Sunday, 24 August 2014


Rose Bay Willow Herb   

Sometimes I worry that my behaviour might be straying from slightly odd to fully eccentric. On my walks with Lady Dog this Summer I have been assaulted by clouds of flies, seven or eight of the buzzy blighters constantly bombing my face, ears and eyes. 

Occasionally a superstar of the bluebottle world scores a direct hit by taking advantage of my open-mouthed breathing to fly directly down my windpipe, only then to be gagged upon, wrapped in mucus and expelled back into the outside world, doubtless much debilitated and less able to fly, which must be tough for a fly.

In a bid to deal with these pests I took to waving a white handkerchief around my head, in flick-flack fashion, rather like a Tongan Princess I once knew, who had a mean way with her fly swatter.

As a visual definition of ‘eccentric’ the sight of this bear of a scribbler flitting and flapping at the air gaily with a cotton hankie would suffice, but sadly there’s more. Regular Colyoomistas might recall that my rowing machine has been broken, so in an effort to rebuild my floppy bits and work on my breathing, I slipped into the habit of slipping out of my t-shirt on those hot Summer mornings. My logic was of the very intimate and personal kind that only really makes sense to oneself, but it had something to do with a combination of visualisation, macho nonsense and a desire to feel like a wild mammal.

So now’s the perfect time to apologise to my smiling gentleman neighbour whose early morning walks coincided with those of this glorious Adley, nipples alfresco, hankie and flies combining as one.

“Nothing I haven’t seen before!” was his generous response to my embarrassed apology the first time we encountered each other, his low warm Ulster rumble causing the dogs tail to wag happily.

We both talked of the flies: so many more than any year before. Flies in their thousands, signs of a fecund growing season. Loads of sunshine, high temperatures and sudden heavy downpours bringing lush plant life, providing a feast for young livestock. Where there’s animal pooh there are flies and where there are flies, there are birds. For the last month our house has been surrounded by three clutches of swallow fledglings, providing a Hitchcockian perimeter fence of 400-500 birds at any given time.

Celandine - the first flower of the year around here...

Ireland's wildflower journey from yellow to purple is now complete. From the earliest bursting yellows of celandine in late January, through the daffodils, gorse and buttercups, gradually the West becomes a bluer place. Purple loosestrife strives to stand tall but is overshadowed by the splendid rose bay willow herb, towering above precious clumps of wild purple orchids and delicate pale blue harebells.

Purple Loosestrife 

White has come and gone in ethereal fields of bog cotton, but still prevails in the shape of dreamy clumps of meadowsweet and cow parsley, its white saucers of lace doily hanging in the air beside the encroaching mauve marsh thistles and eye-catching Emperor purple of spear thistles.

Of course there is still some yellow. The dreaded ragwort remains as prevalent as ever, yet just as the sun sets in an indigo blood glow, so too our West of Ireland Summer heads to death in flowers of a purple hue, while we long for its rebirth in the explosive yellow petals of Spring.

 Noxious Ragwort - kills livestock if eaten after cutting

The time has come to admit Summer is gone. Looking over to my ragged, damp and windblown flower bed, I accept now that the plants look tired. There will be no more long Summer evenings spent idly dead-heading.

I was going to do just one more round of plucking the poppy seed pods, the mad bulbous Nigella spheres and the dusty cornflowers capsules, to encourage more flowering, to keep the colour alive: but no, the time has come to let everything go to seed; to save those seeds in envelopes for next year; to accept that the darkness is coming.

I do not dread it. There are some aspects of Winter that I love. There will be cosy evenings in the cave, our bodies fueled by stews and hotpots, our souls nurtured by the fabulous security humans enjoy when safe inside, beside a fire, while the world rages wind and wild sideways wetness outside.

We are nought but hairy mammals, so we change with the seasons too, but I’ve often marvelled how crazy we are to fight against our own nature, by trying to light up the darkness. We’ve converted a season in which we should be sleeping, waking only to eat high fat foods, fart and return to snoring, into the busiest, most stressful time of the year. 

The coming long dark evenings offer us the opportunity to learn new skills or improve those we already enjoy, so I’d be plain silly not to mention that I’m running another of my Craft of Writing Courses at the Galway Arts Centre, from October 1st.

I love teaching this course. We all write together in confidence-boosting lessons, enjoying ourselves while learning the serious skills of the writing craft. With over a million words published I’ll also offer advice on how to sell your work.

I only allow 10 around the table, so as to give all my students the maximum attention, so if you would like to improve your writing skills for business, pleasure or creative reasons, please book your place now.

In the meantime, slow down, smell the damp leaves and pluck a blackberry from a bramble bush - it will taste beautiful; it will taste of of Autumn.

Charlie Adley’s Craft of Writing Course.
7:30 - 9:0pm, from Wednesday 1st October for 8 weeks.
€110/100 concessions. Numbers strictly limited.
Contact The Galway Arts Centre:
Phone: 091-565886

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