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

Sunday 30 July 2017

It takes a year to slow down and see the world!

Last week I felt a strong urge to visit an old friend of mine, someone I haven’t been in a long time.

No, that wasn’t a spelling mistake. Said friend is me, living alone, focused completely on my writing.

I love my wife and dog, so I’m willing to merely touch that other world writers go to, when left to their own devices. A netherland of ideas and dreams, we slip in and out of it all the time. Everyone I live with has to put up with me shrieking

Yeeaaarrrgghhh!” when they do something as radical as entering the kitchen.

Some in the past have felt offended that I reacted with shock to their presence. Others even stamped their feet and cried:

I fucking live here!” in justifiable frustration.

Thankfully the Snapper understands and doesn’t get upset. To the unaware it looks a hell of a lot like I’m just cooking, or wiping down a sideboard, but really I’m off, lost in paragraphs to come, paddling my creative canoe down rivers of imagination.

Oooh, and hasn’t he gone all fancy shmancy!
Others might say ‘head up the backside.’

You decide.

One story that fell out of me recently came with a strangely powerful voice, and for the last few weeks I’ve been getting more and more excited about applying that voice to other stories I’ve already started.

Hence for the last four days and another three to come, I’m off away, on my own in a little house in the big sky splendour of Ballycroy National Park.

Right now the northerly wind that’s howling under the door has blown the clouds off the mountains. I’m sitting where I have sat for hours each day, writing at the kitchen table, under a roof pounded by rhythmic waves of summer rain.

Nine years have passed since I focused on my own work. Between freelance writing, contemplating my navel and teaching -  (my next Craft of Writing Course starts September 7th, so book early to guarantee your place: - I’ve created little.

Now it is pouring onto the screen and I’m not stopping to read it.
Might be a pile of poo. I’m not looking. Just writing it out of me.

I haven’t spoken to anyone in days, save for the lass at the shop (English), the lass at the National Park Visitor Centre (English) and the lass at the other shop (English). The barmaid in the pub is Irish and she makes friendly conversation while she pours a damn fine country pint of Guinness.

That comes around 4:30, after I’m done for the day. 
You can write a lot between 10 and 4, when nobody is interrupting your world.


This retreat has allowed me to dip my emotional fingers into some special memories of a wonderful state of being. No floatation tanks or magic mushrooms needed: just splendid rural isolation.

Each day as I awake with an open empty day in front of me, I sniff a whiff of an old freedom and feel briefly wistful.

Following dreams of living alone in the middle of relatively nowhere, I moved to a little house in Connemara back in 1994. 

Afforded the luxury of living permanently in my own scribbler’s netherland, I gradually drifted into such a profound sense of relaxedness that I remember the feeling of it to this day.

Freed from alarm clocks and artificial timetables, I went to bed when tired, woke refreshed, walked for miles and wrote so much I could scarcely believe it.

In that house I discovered a rather inconvenient truth: it takes a year to slow down.

Never mind your ten days on a Greek island. Forget that long weekend in a posh spa hotel. Our modern lives leave us on the edge of exhaustion. 

If I plucked you from that checkout queue in Tesco's or beamed you out of the gridlock on the N17, and deposited you, alone, into a house in the country, you’d need to feel the passing of all four seasons before you can truly see, hear and smell the world in front of you.

When I arrived I had no idea what calm really meant. 12 months later I saw my surroundings with a depth and clarity to which I was previously blind.

I was able to tell which way the wind was blowing by the quality of the air. Looking through the window I didn’t need to see branches sway nor tall grasses ripple to be sure the weather was coming from the north. The hills were outlined crisp and stark; edged with charcoal.

While living there I realised that contentment is a mere absence of problems, while happiness is an active force.

There’s nothing like a scone to induce happiness, and my welcome to this house last Sunday made me believe once again in the existence of céad míle fáilte.

Even though the sun was splitting the rocks, there was a turf fire blazing in the hearth: the Irish way of saying “mi casa su casa.”

Awaiting me in the kitchen was a bowl of homemade scones and jam, butter in a dish with silver foil over it and a ziplock bag, because the baker knew I’d never eat six scones in one sitting, and wouldn’t it be a shame for them to go stale. 

There was a jug of cold milk in the fridge and I was shown a shed of turf and told to help myself.

I’ll be thrilled to see the Snapper on Monday, yet it has felt wonderful to revisit a way of life that allows me to write so much. 

It puts my soul at peace.

At dusk I sit outside and look across a mile of farmland and a mile of bog to the ocean and the mountains of Achill. As the light fades, midges move in for attack, while tractors rumble up the boreen, laden with silage, cut and bagged before tomorrow’s rain.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 24 July 2017

When being served be kind, be human and be generous!

