Sunday 21 July 2019

FAR FROM PERFECT, FREE HEALTHCARE IS FANTASTIC!



Friendly young Mr. Musculoskeletal Triage is talking me through me the X-Ray of my knee on his computer.

He highlights and enlarges different sections, telling me how those spurs are signs of wear, and that those tiny spheres, floating loose in the middle, have been there a long while, as they’re all rounded.

“I’ve seen a lot worse knees!” he declares, to which I respond: “Hurrah!”

He goes off and leaves me in his room.

I sit there and think how incredibly lucky I am to have access to this level of free care.

I’ve travelled a fair bit, and seen people in developing countries who will never have a doctor. Even in First World America, it wasn’t until I found full time employment that I had a doctor and a dentist.

That felt so weird to this European. I was working as a temp in San Francisco, paying my taxes and the rent, yet when I needed medical attention I had to go down to the City Clinic, which was at that time a crazy cocktail of a drunk tank, A&E and homeless shelter.

The staff were friendly and did a great job, but the care and time they could allocate was tiny compared to the way I’ve been treated in recent weeks.

With achingly long waiting lists, patients stuck on trolleys and cancer screening debacles, there’s much wrong with Ireland’s Health Service, but there’s a hell of a lot right about it too.

People just don’t work those hours for that pay unless they are dedicated and vocational.

As it happens, my knee is as good today as it has been for months. I figure you have to take responsibility for your own health, and even though I’ve been a walker my whole life, I’ve had to switch to cycling.

Exercising outside gives my spirit and mood a vital boost. I don’t make myself sweat every day, l find my arms resting on my belly when I sit in my armchair.

Over the winter I allowed myself alarming levels of comfort eating. I grew huge, and being an absolute prat who doesn’t practice what he preaches, I continued to ignore the crushing pain in my legs.

Sciatic symptoms down the left; inflammation of the knee in the right.

Having a high pain threshold is a pain in the backside (arf!) because if you’re an idiot like me, it becomes easy to accept a life of severe discomfort.

Ah, stuff that: agony.

Sat still or striding, my legs were hurting for months. Well-meaning friends suggested mantras to release pent up emotions, while others insisted that the doctor was the way to go.

I feel sorry for them (my legs, not my friends, although now I mention it, I wonder!) as they’ve the horrific and unenviable job of holding me up, in all my voluminous wonder.

Around April I started to take anti-inflammatories on a regular basis and then sat down and had a stern chat with myself.

Walking means impact, and the golf ball sized swelling that had taken up residence on my knee was my body’s visible protest against it.

Changing my ways felt hard. I’m not built for speed. While others ran, I walked. I walked and walked and loved it, and walked and walked some more.

No more.

Wheeling my old bike out the shed, I got busy with the WD-40, inflated the tyres and climbed on board.

Gradually I built up my morning ride until now, even though I’m home in 30 minutes, I’m sweating and gasping (oh you sexy beast!) but not hurting.

My new GP sent me off to Roscommon for an X-Ray of the knee. No appointment, just a letter from the doc and easy peasy Batman, I was in and out in 20 minutes.

Yesterday I had the appointment at Mayo General, and when Mr. Musculoskeletal said he was sending me for X-Ray, I told him I’d already had that done.

“Ah, but y’see, we can’t access the Roscommon X-rays here.”

At that point I could’ve gone off on one, asking what the hell had I driven all the way to Roscommon for, if they couldn’t send the bloomin’ things to his computer?

Instead I figured the way it probably worked was that the Roscommon X-rays went to my doctor, as she sent me there, and then she referred me to this hospital.

Even though it’s simply plain wrong that they can’t all see the same X-Rays, I shut up and went off for new X-Rays and 10 minutes later was looking at them on his computer.

I already knew that my knee wasn’t going to get better. Once you pass the age of 50, you no longer get an injury from which you’ll recover: you acquire a condition that you have to manage.

‘Keep on keepin’ on!’ seemed to be Mr. Musculoskeletal’s advice. Mix a bit of walking in with the cycling, and stay pain free.

I’d been seen by a GP, two X-Ray departments and an expert in bones. Everyone had been exceptionally kind, and I had paid nothing, save for my tax contribution.

Access to free healthcare is described as a basic human right, partly because when you experience it, you feel more human.

All those people, their expertise and equipment were available to me. I must be worth it.

Mind you, there’s two physical phenomena no medical expert will ever cure.

The sounds of this man standing up:
 

The intake of breath grunt “Grufff!”
 

The rising “Ohhhhh!”
 

The arm-stretching “Eeeeeearrrghhhh!”
 

The steady on the feet there, Adley “Phoo-woawoawoohhh!”

