Monday 31 December 2018

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




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

Live from Galway, here come the DV Awards 2018!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Charlie Adley
31.12.2018.

Saturday 22 December 2018

DUMBO MADE US BURN THE BANKERS LAWN!


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

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

I blame Dumbo.
 

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

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

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

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

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

She handed over the keys.

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah’s smiling face appeared around the door.

"Er guys - the kitchen’s on fire."

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

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

"Oh cool!"

"Nice, nice!"

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

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

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

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

Confronted by overwhelmingly abject apathy, Sarah finally lost it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gone.

Wow! Fire gone bye-byes!

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

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

“Open the front door!"

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

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

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

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

It had to be Paul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not one wall-cleaning, oven-scrubbing moment.

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

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


(all names changed to protect the guilty)

©Charlie Adley
22.12.2018.

Sunday 16 December 2018

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



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

6:45.
 

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

Splendid.

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

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

What luxury! 


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

No more.


                        

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

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

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

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

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

Lovely.


                             

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

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

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

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

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

                             

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh wow!


A young fox appears, not 20 feet from me.

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

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

Thank you Winter.

Don’t listen to the others.

I love you.


©Charlie Adley
16.12.2018

Sunday 9 December 2018

ENJOY INDEPENDENT SHOPS AND STALLS WHILE WE HAVE THEM!


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Also the language they used was plain weird:

 

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

I mean, would you trust that?

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

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

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

In return I received more spammy requests.

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

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

Cheeky little bastards.

Right. Enough. Time to speak to a human.

Try that ‘Problem’ dropdown menu.
No.

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

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

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

Aha! 

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

I believed them. 

Didn’t fancy 30 hours waiting on hold.

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

A robot?
A human?

I’ve no idea.

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

No such order existed, they claimed.

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

It had completely disappeared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How incredibly customer-centric of you.

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

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

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

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

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

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



©Charlie Adley
09.12.2018

Sunday 2 December 2018

Silent spontaneous shop ballet shows why I love living here!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry.

Oops.

Excuse me. Sorry.

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

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

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

Get over yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

©Charlie Adley
02.12. 2018.