Sunday 11 November 2018

ONLY VICTIMS DECIDE WHETHER YOU’RE RACIST!



It’s taken me a few weeks to calm down, but I need to write this.

One of the reasons I love living in the West of Ireland is that here I feel far from the madding modern world; distant from wars and Trump’s ragings.

Now that feeling is gone.
Now we are vulnerable.

Despite all the discrimination the Irish have suffered, this country has no Hate Crime legislation. Growing up in England, I saw a generation of racists being arrested and jailed.

Recently this newspaper’s Dara Bradley quoted a senior Galway garda saying: “…racism and racially motivated incidents are not a major problem in Galway.”

Sorry, but that’s not for you to say.

Believe me, when you’re the victim of racial abuse, be it physical, psychological or political, it feels like a major problem.

Today young African footballers are being abused by visiting players and staff on Galway pitches. The Agency for Fundamental Rights ranks Ireland third worst out of 12 EU states for harassment of people of African background.

The reason that Garda have to say what they do is because they have no legal need to collect data about racist incidents.

The fact that reports of racist incidents appear low does not reflect a lack of racist incidents. There’s no incentive for victims to report Hate Crime.

Victims don’t go to the cops if they know there’s nothing the cops can do.

Instead they end up feeling even more powerless and unwelcome in this country.

Around the world, from Turkey to Brazil, the Philippines to the USA and all over Europe people are voting for right-wing extremists.

Surely we’re safe here though? If populism came to Ireland, what form could it take?

No fan of conspiracy theories, I have to accept that the online forces of alt-right have successfully influenced many recent elections around the world.

As we saw during the abortion referendum, they have for some time been slavering for a wound through which they might access Irish politics. Time after time they failed to permeate the arcane crust around Ireland’s unfathomable party political system.

Then an attention-seeking businessman slashed a gash into our decency, enabling the forces of alt-right to flood in.

Irish politics changed forever.

Pouncing on the dragon’s venomous tongue, alt-right finally breached these shores. Users of online forum 4chain left a barrage of anonymous comments praising Casey for attacking Travellers and saying that Jewish people “basically live in the White House”.

Fake twitter accounts were created to promote Casey, whose image was then mocked up as the quintessential alt-right symbol, Pepe the Frog.

Casey doesn’t care that his online supporters are dangerous people. When asked during the Virgin Media debate if he’d run a divisive campaign, his glib response was:

“I’ve been shooting up the polls all week!”

Take a look at his language:

“…people from Africa, people from India, people from all different continents, they are different ethnic status. The people in the Travelling community are not. They are as Irish as you and me.”

If ‘they’ are exactly the same as ‘us’ then why refer to them as ‘they’?

Casey’s racist rhetoric simply makes no sense.

Travellers are different. They are no more ‘us’ than you are Jewish like me, yet all of us - Travellers, Africans, Asians, even Jewish Englishmen - are equally Irish.

Last year I picked up my citizenship certificate and applied for my first Irish passport. Nobody asked about my ethnicity.

I’m no less Irish than you.

Of course Casey’s remarks won votes. We laughed when Brendan Gleeson’s character in The Guard declared: “I’m Irish, sure, racism’s part of my culture!” because it’s true.

This country has a massive way to go to alter its attitudes, as proved by Casey’s rapidly swollen voter base

When Galway Bay FM’s Keith Finnegan debated Casey’s remarks on his show, he said he’d never seen such a vast amount of texts of support for a man simply expressing a point of view.

Overreacting because of my ethnicity, I sent a text suggesting that there were also a lot of people showing support at the Nuremberg Rallies, where Hitler was just a man expressing his point of view.

They call it populist because it’s popular. If the public had their way we’d have public lynchings. That’s why we make laws: to control the angry mob, attain justice and protect the vulnerable.

Casey retreated to “I’m not a racist” but he doesn’t decide that. Along with many other Irish people, he clearly struggles to understand that only your victim decides if you are a racist.

If you abuse people using different words to the ones with which you abuse your friends or family, or display aggressive attitudes and behaviours towards a group you identify as different, then you are a racist.

If those people or groups feel they’ve been abused for being what they are, then they are victims of racism.

Irish people need to stop judging themselves innocent of racism. This country needs Hate Crime legislation, defined by abuse of race, religion, sexuality or disability, so that victims are protected by law.

In the meantime we need to acknowledge that racism is a problem here.
 

If you’re a victim or referred to as ‘them’ you already know.


©Charlie Adley
11.11.2018.

Sunday 4 November 2018

GO FAR QUICKLY AND CREEP BACK!


It’s that utterly soul-destroying moment when you’ve far to go, yet find yourself stuck behind a car that brakes as each car passes on the other side of the road.

I learned to drive in London and find the roads of the west of Ireland a doddle, so I’ve little reason to road rage. Oh, except for those drivers who take three years to turn right into their own driveway: they do it to me every time.

This slamming on the brakes whenever a car passes stuff is only acceptable from overseas drivers, who’ve never seen Irish roads. This guy in front of me in his silver hatchback is evidently a tourist, but he's also a Dub, who's only now found reason to venture west of the Shannon.

“It’s a bloody main road!” I scream out loud alone, safe in my private metal shell. “There’s bloody white lines for gods sake. Think this is narrow, idiot? Oh hooooooo hoh! Just wait!”

Purposefully ignoring the way all us other drivers are not at all dead, or intent on driving into each others’ cars, yer man admirably concentrates on keeping his two kids and wife alive as long as possible.

If this was America he could get nicked. Slow driving is incredibly dangerous and recognised as a crime over there.

Yeh but I’ll get there and all is good. 

Slow down Adley.

The day before last weekend’s Bank Holiday I packed Blue Bag and catapulted myself far away.

That was the essence of my cunning plan. Go as far as you can as quickly as you can and then creep closer to Galway.

Another kingdom, my friend Angel’s home in Kerry offers me sanctuary, peace and serenity, tea and talk.

Inbetween long comfortable silences, borne by years of friendship, I’m ranting and he’s listening.

That’s the way it is today.
More tea?

Angel may not see it any more as he has lived here for years, but outside my friend’s windows I look down from high clifftop to the mighty Atlantic, as it slams into defiant black rocks below.

Straight ahead from our perch my eyes blur into Kerry’s magical coastal swirls, spikes and isles.

I love falling asleep in his mobile. It’s a different kind of silence to the one I enjoy at home. My silence is the wind playing violin on my home’s rooftop or the smash of hailstones crashing onto my bedroom windows.

Natural phenomena do not affect my slumber. I’lI sleep through all of that - in truth I love it!-  but if there’s the slightest artificial sound, a motorbike somewhere in the townland, alpha male kicks in and I’m awake.

Laying on Angel’s fold-out spare bed I revel in the sound of rain on the roof, a troupe of metallic pigmies tap dancing on my head. The waves crashing on the rocks below soothe me and I’m off away for a good eight hours.

Next morning I drive past a place in Dingle called ‘Dolphin Booking Office’.
Is that the place where dolphins go to book a swim with humans?

Round the seemingly endless bends from Dingle to Tralee, where jaw-dropping views remain unseen as it’s eyes on the road territory, if you want to avoid the approaching oblivious coaches.

Then north to Tarbert for a pub, to read the paper and relax, anonymous in public.
That night I spend in splendid isolation at Castle View House on Carrig Island.




Friendly and attentive, Patricia and Garrett Dee run this charming gentle B&B, and with no pubs nearby and no licence to sell alcohol, it’s not for everybody. 

Tonight it’s exactly what I want: peace and quiet.
Nobody wants or needs me.



Outside my bedroom window there is a castle.
Time to stare at the river and sky for a few hours.
                                
Hallelujah.

Over dinner Garrett talks gently of a lifetime’s work spent hosting. He is such an amiable man. If I had to host tourists for that long, well, let’s just say that’s why he runs the place and I’m his guest.

Tonight peace.
Tomorrow north for Bank Holiday by the sea in Kilkee.

First though a gloriously sunny Saturday to pass, challenged only by a freezing your bits off northerly gale.

