Sunday 29 January 2017


Inevitably, my evening is headed for the Crane...

 Just as I first did 25 years ago, I'm arriving in Galway City on the bus to Eyre Square. Now, where and what is drawing me in?

As then, so too now, it’s O’Connell’s great pub that first suffers my arse on a barstool. Friendly and full of characters, I could stay all night, but it’s barely evening and there’s much rambling to be done.

I’m too early into both Murty Rabbits and An Púcán, both empty, save for the bands who play away. Is there a lonelier sound than a banjo in an empty bar?

Barr an Chaladh in Woodquay is already buzzing with GAA buzz and bluster, but as I plonk myself down, backs both sides of me are turned to the stranger, so I head south, like a swallow in Winter, seeking warmer climes.

Crossing Eglington Street feels tonight like the border between strange and familiar. The lads told me to visit Tribeton, for the spectacle of the building, but truly, I can't be arsed.

This Tuesday in January proves an absolutely perfect night to be out in Galway City. Dry with a gentle mild breeze. Nary a festival in sight. Empty roads.

For a second I’m overcome with nostalgia and head towards an Tobar, but then I remember it’s closed. Open everywhere are a host of new eateries. Taquerias, chili cafes, sushi bars, kebab, falafel and coffee shops. A long way from the dearth of food that greeted me when I first came to Galway in 1992. 

Then it was considered classy if a little tinned sweetcorn was served with your sangidge, and never mind the brine soaking into the meagre pan, making it soggy and yuk.

Strolling past Tig Coili’s I can hear my excellent friend Dalooney and the crew playing up a storm, but it’s onwards for me, past the Kings Head, which is now a live music whiskey bar bistro. Used to be that being a pub was enough, but evidently not any more.

Lovely - ahhhh! 

That’s me flopped into a chair outside Tigh Neachtains, where my Jamie comes in at €5. Ouch indeed, but sitting here on a calm evening, watching Galway walk by feels comforting, like a gentle recurring dream.

A little later I go into the middle bar to say hello to an old friend I haven’t seen for ages. I ask after another old friend, and she points to an empty stool and tells me he was sitting right there, and now he’s outside smoking a fag.

Oops! Hadn’t even noticed him, so I dive outside to apologise.

Sadly he doesn't want to know and takes issue. The more I try to explain, the less he's having any of it. He feels very strongly that I am talking rubbish, so I leave feeling disproportionately and profoundly sad.

Unbeknownst to them, certain long-term challenges that do not make the pages of this newspaper have left me exhausted and emotionally fragile.

What I need is gentle support and encouragement, not unfair accusations. 

Tonight I want to bump into friends, not fall out with them.

Persisting in my pursuit of happiness, I sit outside the Quays, where a man in a Galway jersey is describing his female friend as a Tan. I laugh and interrupt to say if she's a Tan then so am I. Despite my admission - or maybe because of it - he offers a strong smile and a slightly over-firm handshake. 

We chat for a while, swapping stories of the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden, and warmed by this craic with a stranger, I gradually start to feel I'm getting back into my night out swing.

Heading west, the roads are still void of traffic. Along the riverbank beside Jury’s, I stop and stare at the roaring Corrib, mighty and wild with fresh Connemara rain.

Down into Dominick Street, where both Aniar and Dela are closed. 
Given an absence of diners, the lass in Creole is on her knees, taking photos of a cocktail that is doubtless about to hit several social media platforms.

Into Monroe’s, where I’m calmed by the welcoming odour of woodsmoke. It’s wonderful to see that some things never change, and in Monroe’s, Tuesday night is still set dancing night. 

My thumbs tap the bar to the music as I watch local Galway alive, well and shtomping their feet to a fiddle and two boxes. Up around down and hoop up around again: magical.

Here there’s change from a fiver for a Jamie, and I leave with a smile on my face, kindling glowing anew in my soul.

Inevitably, inexorably my evening is headed for the Crane. 

Hmm, the Blue Note? 
No, I’m too old, but I might take a wee one in Massimo’s front bar. Holy Moly - Mo’s is closed too!

Running out of options I head into the Crane, where I find a barstool next to an old friend. To the accompaniment of the massed young musicians of Trad Soc, (truly, there’s a whole lot of fine music in a traffic-free Tuesday Galway City) I enjoy my friend’s wit, wisdom and wealth of experience. 

Our conversation has put on my night the ideal cap, so saying farewell I walk along Sea Road, only to spot my two friends from earlier, walking towards me.

I offer them a goodnight and rather drunken slightly strange bowy swirly gesture with my coat.

They both walk past me in silence.

