Tuesday 31 December 2013


Welcome one welcome all to the annual event you can’t bear to miss! This year’s DV Awards will be announced directly after your scribbler’s ‘Best Of’ stuff, because let’s face it, we’re all gorged and grogged out. Our brains are moving like slugs through gravel, while our distended bellies feel as if somebody else has moved in and taken up home there. The only information people are able to absorb at this time of year has to come in list form, so here goes:

Best thing I did in 2013: Adopting Lady, a 3 year-old Lab-Collie cross from the marvellous folk at madra.ie

Stupidest thing I did in 2013: Completely over-doing the walking when Lady arrived, thereby rekindling an old knee injury, with pain that has now spread to my ankle. Interesting test, in that my love for the dog increases at exactly the same rate as the pain I endure exercising her.

Best meal of 2013: Any I didn’t cook myself.
Best restaurant meal in 2013: The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, Ballingarry, Co. Limerick. Dan Mullane’s personality, style and flair for beautiful food combine to make you feel special. That’s a rare and beautiful thing.
Best place to take a break from life 2013: Rosleague Manor Hotel, Letterfrack, Co. Galway. Mark Foyle and his long-serving amiable team create an ambience where all is tranquil and refined, yet nothing is starchy or ostentatious.

Enough already with this self-indulgent nonsense. It’s time for the main event, so without further ado, we’ll open this year’s DV Awards with the Colm Keaveney DV for Opportunistic Bravado 2013, which goes to the Irish government's Bank Debt Deferment Deal, a despicable piece of political postioning best summed up by Father Ted, via Facebook:

“This debt is large, but it’s far away!”

So sad to see the Irish turning from a people who kept their money under their mattresses to hide it from their English overlords and save it for their children, to today’s version that’s merely sweeping the debt under the carpet, to hide it from their own eyes, saving it for their children for deal with.

Next up comes the DV Darwin Award 2013 for someone whom Humanity would benefit should they be taken out of the gene pool. No problem awarding this baby to one Wayne la Pierre of the US National Rifle Association. After yet another of the countless school massacres in the USA, he issued a statement saying:
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Go now, Wayne. Depart. Leave us humans to live better lives.

Sticking with politics for a while longer, the coveted Whoever You Vote For The 
 Government Gets In DV 2013 goes to Fianna Fail, doubtless Ireland's natural party of government. The only thing that was immediately and absolutely evident when the death of Fianna Fail was announced after the last general election was that they would most certainly win the next.

They’ll be back, because you’ll vote for them. Yes you will, because this shower might be just a little bit straighter and slightly less corrupt, but they’re so damned dull. Many Irish are still drawn towards chancers with big German cars, wads of cash and smart Italian suits. They look like they’re really living the life, so they do. You’ll vote for them next time. I know you will.

Slightly scatological but no less fun, the Can You Be Sick In Two Directions At Once? DV 2013 is shared equally between Gerry Adams’ hypocrisy in giving out about Magdalen apologies but not the Disappeared, and Enda Kenny’s emotional efforts, which, to my surprise, seemed to dupe the majority of the population. Maybe I’m a hopeless cynic, but I didn’t believe his remorseful tears.

The team behind the annual DV Awards are very keen to keep a positive edge to proceedings, so with that in mind the Dick Spring In The Step DV 2013 for surprising us in a good way goes to Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty, whose oratory makes a welcome change from Cowen, Noonan and all the other mumbly blatherers. Doherty speaks to us, the public, in a way that nobody else can.

No, I’m not about to become some horrific kind of Stockholm Syndrome Londoner Convert to ‘CIRA RIRA Let's Have A New RA’ and all that, but it’s great to hear a man who can talk with compassion, clarity and charisma.

The Michael Lowry Shame On You DV 2013 goes to President Obama, for failing to close Guantanamo Bay while encouraging use of drone attacks in Pakistan. Shame on you. ‘Nuff said.

The So Shameful I Cant Even Joke About It DV 2013 goes to the late Savita Halappanavar. All those millions spent on Volvo Races, Ironman triathlons and god knows what to put Galway on a global stage, and there’s my mother ringing from London to tell me she’s just seen Galway Hospital on the BBC 6 o’clock news.

