldier Boy, both raised here, agree that the place had lost what made it special.

They felt that the place had grown too big, lost its intimacy and spontaneity.

Whenever I walk around Galway City streets with one of my local mates I’m still to this day astonished at the number of people they know. I’m a Londoner and over there bumping into people you know is a rare and special event.

To me this buzzing upcoming European Capital of Culture is still also a provincial county town, with an extraordinary smile on its face and a spring in its step. 

Home to dreamers, scribblers, dancers and software designers, you’ll know many people in Galway, just not necessarily by name.

This city of 14 tribes has many more now. Scores of Brit blow-ins like me; Europeans availing of free movement; 20,000 students and a welcome tide of others from further afield. Also, let’s not forget those poor souls lost in the limbo of Direct Provision. It’s easy to ignore them. Many of us do, but they live here too.

Many wonderful tribes from all over the world on this western seaboard, colliding with local culture, wondering what on earth everyone is talking about. 

If you are one of the many thousands recently arrived in this wonderful patch of the planet, allow me to share the following snippets of advice, gleaned from 24 years of simultaneously sticking out and blending in.

Despite what they tell you, never ask anyone if there’s any craic. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing will plunge a conversation into silence, a room into panic, a mood from light into darkness than somebody asking if there’s any craic. 

Unless there’s been a very recent death in the community, the air will hang heavy until someone starts talking about sport or a new dress on sale in Monsoon or, thank the Lord for its ubiquity and neutrality: the weather.

As a naïve new Galwegian you will at some point inevitably find yourself trapped by a local, who is convinced that you know somebody that you don’t.

You need to be prepared. There’s more than a little bit of Mrs. Doyle about it all, but instead of a cup of tea being forced upon you, the other person cannot rest easy until you either admit that you absolutely definitely don’t know the person never have never will now please step away from my face, or simply lie and say oh yeh, him? I know the fella.

If for you, as it was for me, you find neither of these options attractive, because you don’t want to upset someone and you don’t like telling porky pies, then learn this my friend, and use it freely:

“I’d know him to see him.”

Works a treat every time. The Galwegian who was for obscure reasons obsessed with you knowing this absolute stranger will breathe out, nod, smile and like a humpback whale across hundreds of miles of ocean, return the call:

“Ah you would! You’d know him to see him.”

After this blissful exchange life will immediately return to normal, whatever that might be in Galway.

Just room for one more quick-pick of idiomatic signposting. Even though the Irish are fascinated by death, preferring a good funeral to a bad wedding any day, they don’t mean someone’s died when they describe them as ‘up above.’

‘Up above’ can mean they’re still at home with Ma in Shantalla or taking a few months rehab in the cottage in Roundstone. I know from experience that this tiny bit of knowledge can save a whole heap of tragic confusion.

Only locals truly know how much this place has changed, but for me, never mind the streets, until the day comes when we need to know our friends’ names, there’s hope for Galway City.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 7 November 2016

I think we're all ready for Punk Football!

There were so many different reasons for a nine year-old boy to feel excited that day. 

I was going to see Chelsea play for the first time in my life. 
I was going to see Chelsea with my Dad. 
I was being taken to the football by the person who gave me the love of football in the first place.

Every child that was first taken to see their team play by a parent will know what that experience means. In the years to come, before any concept of bonding existed, my father and I did just that over our love of the Chelsea. 

We couldn’t unite over our love of watching the Chelsea play, because in those days our team only turned in a performance when their chakras were aligned with seven pints of Watney’s Red Barrel and a Ruby Murray.

Plenty to feel excited about on a unique day in that nine year-old’s life, yet only one shock gasp of pure pleasure and a moment of abject embarrassment have stayed lodged in my head since 1969.

My unexpected thrill came before the game, as my short legs climbed the last of a mountain of steps, and we emerged at the top of the West Stand. 

I hadn’t given the ground a moment’s thought, so it was wonderful to find myself involuntarily stopping in my tracks, looking out over the great expanse of deep green grass, sharply divided by perfectly pristine white lines, so unlike anything I’d ever seen in the muddy mires of the park or at school.

