Sunday 15 September 2019

Autumn’s fading glory brings rebirth.




Our months and seasons are not arbitrary artificial affairs, decided upon by committee and vote. They are periods of time defined by the experiences of hundreds of generations before us.
 

Nature doesn’t follow our calendar: it created it.

I love to sit outside, watching the seasons emerge, burst into life and then sigh, fade and die.

Elevated, surrounded by trees and fields of pasture, the ecosystem hereabouts is thriving.

Clearly it’s not pristine, as there are sheep and cattle being farmed by humans, but over the last 9 months I’ve seen an incredible diversity of plants and animals around my patch.

Every week - sometimes it feels like every day - there’s a shroud of different small flying things draped over the walls of the house, or crawling in their thousands, like a living carpet, over my car Joey SX.
 

My life here has improved immeasurably since the landlord cut back the huge laurel that stood at the end of the cottage.

Millions of midges disappeared from my immediate environment, leaving only the other gazillion trillion who live around the trees.

Great news for me, with a clean fresh breeze able to flow around the western gables, but disaster for the two spiders who lived in my tiny bathroom.

Even though I’m an old-fashioned arachnophobe, I’ve had to contend with spiders of all shapes and sizes on my travels, and understand that beyond irrational fear, it’s good to have them around.

There are webs inside nearly all of my windows, which I’m loathe to clean up, as they act as nature’s own midge screens.

However, a couple of weeks after the laurel was cut back, I noticed that Mr. And Mrs. Leggy were no longer lurking the corners of my loo.

With their tiny daddy longlegs bodies, they weren’t very threatening, so if they wanted to eat midges, that was fine with me.

Clearly that laurel had been the source of their food supply, and although we’re well used to hearing Sir David and young Greta remind us how fragile our ecosystems are, it was instructive to see how one act impacts another life, right here in my home.

Spring and early summer were very dry, My cornflowers grew 2 and 3 feet tall before they encountered rain. The morning after a small downpour, I found them keeled over, so I cut them for vases, and the fresh growth underneath is still flowering.


My first summer here had to be a bit of a gardening experiment. Now I have some idea of what thrives here and what merely survives.

I’ve a gaggle of friendly finches and robins, and can now see the first hint of red emerging on the young robins’ chests.

Bees loved my flowers, thrumming around all summer, while one bumble made a home in my garden bench, dumping chopped up leaves on the ground below, gradually ferrying in the vegetation as construction continued.

By their very nature, wildflowers loved it here. Nigella are coming through late, along with the French marigolds, while the nasturtiums are still bursting with energy. Rich deep purple towers of delphinium were utterly splendid, but long gone.

The sunflowers are spent, the darkness is creeping closer, and I’m curious to see how autumn happens here.

Not looking forward to the impending deluge of leaves from the splendid trees all around me, but it’ll be good exercise, raking and bagging them up for leaf mould.

Right on cue, on August 30th, my sweet peas decided summer was over.


After a wet and windy night, two of my three trellises hurled themselves to the ground, the sweet peas crushed and sprawled, still attracting butterflies and bees, but never again to stand upright and glorious.

Nature flows like a temporal river, which we then divide into months and seasons.

Change comes once more. Outside my window the Scotch Pine is bending and twisting as the cold front pushes through.

The car windows are damp in the morning, and there’s a freshness in the air that I love.

Low sunlight powers jaw-dropping radiance through distant dark clouds.


The advancing twilight bursts with bird activity. Swifts swoop and dive, feeding in lattice patterns under crimson skies.

Bats cavort over the lawn at dusk, suddenly changing direction, as if banging into invisible walls.

A pair of wood pigeons explode out of an ash tree, flying away in different directions.

Crossing from the back field to the wet meadow, here comes the fox, and oh, there’s another and another and another!

 

Having feasted on the prolific local bunny population, the fox cubs have grown so much it’s now difficult to tell parent from child.

Across three fields I see the ground-level grey mist of a downpour easing my way.

It’s a mistake to see autumn as an end. We Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah, our new year, in September, which makes perfect sense. 


 
 ...them's red berries, theyze is...

Walking the bohreens, I see hawthorn branches drooping under the weight of clusters of plump red berries, and brambles laden with bulbous blackberries.

Autumn’s fading glory brings rebirth.

As towering willow herb collapses into fluff, as the tractors bring the turf in and the heating oil trucks rumble out, I feel an exhalation of relief from the fields and hedgerows:

“Whoof! Quite a show! Well done everyone!” 


All their growth has worked. While fruit fall to the ground, while seeds fly through the air, the cycle continues: new life begins.



©Charlie Adley
15.09.2019

Monday 9 September 2019

DON’T TRY TO CONTROL MY IMAGINATION!




Governments used to govern. They used to declare a direction and aim their populace towards it.

