Sunday 17 November 2019

FRIENDS FORM THE FLESH AND BONES OF LIFE!



“I’ll meet you under the clock in Marylebone station at midday on Saturday.”

“Brilliant mate. That’s perfect. Chelsea kick off at 12:30, so we’ll find a pub, watch the game and then go somewhere plush and comfy to sit and talk properly.”

Being prone to romantic notions, I’d envisaged the clock at Marylebone Station being similar to the legendary 4-faced clock, which forms the focal point of Waterloo Station.

I was also nurturing memories, only two years old, of Marylebone Station being a relatively quiet and gentle place, compared to London’s major compass point terminals.

Turned out I was wrong on both counts.

The District Line train I’d taken from Putney Bridge to Edgware Road had been wedged. I grew up in London, and it never crossed my mind that I might not get a seat and some space during Saturday’s off-peak hours.

Instead I was reacquainted with the essential London skill of tube surfing, which involves looking as nonchalant as possible, while gripping the leather straps that hang to hold you up, as your body sways, dips and jolts with the train.

Slightly unnerved by the way my native city had changed so much, I stepped out of Edgware Road Station, unsure of my route to Marylebone.

Ah but there’s the Euston Road! Instantly I became a local once more.
Spring in step, right down Lisson Street, and boomph, there’s Marylebone Station.

Even better, attached to the station shone the bright signage of the Marylebone Sports Bar and Grill.

“Luvvly jubbly Batman! Well ‘andy!” as they say … here!

Before I even enter the station I see rivers of people flowing in and out of each portal, and inside it’s not far from mayhem.

Well, actually, that’s not true. I live in such a ridiculously quiet spot that a pair of finches feuding over birdseed can seem chaotic. Suffice to say the station was bustling, noisy and there was no clock.

Up and down I paced, searching for a dial, and as 11:59 beckoned, aha! Over there! A digital strip, declaring platforms, trains and the time.

Underneath, my mate waiting

We hugged and headed straight to the Sports Bar, where a boisterous bunch of large lads down the far end were watching Nottingham Forest v Derby, collectively contributing decibel levels that’d make Lemmy’s ears bleed.

It was fantastic to see English football’s second tier creating such fervent support. Trouble was, along with the cries of all those watching gordknows what on who knows how many big screens, it would have been great if the lads from the East Midlands calmed down a bit.

Not like I was going to ask them.
Kidding?

Let ‘em roar.

We slid along the seating of a freshly empty booth, with a TV screen at the end of the table where the jukebox used to be. Then, as I headed to the loo, my mate gave me a most enigmatic order.

“Think 40 years.”

Distracted only by the hysterical mosaic in the Gents, portraying Messi peeing into the pan over someone's head, Ronaldo curving his effort in from far away and Neymar laying in a puddle of his own making, I subtracted 40 from 2019 and realised where my friend was coming from.

Back in our booth I smiled and declared: “Jerusalem!”

“David’s Gate!” he smiled back.

“Jaffa Gate!” I replied, tempted to burst suddenly and completely inappropriately into song:

“Ahhh yeeeessss, ahh remember it weeell!”

In May 1979 we’d arranged to meet in Jerusalem, at midday on August 5th. We both then left London, to hitch and travel separate summers, and as today, 40 years later, we met at midday.

We clinked glasses and ordered something called the Matchday Combo. As we tucked in to our decadent platter of Southern-fried chicken, garlic bread, onion rings, potato-wrapped hot dog, corn-on-the-cob, spicy wings, skinny fries and dips, I reflected on the conversations I’d heard each night, where Londoners discussed their 5:2, paleo and vegan diets.

That day we didn’t care about high fat foods, salt or anything really, because we were being boys, enjoying the occasion, the food and footie, and each other’s company.

After the game (which Chelsea won, thanks for asking) we walked under the covered concourse to the Landmark Hotel where, just 20 yards from the footie fanatics, others ate and drank in a grand marble pillared ballroom, under towering indoor palm trees, at tables covered by crisp white linen.

’Twas ever thus. There will always be rich people, and for us it provided the prefect venue for a long catch-up conversation.

We drank coffee and then the waitress bought us a bill.

I explained to her how I hadn’t asked for one yet, because we might be ordering something else.

“Ah yes sir, but we have to bring a bill after each drink, as so many people run away without paying.”

My friend and I both physically flinched. I suppressed my anger, suggesting to the waitress that she discuss with her boss a better way of dealing with their problem, so that customers don’t feel accused of being criminals.

We upped and left, mildly offended, yet delighted to have spent good time together.

I smiled gently to myself. That day we were clean shaven and well dressed.

How might the staff here have reacted if we’d arrived wearing the tattered denim shorts, dust-dried skin and variety of body odours that accompanied our 40 year-old reunion in Jerusalem?