Then, after the day is done, and alarmingly similar to the noise my late father used to make, the sound of a middle-aged man sitting in his chair:

“Arrrrhhhhhhhhhh….”




©Charlie Adley
21.07.2019

Sunday 14 July 2019

MY DARKNESS HAS COME TO VISIT ONCE AGAIN!

Happy Birthday Allan!


My friend, a previous editor of this newspaper, has done a runner. Up on stage in a packed arena, I’ve given him a high fallutin’ tootin’ introduction, but just as he would in real life, he’s shunned the massive crowd and had it on his legs.

Enter stage left Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, who come over to tell me that it’s all right, really. Everything’s okay.

I wake up and wonder at the inside of my brainbox. Three times every night it delivers crazy vivid dreams.

I’ve slept eight hours, so why do I feel so tired?

What’s happening today? I’m off into Galway to see friends, and for once I don’t have a big list of stuff to do.

Just drive in and have a laugh. That’d normally put a smile on my face, but I’m feeling all fuggy. A shower and a healthy breakfast will sort that out, I tell myself, and 45 minutes later I’m in my car, Joey SX, heading south.

Why is there is a frown on my face?

Where is my usual exuberance at the prospect of hanging out on Quay Street in the sunshine?

Why do I still feel so tried?

What is this feeling that’s enveloping my being?

Ah, yes. I know it.

Hello old friend. It’s never good to see you, but after a lifetime together, I do know that my depression comes with benefits.

It’s been a long while, and considering what happened over the last year, I'm truly surprised this is the first time I’ve been visited by my black dog.

Then again, it makes perfect sense for it to come now. I don’t have any control over when depression arrives, but this timing seems more than coincidental, as this is the first period my schedule has been clear, save for the most important thing of all: my own writing.
 

I’ve been waiting for a reaction to all that has happened, and now here it is.   

At least this time I realised what was going on. Rather than my usual two months of denial, I woke up and two hours later I understood.

Often there’s no apparent reason for the darkness arriving, but this time it’s no mystery.
 

Needier than usual, I sought support over the last year, yet it sometimes felt as if others turned their backs or disappeared entirely.

My head doctor says if you have two people in your life that you can talk to and trust, then you are a lucky person. 

I have four or five times that many, and truly know I am blessed, so each hurting has been successfully counteracted by giving thanks for how lucky I am.

Throughout the last year that worked really well, but little by little a succession of personal disappointments eroded my spirit.

Enter depression.

Before you all sigh and tut “poor thing”, you must know that for me there are many positive aspects to being depressed. I suspect that this particular depression will actually be quite helpful, even though I wouldn't say I'm enjoying it.

My depression can be quite liberating, because as showers of lethargy wash over me, I know I will expect nothing from myself.

I can just abandon myself to it, because there's nothing I can do about it. Things will not get done. Lists will be ignored, and that's all fine, as usually I'm so on top of my lists and getting things done, that they're all done.

Well almost. There's always stuff to do, but now is not the time to be doing.

Freed from obligation, my emotions can flood out, uninhibited by any need for me to keep it together.
 

Exercise will return the day the depression leaves. Getting on my bike every other morning is my mental and physical medicine, just as exercise’s absence is the flag bearer of my darkness.

I miss it and let it go. I allow myself to let everything go while I’m like this.

Maybe by the time you read this I’ll be emerging fresh, re-invigorated, pumped full of the joyous creative torrent that accompanies my upswing.

Maybe it will last for months.

Whichever, it will pass.

Depression is an essential part of me, as much as my arm, my heart, my imagination and spirit.

Fighting it would be as senseless as cutting off my hand because I’d broken a finger.
 

I am in my altered state, where I feel enclosed and stifled, while the world outside my existence appears to have changed. It's as if I'm the same and everything else is different.

I don't need mending, because I am not broken. 

I don’t need reassuring. 
I don’t need to be told to hang on in there, or to cheer up.

I will be like this for however long it takes.
 

This is just another form of me.

My self knowledge is almost comforting, yet it isn’t. It just helps me to feel safe, because I understand what's going on.

At the moment and for the foreseeable future, I'm in my dark place.

Safe and unsound.

As I write this I’m sitting by Ballyloughane Beach on a cloudy day, staring across the calm still grey waters of Galway Bay, towards the faded pink hills of the Burren.

The scene reassures me, yet I know that while I can see the beauty, I cannot experience it.

I will be patient, and appreciate what is going on.

I don’t want to bum out your summer, or rain on your Arts Festival Parade, so I’ll stay here, in my sanctuary, where I can be exactly the way I need to be.

Thank you universe, for giving me this peace.

I’ve accepted depression, and know it will pass.
 

It’d be great if you could accept it too.

©Charlie Adley
14.06.2019

Sunday 7 July 2019

GALWAY FILM FLEADH MAKES ME MOVIE MAD!



