Monday 31 December 2018

Roll out the red carpet, it’s the DV AWARDS 2018!




Dwarlinks, Luvees, Lords and Ladies, adults and babies, busy and lazies, all are welcome to the award show that’s better than all the other award shows you’ve already forgotten.
 

Live from Galway, here come the DV Awards 2018!

As ever we start on the international stage. First DV of the night is the much-coveted ‘Bertie’s Tears Were Really Real DV’ for absurd interpretations of media events, which this year goes to the conspiratorial nutcases who suggested that actors were playing the parts of those exceptional Floridian teenagers, who made inspirational and astonishing speeches against gun ownership, after their schoolfriends had been slaughtered in that week’s mass shooting.

The ‘Ronald Reagan smiling and appearing stupid while threatening apocalypse DV’ is shared this year between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump, for terrifying the world by threatening to annihilate each other, and then managing to make the end of the world seem boring, by planning a summit that was on and off, on and off, until we didn't care anymore.

The ‘Camden Is Just Like Crossmaglen DV’ for dangerous nonsense that costs lives goes to all of us, for being shocked by Assad’s gas attacks in Syria, while accepting the use of conventional weapons.

If your family were blasted to smithereens by a cruise missile you would not appreciate that they were blown apart, rather than gassed. The rules of warfare become meaningless when you end up punishing politicians for killing innocent civilians in the wrong way.

Well gosh and phew, didn’t someone promise a good night out?

Indeed, so moving rapidly into the facile and glittery world of Celebrity, the ‘Princess Diana I Hate Being In The Headlines So Put That In Your Paper DV’ for services to red top tabloid trivia goes to Girls Aloud superstar Cheryl, for crowing about keeping her son Bear’s image out of social media.

She claimed to want “to give him a chance of a childhood.” but well, sorry Cheryl, if you really cared about that you wouldn’t have called the poor wee bollix Bear at all, would you? First day of school, the teachers are going to put one and one together and come up with today’s Sun Fun To Play quiz: Guess Which Father Is Pop Star’s Son?

This year’s ‘We Blindly Obey Because We Lived Under The English Cosh For 800 Years DV’ goes to the government’s reaction to Storm Emma. Snowpocalypse was threatened. We were told we all had to be inside our homes by 4pm and wait for flakevasion.

At the time it felt wonderful to be forced to do nothing, yet it was one hell of a nanny state reaction.

This year we’re delighted to introduce the inaugural ‘#metoo #Ibelieveher DV’ for womens’ bravery in the face of the patriarchy, which goes to everyone who voted to repeal the 8th, while special recognition is awarded to all the Irish women presently facing obscene sexism in rape trials.

Next up, the ‘Is This Ireland or Iraq DV’ for global warming goes to the imposition of a hosepipe ban on a nation which from the air looks like a few green bits sticking out of vast puddles.

The ‘Thank God Blasphemy is Gone DV’ for crushingly inappropriate assumptions goes to the world press, for the number of times they refer to Ireland as a progressive republic purely because we’ve got a gay Indian Taoiseach.

Who cares that he’s the son of an immigrant? Who gives a phooey he’s gay? 


Doesn’t a republic become modern when we all stop noticing those criteria and concentrate on the way Leo is singularly focused on dragging Ireland’s economy back into the Thatcherite 1980s?

Hopefully for the last time, this year’s ‘Be DUP Careful Who You Have Brexit In Bed With DV’ for avoiding noxious political partners goes to Fianna Fáil, for rejecting Peter Casey’s divisive bigotry.

For a while your colyoomist felt so disturbed by Casey’s burgeoning popularity I actually started to long for the old Ireland where, if faced with a new and threatening phenomenon, politicians would set up a Tribunal to investigate and after nine months come up with a draft report that would be considered by a group of disparate people with a variety of vested interests, who would return for a final report to a Dáil Committee, who would put it in a prescribed fallow field, lay upon it 3 lumps of horse dung and see which way the wind blew.

At last we arrive at that part of the awards ceremony where DVs become local, so reliable as the tide, this year’s winner of ‘Best Place To Live DV’ goes once again, as it always will, to Connacht, where the friendliest of people, both artistic self-starters and stubborn local survivors gather to live among breath-suckingly beautiful landscapes.

