Monday 30 June 2014


I turn on the radio...

“This is a story that needs to be told. People aren’t talking about this and they should be. It’s a national scandal that everyone knows about and nobody wants to talk about which could bring us all down together. So why is nobody talking about it?”

One of the more fascinating and less amusing things about living in Ireland is that upon hearing her broadcast those words, my mind floods with a torrent of possibilities to which she might be referring.

Is it GSOC? Patients on trolleys? Gerry Adams and Jean McConville? Young male suicide? The Bank Enquiry? The Tuam Babies? The discretional Medical Cards fiasco? The Justice Department Spokesperson? Church Sex Abuse (‘clerical abuse’ sounds like a number in the wrong column: these were crimes worthy of stronger description)? Phone tapping by an Garda Siochana? Quinn? Lowry? Patients on trolleys? Shatter?

I’m nowhere near running out of Irish scandals when the radio show host reveals the topic.

“So if you’ve any queries on mortgage arrears give us a call now.”

Mortgage arrears? He cannot be serious.

Yes of course it’s a national scandal, something which could bring us all down together. The situation is catastrophic, but we hear about it all the time, so what’s all this “nobody talking about it” stuff?

Don’t get me wrong, I feel for you. If your house is now worth less than you paid for it and you’re six months behind in the payments, life must be a pretty scary place. All swept up in the excitement of Ireland’s first flush of independent wealth, you bought a house during the Tiger years and then discovered the wealth wasn’t independent: it was European and American, reliant on a world situation.

Now you’ve got negative equity and I can think of little worse. So if I’m the caring compassionate human I aspire to be, why do I feel more angry than sympathetic?
Maybe it’s because I didn't buy a house back then, because I wasn’t sure I could afford it. In 2007 I was earning about three times as much as I do today, but I’d seen the same shallow explosive boom years before, in Thatcher’s Britain, where everyone's eyes glazed over with power and glory, just as they did here in Ireland.

So I stayed a renter and am still one to this day. Of course I’d love nothing better than to feel the master of my own home. Six years off sixty, I’d love to feel safe and secure in my house, knowing that I’ll never have to move again. I want to see the apple saplings I’ve planted grow to maturity, but life as a tenant can be volatile.

While the government is supporting the plight of mortgage holders, by encouraging their banks and building societies to award support, time and patience to their customers in financial difficulty, there is no such laxity in the world of the tenant.

If a tenant falls behind on the rent, they’re out, end of story.

With the housing market only starting to revive in Dublin, there’s a massive shortage of rental accommodation around Ireland right now, at the same time that many tenants are finding they no longer qualify for Rent Allowance.

Landlords are facing new household charges and property taxes that might make rent rises look very attractive. Homelessness is going through the roof, as those caught in various poverty traps end up on the streets.

We hear a lot about mortgage arrears and only very little about homelessness, but I cannot remember ever hearing a discussion about tenants. We find a rent we can realistically afford to pay and then just plug away, paying our rent every month, never entertaining the slightest notion of somehow getting away with falling behind in our payments. If we did, there’d be no support from the government, no recourse, no chance of hanging on to our home.

So here’s a great big cheer for tenants.

To be fair, I’ve been fantastically lucky with the Landlords I’ve had since moving to this country. In the finding of my last two homes an estate agent acted as intermediary, but before that, living in six different homes, I’d only ever paid one security deposit.

After years of standing in queues with other prospective tenants outside San Francisco apartments, all of us clutching our Credit Checks to prove we were financially sound, it felt fantastically civilised upon my return to sit and drink tea with my new Irish Landlady, who explained that no, there was no need for any deposit.

She hoped I’d like the place.
I did.

Two years later, in Co. Mayo, I drank tea with a farmer and his wife and shook hands again. Three years after that I had a chat with my new landlord in Salthill. He, like the previous two, was old school: if a man appeared to be sound, that was good enough for him.

I remember the day he came to tell me he was going to sell the place. He lived in the big house to which my one bedroom housheen was attached.

