Tuesday 28 June 2016

Happy midway between Mallorcan tourist dreams!

I’m sitting in the middle, unusual ground for your scribbler to occupy but delighted to have around me the excited gabbles, mutters and squeals of Mallorcan families.

Creperia Gelateria Es Cucurutxo is my new my favourite place. A short stroll from here will bring you to the gently posh harbour of Porto Colom on Mallorca’s east coast, where well-ironed Swiss Germans sit looking disinterested, while watching the masts of their yachts bob around in the marina as they eat extravagantly expensive restaurant food (€16 for a dessert? Who are you kidding? Equally, oy, what a dessert!)

Stroll as far the other way from Es Cucurutxo, and you’ll be greeted by the familiar sights of mass tourism, thankfully without the masses. Cala Marçal is a tiny place, built around a teardrop beach, but although the scale is small the style is high-rise all-inclusive cheap family holidays.

The Snapper and I don’t belong in either camp, so we’re thrilled to have our own gaff, with its private wee pool.

Mostly we’re just incredibly thankful to be having a holiday. 

Many years we can’t afford it but this Summer the financial issues were outweighed by the needs of your Scribbler. I had to have a break, and so we did; a most wonderful and mysterious holiday in which everything was mirrored by an opposite.

Before arriving in Mallorca we enjoyed a full-on weekend celebrating the birthdays and existence of several members of our families. Staying in 3 different hotels in 5 nights we enjoyed every manic busy second. 

More of that next week, but for now we’re here, in the calm oasis of Porto Colom, where we do nothing at all for a week in our yin-yang holiday.

The air is hot but the breeze is cool.
The side roads are massive but there are few cars.
Over in Porto Colom they pay up to €200 for dinner, while 1 km away in Cala Marçal you can eat half a chicken, chips and salad, drink two pints of John Smiths and still have change from €15.

In the mornings I nip off to Cala Marçal to pick up a paper, but sadly only the Germans in Porto Colom get a chance to read news. 

Evidently there’s no market in Cala Marçal for print journalism, so I pick up a red top tabloid and wait in the queue in the supermarket as a man with scarlet legs pleads in shouty English for a Factor 30 cream, while the local shop assistant tries patiently to explain that it’s a little late for that.
Behind me a man with a broad Yorkshire accent is repeating over and over:

“The tap. It’s broken. Broken, the tap. No water. Broken. Tap. Do ya gettit? Tap broken. No water.”

As his Mallorcan host tries to explain that he understood the first time, I slip out feeling incredibly lucky not to be stuck in those flats. Equally, I’m glad we’re not as stiff and nonchalant as the rich yachters of Porto Colom

We enjoy sitting in the middle of this bay with two ends; a place where normally I’d expect to be driven crazy by the screams of the children or the noise levels of the adults but instead, I love Es Cucurutxo.

Waiters at both resorts all greet us asking 
“German or English menu?” yet here at Es Cucurutxo the menu is in Mallorcan, Spanish and then other languages. Here at Es Cucurutxo I can believe I am in another country. I crave neither the highest gourmet standards of northern Europe, nor to eat the same food that I do at home.

Here, midway between the posh and the touristy, life feels perfect. There are one or two tourists like us sitting outside too, but mostly it’s just young mums checking their watches while sullen kids read comic books; toddlers running and laughing and screaming; clouds of cigarette smoke; coffee, Mallorcan wine at Mallorcan prices and mind-blowing ice cream that might make a man dribble.

I give thanks. I planned a holiday and it turned out exactly as I hoped. This year I knew exactly what I wanted and got it. Thank you Internet. Thank you travelling instinct. Thank you universe.

I needed calm and as I write this, apart from the thing that's sucking blood from my ankle (no, not the Snapper) I am absolutely blissed out.

Earlier our dinner at a restaurant on the quayside was destroyed by commentary of the Germany v Ukraine game, pumped from the screen behind our table, two seconds later echoing from the screen in front of our table.

We tried to focus on the view, the yachts, that lovely old church on the other side of the bay and

“Levvan levvan dovski dovski ooohhh ooohhh dass varr dass var nicht nicht so slecht so slecht!”

It felt like left-field CIA torture.

“Hey, these two are tough. They didn’t respond to 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia' played backwards on a loop at 359 decibels? Okay, hit 'em up with time lapse German echo treatment!”

The food is excellent but my attempts to speak Spanish to the waitress falter as she turns out to be German.

Just for second I feel a mite relieved. Evidently the English are not alone in liking to go abroad to eat their own food served by their own people.

Disoriented by the cacophonous commentary, we skip dessert and head home, to sit on the high balcony watching sunset's hues scatter over distant mountains.