Finally, and most personally, the ‘Apart From That Mrs. Lincoln, Did You Enjoy the Play? DV’ for the most important double use of the letter ’N’ goes to my annus horriblis: 2018. Early in the year I lost a friend of over 40 years, then my marriage, my dog and my home.

At times such as this my much-missed late father used to say “Onwards and upwards, Addles!” so that is where I’m going, feeling sure of only one thing.

2019 will be a better year for me, as I hope it is for all of you, my loyal colyoomistas. As we sign off from our glittering award ceremony, all at DV wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

©Charlie Adley
31.12.2018.

Saturday 22 December 2018

DUMBO MADE US BURN THE BANKERS LAWN!


A few whiskies by the fire has nurtured in me a yearning desire for the company of my lifetime friends. A doorway opens into the glittery mists of Christmas Past.

Decades before anyone had heard of burning bondholders, we managed to burn the banker's lawn on Christmas morning.

I blame Dumbo.
 

A bunch of friends clinging to the tatty shreds of youthful hedonism, we’d have two too many, because we could, and then someone might find a bottle of Tequila, and we’d do that too.

Peter’s dad was a bigwig banker with a friend who had a timeshare cottage in Somerset. We booked it and all headed off to a picturesque village, to do Christmas in a Merchant Banker’s holiday home.

Far from the Tudor-beamed thatch of our dreams, the cottage turned out to be a crushingly unremarkable house, at the end of a cookie cutter cul-de-sac.

Bland and taste-free, it was decorated in white this, grey wall-to-wall that; nothing of character, history or colour.

When we arrived Daddy’s Little Gal met us and oh boy, she made sure we knew we’d been warned.
“Look, right, this place has to be respected. Nothing bad must happen, okay? Rilly, now, because it’s just not on for one to damage other people’s homes, yah? And that goes for the garden too, okay? Daddy loves his lawn, yah? Super!”

She handed over the keys.

Loaded with drink and probably, in those days, a wide range of nefarious recreationals, we crossed the threshold.

By Christmas morning domestic bliss had descended on the non-cottage. All of us, save for Sarah, were draped over chairs, sofas and each other, every eye  sucked into the TV screen, where Dumbo’s mother was locked up in a cage.

The baddies claimed she was a mad dangerous animal. We knew she was a pure sweetheart of an elephant.

Sailing blissfully on oceans of mind-altering consumption, we allowed our emotions to undergo full Disney manipulation.

Poor baby Dumbo was losing his mum. Oh look, now he was putting his trunk through the bars of his mumma’s cage, and oh, so sad, look, Mummy and Baby Dumbo were linking trunks.

Sarah’s smiling face appeared around the door.

"Er guys - the kitchen’s on fire."

Later I asked her why she’d said it so calmly. Sarah explained that in her shock, she’d decided it best not to create unnecessary panic, foolishly assuming we’d react like responsible adults.

Collectively gone in the cerebrals, we ignored her, as one.

"Oh cool!"

"Nice, nice!"

“Oh, poor lickel nellyphant’s mumma being taken away.!"

“Yeh, but it’ll be alright in the end.”

"No...er...guys, the KITCHEN is on FIRE!"

“Lovely! Be with you in a tick, sweetheart!"

Confronted by overwhelmingly abject apathy, Sarah finally lost it.

"Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire in the kitchen! Turn off the bloody TV you morons! There’s a FIRE IN THE KITCHEN!"

From under a cushion to my left I heard a distant quasi-Rasta voice bravely offer in whispering song:

“...there’s a fire in my kitchen, what am I gonna do!”

By the time we eventually got off our arses and made it into the kitchen, Sarah had rushed upstairs and was, rather superbly, dunking bath towels in water.

Flames were licking out of the oven, smoke billowing all over the place. It was dramatic and confusing.

Our feeble heads could no longer drift becalmed, now tossed about on raging seas of impending disaster.

“Maybe we should we open the oven door and like, throw water in it?”

“Dunno. Think opening doors make fires get worse, dunnit?”