One of everyones favourite awards each year, the Pots and Kettles DV 2013 goes to the inestimable Bono, who showed both a formidable amount of denial and subconscious self-awareness when asked for a comment at the death of the late great Seamus Heaney:

“I admired him because he managed to avoid the arrogance and creeping sense of entitlement that so many people suffer from.”

You said it Bono. We couldn't have put it better ourselves.

Is it that time already? But we haven’t had time to mention the Anglo Tapes, or our new 21st Century folk heroes, the online Whistleblowers.

Still there’s always time for the most important award of all.
The Best Place To Live And I Should Know ‘Cos I’ve Been Around DV 2013 goes, as always, to Galway City and County, along with all the people (well, nearly all!) and places on Ireland’s west coast, from Mizen Head to Malin Head.

Tha-tha-tha-that’s all folks! Happy New Year to all my colyoomistas!

©Charlie Adley

Monday 16 December 2013


Walking down Dominick Street, I’m carrying a Marks and Spencer's bag in one hand and a Lidl bag in the other. Make of me what you will, oh casual observer. The Lidl bag is enormous, so does that mean I do all my shopping there?

Who cares? Maybe I have the money to shop at Marks and maybe I just want to be seen to. 
Unlikely, admittedly, that your colyoomist gives a toss about what others think about where I shop, but there are people out there ... ‘Snobs’, they used to be called.

As a tiny lad back in the 1960s, your scribbler was given a fantastic definition of snobbery. Coming from the upper echelons of the English middle classes, it was, in itself, inherently snobbish. I was told that a snob is someone who looks down their nose at someone else, when they have no right to look down upon that person.

The tacit inference therefore was that there were other people who did have a right to look down on others.

Gradually and thankfully, a snob became anybody who looked down on another, and rightly so, because to do so is unjust.

Anyway, if my shopping patterns are anything to go by, you should never judge a person by their Bags For Life. I might be dead posh and do my entire weekly grocery shop in Marks and Sparks, and equally I might fill my boots at Lidl, Dunnes or SuperValu. So why this fixation with bagly brand recognition? Well, I worked in retail for many happy years, but encountered in that industry such a level of customer snobbery that I am still to this day outraged and perplexed.

Many years ago I opened a charity shop in Galway City, and having grown up in a family of shop workers, I knew that it was important to put our brand name out there on the streets. So I ordered a batch of printed carrier bags, only to be told by my Head Office that nobody would ever carry a charity bag onto the streets of Galway.

Why not? I just couldn’t understand. Rather than an embarrassment, I thought it would earn the customer kudos, for having made a contribution to the charity.

A few weeks into the job, I realised that I been wrong and Head Office right. In fact, the situation was worse than I could ever imagine.

Several regular customers bought a good deal of clothing and then carefully folded their new belongings into Moons bags. My oh my, how I had overestimated the social conscience of Ireland. Not only did they not want to be seen to contribute to a charity shop, they needed to pretend that they’d bought their clothes in a posh one.

Snobbery, pure and simple. Sad but true. Yet these days, even though the phenomenon thrives, the word ‘snobbery’ barely exists. The predictive texting on my Nokia phone recognises the word ‘Lidl’, but not ‘snobbery.’ Yikes! The Frasier Crane snob in me suddenly feels I must have the wrong phone!

Does my blend of bags, this visual cocktail of budget and luxury retail brands, mean I’m a societal mess? Well, I’m a supermarket whore. I go where the sun shines brightly. I go where the parking is easy, the produce is fresh and the prices dandy. Good little consumer, too. Signed up to all the loyaty schemes, so that computers somewhere can whirr and crunch and try to work out what I’ll want to buy next year, in return sending me coupons offering 25c off a metric tonne of cheese strings or something else that I have no intention of buying.l

Armed with our supermarket Bags For Life, we carry our consumer colours with us as we walk the streets. In a fantastic period of social engineering, between 2002 and 2004, the Irish were used as Eurozone lab rats, tested for compliance in a series of increasingly challenging ways..

Try them out with the plastic bags, then hit them with the Euro, and if they show a suitable willingness to be manipulated, smack ‘em up with a smoking ban too.