Having ended my night out consumed by sadness, the next morning 

I walk the Salthill Prom to remind myself how good life is. 
The universe does not disappoint. 

Above a bay teeming with dark high tide water, a piercing gold sheen shatters the sky over Kinvara, with gentle silver tones dusting the roofs of Bellharbour. 

Behind, the Burren sits somehow solid yet also amorphous; a grey pastel gift.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 22 January 2017


That hall had never looked so vast. My back clung to the wall, beside the backs of all the other boys, while across the wooden floor, clinging to the other wall stood the girls.

To gain admission to a legendary Scout Hall Disco, we’d formed two long queues arching away from each other, boys in one and girls from two nearby schools in the other.

To us English Public School boys, females were an alien species. Across the Quad we eyed each other from afar, pointing and laughing now and then, daring to dream just a tiny bit, our individual fears still eased by the safety of numbers.

During the night we danced with - or as near as possible to - as many beings with different bodily bits as possible, but now it was the business end of the evening.

Time for the last dance, always a long slowy - the make or break moment of the evening.

Tension filled the air as powerful teenage urges collided with pure terror.

You had three ways to approach it: if you’d already ‘got off’ with a girl (as loosely defined a term as your own Irish ‘shifted’) you were sitting on the edge of the stage, ostentatiously exploring far-distant parts of her lung with your tongue.

However, if you were not superhuman and entwined with a lass from Northwood College, you either had to go for it or admit defeat, by uttering a barely believable

“Nah, don’t fancy any of ‘em!”

To the sound of that week’s number one (10cc’s I’m Not In Love) I decided the time had come. 

I’d identified the girl I was going to ask. Somehow I’d found out that she was called Christine, and I also knew that she was wearing Charlie perfume, so I could greet her by name, ask her to dance and then maybe make her smile by telling her my name.

As plans go it was far from great, but it was all I had, and man, fwooh-hooh, she was beautiful!

Despite being at that time an insecure unhappy boy, I was born with a daring spirit. As a gasp rose behind me, I strode out into the empty dance floor.

Driven by a teenage libido matched only by my huge inexperience, 
I felt as if I was rowing single-handedly across the Pacific Ocean.

She said yes. We danced slow, smooched in public and later kissed in private behind the carpentry workshop. My first proper kiss was tender and clumsy and mysterious and over way too quickly.

Many of you from my generation went through similarly terrifying rituals, but oh my goodness we were so lucky.

Yes, I could feel the eyes of all the boys on my back as I headed off on my mission, the stares of the girls as I approached them, and of course it was utterly terrifying, but that was as far as it went.

No texts were flying around that hall, slagging off my cheesecloth shirt and denim jacket. No boy was sending sly and sarcastic messages to a girl across the floor about me as I walked. 

My hair, in those days long but not in a good way, lost somewhere between a Jewfro and a Beehive, was not being trolled on Twitter. 

Nobody was filming me on their iPhone. 

When I finally inexpertly kissed her, our mouth to mouth encounter was not going live on Facebook, not being mocked on Instagram.

I’m so glad I’m not a young person now.

Yes, there was bullying, both mental and physical violence in my school, but when you were the victim, you tended to be there, physically present. If somebody had an issue with you, it was dealt with face to face.

After less successful weekend ventures with the opposite sex, I dreaded Monday mornings back at school, but while things occasionally became vicious, it was direct. There was no background group mockery in the ether.

Well, apart from the stuff my own paranoid nature invented.

Boiling bags of hormones, half adult half child, teenagers have never had it easy, but now, with all their peers eternally connected, their lives have become incredibly complex at a time when they are least able to deal with subtleties.

With diagnoses of anxiety disorders growing exponentially among young people, I wonder where they go for sanctuary. Back in the 1960s I used to find comfort in collecting football cards. They weren’t stickers. You had to use one of those rubber-tipped glue bottles to stick the cards in the album. I prowled the schoolyard with my piles of swaps, looking for Jimmy Husband of Everton and Derek Dougan of Wolves.

In a pack of Match Attax, today’s equivalent, I find a card showing what it describes as a unique online code, that will unlock free digital cards, so I can play for the chance to win exclusive Pro 11 cards.

I refuse to believe that our brains have evolved so quickly in 40 years that a nine year-old today would not feel satisfied by simply completing an album.

Now, however, children are not allowed to feel that’s enough. They must need more, to become solid members of our consumer culture.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. My encounter with Christine did not end well. Awaking with a telephone number on the back of my hand, I joyously dialled the numbers, only to discover she had betrayed me. Through dark hours of teenage angst I called different combinations of that number, but Christine was never there.

If the internet had existed, I might now have trolled her on several different platforms, but the family phone was all we had. 

