Thursday, 20 May 2021

In memory of Jon Lewin.

In memory of Jon Lewin, on what would have been his 62nd birthday. From Double Vision in October 2006. 

A couple of weeks ago I received in the post a package which reaffirmed my faith in human nature.  

Although it only contained a simple T-shirt, I was surprised, delighted and almost emotionally overwrought.

Back in September I was sponsored to participate in the Galway Hospice’s Memorial Walk, a splendid and very successful event which raises much-needed funds for the most worthy of causes. 

Each walker wore a T-shirt on which was printed the name of a person in whose memory they walked that day. 

I chose to walk in memory of Jon Lewin, a life-long friend who died of a brain tumour a few short years ago. 

Upon arriving at Claddagh Hall I was given a package containing the T-shirt I had ordered, and went off to the Gents to put it on. 

At the back of my mind, a wee small irritating voice had been nagging me for days, wondering if they would have spelled his name right. And lo, as soon as I saw the shirt out of its wrapping, there was the name a certain John Lewin. 

And then I cried. 

Clearly, I didn’t cry because they had spelled his name wrong. There are many things that might upset me in this world, as regular readers know only too well, but an excellent institution such as the Galway Hospice awarding hundreds of walkers free T-shirts in a thoughtful tribute to lost loved ones could never be a cause for complaint. 

No, I was mourning, and it hit me like a Tsunami. I had written about Jon in this colyoom the week before, when I related our nightmare teenage holiday in Greece, so his memory was fresh in my brainbox, and I felt his presence with me on that day. 

‘Stop being an idiot, Adley!’ I told myself, and put on the T-shirt, but each time I looked at the name, John with an ‘h’, I had a ridiculous and irrational emotional reaction.

This geezer’s name on my shirt was not Jon’s, but what did it matter? 

This day, this walk, this fund-raising event was not about me and my pedantic neurotic needs. 

Somewhat foolishly, I decided to mention what had happened to the organisers, making sure to stress that it really was not a problem to me in the slightest, but that maybe in future, what with there being all manner of new nationalities and names arriving to live in Ireland, attention to detail might help avoid people getting upset. 

I hated myself for saying anything, because however I emphasised that I was fine with it, that it wasn’t about me but potential walkers of the future, the more the friendly hospice professionals apologised. 

Maybe, through their depth of experience, they could see more in my eyes than they let on. 

I was certainly unaware of how emotionally messed up I was.
Stepping outside the Claddagh Hall, I stood by the dock and watched all the wonderful walkers turning up in their T-shirts. 

Nobody seemed to be alone, and even though I would normally loathe to have company on a walk, I felt strangely lonely and, once again sad. 

Looking at all the Irish names on all the others’ T-shirts, I suddenly had a bit of a panic. Oh no, I should be walking for my little four year-old friend from Mayo who died recently. 

How could I forget her?
How could I not think to put her name on my T-shirt? 

And who is this person whose name is on my T-shirt? It’s not Jon.
And why do I feel so nervous?

Why do I feel so scared of being a part of this crowded walk?
And why and why and why ... 

Jon was a very beautiful and calm man, and as if he stood at that very moment by my side, I heard his gentle whisper in my ear. 

‘Stop being a prat, Charlie! Get yourself out of here, and walk somewhere else. This is not for you today. You’re too much of a mess.’ 

With the rain starting to fall, I ran away, jumped into my car and drove far away from the crowds. I felt horrible, hopeless, guilty as charged, and could not, for some reason, stop crying. 

Eventually I parked at the beach in Furbo, and proceeded to walk long and alone: stumbling over rocks; squidging wet-booted through flooded fields, and finally sitting, breathing, restoring my mental order on a boulder covered with clams. 

I walked for all those who had sponsored me. I walked for the Galway Hospice. 

I walked for Jon, and I walked for my 4 year-old friend. 

Jon aspired to be a real rock’n’roll person, always cutting his own personal swathe, and I truly felt that he understood and appreciated why I had done a runner from the Walk. 

I never wasted a moment wondering if any of my sponsors would begrudge their donations to the hospice on the grounds that I had walked the coastline a few miles further west. 

And I had walked for myself, taking time now to lie at face-level with a river, mesmerised by the beauty of the babbling flow, as I regained control of my emotions, and accepted that evidently I had seriously needed to grieve. I threw a wobbly, cried a bucket and walked alone.  

What better organisation to be the catalyst for such an emotional outpouring than the Galway Hospice?

But what of the package in the mail? 

Yes - you guessed it! 

Reaffirming my faith in the future of our species, and going way beyond any hopes, expectations, even idle daydreams, Fiona at the Galway Hospice saw fit to print a T-shirt with Jon’s name on it, and send it to me, with an apology and a thank you note. 