Politically, Brussels treats Ireland similarly to the way the Tories have always dealt with Scotland: contemptuously. Without any kind of electoral base there, they have nothing to lose, so they scornfully use it as a testing ground for their least popular policies, such as the Poll Tax.

The dishonesty of the ‘Bags For Life’ moniker still irks me. When they were introduced, we consumers were all told that the supermarkets (enjoying free advertising from their names emblazoned upon the bags) would replace worn out bags free of charge.

Me hole.

Over in the UK they’re contemplating switching to Bags For Life, so BBC News ran a piece about the pros and cons of phasing out plastic bags. Their correspondent spoke to two middle class people on a provincial English street, who didn’t think it was a very good idea, because oh dear, well, you know, it’s just that change, you know, change is never a good idea, is it dear? No, thin end of the wedge, change is. Hrrrmph.

Next the BBC consulted a nutritional hygienist who advised that if you repeatedly used the same bags, there’d be an epidemic of food poisoning.

Meanwhile I was wondering whether maybe, just maybe, somebody might have pointed out to the BBC that Bags For Life are working fine on this island, their nearest sovereign neighbour right next door. Charging a nominal fee for plastic bags at the checkout transformed shopping here overnight. All of a sudden we’re rid of an awful waste and an unsightly polluter. No more plastic bags caught up trees, blocking drains and doing gordknowswhat fearful damage to wildlife.

We’ve been using these bags for years, and nobody’s died. We’ve just got a much cleaner environment. All you have to do is remember to bring the damn things with you.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 9 December 2013


When I returned to Galway from California in 1999, I moved into a house on Grattan Road, overlooking South Park. Perfectly placed, so if I turned right out of my front door I’d be heading up the Prom, while a left turn took me on a very short walk into town, along the Claddagh basin and over Wolfe Tone Bridge.

The very first morning I attempted that walk, it took me a lot longer than I anticipated. As I approached Claddagh Hall I looked across the river Corrib. The previous night‘s downpour in Connemara had been transformed into furious brown waves, tumbling one upon the other, licked in grey and sepia spume, raging to catch up with each other.

That alone would have been enough to stop me in my tracks. I love Galway City’s river, and sometimes while standing on O’Brien’s Bridge, watching the whooshing flow disappear out into the bay, I fantasise that I’m standing on the stern of a mighty boat.

But that morning it wasn’t the river that made me stand motionless. It wasn’t the sight of the opening to Quay Street in the distance, sucking locals and tourists alike into its medieval orifice like a Faustian temptress.

It wasn’t the beauty of the bay, or the shimmering allure of Co. Clare’s Burren, purple limestone hills promising days of gentle walking followed by nights of raucous craic.

I wasn’t frozen in my tracks by anything that was there. The pleasure I found was in what wasn’t there at all.

There were no hordes of people, walking six deep across the pavements, struggling to avoid bumping into each other. There was no constant roar of traffic. Yes, of course, the number of cars on our streets has risen substantially since then, but believe me, even today, compared with the major urban centres of the UK and USA, Ireland’s most brilliant city is still a gentle place to be.

That first morning of my return I didn’t so much stop, as perform an upright slump. My shoulders dropped and my neck drooped, my knees crumpled and I couldn’t move an inch.

Didn't want to. My body was awash with fast flowing inner rivers of relief, stomach-wrenching rolls of gratitude and broken glass shards of remorse that cut through all the rest.

Standing there I thanked the universe for returning me to the calm. My soul was bleeding from the massive gash of guilt I felt, for all the pain I had recently caused others whom I loved.

So there I stood, with a heart tormented and a head that could not believe the calm.
Looking to the city across the river, it all seemed so placid. After so many years in America, this major city of Galway seemed like a slow peaceful oasis of sanity.

Of course I knew then as I know now that Galway is as insane as anywhere else in the world, but that feeling of peace and tranquility revisits me every time I return to Galway city and county.