If family forms the blood of life, friendships are the flesh and bones.



©Charlie Adley
17.11.2019.

Monday 11 November 2019

TENANTS ARE TERRIFIED TO SPEAK OUT!


The landlord on the radio is complaining about his tenants. They’ve half-destroyed the house, upset all the neighbours and they’re six months late with the rent.

Of course I feel sorry for him. This is far from the first time I’ve listened to landlords giving out about their tenants from hell, but my sympathy is tempered by a massive omission.

You never hear tenants giving out about their landlords. Well, you do, often and emphatically, in private conversations, but rarely in the mainstream media, and even less frequently to their landlords.

I’ve been living in rented accommodation since 1981, and up until the middle of the last decade, the relationship between landlord and tenant remained mutually beneficial.

The landlords had their mortgages paid by tenants, who in turn lived without the fear of something in their home breaking or going wrong.

Of course there were always areas of contention, usually involving periods of notice and the return of deposits, but the lines were clear and well drawn, with both parties getting something out of the deal.

In Bradford, West Yorkshire, I lived in an attic room with a long window running the length of the building. My view reached out beyond the city, to green fields and the mighty Pennines.

One afternoon the entire window fell out and crashed to the ground.

Within minutes my landlord Majid (who lived next door) had boarded it up, and the next day a new window was in place.

That’s the way it worked. If a pipe leaked you called the landlord, and they had it fixed.
 

It felt good.

You were paying for their building, but in return you lived without worry of paying for repairs.

Not any more.

These days everything has changed. Despite the valid and furious cries coming from this bloke on the radio, the market presently favours landlords to an extravagant and cruel extent.

The balance of power has shifted so fundamentally that now the tenant is supposed to feel grateful to be given the opportunity to pay excessive rent.

In San Francisco in the 1990s I first sampled what has now become standard procedure in any major city: the queue outside every property at viewing time, each applicant clutching their approved credit rating report and references.

Instead of feeling protected by a symbiotic relationship, millions of tenants are now terrified of contact with their landlords. 


They wouldn’t dream of asking for refunds, in case they’re seen as troublesome tenants, and served notice to leave.

If something goes wrong in your rented home, you now either fix it yourself, or if you can’t afford to do that, you live with it broken.

There are of course laws to protect tenants, and clauses in each tenancy agreement that offer reimbursement and support for tenants, but they are, to a great extent, worthless.

As soon as a tenant demands help, their landlord starts looking for ways to get rid of them.
 

In the present market, there are always new tenants lining up, eager to replace evicted ones, so nobody demands their rights.

Instead tenants now keep their heads down, paying plumbers and electricians themselves, so as not to worry their landlords.

There’d be hell to pay if tenants arrived to picnic on their landlord’s lawn, yet landlords feel it’s fine to appear, unannounced, at the front doors of tenancies.

There is no escaping the fact that tenants are seen socially and politically as second class citizens.

Our society shows more respect to homeowners who can’t pay their mortgages than tenants who pay their rent each week.

Nobody speaks out. You don’t hear tenants on the news, asserting their legal rights, because they don’t want to be identified by their landlords or blacklisted.

As I grew more mature and responsible (I did. Honest I did!) I started to feel a duty of care towards each home I lived in, so each year at renewal time I’d let the landlord know anything that I’d want to know, were that house my own.

A broken gutter, wobbly roof tiles, anything that might compromise the structure of the building itself. I’d also let them know I’d had the chimney swept, and in return they’d send gentle thanks and a refund.

However, ever since the financial crash, landlords don’t care as much about the state of their rental properties.

Maybe they’re also squeezed financially, but whatever their financial situation, they own a house which the tenant does not.

When homeowners found they couldn’t afford to pay their mortgages, they stopped paying them. Lied to and living a nightmare, untold thousands are still in arrears, but many benefit from mortgage relief.

Tenants have no such support. If we can’t come up with the rent, we’re screwed. If your rent’s several months in arrears, you’re out and that’s that.

Evictions of homeowners makes prime time news, but tales of tenants being thrown out of their homes don’t make the grade, because these days, tenants don’t either.

Thankfully, apart from one excruciating exception, I have been phenomenally lucky with my landlords over the years.

Every tenancy I’ve had here in the west of Ireland was agreed upon in that gentle and benign manner, known as ‘Old School.’

After a cup of tea and a chat, there’d be a handshake.

As my current landlord put it: “Why would I want to read references from people I don’t know, when I’m sitting here talking to you?”



©Charlie Adley
11.11.2019



Monday 28 October 2019

LOYALTIES AKIMBO BETWEEN EGGY BALLS, ROUND BALLS AND BREXIT BALLS-UPS!


Saturday 19th October (yes, 10 days ago, slack git...)
 

06:10: Way too early to wake up! I told myself last night that I don’t need to get up until 7:45, so I can make tea and toast before the game. 

