Thursday 30 August 2007

Is there a more tedious sport than bloke-bashing?

I've been in this traffic jam for three and a half weeks so far, sitting behind a Renault Megane whose owner has stuck those pink and blue ribbons on its behind.
Now I'm trying to pass the time and amuse myself by messing with my focal points: I aim for a distant tree, and then try to zoom suddenly to something close; something like that blue ribbon on the car in front.
Somehow I knew the pink ribbon was concerned with breast cancer, and call me foolish, but what with the pwitty wibbons in pwitty familiar colours, I was pwitty sure that the blue ribbon must be about bloke stuff.
But no.
'ISPCC', it says, followed by 'nurture a child', or 'protect a child', or something along those lines.
Clearly, I'd have to be some kind of a terrific bastard to begrudge this or any space allocated to such an essential and excellent service.
But what about us blokes?
If the pink is for women, and the blue is for children, then all I can assume is that blokes don't really matter that much.
What about testicular cancer? What about prostate cancer? What about the fact that, historically, irrefutably and emphatically, as a gender we die sooner.
A couple of days later, I'm lying in bed, reading the often-excellent Mariella Frostrup writing about the menopause in a magazine. She's making the over-familiar and sadly tedious argument that, if men had a similar condition, ooh my we'd know all about it.
But we do. We do know about the menopause. We know about HRT and the facial hair, the sweats and the moods.
Once again, this colyoom finds itself standing up for men. Is there a more tedious sport than bloke-bashing?
Whenever I hear "Ooh, if men had periods, we'd know about it then, wouldn't we?", I struggle to resist the urge to reply:
"Periods? Why, pray tell, what do you mean? Are you considering those finite slices of time, or the American for 'Full Stop'?"
Might I suggest that if the the vast majority of the world's women died younger than men, we might possibly hear a bit more about it than we do right now? Could it be possible that the reason that blokes die younger and the reason that nobody talks about it, is that we are traditionally perceived as inadequate if we fail to provide, and as such silently carry a heavy burden?
I love, respect and enjoy the company of women, and know that they are often not only our equals but often our betters.
But our lives as blokes would be so much more enjoyable if women treated us with the same amount of respect that they demand from us.
I'm not sure if I want to watch the BBC's 'Real Men' series, wherein we find out about blokes who do the most dangerous jobs in Britain. Apparently, the fact that these noble lads bring home the bacon by hanging perilously and diving dangerously makes them 'Real Men'.
So but like, exc-yoooze me. Does that not infer that somehow, because I make my living by daintily tapping on these keyboard keys like some nancy boy from Froo-Froo Land, I am not a 'Real Man'?
So to be a 'Real Man', I have to put my life in extreme danger each day when I go to work; I have to know how to cook, clean, and raise children; I have to provide; I have to be safe, and yet exude a certain sense of danger; I have to somehow be aware of bloke cancers, and the fact that I will die early, but not go on about it; I have to accept that I have no right to enter the taboo subject of how woman perform as lovers, yet I have to live in a society where it is de rigeur to mock male sexual performance in the media.
That's a tall order.
And now there's the Viagra backlash. For aeons men endured emotional agony and societal stigma as their women complained of poor penetrative performances.
Enter Viagra (so to speak!) and all of a sudden, blokes are able do what women have always been asking them to do, but before you can say "Snap!", women are complaining about how Viagra has ruined their lives, and turned their men into monsters.
Being a bloke in the 21st century is not a straightforward number. Are men meant to be real macho heroes with muscles the size of continents, or sweet sensitive lovers with a flair for fusion cuisine and a mean way with the hoover?
Of course we have yet to evolve, emerge and stand tall as perfectly-formed 'Post Sexual Revolution Men'.
But what was the point of the massive effort women invested in three decades of sexual revolution, if I, as a man, now find myself using the vocabulary of 80's militant feminism to talk of my opposite sex, while women seem happy to settle for boorish sexist behaviour?
Some of you might remember the 'Male Chauvinist Pig'? I venture to suggest that women would not much enjoy bearing the label 'Female Chauvinist Swine'.
Of course we should know all about the horrors of breast cancer and be ready to help children in need.
But while we're living in a world where bloke cancers don't play in the Bumper Sticker League, we have a long way to go to achieve a well-balanced and fair society.
Go on, girls, stretch yourselves a bit. At least appear to give a damn about blokes.
Spare a though for testicles, and prostates too, while you're at it!