Just before Loop Head I stop and fortify myself with excellent coffee and scrummy blackberry and apple pie in Kilbaha Gallery. Garrett had recommended the place.
 

You listen to the locals.
That’s the way it works.


 The sign in the café loo says "Smile! You're in West Clare!" and I do because I love West Clare. People are as their stone. I feel most at home with the granite people of Yorkshire and Connemara. If they offer you a handshake or a barstool you're worth it; you've earned it.


The gentle limestone souls of Clare with their easy smiles are so different. They feel to me today as welcome as they are welcoming.

When passing cars on the backroads of Clare, the single finger raised from the steering wheel in greeting will not suffice. Here only the fully-lifted open palm, accompanied by beaming smile will do.

By nature I'm a bit of a minimalist, happy to acknowledge another's existence by looking across and lifting a fingertip. I love this intensely human rural Irish behaviour, but it causes me no end of strife in London, where it takes me 48 hours to stop scaring the locals.




















Loop Head Lighthouse is absolutely splendid. Steve the guide has no end of information - really, no end! - and then, out on the top platform, pinned back by the gale, I gaze out to the pancake cliffs and Loop Head itself.



The Bay View in Kilkee lives up to its name, giving this space cadet the perfect room: a tiny bay window with a chair, one way looking out to the beach and crashing waves, the other to distant sheep-terraced green hills 

Just what this scribbler needs while life is in chaotic flux: friendship, solitude and tonight, if I feel up to it, a wee smidgeon of craic in Kilkee, ready for home tomorrow.

©Charlie Adley
04.11.2018

Monday 29 October 2018

AS THE WIND SPEEDS UP, MY MIND SLOWS DOWN!


When the sun comes out in the late afternoon a mass of flying insects gathers around the ivy atop the old stone shed

I thought in previous years it was because the ivy was flowering, but this year it’s already gone to seed, yet still they swarm: flies, bees, wasps, hover flies - all manner of aerobatic beasties.

A big fan of fresh air, I’m forced to close all the windows for these brief sunny Autumnal hours, because the bluebottles swarm around the house. 


In fifteen minutes there’d be five of the noisy dive-bombing disease-spreading buggers in my living room: guaranteed to drive this colyoomist doolally.

Instead of feeling trapped inside I wander out, stand beside the ivy and take a look, while soaking up the sunshine, appreciating the rich deep colours of this season.

I truly love Autumn. In Jewish culture this is the start of the year; a time of beginning and restoration.





From the roof of the stone shed comes the music of a million insect orchestra. They’re all intensely excited about the ivy and

 - oh -              there!

High above I see a triangle of 12 swallows swoop past. For the last few weeks I felt a brief pulse of excitement each time I saw swallows, thinking that maybe my local brood were still around, but no.

Turns out this house is under some kind of swallow M1 motorway. The regulars who nest in the barn over the wall left weeks ago, and these are birds heading south from somewhere further north.

My brain swims as I try to work out how far they must have already flown, if they are only this far south now.

Migration is a hard taskmaster.

Bird word travels fast. Here come the crows, up from their colony in the high trees at the crossroads. They’re lining up on the telephone wires, eager to feast on the insect smörgåsbord dancing in the ivy.

It’s a good day for crows.

Every day seems to be a good day for magpies. On their mission to take over Ireland’s hedgerows and gardens, they’ve done away with a couple of my flighted friends.

Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed watching a pair of pied wagtails, who became very used to me. When I first moved in, Mr Wagster used to perch on top of the heating oil tank, but then, as I fed the birds through tough winters, he became almost tame, walking over to take food a mere few inches from me.

Then last Spring a pair of magpies arrived, kicked out the wagtails, along with the tits and sparrows, and now they truly rule the roost.

Mind you, the robin is hanging on in there. He won’t be budged, diving down from the trees as soon as he sees me in the garden. 




As the days become shorter I expect less from myself. As the wind speeds up, my mind slows down. Watching the clouds turn golden as a storm builds and then purple as it blasts through makes me feel calm and meditative.

This is the time of year for that magical blue and yellow spray can. WD40 is the stuff of Autumn, somehow both lubricating movement while repelling moisture and inhibiting rust.

That latch on the front gate is rusted and stiff, but a quick spray and it’s slip sliding away.
 

Next up, the windows need the full treatment. Attracted by the electric light inside all summer, their surrounds are veritable cities of spiders and anything else that’ll eat midges.

Hundreds of little brown clusters, some maybe stored dinners, others perchance gestating babies. Needs to be done but it’s not painless, destroying such a thriving ecosystem.

Then a spray of the WD on the stiff window handles, which are threatening to break off until ah, there, now they’re perfect. Another hefty spray onto the sliding metal window bars that are past their best.

Before I put the WD back into Joey SX, I spray his battery terminals and any other electric bits I see. That’ll protect them from damp and ease the demands of those cold morning starts on my car’s electrics.

Was a time I’d lift a car’s bonnet and be able to point out the distributor, spark plugs and HT leads, the alternator and carburettor.

Now it’s all moulded plastic and Japanese wizardry, designed to keep fools like me away and dealerships busy.

The lawn has been mowed and mulched for last time, and as I write that I know certain male folk of my acquaintance will be both chuckling and relieved.





All Summer every Summer they are bored and infuriated by my endless tales of woe with lawnmowers. No man ever had worse luck with various machines and a procession of companies that purport to mend said machines.

My god, it’s only a rotating blade. How hard can it be?

I (and by proxy those aforementioned giggling blokes) have suffered verbal abuse and obfuscation while trying to get the bloomin’ mower sorted. Three of the last six growing seasons I spent ‘waiting for parts.’

Apparently men become obsessed with their lawns. In truth, I couldn’t give a monkey’s if there are several different types of grass, moss, weed and wildflower growing in the lawn.
 

Instead I become fixated on the weather, and which day will be dry enough to get out there and cut it.

Okay: I’m obsessed with not being able to mow the lawn.

Doesn’t matter now. ’Tis done until Spring. With the clocks going back, mornings will light up a little, while at the other end of the day, the hastening of darkness allows self-employed scribblers to call it a day, light the fire and think of what to cook for dinner.


©Charlie Adley
13.10.2018.

Sunday 21 October 2018

Arlene Foster gets up my nose!



We all have limits, personal and professional, and sometimes they blur, one into the other, producing thoughts that are plainly unacceptable in our 21st century woke culture.

Thank goodness we are allowed to express dislike of politicians’ policies and on occasion even admit to disliking a politician or two, for their failings; their corrupt or ambitious natures.

What you cannot do is say you dislike a politician’s appearance. How many times did this colyoomist want to write about Charlie McCreevy’s teeth, but no.

Beyond the confines of morally respectable prose, I have a personal loathing of disingenuous behaviour, so I’m not going to write some kind of half-humorous apology for my struggle.

I’ll just cough it up and take the flak.

There are at the moment so many reasons to disagree with Arlene Foster, so many causes threatened by her policies that we could all fill many pages with heartfelt discord and righteous debate.

Yet my feeble spirit has already lost the plot.

I have gone from feeling mildly irritated by her, to outraged that the British and Irish people are being held to ransom by her, to so viscerally furious with her that my insides cramp as I see her floating around the corridors of Brussels in her special white dress, twitching with excitement, her hubristic hands writhing over each other with the evangelical enthusiasm of a person who knows that this is their moment.

Her tiny life is suddenly being played on a world stage. She’s got the UK government by their short and curlies, to such an extent that Theresa has had to resort to pleading with moderate Labour MPs opposite to support her uniquely unpopular plan.

If it were simply a matter of intractable political differences that’d be fine, because that’s just falling to see somebody else’s point of view.

But that’s not it.
It’s her nose.

There, I said it.

Hands up, folks: this is below me. The only reason I’m sharing it with you is because this feeling troubles me so deeply, excuse the painful pun.

I wouldn’t take kindly to another scribbler writing about my asteroid of a belly, or the orchestral bowel brass section that is the soundtrack of my morning ablutions. If anyone’s going to have a go at me on a base physical level, it’ll be me. That’s my job.