Everything else can wait until the gap between quarter finals.

Yeh, but I need to go to the loo, so I might as well take the next antibiotic, which means I need to eat a banana in bed with it, which means I’ll just finish reading that chapter in my bedside book.

That’s it.
Lights off.

Back to sleep now.

6:35: Sod it! Brain’s racing.

Still dark outside and no, just chill out and read another chapter.

07:45: Gave up on bed an hour ago. Made the fire and showered. Caught up with the latest from Westminster. 


In a parody of Sky Sports, they’re calling today ‘Super Saturday’, as it might be the day that sees Brexit sorted, and (yawn) it might not.
 

If Letwin’s vote fails, there’s a slim chance the government might win their vote and pass the deal. Unlikely, and right now nobody knows, so time to cook eggs and bacon.

08:05: Noshing cooked breakfast with a mug of builder’s tea, WhatsApping with my mates in London who are equally excited, sending photos of themselves in their England shirts. Come on England!

09:07: I want to live in the place where Owen Farrell’s eyes go to before he kicks. I totally understand his ritual. 


Whether he’s right in front of the posts or aiming at a crazy awkward angle, he treats each kick exactly the same way; the same rocking arms back and forth; the same peering at the ball, the same eyes rolling off into another dimension; the same run-up and the same kick.

There is no easy kick nor hard kick: just the kick. A little spooky to watch, but I get where he’s at.

11:00: Fired up for Ireland. I’ve completely bought into the hype, instead of listening to expert friends, who suggest that Ireland aren’t as good as they think they are.

More to the point, they advised me, it’s irrelevant Ireland have beaten them twice in the last 3 meetings, as the All Blacks are a different outfit when they’re playing a meaningful game.

Before kick-off, my mind wanders to the possibility of an England v Ireland World Cup Semi Final.

In previous years, my loyalty would be 100% behind my native country.

Although I’m Irish now, I have lived as an Englishman in Ireland for nearly 30 years, and nothing makes you feel more patriotic than being perpetually blamed for 800 years of history that was nothing to do with you.

Today though, I feel a bit different, and that disturbs me.

England have won the Rugby World Cup and Ireland are yet to win a knockout game in the competition.

If England made the World Cup Final, the country would be thrilled to bits.

If the Irish beat the All Blacks, this nation would be gripped in a rabid frenzy of excitement.

If then they beat the Auld Enemy, to make the Word Cup Final, these 32 counties would go absolutely ballistic.

November would be cancelled and we’d party all the way to Christmas.

It’s impossible to imagine not shouting for England, yet part of me would love to see Ireland make it through to the final. 


Throughout this interminable Brexit debacle, the English have shown arrogance and ignorance to the island of Ireland.

Ignoring the fact that Northern Ireland voted to remain, successive Prime Ministers have clung to and then discarded the votes of DUP extremists, as and when it suited.

The average person on England’s streets doesn’t have a clue about this island, and doesn’t give a monkey’s about it.

I know, as I was one of them.

If it comes to England v Ireland then I think, for the first time, I’d shout for my adopted home.

Ireland deserves it - all 32 counties, shoulder to shoulder - by way of an apology for all the suffering that Brexit has bought and is yet to inflict.

12:50: Oh dear. Oh dear dear dear. Make a metal note not to mention this game to any of my Irish friends.

Still, at least my heart won’t be torn in next Saturday’s semifinal. I will be wholly English, and while there’s always hope, I don’t fancy our chances against the All Blacks.

There’s always hope.

Off out to buy newspapers, milk and victuals, and back to catch up with the debate in the House of Commons.

In or out, up the wall or round the bend, whichever way they’re voting they’d better get it done before Chelsea’s 3 o’clock kick off.

14:50: Come on! Hurry it up, Westminster! Tension rises to critical levels in my living room, as I wait for the result of the Letwin vote. Aha! Amendment passed. Brexit delayed. Time to watch footie.

14:55: Not yet. Johnson is claiming he won’t ask for a delay. Like an over-excited six-year-old, through his cunning wheeze of sending two letters to Brussels and only signing the one he likes, the PM is going to obey the law and simultaneously ignore it.

14:57: Completely confused by my day’s shifting lines of devotion and feelings of belonging. 


It looks like my beloved native nation is oozing slowly towards civil war, along with Spain, and so many other crumbling countries formed of dubious unions.

Ho hum.

15:00: Off to Stamford Bridge. The eggy balls confused my heart, but this round one offers the pure and simple pleasure of one loyalty that holds no controversy for me: I’m Chelsea, through and through.

Come on you Blues!



©Charlie Adley
28.10. 2019.

Sunday 20 October 2019

BEREFT AND BROWN BREADLESS IN THE HEART OF THE CITY!


