Wednesday 20 June 2018

BLISSED OUT ON BEACHES WITH AGEING BLADDER!



After days of solitude in Ballycroy, I head to Achill Island, where I find the same stunning scenery. Yet instead of contemplating my navel, the universe and all points between on a silent empty beach, I sit at Keem strand listening to the diesel rumble of the tea van’s generator.
 

With its turquoise waters and golden sand tucked into a tiny cove between the mountains, Keem will always be a spectacular beach, but now, under the wiggly metal Wild Atlantic Way logo statue, you can buy plastic toys and flat whites.
 

“Bloody great!” I hear you say.
Indeed, but not for me.
 

People are everywhere, and I'd rather be alone.
 

Everyone else seems more than happy to be part of a crowd, so acknowledging yet again how weird I am, I hit the road.
 

My drive into Achill passed as a melancholy song of faded tourist glory. Broken down hotels and boarded up pubs, and everywhere places called ‘lifestyle shops’, to attract the surfing crowds.
 

Everywhere has two contrasting sides, so I take a left turn to Doogort, and yes, great choice!
 

Here is the west of Ireland in its natural old-fashioned glory, ready and willing to embrace any tourists who happen to pass by. Such an admirably laid-back ethic was always going to fail economically, and now, by merely changing ‘West Coast of Ireland’ to ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ the miracle of marketing is working wonders.
 

Sitting on a rock at Doogort Silver Strand, I sup my soul food to the rhythmic
Ssscrusssssshhhhh 
of gentle waves pulling pebbles. 

Just me and way down the far end of the beach, a mother and child.
 

Above a huge gull spirals on the thermals, its vast wings flapping not an inch.
The only sound: the ocean.
 

Much as I could sit here for hours, the noise of the water has hastened my need for a pee. In effect there are two states of middle-aged male existence: needing a pee or not needing a pee. Fuss not, I’m all medically checked out, as we men must keep an eye on our prostate glands.
 

Yoga helps with that, I find. Otherwise there’d be no way I could get down there for a look! Mind you, prostate cancer is no laughing matter.
 

Men in their 50s discover a new sense of urgency, as I do now, but no chance. 

An old fella with his Scottie dog has been keeping a disapproving eye on me for a while.
 

There's no natural cover, only a gap between two Portakabins, but no. That’d just confirm the old fella’s suspicions.
 

He would love that.
 

A couple of minutes later, knees locked together, I come upon Doogort Strand, an empty crescent of golden sands and foamy breakers. Banks of rushes border the grasses between me and the ocean, perfect for hiding behind methinks, so I race down there at top speed, discovering on the way the grass is completely covered in sheep shit.
 

As if approaching the winning tape 
I bundle through the rushes, 
which tragically don't turn out to offer any cover, 
and then I’m through them 
and charging onto boulders and rocks. 

My stumbling has broken my concentration.
I was not only focusing on the physical accomplishment of running on several different natural surfaces at high speed from a sitting start.
 

I was also using my well-practiced mental powers to instruct myself that
 

I do not need to go
breathe
I am in charge of my own body

breathe
I do not need to go

breathe ... kind of stuff.
 

Thinking is over. 
Now has to be the time for action. 

Feeling sufficiently obscured and past the point of control anyway, I do what I have to.
 

Then I stretch my arms wide, in triumphant relief, and turn to face the glorious Atlantic, noticing-for the first time to my left the two camper vans and families, sitting at wooden tables, sipping their tea.
 

None of them seem particularly disturbed by my unexpected floorshow, but I resist the quite strong temptation to take a bow, instead exiting stage left pronto.
 

It's hard not to love Doogort. Schoolchildren yell “Hi!” as I drive by, their mothers in rolled up trackies and well-loved T-shirts feeding carrots to donkeys at the roadside.
 

Everywhere I drive the powerful women of Mayo are out there working. On a lonely isolated bog, there she is, under the baking sun, cutting turf on her own; there she is, working a mower up that hellishly steep hill of a lawn, there she is, stepping out in her safety visor and hi-viz jacket, to strim the hedge.
 

While all this is happening, I am simultaneously writing this colyoom in my head.
 

Love scribbling.
I should probably give that a hashtag but I can't be bothered.
 

I'm so up my hole about being a writer that I manage to get lost. The road comes to an end by a pier beside one of those yellow signs showing a car falling into the sea.
 

That'll learn me to be a pretentious fool, but hang on, could that there be be Inis Bigle? I’ve visited it often from the mainland, and if it is, I can check exactly where I am on my nerdy ordnance survey map.
 

I make no excuses. I love maps and right now I'm adoring this one, because it’s telling me that is indeed Inis Bigle, and all I need to do is drive down here, turn left and left again.
 

For some sad reason I find it ridiculously pleasing that by using a blend of local knowledge, observation and map reading, I’ve gone from being utterly lost a minute ago to knowing exactly where I am, and how to get out of here.
 

Time to head to Newport for lunch! I deserve it!


©Charlie Adley
09.06.2018


Sunday 10 June 2018

IRISH GOVERNMENT MUST INVEST IN IRISH GENIUS!


All these years I’ve written you, and now I don’t know what to do. It was all so safe and comfy, seeing you through my English eyes, sometimes in awe, occasionally mocking with affection, yet always different; always other.
 

This citizenship malarkey is confusing. I’m still the same bloke I was two weeks ago, but now I’m Irish too. Does that mean I have to change the pronoun? 

Do I now have to write we instead of you? I haven’t suddenly become one of you, any more than I’ve stopped being a London-born Englishman.
 

My late father’s face comes to mind as I ponder this quandary. After a bruising day at school at the age of 10, I turned to him.
 

“What are we, Dad?”
 

“What do you mean?” 

“Well, some of the boys at school were saying I’m not English, ‘cos I’m Jewish, so I don’t belong here.”
 

“Ah, well, here’s what you are. You’re English, Yiddish and rubbish, and never forget it!”
 

As he said the word rubbish he twinkled his eye at me, so that I knew he was being ironic; that we were, in fact, very far from rubbish.
 

“English, Yiddish and rubbish? Is that what I tell them?”
 

“No! Not like that. Say it with pride and they’ll leave you alone.”
 

Hey Dad! There’s a new one on that list. Now I’m English, Irish, Yiddish and rubbish.
 

All in all quite a cultural cocktail.
 

That suits me well. I’m happy being an identity mongrel. I’m proud to be English, Irish and Jewish. More than mere labels, each identity means a lot to me, yet none wholly defines me; nor would I want it to.
 

As my freshly-conferred Irishness gently assimilates into my soul, I realise that my confusion over pronouns was slightly crass and premature.

Nothing needs to change.
I will always write of you.
 

It’ll always be you, because I’m a blow in, and always will be. I’ve a shiny new certificate that says I am one of you, but I am not of you, and never can be.
 

The west of Ireland has been kind to me, but sadly that was because when I arrived in 1992, the Irish people were still suffering from a national lack of self-confidence, pummelled into their souls throughout their lives.
 

At first it mystified me. Why were these hard-working creative people just sitting round feeling sorry for themselves?
 

As a self starter, I found that compared to the time and energy I’d need to invest in London, great reward was available in Galway, for very little effort.
 

Ever since Ireland’s inception, an overbearing establishment of legal, political and clerical institutions did their darnedest to make sure the Irish felt bloody awful about themselves.
 

