Saturday 30 May 2015

Meanwhile, nature's doing fine...

 Saw last year how the Virginia Stock self-seeded from containers on the driveway, so I sowed them last Autumn straight into the gravel.

 You go away for 10 days and nature gets on with its business.

This California poppy was the first to flower, self-seeded and fertlized by a very attractive cigarette butt, by the looks of things. Plants just want to grow...

What a pleasure...

Thursday 28 May 2015

Will football force me to change the way I see life?

Happy Birthday Dad!
We always light a candle for you before kick off!
(thanks as ever to

Loathe to admit it but recently I’ve been enduring a period of emotional turmoil over matters of football. Well aware of how silly it sounds for a grown man to declare existential angst concerning his footie team, my confusion continues.

Usually my excuse for watching and following Chelsea FC is that the Beautiful Game provides a trivial and wonderful distraction from the mighty and wearying issues of everyday life. For a few hours each week my mind can switch off and stare at super-rich young men kicking a ball around a field.

For many of us danglers, football and other sport allows a rare and precious chance to explore and explode into our emotional reserves, in a way that’s just not deemed acceptable in a supermarket.

During a game men can roar, scream, cheer and cry. We can show mean-spirited anger and pure joy, without raising a critical eyebrow from strangers.

Trouble is, where in the past the good ship Adley has enjoyed soccer sanctuary in the familiar old harbour of ‘Benign Distraction’, this season my allegiance to the club I support has raised a deep and most unwelcome question:

What kind of man am I?

Regular colyoomistas know well by now that this is not the first time I’ve wondered at my own nature. I’ve not managed to live for over half a century without trying to improve myself. 

Thankfully I’m not so fantastically shallow that football is the first subject to arouse such doubts. But it is the first time that my favourite sporting distraction has become a source of profound consternation.

Do I still love watching football? 
Do I still and will I always be a Chelsea fan? 

Do I still find it odd that I need and enjoy such a simplistically tribal element in my life? 


Clear, simple and unequivocal standpoints all. So what’s the problem? After all, my team have won the Premier League. Even better, Mr. Mourinho was considerate enough to sort out the title a few weeks back.

If all has gone according to plan, I’ll be just back from a Balearic island when you read this, as the Snapper and I return from our first proper holiday for three years. 

When planning the trip months ago, a childish, slightly sad part of my brain was aware that the season would not yet be over, and that we might need to find a bar that showed Sky Sports.

Yet that wasn't necessary, as Chelsea became Premiership Champions four weeks ago.

Texts were flying into my living room from across the continents: 
 “Championes! Championes! Olé! Olé! Olé!”

Despite having a Liverpool supporter on my right and a Manchester City fan on my left, I managed to feel excited, delighted and relieved when that final whistle blew and we knew.

But was I as thrilled as I should have been? Was I leaping up and down in exuberant delight, with a heart pumping with Blue pride?

I wasn’t.

José Mourinho is a genius, of that there is no doubt. Such a word should be applied sparingly, lest it become diminished, yet so vast is the world of football, in terms of finance and population, someone who consistently succeeds at impressive levels deserves an accolade of the highest order.

If you neither know nor care anything about football, allow yourself to become lost in numbers. After winning 18 major trophies in 4 countries in 13 years, his teams have suffered a collective total of 5 defeats in 232 home games. 

There has never been a manager like him. When he described himself as “a special one” he wasn’t kidding.

All sporting heroes are driven by a desire to win, yet despite the look on Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger’s face, Mourinho hates to lose even more than other managers.

Irritating, arrogant and devilishly handsome, even as he enters his silver fox years, Mourinho is in a class of his own: the minuscule details of preparation for every game; the building of a group mentality that makes his players willing to die for him; the tactical agility which allows him to make inspired substitutions that change the game instantly, grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat.

On so many levels he’s the perfect manager: therein lies my problem: stamped through my core like a stick of Brighton rock are the words ‘Have A Go!’ My life (as all lives should be) has been a unique adventure, with great victories and tragic losses, but to me, regret is as alien as inertia. 

I’ll always leave a footprint in the sand.

Experience has taught me to be pragmatic on occasion, but while there’s wisdom in being careful, risk is an essential ingredient of my life. You wouldn’t do very well as a scribbler if you were ill-prepared to deal with rejection. Enjoy the successes as they come, take defeat on the chin and move on. 

That’s my way.

Mourinho doesn’t do risk. He exists to win at all costs. For the first half of the season we had all our players fit. Chelsea danced to victory after victory in balletic and enthralling fashion. Then, as the squad tired and succumbed to injury, our style became more defensive, until even John Terry, the Chelsea captain, talked of:

“... grinding out wins, week after week...”

