Thursday 24 December 2015

How much does a man need?

            Thanks (I think!) to the inestimable Allan Cavanagh at:

What do I want for Christmas? What does a man need?

Years ago I worked with male teenage Travellers alongside a man who taught them (and me) about how to become the human we wanted to be.

“Self knowledge is completely useless, Charlie,” he explained, “...unless you do something about it.”

Last Spring I realised that I was exhausted, and actually changed my behaviour patterns. In the past I’d feel beholden to pummel on regardless, until I became ill or depressed or both. 

Instead, learning a little bit from my past, I tried to cut myself some slack and ease up on the pressure. Any self-employed person will tell you how difficult it is to do that, but I did it.

Then I started buying myself things. Not frivolous nonsense of the kind irritatingly advertised on the radio as gone when it’s gone... No, I invested in myself and feel all the better for it.

I bought a pair of good boots. With a couple of skewed discs and a dodgy knee carrying an unnaturally large body weight, my plates of meat take a battering, so good boots are essential.

In the past I’ve bought the same boots every year, which last just under a year. This time I went out and bought good boots, handmade by a small company in Yorkshire. 

Admittedly there was some woe in the tale, as the first pair of good boots I bought were handmade by a company in Germany. 

According to online reviews posted by ex-squaddies, these boots were the best boots a man could buy. I felt ex-squaddies would be good judges, but hadn’t reckoned on my feeble middle-class body. Blisters the size of Cyprus left me limping and stumbling until I had to relent and took the boots back. 

Upon seeing the state of my plates, the woman in the shop was overcome with sympathy and agreed to exchange them for me, even though they were now beyond resale.

These boots I love. They hold me up and allow me to follow Lady Dog through flooded bog and bohreen.

I’ve a good chair. It’s a proper size for one such as me and I ordered it with the hardest arse cushion they had available. Then I ordered a spare arse cushion for it, knowing how much of a beating this chair will take. 

Admittedly the first chair I bought was not a success. I’d never bought a lounge chair for myself before and unknowingly purchased a feeble nursing home number, just because it felt wonderful on my back. 

It did not last well. Worn out and dejected, it now sits in a corner of the living room, under a pile of Snapper stuff.

I’ve a good coat. Each year I go out to TK Maxx and then on to Ó’Máille’s, where I buy a wax cotton jacket for around 70 quid.
After I mentioned to the Snapper that I was about to live out this annual ritual, she suggested that instead I go straight to Ó’Máille’s and talk to the wonderful Ger and Anne about a tweed coat.

She pointed out that if I spend 70 quid every year it might be better to spend more for a good coat that’d last a decade. Then she reminded me that when we met I used to have a full length tweed coat and I then explained to her how that coat was something of a miracle.

I’d had a full length tweed coat when I lived in Bradford. There was nothing better to battle the blizzards that raked across the Pennines, as I walked home in the early hours from working bars.

Within a week of arriving in Galway I’d found an identical coat in a charity shop and after parting with only 20 quid, myself and that coat became one.

An asset to Galway for generations, Ó’Máille’s on High Street represents Irish culture, tradition and craftsmanship in action. With his shop packed with delighted and excited American shoppers, Ger measured my chest and within a couple weeks a full length Magee 1866 arrived in the shop.

After some adjustimication of the sleeve length I walked out of Ó’Máille’s wearing that coat and ever since it has become my second skin. It weighs a ton and attracts infinitely more compliments than my natural good looks, but I’ll not be jealous of a coat. 

Out in the freezing darkness, wind and rain, following Lady Dog as she circles and twists in her Walk of Pooh, my wellies rise above the coat's hem, the upturned collar ties up across with a buttoned strip and I’m oblivious.

So I’m a lucky man with my good boots, my good coat and my good chair, but to know me is to know that far beyond basic yet vital material goods, I prize nothing more than the humans in my life.

I’m lucky to be living with my wife and dog, both of whom I love and am loved by, in different ways I’m delighted to say.

I’m lucky to play my part in my small and nurturing family, who are all taking to each other, loving and supporting each other: praise be.

I have friends in England, America and Australia, a large group of whom I’ve known since I was 13. We have shared each others’ lives throughout: an inestimable gift.

Also there is a precious crew I still consider my ‘new’ friends, those Irish lads and lasses I met when I arrived here in 1992, who offer me the feeling of family here, while I live away from my own.

What do I want for Christmas? 
What does a man need to make him happy?

A wise person once said to me:

"If you sleep in a warm bed with a full belly, safe in the knowledge that nobody you love will be taken in the night, then you have no worries."

I’m a lucky person. So are you. 
Happy Christmas, patient colyoomistas.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 20 December 2015


There’s a plate in front of me crammed with a fresh fillet of PJ McDonagh’s cod wrapped in golden batter and a steaming mountain of chips. Normally I’d be stuffing this wondrous food into my gob with gusto, but not tonight.

I’m not a well man. Haven’t been for a while, but over the last few weeks the needs of others have taken precedence.

Tonight however is all about me. Despite the way my body feels like a damp wrung flannel, I’m going out for my Staff Christmas Party. Just because I work for myself I see no reason to miss out on this tradition, so every December I celebrate with one of my organic Galway rambles.

There’s only one rule: no arrangements; let Galway do it to you.

My Staff Christmas Party had to be postponed last week, as sadly I was in England for my Aunt’s sudden funeral. Earlier today I contemplated calling in sick, but the Boss told me attendance was mandatory.

Easing more of McDonagh’s heavenly ballast into my belly, I sign up for the Silly Bugger Olympics: a competition between my mental health and my physical wellbeing. By the application of craic and whiskey, I’ll poison either this debilitating virus or myself before bedtime.

On her way back from work, the Snapper spots me looking out of the chipper’s window and pops in to wish me well for my night out.

“Town’s totally dead!” I say.

“Perfect!” she replies. “Just the way you like it, you antisocial git!” 

With a kiss goodbye she heads home, as behind her I whisper:

‘ … but when town’s like this, you can see who you want to see.’

Ignoring the fact that all I want to see right now is the underside of my duvet, I head over to the Quays, where I sit outside under the heater, armed with my first Jameson of the night.

Within minutes I feel released from a straightjacket of stress and anxiety that I didn’t even realise I was wearing.

I’m free! 

For a few wonderful hours nobody wants anything from me and I do not have to be anywhere or do anything. It’s been far too long since I felt like this. First victory of the night goes to my mental health.

Over the road a man is tying his young husky puppy to a bollard as he nips into Number Ten. His pooch is nervous and her owner is wonderfully concerned about being out of sight. A woman sitting outside the Quays walks over to the dog, strokes her, and reassures her owner that she’ll look after the pup until he comes back.

God, sometimes I just love the human race. Down here on the street, luxuriously far from mayhem and slaughter, people are pretty damn fine.

By the time I’m on my second Jamie my thinking has strayed into deep philosophical issues, pondering how Number Ten is really No.10 Quay Street, if that building over there is No.6 and this one is …2, 3, 4 …no … 4, 6, 8 … ah, who cares?

Sip. Swallow. Breathe. Relax.

Hmmm and who was the marketing genius that decided to award names to our Atlantic storms this Winter? 

As soon as we were introduced to Storms Abigail, Barney and Clodagh I knew that this naming was depression-creating. Desmond nearly drowned us all and by the time we’re being hit by Storm Pontius Pilate, we’ll all be ready to crucify ourselves.

Why did I just give that guy all my change? Even though he had a drip needle stuck in his arm and seemed like a genuine bloke, I still felt I was being done, but I gave him the dosh anyway.