No surprise then that this State reached out to the EU and USA for solutions. 
'Sure we’re only a small country so what would we know?' and all that nonsense.
 

Only a politician could call the changes Ireland has made over the last 25 years a “quiet revolution.”
 

Quiet up in your ivory tower maybe, Leo.
Down here, where us proles live, it has been exuberant and exciting. 


This is a great time to be Irish. Now the Irish people are modern, compassionate, assertive and confident, while their establishment is ancient and tired, constantly trying to seduce global conglomerates to be Ireland’s latest post-empire overlords.
 

Everything has changed in Ireland since I’ve been here, save for this.
 

Now is the time for those in power to stop wasting Irish money subsidising overseas corporations, who come and go without a care for the Irish. 

Why must everything big from elsewhere always appear better to a ruling Irish eye?

Last year thousands danced in the street when Galway was named European Capital of Culture 2020. Yet if you remember the Volvo Ocean Race, you cannot say you're genuinely surprised that much of the 2020 affair has been, so far, something of a farce. 

In 2009 Galway fell prostrate in front of the hi-tech billionare boats, while Irish talent, in the shape of Irish chefs, Irish musicians and local Irish suppliers were left unpaid in its wake.
 

At the same time, over the river, the Claddagh Boatmen - Bádóirí an Cladaig - were forced to battle bureaucracies that would break lesser groups. 

Yet they survived and thrive today, traning a new generation of Galwegians to build, sail and navigate Galway Hookers, the traditional boat that brings global identity to our county, our flag and crest.
 

This year Galway hosted Edfest for ex-Galway busker Sheeran, whose gigs bought serious green folding to the local economy, whilst simultaneously the council was trying to legislate against busking in the city.
 

Why do Irish politicians fear others’ success? 

Now is the time for the Irish establishment to reflect the talent, graft and enthusiasm pouring forth from Irish people.
 

Now is the time to invest in Ireland’s best resource: the Irish people.
 

Never mind the 8th. Take a look at Article 1 of your own constitution:
 

“The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government, to determine its relations with other nations, and to develop its life, political, economic and cultural, in accordance with its own genius and traditions.
 

It’s been right there, ever since your independence.
 

The founders of your nation trusted the genius of Irish people. It’s evident to the rest of the world, so why do successive Irish governments refuse to acknowledge that the Irish people are ready to be believed in, encouraged, invested in and trusted, in accordance with their own genius and traditions?
 

Or should I say our?
Hmm.


©Charlie Adley
28.05.2018

Sunday 3 June 2018

I walked in the rain and became Irish!



Truly the Kingdom of Kerry is a magical place. I went to Killarney, drank a pint of Guinness, walked in the rain and the next day I was Irish.
 

As I stroll the rain-sodden streets I wonder whether they chose this town for Citizenship Ceremonies because walking around Killarney is like being dropped into an essential oil of Irishness.
 

Strains of Wild Rover and Maggie permeate the dripping air.
 

What could be more Irish than the rain?
 

It rains soft rain and then it rains summertime rain, with huge wet drops that pierce your clothes as arrows through armour. 

It rains drizzly rain, and then it rains more wet-making rain, and then the wind picks up, lifting the wetness and turning it into sideways rain.
 

It rains all night and it rains all morning, all afternoon and evening.
 

Never mind your forty shades of green. Forget Eskimos and all their words for snow.
 

The Irish have as many for the rain.
 

There's a power shower in the bathroom of my packed B&B. This is Killarney and Americans demand such things, but the complimentary soap is so tiny it actually fits inside my tummy button - such is the tireless research done for you by this colyoom.
 

Is this Ireland? A failed attempt to keep Americans happy?
 

The Full Irish breakfast is delivered by the same smiling Eastern European staff member who checked me in at reception yesterday. She brings me coffee instead of tea, and no butter for the toast, but her smile makes me happy.
 

Is this Ireland? An immigrant workforce making the best of a bad job?
 

I’ve a few hours to kill before the Citizenship Ceremony so I drive along  sodden roads listening to Pat Kenny discussing a murder.

Doesn't get more Irish than this, surely?
 

I'd forgotten the glory of this drive from Killarney to Kenmare, even when pelted by the rain. The road winds and drops to reveal sumptuous lakes and mountains under cloudy veils. Ladies View, Torc waterfall, all the famous spots are simply wonderfully splendidly Irish.
 

Sitting on a comfy sofa in a tea shop in Kenmare, staring at tourists walking in the rain, I try to decide what to wear for the Citizenship Ceremony.
 

Although aware of the significance of this day, I feel this is a two-way deal. Of course I want to be Irish, but equally, Ireland must want me too.
 

I’d rather present the real Charlie Adley, in his t-shirt and jeans, than some trussed up replicant in a shirt and tie.
 

Beyond the tea shop window, American tourists appear to believe they need six layers of Gore-Tex to protect them. 

Maybe to be truly Irish is to embrace the rain. My dear friend Orla was the first Irish person to tell me, 26 years ago: 

"It won't melt ya!"
 

How else might an Irish Citizenship Ceremony start but with a queue in the rain?
 

Inside the INEC centre, right here in the capital of Paddywhackery, the brass band on stage plays those two quintessentially Irish tunes: New York, New York and It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing.
 

Minister Charlie Flanagan continues the showbiz theme, stepping up to the microphone with a
 

Helloooo! No, come on, I didn’t hear you! Hellooooo!
 

He tells us that one day our grandchildren might be so lucky as to officiate at a ceremony like this. Looking around at the thousands of happy faces, I hope many will aim their sights higher than politican.
 

Then, quite beautifully, he instructs us not to forget the country from which we came.
 

Your history's not contraband. We welcome your diversity. Bring with you your songs, your music and your stories. If you’re from India and Pakistan, please bring your cricket bats!”
 

Well, that’s righteously spurned all the Australians, South Africans and West Indians in here, not to mention this Englishman, but the Minister’s message is welcoming, warm and well-intentioned:
 

Then he performs the sacred rite of talking about Ireland’s 800 year dispossession.
 

Then we take the oath, and it’s done.
 

Was there ever a better time for a celebratory whiskey? I walk through the crowds and rain to the nearest bar. Inside there's plenty of thirsty punters but no barman in sight.
 

Now, that’s Ireland. Or is it? 

Ah here he is!
 

“Jameson please.”
 

“We have no Jameson.”
 

“You are kidding.”
 

“No.”
 

“Okay. Give me a Crested 10, please.”
 

Top shelf, as it should be today. I'm Irish, but more than that, I’m safe. 

After 26 years in this country, my healthcare, pension and status are no longer at the mercy of incompetents like Gove and Rees-Mug. I didn't want to lose it all.
 

The clouds are lifting off the mountains. It has stopped raining.
 

I'm safe. 
I'm Irish.
 

Unlike the whiskey, it's going to take a while to sink in.

 ***

I need to thank the wonderful Katya Okonkwo, of the Galway City Partnership, whose free advice and patience was immeasurably helpful.
 

Also, thanks to Ann the lawyer, who gave great counsel, stamped all the forms yet took no money. Where else in the world would a lawyer insist that as she had been our neighbour six years previously, she couldn't possibly accept payment? One of the many reasons I love the west of Ireland.  

