Wednesday 29 March 2017


To the redheaded woman wearing a green top in the lift last night:
I am truly sorry you felt I had been so rude. In fact I felt gutted that my efforts were wasted. Everything I’d done was deliberately planned so that you’d not feel threatened in any way.

As I walked up to the lift I saw you and other man waiting. He was clearly not with you, so as the doors closed, I was aware that you were in a late night lift with two strange men. Each of us blokes took a corner, as did you, and where normally I’d prefer to make eye contact with another human being, I declined, because in that context it might seem a bit dodgy.

All of us were going up to the fourth floor. I’ve stayed in that hotel many times before, and know well its long lonely corridors, punctuated by twin swing doors every twenty paces. Beyond each set of doors you can see only darkness, with motion-sensitive lighting coming on as you walk further.

The system works well, but if you were a woman late at night with two blokes behind you and darkness up ahead, you might feel it’s scary as hell.

That’s what I reckoned anyway, which is why, when the lift doors opened, I resisted every instinct in my body to sweep my arm in gentlemanly fashion and offer you the chance to step out first, ahead of me. My Dad instilled in me manners, of the old school variety, which are deeply engrained in my being.

Heading swiftly out of the lift, I was followed by the other bloke, who was also large and heavy-footed. Holding each and every door open for him, I could feel the sink of the floorboards as he paced close behind me. I was pleased he was behind me, as with both of us ahead of you, neither man could know which room you stopped at.

Then his footsteps disappeared, and as I went through the final twin swing doors, I was sure I was alone.

You were still behind, so that was my only error. I was just about to walk into my room as you came walking by, and in an American/Canadian accent said:

“You're a real gentleman you are!”

Given what had just passed, at first I thought you were sincere, so I said thanks very much, but then you lingered and blustered around, evidently upset, at which point I realised that your observation had been ironic. You were upset with me, but what could I possibly have done to offend you?

Genuinely mystified, I turned to look at you for the first time and asked:

“Did I do something wrong?”

You straightened your back and threw your hands loose, as if to shake of the stress.

“Yes. You left the lift first and you stormed off ahead and you didn't hold open a single door!”

For a second I grabbed my room’s doorframe. I’d held every bloomin’ door, save for the one where I hadn’t known you were there, but it was clear that reasoned argument was not on the menu.

Upset, a little angry, but mostly blindingly frustrated, I turned to you once more and failing to fully disguise my emotions, asked if you wanted to know why I’d left the lift first, and why I’d walked ahead of you.

You didn’t seem to want to know, angrily suggesting:

“Don’t know. Because I’m ugly?”

That completely screwed up my head. Nevertheless, as you walked away, I called out to explain that in fact I was trying to stop you feeling nervous, but by then you’d gone back through the doors whence we came, and disappeared into a room.

Aha! So you hadn’t even needed to walk through those final doors, the only ones I didn't keep open for somebody else.

Because you were ugly? Are we all meant to go “Ahh…” at that and feel compassion for you?

For men in the 21st century life can sometimes be very complicated.

As I sit here I’ve no idea whether she was good-looking or not, because I had barely looked at her.

Isn’t that what we men are meant to do in potentially threatening situations? Aren’t we constantly accused of sexually objectifying women?

Yes, it’s a scandal that any woman should ever have to perceive any social encounter as threatening, but we’ll never make progress if the rules keep changing.

I’d enjoy scant pity if I wrote about being a man within the same parameters used by female columnists every week. I read about how tough it is to be a woman; how we men are a violent, ignorant bunch of useless lovers and slothful house partners.

Increasingly I don’t even bother to finish the piece, because I’m utterly fed up with this slagging off of men, ad nauseam.

Obviously not all women would react as that stranger did to me, and all men are most certainly not rapists. We are all different, in the infinite ways there are to be human.

In this age of gender fluidity, isn’t it time we stopped talking about gender behaviour in massive generalisations?

Haven’t men come far enough now for women to ease up a little on the aggression and criticism, and accept the dazzlingly obvious: that there are good, kind and considerate souls of both sexes, and to besmirch either half of the population on grounds of gender is absurd.

For every Mary Robinson there’s a Margaret Thatcher; for every Rosa Parks a Marine le Pen. There’s more to life than gender politics, and while we’ve all a long way to go before we stop offending each other, it’d really help if we acknowledged that we’re all intensely and wonderfully fallible.

Sometimes we men simply have your safety and peace of mind at heart. Now let's stop attacking each other and work together.

©Charlie Adley

Friday 17 March 2017


As I steer the car around Black Head and head south along Clare’s coast, my view turns from Salthill across Galway Bay to the Aran Islands. 

