Sunday 27 March 2016
Went off to London for a few days, came back, still no sign of a government.
To an Englishman, it just doesn’t get more Irish than this. Dáil Éireann’s off for Easter, see you in April, have a mighty break! Why wouldn’t you?
No government, no rush, everyone’s having talks about talks, repeatedly adding numbers hoping they come to different totals, but numbers have that infuriating habit of not doing what they’re told.
Floating rudderless into the über-hyped Easter Rising Centennial, this nation could be on the brink of finally celebrating the end of its civil war, but ah sure, what’s the rush?
I grew up in a country where you sat up all election night and around dawn knew who’d won and lost. The First Past The Post electoral system is mightily flawed, but it is not mysterious.
To my mystified foreign eyes, the lethargy shown by Irish politicians towards forming a government is only matched by the resigned acceptance of the Irish people that this will take its time.
The way the Irish feel comfortable about having no government serves two purposes: firstly it illustrates yet again that - what a shock! - the world does not crumble without government; secondly, more seriously, it displaces the importance of your vote.
During all these blah protracted blah political blah negotiations, your vote becomes diluted, detached and finally traded away in negotiations that bear no reflection of the policies or ideals for which you voted.
Just after arriving here in 1992 there was a General Election, and I was deeply shocked back then at how long it took to form a government.
Albert Reynolds eventually persuaded his supposed arch enemy, Labour’s Dick Spring, to jump into bed with him and my eyebrows have scarcely dropped since.
Back then, in my first flush of love for this country, I wrestled to grasp the essentials of Ireland’s unique political arena, writing in this noble rag of a cutesy analogy in which the pint had been poured, the votes cast, and in the fullness of time the division of head from body would appear.
Ah, young crushes are so adorable. I still love this country, but after 20-odd years, it’s more of a warts’n’all affair.
Now it feels less like we’re waiting for that pint to settle, and more as if the public merely unlocked the pub door, such was the influence of our individual votes.
The politicians then cram the bar as they negotiate power, because that is what they desire. It matters not whether you have the jovial social skills of the Bertie or the gentleness of Corbyn in a cardigan, all politicians are people who seek power.
The games began and faced with what they disingenuously described as ‘trying to understand what the public said with these votes’ all the players behaved in exactly the same way, by reverting to type.
The Left disguised as PFP/AAA talk a lot of sense, but their air of the Judaean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judaea unsettles me.
Sinn Fein infuriatingly refuse to work with anyone else, which means the only time their policies might be tested is when they are running a majority government. Good luck with that.
Lose mumbling number-bumbling Gerry and Martin too, a pair laden with more baggage than Ryanair, and move into the real world with Pearse Doherty (sorry Mary Lou!) at the helm.
Having sold their souls for power, the Labour Party, as the Greens and English LibDems before, have no type left to which they can revert, but Fine Gael’s identity is as strong as ever.
Enda has grown into his blue shirt, pumping out a pompous insistent and irritating pragmatism.
“As Taoiseach I have responsibilities!” squeaks and puffs the acting Taoiseach, caretaker Taoiseach, soon to be rotating Taoiseach, inevitably then irrelevant Taoiseach.
The Treaty man in him demands order and he deludes himself that as long as he reminds everyone every time he speaks that Fine Gael is the largest party, we’ll believe it.
Ireland’s natural party of government has also reverted to type.
Being a smug sod of the most hateful variety, I’m about to cite this colyoom from January, 2013:
“The only thing that was immediately and absolutely evident when the death of Fianna Fáil was announced after the last general election was that they would most certainly win the next.”
The chancers of Fianna Fáil didn’t win this election outright, yet from their position after the last, they have been the only winners, now able either to destabilize any minority government from opposition, or form a Grand Coalition. Fianna Fáil have what American politicos call Big Mo: with such momentum, they could win the next election.
Most say this Grand Coalition will never happen, more suggest it could never last, yet the other day a chill ran through me. Has anyone considered the possibility that it might work?
If the pragmatists persuade the chancers to sign on the line, both parties might suss that as long as they manage to co-exist, they will remain in government?
To paraphrase the late Seán Lemass, the difference between the parties then would be that they were both in power. Imagine them campaigning together, under a heinous ‘One Nation Ireland’ banner.
There’d be no getting rid of them. Ireland would be stuck with a Rightist government, electorally impossible to displace. Now that (if you’ll pardon this Londoner once) scares the bejaysus out of me.
© Charlie Adley
Monday 21 March 2016
Storm Jake heading towards Angel's mobile home on a clifftop...
