Saturday 17 June 2017

Don't see the world in black and white - humanity is a thousand shades of grey!


Can’t I turn my back for one minute? Last week I went off to London to spend a few days with my mum. Sitting in her living room, pure terror ran through me, as Mum told me a tale of horror about her friends, who live around the corner in the road where I grew up.

Above the front door of Jewish homes there’s a tiny container holding a prayer, written on parchment: a mezuzah.
 

Vile scumbags had been going down this road, knocking on doors with a mezuzah and yelling
 

“Heil Hitler!”  

at lone senior ladies opening their doors.
 

Immediately protective of my mum, I felt amazed yet again by the stoicism she displayed.
 

After a childhood lived as millions of bombs fell nightly from the sky, her Blitz Generation takes things in their stride.
 

Alongside the police, my family and friends feel protected by their local Jewish community. There exists a strong sense of belonging, of togetherness, supporting and being supported by each other.
 

Even though I’m an atheist, I feel culturally and in every other way Jewish. The Nazis didn’t care if Jews believed in God or not, but here in the west of Ireland there’s no similar community to lean on, reach out to, talk to.
 

In fact Irish opinions on Palestine and Israel are often as naive as many of the views I hear from the other end of the spectrum, back in London. I end up wary of speaking about or writing my views, as I love my friends and family, and if I did so it would upset both.
 

So often I feel pretty damn lonely in both places I call home.
 

Maybe this lack of community support was the reason I felt more scared than Mum did: if someone heil Hitlered me at my door, I’d be bloody terrified.
 

Ah, but wasn’t this why I fell in love with life here in the West of Ireland? Aren’t we compassionate here, preferring people to profit and a heart to heart more than a heil Hitler?
 

Shaken by mum’s news and rolling coverage of the London Bridge murders, I go online to comfort myself. What’s going on back in lovely gentle Galway?
 

Fascists are throwing rocks through the windows of the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Ballybane.
 

You’re kidding me.
 

The City Council is evicting ten young families, offering no plan for their future accommodation, beyond presenting themselves as homeless to the City Council.
 

“Ah!” you gasp. “He forgot to say they were Traveller families!”
 

No, I didn’t. My first job in Galway was working with young Traveller children in the Rahoon Flats, and years later I worked with teenage Traveller boys in Ballybane.
 

What were they like?
 

Well, there were a couple of no good violent types, quite a few half-decent boys, loads of good ‘uns and one or two pure salt of the earth diamonds.
 

If that breakdown sounds familiar it’s because it works for the entirety of the human race. We’re not all angels, but there’s a lot more good than bad.
 

Over the years I grew weary of debates about whether Travellers were an ethnic minority. The only truth seems to be that they are discriminated against like one.
 

You might have young family members living in your house or garden. Unable to afford housing, they need a mobile home while they save, or to live rent free while they balance caring for young kids with work.
 

How would you feel when you hear that the council has evicted them from their home, with no offer of alternative housing?
 

Wouldn’t happen, would it.
You’re not a Traveller.
 

None of the tired arguments about bringing it upon themselves will wash in this instance. Awarded by the Diocese, these homes have supported the growth of 10 young families over the past 25 years, and now the authorities wish to wash their hands of them.
 

There’s been no new Traveller accommodation in Galway for over 20 years, so this eviction is forcing people onto the roadside. Happily there was a wonderful turnout of demonstrators in support of these families, just as there was outside the Mosque.
 

I wish I could have been there too.
Broken windows make me think of Kristallnacht.
 

Those protesters belong to the loving and caring majority in that breakdown of human types.
 

However, some become blinkered by their rush for justice. 

Mentally masturbated by Facebook feeds that mirror exactly what they want to believe, far too many people now see the world in black and white, when humanity is truly a thousand shades of grey.
 

In a mad rush to attach themselves to one extreme, in order to do battle with another, many lose sight of subtlety and moderation.
 

We are complex beings and better humans when our opinions reflect that.
 

I fear the speed with which people are making irrational connections. An ideology that wants me dead inspires an idiot terrorist who’d lived in Ireland to kill innocents in London, which leads to a bunch of dangerous fools attacking a mosque in Galway.
 

In their eagerness to make sense of this hate crime, some then create erroneous links to the Palestinian flag that flew over Galway City Hall, which leaves this Jew, who yearns for a safe Israel and a free Palestinian State, feeling mildly intimidated.
 

Ah poor diddums.
 

Galway is far from Gaza, but in a hurry to fortify their own truths, people are starting to think in two dimensions, so such statements can quickly lead to those neo-Nazi bastards threatening my mother’s friends on their doorsteps.
 

If you need to feel tribal, support Galway.

©Charlie Adley
11.06.2017

Sunday 11 June 2017

What do you write when you've nothing to say?



“Howya Charlie!”

“Well hello Seamus!”

“You recognised my voice! Fair play to you!”

“Well, you have a very, erm, how can I say, individual voice mate. What can I do for you? How the hell are you? Haven’t spoken to you for ages!”

“I’m good, my friend. Good, yeh. All is good. Just wanted a bit of advice about the writing, Charlie. That’s all. Want to get back into the scribbling again, and not sure how to go about it.”

“Well that’s good mate. You know the story. Just get stuck in. You’re a heck of a poet and wordsmith, but as you know poetry isn’t my area of expertise.”

“I do, but you helped me before and I see you every week, month in month out, year in year out, turning out the work, and I want of bit of that self-discipline, to work every day like, y’know?”

“I do mate, but I’m sorry. Can’t help you with that. Self-discipline is a bit beyond my remit. Maybe you need a life coach or a personal trainer or something.”

Hysterical laughter at both ends of the phone.

“Sure, aren’t there thousands of personal trainers here in Tuam? Doesn’t every sham have his own personal feckin’ trainer up here!”

“What I mean is, I can’t help you do it. All you need is enough desire and you’ll find yourself working, and desire is something you’ve got in spades, Seamus. You’re a driven writer.”

“Well thanks for that, Charlie. Makes me feel better to hear that, just on its own like, but seriously like, for a moment now, how do you do it?”


“To be honest mate, you’re asking the wrong person. You should be calling someone like Dave O’Connell, the chief editor of the paper. He has to write a rake of news stories, edit a whole lot more, pass the final edition of the paper and write his own column every week. All I have to do is come up with 1,000 words a week. As far as gigs go, mine’s a gift. Open brief, write anything I want, ‘cept maybe make sure to mention Galway as often as possible. Also I suppose I have to take into account who’s reading it, but that’s not difficult, because the people who are buying this paper are probably around my own age, so I have some idea how they feel.”

“So how do you do it? Do you plan ahead, or just come up with something on the spot?”

“Both, neither, whatever works at the time. Sometimes I haven’t a single idea in my not-so pretty little head, and then a first sentence wanders in while I brush my teeth. Also it depends on where I’m at in my madness. After a long dark bluey, I can get such a buzz off’ve the manic upswing, my head will be jumping and pumping with ideas. That’s when I’ll be sitting at my computer for hours, writing up notes on maybe six or seven pieces at once, or a short story, or whatever I feel like writing.”

“Wow, that sounds fantastic.”


“Yeh, it’s pretty brilliant when that happens alright, which is why I won’t go for the anti-depressants. I’d hate to lose that wave of creative energy I feel after a heavy bout. Anyway, I haven’t had a really bad visit from my black dog for a long time, thank fuck. But I’m wondering, maybe that’s what you should do, Seamus. Just sit and write anything and everything you feel like. Just sit there and don’t think and let it come and know you can’t go wrong.”

“Hmm. That sounds good. Thing is, not sure at the moment what I want to write about.”

“Well don’t then. Sitting and scribbling is only part of the process. Go sit on a rock and watch the tide turn. Walk your legs off into Nowheresville, County Galway, talking out loud to yourself. Also, don’t listen to me, ‘cos right now I’m absolutely out of ideas. Gets like this sometimes. I’ve a few trips coming up, so I have to get ahead of the game by writing 8 colyooms in 4 weeks, and, well, I’ve been pretty reclusive recently, so apart from wittering about the swallows and dandelions, I’m up the Swanee.”