“Bloomin’ eck, is it just me, or are these desserts taking a long time? I mean, the mains came really quickly, but we’ve been waiting ages for dessert. It’s been yonks!”

It’s always a treat to eat out, and thanks to the gastronomic revolution that’s taken place in Ireland over the last 20 years, you can now find lovely yet not exorbitantly expensive pub food, and end up feeling a little bit special for a couple of hours or so.

However, as we wait for our desserts in this Connemara pub, I allow impatient thoughts to tumble around my brainbox:

‘... isn’t too much to ask, is it? Must’ve been twenty minutes now, since that waiter was here and this wait is spoiling a lovely evening out, and mutter grumble moan groan …’

Finally, slightly irritated that herself appears wonderfully unperturbed, I decide that it’s time to recruit the Snapper onside, to light fires of indignation within her belly.

“I mean, how long does it take to scoop a bit of bloody ice cream?”

The Snapper looks over at me with that marriage cocktail of three parts familiarity and one part contempt.

“But Charlie, we haven’t even ordered dessert yet.”


“The waiter came over and asked if we’d made up our minds. You were lost in a quandary about sticky toffee pudding and pistachio ice cream, so I asked him for a couple more minutes.”

“Really? Oh bugger. How long ago was that?”

For once I’m delighted to be in the wrong, because thankfully I haven’t yet verbally abused an innocent waiter. Something dangerous happens to certain human beings when they are being served.

A little like road rage, they suddenly and irrationally see themselves as the single most important and powerful person on the planet, for whom all must run perfectly.

Having been a barman for years in my youth, and befriended many chefs and waiters, I know all too well what it’s like to serve people like that, and therefore respect and honour good service by smiling, saying thanks, and because I know it’s a vital part of a server’s wages, leaving a chunky tip.

Shame that others don’t do the same.

A despondent city centre waiter friend complained to me years ago that when festival season hits, and Galway's restaurants become busier and busier, people leave tinier and tinier tips.

“It’s like cutting the weakest link in the chain, just so you can pretend to be well off! And now people like me can’t afford to live!”

“I just wouldn’t have the patience any more” I offered, remembering how testing it was serving people in pubs.

“Oh believe me, mate, you so wouldn’t. You’ve got no idea. The other night I seat two tables at once, right? I give menus to both and go to the first table to tell them about the venison special. They say they’re not ready to order, so I say:
‘Fine, take your time!’
and go over to the second table to take their order. Three of them order the venison special, so by the time I’m back at the first table, we’ve run out of it. Of course yer woman orders it, so I tell her that I’m afraid there is no more venison. She says I shouldn’t have told her about it, if it was all gone.”

“She wha’?” exclaimed your colyoomist. “Ooooh, I’d’ve, I’d’ve, ooh, I don’t know what I’d’ve done!”

“And that’s why you’re not a waiter, Charlie. So I explain politely that when I first told her about the special, there were three portions left. Then she asks me who had those portions, so I point to the other table. And then, get this, she says that I should go over there and explain to them that she wants a venison special so they can’t all have it.”

“She WHAT? No way! Don’t believe it!”

“God’s honest truth, mate. So I smile and tell her that no, I simply couldn’t do that, as she’d actually had first choice, yet declined to place her order while there was still venison on the menu.”

“I cannot believe she told you to go and nick the other table’s food! I mean, it’s not exactly complicated stuff, is it! Yes, we have no venison, so tough, love. Stuff a scallop in your gob and be happy.”

“You’d think, mate, but she still hadn’t given up. She asks me if there is any chance of me finding some venison in the kitchen. I tell her again that it’s all gone. And then she turns a bit nasty and sarcy and says that if I should happen to come across some venison that I didn’t know about, I was to tell her and she’d order it. I smile once again and tell her as calmly as I can that that isn’t going to happen, because Chef has a very precise knowledge of exactly what he has and doesn’t have in his kitchen, and there ... is ... no ... venison.”

"Don’t know how you do it mate. I do not. Fair fucks to you and  your comrades.”

I’m removed from the memory of my mate’s tale of venison and woe by a smooth gentle servile voice.

“Would you like to order dessert now, sir?”

How lovely to be asked that question. How lucky am I that professionals employ their superb cooking and serving skills just so that prats like me and that vile venison woman can have food brought to them.

“I would, and thank you! Thank you so very much!” I say to a slightly bemused waiter.

I leave him as big a tip as my pocket will allow, and suggest you all should do the same.

If you can’t afford to tip properly, you can’t afford to eat out.