I can write about me but you can’t, so it’s bugging the hell out me that I’m so obsessed with Arlene Foster’s nose, but I am.

Maybe it’s a mental defence mechanism. She offends so many different aspects of the values I hold dear, that now, as she smiles with the knowledge that for this instant her hand is writing the book of History, my brain retreats back inside itself to stay safe.

I know I have to see her, listen to her and read about her, because I am fully obsessed with the future of this island, so I need an escape route.

But really, why did it have to be something physical?

I’ve managed to embarrass myself all by myself, and confess as I wrote that just now, I resisted the urge to cry aloud with maniacal roar

“And it’s all YOUR fault, Arlene, yes it is! Haaaa-ha-haaaaaaa!”
 

Who am I? 

When I see her, my eyes and mind now focus only on her nose. Away from matters personal and politically incorrect, it’s all so unprofessional. 

Who might ever take my work seriously if I witter on about pantomime step-sister noses, and now this colyoom must change tack, for fear it drifts into the aforementioned disingenuous tripe.

Judging a person on how they look feels utterly infantile. I suspect my reaction comes from encountering hypocrisy on so many and such fundamental levels, I feel free to share instinctive responses. 


This has become biological, because hypocrisy twists my guts like nothing else.

On the BBC 6 o’clock news a couple of weeks ago I watched Foster insist that her red line was very simple. 


There was no way under any circumstances whatsoever that Northern Ireland could ever be considered different to the rest of the UK. That was not up for negotiation. Never would be, in any way, shape or fashion.

Three items later came the cake story. On its own the case and controversy created a very healthy debate about the conflicting differences between the freedoms of worship and expression, but it was not a story that could ever run in Manchester. It‘d not happen in Halifax.

It had to be in the 6 counties of Northern Ireland, where LGBT rights are completely different to the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Most of any modernising legislation against such vile discrimination in Northern Ireland has come despite the worst efforts of the DUP, via direct rule from Westminster or lengthy hard-won court cases.

As a Jew only two generations from the holocaust, I am very aware that we were not the only community gassed to death. I will not turn my back on the LGBT community who died alongside us and still struggle for freedom.

Don’t even get me started on how Northern Irish abortion law differs from Britain.

Good! Discovered what’s wrong with me.
 

There are just too many reasons to dislike the DUP and disagree with Foster.
There’s too much at stake for her and them to hold so much power at this crucial time.

I’ve regressed and now just watch a nose.


©Charlie Adley
21.10.2018.

Sunday 14 October 2018

A BIT OF CRAIC AND A DROP O’LIQUID, ’TIS ALL YOU WANT!



With the closure of the Westwood Hotel I feel I’m saying goodbye to an old friend. It was for years the place for a toastie and pint of Guinness when I’d an hour to kill; an emergency peeper stop on the way back from town; the bar where I took my students for a celebratory pint after the last lesson of my Craft of Writing Course; the place where I meet friends flying in from abroad.

Whether they landed at Dublin, Knock or Shannon, they have all found their way to the Westwood, and from there after hugs and welcome pints, I lead them back to my gaff.

If you’ve not been a regular customer you don’t have the right to feel regret at the folding of a business, but emotions don’t follow the rules. Even though it’s been 15 years since I stepped into the place, I was truly sad to see that Jordan’s in Ballina had also closed.

As I drove past last week my heart sank to see the boarded buildings in the terrace looking drab, deflated and dilapidated. It might have been closed for some time.

Back at the turn of the millennium I used to enjoy going in there while waiting for the bus from Galway to arrive. There was an intangible quality about the place that I loved. I felt as if I’d been immersed in a Virtual Reality version of Reeling In The Years.

Deep red carpet, wooden bar stools and a long well-polished brass hand rail that leads the eye to the far end of the bar where, clustered around a comforting coal fire, the daily gathering of The Brethren of the Bar is in full swing.

Pure Irish culture, ancient and alive.

Arriving deliberately an hour before the bus, I’d plant my arse on a barstool, order a Jamie, approach the Observer crossword and sigh with contentment, as the bar’s entertained by the old fellas’ banter.

Evidently they’ve enjoyed a fine day. Pleasantly oiled and well humoured, they are ripping the proverbial out of each other with the cruel sharpness of men who have drunk together for years.

The young brunette barmaid hums happily as she keeps herself busy, well able to handle her regulars.

“I love you Aoife!” exhales Tall Rakey-Thin, as she hands him his ‘pointa spesh.’

“I’m glad somebody does!” she replies, leaving himself with a gaping three tooth smile, mumbling “Ahh, but I do! I do, I really do I do do...”
as his mouth sinks towards his beer.

Chunky Beetroot-Faced Flat-Hat turns to his mates.
 

“Here’s one! Here’s one, I tellya! Tink of a number. Go on!”

“Oh, hmm, yesh, I have one.”

“Double it!”

“Ohhhh, jusht a second now. Hmm. Okay.”

“Now, times it boy, boy, boy shix!”

“Ohhh jeeze Mikey, what’re ye feckin’ at?”

“Just do it man. For feck’s sake, it’s not dat hard izzit? And now, now add ten, divoide boy two, and take away the cofff coffff wheeze coff oh feckin’ Jayzus Mary and Jo Jo Jo cofff coffff wheeeeeze take away shix, and you have da nomber ye firsht tort of!”

His toothly-challenged friend disagrees.

“No. No, I don’t. I have terteen, and I shtarted wid sheven!”

“No you don’t!”

“Yes oy do, ye old bollox!”

“Well, ye got it wrong den, dincha? Can ye not add and shubtract? I feckin’ said double it and add 22!”

“Ye never shed nuttin’ like dat, not a bit of it, oh no, not a bit of it!”

“Ah well, try it again!”

“I will not. ‘Tis borin’ and you have it wrong anywayze. So now, c’mere, I have one for you now. Listen to dis one. Hey, Aoife, c’mere and lissen to dis one! Now, if it takes me a week to walk a fortnight, how long will I walk in a day?”

“Eh? What da cofff cof wheeze cof what da fock was that?”

“Oh, maybe I got him wrong, now, lemme tink, ah now yes yes yes let me see now, maybe what I meant was it’s a fortnight to walk a week?”

“I love you Aoife!”

“Like I said, thanks, I’m glad someone does!”

“I do! I love you Aoife.”

“Thanks, and by the way, my name’s Deirdre!”

With that the barmaid turns away and bites her lip to stop her laughter as behind her this revelation brings forth an eruption of uproarious hilarity from all, followed by some reassuring backslapping, and then, from somewhere deep inside the giggling manly huddle, there emerge words that make me wonder if this whole thing is not some kind of set up.

“Ahh, a bit of auld craic, ’tis all ye want! A drop o’liquid, and a bit of auld craic!”

Did he really say that? Had I just been entertained by an improvising installation of actors, employed by Discover Ireland to show tourists drinking near bus stations a little local life?

This quintessentially Irish collection of words felt simultaneously a cliché and powerful, because it was one, and as such, here in Jordan’s bar in Ballina, it was enhanced by authenticity.

Years later I’m able to enjoy all over again remembering those archetypal words that so many imitate and jest of, yet nobody really expects to hear.


Ireland is a much poorer place for the loss of these hotels and bars. The Brethren of Bars are now mostly dead and buried, their lifestyle, as my late father used to say, destroyed by progress.

That night, as I rose from my barstool and put on my coat, I nodded towards them, wished them well and left them to their lives.

Outside the rain had stopped, the clouds were gone.
Autumn’s cold air grasped my lungs.
Stars shone from a moonless sky.
The bus was in.









©Charlie Adley
14.10.2018.

Sunday 7 October 2018

I want that Gone Upriver state of mind!





I’m not just bad. I’m doubly bad.

Bad once, because for the second week I’m unable to write about anything beyond my tiny unwell existence.

Bad twice, as this inadequacy is wholly due to me being that pain in the backside bloke who doesn’t take his own advice.