“Get yourself into town with a sandwich board and stand on Cross Street.”


“What d’ya mean? Like a board with ‘Inspire Me!’ painted on it?”

Much laughter.

“Yeh! ‘Inspire Me!’ That’s a good one. Or ‘Ideas Wanted! Offers Welcome! Best Prices paid!’ I bet you’d get loads stopping and talking to you.”

“Oh yeh, can you imagine. Or I could get a dog on a string and sit on Wolfe Tone Bridge under a blanket, with a sign saying: ‘Colyoomless. Please Help!’ I’d have every nutter in town preaching at me. It’d be like Joe Duffy but on my legs and face to face. Come moan at me, with your sad Irish voice in a minor key!”

“Jeeze, Charlie, that’s like poetry.”

“Yeh, ‘like’ being the operative word, mate. Don’t know if I can write something I don’t understand, and as I said, right now I’m not sure what the hell to write about anyway.”

“Couldn’t you take a break? Like, all these columnists, you see ‘So and So is away’, in the papers and mags.”

“Yeh, like yer man Jeffrey Bernard? No mate. Not my style. Even when my Dad died I filed a colyoom. Was cathartic to write about him, at the time. I’ll come up with something, as will you, because life is strange and terrible and wonderful. Sorry I couldn’t help, Seamus. Just pretty vacant, brain-wise.”


“Oh you did help me, Charlie. Just talking to you helps.”

“Same as that mate. So good to hear your wry smile down the phone line.”

“So what’ll it be this week, Charlie? Why not write about having nothing to write about?”

“Ah now, not sure about that. Wouldn’t that be seen as extracting the Michael?”



©Charlie Adley
10.05.2017


Sunday 4 June 2017

NASTY UK ELECTION BASED ON CONCEIT AND SUBTERFUGE!


What a nasty election this has been. Maybe that’s because the entire process was born out of a massive conceit. 

Setting out to appeal to bewildered Labour voters and UKIP orphans, Theresa May created a sub-Churchillian atmosphere of Us Against Them, claiming she could secure a better Brexit deal if she had a massive majority in government.
 

What a load of tosh. May knows well that when her team face up to negotiations with the EU, the size of her parliamentary majority will not make the slightest difference.
 

When Alexis Tsipras arrived in Brussels after Syriza’s massive landslide victory, Wolfgang Schäuble bluntly rebuffed his mandate thus:
 

“It’s yours against mine.”
 

There will be 27 other mandates on that table, and in the EU, an entity perfectly designed to give heretic governments the runaround; to obfuscate and confuse.
 

Rather than spoil her campaign with that inconvenient truth, May prefers to win over a certain Brit voter who doesn’t mind a bit of argy bargy with Johnny Foreigner.
 

That voter longs for England to control its borders. May looks the type who’ll close the doors, yet here lies more deceit.
 

It is an accepted truth that a thriving Western economy needs a broad base of migrant workers. 

Those who constantly complain that immigrants steal English jobs will not be eagerly racing off their sofas to fill vacancies created by Europeans departing base and messy industries.
 

Work for those hours, at that rate of pay?
Are you kidding? Who do you think I am, mate?
 

Britain needs immigrants, and without free movement from the EU, the UK will have to open its doors to people from all over the world, doubtless with many more skin types than the EU offered.
 

Not sure those refugees from UKIP voting Tory this time round will like that so much.
 

You can’t blame May for calling the election. If I’d been elected leader of my party and in the process become Prime Minster, I’d be overjoyed to see my opposition in the throes of civil war.
 

Had May simply said that as her opposition was in tatters, she’d decided it’d be pretty silly not to go for a General Election, I would admire her.
 

Had she said:
 

“I is doin’ it now, ‘cos they over there is totes rubbish!” I might even have voted for her.
 

Unfortunately in this particular Game of Thrones there’s room only for conceit and deceit.
 

May’s mantra of ‘strong and stable government’ was a conceit. What is strong about a government that fails to balance its books for 15 years; that by 2020 will have borrowed more than all previous Labour governments combined?
 

What is strong about an economy that needs to cut the triple lock on pensions; that abolishes free school lunches; that sees wages shrinking against prices for the first time in decades?
 

The Tories have been in power for 7 years. 
When will strong actually mean strong?
 

What is stable about saying you won’t call an election and then calling an election? What is stable about denying Scotland the right to another referendum, because that would destabilise the Brexit process, and then calling an election to stabilise the Brexit process?
 

Jeremy Corbyn is not free from deceit. As leader of the Labour Party he turned his back on his own beliefs and campaigned to Remain, when a man of true principle might have stepped down.
 

After backtracking on Trident, Corbyn started to look suspiciously like every other politician, until he redeemed himself, first by saying that this election was less about Brexit, and more about what kind of country UK voters prefer to live in, and then bravely declaring the War on Terror a failure.
 

He implied what others dare not say, even though we all know it to be true: if you bomb people in their homes, they will bomb you in yours. 

Alone in suggesting policies that might alleviate this horrific revenge cycle of terrorism and war, Corbyn wants to review UK foreign policy, in order to make the streets of home safer places.
 

This of course left Corbyn open to a barrage of abuse from Boris Johnson and crew, rushing to misquote and malign the Labour leader, claiming he’d said those victims deserved to die.
 

A nasty little election it is, indeed.
 

Lurking behind the conceits and deceits of our electoral processes lies a new and dangerous subterfuge.
 

It was not a shock when news broke last week that the 
Conservatives had been bombarding voters in marginal constituencies with ads and messages from fake Facebook accounts.
 

Through his business Renaissance Technologies, Right Wing billionaire Robert Mercer is able to sell power to the highest bidder. 

Using Brexit as his petri dish, Mercer donated millions of pounds to the Leave campaign, combining vast data mining with harvesting Facebook profiles.
 

During the US election, his organisation sent individualised messages to targeted voters in vital swing States, while also creating tens of thousands of false Twitter accounts that split and grew exponentially. 

They spread the Trump word, both because he’d paid the most to be heard, and because Mercer's Right Wing agenda would be well served.
 

Brexit was won or lost by a margin 52-48. Trump won solely by electoral college, after losing the popular vote. Mercer’s apparent ability to influence floating voters via social media is disturbingly significant.
 

Available only to the super rich, this dark bastardising of thought constitutes a new and real threat to our freedoms.
 

The conceit and deceit we are used to.
 


©Charlie Adley
28.05.2017



Monday 29 May 2017

No, Galway is not Venice, and thank goodness for that!


A few weeks ago I was sitting on the loo, perusing The Guardian’s G2 section. For years I’ve been amused by its Pass Notes column: a daily dialogue which asks cheeky questions of a topical subject, with responses in kind.
 

No. 3,851 was headed Galway, solely because of the presence of Ed Sheeran and the video he filmed in the city.
I didn’t make it past the first four questions, which went like this:
 

Location: The middle of the west coast of Ireland. 
Age: About 900 years. 
Appearance: Oh, you know, it’s a perfectly nice old Irish port city. Small. Don’t expect Venice or good weather. 
Known For: Arts festivals, horse racing, Ed Sheeran.
Even though I knew I was being foolish, for some reason this innocuous whimsy managed to bug me for weeks.
 

Can’t I take a joke any more? After 25 years here, have I become parochial and petty? 
Yes I can and no I’m not.
 

So why was I feeling so defensive about such throwaway comments?
 

Had the day had come when I felt more of a Galwegian than a Londoner? 

Was that why my answers to their last two questions would be powered by so much emotion, you'd end up with more of a wrench in your heart than a wry smile on your lips.
 

Such is the nonsensical nature of comparatives, if you come from somewhere bigger, Galway might indeed seem small.
 

