Sunday 22 October 2017



By god it feels good to be working on something. Not just anything but something that requires creativity; something that I can describe as ‘my work.’

Nothing gives a writer more sense of identity, more self-confidence and self-doubt, more elation and dread than writing freely.

You have to make a living in this world and while I truly appreciate being able to earn money doing what I love, I also yearn to write unleashed.

Over the last few years I’ve started many stories. Enlarging scribbled almost indecipherable notes into sketches, I then tried filling out those sketches into substantial pieces of work, but each time I failed.

They didn’t grab me at all.

A writer never wants to throw anything away. Even when that note or half-written story feels empty of purpose, void of strength or simply offers no reason to exist, you keep it.

On my desktop there’s a folder called In Progress and inside that there’s another folder called Where Does This All Go?

Inside there I dump the detritus of years of failed attempts at whatever it was I was trying to do. Not once did I get down on myself. 

Instead I walked away from each piece knowing that I’d given it my best at that time, and might use some part of it in the future, or maybe not: either way, there had been no harm in its creation.

At least I tried.
At least I had a go.

I’d kicked my imagination up its backside and made sure it was still alive.

Then in March I was over in Tel Aviv for my lovely niece’s wedding, so I was able to spend some time with my friend and teacher, the Israeli writer Iris Leal. Although she’ll always be my teacher, these days we meet on level ground.

Nobody has had such an influence on my writing. Back in 1986 I was living in a manky old flat, two floors above the shops on London’s Golders Green Road. Two years previously I’d quit a lucrative marketing job to travel around the world, all the way scribbling frantically the first draft of a first novel into a red hardback copybook.

Returning to London homeless, I sofa surfed for 6 months, until lifetime friendships were sorely tested. Eventually I found that flat in NW11, and there I sat, wrapped up entirely in the image of being a writer.

When Iris wandered unannounced and uninvited into my living room, she found me sitting at a desk, banging away at a typewriter, with the requisite number of screwed-up pieces of paper strategically strewn around the floor, an ashtray overflowing with still-smoking fags and a bottle of whisky (no ‘e’ as it was Scotch in those days) within a hand’s reach.

Artless, craftless and wonderfully ignorant, I was chucking the story out of me, so when Iris looked at my work she could feel my raw passion, and thankfully believed I had sufficient talent to adopt me, to take me on as her unofficial pupil and try to drum some craft into me.

Over two excruciatingly painful years she taught me ten years of craft...

Over the course of two excruciatingly painful years she taught me ten years of craft. Back then, more than ever since, we occupied polar opposites of literary ambition. 

Iris would take all day to write three sentences, with, as she rather melodramatically put it: “The ghosts of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Thomas Mann at my shoulder as I write!” while I was knocking out 2,000 words a day, concerned only that anyone able to read might appreciate my work.

Happily now we both understand that we are different writers, on completely disparate missions. She wants the recognition of her literary peers, grand prizes and eternal glory, while I am wary, fearful of fame and the ensuing loss of privacy, happy to improve, hopefully one day coming up with worthy work that is uniquely my own.

Chatting over coffee in Tel Aviv, Iris asked me to describe in precise detail every minute of my working day.

“You are being lazy, Charlie. Do not be blasé about your life, Charlie!” she admonished me. “I want a short story in six weeks.” 
“You are being lazy, Charlie. Do not be blasé about your life!"

Sometimes that’s all you need: someone you respect who takes your writing seriously. Two weeks later a story fell out of me in a second person voice and it felt right.

Second person is not a voice I’d ever recommend to any writer, and certainly not a voice that you force out - you never want to force any of your writing - but for that story the voice felt absolutely perfect.

Buzzed up and inspired, I tried the same voice on those old sketches and unfinished stories languishing in the Where Does This All Go? folder. Thankfully once again it fell out of me.

It had to, if it was going to work.

As before, the second person proved perfect, somehow distancing my narrative and unleashing the stories’ potential.

Iris told me aeons ago that a writer is like a pressure cooker; that each time you talk about your work it loses some steam, some pent-up power.

So why am I writing about this work in progress in this very public newspaper?

 Image result for charlie adley writing cartoon

Well, starting a book is a terrifying process. After so many fallen flares of optimism, I wait until a body of work starts to build, gradually trusting that the process is this time truly up and running; that a book is being written.

Here I am, breaking Iris’ rule, forcing this book to be real by sharing its existence with you.

Feels so good to be writing unchained once more. If it proves good enough, you might see it one day.

Wish me luck.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 15 October 2017


Holy macaroni! Am I hallucinating? Did my housemates slip a tab of acid into my tea? No, they wouldn’t do that. Well they might, but not on the first day of my first job in Galway.

From my tiny semi-slum in Salthill I’d walked to Bishop O’Donnell Road, where my legs froze and my heartbeat rose, as I stared at my destination: the Rahoon Flats.

When I’d told my Galwegian friends where I’d be working, they’d muttered about heroin and violence, but to my Londoner’s eyes the towers looked neither too daunting nor deprived.

It wasn’t the buildings, but the huge mural painted on the side of one of them that took my breath away. Who else in Galway would recognise Bradford’s skyline, the very city I’d left 7 months before? 

After a one-way flight, I’d randomly hitched around Europe looking for a home, ended up in Galway, found work with Traveller children in the Rahoon Flats, where I now stood, rooted to the spot, my eyes running over those familiar silhouetted mosques, the museum, the mill chimneys, the terraces of tiny houses wound around the hills that used to be home.

A born scribbler, my first instinct was to write about this coincidence and mystery, so I did some research, and discovered that Bradford and Galway were twin cities.

They’re what?

Looking here and there and then here I started to feel giddy, so I typed Double Vision onto the sheet of paper in my typewriter, launching into a rant about the glaring differences between the two cities.

Bradford is in the centre of England, built on 7 hills, while Galway is almost flat and very much on the coast. Bradford has the largest Pakistani population outside of Pakistan, while Galway, back in 1992, was almost completely white.

The list went on, and when it was done I strode into town, clutching three sheets of paper. Uninvited and dry-mouthed, I walked into the Connacht Tribune newsroom, asking for the Editor.

Mike Glynn read my copy and that was the start of our beautiful friendship and working relationship that this week turns 25.

No journey worth its salt runs without twists and bumps. The colyoom stopped for 4 years when I moved to America, and in 2009, along with the economy and much human dignity, Double Vision was removed from the scene of the crash, yet both times it was returned to me, for which I am truly grateful.

Apparently, before I first wandered into their workspace, Mike and that pure gentleman Brendan Carroll had just decided that the City Tribune needed an outsider’s perspective, to reflect Galway’s rampant population growth. That was my brief, but I figured that everything I thought came from an outsider’s perspective, so I wrote whatever I wanted.

Well, that’s not true.
Two obstacles stood in the way of my free speech.