In my tiny freezer I’ve a large brown pan and a sourdough loaf from Griffin's Bakery, which closed its doors for the last time a few weeks ago.

The longer the loaves sit there, the drier and less bouncy they become, but driven by a sad desire for delayed gratification, they sit there still.

My reaction is not so much about the bread, but my attachment to Griffin’s. Fans of David Chase’s masterpiece, The Sopranos, will understand when I say I’m coming over all Bobby Baccalieri.

Realised by actor Steve Schirripa, Robert Baccalieri Jr. was a shy, comparatively gentle mobster, who was at his happiest playing with model trains.

Bobby had several nicknames,  (’Baccalà’, ’Calzone on Legs’ and ’Burger Boy’), all celebrating the way his waistline crossed several time zones.

When his wife Karen died in a car crash, Bobby focused on looking after his two young children, Sophia and Bobby III.

Unfortunately, Karen’s death caught the attention of Mob Boss Tony Soprano’s machiavellian sister, Janice, who used all her malign talents to inveigle her way into Bobby’s home.

Karen’s last baked ziti sat like a holy relic in Bobby’s freezer. He saw it as a vital final sensory link to his wife.

Driven demented by Bobby’s refusal to embrace her as his new saviour, Janice cooked up a vile scheme, which involved abusing Bobby’s kids’ grief with an ouija board.

Bobby arrived home to find his children terrified, while Janice played a manipulative blinder, telling Bobby that she’d heard them talk about Karen’s ghost earlier, but worried she’d be overstepping her bounds if she intervened.

Faced with his freaked out kids, Bobby finally caved in to Janice’s pleas to move on from Karen, allowing her to cook his wife's last ziti.

Janice’s victory was so complete that by the time they ate the ziti together, it was in honour of their engagement.

Thankfully my life is far from gangsters, but I do have two Griffin’s loaves in my freezer, for purely sentimental reasons.

We all have our little routes when we head into town, and for decades mine always included Griffin’s bakery.

Their large brown pan was a thing of beauty. Unsliced, that loaf would stay fresh and last me a week. It was real bread: the stuff of life.

No more.

There’s no shortage of O’Hehirs Bakeries. Offering lovely bread, gooey cakes, and a nice little social scene, where locals can enjoy a cuppa and a chat, they’re a great chain, so what’s my problem?

Grumpy Old Man Syndrome is what we’re dealing with here. If I walk into O’Hehirs and ask for a large brown pan, sure as orders are orders, the server will ask:

“Only one?”

because if you buy two, you’ll save on the unit cost. Small thing, I know, but if I wanted to buy two loaves of bread, I’d ask for two loaves of bread.

Just around the corner from Griffin's there’s fancy fresh bread available at Le Petit Delice, but their small loaves would survive no more than a couple of days in my home.

There used to be order in my Galway cakery-bakery connection.
If I wanted bread I went to Griffin’s.

For a good cake, I’d go to Goya’s and buy their chocolate fudge cake. If I needed a mind-blowingly wonderful cake, I’d go to Goya’s and order their chocolate mousse cake.

For scrummy shmancy patisserie, you can’t beat Le Petit Delice. Many a ‘tea and buns’ session with Dalooney is enjoyed while sharing a slice of their Black Forest Gateau and a strawberry tartlet.

It may sound strange to you that I miss a shop, but I grew up in retail, with both my parents running shops, as has my sister all her life. I’ve managed several myself, and worked in many others, so doubtless that influences my emotions, but also there were personal connections.

For several years I had the pleasure of living a few doors down from Anthony and Eithne Griffin, and it was impossible not to enjoy their company.

In 2008 the business was bought by their son Jimmy, the fourth generation to run the bakery. In 2012, Jimmy made an incredibly generous gesture towards me, that unfortunately - some might say tragically - missed its mark.

In this colyoom’s 2012 DV Awards, Griffin's Bakery were awarded the More Rare Than An Honest Banker Lifetime Achievement DV for decades of consistently superb bread, the best sausage rolls ever and several inches on my waistline.”

Jimmy Griffin responded to this honour by sending boxes of hot sausage rolls over to the Connacht Tribune building.

Trouble is, I work from home, popping into the newsroom once every couple of weeks, so it said a lot about Griffin’s sausage rolls, that days later everyone still had satisfied smiles on their faces, as they teased me in wistful tones of the treat I had missed.

In Connacht we’re lucky to have loads of great places selling spectacular baked goods - loud shout out to Galway’s Gourmet Tart Company! - but I’m yet to find a bakery that simply sells me a large unsliced wholemeal pan, if I walk in and ask for one.

All colyoomista suggestions gratefully received - as long as they’re about bread!
Meanwhile I’ve still two Griffin’s loaves in my freezer.

Get a grip, Adley.
Defrost ‘em, eat ‘em and move on.