On a much lighter note, and at risk of alienating even more of my female readership, let's move from 'chicks' to 'chicklets!
Entire government committees and swathes of focus groups are right now trying to work out how to stop chewing gum ending up on the paving stones beneath your feet.
Yet everyone knows the answer.
When I lived in California, chicklets were illegal. Gum came in sticks, each wrapped in paper, said paper providing a receptacle into which you can place your mangled chewed-up lumps.
No missis, I'm on about gum now.
We left testicles behind ages ago.

Thursday 23 August 2007

Life is priceless at the Galway Hospice, so why is it cheap if you're Iraqi?


This colyoom does not often tell you what to do, but right now you need to contact the Galway Hospice.
I've just come back from a visit up there, where I met splendid people working for an extraordinary organisation.
Like most of ye, I thought a hospice would feel like a waiting room for the almost-dead, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The place feels more like a large family home than anything else. Whilst following fundraiser Michael Craig as he points out the art room, the massage area and the courtyard gardens, I hear anything but talk of illness. Alongside heated debate about football, husbands and girlfriends, there is laughter, and an atmosphere filled with life and love.
However, a massive slice of the work done by the Hospice happens outside the building, in the community. A team of nine clinically specialised nurses made 4,000 home visits last year, all over Galway City and County, because there is no better medicine than being treated at home.
This I know only too well, as some readers may recall, because at the end of May, I rushed back to England to be told by a specialist that my father had three weeks to live.
My mother, sister, brother and I stood listening intently to every word.
"You had better find a hospice." he said.
Mercifully, Dad has since defied all manner of medical science. He lives yet, has a pint and a sandwich with his old mates at the golf club twice a week, and all power to him.
But having suddenly been confronted with the urgent need for a hospice, I know that there is nothing more scary for a patient than the news that they will never see home again.
People often return home from the Galway Hospice, where all Day Care and Home Visit services are voluntarily funded. Last year we donated a staggering ¤1.1 million to our hospice, through Christmas cards, weekly draws, coffee mornings and the inaugural Galway Memorial Walk .
Michael Craig explains:
"The people of Galway built this place, and we have plans to expand. There is so much passion about the hospice in Galway, a real sense of ownership. There is barely a family in the county that has not contributed. But that's the thing with a hospice. You don't need one today, but tomorrow you need one."
So get on the case, people.
Join in the Galway Memorial Walk along the Prom! Or, failing that, make sure that you sponsor as many walkers as you can.
Register at, email them at, or simply call them on 091-770868.
Do it now, do it pronto, and I promise I won't tell you to do anything else for ages and ages.
So what price would you put on your own life? What price anybody else's?
How much do you reckon a human is worth?
According to a survey published in Wired magazine, if you break your body down into fluids, lumpy bits and germ fighting equipment, you're worth more than $45 million.
Any takers for your yummy scrummy bone marrow, a snip at $23 million, (1,000 grams @ $23,000)!
Let's start the bidding for your DNA at $9.7 million, and because I like your face, I'll throw in yer antibodies for a bargain $7.3 million.
Now, see, missis, yer organs have got a standard rate. Wouldn't be worth my while selling for less than $116,400 a lung or $91,400 a kidney.
What's that love? Have a heart you say?
Why certainly, and at a mere $57,000 each, why not take a pair and keep a spare in the fridge?
On the newspaper's front page there's a story of how a man in Offaly was killed when his car overturned.
On page 12, in the little 'World Briefing' shorts, there's an item about how thirty six Iraqis died in a car bomb that exploded just outside Baghdad.
On page 21 I read how 'hundreds' of Bangladeshis are missing, feared drowned or smothered in recent floods and mudslides.
There are 6 billion of us on the planet, and we all have to die. Even though I have read countless miles of newspaper print in my tiny life, and watched a big fat belly's worth of TV news, I'll never quite feel comfortable with the way we are dealt death by our media.
The newsworthiness of your life, and inevitable death is calculated on a sliding scale. How dark is your skin colour, and how far away from us were you when you died?
The further away you are when you die, the less your life matters. Unless you're white, say, Australian. I'm sure a school bus crash which killed seven schoolchildren in Sydney would make our headlines.
But what about the seven schoolchildren who died in Democratic Republic of Congo last week?
Possibly my impatience is misplaced. Of course the global news organisations have to prioritise, in order to make sense of tragedy. 300 might have died in a plane crash, but if two of them were Irish, the other 298 don't appear to count.
And how do we die? Well, the global morbidity rates for 2005 tell a very simple story. 20 million of us died that year because our poor old hearts couldn't push blood through our clogged arteries. 'Circulatory/pulmonary disease, they call it. Infectious and parasitic diseases took 15 million of us, while Cancer scored 7 million hits.
AIDS killed nearly 3 million, while war took almost 2 million.
Extraordinarily, car accidents killed 1.2 million. Maybe we should have to do an In-Car Safety procedure, like they have on planes, when you consider that a paltry 1,454 died in airline accidents. Sadly, 870,000 of us killed ourselves on purpose. Sharks got 4 of us, 496 less than died in extreme sexual behaviours.
The singular point about death is that each one matters as much as any other, and to each family the loss is unique.
You can put a price on neither life nor soul.
All services provided by the Galway Hospice are free of charge, but as you know, there is a price to pay for professional care, and that's where you come in.
Galway Hospice Memorial Walk:
Phone: 091-770868
email: fundraising at

Tuesday 21 August 2007

What a relief! The Sun has solved Pi!