As regular colyoomistas know, I have recently visited both London and West Yorkshire, and thoroughly enjoyed my time in both places, with each beloved person I visited. Yet nothing compares to the joy I feel each time I return to the West of Ireland. Whether I’m driving down the N17 from Knock Airport, or hurtling along the wonderfully empty M18 from Shannon, I always raise my fist in the air and shout out, loud and triumphant:


Because I am back. I am home again. To this wandering Jew, who spent 20 years travelling the globe in search of a home, the happiness I feel in having found it remains undiminished. 

While I was living in California, a very lovely friend of mine in San Francisco once confessed to being confused. She had been raised in a military family, moving all over the USA as a kid, so she could relate to my search for a place that felt like home. However, she didn’t understand my choices.

“You always talk about Ireland as if it was your home, so if you’d finally found it, why did you leave it?”

She knew well the answer, but I took her point. Sometimes, evidently, you have to leave a place to find out it was where you belonged all along.

So now I’m back once again, walking past a pair of buskers on fiddle and double bass, who put a spring into my step as I turn into High Street. Smiling faces everywhere.

Yes, that’s right! I’m quite sure that if you asked people in Galway whether they thought they lived in a happy or miserable city, they’d probably opt for the latter, but they would be so wrong. Galway City and County alike are full of happy people

Yes I know: trying to make ends meet is bloody tough at the moment, and even more often than usual all the locals are saying “Ah sure, I’d complain but nobody’d listen!”

Everyone has a bad day once in a while and we all need a little moan and all that kind of malarkey, but hear me now: I look at the faces of people on the streets, wherever I go, and here there are more people smiling than anywhere else I know.

It’s infectious. I love it.

You could live and die a long life in London without ever bumping into somebody you know, yet in Galway it’s almost impossible to remain anonymous. Everyone from half-hearted Howyas to full-blooded friends come by you on the streets, and after my short breaks back to Blighty, I love the feeling of belonging that is granted to me, back here in my adopted home.

Quite simply, it’s culture shock, of the most sublime kind. Here there is room to breathe, faces to smile at and a rare calm in this modern world, that’s yet to be destroyed.

For these things, we must be truly grateful.

©Charlie Adley


Monday 2 December 2013


The morning is truly splendid. A cold breeze cuts through the blue Yorkshire sky as my mate and I set out for a pootle. Turned out he hadn’t been putting on a brave face about his leukaemia. The treatment is working and if you didn’t know, you wouldn't know.

We climb into his van and spend the day creeping up sheer Yorkshire hills, looking down into perfectly-formed valleys, where isolated stone farmhouses shelter behind golden-leaved trees, with only motionless sheep for company.

We find a warm and friendly pub, where we drain a pint of Tetley’s, snarf a slice of homemade steak and kidney pie and revel in our reunion.

Then I take the train to Manchester Airport and things go downhill.

My mood could not be better as I approach the Aer Lingus check-in desk. I’ve been a good boy: checked-in online, printed my boarding pass and only have my bag to drop. The lass behind the counter is engaged in conversation with her colleague at the next desk, so she waves her hand, beckoning me to come forward.

At this point I think I’ll get the usual corporate meet and greet, eye contact and a smile, all that sort of thing. Instead, she just carries on talking, putting out her hand to imply I should hand over my documents.

Being a bit of a prat, I lower my arms, stand to attention, stare at her and say:


She continues talking to her colleague.

“Hello. Human being here.”

Finally she stops talking. Handing over my passport I start over-compensating for my anger by continually saying ‘Sorry’ and ‘Thanks’ like a raving maniac, as if I had just spat in her mouth.

Shame really, because recently I’ve been raving about Aer Lingus, choosing them over Ryanair to fly from Shannon to Heathrow. That’s why I’d booked this flight, which originally was due to land at Cork at 18:15, giving me plenty of time to drive home to Galway. Other flights from Manchester to Dublin and Shannon arrived so late I’d have to stay overnight in a hotel.

So I was far from delighted a few days before I travelled, when I receive a text from Aer Lingus - and how they have my mobile number I’ve no idea - telling me that my flight was now arriving at Cork at 22:30. No explanation, no apology, but hey, sometimes you have to swallow the poop, go with the flow. It meant I’d have to book a room at an airport hotel after all, and lose most of a day’s work hammering back to Galway on Friday roads, but on the plus side, I’d have longer with my mate.