Over the last 25 years global corporations developed economies more powerful than many nations.

Our governments could no longer govern.
They could only react.

That’s when it all went wrong.

Struck impotent by market forces, governments relied on supplying whatever these massive corporate entities needed.

You voted in election after election and it made no difference. Whoever you voted for the government got in, and whoever they were you felt ignored, disenfranchised, deserted and powerless.

Our party political paradigm is broken forever.

It’s not an attractive look, all this governmental trembling with sycophantic excitement at the prospect of investment from a foreign multinational, or twitching with fear as one pulls out for more favourable rates elsewhere.

When the Berlin Wall came down, we felt headed towards an acceptance of otherness: an appreciation of how much we can collectively and individually gain from the differences in each other.

As it turned out, Soviet communism wasn’t the only political system that took a fatal blow back then.

Having defeated its dreaded alternative, capitalism grew stronger than the countries it fed on.

If we as a species survive long enough to have historians looking back at now, they will see populations of humans running around in panic, desperately trying to feel empowered and heard, after their old system failed them.

We all like to feel strong, convinced and led. Let down by the failure of party politics, millions of unhappy people have sought refuge in distant ideological corners, huddling with others they perceive as similar, looking for meaning, safety and belonging.

With powerful government out of the picture, the alternatives are stark: either let the corporations rule, insert microchips into our brains and turn us into products, or turn to a demagogue.

I hate the word ‘populist’ as much as the execrable term ‘ethnic cleansing.’ Tyranny should not sound fun, nor genocide healthy.

Those of a rightist bent are drawn to populist charismatics, like Johnson, Trump, Le Pen and countless others handed power on fictional manifestos, because people want to believe in impossible future glories.

Others of a more lefty persuasion find reassurance in identity politics, which involves politicising your ethnicity, religion or sexuality.

Ever-expanding hordes of self-righteous moralisers have become equally as judgemental and narrow-minded as the dictators they claim to despise.

Thankfully Ireland lags behind the rest of the western world in this struggle. The ideological differences between the two major parties here is unfathomable, as yet far too enigmatic for data farming algorithms to fully dissemble.

So while we can, let’s raise our national, separatist and rainbow flags, and be proud.

Why shouldn’t we be?
Go ahead and eat only what you feel is ecologically fair and humane.
Wear the traditional clothing of your grandparents’ homeland.
Cook the dishes of our neolithic ancestors.
Ask to be referred to as he, she, it or anything you want.
 

I don’t care.

I don’t care where you come from or who you sleep with. Identify yourself as whatever you want, as long as nobody suffers unsolicited emotional, psychological or physical pain.

Just do me a favour and don’t go on about it.

I’m happy for you, truly I am, but I don’t seek your approval, so why seek mine? 


Be and do what you must, enjoy life, and, oh yeh, don’t try to impose on me or anyone else what we should be, say, eat or do.

I don’t care if you’re straight or fluid, black, pink, pescatarian, Sagittarius or evangelical.
 

I’ll see the person, not the labels.

What I do care very much about, however, is the direction identity politics is taking.

The fight against what was known in the PC prairies of Lefty Land as ‘cultural appropriation’ has now turned into a McCarthyite witch hunt, employing the weapons of thought limitation and artistic control.

Cultural appropriation was a term conceived to help protect vulnerable cultures from dilution.

Now it is now being imposed on the creative process, delivering a dogmatic rigidity in what needs to be the natural home of free thinking.

This inverted bigotry is causing hate-filled invective in the world of publishing. 


Authors who write about characters with different skin colours, or sexual orientation to their own, have their books rejected.

Publishers now employ Professional Sensitivity Readers, who will highlight anything the author has written that might upset somebody.

Writers are vilified, threatened with violence and harassed daily, if they are perceived to have crossed the cultural appropriation line.

Lost in the post party-political void, those who mock the rhetoric of the Right for its prejudice insist on imposing their values on others, by enforcing limits on creativity.

The Left needs to wake up, unshackle itself from the straightjacket of excessive protection, and remember that people need freedom of expression, not a choice between two types of dictatorship.

I saw a placard at a rally that read:

Let’s Make Orwell Fiction Again!

I don’t care who you are, how you live or describe yourself.
 

Just never tell me how I may use my imagination.



©Charlie Adley
09.09.2019

Sunday 1 September 2019

I LOVE JOB INTERVIEWS!

Who says you can't have elephants on your CV?


Watching the rain lash down outside my office window, three little words transport me to a place in my past I hadn’t thought of for yonks.

As the weather moved in this morning, I measured it silently in grades of wetness.
Wet.
Wet Wet
and then Wet Wet Wet.

And that was it: the band; the interview; a time when your colyoomist lead a very different life altogether.

At 25 I was impetuous and eager with the courage of youth, free from aches and pains and unburdened by fear. I’d done the world circle and felt as immortal as I ever could, were it not for that fear of death thing.