Summertime in Galway City slips up a gear or three next week with the arrival of the 31st  Galway Film Fleadh.

Running from Tuesday to Sunday, the festival is packed with premieres, historical treasures and masterclasses.

Hottest ticket this year is a documentary called ‘Cumar - A Galway Rhapsody.’


Created by director Aodh Ó Coiléain, a broad cocktail of local artists offer through chat and craic rare insights into the belly of the city’s artistic beast.

I’m fired up, so in honour of film, and just because I can, I’m going to hit you with some personal favourites.

This list is being created as I write.
Later I’ll wail about the movies I forgot.

Let’s start in 1954 with Elia Kazan’s ‘On the Waterfront.’ Forget petulant Johnny in ‘The Wild One’ and his mumbling mafiosi parody in ‘The Godfather’: dockworker Terry Malloy is Marlon Brando’s finest role.

Stunningly lit by cinematographer Boris Kaufman and given wings by Leonard Bernstein's score, Brando’s hero is accompanied by a phenomenal cast including Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger.

From brutal dockyard we leap into a green and rarely pleasant land, with Ang Lee’s ‘Sense and Sensibility.’

Emma Thomson spent years lovingly adapting Jane Austen’s novel into a superb Oscar-winning screenplay. 


Within the film, as Elinor Dashwood, Thompson produces a moment of acting that takes my breath away every time.

Watch it and you'll know, as well as seeing Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant play parts they were born to.

I defy you not to fall in love with Rickman’s Colonel Brandon.

From the gently insane manners of old England we move to the brutality of the asylum.
 

Working on a screenplay by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman, adapted from a story by Ken Kesey (you have to honour the writers!), Milos Forman created a masterpiece with ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’

A satirical allegory, a comedy, a tale of horror and cruelty, the film offers an astonishing cast of heartwarming eccentrics, as Jack Nicholson’s Randle Patrick McMurphy meets his nemesis in Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched.

Enthralling and disturbing, the film won five oscars in 1975, and its observations on our attitudes to otherness and conformity still ring terrifyingly true.

Next up comes the first of my curve balls. Pixar’s ‘Up’ took me by surprise when it popped into my head just now, but long into my 6th decade, I’m able to appreciate the wonder of today’s animation, in a way only those raised on Top Cat can.

Grumpy widower Carl ties thousands of balloons to his house in a bid to fly off to the rain forest, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a young stowaway on board who’ll heal Carl’s heart.

There are dog jokes, a comforting sense of humanity, and dreams coming true in ‘Up.’ We’re all allowed a little sentimental sugar-coating every now and then.

Enough with the nice, already.
Enter Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’.

Others might choose Mean Streets, Raging Bull or Taxi Driver, but this is the movie that delivers it all.

Marty’s in his prime, De Niro is born to play Jimmy, Joe Pesci’s entire career is defined by one scene in this film, while Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill is the portal to our world, where people like this really exist.

Better still, Hill’s voiceover is replaced by his Jewish girlfriend Karen, played by Lorraine Bracco. She went on to become Tony Soprano’s therapist Dr. Melfi, and in this essentially macho world, it’s great to hear a woman’s perspective.

My pulse races just thinking about it.

Time to relax then, with a gently whimsical curve ball, in the shape of Percy Adlon’s ‘Baghdad Café.’

Flawed and in the end a tad cringey, this gorgeously oddball film shows the relationships that develop when German tourist Jasmin Munchgstettner (Marianne Sägebrecht) accidentally ends up at the Baghdad Café, a truck-stop diner/motel in the middle of the Southwest American desert.

Atmospheric, weird and wonderful, we’ve a boomerang, a piano and magic tricks, while Jack Palance puts in a tremendous turn as Jasmin’s suitor, and CCH Pounder plays a blinder as Brenda, the owner trying to keep the place together. Gradually the two women form a strong bond, and life feels just a little better.

From fluffy duvet filler to bloodstained cars. It’s time for Travolta and Thurman to get on down in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction.’ Through labyrinthine time-twisting story threads we follow Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth as they generally get up to no good.

Harvey Keitel pops in to save the day and Ving Rhames chills the blood, and oh, let’s not forget that watch and Christopher Walken’s backside: Tarantino at the height of his powers.

The reels nearly empty, yet I haven’t had time to wax lyrical about ‘Man On Wire’, James Marsh’s Oscar-winning utterly inspirational documentary about egocentric hero Philippe Petit, who in 1974 defied the law (and common sense) to realise his life’s dream of walking a tightrope across New York’s Twin Towers.

I wanted to wonder whether Francs McDormand outdid her blistering performance in the Coen Brothers ‘Fargo’ with her imperious turn, years later, in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.’