Teens have always been cruel to each other, and are now provided with so many ways of going about it.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 15 January 2017

Sleep only helps if you know you've slept!

Here I am, wide awake in bed. 
Is it Tuesday? 
Which bed is this? 
How does water break?
Was I ever well? 

Where am I?

Oh yeh, I’m visiting my mother. London calling. Brain swirling, body coughing up a storm. Put the light on, look at the watch, see the time.

2:15 am.

Please no. Please don’t let me feel this awake at two in the morning. If I have a bad night now that Beelzebub of a chest infection will make another curtain call.

I’ve just finished the second load of antibiotics, but maybe the bastard bug was viral after all.

Been ill so long I've forgotten what well feels like. I know thousands of you out there have suffered the same way. 

Weeks ago, the Snapper’s New Year’s Eve kiss was an exceptionally brave effort, of which I was wholly unaware. 

Apparently she stole into the bedroom at midnight and planted a smacker on my lips, as they flapped in and out, chugging forth a bellowing snore of snot and human slurry.

You romantic beast, Adley.

Must sleep. Can’t get ill again. Must not infect my 87 year-old mum, who is at the moment fitter than both of her sons. Last night I was half of a dubious double act: The Coughing Adley Brothers of North West London.

Must sleep. After a good night's sleep the next day I feel well. Must feel well so I can be a helpful and pleasant visitor, otherwise what the hell am I here for?

Must sleep. Simple as that. Must sleep. Pick up the book. That'll do it. Chaim Potok writing about an artist’s struggle to remain faithful to his Hassidic Jewish traditions, while creating what his community considers idolatrous paintings.

20 minutes of that and I’ll be back in the land of nod. Eyes swim over the tiny print. Mind sinks into exhaustion, then suddenly rises up, bursting into the realm of anxiety and that dazzling glaring light, reserved for utter wakefulness in the middle of the night.

Is this the third week or the third month of it? If things are messy on my insides, my outer shell has fallen to pieces. I have a body that demands exercise, stretches and what we humans generally call movement. 

I’ve been out for walks but can only manage short excursions and afterwards I feel disproportionately exhausted, which it puts me off trying it again for a good while. 

When I do walk (I still have to go to the loo) bits of me that once were firm are now wobbling up and down like elephant’s jowls. My flesh is either shaking or bulging out and oh boy, it ain’t pretty.

So I’ve lain in my bed or sat in my chair, trying to enjoy the detritus of Christmas goodies that I was too ill to eat at the time. 

Trouble is my taste buds are wiped. so I’m only feeling the sensation of chocolate biscuits and mince pies on my tongue, rather than savouring them

Not much point in poisoning my arteries with them really, but I feel robbed, so I’m being a stubborn ignorant prat and eating them anyway. The payoff from this cocktail of physical inertia and intense calorie collection is brutal though.

At last, the words blurr on the page. Brain going bye-byes. Eleventy thriple. Chilcott Report. Dirty socks and marmalade. Turn out the light and sleep. Beautiful restorative sleep will come, I know, and wow that must be some full moon.

Look at it shining through the curtains! Unusual for a full moon to show so strongly in London!

Back in my County Galway home, in an area of little light pollution, a full moon can burn its light through the bedroom blinds so powerfully that I have been known to get up to check I haven’t left the exterior lights on, even though I know I haven’t, because I can be quite altogether neurotic when I want to be.

But here, in the bright suburbs of the megatropolis? How can it be so bright here? And hey, hang on a minute. It’s not the time for a full moon. It was just past crescent when I left Ireland, so at best it must be half full and why am I even contemplating matters such as full moons and crescent moons when I should be asleep? 

3 in the morning now. If I have a sleepless night I’ll be useless. My cough will return with a vengeance, and how will I live with the guilt of giving an 87 year-old woman a life-threatening chest infection and oh my good god I am so far from sleep now it’s ridiculous.

Look at those curtains. I swear that moonlight is glowing even stronger now than it was before.

Rolling out of bed, I walk to the window, part the curtains and look outside to see daylight. Morning has broken, long ago, and going over to my phone I see that the time is 7:55.

My watch insists it is 3:15, but the rest of the world says differently and hallelujah! I did not have a bad night at all. In fact I slept for over 8 hours. Now I just need to work on adjusting my head and body to this fresh dawn; this happy truth.

Wake up and feel wonderful, because you are rested and repaired!


Hmmm, might take a few minutes to convince myself of that. At least I know I haven’t suddenly become an insomniac. The reason I couldn’t get back to sleep was because I’d kipped enough already. 

Even more silly, all those worries, fears and concerns that cascaded around my brainbox for the last hour had no basis in reality.