©Charlie Adley
23.05.2018

Monday 28 May 2018

LOVE CURES THE CHALLENGE OF SPINNING LONDON!

Charlie 'Chipmunk' Adley and Johnny 'Bad Blues' Bendel at the helm...

My eyes open. The world looks different.
 

No, it doesn’t look different.
It feels different.
 

What day is it? 
What am I meant to be doing today? 
Why do I feel it’s important?
 

Oh yes, I’m going to England today. 

That’s it. 
But no, that’s not the real it.
 

I’m dizzy again.
 

That’s why everything feels so weird. The stationary world is moving.
 

Oh bloody hell, not today.
Not today of all days, please.
 

Forgetting what I’d learned last year, when this inner ear condition that could be either Meniere’s Disease, labyrinthitis or vertigo first hit me, I climb out of bed way too quickly.
 

Stumbling on what feels like fluid ground, I shoot my arm out towards the wardrobe and steady myself.
 

My bedroom has become a cabin on board ship. Thankfully the sea isn’t too rough today, and within a couple of seconds everything has returned to normal.
 

Phew. 

Maybe just a one-off.
 

Yeh, that’s all it was.
 

Not going to make any drastic judgments on a bit of early morning light-headedness. Today’s one of those days when everything has to run smoothly, because there’s so much in it.
 

I have a box of pills for this condition, but yesterday I took an antihistamine. After months of breathing the sweet clean air outside my back door, dusty polluted London can instantly turn me into a vile allergy snot machine, so I’d wanted to be prepared.
 

Trouble is the anti-dizzy pills are histamines and I remember my doctor telling me not to combine them with antihistamines.
 

Sort of like matter and anti-matter.
 

Bugger. 

Well, I’ll just have to stick to Plan A: Denial, fortified with a splash of It Never Happened.
 

Apart from the need of a swift clench on a metal bar in the loo at Shannon Airport, the rest of the day passes with little dizziness.
 

The wobbly spells seem to come when I jerk my head down, look straight upwards or move my head too quickly.
 

It’s very manageable and the universe is kind to me. All my arrangements proceed perfectly. The plane is half empty, arrives on time, and at the other end I get an email from Hertz to tell me my car is in Bay B24, keys in, ready to roll. Better still, it has an old-fashioned handbrake, instead of a counter-intuitive button.
 

The hotel gives me my favourite room, and by 4pm I’m sitting in my mum’s living room, enjoying a lively discussion about the Iran nuclear deal.
 

Despite my insistent protestations that when Russia, Europe and the US all agree on an idea, it might well be a good one, my mother decides to side with Trump and Netanyahu.
 

Our debate would appear to most readers of this newspaper a vicious shouting match, but such is the nature of Jewish culture, having delivered our best arguments with passion, gusto and gesticulation, we’re to be found two minutes later having a cup of tea, enjoying a slice of Victoria Sponge and a laugh, watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
 

The day has gone so well I allow myself two double whiskies back at the hotel. Sitting under stunning wisteria, I reflect how the Snapper and I were married right here, 10 years ago.
 

That night I have a brutal nightmare. Waking in the darkness, I’m still screaming for help and then, in horror, realise I’m in an hotel, and freaking out the people in the next room.
 

In the morning, I open my eyes and - oh yikes -
 

...OOOooohOOOooohOOOooohOOOooohOOOooohhh...


There it is: the full spinning carousel.
 

I know it’s not real yet I can’t stop my hands reaching out to grip the edge of the mattress on both sides, as my world rises and falls

whizzes around, speeds up 

and slows down.
 

Denial isn’t going to cut it any more, so I ask a doctor for some help.
 

He gives me more of the pills I was on before and tells me to stay off the booze. Not a problem while I’m with my family, but in three days I’m heading off to see my beloved London Posse, and in their company the desire for a wee drop might become irresistible.
 

I ask the doc what happens if I drink with the tablets and he tells me it’ll negate their effect.
 

Hmmm.
Heard worse.
 

After a wonderful few days with my family, meeting my newborn Great-Nephew, Noah (who just happens to be an absolute cutie beauty) I head off to spend time with my other brothers and sisters: this group of friends I’ve been part of since 1973.
 

The medication is working quite well, and my evening with Johnny B, Kaz and Tim passes with narry a worry, much laughing and a curry.
 

The next day I head into town, and while Chelsea play their final game of the season this True Blue fan feels a zillion miles from football, sitting on the grass in Regent’s Park, having a wonderful talk with Dave, enjoying Jyl’s company and then finally meeting her mum.
 

Heading south I decide to avoid the inner ear challenge of the Tube’s mad swaying loud banging flashing light environment, so I grab an Über and enjoy watching the city of my birth go by.
 

At Lucy and Neil’s I chill and risk a beer, but truth be told, there’s only one thing that matters today.
 

As I sip my pint of London Pride, I’m very aware that I need no artificial buzz. I’m in the company of souls who know me inside out, as I do them.
 

I’ve known my wonderful Irish posse for 26 years, but still consider them my new friends.
 

How lucky am I?
 

I wouldn’t recommend Spinning London to anyone, but I’m safe and happy, my world stabilised by intoxicants far more powerful than beer and whiskey: the bonds of family and lifetime friendship. 


©Charlie Adley
17.05.2018

Sunday 20 May 2018

THE SUN IS OUT - THIS MAN IS OUT!



 
At last our natural world here in the west of Ireland is bursting with life. I can feel underneath me as I walk a burgeoning latent power, eager to rise, erupt, unfurl and bloom, to blossom and produce fruit.
 

After that long winter our local ecosystem is in a heck of a hurry to catch up with itself. The dazzling white flowers on the leaf of the hawthorn arrived this year while there were still white flowers on the buds of the blackthorn. 

With bluebells dancing alongside primroses, everyone in the ground is shaking their natural booty thang together this spring.
 

Given a few hours of solitude and an absence of rain, your scribbler has been out there too, fulfilling - or rather, trying to avoid repeating - my annual destiny.
 

Until the compost I made last year is spread, I can’t start to make compost once again.
 

Of course I can, but within my neurotic little existence and the chaos that is my brainbox, this seasonal ritual creates a tiny bit of order.
 

Each year I lift the grey plastic sheet, reveal the new compost, and proceed to load the wheelbarrow, at some point completely screwing up my back and carrying on regardless.
 

Has to be done, dammit.
Nothing more important for the soil - gaaawooorr! - and what did I go to all the trouble of making it for, if I’m so feeble a man I can’t even spread my own


ooh ooh ca-ha-hoooghhh 

breathe 

... compost?
 

This year I set a target of weeding the wildflower bed and shifting the compost without leaving myself on anti-inflammatories and heat pads. 

Thankfully I’ve a secret weapon, in the shape of ten stretches which I do, well, not exactly every morning, but 5 in 7, or 4 maybe, but you know, I do them and thank goodness.
 

They take about 25 minutes and have transformed my life.
 

As I sit here now, a couple of hours after the muck spreading, I’m not exactly pain free, but as the enlightened physiotherapist advised me, that’s because I’ve been using my muscles. 

I am, however, intact and mobile. Victory is mine, even if it’s a feeble one over my own body.
 

Last year’s waste turned this year’s goodness has now been returned to the soil. The roses, soft fruit, forsythia and the two purply bushes I don’t know the name for have more than a fighting chance of thriving.
 