One last time, for the record: thanks, Griffin’s, for the bread; the cakes; the sausage rolls; the consistency and reliability; the charm and the chat.

We will miss all that.




© Charlie Adley
20.10.2019. 

Sunday 13 October 2019

WHAT COMES AFTER MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH?



I’m meant to be in England today, but I’m here at home, writing this.

I’m meant to be in my lovely mum’s living room, enjoying the company of the astounding, energetic, astute and lucid 90 year-old who made me.

Instead I’m staring out of my office window, waiting for hours of rain to arrive, and much as I’d love to have been there, given my health at the moment, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than here.

Two days ago I was in great form. The house was hoovered, laundry done, suitcase packed.

This was going to be a tiny trip, just two nights to see family, because back in August I’d cancelled a much longer trip at the last moment.

That one was going to be my holiday. Family and friends in London, but I couldn’t do it.

The tiniest sniff of conflict was setting me off. After I’d cried three times in public in six days, I pulled out of the trip.

Back in July this colyoom told of the arrival of a depression. It has been fierce, intense, long-lasting and extremely useful, because the foundations of my life have fundamentally altered.

Being a control freak, I find it hard to let go, yet I desperately needed to grieve.

Within a depression I have no defence against my emotions, so I’ve been able to engage each as they presented themselves, took the hit, took it again, marvelled at how ridiculous life is when this 59 year-old can still feel pure naïve pain, and tried to simply accept the different losses and conflicts that have dominated my life over the last year.

That sounds good, that ‘over the last year.’

Hopefully I’m now emerging, and soon will be able to enjoy looking forward, without carrying the past on my back.

That’s my target.

I’m not quite there yet, although writing about those dark periods in the past tense is pure therapy.

You poor downtrodden souls who read Double Vision regularly may have noticed that recently there have been many colyooms of whacky things Adley did in the past.

Some colyoomistas wondered what was up (Bernard! John!), so as a general guide the way Double Vision tends to work is that the more fluffy my copy, the darker my mental state.

When pumped up with courage and positivity, it’s easier to delve into deeper, possibly more meaningful fodder.

However, after last week’s fascinating exposé of my cleaning routines, I sufficiently disgusted myself to come clean with you too.

It has been yonks since this colyoom told new tales of drunken wobblings around the pubs of Galway, or (apart from Brexit, which feels personal) virtuous rantings on social justice and the lack of it.

Apart from when I teach my Craft of Writing course or visit the homes of friends, I’ve simply not been up to socialising with people, so there’s been precious little life to write about.

I’d planned this summer to reach out to my new town, because I still don’t know a soul here, but as Dylan or Lennon said, “Life’s what happens when you’re busy making plans.”

Bang! Depression hit, and while it temporarily kiboshed my chances of creating a new social life, it delivered the chance to heal.

I stay home alone. Not always pleasant, but for the last three months infinitely better than any alternative.

I’m an extremely lucky man to have this space, and even through the most wretched times, I make sure to give thanks for my wonderful friends and family.

They worry that such solitude is not healthy, but for my mental health this peace has been perfect.

Galway is an hour away, and my (not so new) local town awaits: an opportunity still very much available, which I intend to grasp, with all social skills blazing, as soon as I’m up to it.

Thankfully I do feel I’m gradually emerging from this depression, so hopefully the content of these colyooms will soon improve.

Two days ago, mentally and emotionally ready and eager to go to London, I zipped up my suitcase.

Two hours later my entire body started to shake, inside and out.

My legs, arms, fingers and toes were beating out macabre jazz riffs, my guts cramping and twisting, my lungs grabbing whatever air they could.

Scared the hell out of me, it did.

Felt like an adrenaline drenching, and since having two panic attacks in the past, I keep a couple of emergency valium in the house, so I took one and texted my friend, who’s rashly agreed to be my medical emergency person.

I asked him to call me in a few hours, to check in, by which time I’d stopped shaking, but felt weak and beaten up.

The serenity and solitude that I enjoy here may be great for my spiritual and mental health, but knowing nobody local when you’re physically unwell is an unsustainable situation.

New friends are nearby, I just haven’t met them yet, and there is: my life reduced to a beer mat slogan.

Next morning I awoke with a fever, zero energy, physically knocked out.

Oh no.
Please not now!
Not the day of my England trip!

I called my mum to tell her I had to cancel the trip.

I’ll never know if those two hours of shaking were a form of panic attack, or a ridiculously ostentatious way for a virus to announce its arrival in my body, but holy guacamole Batman, they were terrifying.

In August I cancelled because of my mental health.
In October physical illness made it impossible.  

I’m booked to go again in November.

Never mind all that 'things coming in threes' malarkey.

I’m backing ‘third time lucky.’




©Charlie Adley
13.10. 2019.

Sunday 6 October 2019

MILDEW, DISTRACTIONS AND AN ARTHRITIC PYTHON.