As someone who comes from a city which makes many others in Europe appear meagre, I feel one of Galway’s greatest qualities is that it’s a perfect size.
 

No seething metropolis, you need neither bus nor taxi to fully appreciate this city centre. You can walk from one end of it to another in 20 minutes, but it’ll take a lot longer than that, as you’ll be stopping to enjoy the music on the streets, or watch someone wearing burning underpants walk a tightrope at Johnny Massacre Corner.
 

If you’ve spent more than a day here you’ll be engaged by Howyas looking for inconsequential chit-chat, and even though you intended to head straight from Eyre Square to the river, you’ve ended up in Garavan’s for a whiskey, and then PJ McDonagh’s for sublime fish and chips.
 

When you’ve tired of sitting outside a pub or café, watching the gentle crowds pass along the ancient streets (why on earth did they call it the ‘Latin Quarter’? There’s nothing Latin about it. The ‘Medieval Quarter’ would be so much more apt!) you can walk across Wolfe Tone Bridge to the west of the city, looking left to see the River Corrib roar out into the Atlantic, across to the Kingdom of the Claddagh and over, beyond, to the purple-hued mountains of Clare.
 

On a blue sky Summer’s evening the low sunlight picks out green fields miles away across the bay, bringing vivid life to far-distant farmhouses.
 

Once west of the river you can browse the seemingly endless restaurants on Dominick Street, catch a gig at the Rosin Dubh or see an exhibition at the Arts Centre. Then enjoy a gig and the smell of woodsmoke in Monroe’s, or maybe a Trad session at the Crane Bar. 

Whatever your tastes, you’ll find your own place.
 

Since my arrival here in 1992, Galway City has evolved from being a city that has tourists into a tourist city, but apart from the second week of the Arts Festival and Race Week, there’s never a time when the place feels full.
 

There used to be a couple of months each side of Christmas when the tourists disappeared, but they now come all year long, 
marching the streets, 
ear-plugged in, 
side by side in columns of four, 
just as they sat on their coach, 
identical pac-a-macs at the ready.
 

They pass and calm returns.
 

No, Galway City is not Venice, and thank goodness for that. Venice is utterly wedged with tourists 52 weeks of the year. 


Although Galway’s extensive network of waterways might not compare with its wondrous Venetian counterparts, of a Tuesday afternoon you can stare into the waters of one of Galway's canals, alone and in silence, while behind you, in the river, a wild salmon jumps for joy, simply because it can.
 

Well, more likely because it saw an insect to eat, but that you will not see in the diesel-ridden waters of Italy’s ancient city.
 

Yes, this city is famous for its festivals and horse racing, but that is like saying London is known for the Tate Gallery and Twickenham. 

Galway is loved for its incredible people, revered for an atmosphere that grabs your dreams by the goolies while simultaneously whispering in your ear:
 

“This is the place you’ve been searching for all your life.”
 

Well, that’s what I heard in my head and I’ve never once regretted listening to that voice.
 

Finally, I realised why that little Guardian column had elicited such a strong reaction from me.
 

They described Galway as ‘perfectly nice.’
 

We all know it’s a heck of a long way from perfect, but to me our city is not nice: it is great, one of the wonders of our county, alongside the startling glories of Connemara, unique and unmatched by anything I’ve seen on three continents.
 

‘Nice’ is what you call a cup of tea. I love Galway with a passion, just as it has loved me back.
 

Ed Sheeran’s hit ‘Galway Girl’ charted at No. 2 in England and No.1 in Ireland, but I’ll always prefer Steve Earle's different song of the same name.
 

Much like Galway itself, Earle’s fine tune makes us smile, telling a tale of a place where nobody minds walking in the rain…
 

Monday 22 May 2017

TRANQUILIZE ME! EIR ARE COMING TO MY HOUSE!




Ever since we moved into this house five years ago I’ve been waiting for today to come, yet now that it’s here I’m tense as hell - and that’s after the valium!
 

At some point between 9:30 and 5:30 today, the people from Eir or Eir-Ring or OpenEir or whatever they’re called will turn up to deliver unto us high speed fibre broadband.
 

Yay! Fantastic! You’re such a grumpy old man, Adley. What could possibly be annoying about that?
 

At this stage of my relationship with Eir, I wonder what might possibly go right.
 

When a service provider fails to deliver either the promised product or price, I take the struggle for justice to the outer limits of time and patience.
 

You happy breed out there with real lives, jobs to go to and kids to pick up from school cannot sit forever on a phone listening to Neil Diamond, while being repeatedly informed that your call really matters
 

I however can, and being a tenacious and dogged little bugger, I’ll stick in there until some kind of reasonable and just result has been achieved.
 

In the past I’ve had success with Sky, Hertz, Talk Talk, Argos and several others, but Eir have defeated me, over and over again.
 

Only 25 minutes drive from Quay Street, this house is 7km off the main road, so I had to set up TV, internet, landline and mobiles separately, which cost me and my small business a fortune.
 

At first I used a wireless internet operator with astonishingly good customer service, but they could do nothing about the leaves on the trees. All winter we had internet, but come Spring the signal disappeared.
 

Didn’t sound great to clients, when I called to explain that I couldn’t send my work right now, as the oaks across the way were in full bloom.
 

Since then I’ve been using Q-Sat which is reliable yet slow (latest news: now nonexistent!). Add that to the Sky TV and the Eir bundle with the landline and two mobiles and you’re looking at a major wad of outgoing green folding.
 

Even as I typed the words ‘Eir bundle’ I audibly growled. For years I have been trying to persuade Eir in its various forms to offer me a fair deal, because it was not our fault that they couldn’t supply us with broadband, making us ineligible for their best bundles.
 

After hours of communication with innumerable call centre supervisors and press offices, I managed to secure new package after new package, only to find each time the bill came that the bastards had charged me for stuff they’d said was free.
 

Despite clinging to my struggle like a drowning man to a lifebelt, nobody at Eir gave a flying lump of horse pooh about my woes, until one day I wandered into the Eir shop in Galway City, and dealt with physical human beings.
 

At last my problems were taken seriously. On production of recent bills they shook their heads and tutted. I felt alone no more. So whatever happens today, I’d like to say a massive thanks to the crew in that shop: you have been wonderful!
 

Despite their best efforts however, my bills were still showing the wrong numbers, and then a few weeks ago I noticed Eir lads working in the bohreen.
 

“Yes, we’re fitting the fibre broadband, so you can have a bundle with internet, digital TV and phones.”
 

“Fantastic, lads! That’ll save me over €100 a month! Should I go ahead and cancel the Sky and Q-Sat?”


“Er, no. Don’t cancel anything until it’s all up and running, okay!”
 

A few days later a very energised young rep arrived on my doorstep, unaware of my history with Eir. Each time he started to reel off the offers...
 

“All calls, all texts to all landlines and all mobiles -”
 

I swiftly raised my hand in the air, declaring, calmly yet emphatically:
 

“Stop.”
 

I hadn’t the energy to tell him of my years of Eir woe; how all these lists were now etched into my brain as pure lies; how I just wanted him to give me a quote for the broadband, TV, landline and mobiles bundle.
 

“Surely we’ll get one of those deals advertised everywhere, as we’re new broadband customers!”
 

“Er no, see, you’re existing customers, see, so here’s what it’ll cost you now!”
 

He showed me a figure that represented less than we already pay for our phones alone, so although I was excited, I didn’t trust it, explaining to the rep that I’d take it down to the Eir shop for their opinion.
 

“Sure, see if they offer you a better price than me! Bet they can’t!” he retorted chirpily, leaving me wondering why on earth the same company was bidding against itself for my custom.
 

In the shop I asked them to add the total of the 6 special offer months to the 12 full price months, and divide that by the 18 months of the contract, so I could see a realistic monthly price.
 