As my chin dropped in thrall, my eyes wandered around Stamford Bridge, looking vast with its greyhound track between the pitch and the crowd. The sound of the songs from the Shed transfixed my senses.

I couldn’t take my eyes off those crammed masses on Chelsea’s hallowed terrace, where the scarves swayed above the fans’ heads in a sea of blue.

Instantly part of me wanted to be down there, in the midst of the throng, but more, I was just loving being there with my dad.
That’s why, when the game finished 1-1, it was beyond painful to ask him when the replay would be.

“There’s no replay. It’s a league game.” he explained calmly, as inside my pre-teen head my voice roared I knew that! Why did I ask such a stupid question? Now he’ll think I don't know anything about football! Why did I ask that?

In the 70s and 80s football was very far from perfect. Fascists sold National Front newspapers outside the grounds, and when as a 17 year-old I went to stand in the Shed, I spent more time trying to stay away from fights than I did watching football. 

Mind you, to that teenager little compared to the tribal ecstasy of a mass of manhood, moving as one in outrageous jubilation, when we scored a goal.

More important than anything football might offer, my father and I went to football together for years. Having forced me to go to a school that insisted on Saturday attendance, Dad then colluded with me in schemes of skullduggery that required me to skive off on a Saturday afternoon.

At the sound of the bell after the last morning class, I’d shoot down the mile-long drive at full speed, hoping to break free before the Monitors arrived to guard the gates.

Then I’d jump on the train and head to Finchley Road tube, where my Dad was waiting in the car, engine running, parked on a double yellow, eager to head off to the ground.

It still feels wonderful to have shared those times of 40 years ago together. They were only possible because the game back then was completely accessible.

If you saved all the cut-out-and-keep coupons on the back page of the Chelsea matchday programme, you could send off for an FA Cup Final ticket. My Dad and I did just that, and went to two Wembley cup finals together.

If he were still alive today my father would no longer recognise the league we watched together. We had season tickets because regular people like us could afford them, and we’d turn up at away grounds, pay a couple of quid at the turnstiles and get tickets for game.

To have access to today’s Premiership you need to buy a club membership and then sell your youngest child into slavery, so that you can afford to take your other child to a game.

As letter writer Dave Robbie recently pointed out in the Irish Times, when the Lilywhites of Dundalk secured their third consecutive League of Ireland title, the club won the equivalent of 33% of Wayne Rooney’s weekly salary.

We know that footballers are today’s rock stars, their clubs the bands of the 21st century, and there’s no doubt the game has become too distant from its fans.

Before Punk, all we’d known were the supergroups. Disgustingly rich rock stars, performing half a mile away from fans who felt little affinity with them. 

Just as it was with those ‘progressive’ rock’ stars of old, it’s increasingly difficult to see our modern vain pampered footballers as heroes.

My relationship with Chelsea FC has changed fundamentally. My club is now a corporation, performing with all the common sense, compassion and integrity expected of a business entity.

Despite that, I still love the game, but I wonder: just as Punk replaced those inflated ego supergroups of the 1970s with street-level energy and enthusiasm, has the time finally come for Punk Football to hit the world?

Will a movement rise from people outraged by the greed inherent in the game?

Might we return football to its muddy grass roots? 
Can we rip it up and start again?
©Charlie Adley

Sunday 30 October 2016

The best mysteries are left unexplained...

Dammit dammit dammit! I knew I should have gone to the loo before I left Sligo, but I didn’t, and now I’m driving along with certain muscles very clenched, waving my knees around in frustration.

There’s a car in front of me and a car behind me on this two lane twisty road to Ballina. This night offers no moon, a thin veil of cloud obscuring stars, so beyond our tiny convoy of light the world is invisible, lost in a pit of utter blackness.

Nope. Not going to make it to Ballina. Have to stop.

MmmMummaMOOooerrr - soon!

Headlights behind, brake lights in front, no time to escape from the middle of this three car train travelling at 60 mph, impossible to pull over safely into the cavernous darkness, but I have to.

Ah, there’s a turning on the left.

Indicating, I pull out, hardly time to brake and - whoahh! - too fast, swerve wildly across the side road, kicking dust, mud and gravel into the air as I brake hard.