My eyes are dazzled by the sunshine flooding through my bedroom window.

This isn’t right.
No, not right at all.

Today I was meant to wake up and see lashing rain falling sideways from dark skies. The trees were supposed to be bending over in a gale, leaves green and brown ripped off branches, erupting up, tumbling down.

That’s what the weather app said, and the BBC, RTE and ah well, who cares?

Maybe today’s not going to be the day I finally clean my bathroom.

The outside world was going to look so menacing that I’d ripple a body shiver of comfort, turn on my bedside light and read my book eating a banana, luxuriating in the lack of rush.

Instead I’m now thinking of getting up, doing my stretches and going for a bike ride.
Blue skies, fresh air and staying alive.
That sort of thing.

No. This is neither about the weather nor my cardiovascular system.

This about the state of my bathroom, and the months I’ve managed to ignore its deterioration. 


Truth is ‘Bathroom’ might be too grand a term for it, as it has no bath and does not really qualify as a room.

If I stretch out my legs while sitting on the loo, my feet are in the shower.
If I bend forward, my head is in the washbasin.

Should I ever suffer the grave gastric indignity of ‘both ends burning’, I’ll be grateful that the lack of space in this house has inadvertently created a handy design feature.

Don’t be guilt-tripping me with all that ’What more could a man want?’
 

I’ve everything I’ll ever need, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss a bath.

Mind you, with size of me these days, even when I’m having a bath, there’s more of me out of it than in it.

Even this tiny space is bigger than the bathroom I had when I lived in the Claddagh. That effort was also nothing more than a plumbed cupboard, but it was cold; so incredibly cold that I’d lie awake in bed for hours, hanging on to that particular muscle for dear life, rather than suffer the freezing air.

It was physically impossible to dry my voluminous self in such a small space, so I had no choice but to step into the corridor, where on more than one occasion I gave my kind and stalwart landlady a right eyeful. and most unpleasant shock.

In this house I can cross the kitchen in half a step and two steps later be in front of the living room fire, giving it large with the towel in perfect privacy.

Enough with the blather, Adley, get on with the cleaning. Grab the wicker laundry basket and pile all the bottles of bathroom gubbins into it. Throw the mats in the laundry bin. Now move the loo library.

Ooooh, the loo library!

No no, don’t be going off down that route.
Don’t go convincing yourself it’s okay to take a few minutes off.
 

Don’t even think of using some kind of contrived excuse, like it’s taking a s
napshot of your life, when you peruse the Ladybird Books, nerdy etymological tomes, leaflets and magazines that make up your ablution entertainment centre.

They’re not going to fall for it.
Your colyoomistas are a pretty sassy bunch.

Okay, but I feel a confession coming on. In an act of pure self-indulgence, every week I buy the Sunday Mirror, just to read a tiny column written by Flavia Bertolini, the editor of the tabloid’s Notebook supplement.

She’s writing for young women about dresses and being a mother, so I’m far from her target audience, but I just enjoy her writing. Only talent can make a subject that fails to interest you a delight to read about.

Talking of talent, there in the the pile of books I’m carrying out of my bathroom is Juggling With Turnips by Karl MacDermott.

I’m often sent books and press releases, and Karl’s book accidentally languished for months in the offices of the Connacht Tribune, before it made its way to me. I found it an absolute delight, yet felt it was already too late to promote it, and that was last year.

Knowing, surreal, witty and true, MacDermott’s writing fits neatly into a particularly Irish literary slot: self-slagging satire.

I loved it and feel sure that the author won’t be offended by the way that his book has become a permanent part of my loo library.

Aha! Look! A slim volume of poetry, written by my friend Richard Nunn in the 1980s.

Affirmations from inside a Nepali jail cell accompany a prescient poem, written 15 years before Greta Thunberg was born. Entitled Why Oh Why, it concludes:

“The seasons are changing
And it might not be too long,
When we cry out loud,
WHAT WENT WRONG?”


Adley! Come on man! Focus!
There’s mildew to be scrubbed off grout.

Focus focus focus.

“Small?” they said, when I moved in here. “Less to clean!” they said.

“True!” says I now, out loud to invisible people long gone, “But less space to clean in!”

By contorting my not so supple middle-aged frame like an arthritic python, I manage to reach and clean the murky corners of my shower.

A few hours later the tiny space is gleaming.
The grout is white, the tiles shiny, the shelves spotless and the floor mopped.

Grunting and groaning as I stand up, my back muscles and hamstrings let me know they wouldn’t mind a little break.

Outside black skies unleash torrential rain.

A sad self-congratulatory part of me wants to sit on the loo and revel in the cleanliness. 


Instead I sink into my armchair, and listening to the wind, drift off into satisfied nap dreams of huge marble bath tubs, filled with steaming hot water…





©Charlie Adley
06.10.2019.


