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