The first was my complete ignorance of all things Irish. Having lived and worked in London, Melbourne and Barcelona, I arrived in Ireland to find there was neither divorce nor contraception, and that married women had relatively recently been ‘allowed’ back to work.

The nation had morals mired in the 1950s, a younger generation groping awkwardly through the early 1980s, and an absence of respect for the environment worthy of the 1970s.

Ireland was a fabulously infuriating paradox, with no political Left or Right, help-line phone numbers that were somehow illegal and white Travellers the only available targets for racism.

Quickly and utterly bemused and confused, I wisely protected myself behind a nom de plume

After writing about abortion in my second week, someone telephoned the Tribune and threatened to blow up the building. 

Further intimidation, in the shape of used condoms, a dog turd and photos of a monkey foetus arrived in the mail.

On top of that, Irish libel laws turned out to be vast and vague, presenting huge problems.

If this colyoom ever feels toothless to you, please understand that in the last 6 months alone 2 pieces had to be pulled: one was too specific about a company damaging our marine environment, while the other, written so carefully that a local retailer who had abused and ripped me off was unidentifiable, apparently meant that any business might lose out and sue.

Aside from such serious matters there’s been craic aplenty. At the risk of going all dwaaarling luveee, thanks must go to Dave O’Connell, for inflicting Double Vision onto Connacht Tribune readers; all the friendly faces in the newsroom (and Mac) and, of course, my cast of friends and loved-ones.

Thanks to Whispering Blue, The Guru, Angel, The Body, Blitz, Dalooney, Yoda, the Magician, Artist in Blue Towel and of course The Snapper.

Thanks to you also, my loyal colyoomistas, for buying this newspaper in a digital age.

Double Vision came about because Ireland and England are simultaneously so similar and different. However, thankfully there is one wondrous and internationally unique trait we share: slagging is to attack with affection, and it only really works when reciprocated.

As an Englishman living in the West of Ireland, I accept regular hysterical and historical slagging. Soon after Double Vision started, people told me they’d enjoyed my colyoom.

“My what?”
“Oh, you know. Your colyoom in the paper. Your ar-tickle.”

Aha! So in the same way that the Irish watched a fil-em rather than a film, they read a colyoom, not a column.

This colyoom says thanks. 
See you next week.

©Charlie Adley

Tuesday 10 October 2017

When the news feels too scary...

Sometimes you watch the news or read something in the paper and your spirit plummets. 

The world seems beyond redemption. 

Your mind spins as you struggle to make sense of it all.

Are you really a member of this species who so readily seek out hatred; who appear to savour the horrors of war?

As a news junkie I’ve adopted ways of protecting myself from what I call ‘nadir moments’, so before you drop down a canyon of personal despair, seek comfort in this guide to dealing with hate.

The last story that affected me badly was concerned with a fairly unsensational man. UK LibDem politician Vince Cable is remarkable only in that he’s become his party’s leader at 74.

I have no reason to disbelieve his recent revelations that as Business Secretary during the Tory-LibDem coalition government, he saw up to nine studies that showed:

“… that immigration had very little impact on wages or employment, but this was suppressed by the Home Office under Theresa May, because the results were inconvenient.”

Even now I feel a stab of fury: an inconvenient truth, suppressed by a Tory who is now Prime Minister, because she knew better than to care about mere facts. 

May knew well that immigration was boosting the UK economy, because along with cohorts of business leaders, The Institute for Fiscal Studies had advised her that the UK’s migrant workforce was actually creating jobs for UK workers.

Yet instead she sat on all those reports, because people don’t want to hear that immigration helps. They want someone to blame. They need to hear talk of controlling borders, and so the hate continues.

My heart sinks through the floor as I wonder who the hell we are. Do facts now play no part in the machinery of democracy? 

There’s nothing new in politicians saying what they know people want to hear, but don’t we want to hear the truth? Are we fearful of the truth?

People wash their hands by talking of post-truth eras and alternative facts, while their bigoted beliefs are bolstered by a bombardment of lies on social media. 

Populists appear to fill the void left by empirical truth, claiming to represent the voices of the unheard, perpetuating lies believed by the great misled.  

That’s when you end up with Alternative für Deutschland winning over 90 seats in the Bundestag.

They claim that Islam does not belong in Germany.

As a Jew I find such absolutism plain terrifying.

As a human being, I despise this whole paradigm of politicians stoking racial hatred to gain power, placating the people their redundant systems have so sadly failed and

and oh god 
and oh no 
and oh there's no hope for us, so eager to seek division and conflict 
and all of a sudden I’m there, in the bad place, where it all feels too much.

Taking a deep breath I exhale slowly, climb into my car and drive over to the east side of Galway City, where I can sit and have a cuppa with Whispering Blue.

My friend has a brain the size of a planet. He knows so much that somehow, each time I hit the fear zone, he puts everything back into perspective. By the second cuppa we’re talking about whether Pep can play Sergio Agüero alongside Gabriel Jesus.


When I worry about nuclear war with North Korea, I go for a walk up the bohreen and stare at the long golden grasses that fringe the edge of the bog, waving in the stiff Autumnal breeze. I wait until I feel comfortably calm, happy to accept I'm unable to influence that situation.

When my anger erupts over the way successive governments have awarded themselves (and all of Ireland’s bigwigs) disgustingly vast and decadent pensions, while spending on the homeless crisis has shrunk beyond belief, I give to the Simon Community, so that I can feel truly dissociated from their rampant greed.

When my brain turns into mental spaghetti as I try to work out who is more dangerous - a clever populist like Johnson or a dumb demagogue like Trump - I pull myself back from the brink by heading to one of the West of Ireland’s myriad white sand beaches, where I sit on a rock, watching the tide ease out. 

As my fury rises at the injustice of Direct Provision and the nauseating hypocrisy of Irish governmental attitudes to immigrants, I grab Lady Dog’s rope toy and we have a game of Grr and Pull.

When I worry about Climate Change I walk the Prom, reassured by the familiarity of what still is, rather than agonising over what might be lost.

Instead of upsetting myself over the future of humanity, I hug my wife until she can hardly breathe, feeling the wonderful oneness and unique intimacy of such an embrace.

When life as a whole goes horribly wrong, I head to my hills, the Twelve Pins, because in my personal experience, there is no spiritual ailment that Connemara cannot cure.

It’s our duty as humans to know what makes us feel better. Of course everyone has different ways of surviving the horrors of the world. It’d be plain weird if you turned up for tea at Whispering Blue’s gaff.

Whether you go to the cinema with your kids, share coffee on Quay Street with friends or row a boat across a lake on your own, you must remind yourself that in contrast to most of the world out there, your life here in this corrupt tiny republic is pretty bloody marvellous.

Don’t feel smug: appreciate it, and if you value your personal safety, stay away if you see me on a beach.

© Charlie Adley

Sunday 1 October 2017


“Can I help you?”

The brown-haired woman smiles at me through the hatch at the reception of the laboratory at UCH. I pass her the form my doctor gave me. 