It was the summer of Live Aid, 1985, and back home in London I needed a job, because London demands it.

I had tasted good job. At 23 I started working for a Japanese company, and experienced what life could be like, when you’re grafting hard, yeh, but being paid fairly obscene amounts of dosh to do what comes naturally.

Great money easy peasy. Soul destroying too, the utter pointlessness of it in the order of things, but it didn’t hurt in the way that bad jobs hurt.

Hoh no. Bad jobs came in many forms but all delivered deep tedium. 


Even if you really want to express your creativity, show initiative or work with the team blah, when you’re rushing around a warehouse the size of a small suburb, or unloading an endless stream of trucks, you just do the job.

Nothing wrong with trucks and warehouses. 

Good honest work, but there are few ways to shine.

I’d done a crazy amount of varied jobs, survived the tedium and invested my wages rashly.

Having tasted good job, I knew I must return there.

Sofa-surfing in London was exhausting. I needed a wage pronto, so I asked my friend, the cartoonist Martin Rowson, to inject a little magic into my CV.

He obliged with his customary flair, adding climbing vines and a benign elephant, like you do, and I printed out 20 frankly extraordinary CVs.

If they didn’t work, I’d not print any more. 


The brazen arrogance and artistic ability on view said what I intended: that I knew how to market myself, and therefore could market anything or anyone.

Colyoomistas know I can be weird, and hands up, I’ll admit it. I love interviews.

You’re all squirming, and I’m here saying bring it on.

Wasn’t always so keen on the job, which is why I work for myself, but I always found the theatrical thrill of interviews great fun.

Those CVs worked a treat, cutting through queues and application processes, straight to oak-panelled board rooms, where I enjoyed testing and brilliant interviews for jobs I’d only dreamt of.

Looking down at the Thames from the top floor of London Weekend Television Tower, being asked questions about football in a job interview, it was hard to feel things were going wrong.

LWT were pretty cutting edge 34 years ago. They wanted someone to head up their new technological marvel team, that allowed footballers’ pictures to appear on the TV screen as they were being talked about.

I fessed up that I was no technological marvel, and suggested that somebody else could do the job better. I wasn’t looking to settle for less and neither were they.

Then there was the head office of English Heritage, for a fascinating chance to work in the history of my native nation, and there was ICL, representing the cutting edge of the computer world at that time, and then there was Polygram.

That was the doozy; the best interview I ever had, and the only interview I can think of that I failed at against my will.

All I’d been told about the Polygram job was that it absolutely wasn’t being Van Morrison’s manager, nor his assistant, but somehow seemed to have elements of both.

Mostly it sounded an exceptional and thrilling challenge. I knew Van was a complex man, so I was ready to be asked about how I might deal with his foibles

What I wasn't prepared for was the barrage of quick-fire questions shooting out from the meedja haircut three man panel.

Not yer usual where do you see yourself in five years yawn stuff, but fast, random explosions, demanding opinion.

“What’s your favourite book of the last year and why?”
“Best punk single and why?”


“Top three films of the last decade?”
“Most influential band of the last 25 years?

This was exciting. The prize was great and I was enjoying myself, in touch with pop culture enough in those days to play their games,

But then I went and spoiled it all.

“What does the album cover look like?” he asked, as he put on an LP.

I listened to a few bars of laid-back shmoozy intro and offered:

“Late night half-empty jazz club.”

It was a new band they’d just signed, called Wet Wet Wet.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

There was no hiding it in the room.

I think they’d been enjoying the fact that, up until then, I’d been well able to surf their wave, but my ride came crashing down.

Looking back, I wonder why more people don’t make their CVs different? 


That one broke every rule in the book. After Rowson’s delightful title page comes another with one tiny paragraph about me, while all subsequent pages were memos, letters and testimonials to my work.

Just a different way of doing it: letting others speak for me.
Doors opened wide.

Wet Wet Wet indeed. 

 Bit past the rock’n’roll lifestyle now.
 

It’s still raining out there.
Great writing weather, I call it.



©Charlie Adley
01.09.2019.

Sunday 25 August 2019

CAN YOU NAME MY MYSTERY VILLAGE?



As my friend told me about his latest motorcycling escapades, my brain drifted off, deep into the past.

“You know who you’d’ve liked, mate? Freebase Kevin!”

Pushing his chin and bottom lip up towards his nose, he frowned and tilted his head to the left.

“Nah, don’t think I’ve ever met him. Was he from Galway, Cha?”

“Well, Freebase did make a few appearances in Galway, but he was first invented when I lived in Cambridge, back in 1981. I’ll fish out some old copies mate. I’m pretty sure you’d like them, if I can find ‘em!”

The people of Cambridge were divided into two spheres: town and gown. Working as a sales rep, I was defined a townie, but my social life was completely student gownie.