Note to self: when taunted by those dark three in the morning voices in your head, remember it might be twenty to eight.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 8 January 2017

Appreciate the darkness and give thanks for the light!

What now? What now for us, as we emerge from the blur and rush, to face once again the normality we so eagerly tried to escape over the last weeks?

How bleak is your midwinter?
Well, that’s pretty much up to you.

After last year it’d be so very easy to drift listlessly into the doldrums. Under Connacht’s low grey January skies it’s tempting to feel oppressed by humanity’s apparent lack of direction.

In the past I’ve often trodden that path. Having lived with depression throughout my life, I now make sure to consciously and truly appreciate the times when I am not being taunted by my Black Dog.

Life ain’t worth a pooper if you fail to learn. Today there are many things that could be better about my life, as well as the world in which I live, but right now I’m alone in the house, just me and the keyboard, and I give thanks for many things.

Thanks for this lovely house. Naturally we'd be happier to own our own home, but on the outskirts of Jakarta in 1985, I saw two children emerging from the three corrugated metal strips they called home.

A lean-to, tied together with scraps of rope, it was wedged inbetween the railway tracks and surrounded by hundreds of others.

The two little girls wore perfectly clean white shirts, and black skirts with pleats starched and ironed to a standard that would pass inspection at the Big House.

Immaculately-dressed children were popping out of tiny filthy wobbly sheds all over that shanty town. Living with neither plumbing nor electricity, those kids could all have starred in a Persil ad, yet the muddy puddled rusty ground beneath their feet festered with cholera.

So yes I give thanks. I could feel more secure, but oh my goodness we are so safe.

For 350 days of the year in the West of Ireland we will have sunshine and showers, in a temperature ranging between 10 and 20 degrees. The earth here does not quake. Fires the size of counties do not ravage this land. 

Yes, it’d be lovely if it was more sunny, but then you’d be wiping clean every grain of sugar you spilled by the kettle, because millions of ants would share that climate and your kitchen.

Of course I could do with another 500 quid a week, but if that meant I lost time to walk and stare then I’ll pass, thanks all the same.

In the past I’ve been crushed commuting on tube trains, stuck in miles of stationary traffic, twice a day, five days a week. While it’s great to have the dosh, there is value and then there is money.

Bloody easy for me to say, admittedly, with just myself and the Snapper to look after. If there was a house full of rug rats to feed, clothe and educate, I might not sound so glib. That dream did not come true for us, so we created another which included four legs and a wet nose.

I was unwell throughout the festivities, coughing and snotty in a particularly sexy way, so I was forced to surf it, rather than immersing myself in the joy and fun, but I was aware that they were present.

That’s all it takes: to know that the good is there.

Somewhere between the hokey old American schoolyard cry ‘Turn That Frown Upside Down’ and the relentless desire for positive thinking in New Age philosophy, there’s a comfy lumpy mattress of middle ground.

That’s where you’ll find me. Yes, I’ll be entertaining darkness and negative thoughts, because without them the positive become meaningless. My cough is a pain and I am allowed to moan about it a tiny bit, but I have access to healthcare, so I tend to shut up and feel lucky.

Before I condemn our species as rotten for voting Trump, I remind myself that two million more people voted for Hillary. Also, I’ve no doubt that many millions of Trump voters made their choice despite the bigotry he espoused, not because of it.

Violence is the voice of the unheard, and politically you can’t appear more violent than voting for the Donald.

Doubtless he will impact my life in some ways, and possibly harm the lives of many others, but down here at Charlie Central, the air still smells sweet off the mountains.

I need to understand the news, but won’t let it stop me embracing the glory of Connemara. When depression hits, it wipes beauty from my eyes. I will look at the hills I saw the day before and know that they are beautiful, yet feel unable to appreciate it, there and then.

So while my spirit allows me to smile, I refuse to let the bigotry inherent in Brexit unduly  bother me. Once again the unheard shouted loud, but my native country was and is split down the middle, so whatever your opinion, it’s far from unique.

Personally, I’m more concerned about desalination of the northern Atlantic. With the Arctic melt reaching cataclysmic proportions, the chances of losing our conveyor belt of warm coastal waters grow greater every day. Without that protection, we plunge instantly into Muscovite winter conditions, for which we are in no way prepared.

Yes, I’m worried about that, but hey, I’m going to take a break in a few minutes, stand on the back step, sipping tea, as I watch the finches and wagtails feasting on the birdseed I put out this morning.

I refuse to let last year put me off this one. Aware of the darkness out there, I’ll fortify myself with the goodness that surrounds us all.

©Charlie Adley