As I sped down the M18 I wondered for a moment about the bizarre nature of friendship. It’d take me over four hours to drive to Angel’s mobile home, perched on a clifftop in distant Co. Kerry.
On the way I’d pass thousands of people in hundreds of homes. How many of them might I share a brilliant evening with, were I to walk into their homes and convince them I wasn't a dangerous psycho?
Instead I aimed for a unique individual in The Kingdom, where I spent 12 wonderful hours, drinking endless cups of tea whilst talking bollocks with my excellent friend.
Outside Angel’s window the sky turned purple over the Atlantic Ocean. Storm Jake was coming in, and it felt good to be warm and cosy inside, briquettes glowing in the stove, as the maelstrom built.
Around 1am we called it a night. He drew the curtains and pulled out his zed-bed for me. I put in earplugs, but although the noise of the wind and rain disappeared, I felt the sheer power of the storm as it pummelled the mobile, my bed rattling and shaking, as if I was on a ride at Disneyland.
Sleep came eventually, but as I lay awake I made sure to enjoy the might of nature, as well as the thrill of being on yet another Blue Bag adventure.
The next morning I had to face that most profound of questions: to Tarbert or not to Tarbert?
Normally I’d jump at the opportunity to take the ferry across the Shannon to Co. Clare, but even though I needed to be in Lehinch that afternoon, I decided to drive the long way round.
Just wasn’t the weather for boats of any kind.
Stopping off at a garage in Dingle for supplies, I approached a young lad in an official-looking T-shirt.
“Do you work here?”
“Well I wouldn’t say I work here, but I am employed here.”
I chuckled, admiring his brazen wit.
“Okay, fair enough. Is there a loo somewhere I could use?”
“Yes there is. It's out front, then round the back, past the butcher’s shop. Don't go in the wrong door now, as he has a sharp knife and a mean way with sausages.”
The smile he created was still on my face many miles further down the road, when Jake suddenly punched a gust broadside at my car that had the wheels off the road, leaving me with white knuckles gripping the steering wheel, my heart racing.
A few hours later, the day’s business done, I find myself free for an evening in Lehinch. First stop has to be the small town’s fabulous beach, which I’m delighted to see has been rescued and restored after that winter of 12 great storms, when this little town made national TV news.
There’s no question of whether the view takes my breath away, as the power of the wind makes me gasp for air.
The scene before me is beyond splendid. A quarter mile of spent ocean form a tumultuous white carpet, crashing on the shore and sea bed as the tide pulls out.
Beyond, further out to sea, waves are whiplashed upright by the offshore storm, becoming twenty foot high serpents of spume, with arching bodies and fizzing necks.
As the early evening sun drops low on the horizon, disappearing under a towering shower cloud, the wind begins once more to gust to storm force (if you live here you'll also be familiar with the unique sound Storm Force 10 makes) so I decide not to walk along the water’s edge. I’ll appreciate the view from the safety of these steps.
My mind blasted by negative ions from ripped up air, I'm not impelled to compose a symphony, yet I am inspired. My fingertips freeze as I stand here taking these notes, all the time very aware that to the other brave souls here facing nature unleashed, it looks like I'm texting and completely missing the point.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I'm so in love with what I’m seeing and experiencing, I feel need to share it.
As dusk’s darkness gathers, the ruins across the bay in Liscannor strut their sharp silhouettes into the view. The sideways rain shower cuts through my flesh like shards of ice, so I turn away and wander into town, deciding tonight is the perfect opportunity to play Pub Russian Roulette, a game which involves entering a bar without looking in the window or at the signage.
Oh my god this place is perfect. As the Guinness is placed in front of me by a friendly barmaid, I’m already talking to others in the place, intelligent and witty souls of my own age.
A little like a holiday romance, I fall in love and want this pub to be my new Local.
I’ve always liked Lehinch out of season. The West Clare town has oodles of character (and characters), along with cleverly-marketed pubs that each offer something slightly different, yet all another friendly greeting.
The evening proceeds in such a way this scribbler might only dream of. I find the best pub to eat in and enjoy excellent cod and chips, another in which to watch a little footie and another where I find a young local lad with an urgent need to talk politics. With him conversation suddenly becomes real debate, which I enjoy with whiskey and relish.
Then I stumble into the Chinese takeaway for a Spring Roll, which I consume on the street, looking affectionately upon this place.
I know I’d hate it here in the Summer, when touristic hordes take over, but without those months there could be no quiet evenings like this, when it feels just like me and the locals.
This romance involves no disloyalty to Galway. I'm just a blow-in who loves the entire West of Ireland.
© Charlie Adley
Tuesday 15 March 2016
Such charming men...