Many of my lifetime friends from London were students at various colleges, and as one who worked for a living, I was seduced by their ethereal dream of a lifestyle.

I loitered in their subsidised bars, stuffed my face with luxurious foods at picnics on Midsummer Common, and enjoyed drunken dawn punt rides up the Cam to Grantchester.

Many of the students were intensely irritating and supremely ignorant of what others called the real world.

Their fingernails had experienced neither dirt, nor oil nor grease, and I felt the urge to slag them off, so I started writing a column about a townie, called Freebase Kevin - the drug-crazed biker, letting him ride roughshod over their prissy privileged student existences.

Much to my delight, Freebase’s column started to appear in the Cambridge University Broadsheet.

Apparently at that time I was the first non-student ever to have a regular slot in the student zine. Evidently, to their credit, they enjoyed a good slagging off.

Back home from Galway, I pulled piles of old folders out of the cupboard.
 

They say a writer should never throw any work away, but I’ve been scribbling my whole life, so ancient stuff gets whittled down, with a little ending up in an ancient brown folder called Old Misc Doings.
 

At this stage I was well aware I’d strayed from my task of finding Freebase Kevin for my mate. I’d fallen down the rabbit hole of self-indulgence.

You know how it is when you’re looking through an old family photo album, and see pictures of yourself as a young thing. You know it’s you, but find it hard to remember just what that person was like.

Well Old Misc Doings is like that for me, in paper form. 


Crammed with yellow aged paper, from a time when computers only appeared in Bond movies, the pages were either written on typewriters, or drunkenly by hand.

The most mystifying aspect of my time travelling exercise came wondering why I’d kept this drecky love poem, or that semi-illegible scrawl about the scent of London hedges.

There were plays in there, written in the mid 1980s for a girlfriend who was a drama student.

One of them called Tiresias Perceives was a particularly pretentious little number, involving four characters, two of whom were Lil and Albert from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, who spoke only in lines from the poem.

More of my execrable love odes were followed by another play, and then ah, there they were. Episodes 3 and 4 of Freebase Kevin’s adventures in Galway, from 1994.

No sign of 1 and 2, but really, who cares.

Freebase Kevin had stowed away with his bike on a boat that he thought was heading to the Isle of Man TT races, but accidentally ended up in Ireland.

Alongside Double Vision in this noble rag, I was then writing three columns in a Galway paper that I think was called The Bugle, edited by Tuam’s inestimable wordsmith and songwriter, Seamus Ruttledge.

I wrote Pink O’Bum - The Petulant Politico and Swami ben Carpenter - The Muse With the Views, but it was Freebase who lit up the faces of young Galwegians.


Forever up in court, he addressed Galway’s late Judge as “Caravan, your mobilehomeship”, and struggled with the swarms of New Agers offering crystal remedies and rebirthing on Galway’s 90s streets.

But ah, now, here, what was this? 


A torn third of an old yellowed page, with three handwritten notes:

Landlord is undertaker. (have another?)
 

Courtroom leaks, so it resumes in pub.
 

“Poitín a bit rough around here!” says the Guard.

As soon as I read those notes, three little windows opened to a time (around 1992) and a place I used to frequent.

Long before Brendan Gleeson’s irreverent lawman hit the screens, I’d met a shamelessly honest uniformed cop at this bar, who told me he had to drink here as the local moonshine wasn’t worth thinkin’ about.

Laughter down the bar grew as the landlord exhorted a decrepit not far from death:

“Go on and have another bloody voddie! Them feckin’ coffins don’t pay for themselves, d’ya know, and I have a shtack of ‘em in there.”

Over in the far corner, a well-dressed group talked earnestly in whispers.

“Tourists?” I asked the Guard.

“No, that’s a wee trial going on there. The rain’s coming down fierce inside the courtroom, y’see, so they’re finishing it off in here.”

I remember well where that was, but do you?

A rare and special DV award will be awarded to the first colyoomista out there who tells me the name of the bar and the village.



©Charlie Adley
25.08.2019.

Sunday 18 August 2019

IT’S A PRIVILEGE TO LOVE YOUR WORK!




In a voice that sounds like old china looks, the government minister blathers about Brexit on the radio.

If I wasn’t driving I’d take advantage of his washed-out lifeless tone to send me off to Snoozeville.

Instead I talk out loud to him, like you do when nobody’s looking.

Well actually, I don’t talk at all. I shout and swear, verbally attacking and demeaning him with venom that can only exist - and only be exposed - when you’re alone in the car.

He’s explaining how it’s vital that businesses in the Republic prepare for a No Deal Brexit.

We’ve got to make sure we’re aligned with our suppliers and customers. Are we ready for currency fluctuations, international tax differences and good God and all his mighty tiny creatures, would you ever shut up man?