A fool and his money are easily parted, or so my dear old Dad used to say, but this time

Karma kicks in quickly, in the shape of a surprise early Christmas drink from the lovely lass behind the bar in Neactain’s. She knows
I’ll not be out again before the New Year and her friendly greeting engraves onto my face a smile that I have no desire to relinquish.

There is no finer winter barstool than the one in the corner of Neactain’s middle bar, facing the fire. I’m in temporary heaven.

“There's no one from Galway in here at all!” exclaim the couple from Tralee. They’re delighted to be chatting and socialising in a way that Kerry’s capital cannot offer.

“You're in Neactain’s!” I explain, slightly whiskiedly. “If you want to meet locals there are plenty of local bars where local people drink locally.”

They look at me as they well might, but show no enthusiasm to move, so I do it for them. 

A lovely comfy Jamie tucked into the bar in Murphy’s, followed by another in Freeney's, and then up the cobbles with the wind behind me into Coili's, just in time to find my excellent friend Dalooney strumming up a storm, alongside four fiddles and many other instruments with strings, skins and holes.

Two women leap to their feet and dance, straight backs, ankles flying. Gradually they encourage a very shy lad to join in and the entire bar is transfixed as he glows with joy.

I wonder at how a little goodness goes a long way, and then I wonder how it's taken me over four hours to travel from the bottom of Quay Street to Johnny Massacre Corner. 


Later, as I enjoy a nightcap outside Neactain’s, a man stops and smiles at me.

“O’Reilly’s!” he declares. 

Long-since Lohans, no other pub’s name could strike such a personal chord. Tuesday afternoons in 1992; my first local in Ireland.

He needs petrol to get back to Clifden. I give him my last bit of cash, caring not if he’s driving home or having me on.

The party’s over, the battle’s done, and I award a Gold Medal to my mental health. Very possibly erroneously, I truly believe that my elevated spirits - arf! - will chase that virus out of me.

© Charlie Adley

Monday 14 December 2015

It's not okay to say you don't understand the Syrian situation!

One of the scariest aspects of the war in Syria is that so many supposedly interested people are willing to admit that they don’t understand it. 

A supremely intelligent friend of mine told me after the Paris killings he was worried that 'it was all about to kick off.’

Have to say I was a gobsmacked. The fact that he didn’t feel the situation had already ‘kicked off’ was disturbing.

Last week I watched the BBC news after the Commons vote on bombing Syria. Interviewed on the street, person after person said they didn’t really get it, but that’s what they’d got politicians for, so they had to trust the politicians.

Hoh mumma! Why would you do that? Because it worked so well last time in Iraq, where British planes are still bombing, or in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are on the verge of retaking the entirety of Helmand province?

Taking only one strand of this apocalyptic bowl of spaghetti, what part of the USA and Russia simultaneously being on the same side while not actually fighting the same war feels good?

Come again? Exactly: it’s complex, but we do not have to understand everything. The warring factions have so many splits and splinters they could fry your mind, so let’s not go there.

The simple and sad truth is that there are many different wars going on, in the same place, at the same time, which is precisely why we need to grasp at least the fundamentals of the situation.

This being the Middle East, we don’t try to find the beginning, because this area of the planet has had more border lines engraved in it and erased from it than Gordon Ramsey’s chin. There’s have been Assyrians and Romans and Macedonians and I’ll spare us the full list, as it would fill the rest of this space.

Suffice that we understand that the most recent lines drawn, the modern borders of Israel, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, are only part of an historical chain. 

After the last Iraq war and the Arab Spring, there grew a collection of rebels in Syria who wanted to overturn President Assad and his brutal regime. Under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army they had the spoken support of the West and were doubtless given covert intelligence and arms by NATO countries.

Russia, Iran and Hezbollah (based in Lebanon) all support President Assad, while 30 million Kurds long for the return of Kurdistan, tragically now split into parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Armenia and Iran.

Meanwhile, the influence of Saudi Arabia oils the wheels of the region’s war machine, aided by billion of dollars of western military hardware.
Driven by the differing Islamic philosophies of Sunni, Shia, Wahhabi and Salafi, these ingredients were already there when Isis declared an Islamic caliphate, ignoring the lines on the map, taking control of linear swathes of Syria and Iraq that offered the oil that fueled their war.

Built from shattered Iraqi lives, disenchanted European Muslims who could not support what they saw as their nations’ Crusades against Muslim countries, and Syrians who didn’t ally themselves with the Free Syrian Army, Isis are at war with any who dare to be different.

These are the main ingredients of this horrendous dish, which when combined in war make my stomach muscles clench. The West, in the shape of the USA, UK, France and others are trying to destroy Isis, which they clearly cannot, but they don’t want to help Assad defeat the Free Syrian Army.

The Russians are saying they are fighting Isis but in fact are supporting Assad, by attacking the Free Syrian Army. The Turkish are taking the opportunity to fight the Kurds, and have not helped by shooting down a Russian plane.

The twisted nature of this contorted conflict creates so many potential disasters, it’s hard to believe it could become more intractable, but you can always rely on politicians to make things worse.

Just as Tony Blair lied about Saddam Hussein’s ability to attack Europe in 45 minutes, Prime Minister Cameron has created the lie of this war, by claiming there are 70,000 moderate Syrian militiamen ready to fight against Isis. 

The fact that those soldiers are fighting Assad, not Isis, is ignored. Tragically, the Commons debate was won by the frankly empty rhetoric of Labour’s Hilary Benn, who roused the British Bulldog.

An hour later British bombs were falling on Syria.

It saddens me so deeply when warmongers cravenly ignore the lessons of history. Not once has bombing from the air ever succeeded as a tactic.

We cannot do nothing about Isis, but bloodthirsty revenge is never reasonable. There is much talk of how medieval and barbaric Isis are: they behead people and burn others alive. What do hundreds of bombs falling from the sky do to people? Do their victims enjoy a less barbaric death, or are they ripped asunder as they lie in their beds?

Well over 1,000 years ago, while we were busy being medieval, Muslims were building universities, discovering the Andromeda galaxy, inventing algebra and algorithms. They were identifying spinal nerves and demanding their doctors were qualified. They were creating hydropower, opening psychiatric hospitals and using ophthalmology.

Just after Parliament’s bombing debate, there was a by-election in Oldham. Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn had been ridiculed for refusing to vote in support of the war, watching Benn, his own Shadow Foreign Minister steal the show, by doing the Conservative’s dirty work for them.

Inevitably the politicians voted for war. However, the people of Oldham defied the combined efforts of the British media and Establishment to discredit Jeremy Corbyn by speaking with their votes. Labour won with an increased majority.

The British people do not want war. They’ve heard this all before and know that by attacking Isis with bombs, yet more bombs will explode in England.

Both Isis and NATO want war, yet there are other avenues. Who is buying oil from Isis? Stop their funding, rob them of their ability to wage war and eventually, maybe, people might be able to sleep safely in their beds.
Charlie Adley

Saturday 5 December 2015

… and the rain fell all over Ireland …


 … in Longford it fell but Maeve could not see it fall. As she moved through cloud that kissed the ground, she tucked her chin into her chest and gave thanks that it was not windy. 

Every day of her life she headed up to see her baby girl and her granddaughter, and every day the hill felt just that bit steeper, but Maeve was not one for slowing down. She wasn’t ready to give up on her legs, so each day they ached a little more.

Letting herself into the dark house she strode towards the kitchen, turning on lights as she went. Kettle filled and on, teabag in mug, she went to the back door and picked up the wicker washing basket. Then over to the washing machine, emptied the load and draped the clothes on top of the radiators around the house. 

Her daughter told her to just throw them in the tumble dryer, but Maeve could not do that; not when the heating was running and the radiators were steaming.