“Ah lovely. You can leave that with me.”

“Ah, actually, I’m here to pick up a …”

For the first time of many that morning, I struggle not to say ‘pot to piss in’, instead blurting out

“…a container.”

“Oh. I see. Right, well just a moment, please.”

She turns to a fair-haired woman who also shakes her head.

“Sorry, we don’t know exactly where they are, so can you wait for himself to come back? He’ll only be a minute.”

“Sure, I’m in no rush.”

They disappear and I lean on the hatch shelf. A tired-looking bloke in a blue coat arrives with a large bag full of samples, which he pours through the window into the awaiting box.
Blimey. That’s a lot of work for them.

“Are you being looked after?” asks an older woman who appears at the hatch. She too smiles as I reassure her that I’m fine, they’re looking for - oh never mind.

A few seconds later a postman arrives with a mountainous pile of letters and packages, along with a huge plastic container, which he clasps to his chest as he’s buzzed through the locked doors. 

Appearing again the other side of the hatch, he lifts the lid on his box and tips countless packages and smaller boxes into a vast plastic tub.

Holy mackerel! This would be comical if it wasn't so sad. In the few minutes I’ve stood here hundreds of samples have arrived for testing. 

These workers are under the cosh, but somehow they’re all still a pleasure to deal with, even if they can’t find a …well, y’know.

“Hello there. Can I help you?”
This time it’s a young man with dazzling white teeth.

“No, thanks. They’re looking for a container for me.”

“Ah yes, just a moment.”

He leaves and through the glass front doors I see him talking to another bloke and a woman. They point along the corridor and up the stairs, and finally the young man heads off.

“Are you alright there?”

She’s a fresh-faced 20something in a white coat. I explain what’s going on and she nods vigorously, assuring me she’s on the case.

In a small way I’m starting to feel a tad guilty. Seven different members of staff have now been involved in finding this container, while heaps of vital urgent work await them in heaving boxes, over-spilling tubs and crammed cartons.

“Here we go then!” announces a completely different woman, making her hatch debut.

I thought I’d be getting something that looked like a specimen bottle, with an expanding top, to facilitate the flow, so to speak, yet instead she gives me a flat-sided two litre container.

“Thanks so much!” I smile and wave as I leave these friendly heroes to their intimidating workload.

Looking down at the bottle top, I see the word ‘Acid’ written in marker pen. Given that they had so much trouble finding it, I’m now a bit worried they might have given me the wrong bottle, so I unscrew the top and sniff.

Clean as a whistle, but there’s a little liquid still in the bottom, so tipping it upside down I spill what I believe to be water onto the lab steps, only to jump backwards a full foot, as the liquid hits the ground with a


Bleedin’ mother of holy Nora, Bobby Tambling and nutty cheddar cheese!

A six inch bubble of fizzing froth is exploding off the concrete and 
I’m all shook up. If I'd put my dangler into that bottle I’d have been racing to A&E, unable to leave any sample at all.

Returning to the hatch I encounter the young man again.

“Can you help me, please? I’ve just had a bit of a moment.”

Flashing the whitest of toothy reassuring smiles at me, he shoots through the doorway, where he clocks what I’ve done. Immediately reaching into a nearby flower bed, he grabs a handful of dead leaves and drops them over the acidic eruption.

“You poured the acid out?”

“I er yes, I did, because I didn’t know it was acid. I mean, I’m meant to pee into this bottle, so I didn’t think it’d be designed to burn my bits off.”

“Oh no, you don’t go into the bottle. You need a funnel!”

“Ah, oh, well that makes sense. Bloody glad you told me.”

“So am I! Just get an empty big bottle of coke or something like that, cut off the top, wash it thoroughly and then use that as a funnel to err…”

“Yes, I see, thanks so much.”

For once in my life I decline to complain how it might have been handy if the woman who gave me the bottle had mentioned the lethal liquid lurking inside. 

She and they are our warriors of the HSE: underpaid, overworked and every single one cooperative and friendly.

“Fair play to them!” I say out loud as I walk away, finally looking at the large sticker on the side of the bottle:

Contains strong acid. Causes severe skin burns and eye damage. 25mls of 50% concentrated Hydrochloric acid. 
Pour urine SLOWLY into container in such a manner that it does not reach bottom of container directly 
(i.e. pour down along inside of container.)
All of a sudden I’m overjoyed that I spilled the acid and made a mess on the steps, as without my prattery himself wouldn’t have come out and told me to use a funnel.

With the staff so overworked and my observation skills apparently reduced to pitiful levels, it might have been better had the warning on the bottle said:   

Absolutely never piss into this pot, unless you want your premium bond quickly and painfully dissolved.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 24 September 2017

Irish radio: a whole lotta men going on... and on... and on...

 Some of the men on Irish radio

The only surprising part of the George Hook scandal was that it took so long to happen. Hook is a man who would say these things, along with all the other bigoted older men who you’d just about tolerate for the length of a drink at the bar.

You’d nod every now and then, to be polite, make no eye contact and slip away quietly as soon as he was distracted.

These are the men who you’d like to forgive, because you know they belong to an Ireland that is late in its evening.

They are the men who’ve done it all, so they tell you, yet they seem to have learned so little from their experiences. It was inevitable that Hook would say something like that, because he revels in a Daily Mail nostalgic malaise of anachronistic attitudes, presenting himself as smug and knowing.

Deluded souls claim he is some kind of controversialist. Being controversial for a living is a tricky business, requiring great knowledge and insight of both sides of the argument, and a deftness and subtlety of touch that are rare and joyous to behold.

an irksome man...

George is not that man; never was and never will be. Barely worthy of anger, Hook can’t be blamed for being himself, but his employers are guilty of the crime of imposing upon Ireland radio domination by irksome older men you’d never voluntarily listen to.

Radio stations survive by doing demographic research to identify their target audience, so they can sell advertising space and make money.

You’d imagine Communicorp employ a talented marketing department, so how can they get it so wrong? Do they really believe today’s Ireland wants nowt but tiresome earache from middle and older aged men?

Our modern bouncy republic is young and more diverse than ever, yet the nation’s broadcasters still believe we’re living in a country that disappeared with Seán Lemass.

It’s crass in the extreme of these marketing types to believe that as a 57 year-old white male, I’m so shallow that I desire only to listen to a dreary procession of other old white males.

A member of the last generation to have a life-long relationship with radio, I represent their listenership, but that doesn’t mean I’m so utterly vacuous that all I need to keep me stimulated is the babble of less well-informed contemporaries.

From the boy under bedsheets listening to Radio Luxembourg’s Top 20, on a not-very-hygienic-at-all metal earplug plugged into a tiny yellow transistor (well it was considered tiny then, but at the depth of three smartphones, it’d now be seen as cumbersome) to today’s remote control button on the steering wheel of my car, I have always loved radio. 

Mind you, I suffered major radio culture shock when I arrived in Ireland. After a couple of years in the city, I moved alone out to the country, where of course the radio went on and oh, it was painful.

 some more men....