He’s touched a nerve. A nerve that’s been going into spasm recently.

If I was the owner of a manufacturing business, the minister’s advice might be relevant. Yet as a self-employed entity, the last thing I need is to hear more of the horrors of No Deal.

I’m far too aware of it, and fear the repercussions for deep-felt personal and professional reasons.

Before the financial crash of 2008 I was making a fairly healthy living from freelance writing.

Along with this colyoom, I had a monthly column in the Farming Supplement (yes, you did read that right!) of the Irish Examiner and regularly sold features to the Irish Times, Irish Post and Irish Examiner.

I’ve never considered myself a journalist. That’s a skill set I don’t possess. I’ve never written a news story or covered an event.

Instead, as a writer, I’ve somehow managed to get away with selling whatever I feel like writing.

Before I took up writing professionally I worked in a plethora of corporate jobs which sapped my soul and destroyed my spirit.

Fortunately I never felt like that when working for non-profits. When training a teenage football team, caring for a professor with Alzheimer’s, or teaching an autistic boy, I knew my efforts were not wasted. At worst I’d done no harm.

Loving what you do for a living is one of life’s greatest gifts.

I know how my industry works. After the crash, newspapers cut their freelance budgets as swiftly as their advertisers cut their ads. Columns and features disappeared overnight.

My friend and teacher, the Israeli writer Iris Leal told me decades ago that the first duty of a creative person is to apply their creativity to designing their life, so that they can be creative.

Faced with my own financial disaster, I took her advice and that of a sensei friend: be like a bamboo. Stand strong and tall, but be able to bend and flex when fierce winds blow

I devised and started to teach my own Craft of Writing Course, which I’m delighted to say has turned into a successful enterprise for all concerned.

Being a vocational writer helps a great deal, as I’m able to invest in my teaching the same passion that I feel while writing.

My course deals with the skills of the craft, so it’s more practical than pretentious. All writers can improve our use and understanding of the craft.

Back in my car I’m giving out loud and large to the minister, who’s not going to be offering me any help.

After being flexible and creative in 2008, the likelihood is that both of my income strands will frizzle and die after a No Deal Brexit.

Newspapers still see freelance as a luxury, and my students sign up with what’s left of their disposable income, after paying the bills and feeding the kids.

At least, I hope they do.
Don’t want any fish fingerless children out there on my account.

Watching Johnson’s predictable strategy unfold is unbearably painful. Living out his Churchillian fantasy, he’s amassed his War Cabinet and revels in the idea of a nation in crisis relying on his leadership.

Clearly he never intended to negotiate with the EU. Nobody in the UK can see past what Johnson’s team laughably call the ‘undemocratic backstop.’

We’ve all been backstopped up to our backsides, but let’s get one thing straight: it’s a UK border backstop, not an Irish one.

Nobody’s screaming that had they accepted the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK would have 2 years to negotiate a trade deal, negating the need for the backstop.

Instead for Johnson it’s all about No Deal and winning an election, by combining his adoring Tory supporters with Brexit Party deserters and Labour’s lost Leavers.

If that means the people will suffer, well, that’s never stopped a Tory heartbeat before.

My pain is personal because I love both countries, and dread the hatred being stirred up by Dominic Cummings’ execrable anti-Irish propaganda, cascading from Downing Street onto Red Top and tabloid TV headlines.

Already we hear every day trash talk of the intransigent EU, and insulting lies about the Irish.

No Deal will damage relations between my native country and adopted home for decades, challenging a fragile peace process, causing ructions in my heart and craters in my bank account.

Good reason to make the most of these remaining months of relative peace. If you fancy learning new skills, why not sign up for my course? I’ve only one place left, so the first deposit/payment I receive will be at the table. 


If you're interested please contact me now at: charlieadley1@gmail.com

Charlie Adley’s Craft of Writing Course
Thursdays, 7:15 - 9:00 pm,
8 weeks: September 5th - October 24th.
€120/110.
Westside Resource Centre, Galway City.






©Charlie Adley
18.08.2019

Sunday 11 August 2019

NORTHERN IRELAND MESSES ME UP!



Over the bridge I go. The meadowsweet and cow parsley at the side of the road stay the same, yet the lines on the road turn white, the signs turn black and white and kilometres turn to miles per hour.

Back in the UK again.
 

Back where I came from, but am I, or (if you’ll excuse a little Plastic Paddyism from this Englishman) amn’t I?

Already I feel inexplicably ill at ease, just as I always do when I’m in Northern Ireland.

The other side of the invisible border, I stop in Belcoo for a bite to eat, and manage to make an arse of myself.

Before I’ve had the chance to spend a minute contemplating the history of these 6 counties, or dwell for a moment on my confused personal gumbo, that feels some of me comes from here, some from down there, there comes the quandary of language.