“Sorry, Charlie. I know this is your home and I’d offer you first refusal on it, of course I  would. Trouble is, you’d have to buy both homes and I somehow suspect you don't have a spare €460,000!”

A part of me loved him for that. Even though he was both a home owner and a landlord, he was completely aware that my home meant as much to me as his own did to him. To him the fact that he owned his home and I did not was immaterial.

If that little one bedroom in Salthill had been detached from his half million euro house, he’d have offered me first refusal and I’d have begged and borrowed to buy it.

I’d own my home at last and if I ever found myself in mortgage arrears, I might find a sympathetic ear and an extended payments plan.

©Charlie Adley

Wednesday 25 June 2014


It's really hard not to feel pure joy, but somehow I manage it.

The scene in front of my eyes would put any Rom-Com montage to shame. I’m on one of my favourite Connemara beaches, under a cloudless blue sky.

Walking beside me along the pristine white sand with the Snapper is a very over-excited 3 year-old collie-lab who goes by the name of Lady, or on occasion Lady Dog.

As soon as she jumps out of the car, it is apparent that she's never seen the sea close up before.

Immediately she is fascinated by the waves. What are these watery animals that keep rolling onto the sand? Running along the beach up to her knees in ocean, Lady goes into hunting mode, learning quickly that when she takes a bite out of the Atlantic, the wave collapses, so clearly she is killing them.

Look, there’s one, got it, oh no there’s another one, got it, oh no there’s another one, got it, oh no...

What a smart doggie!

Steady there now, if anyone’s going to say my dog’s thick, it’ll be me, if you don’t mind thanks missis, sniff cof cof.

On the drive there we’d listened to radio reports of calamitous thunderstorms around the country, but here, just beyond Cleggan on the way to Claddaghduff, here the weather is perfect.

That which used to be the West Coast of Ireland is now branded the Wild Atlantic Way, which is a wonderful thing if it helps to keep the area as unspoiled and stunning as it is right now, while supporting those who work to show others the road from Cork to Donegal.

One of the great things about being a bit of an empiricist is that every happy day appears as if the like had never before. I have walked this beach a hundred times, yet each has been unique. Time moves on, taking with it emotion and energy, but one constant I give thanks for: this little beach is always empty.

The sun is beating high in the sky, the water a blinding array of turquoise shades that put the Aegean to shame. Looking at this wondrous scene, I try to imagine what the soundtrack music would be to this particular movie montage. It’s that part of the film when time passes as dogs run up beaches, husband and wife walk hand in hand and there’s scones and jam for tea.

Which there were, but that’s another story.

So my dog is having the time of her young life. As the Snapper laughs and the dog swallows yet more pints of emetic sea water, I struggle really hard not to spoil the moment.

For once I succeed. I laugh and shout:

“Good Girl! Good girl! Are you having fun out there? Good girl!”

Thankfully my fears of driving whilst drowning in rivers of dog vomit prove fruitless, as Lady leaves seven or eight Hunk-hunk-hunks on the beach. The first few are clearly sea water, but by the time she’s nothing left to give, she’s retching parcels of matter that look remarkably like Potty Putty.

Hadn’t thought of Potty Putty for years.
Dogs are amazing.

Please take me with you - I'll be good!

Anyway, thank goodness, now she’s safe to put back in the car.
Ah but no what’s this? All of a sudden she stops and raises her backside in a most unusual position (the dog not the wife: behave!) that is neither a pooh stance nor a peeper crouch. She’s holding it there and oh my god ... oh good grief ... oh yuckkety yuck yuk.

To be fair, her positioning is an accurate description of what’s just happened. Neither one nor t’other, a most unfortunate cocktail of all three states of existence.

While it’s a little late in the day to spare your blushes, patient colyoomistas, I do realise that there’s only so much I can reasonably expect others to read about the motions of my pooch.

The point to all this is neither the splendour of the day that’s in it, nor the alien vileness of whatever it is that Lady explosively expelled onto the sand.

The point is that I have a hard time letting go of my responsibilities and to me, Connemara has always been a sanctuary.

New in Ireland, working as a kitchen porter in Kinsale, I used to stare at my map for hours, my fingertip tracing the western coastline of Co. Galway. My travelling instincts itched to visit this area and have never been disappointed.

Of course Connemara has faults. Some days when I lived out here I felt I’d physically implode if I saw another raindrop on my window pane, but hey, that’s what Galway City was invented for.

A trip into town, a bit of craic and soon enough Connemara would lure me home; happy, safe and silent in my far-western refuge.

Yet today it’s different, for a reason that is so completely socially unacceptable that I’m finding it hard to confess.

Dog owners are fond of saying:
“Best thing we ever did that was, getting the dog. Changed our lives forever.”

...but but but I'm irresistible...

Well I love my dog too. Her welfare will always be my responsibility, but as I work at home, for 5 days each week she’s solely my responsibility. Evidently, eventually that for me becomes exhausting.

The experts all say that the dog must fit in with your lifestyle, which is fine if you don’t mind mopping the kitchen floor. To be fair, Lady lives up to her name, but right now, on this tiny wee holiday, a huge part of me just wants to be free of all responsibility.

Let me think of nobody but myself and the Snapper.
Let there be no early morning clock-watching.
Let me sit inside a pub.

Anyway, we’re having a lovely time and with Lady now thankfully empty at both ends, we drive back to Rosleague Manor, where there are warm scones and jam for tea.

I think I mentioned the scones, didn’t I?

©Charlie Adley

Monday 16 June 2014


Last Monday morning my excellent friend The Body and I were sitting outside Rob Kenny’s lovely coffee shop Pura Vida on Lower Quay Street, talking gentle bollox as we watched the tourists saunter by.

Peter Connolly of The Claddagh Boatmen leaped out of a van and walked up to our table.

“Do you two want to come out for a while on the bay in a Hooker? It’s good to do something impromptu every once in a while. I have two life jackets for you and can meet you down by the docks in ten minutes.”

I looked at The Body. He looked at me. We both smiled and raised our eyebrows.

Yes, it’s always good to do something on the spur of the moment. Even better, as regular colyoomistas might recall, last week’s blather ended with a wish for exactly this opportunity.

“Come on then. We’ll do it! See you down the docks in ten minutes Peter, and thanks! This is great!”

A short while later, coffees drained, peepers squeezed, the Body and I were wisping our way across the waves, staring up at a billowing rust red sail, as Galway City disappeared behind us.

Life can sometimes be equally exciting and wonderful: there I’d been, drinking coffee with my mate one minute and the next ... was I dreaming?

Strangely enough, the previous night The Body had dreamed that he went out on a boat.

For me it was simply a dream come true.

Galway lifestyle allows the time and freedom to act impulsively. It has to. Galwegians are not fond of arrangements, preferring to behave spontaneously.

I’d use the expression ‘go with the flow’ but that’s a bit too arty farty for the scatological process that tends to unfold in Galway, where away from the river, the only things flowing are the beer and the urinals.

Asking a Galwegian a seemingly innocent question such as

“What are you doing next Tuesday?’ 

brings about heavy sweating, random phone checking and furious finger rubbing. It’s not that people in Galway can’t make a date and keep it: they’d just rather not.

As a self-employed scribbler raised in a Protestant country by Jewish parents, I have a sturdy work ethic which blends naturally with my strong sense of punctuality.  Unfortunately it mixes with Galway’s culture of timekeeping like oil and vinegar. Never the twain shall meet, unless you give it a good shake up by being as bladdered as the crowd.

Somebody asks me to do a favour, suggesting we meet in the pub at midday. I arrive at 11:50. That way I can buy a coffee and be seated and ready at the appointed hour. Around a third of my work portfolio consists of favours. Each I do gladly, as some of might evolve into working relationships, while others I’m simply happy to help out. One of the many things I’ve learned from the Irish is the Celtic-Karmic truth of ‘What goes around comes around.’

So there I am, sitting in the pub, ready, willing, and able to help, but there’s no sign of them: no phone call; nothing. Why haven’t they at least texted?

I start to get edgy, try to get hold of them, but their phone is turned off.

They were the ones who called me and now they bloomin blah de blah grumpy grump grump.

Then I remind myself how you Irish occasionally refer to yourselves as the Jamaicans of Europe. Personally, I think it’s a little unfair on Jamaicans, as the inference behind the claim appears to be that you are lackadaisical about timekeeping and lethargic about your working hours.

Three quarters of an hour later they arrive and the meeting begins. After a couple of decades here I’ve learned to chill out about the ‘always being late thing’, choosing to see it as a challenge and a way to improve myself.

Chill the fuck out, Charlie.
Calm down, slow up.
See the rhythm of the locals. 

Match that and life will be so much more pleasant.

For control freaks such as myself there is order and safety in punctuality. Culturally in England, timeliness is expected, as to be late is deemed disrespectful to the other person. Have to say though, even if such precise clock-watching builds better industry, I’m not convinced that it’s particularly healthy for humans.

Although I’ll never completely rid myself off my need to be on time, I have worked to improve my attitude to time; to become more Galwegian. Being less worried about minutes must be good for the blood pressure. Having the freedom to do what you want when the opportunity arises is surely a difficult matter to price.

However there is a certain type of timelessness that can be very detrimental to your health. I’ll never cease to be amazed how acceptable it is in this country to forget what you did last night because of the drink. Time blackouts are almost an essential part of ‘a good night out’. Nobody seems overtly concerned that their body’s systems were shutting down due to alcohol overload.

Mind you, I can hardly come on all saintly here. Although I rarely drink to excess any more, there were nights when time disappeared to such an extent that I was lost and then was found.

Back in the days when I lived in the Claddagh, the most dangerous deed of the day was popping out to McGuire’s shop for milk. It was barely half a mile there and back yet many was the time the mission failed abysmally.

On one particular occasion, I left for the shop on the Tuesday morning, returning the following Friday, with barely a memory of where I’d been or what might have happened.

But - ha!! - I had remembered the milk!

However rather worryingly, don’t know how and don’t want to go there, I had five quid more in my pocket than when I left the house three days before.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 8 June 2014


Maurice on 'Celeste'

Like damp flannels we were draped around our small wooden beds, sodden with sweat and drowning in boredom. On the rare occasions it stopped raining, the humidity left you drenched. This wasn’t what I’d expected when I booked a two week visit to Tahiti in 1984.

I was sort of hitching around the world, flying over the oceans and taking boats across the seas. How bad could a fortnight on a tropical paradise be, travelling from California en route to New Zealand? A better question would have been ‘How powerful is our ability to fall for the hype?’

Tahiti turned out to be an active outpost of the French Empire. Luxury resorts were laden with super-rich tourists, while the locals squandered an existence out of underpaid jobs and exorbitant prices, imposed upon them by far-distant Paris.

These days taking a year off in your 20s to travel the world is almost ‘de rigueur, dwarlink’  but back then there was no market for it. Neither food nor fun we could afford; no place to stay, except this room where we four weary travellers lay: excluded, demoralised, fighting off mosquitos the size of tennis balls.

Tim, a Kiwi lad with a deep voice and dry wit turned to me.

“I’m out of here tomorrow.”
“Where ya going?”
“Got me a ticket on a boat to an island called Huahine.”
“You’re kidding!”

On my last day in San Francisco I’d wandered into a curious little shop in North Beach and saw a tiny map of an island. The coves and curves, hills and lagoons satisfied all of my childhood treasure map dreams. Reaching into Blue Bag, I handed the map to Tim, who leant back on his damp rancid mattress.


“Bloody eh. Looks like you’re coming too, mate.”

The next evening I found myself lying on the deck of a small ship laden to the gunwhales with cargo and people. Covering every inch of space, families were stacked over each other. 

Tim voiced concern about how there were only four lifeboats.

“They get some pretty bad storms out here.”

Watching the sun set across the South Pacific, my mind wandering back to the sterile world of marketing I’d left behind, I was far from fear. Aping his Antipodean cousins, I suggested:

“She’ll be right, mate!”

My love of boats goes back to my teens, when instead of going to university like a sensible chap, I worked Winters in warehouses and hitched around Europe in the Summers. The ferries I took to Calais, Dieppe and Cherbourg represented the cutting of my leash. Standing astern, upright and excited, I’d watch England disappearing into the distance.

Hours and hours of my life have been spent staring over deck rails, as hulls cut through water. To this day I cannot watch a bow wave surge, foam then fizzle without a thrill running through my body, the repetitive rhythm of its formation and destruction allowing meditative thoughts to wash away the bilge of my everyday life.

My love affair with boats was to take a new turn a few weeks later. By the time I arrived in New Zealand I was travelling with a Californian lass called Cory. Standing in the reception area of a hostel in Auckland, we were approached by a silver-haired bespectacled man called Maurice, who asked us if we’d like to spend a couple of weeks with him on his yacht, cruising around and beyond the Hauraki Gulf.

Seemingly he had spent years building the beautiful 38-foot Celeste, enjoying nothing more in his retirement than taking a couple of young people out, teaching them how to sail, fish and forage for food.

To my shame, only Cory grabbed the opportunity to learn how to sail. Maurice was a great teacher and I lapped up every morsel of his encyclopaedic knowledge of the local flora and fauna. Yet while Cory took instruction in tying knots and navigation behind me, I sat in a state of profound peace on deck, wondering at my incredible luck and the beauty the universe reveals, when you’re willing to take a chance on life.

In the evening we’d sail towards the sea birds, throw lines, catch fish and take the dinghy to the shore. After building a fire, we followed Maurice as he found wild veg and salad plants nearby, then sat and ate food as fresh as the moment.

Ocean-fresh fish for dinner...

Those two weeks will stay with me forever, as will the love of sailing that Maurice instilled in me. He hated the invasive noise of a boat’s engine and by the time we sailed back into Aukland, locally known as ‘City of Sails’, I was in love with sail’s blend of wind and silence, wave and speed.

So last weekend I was absolutely thrilled to find myself midway between the coasts of counties Clare and Galway, surrounded by a fleet of Galway Hookers gathered from all over the country and Connemara.

All three classes of Hooker, the Bád Mór, Leath Bhád and Gleoitiog, were represented In the largest traditional boat regatta ever to take place in the city. I counted thirteen at one time, but might have missed a couple, as I was somewhat distracted by the unique humour of Galway’s outgoing Mayor.

Thanks to the efforts of my friends at Bádoiri an Chladaigh, alongside The Latin Quarter, Galway Hooker Association and Galway Harbour Company, these fantastic boats are back on the bay, with young people being taken off the dole to learn the traditional local skills of sailing, boatbuilding and skippering.

My thanks go to Bádoiri an Chladaigh Chairman Michael Coyne who so ably skippered his boatload of landlubbers and Peter Connolly, Club Secretary, for his invitation.

There was no place for an amateur such as myself on a Hooker that day, as they raced each other across Galway Bay as nature intended, but now that I’ve been so close to these glorious vessels out on the water, I’m eager to experience one from the inside!

©Charlie Adley

Monday 2 June 2014


Well done Ireland! While much of Europe seeks refuge in the bigotry and hatred of the far-Right, this country voted with its heart. Instead of seeking outsiders to blame, the Irish made it very clear they blame the parties of this government and the last. There was no Golden Dawn party parading down O’Connell Street with ersatz swastikas. No UKIP, no Front National. No Marine le Pen.

Praise be!

It would have been completely understandable if the Irish had chosen to blame the ECB, the IMF and World Bank, and some of the victorious independents were doubtless elected by protest votes against the Troika.

Yet despite the present surge in popularity for non-treaty politics, it’s still fairly inevitable that the next government won’t be headed by ranks of Mings, Maureens and men in pink shirts.
Sadly, our future rulers will belong either to the party of smug self-centred bourgeois hypocrites or the party of dark and dangerous chancers who promise the earth but send you to hell.

The overbearing melancholy that truth delivers makes the choices of Irish voters last week more vivid, more important. They needed to rid themselves of the status quo. Instead of hating and rejecting, they reacted to austerity and poverty by joining ranks and turning to each other; to compassion and socialism, rather than the unbridled capitalism that has wrought havoc over the continent.

This alone would make me thrill and feel delighted to have chosen the right country to live in. Yet my joy at the choices Ireland made was enhanced by the way I’ve been bamboozled over the years by the Irish culture of blaming.

Often it feels as if there exists in Ireland a huge stinking lump of pooh that nobody owns, wants or cares about. Instead of grabbing it, sanitizing it and washing it away forever, the Irish just pass it along.They don’t feel comfortable complaining or protesting, but nobody does blame better.

Lifting my voluptuous arse out of the armchair I become rigid. The pain is so severe I cannot breathe. I’m frozen, stuck between squatting and standing.

Personally, I blame my excellent friend Whispering Blue. We’re all familiar with the way that women who share a dormitory start to menstruate at the same time. Well, for weeks now my mate’s been suffering unimaginable back pain as he studies for his exams. We’ve been friends for over 20 years, so it seems natural that when his pain has filled its host body, it might well spread to mine.

Really? Well no, I haven’t lost my noodle. Despite being pretty demoralised by the unwelcome return of lower back pain, I haven't suddenly become prone to ludicrous notions such as migrating lumbago.

I’m just adapting to the culture of my adopted country. Years ago I might apologise, but instead I’m blaming Whispering Blue.

I’m in pain because Whispering Blue has no more room in his body for his own pain. He has pain as he’s a student who cannot afford a decent chair to study in, nor private health insurance to provide him with MRI scans and a possible cure for his condition.

All his doctor can do is put him on waiting lists, where he’ll wallow many-a-year down at the bottom with the rest of the Medical Card holders.

So he blames his chair and his doctor blames the hospital and the hospital blames the private health insurers who unfairly share the HSE’s resources. So the government removes the taxation subsidy of the private health providers, who leave the country, blaming the government.

Without revenue from their taxes there’s even less money to fund the HSE, so nurses and junior doctors work extra hours, blaming their bosses who blame the administrators who blame the politicians who blame the people on the dole who aren’t making a contribution to the country.

Pretending to help get the rabble off the Scratch, the government cuts the Universal Social Charge paid by the rich in a vapid attempt to encourage them to offer employment to those supposed idlers with Medical Cards.

Unsurprisingly, the rich choose not to create jobs for low-life scroungers, instead stashing their green folding in off-shore accounts where their tax Euros won’t be wasted on MRI scans for students with old chairs and mind-numbing sciatica pain.

So we blame the rich for evading taxes and they blame the tax system to which they barely contributed.

A foolish politician or a rich person with enemies is caught thieving, red-handed by the media. Once the story’s on the TV and in the papers it’s way too late for an Garda Siochana to take a bung and hide the case away, so the unfortunate sacrificial rich person is brought in for questioning.

A Tribunal is set up, hundreds of thousands pass from one rich party to another through legions of lawyers, and then the whole thing’s called off because the process has taken so long, the judge has died.

Now nobody knows who to blame because you can’t go blaming a dead man, can you now, so it’s best to just forget the whole thing. The rich become richer, the guilty walk free: we’re back where we started. The status quo proves immovable.

So you blame the system. The government blame the opposition, who made such a mess when they were in power before. The leader of the opposition blames the government who in turn blames the world situation.

The only thing it can never ever be is our own fault. I didn’t get back pain from lifting that heavy suitcase over my head like a 20 year-old Moldovan weightlifter.

No. It’s not my fault. I live in Ireland. I blame Whispering Blue for my back pain.

Hopefully my friend’s health will improve quickly, so he can take back the surplus pain he gave me.

Charlie Adley