Soft strains of a neighbour's blues guitar deliver a subtle soundtrack to our evening.

A crescent moon above dances with Venus by her side.

I turn to the Snapper and whisper

"Bloody splendid love…” as I exhale deeply.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 19 June 2016


We naturally dislike being wrong, but as I saw my youthful dreams of a united strong and friendly Europe becoming defiled, demeaned and dashed on the rocks, my sadness grew way beyond my own vanity. 

Back in 1992 I believed in the concept of European Union. When my fellow Englishmen muttered about loss of culture, I’d suggest that the Spanish, Italians and French were probably quite keen to hang on to theirs too. 

I could happily live with the idea of a massive Brussels bureaucracy, because employees all over Europe were being awarded long-overdue rights. Alongside those came Human Rights, recognition of the needs of children and women, and a Court of Human Rights. 

I was seduced by the humanitarian wrapping paper, which promised so much compassion. 

Now I’m beyond disappointed to discover that inside the box was a raging behemoth, blinded by greed and avarice, burdened by cowardice and its own amorality. 

This EU now trades filthy promises of visa-free travel with Turkey’s corrupt regime, so that refugees who have risked their childrens’ lives to reach free soil can be sent back on boats to Turkey, whence they fled. 

I want nothing to do with any organisation that officially traffics the most vulnerable, visiting yet more terror upon them. 

If that is the best solution the mighty European Union can come up with, they and we should be ashamed of ourselves. Imagine how we might perceive the US today if those two million Irish had been sent back to starve in the famine? 

Supposedly a proud defender of democratic values, one might hope that at least this conglomerate of nations is eager and able to offer peace and human rights to their own member states. Yet the EU has utterly failed to protect sovereign Ukraine from invasion by Russia. 

It poured scorn on the democratic wishes of Greek people, just as it ignored Irish voters’ rejection of both the Nice Treaty and the Treaty of Lisbon. It does nothing at all to defend basic human rights being trashed by recent right-wing regimes in Poland and Austria. 

Imposing war-level austerity on Europe’s weakest and poorest, the EU sanctioned debt relief for billionaire speculators, while forcing poor uncle Colm in Carrick-on-Shannon to cough up for a 500% increase in the price of each prescription item. 

A year ago all my instincts would sing of the UK voting to remain. Brexit will rock asunder both the currencies in which I deal. It will damage Irish trade and industry and yet now I know that really, it makes no difference.

Over the last four decades power has drifted from nations to corporations. Once governments lead from the front, or ‘governed’ as it used to be known. Now all they can do is react to outside forces. 

There’s no room for ideology when it’s all about responding to the markets, the price of oil, the arenas of war and anything and everything that makes you and me feel detached and unheard. 

Add to that process the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and you realise just how profoundly we now live in a post-democratic world. 

Originally an obscure trade agreement, TTIP will have a massive impact upon our lives. Creating the world’s largest ‘free trade zone’ it will open Europe’s public health, education and water services to privatisation and sale to US companies. 

EU standards on food safety and the environment will resemble their US versions, where 70% of all processed foods sold in supermarkets contain GM ingredients, grown in poorly regulated US industries.

Jobs will be lost, along with Trade Union rights, but even more disturbing, corporations will have the right to sue countries for loss of profits. As reported in this colyoom months ago, we already have the obscene example of Swedish energy company Vattenfall. 

After the terrifying Fukushima disaster in Japan, the Germans decided to cut plans for building nuclear power plants. For this eminently sensible and democratically popular decision, the German government are now being sued for billions of dollars, for loss of future profits, by an unelected private corporation. 

This is how the world works now. 

While Boris and his band of Brexiteers cry passionately about sovereignty, they love the markets and capitalism more, so while bemoaning the UK’s loss of influence in the EU, they sign up, with dribbling anticipation, for a treaty allowing fundamental changes to be made without interference from any pesky democratic process. 

As old-style Western Democracy twitches in its death throes, unable to reinvent itself, the people of the Western World struggle to feel represented by our leaders, seeking the comfort of ideologues such as Sanders and Corbyn, and the rhetoric of demagogues like Trump and Johnson.

The days when a charismatic President, Prime Minister or Taoiseach sat astride a united and visionary government that imposed progress and improvement on its own people are gone. 

Trump is the vanguard of a new and unhappy marriage between profit and parliament, which will inevitably be visited upon us too one day. 

The time has come for governments to better reflect this brash new corporate world. Our human rights, now called ‘Customer Service Pledges’ will be enshrined in constitutions henceforth known as ‘National Mission Statements.’ 

Then we each can be given our own customer helpline number and feel a part of the process of government once again. 

 ©Charlie Adley 22.05.16.

Thursday 16 June 2016

Sit back, relax and try to ignore my voice!

