Sunday 26 May 2019

WHO CAN’T ORGANISE A PARTY IN GALWAY?



Dreamt I was made CEO of Galway Capital of Culture 2020.

Cripes! I know nothing about how to run a festival.

Going to need help, so thank goodness I’m dealing with a city crammed to the cracks with arts administrators, theatre directors, musicians, writers, artists, filmmakers, photographers and experienced volunteers.

Everything I need is right here.

First set up a gathering of Galway cultural legends: Ollie Jennings, Paul Fahy, Padraig Breathneach, James Harrold and Garry Hynes.

That’s a phenomenal amount of organising, directing and creating talent and I’ve barely drawn breath.

I’ll listen to these people, because they know the culture of city and county inside out. They meld place and meitheal into their art and administrative craft.

Not planning on changing much of Galway’s artistic and cultural calendar for my 2020. Our year is already packed with festivals and celebrations, but we have to raise some serious dosh under the 2020 banner, to enable every event to be funded to the stuffed-up max.

We’ll need publicity for that. How to get the word out?
Kernan Andrews and Judy Murphy on the case. Perfect.
 

Galway is the ocean, the bay and the river, so I’m launching my 2020 with the excellent crews of the Claddagh Boatmen, sailing a fleet of the Galway hookers that they’ve restored up the river, to deliver a scroll at Spanish Arch.

There’s Little John Nee picking it up and reading it to a massive crowd:

“It’s from Europe! It says we have to party like hell for a year!”

Unleash Galway unto Galway. Little John leads an explosive Macnas parade up Quay Street, homegrown talent channelled by Noeline Kavanagh, simply the best in the world at what they do.

The Galway hookers back at the quay brought with them the culture and language of the Aran Islands and Connemara, so I’m leaping into the gaeilge spirit, by making an Taibhdhearc my 2020 clubhouse.

Time my cúpla became a cúpla more.

Alongside that revered place, Nun’s Island and the Town Hall theatres, come the vibrant GYT, brilliant Blue Teapot and legendary Druid companies. Galway has theatre covered, and our own theatre festival, run by Sorcha Keane, is pumped up and ready to delight.

Music? We’ve Luminosa and ConTempo for classical, while for gigs it’s over to Ollie Jennings, Gugai for his choice picks of current licks, Paul Fahy who books bands that’ll blast the Big Top and the buskers on Shop Street, who force you to see and hear Galway for what it is: a hotbed of expression.

Film? Why as it happens we have a festival already, (are you seeing a trend here?) and damn successful it is too. Galway’s Film Fleadh was rated by MovieMaker magazine as one of the top 50 film festivals in the world, and one of its 25 Coolest Festivals.

They particularly liked the Fleadh’s pitching competition, which invites writers to pitch a treatment to a panel of judges in front of an audience.

If you’re an aficionado of 8mm, the delightful Julien Dorgere runs the Super 8 Shot Film Festival, right here in Galway.

Art? But of course madam, of every kind, from oil to digital, with Matt the Hat and Mags Nolan on board. Sadly, Galway’s municipal gallery is criminally overdue. Shame.

Books! The essence of culture and (you guessed it!) we already have a celebrated literature festival in Cuirt, while Tom Kenny, Charlie Byrne and Vinnie Browne present an inestimable trio to lead us from pulp to poetry and hopefully back again.

What about the kiddies? I can’t expect Heinz and Hildegarde to abandon their beloved progeny while they pontificate the finer points of Tristan and Isolde.

Well, (mmhmm) we have a festival for children too. Aislinn OhEocha has Baboró in fine fettle, and thanks to Kevin Healy, grownups are annually laughing like kids at Galway’s own Comedy Festival.

We’ve storytelling at Moth and Butterfly, Andrais de Staic for thespian fiddlery, Emma O’Sullivan dancing on the streets and I have to stop here, as nothing will happen without heaps of cash.

No problem.

Galway’s businesses have been tapped up ten times too often for sponsorship, but with the names onboard my 2020, they’ll feel confident of its massive success.

They’ll know it’s being done by Galwegians, with Galwegians for Galwegians, and the rest of the world can come too if they want, which they will, in great numbers.

Local sponsorship is vital and also inclusive. Everyone in and outside the city has to feel the buzz of involvement.

No need for local politicians at all, save for traffic stuff. Instead I’d follow the 21st century money to the multinationals, the Medtronics and Bostons, who have PR departments that exist solely to be seen investing in local communities, ever eager to be associated with success.

Then I’d approach major Irish-American corporations in the US and offer tax-deductible packages so wholly irresistible that they’ll rush to slice chunks off their marketing budgets to be a part of it.

Can we feed all these people? We have Enda McEvoy, Seamus Sheridan, Jess Murphy and JP McMahon.

Can we quench their thirst?

Galway has a festival for that: it’s called life.

Organise a year-long party in Galway? There is no better place for it, no more able population.

I’d never look outside for anyone to help run 2020.

That would be ignoring the best of what Galway has to offer, and it’d all go horribly wrong.




26.05.2019.
©Charlie Adley

Monday 20 May 2019

SEVEN DAYS THAT INSPIRED FANS WORLDWIDE!




“I really enjoy your colyoom, except when you write about football.” they say, so if I do, I usually try to engage those soccer agnostics, by contriving newsworthy reasons to be scribbling about the Beautiful Game.

Not this week.

I make no apologies this week.

This week I just want to celebrate the drama and yes, on rare occasions, majesty of the sport.

Thank you football, for bringing me a week of miracles!

If Chelsea aren’t involved, it takes something special to have me leaping out of my chair and punching the air with exuberant joy, but that’s what I’ve been doing.

Chelsea and Tottenham are traditional hardcore rivals, but I went doolally when Lucas Moura put in his third goal last Wednesday night.

Just like Liverpool the night before, Spurs came back from a three goal deficit to win their Champions League semifinal, against a young and vibrant Ajax team.

Like a begrudging sibling who’s not allowed to go on a family trip, I’m happy for Spurs, particularly as they did what they always do in the league.

Perched deservedly third, safe and proud for most of the season, Spurs faded and died, just like the bubbles in the West Ham song.

Schadenfreude is too weak a term to describe how football fans share their rival’s defeats. On May 4th, while Chelsea played elsewhere, news came in that Tottenham had lost to Bournemouth FC.

Armed with heartwarming memories of the many ways Chelsea have historically scuppered Spurs’ dreams of Europe, the crowd at Stamford Bridge lifted their voices in a rousing rendition:

 

“It’s happening again!
It’s happening again!
Tottenham Hotspur…
It's happening again!”


With the top two teams over 20 points ahead, there was a heck of a scramble for 3rd and 4th places, which offer the kudos and moolar of Champions League footie next year.

Tottenham were tumbling, Arsenal were evolving and Manchester United were a bored and boring bunch of mercenaries.

Thanks to these three teams playing even less well than us, Chelsea somehow ended up third, with a Europa League Final against Arsenal to come.

Arsenal made it by going to Spain and giving Valencia a proper pummelling, while Chelsea did it in classic Chelsea style and fashion, on the last nail-biting kick of a penalty shoot-out against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Personal London needle: it’s the Gooners in the final. Grrrr.

Just as well I was able to harvest glee from the glories of other teams, as this season Chelsea were typical Chelsea.

Depending on the transience of Venus in relation to their own backsides, Chelsea players decided they’d only play in either the first or second halves of games.

In True Blue fashion we were lead by an eccentric manager, in nicotine junkie extraordinaire, Maurizio Sarri. Wearing his glasses on his forehead, he picked his nose in interviews, and played the best holding midfielder in the world out of position.

To be fair, N’Golo Kante did a fantastic job on the right wing, but that’s like saying a perfect apple did a great impression of an orange.

Why, Maurizio?
 

I watched the last day of the season with my excellent friend Whispering Blue. A lifelong Manchester City fan, his team were in charge of their own destiny, needing to win their match to win the league.

Pep Guardiola’s finely-tuned, immaculate and intimidating Ferrari finished once more at the top of the pile,

It was the only game that mattered, but try telling that to the fans at Anfield.

Manchester City and Liverpool occupied a title race so relentlessly perfect that Liverpool finished second, having lost only 1 game in 38.

Throughout their final league game, the adoring fans at Anfield sang and roared, and when it all got too much for that legendary Liverpudlian Twelfth Man, they just spontaneously rose to their feet as one to applaud.

Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool is a sleek, smoothly engineered BMW 7 series, filled with luxurious skills and reliable abilities. They replied to legendary Barcelona’s 3 goals with 4 of their own, in a match that left fans around the world jaw-droppingly blown away

Liverpool’s miraculous victory inspired us all to believe that we never need to accept defeat, while the game - or life itself - goes on.

Daring to dream, Spurs did the same the next night, and now all 4 teams in the two major European finals are English.