Sunday 29 September 2019

TV TRIES TOO HARD!



The hamster on my roof can’t run fast enough to stream Netflix, so I sold my soul to Rupert Murdoch, for a Sky satellite dish.

Thanks to the wizardry of digital tele, I’m almost completely protected from ads, by recording everything and whizzing through.

Between 6 and 8 my TV world goes mental, as I record the BBC 6 o’clock, RTE 6.1 and Channel 4 News, fascinated to see how the Irish reports differ from the UK versions.

Relax: I’m not suggesting you become sad news nerds like myself. I’m just revelling in the wonders of modern viewing.

I know the tech I’m using is considered pure ancient these days, yet truly could not give a damn, as it meets my needs.

Also, thanks to my limited amount of channels, I’m not feeling crushed by the tyranny of choice, like many millennials.

As Apple and Disney move to join Amazon and Netflix in the world of flush  platforms, younger viewers are changing their habits.

Light years from water-cooler moments, their choice is so vast they can’t see the point of watching a show, in case nobody else is. 


Their chances of sharing their views and experience on social media is rapidly vanishing.

My age group are adopting the ways relinquished by those millennials. Last year the number of over-55s who regularly watched several episodes of a series in one night almost doubled.

I’m not surprised the viewing patterns of young ones have become scattered and splattered all over the shop. Given their attention spans, I felt deeply impressed by their binge watching capabilities.

After the invention of the TV remote control and the arrival of multi-channel TV, teenage attention spans shrank to under 3 minutes. 


Writers on soap operas started to insert viewer reminders and recaps into their scripts, to make allowances for an audience who had, in all likelihood, turned over and come back again.

As the model of an upstanding submissive citizen you know me to be, my behaviour has slotted neatly into what my age group is meant to do: I started binge watching, and now understand why it’s so beguiling.

Story arcs and writing rhythms are now designed to be best enjoyed in quick successive episodes. Waiting a week is totally last century.

Then, almost as bereft as when I finish a good book, my series is gone and I look to see what I’ve taped while I’ve been off in the world of Succession, Billions or The West Wing (natch!).

I used to like watching Bear Grylls’ Island series. There was something vaguely fascinating, on an almost anthropological level, about watching a bunch of Brits dumped into the wilderness. Class and bigotry always came to the fore, and it was all quite fun.

Yet evidently some genius thought the program lacked something, so now they've turned it into a bloody gameshow, with boxes of money stashed around the island.

Oh for God’s sake. 

How could survival not be enough?
 

No, can’t watch that. It’d be too kind to say “gilding the lily” because the original program wasn’t a lily, and it’s only grown worse.

What about that ‘High Society’ I taped from Channel 4? Bunch of people who’ve never smoked weed go to a café in Amsterdam to see if they like it.

Could be a giggle.

Indeed, it might have been, had the participants not been instructed to go one stage further. 


Rather than just seeing how marijuana might affect them in a safe and controlled environment, the program makers insisted they include a life-changing talk during their experience.

This lovely bloke from the Midlands is coughing up his guts, as he pulls on a pure grass joint.

He’s getting absolutely mashed for the first time in his life, completely unaware that his girlfriend is planning on having a heavy discussion with him, about their sex life and where their relationship is going, on national tele.

Oh no.
No no no.
Don’t do that.

The poor wee lad’s having a lovely time, paddling fast-flowing rivers of chocolate by blue meadows full of pink fluffy bunnies.

Why get him stoned and then force him to be serious?

Why isn’t the central premise enough? That might have been entertaining. Now it’s all back story and meaningful, the show’s just become dull.

More more more. Always they have to put on two layers of icing.

If TV tells too much, then ads say way too little. Despite my attempts to avoid them, they slip in through breaks in live sport, and even though I see so few of them, they still manage to drive me bananas.

Aer Lingus is advertising the price of a flight from Ireland to the USA. 


The voiceover says that this price is available only as part of a return flight, which means that fare doesn’t really exist; that their offer is a load of old hooey, and grrr…

Here’s an orange. You can have it for 50 cent, but that’s just the price of the peel. If you want the fruit inside, that’ll be another €1.00.

I turn off the tele to read the paper before I have a rupture.

Yet even my beloved Observer newspaper is guilty. Winning an interim DV Award for Disingenuous Bollocks it runs an ad that offers ‘Free Sports section!’ and ‘Free Review!’

That’s like saying you get a free newspaper when you buy a newspaper.
We’ve shows that offer to much truth and ads that offer too little.

Stuff the lot of ‘em.
I’m off for a walk.


©Charlie Adley
29.09.2019.

Sunday 22 September 2019

I'll wear that anti-intellectual hat!



“So tell me, Charlie, why do you spend so much time talking to stupid people?”

It’s mid-1980s and I’m at a dinner party in North West London, attended by an Israeli writer and a Lebanese poet.