Sun Exclusive! Sexy Cow!
Thank goodness for the Super Soaraway Sun ! Why on earth do I buy a copy of Britain's best-selling newspaper only once or twice a year?
If only the world's greatest scientists and mathematicians had bought the same issue that I did, they could all be sleeping soundly in their beds tonight.
For centuries, aeons in fact, mathematicians, engineers, mystics and artists alike have wrestled with that old conundrum: the relationship between a circle's diameter and its circumference.
Could you put that more simply, my son?
Well, The Sun does 'simple' better than anyone. on page 6, they ran a fifty question quiz, rather ingeniously called 'Feeling Brainy?'
Possibly looking for their more cerebral readers, the quiz was placed opposite the paper's Editorial Comment, (which, by the way, read exactly thus:
"Load of Bull?
The search for Ireland's most beautiful cow was unveiled yesterday.
They might look the same to some, but for some a sprightly bovine can be moo-tiful.
But a sexy cow? Pull the UDDER one.")
Tempted to see if I qualified as brainy for a Sun reader, I stormed in, until I reached question 8, where I have to admit, I became a bit stumped.
'How many times does the diameter of a circle fit into its circumference?'
All power to the question setter. He or she could so easily have just asked
"Imagine you've drawn a line from one side of a circle right across to the other side. Now, how many of those wee lines do you think will fit around the outside of the circle?
But they didn't, because they want to believe that their readers are not idiots.
I didn't want to be an idiot. I didn't want to want to come up with the wrong answer, and a part of me just hoped it would suffice to say Pi, or even the symbol (¼).
Just how clever did The Sun want me to be? After all, from the little I understand, (or to be honest, just learned from the internet), as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter in Euclidean genome, Pi is a mathematical constant and a transcendental and irrational number.
Also known as Archimedes' constant and Ludolph's number, its exact size has never been ascertained.
On the 20th November, 2005, a gentleman called Chao Lu became the world record holder for reciting decimal places of Pi, having memorised it to a truly unbelievable 67,890 digits.
In September 2002, Dr. Kanada's team at the University of Tokyo calculated Pi to 206,158,430,000 decimal places, and still didn't get an answer.
Foolish ignorant men. If only they'd had half a brain cell to rub together, they'd have gone down the shop, bought The Sun, some tea bags, milk and a packet of chocolate digestives, and whilst dunking their biccies in their mugs, they could have found out that they had been wasting their time.
'Cos there it was, in the answers, upside down on the same page.
That's how may times the diameter of a circle fits into its circumference. There is no need for decimal places. The Sun has released us from centuries of mathematical purgatory; delivered us from scientific torment and philosophical agony.
It's official. Pi = 3.
The Sun . We love It.
Actually, I'm being a little unfair to The Sun.
Now, that's a challenging concept!
Whilst that item about the cow was true, it did not run alone. Above it, the red top ran an editorial about the economic disparity enjoyed and suffered in unequal measure in our so-called Tiger Republic.
Running with figures recently released by the Central Statistics Office, the paper complains quite rightly that our society cannot be called 'fair' when the top ten percent of this country's earners bring home ¤2,233 each week after tax, while the lowest ten percent earn only ¤157.
What kind of boom is this, where the rich get richer and the poor become inexorably poorer?
Allow me to introduce you to the Thatcherite boom, just like the one Britain endured in the 80's.
Then, as now, small groups of people living within a tiny geographical area became immensely rich, while the rest of us were bombarded with propaganda about the economic miracle in which we were living.
Then, as Bertie and his PD charioteers do now,Thatcher encouraged the marriage of an unbridled belief in the beauty of the free market to a young and hungry population, greedy beyond all precedent.
Then, as now, all you end up with is the disgrace of a society we have today.
If you tell enough people how well off they are enough times, they will start to believe it themselves. They will go out and buy 46" HDTVs on their credit cards, and take on 100% mortgages, because they feel financially secure.
Sure, aren't we richer than we have ever been?
Watch and wait as the global corporate greed that encourages sub-prime mortgages begins to collapse, bringing us all down with it.
Before you can say 'Negative Equity', the two most dreaded words in a free market economy, the house you bought is worth less than you paid for it. Already I dread the start of house repossessions that I saw in mid-'80's England.
But more than that, I fear for those families (and don't forget, we're talking about 10% of the earning population here!) who earn only ¤158, and yet have to spend ¤217 each week to survive.
Before we become obsessed with interest rates, bricks and mortar, let's not forget our neighbours, who lie awake at night full of fear.
They might well be worried about their mortgages, but as their spending on simple groceries and utility bills sends them ¤3,000 into debt each year, they are, more than anything, worried about putting food into their childrens' mouths.
And there was me, thinking Ireland had left those dark days behind.
You might well laugh when I call myself a Socialist, but the trouble with Capitalism is that the philanthropic dream of a so-called Drip Drip Drip effect of wealth distribution never existed in the real world.
The rich became rich in the first place by hanging on to their money. The poor become poorer, and will stay poorer as long as we turn our heads, vote for the status quo, and sleep happily whilst not giving a damn.