Immobilised by fear and mental incapacity, we stood at odd angles and frantically chewed our cuticles for a few minutes, hoping the bad scene might go away.

We ooo-ed, errr-ed and yelled “Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring!”, giggling like infants
nicking cake mix behind Mummy’s back.

Sarah appeared with soaking towels, opened the oven door, and threw one over the flames in the roasting tin.

Gone.

Wow! Fire gone bye-byes!

We all stood and stared, while Sarah came to terms with saving the day.

Suddenly Paul spurred into action. Before any of us could stop him, he’d picked up the other towel and lifted the smouldering disaster of a dinner out of the oven, yelling:

“Open the front door!"

A man on a singular mission, he stormed out into the garden, carefully lowering the smoking dish down onto the velvet front lawn.

We all looked and verily, we knew this was not good.

Forget the smoke-stained kitchen. Black can be made white again. We could clean that damage, no problem.

But at some point, preferably as soon as possible, someone had to lift that dish.
All around, neighbours’ net curtains twitched in bourgeois ecstasy.

It had to be Paul.

We stood and tried not to laugh as he bent over the slightly-cooled tray.

As he lifted it, stuck to the tin’s underside, there also came up a clump of verdant turf the size of, well, the exact size and shape of a large roasting tin.

In silence we stared down at the roasting tin shaped muddy hole below.

"Daddy loves his lawn!" offered some bright spark.

“Drink!” Sarah was inspired. “Drink! We need drink, lads! It’s Christmas Day! We need a drink!"

This time we all heard her, and I have to admit, from that moment on I remember nothing.

Not one wall-cleaning, oven-scrubbing moment.

A fine time was had by all, and that, my patient colyoomistas, is what I wish for you.

May this Season bring you and those you love Shalom, peace.


(all names changed to protect the guilty)

©Charlie Adley
22.12.2018.

Sunday 16 December 2018

Thank you Winter. Don’t listen to the others. I love you.



Waking to the sound of rain hammering my bedroom windows, I turn on the lamp.

6:45.
 

Above me the wind plays a violin concerto on the roof. After years in this house I know by the pitch of the music the energy of the storm.

Splendid.

There are countless downsides to being a writer, but having to get out of bed while it’s still dark isn’t one of them.

Propping up a pillow behind my head I reach for the latest Donal Ryan. I love his writing, particularly his short stories, but From A Low And Quiet Sea hasn’t grabbed me yet. In fact - most unlike me altogether - I devoured Willie Vlautin’s Don’t Skip Out On Me during a break from Donal.

What luxury! 


For years I commuted into London, physically hurling my body at packed tube trains, just as the doors started to close, so that my impact would allow me to squeeze into the space between glass and wedged workers.

No more.


                        

Now I lie here and read until it’s light, excited and comforted by the knowledge that weatherwise, today’s a write off.

Good writing weather: that’s what I call it.

No need, reason or desire to leave the house. Just get up, do my stretches, make a fire, have breakfast and go to my office. There I can sit and write as long as I want to, because outside it’s lashing.

Not the full sideways effort, but gushing diagonal floods of heavy rain, carried on strong South-Easterly gusts, now smashing against my office window as I sit here, writing this.

Apart from housework, there is nothing else I can do today.

Lovely.


                             

God knows what other poor souls who live rural lives do on days like this. Sometimes being a scribbler feels like a blessing, because I’m condemned to neither loneliness nor Loose Women.

On weekdays my TV won’t go on until my day’s work has been written, printed out, hand corrected at the kitchen table, repeat and rinse, repeat again.

Then I light the fire, cook dinner and watch the Irish, English and US news, to see what’s been going down, out there in the real world, where humans talk to each other face to face.

Without the writing Winter would send me even more doolally than I already am. I’m sure the reason Ireland has produced so many writers because instead of going on merry social jaunts, we’re forced by the rain to stay inside; to apply our madness to writing.

Others warn me of the dangers of isolation, but I experience way more craziness out there than here in my solitude. 
 

                             

Exchanging pleasantries with shop workers or howyas on the street inevitably entails listening to them giving out something rotten about the wind and rain.