After signing up with them, I strolled down the road to sit outside The Quays with a cup of tea, and to my horror receive an email from Eir, thanking me for my new order, quoting a whole new price and completely different offer.
 

AAARGH!
 

Misled and mistreated for years, I don’t know what I’ll be paying, and have huge doubts about the quality of the products to come. 

Although other options will be available, until the fibre is installed, this company that quoted me three different prices and sent two different order confirmations has a monopoly.
 

That’s why I’m tense as hell. This isn’t just about my leisure time: it’s my livelihood, and not one bit of me has confidence in Eir.
 

PS: waited in from 9:30 to 5:30 as ordered by Eir. 
Nobody came. 
No call, no text, no knock at the door…

 

©Charlie Adley
10.05.2017

Tuesday 16 May 2017

I DON’T WANT TO RELIVE MY YOUTH - I’M HAPPY BEING OLDER!


“Woke up this mornin’
’N I was fifty seven...

Said I woke up this mooor-ooorrr-nin’
’N I was fifty seven...

Not sent to hell yet…
Not made it to heaven…

I got those what does my birthday mean bluuuuu-hooooze…..”


While in his prime, that supreme athlete, prophet and all round wonderful guy Muhammad Ali famously said that age was a state of mind. As he struggled through the mighty challenges presented by Parkinson’s syndrome, he kept his smile, his personality and his philosophy of life intact.

On a less testing and more personal plain, that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last six years.

Life in your fifties is a very mixed bag. Just as TV ads seem to encourage women to parachute out of helicopters and go white water rafting during their periods, we 50somethings are coerced by an endless torrent of super-healthy white-teethed mini-celebs to go out there and seize the day, because apparently the 50s are the new 30s.

Really?
Nu-huh.
Don’t think so.

In my early 30s I arrived in Galway City, fully believing my partying days were behind me. City pubs, Salthill clubs and an excellent team of reprobates who lured me into local life put paid to that.

Dancing my 30something arse off at night I felt no pain. First thing the next morning I’d pummel Salthill Prom at high speed, enjoying a sad kind of pride in the way nobody passed me.

A few years later I moved to Connemara, where I wrote, walked, exercised and walked some more. Push-ups, Tai Chi and three walks a day.

Admittedly, the final one was to and from the pub.
I’m only human.

Of course there were injuries. I hurt my foot and it got better. When there was strife in my family, my back gave way, leaving me crippled and crumpled, but then I recovered.
If I tried to be as physically active in my 50s as I was back then, I’d be in a right mess.
 

One thing hasn’t changed for me. I still don’t care about the numbers, apart from those pesky 6s. When you’re 46 you’re nearer 50 than 40, and 56 hit me the same way last year with 60.

Hmm, yes, have to admit: 60 is starting to flash up in front of my eyes these days.

After singing my birthday blues, I took my blood pressure pill and an antihistamine, because the dry weather and wind are creating storms of pollen.

Then into the kitchen followed by Lady Dog, looking for her morning peeper and her breakfast. I take a horse-sized omega 3 capsule, which I down with whatever’s left of last night’s pint of water, and off we go for a wander.

After breakfast I swallow one of the probiotic capsules I started taking last winter, when I had a chest infection. They’d cured my IBS overnight, so I still do one each day.

By 9:30, when I arrive here in my office, I’ve got more pills in me than Evergreen, and most of them are prophylactic.

Save your emails, pen and paper, because I truly don’t want to know what works for you. I will not drink your green juices every morning, nor offer up my Spirit Wolf to The Demon of the Stream.

Believe me here and now when I say I’m truly glad you’ve found the way, your way, your truth and the clarity to see the light in all matters healthy and wholesome.

Well done.
If it’s all the same to you, I’ll continue to plod along, creating my own gentle swathe.

One of the great blessings of my life has been the continued existence of a group of friends who’ve all known each other since school. We live our separate lives, but stay in touch as and when we want, and when we meet or talk there’s that unique wonder of not having to explain yourself.

Hence a few years back there were a heck of a lot of 50th birthday parties. Since then, it’s been interesting to see how we’ve all adapted to our new age.

By ‘age’ I’m not referring to precise numbers, just that part of your life, which tends to coincide with 50, when injuries become conditions.

All of a sudden the doctor’s not offering pills or suggesting x-rays. She’s just telling you straight. Nothing she can do. This is something you’ll have to learn to live with, a condition you’ll have to manage, and it’ll probably get worse.

Thanks doc. Think I need to think about that.

Anyway, I don’t want my 50s to be like my 30s. I want them to be like my 50s, because I now enjoy 20 years more experience and learning than I did back then.

Of course life still presents massive problems, but I’m more aware of my weaknesses now, more able to understand my emotions, and better able to control how I deal with them.

One of that group of friends took pleasure wailing down the phone to me that the 50s were the beginning of the end.

Moaning with melancholic delight about the inexorable decline of our bodies, our journey lethewards, he said only oblivion awaited.

Er, yeh, thanks mate, but no thanks, all the same. I’m happy to be the age I am.
 

Even if I can’t dance without ripping a muscle, I have way less pain in my soul than there was in my 30s, and when it demands to be faced, I aim to have the wisdom to deal with it.

Anyway, truth be told, we’re none of us the adults that children imagine us to be. As a boy of seven, I’d look at man 50 years older than me and wonder how incredibly in charge of his life he seemed.

If only I’d known then that we all spend a lifetime making it up as we go along.



Sunday 7 May 2017

Why be ashamed of giving to charity?



 Thanks to the late artist and photographer Derek Biddulph.

Sitting outside a pub, watching Galway City walk by, happy as a scribbler in a daze when

“Mind if I join you?”

“No, not at all.”

“I know you to see you around. English, aren’t you? Nothing against the English. Have to say though, you’re far more snobby than we are! It’s your class structure, ‘cos we don’t have it. But what I really hate is people who force their opinions on you, time and time again.”

“Yes.”

“You know the sort, just go on and on about the same thing repeatedly. Drives me nuts.”

“Me too!”

“Why would someone want to say the same thing, over and over again? Makes no sense. If you’ve made your point well enough, leave it, move on.”

Glancing over to make sure he wasn’t wearing a badge declaring  

I Love Irony, I shot a little hostility his way, in the form of a hissed impatient whisper.

“Couldn’t have put it better myself.”

Made no difference. On he went about snobs and people repeating themselves, until I let go of the rope, drifting off into my ocean of memories.

Snobs in Galway? I remember them, back when I was running a charity shop on Abbeygate Street.

My favourite customer used to arrive in the shop like the scent of Jasmine on a Summer breeze.

“Hello! Lovely morning isn’t it! Pretty soon now it’ll be afternoon. Then it’s evening and then well, night, I suppose. I hope so anyway. I mean, what would happen if it was morning right after evening? Just wouldn’t do at all! What was that? Oh yes, Spring is coming. Sure, it’s just like Winter, but with longer evenings.”

Succinct and indisputable.
The woman was a genius.

Working in retail involves making completely uncontroversial smalltalk all day, with a smile on your face. You might think that the weather affects everyone equally, but I was deeply disappointed to find out that here it was not as safe a subject as it had been In London’s shops.

I greet another customer.

“Hello there! Lovely day, isn’t it?”

“Well, no! It’s bitter! Bitterly cold, so it is. And the rain. It’s not right, not rain like this, not at this time of year. Something's wrong, let me tell you. I know! Oh yes, I know about these things.”

I like my job, so resist the temptation to scream:

“What the hell are you talking about? This is Galway for crying out loud! It rains all the bleedin’ time here!”

Thousands of meteorological opinions were aired in that shop, but only one managed to scare the hell out of me. It was uttered during the week of Solemn Novena, and perchance its perpetrator had been a little overawed by her visit to the Cathedral.

“Lovely day, isn’t it?”

“No it is not. It is raining and cold. We are all sinners.”