Gay Byrne I found unbearably condescending, my immigrant mouth falling open as once again he patronised a female guest with his ‘good girl, good girl’ verbal pat on the head.

After his show I had a choice of two more men, either Pat Kenny or Gerry Ryan, but my real education came in the afternoon, in the shape of Marian Finucane’s ‘Afternoon Call.’

Long before Joe Duffy’s melancholic minor key mutterings, it was Marian’s onerous task to remind the sinful people of Ireland to give thanks each day. How lucky we all are, compared to the apparently endless torrent of anguish and misery Joe and Marian’s callers have delivered, daily, for decades.

I’ll never forget how disturbed I was by one of the first callers I heard, back in those early 1990s. An outraged mother was in tears on air, because her seven year-old son had been told to take a shower with the other boys after football.

This woman was screaming down the phone line:

“I do not send my child to school so that he can have other children looking at his penis. His penis, Marian. His PENIS.”

‘Is this what they’re really like?’ I wondered, but thankfully it was my greenhorn ignorance of the Irish that was the problem.

There are still some people in this country who think like that, and if they are men they might well get their own radio show, but fortunately there are so many more who are wonderful, wise and wickedly dark in the humour.

George Hook is not the problem. Of course he’s going to put his foot in it: he knows no better. 

Of course Pat Kenny would come out and defend his stablemate, describing him as "a decent man with children…” who was merely  “…musing over a topic.”

Oh okay. That’s alright then.

What was never alright was that if you’re not perpetually connected to the internet, between midday and 1 o’clock, George Hook was the only voice Irish talk radio had to offer.

 Chris and Sarah - hope for the future...

What’s not acceptable is that in Ivan Yates yet another older man has replaced the vibrant partnership of Chris Donoghue and Sarah McInerney - yes, briefly, a female was allowed onto Newstalk’s testosterone-packed airwaves!

Wouldn’t it be great if Ray Darcy said something outrageous about black people; if Joe Duffy finally retired to a tropical paradise; if Ryan Tubridy was suddenly bombarded by glitter, subtly and painlessly eviscerating his body until he resembles the sugar sifter he presents to us?

At last we might hear some voices that better reflect today’s young Ireland; some diverse opinions that educate, rather than offensive and incorrect old rubbish.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 17 September 2017


It starts with the car windows veiled in morning dampness. Then flower beds show more seed heads than petals.

The rains came exactly when they always do, just as festival season hit Galway, and by Race Week we were into that humid damp air that meets hot sunshine breaking through thunderclouds.

Before that though, we had a long dry Spring and Summer. A friend of mine grades Summer by how often he leaps into Lough Corrib, and this year there wasn’t the heat for more than four swims. 

Not good by his standards, yet I’m always amused by the Irish ability to eradicate the memory of months of good weather with two wet mornings.

I’m already hearing that Autumnal old chestnut:

“Ah sure, we never had a Summer at all!”

But yes we did. We had no Winter last year, which was strange and deeply disturbing, but Spring came right on time, with the sweet peas planted into containers on Paddy’s Day.

Despite the seemingly driven Irish desire to see bad weather in good, I know it was dry for months because I have a dog who loves walking, and from March to August I did not once don my waterproof leggings.

During most Summers I become obsessed with the weather forecast, trying to spot a window of dryness so that I can mow the lawn, but this year it was easy.

Well, until the Arts Festival. But you’ll have that.

It took me decades to truly understand that the seasons here are a month apart from the ones in my native London. Regular as clockwork, on August 1st my farmer landlord in North Mayo used to say:

“Well, that’s it now, Charlie. That’s it gone.”

At the time I’d refuse to believe him. Back in England August is seen as high Summer, but this year on August 1st, as I stood on the front lawn with Lady Dog, waiting for her to do what dogs do, I felt a turn in the wind; a different rustle to the leaves on the trees; the slightest whiff of growth oozing into decay.

It was arrogant of me to disbelieve a Mayo farmer. Of course the climate is different here, 500 miles further west, on the Atlantic edge of the continent.

I love it.

Yes, I know that sounds incredible. I know that when we’re feeling beaten up by Winter’s brutal endless storms, demoralised by the lashing rain of another midsummer letdown, we cheer ourselves up by reassuring each other:

“Ah well, we don’t live here for the weather!”

No, we don’t, but without our weather would we have the place we love?

One night years ago I was crammed into the shelter of a shop porch with a man who resembled Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses. 

Together we watched as blankets of sideways rain powered up Dominick Street, torrents of insistent swirls, dancing silver under the street lights.

We looked at each other and then out into the bleakness, both knowing well that this was not a passing shower; that we would have to brave it and deal with the consequences.

Turning to me he threw back his head and laughed maniacally.

“God’s gift to Ireland!” he screamed above the clamour of the storm. “God’s gift, the raaaaiiin!” he cheered, eager for me to ask him why.

Not really in the mood for theological debate, I resisted the urge to reply “Well ta very much, God!” instead settling for the more respectful:

“How’s that then?”

Delighted I’d finally bitten his apple, he launched into his spiel, which was, I must admit, enlightening.

“Without the rain there’d be a hotel on every clifftop. Without the rain there’d be caravans and mobile homes as far as you can see. Without the rain there’d be millions of tourists here every month of the year and the farmers would go broke and sell up to build more hotels and the land would be gone and the space would be filled. Without the rain everything you love about Ireland would be gone.”

Silence fell between us.

Somehow this stranger could not have summed up better what I love about the West of Ireland. Almost beyond the compassion, warmth and wit of the people, I adore the pace and space of the West.

Wildflower meadows pop up in vacant lots in the middle of village streets. You can walk for hours without the sound of distant traffic. I can lie in my bed in the morning and listen to donkeys braying, pheasants squawking and the endearing rasp of a gently snoring Snapper.

Our mountain sides are empty. 

Our clifftops are grassy. 

The weather is terrible and as Autumn sets in now, it will only get worse, but consider this: wherever you live in Connacht, you’re never more than 20 minutes drive from somewhere stunningly beautiful.

If you step out of your bus or car and stand in the middle of nowhere for 15 minutes, you’ll be giving thanks, feeling privileged to live in this extraordinary part of the world.

At night we can see the Milky Way in all its glory. During the day we can walk among wildlife, dreaming for a moment we are the sole representatives of the human race.

Autumn is nature’s planting season, when tilting grasses and falling fruit sew seeds; when billions of bacteria are born in rotting growth, returning life and energy to tired soil.

Next Wednesday is Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year (5,778, since you ask!)

Jewish people see Autumn not as an end but a beginning. We will dip apples into honey, to give thanks for the harvest and ask for a sweet year ahead.

Be grateful for the gifts nature bestows on us here, and before you curse the rain, consider the alternative.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 10 September 2017


Thanks to my mate, The Guardian's Martin Rowson for the cartoon

I’ve only driven a few miles towards my mum’s from Heathrow Airport when a white van cuts up on the inside of my rental car, driving in a lane that doesn’t exist.