Happiness comes in many forms. Sometimes it engulfs you when you meet friends, or fills you with gladness when you look into the eyes of the one you love the most.
There’s the empathetic joy of sharing the happiness of another human being, hangovers, the unbridled delight of watching your children evolve their own personalities and -
'ang on a mo...
That’s what I said. Hangovers can make you happy, but you have to plan ahead.
These days I barely drink at all. Apart from an occasional couple of whiskies at home, to steady the nerves while I watch the Chelsea play, I only go out about three or four times a year, heading into Galway to do exactly what the medical experts say you shouldn’t.
As regular colyoomistas will know, these bingey rambles tend to take place at times when the city is at its quietest. I like a seat, or even better a barstool, in a pub that has room to breathe, where I might see a friend or a Howya.
The thought of going out in Galway on a Saturday night generally fills me with dread. Now old enough to be older than their father, I’d feel squashed, ancient and awkward in city centre bars, where acres of young flesh is flashed in ways that this middle aged married man cannot comfortably enjoy.
However when word broke a couple of weeks ago that the Guru was coming up from Cork, myself and Dalooney were irresistibly drawn to drink with him. The Guru I met when we were boys of 9, becoming firm friends in our late teens. 40 odd (very odd) years later we are as brothers, while my excellent friend Dalooney is an integral part of our shared Galway past.
We all lived together in a house in the Claddagh, along with Yoda, The Magician and Artist in Blue Towel, during a strangely wonderful and terrifying time of ghosts, madness and Taylor’s Bar.
By 7 o’clock myself and the Guru were full of falafel and perched on barstools at the back door end of the Crane bar. There was no plan, but far West, snug and safe, we knew that in all likelihood we’d stay just where we were.
Why would we leave? Over in the corner James and Joyce were playing and singing with feeling and skill and yay - there’s Dalooney, walking in with a great smile stretched over his Prom-tanned face.
With backs slapped and drinks refreshed, our excitement grew at this reunion. Bouncing a little on his barstool, the Guru’s enthusiasm got the better of him and he started to sing along to Joyce’s sean-nós song. No human could fail to see his vocals as anything but an innocent expression of exuberance, but it brought back to my mind crazed memories of Crane times past.
Back in those Grattan Road days there was a notorious night when we sat just up from the band over there. As the evening drew to a close, the Magician and The Guru rose to their feet, clutching tumblers of Gin and Tonic, and proceeded to produce a robust rendition of God Save the Queen.
The fact that one of the two was a true Irishman helped diffuse the tension somewhat, but I remember feeling upset with myself for cringing with embarrassment, rather than having the courage to join my friends in a little ironic craic.
Anyway, that was years ago and this recent Saturday night passed in a wondrous blur of friends, whiskies, chat and laughter and finally, oh how embarrassing, the heat from the curried sauce on my chips in Vinnie’s gave me the hiccups.
Honestly, it wasn’t the whiskey.
It was the curry sauce.
Then I bored a taxi driver with some incoherent rambling and collapsed on Soldier Boy’s sofa in Ballybrit.
Most of the hangovers in my life are less to do with alcohol and more about sleep deprivation, but that night I slept … well not like a baby … more like a dribbling comatose adult, but long and deep and well.
The next morning I passed a very pleasant few hours, supping cups of strong sweet tea with Whispering Blue, watching the previous night’s Match of the Day, and then set off home to look forward to my hangover.
Yes, it is possible. When I lived in Salthill I had a long and happy relationship with a man-sized sofa. In truth it was a bit manky, but on the Saturday morning after a Friday night’s drinking, it spoke to me.
“Come be mine, be supine, Charlie.” it whispered. “It’s lashing rain outside so don’t go feeling guilty about not walking the Prom. You have fuel for the fire and eggs and bacon in the kitchen, so relax, come to me, lie on me. You have a creeping hangover, you know you do, so enjoy it. Relax, give in to sloth for 12 hours of your life.”
I did just that and in the process learned to enjoy hangovers, so although I was feeling a little worse for wear by the time I got home last week, I had planned ahead.
Normally I run around my home like a Jewish mother, bringing meals, snacks and drinks, but the Snapper was forewarned that this was a day I’d very much appreciate being brought things.
A long hot shower later I was ensconced in my armchair. My dog was asleep at my feet. The fire was glowing. My wife lay on the sofa beside me, ready for the live showing of the Chelsea game. On a plate in front of me butter was melting into hot cross buns.
Although feeling utterly physically wretched, I felt absolutely happy.
“This is great, love.” I said. “Carlsberg don’t do hangovers but if they … oh yeh, they do!”