I just stood there, absolutely dumbstruck. Neither the time nor the place to enter into theological debate, I thought long and hard and came up with no other option: her inference was that it was raining and cold because we were all sinners, and therefore God was punishing us with bad weather.

Scary.

Having a shop in Galway was a wonderful experience. As a blow-in, I love Galwegians, and the flow of mostly middle-aged women who came into my shop offered me a connection to the everyday lives of locals.

There were lonely souls who stopped in to chat and a laugh, and it was my pleasure to entertain and be entertained.

Others were genuinely stressed out and broke, reliant on our cheap clothing. My heart went out to them as they rushed around the rails
simultaneously crowd-controlling their kids
no time to stop.

On Saturdays we enjoyed a completely different crowd, in from the country for the day. I called them my ‘Gorgeous Mob’, because they were so devoid of ugly urban pretension, they had no qualms whatsoever about enjoying themselves as they bought second-hand clothes.

They just prowled the shop muttering
“Ooooh that’s gorgeous, gorgeous, really gorgeous!”

There was also something wonderful about the people who brought in bags of their unwanted clothes and then proceeded to buy more clothes. Their sheer absence of snobbery was refreshing. ‘Here’s some stuff I don’t want, and now I think I’ll buy some stuff some other people didn’t want.’

Simple and, for some reason, immensely reassuring.

Then there were the snobs. Those who, for some unrealistic reason, thought themselves better than others.
 

I’d spot one a mile off, flitting quickly around the shop floor, flicking her fingers disapprovingly along the rails as she walks by.

She doesn’t really need to be here, you understand. She just wants to see how the other half lives and - ohhh, is that dress really only £2.99? Well, okay, I suppose I’ll take it, but I'll probably never wear it, and please could you put it into this Moons carrier bag?

At this point I explain that our carrier bags are plain, so she has no need to feel stigmatised for visiting us lowly pathetic trogs.

Well, I didn’t exactly put it like that, but I sorely wanted to.

Instead I remind Her Snobness that it’s all for a good cause, and the tiny little piece of over made-up face that sticks out of her fur coat and foul hat smiles down at me and says:

“S’pose ‘tis, yah. That’s nice isn’t it? Now please, wrap it in that plain bag and then put it into my Moons bag.”

Fighting the desire to spit in her face and tell her never to sully my hovel of a store again, I settle instead for the smarmy smile of the pissed-off professional:

“Thanks. See you again. Lovely day, isn’t it?”

©Charlie Adley
26.04.2017

Sunday 30 April 2017

THERE’S SO MUCH MORE TO FOOTBALL THAN THE GAME!


“Well I usually read your colyoom, ‘cept not when you write about football.”
 

It’s never a mystery to me why people find football a complete turn-off, but each time I hear someone dismiss it, a tiny flame goes out inside.
 

"It’s on all the time and it messes with the soaps and oh, do we really have to talk about football?"
 

Okay, I understand, but you’re missing out on so much if you think football is merely sport. Anyway, I promise not to drone on about the game itself.
 

It’s Sunday morning. While you couldn’t give a damn who’s playing who, while my life is delicately poised between two FA Cup Semi-Finals.
 

My excellent friend Whispering Blue is sitting in the kitchen, twitching with anticipation, because his Manchester City Blues are next up in Wembley, playing Arsenal for a chance to meet Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.
 

In London I know that my two nieces and my mother will be privately celebrating Chelsea’s victory. I’ve a brother-in-law and a nephew who will be shouting for Arsenal, while another nephew, two of my best friends and my father-in-law are right now all feeling robbed and gutted, because they watched their Spurs team play better than Chelsea yet still lose. 
 

“Welcome to the modern game!” said Shearer.
 

Oops. Sorry. Veered dangerously close to talking about football there, when I promised you life.
 

The point is that scattered around the world, living separate lives in different time zones, all of us were connected for a couple of hours. Such is technology, we didn’t even have to be watching the game together. 

One friend on a life mission road trip didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so through a WhatsApp group we kept him up to date.
 

In some ways we were telling him about the game. In others we were saying:
 

“Good luck mate! We’re right beside you.”
 

This is not a case of emotionally inept men, only able to exchange emotions through the catharsis of a silly game. 

My friend knew I was with him in spirit because I’d already told him. After a lifetime of friendship, some things can go unsaid, but I find it better to say them anyway. Especially if they’re about love … and football!
 

Another lifelong friend had us in stitches of laughter during the game. He and his girlfriend kept missing goal after goal when they went to the loo.
 

When he went, Chelsea scored. When she went, Spurs scored. The fact that they were in another country was irrelevant. We were all having a giggle together.
 

Lonely and friendless, in the darkness of early dawn, I stood in San Francisco’s Lower Haight, in a queue outside the Mad Dog in the Fog pub. England v Holland, and I got chatting to this tall grey-haired geezer with a voice more London than Thames mud.
 

His words fired wit, his charismatic eyes brimmed with mischief, and later that day he unwittingly showed me up for the disgusting snob I didn’t know I was.
 

He was born in Clapham, and to my dainty bourgeois ears he could not have sounded more working-class. After a tremendous game he invited me back to his gaff for a drink or three.
 

“Where do you live? The Marina, eh? Oooh, very fancy shmancy. So what is it you do? Oh, you’re the Vice President of a Marine Insurance Company, and wow, blimey, look at the size of your house. It’s a bleedin’ mansion!”
 

The English class structure has a lot to answer for, yet football bridges it completely.
 

Before I get a sock in the ear from the wife, I have to point out that it’s not only men who realise that football is about the people in your life.
 

The Snapper would be furious to feel excluded. As she asserted many years ago, converts are far more fanatical than lifelong followers. They add their own zeal and impatience to catch up on the lost years. 

Has to be said that back then she wasn’t exactly allergic to the startlingly handsome young Jose Mourinho, but she will inevitably complain that she joined up before the arrival of the Special One, during the reign of Tinkerman Ranieri.
 

Sitting here now I remember how we laughed together, when we observed that Italian gentleman Claudio wore the expression of a man who’d had his bicycle stolen.
 

Yes, that’s a bone fide soft focus fluffy memory, linked to football, but nothing to do with the game.
 

Today my father lives strong in my memory. At the age of nine I went with him to the 1970 FA Cup Semi Final at White Hart Lane, to jump and shout as shrilly as any over-excited pre-pubescent lad might, as Chelsea thrashed Watford 5-1. 

Four decades on, the memory lives strong of the moment two weeks later, when he announced at the breakfast table that he’d saved and sent off all the little coupons in the Chelsea programs, and in return they’d just sent us two FA Cup Final tickets.
 

Was he really taking me to Wembley?
 

My excitement wasn’t about the football, because I felt precisely the same when I watched the Apollo 11 moonlanding with him.
 

Football is so much more than kicking a ball. It’s about bonding with your dad and having a laugh with your wife. It’s about being able to actively support a friend in need far away, or making new friends that last a lifetime.
 

Yes, modern football is a corrupt game played by overpaid prima donnas, but before you wholly condemn it, take a moment to appreciate how the Beautiful Game is also a unique doorway into a random, rootless, classless international family.


23.04.2017.
©Charlie Adley

Saturday 22 April 2017

IF YOU’RE FEELING CONFUSED, READ DESPOTS FOR DUMMIES!

 
We all might be dead by the time you read this.

“Aha!” you say, “You’re wrong there, because if I’m dead I can’t be reading anything at all!”
 

That just shows you’re confused. Anything is possible in our new world, where facts are the things on Facebook you agree with and truth is whatever makes you feel good about yourself.
 

Don’t worry if you’re feeling confused about the international situation. We’re all mixed up and muddled over what the hell is happening. 

Sitting down for my pub breakfast last Saturday, I glanced at the paper to discover that China had all of a sudden become the voice of reason.
 

“Beijing warns there can be no winners in conflict.” screamed the headline in The Guardian. Would this be the same China that’s closing in on Taiwan?
 