I’m fairly tuned in to the Republic’s accents. I can tell a Cork from a Kerry, which can prove exceptionally helpful if you’ve no private medical insurance, and I know my Dub and Donegal.

The Northern Irish accent is the default Irish accent in England. There was yer man in Corrie, and more often than not when I was a kid, if someone was Irish they were from Ulster.

Well, that’s what the English say, but even that’s not right. Their Ulster is just six of the nine counties of Ireland’s northern province.

After growing up amongst Ulster accents, you might think I’d have a pretty good grasp of it, but apparently not. I’ve only been across the border for 30 minutes, yet already failed quite handsomely.

My first accent-induced blooper came before I’d even left the house. 


I was on the phone, setting up the time and place to meet the man in Enniskillen. I was just about to say goodbye when he suddenly proclaimed the name of a Middle-Eastern terrorist:

“Al Tuckshya!”

“Sorry?”

“Al Tuckshya!”

Should I respond in kind? Should I ‘Al Tuckshya’ him back, sort of like “As-Salaam-Alaikum - Wa-Alaikum-Salaam” or “Shalom aleichem - aleichem Shalom” as we say it?

But this bloke was neither Muslim nor Jew, so what was he on about?

Then my brain showed tiny signs of life.
I understood.

“Oh good god man! I’m so sorry! My accent, your accent, dunno, sorry. Yes, thanks, text me if anything comes up. Cheers!”

With that encounter fresh in my memory, you’d be forgiven for hoping I might’ve been a little bit prepared to deal with the razor sharp consonants and italicised vowels of County Fermanagh.

After a BLT and a coke, I head to the counter to pay, patting myself on the back that I’ve remembered to bring Sterling.

Turns out it didn't matter: all the prices are in both currencies.

“That’ll be eighteen, thanks.” says the young lass behind the bar.

I take a step back.

“Sorry? How much?”

“Eighteen, thanks!” she repeats politely.

“Eighteen quid for a toasted sarny and a coke?”

“No! Eight ten!”

“Oh sorry about that. I can be really thick sometimes.”

So far so not very good at all. Haven’t even made it to my destination and I already screwed up twice.

Climbing into Joey SX I drive off, remembering how, on my first visit to Northern Ireland in 1993, I encountered The Troubles before I’d even arrived in Belfast.

I’d stopped at some traffic lights outside the city, when a blue saloon screeched to a halt, level with my van.

If Frank Gallagher from Shameless had a brother, it’d be this fella.
 

Winding down his window, he leant half his body out of his car, yelling and screaming at me, with some highly unattractive adjectives, to go back to where I fuckin’ came from.

Despite being a stickler for language, I managed to resist a strong temptation to wind down my window and, using my plummiest Public School accent, explain:

“Look here old chap. As it happens you couldn’t have made many more erroneous assumptions if you’d tried. You see, I’m an Englishman, proudly born and bred, and although my fine transit van is indeed adorned with the registration plates of the Irish Republic, it was purchased in London, from British Telecom, who I think you’ll find are quite British. Now, if I correctly caught your drift, you’re advising me to go back to where I came from. Well, I’m here already. Now be a good sort and drop the abusive accusations, old salt. I’m one of you, dear heart.”

Instead, ever eager to avoid unnecessary confrontation, I sat staring straight ahead, gripping the steering wheel, paralysed by fear.

That was before peace came, and later in Enniskillen I wander out for a gently nostalgic whiskey ramble.

Seems only proper order to drink a Bushmills up here, and it’s delicious, as is the next one.

Then I switch to Scotch and sip a Famous Grouse for my Dad, and then another, because I miss him.

Paying homage to my adopted home country, I finish off with a Redbreast 12.

Bloody lovely.

Wandering the late evening Enniskillen streets, I see that Arlene Foster’s imposing constituency office is next door to a psychic healer.

A bit of DUP and then you need some Reiki.

If only more people had voted Conservative in the last General Election (yes, I did actually write those words!) there’d be no need to heed the DUP.

The EU border could have run down the Irish Sea, and we’d all be No Deal free.

One day maybe I’ll feel relaxed in Northern Ireland.

Until then, lost in the mystery of where I feel from when up there, I’ll be the anti-Morrissey, with my English blood and Irish heart ... who still watches The Ashes...
 




©Charlie Adley
11.08.2019

Sunday 4 August 2019

RACE WEEK: THE TRIPLE DISTILLED SPIRIT OF IRELAND!



The horse’s name was Minesadouble.
 

I mean, come on. I had to, right?
After all, I’m a whiskey drinker.

In 1980’s London I was a whisky drinker, without the ‘e’. Before your triple distilled Jameson became my liquid home, Scotch whisky was my tipple.

That English sixth of a gill measure barely dampens the glass, so I always ordered a double.

Famous Grouse, probably because it was my Dad’s choice too.