Don’t tell me you’ve got the flu. You’ll only receive a long lecture about how viruses are pernicious little bastards who trick you into thinking you’re over them, so you go and do stuff, only for the sods to return, slamming you down on the bed like a leaden lump.

On and on I preach. Be careful. If you feel oddly disoriented when you step out the front door, don’t do it.

Blah blah blah advice which turns into pure nonsense, as before you can yell  

“Hypocritical gobshite!” 

I’ve gone and done exactly what I tell everyone not to.

After two days rest and gallons of water drunk those vile symptoms (that doubtless turned the stomachs of brave colyoomistas last week) had gone.

Overjoyed that I was getting better, I remembered my mistakes of the past and tried to take it easy, but life in its wonder and insistence does keep happening.

At the moment there is nothing small on my life agenda. Only the major stuff, most of which is, by its very nature, out of my control.

Trouble is, I’m a bit of control freak. Even though I truly accept that just about everything that happens is out of my control, I fail to resist the urge to influence the minuscule crumbs I might control.

Instead of resting and recuperating, I flee home and drive north, and stay here, where I am today, a few hundred yards from a splendid beach. There’s neither TV nor internet and I so don’t care.

On the drive up here yesterday I thought about how great it’d be to do an old favourite circular beach walk I haven’t done for years, but ’twas not to be. 


I may be foolish but I ain’t stupid. Stopping for supplies I suddenly found myself breaking into a raging sweat while merely ambling around a shop.

Bugger. Still ill.

Yes but the appetite is back and I’ve more energy, so how much harm can a wee ramble do? My spirit rises with the thought of clean sea air, space and peace, so after unpacking off I head, and 20 minutes later I collapse back through the front door, knocked corblimey sideways.

Okay. 

You got me.
Can’t be me yet. 

Still under siege.

I give in.
 

Useless; blue; immobile.

Need to kick those viral moody blues into touch though, so instead of walking on the beach, today I walk to the beach, sit on the stone wall by the car park and breath.

Blasted by the beauty of the bay, embracing the vast Atlantic, my self-obsessed head finally emerges from my anally-retentive backside.

From my perch I can see far distant breaking wave tips whipped into sepia spume.
 

Wouldn’t have noticed them if I’d been walking on the beach.

This is soul sustenance of a different kind to the physical hit of a good walk.
Thanks. I appreciate being deeply here.

Back sitting by the stove in my hideout, I confess to a DVD drive and a decent pair of speakers.

To many of you I know this sounds mundane, unworthy of a mention, but to this ageing scribbler the chance of watching a box set represents a thrill.

When others talk of watching entire series over one or two nights, or several solid days, I quietly think to myself:

‘Where do you get the time?’

Don’t get me wrong. My armchair cushion has a deep arse groove. I sit for hours in front of the tele, but the only two box sets I could say I’ve ever ‘done’ are both ancient: The West Wing, episodes of which I still watch when I need an urgent Trumptidote, and The Sopranos.

Back in 2008, when my dad died, a box set was the size of an item of furniture. Grieving on the sofa for two months, confused patriarch Tony and his family and gang got me through.

Eat your heart out, Freud.

Thankfully right now nobody’s died, but my life is in chaotic flux, and today all I’m able to do is rest and recover; to find the strength to rebuild.

At the moment I’m pure useless to the world and myself, and if there was ever a better time for a box set, I never met it.
Coming up: another old beauty, in the shape of Northern Exposure.

Embedded for me with personal memories of time and place, this series revolves around catalyst Joel, a neurotic Jewish doctor forced by the State of Alaska to administer to the far-flung community of Cicely.

Rich in quirky characters, laden with witty writing and stunning wilderness scenery, there’s much to enjoy. Despite the many lives I’ve lived since I first watched it, I know one episode will comfort and inspire me now, as it did back then.
 

In the final season Joel heads upriver to help a Native American and doesn’t come back. His friends find him calm and neurosis-free, living in a tribal village, drying salmon and shaping fishhooks.

The ultimate urban materialist has gone native.

Joel’s discovered that once you’ve stripped away life’s veneer and chaff, left only with literally the bare bones, nothing matters but those bones.

He finds peace for the first time in his life.

I consider myself incredibly lucky, as twice in my past I’ve found and lived in deep peace.

As soon as I’m finally rid of this virus, I’ll be back on track towards that upriver state of mind.

In the meantime I’m allowing myself a box set. 



© Charlie Adley
07.10.2018.


Sunday 30 September 2018

WORDS CHANGE MEANING AS REALITY ALTERS!



The man sitting here at his computer is not the same one that wrote this colyoom last week. That bloke could breathe through both nostrils and cough without having to clench a distant sphincter, for fear of what might happen at the other end.

For those of misandrist inclination, switch off now, as you’ll be blinded to everything but a man mansplaining man-flu, but this is not about my illness, but the altered state I feel I’m in.

Think it started back when I was 17 and smashed my femur,. My biggest bone was broken in two, the tibia below had a compound fracture and I came out of surgery with a chest infection.

On the ward they slapped my leg up in a sling, stuck a metal stick sideways through my knee and attached it to weights at the end of the bed. Every thirty seconds my rasping chesty cough shook my broken leg.

When I asked how long it was going to hurt they said 6 weeks, so I took myself off painkillers. They’d been giving me 4 hourly pethidine jabs that had me floating on the ceiling, and DF 118s and all sorts, but no.

Instead I learned to see pain as simply another way of being. An altered state. Not pleasant, not to be sought out but if unavoidable, I step sideways from it in my mind and go:

“Oh look. My back’s in spasm.”

I’d say it helps put things in perspective, but what does that mean? Perspective implies that there’s a common ground somewhere, from which differing views emerge.

I’m not so sure.

Which is the real world? The one last week inhabited by a scribbler healthy and full of vim, or this drab place I live in today? Same room, same carbon based life form (cap’n) but now debilitated to the point where breathing is hard and conscious work, while a pile of crumpled soggy kitchen towels climbs higher by my side.

Beyond those we seek out through alcohol, caffeine and other drugs, we live in an infinite amount of constantly altered states, thanks to chemicals, climate and other people.

This little virus is dominating my life today, but by the time you read this it will have left me and could be inside you.

The other day my excellent friend Whispering Blue solved a mystery that’s been driving me crazy me for years.

A few years after my failure in America, I was walking my favourite beach under blue skies and suddenly experienced a joyous rush of euphoria. My mental cinema screen ran a high-speed movie montage of all the rage, depression and pain I’d suffered and caused, being morphed over time into happiness and this bliss, and I raised my arms to the sky and shouted:

 

“Thank You!” to the universe.

“Thank you, Charlie!” boomed the voice back from behind and above the clouds, and yes, as you might imagine, this troubled me deeply.

As a Pantheist-Atheist Jewish mutant, you could say I’m keeping my options open, but I doubted my sanity when faced with having to ask myself if I’d heard the voice of God.

You wouldn’t be hearing about it now if my friend hadn't explained that in my euphoric state there might be neural pathways blown open that allowed for sound to appear as if it came from far away.

Of course!
Thank goodness!

You don't have to burn me at the stake or build a shrine to me: I was experiencing an altered state.

We all are, all the time.
Normal is so last century.

Aiding and abetting our altered perception of what we think is going on, there come words that change meaning. This colyoom is always eager to give you the heads up about new wordy trends. 


Way back in March 2009 DV was on the case of the dilution of ‘iconic’ and in September 2014 colyoomistic red flags were raised about ‘so’. So now ‘so’ is pandemic. So now every sentence starts with so.

This time however DV is hands up out of date and behind the times. Sometimes trends take a while to reach us here in the West of Ireland, but I noticed in London last Spring and on the UK media the frequent use of ‘disruption’ as a positive notion.

There are disruptive technologies sold on Dragon’s Den and disruptive thinking is so cool it poohs ice cubes.

Just like our states of being, language changes all the time.

We will always be fed words designed to influence and alter our opinion, so it’s vital that we don’t swallow them without question.