Why would you use so much electricity when you didn’t need to? God, it’s great to have it at all. When I was their age we’d hardly ever even seen it, let alone have it in the house.  I don’t think they’d like that, not at all. Not without their precious iPads and X-Boxes and all that. So no, I’ll not waste good electricity when there’s heat in the radiators.

Maeve found comfort in laying the clothes out on the radiators, as each day she’d assess the size of a new pair of socks, the stretch on her granddaughter’s t-shirt that had become too small.

So her daughter would chide her that the house wasn’t heated because she’d put all the wet laundry on the radiators and Maeve would say that as it happened the air in a house does become very dry with the central heating so the wetness of the clothes would make for better air to breathe and her daughter would look at her and wonder which programme she heard that on, but she’d say nothing, because she was grateful to come home to a lit house, a boiled kettle and a hug from her mam…

… and the rain fell all over Ireland … fell in great pulsing waves on the runways of Shannon airport, smashing the windows of the terminal building with exploding shotgun sheets. A couple from Racine, Wisconsin, celebrating 59 years of marriage, are heading home for Thanksgiving, to 36 grandchildren from 9 children of their own. 

They’ve toured Ireland and the UK, even though he has chest pains and she is on crutches, and now they’ve taken the evening flight from Heathrow so that they can take the early flight to JFK in the morning.

Holding each others’ hands they walk long corridors, go up 2 flights of escalators, arrive nowhere and then go down 2 flights of escalators to find themselves a few yards from where they started. Through passport control, their spirits weary, they see that their luggage is due on Carousel 5.

The other 4 carousels are silent and lit. Carousel 5 is in darkness, but still they wait, along with everyone else.

Tinsel doesn’t glow in darkness, she thinks to herself. It just looks sad.

Suddenly the lights come on and the belt moves and three suitcases emerge. Then the belt stops.
She looks around, amazed at the stoic silent acceptance of the Irish.

"What the heck’s going on?"
"Don’t worry sweetheart. We’ve got all night."

The tannoy man announces that the luggage from the Heathrow flight is now arriving at Carousel 4, so as one they pick up their hand luggage and push their trollies to watch the conveyor belt of Carousel 4 move for a few minutes and then stop.

The tannoy man explains: “Through no fault of our own, your luggage will now be arriving at Carousel 5.”

This time it’s himself that becomes grumpy. Squeezing her hand tightly as they walk back to Carousel 5, he hisses from between his teeth

“Well if it’s not their fault, who the heck’s fault is it?"

Later in the airport hotel bar, as he sits and says grace before eating his spaghetti and meatballs (she went for the Irish stew) he silently apologises to God for being so short-tempered. 

Others might call them Christian Fundamentalists, but they don’t see it like that. They’re just people of faith who happen to think President Obama’s a muslim terrorist.

… and the rain fell all over Ireland …

… and Paul fiddled with the delay on his windscreen wipers as he sat waiting for the lights to change. These roadworks had made his journey in and out of Moycullen a nightmare since March. They were due to be finished by the end on November.

Right. Not going to happen. The way the council poured the last of its budget into roadworks at the end of every year drove him bananas. 

What about those long light summer evenings, when neither a flouro jacket nor JCB was to be found working at this site? There were now 3 Stop-Go roadworks on his commute home from Galway and more were appearing every day, like scabs on a pockmarked face

If he was late home Joan might already have hoovered the house. Cornflake, their Golden Retriever, was shedding for the winter and the carpet looked like it had been snowing inside.

As soon as Paul climbed out of his car Cornflake would run over and smother him in soaking wet dog hair and face licks. Then, delighted to be inside at last, the dog would lie in front of the fire and steam stinky wet dog smells around the living room.

The thought of it made Paul smile. The light went green, so he switched his wipers on and drove off…

… and the rain fell all over Ireland …

©Charlie Adley

Monday 30 November 2015


... a line of golden light lit up along the length of the cloud’s upper edge, a shimmering rim of brilliance running across the entire opening of Galway Bay.

I had a bit of a moment the other day. With an hour to kill before a meeting in town I drove to Salthill, walked across the car park to the Prom and stood on a rock on the sea wall.

The early evening air was cool and clear. There was not a breath of wind. Under the fading light of a clear blue sky the water in the bay lay perfectly still, a silvery sheen pockmarked by bobbing bunches of seaweed.

Climbing down the rocks I walked along the beach, until I was beyond Palmer’s Rock. The sun was sinking behind a massive wall of dark cloud, towering high into the west, rising from the horizon until it occupied a third of the sky.

As the sun disappeared behind this great grey barrier, a line of golden light lit up along the length of the cloud’s upper edge, a shimmering rim of brilliance running across the entire opening of Galway Bay.

In contrast to this dazzling line of light, the wall of cloud below turned black. Had you just arrived as a stranger in the place I stood, you might well believe that this water vapour was in fact stone; that Galway Bay was a lake, edged by mountains high and mighty, from Black Head to Bearna.

Even though I know a cloud when I see one, something primal deep inside me double checked to make sure that this black monolith was not a tidal wave, rushing to consume us all.

No. Nothing as dramatic as that. So calm, in fact, that the ocean’s edge became indistinguishable from the beach. As the tide edged out it left a glistening shine on the sand, while dusk’s light bounced off the motionless ocean, appearing as a blend of mercury and mirrors.

Despite the roar of traffic in the background and the hordes walking along the Prom, I still managed to find my own space and peace down there.

Staring at a tiny lump of sand, watching as the water lapped over it and receded, waiting, watching, waiting, watching, wondering when will come that moment when the tide might turn.

That’s what I do. I watch the tide and drift into peace. Neither Mindfulness nor Meditation, and yet equally both, I have no desire to put a label on it.

It’s what I do; what I did that evening and have done everywhere I’ve lived in the West of Ireland. I stared for hours at the sunken rocks of Bunowen Bay and the dunes of Doonloughan when I lived in west Connemara. For many years in north Mayo I watched the tide turn along Ross beach, and lost myself many a time in the utter splendour and endless beauty of Kilcummin back strand.

Yet all these natural wonders and altered mental states were only the precursor to my moment. Quite possibly my mind worked then as it has done today, taking my long-overdue return to tide staring as a trigger to my past.

Whatever caused it, I encountered a tsunami that evening. Adrift within the calmest moment the Atlantic seaboard could ever offer, I suddenly felt lost at sea, washed overboard by a freak wave of emotion.

Replacing my physical vision with a reel of memories, my mind ran a major film event in front of my eyes, showing me reruns of many of the varied events in the last 23 years of my life that have played out on Salthill Prom.

The night in August 1992, when I sat there on the rocks with my new-found friend, as we decided to stay, to try and find a home and make a life here in Galway.

Seven years later, having failed in and fled from America, the day I once again stumbled along the Prom, searching for stability, soaking up familiarity.

The night in 1993 when I fell out of Vagabonds and sat on the sea wall with my beautiful date, stole a kiss, sipped whiskey from a naggin, felt thrilled at the opportunities the night ahead offered, and then dropped my house keys into the dark void between the rocks.  

The day I walked to Gentian Hill believing I would never again take a step without back pain, and the day when I realised it was gone. 

The out-loud talks I’ve had with myself, like the crazy guy you don’t want to sit next to on the bus. Open dialogues that escape my mind, transforming into voice, in your space and face, as I walk alone along the Prom.

A few days after my decision to stay in Galway, the weather changed and my jaw dropped. Fog and low cloud had been obscuring the Burren, so great was my joy to see for the first time the sensual purple hills of County Clare.

Thousands of walks along the Prom, which was for as long as I lived in Salthill my lifeline, my mental health, my physical saviour.

The Prom lifted my spirits, cleared my head of the detritus of everyday life. Along its length I spilled my emotional angst, vitriol and bile, so that by time I returned home my mind was free, my spirit cleansed, my body alive and tingling.