Back in the airport I’m through security and straight into WH Smiths to purchase vast amounts of chocolate for the Snapper. Up to the till, where a lass wearing a sash that reads: ‘I’m Here To Help’ is on the phone.

All around me people are struggling with the self-service video tills. We have to scan our boarding cards into the things to buy chocolate. It’s insane, made more so by the bewildering chorus of several identical female computer voices announcing “Illegal item in the bagging area! Illegal item in bagging area!”

My heat is still up after my non-encounter with the check-in person, so after failing miserably to scan my boarding card into the damn machine, I try again:

“Help please. Human over here in need of help!”

By this time Sash Lady is off the phone and helping somebody else. I turn to ask her if she could help me too, when out of her mouth comes a noise:


Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard would be proud of her spitting hiss.

After venting my spleen to a sympathetic gentleman in the Whisky shop, I feel a little more human, and venture back to the departure lounge, where the screen declares my flight had been delayed again.

Again? Yes, let’s not forget the original delay-by-text, which made my arrival over four hours later than the flight I’d booked and paid for. Finally, having seen the Dublin flight that I could have booked take off, the only passengers left in the terminal are going either to Cork or Shannon.

If only I’d booked that Shannon flight, I’d have been able to drive home tonight.
It looked too late at the time.

Hah. Yes, I know. Life’s little ironies. They are so funny. Ha. Ha.

Ah well, at least I’ve a lovely corporate hotel bed waiting for me in Cork. A big modern firm bed in a bland wonderful plastic menu hotel.

Finally arriving back at Cork around midnight, I stumble to my hotel where I am given a room in which is a glorified Z-bed. This is the bed the cousin’s kids sleep on at Christmas. I’ve stayed at this chain before, know they’re good, so what is this crappy pathetic bed with no headboard or base? Having called reception to complain, I collapse, exhausted, onto the bed, hear it groan, squeak and complain (irony grudgingly accepted), while I stay cold all night.

The next morning I go to Reception to pay for my room service breakfast, only to be told by the receptionist that she’s really sorry about the bed. My complaint had been registered and she knew that this room wasn’t the best. They had just been trying to comply with my request on the booking form. Nevertheless, she says that the hotel want to pay for my breakfast. She also wants to let me know that she is sorry that the room wasn’t well heated. 

Could she please have my car park ticket, so that she can let the hotel pay for that as well?

She certainly can. Once again I’m reminded of why I love living in this country.
Irish Corporate Culture: 2 - Manchester Airport: 1

©Charlie Adley

Tuesday 26 November 2013

You think you've lost touch until life happens!

 ...back in the days when men were boys and hair was Hair!

Got a text from my mate in Yorkshire. “Call me.”

We’d almost lost touch. Back in the mid-80s, we’d been fairly inseparable, in what today they’d call a ‘bromance’. Not easy to be a fella. Either we’ve lost touch with our feminine sides or when we display emotion, we’re prey to mockery. There was no ‘bromance’, no romance to our friendship. However it was full on, and it was great.

In 1986 I was living in Golders Green when I found out he was living in Kentish Town, just a few stops away on the other branch of the Northern Line.

So I nipped over to see him and we crossed the road from his house, sat in the concrete beer garden of the Duke of Gloucester pub and drank pints. It was one of those moments in life when you instantaneously know something good is happening. Your world isn’t rocked, yet there’s a gentle zephyr blowing through your soul, letting you feel that you and this person are going to get on really well.

He was an aspiring actor, his career leaps and bounds ahead of mine, doing world tours with both the English National Theatre and Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company. With the likes of Richard Briers and Emma Thompson playing the leads, it was a great achievement for a lad in his 20s. I was dead excited for him, and shamelessly ligged backstage with his famous actor pals.

Wherever we went, whatever we did, evenings seemed to end up back at his gaff, where he’d press the cafetière, I’d shuffle the cards, Miles Davis would blow his horn and we’d play poker through the early hours. We smoked and talked, enjoying the pure strong energy of youth before it was tempered by experience.

We were the Likely Lads. We aired our troubled angst, paraded our curious souls and vented our volatile spleens at the result of the photo finish of the 3.40 race at Ripon. Then we’d drink lots of beer and whisky (Scotch in those days it was: White Horse, as I recall) and eat curry.