They can take the cold, and love the sunshine. Oh they’ll take anything, except that rain, the wind and the rain .They just can’t bear it.

I nod and smile, eager but socially unable to moan back at them:

“Well why the bloody hell do you live here then, in this country famed for wind and rain? Move to Morocco. But no, ‘cos once it gets above 20 degrees you’re giving out like babies that it’s fearful hot. And as for humid, well believe me, what you call humid in Ireland truly isn’t.”

Would you want to sit there and tell me you hate a quarter of your life?

Well then, don’t give out about the only Irish season that does what it says on the calendar.
                        

In Winter we can enjoy each day’s sunrise and sunset. With the sun so low on the horizon, the heavens offer severe contrasts and jaw-dropping colours.

Shafts of fire and crimson shoot from both dawn and dying sun, up into black clouds bugling with rain. The light and dark bleed together, mutating into a menacing purple glow. threatening intense latent power.
As the sun creeps along its low Winter horizon it lights up the empty branches of trees: stark upturned lungs against endless grey skies.


The best of Winter comes not with what is, but what is not.

During the darkest months, while we uncivilised beasts rush around in festive frenzy, arrogantly believing ourselves immune to mammalian hibernation, the natural world becomes calm.

Stand still for only a few minutes each day and you’ll discover how in Winter our environment exists in a variety of silences, offering the bliss of several levels of peace.
                           

At Winter dusk there are no power tools; not even birdsong here. Not a sound, not a movement, not a car in the distance nor a ram at a ewe.A majestic calm hangs over the land. Away from Trump, Brexit and Christmas shopping, here right now, at our feet, the world is placid.

With shorter days I sleep more and try to expect less of myself. A very fine and fancy shmancy idea, but the outside world always steps in and dictates the rules.

Still, despite the trials and challenges life presents, which as you all know it does, relentlessly, I make sure to give thanks for Winter.

When the trees are still, silent and naked, I enjoy nothing more than standing by the back door, watching the birds eat the seeds I’ve strewn.

Oh wow!


A young fox appears, not 20 feet from me.

Robust with health in his lush rusty coat, he licks up a few mouthfuls of birdseed and jumps over the stone wall.
    
                                                                                                                           

The weather forecast unfolds over my house.
I take time to appreciate the glorious tranquillity.

Thank you Winter.

Don’t listen to the others.

I love you.


©Charlie Adley
16.12.2018

Sunday 9 December 2018

ENJOY INDEPENDENT SHOPS AND STALLS WHILE WE HAVE THEM!


I forgot who I am and the family I come from. Beguiled by the supposed ease of gift shopping online, I ordered three DVDs from Amazon.

After receiving the usual order confirmation and tracking number, I was slightly concerned when I started to get spammy emails from a company that claimed to be delivering for Amazon.

We’re constantly told what not to do online. Don’t divulge personal information. Never click on a link in an email. Even if a message looks completely kosher, scan it for any sign of error.

These days the scammers have it down to a fine art, so it can take a while to spot the strange spelling mistake, the odd spacing, the dodgy-sounding address, or unusual grammar and language.

That’s why my hackles went up when I started to be bombarded by emails from Rupa, Mehnaz, Mrudula, Abhishek, Rupa again and Mounika.

Their emails couldn’t have looked more suspicious. Each demanded that if I wanted my delivery, I had to send them my mobile number, eircode and address. 


They used a beige font, crazy spacing, quoting order numbers and tracking numbers that failed to correspond to anything.

Also the language they used was plain weird:

 

“Hi, Good day you! This is Mounika reaching out to you…”

I mean, would you trust that?

Surely, if they’re delivering for Amazon, they’d have my details anyway?

Bizarrely, it turned out they were actually genuine, but can you blame me for thinking they’d hacked into my order?

I explained that if they sent me a phone number, or called me, I’d share my information, but not online.

In return I received more spammy requests.

Weary from the hassle, I signed into Amazon, to be greeted by a banner announcing:
 
“Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company.”

Well hoorah and yippee! Clearly I’d have no problem sorting out my little problem. I’ll just take a peek on the My Orders page and, oh hang on, wait a bloomin’ minute! They say my DVDs were delivered weeks ago.