No space to explore opening sequences, like Woody Allen’s jaw-dropping monochrome Gershwin adoration in ‘Manhattan’, and Ry Cooder’s guitar following Harry Dean Stanton’s Travis as he emerges from the desert, at the start of Wim Wenders heart-wrenching ‘Paris, Texas’.

Cut.
That’s a wrap. 

I love film.



07.07.2019
©Charlie Adley

Sunday 30 June 2019

CHARISMA DOESN’T COME WITH A MORAL COMPASS!



Charisma carries no moral code. It cares for neither colour, race, ideology nor creed.

Only charisma can link Muhammad Ali, Adolf Hitler, Madonna, Mahatma Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Martin Luther King.

Charisma doesn’t care if it’s right or wrong, good or bad.
 

Yet inevitably it wins, because we humans cannot resist it.

Boris Johnson relies on his charisma. Throughout his tempestuous political career, it has saved him from serial charges of lying, incompetence and adultery.

Tory leadership elections are notoriously unpredictable affairs. At first Johnson’s team tried desperately to avoid upsetting moderate members.


They bound and trussed him into Boris Lite, and told him to evade the media.

The restraints of Boris Lite inhibited his charisma, making Johnson appear flat and dull, but as we saw last weekend, you cannot cage this man for long.

During his regular fits of rage, Johnson likes to throw things across the room, displaying the arrogance of a man who never has to clean up.

Even a flat dull Boris Lite looks pretty perky and charismatic next to his opponent.

A graduate of the Ed Miliband School of Charisma, Jeremy Hunt had, at first, no choice but to present himself as the sensible cerebral candidate; the man with the plan; Theresa in trousers.

Now Johnson’s cowardice and evasion have handed Hunt an opportunity to bully the bully, although I doubt Hunt’s fortitude in that struggle. 


However Hunt is gaining ground, doing well at the Tory hustings because he’s able to respond to questions with answers, while his opponent can only offer fantasy.

This wasn’t the way Boris planned it. He wanted to respond to the Boris Signal and fly in to rescue Britain, after it had already crashed out with a No Deal.

Now his nonensical plan is to negotiate a trade deal with the EU during the Implementation Period after a No Deal.

Cue the kid watching the naked Emperor:

“What the hell’s he talking about? That’s impossible. There will be no Implementation Period after a No Deal.”

Tories say only Boris can win an election, but history shows that those good at winning elections rarely make great leaders.

The lovechild of Mick Jagger and a dry roasted peanut, Rory Stewart made himself noticed  by trashing the other candidates’ disingenuous talk of a new deal.

Yet with all their self-important posturing, not one ever mentioned the elephantine EU presence in the room: it doesn’t matter what Westminster does or doesn’t decide.

Come October 31st, if there is no deal, the EU will declare No Deal.

With just 4 months left, the Tories fiddle while Britain burns.

I want to explode every time I hear them talk of putting a time limit on the backstop. 


When they can form a meaningful sentence using the words ‘peace process’ and ‘temporary’ I will listen.

We here in Ireland know that No Deal means a hard border; a return to full partition.
 

The Tories can be cavalier about that, as they know the EU will be forced to build the physical border, to protect the integrity of the Single Market.
 

If you feel the English just don’t care about Ireland, you need to understand how we’ve been failed by our education. We are taught nothing about the place, its people and history.

By the time I arrived in Ireland I’d travelled the planet twice, could bore the pants off you with tales of Italy’s Risorgimento and the birth of Germany, but I didn’t even know the Irish had a civil war.

Ignorance is the weakest defence. I’m neither condoning English ignorance of Ireland, nor their contemptuous attitude to the peace process.

It’s just a tough truth: we weren’t taught about Ireland.

Conservatives whine on about their ‘precious union with Northern Ireland’, yet ask any about the situation there and they instantly retreat, wailing 


“Oh, I don’t know. It’s all too complicated!”

If you’re feeling confused by English democracy, that’d be because this isn’t democracy, merely hypocrisy.

Both candidates insist it’s vital to obey 17 million votes (while disregarding 16 million votes), yet one of them will be elected leader of a nation of 64 million people, by 0.3% of the population, mostly white affluent males aged between 57 and 72.

Beyond his inadequacies and obfuscations, the most troubling thing about Johnson is his unbridled opportunism. Of course we expect this of ambitious politicians, but Johnson’s absolute craving for power has morphed him into a moral vacuum.

Instinctively a Remainer and a liberal, his dribbling eagerness to abandon everything he believes in still manages to drop the jaw.

Ridiculous really, when we’ve just had a Remainer PM arguing to leave, while Corbyn is a Leaver arguing to, well, who the hell knows?

When the people of the UK needed a strong Opposition, they’ve had instead a Labour leader liberated from direction and conviction. 