Don’t feed your confusion by trying to make sense of what’s going on. Don’t start to doubt what you know. Don’t consider anyone a smidgeon more worthy of respect because they have used weapons of mass destruction.
 

Don’t confuse respect with fear.
 

Just accept that you should be confused right now. If you weren’t, that’d be something to worry about. Be confused but fear nothing.
 

It’s as easy to laugh at the Leader as it is to underestimate him, so neither visualise him as a Simpson’s character (oops, too late!) nor as Joseph Stalin. Is this At Home With The Kardashians And Their Nuclear Missiles or a dangerous man consolidating his position?
 

Breathe. 

Trust your human instincts. The Leader is what he is, and you and I know pretty well at what level his good ship intelligence floats around in his head puddle.
 

Yer man is reading Despots for Dummies, the idiot’s guide to attaining totalitarianism, and so far everything’s gone with much tremendousness.
 

After the victory, the Leader needs to create widespread confusion. Show time and again that truth is irrelevant, that scandal is puny and that it’s perfectly acceptable for opinions to change 180 degrees in a heartbeat.
 

Say one thing and do another. Ban objective media from the White House. Declare your number one intention is to replace Obamacare and then force that replacement to fail, leaving Speaker Ryan to carry the can.
 

Talk long and loud of America First. Bray about how you’re not going to go to war, because from now on it’s all about making America great again at home, when all of a sudden you realise that those coal mining jobs you pledged to West Virginians just aren’t viable for business any more, while mega-bombs are worth billions.
 

When your links to Russia cause problems, send 59 Tomahawk Cruise missiles into the night skies over Syria, saying to your accusers
 

“Look over here. I am very visibly pissing off Putin right now, so go to hell with your Special Prosecutors and impeachment for Treason!”
 

Having repeatedly declared you wouldn’t go to war, you’re now fighting against two of the three sides in Syria’s messiest of civil wars. You’ve verbally attacked China and then tried to make friends with them. You’ve used Afghanistan as a mega-bomb advertisement location and threatened that least predictable of nuclear powers: North Korea.
 

America First?
 

To be fair, the tone was set early and clearly at the inauguration, insisting we should not believe what we saw with our own eyes. But wasn’t the Leader was merely a puppet, manipulated by Bannon?
 

Apparently not. Enter more confusion.
 

The Leader didn’t like the way his Chief Strategist was upsetting his family, so even though Bannon won the election with his data mining and rustbelt rhetoric, the Leader has sidelined his alt-Right ideologist, firing him from the National Security Council, while simultaneously installing his family into the heart of his home and regime, just as any self-respecting dictator might do.
 

With his daughter ensconced in her own office in the West Wing, the Leader has burdened her husband with a portfolio so absurd in its magnitude, he’s doomed to fail.
 

Previously a New York estate agent, Jared Kushner is now responsible for solving America’s opioid epidemic; diplomacy with Mexico; diplomacy with China; reforming care for veterans; reforming the criminal justice system; redesigning the entire government structure (a practice traditionally much-loved by despots - keep an eye on this one) and, lest we forget, also bringing peace to the Middle East.
 

“Err, thanks Dad. I can call you Dad, can’t I?”
 

“Sure son. You go right ahead and call me Mr. President Dad. That I like. Bigly.”
 

In Chapter Two of Despots for Dummies, a major terrorist incident on domestic soil occurs, at which point all those confused people turn to their Leader, because they no longer know up from down nor left from right.
 

Having spent so long scrabbling around, frantically trying to prove his wrongs and their rights, they now can no longer distinguish one from t’other.
 

The Leader looks down upon them and says 

“Told you so!”

and presents them with whatever form of martial law, army or police state that best suits his needs.
 

This colyoom still feels that the American people are far too strong in number and spirt to let their freedoms be taken from them, but it’s happened to some damn wonderful people in the past.
 

Now it’s up to us to make sure we stay in Chapter One.
 

But don’t listen to me. I’m confused.
 

So maybe you should.

©Charlie Adley
18.04.2017.

Sunday 16 April 2017

IF THE WORLD’S TOO NOISY, STAND AND STARE AT SPRING!

All pics courtesy of the Snapper ... of course!

 
Phew! What a trip that was. As I steer into our driveway, the Snapper and I are back in our quiet corner of the west of Ireland. 

Stepping out of the car, my mind sends me flashbacks of crowded food halls in glassy international airports, traffic roaring around London’s M25 and through the streets of Tel Aviv.
 

The modern world is a noisy place. Each time I arrive back from a family trip, my ears ring with the silence here. This calm quiet almost makes me feel dizzy at first.
 

Silence takes many forms, and as I stand outside my car for a few seconds, I feel the gentle tickle of the breeze on my ear. I can hear birdsong and a dog barking up the way.
 

It’s not pure silence, but there’s nothing manmade about these noises. Even when a strimmer starts in the distance, it makes no difference. We all have to cut things down and back. It’s a fact of life in the country.
 

More than anything when away, the Snapper and I miss the peace of being here.
 

Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s another member of our family group who ranks much higher, and now there’s another sound: the welcome and familiar explosion of energy and blonde hair that is an ecstatic Lady Dog, being walked around the corner of the house by my wonderful friend Whispering Blue.
 

“Howya mate. How’s it all gone?” I ask, as Lady launches herself at the Snapper, covering her with face licks and half a ton of dog hair.
 

Lady shedding her Winter coat is a natural phenomenon worthy of a David Attenborough TV special. Be careful as you read this. If you become too involved, you might well find dog hairs on your clothes.
 

"All good mate!” smiles my mate, with a gentle calmness that immediately reassures me.
 

I always believed in the rare gifts of animal whisperers, but first saw them in action when we moved to this area five years ago. I’d seen a sign about dog daycare, so pulling off the road, I drove towards what I thought was the main building.
 

As Lady jumped out of the car, a slim woman emerged from a smaller building over 100 metres away.
 

Immediately my pooch went full-on mental, straining at the lead, tail wagging like a Sikorsky helicopter, as if there were floating above this distant figure a massive sign flashing in bright neon lights declaring 

“I BLOODY LOVE DOGS!”
 

Lady dragged me over to meet the wonderful Gabriella, whereupon the two of them fell upon each other with the excited joy of reunited best friends.
 

Rescued by the excellent folk at madra.ie, Lady was two and half when we adopted her, so maybe these two had met before. Gabriella smiled and shrugged when I asked her.
 

“No, we’ve never met. But she’s lovely. Beautiful.”
 

"But how did the dog know from that far away that - oh never mind!”
 

Life is better for the good things we don’t fully understand.
 

Although our dog is very happy staying at Gabriella’s doggie care Cottage in Oranswell, the Snapper feels twitchy if Lady’s not at home.
 

Sometimes things simply work out well. We were off to celebrate my niece’s wedding. Whispering Blue loves where we live and Lady Dog adores Whispering Blue.
 

Through this mutually beneficial triangle, all of our needs were met. Three humans had a break (although the week in Israel was so hectic most of my family needed a break to get over the break!) and Lady Dog had her favourite guest pack leader to stay.
 

Talking of breaks, I returned from the wedding with an injury. My left leg is swollen, and I’m in too much pain to walk Lady Dog as I would like.
 

When she first joined our family, Lady was the canine equivalent of a petulant teenager, lost and alone after moving from care home to foster home and back.
 

All she ever wanted was to know whose dog she was. At first she coped by being self-sufficient. Forget all that stuff about your dog feeling your pain. 

Back then that was pure Disneyland to Lady, who cared not the slightest bit that my back was killing me, as she dragged me up the bog road. She gave neither a hoot nor whistle when, after sighting a hare, she pulled the Snapper over, leaving her crashing to the ground, chin first.
 

Now, however, she seems to have changed. Maybe her connection to us has become strong enough for her to experience doggie empathy. 

Even though the signs of a walk are all present (I’ve my boots on, she’s on a harness and long lead) as we set off for a gentle stroll in the Spring sunshine, Lady seems to understand it’s just that.
 