Meteorological marvels have sometimes allowed me to make out smoke rising from a chimney far across the bay in Ballyvaughan. A beam of sunlight will pick out a field of rich deep green above Bell Harbour, and when the light shimmers and glows in just right way, all three Aran islands can float into view, vibrating as melting mirages in the distance.

I was silly to be surprised by my moment. I had not been to the Prom for many months and was foolish to underestimate my love for it and Galway Bay.

My heart was almost washed away by the flood of memories. My soul lifted like a kite in the wind, tears swelled in my eyes.

Having paid my respects to the Prom and my past I gave thanks, turned around and walked on.

©Charlie Adley

Friday 20 November 2015


There's something intensely human and tragic about watching a proud man proven wrong. As his confidence crumbles, his mind falters and the veil of charisma that once so entranced starts to thin, becomes transparent and finally disappears.

Despite all the silverware he’s placed in Chelsea’s trophy cabinet, my feelings towards Jose Mourinho have always been mixed, because life isn’t about winning.

It’s about how you win and how you deal with defeat.

At the core of Mourinho’s dilemma lurks a bizarre paradox. Regardless of whether you despise the man and his methods or not, there’s no denying that during the period of a game of football, he’s a tactical genius. Yet now it appears that he had no Plan B.

The manager who prepares his teams for each game like no other, who makes brave and incredibly effective substitutions that turn matches around has no other way of doing things than the one he’s already employed in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain.

Most managers are happy to have leaders on the pitch, or leaders in the dressing room, but not Mourinho. He doesn’t want leaders: he wants disciples. Mourinho needs his players to believe in him and the power of what he calls The Group. 

There’s a distinctly military whiff to this style, and indeed sometimes he stands on the touchline, his left hand pressed onto the right side of his chest, looking half Napoleon and half Dr. Strangelove.

When everything is good it’s because the Group made it so. Everything bad that happens is down to all other bodies: physical, corporate and official.

His teams are set out in a similar style to many others. In front of five or six defenders a couple of flair players run between the lines, supplying a target striker. 

Nothing particularly remarkable, until you watch it working well. Then you realise that every single player out there knows exactly what they are meant to be doing and why. 

More, when an effective Mourinho team loses the ball, they swarm like ants over the opposition in possession until
they have the ball in their control again.

For this to succeed every member of The Group must fit into Mourinho’s template. It matters not if you’ve the prodigious talent of Kevin de Bruyne (now starring for Manchester City after becoming a superstar in Germany) or the energetic pace, cut and thrust of André Schürrle.

If you don’t defend well enough, you’re sold.

As a Chelsea fan, the intransigence of this policy has driven me to the brink. Twice Juan Mata was voted Club Player of the Year. A quintessentially Chelsea player, Mata is loaded with flair and magic, but he didn't fit the template, so Mourinho sold him to Manchester United.

This combination of player templating, tactical preparation and managerial adoration might have worked wonders at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, but at each club it succeeded only for a short time, because it sows the seeds of its own failure.

A Mourinho Cocktail consists of three parts: ‘I Am Great’, ‘You Are The Best Players In The World’ and ‘The Bastards Are Out To Get Us.’

For a couple of years Mourinho manages to maintain a healthy balance between these three components, but inevitably the negativity which fires up the delusional tendencies of the last ingredient starts to filter through, leaving the whole club under a cloud of melancholic paranoia.

This was written during the International Break, a notorious period when clubs tend to fire their managers. I’ve no idea whether today Mourinho is still at Chelsea. He might have been committed to an insane asylum.

Last week as I watched him laugh, jeer and mockingly applaud the referee from the sidelines, I clipped him from the screen and placed his image onto a street. If I saw someone behaving like that in public, I’d be convinced they’d forgotten to take their medication.

For Mourinho it’s all gone horribly wrong, but not, as some say, all of a sudden. Chelsea won the Premiership last season by playing well in the final four months of 2014. Ever since last Christmas the team has been either poor or worse.

Having seen their manager’s vulnerability, these players are no longer disciples. Along with the rest of the football world, the players are infected by and weary of Mourinho’s incessant complaints about officials and decisions. Physically worn out, mentally drained and disillusioned, the Chelsea squad no longer buy into the deal. There is no Group.

Worse, Mourinho is dashing back and forth to Portugal where his father has suffered two strokes after brain surgery. Having been through a decade of similar trauma with my own father, I know that Mourinho’s heart must be ripped asunder. His feet cannot be on the ground.

Far from his dying patriarch he faces a losing side that he cannot cure.

To Mourinho this is all unexplored territory and he seems to have no answers. Flailing like an octopus hanging from a hook, he fires the club’s popular doctor in very questionable circumstances and talks to the media about his players in a way that he never did. He brings on Nemanja Matic as a substitute and then substitutes him: a slight guaranteed to utterly destroy a player’s confidence.

The cocktail glass has shattered. The players no longer see their manager as worthy of adoration, nor themselves as the best in world. All that’s left is the blaming, the vitriol, the toxic outpourings.

Considering he’s such a masterful tactician, prepared for every eventuality in a game of football, it’s hard to believe that there was no ‘Plan B’ in Mourinho’s brain.

Did he really believe he’d never fail? If so, such arrogance guaranteed he was doomed from the start.

Despite the efforts of others to mock, it feels comfortably familiar watching Chelsea tumble down the league. We were always an inconsistent club that might dazzle or bore. All that ‘grinding out’ Mourinho wins was difficult to endure. This feels like a real Chelsea team.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 15 November 2015

No education can be complete without studying world religions.

How many was it...?