Corbyn resembles a bewildered grandad, out on a day trip against his will.

The Irish have every right to feel anger about this Brexit debacle. As a man proud to be both English and Irish, it all feels crushingly sad.

Barring the revelation of a 6th (or is it 7th?) child, by the end of July we’ll be dealing with Prime Minster Johnson. His charisma is then likely to win a majority at a General Election, so he can dump the DUP.

However, charisma doesn’t get the job done.

After his No Deal Brexit has devastated the UK economy, and the hard border on this island has spawned violence, we’ll see how little financial and political support Johnson is willing to invest in Northern Ireland, to protect his precious union.



30.06.2019.
©Charlie Adley

Monday 24 June 2019

Your mañana culture has been good for me!




For decades I’d hitch everywhere. I hitched to the pub and school and friends’ houses.

When those friends became scattered around the country in various universities, I thought nothing of hitching to Bradford, Exeter, Oxford and Hull.

During teenage Summers, I’d hitch all over Europe. At 19 I hitched to Israel and then ventured further afield, hitching in New Zealand and Australia in my 20s

Adopting a philosophy that allowed no ill will to those who did not stop, I made the process pleasurable.

Why would anyone stop to pick up a complete stranger?

I poured scorn on those who swore and raged at each passing car.
Why choose such an angry path?

In the middle of absolutely nowhere for hours, I’d stand by the side of a road, enjoying a view that, quite possibly, nobody else had ever seen from that particular perspective.

Eventually a car would stop, but for as long as it took I’d wait, loving my place in the world.

As a result, I learned the power of patience. Even as I hear the scornful snorts of many out there who have encountered me as the opposite, I consider myself a patient man.

Just as well, as the West of Ireland’s mañana culture can be testing. Yet In many ways your laxity of punctuality has been good for me.

Being an anal retentive control freak raised in a Protestant country, I still arrive early for every appointment, but since moving here 27 years ago, I’ve become much more relaxed about making plans to see friends.

Thankfully in this Twittery age of instant gratification, rushing and immediacy, the people of the West of Ireland still become instantly and absolutely terrified when asked to make a firm social arrangement.

Such piercing and intimidating questions as: “Fancy a coffee next Tuesday afternoon?” are met with stretched wide eyes, while just the slightest hint of sweat breaks out on the Galwegian’s upper lip.

“Sounds good, yeh, let’s see how she’s hangin’ …” they fluff and mumble in return, and that’s fine, because here in the West of Ireland our social lives happen to us.

Unlike those who live in intensely populated areas of the world, Galwegians are so incredibly likely to bump into somebody they know, they just allow that coming together to happen and then enjoy it.

This amorphous social melding has served my soul well, helping me to relax, to trust spontaneity and chance.

Sadly however, when applied to business, Connacht’s creative interpretation of time drives me doolally.

I’m sitting in The Quays, as I’ve an appointment to meet somebody at 12. They asked for the meeting, and while I don’t know precisely what they want, I know for certain two things: the work will involve the use of my writing and editing skills, and I won’t be getting paid for it.

Given the individual involved, both of those conditions are fine.

In a slightly hippy-dippy way, I quite like doing the many unpaid jobs that others ask me to. Just as well really, as freebies are part of the deal for Ireland’s creatives.

It’d take me a lifetime to draw a leaf, but I’m able to edit in 40 minutes what might take others days.

As well as the simple pleasure I feel from helping others, I’ve put something out there which will one day return in benign manifestation.

Ah come on now, with all yer fancy syllables.
There’s no need for that at all.

Ye lads put it most succinctly: what goes around comes around.

Now it’s 12:25, and I’m still sitting in the pub, waiting for this person to arrive. They have my mobile number, yet have neither called nor texted.

Had I been sitting in that pub with no agenda, I'd have enjoyed doing nothing more profound than spend hours spacing out, staring at the whiskies on the top shelf … the crack in the wall … anything …

Instead I sit upright in Business Mode, alert and ready to listen, aware of each passing minute.

At 13:14 I give up and leave.

Grrr.
Taking the proverbial.

Part of me envies your ability to apply leisurely timeframes to your working days. When my presence has been requested, I find it challenging to wait for a requester who is extravagantly late, or like today, just doesn’t turn up at all.

I talk to many others who run their own small businesses, and the one thing that drives us all crazy is people's inability to commit to a time.

We’re ready and eager to crack on, build, create, do the job, but we have learned to let go, because often in the West of Ireland when somebody says Tuesday, they mean November.

I cannot think of how many local service people I have called who are unwilling to work during that period of time several million global residents describe as ‘the working week.’

They insist they can only call me back after 7pm, and if they can do the job, which they're not sure they can, it'd have to be at the weekend.