Turned out that he wasn’t at the National Theatre to become an actor, but rather to meet his lovely wife, who was working there too. He was my best man in California and I then had the honour of being his best man back in Yorkshire.

I flew in with my suit intact after the 6,000 mile trip, but then discovered on his wedding morning that I had no shirt with me.

My neck has the girth of a 200 year-old Sequoia tree, so with much urgency and quite a bit of giggling, myself himself and the bride's father headed off at great speed along the M62 in search of a shirt shop, any shirt shop that went all the way to18 necks. Quickly, time’s running out!

Apart from the fact that I took a lot of well-earned flak from father and son alike, the frantic expedition proved a perfect distraction to the upcoming events of the day. We found a shirt, so I wasn’t half naked at his wedding ceremony.

Just one of a plethora of memories, that became such as we drifted apart. Life does that. He couldn’t make it when the Snapper and I got married and we haven’t been to Yorkshire. 

Friendship can be a messy untidy affair, uncluttered by boundaries. Strewn all over my life lie the hurdles we crossed together. We were there for and with each other, although, to be honest, he had to be there a lot more for me than the other way round!

So we sort of gently imperceptibly lost touch. I sent a Christmas card each year, but that’s ‘cos I’m like that, and then I got this text. Call me. So I did, to find out he’s got leukaemia.

On reflection, I’ve decided that we assess and settle on the strength of words when we first hear them. Back in the 60s when you heard the word ‘leukaemia’, you thought somebody was going to die. In just the same way, in the 80s the word ‘chemotherapy’ carried such dark bombast that it spawned its own maxim:

‘If the cancer doesn’t kill you, the chemo will!’

Upon hearing my reaction down the phone, my mate reassured me that these days neither word carries the same vile cachet. They know so much more now. Apparently his particular type of leukaemia is eminently treatable, and now that he and his lovely missis are past the initial shock, they're doing well.

Telephones are great for blokes, ‘cos when we’re doing the man to man stuff we’re not really supposed to get all bleary teary. Admittedly, many of us lads these days are sensitive listeners and cooks, who hoover and shop, but hombre to hombre, the manhug still rules.

Nevertheless I was fighting back the tears when he told me how he’d had to ask the oncologist if he’d live to see his son grow up, but then laughed and felt relieved to hear that his numbers have dropped from hugely bad to really acceptable levels; that the chemo is working; that the worst he feels at the moment is a bit shitty, tired and grumpy after he’s stopped taking the pills that deal with the side-effects of the chemo.

Being a loving empathetic individual, I took the opportunity to ask him what the hell he was going on about, pointing out that he’s always been a bit shitty, tired and grumpy.

After all, that’s what friends are for, isn’t it?

So he’s doing well, and tomorrow I’m driving down to Cork and jumping on a plane to Manchester, where he’ll drive to meet me at the airport, where it’ll be bloomin’ brilliant to see him, as well as his lovely wife and son.

That’s the deal with friendship. You think you’ve lost touch, then life happens and you realise who matters.

I’m on my way mate.

©Charlie Adley


Monday 18 November 2013


If you’re lucky enough to have a job, chances are you’re unlucky enough to have a boss who drives you just a little crazy.

For me the hardest thing about having bosses was their inability or unwillingness to admit they were wrong. For some reason they seemed to feel that if they owned up to making a mistake, they might be perceived as being weak.

This stupidity arises from either plain ignorance or various insecurities clustered around each other, like broken crisps at the bottom of the packet.

So then you find yourself doing what the Americans coined as ‘managing up’: using all your social skills and workplace experience, you try to find a way to explain to this person who’s making your life a misery by dumping all their error-streaked pooh on your desk, ladder, van, whatever it is you work at, that it’s okay to be wrong. 

It’s okay to have made a mistake. 

If you just admitted that you’ve made a mistake, we won’t suddenly think you an incapable fool. We won’t think ‘Aha this person is able to make mistakes, when I had previously believed them to be infallible. Now I cannot trust them to do their job, or advise me of anything.’