I call the teams English, but of the 88 players who started in those Champions League semis, only 8 were English, 12 were Spanish, 9 Brazilian and not one of the managers was English. No English payer scored a goal

Mind you, while it’s easy to dismiss the Premier League, to say it’s full of foreign players and owners, and only money counts, that’s overlooking a unique and vital factor.

The cliché claims “There’s no easy games!” because that’s the truth.

Other European leagues have only two or three powerful teams, but in England the grounds are packed for every match, and there is no weak opposition.

Chelsea legend Petr Cech summed it up, when asked why he’d refused to play elsewhere in Europe:

 

“I’m not a big fan of the Italian league. You go from stadium to stadium and it can be half empty. In the Premier League the stadiums are full. The football is played with passion.”

It is the best league in the world and I love it.



©Charlie Adley
20.05.2019

Sunday 12 May 2019

I’M BLOWN AWAY BY THE BLIZZARDS OF SPRING


The blizzards of Spring are a wondrous thing, and only some are snow.

On this hilltop, surrounded by trees, there’s one blizzard that runs year-long.

I’ve lived on three farms and know my way around a midge.

When I first came to see this place last November I noticed that two midges had hitched a ride back to Galway with me.

On my next visit I looked and saw clouds of the little buggers.

At other times in my life seeing midges that prolific in Winter would put me off living here.
 

I love being outdoors, so expected to turn to the landlord and say thanks but no thanks.

Instead I said “Yes please! I’ll take it!”

Right now my needs are more concerned with solitude and rebuilding than small biting insects.

I’ve a lot of healing to do, and I know how to make myself better. I was happy to trade nature for commotion, midges for traffic noise and woodlice for concrete streets.

Who knew there were so many different sizes and types of what I’d call a midge? There’s an impressive museum of assorted squashed species on the inside of my windows.

This exhibition, bought to you by a Charlie Byrne’s bookmark, wielded with some skill by The Curator (I like it!) is wholly renewed every two weeks, when I get out the Windowlene and Mr. Sheen.

I’d prefer not to kill things, so I’ve invested in an impressive combination of Citronella wick infusers and room sprays, but nothing seems to deter these brave bloodsucking blobs.

Also, it seems nobody has told them they're not meant to be biting until June. Clearly my earlobes and neck represent the gourmet cutting edge of midge cuisine.
 

I’m curious to see how bad it gets in Summer, when - shuddering - they’ll be out in number.

When it blows dry from the East it’s lovely, but on a warm and wet day, if the door is open for a few seconds, The Curator will have to organise several rows of new exhibits for display.

Doesn’t matter.

This place offers me what is important, and anyway the midges are only here because of the trees.

I’ll share my space with midges, just to have the trees.

They are splendid. As the weeks go by I’m learning their language, the way they speak differently, depending on which way the wind blows.

I’ve heard the treble hiss of their spare bare branches, as the freezing East wind cuts through, and their bass bellow from our prevailing South-Westerly gales.

The North wind hits the back of the house, where sycamore and beech and horse chestnut roar and scream, while out front the Southerly brings a warm whimper accompanied by occasional gusts of soprano howl.

The plethora of wildlife that loves and lives in these trees moves all around me, in blizzards of varying energy and speed.

Stepping out first thing in the morning I see everywhere blurry flashes of brown and white, as hordes of rabbits scatter.

Growing veggies here would be pointless. There’s thousands of bunnies, and while I love to grow and eat parsnips and broccoli, I can’t get what I’ve just seen out of my office window down at Aldi.

Professional growers notwithstanding, it is plain impossible not to smile when you see a bunch of baby bunnies bouncing across your lawn.

New to this patch of ground, the natural calendar unfurls around me day by day. 


It takes four seasons and then some to understand a little of the land you live on. It wasn’t until Hannah wreaked havoc that I discovered the blizzards which accompany a Spring storm here.

Every centimetre of the entire patch was covered by fallen leaves, twigs and catkins. How much damage had been caused to the trees, with all this loss of new growth?

What of all those newly-built nests?

I’m blessed by a million different types of bird around me here, and every day I need their appetites, as other blizzards are in progress.

On warm Spring afternoons the air is thick (and I mean soupy) with midges, flies and hatches of thousands of flying things, of differing size and varying levels of hairiness.

As you can tell, I’m an expert.

(Woah! Sorry, but a fox just loped across my lawn, 10 feet away from me. Look out bunnies! Or good luck, fox!)

Two weeks ago my prayers were answered. As I sat here and wrote I saw out of my window - oh bliss oh joy - the most welcome blizzard of Spring.

I didn’t know when the swallows would arrive, but as ever, on the same Southerly breeze that produced the insect hatches, they came in number, like the 7th Cavalry.

Well, if the 7th Cavalry were beautiful, aerobatic and benign. 

 

Mind you, benign’s not the word, if you’re a midge. There’s 10 or 15 swallows amd swifts right now diving and ascending in a manic grid outside my window, arriving for the feast of hatches and yay, stop here lads!

Spend the Summer with me. Stuff your beaks and create many babies and make my life less bitten and more beautiful.

The blizzards of Spring continue.

Blizzards of hailstones smash into vulnerable seedlings.


Blizzards of blackthorn blossom fill the air with pale pink flakes, and soon the hawthorn will offer a blizzard of white atop every hedgerow.

As I step out, weasels and sparrows, rabbits and stoats, foxes and pheasants, all dash into hedges, their movement making the fields feel alive.

Carpets of dandelions have shot up, shone yellow and blown, to be followed by rivers of daisies, while the warm glow of a buttercup blizzard awaits.


©Charlie Adley
12.05.2019.                                                                          

Sunday 5 May 2019

DID THE IRISH GIVE THE ENGLISH FOOTBALL?




While the FAI deal with a massive physical metamorphosis, with new bodies and attitudes replacing old, their equivalent across the Irish Sea is undergoing a struggle of an existential nature.

Only the English FA is called simply the FA. Other countries who don’t claim to have invented football have to declare their national identity in their association’s name.

Soon after taking his post in 2015, FA Chief Executive Martin Glenn talked of his desire to rebrand the FA as the EFA:
 

“We go to international conventions and say, 'Hi, I’m Martin Glenn and I am from the FA. Which one? Obviously the English, because we invented it.' Changing the name would possibly be a solution … I think we are perceived as arrogant…”
 

Good spot, sir. While progressive thinking is always welcome, it’s a bit of a shame that particular ship sailed centuries ago.
 

Back in October 1863, every English football club and school had their own rules. Some allowed players to carry the ball, others permitted kicking seven shades of shite out of their opponents.

Matches were impossible to organise, because the rules were not matched.
 

On the 26th of that month a group of Victorian gentlemen created the Football Association, with universal rules for all English teams, but does that make England the home of football?

They shook hands, passed the port, and 156 years later complaints were made after the World Cup semifinal, where England fans sang 'It’s coming home.'

Have to say, as far as offensive football chants go, ‘Coming Home’ doesn’t make the premier league. Driven by neither racism, vitriol nor misogyny, it’s a pop song, not a document of historical importance.

The news that the FA face becoming the EFA might not sound like that much of a problem, but as an Englishman I know a highly precious few out there are feeling humiliated.

To a certain strain of jingoistic English blood, this loss of being special, this drift from supremacy towards what they perceive as degrading homogeny: this is anathema.

This tiny minority control much of England’s money and power, living their lives lost in a paradoxical existence, wherein they prize and strive to protect an English identity they claim is strong, while constantly obsessing about its imminent destruction.

If the FA mirrors the English establishment and its national culture, the leadership of the FAI represent everything that stinks about Ireland.

I choose to live here and love the West like a cat loves tuna, but over decades I’ve grown to understand and loathe the way power and money are brokered in this country.

In no small way, the current FAI scandal feels to me like a microcosm of every aspect of this nation’s established modus operandi.

There exists in the FAI and Ireland a massive sense of unaccountable entitlement, impossible these days even in England, where the notion was honed.

Here people in positions of power, from minor to major, act with impunity, attract money corruptly and spend it at best dubiously.

Committees, Tribunals and Enquiries accept wallpaper amnesia, and to us proles it feels beyond frustrating that these self-serving walls cannot be breached.

The fact that they often act within the law is the fault of legislation, not these chancers’ moral compasses, as they have none.
 

Pretending to care they pump the parish, getting shiny city shoes dirty on the playing fields, pressing the flesh in the pubs, while feeling nothing but scorn for the small players, be they constituents or football fans.

It’d be crass and unprofessional of me to complain how for years I’d felt like having a shower each time I watched Delaney being interviewed on TV. The man always looked pure slimy, but that’s personal, unnecessary and hey, I don’t care.

What I’d really like to know is whether anyone has investigated Delaney’s personal finances? 


I wonder if there was any reason why it might have benefited Delaney to be €100,000 poorer for the time period of that loan?

Claiming that an institution with a turnover of €50 million could not phone their bank about an overdraft limit is beyond ridiculous; another example of scornful behaviour.