My patience crumbles into dust. There’s a point where this laid back ‘Jamaicans of Europe’ culture (no offence to Jamaicans, that’s just what the Irish call themselves) creates a workforce overcome with lethargy, where people prefer to procrastinate, rather than accept your business.

Or they call you, ask you to meet them, and don't turn up.

Thankfully life exists beyond business, so I willingly embrace your relaxed timekeeping, as it’s admirably lacking in materialistic ambition, and travels alongside a surprising social life.


24.06.2019.
©Charlie Adley

Sunday 16 June 2019

Time to break my magic spell of solitude...




The last four months of my life have been quite remarkable, in a very quiet way. 

At the end of January, when I moved into a house two miles outside a town where I know nobody, I felt neither the need nor desire to venture out and socialise.

When the landscape of your life fundamentally changes, the fallout is exhausting. 


I needed to withdraw; rebuild faith; repair my bewildered head; to live in my own space, where nobody could be offended when I jump in the air screeching with surprise as they enter the room, as nobody is going to enter the room.

I don’t know if this leaping and screaming is a characteristic of writers. 


Maybe it’s just me.

During waking hours my head wanders far far away, and loved-ones in the past have been justifiably upset when I shrieked with shock as they walked around their own their home.

My magic spell of solitude has not yet been broken.

Each day I sit and look down the driveway, loving the fact that apart from the farmer and the postwoman, nobody is going to come up it. 


...ain't nobody comin' up that...


For many of you, solitude of the intensity I’ve enjoyed over the last months would seem like hell on earth, but for me it has been perfect.

It’s how I make myself better, and although I’ve still far to go, this was never intended to be a permanent state of affairs.

I correctly suspected that by the time my spring Craft of Writing Course was finished, I’d feel more able to engage the town; to start building a life for myself here.

I’m ready now, but in no rush. Once the magic spell is broken it will be gone for good. Mind you, it’s not as if queues will suddenly start forming up the drive, for an audience with His Scribblership.

Save for calls to my wonderful mum, four or five days of absolute silence have been interspersed with intense social and work-related day trips to Galway.

We all need human contact, and I’ve enjoyed catching up with Whispering Blue, Soldier Boy and The Gillie, buying my Griffins bread (irreplaceable!), hanging out with The Body and Dalooney and then going off to teach, with croaky voice.

Back home here, after 12 hours of full-on social behaviour, my ears ring in the deep silence. 



In the meantime I’ve been getting to know my non-human neighbours.

There are now three robins that come to feed at my feet as I sit outside, while to my delight, a few weeks ago the baby bunnies on my lawn stopped running away. 


They must have been born since I arrived, so they’ve always known me, and happily bounce and munch, while I sit and watch.

Strangely, with all this verdant splendour, I spend a lot of time staring at the low breeze block wall opposite my kitchen window.

Shortly after I arrived here I noticed a yellow tit scouting around a hole in the grouting. His partner arrived, gave her approval and they were off, gathering seemingly endless tiny parcels of moss and white fluff, squeezing sideways into the teeny gap in the wall and flying off again.

After making thousands of these trips the nest inside the wall must’ve been huge. Then one morning Himself arrived back with a worm in his mouth, and I knew their chicks had hatched.

That was weeks ago and still, throughout every single minute of these extravagantly long days, the pair of them constantly squeeze in and out of their breeze block nest, delivering a constant conveyor belt of worms and grubs to their babies.

Now I’m looking forward to seeing cheeky beaks appear, and then watching those fluffy fledglings make their big leap!

Back in the human world I enjoy the time I spend in my nearby town. My face is known in the Post Office and electrical shop, as well as the wonderful ‘everything’ shop, and of course, the cafe where I have my Saturday breakfast.

When much suddenly changes in your life, you hang tight to the few things that stay the same: precious friendships, family support and personal rituals.

Working for myself, it’s important that one day a week I feel free from responsibility. That includes cooking, so one of the first things I did in my new town was check out all the pubs and cafes which served breakfast.

My needs are simple yet quite particular: I want two eggs without having to ask for an extra one, and I want to pay no more than €10 with healthy tip.

After a whirlwind tour that took in four establishments of varying poshness and one eggness, I found the venue for my Saturday ritual.
 

It’s a working class caff type place, with perfect menu and pricing, but on my first morning there I started to wonder if I’d made a booboo.

I was the only bloke around.
Ah but it was early yet.

Within 15 minutes the place was jammed with groups of local men, devouring huge breakfasts as they talked and laughed with each other.

Sound choice.

On my third visit the owner greeted me with words every human with testicles longs to hear:

“Good morning! The usual, sir?”

As things stand that’s the limit of my interaction with my new town, but that will change this summer. In the meantime I’ll enjoy these last few days of - Oh!
 

Oh!