On the morning of that bet I was strolling the Portobello Road. Go there now and even the dirty street cobbles are polished.

The area has gone up in the world, gentrified, but in those days there were two distinct areas of what others called Notting Hill.

Notting Hill Gate was yuppie cappuccino bliss, perfect for Julia Roberts to swoon on in the movie, while a few blocks away the streets of Westbourne Park and Portobello were poor and dilapidated.

Around the corner, All Saints Road served as West London’s Front Line for street drug deals, and therefore confrontation with the police.

I was hopelessly and helplessly in love, wandering the legendary market, looking for something that might put a smile on the face of the lucky winner of my obsessive attention.

Taking a breather from the packed streets, I turned up a side road, and spotted a few paces on Ladbroke’s familiar Golden Circle.

Ah go on. Why not? It’s Saturday, so all bets are off, so put one on.

You just can’t argue with that kind of logic.

The shop was absolutely tiny and crammed with punters, mostly Rastafarians. There was a symphonic buzz of secretive whispers, angry shouts and joyous laughs, the air thick with hash and grass fumes.

Taking a few deep breaths for a free secondary high, I eased my way to a wall, to stare at the Sporting Life tipsters table.

For my ‘shot to nothing’ bet I look for a race where all the tipsters have chosen the same horse, except for one.

Then I’ll check to see if it’s run the distance and deeply technical stuff, like does it have a leg at each corner?

That’ll do for me.

There it was: Minesadouble, picked by one expert, who had also napped it, which would usually offer further incentive, but that day I didn’t need it.

Minesadouble? Named for me, and 20/1?
Bloody lovely!
 

I’ll have some of that.

A fiver on the nose, which to me then felt like betting €25 to win today. A decidedly decent bet, which looked prettier when the nap proved the tipster’s inside knowledge.
 

When Minesadouble came on in the final furlong, I started pumping the air with my fist. 

Repeatedly grunting inaudible words, as men do while their horse is passing all the others, I was unaware of the attention I was receiving from everyone in the minuscule space.

They’d all turned to watch me, 30 or 40 pairs of eyes focused on me, willing my horse to win, and when Minesadouble flew past the post, the place erupted in shouts and yells and general testicular jubilation.

Instantly I became the centre of attention.

“Wha’ odds ye ‘ave, man?”

“Twenty to one!”

“Ya say wah? Bloodclaat! Ye ‘ave wha? ‘Ear that? ‘Ear that! Man here ‘ave ‘is ‘orse at twenty to one! Bloodclaat! Whass in da next race? Go on! Whass ya nex’ ‘orse?”

“ ’Ow you know? ’Ow you know? You give me a tip, yeh? C’mon, give me a tip and I give you some of me personal!”

After much handshaking, shrugging and smiling, the others realised I was just a lucky mug punter, who'd liked the name of a horse.

Pocketing my hundred and five quid, I arrived home to my beloved, laden with strawberries and cream and a bottle of champagne, which we consumed, drenched in sunshine, lying on the grass in the park.

Many years ago my mother offered me a very wise observation: “The most dangerous part of gambling is winning.”

Relax Mum! There’s been precious few winners since then. I’ve never had a single winner when at the course at Ballybrit.

I’ve often mused how, if Galway is unadulterated Ireland, and Race Week is the triple distilled spirit of Galway, then Ireland is essentially Race Week.

Every year, immediately after hosting the nation’s biggest Arts Festival, Galway slips into the largest social and sporting week in the country’s calendar.

Race Week is mad, bad and wonderful. Whoever you are, whatever you’re doing, if you’re around Galway, as sure as gee-gees love carrots, Race Week will infect you, working its way into your mind and body, like a metaphysical tapeworm.

This week should come with a health warning: “The Galway Races can empty your wallet, destroy your liver and send you stark staring cuckoo.”

I stayed away from the maelstrom, but was thinking of Galway and how Race Week affects people.

Be kind to your bar-people, servers and cooks. They’re working their backsides off for you.
 

Tip them well.

Last year I was in a Salthill bookies, jostling for space by the newspapers on the wall. 


A well-dressed elegant woman in her 60s tapped me on the shoulder.

“Sorry, now, excuse me, but do you know, how do ye spell that horse’s name? Jesus Mary Mother of fuckin’ God, can you bleedin’ believe my eyesight? Is that an ‘R’ or a feckin’ ‘A’? Good God almighty, sweet Jesus, it’s fucking unbelievable, isn’t it?”

The slang of my adopted home might be slightly different to that of the Rastas in my native London, but as Del Boy would say: 


“Plat du jour, my son, plat du jour!”


©Charlie Adley
04.08.2019

Sunday 28 July 2019

FROWNING OR FESTIVE, GALWAY MAKES ME SMILE!