Once Chelsea were notoriously unpredictable and occasionally exhilarating. Mourinho has now turned us into a slick outfit that’s a safe bet. When his flair players are fit, Mourinho is more than happy for his teams to play wonderful football. When less talent is available, he’ll squeeze the best out of what he has. 

Nobody does it better.

Mourinho worships at the altar of victory. If football is to be a metaphor for life, I prefer to have a go and enjoy the game.

©Charlie Adley

Thursday 14 May 2015


Is your love better than my love? Is it a stronger love, a purer love? I have no idea and what’s more, I have no desire to wonder.

One thing I know with absolute certainty is that the love men feel for other men and women for other women is as wonderful as the love I feel for my wife.

Do you feel threatened by the idea of a man marrying a man?
Does the idea of a woman marrying a woman in some way weaken your own marriage?

I dare you to ask yourself why? 
Why does the love of two people you don't know weaken your love?

I find there are plenty of challenges, of both day-to-day and long-term varieties, involved in a successful marriage, but it never occurred to me that somebody else’s pairing might make my marriage feel worth less.

You might say that I feel the way I do as I am a Godless mutant atheist-pantheist Jew, who has no regard for the deeply-held religious views of others.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When I first arrived in Ireland back in 1992 I wrote carelessly and disrespectfully about abortion and divorce. Born in pluralist multi-ethnic London, I was shocked to my core to discover a country in which it was illegal to telephone certain information help lines. I had never imagined a country might forbid divorce in its constitution.

After being sent used condoms, a dog turd and obscene photos in the mail, I eventually stopped writing about religious matters, until one day I realised that I’d been successfully intimidated.

If your objection to same sex marriage is held on Christian religious grounds, why not ask yourself what Jesus would do?

A supremely compassionate figure, Jesus was never a man to compare one love to another. He saved an adulterer from being stoned and dated a prostitute. I’m sure that were he walking the streets of Ireland today, he would ask us to respect the love any human feels for another. 

The Church disagrees, but sometimes life requires we show more wisdom than the words of men. I believe that if we all loved our neighbours and turned the other cheek, just as Jesus suggested, the world might be a peaceful place.

Anyway, this referendum is not comparable in any way with the matters of abortion and divorce, in that both of those are options we choose to make, or not, depending on our conscience.

Sexuality is not a choice. I think it’s fair to assume we have all evolved beyond believing that homosexuality is an illness that might be cured. We know that each of us is made up of varying amounts of characteristics from both genders.

A nurturer to a degree that belies the stereotype of my gender, I can appear quite effeminate on occasion. However, just because I hate to lose a seedling and knock up a fair roast dinner, I still fancy women. Another man, way more macho than me, might hate plants and not know his carrot from his celeriac, but fancy other men.

What we need to do is look deep into our hearts and souls. Forget the trivial reaction you might feel about what makes others happy, and ponder love: in love we are all equal and all our love is equal. 

Equality, like sexuality, is not a choice. Equality is a right: the most basic of human dignities to be afforded. No love is more equal than others.

You might mean well with your ‘Vote No’ posters about babies and mothers, but this referendum is not primarily about children. If passed however, it will have a beneficial effect on their lives. 

Beyond nourishment and shelter, children need only two things to flourish: time and love. As someone unable to have children, I find it utterly abhorrent that you might prevent someone from being a parent.

With a quarter of our marriages now ending in separation or divorce, Ireland has over 215,000 lone parent families. If you vote for love and accept marriage equality, more children will have two loving parents to cherish them.

Now I need to step off the eggshells upon which I’ve been tip-toeing and state clearly that this referendum represents a choice between love and hate. 

It wasn't only my people that Hitler killed in the gas chambers. Burning alongside the Jews were gays, lesbians and bisexuals. You wouldn’t feel right stopping me from marrying, so why do you feel you have the right to stop others?

Do the Irish love their neighbours enough to allow a generation of Irish gays and lesbians to grow up as equals, proud to belong to the Irish nation, or is there still room for hatred?

I dare you to think of love as you place your cross on the referendum ballot. Think of love and if you feel threatened by the question, ask simply: 

Is your love better?

©Charlie Adley

Monday 11 May 2015

Never press the 'Mute' button during a nightmare

It may sound silly, but I’m a bit scared of going to bed tonight. Wary might be a more adult way of describing it, but to be honest, the way I’m feeling has very little to do with being a grown-up.

