Monday 29 May 2017

No, Galway is not Venice, and thank goodness for that!

A few weeks ago I was sitting on the loo, perusing The Guardian’s G2 section. For years I’ve been amused by its Pass Notes column: a daily dialogue which asks cheeky questions of a topical subject, with responses in kind.

No. 3,851 was headed Galway, solely because of the presence of Ed Sheeran and the video he filmed in the city.
I didn’t make it past the first four questions, which went like this:

Location: The middle of the west coast of Ireland. 
Age: About 900 years. 
Appearance: Oh, you know, it’s a perfectly nice old Irish port city. Small. Don’t expect Venice or good weather. 
Known For: Arts festivals, horse racing, Ed Sheeran.
Even though I knew I was being foolish, for some reason this innocuous whimsy managed to bug me for weeks.

Can’t I take a joke any more? After 25 years here, have I become parochial and petty? 
Yes I can and no I’m not.

So why was I feeling so defensive about such throwaway comments?

Had the day had come when I felt more of a Galwegian than a Londoner? 

Was that why my answers to their last two questions would be powered by so much emotion, you'd end up with more of a wrench in your heart than a wry smile on your lips.

Such is the nonsensical nature of comparatives, if you come from somewhere bigger, Galway might indeed seem small.

As someone who comes from a city which makes many others in Europe appear meagre, I feel one of Galway’s greatest qualities is that it’s a perfect size.

No seething metropolis, you need neither bus nor taxi to fully appreciate this city centre. You can walk from one end of it to another in 20 minutes, but it’ll take a lot longer than that, as you’ll be stopping to enjoy the music on the streets, or watch someone wearing burning underpants walk a tightrope at Johnny Massacre Corner.

If you’ve spent more than a day here you’ll be engaged by Howyas looking for inconsequential chit-chat, and even though you intended to head straight from Eyre Square to the river, you’ve ended up in Garavan’s for a whiskey, and then PJ McDonagh’s for sublime fish and chips.

When you’ve tired of sitting outside a pub or cafĂ©, watching the gentle crowds pass along the ancient streets (why on earth did they call it the ‘Latin Quarter’? There’s nothing Latin about it. The ‘Medieval Quarter’ would be so much more apt!) you can walk across Wolfe Tone Bridge to the west of the city, looking left to see the River Corrib roar out into the Atlantic, across to the Kingdom of the Claddagh and over, beyond, to the purple-hued mountains of Clare.

On a blue sky Summer’s evening the low sunlight picks out green fields miles away across the bay, bringing vivid life to far-distant farmhouses.

Once west of the river you can browse the seemingly endless restaurants on Dominick Street, catch a gig at the Rosin Dubh or see an exhibition at the Arts Centre. Then enjoy a gig and the smell of woodsmoke in Monroe’s, or maybe a Trad session at the Crane Bar. 

Whatever your tastes, you’ll find your own place.

Since my arrival here in 1992, Galway City has evolved from being a city that has tourists into a tourist city, but apart from the second week of the Arts Festival and Race Week, there’s never a time when the place feels full.

There used to be a couple of months each side of Christmas when the tourists disappeared, but they now come all year long, 
marching the streets, 
ear-plugged in, 
side by side in columns of four, 
just as they sat on their coach, 
identical pac-a-macs at the ready.

They pass and calm returns.

No, Galway City is not Venice, and thank goodness for that. Venice is utterly wedged with tourists 52 weeks of the year. 

Although Galway’s extensive network of waterways might not compare with its wondrous Venetian counterparts, of a Tuesday afternoon you can stare into the waters of one of Galway's canals, alone and in silence, while behind you, in the river, a wild salmon jumps for joy, simply because it can.

Well, more likely because it saw an insect to eat, but that you will not see in the diesel-ridden waters of Italy’s ancient city.

Yes, this city is famous for its festivals and horse racing, but that is like saying London is known for the Tate Gallery and Twickenham. 

Galway is loved for its incredible people, revered for an atmosphere that grabs your dreams by the goolies while simultaneously whispering in your ear:

“This is the place you’ve been searching for all your life.”

Well, that’s what I heard in my head and I’ve never once regretted listening to that voice.

Finally, I realised why that little Guardian column had elicited such a strong reaction from me.

They described Galway as ‘perfectly nice.’