I’ve been holding my own in a lively discussion that revealed what I saw as the brazen intellectual snobbery around the table.

These people had tunnelled into the depths of many philosophies and climbed mountains of classic literature.

Me? Well, I’d been around the block a few times, but at that time very much enjoyed curling up in bed with a good Stephen King.

“What do you mean by ‘stupid people’?”

Iris smiled, impatient that I demanded she define what she knew I already understood. (Blimey! Just reminiscing about intellectuals can make me write sentences like that!) 


“I mean, you know, people who have not studied. People who have not read. You know, stupid people!”

“But I haven’t studied, and according to you the books I read are stupid, so what’s the difference between them and me?”

Staring at me she stretched her eyes wide open, tilting her head to the left.

“What’s the difference between you and a stupid person? Come on!”

“Yeh, exactly that. You lot sit here pontificating intellectual matters that I couldn’t care less about, and -”

- and yes, that’s why you are here, Charlie. You are the anti-intellectual.”

“Anti-intellectual? Hoh now, that’s a good one! Wish I’d had that one at school, when they told me I was stupid. Oh no, sir! You see, sir, I’m an anti-intellectual, sir, not stupid at all sir, no sir, not me, sir.”

Over the decades I’ve tried to explain to a dubious Iris that everyone has their own wisdom. Her question arose as back then I was forever quoting people who had given me lifts.

When hitchhiking you’re transplanted into a unique, intimate, one-to-one in a stranger’s car or truck. For some reason, people found it easy to talk to me, so by the time I was 25 I’d learned a tiny bit about a million things.

I knew that Kiwi sheep shearers used a five blade comb, so when their Aussie competitors claimed greater speed per fleece, you had to take their 7 blade comb into consideration.

That stuff matters in Waikato.

I knew that hardcore Labour voters from Yorkshire were secretly voting for Margaret Thatcher, even though they disagreed with everything she said and stood for, because they saw her as strong.

Was that stupid, or merely a political opinion?

I knew a little of what it was like to be the mayor of a French town; what it feels like to leave your wife because she won’t let you windsurf enough; who it was that went down to the beach near the Bay of Isles each morning, in her flowing white dress and black silk scarf, to dance barefoot on golden sands to nature’s music.

Often I moved on from a lift thinking I hadn’t agreed with that person, but never did I condemn them for being stupid.

“Anti-intellectual? Yes, of course, that’s what you are!”

“Never even heard the term before, but how very bleedin’ intellectual of you to know which hat to put on my head. And there I was happy with no hat, but hey, I’ll wear that one, as long as you stop writing people off as stupid. It’s incredibly ignorant. Makes you look stupid.”

Why this memory now?

Well, to protect myself from the dumbing down of the media, I’ve developed a new rule. Depending on your lifestyle you can call BSR either the Bar Stool Rule or the Bus Stop Rule.

BSR states that if the person on the radio or TV is spouting drivel I’d refuse to engage with at a bus stop or on a bar stool, I turn the device off.

BSR includes all vox pops, those pointless segments beloved by BBC News, where random people on the street are asked for their opinions.

I couldn’t give a monkeys that Trevor from Doncaster thinks sooner we’re out the better, or how Madge from Ebbw Vale feels the whole thing’s got out of hand.

However, if I’m dissing the views of people, have I become an intellectual snob?

No, not at all. If I want to know what people think, I’ll ask people what they think.

When I want news, I need expert analysis from someone at least aspiring to deliver informed objective truth.
 

The perils of intellectual snobbery are best illustrated by a lift I had in an 18 wheel rig, heading past Goole on the way to Hull.

The trucker was a gnarly middle-aged stubbly Yorkshireman, in a grey faded Pink Floyd T-shirt that failed to cover his ample beer gut.

As we hit top speed on the M62, he smiled and raised his hand.

“Don’t mind me like, see. I’m listening to t’radio.”

Robert Robinson was asking the questions on Radio 4’s Brain of Britain, a quiz show that made University Challenge look like Winning Streak.

Puffing on his Rothmans, the trucker stared straight ahead as he answered each question.

“Oh, erm, Xerxes, aye, Xerxes.”

“Fulani, Fulani, oh I know them, ah, they’re them nomadics, mostly Muslims, scattered over West Africa.”

“Ranters? Now, they’d be yer primitive Methodists, weren’t it?”

“So, now if I were in t’Splügen pass, I’d be in ’tLepontine Alps, goin’ from Lombardy to Grisons. Aye.”

“The Mystic Masseur? Oh, that’d be written by that foreign fella, VS Naipaul.”

I watched and listened in awe, wishing Iris could be there.

Why do I spend so much time talking to stupid people?

Because people aren’t stupid.
Everyone knows a lot about something.


©Charlie Adley
22.09.2019.

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