That makes me feel good, because despite living in the First World, where everything is instantly available, we have not lost our animalistic need to grow food; to excel outdoors; to understand the land we share with plants and animals.
 

There’s a reason gardening makes good therapy. What else is 'grounding' if not sticking your hands in the soil? More than anything else, planting is what has led to the debatable success of our species.
 

The soil has allowed us to thrive. Without its ability to grow plants to order, we would still be in caves. Maybe that’s why I find pleasure in restoring some of what we’ve taken, to nurture future growth: it’s a kind of a thank you, and please can we have some more?
 

There are simple delights and benefits to being outside, and much to give thanks for here.
 

Our Galway air comes clean and fresh off three thousand miles of Atlantic Ocean, as the lichens on our local rocks will attest.
 

After months of storms and floods we here in the west of Ireland drain every droplet of joy and Vitamin D from the warmth of our May sunshine, because oh, there, it’s gone again, until that cloud passes.
 

Tomorrow I’m mowing the lawn, yet as I look down at it now, I already feel guilty. The first few cuts this year I had the blades lifted, partly because it’s best for the grass, and partly because I’m a soft git.
 

All those dandelions are keeping bumblebees happy and buzzing along. By tomorrow lunchtime they’ll all be gone.
 

Admittedly in the surrounding fields there are 20 billion kazillion more, but, well, as I say, I’m a soft git: the same nurturing soul thrilled to see the birds I fed over the winter at this moment dining on beasties in the flower beds.
 

It’s Saturday morning yet inside the living room the fire sits unlit. Football Focus has not been watched (yet).
 

I’m out: a grateful animal, gambolling in pastures, physical and spiritual.
 

This morning has been great, my energy reflecting the excited levels of spring. As well as the compost, I’ve done three loads of laundry, now 
flapping on the line in the stiff breeze and sunshine.
 

The swallows who live in the barn are back and flying low, which usually means low pressure and rain coming in, but not today. 

They all agree, the BBC and RTE, the app and what we can actually see:
we’ve a couple of dry days clear and no mistake.
 

Ah there. That’s what the swallows are after. 

Another bunch of flying somethings, hatching out of Lough Corrib, just down the bohreen.
 

I know the mayflies and the damselflies, but I’m no expert. We see a lot of hatches round these parts, but I’ve no idea what these abundant little fellas might be.
 

However, I do appreciate how it’s lifting my spirits to sit here, enjoying the healthy ache of bodily labours, while a mere few feet in front of me, nature’s aerial acrobats are feasting on the wing.
 

Better go and have a shower now.
Just realised that yer man isn’t spreading slurry.
 

That whiff is me.

©Charlie Adley

20.05.2018




Thursday 17 May 2018

IF FEAR IS YOUR WEAPON YOU’VE ALREADY LOST!





“Hi Dave. I want to write about the 8th, so I'm checking with you about balance.”
 

The Chief Editor rested his bearded chin in his hand.
 

“Balance isn’t an issue this time around, Charlie, but, oh, can you try not to be too emotive?”
 

“No, don’t think I can do that. Erm, how about I avoid being dogmatic?”
 

Dave laughed, sighed the sigh of a good man conflicted, and nodded in agreement.
 

I was free to write what I wanted.
First, however, I had to solve a mystery.
 

When I arrived in Ireland in 1992, there was an abortion referendum campaign in progress. Back then a hardcore liberal, I felt no doubt. Of course the Irish should vote Yes.
 

To my disbelief, I discovered that the referendum wasn't offering that option, but three questions: should a woman be allowed to leave the country; should a phone number remain illegal and should the life of the mother be considered equal with that of her unborn child?
 

I’d been around the planet a couple of times, seen societies ancient and modern, but never anywhere that aspired to be the latter so mired in the former.
 

Confused, I found myself falling in love with the West of Ireland at exactly the same time I discovered there was in this country neither divorce nor contraception; that less than 20 years previously, married women had not been allowed to work.
 

Shocked to my core, armed with a massive ignorance of all things Irish and a spanky new newspaper column, I dedicated the second and third Double Visions to the abortion issue.
 

Then came the backlash. The dog turd in the box. The envelope loaded with used condoms. Then some nutter threatened to bomb the Connacht Tribune building, and finally, City Tribune Editor Mike Glynn had a word in my shell-like, advising me not to write about the same thing again.
 

So I didn’t, but still the angry letters came, telling me to go back to where I came from; photos of monkey foetuses in dustbins; scrawled notes of hatred suggesting I was anti-Church and damned to Hell.
 

If fear is your weapon of choice, you’ve already lost the argument.
 

Later, during seemingly endless years of sexual abuse revelations, the only notable thing about this colyoom’s contribution to that debate was its absence.
 

At first I thought I was just too upset and inexpert to write about such personal heinous scandals. Then I felt riled enough to write about the constant use of the euphemistic term ‘Clerical Abuse’ and complain that it sounded like a punctuation error, more than child rape.
 

But I didn’t.
Wasn’t worth the hassle I’d get.
 

At last I realised I’d been successfully intimidated. I’d always imagined intimidation being an in-your-face life-threatening experience, but no. It crept up on me, insidiously devouring my courage and desire for social justice.
 

I’d be unworthy of this space if I relented to intimidation, so why haven’t I been sharing Facebook posts or retweeting links that sing the truth to me about this referendum?
 

Partly because I’m still wary of getting all that hate stuff, and partly because I now have a far deeper understanding of why some feel so very strongly against abortion.
 

Yet more powerful than either of those reasons, there lies my frankly ridiculous, almost infantile reaction to the issue. Of course I understand that in this world, matters as personal as this are dealt with by legislation, and here in Ireland an amendment to the constitution, but in my ideal world, none of this would be necessary.
 

My soul is offended that we must vote at all, because I cannot fathom what it’s got to do with us.
 

I’m not being disingenuous, absolutely not washing my hands of my responsibilities, but I will always feel deeply emotionally offended that we as a society have to make this decision.
 

What you do with your body should not be on my agenda. I don’t want a public vote on whether I have a tooth pulled. You wouldn’t appreciate it if I poured your glass of wine down the sink, citing the condition of your liver. 

Your sister doesn’t want to wait for my permission to have that tumour removed from her stomach, and no, I’m not comparing a cancerous growth to a bouncing baby: I’m likening a host body to a host body.
 

I promised to avoid dogma, so I’ll keep this personal.
 

I could not walk up to a stranger and tell them what is best for them.
 

I could not order a stranger to have a child.
 

If I could, I’d be neither willing nor able to pay for that child’s housing, health and education.
 

Nobody likes abortion.
Nobody plans to need one.
Nobody seeks one out on a whim.
 

Every time a woman decides she needs one, she is in crisis.
Who am I to tell her what’s best?
 

I’m mighty glad I didn’t.grow up as the product of a rape.
 

I don’t want any woman to endure the daily horror of questions about when her baby is due, silently knowing she will never produce life.
 

I don’t want any doctor or nurse to feel terrified of saving the life of a woman, for fear of going to jail.
 

I don’t believe any women ought to die because of somebody else’s religious beliefs.
 

My religious beliefs are just that: my own. I do not seek to impose them on anybody else.
 

