Saturday 14 July 2018

This week's Double Vision will not be posted online, so if you'd like to read it, please buy one of the above newspapers ...

... usual codswallop returns next week.

Sunday 8 July 2018

RARE MOMENT WHEN UNIVERSE NEEDS NOTHING!



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
01.07.2018

Sunday 1 July 2018

THAT MOMENT WHICH CHANGES OUR LIVES!



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
18.06.2018

It's time to get over Thierry's handball!

Love, peace and handball buddies by Allan Cavanagh. See more of his artwork at at caricatures-ireland.com/blog/



Let’s make a deal, in an attempt to live in the present: if I don’t mention England’s World Cup victory in 1966, you’ll move on from Ireland’s Euro 88 victory over England in Stuttgart.
 

Actually that’s slightly disingenuous of me, because I never mention 1966, save for exploding with exasperation that the English media are still going on about it.
 

It’s incredibly sad the way both the English and Irish hang on to their far-distant footballing glories, while the Irish have unique abilities in the grudge bearing department. 

If I ever hear another word about Thierry Henry’s handball, it’ll be centuries too soon.
 

Yes it was painful, awful and all that, but he didn’t score a goal with his hand. He just bundled the ball towards William Gallas. 

Horrible, illegal, wrong: yes, all of the above, but he didn’t punch the ball into the back of the net, and - sorry about this! - it was a qualifying play-off, not the quarter finals of the World Cup.
 

When Diego Maradona suddenly found his fist possessed by a holy force, his country had been licking their Malvinas/Falkland wounds for 4 years. His Hand of God goal against England was revenge delivered cold.
 

Anyway, a mere four minutes later Maradona erased debate, by dribbling past five England players (Terry Butcher twice) and scoring on the greatest stage one of the finest goals the sport had ever seen.
 

Unlike the Irish government, who after Henry's handball asked FIFA if Ireland could enter the World Cup as an unprecedented 33rd team, the English did what they always do: soak it up, spit it out in vile tabloid headlines, burn a few cars in Nottingham and come to terms with the fact that they were beaten by a better team.
 

Like Iceland.
 

Thank you Iceland! Your steadfast skills and thunderous grunt handclap killed off any traces of English self-delusion that survived their feeble 2014 World Cup experience.
 

Even more than expectation, for decades England teams carried a sense of entitlement. After all, didn’t we invent the game of football, so isn't it our natural birthright to beat Johnny Foreigner soundly on his or her sporting backside?
 

Winning the World Cup in 1966 didn’t create that mindset: it simply reinforced in gold what the nation believed, ever since the sun set on the Empire in 1948.
 

Talking of empires, what a tragedy that the world’s favourite game and this World Cup are run respectively by a power-hungry venal organisation and a tyrannic despot.
 

Some might think tragedy too strong a term, but consider the scope of influence of this game
 

In the favelas of Brazil, the backstreets of the Ivory Coast and lesser-known parts of Laois, toddlers learn to kick a ball, win attention and applause while exercising in the most thrilling way. Football offers the unique chance of a lifestyle beyond the bounds of reasonable dreams.
 

At the other end of the socio-economic ladder, football also enchants the über-rich. In April 2003 a Russian billionaire watched David Beckham and the Brazilian Ronaldo scored five goals in Real Madrid’s Champions League victory over Manchester United.
 

That day he fell in love with football, went off and bought my beloved Chelsea FC. Truly Roman Abramovich must be an optimist, as well as lover of the game, as he’s watched just about every Chelsea game since, and he’s still around.
 

Well, he is now, after taking Israeli citizenship, so that he can get into the UK. Russians have felt an English cold shoulder since that nerve agent attack.
 

Strange that Russia is allowed to invade Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and threaten the Baltic States, but when an ex-spy cops it on a bench in Wiltshere, all hell breaks loose.
 

That’d be because like FIFA, Putin is unassailable.  
Both are supreme rulers of their particular universe.
 

Both are unapologetic about their methods, decadently rich and interested only in further expanding their power, whatever the human cost.
 

Hence, as football fans we have no choice but to accept that this World Cup is taking place in a dictatorship, and that the next, given the number of  nations who love the game and deserve to host it, has been awarded to one of the least worthy countries on earth.
 