Take a look at the word Islamophobic. It’s the commonly accepted term for discrimination against Muslims, but what’s with the ‘phobic’? Every religion has at some stage perpetrated something worthy of fear, yet only Islam is so tainted.
 

Christophobic? Sikhophobic? Judaiophobic?
 

On September 7th, Donald Trump went from Montana to Washington via North and South Dakota. During that single day, while talking to journalists and the public for no more than 120 minutes, he made 125 false or misleading statements.

Praise be to the wonderful people who still check facts. Thanks to their diligence we know that by the 601st day of his presidency, Trump had told over 5,000 lies.

At a time when Doublespeak rules and words threaten to become utterly meaningless, you can’t just have a crisis: you now have to have an existential crisis.

The Labour Party, Manchester Untied and Bumblebees are all in crisis, and if it ain’t existential it ain’t worth a dime.

My crisis is far from existential.
It’s very simple.
I just need to lie down and kick this virus.


30.09.2018.
©Charlie Adley

Sunday 23 September 2018

GRATITUDE OILS OUR HUMAN HINGES!



There are no more joyous words in the English language than “Thank you.” You've given a child a present and they just turn and walk away, leaving you standing there with your arms lolling around like an ancient willow, chin stuck forward and eyes bulging, waiting for the magic words.

You know the present was something he wanted. You’d asked his parents, so there’s no point blaming the child.

Off goes the head in imaginary circles of erroneous thinking: it’s the parents’ fault.
 

Clearly they never bothered to teach their son manners.
 

What a shame. Tut tut.

What a load of tosh. Every parent tries to teach their child which words to use in order to say thank you, and if we learn other languages we’re taught how to give thanks in several different ways.

We are not, however, taught gratitude. We are not taught how to want things and we are not taught how we feel when we are given them.

That’s down to who we are.

Of course our education and socialisation influence whether we enjoy or shrink from generosity or thankfulness, but the way we react to another’s kindness forms a seminal part of who we each are as individuals.

Random acts of kindness are well trendy and truly wonderful, but deliberate generous gestures can be pretty bloomin’ splendid too.

I’ll never forget the woman with the dogs, because she was silently kind and I never had the chance to thank her.

I was living in Salthill where a sunny Summer’s day threatened to turn parking into a nightmare. Arriving back from a shopping expedition I was delighted to see two clear spaces just round the corner from my home.

After unloading the weekly shop and dropping it into the house, I drove back to discover that someone had parked their car in such a way as to take up both spaces.

“Inconsiderate bastards!” I muttered aloud under peevish breath, and then, as if I had drunk of a magic potion, I began a slow but steady metamorphosis into my own personal Mr. Hyde: Bear From Hell.

Stubborn to the last, I tried to squeeze my car into the space and failed, became a bit more Bear From Hell, tried again and failed better.

On the last of my pointless reversing runs, I spotted a woman walking her dogs around the small park just over the road.

Aha!
There she was!
The driver of the offending car.

Maybe I should just nip over and have a word with her.

Leaving my car obnoxiously double-parked, I strode into the park and approached the lady in question, asking if she would mind moving her car a bit, so that two cars might park where now one occupied two spaces.

She nodded and immediately headed out of the park and back over the road, to do just as I had asked.

Without wanting to alarm her, I tried to catch her attention by following her and waving my arms, because I wanted to offer to hold her dogs’ leads.

She saw neither me nor my gesture. Leaving me feeling increasingly embarrassed, she opened the hatch door of her car, eventually encouraged both of her dogs to jump in (they were not best pleased, thinking their walk had been cut cruelly short) and moved her car the requisite few metres.

As I climbed into my car to move it out of the centre of the road, I saw her open the back door of her car again, encourage her somewhat bewildered pooches to jump out once more and head again towards the park.

By the time I’d finally parked my car she was off, gone, out of sight.

After quick reflection I decided that it’d just look plain weird and potentially scary if I suddenly charged off to seek her out.

Instead I walked home, grateful for the polite calm way she dealt with the situation, feeling rather guilty that what I’d thought at first would be a pretty easy task had turned out to be a time-consuming laborious effort for her, not to mention her confused dogs.

Most of all though I felt bad because I hadn't thanked her.

Even though now it’s a tiny sliver of memory, the fact that over a decade later that feeling remains strong serves to show me how powerful is our species’ need for kindness, decency and generosity of spirit.

We are assaulted every day, minute and second by an onslaught of news, images and sounds that relentlessly impose upon us the notion that we, the Human Race, are a terrible beast.

We wage war. 

We murder.
We rape and abuse.
We torture, beat and maim.

Yes we do, but we are not all bad.

Far from it. Just like yer Grannie used to say, it’s the rusty hinge that makes the most noise. Billions of human hinges work perfectly peacefully. Speaking as one of the planet’s most oxidised hinges, I know I create an unholy racket.

Displays of gentle generosity and heartfelt gratitude lubricate the pathways of the human spirit. When someone acts as that woman did, this hinge is suddenly silenced, oiled by kindness.

I take solace, comfort and hope from these sweet injections of humanity.

Don’t believe all the hype raining down upon us from our 24/7 media culture. We are a gentle, loving, caring and generous species.



©Charlie Adley
23.09.2018

Sunday 16 September 2018

GREED WILL DESTROY GALWAY'S SOUL!



The Swiss couple next to me at PJ McDonagh’s are getting stuck into plates of oysters. Their tweenie son with a cheeky grin is watching me out of the corner of his eye, fascinated by the way I’m creating a lacy lattice of ketchup over my chips.

Then he lifts the squeezy bottle and tries to do the same, but in his eagerness lashes a scarlet splash over half the table.

In a flash both his parents are onto him, but I laugh out loud and point to my spudular artwork.

“He was only trying to learn about local culture!”

We all laugh.
He flashes me a grateful toothy grin.

How could you feel anything but love while eating this freshest of fish? Steamed inside a crispy batter, forkfuls of snow white flakes of cod, as fine as any anywhere in the world.

The chips are superb too, with a lingering potato hit up the schnoz as you exhale, which I do as I head up the river walkway to O’Brien’s Bridge.

I’m a man on a mission.

Well, no. I’m a scribbler on a long-overdue ramble, hoping to arrive at Taylor’s Bar early enough to find a barstool.
 

The only time I’ve been in there since it reopened was during the Arts Festival, and much as I enjoyed the nostalgia hit of walking back into my old pub, the place was absolutely jammered.

I knew I needed to come back after the madness and just be there; see how it felt.

At night I had no particular spot in the old Taylor’s. I’d linger in the back bar, watching musicians mingled with hosteleros, and then chat to the hardcore regs in the middle bar, their arse groove well established on their own barstools.

Inevitably I’d end up in the front bar, where Arty types with a capital ‘A’ drifting down from Tigh Neachtain engaged in drunken conversation and serious flirtation with self-described entrepreneurs from Shantalla and eccentric gardeners from the Claddagh.

Afternoons were a different matter. After work I’d take the barstool right at the end of the front window, cosily trapped by wall and bar.

Supping a mug of coffee I’d chat to ever-smiling Una, do the crossie and gently enjoy the space and place.

Bloomin’ lovely! 

That very barstool is vacant, waiting for my voluptuous arse.
 

I settle in and feel happy.

The wonderful woodwork retains a sense of integrity, but of course Taylor’s isn't the same. There are TV screens, yet it doesn’t matter. I’m not looking for a replication of my life 20 years ago, just a pub where I might feel at home.

Before a sip of whiskey slips my lips, I’m talking to old friends. Like so many they are being turfed out of their home by their landlord and face the stark truth that they can no longer afford to live in the city they love.

A vile cocktail of vulture capital gentrification, Airbnb rapacity and pure dirty greed threatens to turn Galway City into the vapid homogeny to which so many cities around the world have been reduced.
 

The unique tragedy for our county town is that many of the people being evicted are those who make this city different from all the others.

Artists, musicians, actors and writers all have to be risk takers. We have to be willing to jump off the gravy train and hope for the best, so often we’re the most financially vulnerable.