It’s early on a wet and windy Sunday morning. Ireland is sleeping. Apart from the busload of eager Dutch and German tourists I passed earlier, already prowling Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara, I’ve pretty much got the world to myself.

I breathe out long and slow.  


Thank you universe.

I need this right now.

A little headspace in a whole lot of stunning earthspace. 
Blue Bag packed in the back of the car.


It’s been a good few years since I drove down through Fanore. Usually I’ll take the Corkscrew Hill road, so I’m eyes wide with pleasure as I watch the westerly storm and high tide combine to pummel a thousand flat black rocks. Heroic waves spray towers of spume and exploding balls of salty froth high into the air.

Time to stop the car and be out there. To fully absorb all this glory I need to feel it on my skin. Pulling over in precisely the middle of nowhere, I wrap my tweed coat around me and stare out towards the roaring Atlantic. 

Not a human in sight, although at my feet there are ancient stones embedded into the rocky foreshore in a deliberate circle. Evidently thousands of years ago other people stood where I am now, and  -

- oh bloody hell! Would you Adam and Eve it?

Less than a hundred metres up the road, the coach I’d seen in Kinvara has pulled over, and is now spewing forth brightly-clad tourists. It's barely 10 on a Sunday morning, and they’ve already 'done' Kinvara. 

Very probably they woke up in Galway and will sleep tonight in Killarney, and they have as much right to be here as I do. Just wish they hadn’t chosen my particular middle of nowhere while I was actually there.

Climbing back into the car I head for the beach, to stand alone and face a mighty angry ocean.

Driving past Fanore I see a man walking a young calf towards me along the road. A mile further on I see another man walking a single cow away from me along the road. Either that calf was just taken from that cow, or there's a severe dog shortage in this part of West Clare.

Heading into Doolin I remember my first time here, the day after my first Paddy’s Day in Ireland. Back in 1993, I was less concerned with pacing my drinking. I’d left Taylor's Bar on Dominick Street at some stage of the afternoon, and then woke up on the floor of a friend’s caravan in Doolin.

Apparently I’d hitched, arriving unannounced in the middle of the night. She assured me I’d behaved well, considering my state, until I fell asleep on her floor, snoring raucously.

Today I’m hungry after all that sea air, so I pop into a pub for some scrambled eggs.

The server seems at best ambivalent about my presence, and asks me to pay first. Then a coachload of Germans walk in and I understand, not only why she was unimpressed by my feeble order, but also why I haven't been back to Doolin for so long.

It's beautiful but it runs a tourist conveyor belt that reminds me of Kilronan on Inis Mor. There are many places equally as gorgeous nearby.

Tonight I’ll be in my favourite, Lehinch, but first it’s time to enjoy a magnificent pint of Guinness in a pub in Lisdoonvarna.

The barmaid is handing out aspirin to a young customer.

"I've something for every occasion in my bag, so I have!" She smiles, and as she walks away, another lad whispers:

"Ribbed and flavoured!"

Slightly ashamed of myself, I chuckle along with the other naughty boys.

Just like everywhere else, the number of pubs in Ennistymon has shrunk. Used to be one for every week of the year. Now I'm having trouble finding somewhere that might be showing the footie. To be fair, Clare are playing later, and this is hardcore Banner country. 

Lehinch beach never disappoints, today the air dense with sea mist. Across the horizon, below the mighty red and black storm clouds, long pale cloudy fingers reach for the water, dipping into the ocean as they spill their load.


Over Liscannor a monster shower cloud looks as if it’s about to split open to reveal a Steven Spielberg flying saucer.

The fella at the reception of my inexpensive family hotel is as flexible and obliging as a submissive yoga master, juggling rooms so that I can be on the top floor and off the road. 

Simple and clean, my room is fine. just a tiny bit off-kilter. As I do what men do standing up, I notice that the loo's cistern lid slopes to the left. The mixer tap in the basin is also skewed well to the left, for some reason making me feel as if I'm on board a boat.

The kettle tea and coffee tray is well-stocked but nowhere near an electrical point. Maybe that's why it's so well stocked - nobody knows how to use it.

Gasping for a cuppa I lift the whole tray and carry it carefully to the seat by the window, where there's a double electrical socket. As I try to plug in the kettle, the whole socket wobbles and shifts in an alarming way, considering it’s attached to the mains.


Do I want that cuppa? 
Well then, get over it.

I do and it's worth the gamble. If it hadn't been, I'd now be a pile of ashes on a carpet in County Clare and could neither have written this, nor gone out tonight to once again delight myself, by gently rambling around the varied, chatty, warm and wonderful pubs of Lehinch.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 12 March 2017

The Oscar for best exposed bum goes!