I wish we didn’t have to vote on such a personal issue. As a UK citizen I have no referendum vote anyway.
 

If I did I’d be out there on the 25th, making Ireland a safer place for women and a more compassionate nation for us all.

©Charlie Adley17.05.2018.

Monday 7 May 2018

We All Ate City's Dust!



I’ll never forget the way Jose Mourinho looked on the day he became Manchester United manager. At the moment he realised his greatest ambition, he looked bored, disinterested and inanimate; a waxwork model of himself.
 

Two years previously he’d returned to Chelsea, his sanctuary in the Premiership. Eager to crucify him for being way too successful, the UK media were completely over-excited.
 

However Mourinho 2.0 was a miserable man. His confident smirk gone, his jaunty optimism lost, he presented miserable shrugs, pouting lips and an absence of enthusiasm.
 

Something died in Jose Mourinho’s soul in November 2010, when Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona beat Mourinho’s Real Madrid 5-0. The charismatic twinkle in those handsome Portuguese eyes, which simultaneously irritated and attracted us all, was extinguished forever.
 

Up to that moment Jose’s career had been prodigious. Yet after receiving that thrashing from Pep, Jose said he felt impotent. For a man who craves power above all, that was a rare moment of truth.
 

Nevertheless, returning to the Premiership, Mourinho did what he usually does: win the title in the second season at his club. Then Chelsea did what they usually do, and fired the guy who won them the title.
 

This left Mourinho free at last to sit on the Red Throne of Manchester. 
But lo, what was this fresh horror?
 

On the Blue Throne, ruling the other half of the same city, his nemesis, Pep Guardiola.
 

Having sat on both Spanish thrones and the mighty European thrones of Milan and Munich, these two old foes now faced each other once more.
 

After a season to impose their style, we were ready last August to watch this mighty conflict resolve itself.
 

Reinforced by the strong tall meaty spine of Matic, Pogba and Lukaku, The Tactician built his favourite vehicle: A tank, ready to roll over any opposition.
 

The Magician prefers to drive a Ferrari, prioritising speed, style and flair. The blue Ferrari ran rings around the red Tank, leaving the rest of the league to chew on their pixie dust as they disappeared over the horizon.
 

Pep’s Ferrari evolved an aura so intimidating that opposition armies laid down their weapons, psychologically beaten before the referee blew the whistle for kick-off.
 

Thankfully even the best cannot escape defeat. We all have our own nemesis, and lurking in the wing s, waiting to bring Pep down was that rarest of beasts: a funny, warm, charismatic German, who it’s impossible to dislike.Jürgen Klopp’s exuberant Liverpool outplayed City at their own game, both in the league and Europe.
 

Teams reflect their managers. United play Jose’s dour safe football. Dripping style, class and confidence, playing games laden with goals and attacking football, Manchester City and Liverpool are a pleasure to watch, as are Spurs on occasion.
 

While other European leagues dwindle into two or three team hegemonies, the Premiership is becoming more thrilling than ever. For years there was only the Big Two of Arsenal and Manchester United, but now a Top Six has emerged.
 

Nobody is going to rule the Premiership for years. It’s just too full of great teams playing wonderful football.
 

Far from the peacocks at the top, the harshest drama is to be found down in the nether reaches of the league, where the future is full of fear.
 

So supreme is the Premiership that for those clubs financially unable to participate in its insane bazillion pound transfer market, the only target is survival. Firing manager after manager, these clubs desperately struggle to stay in the Big Money League.
 

If only they could clone survival specialists like Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis, they could hire a Pulis straight after firing a Pulis.
 

My beloved Chelsea FC succeeded once again in sending me even more loopy than I naturally am. If teams reflect their managers, Chelsea are a basket case, firing any manager who wins a major trophy. 

Wonderful Carlo Ancelotti won our only League and FA Cup double: fired. Roberto di Matteo won the Champions League: fired. Mourinho won us the league three times, along with a rake of domestic cups: fired twice.
 

If you want to keep your job at Chelsea, don’t win anything. 

Follow company policy and sell your best players. 

Both of the favourites for this year’s Player of the Year Award, Kevin de Bruyne and Mo Salah, were considered “Not good enough for Chelsea...” and sold, along with countless others. Buy strikers that only play 20 games a season for their previous clubs (Costa, Morata) and midfielders either returning from injury (Barkley) or utterly useless (Bakayoko).
 

When Chelsea manager Antonio Conte instructed his players to stay in their own half for the entirety of the Manchester City game, it represented not only my low point of the season but my nadir as a Chelsea fan - and that’s saying something! Throughout that shameful 90 minutes I endured an identity crisis.
 

Who were this team?
 

Not my Chelsea.
 

Unpredictable, exciting and confounding, Chelsea always have a go. If you’re not trying to win, why the hell did you get out of bed?
 

My only consolation was that if we were bad, the Gooners (Arsenal) were worse. Arsene Wenger even managed to complain about his own fans as he announced his retirement.
 

This season’s high point? Hopefully when we beat Manchester United in the FA Cup Final, on May 19th.
 

Come on you Blues!



©Charlie Adley
25.04.2018.

Sunday 29 April 2018

ADVENTURES IN CONNEMARA, TIME AND WHISKEY!




The Snapper and I are heading off to Connemara next week, to enjoy a couple of days passing time without care. Little fills our souls more than discovering tiny empty beaches on the Aughrus peninsula; feeling the enormity of the ocean and landscape; visually drinking in every aquamarine tone from translucent turquoise to deep navy.
 

Behind one moment -  in front the next -  silhouettes of the immense and sensual Twelve Pins roll across the plain.
 

Along with the pleasure and peace of mind I take from it, I give thanks for being able to live in such an astonishing place.
 

Out there an other-worldly sense of timelessness takes over this puny human.
Out there, nearly 20 years ago, time was indeed lost.
 

Just back from 4 years in America, eager to see my hills and lakes once more, I hitched from the city to visit friends in Calla.
 

There was not a cloud in the sky, nor a whiff of breeze in the air. It was that rarest of days in the west of Ireland: a pure summer scorcher. My friend 
Susan and I walked the beach from Claddaghduff out to Omey Island, and being a nerd about tides, I noticed how the sand was still damp. The water had just left the little bay.
 

We had years of catching up to do, so we walked around historic and beautiful Omey. Susan reached down and gave me a small rock, many coloured, multi-seamed, with a perfectly flat top. It was a mighty sea stack, perfectly shrunken to four inches. 


“Look, see how it’s leaning forward. You’re back now, Charlie. This stone represents your return.”
 

“Thanks Susan. That’s what I’ll call it then: Return.”
 

That stone still sits on my living room mantlepiece. Tragically, Susan has passed on.
 

After our walk we settled down on some sun-warmed rocks to talk, to stare at the sand beneath us, to feel the heat on our cheeks.
 

Not everyone’s backside is as voluptuous as mine, and after a while Susan was feeling the hard rock through hers, so we wandered back to the mainland, aiming for a pint at Sweeney’s bar.
 

Lovely stuff, except as we crested the hill we both froze in our tracks, standing side by side for a long period of heavy breathing silence.
 

Below us, between the island and our pints, there swirled a full high tide of Atlantic ocean. At most we’d been two hours on Omey, probably an hour and a half. Neither of us had dozed off at any point.
 

Finally I made our predicament real by acknowledging it out loud.
 