They treat us with contempt because they tend to get away with it.

As it happens I may have come up with a way of rebirthing the FAI, while getting one over your auld enemy on the way.

Still luxuriating in my pool of unprofessional behaviour, I cite as my source the Ladybird book: ’The Story of Football.’

If like myself your first contact with history came in the form of Ladybird books, you’ll recall that they were completely partisan.

The one about Alfred the Great said he was brilliant, defeating the terrible savage Vikings. 


Then the one about the Vikings said they were brilliant and not savages at all.

Given that level of reliability and accuracy, I cite the paragraph on page 14, where it says that around Tudor times:

“The matches held on holidays grew bigger and bigger. The game was sometimes called hurling.”
 

Well now, was it indeed? 

How eminently plausible it is that a crew of passing Paddies, possibly digging local holes, might have kicked the ball and showed the English how to play.

Destroy the FAI and all that’s in it.
 

Rename it the FA.
 

Start again.

If football’s coming home anywhere, it’s coming back to Ireland!



23.04.20-19.
©Charlie Adley

Sunday 28 April 2019

EIR HAVE MY MONEY AND I CAN’T GET IT BACK!



(I've been overwhelmed by the response to this piece in the newspaper, so please only contact me if Eir owe you money, and you're happy to be included in a group file that will be forwarded to Eir's CEO and ComReg. Thanks.)

If it has only happened to me then I’m just unlucky. If it’s happening to many of you, it’s one hell of a scam.

After years of being obliged to be an Eir customer, I thought I was finally free. 


They’d had me monopolised by the short and curlies for ages, overcharging me for calls that should’ve been part of my bundle and proving a nightmare to deal with.

When they ran Fibre broadband into my home, it was impossible to resist. 


Due to that aforementioned monopoly, I’d no choice. Eir were the only provider.

At that time I was paying 427 different communication companies the GDP of a small country each month, so I sold my entire soul to Eir.

A landline, two mobiles, internet and, god help us, Eir TV, which has an interface designed by a blindfolded wildebeest.

To be fair, once they wholly owned me, Eir failed to overcharge me at all.

Then I was forced to move house, far from Fibre Broadband. It was the proverbial ill wind, as it allowed me to rid myself of Eir.

Or so I thought.

Naturally I was completely unsurprised that giving notice on my bundle was far more complicated than it needed to be. After a visit to the shop, several calls and emails, I finally received their formal confirmation of my cancellation request.

They said they’d cut off my broadband two days before the end of my service period, and the phones were going to go … well, they weren't exactly sure, but soon.

I just obeyed, even when the archaic sods demanded: “You must return all TV and Fibre broadband equipment to us within 30 days after your service is cancelled to avoid any charges.”

Do what? Send it all back? Nobody asks for that! You’re ‘avin’ a larf!

Experienced with Eir, I’d kept their original boxes, into which I packed all the required leads, cables, remote controls, prize rubies and deep-fried pigeon livers.

Weeks later they sent me a single Freepost address label, so I had to buy a mailing box, but not before I took photos of all the equipment, so they couldn’t charge for any missing items.

Sure enough they didn’t. They came up with a whole new and especially dastardly way of upsetting me.

Over the decades I’ve successfully fought for my rights against TalkTalk, Sky, Hertz and any other corporate entity that robs or wrongs me.

Unlike most people who have lives and better things to do, I will hang on for that extra 20 minutes and then send another letter to a CEO, as this newspaper allows me the opportunity to share these struggles, so you know you’re not alone.

Millions of us are screwed daily by despicable disingenuous global giants, so it’s important we know we are not a collection of lone victims, but part of an army that’s being slaughtered in the consumer trenches.

At some stage all these other companies acknowledged a problem, reacted and compensated.

However, as many DVs from the archive will attest, Eir are impervious to mere customers.

Finally free from Eir I settled into life in my new home, sure I’d escaped the one company that has always foiled me.

A few weeks later I received an email, saying my new Eir bill was available online.

What?

My account had been cancelled, my phone proudly carried another company’s Sim, while my broadband is now a combination of Chinese wizardry and a super-fit hamster on the roof.

I decided I could die happily never looking at that bill.

Then I received an Eir bill in the mail, saying they owed me €70.06.

A stream of unprintable expletives erupted from my North and South.

This is where I need to know if I’m alone, because if they’re creating credits with all their departing bundle punters, we could be looking at fraud.

I had done exactly what they asked. I’d delivered precisely the notice they demanded and paid every bill on time, and they had cut off all my services as and when they decided, so there was absolutely no reason for discrepancy.

The bill showed credit was due for part-period charges that ran beyond their own cancellation date. 


Eir set all the timeframes, yet somehow contrived to take money from me for periods they knew - as they themselves had decided - I was no longer a customer.

My Eir horror was about to get worse. In order to have my phone call accepted, I was required to tap in either my Eir account number or phone number.

Ever vigilant, ever logical, Eir’s screening robot recognised neither, as both had been cancelled.

With the tenacity of a pitbull on speed, I eventually managed to find a voice with a heartbeat, who immediately transferred me to the oblivion of call waiting where, after 23 minutes of being told my call was important, I was cut off.

A few days later I tried again, explaining that they had essentially robbed me of 70 quid. If they didn’t put me through to a supervisor or deal with my request I would take legal action.

They refused to help me retrieve my money, instead insisting on transferring me.
 

In turn, I refused to be sent once more into their musical torture chamber.

Instead I wrote this, which will be cut out of the newspaper and sent to Eir’s CEO and marketing department.

I gave it everything I had, people, but so far have failed to breach their corporate walls.

Every month the bills still come. Eir are taunting me with the money they owe me.

Let me know if Eir have done this to you too.
 

It’s time we fought back.


charlieadley1@gmail.com


Charlie Adley
18.04.2019

Sunday 21 April 2019

THE CONUNDRUM THAT IS PÁDRAIG CONNEELY!



Although others doubtless felt relief at the news of Pádraig Conneely’s retirement from politics, Double Vision lost one of its favourite foils.

Over the last two decades, Podge and I have enjoyed gently upsetting each other.

My first encounters with Pádraig Conneely came on Friday lunchtimes in the early 1990s, when we both chose to hang out in the Connacht Tribune newsroom.

A smattering of editors leaned back on their chairs, enjoying a bit of craic, chatting about the latest news and scandal, while the floor vibrated beneath our feet, as presses and conveyor belts printed and assembled the newspapers below.

New in Galway, ignorant and curious, I wondered who was this strange man, sat with his feet up on a desk down at the end of the room?

With his with oiled hair and pinstripe suit, his face carried a worldweary scowl. He looked like a baddie from a black and white movie, but was he there to nick our news or feed it to us?

Editor Mike Glynn advised me that it was a bit of both; that he was some kind of unofficial PR for local Fine Gael.

When in 2004 I returned to Galway from North Mayo, I discovered that far from lurking in the shadows, Podge had now become the most visible figure on Galway’s political scene.

Obstreperous and obstructive, outspoken and on occasion plain vindictive, Podge made headlines each week by disrupting the council chamber.

His omnipresence in local media was clearly and blatantly down to self promotion, and he was starting to drive a lot of people plain potty.

That’s when this colyoom told the people of Galway how I’d played ‘Podge’s Breakfast Bingo’, which entailed sitting at my kitchen table with a Full Irish on the plate and a pile of local papers.

I could eat each item only when I saw either a photo of Podge, or read a story in which he was mentioned.

Front page story about him: there go my rashers. Photo of him on page 2: fried eggs down my gob. Photo of him and a story about him on page 7: snarf my bangers with slices of toast.

Hours later, Podge took his revenge by talking on the radio while I was lying in my bath.

Did I really have to listen to his complaints as I lay there naked?

There truly was no escaping the man.

Podge made it known to me he was unhappy about the piece, but that in itself meant nothing, as he was always unhappy about something.

Even back then though I suspected there was more to the man than vanity. Was it possible that such profound cynicism as his harboured a wit dryer than desert sands?

Several years later we met again in the Tribune newsroom, where he smiled and walked up to me.

“You haven’t written about me for a long time. Write something about me.”

Astonished by the fearless honesty of his order, I looked him in the eye, making sure he was being serious.


“Really, Podge? But it didn’t exactly go well for you last time, did it? What would I write? What do you want me to say?”

“Just write something about me.”

It was impossible not to admire Podge’s ability to be brazenly demanding. He made no pretence of his ambition. I went off and wrote about Podge asking me to write about him, just as I’m doing again now, and yet again, the man made it clear he was unhappy.

That time I didn’t care.
He’d asked for it.

By 2008 Podge had risen to the top of the local tree, making waves in national news by earning the moniker of ‘Galway’s Maverick Mayor.’

Around that time we found ourselves on a boat together, during a regatta. Puffing on his fag, Podge shouted impatiently at the skipper:

“How long are we out for? I have to get back soon! I’ve places to go!”