The wonderful Emma Thompson - she pinched my bum with gusto!
Rather than dwelling on an imbecilic cock-up concerning envelopes and selfie-obsessed idiots at last week’s Academy Awards, I remember the fantastic films nominated in 1995. Both Pulp Fiction and Sense and Sensibility swept me away with their superb screenplays and performances.

Emma Thompson quite rightly won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. It took her seven years to write and then she played her part with understated brilliance, and then she tweaked my bum with gusto.

What was that?

Don't tell me Emma Thompson ever had physical contact with your nether regions.

Oh go on then. Tell me. Tell me another base and sordid tale from your quirky past. Tell me a bizarre story involving toilets, a genuine Academy Award Winner and your scribbler’s bare naked behind.

Back in the 1990s, my dear friend and actor Chris was on a world tour with Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company, performing in King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

At the time, I was living in West Yorkshire, so I crossed the Pennines to spend some time with Chris when the tour reached Manchester. He arranged my tickets, so that I could see Lear in the evening, and Dream the following afternoon.

To be honest, I was a little nervous of this double-whammy of old Bill Spear and his barmy 17th century lingo. There is a painful scar on my brain that resembles the words ‘A level English Literature', yet I was absolutely blown away by both shows.

Richard ‘Dickie’ Briers (smiley Tom of ‘The Good Life’ himself) was just a tad too cuddly as crazy King Lear, but Emma Thompson’s performance as the fool was dazzling. She hammed it up just right, dragging herself around the stage on her knees, with such resigned expertise that you ended up believing her/him an amputee.

The following lunchtime, Chris brings me backstage to meet the cast and crew before the matinĂ©e, and before you can say ‘dealer takes two’, I’m being invited to play a little dressing room poker with Dickie and the lads.

Never one to spurn a chance to take money from those that have it, I sit down and await my cards, but sadly the game is not to be. Just as we start playing, a cheery boyish Kenneth Branagh appears in the doorway and announces:

“20 minutes!”

It’s a bit like being in a fire station when the siren sounds. All of a sudden everyone has a mission, and I have none. Chris does his pursed-lip smile thing as his hand directs my back out the door.

I confess to him that I desperately need to use the loo. He points down the backstage corridor to the left, and says he’ll see me later, but right now he has to become a moth.

“Fair enough!” says I, walking swiftly off, feeling the urgency of my mission building with sudden vehemence.

I test the first door I come to, and at the sight of washbasins and the like, I fly into the middle cubicle, lower my jeans and feel immediate, wonderful and substantial relief.

With my breathing returned to normal, I look around the cubicle for some entertaining backstage graffiti. Just imagine the legions of great actors that must have sat right here, on the backstage po-po at the Manchester Palace Theatre.

Oh no. 
Oh good god no.

To my left sits a sanitary towel disposal container. Even given the trendy nature of thespians, I doubt very much that they share their toilet areas with the opposite sex.

My heart sinks down to my toes. Oh please don’t let me be in the Ladies.

At that very moment, I hear the door open, and three very female voices announce their arrival. My heart rises from my toes and drops out of my bottom, travelling west down the U-bend.

How bad is this?

How much do I want to be caught lurking in the famous ladies’ loo?

Best sit very very quietly until they are gone.

My blinking sounds like thunderclaps, my breathing like a wheezy gale, but I remain undetected, and exhale deeply as I hear the chitty-chatter stop and the door close.

All is silent now, and I must grab the moment, before anybody else walks in.

With one movement, I kick open the cubicle door and grab my jeans, pulling them up as I enter the washroom area. In the massive mirror in front of me I see my reflection, an ungainly image of bare thighs, exposed buttocks and - and also staring into the mirror, not three feet away from me, there stands Emma Thompson in her flowing white Helena robe.

Her mouth falls agape as I frantically explain who I am, apologise and make swift my escape.

Sadly, most of the production passes me by in a blur, so fraught am I by the horrific events of earlier, but by the end of it, I have calmed down, and feel happy to be walking along the street with my mate, proud of his achievements and thirsty for a pint or three.

Behind us we hear excited female voices, and Chris turns around to see Siobhan Redmond and Emma Thompson heading along behind us.

With a slight edge of pride in his voice, he turns to me.

"Hang about mate, I’ll introduce you! Siobhan, Emma this is my friend Charlie and -"

at which Emma Thompson walks behind me, and very obviously and sportingly pinches my arse as she greets me:

"Hello Charlie! I didn’t recognise you with your trousers on!"

Chris turns to me, almost lost for words.

"I can’t leave you alone for one minute, can I?" he exclaims, sounding just as proud now, for very different reasons, as he had the moment before.