© rte.ie

Emerging from the darkness of Jury’s Car Park, my face is misted with moist Atlantic air. Under grey skies I walk the morning streets of the city.

Like the tangy whiff of milk you decide has one day left, I’m a little bit off today, frowning, slightly daunted by the amount of tasks I have to cross off my list.

I chat for a while to the lass in the Spar on Mainguard Street. She’s sharp and witty and takes my brainbox up a gear or two. 


As I step out of the shop my body is instantly draped in a coat of wetness: soft day, as the locals would have it.

Taking a moment to stand still and stare, I watch and appreciate. Despite the blanket damp and melancholy ashen hue, most people on these streets of Galway are smiling.

Many seem to have time to stop and chat, in twos and threes; being human; enjoying some gentle craic; a little slagging; a dollop of gossip.

Emma O’Sullivan is dancing outside Evergreen at Johnny Massacre corner, and much as I admire her skill and artistry, I prefer to watch the tourists in her crowd, utterly thrilled to be presented with Sean-Nós dancing in the street.
 

Former All-Ireland champion, Emma is suddenly joined by a pair of 4 year-old twin girls, who run from their parents, and twirl and bump into each other, dancing as only 4 year-olds can.

I slip on that ‘local person with things to do’ expression (you know the one, I’m sure you do!), stride past the dancer and head towards Griffins.

Walking through the door I realise that my frown has been replaced by a wide-eyed smile, which is mirrored by the lass behind the counter.

We chat as I sort my weekly bread, and then I ease up towards Eyre Square, delighted to be living in Connacht.

Jobs all done, I head back down to Quay Street, where over coffee in the bar myself and Keith talk a little football with an Aston Villa fan from Milwaukee.

Then Kevin says something from behind the bar. I don’t hear it, but everyone else roars with laughter.

I know better than to ask anyone to repeat it, as the moment was then, so I say my goodbyes and step out, with the spring in my step accompanied by the sound of fading chuckles.

The rain has cleared and as is the way, in equal inverse proportion, Quay Street is mobbed.

Time for a little otherworldliness, so it’s up the wooden stairs for Sheridan's wine bar, above the legendary cheesemonger’s shop.

Over a tiny sip of something cold and dry I chat with Gerry about times past, and then dive into Buskers for an hour of solitude, privacy and peace in a big comfy chair.

A pot of tea, a scone and a newspaper, with a friend due, but not for an hour.
 

Ignoring the news I watch Cross Street TV unfold live, through the window.

People out there are still smiling.
I’m still smiling.
Galway makes us smile.

This year’s Galway International Arts Festival had energy pumping through the streets, locals excited by installations and a buzz reminiscent of older days.

There were smiles aplenty, built on a foundation that feels happy with its lot.

Life in Galway City and County can feel pretty tough, yet despite the weather, the fly tipping and the housing crisis, most of us would not choose to move.

Yes, complaining and moaning are a way of life, but I see the smiles on the street and hear the laughter on the buses.

Add to that innate happiness the broad rainbow of Galway’s artistic talent, and it’s no coincidence that such a great festival was born here.

Watching Macnas parades imprinted wonder on my soul. My first Arts Festival in 1993 had the Noah’s Ark parade, which was wholly splendiferous.

Jets of water shot out from God’s fingers. There was madness and joy, the air thick with exuberance

Years later, in 2000, I felt that same thrill all over again. Standing on a balcony opposite Jury’s, I had an incredible view of the parade as it emerged from Merchant’s Road.

It was impossible not to be infected by the happiness all around. Macnas produced an explosion of vitality and colour, led by the inimitable Little John Nee, working the crowd, getting us all giggling and excited.

Who was the guy in the marathon outfit, and the fat fella with the suitcases?

What was the story with the bride with the beard?

A gigantic cycloptic Phil Lynott drifted by, accompanied by inexplicable wobbly inflated heads.

Drums kerthrummped, brass bands broohaaahed, and children dressed in shimmering blue silk dresses danced on stilts.

Towering vacillating forty-foot people stamped immigration papers that sprayed water. 


A dancing caterpillar wiggled its ass as well as any Chinese Dragon.

I remember how deeply beautiful it all looked, just as I recall the local woman’s shout that came from behind me:

“Sure, who needs Rio de Janeiro when you have Galway City!?!”

Thoughts of months of rain and wind and damp spores on bedroom walls drifted into my mind and out the other side.

I could completely ignore the utter absurdity of her question, because I was drowning in the euphoria of the day.

Hell yeh, Galway is the perfect place for festivals, so it’s just as well we have 4,765 different ones every year.

However, to fully understand Galway, look away from the structured happiness. 


From Cleggan to Kilconnel, Knocknacarra to Doughiska, the place’s true forte is something incredibly simple, essential and good for us all: Galway makes us smile.


©Charlie Adley
28.07.2019

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.