We all know it’s a heck of a long way from perfect, but to me our city is not nice: it is great, one of the wonders of our county, alongside the startling glories of Connemara, unique and unmatched by anything I’ve seen on three continents.

‘Nice’ is what you call a cup of tea. I love Galway with a passion, just as it has loved me back.

Ed Sheeran’s hit ‘Galway Girl’ charted at No. 2 in England and No.1 in Ireland, but I’ll always prefer Steve Earle's different song of the same name.

Much like Galway itself, Earle’s fine tune makes us smile, telling a tale of a place where nobody minds walking in the rain…

Monday 22 May 2017


Ever since we moved into this house five years ago I’ve been waiting for today to come, yet now that it’s here I’m tense as hell - and that’s after the valium!

At some point between 9:30 and 5:30 today, the people from Eir or Eir-Ring or OpenEir or whatever they’re called will turn up to deliver unto us high speed fibre broadband.

Yay! Fantastic! You’re such a grumpy old man, Adley. What could possibly be annoying about that?

At this stage of my relationship with Eir, I wonder what might possibly go right.

When a service provider fails to deliver either the promised product or price, I take the struggle for justice to the outer limits of time and patience.

You happy breed out there with real lives, jobs to go to and kids to pick up from school cannot sit forever on a phone listening to Neil Diamond, while being repeatedly informed that your call really matters

I however can, and being a tenacious and dogged little bugger, I’ll stick in there until some kind of reasonable and just result has been achieved.

In the past I’ve had success with Sky, Hertz, Talk Talk, Argos and several others, but Eir have defeated me, over and over again.

Only 25 minutes drive from Quay Street, this house is 7km off the main road, so I had to set up TV, internet, landline and mobiles separately, which cost me and my small business a fortune.

At first I used a wireless internet operator with astonishingly good customer service, but they could do nothing about the leaves on the trees. All winter we had internet, but come Spring the signal disappeared.

Didn’t sound great to clients, when I called to explain that I couldn’t send my work right now, as the oaks across the way were in full bloom.

Since then I’ve been using Q-Sat which is reliable yet slow (latest news: now nonexistent!). Add that to the Sky TV and the Eir bundle with the landline and two mobiles and you’re looking at a major wad of outgoing green folding.

Even as I typed the words ‘Eir bundle’ I audibly growled. For years I have been trying to persuade Eir in its various forms to offer me a fair deal, because it was not our fault that they couldn’t supply us with broadband, making us ineligible for their best bundles.

After hours of communication with innumerable call centre supervisors and press offices, I managed to secure new package after new package, only to find each time the bill came that the bastards had charged me for stuff they’d said was free.

Despite clinging to my struggle like a drowning man to a lifebelt, nobody at Eir gave a flying lump of horse pooh about my woes, until one day I wandered into the Eir shop in Galway City, and dealt with physical human beings.

At last my problems were taken seriously. On production of recent bills they shook their heads and tutted. I felt alone no more. So whatever happens today, I’d like to say a massive thanks to the crew in that shop: you have been wonderful!

Despite their best efforts however, my bills were still showing the wrong numbers, and then a few weeks ago I noticed Eir lads working in the bohreen.

“Yes, we’re fitting the fibre broadband, so you can have a bundle with internet, digital TV and phones.”

“Fantastic, lads! That’ll save me over €100 a month! Should I go ahead and cancel the Sky and Q-Sat?”

“Er, no. Don’t cancel anything until it’s all up and running, okay!”

A few days later a very energised young rep arrived on my doorstep, unaware of my history with Eir. Each time he started to reel off the offers...

“All calls, all texts to all landlines and all mobiles -”

I swiftly raised my hand in the air, declaring, calmly yet emphatically:


I hadn’t the energy to tell him of my years of Eir woe; how all these lists were now etched into my brain as pure lies; how I just wanted him to give me a quote for the broadband, TV, landline and mobiles bundle.

“Surely we’ll get one of those deals advertised everywhere, as we’re new broadband customers!”

“Er no, see, you’re existing customers, see, so here’s what it’ll cost you now!”

He showed me a figure that represented less than we already pay for our phones alone, so although I was excited, I didn’t trust it, explaining to the rep that I’d take it down to the Eir shop for their opinion.

“Sure, see if they offer you a better price than me! Bet they can’t!” he retorted chirpily, leaving me wondering why on earth the same company was bidding against itself for my custom.