As the holiday season approaches those lucky enough to be fleeing to warmer climes will have to face the trauma of flying. 

Long gone are those halcyon days when going up in the air in a metal cylinder was perceived as fab and fun. I remember when the notion of flying sounded incredibly exciting. 

For reasons that now completely escape me, the idea of a pre-cooked reheated meal-for-one served in a silver foil dish at 30,000 feet represented the height of glamour. 

If you are flying Ryanair there’s not much help to offer. Everyone has their own coping strategy for budget airlines. Mine involves paying the extra for a 15kg bag, priority boarding, 5mg of valium and ear plugs, so that I no longer melt into rage each time the cabin crew announce over the tannoy -

 “Now sit back, relax and enjoy your flight!”

- wondering why, if that truly is their wish, the blue and yellow bastards then burn my ears off every five minutes trying to sell me Beyoncé eau de toilette, train tickets, e-cigarettes, sachets of gin and vodka, scratch cards for the homeless, little model Ryanair planes and vile soggy ham and cheese concoctions... and after each pitch they finish off with -“Sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.”

“Sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.” 
Up there with "Your call is very important to us!" 

If you are lucky enough to be flying on a long haul flight to another continent, I offer you the following suggestions: Get to the airport as early as is feasible. Ignore those who flashily say that they like to arrive at the last minute. They are fools. 

However early you arrive there will already be a queue for check-in. That is because however anal you are about timekeeping, there are always others who are more so. 

When you approach the check-in desk, put on your best voice and ask the corporate hume if there is any chance of an upgrade. They will look at you as if you are a scumball chancer from Hell, but there is a chance they might say: 

“Why yes, as it happens today you are travelling Business / Connoisseur / First Class!” 

If they do then skip the rest of this colyoom. Your flight will be a joy. However never expect this to happen. There is also a chance that Michael Lowry will be the next Pope. 

Most likely you will be allocated a seat in Economy, or Coach as frequent flyers call it. There you will be packed in like sardines, but this is not as bad as it sounds, as sardines are generally happy. Not many people know that. 

Go to the bar and drink whiskey. 
Do not under any circumstances eat airport food. 

Go to the newsagents and buy a newspaper and a magazine. It doesn’t matter if you never ever buy magazines. Now is the time to start. 

Buy Earthworm Monthly or Roadworks Digest; it matters not. Believe me: you will need a magazine. 

At the Boarding Gate try to look nonchalant. Everyone else will. 
Glare at babies so that they cry themselves to sleep before getting on the plane. As you take your seat on the plane make sure you have all your reading matter, puzzles, pens and sweets in a bag at your feet. 

Do not under any circumstances engage any of your ‘neighbours’ in conversation at this stage. Do not even look at them. Pretend they are dead. 

Behave sycophantically to the cabin crew. They can make your flight much more pleasant if they like you. Look bewildered and lost and they will love you. 

Try not to watch the safety routine. Only flight virgins do this and you know that if this baby hits the ocean, it’ll be between you and Beelzebub. 

After the seat belt sign is switched off take off your shoes. If your feet stink pretend it’s not you. 

All attempts to sleep during the first half of the flight will cause unnecessary grief, as you will be interrupted every ten minutes while being offered a meal, a drink, or hot (tepid) towel. 

Read everything. Read your newspaper, your magazine, the vomit bag and then read your newspaper again. 

Watch the movies. They will be inane and terminally dull but you can amuse yourself by lip-reading the actors saying “Fuck You!” while the voice in your headset says “Please go away!” 

After this you may try to sleep. Wrap yourself in the blanket and exhaust yourself by trying to cover your toes and chest at the same time. All airline blankets are designed for midgets. 

When you fail to sleep you may annoy your fellow passengers by lifting your window shutter, thus flooding the cabin with sunlight. Insist this ritual is part of your religion. 

Look down and you will see clouds or the vast frozen tundra. If you look down and see blue sky put your shoes back on pronto. 

During the flight you will gradually become aware of whether or not you want to make contact with your neighbours. It is quite possible to just smile and crush their toes each time you go to the loo, without ever speaking to them. 

However if you’re in the mood for conversation, remember that you’ll never see them again, so feel free to lie with panache. 
Even if you have no idea what Rugby League is, you can pretend you are a professional Rugby League superstar. 

In the unlikely event that they turn out to be interesting and amiable, you should anoint their heads with oil and praise Allah (maybe not such a great idea), unless they introduce themselves as Hyram and Elsa Goldenblatt from Queens. 

They will, of course, suffer from halitosis. This is a universal truth of flying. 

Good luck up there folks, and happy travels! 

 ©Charlie Adley 20.05.2016.

Thursday 2 June 2016

Connemara's hills love me back!