Surrounded by a fleet of Galway Hookers, we were in the middle of Galway bay on a gloriously sunny afternoon.

’What’s the rush? Relax!” I admonished.him.

“You know what I like, Charlie? I like shopping in Chicago.”

Podge then proceeded to reveal things about himself that I cannot print here. Suffice to say he managed to deeply shock a man who thought he was beyond shocking.

Yet again, Podge had been blatant, bold and completely unapologetic. I felt as if he was almost daring me to write about what he’d said, but I won’t, as there’s another side to the conundrum that is Pádraig Conneely.

Early on the morning of Podge’s inauguration as mayor, I called him from a clubhouse in the city. I’d just started working with a group of young Travellers and was disgusted to find that the place was in tatters.

Windows were broken, shards of glass sticking out of the frames, while live electric cables were hanging loose from walls.

As I explained to Podge on the phone, it was unfit for any humans, never mind young ones. Once he’d settled into his new office, could he maybe do something about it?

I hadn’t expected Podge’s reply: “I’m on my way, Charlie.”

15 minutes later he was in that dilapidated hovel, assessing the situation, his spanky new mayoral robes and ceremonial chains glistening in the darkness.

“It’s a disgrace. Leave it with me, Charlie.”

That afternoon two men arrived and fixed the place up, and here lies the quandary. Intensely irritating and cravenly self-promoting, Podge cares much more than he allows his image to show.

Part irritating whinny, part concerned councillor, Podge was and always will be a paradoxical character, and therefore a true Galwegian.



©Charlie Adley
21.04.2019.

Sunday 14 April 2019

I LOVE SPRING BUT I LOVE SLEEP MORE!



That clock change couldn’t have come at a better time. Every year around now I start waking up ridiculously early. 

We’re not talking mere incremental minutes per week, but hours.

I’ll happily admit that the odd dawn is a wonder to perceive. 


Sometimes you have to get out there and wander the dew-drenched grasses, watch mist lifting slowly from distant reed-strewn dips, drying out and disappearing under the strong sun.

There’s an exquisite calm about that time of day.

In the magnificent trees around my new home dawn is increasingly orchestrated by birdsong. The chorus will reach epic levels in weeks to come, but that’s not the reason I’m waking up.

I’ll sleep through anything natural. 


Hailstones slamming my window? 
Zzz. 

Falling asleep to storm force winds? 
Yes please.

The sound of smashing rain is my codeine, but a distant motorbike has me sitting up in bed.

Far more blathering fool than evolutionary biologist, I reckon that the reason I wake up at 5:05 am at this time of year is primal. I’ve noticed it’s very much a male thing.

As soon as I give out about waking up silly early, there rumbles a collective blokey muttering of “Yeh, I know, me too, tell me about it.”

You can have all the lifestyle sleep well live full breathe deep pooh well apps you want, but none of them are more powerful than the one inside you.

If you’re a male mammal and it’s light, there might be other predators about, so you’ve got to be awake; alert; protect the brood.

Ironically far from 21st century woke, but that’s the way it was, that’s why I do it, and it’s exceedingly irritating, because I neither need nor want to be wide awake that early.

If I were anything approaching a sensible being, I’d rise at first light and construct a day with another sleep in it somewhere.

Introducing: The Connacht Siesta.

I love my sleep, and for a while I’ve been taking medication at night, but recently I ran writing classes with 34 first-year girls at Our Lady’s College, and decided that if I could do that, I didn’t need the pills any more.

Just realised that my ‘Male Oink Must Protect’ theory is pure bunkum, because dawn comes much earlier in the Summer, yet I only wake up this early in Spring.

I don’t know. Spring is a crazy season, perfectly named. The sun is high enough in the sky to deliver deep comforting warmth to our faces, but like a bound coil of metal, the weather bounces back and forth, as if ten minutes ago was tomorrow.

Ten days ago I sat in this chair at 9:15 in the morning, working away while snow fell hard and heavy, on a brutal northerly gale.

At 11 I took my coffee outside, under a blue sky dotted with wispy little clouds, ambling along on a gentle breeze.

An hour later I put on the light, as there was none beyond my window. The sun now a distant memory, the sky was the colour of coal.

Vast clouds ripped asunder, unleashing driving crashing hailstones.
 

In minutes my garden transformed into black and white, above and below. A monochrome vignette for a moment, and then the sun came out and it all melted.

Spring: it doesn’t know where it’s going, and we’re mistaken if we think we can follow nature’s clues.

Naturally our old folk sayings and country maxims make much sense, but also we know that wildlife really hasn’t got a clue.

Flora and fauna respond to whatever the weather delivers, so just because you see a bumblebee buzzing by it doesn’t mean it’s a good time for bumblebees to wake up.

A warm wet February encourages plants to germinate, and then high pressure moves over from the east, bringing a long dry hard freeze that spells curtains for fresh green shoots, as well as the food chain that feeds on the plants now unable to grow.

It’s not all luvvy duvvy harmony and balance out there. Nature’s world is one of chaos, random events and mutations.

We humans have drawn lines that link species, paths of evolution and the ways of DNA, yet we flatter ourselves when we believe we can control the ecosystem.

Destroy the present order of it, yes, but we will not be the last species alive on this planet.

Whatever whichever season delivers, I try to make sure to appreciate it. I’m not going to worry about that bumblebee making it. I’m just pleased to see him fly by.

Planted long ago by someone I know only from their love of nature, bluebells in the tiny bed stand tall and beautiful, while others are popping up under bushes and sprouting from the lawn.

The trees here are tantalisingly close to unfurling their glory, while the hedges are already full of leaf and life, filled with wrens, tits and all manner of tiny beasties scrambling in and out at high speed.

Every year’s first flush of colour, the celandine has gone, passing its yellow flag to breathtaking gasps of primroses, lining the high banks of my driveway.

If I look long enough in any direction and a brown shape will move. Big furry fluffy bunnies flourish round here.

A brace of technicolour pheasants live in the back field, screeching as they flee low overhead, each time the fox comes to visit.

I fear for their chicks, but nature will do what it will.

It’s Spring.

Time to wake up and embrace life.

Yeh, but it’s 5:10 am and no, go away with all your glorious nature stuff. Leave me alone. I’m going back to sleep.

Hmmm.
Sleep.
Lovely sleep.




©Charlie Adley
14.04.2019

Sunday 7 April 2019

IT'S THE PEOPLE THAT MAKE THE WEST MY HOME!



“So what was it that made a London boy like yourself feel at home here?”

Group Editor of Tribune newspapers, Dave O’Connell is sitting in for Keith Finnegan on Galway Bay FM.

“Well, just off the boat from France in ’92, I was working as a kitchen porter in Kinsale, but my eyes were drawn to Connemara on my map. When I went there, phwoohh, it was like meeting my soul in a mirror.”

Yeh, dead poetic, but actually I just made that last bit up. 


Can’t remember exactly what I said on the radio, but it wasn’t as good as that.

Point is, ever since that interview, I’ve been pondering the idea of home. What I said was true, but it set me wondering, because it’s far from the whole truth.

(Indulge me please, as I give thanks that English is my native language. I know but cannot explain why ‘wondering’ and ‘pondering’ do that. English must be a nightmare to learn. Monkey Donkey. Digression over.)

When I finally moved to Connemara in ’94, I experienced home at last. For the first time I’d a little house all to myself. 


2 miles from the village (pub), the 12 Pins everywhere, moonscape moraine and Granuaille and Donal’s auld ruined love-nest out of my kitchen window.

I felt I’d run out of countries. There were still untold places I hadn’t been to, but that house was the end of my own long road.

How perfectly ironic that after I’d hared around the planet twice, I ended up in the country next door, where I’d never been; never thought of going to; knew nothing about.

When I’d hitched in new countries as a teenager I treasured contact addresses and phone numbers.

A sofa to sleep on, a hot shower and conversation with a local: comfort to the young traveller.

By the age of 32 however, I was delighted that I knew nobody in this country.

Not a soul.
A clean palette.

I was done with doing countries. I wanted Ireland to happen to me, and it did, both socially and professionally.

Here in the West I feel that I’m swimming with life’s tide.
Within a single month of arriving opportunities personal and professional appeared: Salthill nightclubs and King For A Day Tuesday afternoons in an Tobar, a job working with young Travellers in the Rahoon flats and this colyoom.

Given the job of blathering opinion at the locals, I was handicapped only by the aforementioned fact that I knew nothing about the country, its people, history, culture or politics.

No divorce.

No contraception. 
No skin colour apart from excruciatingly white. 
No ruling parties of the Left or Right.

Had I walked through the wardrobe? 

How come this place was hanging out just to the left of England, where all of the above were entrenched; unquestioned?

In the process of trying to learn about Ireland, I realised I’d found my home. Asking questions earned answers that twisted my brain and knotted my funny bone with paradox and intelligent nonsense.