As he squeezes past me at speed I swerve to the right and toot my horn, scared he might scratch Hertz’s shiny new motor, allowing them to charge me a wad.

In a split second, as if awaiting the chance to show what an angry man he is, his bare arm comes shooting out of the driver’s window, performing a trio of high speed, evidently well-practiced hand gestures.

We start off with the classic English V-sign, followed by a shaking fist, while the Grand Finale is that sarcastic classic, the up and down ringed-wrist motion.

He voted Leave.

I don’t even need to see him to know that, but the traffic lights 100 yards away turn red so we end up level. The same age as me, with less hair and stomach, he’s avoiding eye contact now, but I know him.

Not his name, nor anything personal about him, but I know that both he and I were born at the birth of Brexit.

There’s much that I love and admire about England and the English, yet I choose to live in the West of Ireland, partly because 

I’m besotted with it, but also because here I’m free from an awful feeling that used to pervade my life.

I was born a mere 12 years after the sun finally set on the British Empire. As a young boy, my atlas at school showed a third of the world as Ours, making it hard not perceive us English as something special; something better.

I grew up with people suffering a national resentment: they'd missed out on being Great; things used to be better; they’d been born too late.

Out of this sense of loss evolved a loathsome latent violence, an aggression lurking just below the surface, whereby one ill-advised word starts an argument, two drinks a fight.

It was this feeling of being robbed of glory that spawned Brexit. 

The Leave voters who believe they are better off alone come from the same seam of English thought that made me leave England 25 years ago.

When the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier last week referred to English attitudes as “a sort of nostalgia…” he had no idea how accurate his assessment had been.

He was referring to the UK’s Disney desire to be out of the EU while in the single market, but accidentally chose the perfect word to describe the malaise that feeds the English delusion.

Feeling swindled of greatness, Brexiteers will now turn their wrath towards the EU negotiators, as if somehow this pig’s dinner is the EU’s fault.

As I said, I love the English and truly believe that if instead of Boris and his bunch of bumbling liars, they were presented with simple truths, the majority would have voted Remain.

They were told that Europe represents 40% of UK trade, while the real figure is 60%, thanks to free trade deals that the UK enjoys, negotiated by the EU.

Of what’s left, half is trade with the USA, not presently a reliable partner, leaving a minuscule 20% that the UK trades with the rest of the world. To make up their losses, these Brexiteers will have to cut unprecedented - and frankly impossible - trade deals.

How would the English have voted if they knew that without an EU workforce the NHS, agriculture and construction industries would crumble? That without migrants from Europe, others must come from further afield to support economic growth? That you can’t negotiate separate trade deals if you’re in the customs union? That there can be no freedom from the European Court of Justice while you trade with the EU?

On occasion, as a proud Englishman, I have squirmed with embarrassment as this debacle unfolds. The arrogance of Tory attitudes is matched only by their ignorance of the EU and the way it works.

When negotiating with 27 other nations it might be an idea to first find out what works for them, and then match their aims to your ambitions.

Blinded by delusions of grandeur, both Conservative and Labour politicians conveniently forget that they started this messy affair; that naturally the EU see Brexit as a major threat, and must prove to other nations that leaving absolutely means losing all benefits.

Instead they offer mere pontifications on whether it’s best to be inside, beside or out of the single market; how everything in Ireland will turn out right, merely because all sides appear to want roughly the same thing, while not one single workable suggestion has appeared.

In many countries, plebiscites involving fundamental national change require a two-thirds majority, yet UK politicians on all sides insist that the British have spoken, and we must listen to their voice.

Yes, please do just that.
Don’t ignore the 48.

Nigel Farage told the Daily Mirror in May 2016: 
“In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way.”

The British did not speak with one voice. 52% of a misinformed and propagandised electorate whispered:

“We are confused and fearful, but we want to believe we can be great again.”

4% is a margin of error, not a mandate.

For me Brexit means a lengthy citizenship application, as after half a lifetime in Ireland, I fear turning around to find I’ve no security.

I wish the English had learned one thing from the EU. Here in Ireland we know only too well that when we vote the wrong way in a referendum, the EU insists we vote again, until we get it right.

Saturday 2 September 2017

Dribbling, sloshing and hurling in Connemara!

One of my beloved London Posse is over on a visit, so we avoid the high season crowds at Roundstone, turning right at Clifden and head for the Aughris Peninsula.

By lunchtime we’re sitting in Oliver’s in Cleggan, enjoying Guinness, oysters, the view out of the window and each others’ company.

Cleggan was my base when I first discovered the area, and I fell in love with the secluded little beaches that scatter the shoreline all the way to Claddaghduff. Most tourists seem to see the place as merely a ferry in-and-out job, but they are missing a lot, and I’m grateful they're over there, on different beaches.

Standing on white sand, alone or with a lifetime friend, looking out to Bofin and distant headlands across a turquoise Atlantic aspiring to appear Caribbean, I feel a sense of belonging, calm, hope: works for me every time.

On the day that's in it, the sky is grey, so my friend doesn’t see the full splendour of blue and black, green and gold, but Connemara never lets you down.

The lads in Oliver's are talking about the hurling, and just for a minute my mind drifts back to this bar decades ago, when I used to stay in the hostel at the old Master’s House. 

Then, after a year in Galway, I developed grandiose notions of belonging to the B&B set.

That didn’t work out well at all.

A stubborn and foolish man driven by the idea of a cooked breakfast, I’d forced myself out of bed after a long afternoon and longer night before.

Kings, Newman's, The Pier, Oliver’s, back to Newman’s.
You’re familiar with the way it works. 

My messed-up morning brain was perfectly mirrored by the low cloud drizzle swamping and subduing Cleggan Bay. Heading into the dazzling lights of the Dining Room, I was blissfully unaware that my T-shirt was on inside out and back to front.

The other residents sat at their tables, all clinky china and hushed tones, trying their best to ignore me.

Far from matters of mere sartorial elegance, I was having a great deal of trouble simply eating. Trying far too carefully to secure a piece of toast and fried egg onto my fork, I oops and steady now … there it goes.

At the precise moment I managed to fumble that eggy bready parcel into my mouth, an immaculately turned-out French couple glided into the Dining Room. 

A second’s glance deduced that these slickers had not been in the pub until early that morning. They’d invested in 8 hours kip and doubtless awoke refreshed, only to spritz their cheeks with atomized Evian water.

As if in an art gallery - or maybe a zoo! - they both stopped in their tracks to watch a piece of fried egg slowly slip from my mouth, ooze its way down my chin and drop back onto my plate.

Rather convenient, I thought to myself, no scraping of table cloth necessary, but the French were utterly horrified. They turned and walked out of the room, for some reason having lost their appetite.

Now everyone turned to look at me, in that straight-laced shirt collar out of the V-neck sweater kind of way.