Think of your server as you stuff your festival faces, and be kind, be human and be generous.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 16 July 2017

Walking flies the flag of my mental health!

 Thanks to The Snapper for the wonderful photos!

My mental health is like the weather of the West of Ireland: all manner of changes and varieties, sometimes quite stormy and scary but most of the time wobbling around inside a fairly moderate range.

Leaving the house with Lady Dog this morning should have been a very happy occasion. I’ve not been able to take Lady for a walk since I injured my leg back in March, and this is the second time I’ve done it this week.

My relationship with depression is inextricably linked to walking. When fit, happy and healthy I walk my sorry plates of meat off, enjoying the mental release and emotional peace that come alongside all the physical benefits.

I have joked that it’s impossible for me to know whether the walking goes before the depression arrives, or if it’s the depression that kicks the walking out of my life. All I know with certainty is that when I’m physically able to walk yet not walking, I’ll be in the midst of a dark one.


In the past I’ve found this observation incredibly useful, as one of the recurring symptoms of my depression is a few months of denial, during which time I endeavour to ignore the bleedin’ obvious, carrying on as normal, wondering why I'm so tired; why life seems so testing.

After weeks of that nonsense, I will eventually look back and realise I’ve chosen not to walk for ages, which is when I have been known to say out loud to myself something akin to:

“You’re not walking are you, and there’s nothing wrong with you physically is there, so you’re in one, Adley, ye daft bollocks!”

When I'm physically unable to walk I struggle to maintain the naturally positive perspective that allows this scribbler to enjoy life, love, work and BBC4. 

Doing my physio stretches and taking various supplements, I feel I’m working on my mind as much as my body.

Do those pills work?  I don’t know, but as a fan of the placebo effect, I know they’re much more likely to help if I believe they’ll help, so I do.

I’ll do anything to get me out of the house and walking again, so I’ll take this and bend over like that and try to be patient, calm down, don't push it or I’ll just injure myself again.

A few days ago I strapped up my knees in Velcro thingies and thoroughly enjoyed taking Lady out for her morning stroll. This morning, for reasons that I recognise are beyond my control, I can’t shake the bluey from my head.


Yesterday I felt a little lost, mildly bewildered, unpleasantly disoriented, but thought little of it until I awoke this morning, feeling all those symptoms, intensely and simultaneously, latched like a limpet onto the dark side of my brain.

Even though I know it’s silly (and that I’d absolutely hate it if someone else dared to do it to me!) I try to cheer myself up, pull myself together a bit:

Look at yourself man! You’ve so much to give thanks for. You’ve a perky dog bouncing along at the end of the lead, and time to cross the road into a magical world of nature before breakfast.

A mix of bogland and pasture stretches for miles, and as I desperately try to appreciate being out here once more, after months of longing for it, I stop and sniff and breathe, standing under a celestial sky carpet of grey clouds, cracked by the heat and high light of midsummer sun.

While Lady bounces and pounces in the undergrowth, being irresistibly cute as she fixates on the long grass below and tries to catch a frog, I stand in gentle silence as a peaceful breeze caresses my ears, and look around, taking in the glory of my local world.

With Summer past its peak hours of daylight, the yellows that burst into life in early Spring are on the wane, making way for the pinks and purples of late season. 


There’s still dandelions and gorse to fly the yellow flag, but now there is pink from the gracious willow herb and vetches, while wild orchids of every shade from dark purple to the palest of pinks thrust up from the wild grasses, erect and proud and just a bit wonderful altogether.


When I worked at the University of San Francisco, I used to have a John Hinde calendar on my office wall, and dream deep and long of days like this.

I’d stare each month at a different photo of the West of Ireland and grieve for its loss and imagine lying on my back in a field in the middle of Nowhere, Co. Galway and feeling free to have the time to spend my days walking and writing and …

…and it’s all here, now available to me. Of course this life comes with new tests and challenges to face and overcome, not least the physical pain I must endure, but even as my spirit and thoughts feel tired and weary today, I know how good life is.

I know that I have major problems, but who doesn’t? I know that I'm lucky to have so many in my life who love me, and equally I know that nobody, including myself, can ease my mental condition this morning.

This is not a bad one. By the time you read this it will have long been consigned to history. Just enough of a chemical imbalance to erase from my day the joy of a walk, but at least, after all these decades, I have learned to recognise what happens to me, understand it, and know that it too shall pass.

Regardless of how I perceive it, the world outside will continue to bloom, thrive and luxuriate in its own splendour.

© Charlie Adley

Monday 10 July 2017


The splendour of the Douro Valley.
Most pics by The Snapper, naturally!