While I can understand the difficulty of trying to find space for the new Education about Religion, Beliefs and Ethics (ERBE) class in a busy school curriculum, not one cell of me fears for the faiths of faith-based schools.
What are they frightened of? The entire environment and ethos of faith-based schools is single-mindedly monotheistic, and given Primary School childrens’ ability to absorb the entire universe around them, I’m sure that each boy and girl will soak up a heap of religion, which here in the Republic of Ireland means that 90% will start life as Catholics.
Some complain that world religions are too complex for the childrens’ tiny minds, to which I suggest that if they are old enough to understand Christianity, they’ll equally be able to grasp the basic tenets of other religions.
Later, being sentient human beings, they will decide for themselves which kind of adult they want to become. Well, maybe, if they succeed in breaking out of whichever prison of indoctrination they’ve lived in since birth.
If any religion is worth its salt, it should not feel threatened by education. If your faith, whichever it might be, is the true faith, then it has nothing to fear from knowledge of other faiths, or understanding other less fortunate souls, who live the wrong way according to your laws.
I find it astonishing that there might be any outcry whatsoever about the teaching of world religions. To me it seems beyond belief that anyone might deem it possible to create a curriculum in which world religion as a subject does not exist. How on earth will the next generation pretend to understand this planet and the people on it, without an appreciation of their beliefs?
I recently heard someone on the radio being asked for a definition of culture.
“Culture is the distance we put between ourselves and our faeces.” he replied.
Quite a brilliant answer. There’s buckets of pooh written about culture every day. In some newspapers it has its own section, which always makes me smile, as I wonder how we dare to isolate culture as an end in itself, rather than the product of everything we do.
Take a war, any war. An army marches on its stomach, so the soldiers’ food will be in some way familiar, to remind them of the homeland for which they are fighting. 
They will have faith that God is on their side. If it’s a religious war their God will be the reason they are fighting.
Before the war there will be propaganda, cartoons of the enemy, and if their culture allows, other cartoons attacking the war itself. 
After the battles, movies will be made, books written, frescos drawn on walls, friezes carved on ancient temples.
The losers displaced, carry their faiths along with their furniture. They will eat, drink and pray as they did before, but in new countries. Their religion is as intrinsic to their culture as their food, their homeland, their history and their human geography.
Trying to offer an education without teaching world religion is akin to teaching anatomy without mentioning the heart. You’ve nearly all the pieces but there’s a gaping hole and nothing is as connected as it might be.
Faith-based schools cannot and should not try to fill that hole entirely with their own religion. They must have faith that their own religion is strong enough to allow their believers to learn about the world.
Even though I do not have one, I’m well able to understand that a belief in God is a wondrous and joyous thing, yet all I see from religious bodies is fear-based behaviours, attempting to crush imagined oppositions.
Some do-gooders are making the spurious argument that as Ireland now has a new immigrant population, it’s important that we learn about their religions too.
Well yes, of course we have to honour and acknowledge their presence and their faiths, but we need not patronise them.
What we need to offer those immigrant children is the same we need to offer indigenous children: a comprehensive education that carries as little bias as possible.
Although I often criticise my English Public School education for its anachronistic and unregulated regime, I can find no fault with the way we were taught about religion.
With an impressive dimple at the end of his ski-jump nose, our RE teacher Rev. Hall was a softly-spoken perma-tanned man, who fascinated and inspired me as a boy by proudly wearing his dog collar while criticising his own religion.
In a gentle, very English and rather magnificent way, he explained how much had been lost in translation over the centuries. We were not to take the Bible at face value. 
Adam and Eve was a story written by the Pharisees, who were trying to stop Solomon sleeping around so much, by showing him how women had supposedly led men astray since the Creation. 
‘Forty days and Forty nights’ was just a Hebrew way of saying ‘A long time.’
We laughed when he said that Jesus only had two buttocks, so he could not have ridden into Jerusalem on both an ass and a donkey. The repetition was just the Hebrew way of using emphasis, as we might use italics: A donkey!
Rev. Hall challenged our minds to enquire; to question and consider. He asked us to consult our Bibles and tell him how many loaves and fishes there were at the feeding of the five thousand. 
Turns out, it rather depends on which gospel you’re reading. 5 and 2 or 7 and 3, or… the details are unimportant.
The way he encouraged us to think for ourselves, to understand and respect religion while retaining our independence of thought was admirable. He did not fear that by learning too much we might turn our backs on his religion. He knew well that encouraging critical thinking didn’t preclude faith.
I hope that the Church in Ireland grows to see education in the same way.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 8 November 2015


You go in for a driving licence and the next thing you know...

Living in the West of Ireland, I find myself wearing a smile on the most unlikely of occasions.

Recently I dealt with bureaucracy, in the shape of both the National Driver Licence Service and the car insurance industry. Chuckling after each encounter, I felt very aware that this is the only country 
 I’ve lived in where you end up happy, even when things go wrong.

Needing a new driver’s licence I went online and booked an appointment for 10:30 on a Friday morning, at the NDLS office in Ballybane.

‘Aha!’ I thought to myself smugly. ‘I’ve booked it late enough to be on the safe side of the traffic, but I’ve lived here long enough now to know how it works. Galway doesn’t like early mornings, so I’ll go down there at 9:30 and it’ll be empty.’

But no, this Englishman got it wrong again. When asked, I describe myself as a Jewish Atheist-Pantheist mutant, yet I was raised and socialised in the predominantly Protestant society of 60s and 70s England.

When we English gather in Ireland we have been known to joke about Irish punctuality and efficiency, yet still we choose to live here, because your way is better for the soul.

Arriving at the NDLS at 9:30 I climb the stairs to find a surprising amount of people already sitting in the waiting room. There are two types: walk-ins and those who have made online bookings. 

The walk-ins are moving through fast, while online bookers have to wait until the appointed time.

Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

Got it wrong again. There I was thinking I’d been all thinking like a local type of thing, when in fact I’d been completely entrenched in my English upbringing. Mister Free’n’Easy thought he was pretty bloomin’ Irish arriving earlier than his online booking, taking a chance like, ‘cos that’s what they do, isn’t it, like?

No. What Galwegians do is drop in and get seen an hour before this über-efficient maker of online bookings.

An hour to kill is not the worst challenge in life. Right on time I’m called to a booth and spend a delightful ten minutes sitting the other side of thick glass to friendly woman who has to deal one-to-one with the public all day, every day.

Somehow she manages to chat easily, smiles and when I ask if I still have my bike license she teases me:

“Yes, up to 125cc.”

After much spluttering and grumbling from my side of the glass (I felt a little like Billy Hayes in Midnight Express), she laughs again:

“No, it’s a full bike licence, so you can go and buy yourself a Harley Davidson, and while you’re at it, use your spare change to buy me a red Hog for myself.”

Walking out of the office I realised I was feeling happy. There had been not an ounce of flirtation in our communication; simply good old-fashioned gentle craic.

In another land not far away that person might well have been exhausted, sarcastic and haggard as they tried to meet unrealistic targets.

Here we’re still human, more often than not.

While still in the warm fallout of this realisation, I also needed to insure a car for a couple of weeks. It never occurred to me that might present a problem. I was just going through a rare and financially inconvenient time, as I’d bought a new (well, second hand) car before I’d managed to sell my old one.

After calling Aviva to transfer my insurance to the new car, I explained my situation and asked for a quote for the other car, for 2 weeks, just Fire and Theft, as I didn’t need to drive it.

“We don’t do short term insurance. Sorry.”

Really? Oh, well okay, I’ll just Google it and get sorted.

20 minutes later, I’m at a loss. No big insurance brands offer an option for anything less than a year. One company actually claims to specialise in short term car insurance in Ireland, so off I go to its website and yes, hooray, everything I’m looking for.

Well, no, Not quite. All the words say the right thing, but to get a quote the site tells me to click on the button on the right of the page.

There is no button upon which to click.

Sod this for a game of soldiers. I’ve got to trust these people, but if their website’s dodgy, I’m not going to hand over any of my hard-earned green folding.

Pressing on regardless, I call a firm of insurance brokers I’ve dealt with for years. If anyone can find two week’s cover for my motor, it’ll be that crew.

Five minutes later, I’m listening to Gerry explain how no such product exists.

“Come on Gerry. I’m not the first person to be in this situation. There must be countless people out there who haven’t sold their cars before they’ve bought another, but you’re telling me all those people have to leave their cars outside, uninsured. It’s madness!”

“There’s no logic in insurance, Charlie!” offers Gerry, at which point I laugh out loud at the irony of it all.

Laughing himself, he then offers: “You can quote me on that!”

to which I immediately caution: “Oh I don’t think so! I’m a newspaper columnist.”

“Ah sure, you don’t know my last name!”

“But really Gerry, I can’t believe I have to leave this car uninsured until I sell it.”

“Is it parked off the road, Charlie?”

“Yeh, it’s inside the fence. I know nothing’s going to happen to it, but if it did get nicked or burst into flames, I’d feel pretty stupid. I’m just trying to be sensible here.”

“Ah well, stop trying to be sensible!” advises the man who works for an insurance broker. 

“Is that it Gerry? Am I just being too sensible?” 

“You are Charlie!” he agreed, and we both roar with laughter.

It’s absurd, confounding and hilarious: that’s why I love life here.

©Charlie Adley

Tuesday 3 November 2015


With the news last week that TalkTalk had suffered a cyber attack, there appeared on our TVs the usual crop of experts instructing us to use different passwords for each website, changing them all regularly.

Can’t help but think it’s all gone skewy. Wasn’t technology meant to make life easier for consumers? Those of us born before the arrival of the mobile phone have brains trained to remember phone numbers, but I fear for the generation that grew up with the microchip.