Did I care?
Not while there was food to be eaten.

The rain continued to come down. All healthy intentions to climb hills and break a natural sweat were banished.

Back to Oliver’s, where the big screen was up. Galway were taking on Tipp in the All Ireland semi-final. Back then the Gaelic was all new to me, but you didn’t have to know the finer points of hurling to recognise one of the best sports on the planet.

Excitement expanded to explosive levels in the packed pub, as Galway confounded the tipsters. Every time a point was scored the place erupted, and when Galway scored a goal small riots broke out in various corners of the pub.

The place fell silent as Tipperary took the ball and ran towards the Galway goal, save for a tiny yet defiant female voice, rising from the middle of the crammed-in masses.

“Come on Tipp!”

Everyone laughed raucously. So different to my native England, nobody here booed or maligned her beyond gentle craic.

As a teenager in the 70s I’d never wear my Chelsea shirt in North or East London, so I was both delighted and shocked when I first saw Mayo kids going to school wearing Dublin jerseys.

In England that’d be cruising for a bruising, but here everybody stands together - although I suspect you’d be unlikely to find a Dublin shirt on a child in Kerry.

Galway won by two points on that August day in 1993, and I dutifully resigned myself to the ensuing celebrations.

We went on to lose the final to Kilkenny, but as I slosh down molluscs and black stuff with my mate, I’m absorbing the positive mood in the fresh Cleggan air.

Galway knocked out Tipp and the dreaded Cats are long gone.

Can’t wait for tomorrow! Come on Galway!

©Charlie Adley

Saturday 26 August 2017

I've all the time in the world for my lovely nieces!

My nieces hold a very special place in my heart. To be honest, they’ve been a constant source of joy ever since they were born, and now, as Hayley turns 40, my brainbox is full of images of our shared past: bus rides to Hamley’s toy shop to choose presents; endless photos in which the pair of them look incredibly beautiful; an evolving sibling bond, so steely strong and full of love it leaves me jaw-dropped in awe.

Mooching around Galway to find the right present to send Hayley for her birthday, my mind drifts back to her sister Michelle’s 21st.

Looking for a link between her life in London and mine here that might last a lifetime, I found a Galway Crystal mantle clock, which I asked to be fixed to a wooden base with a gold strip attached, engraved: 

Happy 21st Birthday Michelle
When I went to pick up the finished article I immediately saw that the engraved strip was askew, while the right end was much wider than the left.

The whole thing looked ridiculous. Were they really serious about selling it to me like that?

“Erm, am I imagining it, or is there a slant to that?”

The older woman behind the counter sniffed and flared her nostrils.
“Hmmff. I think you’re imagining it, but I’ll see what I can do!”

That really bugged to me. Either I was imagining it, in which case there was nothing she could do, or she’d offered me a shoddy product.

“Now! Here you are so! Will I wrap it?”

“Please! Oh, actually, can I just have a quick look at it first?”
As she handed me the clock, her cold blue eyes drilled contempt 

into my brow.

“Yes, yes it’s fine!”

By then I’d have said it was fine even if it wasn’t, because I wanted to rid my universe of her arcane disapproving ways. I wanted out of her torpid nasty shop.


As I watched her wrap the clock in tissue paper, I realised that it was telling the wrong time.

I’d certainly feel a lot happier if the clock looked like it worked when Michi unwrapped it, in front of the whole family at her birthday dinner in London.

“Sorry, could you set it to the right time, please?”

Simple enough request, you’d think, but she stared at me with eyes that would make diamonds wilt, a withering hateful glower capable of forcing rivers to flow upstream.

Exhaling slowly and noisily, she waited until she was breathless before choosing to speak again.

Finally she started to talk, adopting the deep guttural grunting tone popular among teenage girls possessed by the devil. With a customer service attitude that left much to be desired, this woman (working in a clock shop) then asked what many might consider a most unlikely question.

“Huuummmpphhhh. Oh now. So now. Well then, do you happen to know what the right time might be?”

To her evident pleasure, I explained that I don’t wear a watch. Nodding slowly, she implied that she knew I’d be useless like that.

How did she make a living? Why run a shop, if all you want to do is make your customers feel like a piece of runny pooh on the carpet?

To my left: row upon row of clock faces.
To my right: clocks. 

Above, below, behind, in front: nothing but clocks and watches.
43,000 clock faces and she’s asking me the time?

Somewhat fearful and tremulous of voice, I asked: 

“Do any of these tell the right time?”

“Well, now, it’d be a fine tirrible job to keep all of these telling the right time now, wouldn’t it?

“Yes, it would, but just one that did tell the right time might be an idea! Gordhelpus, just one!”

That was it. 

I’d overstepped the mark. 

She wrapped the clock, stuffed it into a small tatty box, and told me that seeing as how it was so important to me to have the right time, why didn’t I adjust the time myself, back at my home, where I probably had the time perfectly set on my own clock.

“Okay I will. So it’s all working, is it? Nothing else I need?”

 As I watched, a shiver of nervous hesitation ran up her spine, causing her body to shift and bend just an inch.

A strip of Sellotape hanging from the fingers of her left hand, she closed and sealed the parcel before finally answering my question.

“Well, now, do you not have a battery?”


No madam I do not have a battery as I am human and not android. Do you have a battery? More pertinent right now, does that clock that you just sold me, wrapped up and bleedin’ sealed into that box, not have a battery? And if not why not and even more so, why did you not tell me that the clock was actually, in its present state, nothing more than a non-functioning lump of crystal glass and metal?

As it happened it would’ve been handy to have a battery then, in the form of a pacemaker, as my heart, which had worked fine until I met her, had since gone into palpitational free form.

“No, I do not have a battery. Of course I don’t have a battery! Why would I have a battery? Does it need one? Why on earth did you wrap up that clock with no battery?”

“Well then,” she sighed, “I suppose you’ll be needing a battery as well.”

What a delight it is to know that begrudging human moraine like herself can no longer compete in our modern retail marketplace, where smiling, helpful and concerned staff have finally won over the old order.

Today’s Galway represents the finest city to find a personal meaningful gift for a loved one.

Happy Birthday lovely Hayley! 
Hope you like the pressie. 
It truly was a pleasure to buy it, honest! 

©Charlie Adley


Sunday 20 August 2017

Hello and welcome to the Grumbling Forecast!

“That was the news. Now over to Charlie for today’s grumbling forecast.” 

Lyrical violins play during footage of long grasses swaying at ground level. Focus switches to reveal two men standing by a gate. One is waving his hands around excitedly, the other leaning away, looking slightly scared.

“Avonmore Angry milk. Just a glass a day will put Grr into your Grumble.”

Hello and you’re very welcome to today’s grumbling forecast. Over the last while we’ve enjoyed a relatively settled spell of generally steady grumbling all over the country, but in the coming days that’s all set to change.