Cheeky little bastards.

Right. Enough. Time to speak to a human.

Try that ‘Problem’ dropdown menu.
No.

Where’s the Contact Us?
No phone number anywhere.

Maybe if you’re the Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company, you don’t need to speak to your punters, because they’re all permanently ecstatic.
 

On an internet board I found out that if I went to Help on Amazon’s banner, then ignored all the help offered and found the More Help button, lurking down the bottom, I’d enter a portal where it’s actually possible to contact the Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.

Aha! 

A phone number! 
Oh, hang on, they say the phone’s not recommended.

I believed them. 

Didn’t fancy 30 hours waiting on hold.

Instead I did what Amazon suggested, and went on live chat with, well, I don’t know.

A robot?
A human?

I’ve no idea.

Engaged in written online conversation with someone/thing called something like Tbilisi, I gave her/him/it my order and tracking number.

No such order existed, they claimed.

Quickly checking Amazon’s website again, my jaw dropped. The order I’d seen minutes before, supposedly delivered weeks ago?

It had completely disappeared.

Dodgy biscuits, Batman! I started to lose it, explaining that they’d taken money from me delivered nothing, and in the world I live in that’s called theft.

I stuck to the ‘theft’ word for several minutes until a supervisor arrived to say my order was with Amazon.com, not Amazon.co.uk, repeatedly insisting I needed to contact them.

I assured her several times in calm, powerful and assertive language that I did not have to do anything. She had to contact whoever she had to contact.

Next morning I received an apology from Amazon, followed by an email from an Irish courier company, asking for my address and eircode.

I told them to - yeh, you know! - send me a phone number or call me.

When they too started bombing me with more emails l went plain berserk, using language far less calm and considered than before.

Hey presto. It worked. An audibly impatient woman from the courier company telephoned me, and I gave her my details. Before she hung up I asked why they’d refused to email me a phone number.

She said they don’t have a phone number for dealing with the public.
 

How incredibly customer-centric of you.

Then I remembered who I am: a man raised by a father who ran record shops, and a mother who had clothes shops. My sister has run her own shop all her life and I’ve had many retail jobs.

Unlike most of the modern world, here in the west of Ireland we are blessed with high streets crammed with family-owned shops. We have wonderful markets, indoors and outside.

If we do our Christmas shopping with independent neighbour traders we can be sure of two things: we’ll be able to give unique presents that our loved ones could not find in a chain store, and we’re investing directly in our own economy.

Instead of throwing money at global concerns, concerned only with removing messy humans from their process, we put food on the plates of Connacht, while saving our streets from becoming bland brand mausoleums.

This Christmas put away your computers and phones. Shop in Galway’s towns and city, where creative humans who truly care about their products are waiting to smile at you.

Enjoy the magic of physically shopping for individual gifts, while keeping our vibrant enterprising local traders successful.



©Charlie Adley
09.12.2018

Sunday 2 December 2018

Silent spontaneous shop ballet shows why I love living here!



Sometimes it pays to be foreign. If you were born here you might forget why you love Galway and the West of Ireland.

Living as a blow-in for 26 years, there still come moments when I’m reminded what it is about this place that makes me feel so comfortable and at home.

You’d want your house to be a comfortable home, so why wouldn’t you expect the same of the area you live in?

To feel comfortable outside I need to feel welcome. I need to feel that there’s very little chance of being involved in a fight or being called a Yid.

If it sounds like I’m setting my bar of expectation low, that’s because I’m cut 50/50 between cynic and idealist. I treasure my dreams while staying aware of how likely they are to come to fruition.

Dreams are so important. With hundreds of patients on trolleys, obscene sexism in rape trials and the impending crushing of Ireland’s economy by a No Deal Brexit, it can be difficult to look away from what’s wrong and appreciate the good on offer here in the West of Ireland.

That’s when the universe delivers a magical moment, reigniting our inner fires, which in Connacht are fuelled by compassion and humanity.

After a suitable period of isolation, I headed into the city to see my mates. When I haven't spoken to anyone face to face for three days I temporarily lose quite a few social skills.