What we might think is that you’ve suddenly grown up a bit. Once you’ve admitted to making a mistake, you’ll have less to hide, so you’ll be more able to do your job, not dump the extra work your wee booboo created on us, like you have been doing, because you couldn’t admit it was your fault.

Now we can feel at last that you’re worthy of respect, because the absolute truth is that admitting errors is a sign of great strength. All those years you thought you were doing so well, working so hard to hide from us the fact that you might be weak and drop the odd clanger, all those years wasted because all we felt was a growing contempt for your lack of understanding.

Given that we all accept and respect each other’s errors on a daily basis, I've always been fascinated by the terror that authority has of admitting mistakes. From a pretty early age we realise that everyone screws up; that the issue is not so much about whether you make a mistake, but rather how you deal with it. It’s pretty basic stuff, Life 101, yet world leaders aren’t fond of saying ‘Oops, sorry!’

To be fair to politicians - sorry, just have to take a breath after typing that - the media have made it almost impossible for people to admit they were wrong. By pursuing both the innocent and guilty with equally eager vigour, the exhausted journalists of rolling 24/7 TV news have to come up with stories, never-ending stories, rolling stories that generate other story strands, until it doesn’t matter who said or did what to whom, whatever happened or why, because facts are the least important issue between each commercial break. So in the context of cable newsrooms, it doesn’t matter if somebody did or did not admit to making a mistake. All that matters is the story.

When the story itself is about the admitting of a mistake in policy, the media whip themselves into an unhelpful and frankly childish frenzy, chucking around terms such as ‘U-Turn’ and ‘Flip-Flop’. When they treat us as idiots, we behave accordingly, chuckling along with the story: ‘Aha, see there, that useless bunch of twats had to ‘fess up and finally admit that was a rubbish idea, har har!’

Away from such mindless rhetoric, the sad fact missing is that people would and should admire politicians who change their minds. As with your boss, showing the self-knowledge to be aware of your own fallibility is a sign of emotional sturdiness. You don’t have to abandon an ideology to change your mind on one single issue. It actually makes me feel tense inside when I try to imagine why on earth they think we expect them to be perfect.

Could they be any less so?

While we're on the subject of those just a smidgeon less than perfect, you have to be wary of those politicians who apologise for somebody else’s mistake. Micheál Martin made my skin crawl as he made a very well-crafted and measured apology to us all for the mistakes of the previous government. After all, he wasn’t anything to do with it, was he? It brought bile upon my tongue, this foul remorse through a glass darkly. Fitting, as today’s leader of Fianna Fail has about him, as Tory Michael Howard was famously described, ‘...Something of the night.’

Were it not for a rabid media, vacuous politicians, insecure bosses and what appears to be a species-wide fear of admitting failure, we’d all be a lot better off.

While our egos might be flattered by being told we’ve done well, we’re only going to learn and improve by understanding what we've done wrong. I’ve made some dreadful choices in my life. I’ve done stupid irresponsible ignorant and selfish things. So have you. And you over there, cowering under the kitchen table.

People always talk of regrets. All that ‘If you had your time over, would do it it different?’ type of thing. I find this perspective just a little wearisome. They believe that if we fail we must have made a poor choice. I disagree. I make my choices based on what feels right at the time. Whether it works out well or not has nothing to do with the reasons I made my initial choice.

Humans are always going to make mistakes, so the choice is ours: do we punish ourselves and by proxy everyone around us, as we try to disguise our errors, or do we admit them, learn from them, absorb the knowledge that these opportunities give us and walk on?

993 words
©Charlie Adley

Monday 11 November 2013


I’m back in London, the city of my birth, trying to be a tourist. Considering my day out has only just started, I’m doing pretty well at looking like an outsider.

As I head up the platform in Stanmore Station towards the waiting train, the voice on the tannoy announces

“The next train to Stratford will leave from Platform 3 in 2 minutes.”

I stop in my tracks. The train I’m just about to board is on what used to be Platform 2. To be honest, even though I grew up down the road, I never knew which platform was which, because there were only two. There was this one and that one, and as Stanmore is the end of the line, you just jumped on whichever train was there.

Platform 3?