At this stage, all I want to say is no, please, let me thank you, for bowling me over and showing so much love and care that I am, once again, quite emotional. 

Oh and thanks to the Universe for sending us people like that!

 

©Charlie Adley

11.10.2006

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

...and we all fall over for Ireland!

 Thanks as always to Allan Cavanagh of https://www.caricatures-ireland.com/

 

An excerpt from Double Vision in the Tribune back in 1993, describing my first Paddy's Day in Ireland.
 

As I awake I’m shivering from head to toe, and a twinge of cramp is rising from my left ankle up to my calf muscles.

Lifting my leg to ease the pain, I realise that I am not in my own bed. I am somewhere else. Somewhere with a much smaller bed.  

Moving forward I fall off this strange bed and hit the floor, buttocks first. Letting out a moan, my head bangs against something metallic. 

Hmm, metallic and hot. I hope it’s a stove, ‘cos if it’s not, then wherever this is, it’s burning down.  

No, if it was burning down there’d be flames and light and heat. Yes, light and heat. That is all I’m capable of thinking, so I lie down and congratulate myself on my Holmesian deduction.  

The pain in my head comes not solely from being banged against metallic objects. This pain demands that I remember the recent past. It is a pain that begs the questions:

‘How much did I have?’
‘Where am I?’ and
‘How did I get here?’  

First things first. I reach into my jeans pocket and find several lighters of the disposable kind. So I was stealing lighters again. Six lighters in my pocket. Must have been a hell of a night.
 

I flick one on and realise that I’m in a caravan.
 On a nearby table is a candle, which I light, and a peat briquette, which I throw into the stove, before collapsing back onto the bed, exhausted.

My watch tells me it’s 03:30 am on the night of March 19th.


“Okay mate,” I say out loud to myself, “start at the beginning.”


Claddagh Quay on Paddy’s Day, the bands are setting off, the kiddies looking sweet as cherry pie in their outfits. The parade moves and I follow it a while, because I’ve decided that it’s way too early to go to a pub.


Wrestling with the crowds in Eyre Square I watch children playing in the soap-filled fountain, and then some Gardai push through the hordes, and I tuck in behind them, making the most of the wonderful space that parts for them as they move.


All of a sudden I’m outside an Tobar, and amazingly there’s a barstool free, and Whispering Blue serving.


Pints of the black stuff seem to appear in front of me from all directions, and then I have that dangerous cavernous feeling inside me; the kind of cavern that gets flooded at high tide.


After that it all gets a little hazy, but I can remember seeing the Far Canals gig at Vagabonds, and a Vauxhall Cavalier stopping for my raised thumb at Merlin Park.


I can remember seeing a lot of people falling over; falling down in the street; falling onto the dance floor. Must be an ancient St. Patrick’s Day tradition.

“So you’re awake!”

A soft warm female voice rises from under the bed sheets. 
Oh bliss. I know where I am. I’m in my lovely friend’s caravan in a field in Doolin.

“Have I behaved myself?”

“Oh yes, you have been the perfect gentleman, apart from arriving in the middle of the night yesterday.”


“Oh sorry.”


“No, it was lovely to see you, but be careful when you try to stand. You were falling down a lot!”

Oh was I? Seems like I’m becoming more Irish all the time.



Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Christmas alone can be perfect!

Another oldie from my Christmas archive. This one was written in 2002, when I lived in a farmhouse near Killala, Co. Mayo, and felt very happy to be spending Christmas on my own...

It’s the look in their eyes that gets me. They’ve asked you what you’re going to do for Christmas, and you’ve said you don’t know. You might go to friends, but you might just stay in and do it on your own.

Then there’s the look. The staring down the nose dewey-eyed 'you-don’t-really-know-what-you’re-saying-do-you-you-poor-sad-lonely-little-loser' look. 

Drives me crazy every time.

Of course it is tragic that some people will be lonely and alone on Christmas Day.
 
But the time has come for me to stand up and be counted, on behalf of the multitude out here who will be alone and doing just fine, thanks very much.
 
Well, I wanted to be counted but there’s just me, so I’ll do it myself: one.

One person who will wake up when he wants to on Christmas morning. It’s a special day, so I’ll make sure to leave a few cards and pressies to open, at my leisure, whilst lying in bed.

Then I’ll take a wonderfully peaceful walk along a deserted beach and return home to build a massive fire. 
 
Once the coal is crackling and hissing in the hearth, I’ll phone my family back in London, and chat to my nieces, sister, brother and parents as the phone is passed around their living room. Once again, I’ll reassure my folks that I am fine and happy.

Time to have a little snifter. Crack open the Jameson 12, feel the dark chewy whiskey flowing all over my far-flung bodily extremities, warming my heart while cheering my soul.

Now it really feels like Christmas: time to play some music. I’m partial to the Vienna Boys Choir on Christmas morning (and they speak very highly of me too!), but I might just be tempted by my very dodgy ‘The Chieftains - The Bells of Dublin’ Christmas album.

Shocking behaviour.

I’ll play my music as loud as I want to, very probably do a silly little dance and nobody will complain or mock my natural sense of rhythm.

Time to warm up the oven, but what does a man cook to eat on his own for Christmas dinner? Well, exactly whatever he feels like, to be eaten whenever he wants.
 
All I know for sure at this moment is that the meal will consist solely of the most magnificently self-indulgent ingredients. 
 
Possibly a roast shank of lamb, larded with garlic, wrapped in rosemary and honey; crispy roast shpuds; steamed carrots and leeks; a braised onion and a sweet roasted parsnip.

Sound good? 
Oh, you don’t care for lamb? 
 
I don’t care. 
I’m cooking for one.

Such a feast requires a splendid bottle of French red, perchance a Grand Cru of velvet depth and sublime body - much like myself!

As the smells of the roasting meat inveigle their way around the house, I’ll make a few more phone calls, spreading love and good wishes to my friends, scattered around the globe.

Then it’s out the door, and up to visit the landlord farmer and his wife, drop off a bottle of whiskey and a message of thanks to them for housing me in such a happy home.

Oh, and donkeys celebrate Christmas too, so the usual carrots are out, and today it’s nothing but choccy biccies and Golden Delicious apples for my closest ‘neigh-bours’, Kitty and her foal Molly.

Even an atheist Jew such as myself can be a hoary old Christmas traditionalist, so I put the Christmas pud on the steamer and glaze my home-made mince pies, to be snarfed later with brandy butter and burps.

Most important of all, I take the cheese out of the fridge, and let it breathe. I am a self-avowed pathetic slave to cheese, and this year I have had to cut it from my diet at home, in an effort to cut down on the cholesterol. 

But hey, it’s Christmas, so it’s got to be stinky creamy Stilton on digestive biscuits, and a pungent nutty cheddar on oatcakes, washed down with a healthy dose of vintage port, of which I will purchase a half bottle for my own consumption. 

After the meal, a stroll down by the river, enjoying the utter tranquility of the day that’s in it, and back home to watch a movie.  
 
As a child in England, there was comfort to be found in the Christmas morning Beatles film on the box, and in the afternoon the Beeb always used to run Bridge Over The River Kwai
 
Some traditions are best left unwrapped, so to be on the safe side I’ll make sure to rent a couple of vids - one new release and one old fave ,something epic like Goodfellas or Dr. Zhivago.

By the time darkness has fallen on my solitary Christmas Day, I will have exercised twice, been well fed and over-watered, ready to snooze a while in front of the fire. 
 
I will not be woken up by any upsetting family rows, or Uncle George needing urgent medical attention after overdoing the brandy.

After my snooze, there’ll be an energetic walk to the bathroom, followed by a disgustingly long soak, and then a bit of a wash and brush up to see if I feel like visiting friends, or prefer simply to stare at the goggle box and drift off into my own private Yuletide nirvana.

How bad does that sound?

To be completely honest, I’m not even sure that I really will spend Christmas Day alone this year. I have two friends in Galway City who are also planning to spend the day alone, so I made a suggestion that if they felt the urge, so to speak, they might come up and share a country Christmas with me.

If they come I will be delighted to see them, certain in the knowledge that we will still have exactly the day we all want, under no pressure to do, be or say anything that crosses the border from our Happy World of Indulgence into the dark dreary land of Duty.

Either way, alone or with my fellow Lost Boys, I will be spending money I don’t have; eating and drinking as if I were immortal; enjoying my own company, and equally eager to step into the pub at noon on Stephen’s Day and quaff pints of black, whilst listening to the horrific tales of woe emanating from all those poor sad souls who had to endure the Christmas that everyone else wanted.

Whether on your own or in the company of others, enjoy a peaceful happy Christmas, and whatever your faith, may your god go with you.
 
©Charlie Adley
17.12.2002
 

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Time to say goodbye to Double Vision!




After 27 years (and breaks for emigration and economic collapse) the time has come to say goodbye to Double Vision.
 

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to engage, amuse, annoy and confuse you - my colyoomistas -  over the decades. 

Now for reasons personal, professional and political I’m moving on to ventures new.
 

You will still regularly be subjected to my scribblings, opinions and blathering nonsense, in a fresh style and fashion that will be revealed as soon as I fully recover from this pesky pneumonia.
 

In the meantime, I’d like to thank the inestimable Allan Cavanagh of Caricatures Ireland for all his excellent illustrations and you, my readers, for your loyalty and taste.
 