Monday 7 March 2016
Can I just walk with herself? You cannot resist these eyesszzzz....
I’ve just been rejected by my own dog. Was there ever a sadder sentence? I’m not guilty of any acts of cruelty or deprival. If I’ve erred in any way on dog ownership it’s towards being a soft git with her, but there’s a reason for that.
When the IVF failed we knew we needed an extra heartbeat in the house, and after many moons searching for the right soul, we adopted Lady from the wonderful people at madra.ie.
Introducing our pooch to friends, the Snapper declares that Lady is our child-replacement dog, and although we fully understand that all three of our lives will be happier as long as we treat her like a dog, it’s hard sometimes to switch off the nurturing urges inside us.
This morning I woke to a perfect dawn. Frost was melting, the sky slowly revealing itself to be cloudless as the mist rose from the earth. I read in bed for a while but then could wait no longer, eager to be out there.
Lady and I were off to the do The Double, our regular early morning walk.
Straight over the road at the end of our bohreen, go a hundred yards past high hedges of bramble, ivy on birch and holly and a clearing emerges, offering miles of magnificent rural cocktail.
Away in the distance open bogland stretches to views of Connemara mountains, a landscape crammed with the perfect combination of wildlife to make a collie-lab’s nose twitch like a flamenco castanet.
Reclaimed from this ancient terrain are fields of pasture, painstakingly cleared of stone by dedicated farmers. Water flows in small rivers and stagnates in drainage ditches, where dumped plastic bottle trash disturbs my soul, but to focus on that would be to miss the point.
When Lady first arrived the Snapper and I realised that we needed identification points, so that we could share our tales of what happened on The Double today and where.
Like our Neolithic forbears, we started talking of Pheasant Nest Corner, Sniffy Woods, Grassy Knoll and The Flood. Thanks to Whispering Blue - definitely part of Lady’s pack - an open expanse became Sniper Alley.
Three miles from start to finish, Lady and I have walked The Double for years, and however pathetic it might be, as I sit here feeling emotionally sore, I will indulge myself today and add that many hundreds of those walks were done with pain in each step, in my knee or dodgy back.
There was no heroism involved because I walk anyway, always have and always will. I walk for my sanity and for the love of the world outside, but when Lady sees a hare or decides to attack another dog, my feeble spine gets ripped asunder. As I restrain her on the lead, pain sears down my leg and in ten seconds another months’ worth of damage is done.
Never mind that though. I love walking my dog and adore being out there, staring at a dank patch of intact mossy woodland, as she scrabbles about in the undergrowth.
As our walks are at roughly the same time of the morning all year round, I’m learning how the impact of the seasons can somehow be both gentle yet simultaneously stark.
Working at home, I need to know that the dog’s exercised before I sit here in my office, so come drizzle, sideways rain, storm force winds or scorching heat, we walk The Double.
Walking is an essential part of my writing process. As we race along the bohreens and paths, my mind wanders off to find an angle for a feature, or an opening sentence that will ease my entire day’s writing.
In front of me Lady’s ears flip up and down as she pads along, and all is good with the world.
Last December the Snapper was forced to leave work due to ill health. I’m delighted to say that she’s feeling better now, and in the meantime the dynamics of Lady’s life have changed.
Now I walk her almost every other day, and while my work patterns demand that we do The Double early, the Snapper goes on exciting lunchtime adventures over ditch and dale, where Lady can frolic with her puppy friend from down the road for hours on end.
As a result, my two girls are ridiculously in love and hey, the more love there is around the better.
Well, you’d think, until this morning, when Lady and I stepped out into the cold early sunshine that dared to whisper Spring under its breath.
I had an idea in my head that I wanted to mull over, so I was willing to allow Lady extended sniff time at her favourite wildlife hotspots, but as we walked up Sniper Alley she suddenly stopped.
I thought she might have been spooked by the sound of a distant farmer moving his cattle, so I reassured her and clicked my teeth to move us on, but no.
She didn’t want to budge.
I asked her what was wrong and she looked at me to say
‘I’m a dog, ye eedjit, so I can’t speak, but I’ve had my peeper and my pooper and now can I go back home because you’ll just take me on The Double and that means I won’t go out later for a proper long walk, which is what I really want.’
I know by this stage in my life that if relationships are to endure and deepen, it has to be imperfections we love.
Despite strong rumours to the contrary, not all dogs enjoy empathy. The Snapper and I have often joked how Lady doesn’t appear to give a damn when one of us is injured or unwell.
Lady is a fickle beautiful beast and I love her dearly, but today, away from all that high-fallutin’ cod philosophy, it hurt like hell when my own dog didn’t want to walk with me.