I loved it, but then I loved another more, and left Ireland. All my life I’d wholly moved on, always forwards. Now I felt a yearning; a strong need to go back.

Is that what made this home? 

No, not that. 
Not because when I left it I grieved. 
Not that, even though it was so powerful it drove me insane.

I don’t want the reason this place feels like home to be as pathetic and drastic as ‘I can’t live without it.’

There are countless reasons more positive. The compassion of the people in the West is unique and incredibly welcome.

I love that here nobody blinks when you say you're a writer. The old fella at the bar in my very first Irish pub grunted at me:

“Ah, a scribbler is it? Sure, doesn’t every fecker have a novel stuffed under the bed?”

For years home became North Mayo. Before a marketing miracle turned the West Coast of Ireland into the Wild Atlantic Way, on February mornings I walked DownPatrick Head and Kilcummin Back Strand, utterly alone in overwhelming majesty.

Part of my home will always be London, home to my family and lifetime friends. One of them is turning 60, so recently I trawled my photo albums for ancient and hilarious pics of him.

In the process however I kept on seeing three male faces. Page after page they turned up.

Thankfully, it wasn’t only work that fell my way when I arrived in Galway. I met Blitz in the Jug o’Punch, and he introduced me to The Body and Whispering Blue.

I hadn’t moved to Ireland to hang out with Crusties from Reigate, so it was beyond brilliant to meet three local lads, all of whom had travelled and lived life.

Last week Blitz was in town, so we put the band back together for a midday coffee outside The Quays.

Was a time when that arrangement would've been absolutely lethal. Decades older and altogether achier, we actually drank coffee. I looked at the lads and realised another reason I feel at home here.

Long ago these three local men insisted I feel at home in their homes, and I did.

Later that night I walked into a bar to meet Blitz.

A friend waved his hand from far across the bar. I waved back, catching the eye of another in front, who thought I was waving to him, which I would’ve, had I seen him.

The barman said my friend had just paid for my Jameson, and it was all rather a bit too wonderful, when Blltz’s better half (proportionately unfair to the woman) appeared out of nowhere and gave me a great big hug.

Home?

Reckon.



©Charlie Adley
07.04.2019.

Monday 1 April 2019

INCORRECT PRIVATE CONVERSATION


In today’s world of pristine polished prose, squeaky-clean speech and super sensitivity, we have learned to sand down spoken rough edges that might cut the sensibilities of the vulnerable.

Let’s face it, if we’re honest, we’re all vulnerable. Who’d want to upset anybody in the course of their regular day?

We keep it clean, not because our souls are shiny, but because we know that we too sometimes feel attacked.

Thankfully we also know that when we’re with others of similar spirit, we can have a bloody good laugh,
telling tales nobody could share in the public domain.

One day last week there was a group of lads, three local-born and one Blow-In, sitting inside on a day when the world was more drenched than an overloaded dripping sponge.

Every outside surface was soaked, the air thick with grey.

A fire roared in the hearth. On the TV You Tube meandered around algorithmic past preferences, choosing a soothing mixture of songs it felt these four Bags of Mostly Water wanted to hear.

Strong hot tea arrived by the mugfull.
Bellies were full of spuds, mince and gravy.
The mood was gentle, light and calm.

“Was walking back from the Prom and popped into O’Reilly’s. Anto took me up to look at the view from his rooftop bar. Tell ye lads, that’s got to be one of the best views you’ll ever see from anywhere in the world.”

“That’s stretching it a bit, eh?”

“Tell ya. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.”

“Did you walk past the Warwick? See the state of the place?”

“Oh don’t even. So sad, it’s all but derelict now, pretty much ”

“Thought they’d sold it?”

“Yeh, there was something about that alright. Didn’t they want to turn it into a nursing home?”

“Yeh, that’s right, but there was an objection and an appeal. Think they might’ve got the go ahead now, though. Not sure.”

“A Nursing home? The Warwick a nursing home. More old people? God but Salthill is getting vey old.”

“Yeh, but hey, let’s be honest, so are we lads.”

“Speak for yourself. I’ll always been a lot younger than you, and never forget it.”

“Older and wiser, I’ll settle for that.”

“You’ve no choice, ye bollix.”

“Just imagine, like, if you end up there. I mean seriously, how many who’ll end up there would’ve started off there?”

“What d’ya mean, started off there?”

“I mean like, how many of us started up at the Warwick, or the Oasis, for that matter?”

“Jeeze, well, seeing as you’re asking, don’t mind admitting, I had my first ride there. Sham gig I think it was. Can’t remember much of it, to be honest. but I do know that it was there, in the Jacks it happened. Some of the other details are a bit blurry, like.”

“What details? You mean details like who it was with, and that sort of thing?”

“Yeh, well, kind of like that sort of thing. That kind of detail. ’Twas a long time ago. A bloody long time ago, and it’s not getting any nearer.”

“Yeh, but come on, seriously, really, you can’t remember who your first time was with? You’ve lost the name on your cherry? Ah come on! Don’t believe it.”

“Buckie was involved.”

”Ah well, okay, fair enough, but, so, if you don’t even know something as basic as her name, how do you know anything happened at all?”

“Some things you never forget, mate.”

Group guffawing ensued, tinged with the tiniest frisson of self-conscious tingling at how incorrect everyone was being.

Standards were about to plunge deeper.

“You had your first ride there, and now you can die there.”

First Ride There - Died There! That’ll be the slogan, on the ads, lads!”

More chesty knee-rolling guffawing.

Everyone was hooked on the roll now.

“Oh my god! First Ride There - Died There. Love it! And and and just think lads, you could be getting your pills from reformed dealers who sold you other ones when you were a teenager.”

“And injections from cleaned up heroin dealers.”

“And the Warwick’s DJs could be running the hospital radio!”

“Oh stop. Stop stop stop, it’s hurting! Like they could have still have all the old club nights. Like Sex Kitchen on Friday nights, getting down and dirty in the saucepans!”

“Yeh and Wednesday Night’s The Reggae Room, when patients are allowed to try alternative therapies. Herbal treatments all round, eh! Very nice, don’t mind if I do. To help the pain, see. Purely medicinal, like.”

“Yeh, and Thursdays could be Naked, with the extra buzz that nobody’d bat an eyelid if everyone just dropped their jammies and boogied down!”.

“Sounds great. Sign me up!”

“Yeh but who could afford it?”

A brief silence of buzzkill fell upon proceedings.

“Jeeze lads, for feck’s sake, we’re not quite ready for booking rooms in the nursing home yet. Get over yourselves, boys, for Christ’s sake. ’Tis a shame to see the Warwick get like that, and maybe it’ll be best to convert it, but hey, shteddy on with the tie me up to a drip stuff. We’ve still got a tiny bit of life to get on with, before any of us are ready to hand over our teeth at reception.”




©Charlie Adley
01.04.2019.

Sunday 24 March 2019

WHAT DO WE EVER TRULY WHOLLY OWN?



There are three cracks running from top to bottom on the inside of my Chelsea mug. Against the white they look like long thick dark strands of hair.

The base still appears sound, but I’d look a right plonker if it fell apart and scorched me with boiling hot tea.

Binned. It’s a goner.
 

The mug that presently qualifies as my mug is emblazoned with photos of the 2010 Double Winning team. 

A gift from another True Blue, it reminds me of the day I turned 50, stomping exuberant and ebullient around a bar in Greece, swigging a bottle of Jameson from the neck, watching Chelsea win at Wembley.

In proper Chelsea tradition, this mug is also strangely defective. It seeps from the bottom.
 

Always has. Pick it up and there’s a little ring of dampness on the surface left behind.

Votcha gonna do?

My this, my that. Does it matter?

Mugs come and go, part of our lifetime conveyor belt of fading ephemera. Worn out, broken, lost or discarded, we no longer even possess much of what we once felt we owned.

Unless there’s a history or a personal significance to an object, I see no value in owning it.
 

Ironically, the things that matter most to me are not mine at all. In the eyes of the law (and family members!) everything I have is rightfully mine. Yet I’m only their caretaker. They’ll survive beyond me, in the family.

There are a few possessions I care about that aren’t heirlooms. I love the tiny mini sea stack I was given by a dear friend on Omey Island. 


Then there's the two neolithic stones I found in a flower bed in my back garden. One is a cutting tool, worked well to a sharp three inch blade, the other a simple hand axe.
 

These are not mine either. I have them, but they belong to the soil, and will doubtless be returned there at some stage.

It’s okay for me to feel I own them for a while. Their original owners no longer miss them.

There is Blue Bag, my 35 year-old travelling companion, and even higher in the longevity league, my gold Parker pen, which I was given as a bar mitzvah present.

This pleases me, as gifts given to the boy becoming a man are supposed to last a lifetime.

There’s a sentimental corner of me that loves the memory of using that pen to start writing my daily diary at the age of 15, while there it is, sitting beside me now, and here I am, still scribbling.