How are they supposed to remember which password goes with which site? Does this one require a capital letter at the beginning?

Why is the onus of security on us anyway? Don’t companies have a duty of care to their customers?

After screwing up in spectacularly different ways, both Volkswagen and Ulster Bank pledged that none of their customers would end up out of pocket.

Your company isn’t going to rob me? Could you make a more a vacuous assurance? It’s tantamount to the Fire Services promising not to burn down my house.

Corporate culture is exceptionally efficient when it comes to exploiting your personal details. Each time you log onto a website, hordes of cookies and bots are unleashed, recording your history and habits, which they then sell to the highest bidders.

If I were to write online about a 1957 Mustang Convertible, mere minutes later there’d appear at the side of my blog an advert for USA Vintage Car magazine.

When it comes to making a profit, global corporations spare no expense at finding the most efficient technologies. Shame they don’t apply the same effort to protecting us.

If you’re becoming paranoid about passwords and terrified of trolls, get a grip. Before the internet existed, anyone could find your name, address and phone number simply by picking up a telephone directory. 

You’d hand over your bank account details and signature each time you wrote a cheque, and leave a copy of your signature and credit card number on the slidy zip-zap machine whenever you purchased something.

I refuse to believe that people have become less trustworthy since then, any more than companies feel concerned for their customers’ welfare.

If somebody really wants to rob me, they‘ll most probably succeed. While I’ll make try to make their job as difficult as possible, I fear no more now than I ever used to.

However, in true Halloween style, I recently managed to spook myself out, by accidentally creating my own cyber shadow.

A few years back I went through a right old hooh-haah with Hertz. After finally fixing the problem, they made me a Gold Club member, by way of compensation.

So now, while sitting in the Departure Lounge of Shannon Airport, 
I receive an email from Hertz telling me the make, colour and reg of my car and which bay it’s parked in at Heathrow. Upon arrival, my car has the keys in it and I drive away. No paperwork, no queues: bloomin’ lovely.

However I somehow became hooked into a stupid Möbius Strip behaviour loop, whereby after booking a rental car I’d tell myself that next time, I must sign up for the Reward Points scheme, because having made the booking it was too late.

Eventually I remembered, filled out pages of online forms and ended up with what I thought was merely a loyalty program membership.

How wrong I was. The trouble started when the booking confirmation told me to go to the Standard very un-Gold Counter to activate my membership. Due to arrive in London on a Friday at 19:00, the last thing I wanted was to join a massive queue.

There then ensued a lengthy round of phone calls to Ken and Mary in different Hertz UK departments. Considering the fault turned out to be mine, Hertz performed incredibly well. Apparently I’d been hooked into their loyalty scheme ever since they made me a Gold member, and already have enough points for a weekend rental. 

Lovely jubbly.

What I’d done was somehow create myself a brand new Gold member profile, with a different number. Ken and/or Mary cancelled the initial booking, re-booked me another car that turned out to be cheaper than the first, and sent an email to Hertz Ireland, where Penny promptly emailed me to say that the payment for the first booking had been refunded to my credit card. The car was ready and waiting as normal.

Well done Hertz and silly old me. So what’s the point of the story?

Has this colyoom at last become the haven of happy days, hugs and hoorays?

Not exactly. In cyberspace we can join social networks as avatars under pseudonyms and invite people to parties on far-off supernovae that might prove tricky to attend.

All I had done was create a new member of Hertz Gold Club, using exactly the same name, address and personal details that appear on my existent account, but it made me wonder about cyber crime’s first cousin: identity theft.

A rare enough phenomenon in the West of Ireland, in the United States identity theft regularly destroys lives, as overnight somebody else has control of your bank account and credit cards. Domestic paper shredders are big business in America.

Meanwhile back in my tiny sphere of existential angst, I’m not sure who I might be. Had they not cancelled the new membership I’d accidentally created, I could have walked up to a Hertz desk and been either one of two people.

Who was going to drive that car?

Or me?

It’s spooky enough having my own cyber shadow, without worrying about how easy it was to create another me.

If this cyber-idiot can do it, then what’s going to stop somebody else?

Well, hopefully there’s something of a financial firewall protecting me.

If I was going to the trouble of trying to steal another’s identity, I’m pretty sure I’d aim for somebody with enough dosh in their account to make the risk worthwhile!

©Charlie Adley

Monday 26 October 2015


I’ve just been to England, but not just any England. I might have been in Somerset, Yorkshire, Shropshire or Kent, because the comforts I found on this trip to the Hertfordshire/Essex borders are available in all four corners of my native country.

On the occasion of her 80th birthday the Snapper’s mum quite rightly decided to celebrate, so we gathered en masse, family and friends, and raised a glass to the matriarch. 

We had cake, craic and karaoke and enjoyed a perfectly splendid Saturday, yet for me as an Englishman living abroad, there was also much delight to be found in the framing of the occasion.

Everyone involved lives around Bishop’s Stortford, the nearest town to Stansted Airport, so when looking online for somewhere to stay I was spoiled for choice, but not one part of me wanted to stay in an antiseptic plastic menu hotel.

I wanted both of us to know we were in England, so I booked a room at the Cock Inn Hotel, in a tiny village called Sheering.

We arrived in the dark, so it wasn’t until the next morning, when we were driving to her folks’ place, that our eyes could feast on the surroundings.

This was the part of the world in which my wife was raised, for her steeped in memories. To me it was a joyous cocktail of new and nostalgia. 

As she reminisced about discos in village halls and pointed out her old riding school, my sight soaked up woods of majestic oak, ponds by village greens and swathes of horse chestnut, their great splayed autumnal domes triggering my own memories of conker fights long gone.

On the Sunday morning we stood under blue skies watching the Snapper’s nephew play football. As a lifelong fan of the Beautiful Game it warmed the cockles of my heart to see so many young lads raised on the Premiership proud to wear the colours of their local town.

Much more organised and skillful than I was at their age, they kept their shape, passed the ball and won the game 4-1.

By the final whistle my warmed cockles had worn off a little, my fingers starting to feel a bit nippy. Playing FIFA 16 on the sofa might feel more comfy and less muddy, but it won’t teach the team ethic that’s growing inside those young lads.

My father-in-law very kindly invited us out to Sunday Lunch - so much more than two words to the English - in a country pub with a carvery. While the rows of glistening meaty joints looked tempting, my eyes were diverted by the Specials blackboard: Steak and Kidney Pudding.

Being in polite company, I wasn’t able to make the noise I wanted to when I saw that, but for those colyoomistas who remember the Carry On films, it was the sound that Kenneth Connor used to make whenever he saw a blonde in a bikini:


Indeed, the pudding did not disappoint. Steaming suet, chips, peas and gravy on the side, thank you very much, followed by sherry trifle and back at her folk’s later, a battle with the urge to snooze on the sofa.

I’m sure her parents wouldn’t have minded, but I hadn’t seen them for years, greatly enjoy their company and very much wanted to spare them the Adley Snore, which can, on occasion, be accompanied by a particularly sexy dribble.

That evening we found ourselves sitting on barstools, back at the Cock Inn. Even though there’s much I love about England, there’s little I truly miss, but a pint of fine real ale, hand pulled by the Landlord of a rural Free House ranks close to the top of that list.

Bill Bedford and his cheerful efficient crew at the Cock Inn work their collective socks off in a very competitive market. Just as in Ireland, the combination of smoking ban and heightened Drink Driving laws have closed far too many country pubs, and these days it very much comes down to how much food you can sell.

We didn’t get the chance to sample lunch at the Cock Inn, but if the ingredients in their breakfast were anything to go by, a good feed is guaranteed.

