Sunday 29 April 2018

ADVENTURES IN CONNEMARA, TIME AND WHISKEY!




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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now it’s you that sounds insane!”
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the hell?
 

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

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

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

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

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

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



©Charlie Adley
18.04.2018.

Sunday 22 April 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley
11.04.2018.

Monday 16 April 2018

Do The Bloomin' Weather Hokey Cokey!




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

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

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


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

Lovely day isn’t it! Mighty! No?

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

Or a blizzard.

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


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

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

Either it’s Winter or it’s Spring.
 

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

Ohhh yeeeaaah mumma!

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

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

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

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

Oh, the hokey bloomin’ cokey.

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

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

 Thanks as always to the Snapper for her beautiful snapperage.


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

Well, until hailstones start to pierce your skin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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


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

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

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


©Charlie Adley
07.04.2018

Sunday 8 April 2018

CRICKET IS PERFECT FOR THE IRISH!




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dribbling yet?
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ve seen ‘em given!”
 

while another will nod approvingly, offering:
 

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

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

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

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

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

For some reason, nobody believed him.
 

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

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

Right: from the inside of his stomach!
 

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

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

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley
29.03.2018

Monday 2 April 2018

GALWAY CITY WON'T LEAVE ME ALONE!





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley
21.03.2018