Last night I had the Grandaddy of bad dreams. Being a prolific dreamer I file them away in my mind, and this one would fit into the ‘Anxiety’ folder, although it was one of the most detailed, long and creative dreams I’ve ever had; to this man who regularly dreams three times a night, that feels significant.

I’ve been unable to focus on anything else all day and have to make my deadline. Maybe by scribbling all the horror out of me and dumping it on you, my poor colyoomistas, I’ll find some release.

In return, so that I don’t appear excessively self-indulgent and needy, you’re all allowed to come up with theories as to what the heck is wrong with me. However, pray spare the lead in your pencil if all you have to offer exists under either of the following umbrella banners:

“Adley, you’re a sick sad bastard!” or “You need help! Eat grapefruit and meditate!”

The Snapper, Lady Dog and I are living in a ground floor flat somewhere I do not recognise. It’s sunny, warm and there are tropical plants outside.

We notice over a period of time that things in the flat are not where they are supposed to be. Loaves of bread appear in the fridge and mugs in the cereal cupboard. The shape and furniture of the kitchen starts to change. Each time we come back home the place looks less and less like it did before.

One evening I take Lady Dog out for her peeper, and the garden has disappeared, replaced by a sand dune. At the foot of the white sand hill lies a large pool of crystal clear water. Somehow I know it’s fresh water, and as Lady runs off to jump in, I suddenly feel very afraid.

By the time I’m at the edge of the pool the dog had shaken herself off and run off to do what dogs do, so I stand and marvel at this absolutely still pure clean water, until I see what at first I imagine to be a crab moving across the bottom.

A plume of fine grains of sand are being disturbed by something underneath, and I watch as little by little I realise that this is a child’s finger. Then two. Then some hair, a rag doll blond crop of corn-roll locks emerge, then a head. Finally, without the slightest drama or struggle, a young boy calmly claws his way out of the sand, up on his feet and out of the water.

By now I am gripped by pure terror. However innocent and benign this young lad might seem to be, not much good in human form disinters itself and stands there, looking as if nothing unusual is going on.

The depth of my fear knows no bounds. I can barely breathe.

Deciding it’s probably best to flee, I turn for the house, where hopefully the Snapper will tell me that I’m an old hallucinating fool and nothing like this ever happened.

Lady Dog will make her way back home so I tun away, with neither a hello nor a good-bye to this apparition.

Yes, that’s a good word for him, I decide in my dream. That makes me feel just a little less terrified.
Well, it might, were it not for the fact that the child is waiting for me when I get back to the garden gate. Standing there naked, silently, head tipped slightly down so as not to even make eye contact.

But he shouldn’t be here. Even if you discount the fact that he recently rose from beneath the earth, he had not passed me on the way back.

This silent child starts to appear in front of each door until after a while, wherever I run, however hard I try to escape, he’s in every line of direct and peripheral sight.

The lad has done nothing threatening, apart from appear in all places at all times, which might just feel a mite unsettling, even if you weren’t dreaming.

Finally I pluck up the courage to approach him.

“Why are you following me? Leave me alone.”

For the first time he looks up and without the faintest trace of facial expression nonchalantly replies:

“I died in 1943, when I was five years old.”

Finally losing it completely, I try to run away but all of a sudden there are thousands of the boys, marching along the street like soldiers, each lad now accompanied by an identical tall dark man in his early twenties, who I know in the dream is the young one’s brother.

Trying to hide in a café, I hear them all yelling for me outside.

So profound is the horror I’m feeling, a tiny part of my mind delivers a sliver of blissful lucidity, allowing me to realise it’s a dream, and suddenly, into my hand is delivered a TV remote control.

Aha! Brilliant! Turn it off. It’s only a dream.

Without looking I press my finger onto a button on the remote, but instead of switching off the nightmare, the ‘Mute’ symbol appears in my vision.

Hell! I hit the wrong button. Now there is no sound, nobody can hear my screams for help. Several of the young tall men grab me and are just about to drag me away, kicking and raging, when quite outrageously, my sense of humour makes a long-overdue appearance. 

Down the bottom left of my mental picture, a tiny subtitle appears, right next to the ‘Mute’ symbol:

“This is where it all gets so scary, you pooh yourself a little.” 

I roar and yell for help yet again I make no sound, and then I wake up.

Sweet dreams colyoomistas. I’m looking forward to one.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 3 May 2015

Never let politics get in the way of a good giggle!

The evening was going fairly well until the subject of food banks came up. Considering the blue sky Spring evening outside, there were a surprising number of potential voters in the hall of Stanmore Community College.