Having volunteered to drive the family around over the weekend, I now embraced the opportunity to take a drink. Landlord Bill was delighted to find in the Snapper someone who knew a great deal about wine, so while I made my way through a couple of hoppy fruity pints of Adnam’s Ghost Ship, he asked her about which wines he should sell in the pub and which he might save for special occasions.

When I made some noise about going to bed I found a fresh Jameson placed in front of me by my host, as if to say:

“You’re going nowhere, mate. I need to speak to your missis.”

Never one to look a whiskey in the mouth, I downed it and returned to the beer, taking it upon myself to find out if English bar snacks tasted as good as I remember.

After snarfing a huge bag of Twiglets I moved on to Cheeselets, finishing my orgy of self-indulgent piggery with the mighty finale of Pork Scratchings.

Then it was off to our warm and comfortable bedroom upstairs, but not before privately raising a glass to my own father.

Much-missed, he taught me how to behave at all occasions, from the poshest to the poorest. Above all he instilled within me the understanding that while you might enjoy staying in a plush hotel, eating the finest of foods, there is little better than a pie and a pint in an honest country pub.

So thanks Dad. You’d have loved the Cock Inn at Sheering.

Beyond the happiness of time spent with family, I found immense pleasure in discovering that the vision of England I miss exists still, allowing a corner of me to remain forever England.

© Charlie Adley

Sunday 18 October 2015


Your very own hitch-hiking space cadet, 
courtesy of the excellent Allan Cavanagh of Caricatures Ireland

If you’re standing next to doctor at a party it’s hard not to mention your back pain, or your son’s allergies. In the same way, as a scribbler, people are always coming up to me with broad smiles and exuberant enthusiasm, announcing:

“Hey, I’ve got something for you to write about!”

It’d be plain ignorant not to listen to them, but more often than not their suggested material is exceptionally personal. While they think they’d like to see their tale of woe splashed over the media, 9 times out of 10 I don’t want the responsibility of being the bearer of their news, so I simply suggest that they should write about it themselves.

A hurt look appears in their eyes as they feel rejected, so then I have to rub salve on their wound.

“It’ll sound better coming from you. You feel it more!” I explain. “Send it to me when you’re done and I’ll edit it for you if you like.”

What mystifies me though is the tacit feeling among others that I might be suffering from a shortage of things to write about. Clearly their offers come from a benign and well-intentioned place, but do I approach architects and suggest houses they might build? Do I wander into a butcher’s and ask if I can cut up a carcass?

More to the point, do they really suppose that in a world crammed with 7 billion humans, there might ever be a lack of material?

Regular colyoomistas might by now be familiar with the way I describe our species as comprised of the ‘4 Effs of Humanity', but for you newbies out there it works like this: all of us are Freaked Out (life is scary), Fucked Up (we were raised by other humans), Fallible (yes very) and Fantastic (something we all too readily forget).

Given that unique cocktail of horror and joy, humans present themselves as the perfect inspiration for this scribbler.

Sitting outside Tigh Neactains on this rare sunny afternoon, I’m watching life in many of its forms on Galway TV. When I first arrived here in 1992, Galway was a city with a tourist season. Now it is very much a tourist city. 20 years ago the only class of tourist you’d find on the streets of the city at this time of year were well-off Americans whose kids had gone off to college.

Now coach parties parade along Quay Street, each pair walking next to and behind the others, as if still in position on the bus. With earplugs relating audio descriptions and phones raised to film shaky videos and take way more photos than they’ll ever need, these tourists are physically here, yet more involved in the process of visiting than being in the place.

Part of me wants to leap out my chair and point them all to the empty seats.

“Sit down and relax!” I might implore them if I were a much more friendly man. “This is the West of Ireland. You need to watch and chill out to truly sample our pleasures.”

That’d be great, save for the fact that they are all genuinely happy doing it their way. Not everyone enjoys sitting and doing nothing.

Yet really, in my stillness I’m as far from doing nothing as those rushing around very visibly doing lots.

The secret lies in the brainbox. Some people can process their lives on the go. Others like myself need time to sort it all out in the head, time to listen, watch and learn from others, time to stop and try to make some sense of this short sojourn we call life.

Some skills we nurture from childhood. I’ve always had the ability to space out, to stare at nothing in particular, while simultaneously contemplating everything.

At school I sat close to a window and was often reprimanded for not paying attention. In the fantastically egocentric way that 13 year-olds view the world, I used to feel unjustly accused: I had been paying attention. In fact I’d been incredibly focused, just not on whatever the teacher was warbling about.

It was the tall blade of grass outside the window that had earned my attention. That long plume of green leaf swaying in the breeze fascinated the hell out of me.

How old was it?
Why had it grown so much higher than all the other grassy stuff around it?
Had an animal poohed there and helped it grow?
How long was it going to survive, sticking out above all the other grass in that wind?
If I watched long enough would I see it fall over?
If I made funny contortions inside my brain, could I make it explode like that girl Carrie in the Stephen King book?

Boredom is a stranger to me. Everything is fascinating.

Doubtless this aptitude helped me enjoy the many roads I hitched. After the first 100,000 miles I stopped counting, but for years I was happy standing by the side of a road, in the middle of absolutely nowhere for hours, enjoying a view that maybe nobody had ever seen.

Eventually a car would stop, but for as long as it took, I’d stand there, loving my place in the world and the world’s place in my life.

It’s that mental skill - or failing - that helps me to pass time waiting for trains and planes. Put me in an airport or a station and I’ll happily pass time for many hours in a relaxed and happy fashion.

When I tire of watching people, my eyes stray to a window, where they’ll find a leafless tree, swaying in the distance. Doesn’t it look like an upside-down lung?

Now, thankfully, I’ve found my home, so I say thanks to all the people who have walked and lived before me. Thanks to all you who rush by, in such a hurry.

Maybe one day you might try stopping and let the world pass you by: it’s inspiring.

©Charlie Adley

Tuesday 13 October 2015


Bring it on, that’s what I say. Bring on your Autumn gales that will bend the trees, ripping leaves from branches, swaying as if directing nature’s traffic.

Let the rains fall in great vertical sheets, so that we can barely see through them. Let it fall on the horizontal too, that notorious Galwegian sideways rain that finds its way under and through your protective clothing.

Let the turloughs rise once more from their seasonal underground retreats, splattering the landscape with a million extra lakes. A quarter of our back garden will disappear under water, and I will stand on the back step, wondering yet again if this year it will creep too close to the house.

Will the apple saplings and 4 year-old Oaky tree survive the flood? Well, younger and weaker they survived the last three Winters, so I’ll feel less fear this year.

I’ve no idea what Galway’s weather is like today, as I’m off visiting the Snapper’s family in England. This colyoom was written last week, while we were enjoying the calm of the blocking high pressure system that brought dry mild foggy weather.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not in a rush to wish away this season. It feels wonderful to leave the jacket behind early in the morning, when I walk Lady Dog. By February I’ll be dreaming of wearing only a t-shirt on those walks. but after the failure of our Summer I’m not in the mood for any more meteorological mediocrity.

Autumn offers us a chance to ease into Winter; a contrast between the long days of heat and brief blips of Winter daylight, but ever since our cool dry June, there has been little more exciting than Summer rain and Autumn breezes.

Indeed, the leaves are barely browning on the trees, compared to their English cousins, already flying through the air in rushing flurries of russet and crinkle.

Normally I love this season. Walking the same bog road four or five times a week with Lady Dog, I’m privileged to see the minuscule changes that each plant undergoes. 

As she stops to investigate another sniffy locale - in the process revealing to me the homes and highways of our prolific local wildlife, by virtue of trampled grasses running under hedges - I look around me and revel in the tranquility: the whisper of the breeze; the singing of the wind on the metal bars of a gate; the ferns, now collapsing under their own weight as they turn brown, when four months ago I watched the same leaves unfurl in a process that marries green lace doilies with party trumpets. 