Usually she’d be roaring along and I’d be happy to keep pace with her and build a sweat, but today she’s loping along by my side, looking up at me as if to say she understands I’m in pain.
 

Happily there’s one thing about my dog that hasn’t changed; a behaviour we both share and enjoy. We love to stand still and space out. 

 

This afternoon, instead of racing along our well-trod route, we stop and stare, trying to take in all the glory of Spring in the West of Ireland.
 








The Blackthorn is flowering in expansive snowy cascades.


Out of the undergrowth gentian twinkle Chelsea blue, while all over the bog and grasslands, animal life is twitching, waking up, feeding and running for its life. 
 
Standing in silence together.
 

Lady’s nose twitches at high speed in every direction.
 

I soak up the incandescent beauty of my environment.
 

Going away is great, but I am truly blessed to live here, in this place I love.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 10 April 2017

EXPLOSIONS OF JOY AND KNEES AT A FAMILY WEDDING!



My beautiful niece as the high-flying bride - 
 All photos courtesy of the Snapper ... of course!

Right now I am filled with joy. This evening I attended my lovely niece’s wedding in a forest somewhere north of Tel Aviv. Instead of the usual allocation of numbers, the tables at the dinner were given names. We sat a table called Joy.
 

We humans can’t help noticing all our negative emotions. They hit our heads and hearts with the clout and ferocity of a baseball bat. 

Yet often we fail to appreciate the second, minute or day in which there’s not only an absence of problems, but also a bursting rush of pleasure in the soul.
 

Over the decades I’ve learned to spot happy times when they happen. I wrap them up and store them away in my brainbox. Often they’ve faded before you can appreciate them and that’s a wasted opportunity to revel and glow.
 

Joy, however, is a rare and powerful positive emotion that proves impossible to ignore.
 

Tonight I experienced joy: a feeling impressing its presence upon me like a longed-for kiss from a loved one.
 

Tonight I was surrounded by hundreds of others experiencing joy. We shared an explosion of exuberance and hope, through a traditional collision of love.
 

However you feel about the situation in the Middle East, you’d be a weak cold person to deny two people the chance to celebrate their love in public. 

Tonight families and friends from England, France and Israel embraced joy together, and your ‘umble scribbler immersed himself fully, emotionally and physically, into this roaring torrent of happiness.
 

Forgetting everything else, including my own physical limitations, I danced my arse off like a crazy gorilla, and regret not a second of it.


 ....evidence of scribbler acting age-inappropriately...

People often ask me what it means to be a writer. What’s it like to live by the word?
 

A privilege, a pleasure, it’s also painful, both emotionally and sometimes even physically.
 

Back at our hotel room after the wedding I realise that I need to take notes. Joy is always worthy of notes, but the journey from our small balcony back into the room to my phone proves incredibly painful.
 

The night before we flew to Israel, while trying to remove my jeans in haste (you decide!) my ankle became caught in the dreaded trouser triangle. 

I fell over, full force onto my knee, and now, after hours of cavorting on the dance floor, that knee is sending shooting pains down my leg, to my 56 year old plates-of-meat.
 

Being a writer means doggedly hobbling across this room, in small explosions of grunting agony, to write this note, because I know that without the note, the thought might have disappeared by morning. 

Now I am still filled with joy, but by the time I return to Ireland I’ll be trying to remember how I felt, rather than writing with joy exuding from my fingertips, as they hit the tiny letters on my phone’s screen.
 

Later, coming down from it all, the Snapper and I sit on the balcony. The seats are modern, slung at 90 degree angles to the back, so that your lower body ends up shaped like an ‘L’. 


I
 The L chair....

I’m sure it’s all ergonomic, orthopaedic and probably biodynamic, but right now the angle this chair is demanding of my knee is producing searing pain down my legs, gripping my ankle in cramps.

Rolling up my trouser leg, I touch my knee and - oh yeh baby! - that’s boiling hot and so swollen, it looks more like a bag of pear drops than a functioning body part.
 

My lovely wife looks over at me. 

“Maybe you should get out of that chair.”
 

“Yeh, babe, you’re right. It’s not the best, but that manoeuvre might prove easier said than done. Mind you, the sooner I’m upright, the better it’ll be for my knee.”
 

She nods and then confesses:
 

“That’s true my love, but actually I wasn’t thinking of your knee. I was worried that those cables slung along the chair might be damaging your nice new suit.”
 

Evidently, despite her Church of England background, my wife has been so wholly and suddenly immersed in Jewish culture on this trip, she is now displaying new behaviours. Somewhat taken aback, I’m far too happy to see anything but humour in this situation.
 

So she’s more concerned about the shmutter than my leg?
 

“Hmm, let me think about this for a second. Am I right in thinking you’re kind of saying it's a case of your leg will eventually get better, but the suit will be destroyed?”
 

“Yeh, that’s pretty much what I’m saying!” she laughs.
 

“Mazeltov! You just became a Jewish mother!”
 

We both giggle together and start to look at the pictures she took tonight on her phone.
 

“Jewish weddings are such fun!” smiles the Snapper, as we see images of the sax player on one side of the DJ, the percussionist giving it large on the drums the other side, while the fiddler walks and plays inside the densely-packed dance floor.
 

“They are, aren't they!” I agree, remembering truly wonderful weddings back home, no less loving, yet far more grounded than today’s eruption of joy.
 

 Joy!

It’s over a thousand years since the Romans threw us out of this country. We scattered around the globe, evolving into Ashkenazy, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. Yet somehow, despite assimilating into so many varied cultures, we still exhibit remarkably similar behaviours.
 

We’re able to simultaneously talk to three people at once, while listening to another two. We wave our hands around as we argue and shout.
 

Also, we all love a good simcha: a celebration, where we open our minds and bodies to joy and dance.
 

Oh yeh, we love to dance.


©Charlie Adley
03.04.2017.

Monday 3 April 2017

‘BRIRISH’ IS TWO LANGUAGES JOINED AS ONE, NOW!



Twenty very odd years ago years ago I was ensconced in Pádraicíns bar in Furbo, relating a heinous anecdote to.my good friends The Body and Blitz.
 

“Whereabouts was this in Cork? Was it West Cork or Cork City?” asked Blitz.
 

“Neither really!” I replied, “More north South Cork!”
 

This produced an unexpected and uproarious reaction from my two Irish friends, and once he had calmed down and stopped coughing and wheezing and going red in the face in a particularly scary way, Blitz turned to me and raising his glass, he clinked mine and toasted:
 

“To an honorary Irishman. You’re as good as, Charlie, and that’s saying something!”
 

Even if our aim as immigrants is to assimilate entirely, there’s no chance of any foreigner becoming so Irish that the Irish cannot tell you are foreign. This blow-in wouldn’t want that anyway. We must each be proud to be who we are, even though after a few too many Jamies in a Connemara pub, my accent can go worryingly local farmer.
 

After living and working in the USA and Australia, I’d already experienced how other nations evolved my native tongue, but as always Ireland offered a paradox. 

Somehow the Irish have taken English and adapted it into a form that feels simultaneously foreign, yet sometimes more comfortable and accessible than the original version.
 

Grunt by grunt, inflection by verbal twitch, blow-ins start to osmose the Irish way of speaking English.
 

First to suddenly pop out of my mouth one day was ‘Grand!’, quickly followed by ‘Mighty!’
 

Then there are the greetings. Despite ‘Howya!’ sounding so similar to the English ‘How are you?’, it necessitates a wholly different response. Back in England it would be perfectly acceptable to reply
 

“Bloody terrible actually. The dog bit me, I got burgled and then the bloody car broke down.”
 

But here in my adopted country, I quickly learned that nobody wants to hear anything but the most positive report imaginable.
 

The only acceptable response must be either ‘Grand!’, or ‘Mighty!’ or even, for the more advanced class, ‘Not a bother on me!’ spoken as one word.
 