Holidays are notorious tests of relationships, but thankfully the Snapper and I enjoy them together. We use most of our spare time visiting family and life-long friends in England, but for one week each year we’ll find a wee house abroad with some kind of pool, walking distance from a restaurant, and then do nothing.

Herself will sit outside, reading a succession of vast tomes from dawn to dusk, while I will stare for hours into space, eat some olives and sip whiskey.

There might be an excursion to a Roman ruin, certainly natural history rambles where the Snapper can invest in her photographic talents, and most evenings we’ll probably walk out for dinner.

Apart from that, we are happy to relax in peace and quiet.
Bloody lovely, I think to myself in anticipation of Portugal’s Douro Valley. Can't wait.

As we steer out of our drive and head to Dublin Airport, I whack on the radio.

“Reports are coming in of a major forest fire in Portugal. So far at least 35 people are known to have died, many burning to death in their cars.”

I quickly flick the radio off.

“How many times do we hear Portugal mentioned on the bloody news, and here we are, not a half mile from home and they’re giving out about firemageddon.”

Having been a bit of a nerd on Google Earth before we left, I find our little place, where we are greeted by our hosts. 


Although Armando was born in the area, the couple met and lived in Anne’s native France, so all our communications are in French.

The warmth of their welcome is extraordinary, and while we sample Armando’s lip-dribbling cakes (a French patissier? Oh no, how terrible!) they tell us all the things we can do around the area.

It’s 38C.
I don’t want to do anything except sit in the shade and drink water.

Turns out our place is not a separate house, but a flat below their house, while our terrace is at the junction of the path to the garden.

Throughout the week we are visited constantly by both of them, so we don’t enjoy the privacy we usually like, but it’s impossible to be upset. The garden that Anne has created is incredible, with the river at the bottom of it offering shade, alongside the magic sounds and mesmerising sights of flowing water splashing over rocks.

Such is the diversity of Anne’s planting that wildlife of all types thrives here, with the smell of figs colliding with the croaks of frogs, the low-down burr of big black flying beetles with cries of human delight, as the Snapper discovers dragonflies of many colours.

Any gardener who can grown cacti and banana palms in the same garden as ferns and purple loosestrife knows their onions. Anne’s garden is living proof of ‘Right Plant Right Place.’

Meanwhile the strawberry Chantilly cream tart and lemon meringue pie that Armando creates to celebrate the Snapper’s birthday could not be more perfect.

It was clear from the start: even though this wasn’t going to be our usual holiday, Anne and Armando are so unbelievably kind, generous and friendly that there is no way I could be upset with either of them, about anything.

To be fair, they probably wanted to make sure we were not bored, popping down every couple of hours to chat and suggest places to go.

Maybe we are strange, in that we can amuse ourselves. More than that, I discovered after many years of travelling that to truly enjoy and understand a new place, I need to stop within in it; to look, listen, watch and smell the air. A paradox entwined in truth: travelling is about staying still.

You also have to move your arse every now and then, and I fell in love with the breathtaking Douro region, where stonewalled wine terraces line lush valleys that plunge dramatically into deep meandering rivers. 

Although tourists pass through, this is authentic Portugal. Nobody speaks English. There are no photos on restaurant menus. There is no ‘tourist food’ aisle in the supermarket.

Bloody lovely.

One invitation I had no intention of resisting was to our village’s Sardine Festival. Part of an annual midsummer tradition, each village runs an event to raise funds for the local community, and thanks to our hosts, the Snapper and I find ourselves the only non-villagers present. 


As my lovely wife dances yet again with the rather insistent Chief of Police (who can say no?), I snarf yet more gigantic sardines, fresh from the flaming barbecue, eaten in hands as is their sensible way.


The sun sets and the band strikes up with traditional local music, while we are brought soup, wine and beer with smiles and flourishes. 

It feels an absolute privilege to be here, to share their festival, run by themselves purely for themselves: the pure opposite of commercialism.

A week after Portugal’s worst ever natural disaster, with 72 now known dead, the local lads see no reason to change another tradition. Much to our disbelief and outrage, they light up a succession of fire lanterns and launch them, flaming, into the night sky.

Even though my mind boggles, for once my mouth stays firmly shut.  

This is my fifth visit to Portugal, and each time I find myself loving the calm, patience and sincerity of the locals.

Part of me is now pleased that they are also capable of behaving like pure eedjits, while another part of me will keep an eye open tonight, and a nostril alert for the smell of burning eucalyptus.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 2 July 2017


If you’re lucky enough to be flying away on holiday this year, I suggest you prepare yourself mentally for the airport. 