I turn around and oh look, wow, they’ve built another one over there. I may not be a mathematical genius, but I can tell pretty quickly that if there’s 3 platforms, the one in the middle cannot be Platform 3, so I leg it back up to the top and sprint down the new platform and jump onto the train, whereupon apathetic heads turn to focus cold London eyes, silently scornful of my jumpy thumping arrival, my heavy breathing and my far too enthusiastic smile.

Couldn’t feel more touristy if I tried. I fell at the first fence, my home town station.

The train eases out, purring along in relative silence compared to the raucous clatter-bang of those old carriages that used to take me to school. They felt as if they were made of nails and wood, held together with strips of metal. These days the Tube is slick, air-conditioned, perfectly lit and spotless.

Each time I come back I notice something different in Tube behaviour. Last time it was that absolutely every passenger had a smartphone; now it’s that they all have a single earplug linked to their smartphones. Some of them are listening to music, some are talking out loud to themselves. A decade ago they’d have been dumped into the barrel marked ‘nutter’. Now they’re just on the phone. 

Or maybe they're still nuts and merely pretending to be on the phone.

I have to make a call, but my own phone is a dinosaur Nokia, sporting a long crack on the screen, held together by Sellotape. Ah sure, what can you do, and there’s another problem. Last night my niece took the piss out of me for sounding Irish, and as I chat to my friend I have to dig a little deeper than I’d like to make sure I don’t sound like some dreadful plastic Paddy. I don’t mind pretending to be a tourist in my old town, but I don't want to pretend to be someone I’m not.

You know the way you never appreciate what's on your doorstep? Well, I didn’t see St. Paul’s Cathedral until I was 24, when a friend visiting from Australia asked for the touristy tour. So my first stop today is the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square because, I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve never been there either.

The Londoner in me expects to greet Trafalgar Square as an old friend. I’ve seen it in so many lights. In my hotheaded political youth, I shouted and protested there at the end of countless CND and Anti-Apartheid marches. You know the sort of thing. Gay Whales Against Racism. Life wasn’t always so serious. On a far-distant New Year’s Eve, I got stocious in this square, as Martin jumped into the fountain and onto the BBC news.

But today Trafalgar Square has been hijacked by the USA’s NFL. Jacksonville Jaguars are running around in full sporting regalia, blowing loudly on their whistles. Nelson’s Column is obscured by tents and a stage, upon which somebody is breakdancing. To both my tourist and local, the place doesn’t feel right, so I embrace the gallery, marvel at the beauty of the collection, and then find myself back on the streets, with several hours to kill before I meet my friends.

The pubs aren’t open yet, and the endless houses of Costa Coffee and Starbucks are full, noisy and bland. What a wonderful yet lonely place London can be. Oh for Quay Street right now, just to hang for half an hour, to watch Galway TV floating by.

Reverting to type, I decide to seek refuge in a cinema, and just for a few minutes the Londoner in me erases the tourist, as I dive in and out of remembered alleyways and shortcuts, making the job of checking out all the cinemas a lot easier.

Gone are the awesome caverns that once bordered Leicester Square, where my jaw dropped at the sight of the mother ship in Close Encounters; I jumped out of my skin at the falling head in Jaws; rocked with the Who’s Tommy and tried to look cool at Led Zeppelin's ‘Song Remains The Same’. 

Instead I watch Woody Allen’s ‘Blue Jasmine’ in a poky little studio cinema, which wanted to charge me £2.75 for a bottle of water.

Locals rarely socialise in the city centre. They stick to their neighbourhoods, not only because London is so vast, but also because the West End is a touristic rip-off zone.

Finally it’s time to see my friends, these people I have known for over 35 years. We’re a curious bunch, all heading different ways in life after school, yet never losing touch, never forgetting how to have a blinding night out together. I both laugh and drink to excess as I realise how foolish I’ve been, trying to be a tourist. With friends like this, I’m never going to feel anything but at home.

The onboard computer on the late night Tube has gone bananas, announcing stations randomly:

“The next stop is Dollis Hill, Baker Street, Baker Street. The next stop is the next stop is stop is Wembley Park.”

Do Tubes dream in alcohol?

1000 words
©Charlie Adley