As the pink towers of willow herb whisp to white strands and fly away, it’s the turn of the thistles to stand tall, bursting with proud purple flowers. Old Man’s Beard and bright orange berries, plump sloes and fading ragwort are all pushed aside by rabid brambles, their burgeoning fruit contrasting perfectly with the bright yellow orchids that carpet the bog at this time of year.

Apart from the blackberries there is little growing out there beyond the bellies of small burrowing creatures, chowing down in preparation for hibernation.

Last year’s wild food harvest was so sumptuous we ended up freezing bags of blackberries and still to this day have a basket full of hazelnuts that should have been eaten months ago.

This year the countryside of the west of Ireland still feels wondrous, as it always will, but there is nothing unusual going on.

Having experienced life in extreme weather conditions elsewhere, I am grateful to be living in a temperate country, where for 300 days of the year sunshine and showers are the norm, while temperatures rarely stray beyond 10º- 20º C.

When I lived in Sonoma County, California, the midday temperature might reach 38º, at night dropping below freezing. I’d be de-icing my car windows before driving to work, and then, as the temperature soared, I’d take off one piece of clothing after another, as I commuted from high in hills shrouded by cooling Pacific fog, down to the baked valley below, parched dry, laying in the lee of the mountains.

It would stop raining in May and you’d not see a drop until November, when this Englishman was to be found dancing with joy and abandon in the car park outside my flat.

“Rain lovely wonderful life-giving rain! Yay! Yay! I love rain!” I sang, as bemused neighbours looked on.

We might dream of blue skies and dry heat, but after 7 months of dryness this soul cried out for seasonal change.

So while I love Autumn’s gently fetid smells and damp fungal wafts, I’m ready for something to hit. If we can’t enjoy real heat from the sun then let’s be cold. If we cannot have dry weather for weeks then let there be downpours.

The dark mornings are so hard, so difficult to deal with, but at the other end of Winter’s  day I don’t mind the long evenings. As dusk falls around teatime, I allow myself to call an earlier end to my day; to turn on the lights, light the fire and prepare casseroles of beef, porky hotpots and Sunday roast dinners that bring the comfort of heat to our bellies.

Truth is, I’ll enjoy whatever nature brings, but here on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, we sometimes experience the thrill of extreme conditions. During that recent Winter of 12 storms, each stronger than the last, there came a gust of wind which felt exactly like an earthquake jolt.

This house shook to its foundations, and several days later, whilst having breakfast in a pub 10 miles away, I heard others talking of the same gust, felt that far away at just the same time.

Feel free in February to remind me of this dreaming of storms. By then I’ll doubtless be regretting such rashness, but now I say:

“Bring it on!”

I’m ready for some big weather, whatever form it takes.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 5 October 2015

This week's best special offer? A cuppa and a chat with a friend!

Whispering Blue comes into the living room bearing two strong sweet mugs of tea.

“Thanks mate. Don’t know what came over me today in town, but I know I didn’t like it.”

“Why? What happened?”

“I left a trail of destruction in my wake, that’s what happened. Mad, really. Out there alone with the dog for days, really looking forward to coming into Galway, and then, oh dear god….”
Dropping my face into my hands I sigh and groan.

“Just went mental, mate. Shouting and screaming at people in shops and banks. Everything just seemed so bloody annoying. I apologised though, didn’t leave innocent victims wondering what they’d done. ‘Cept for the woman in the bank, She got no apology. Soon as I saw her grumpy face I knew she was on one. Not one please thank you hello or goodbye. Makes me go the other way, so I’m saying please and thank you as many times as I can, smiling at her to try and get a response, but there was no point.”

“So you shouted at her?”

“No, not her. Before I left I just turned to her and said I was sure that somewhere in her training the use of ‘hello, please, thank you!’ must have made an appearance. No, she was out of order, but it’ll be a while ’til I show my face in Marks and Sparks again, I can tell you!”
My friend smiled, sipped his tea and leaned back in his armchair.

“Go on. What happened?”

“Well it was the special offer. I’m having a bit of a problem in the head at the moment with so-called special offers, because my local SuperValu have been sending me coupons that I never get right. Either I forget to take them or have them in my wallet and forget to use them, or the date’s wrong or I haven’t spent enough.

“When I used to shop at Tescos I felt a bit scared about how accurate their marketing was. They offered me coupons for products I bought regularly and money off any shop over 25 quid. But the Supervalu send me vouchers for stuff I never buy and they keep changing the amount I need to spend.

“Used to be a tenner off a 60 quid shop, but now some weeks I’m meant to spend 110 quid, 100 another, but most weeks my shopping comes in just under the ton. If they’re trying to get me to spend more than I need so I can save money, they’ve chosen the wrong punter.

“Anyway, so Marks had this offer with the Indian and Chinese - three sides two mains for 14 quid. Curry and rice, Singapore noodles and mini ribs, lovely jubbly. ‘Cept at the checkout I didn’t get the offer and just flipped my lid. I was roaring and shouting and swearing, the lot. Shocking behaviour.

“The women working there are well nice, didn’t deserve it, so I made sure to apologise, but turns out that the bloody Singapore noodles weren’t part of the deal. Same size, same shelf pretty much same ingredients as yer chicken chow mien, but one is on special and one isn’t. Bottom line though, not feeling good about losing it like that. Not at all.”

“Ah, it’s not just you mate. I was raging in town the other day and I couldn’t even tell you why.”

That made me feel substantially better. Whispering Blue is a calm gentle man. During a friendship of over 20 years, I’ve seen him lose his temper on rare and memorable occasions, but never without good cause.

“I know what you mean about the special offers.” he continued. 

“The ones that drive me crazy are the Sky Eircom UPC deals, where you only pay 35 for the first three months but then you’re tied to a contract for a year paying 70 a month.”

“I know! It’s like they think we’re absolute morons. Trouble is they wouldn’t keep doing it if it didn’t work, so there must be loads of people out there stuffed to the gills with bills they can’t pay. Then there’s those mad offers that make me worry for us as a species. Like, y’know, if you buy your car insurance from you’ll get a free soft toy? I mean, who decides to buy their car insurance with a company because they’re going to get a teddy bear? I ask you.”

For a second we mirror each other, sitting back in our chairs, sipping our teas in silence. Inevitably it is your scribbler that makes the first noise.

“It just feels so Us and Them out there. Maybe that’s why we’re getting angry. They pretend they’re offering us something special, when all it does is make us feel like we’re getting screwed yet again.”

“Sure, if it’s bad now, just wait ’til they bring in TTIP.”

“God I know. Out of our hands, negotiated beyond our control, it’s going to turn Europe into America. Workers rights? Gone. Free healthcare? Gone. Food safety? Gone. Data protection? Gone.”

My friend sighed as he replied.

“Crazy days indeed, and you know, one of the worst things about TTIP is the way it allows corporations to sue countries. Right now Germany’s being sued for 4.7 billion by some Swedish energy company, just because it voted against using nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster.”

“Bloody hell, I didn’t know that! Pure madness, mate.”

“Yep, it’s an insane Merry Go Round. You’ve got corporations suing the same governments who offered them billions in tax incentive bribes - ”

“ - while we're getting done over by both!” I interrupted. “Void of humanity they are, mate, monolithic predators prodding and teasing each other. We’re nothing more than fodder to them. Here, d’ya remember those huge piles of sugar beet that used to be left at the side of the road? That’s us now, that is. We’re the sugar beet. We’re the fodder.”

“Another cuppa mate?”

“Lovely, thanks! Now, what about the footie? City are looking good, eh?”

©Charlie Adley