Don’t watch this space - look out for a new one, coming soon…

Sunday, 1 December 2019

DON’T DISGUISE RACISM AS SOCIAL JUSTICE!


For weeks I couldn’t write about it. Why did I feel so screwed up about Oughterard’s Direct Provision protest?

What exactly was it that was burning me up and twisting my guts?

Was it the cowardly local liberals, unfamiliar with bigotry yet suddenly conjoined with it?

Was it their clutching ‘Homes Not Hotels’ placards while pretending, in stomach-churningly disingenuous fashion, that they’re not racists, not at all; that they weren’t against the idea of people with dark skins moving to their town; that it was only the system of Direct Provision they were protesting against?

Did they really convince themselves that their cause was just?

Middle class racism is sometimes sprinkled with the fairy dust of NIMBYISM (Not In My Back Yard) 

Don’t be fooled. NIMBYs are just racists with PR.

Was it the hypocrisy of some locals, opining they’re only a small village, with not many caf├ęs or restaurants?

Disregarding the utter absurdity of asylum seekers living on €38.80 a week worrying about the local shortage of skinny cappuccinos, it’s quite astounding how all these feeble villages suddenly become mighty tiny towns, when trying to attract tourists.

If 38 tourists arrived in Achill Island today, nobody would worry about local resources.
 

Everyone would be delighted, yet silent vigils have been held at the prospect of 38 asylum seekers.

Direct Provision is a despicable system, designed to be nothing more than a deterrent.

There are plenty of jobs to be had in this country, yet the number of asylum seekers granted protection in Ireland last year represented 265 per million population, less than half the EU average of 650 per million.

This country loves nothing better than a good dose of self-flagellation, and in Direct Provision you’re storing up scandals that will shock and appall this nation in decades to come.

You’ll be calling Joe Duffy’s grandson, asking how on earth this country allowed children to be raised in such terrible conditions, all over again, and is it any wonder they've all grown up into Post-Traumatic troubled adults, struggling to integrate with wider Irish society?

Finally I realised it was neither the cowardice nor the hypocrisy that left me speechless.

What filled me with fear for the future was the way the Oughterard model was seen as a socially-acceptable tactic, and swiftly adopted by other communities.

In a very Irish exploitation of the truth, it condemns Direct Provision as it simultaneously legitimises racism.

Like a vile virus, all racism ever wants is an effective way of spreading.

Immediately others thought that if you can say that and get away with it, they might spout some hate themselves.

If those arson lads in Roscommon got away with it, why not set fire to hotels earmarked for Direct Provision, as you’ll get away with that too?

Why wouldn’t you share your hate, when there’s Grealish stirring up seven levels of vile bile, and he’s a politician, and he gets away with it?

That’s why I was speechless. My people are only two generations from the holocaust. I feel racism as you feel the cold night air.

The Irish have suffered immeasurable racism over the centuries, yet it’s spreading, here, now, and we must stop it.

If you’re going to be racist: be racist.  Don’t you dare disguise your racism inside the shiny wrapping paper of social justice. Don’t pretend you care when in fact you discriminate.

Ireland has seen a social revolution in the last 30 years, where social change was driven by a groundswell of public opinion, creating the need for new laws.

In London during the 1970s I saw how racism works the other way around.

There have to be strong laws against hate crime and hate speech, which are then fully enforced. 


Back then, Grealish would have been arrested for incitement to racial hatred after his town hall speech.

Once an entire generation grows up, seeing racists put in jail, society becomes more accepting. 


Aspire beyond tolerance, an unhappy state, implying you’re putting up with a situation.

Acceptance is what the Irish need right now, along with strong laws, aggressively enforced.

Throughout my youth I saw racism become increasingly unacceptable on English streets, because it was illegal.

Sadly, the converse appears to be true. As soon as Brexit legitimised the ideal of isolation, the numbers of hate attacks in England rose at a shocking rate.

Back here there’s been a woeful lack of consultation with local communities, about proposed Direct Provision Centres. 


Numbers of arrivals and the size of the local population need to be taken into account, as successfully proven by the recent compromise in Ballinamore.

Much can be improved, but first let’s all just take a step back and ask: who the hell have we become?


We are so lucky.

None of us have had to fight a war.
Our mothers, sisters and daughters have not been forced into prostitution.
We live without the threat of earthquake, fire and hurricane.
Most of us go to bed with full bellies, in warm houses.
Nobody we love will be taken by force in the night.

This country was weaned on money sent home from abroad. The Irish have no right to create distinctions between those who flee poverty or war.

We live in a calm, peaceful country that has many faults, but our lives are not threatened on a daily basis.

There used to be 8 million people living in this country.
 

We’ve plenty of room.

Time to open our minds, hearts and doors.

 





©Charlie Adley
01.12.2019.