Hallelujah.

Is it that kind of continuity we seek, when we try to own things?

Does the idea of owning something delude us into believing we have cheated death for a weak beguiling minute?

Maybe, but there’s more to it than that.

I have objects around me in this house that long ago travelled from London and Brighton to the west of Ireland. 


Far from my family in the UK, I take great comfort in seeing Gran’s tiny chest of drawers in its rightful spot, beside my desk, wherever I work.

Dark oak, with carved acorn drawer handles and perfect dovetail joints, it was handmade by a craftsman, where today a stud, some glue or a weak nail would do.

Much more than that, it’s Gran’s. My mother’s mother was a wonderful woman: eccentric, kind and always interested. Along with her magnifying glass, which sits atop my fireplace, her presence is here with me.

My Dad’s parents are here too. I found them both difficult people, yet truly appreciate the two paintings I have from their Hove flat. They bring me much pleasure.

Do I own them?

Here once again ownership feels contentious. Both artists have respected reputations, but what fascinates me most is not what they might be worth, although naturally I’d like to know, but more whether those who care for and curate the artists’ collections know these paintings even exist.

Do I have some kind of moral obligation to let their estates know about these works, hung in private homes since who knows when?

Do they, in some way belong to those others, as well as me?

What’s he bloomin’ on about?” I hear you cry. “Get the paintings valued, pronto Tonto! Then we’ll see how much he still wants to own his precious paintings!

Sorry if my musings seem otherworldly and crass, but I’m allowed to wonder with such naivety, as I don’t feel I own these paintings.

I’ve no children, so one day they will pass to my nieces and their children, and so it goes.

Also treasured are my father’s father’s long lens field glasses. They sit by my back door in their sturdy old leather case, strung all over with romantic little silver, blue and scarlet tags, telling stories of decades ago, when Pops had access to the Members Enclosures and Private Clubs of the racecourses at Newbury, York, Sandown Park and Ascot.

Electric Ireland sent a note last week to say that the power would be off in my house from 9am-5pm yesterday, so I drove to Galway, spent good time with valuable friends and arrived back home around 4pm.

At 4:53pm the power returned.

7 minutes early. 

Early? 

What’s Ireland become?
Are we Scandinavians now or something?

“View me! Join me!” implored my Sky box, as it hummed and whirred into life. “Vital vote, you know you want to know, Brexit Brexit Brexit!” it whispered, but I ignored it.

After resetting the heating and oven clock, I sat in my armchair, draping my old family picnic blanket over my legs, and returned to my crossword.

Sitting by the fire.

Warm, fed and housed.
 

I don’t own any of that, but it’s all I need.


©Charlie Adley
23.03.2019

Sunday 17 March 2019

YOUR MISSION: FIND THE NUN WITH A SCYTHE!




The bloke on the radio is all excited about the EU decision to do away with moving the clocks twice a year. When he’s told that each country will choose which time to be in, he gasps and gabbles about how he hopes we stay in Summertime.

Of course he does. It’s Spring and one of the benefits of living on the western edge of a whopping great time zone is that we enjoy ridiculously long summer evenings.

At the risk of being predictably contrary, I have issues with late dusk. Around 10 I’m ready for darkness to fall.

Call me crazy but I like to greet the day when it’s light and go to bed when it’s dark.

Along with just about every Irish person I’ve spoken to, yer man has idealised a romantic midge-free Irish Summer soirée that very rarely happens.

It’s only natural that as we emerge from darkness we dream of light, but how about looking beyond the next season, and thinking how we’ll feel in January?

If he and the rest of you have your way, those Winter mornings will be so dark for so long, well, b’ain’t natural, s’all I’m sayin’.

All bets are off after last Summer’s months of fierce heat. We all need something to look forward to, and what better than days of sunshine and seaside frolics?

My mind ambles off to the beach, arriving on the sublime sandy shores of Inverin, and the memory of one very strange day.

Back in 2006, when I was a youth worker, we took a group of teenage boys from the estates of Galway City to a community house just off Inverin beach. 


It was a busy place, used by many youth groups, and the idea was that if you visited, you also contributed to the upkeep of the house.

I suggested to my boss that our lads could mow the small patch of lawn and clear up the the long grasses. Was there a mower or a strimmer available?

“That’d be too easy for them, Charlie.” he said calmly, as a smile grew on his lips, “Let’s find them a scythe.”

“Right, a scythe. No bother chief. I’ll just nip down to Scythes’r’Us and pick up a few.”

Behind me a leader of another youth group piped up.

“A scythe you’re after, is it? I live in Spiddal, and there’s a nun who lives behind the church there, and I know she has a scythe.”

My boss looked at me with a clear and simple message in his eyes, so off I went to Spiddal, somewhat tickled by my mission: track down the nun with the scythe.

She was a hard woman to find. At the church I accidentally gatecrashed a christening, and then became lost wandering the backrooms of holy places in which I did not belong.

Eventually I stumbled upon the nun by a vegetable patch, behind a neighbouring house.
 

She lent me her scythe, which I took back and introduced to the lads, who moaned and complained when they realised there was no motor.

“No lads. You’re going to be both the petrol and the engine.”

Walking away from a chorus of muttered curses, I left them to master ancient farming ways, and help out in the kitchen, where a gigantic communal lunch being was prepared for all the groups.

A couple of hours later, while fifty kids sat and chowed down, I was doing dishes at the sink when one of my lads poked his head through the serving hatch.

“Charlie! Charlie! Can I have some more cereal? Please Charlie! Please?”

“Hello Thomas. Here’s what we’ll do. You go and sit down and wait until everyone has eaten their cereal, and then, if there’s any left, you can come back and ask me again.”

“Sound.”

The woman standing next to me, drying the dishes, turned to look at me and in a sheepish whisper asked:

“Oh! Oh! Hope you don’t mind me askin’, but are you a priest?”

I looked at myself through her eyes, dressed in my black T-shirt and black jeans, looking after kids and borrowing scythes from nuns, but all I could do was splutter with laughter.

“No. No, I am not a priest. I’m just a Northwest London Jewish boy!”

“Oh! Ah, oh, I see! Oh, Jewish, did you say? Oh, well, I mean ah, that’s wonderful.”

She appeared to be adrift in surprise.
For some reason I felt mildly irritated

“No, not wonderful. It just is. He was one too, remember. Himself over there in the picture, with the heart?”

My life is strange enough, without having to mess with the clocks twice a year.

Whichever they choose, one thing we know: here in the West of Ireland, on 300 days each year, we’ll experience all of the seasons together.

I’ve been in this house for just 5 weeks now, yet in that time I’ve sat outside in shorts and a T-shirt, soaking up the heat of the afternoon sun. I’ve watched a blizzard rage beyond these windows and shovelled snow off my car.

I’ve seen that disturbing yellow-green baby pooh glow on western clouds, which heralds something odd heading in from the east.


I’ve viscerally felt the approach of those familiar purple-black cloud towers, which bring powerful storms off the Atlantic.

There have been perfectly silent foggy mornings, with muffled sunlight dispersed over hills that have disappeared, and screaming windy nights, when the ancient trees that surround this house have bent and roared and stood defiant.

I have tried and failed to sit outside on windless warm evenings that cook up a midge storm. Nobody’s told the little buggers they’re not meant to be biting yet.

Maybe it’s Global Warming.

Maybe it was ever thus.

Whichever hours are daylight or dark, we'll revel in the wonder and be at the mercy of Connacht’s climate.



©Charlie Adley
17.03.2019.

Monday 11 March 2019

I FEEL FEAR AND WAIT FOR IT TO DISAPPEAR!


(This will be the last time I write here about the last 9 months. At all times I tried to preserve the dignity and privacy of everyone concerned. Enough is enough. I wanted to write this piece, for those of you who have felt the same and may not undertand why, and I needed to write it as a form of catharsis.)
 


A couple of weeks ago I described myself here as “twitching around like a post-traumatic fart in a colander.”

I wish I hadn’t.

Those souls who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) do not deserve to be the butts of cheap one liners.

Especially as right now I’m suffering many of the symptoms of the condition.

I’ve not got the whole megillah, as thankfully I’ve had no nightmares yet, and if you met me out and about, you’d say I’m in blinding form.

Unlike others with PTSD, I’m positively enjoying my public and social life, until something triggers another unexpected nadir, creating a fear-driven compulsion to rush back home and feel safe.

That I do, and then I don’t feel safe.

Between my ears there’s a particular madness going on.
 

Thankfully I recognise it.
 

We’ve met before.

I still feel the fear it creates, but I’m able to understand it, which is incredibly helpful.

I was lucky, because the first time I experienced this fear, a supremely qualified friend of mine explained what was wrong with me.

He fought in the Falklands War, and has seen and done things nobody ever should. His life has been ripped apart by PTSD.

Back in 2001 we sat smoking rollies, drinking strong sweet mugs of tea, dunking chocolate biscuits.