My hand involuntarily lifts itself to my mouth, as 5 metres away, outside my office window, the fox trots calmly across the lawn with one of the baby bunnies in his mouth.
 

Good news for fox cubs, and to be fair, there’s no shortage of rabbits around here.

But oh.

The French nailed that one:  


C’est la vie, c’est la guerre.


©Charlie Adley
16.06.2019.

Sunday 9 June 2019

ARE YOU A CASUALTY OF THE NEW RUDE?




The evil spawn of The New Rude was born when we were forced to accept waiting on help lines. 

Not one of us escaped that moment when we first had to decide to give in; to relent; to realise we had no choice but to obey their corporate rules.

There is no alternative: we have to relinquish any lingering feelings of self-respect, as we hold the phone to our ears, listening to an irritatingly smiley voice telling us in doublespeak that our call is important to the company, while simultaneously and emphatically showing us it is not.

If you ever need a definition of disingenuous, it is that slimy suggestion.

Were our custom in any way important to them, we’d not be hearing 37 minutes of a looped recording telling us that we can solve our problems on the web. If we could, we’d most certainly not be calling them.

And the music.
Oh the music.

Be it Billy Joel singing while he's being electrocuted, or a jazzed up distorted Bolero screech, the music serves to wear down our resistance; deplete our will; whittle away at our self-esteem.

As part of the overwhelming response to this colyoom’s recent complaint about Eir, I was sent a clipping from the Sligo Champion, in which Ciara Galvin was reporting on mass walk outs by employees at Eir’s call centre.

According to one of those workers, Eir had told their staff to “Take as many calls as you can and don’t worry about the customer.”

We are the casualties of this war. We are not customers. We are enemies, to be cash-extracted in the way that least damages the corporate entity.

The New Rude stems from the way these companies make us feel less than worthy as humans. We absorb that lack of respect, and then export it, allowing it to influence how we deal with each other, increasingly in less than worthy manner.

The New Rude is infecting us all.

I’ve seen how it manifests itself, draining down like a leaking poison from mega global organisations into tiny family-owned businesses.

I left home at 7:30 as I was teaching a class in Galway at 10am, and needed to pick up work from the print shop on the way in.

The printers’ website clearly stated they’d be open at 8:30, so I was upset to arrive at 8:45 and find the place closed.

At 9:05 lights finally came on inside the building, and I made sure to keep an even tone as I mentioned their opening times.

“We open at nine.” she said, with her back turned to me.
 

“Well, sorry, but not according to your website.”
 

“No! Our website says we open at nine.”

Really? Are you really going to argue Trumpian fake facts with me now? 


I know it’s early in the morning and you’ve not had your double mochalattechino yet, but rather than being polite to your regular customer, or even, gasp shock horror, apologetic, you’re going to argue with me over your own inaccuracy?

Instead of thrusting my phone towards her to prove the truth, I smiled, gave her money, took my work and left.

Generally I like to spend my dosh in my local community, but as I drove away I wondered why.

My chimney needed sweeping, but there only seemed to be one person available, who lived in a town 25 km away. He said he’d let me know when he was going to be working in my area.

Six weeks later he sends me a text to say he’s in my town the next day. I text back saying that’s great, any time after 1pm would be wonderful, as I’m out in the morning.

He replies: ‘I’ll be there at 10:30.’

Angry at the disdainful way he’s dealt with me, I text: ‘No you won’t! I’m not here then! Can you please come at 1?’

I’m still waiting for a reply, but this is The New Rude: a callous disregard for the customer, propelled by universal belittling of individual needs.

The New Rude loves banks, where humans pluck us out from queues, to make lodgements with machines that we know are putting people out of work. 


It thrives in supermarkets, where we’re forced to interact with other machines that are putting people out of work. The New Rude depresses and dehumanises us, when we or the machine makes an error and we have to seek help from a human, who still has a job. 

When the machines all work and we all know how to use them, there’ll be no need for humans at all.

Thankfully at the moment The New Rude is merely the rusty hinge making noise. Here in the West of Ireland most of our social hinges rotate silently and smoothly. Here respect still exists between company and customer.

When I need to overnight in Galway City I usually stay with friends, but when that’s not convenient, I take a room at Flannery’s Hotel.

Crisp, reliable and unpretentious, Flannery’s is affordable and friendly, but a while back I experienced a minor misunderstanding with a member of staff.

Had the place been taken over? Had they too been swallowed by a plastic menu chain, who’d enforced a change in  attitudes to customers?

After having a gentle word in the manager’s shell-like, I felt wholly reassured and forgot all about it.

Months later I stayed there, and entered my room to find a box of chocolates and a card on my bed.

“Welcome back, Mr.Adley. We hope you enjoy your stay, from all of us here at Flannery’s.”