Unregulated and out of control, rents in Galway are destroying what made this place great.

Eventually there’ll just be billionaire landowners looking out of their helicopter windows to the medieval streets below, where tourists sit outside pubs and restaurants watching other tourists walk by.

We hug emotional goodbyes and wish each other luck in the face of this ironic tragedy, where the Irish force each other from their homes.

I head up Sea Road to the Crane, where I’m presented by a spontaneous performance that once again illustrates why Galway is so loved.

Down the bar sit a couple I’d met at Taylor’s a few hours before, so I raise a glass in their direction, jokingly asking who is stalking who?

One of the two lads standing between me and the couple turns round and apologises for being in the way. Would I like to sit closer to my friends?

I explain that I’m fine and he then reaches out his hand and tells me his name. I shake his hand and tell him mine, at which point (and far from lairy drunk, he is young, clean and charismatic) he stands back and engages everyone’s attention at our end of the bar by raising a glass and waving it in the air while looking everyone in the eye.

“To Thursdays!” he toasts.

We all smile, raise our glasses, toast

“Thursdays!”

 
and drink, after which he shakes all our hands, and we all introduce ourselves to everyone else, and all of a sudden I’m on a night out with Peter and Gert from Vienna and they’re on a night out with Mick from Mervue.

Pure Galway magic.

It is disgraceful that a country with Ireland’s painful history allows good people from Galway City to be evicted in the name of financial gain. 


A mature nation would legislate for enforceable rent regulation, restrictions on Airbnb and independent scrutiny of vulture investors bulk-buying Irish real estate.

Above all, Ireland needs to build homes for all those sleeping on the streets, the people on the housing list, and those invisible souls struggling to get onto the housing list.

As an Englishman I’ll never understand how the same people who have long lectured me on the horrors of evictions and rack renting now rush to impose evictions once again.



©Charlie Adley
02.09.2018.


Sunday 9 September 2018

You have to discover your own Galway!



Two pairs of friends are heading my way. One couple from England in a camper van, the other from California in a rental car, both arriving roughly the same time and each, on the way, experiencing their own Ireland.

Four different people who will enjoy Galway City and County in their own individual ways,
 

The only thing I’m certain of is that whatever they choose to do and wherever they go, they will leave loving Galway.

The thing I’m less sure of is whether I should show them my Galway. Would it be fair to bombard them with my passion - now that this Englishman is Irish, I dare to use your language - my grá for Galway?

Shouldn’t they have the freedom to find their own Galways?

They’re arriving at one of my favourite times of year. For a week or two there’s a brief Galway hiatus after the arts festivals and races yet before students get their money and oysters are shucked.

We have the chance to breathe; to look around and appreciate where we we live.

After an achingly dry scorching summer our land has turned green once again. Autumn arrives with the soft sweet odours of ripe fruit mingled with fresh rain, soon to become a cocktail of damp and decay.

Overhead the swallows are gathering, perching in crammed lines up on phone wires, shooting off for practice runs with their second batch of fledglings.

Come the next northerly wind and they’ll be off. For some their departure carries sadness at the loss of Summer, but while I’ll miss their aerobatic display and company, I embrace Autumn.

We have four seasons and it seems pretty stupid not to like each one. Why write off a quarter of your life?

I’m standing still on the bog, aware how the light has started to change, as sun travels lower in the sky.

Distant chainsaws cut timber.

On the western horizon black clouds crash bulbous tips into distant dark hills. At once the sky becomes blood-streaked: one of the Gods has spilled red wine on the Tablecloth Of The Firmament.

Just another Galway sunset.

I don't expect my Galway to be ideal for others, particularly because much of mine hides away from what Galway does best: socialising. The craic in Galway can be fierce, so in the past to survive I discovered escapes that nurtured, helping me to survive.

One of those escapes we all share, local and tourist alike, because we all must walk the Prom to Black Rock. Every day an endless variety of light offers a differing panorama of Galway Bay and the coastline of Clare, the purple hills of the Burren appearing, disappearing, stark and then veiled in morning mists.

For Galwegians this walk is a universal ritual. The loping teenage hangover victim walks three paces behind the short rotund brown cardigan grannie.

Overtaking on the inside come super-fit mum and dad in identical running suits, with triangular pushchair and baby to match.

All of us, we walk up there, kick the wall, spin around and walk back.

In my personal Galway there’s water everywhere. The legendary bay and roaring river Corrib are only part of the story. A few yards off city centre streets I stand and watch trout jumping by the stillness of Galway’s myriad canals.

Shortcuts slip me away from racing shoppers to hanging gardens of fuchsia and lobelia, where clematis loll above meandering currents, while up past the university my feet ease their way alongside the river on rich wild pasture.

In Autumn my Galway becomes a place of vivid light, of contrast and colour. Sitting on the riverbank by Claddagh Hall, I make sure to appreciate the ultra-dry air of this north-easterly breeze, which creates scalpel-cut edges of blue sky on mossy green rocks on blue water and white swan.

Oh my god. That shattering white of the swans captivates me, as they preen themselves on the wet dark rocks, while the ebb tide river trickles out to the bay.

Oops.

That’s the thing with Galway, you see.

You get distracted. I was going to take you on a tour of my Galway, City and Connemara, but I ended up sitting and staring.

Time to walk over the lock gates and Wolfe Tone Bridge into the city and abandon ourselves to the narrow jaws of Quay Street.

My Galway would lead me to the tiny front bar of the Quays, which has somehow retained its authenticity. It remains, defiant, like a wonderful carbuncle of old Irishness on the cheek of yet another Paddywood conversion.

There I’ll sense the ghost of Galway’s Traveller matriarch, Biddy Ward, sitting in the corner by the fire, supping her Satzenbrau, scowling at how the rest of the place has become a theme pub.

After the Quays I think I’ll encourage my friends to explore the city.

“Have good time!” I’ll say. “Tomorrow I’ll impose my Galway upon you when we visit Connemara. We’ll go to the magical Inagh Valley, where the 12 Pins meet the Maamturk Mountains, and then we’ll find an empty beach in the Aughrus peninsula.


 “After lunchtime pints and seafood at Oliver’s in Cleggan, we’ll go south to walk the white sands of Doonlaughan, surrounded by treeless moonscape.

“Tonight wander out and find your own Galway. It’ll be built on the people you’ll meet, the strangers’ faces that can so easily become your howyas of each waking day.

“My Galway is all of the places I'm not going to tell you about. Now, go find a hundred of your own.”


©Charlie Adley
09.09.2018.

Sunday 2 September 2018

BAD DECISIONS TEACH US MORE THAN GOOD ONES!





“Ah come on Charlie! Away with your feckin’ psychobabble! You must have some regrets. It’s not as if your life’s been screw-up free!”

I laugh and agree with my friend, but to answer his question I have to switch off and scan my memory files for regret.

Have I made decisions that in hindsight were naive, destructive, or just plain stupid?

Yes, m’Lud. Guilty as charged.

So why do I not plead guilty to regretting them?

Well, m’Lud, they were decisions I chose to make, driven either by love or knowing no better, so yes, they were bad decisions but no, I don’t regret making them.

Searching searching and yes, back in 1985, I had the chance to be taught how to sail and passed it by. I regret that.

After retiring from the corporate world in October ’84, I’d found a tiny shop called Trailfinders. In those days budget Round The World trips were a relatively new concept, so I stitched together my own, arriving in New York, then on to stay with my friend Angie in the Bahamas.
 

After that came the great cities of DC, Philadelphia and San Francisco, so by the time I flew out of LA I was ready to do very little on Tahiti.

While Polynesia catered amply for the rich, those down in the basement of travelling budgets dwelt in giant straw huts, balanced on stilts above mud pools breeding mosquitoes the size of tennis balls.

Holed up in the hut during endless humid days of rain, I chatted to Cory, an Anglo-Saxon Californian Amazon, tanned hazelnut brown from her 6 foot 3 crown all the way down. 


Although physically attracted to her, I felt wary, as she was prone to spouting irritating maxims such as:

“The more I say ‘I’, the more likely I am to lie!”