“Yeh, well, it’s like I sit at my kitchen table, mate, and I know I’m incredibly perfectly safe, rural west of Ireland, y’know, but I don’t trust it. It feels like someone or something’s going to come along and take it away from me … or take me away.”

“Oh yeh. Post-traumatic to fuck, mate.”

“Nah! I’ve not been in a war or a crash or anything.”

“You’ve just sat there and told me about four years of rage and depression in California. That’d do it.”

“Really?”

“Bloody right.”

“Woh! Okay. Bloody hell.”

“Yeh.”

I am a patient man.

Thanks to my friend’s tragedy, I know that in time this feeling will diminish and disappear.

That’s what I keep telling myself.

It occurs to me that If I’ve experienced this mental state twice, many of you must be feeling it too.

How could you not, in this world where children die; where tragedy stalks?

Now I feel those same fears again. I’m not suffering as my friend does, yet the fact that my symptoms don’t tick all the PTSD boxes doesn’t make the fear feel less real.

The shock is there. I’ve been in crashes. I know how shock feels: that detachment and cocoonedness.

After a month without TV channels, this news junky turned on Channel 4 News to find Krishnan Guru-Murthy appearing to talk through several layers of bubble wrap.

I’ve had the trauma. Now I’m in shock, and know that in time this feeling will diminish and disappear.

I fear what the mail woman is putting in my box.
More bombardment? No, just a phone bill.

I’m nervous at the thought of a friend coming, although his visit turns out to be a delight.

Two voicemails appear on my phone, from two unknown numbers. In saner times I’d wonder what bright new opportunities these callers might represent.

Now I am gripped by fear.

Not anxiety: I know how that feels, and this is not that.

This is fear; fear of more incoming fire.

Turns out one message was from a phone company, offering fab new deals, and the other was a misdirected fax machine screaming at me from England.

Glad I didn’t take that pill and wipe out an afternoon.

Don’t like medicating myself to get through a day, because I know intellectually and experientially that I’m safe in this house.

This fear is just an irrational and unfounded feeling.
I look at it and wish it would leave me.

More than anything I know that in time this feeling will diminish and disappear.
 

That is all that matters.

For 8 months I felt I was under bombardment from three directions. The landscape of my life was demolished, my income suffering too, as I was emotionally unable to deliver my Autumn writing course.

Thankfully I’m now excited at the prospect of teaching again, and taking bookings for my Spring Craft of Writing Course (details below), and yes, I know, what chutzpah, writing about being all Looney Toons, at the same time as suggesting you pay to learn from me.

Charming.
 

You decide!

Those 8 months were not the time to deal with emotions. Blinkered, getting through, I recognised each as it rose up, and then put it on the back burner with all the others.
 

At certain points I felt secretly and utterly desperate, but a new way of life had to be created.

I just had to keep going.
You know that one: when you have to keep going.
 

I know you do.

Two of the three conflicts have yet to be finally resolved, but now I have a new home, where I am safe, even if I don’t feel it.

Here the fear will pass and then I’ll be ready to face those emotions cast aside.

Next week the post woman will bring good news, in the shape of readers signing up for my Craft of Writing Course - did I mention that details were below?

If you are feeling unfounded fear, please tell a trusted friend, a doctor or a counsellor.

It helps so much to understand why you’re suffering, and know that in time these feelings will diminish and hopefully disappear.



©Charlie Adley
11.03.2019.

***



Charlie Adley’s Craft of Writing Course
Westside Resource Centre, 
8 weeks, April 4th - May 23rd, 
every Thursday, 7:15-9:00.

€120/110. Deposit or pre-payment essential. 

To reserve your place
call: 085 729 4204, 
email: charlieadley1@gmail.com



Sunday 3 March 2019

I REFUSE TO CHOOSE IN GALWAY’S IMMORAL DILEMMA!





What foul modern skulduggery is this?

I enter the hotel room to find myself confronted by a miniature model of an alien spacecraft.

This sleek chrome and black construction is nothing more than one of those pod coffee machines that millions use every day, all over the world, but to this ageing scribbler, it presents two challenges.

First I’ll have to suss out how to use the damn thing, while also trying not to feel like that old bloke on social media, filmed trying to start his hoover by repeatedly yanking the electric lead, thinking it worked like a lawnmower.

I laughed my socks off watching him, but now I’m the no fool like an old fool; incompetent; worthy of mockery.

Paranoid and thirsty, I try to make a cup of tea.

Alongside the rows of multi-coloured sachets of fancy shmancy coffees on the tray below sits a pile of teabags on strings in packets.

Surely they’d not be so cruel as to taunt me, were a cuppa not possible?

How hard can it be?

Take off this plastic jug on the back and fill it with water. It doesn’t really click back in place quite right, but it’ll do, I hope.

Now take the teabag and what? Put it into the mug, Adley. Keep it simple. Then place the mug on the little metal platform and just run hot water into it.

At the back I find the power button and the machine comes alive. An under-lit glow of 90s Nightclub Blue appears, while in front of me three flashing white lights offer a tiny, a medium and a big cup.

How big is their big cup?
Is that bigger than this mug?
Is there now a universal size of coffee?

A Grandee Tallee Muchico, or somesuch?

Will the water overflow the mug?

I press the big cup light and nothing happens. All lights continue to flash.
 

Okay, so maybe it’s waiting for something to be put in its slot.

I slide the teabag inside where the coffee sachets are meant to go and press the mug button again.

Nothing happens, but then I notice a swivel handle that runs around the outside of the machine. It lifts from the back, just like a detonator handle in a cartoon.

I raise it over the whole machine until it rests flat, facing me.

All of a sudden lights stop flashing, the big mug light stays on, and water begins to hiss and gurgle at what sounds like great pressure.

I look at the coffee sachets below, thinking how robust they look, compared to a teabag.

Oh bugger! What have I done?

That teabag’s going to get mashed to a papery meshy stringy pulp and no, ye eedjit, of course you don’t put teabags in there!

With imaginary Star Trek emergency klaxons ringing in my ears, my mind cries ‘Abort! Abort!’

Switching off the machine, I reach to save the teabag, which promptly drops down and disappears into the machine itself, apparently lost forever.

Damn and blast and how do I get that out now?

Down on my knees I search for an opening but find none, and then realise the sachets must drop somewhere. The teabag has simply fallen down to the place of dead sachets.

‘That’s a relief!’ I think, slumping onto the edge of the bed, contemplating the ecological disaster caused by used coffee pods.

3g of coffee comes in roughly 2g of packaging, each taking between 150-500 years to break down, dumped several million times, every single day.

This catastrophe of consumerism ruins my walks, where I see the detritus of life left everywhere.

Every five steps there’ll be a can or bottle thrown from a car, while the ditches below are swamped with split bags of domestic waste.

I’m lucky to have the time and space to sort my rubbish and recycling, because bin trucks will not come here. I pay 6 quid for each bin bag and €3.50 for a ticket for recycling, and then drive 20km to the Civic Amenity and 20km back.

Driving with a carload of month-old crap is, well, smelly, and I resent having to pay to recycle.

Where’s the incentive?
Well, apart from the Polar Bears and our own mass extinction.

Yeh, I know.

What I resent even more are the dilemmas modern society forces upon us.

Some questions should never be asked. Galwegians are presently gripped by an immoral dilemma: should we care for our dying or the environment?

If this is the answer we seek, we are asking the wrong question.

Watching RTE 6.1 news I find myself torn, both morally and personally, because Galway is still a community.

I’ve known Caroline Stanley, of Friends of Merlin Woods, ever since I arrived here in 1992. She was my first next door neighbour, and now makes clear that their fight is not against the Hospice, but for the environment.

Speaking on behalf of the Hospice, there’s Keith Finnegan, who recently showed me private kindness, while my Craft of Writing Course students enjoy the opportunity to read on his show.

I flinch when others pour scorn on birds and butterflies. I know we need bees and biodiversity to survive, and equally I love the Galway Hospice and respect everyone who works there.

I refuse to make this choice between life and death.

Anyway all I want right now is a cup of tea

One last attempt: put the bag in the mug, hit the power, lower the mad handle, lights flash and hey, happy days, here comes hot water!

Hours later I notice a plastic strip card right above the coffee machine. “Six Tips To The Perfect Cup Of Coffee!” it says, with six photos for idiots like me.

Okay, I’m not an old fool.

I’m just a regular everyday fool, who looks but does not see.



©Charlie Adley
03.04.2019.

Sunday 24 February 2019

ONE OF TWO BLUES MAKES THIS TRUE BLUE FEEL TRULY BLUE!



I remember the advice of Joël Francois, a gentleman and Martial Arts master based in Galway.

“We must be like a cane of bamboo, Charlie. When times are hard and the wind blows, we must be flexible and bend, so that when times are good we can be strong and upright.”

We hapless proles, we have no choice.

We’re used to bending.