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Ireland's angriest man wants the Irish to apologise to the English!

Galway Swearing Taxi Driver

Many of you might well consider me a grumpy old bastard. I do not deny it, but prefer to see my grump as but a single band of colour in my moody rainbow.
I'm willing to admit that, were I a horse, I'd fall at the first in the Societally Acceptable Challenge Hurdle.
And then I climbed into a taxi, and encountered the most abusive and angry person I have ever met in my life.
Just being in his seething presence made me feel oh-so very much better about myself.
Between 1975 and 1995, I knocked off around 200,000 miles hitching, and on those roads met humans of every type imaginable (except for the ones who didn't stop - I never met them!), but on a midweek afternoon in my home town, from the rank at O'Brien's Bridge to my home in Salthill, I was entertained by a World Champion, the undisputed King of Fury.
A local man of slight build, he started hissing and spitting as we turned around, temporarily blocking the traffic emerging from Cross Street.
At first I took his torrent of 'effs' and 'cees' to be nowt but a burst of road rage, the like of which I suffer from myself, but it continued, almost unabated, throughout the journey.
At the risk of sounding disgustingly vain, I did at first wonder whether his venom was spilling forth in such a torrent as a result of him recognising me.
One of the more bewildering side effects of scribbling this colyoom each week is that, on occasion, and especially when their pencils are leaded with booze, we males of the species feels driven to share our wisdom, spread our little knowledge a long way, and if there happens to be a fella from da papers around, like, so much the better, like.
"Hey Charlie, here's one for you! Happened this morning. Now you know me! I'm not a racist you understand, but these black fellas, they're completely out of control!"
So I wondered if this taxi driver was maybe venting his spleen because he had me in his cab, but after a while I dropped that one.
I'm pretty sure that every fare he brings becomes an instant lucky winner is his Lottery of Wrath.
"F**king bastards can't bloody drive. Stupid f**king f**kers. Look at the way he's parked, bastard. Who does that c**t think he is?"
For a moment, as we drove down Dominick Street, silence dwelt briefly and happily inside the cab.
And then I went and spoiled it all by thinking perchance a little light conversation might ease our journey.
"Well, at least it's stopped raining. Looks like we're going to have a lovely afternoon."
"Don't talk to me about the f**king weather. I am so fed up to the back teeth with this bollocks country and its f**king weather, God almighty.
And look at the state of those grass verges. That f**king council of ours, they make me sick. Lazy f**king pigs. Fat bloody pigs getting rich while we wallow in the muck they leave for us.
Look at those grass verges. All f**king weeds and bloody litter. Really, makes me sick. How dare they sit up there in their bloody council chamber talking bollocks and taking f**king bonuses while they leave the city to rot? C**ts. Pigs and c**ts the lot of 'em.
And look at this abomination. Tell me now, what bright f**king spark decided to paint the Prom yellow? And were we asked? Were we f**k! And did we even know until it was done? Did we f**k. Ruined Salthill they have, the pigs. And the city.
Lovely it was, and now it's gone to shit. Shitty f**king Galway run by a chamber of pigs, ignorant c**ts and filthy fu**king liars. I tell you. I f**king tell you.
And look at the state of the grass by the car park. Ignorant p**cks. What did they expect with 100,000 people watching the Air Show? Did not one of them think that might f**k up the grass? Makes me sick. I have had it with this f**king country.
And yes, we have the Big Wheel now, but only after they had to fight the f**king council for the right to power.
Yes, huh. I'll tell you one thing I know. There's not much I know for sure, but some things I do know, and this thing I know for f**king sure. Oh god yes, that I do. They wouldn't listen, but if they had, I can tell you, this f**king mess of a country wouldn't be in the f**king mess it's in.
One thing I know. Old Garrett was right. Oh yes, you might laugh, but let me tell you, old Garret was right with what he said back in the '80s. If only we'd have listened to Garret."
Clearly the man was fishing for a question. I was worried that if I didn't give him what he wanted, he might have a heart attack, or worse, I might be considered a filthy f**king ignorant c**t p**ck myself.
"So what did Garret FitzGerald say back in the '80s?"
"I'll tell you what he f**king said. He said that we should go cap in hand to the English, and apologise! Yes, that's what he said, and that's exactly what we should f**cking do. Go cap in hand to the English, apologise, and ask them if they wouldn't mind taking the country back, and maybe please make it better again."
Was I really going to take him on?
I was nearly home, exhausted by his tirade of abusive language and, as I said, feeling a better more wholesome human being with each disgusting phrase and tortured clause that hammered into my ears.
"Wow! Did old Garret FitzGerald really say that? He - I - wow! Well, bugger me!"
"Yes he did. And he said a lot more besides. F**king pigs. Lazy f**king pigs and stupid fucking c**ts. That's what we have become!"
"Keep the change!"
"Why, sir, you're a gentleman and a scholar!"