To these I replied silently in my head

“Speak for yourself love!” while my insecure 24 year-old face forced an expression of false awe at her wisdom.

We travelled to Aukland together and in the hostel lobby I found Cory, talking to some old geezer. My London head was concerned that this Valley Girl was vulnerable to being conned, but I was underestimating her, this man and New Zealand altogether.

Just as I still have no idea how Cory spelt her name (was it Cory, Corey or the traditional CoRi?) I’ll never know if that gentleman was called Maurice or Morris, but a gentleman he was, and more: an inspiration and revelation.

Maurice was a wiry retired teacher who’d spent his life hand- building the stunning Celeste, a beautifully fitted-out 38 foot yacht.
 

Clearly he’d been a vocational teacher as he loved to share his vast knowledge of the local environment. Every couple of months he came down to this hostel, looking for two or three young people who might be interested in sailing with him on Celeste, around the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, on the edge of the South Pacific.

For the next three weeks I lived an existence utterly different to anything I’d experienced before. 


 

Gentle and gliding in movement, strong and steady in muscle, Maurice was a passionate man whose sole loathing was noise. He hated boats with engines.

After a few hours I too was in love with being under sail.

Shooting across the ocean with the wind rustling Celeste’s great sheets brought a thrill of excitement, alongside an exhalation of calm.

All day I sat on deck and watched the blues and whites of wave and sky, listened to the splash-crash of water on wood, the flap of breeze on canvas and in the background, the sound of Maurice teaching Corey how to sail.

He asked me if I wanted to join in but I declined. I was really happy, simply sitting on deck and staring, allowing myself to feel as far from the world of marketing Japanese photocopiers as a man could get.

However when Maurice declared it time to catch dinner, I paid attention.

“Over there, where those black and white birds are circling. Steer her that way, Charlie!”

We dropped hand lines over Celeste’s sides and lo! We hauled up a feast of Kahawai the size of salmon.



Then we’d drop anchor in a silent empty bay and take a dingy to the shore, where we’d follow Maurice as he prowled the clifftops, looking for edible roots and plants. This we now know as foraging.

To us in January 1985 it was what Maurice did: new, ancient and remarkable.
 
We’d build a fire on the beach, cook our fresh fish and veggies, and drink the beer which Maurice bought with the paltry 2 dollars a day we’d been asked to contribute.

“Yeh, mate. I suppose I regret not letting Maurice teach me how to sail. That’d be a great skill to have, and he was such a fine teacher.”
 

 Corey and that deck....

“You’re some weird soul, Charlie, if you can find regret anywhere in that tale.”

Reflecting 35 years later, I realise that sitting on Celeste’s deck changed my life. My decision not to learn sailing allowed me to discover something far more important.

For the first time in my life I was free to stare into the horizon for hour upon hour, day after day.

On that gorgeous deck I rediscovered the spaced-out peace I’d first felt on childhood holidays at a farm in Somerset.

On Celeste I grew to understand that while I had the ability to be a marketing success in the eyes of everyone else, for me all that high-flying city stuff would always feel utterly meaningless, unless my life included times of deep calm.

Having talked myself out of my own argument, I turn to my friend.

“Nah, sorry mate, changing my mind. Didn’t learn how to sail, but I found out how to make myself happy, so no, cancel that. No regrets at all.”

“You’re a lucky man, Charlie.”

“I know mate.”



©Charlie Adley
02.09. 2018.











Sunday 26 August 2018

JUST LISTEN WHEN LIFE’S HARD FOR A LOVED-ONE!



As the injection goes into my tooth, the dentist’s words fail to reassure me.

“Charlie, this tooth is shattered, so I might not be able to extract the whole thing. There may be shards of tooth and bits of nerve left behind, in which case I’ll have to send you to the hospital.”

I wasn’t expecting an extraction. I’d made an appointment as the two teeth my dentist’s been nursing for a year or two were giving me gyp.

In the past she’d patched them up and talked about root canal treatment.
Too late for that now. After a brief inspection, she said immediate extraction was the only prognosis.

I just nodded and lay back.

According to my Irish friends I’m fortunate that at the age of 58 this is my first extraction. My postwoman puts it down to being raised in England but I’m not so sure.

I think it’s more to do with the fact that I’m a pervert: I don’t mind going to the dentist.

Settle down. I’m not saying I enjoy it, but as a self-employed person, if I don’t do my work, nobody else will. Hence, when I get the chance to delegate, I love handing over responsibility to other skilled professionals.

I absolutely wholeheartedly trust my dentist, so as I recline on her surgery chair I feel calm. More than happy to relinquish control to someone else, I exhale and relax.

I’m in safe hands.

This woman has looked after my Hampsteads for many years, and as well as showing expertise and compassion, she’s given me excellent advice.
 

Rather than trying to flog branded mouthwashes and toothpastes, she told me a few years back to prepare bottles of salt water with a few pinches of bicarbonate of soda. 

After eating, I sloosh that around and a few months back had the pleasure of hearing her say:

“All your soft tissue and gums look perfect!”

Ah! The rare bliss of a positive assessment from a dentist, but unfortunately today her opinion has travelled as far as it could in the other direction.

Wasn’t expecting to lose a tooth this morning, but as the locals say: ye’ll have that.
 

Can’t say I’m surprised though. Over the last two months my life’s been acting out a metaphorical manifestation of pulling teeth, so somehow it seems apt that someone is now physically pulling out one of my teeth.

Personal trauma was followed by notice to quit my house, so forced to flee excruciating Galway rents, I plan to find a home and build a new life where I lived years ago, among the wonderful people and places around Killala, on the Céide Coast of North Mayo.

Guiding me through my emotional bewilderment, a luxury of loved-ones have left me humbled. I give thanks, beyond all bounds of reason. I’m incredibly lucky to have so many people who genuinely care about me.

However I must confess it has proved exhausting trying to explain the truth and depth of my feelings to some, as they encourage me to focus on the positive and embrace the future.

Their motives are wonderful, yet their insistence that I think and feel as they suggest is wearying. I simply end up telling them I’m fine, so they might worry less.

When somebody we love is depressed or enduring emotional trauma, our first instinct as compassionate human beings is to make them feel better.

However, we each deal with life’s dark side differently. Some strive to avoid it, thriving solely on positive energy; others, like myself, do not.

One of my friends has been there for me consistently and remarkably, yet we share polar opposite perspectives on life.

He has himself overcome major challenges, and on occasion he finds it difficult to understand why I choose to dwell in the shadows, rather than seeking sunbeams on which to swing through life’s jungle.

I tell him that I need to be half way down the tree, looking at the ground, staring up at the sky, trying to make some sense of it all.

People like me are very aware of the positives, but by better understanding the negatives I might come through these recent trials as a man still able to love; a man free from the shackles of bitterness and anger.

If you become nervous or anxious around those enduring depression or trauma, don’t try to cheer them up.

It’s very possible they don’t want you to cheer them up right now. They probably just want you to understand that they’re going through a really hard time; that sometimes life can simply be irredeemably cruel and irrationally horrible.

If the victim of trauma can accept that, surely you can too?

Don’t tell them what you think they should do.
Maybe they're not ready for that yet.

Don't say you understand how they feel, if you don’t.
Don’t say “It’s for the best!” even if you believe it.

For that person right now it’s far from the best. Maybe until now your loved-one wasn’t even aware that this worst existed, so no, it’s not ‘for the best’ for them.

Don’t say “It’s meant to be!” or, heaven forbid, “Everything happens for a reason!”
 

What does that even mean?

If you’re not asked for it, don’t give advice. Simply listen to your loved-one, acknowledge that they are going through a very hard time, and maybe reassure them that they’re dealing with it well.

Oh, and while we’re at it, “That’s one less tooth to worry about!” doesn't help much either!



©Charlie Adley
16.08.2018

Sunday 19 August 2018

UK CRUSHES IRELAND EVEN AS IT MOVES AWAY!