Between accidentally pulled plugs crashing computer systems, cabin staff working to rule and doubtless, that age old Pythonesque perennial - the French Air Traffic Controllers going on strike - you might have to spend a fair bit of time in the aptly-named Terminal.

Breathe out and rid yourself of all your expectations and desires. Give yourself up to the airport. They own you now and there is nothing you can do. 

Do not join a queue to board a plane that has not yet arrived. Do not sit and stare hour upon hour at the Departures/Arrivals screens. 
Do not believe that your gate will be announced at 16:05.

Most probably your journey will pass without a hitch, but should it go wrong, hopefully you’ll find comfort in knowing that however bad things seem, I had it worse in 1985.

Back then airports displayed flight information on ladders of plastic slats. When a plane left or landed, those slats flew around going:

kashunka - kashunka - kashunka - kashunka

The whole effect was quite trippy and hypnotic, as the destination names and flight numbers appeared to flow upwards, like the waters of a river, as the sign updated itself.

32 years ago I was perched eagerly on the edge of a seat in Auckland airport, watching just such a sign. After sleeping in the airport to save money, I was waiting for my cheap flight to Sydney with an airline called UTA, the less well-known Pacific branch of Air France.

UTA insisted you fly to Australia via Noumea, or New Caledonia, as the imperialists called it. Despite the fact that the French treated the airline with the same contempt, neglect and disregard for health that they showed the indigenous people of their Pacific colonies, all the Polynesians and young travellers flew UTA in those days.

The locals joked that UTA stood for ‘Unknown Time of Arrival’, with flights invariably delayed, overbooked or cancelled. But boy, were they cheap! 

My flight to Noumea had already been delayed a few hours, because the plane hadn’t yet arrived, but the board now said it was due to leave in an hour, so I shuffled off to the bathroom to wash; make myself feel human. 

It had been a long wait, but that was okay. I can stare into space for æons. I’ll do all the waiting that’s out there, but I was feeling unusually twitchy about this trip to Noumea. 

There was a civil war going on there, especially notable as a triangular conflict. There were the colonial Caldoches, the native Kanaks and the French, all fighting over an island rich in nickel.

There’s always a natural resource in the mix somewhere. 
War follows natural resources as poopers follow peepers.

Having splashed off the detritus of a rough night’s sleep, I threw my blue bag over my shoulder and walked with a spring in my step towards the check-in desk. As I passed the Departures board, I threw it a cursory glance, and off it went, as if propelled by my eyes:

kashunka - kashunka - kashunka - kashunka

The ripple of movement arrived at the plastic slat with my flight on it, and whoooshhhh! It was off, moving around, who knew if up or down?

kashunka - kashunka - kashunka - kashunka

My feet were frozen mid-stride as I waited for the plastic flow to settle.

And there it was:

UTA flight to Noumea: ‘Delayed Indefinitely.’

Wow! What the hell did that mean? I have seen all manner of delays to flights, but ultimately, they’re either ‘Cancelled’ or ‘Estimated at...’.

Only UTA could come up with ‘Delayed Indefinitely.’

No. No no no. I was here all bloody night and everything was okay until I went to brush my teeth and then there was the bad 

kashunka - kashunka - kashunka - kashunka 

and now what? 

Some kind of existential holding pattern?

Delayed indefinitely? 

Am I meant to sit here for the rest of my life?

Has the plane even left L.A.? If not, when is it going to, and if it has, how is it delayed indefinitely?

Unable to fight my way into crammed UTA office, I heard from several over-excited youthful types that our plane had come down on Vanuatu; had been hijacked in Tahiti; had crash landed into the ocean; had an engine on fire and had to turn back...

To this day I still don’t know what happened to that plane. 

With no Kiwi dollars left, I simply resigned myself to fate and waited another three days in that airport, trying to learn from the experience.

Bring on the æons.

Still, the delay meant that I had only three days on Noumea instead of six, and then I would be in Australia, reunited with dear friends at last. 

Three days on a tropical island? 

How bad could that possibly be, compared to being ‘Delayed Indefinitely’ in an airport?

Well, quite bad, as it turned out. 

The Scouse lad that sat next to me on the hotel shuttle bus from Noumea Airport decided it would be a “crackin’ idea” to use his huge camera to take lots of photos of all the military planes and tanks lined up in the fields outside.

After he was promptly arrested and yanked off the bus, never to be seen again, I was suspected of being his companion, and placed under house arrest.

One minute I’m delayed indefinitely, freed from everything but progress for all eternity.

The next I’m imprisoned, stuck for a finite time into a tiny space.

Life’s wee tricks, eh?

Now sit back, relax and enjoy your flight. 

©Charlie Adley