Stopping for bits and pieces at a city neighbourhood shop, I realised I was struggling to acclimatise to this busy noisy real world, crammed with people and bright lights.

However pathetic it sounds, I was actually finding the narrow aisles difficult to navigate.

Sorry.

Oops.

Excuse me. Sorry.

Clutching a sandwich, a newspaper and a tub of coleslaw I joined the checkout queue, eager to get out of this crowded claustrophobic little place.

Then, as my eyes wandered to pass the time, I saw - oh Hell on Earth and the planets beyond! - another queue over there, back behind the other aisle, with just as many people in it, running at right angles to my queue.

My inner child cried No!!!!! as it stamped an impatient foot. Why did it all have to be so difficult and oh pooh and grizzle, wail, and finally, losing patience with myself, shut up Adley, this is a minuscule First World problem!

Get over yourself.

Meanwhile everybody else had been assessing the situation, looking over at each other in opposing queues, mulling over the situation.

Clearly this wasn't going to work. The status quo was heading towards conflict of one kind or another. Immobile, with my brain stuck firmly up my jacksy, my imagination played around with how this situation might be resolved in different cultures around the world.

In my native England it could be dealt with by anything from reasoned debate to aggression, sarcasm and shouting.

In parts of the Middle East the problem could never happen, as the very notion of a queue is alien.

Why stand in line when a scrum will do? I remember watching the Python-esque spectacle of European backpackers being beaten back from boarding a bus by Arab grannies in Abaya robes, wielding their wooden walking canes from the bus steps with gleeful abandon.

Such displays of exuberant emotion are not the way here in the West of Ireland.

Instead, right there in front of me, there played out a moment of pure magic, in the shape of a beautiful silent ballet.

Danced by peaceful people looking for minimal stress, this ballet was designed, directed and performed without a word being spoken.

I saw no finger raised to point an order, no non-verbal expressions of intent or instructional exchange taking place.

Yet spontaneously, all the people in the queue on the left suddenly and smoothly floated towards our queue.

Also silently, gently and welcoming, we all stepped aside, opening like an 18th century lady’s fan, creating room to allow our parallel queuers to slot into their rightful new places in the order of things.

Forgive me if it seems mundane, but at the time I found this common choreography profoundly comforting. It was bought about because here, albeit for tragic historical reasons, your default position is a passive smile.

On another day things might have turned nasty. Life is not perfect here, far from it, but I love it because what happened in that shop could only happen here, in this place I choose to call home.

Here we say hello to strangers on the street. We call howya to hundreds we know not beyond the howya, and when there’s a problem with a queue, we resist the urge to bicker.

We don’t concern ourselves with being wholly accurate about who goes where, because we know we will all be served, and more importantly, we are all better people for not making a fuss or causing a fight.

Nobody said anything because everyone knew what had to be done.

There was need for neither winners nor losers: just compassionate people, whose culture is borne out of queueing for food to save lives.

Surviving that shameful past, the people of the West of Ireland have evolved a unique understanding of priority and perspective. 


In Connacht we enjoy a strong sense of social justice, eschewing the most damaging excesses of capitalism for a more benevolent way of being.

Life here can be tough, but I feel welcome and give thanks for the beauty of this part of the world. 


Another tiny yet significant magical moment might come my way on any given day.

©Charlie Adley
02.12. 2018.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Don't believe a word of your child's diary!



There’s a debate raging on the radio. The mother of an 8 year-old boy texted in to say she’s worried because her son has recently been spending a lot of time alone in his room, and now she’s found his secret diary.

Should she read it?

The expert in the studio is very clear with her advice:

“Absolutely not. That would be a massive betrayal of trust. Even if you pretend that you haven’t read the diary, the truth will very quickly become apparent to your son, in the way you respond to what he says.”

The texts flood in. Several say screw the expert and her opinions, this is that mother’s child and if there’s something strange going on, she needs to know about it.

Others agree with the expert, who replies to the dissenters by suggesting that if they want to know what’s troubling their children, why don’t they ask them?

Angry texts arrive in response, venting fury with this so-called expert. Has she ever tried to get information out of a child? If there’s any way of looking inside their childrens’ heads they’d do it: they’d read the diary and then at least they’d have the comfort of knowing what’s going on.