“That’s impossible. We had at least four hours clear before the tide turned, maybe more. That’s insane!”
 

Susan checked her watch, turned and smiled calmly at me. Her wise older eyes had absorbed an inordinate amount of mystery throughout her extraordinary life.
 

“We lost time, Charlie. It’s 6:30. We walked across at 2. It happens. Some say it’s the faeries, some say it’s the universe. We just lost time.”
 

Resisting the temptation to tell her she was off her tiny rocker, I sat down on the grass and checked out the weather.
 

“Not a bad evening to sit and watch a tide turn.”
 

“Excuse me!” she snapped back. “Some of us have jobs to do!”
 

“Well what do you suggest then? Will we swim for it?”
 

“Now it’s you that sounds insane!”
 

With that she strode down the hill, yelling at the top of her very American voice to a couple of lads on the far shore.
 

“Heyyyy! Hayloooo-ooo! We’re trapped! Help! Heeelp! Can you guys come get us!”
 

Horrified at appearing the victim of something as basic as tide times, I shrunk down in the grass, pretending to be no part of it, but sure enough they rowed over, and 20 minutes later we bought them both a pint.
 

As we drank I prayed that Susan would not speak of matters mystical, lost time and faeries, but of course she did, and much to my relief the lads smiled sincerely.
 

“Ah, ye’ll have that, here, now.” one muttered, peering at the table top.
 

“You’ll have that.” agreed the other.
 

Lost time? I have no other explanation. 
As for the time I lost space, there’s a simple one.
 

Within a few days of arriving in Galway back in ’92, I was crammed into the noisy Snug Bar with a gang of new-found friends. Adopting the hedonistic enthusiasm of every new arrival in Galway, I drank much and speedily, and headed off to the loo, across a tiny courtyard at the back.
 

Having done what we do, I opened the door back into the bar, only to stumble into a quiet country pub, where older men smoked pipes and gently supped pints.
 

What the hell?
 

At first I felt frightened, desperately looking around for a friendly or even vaguely familiar face: there were none.
 

But but but 
but how 
and what 
and holy guacamole, Batman! This Galway place is bloody amazing! One of the lads must’ve slipped an acid tab into my drink! Clearly I had not travelled in time and space. I was just having an hallucination. 

None of this was real, so therefore it made no difference what I did.
 

Bewildered, bemused and mentally reduced by the influence of Guinness and whiskey, I stood in the middle of what I now know to be Garavan’s Bar and sang, acted and danced the incredible intro to Memphis Soul Stew, until a gentle hand cupped my shoulder and steered me through the front door and out onto William Street.
 

How was I to know the two pubs shared their toilets?
 

Doubtless more adventures in time and space await in Connemara. Be it whiskical or mystical, little is what it appears to be, here in the west of Ireland!



©Charlie Adley
18.04.2018.

Sunday 22 April 2018

WE CAN'T TELL THE ‘WOULDS’ FROM THE ‘PLEASE’!

 
“Sorry but you’re going to have to stay late. That mailshot has to be out by last thing tonight. You really should have reminded me about it yesterday.”

“I told you about it last week, when my workload wasn’t so crazy. That would’ve been a good time to get it done. Now I’ve got all the monthly reports to finish, as well as the mailshot, and Marion has asked me for another mail merge as well. To be honest I’m knackered, pissed off and - ”

“ - Well there must have been a reason I couldn’t do it with you last week. Good luck with it anyway. I’ll see you in the morning.”

We’ve all been there: working for someone who cannot admit a mistake, or dealing with a friend who always has to be right. If you’ve even the faintest sliver of wisdom in your brainbox, you’ll understand that this kind of behaviour comes from fear and insecurity. 

If someone is incapable of offering an apology, you know they are suffering from a lack of confidence.

Thankfully the person who made me work late was a very smart and kind man. He’d climbed exceptionally quickly up his professional tree, and now as head of our department he was well able to do the job, but too inexperienced to understand that showing weakness is a sign of great strength.

People who feel the need to mask their inadequacies are attracted to positions of power, so it comes as no surprise that politicians never say they screwed up. 

How much might we admire Arlene Foster, if she stood in front of a camera and told the world that the Cash for Ash scheme had been an ill-thought out disaster; that she wanted to apologise for unnecessarily robbing Northern Ireland of self rule?

Imagine Leo Varadkar giving a press conference and saying sorry, I know the money we save on chasing welfare cheats is less that what it costs us to find them, but being a Scrounger Baiter wins votes, so that’s the way it’s going to be.

Not going to happen, because despite all their spin teams and psychologists, our leaders have not grasped the simple fact that nothing wins trust more than an apology; nothing makes us feel empathy more than someone who willingly and sincerely says they failed to do the right thing.

In a recent experiment three people were asked to deliver the same political speech to an audience. The first read it perfectly; the second made a mistake and went into meltdown, sniffling through the rest of the text; the third also made a mistake, pointed it out to the audience immediately, joked about it and moved on.

When asked afterwards which speaker they most trusted, the audience naturally chose the last. That speaker had shown themselves to be the most human: knowingly happily fallible.

It has taken half a lifetime to shake off the steely-plated armour built around me at English Public School. Life would have been much easier if I’d been shown in my youth that showing weakness is not only permissible, but beneficial.

Mind you, it’s not enough to simply apologise. If you want to win trust, persuade friends or motivate your staff, you have to really mean it when you say sorry.

We are not fools. We can tell when someone’s words have the solidity of a dead fish.

Recently we’ve seen an increase in flabby disingenuous apologies, designed to appear sincere while distancing the perpetrator from the crime. These lily-livered half-hearted self-serving hypocrites offer statements that sound as if they were designed by committee:

“If some people might have felt offended, we would very much regret that.”

Such abuse of the conditional allows offenders to avoid saying sorry for what they did, offering sympathy to victims who somehow now appear distant accidental sufferers.

This new use of ‘would’ is riding on the back of a recent stampede of wild woulds.

“We would like you turn off your mobile phones before the film…”

“We’re making our final approach to Heathrow now,, so we would ask you to put your seat in the upright position…”

“We would like to offer our condolences to the families of the deceased…”

Inside my childish pedantic mind, I silently and pathetically take pleasure in answering each conditional request:

'But we’re not going to, so there! Nyaaah!’

Language is a river, ever-changing in shape, size and flow, so new words and old uses come and go, but this business of not seeing the ‘woulds’ for the ‘please’ troubles me on two counts.

Firstly because I am a sad word lover and, despite the seemingly endless blather in this colyoom, an admirer of lean prose.

Secondly, and far more importantly, this liberalisation of the conditional ‘would’ allows scumbags on all sides of the criminal and political divide to apologise without ever saying they’re sorry.

Thankfully my old boss and I had a good chat, and I tippy-toed on verbal eggshells as I delicately tried to explain how I’d have been far less grumpy about doing the extra work, if he’d taken part ownership of the cock-up, and stayed late to help.

I could see what an exceptional job he was doing, and realised how difficult it must have been for him to appear authoritative to staff older and more experienced than he was at the time.

We both said sorry and we both meant it. There were no ‘woulds’ or ‘mights’ about it.

In the process we saw each other as much stronger, more trustworthy people.
To this day we are friends.

©Charlie Adley
11.04.2018.