This hotel will never become rich from my occasional custom, but evidently other matters mattered more to them.

My spirits soared. They cared. As long as customers and companies continue to respect each other, The New Rude will never completely control us.



©Charlie Adley
09.06.2019

Sunday 2 June 2019

WE’RE ALL A BLISSFUL BLEND OF EVERYTHING!



When I realise I’ve been incredibly stupid I become excited; all of a quiver. 

Neither a potato with legs nor a member of Mensa, I like to think I’m smart enough, and then -  bam - I hear something I should know, or say something crass and I’m instant Homer Simpson.

As long as my ignorance has been benign, with no blood spilt, no dreams trodden on or hearts broken, I will revel in my own folly.

A few days ago I was sitting in my front garden with a good friend of mine, debating the difference between extrovert and introvert.

“I’m an introvert,” he said, “but I also need time with others. Of course, it’s all a spectrum anyway.”

That was my moment. My jaw still feels like dropping when I think of how fast and wide runs my River of Dumbness.

Shock and disgust came on heavy and strong, because they were built on two separate ares of my own ignorance.

The first was simply that I couldn’t believe I’d never thought about it in those terms, given that this whole introvert/extrovert malarkey fascinates me.

In no small way it has defined my major relationships and the way I live.

The second reason I was shocked was that all my adult life I’ve lived frustrated by the way others dwell in the land of absolutes, when it’s starkly clear to me that just about every aspect of the human condition exists within a spectrum.

Goodness knows why I’d chosen to perceive introvert/extrovert in absolute terms. I suspect that ego was involved, in that I am an extreme case of introvert, and by making the huge misjudgment of creating a false normal, the idea of moderation never occurred to me.

Of course, in my own case (and yours, because you’re human too!) there are contradictions.

One might expect someone who sees themselves as extreme introvert to be shy and nervous about social interaction, but happily I can shuffle a full deck of social skills, and appear to be a gregarious type.

I’d forgive you if you thought I was an out-and-out extrovert, but even though I’m genuinely having fun with y’all out there, behind the flesh, with every chat, every moment in the company of others, my energy levels are depleting, my equilibrium wobbling.

Where an extrovert might feed off such social energy, becoming stronger from the company of others, I gradually fade if I have no time to be alone; to process; to rebuild.

That’s just me. You and everyone else will have as many differing parameters of introvert/extrovert as we differ in every other way.

Of course it’s a spectrum: just about everything is.

The blokes sitting on the barstools to my left have been in heated and heartfelt debate about whether yer man was lying to himself, when he was in bed with his wife, if he only ever wanted sex with the fella from the Statoil.

The man further from me reasons that you wouldn’t go for the fella from the Statoil if you didn’t have to, or, like, y’know, unless you really wanted to.

All my life I’ve had to decide whether I’m going to hold my breath and stay silent. If I’m going to intervene and offer an alternative perspective, it’d probably be on race, because I can’t fight ‘em all.

Sadly, most of the time there’s little point.

These lads seem decent enough though, genuinely concerned about their mate. I sit beside them and think of spectrums. 


Theirs is private business, so I’ve not the slightest intention of tapping himself on the shoulder and going off on one, in an English accent, about the tiny subtleties of life and sexuality.

Not going to happen.

Instead I simply wonder. 

Maybe their mate was faking it when he made love to his wife.
Maybe he wasn’t. 
Maybe he loved sex with her as well as the fella from Statoil.

These young men have smartphones. They’re connected and they watch Netflix. The idea of bisexuality and talk of gender fluidity must have crossed their paths. However it’s absolutely not on their agenda, when they’re considering their own lives.

Only identical twins and clones are born exactly the same, and then even they are socialised differently, and evolve differing personalities, sexualities, minds and behaviours.

All the rest of us are utterly different, so why oh why do bigots and ignorant people (they can be different) insist and often evangelise that gay is gay, schizo is schizo, autistic is autistic?

A psychotherapist recently told me that he has four clients on his list who each identify themselves as bipolar. As an experienced doctor of the mind, he accepted that’s how they saw themselves, despite the fact that they all presented utterly different symptoms.

Attaching labels to ourselves and other humans is like trying to plant a flag on top of the ocean. It might float in the desired place for a moment, but every person is uniquely individual and permanently in flux.

All human traits, characteristics and behaviours are fluid, washing into each other as they wander around our various spectrums.

It is crass to talk of humans in absolutes. To aspire to become absolute in some way, completely one or t’other, would be utterly pointless.

I’d be really surprised if you were 100% straight. I’m not saying you fancy the bloke from the Statoil, or the woman in the Post Office. That’s not the dividing wall.

We’re all a blissful one-off blend of race, gender, sexuality and mental health.




02.06.2019.
©Charlie  Adley

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