...veiled by the finest of mists, they hid and glowed like a coy bride...

After they discovered at A&E that my chest and arm pains were not the result of a heart attack, but a common yet fiendish cocktail of stress, exhaustion and anxiety, I decided to get some counselling. 

All of us seek help when our bodies break down, snap or become infected, yet still so many think that their minds are beyond cure; nobody’s business but their own.

Don't know about you, but I wouldn't fancy driving a car without a steering wheel. Looking after my mind is way up my list of priorities.

As luck would have it I’d already made an appointment weeks before with a counsellor in Clifden. My intention had originally been to seek a little help for myself and glean advice from someone who knows their stuff about how to best help the Snapper. As it turned out, helping anybody but myself was a concept far from my brainbox by the time that Friday came around.

The Thursday evening before, I was teaching my Craft of Writing Course at the Westside Community Resource Centre. I absolutely love delivering those lessons, but when I return home after them, I’m a hyperactive bouncing ranting fool. 

It takes me ages to fall asleep so with my session starting at 10:00am, I decided I’d drive to Clifden after class, stay in a B&B and wake refreshed and ready to make the most of any counsel coming my way.

Regular colyoomistas will already be familiar with my love affair with Connemara, but although I used to live out there, and over the years have hitched, walked and driven every road and bohreen to enjoy fresh perspectives of God’s own fruit bowl, the Twelve Pins, I’d never driven through it during a Summer’s twilight.

Oh my God. 

It was both gently and dramatically so beautiful I nearly drove off the road three or four times, as my eyes were drawn to another combination of black granite and soft pink lake; of distant clouds that might have been hills, and hills that could have been clouds. Ethereal, majestic: no words do justice to those blends of stark and subtle, stone and water, light and dark.

I’d forewarned the proprietors of Dun Ri guesthouse that I’d be arriving late, and was met by a smile and told that I had just what I’d asked for. A room on the top floor, with views out the window, and nobody banging on the ceiling above.

Before there was any chance of sleep I needed to work off my excess energy, and although 11 o’clock might be late for checking into a B&B, in Clifden’s pubs the concept does not exist until far into the following day.

Off for gazillionth time in my life to trawl the capital of Connemara’s triangle. I only wanted one or two whiskies, as the whole point of this trip was to benefit from a good night’s sleep, but I couldn’t help wonder if my friend Sean Halpenny might be playing his bodhrán somewhere.

Sure enough, as I looked through the open door of Lowry’s, there was the man, standing as he’s always stood whenever he plays his music, very ably accompanied by Padraic Jack O’Flaharta, son of Tí Joe Watty’s renowned PJ O’Flaharta of Inis Mór.

25 years ago myself and my German girlfriend had pitched a tent in the garden of the defunct Clifden Hostel, close to where the SuperValu is now.

It was my first night in Connemara, my second in Co. Galway, and when we wandered into E.J.Kings (ever after to be known as Terry’s, after its owner Terry Sweeney) our eyes and ears were drawn to Sean’s dynamic performance.

Standing, lost to the world in his musical reverie, beating the hell out of a goatskin with impeccable timing, the once All Ireland Champion had us transfixed. That night he and I formed a friendship that has now lasted a quarter of a century.

It’s impossible for me to write about Sean without mentioning the lovely Sonja. Cruelly taken from us by cancer, she was Sean’s partner when the three of us were neighbours in Bunowen, Ballyconneely. The universe will be forever darker without the light that shone from that wondrous woman’s soul.

Over two decades later Sean was still standing, playing, bringing joy and music to locals and tourists alike. Mind you, that night the atmosphere in Lowry’s lovely family-run pub strayed into the absurd.

A crowd of tourists were yelling the lyrics of The Fields of Athenry as if celebrating a winning goal at the World Cup:

“A prison ship lies waiting in the bay! Cha Cha Cha!” 
they roared with jubilation. 

Then they formed a long jolly conga, dancing around the pub, singing joyfully:

“I shot a man in Reno, just to see him die!”

Sean later explained they were Belgians, for whom the conga is apparently something of a national dance, not to be confused with the Belgian Congo, which is a topic altogether more unpleasant.

I retired to bed at midnight, to wake at 5am, my head brimming with topics to talk about at counselling. After a beautiful breakfast served with charm, I had an hour to spare, so I drove the Sky Road loop on a cloudless gorgeous morning.


I’ve lost count of the times Connemara's mountains, my hills, have brought me solace, peace and calm over the years. That morning, veiled by the finest of mists, they hid and glowed like a coy bride, offering much comfort and love.

Yes, hills can love you back. At least, Connemara’s can.

Finally I was ready to go and sort out my screwed-up head.
©Charlie Adley