Monday 16 April 2018

Do The Bloomin' Weather Hokey Cokey!




Coat comes off and the anorak returns.
Mower gets a service and the woolies are shelved.
Gloves slip on and the wellies come back out.
Coat’s off the hanger and you’re back wearing woollies …
 

In out round about
You do the Season hokey cokey and
You turn around
And that’s what it’s aaaall abaaaarrrt!

Oooohh the hokey cokey!
Oooohhhh the hokey cokey!
Ooooh the hokey cokey!


It’s Winter Spring Winter Spring
And that’s what it’s all abow-owwww-out!
 

Lovely day isn’t it! Mighty! No?

Haven’t a clue. At this moment outside my window the sky is blue, the wind chilly and the showers fierce, but that’s five minutes ago and by the time you read this we might even be in the middle of a heatwave.

Or a blizzard.

Around nature’s year we construct things called seasons, and then we build expectations as to what the weather should be like. 


In England, February is perceived as pure Winter, but here in Ireland you insist it’s Spring, and then each year endure melancholy rituals, on barstools and kitchen chairs throughout the country, complaining that it’s “…terrible awful cold for Spring.”

Tending towards the binary way of thinking, we’ve evolved to believe something either is or is not.
 

Either it’s Winter or it’s Spring.
 

If it’s Winter I have a blanket on top of the duvet and two bottom sheets. I know from sleeping outside that it’s what’s underneath you that keeps you warm. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare old duvet, next time we hit a cold snap tuck it under your bottom sheet.

Ohhh yeeeaaah mumma!

You’re a slice of cheese sliding under a grill.
As soon as your flesh touches the sheets warmth envelops you, above and below.

Weeks ago I decided that Winter was over, stripped the bed, turned and rotated the mattress and packed the blanket away for another 9 months.

Then, after a few cold nights telling myself I was a pathetic weakling, mollycoddled by central heating who should harden up, I finally caved in, admitting I’d prematurely emptied my load into the laundry basket. (ooooh matron!)

Recovering my blanket I restored the quota of bottom sheets to three, and then a few days ago stripped the whole bed again.

Oh, the hokey bloomin’ cokey.

Meanwhile the world outside our windows has to cope with whatever weather it’s given. Thankfully nature evolves at a pace that reflects climate, rather than weather, so plants and animals have mechanisms that adapt and cope.

Spawny goo will protect the nascent tadpoles from the dried-out drainage ditches and deep frosts, and the next day, the same substance will be helping them survive flooding.
 
                               
As if our local ecosystem somehow knows how desperately our souls are yearning for sunshine, each year’s first flowers offer just that: primroses, dandelions, daffodils and forsythia pump forth explosive golden promises of Summer days to come.

 Thanks as always to the Snapper for her beautiful snapperage.


The ubiquitous gorse not only glows yellow, but also offers our senses the aroma of coconut suntan lotion. If you stand beside one and close your eyes, you can almost imagine you’re on a tropical beach.

Well, until hailstones start to pierce your skin.

Then there’s that adage about not casting a clout ’til May is out, and the debate about whether it refers to the month or the flower of the Hawthorn tree. Either way, if we wore the same amount of clothes at the end of April that we do in January, we’d be sweating like Rafa Benitez’s rough bits.

As with many old rural sayings, behind the words lies a simple truth: there will be frosts until the end of May, and that’s a blooming important thing to know, if you’re living off the land, as they were back when Yorkshire people turned farming advice into poetry.

To me there’s far more sense in the old quotation often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain:

‘Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get.’

There’s a reason we talk of Climate Change. While our temperatures in the West of Ireland bounce around, our climate changes in tiny increments, and although most talk is of global warming, our lives here on the Atlantic seaboard will not benefit from balmy new temperatures.

As Greenland’s ice and the Arctic ocean melt, vast quantities of freshwater are dropping into the Atlantic, desalinating the water and in the process cutting off the flowing loop of the North Atlantic Drift.

Keeping us a toasty 5°c above what we should be at this latitude, our benevolent Gulf Stream has already stopped on several occasions, so far always restarting, but experts say there’s a 50% chance of it failing to recover in the next 60 years.

Then we'll instantly be plunged into a freezing cold climate.

That’s not weather I’m talking about.
Not a cold snap, but a devastating temperature collapse.

So next time you’re giving out about how the weather can’t make up its mind, just stop and give thanks.




Yes it’s sideways hail, but in ten minutes there’ll be blue skies, heat from the sun and bumble bees buzzing in your ear. 


We have it so easy here. We’re not flooded. We’re not on fire. There is no drought; no desert; neither earthquakes nor volcanos erupting (my bathroom habits notwithstanding).

The weather might feel atrocious, yet our climate is temperate and terrific.
 

Long may it stay this way. I’ll take warm, windy and wet over constant cold and blizzards any day.


©Charlie Adley
07.04.2018

Sunday 8 April 2018

CRICKET IS PERFECT FOR THE IRISH!




Irish cricket is on the way up. Now recognised as a full ICC member, Ireland’s first ever Test cricket match will be played against Pakistan over the weekend of 11th/15th May.
 

Forget your glorious Grand Slam and that goal in Stuttgart 30 years ago. Now, finally, through cricket, you have the chance to enjoy the best possible means of retribution against the auld enemy.
 

Ever since moving to this country I wondered why, more than any other population colonised by the British, the Irish hung on for so long to their loathing of their imperial oppressor.
 

The only other ex-colony where people talk with as much venom about the English is Australia, but their verbal attacks are laced with confidence.
 

Why?
Because they know that they have regularly whipped our English arses at our national game, in intimidating fashion.
 

Does a beating on the cricket pitch really hurt the English as a nation? You’d better believe it. Many other countries colonised by the British have revelled in returning to give their old brutaliser a sound beating.
 

Australia, the West Indies, South Africa, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have all contributed to a realisation that the British are these days far from dominant in the cricketing world.
 

Imagine Roy Keane in his prime, decked in whites with a dash of green, sneering and snarling as he runs up to hurl a rock-hard leather ball at 90 mph towards an English chinless wonder.
 

Dribbling yet?
 

Cricket should suit the Irish down to the ground. Intelligent, contemplative, subtle and intense, it encompasses all the best Irish characteristics - even wit. Better still, the game has official breaks for both Tea and Drinks.
 

Although there are many speedier One Day versions of the game, a Test Match is as slow as Gaelic Games are fast. After five days, it may well end in a draw, which in cricket does not mean the match has been tied. It just means five days wasn’t long enough for two teams of eleven to bat and field twice.
 

Why? 
It was the weather, of course, and what could be more Irish than that?
 

Well, how about James Joyce, who wrote in Portrait of the Artist:
 

“The fellows were practising long shies and bowling lobs and slow twisters. In the soft grey silence he could hear the bump of the balls: and from here and from there through the quiet air the sound of the cricket bats: pick, pack, pock, puck: like drops of water in a fountain falling softly in the brimming bowl.”
 

Who needs rules, when there is such poetry in the game?
 

Clearly Australian captain Steve Smith decided he didn’t, and the ensuing outrage reflected an anachronistic and romantic vision of cricket; this sport, that more than any other is supposed to transcend human nature, with fair play integral to the game’s DNA.
 