In the shop I asked them to add the total of the 6 special offer months to the 12 full price months, and divide that by the 18 months of the contract, so I could see a realistic monthly price.

After signing up with them, I strolled down the road to sit outside The Quays with a cup of tea, and to my horror receive an email from Eir, thanking me for my new order, quoting a whole new price and completely different offer.


Misled and mistreated for years, I don’t know what I’ll be paying, and have huge doubts about the quality of the products to come. 

Although other options will be available, until the fibre is installed, this company that quoted me three different prices and sent two different order confirmations has a monopoly.

That’s why I’m tense as hell. This isn’t just about my leisure time: it’s my livelihood, and not one bit of me has confidence in Eir.

PS: waited in from 9:30 to 5:30 as ordered by Eir. 
Nobody came. 
No call, no text, no knock at the door…


©Charlie Adley

Tuesday 16 May 2017


“Woke up this mornin’
’N I was fifty seven...

Said I woke up this mooor-ooorrr-nin’
’N I was fifty seven...

Not sent to hell yet…
Not made it to heaven…

I got those what does my birthday mean bluuuuu-hooooze…..”

While in his prime, that supreme athlete, prophet and all round wonderful guy Muhammad Ali famously said that age was a state of mind. As he struggled through the mighty challenges presented by Parkinson’s syndrome, he kept his smile, his personality and his philosophy of life intact.

On a less testing and more personal plain, that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last six years.

Life in your fifties is a very mixed bag. Just as TV ads seem to encourage women to parachute out of helicopters and go white water rafting during their periods, we 50somethings are coerced by an endless torrent of super-healthy white-teethed mini-celebs to go out there and seize the day, because apparently the 50s are the new 30s.

Don’t think so.

In my early 30s I arrived in Galway City, fully believing my partying days were behind me. City pubs, Salthill clubs and an excellent team of reprobates who lured me into local life put paid to that.

Dancing my 30something arse off at night I felt no pain. First thing the next morning I’d pummel Salthill Prom at high speed, enjoying a sad kind of pride in the way nobody passed me.

A few years later I moved to Connemara, where I wrote, walked, exercised and walked some more. Push-ups, Tai Chi and three walks a day.

Admittedly, the final one was to and from the pub.
I’m only human.

Of course there were injuries. I hurt my foot and it got better. When there was strife in my family, my back gave way, leaving me crippled and crumpled, but then I recovered.
If I tried to be as physically active in my 50s as I was back then, I’d be in a right mess.

One thing hasn’t changed for me. I still don’t care about the numbers, apart from those pesky 6s. When you’re 46 you’re nearer 50 than 40, and 56 hit me the same way last year with 60.

Hmm, yes, have to admit: 60 is starting to flash up in front of my eyes these days.

After singing my birthday blues, I took my blood pressure pill and an antihistamine, because the dry weather and wind are creating storms of pollen.

Then into the kitchen followed by Lady Dog, looking for her morning peeper and her breakfast. I take a horse-sized omega 3 capsule, which I down with whatever’s left of last night’s pint of water, and off we go for a wander.

After breakfast I swallow one of the probiotic capsules I started taking last winter, when I had a chest infection. They’d cured my IBS overnight, so I still do one each day.

By 9:30, when I arrive here in my office, I’ve got more pills in me than Evergreen, and most of them are prophylactic.

Save your emails, pen and paper, because I truly don’t want to know what works for you. I will not drink your green juices every morning, nor offer up my Spirit Wolf to The Demon of the Stream.

Believe me here and now when I say I’m truly glad you’ve found the way, your way, your truth and the clarity to see the light in all matters healthy and wholesome.

Well done.
If it’s all the same to you, I’ll continue to plod along, creating my own gentle swathe.

One of the great blessings of my life has been the continued existence of a group of friends who’ve all known each other since school. We live our separate lives, but stay in touch as and when we want, and when we meet or talk there’s that unique wonder of not having to explain yourself.

Hence a few years back there were a heck of a lot of 50th birthday parties. Since then, it’s been interesting to see how we’ve all adapted to our new age.

By ‘age’ I’m not referring to precise numbers, just that part of your life, which tends to coincide with 50, when injuries become conditions.

All of a sudden the doctor’s not offering pills or suggesting x-rays. She’s just telling you straight. Nothing she can do. This is something you’ll have to learn to live with, a condition you’ll have to manage, and it’ll probably get worse.

Thanks doc. