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

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