The expert fights back, rather sarcastically pointing out that the clue is in the name. It’s a secret diary.

I drive along with a big smile on my face as I listen to this absolutely pointless squabble.

Of course I understand how these fearful frustrated parents feel, and equally the expert’s suggestions are sound and sensible, but everyone on both sides of the argument appears blindly ignorant of one massive factor.

It’s not that the child in question is writing a diary at the tender age of 8, which in itself is quite wonderful and remarkable.

The vital insight the expert and parents all ignore is the very distinct possibility that what their children write in their diaries might not represent the absolute truth.

Quite apart from the fact that they’d have to decode the inner monologue of a pre-pubescent, it would be foolish in the extreme to decide that these private words, written on a hidden page, express anything that might resemble reality.

Any child of 8 taking pen to paper has my undying respect. This boy has discovered very early what solace can be found in scribbling.

My diaries started unofficially around 12 or 13, in no way coincidentally arriving the same time as puberty.

As my bits changed size and shape and hormones started racing around my system, I started slapping down atrocious poems, pure wails of angst and confusion, lacking only rhythm and rhyme, originality and substance.

By the time I was fifteen a torrent of testosterone and several other hormones had turned me into a walking sulking bag of boiling blood, powered by a cocktail of primal urges, ignorance and complete inexperience.

January 1st 1975 was the date I officially started my diary. Every single night before sleep for the next six years I wrote and filled a full day’s segment.

Somewhere along my peripatetic life’s journey 1976 has gone missing, but I still have all the others, including the half-filled final effort.

By that time I was 21 and no longer needed that kind of diary. If I wanted to purge my confusion and express my desires I could write fiction.

There was no point in blending fiction into my journal, but try telling that to me as a teenager. Massive insecurities and an overactive imagination filled five volumes, which I have now here in front of me, opened at this week in 1975, 77, 78, 79 and 80.

A glance over these pages confirms my worst suspicions. If that 8 year-old boy is anything like I was, his parents would be well advised to stay far away from their son’s diary.

There are some truths scattered sparingly over the years, but also there are glaring and often quite ridiculous lies.

Well, let’s not call them lies. This was written by me for me. I wasn’t trying to fool anyone, not even my sad and dejected teenage self, because even then I knew better.

Didn’t stop me though. Any woman I met in passing got a mention, regardless of whether she was an optician fitting my glasses, a girl I had a single dance with at a disco or the stranger I sat next to on the bus back from school.

All encounters were reinterpreted as either flirtations, potential relationships or major sexual encounters that absolutely never happened.

If my parents had read and believed my diaries, they’d have thought I was an adolescent sex god.

More importantly, I can see entries here which would deeply upset and trouble any parent or child psychologist.

Thing is though, I was a teenager, so if you look at Tuesday I want to kill myself, what’s the point, I hate life and everybody else. Nobody understands me, so why not finish it all off?

Then on Saturday I’m partying with people I describe as the best friends anybody could ever wish for.

If you’re concerned, ask your children questions. If they don’t answer, leave it a few days and ask them again, saying that you're simply concerned, that’s all, and if they ever want to talk about anything, you’re always available.

Afford your children the same level of respect you expect from them. As parents you set the rules and the standards of trust. If you’ve already breached those borders, do me a favour.

Don’t believe a word you read.


©Charlie Adley
14.11.2018.

Sunday 18 November 2018

BEWARE OF THE POOH THAT LURKS BENEATH!

 Andrew steps out to escape the stink...

There is no finer way to start a day than to wake laughing, which this morning I did for the first time in many years.

A prolific dreamer, I enjoy or endure three every night. For the last few months my dreams have been tamed by the medication I’m on, which emphatically delivers me into deep sleep.

I think those pills have been keeping my nightmares at bay, and last night I dreamed about something that actually happened, which I’ve never done before.

The reason I woke up smiling was because, while I was asleep, I’d spent some time with my friend Andrew, who I haven’t seen for years.

We first met decades ago, in the early morning queue outside the Mad Dog In The Fog, an Irish/English pub in San Francisco’s Lower Haight. 