What a tragic shame that the sport which honestly claims to be the people's game has been royally hijacked by unaccountable elites. Us lovers of the Beautiful Game have no choice but to accept that, sing ourselves a rousing chorus of
 

“Que sera sera, whatever will be will be!”
 

and move on, just as the Irish need to forget Thierry’s digits and the English Diego’s divinity.
 

That just leaves Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against the Germans, in the 2010 World Cup. The one that was a full two feet over the line; the goal that was instrumental in FIFA adopting technology.
 

When Frank equalised England had come back from 2-0 down and were playing better than our exalted opponents. It looked like we might make it to the Quarter Finals, but instead of 2-2 in the 39th minute, demoralised England collapsed to lose 4-1.
 

What’s that? 
You calling me a hypocrite for grizzling about the past?
 

No problem.
 

Just as Mourinho complains his opposition parked the bus, hypocrisy grips football like Luis Suarez’s teeth on defenders' bare flesh.
 

I’ll drop the Hand of God if you drop the Frenchman’s fumble, but Frank’s disallowed goal?
 

That’s different!


©Charlie Adley
13/06/.2018

Wednesday 20 June 2018

BLISSED OUT ON BEACHES WITH AGEING BLADDER!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He would love that.
 

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

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

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

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

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

breathe
I do not need to go

breathe ... kind of stuff.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


©Charlie Adley
09.06.2018


Sunday 10 June 2018

IRISH GOVERNMENT MUST INVEST IN IRISH GENIUS!


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

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

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

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

“What are we, Dad?”
 

“What do you mean?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

All in all quite a cultural cocktail.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do Irish politicians fear others’ success? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or should I say our?
Hmm.


©Charlie Adley
28.05.2018

Sunday 3 June 2018

I walked in the rain and became Irish!



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

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

Strains of Wild Rover and Maggie permeate the dripping air.
 

What could be more Irish than the rain?
 

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

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

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

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

The Irish have as many for the rain.
 

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

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

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

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

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

Doesn't get more Irish than this, surely?
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It won't melt ya!"
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, that’s Ireland. Or is it? 

Ah here he is!
 

“Jameson please.”
 

“We have no Jameson.”
 

“You are kidding.”
 

“No.”
 

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

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

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

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

I'm safe. 
I'm Irish.
 

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

 ***

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

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

©Charlie Adley
23.05.2018

Monday 28 May 2018

LOVE CURES THE CHALLENGE OF SPINNING LONDON!

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

My eyes open. The world looks different.
 

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

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

Oh yes, I’m going to England today. 

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

I’m dizzy again.
 

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

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

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

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

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

Phew. 

Maybe just a one-off.
 

Yeh, that’s all it was.
 

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

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

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

Sort of like matter and anti-matter.
 

Bugger. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...OOOooohOOOooohOOOooohOOOooohOOOooohhh...


There it is: the full spinning carousel.
 

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

whizzes around, speeds up 

and slows down.
 

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

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

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

Hmmm.
Heard worse.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How lucky am I?
 

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


©Charlie Adley
17.05.2018

Sunday 20 May 2018

THE SUN IS OUT - THIS MAN IS OUT!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ooh ooh ca-ha-hoooghhh 

breathe 

... compost?
 

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

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

They take about 25 minutes and have transformed my life.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That whiff is me.

©Charlie Adley

20.05.2018




Thursday 17 May 2018

IF FEAR IS YOUR WEAPON YOU’VE ALREADY LOST!





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

The Chief Editor rested his bearded chin in his hand.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could not order a stranger to have a child.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley17.05.2018.

Monday 7 May 2018

We All Ate City's Dust!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow company policy and sell your best players. 

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

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

Who were this team?
 

Not my Chelsea.
 

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

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

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

Come on you Blues!



©Charlie Adley
25.04.2018.

Sunday 29 April 2018

ADVENTURES IN CONNEMARA, TIME AND WHISKEY!




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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now it’s you that sounds insane!”
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the hell?
 

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

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

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

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

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

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



©Charlie Adley
18.04.2018.

Sunday 22 April 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley
11.04.2018.