I was born in Stanmore and my family have a huge connection to the place. My sister has her shop there, my brother took his A levels in this very college, while I misspent my entire youth in the place.

Politics has always been a subject central to our family, so excited and intrigued by this most unusual of UK elections, it’s natural that my mum and I attend the local hustings while I’m staying with her in London.

Raised by a brace of dedicated Conservatives, my brother introduced me to socialism at the tender age of 13 and despite endless heated debates (I gather non-Jewish people call them ‘rows’) little has changed in my family’s political outlook.

Contrary to the endlessly patronising assurances I endured from adults throughout my teenage years, my views have not changed as I’ve grown up. My sense of social justice is as strong today as four decades ago.

It all comes down to housing, health and education.

Until everyone has a safe home, access to healthcare at all levels and an education that not only prepares us for life but instils within us the desire to continue learning, I will continue to agree with Mahatma Gandhi. When asked what he thought of Western civilisation he replied:

“I think it would be a good idea.”

So far these hustings of England’s Harrow East constituency have felt quite convivial and good-tempered. Upon on the stage sit five candidates with a variety of skin colour that implies a civilised society. Proceedings might be running slightly smoother if there were microphones available, but although it’s impossible to hear questions asked by anyone sitting in front of you, the politicians’ answers are so predictable, we manage to deduce the questions.

This constituency is a key marginal, with the distinction of being the only Conservative-held seat in the country with a majority of ethnic minorities. The polls suggest that Labour might take it, and their young candidate, Uma Kumaran, is doing an excellent job tonight. 

Gradually the candidates descend into their familiar trenches, each party representative trying to outdo the other. The incumbent Tory MP Bob Blackman claims that unemployment in Harrow is “ a thing of the past.”

If so, I’m impressed, yet somehow I doubt it.

He promises the Conservatives will build 88,000 houses. 
Uma then claims Labour will build 200,000 houses. 
Emma Wallace, the slightly ineffectual Green Party Candidate, who sometimes seems unsure exactly what her party’s policy is, refers once again to her notes and perkily pipes up to announce the Greens will build 500,000 homes.

With the greatest respect Emma, I’m as likely to form the next UK government as you are, so if voted into power I promise to build everyone a home, and send the bill to that fella in Nigeria who keeps trying to send me money by email.

The most energetic and likeable of the bunch is Ross Barlow, of the Liberal Democrats. Looking barely old enough to vote, he's amiable and at ease, attracting a laugh from the crowd by hoping that if he’s elected, it’s because people have voted for the party they like the most, not just the one they hate the least.

The Chairman rambles on far too long inbetween each candidate, and for some reason he seems to think it’s okay for him to disagree with certain candidates, even though he is meant to appear neutral.
Rumbles of discontent start to rise from the floor about the Chairman’s rambling. 

A whiff of the Vicar of Dibley threatens to disturb proceedings. The atmosphere starts to change, just slightly and still comically, as people turn to tell others to stop talking because they can’t hear what’s being said. Then the others explain back that all they were saying was that they can’t hear what’s being said either, and why is the Chairman rambling on?

Then someone has a go at my 86 year-old mum and I have a go back at him. Again, for the umpteenth time in my life, I remember how we English exist so close to aggression; how it affects me; why I love life in the West of Ireland so much.

At which point, quite unexpectedly, things turn very nasty.

A woman asks the panel why, in sixth richest nation in the world, the number of food bank users has risen from 61,000 in 2011 to over 913,000 in 2014?

Bob Blackman invents a response that immediately reminds me why I loathe the Conservative Party. Wilfully ignoring the question, he complains how awful it is that some people abuse the food banks, taking stuff they don’t need.

Given an evident failure of modern society, he manages to dredge Daily Mail blame culture from human tragedy. As Aneurin Bevan so aptly described them in 1948, the Tories truly are “Lower that vermin.”

This despicable attitude is the reason why I’d still vote Labour, despite the fact that these days they are little more than Tory-lite.

The woman who asked the question is outraged, as am I and we both shout our disgust. Suddenly the previously relaxed man sitting next to my mother growls fiercely and disrespectfully at the woman for expressing her feelings. These are hustings, for goodness sake! We’re all meant to be heard. That’s why we’re here.

Back at my mum’s later, we rerun the events of the night over a cup of tea.

“I was impressed by Nana Asante.” she says. “She made a lot of sense.”

Then I point out to my life-long Tory mother that Asante is the candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and we have a good laugh together.

Love and laughter are the stuff of life. Politics should never get in the way of a good giggle.

© Charlie Adley