England were playing Holland in Euro 96, and although Andrew is of Scottish descent, he’s a lover of the Beautiful Game and allergic to neither the craic nor (back in those days) the odd pint or five.

Tall and thin with bright white hair, piercing blue eyes, strong cheekbones and a chin to match, Andrew is a warm charismatic man. Raised in Clapham, he has a cockney accent that makes Del Boy sound like an imposter, and better yet, he’s an old school Chelsea fan.

Must confess that when I first heard his hardcore accent, I imagined Andrew to be working class through and through, so when after the match we went back to his gaff, I was shocked to find myself in a mansion in the city’s fashionable Marina district.

“Blimey! So what do you do for a living then, mate?”

“I’m the Senior Vice President of a marine insurance company, Charlie.”

Oh god, what a prejudiced fool I can be!

Let’s blame the English class system and move on to several years later, when I was living near the wonderful village of Killala, Co. Mayo.

Andrew called to say he was flying from California to Dublin for his friend Deirdre’s wedding.

I’d met her over there, and was delighted to be invited too. Then Andrew told me he’d booked us both into the Shelbourne Hotel the night before the nuptials, his treat. 


We’d have a friends’ reunion, a lad’s night out and from where I was standing, in my wellies, in a muddy puddle in a farmyard, it all sounded very exciting; very grand and posh altogether.

Yahoo!

Right - time to get cracking. I needed to turn myself and my car into respectable beasts. Living alone in the countryside I let my standards slip quite considerably. 


My house will be clean, but my clothes might not. I mean really, what’s the point of putting on a clean sweatshirt when you know that nobody is coming to your house?

Last night’s dream started with me packing my suitcase for a five star hotel and wedding. The all-purpose grey suit was still in its dry cleaning cellophane, so that’d be fine for the wedding, and a pair of chinos and an ironed shirt for the Shelbourne bar.

Perfect, but before I set off I needed to clean my car, Betsy the Blue Bubble.

Opposite my house was the Cooperative’s creamery, outside which lay a massive hose, with a girth of several inches. I drove over there and let Betsy have it, blasting her paintwork with a high pressure flood.

Then I chamois leathered her dry and she was sparkling, ready to escort us from our grand hotel to the wedding. 





Setting off I felt thrilled at the prospect of seeing my mate and having a couple of days craic in a completely different world to my solitary rural existence.

As I passed Longford I started to smell something. They must be spreading slurry, I thought to myself, but the smell gradually became a noxious overwhelming reek, even as I entered the urban Dublin area.

Winding down the windows I gasped lungfulls of fresh air, as I realised with horror that this inescapable unmistakeable stink of animal shit was coming not from far away, but right underneath my feet.

Evidently, as I’d pootled the backroads of north Mayo, Betsy had picked up a carpet of dung on her underside. The power shower I’d delivered earlier served only to dampen it, and now it was delivering its revenge,

I tried my best to deter the valet parker outside the Shelbourne. Honestly mate, I’ll park her myself, you just show me where, but no, he insisted.

I turned away rather than see his face grimace in shock.

Poor sod. Seriously, it was hard to breathe in Betsy without gagging.

I said nothing to Andrew about Betsy’s aroma, hoping that the wretched stench might dissipate overnight.

Sadly no. Standing outside the hotel in our wedding finery the next morning, I saw the valet parker was holding his breath and screwing up his face as he returned my car.

Time to come clean about the pooh. Andrew was unimpressed, justifiably worried that he’d stink like the backside of a friendly Friesian all day, but we did manage a laugh.

Well, you have to, so we did, uproariously, and that’s why I awoke with a chuckle on my breath: I’d relived that whole episode, enjoyed Andrew’s company all over again and started the day in the best possible way.

(Then I received an email that left that smile on my face all day. Each year at this time a loving and lovely daughter informs me of her mother’s birthday. A loyal colyoomista for many years, the very wonderful Catherine Wade recently celebrated her 95th birthday. It is my absolute pleasure to wish her many more, and thank her for all the years she has read my blather.)


©Charlie Adley
08.11.2018.

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.