Down here in life’s lower echelons, we learn pretty quickly that if we refuse to bend we’re either chopped down in our prime or snap, crackle and pop our way to an early demise.

Left to our own devices, we’d very possibly prosper, but inevitably and regrettably we have leaders.

They demand we bend this way and that. If we could look them in the eye, our backs would be straight and our visions clear, but that doesn’t happen.

Instead, we’re forced to accept them, whether they were our choice or not. In return we expect that these supposedly superior souls will display, at the very least, the same intelligence, sensitivity and vigour that we possess ourselves.

Right now I’m busted up inside, because I’m just back from London, where I felt a deep dark gaping hole where leadership should be.
It’s a messy farce.

A majority of the major players are at worst only mildly incompetent, at best gifted and inspired, yet somehow, day after week after month after year, they fail to show any flexibility.

They stick to what they believe is best for their vested interests, refusing to follow their leader, who in turn offers only one game plan; one tactic; one way of making things work.

Then again, I suppose it’s my choice to be a Chelsea fan.

What’s that?

You thought I was on about the House of Commons?

Both my football club and my native country are in a disastrous mess, drifting aimlessly from minor victory to catastrophic defeat, with dissent their life blood.

There’s not one decent leader in either of these entities I love.

Maurizio Sarri appears a natural Chelsea manager. He’s mad as a hatter, enjoys a nose pick while talking on TV, wears his glasses high on his forehead and has such a serious nicotine habit he has to puff furiously on inhalers during games.

Hip managers cite him as an inspiration, but he’s never won anything, while ‘Sarriball’ seems to be just high pressing possession-based football.

Like the Prime Ministerial Maybot herself, Sarri appears completely intransigent, saying only and always the same thing. When we go down 4-0 to Bournemouth and 6-0 to City, it’s because “…the players lack motivation.”

Er, sorry, but you’re paid squillions a week to deal with that.

For decades Chelsea as a club reflected life: major victories were few and far between, times to be relished, memories to be nurtured for lean years of abject mediocrity.

Then Roman Abramovich and his tainted roubles won us everything in sight, but now, with the Russian far away from Theresa May’s hostile environment, Chelsea are back, in all our unreliable infuriating glory.

Meanwhile, just up the river, the House of Commons mirrors the diversity of opinion among the people of the UK like never before.

It’s the job of parliament to save us from the mob. If the people had their way there’d be capital punishment, stocks and dunking chairs. Usually MPs are more measured and pragmatic than their constituents.

Justice requires such temper.

However, right now the pebble dash stances of MPs fairly and faithfully represent the UK’s myriad factions and fractions, from Far Left to Extreme Right, Jingoist to Euro-Federal, with a few ideas you never imagined possible - and didn’t really want to - inbetween.

Matched only by the failure-filled intransigence of Maurizio Sarri, two weeks ago Theresa May appeared to bend a little, throwing bones to sweeten her backbench barkers.

Wise, as The Conservative and Unionist Party are notorious for stabbing their leaders in the back, but she was just playing for time.

Chelsea players also know how to get their manager sacked.

There’s a long tradition of player power at the club. Just lose a few games in miserable fashion, drop down to 6th, then whinge off to Marina Granovskaia’s office to complain about the gaffer.

I've got my Chelsea back.
Now I’d like a sane UK government too, please.

Okay, sorry, I’m being ridiculous, but we do need a leader to rise out of this catastrophe.
 

Both the UK and the EU have been crying out for strong opposition to this feeble minority government, reliant on the devil and the DUP.

Tragically Corbyn has proved pathetically ineffective, while Tory dauphin Boris Johnson recently outed himself as an ignorant hypocrite.

Having earned €58,000 in 25 minutes by spouting pat loads of empowerment rhetoric at an event in Dublin, Johnson returned to England to dismiss the Peace Process in one simple tweet:

“We must extricate this country from the humiliation of the backstop.”

Humiliation?

I'll tell you what’s humiliating: being an Englishman who lives in and loves Ireland, who has to watch your ilk degrade the Irish nation by threatening The Good Friday Agreement, while also underestimating the intelligence of the British, by repeatedly lying about the need for neither a border nor a deal.

I think I'll ditch Brexit and stick to Chelsea.

At least when we score goals, I can celebrate.
Tory goals are merely own goals for us proles.


©Charlie Adley
14.02.2019.

Monday 18 February 2019

IT TAKES A YEAR TO SLOW DOWN AND SEE THE WORLD!



Standing outside my new house I look around and know the views are beautiful.
 

I also know that at the moment I cannot perceive all that beauty.

As a writer I’ve been lucky enough to earn a living working from several homes in rural Ireland, and I learned in the first, near Slyne Head in Connemara, that it takes a year.

It takes a year to calm down from the pace and madness of modern life.

It takes a year to become open enough to see all treasures that nature has to offer.

We jet off on holidays and drive around on staycations, grabbing our phones to take pictures of this beach, that mountain, those rolling hills.

We feel we’ve seen them, and wave our photos in the faces of other people, to show off the fact that we’ve been there, done that.

While their images may be planted in our brains and computers, we haven’t really seen them at all.

I know that for me it takes a year of living in peace, through all four seasons, before I can fully appreciate the depth and glory of my surroundings.

Already I’ve started to stare for ages out of windows, to stand in the garden and phase out as I watch the world around me, but also I observe myself, knowing that I’m still twitching around like a post-traumatic fart in a colander.

I’ve a long way to go before I see it all.

I’ll get there, day by day, and this time next year, when I stand in this garden, I’ll truly be able to appreciate this view.

I’m in no rush; simply excited at the prospect of returning to that state of inner bliss I’ve been lucky enough to encounter in similar homes twice before.

Time now though to stop all this fancy philosophising, and return to the mundane world of practical tasks: to go into town and buy a toaster and a kettle.

The shop is one of those old-fashioned cavernous places that sells everything from rugs to rat poison. A simple plastic kettle and one of those four slice thick‘n’thin toasters, off the shelf, over to the counter, sorted.

Yer man behind the counter neither speaks nor looks at me once. I hold my peace. This is my very first encounter with a shopkeeper in my new town, and I’m a firm believer in arriving in a new community with a very mild plop, rather than a mighty loud bang.

Whatever happens, I’m going to be nice.

As he hands me the receipt he says thanks, leaving me to wonder if his attitude was the result of me being a stranger or my English accent.

Maybe he was just having a bad day, or maybe abject disinterest is the local way.

Back home I discover that the toaster’s slidy handle on the left works, but the one on the right won’t stay down.

Oh bugger, what a hassle, but I might as well deal with it while the transaction is fresh, so I box it up in its plastic bag and cardboard surrounds, and drive back into town.

At the shop I’m greeted by an older fella who seems a lot nicer than the Silent One who sold it to me. Upon hearing my complaint he disappears into a back room, emerging with an extension cable that he plugs into the wall, and then plugs the toaster into that.

I stand and watch utterly bemused. Either I'm a liar who wants to swap a toaster for no reasonable reason, or an eedjit who doesn't know how to use a toaster.

What I am not is a customer impressed by this attitude. I grew up in retail and cannot for the life of me work out why this bloke thinks I’ve nothing better to do with my day than make up stories about a toaster.

I already told him I’ve just moved here, so you might think he’d be interested in keeping my custom, but no. He tests the toaster, which of course works absolutely perfectly, and then he hands it back to me.

I drive home, plug it in, and predictably it doesn’t work.

Grrrr.

Next day I go back to the shop, desperately hoping they will do the right thing. I made it clear that I just wanted to swap it for an identical one, so there’s no question of a refund.
 

Thankfully the older fella makes the right decision, and just gives me another one.

I smile and thank him profusely, going home happy that a combination of patience and experience have turned this first rather trying encounter with locals into a successful, if not wholly pleasant affair.

I will make sure to become a regular patron of the place.

Waiting for my toast to brown I see six black bullocks and one pregnant-looking Jersey cow run into the field outside my kitchen window. The young fellas frolic and skitter about, possibly just released from their Winter sheds.

They chow down like they’ve never seen grass before, but they have. Maybe their memories don’t go back as far.as last Autumn. Equally it’s possible their excitement is one of renewed familiarity with freedom and fresh pasture.

Just to their left is the leaf-strewn hole in the ground where I saw a beautiful fat pheasant emerge an hour ago. I think I saw three chick heads peeping out too.

In a flash of shadow I see behind the hedge a fox the size of a labrador. Rich pickings round here, then.

If I knew no better I’d think I was perceiving it all, but as I calm down over the coming months I know I’ll enjoy discovering more and more detail and depth in the world around me.

Sideways rain pummels this old house’s thick stone walls.

Everything is finally unpacked, and surrounded by the familiarity of my own possessions the place feels like home.

There’s two months of chaotic retro-filing to do in the office, but not right now.

That can wait.

First I’ll enjoy my toast and watch the world outside.



©Charlie Adley
18.02.2019.