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