Sunday 23 September 2018


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

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

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

Clearly they never bothered to teach their son manners.

What a shame. Tut tut.

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

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

That’s down to who we are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There she was!
The driver of the offending car.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We wage war. 

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

Yes we do, but we are not all bad.

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

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 16 September 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a man on a mission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloomin’ lovely! 

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

I settle in and feel happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To Thursdays!” he toasts.

We all smile, raise our glasses, toast


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

Pure Galway magic.

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

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 9 September 2018

You have to discover your own Galway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distant chainsaws cut timber.

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

Just another Galway sunset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


That’s the thing with Galway, you see.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 2 September 2018


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

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

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

Yes, m’Lud. Guilty as charged.

So why do I not plead guilty to regretting them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To these I replied silently in my head

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Corey and that deck....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re a lucky man, Charlie.”

“I know mate.”

©Charlie Adley
02.09. 2018.

Sunday 26 August 2018


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

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

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

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

I just nodded and lay back.

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

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

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

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

I’m in safe hands.

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

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

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

“All your soft tissue and gums look perfect!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does that even mean?

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

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

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 19 August 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aim for the cliffs?
What’s the rush?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 12 August 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Til the feckin' final!”

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

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

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

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

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

Words. That’s my way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not now Charlie. Let’s get going.”

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“Fuckin’ hell, Charlie!”

A rare moment of magic, made possible by poetry.

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley

Monday 6 August 2018

Don't listen to me - read what my students say!

Before you book your place on my Craft of Writing Course (starting September 6th - details below) take a look at what my students say:

The course was fabulous. I learned a great deal about the skills and techniques of writing. I have enjoyed every minute of it. Thank you so much for all your feedback.

I am learning so much. Thank you. You have an amazing passion for words - it oozes out of you - and a great energy that is wonderful to be around.

I was very familiar with the language of can't and couldn’t, but in recent times and in your creative classes I have learned a vocabulary that involves embracing the terms can and could. Thank you for sharing your time, thoughts and energy and thanks for forcing me to see life with a new perspective.
Many thanks for the excellent course. I found it thoroughly revealing. Thanks once again for the enlightenment and the fun.

Thank you for believing in me.

I felt privileged to be part of the group. Your enthusiasm runs deep. It’s clear that you do this for the love of the craft. You have so much to give to people and are so generous with your time and passion. I can only offer you my gratitude for a wonderfully inspiring, educational and thought-provoking eight weeks.

Thanks for a fabulous course. It was practical, factual, educational and jovial - a masterclass in how to teach with fun!

I booked this course with no real expectations. Little did I know that it was going to be one of the most enjoyable courses I have ever attended and that I was going to learn so much. The course layout, notes and your personal involvement made it a very easy and enjoyable way to learn.


My course is designed for anyone who would like to improve their writing skills, from complete novices to published novelists. 

Just as carpenters must learn how to use their tools, all writers benefit from learning their craft.

Anyone can learn this craft.
There is no mystery to it.

In friendly and supportive lessons I will show you how to overcome fear and write a first draft. As well as learning how to develop characters, structure, plot and voice, you’ll discover how to use shape, pace, tense and dialogue to enhance the power of your words.

My course will boost your confidence, while enabling you to write as you’ve always wished. 

I'll also give advice about how to sell your writing.

Only 12 students attend each course, and thankfully they do sell out, so if you’d like to reserve your place, please email me your phone number and any questions you might have as
soon as you can:
I look forward to hearing from you, and will call you back.

Charlie Adley's Craft of Writing Course
Westside Resource Centre
(beside the church and library, bus stops and parking)

Thursdays, 7:15 - 9:00 pm
8 weeks: September 6th - October 25th.

€120/€110 concessions

Sunday 5 August 2018


“Buster, he sold the heat…with a rock steady be-eat…”

High above me, pumping out of the tannoy speakers in the warehouse roof, this booming voice announced itself by speaking Jamaican words with a white London accent.

A couple of seconds later the air was filled with a sublime fusion of ska, reggae and pop, all wrapped up in cockney and Caribbean rhythms.

It was 1979 and we’d never heard anything like it. All round the warehouse blokes stopped in their tracks, smiles stretching their faces as they soaked up the exuberance of Madness.

I was 19, a soft middle class lad in a working class world of hardened men. Industrial Temping was an ancestor of today’s gig economy. The agency sent me off to factories and warehouses, sometimes for a day, sometimes for months. The work was hard, the pay poor, but for me it was perfect.

As soon as I’d saved up enough money I was free to board the ferry to France once again, to spend a few months hitching around Europe.

That summer the sounds of 2 Tone exploded into our lives. After years of going to three gigs a week during punk, live music was the backbone of my existence.

For years Rastas and Punks had mixed at gigs and been friendly, sharing a common enemy in Skins, but this new driving dance music, this monster sound had its roots in ska, which had always been Skinhead music.

Amazing gigs at the Electric Ballroom and the Hammersmith Palais followed. I remember huge line-ups, with The Specials, The Selector, Madness, The Modettes, Dexy’s Midnight Runners and The Beat all performing on the same night.

2 Tone spoke our language, sometimes politically scathing, at others touchingly sympathetic to love-lorn youth.

Rich in anti-establishment spirit, 2 Tone founder Jerry Dammers let all his lable's bands leave to form their own lables. Madness went Stiff, the Beat created Go Feet - everyone moved on.

Thanks to 2 Tone we’d enjoyed a bucket load of unbridled joy. Black, White, Punk, Skin, Rude Boy, Mod and Rasta: we’d all danced together, unified by joyous music.

Once you’ve shared the glory of a raucous gig, there can be no further animosity.

If only that had been the case at my place of work. I remember well that day I first heard Madness, because it coincided with the breaking of Tony’s mug.

With his lank long greasy hair, yellowed buckled teeth and sad weary eyes, Tony was an unlikely figure of fear. The foreman, emaciated in his faded Humble Pie T-Shirt and skull belt-buckle, he ruled that warehouse like a stoned Stalin.

During tea break I got distracted while chatting to young Jimmy about that new band we’d just heard, and my finger flipped Tony’s mug onto the concrete floor, where of course it shattered.

“Shit mate. Now you’ve done it. That’s Tony’s mug. He loves that mug.”

“Yeh? Loves his mug does he? Really?”

“No, yeh, really! Tellin’ you, he bloody loves that mug. You’re in deep doggydoo mate. What was your name again?”

At first I thought he was just winding me up, because I’d been the target of a series of practical jokes ever since I’d arrived at this assignment. I was used to it, imagining this trial a rite of passage that everyone had to go through.

Looking back now with a smile on my face, I realise that they were just ripping the shite out of the posh lad. One day my car wouldn’t start after work because they’d taken the rotor arm off the distributor.

“Ah come on, lads! You’ll have to do better than that!”

A week later my car wouldn’t start because there was some rubber tubing stuffed up the exhaust pipe.

“Ah come on, lads! You’ll have to do better than that!”

“We did! That tubing’s your radiator hose. Least, it used to be!”

These tests I passed with ease, but Tony’s revenge was more challenging:

“Oi, you, mug-smasher. You’re walking bundle today.”

Silence fell as every other head turned to look first at Tony, to make sure he really meant it, and then at me, to see if I was up for it.

These were times far from Health and Safety. I had to climb on top of a mountain of 20 metre long u-shaped reinforced steel struts, piled high by the loading bay.

Then judging carefully where the middle was, I'd loop a cable tie around a square of 25 struts, followed by another cable around the same 25 at each end, creating an open-ended bundle.
Unistrut bundles, exactly the same today as they were in 1979...

Standing on the floor beside my bundle, I used the handset to move the roof crane, bringing it directly over the middle cable tie, which I then hooked into the crane.

Every single eye in the place was watching. Hoping to hell and back I’d tied the middle one precisely in the middle, I slowly, oh so very slowly lifted the bundled with the crane, holding a finger loosely inside the struts at my end.

I’d heard the other blokes talk about “walking your bundle” and how you wanted your finger to be floating inside.

If you touched the struts for a second too long they’d simply tip up, fall out and crush you to death.

Over the tannoy came the sound of Chas Smash’s voice:

“One! Step! Beyoooond!”

No no no.
Not now.

Apart from the irony of the words, given my predicament, that was one moment it’d have been madness to dance to Madness.

10 days ago Galway danced to Madness like mad fools, and the Galway Races are almost run, so congratulations to GIAF and Ballybrit, and well done to you, the people of Galway, for enabling another incredible summer stuffed with successful festivals.

Nowhere gives better madness!

©Charlie Adley
959 words / 5,253 characters

Sunday 29 July 2018

I disappeared under a pyramid of plastic bottles!

The most astonishing thing about this long hot summer is how well the rest of the natural world has survived, compared to us. How puny we have become in our First World complacency, struggling to maintain water levels, while the native plants and trees around us grow and reproduce regardless.

As I look in wonder at their resilience I find comfort and reassurance. Evidently this kind of summer has been occurring in Ireland for centuries, otherwise local flora would perish.

Yes, your lawn is brown and your pot plants need help, because they are our artificial interpretations of the natural world.

There’s barely been a drop of rain for months, yet the willow still grows, below ground, as its extensive root systems endlessly seek out water. Wild roses love a drought, feeding our eyes with pink flourishes cascading over hedges and stone walls. 

Thistles, meadowsweet, willow herb and dandelion carry on unperturbed by lack of water, while the cow parsley and all forms of wild carrot seem to be thriving, offering delicate white umbrellas and domes that catch your eye in a breeze.

Some trees have clearly put early energy into fruiting. Having evolved to ensure the perpetuation of their species, when the rain disappears they react, apparently cutting back on trunk and leaf growth, while pumping up production of the next generation.

Two weeks ago I saw towering horse chestnut trees already laden with conkers, while the branches of holly trees are dangling under the weight of clumps of green berries.

The bracken has taken a bit of hit, browning and collapsing along the roadsides, but just above, on the bramble bushes, a plethora of delicate pinky-white flowers promise a rich harvest of blackberries this Autumn.

Would that were the case for the raspberries in the garden. The burst of flowers in Spring promised a bumper harvest, and then fruit started to form, grew into perfect plump raspberry forms only to turn brown, crisping into what I can only describe as raspnuts.


I could have saved them, had I watered them, but it didn’t feel like a responsible reaction. All around me other plants, flowers and shrubs are doing just fine, without a drop of rainfall’s aid. The fuchsia, forsythia and perennial sweet peas are flourishing, while the poppies, corncockles, nigella and cornflowers are in their element.

At the height of heatwave I spent a week in North Mayo, in a house up a hill and beyond a while. Daytime temperatures were around 30°c and on the third day of my stay, the well ran dry.

The following four days proved a shocking education for me, as I discovered how much water I use, even when I’m really trying to conserve it. 

Taking no showers, using the remains of the kettle to do the dishes and living by the old hippy adage of If it’s yellow let in mellow, if it’s brown flush it down, I quickly discovered my utter reliance on the tap; the useless empty tap that I turned on out of pure habit god knows how many times, even though I knew there was no water.

I love water. At home I have a pint glass of water beside me day and night, and if I’m out I’ll have a bottle of it with me. After a lifetime of turning on a tap to fill my glass with drinking water it proved instructive to know how it felt when no water poured forth.

Took a while to sink in though. Sometimes I’m not the fastest, but I get there in the end.

Using only what I felt was the absolute bare minimum, I started to disappear under a mountain of empty 5 litre water containers. By the time they formed a pyramid any pharaoh would be proud of, I was having nightmares about marine life and that area of plastic junk in the Pacific that’s bigger than Spain and France combined, so I took the old ones into the village and refilled them at the garage.

To be honest I was plain disgusted with how much water I needed, and after taking a wondrous shower at a friend’s house I watched slightly covetously as they used their taps with nary a care.

Thankfully I have travelled, so I’ve been to places where women are expected to walk for miles to collect water every day. After seeing that I always gave thanks in a tacit way for having running water, but now I feel extravagantly lucky, and so should you.

Now take a deep breath and sit through the bit where you get hit with lists of statistics. Hold that breath and stick with it this time though, because these aren’t stats about obesity or the dangers of smoking: this is about the stuff of life, and why you should appreciate the wonderful liquid coming out of your tap.

The average tap releases 2 gallons of water per minute, which is roughly what a resident of sub-Saharan Africa uses each day. 

Here in the EU we each use about 50 gallons of water a day, while in the USA they go through 100 gallons a day. 

A five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons, while at one drip per second, a leaking tap wastes 3,000 gallons a year.

Before you start moaning about a hosepipe ban, spare a thought for those 844 million people who don’t have clean water, and the 2.3 billion people who don't have a decent toilet.

Consider the fact that every minute a newborn dies from infection caused by lack of safe water, and then look around, enjoy the plants that still stand proud, and give thanks for the water coming from your tap.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 22 July 2018


I was updating my friend Whispering Blue on the latest predictable controversy raging around Galway City’s 2020 award.

“Ah don’t talk to me! Didn’t we lose the run of ourselves?” muttered the Galwegian.

There’s that expression again. I heard it often in 2009, spoken by others born here in the West of Ireland.

Didn’t like it then and don’t now. It implies we all have a station in life, to which we should adhere. 

Doubtless some might still put it down to keeping your head below the parapet, but there’s no Irishman I’ve ever met less likely to blame history, so what did Whispering Blue mean?

“Ah, you know Charlie, did we really need it?”

Did we need it? Did Galway City need to be awarded the title of European Capital of Culture 2020?

There I’d been when the announcements came in, dancing on Mainguard Street, deep inside the thronging mad mobs of joy that Galway City specialises in, and yay! We won! Galway is the best! I know it! You know and now the world will know it too!

While we drank in the excitement, the cynic in me hoped and then wrote of fears that this award might turn out to be yet another debacle, fuelled by hubris, wherein good local people get screwed while vast amounts of money disappear into offshore ethers.

Never once, ’til now, did I spare a thought for whether it was a good idea. My friend made a profound observation. 

Did Galway City really need it, and more importantly, did those who live here need it?

Depends on your priorities. If you seek only the bottom line, the profit margin, then yes, the possibilities are indeed tempting. If you value what makes Galway great, which is you, the people, then the promise of 2020 starts to diminish.

I’ve always loved the people of cities in western bays. There’s a certain liberality, acceptance and hedonism shared by the people of Bristol, San Francisco and Galway; a wondrous blend of world-weary locals with wit and a strong sense of the absurd, to better handle their city’s storms, floods or earthquakes.

They share their home cities with hordes of blow-ins such as myself, many of artistic bent, who drifted through their youths unsure what they were searching for, until they found it here.

Characters, Connemara, compassion and craic.

Those always were the ingredients of Galway and they still are, but during the 26 years I’ve lived here, this city and region has undergone a transformation, socially and politically.

The lads back in ’92 were forever telling me that I wouldn’t believe the changes they‘d seen in Galway. With pride and unabashed enthusiasm they declared their home town was Europe’s fastest growing city, and Europe’s youngest city.

Since then the place has exploded. Way back in August 2000 this colyoom asked:“Galway - a place with tourists, or just a tourist place?”

Now every day looks like Saturday in town, and while that’s great for the local economy, maybe it’s not so wonderful for locals.

Traffic congestion is now the first thing people think of when they hear Galway mentioned on the radio, followed by the fact that nobody can afford to live here any more. 

We’ve students sleeping homeless in Eyre Square while landlords clean up on air bnb. Our hospitals cannot cope with the numbers swamping them.

Should we continue to embrace 2020, with its tenuous offer of wealth for all? 

Or, instead of this rampant quest for global visibility - in which I confess I was caught up - should we now focus our energy and funds, and apply them to making this city work for those who already live here, and those just arriving off the bus?

The sexing of Galway started in the 1980s, when Ollie Jennings kick-started the Arts Festival with Pádraic Breathnach. Everything that made this city great came from our streets and people, yet have we now, as my friend suggested, lost the run of ourselves?

Have we have been blinded by the shiny blue logo, the glory and greenbacks, when really the last thing Galway needs is more?

From its street-rich grass-root beginnings the Galway International Arts Festival has grown into an incredibly successful corporate entity, but on a solely personal level, I feel it has been, as my late father used to say, “Destroyed by progress.”

With the inevitable lifestyle and financial costs to locals of 2020, what I fear now is that Galway City itself will lose its heart and soul. My mate claims that’s already long gone, but I beg to differ. 

As an outsider it’s easier for me to appreciate everything about Galway. I believe that it’s not too late to cling to the wreckage and rebuild, if we are careful about what is special here.

In our haste to sell Galway’s uniqueness, we risk in the process turning the city into a sad bland corporate entity.

We could relinquish the title. We could say no, thanks all the same, let Rijeka in Croatia enjoy the honour alone, but we won’t. 

The stats say that 80% of Capitals of Culture believe they benefitted from the experience. Maybe, but Galway’s never been 80% of anywhere else. 

If 2020 succeeds it will be through engagement with individually brilliant Galwegians, and should it collapse and fail, it will be, as always, local graft and genius who save this city.

Galway was, is and hopefully always will be Ireland’s capital of culture. 

We don’t need to be told we’re great. 

We already know.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 8 July 2018


I’ve temporarily transported myself to a house atop a mighty hill, high above Lackan Bay, north Co. Mayo.

"Beyond the Black Stump!" as my Aussie friends say.

The universe has been inordinately kind to me at a time of great need. I think 15 years ago I very briefly met the woman who owns this house, but she doesn’t remember.

More to the point, she doesn’t care.

Explaining who I am to her on the phone consisted solely of mentioning my friends here, in and around Killala.

In turn, I have grown to know her a little by looking at the books that line her windowsills, the seed packets on her shelves and her DVD library, which has sustained me through long midsummer evenings.

There is no TV and I have no desire to use the internet.

There come exceptionally few days in our lives when the universe wants nothing from us. It is even rarer that when those days come, we are able and eager to greet them, but this week that combination arrived together, which I greatly appreciate.

I very much like a window to write beside. Ideally it would be on my left, but directly in front is lovely too. 

Whoever designed this house understands windows, as through the one ahead of me here I see cattle grazing far away towering hillsides, long grasses waving in the wind, the tallest buttercups I’ve ever encountered and wild roses growing out of ancient hedges.

they understood windows...

One of my friends in Killala told me yesterday that she prefers to write in a windowless corner, and there you have it.

Neither of us is right or wrong. Apart from death there are no absolutes, so when I have described myself in this colyoom as weird, because I sometimes need to be alone, I confess now to being disingenuous.

Judge me weird or any way you want, but do not condemn me for mere introversion.

There are over three billion introverts on this planet right now. You might not know it, because we don’t tend to advertise meetings.

While my friend likes the austerity and enforced focus of a dark corner, I much prefer to lift my eyes; to visually escape out of this splendid window. A glance above the laptop, a few seconds to ease my frown and stretch my spirit.

The fine weather goes on. My personal definition of ‘heatwave’ is any indefinite period of time, a minute or a month, when it’s so hot I fail to function.

Last June, in Portugal’s Douro Valley, I sat on my voluptuous arse for an entire week. The minimum at night was 26°, each day rising to 39°. I’ll take anything in the 20s, unless it’s drenching humid, and I’m talking Miami, London and Athens here, not yer Sligo humid.

Today there’s a northerly breeze cutting through the fiery heat. This to me is perfect weather. The house is silent and for a short while I immerse myself in Arcadian peace. 

My favourite beach in the world is 15 minutes drive away, because I’m for the first time on the western side of Lackan Bay, in this house delivered by the universe, through tragic coincidence.

At night high pressure sunsets drench Killala bay with golden blood.

The beauty of this place is sumptuous.

In a wondrous parenthesis from trauma, my energy levels are still primed on adrenaline overdrive. I’ve been sleeping just enough to keep going, but today, on my third morning in this house, I’m feeling weak with tiredness.

Probably the result of the eight hours kip I managed last night. I reckon my brain copped on to the fact that the universe needs nothing from me this week, and tried to relax me prematurely.

There’s much to deal with in my short term future, but right now, I need nothing, save to arrive home safely on Saturday, ready to face reality once more.

Today I’m going nowhere. My car Joey SX has the day off. He deserves it, given the melting tar on the roads and bohreens round here.

Today I will walk and write and rest and be.

Just be.

Of course I need the company of loved ones, and am blessed beyond reasonable bounds to have so many, but put me in this house, an airport or a station and I’ll happily pass endless hours in relaxed and calm fashion.

Ever since my early childhood I’ve had the ability to space out, to stare at nothing in particular, while contemplating everything.

By the age of 10 I instinctively felt simultaneously as vital and as irrelevant as everything else.

All fascinates me.
Boredom is a stranger.

At school I was endlessly reprimanded for not paying attention, yet felt unjustly accused: I was paying attention. I’d been incredibly focused on the tall blade of grass outside the classroom window.

That solid plume of strong green stem and long single leaf, swaying in the breeze.

How old was it?
Why had it grown so much higher than the lawn from which it sprouted?
Had an animal poohed there and helped it grow?
How long was it going to survive, sticking out above all the other grass in that wind?
If I watched long enough would I see it fall over?

45 years later I’m distracted now, as my eyes stray once again to another window, where I catch a glimpse of a big brown rabbit hopping through the hillocks in the distance. 

They say it’s going to be 29º today.
It’s 1pm. I’ll walk later.
Time for a siesta.

Fill up the water glass first though.  
Oh bugger! The tap is dry!

No water.  

Drink. Shower. Loo.
Must go out and buy water.

Back to reality.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 1 July 2018


It’s that moment which comes when you’re 37, sitting at the breakfast table. It comes when you’re 17, talking on the phone. It comes while you’re at work, and it comes while you lie on the grass in the garden.

That moment which at first you imagine must be some kind of joke. 

It’s not real, not happening to you, not today. 

After all, today is a normal day. 
You have plans. 

Tonight you’re going out for a drink, or this afternoon your mummy has promised that she will at last teach you how to ride your bicycle, or you’re on the way to the hospital to see your father.

That moment is not fussy about who it visits or when. Young, old, male, female, it does not discriminate. Like the air we breathe, it exists among us always; invisible; by its very nature visiting when least expected.

As soon as you realise you cannot ignore that moment, that it’s really true and truly happening, it overwhelms you.

Adrenaline swamps your body.

Your heartbeat speeds.

Your breathing becomes short.

Muscles in your chest tighten.

Apparently independent of your volition, tears suddenly fall from the outside edges of your eyes, yet it is far too soon to weep properly.

That time will come, but now, as that moment makes its impact, you are propelled into shock, your body and mind erasing all the centuries and subtleties of evolution, returning to its prime survival state.

Regardless of how strong, weak, healthy or infirm we might be, in its first minutes that moment is stronger than each of us, delivering identical blows to our bodies, minds and souls.

If you are young or have led a lucky life, the next time that moment comes may be your first. If, like me, you are not young and have led a precarious life, then that moment arrives with a tiny sliver of familiarity.

Experience is usually a useful tool, but where that moment is concerned, it offers only the clichéd blessing and curse.

At first you appreciate the blessing that you have experienced that moment before; that you know you are in a state of emotional shock, and that is helpful, because you know for a short while your mind will feel strangely empty.

Any thoughts not wholly concerned with your immediate situation will be held back.

Your body is armed with adrenaline, highly oxygenated blood and engorged muscles, yet your mind is stifled by the stench of dread. 

You know that there are all of a sudden an unknown mass of things that demand to be dealt with, yet simultaneously, you also know that while you are in shock, you will not be able to deal with any of them.

Your ‘fight or flight’ mechanism is temporarily in complete control. 

Every cell in your body is now primed to aid your survival, and the choice of which course you follow depends on who you are.

In the coming days your experience of having encountered that moment before becomes a curse, as you’re able to recognise the utterly confused state in which you find yourself.

Each time that moment arrives it is different, so even though you understand some of the symptoms, this is an entirely new challenge.

As the initial shock gradually dissipates, the blinding life-stalling fog becomes merely a bewildering mental mist. That’s when you’ll discover that your concentration lies like a shattered stained glass window at the bottom of what was, a mere couple of days ago, your mind.

If like me you’ve experienced that moment before in your life, you will know that there comes now an unpredictable and immeasurable period of grieving. Be it a death, a divorce, a defeat, or any kind of life altering disruption, you know that you’ll have to go through the stages of grief.

There are lists on the internet and medical experts who insist that there are seven stages, and an order to them, but in my experience, that is tosh.

We are not machines. Each of us is excitingly and terrifyingly different. We harbour utterly unique life experiences, and it is facile to expect that each of us will deal with trauma in identical ways.

When my father died I experienced four of the stages: shock, anger, depression and acceptance, but there was no trace of the other three; no bargaining, denial or testing.

The stages that did afflict me came as they are coming now, not in order but here and gone, an hour of this and a day of that.

Then again, as I write this, I’m aware that moment came into my life only a few days ago, so I cannot know what lies ahead. The stages will do what they will to me, and I will accept them as they come, because the fact our brains find it essential to deliver them makes me believe they serve a purpose.

This time I’ll need neither bargaining nor denial, but beyond that all is a mystery. Right now my up is down, west east, but however drastic life can be, I can always give thanks.

I am an incredibly lucky man, with a fabulously supportive family and an extravagance of incredible friends.

Their love has been my fuel and I yearn for the day when my tank is replenished enough to be able to thank them sufficiently.

Ideally I’ll never have to support them in the same way, but that moment comes in its own way to us all, and when it does, I will be there for them.

All I do know right now is that when my distance from that moment is sufficient, I will find a new peace.

©Charlie Adley