Friday 3 August 2007

Sanity lies in Killala Bay!

Daylight robbery cartoon

Thanks as always to Allan Cavanagh of

Fleeing the madness that has been Galway City for the past few weeks, I head for north Mayo, where I lived for three happy years.

My god, it's empty.

The road from Crossmolina to Killala takes in sweeping Big Sky vistas, and I feel more relaxed with every empty-road mile that goes by.

Stopping at the lisheen to visit a much-missed friend, I see another car drive up.

A stranger? Somebody to invade my new-found space? No, lovely, it's a close friend.

We hug, part, and I am alone again.

Even though I lived within it, I have forgotten the power of this silence.

There is no noise, save for the wind, the rain, the crows in the trees.

If it's not too Irish a suggestion from an Englishman, compared to the melée of Quay Street or the chaos of the Headford Road roundabout, these noises offer a heavenly silence.

North Mayo is Ireland's, and very possibly Europe's best kept secret, and I want it left that way.

So hear me now. Upon finishing this colyoom, you will forget you ever read about it.

Driving straight through the village and on, out westwards, I pass the houses of all the people I want to visit later, and head straight for the nearest beach.

Pulling into the car park, I notice straight away that this beach has changed once again. The long stretch of sand to my left has gone, doubtless washed away in a brutal summer storm.

Where footprints sat glowing there now lie bruising boulders, bladder and wrack, dead jellyfish and molluscs a-million.

Looking far across the bay, I can see the sand that was once here now lines an extended shore of Bartragh island.

Some day the beach will return.

Right now all I want to do is get out of the car and cavort, waddle and stumble in ecstasy at my return.

Out of sight of everyone, I head off to the wormcast meadows of soaking sand stretching out to the lowest of tide lines.

Suddenly overloaded with memories of many afternoons and many walks, just here, just me alone with my thoughts and North Mayo's Forty Shades of Grey, my heart fails to cope, and yikes, I'm leaking from the eyes.

As if to harden myself, I turn around so that I'm facing the westerly wind, which whips my face with wet lashes.

Up above on the clifftop is the long thin house, where windows are open... and yes, an alarm is ringing.

Ringing ringing; the pointless ringing of a burglar alarm, where no burglar has ever trod, taking over all I can hear, mocking our species.

Is that the best we can do?

Does that boring ugly noise represent the sum total of our contribution to this wondrous universe?

All around me nature is gently permanently splendidly doing its thing. Out there in the grey blue green waters of the bay, I have seen dolphins leaping, Brent geese resting and seals lazing, yet what do we have to offer the scene?

A noise that serves no purpose.

50 yards further on, and the noise has gone. The wind picks up, and I hide under my jacket's hood. 

Waves build and crash in the distance.

Gulls screech and dive, plummeting into the ocean to spear their dinner.

Inside my hood I hear the rain on the outside; my heart pumping after my rock-hopping exertions; my raspy breathing.

I can hear my breathing.

Smiling smugly, I feel so happy I could weep again - but I don't.

No need.

I have arrived at my place.

For a second, I think of the crowds back home. Right at this moment, there's many-a punter and a shed load of workers who'd give a limb to be here, listening to the sound of their own breath.


©Charlie Adley