Taking a look at the overall situation at the moment, as you can see there’s a large bad mood system heading into the West from the Atlantic, which will bring variable amounts of whingeing and nitpicking, and there’s even the chance of the odd snivel in some places, especially over North Connacht and Ulster.

Now the way it looks at the moment that system might well collide with this large area of bellyaching coming up from the continent. 

We’re not exactly sure when this might happen, but we’ll keep you updated. As things stand we’ve released a yellow level Emotional Alert, and we advise you to follow this developing situation at, on Facebook and Twitter. 

As you know, when bad moods and bellyaching collide at this time of year, there can be severe consequences, with mood meltdowns likely.

In contrast, over Leinster and north east Ulster, things should remain relatively calm, with only mild outbreaks of criticism and disapproval.

Now to look at the situation over the next few days in more detail, and we’ll start with the West and get most of it wrong, because, I know I really shouldn’t say this, but we don’t care. 

Sure, we love it for the stags and hens and cliffs and fields and all that, but if you live there, well, grumbling’s the least of your worries.

When we say national forecast, what we really mean is the counties of Dublin, Wicklow, Meath and Kildare, because that’s where we all live.

Anyway, over the next few days the West will be hit hard by that bad mood system we saw earlier. We can expect strong arguments from yer man who's still bloody going on about Galway’s County Final performance against Roscommon, and why that shower weren’t fit to wear the shirt, with depression deepening as he moves on to the Kerry game.

Further north in Mayo there’ll be outbreaks of fear and doubt at the thought of Enda prowling free and unleashed in the county, along with widespread whispered whimpers of “Croker…”

By afternoon that bad mood system will start clearing to the east, leaving behind local showers of dissent and protest around Armagh and Fermanagh. 

We can expect objections popping up all over counties Donegal and Derry, focusing on soft borders and hard borders, invisible borders and even herbaceous borders, although teenage boarders look to be in the clear.

As is normal at this time of year, emotional storms carrying heavy bands of grouch will be developing all over Antrim, leaving rural areas vulnerable to quite severe local carping about what’s being done with that DUP money, while dazzling smugness can be expected from anyone who sucked the fruit of May’s Magic Money Tree. 

Criticism of all and arguments with everyone will prevail in Ulster for the foreseeable future.

Existentially confused border pirates will be prone to spontaneous outbursts of unintelligible squawking about whiskey, tobacco and pink diesel, while occasional fuss and hoo-hah about numberplate recognition systems can be expected

Counties Louth, Cavan and Monaghan, along with the Midlands counties of Longford, the other one and, oh you know, will see long periods of moaning and groaning, as nobody ever spares them a thought, and sure now there’s motorways, so nobody even drives through the town.

As that bad mood system moves eastwards, a general lifting of mood in the west will give way to jollity of spirit and the breaking out of spontaneous smiles, at the thought of the Dubs getting it for a change.

In the capital there will be heavy and continuous moping about rental costs, storms of griping about the housing ladder and prolonged groaning about that shower in the Dáil.

That large area of bellyaching I mentioned earlier is due to arrive in the Sunny South-East around the same time as the bad mood system arrives from the West. 

Caution is advised around Waterford and especially Tramore, where holidaymakers will be giving out about the size of the chip portions and what the hell do you do with the kids on day five?

Meanwhile in Cork that powerful front of continental angst will create lengthy storms from locals moaning about wasn’t it just typical of Keano even thinking of managing Israel, what with all that y'know, followed by whirlwinds of to be fair but isn’t he a pure born rebel, and isn’t that what we call our county, and don't anyone go mentioning that the original Cork rebel was relly just some stuck-up Brit called Perkin Warbeck, who reckoned he was King Richard IV of England.

Moving around to Kerry and Clare, there’ll be localised pockets of grousing about Job Path and griping about pot holes and can they not come up with something better than the pitch, the jug and the lads in the truck.

As the general mood clears up around the country, somewhere in County Galway a Londoner will be kvetching at his keyboard.
©Charlie Adley

Sunday 13 August 2017

There are ghosts in Galway's pubs - yours and mine!

Ghosts come in many forms and some of mine are pubs. Sometimes you can’t see or feel the ghosts, but they are there. 

When you’re pumped up for an exciting night out, filled with bonhomie and pure thick with the thirst, you’ll sniff not one whiff of nostalgic ectoplasm.

Then there’s nights like the one I enjoyed a few weeks ago: gentle solo affairs that involve drifting from bar to bar, staring at optics.

Those nights are not missions to get sozzled. They are times to feel comfortably alone, soothed by the familiarity of my arse on a barstool. Apologies to women, who still sadly cannot always enjoy this cocktail of security and solitude in a bar.

That night my spirits were droopy, my energy levels low. While it was great to suddenly find myself out and free in Galway City, the reasons I'd ended up there were demoralising.

I wanted a gentle night, so I started by nursing a Jameson at the bar of the Crane. Downstairs, never up. I don’t care for being shushed by an earnest Hostelero from Fankfurt wearing a Taliban headscarf, sipping his half pint Guinness, complaining that very much he likes the folk music.

My ghosts rise up from behind the seats opposite the bar. Over there my friends The Guru and The Magician, clutching gins and crazed grins, rising to their feet at midnight to sing God Save The Queen at the tops of their voices. 

To my shame I’d cringed with trepidation, but naturally the locals loved the anarchic and absurdist nature of my mates’ behaviour.

So much laughter. Now gone, as is my whiskey.

Down Sea Road a few yards to Massimo’s, and ghosts of our wedding party. What an amazing night that was, and it needed to be, as my dad had died two weeks earlier. A pair of English blow-ins, the Snapper and I lured 400 friends and family through Mo’s doors, and Galway showed everyone how to party.

Our friends, the staff and our Healy hosts pulled off a miracle, for which we’re forever grateful.

Another deeply personal ghost in Mo’s, sitting next to my father in that back bar, watching Chelsea win their first title for 50 years. He’d taken me to my first match when I was 9 and then he was sat there, visiting my world, squaring the circle.

A man can have too many ghosts. Time to head off to the city centre.

Over Wolfe Tone Bridge I went, into Neactains middle bar, and behind me, in the back bar by the window, ghosts arose of a wonderful night of reunion. 

Sometimes Galway can feel like a Jimmy Stewart movie, and returning from our Christmas UK trips, we’d gathered around that table, the Guru, the Snapper, Yoda and all, feeling delight at being back where we belonged, together in the West of Ireland, as a bottle of festive Absinthe was passed surreptitiously under the table. 

We’re back!
Hooray for us and life and Galway!

Ghosts. A stormy Tuesday afternoon in February, on that middle bar barstool which faces the open fire, sheltering from the sideways rain sheeting up Quay Street. Drifting off in the steamy heat, staring at Joe Boske’s incredible Arts Festival posters…

Onwards into High Street, up to Murphy’s, where no ghosts are necessary, as it is, always and perfectly, as it is. 

Into Freeney’s, where ghosts of French chef friends screamed for Les Bleus during World Cup Rugby matches.