It’s a tactic that’s tough on depressives, especially during excessively hard periods, when one’s voice doesn’t sound as convincing as it might. At those times, so as not to draw attention to your pathetic human neediness, it’s best to string all three responses together, and utter them at speed, thus:
 

“Mighty grand not a bother on me!”
 

Linguistic challenges aplenty face the blow-in to Ireland. Take the shopkeepers’ assertive ‘Now!’ fired across the counter.

Now what? Now who? Should I do something? Takes you by surprise at first, alongside the ‘So!’ and that much-beloved enigmatic Irish double whammy, ‘So now!’ and ‘Now so!’
 

Inevitably the next Brirish embraced by the mouth of the blow-in is the positively effervescent ‘Thanks a million!’ Such hyperbolic gratitude offered upon the purchase of a single postage stamp in England would sadly be seen as taking the piss, but here it offers a delightful alternative to the bland English ‘Ta very much!’
 

Unfortunately, over two decades I’ve absorbed so much Brirish, that when I sit in my mother’s London living room, my use of idiom raises the eyebrows of friends and family alike.
 

The ‘F’ word flies out of me, furiously and frequently, much to my mother’s displeasure. Clearly the Irish swear much more than the English, yet in return you’ve created a whole new world of English expression.
 

The wonderful ‘Why wouldn’t I?’ now tumbles out of my mouth alongside all variations of ‘yer one’, ‘yer man’ and the splendid ‘no finer man.’
 

Sometimes it can take me by surprise. Never thought I’d become a ‘day that’s in it’ person, but now that’s there, and the other day I was shocked to hear myself offer ‘lookit’ in public.
 

I had to take a moment. 
What next? The ultimate ‘I do be'?
 

Now in the latter stages of my Brirish Education, I play arpeggios of my adopted lingo. String together ‘C’mere to me!’, add a little ‘Now!’ and a smidge of ‘So!’ and all of a sudden I’m inviting Dalooney to ‘C’mere to me now, so!’ and it all feels right and good.
 

Securely bundled into middle age, there are a few Brirish-isms in my repertoire that would now be considered out of date. Long gone is the ‘Gas character!’ and even ‘Sound man!’ appears on the wane, wandering off into the Zeitgeist sunset with ‘Gas ticket’ and ‘Shtop da lights!’
 

The first time I really felt I’d assimilated was actually a non-verbal experience. From the moment I arrived in Galway, I noticed how people sometimes offered agreement by sucking a sharp intake of breath onto the roof of the mouth, loud enough to be heard, yet too soft to be spelled.
 

Thankfully far from that dreaded disapproving flared nostril sniff, so beloved of older local women, this hissy breath is most often used to offer some kind of guiltily agreed censure, such as when your friend offers:
 

“Oh he’s an awful man, so he is!” you respond with the inward hiss.
 

Gathering words and picking up accents are understandable (most of the time!) but this is a physical phenomenon, so I was shocked to find myself unthinkingly doing the sharp intake response
 

My time in Ireland has changed my breathing patterns. That’s a different level of assimilation altogether, so it is now.
 

Behave Adley. Be respectful.
 

Ah well, as they used to say, ye’ll have that in small towns and built up areas.

Charlie Adley
26.02.2017.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

CAN WE PLEASE CHANGE THE RULES OF GENDER WARFARE?




To the redheaded woman wearing a green top in the lift last night:
I am truly sorry you felt I had been so rude. In fact I felt gutted that my efforts were wasted. Everything I’d done was deliberately planned so that you’d not feel threatened in any way.
 

As I walked up to the lift I saw you and other man waiting. He was clearly not with you, so as the doors closed, I was aware that you were in a late night lift with two strange men. Each of us blokes took a corner, as did you, and where normally I’d prefer to make eye contact with another human being, I declined, because in that context it might seem a bit dodgy.
 

All of us were going up to the fourth floor. I’ve stayed in that hotel many times before, and know well its long lonely corridors, punctuated by twin swing doors every twenty paces. Beyond each set of doors you can see only darkness, with motion-sensitive lighting coming on as you walk further.
 

The system works well, but if you were a woman late at night with two blokes behind you and darkness up ahead, you might feel it’s scary as hell.
 

That’s what I reckoned anyway, which is why, when the lift doors opened, I resisted every instinct in my body to sweep my arm in gentlemanly fashion and offer you the chance to step out first, ahead of me. My Dad instilled in me manners, of the old school variety, which are deeply engrained in my being.
 

Heading swiftly out of the lift, I was followed by the other bloke, who was also large and heavy-footed. Holding each and every door open for him, I could feel the sink of the floorboards as he paced close behind me. I was pleased he was behind me, as with both of us ahead of you, neither man could know which room you stopped at.
 

Then his footsteps disappeared, and as I went through the final twin swing doors, I was sure I was alone.
 

You were still behind, so that was my only error. I was just about to walk into my room as you came walking by, and in an American/Canadian accent said:
 

“You're a real gentleman you are!”
 

Given what had just passed, at first I thought you were sincere, so I said thanks very much, but then you lingered and blustered around, evidently upset, at which point I realised that your observation had been ironic. You were upset with me, but what could I possibly have done to offend you?
 

Genuinely mystified, I turned to look at you for the first time and asked:
 

“Did I do something wrong?”
 

You straightened your back and threw your hands loose, as if to shake of the stress.
 

“Yes. You left the lift first and you stormed off ahead and you didn't hold open a single door!”
 

For a second I grabbed my room’s doorframe. I’d held every bloomin’ door, save for the one where I hadn’t known you were there, but it was clear that reasoned argument was not on the menu.
 

Upset, a little angry, but mostly blindingly frustrated, I turned to you once more and failing to fully disguise my emotions, asked if you wanted to know why I’d left the lift first, and why I’d walked ahead of you.
 

You didn’t seem to want to know, angrily suggesting:
 

“Don’t know. Because I’m ugly?”
 

That completely screwed up my head. Nevertheless, as you walked away, I called out to explain that in fact I was trying to stop you feeling nervous, but by then you’d gone back through the doors whence we came, and disappeared into a room.
 

Aha! So you hadn’t even needed to walk through those final doors, the only ones I didn't keep open for somebody else.
 

Because you were ugly? Are we all meant to go “Ahh…” at that and feel compassion for you?
 

For men in the 21st century life can sometimes be very complicated.
 

As I sit here I’ve no idea whether she was good-looking or not, because I had barely looked at her.
 

Isn’t that what we men are meant to do in potentially threatening situations? Aren’t we constantly accused of sexually objectifying women?
 

Yes, it’s a scandal that any woman should ever have to perceive any social encounter as threatening, but we’ll never make progress if the rules keep changing.
 

I’d enjoy scant pity if I wrote about being a man within the same parameters used by female columnists every week. I read about how tough it is to be a woman; how we men are a violent, ignorant bunch of useless lovers and slothful house partners.
 

Increasingly I don’t even bother to finish the piece, because I’m utterly fed up with this slagging off of men, ad nauseam.
 

Obviously not all women would react as that stranger did to me, and all men are most certainly not rapists. We are all different, in the infinite ways there are to be human.
 

In this age of gender fluidity, isn’t it time we stopped talking about gender behaviour in massive generalisations?
 

Haven’t men come far enough now for women to ease up a little on the aggression and criticism, and accept the dazzlingly obvious: that there are good, kind and considerate souls of both sexes, and to besmirch either half of the population on grounds of gender is absurd.
 

For every Mary Robinson there’s a Margaret Thatcher; for every Rosa Parks a Marine le Pen. There’s more to life than gender politics, and while we’ve all a long way to go before we stop offending each other, it’d really help if we acknowledged that we’re all intensely and wonderfully fallible.
 

Sometimes we men simply have your safety and peace of mind at heart. Now let's stop attacking each other and work together.

©Charlie Adley
02.03.2017.