Finally at rest on the verge. Nothing broken, no harm done, but as I turn off the engine and take a well-earned breath, I sense something in the air.

An atmosphere of pure menace mixes with the inexplicable feeling that I’ve behaved badly; interrupted something.

Stepping out of the car the horizon starts a foot away and ends with dawn.

Stumbling blindly up the side road I - 

....ahhhh … ohhh … whoof! 


Catching my breath I freeze dead still. A few feet to my right a toothy chomping noise is piercing the ethereal silence. Suddenly behind me and to the left of me, all around me out of the night come complaining guttural grunts and mutters.

Instantly I’m engulfed in pure terror, and sprint back to my car with even more urgency than I felt minutes ago.

Driving off, I talk out loud to myself about the madness of it all.

Must be the adrenalin from the swerve off the road. 
What else can it be? 

Sounded like voices though. 
Sounded like voices complaining that I’d interrupted something. 
I’d felt extremely unwelcome.

I know the sounds of cattle, sheep, foxes and the ear-splitting brays of donkeys, so it must’ve been the Little People.

Oh get a grip Adley! You’re a Londoner,for god’s sake!

For 12 years I kept that story pretty much to myself, until last week, when with Halloween in mind, I told it to the Snapper.

“Badgers!’” she immediately offered, at which I plunged into the internet and yes! Aha! At last a solution!

I had indeed interrupted something that night. A colony of badgers, who between the young and old create a fascinating variety of noises. 

Depending on what they’re doing, they can churr, purr, wail, chitter and kecker, growl, snarl, yelp, and squeak, bark, snort, cluck, coo and chirp.

They also hiss and grunt.

One metaphysical Mayo encounter solved, leaving me with just one more that remains a mystery.

Back in those days I lived in a fine old farmhouse, onto which the farmer had built a new kitchen and bathroom at right angles to the old house. Visitors always said how warm, welcoming and lovely the place felt.

Music to my ears, as when you live alone in a house off the road, in the Irish countryside, you simply cannot feel in any way spooked out.

So each time a friend said “Great vibe here mate!” I felt slightly less worried about the arm that came through the bathroom window.

There was no point mentioning it to anyone. Why would I scare others? Anyway, talking about it might make it more real in my head too, that long male arm, clad in a red-checked shirt, reaching through the window behind me as I sat on the loo.

The hairy wrist, the forearm that tried to strangle me as it pulled on my throat…

Just my imagination, running away with me.
Sing it. Charlie. Forget the horror, think of the song.

I successfully ignored the recurring apparition for years, until my friend from Canada came to stay. The Snapper was up visiting when he walked into the living room.

“What’s the deal with the arm thing, dude?”

“What arm thing?”

“The arm, man! The red chequered shirt, hairy wrist thing that just tried to strangle me in the bathroom.”

Oh poop. Buggeroo and buggeration. That’s torn it. 

“Oh that arm!” I said, as nonchalantly as possible, as the Snapper dropped her jaw and looked at me in a most accusatory fashion. 

“Yeh, I don’t know. I decided that I’d just invented it. I mean, there might be ghosts in this house, it’s old enough, but the bathroom and kitchen are brand new builds, so I can’t see how there’d be a ghost there. And anyway, there’s way too big a gap between the window and the loo. Nobody could have arms that long.”

“Sure they could. Before I came in here I walked round the house and checked and hey, from outside you can reach anything sitting on that toilet!”

“No! No you can’t! Even if you can, I have to believe you can’t, just so I can live here in peace.”

“Sorry dude.”

Silence fell upon us, as I desperately tried to come up with a solution that would allow me to live a terror-free life in my home.

“Hey, suppose what you saw was just a manifestation of the vision my own imagination created? Like, I made the arm and then you saw it?”

My dear friend understood my dilemma, and nodded generously.

“Yeh, right. That’s what it must be. You must have some powerful creativity, man!”

“Either me or you!” I retorted, as the three of us sat, avoiding eye contact, each knowing that the truth lay elsewhere.

Good luck over Halloween and remember: your brain is the scariest weapon in the universe!

©Charlie Adley