Another time I’d head up to Richardson’s and drift on to Tonery’s, but that night there was no energy in my legs. My heart was as weighty as my body was lazy, and that was fine with me.

This was my time, rare and precious. I’d do precisely what I wanted, when and where it most pleased me.

Bloomin’ lovely.

Back West, into the Blue Note, where so many ghosts rose out of the Smoking Section, I felt I was in a Romero movie. This was where we believed we ruled the world, back when we cared about such things. It was impossible to take life too seriously with the inimitable Cian Campbell heading the crew behind the bar.

Some pubs have themselves become ghosts. The wonderfully lowlife Camden-esque Jug of Punch burned down, and the old Cottage, which had of course always just been The Cottage, became the super dooper tapas Cottage, which never filled the same hole.

Nimmo’s crammed a lifetime of friendship into a few years. Harriet Leander imbued the place with her unique mystique, and while I’m sure Ard Bia is wonderful, it’s a wholly different beast.

An Tobar, scene of so much debauchery back in the day, has been assimilated, as if part of Borg. It is no more.

Finally into the Universal, which used to be the Old Forge, the cheapest pub in Galway. Still trying to get my head around the fiver my Jamie cost in Neactain’s, I’m appalled that €5 won’t even cover the cost in here.  

€5.20? Come on lads, you’re having a laugh.

To be fair, the barman had offered me a taste of Badger’s Fart 64 year old craft organic artist anal whiskey, but it’s just not on to receive one Jamie and less than a fiver back from a tenner, when 50 yards away I’d been given loads of change in the Crane.

Maybe I’d finish my trawl of Galway’s great pubs in what was once Taylor’s Bar, pretty much my second home in a past Galway existence.

Did that mean I had to end my gentle evening at a lap dancing club?

Is it just me or does anyone else feel Paradis Club should be called Club Paradis?

Nursing my last whiskey I smile deeply; quietly.
No it’s never going to be the right time to go there.

©Charlie Adley

Saturday 5 August 2017

25 years ago today I first stepped onto Irish soil!

 "Behind the ashtray a No Smoking sign. Ashtray Sign. Sign Ashtray. Going to like this country!"

1992 was the end of England life. 
The end of a long-dead obsessive love affair that had sent me crazy twice. 

The end of a major piece of work that started out as a novel, yet such is the nature of writing, might still someday appear as a TV series. 

The end of my patience with the voting British public, who had elected the fourth Conservative government in a row.

Liberated from the ties of failed love, freed from the bonds of labour, I wrapped my love of England into a mental parcel, excited only by thought of the new.

Time for a new country, a new life, but where? I’d been around the planet twice, obviously not every country, not even each continent, but South America and Africa would have to wait.

Every cent was sacred. Every penny I could muster would allow me more time to decide where best felt like home.

Leaving my terraced house in Bradford, West Yorkshire, I walked down the hill to the city centre and into a Travel Agents.

“Can I help you?”
“You can, thanks. I’d like the cheapest one-way flight out of this country.”
“Any preferred destination?”
“No. Just somewhere else.”

Late 20s, tired eyes and dyed scarlet hair, she smiled, silently sympathetic. Several phone calls and many checked lists later, she raised her chin towards me.

“I’ve got £38 one-way to Malaga.”
“Fantastic. I’ll take it.”

Truly I would have gone anywhere, but this was a sign. For many years I'd regularly visited one of my best friends who lived in Barcelona. 

Before Ryanair and EasyJet overwhelmed it with millions of tourists, Barcelona was a wonderful bustling Catalan capital, proud of its rebel history, cultural influence and brazen wealth.

As host to that year’s Olympics, the city was undergoing a renaissance, so I figured there’d be jobs aplenty for the likes of me.

Hitching around Andalusia, I spent enough time in Granada to work out that you had to see the Alhambra at dawn, before the crowds arrived. It was astonishing.

Then a long mad bus journey to Catalunya, across the scorched plains of Spaghetti Westerns, through the driving rain and midday blackness of violent thunderstorms, and ah!

Is it?

Three months later, after one of the best Summers of my life, I asked my friend to drive me to the outskirts of the city.

The road to Vic.
That’s what I wanted.

As ever, Barcelona had been brilliant, but I’d abused my freedom of being single, and invested far too much in my freedom from work.

Barcelona would always be a special place, but I didn’t want to live there. If big city life was what I wanted, I’d never have left London years before.

Under 40°C dry heat of concrete flyovers, I stood at the side of the road to Vic. I knew cooler air was coming: clean mountain air, after months of steamy city dust.

Watching my mate drive away, Blue Bag by my side, I stuck out my thumb and thought of the night ahead in the Pyrenees. From there I’d slowly drift around France, finally putting down roots in the same countryside I’d fallen in love with as a 16 year-old hitcher.

The road, however, had other ideas. Emerging from the mountain foothills that morning, I hitched only minor D roads, avoiding the fast-moving arterial routes.

It was Sunday, a notoriously bad hitching day, when cars packed with family are driven by cautious parental types. I didn’t expect to get very far, didn’t really want to either, yet each lift took me hundreds of miles, until that evening I was delivered into Rennes, the capital city of Brittany in Northwest France.

Time to switch to Plan B, where I’ve lived happily most of my life. 

Three years earlier I’d been hitching around New Zealand and kept bumping into two Irish nurses. As I gasped at the sight of each wondrous vista, they’d tut nostalgically:

“Sure, isn’t it just like home.”

It occurred to me then that I was something of a fool to have been Down Under twice, without having visited the country next door to England.

I took the ferry from Roscoff to Cork and stepped into a country where I knew nobody.

No addresses, no connections: a clean slate.

Into a big shop called Dunnes to buy waterproofs, walking in the city rain and then into a pub, onto a barstool. Time for my first Irish pint.

Yer man introduced himself as Con. To enjoy his company I needed to press my palm into a hand the size of Cyprus and then suffer tectonic finger crush. After our first pint he told the barmaid to call a B&B and book me a room.

“Now, you can relax and have a few shcoops.”

Over the course of the next few hours I sampled much liquid and humour in the form of Irish hospitality. I was south of the river and the room wasn’t. 

After drunkenly stumbling up steep Corkonian hills, I gladly fell into my little bedroom. Plain, clean with a view of the city’s rooftops, and over there an ashtray.

Behind the ashtray a sign, white letters on a red background: 
No Smoking.

Ashtray sign.
Sign ashtray. 

‘Going to like this country!’ I thought to myself, as I lit up. ‘Now what are the Irish up to at 5 in the afternoon?’

Flicking on the dusty old tele in the corner, I watch RTE’s coverage of the Galway Races.

Galway? Wasn’t that near Connemara?

My instincts had tingled on the ferry the night before, when I’d looked at my map and seen those hills, that coastline.

Maybe I’ll check Galway out sometime. No rush. Only just arrived.

That was 25 years ago today.
©Charlie Adley