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