©Charlie Adley

Saturday 4 March 2017


For the last four months I've been feeling like the fella in the Western, who’s peering nervously over a vast expanse of empty prairie towards the lonely distant mountains, turning to glare at you with nervous menace and whisper:

“It’s quiet. Too quiet.”

Now that we’re nearer Paddy’s Day than St. Bridget's, it’s fair to say that Winter is over, but did it ever begin? It seems a little strange to this northwest London Jewish blow-in to be talking weather in terms of saints’ days, yet all religion relies on a calendar to map our seasons.

All around me the yellows are emerging, and while it’s thrilling to see celandine, primrose, daffodil and forsythia announcing the end of the dark season by bursting forth their butter sunshine glory, I’m still twitching around, glancing fearfully over my shoulder like a Vietnam vet, waiting for Winter to hit.

Technically we’re in Winter until the equinox, but in our irrational and wonderful human way, we feel we are now in Spring. While we know only too well that big weather can hit our Atlantic coast at any time, if a conveyor belt of storms roars in off the ocean now, they won’t be Winter ones.

Many might think me mad, but I’m unsettled by this lack of Winter. The sun and moon behaved themselves, so we knew where we were in the year, but the weather did nothing.

Hallelujah you might cry. Your livestock are not stuck isolated on a tiny lump of elevated ground on a floodplain. You’ve not had pipes built into concrete burst from double digit freezing temperatures.

Storm Doris packed a short sharp punch last week, but apart from that we’ve had a couple of gales, a few frosty mornings and generally calm and benign weather this Winter.

So why would I wish it otherwise?

My excellent friend the Guru used to take himself off to India every Autumn, returning to Ireland in Springtime, but after a few years of this lifestyle he found himself feeling exhausted. 

Might it be, I suggested to him, that your body and soul need a Winter? Maybe you need to slow down in three months of darkness, sleep a lot and sit by the fire.

Despite the views of the American vice-president, we were not plonked onto a readily-prepared perfectly functioning planet. We have evolved with it, our needs linked to the seasons.

So while I know that Winter has come and gone, I don’t feel that it has, and that unsettles me in a surprisingly profound way.

Where were the storm force winds that create their own singular noise, the howling crashing roar that sounds like a giant dam has burst a hundred yards from your house? 

Where were the storm surges that wreck cars in Salthill car park, ripping giant boulders out of the sea wall and hurling them onto the flooded rushing gushing road?

My first year in this country was spent living in a tiny place just off the Prom. The house was one or two notches up from a slum. My bed’s straw mattress brewed all manner of blood-sucking damp-dwelling beasties, while directly above, the ancient flimsy roof struggled to support a cracked and crumbling chimney.

As the gales howled I lay there wondering which gust would bring the whole lot crashing down upon my head.

Young and drunk, rash and eager, we regularly walked up the road to experience the ferocity of the weather, as it battled to merge the Atlantic with the land. Anyone who’s faced into a storm force wind knows how exhilarating it feels; how tiny and powerless you become in the face of proper weather.

There was that mad bad Winter of 2010, when the ice on the leaves of the trees sat two inches thick. Three of the four roads in and out of Galway were impassable, and my friends from the outer limits of Co. Roscommon arrived ravenous on Christmas Day, having existed cut off and powerless, melting snow on their wood-burning stove so that they might have drinking water.

There’s not one bit of me that would wish for a Winter like that, nor another like 2013/14, when over a dozen brutal storms passed over the houses of the West of Ireland, pummelling our spirits, threatening to break our wills with its relentless assault.

No thanks. I’d rather have the non-Winter just past than that, yet there lurks something primal within me that feels concerned about the way this year’s Winter went AWOL.

Storm Angus arrived last November, with Barbara and Conor hitting in December. Doris arrived two months later, so if we’re to make it down the alphabetical list to Ivor, Jacqui and Kamil, it’d have to be a pretty cataclysmic March.

Jacqui and Kamil? I’m sure there’s a bigot out there already complaining that even the storms sound like immigrants now.

While discussing the weather, as we all inevitably do, a friend recently explained that over the last several decades, Ireland’s annual rainfall has barely changed. The same amount gets dumped on us every year, just not necessarily in the same season.

Alone during Storm Desmond, I watched water encircle this house, rise up the outside walls and sprout out of the ground in spontaneous spurts.

A river suddenly ran from the top left of the garden to the bottom right, as the turlough that yearly takes a quarter of our garden rose to meet the lake that was once our driveway. It was plain terrifying; not an experience I’d like to endure again.

This year the turlough has barely poked a puddle from the ground.

It’s quiet. Too quiet.