You’re crammed into a car with your entire extended family, hurtling down a hill when the brakes fail.

Pedal to the ground horror.
Up ahead the road forks.

One way heads up a hill towards a garage, the other downhill, straight for a cliff edge. 


One way your car stops and everyone is safe; the other you all crash to your deaths or, if you’re lucky, suffer unattractive painful injuries.

The car is the UK, and while we might hope that a nation powered by the fifth largest economy in the world would have the sense not to aim for the cliffs, the Prime Minster clings madly to her steering wheel.

Instead of asking the EU for more time, she hopes her car might fly.

In an attempt to keep in touch with feelings in my native country, I watch the audience on David Dimbleby’s BBC Question Time. Picked to represent complete cross-sections, these British people are erudite, intelligent and witty.

My English heart feels proud of this essentially British mix of cultures that creates a national and natural charisma, and then, like Nancy Sinatra, they go and spoil it all by saying somethin’ stupid like:

“I was a Remainer but now I don’t care. Just get on with it and Leave. I can’t bear it any more!”

Aim for the cliffs?
What’s the rush?

The British are famously a stoic bunch, so why don’t they think past their impatience, rather than destroying their childrens’ future?

Generally if the Tories say they’ll do something dreadful, they do it, and it’s dreadful. Universal Credit springs to mind, but now they’re about to drive the entire nation over No Deal Cliffs, and few seem to care, because they’re so wretchedly bored with Brexit. They just want it over.

“If it were done when ’tis done, t’were well it were done quickly!”
Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 7.

Clearly the British haven't changed much since Shakespeare’s days.

When Boris Johnson delivered his resignation speech in the House of Commons, after being sacked as Foreign Secretary, he was not Bumbling Funny Boris.

Starting his leadership campaign, he wanted to sound like Winston Churchill, because Johnson is obsessed with the wartime leader.

Most unusually, Boris spoke slowly and clearly, using words aimed directly at his voter base.

“It is not … too late … to save … the dream of Brexit!”

Pure Trumpian rhetoric, from another whose political career has been moulded by lies, incompetence and obfuscation. Even if he fails to get the required 48 signatures to run for Tory leadership, Boris will survive the criticism heaped upon him for writing vile nonsense about Muslim women, because he knows many Tory voters agree with him.

By insisting he was defending “...liberal values against extremism...” he used the same dangerous Doublespeak that has proved so effective for Trump.

This odious bile touches the hearts of the dispossessed and the envious, the forgotten and the begrudging, the bigoted and the intolerant. Anyone ready or eager to blame others is welcome in this tent, and they are many.

Theresa May behaves ever more like Basil Fawlty. She’s put all her hopes into her plan, her precious Chequers Agreement, yet tragically (it might look comical were it John Cleese rather than the Prime Minister) she appears utterly blind to the fact that nobody on any side agrees with her.

Ever since the referendum I’ve felt that no deal would be negotiated. At first I thought the process would stumble and fall over the Irish border, but incredibly the UK government hasn’t even agreed what they want yet.

My Dad used to talk about bringing things down to “the lowest common denominat” and this I heard out of the mouth of the new Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. After May sent her ministers all over Europe, hoping a good lunch might make the integrity of the Single Market crumble, Hunt started talking about something he called an "Accidental No Deal."

Nobody has the slightest clue what he meant, but Hunt then sank lower, going on to say that this would be the fault of the EU, and create a resentment in the English against Europeans that would last generations.

That was the first time we saw the desperate admission that No Deal was at the moment the only deal on the table.

Hunt presented the English lowest common denominator: It’s all the foreigners’ fault. We are better than them.

Instead of offering strong opposition, the Labour Party’s plan is ludicrous and unworkable, so when the UK drives over No Deal Cliffs in 8 months time, the English people will turn to somebody who sounds positive; someone who can use Churchillian rhetoric to stir the blood; to help them believe he can make Britain great again.

Sound familiar?

Living in and now thankfully a citizen of Ireland, this Englishman wonders whether Johnson is so deluded he truly believes he can build a successful economy from the ruins of a No Deal crash.

What hurts me most is the astonishing impact a No Deal Brexit will have on my adopted country.

According to the IMF, while other EU countries would suffer a fall of 1.5% in economic output, both the UK and the Republic of Ireland would be hit by a massive 4% drop.
 

That’s more than 50,000 Irish jobs gone, and a hard border with the North.

History has a cruel sense of humour. After centuries of occupation, the English still manage to devastate Ireland, even as they try to move further away.


©Charlie Adley
11.08.2018

Sunday 12 August 2018

DON’T JUDGE YESTERDAY’S ART BY TODAY’S STANDARDS!



Magic moments don’t come often in life, so when the memory of one rises, I indulge myself in the glory of it.

I was reading about how the students of Manchester University chose to remove Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ from their Student Union walls.

The university’s Liberation and Access Officer, Sara Khan, said:

“We believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment and human rights…”

My eyes blurred over the print, my mind filling with memories from 2006…

I was in the front passenger seat of a Foroige minibus, looking back at my squad of 10 teenage Traveller boys. We were about to participate in the World Cup Five-A-Side competition.

16 youth squads from projects around the country were heading for Drom’s fantastic facilities, each representing a World Cup nation.

We were Portugal, and weeks before we’d managed to source the Portuguese national strip for the lads. They were thrilled to see the famous burgundy shirts.

“Can we wear them tonight, Charlie? Can we wear them now? Go on Charlie! Can we? I’m putting mine on any feckin’ way!”
 

“Oi! Leave those shirts alone. You’ll be playing three games on the day, ‘cos it’s a group stage, so those strips have to last and look good ’til at least the third game.”

“Til the feckin' final!”

“Yes, Thomas, we’ll see. First though we need to train. Right! Heads up lads, look forward. After me: We are Portugal. We play for Honour.”

“We are Portugal. We Play For Money!” they chorused in return, as always collapsing into giggles.

I knew that on the big day they’d be excited, nervous and slightly over-heated. If I played my cards right I could harness that excess energy and help them apply it to create a great experience, but what would captivate them?

What might make them feel calm, strong, unified and confident?

There could be some at the competition prejudiced against them and unafraid to voice their feelings. What could I do or say that would make these economically-deprived teenage boys from east-side estates think before they acted?

Words. That’s my way.

Immediately I thought of ‘If’, printed it out and practiced reading it carefully.

On the morning of the competition I was dry-mouth nervous. This was a gamble. There was a distinct possibility my sudden diversion into the world of poetry might be a colossal disaster.

Maybe they’d snort in mystification and think me a pretentious wanker, yet as I looked at Kipling’s words, I felt confident he was talking their language.

The word ‘classic’ can be applied, when a poem written in 1909 can speak to Traveller lads in 2006.

Before we drove out of the Community Centre car park in Ballybane, I turned around in my seat and faced them.
 

“Right lads. Listen up. I’m going to read you something.”

“Not now Charlie. Let’s get going.”

“Yes, now. There will be no talking until I finish. None. Right? Good. Now listen.”

I started slowly, doing my best to milk the most meaning from the beautiful words.

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.”

 

As I read I glanced over my sheet of paper and saw to my astonishment that every single boy was enthralled; emotionally and spiritually sucked in to these timeless ideals.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.”

 

Out of the corner of my eye I saw John and Sean, their chins dropped, mouths agape.

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!”


I paused for a few seconds, to give us time to take it all in. Nobody twitched, sniffed or blinked.

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!”


Far from interruptions, the end was met by a collective silence I’d never experienced before, followed by sighs and grunts of teenage approval:

“Fuckin’ hell, Charlie!”

A rare moment of magic, made possible by poetry.

The students of Manchester University can write whatever they want on their walls, but for me there is no controversy. All of us are flawed; artistic types notoriously so.

Be it Kipling, Bowie or Picasso, what’s important is the art, not the creator.

Kipling’s poetry is of its time and place, and on occasion overtly racist, yet just because it is now fashionable to judge the art of yesterday by the standards of today, I will never stop loving ‘If’.


©Charlie Adley
12.08.2018.