Not all sports are equal. In football players cheat as a matter of course. When a player in the box feels the wispy damp breath of an opponent on the back of his neck, he will collapse to the ground.
 

Later, in the studio, every aspect of this gymnastic collapse will be interpreted, and one ex-player will say:
 

“I’ve seen ‘em given!”
 

while another will nod approvingly, offering:
 

“He’s been smart, so he has, and I have to say, you can’t blame him.”
 

Cheating at cricket is difficult and if discovered creates international incidents.
 

Bowlers rub their ball and spit on it to shine up one side and rough up the other. Most cheating comes when a bowler rubs something abrasive over the dull side of the ball, to enhance its swing in the air.
 

Many bowlers have been filmed lifting strange substances from their pockets, pants and gordknowswheres, apparently oblivious to the fact that cameras are all over the ground.
 

In 1990 England captain Mike Atherton was found with grit in his pocket whilst playing against the Aussies. He claimed he used it to dry his hands. 

For some reason, nobody believed him.
 

Alongside ball tamperers come cricket’s match fixers, like Salman Butt of Pakistan who was sent to jail in 2011, after a tabloid betting sting revealed teammates had been deliberately bowling terribly during a Test at Lords.
 

My personal favourite cricket cheat was the brazen Shahid Afridi of Pakistan, who eschewed subtly rubbing dust for taking a good bite out of the ball, in broad daylight, during a test against Australia. He later told reporters he’d just been trying to smell the ball.
 

Right: from the inside of his stomach!
 

Now questions are being asked as to why the Australians emptied sachets of sugar into their pockets during the last Ashes Series.
 

Strangely, this actually riles me. With the arrival of the Indian Premier League, cricket has gone the way of football: all money and TV rights, but for some bizarre reason the Ashes still really matter.
 

Having watched Australia once again give England a thrashing, I’d prefer to think it was all fair, square and … well, cricket.
 

Sadly Ireland just missed out on qualifying for the next Cricket World Cup, so to tide you over until your first Test match, contemplate the wonderful cocktail of brute force and eccentricity included in this despatch from the 2005 Ashes Test at Lords:
 

“A bouncer beats Ponting for pace, and crashes against the grill of his helmet, cutting the Aussie skipper on his right cheek. A drinks break follows, to allow time for the blood to stop flowing.”

©Charlie Adley
29.03.2018

Monday 2 April 2018

GALWAY CITY WON'T LEAVE ME ALONE!





Under the early morning sunshine of a deep blue Claddagh sky, Paddy and I chat about what he needs to do to my car, Joey SX. 

We have a good manly laugh about inconsequential nonsense, and then I walk down the hill towards the river.
 

Oh my sweet lordy, this is truly a lovely day.
 

The vivid green of the grass on the piers sings come hither to my eyes, so I wander over, stare at lobster pots, faze out to the rush and spritz of the mighty Corrib, and then accidentally sun-dazzle my eyes, by staring up to see if I can spot a cloud anywhere at all.
 

It’s 9:15 and Paddy said 2 was the earliest he’d have the car ready for me. 
Splendid. Several hours of ‘me time’ ahead, as Life Coachy types might say.
 

With my back to the city and that cold easterly wind, I call my mum and listen to her tales of London life, as I stare across today’s calm silvery water on Galway Bay, over to the purple hills of Clare.
 

We talk for ages, and I hear myself laugh on at least two occasions. Being under the influence of a depression doesn’t mean I’m unable to giggle.
 

Each dose is different, presenting new challenges, upsides and inabilities. Despite this being one of the most powerful funks I’ve ever encountered, I’m delighted that it has not robbed me of my vital energy.
 

Usually it’s impossible for me to say which comes first: the depression or the lack of desire to go for a walk. Sometimes I only realise I’m depressed after I notice I haven’t walked for three days. 

Thankfully during this nasty bout I’ve wanted to walk and have walked.  Beyond all the prozac and mindfulness in the world, putting one foot in front of the other is my most powerful mental medicine. 

Now in Week Three, you probably wouldn’t notice if you met me on the street. Those who insist on putting a label on everything could describe me right now as a High Functioning Depressive, able to smile and socialise.
 

Thankfully my teaching remains a pleasure; my passion intact as ever. There seems to be little limit to what I can do, yet I cannot stop the tears rolling out of the sides of my eyes. The wrapping paper is shiny but inside it’s a different story.
 

Inside I am filled with darkness and dread. My own brain is tempting me to visit mental places that will do me harm. 

After a lifetime of this malarkey, I’ve learned to spot these thought patterns, acknowledge them and decide not to go there.
 

Whatever happens, I intend to enjoy this gorgeous Spring morning, free to lurk in quiet pubs, drinking tea, reading endless newspapers.
 

First stop: a leisurely Full Irish at the Galway Arms.
 

Later, if I feel strong enough, my spirit fortified by food and solitude, I’ll head out into the world and maybe even chat to someone.
 

Galway City however has other ideas.
Evidently town doesn’t trust me to be on my own this morning.
 

Crossing Dominick Street I bump into local filmmaker, creator of Galway’s Super 8 Shots Film Festival and all round good guy, Julien Dorgere. We chat for a while and I enjoy his company, but by the time he heads off I’m gasping for a cuppa.
 

I make pace to PJ’s place, but look, walking towards me is Peter Connolly of the formidable Claddagh clan.
 

Peter and I have been friends for years, ever since I became a massive fan of the Claddagh Boatmen - Bádóirí an Cladaig. I haven’t seen him for ages, so when he suggests joining me for breakfast, I’m delighted.
 

Sadly my blancmange of a brainbox can’t take in the news about those who strive to keep Galway’s marine tradition alive and thriving.
 

As we munch our eggs and bacon, Peter shares intriguing news updates, but where there was once grey matter, there is at the moment only goo. Long ago, The Ramones explained it thus:
 

"Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em / That I got no cerebellum!"

Taking their advice I explain my mental condition to Peter, encouraging him to continue with his news, while I do my best to assimilate information.
 

Peter has a wealth of fact and detail at his disposal. I admire him and share his passion for Galway‘s unique boats, but today all I can distinguish is that the Hookers are the sugar bowl, the salt cellar is the City Council, the pepper pot is the people in Hong Kong who have fallen in love with the boats, and the teapot is … what, sorry mate, what was the teapot again?
 

Having thoroughly enjoyed his company I leave Peter feeling frustrated that my brain proved so useless.
 

I very much want to hear it again, so if you’re reading this, Peter, please forgive me and get in touch.
 

Then I’m verbally yanked over to The Waistcoat, playing his bodhrán at Johnny Massacre Corner, and unable to reply, I stand and listen to him.
 

Finally, I grab a few minutes alone with a mug of tea outside tigh Neachtain, but ah, here’s Matty, always a pleasure mate, and Rob, long time no see, and here’s a handshake from fellow columnist Dick Byrne, and there’s a
 

“How the hell are ya, hoss?” from Dalooney.
 

As arranged ,Whispering Blue also arrives, and then, just as the party is made complete by the arrival of The Body, Paddy calls to say my car is ready.
 

Today Galway is in charge. My chaperone, my therapist, my hiding place and playground, this city knows best. These cobbled streets have seen it all.
 

Thanks Galway, for showing me how far from alone I am. 
I’m not able to feel it right now, but I know I’m a lucky man.

©Charlie Adley
21.03.2018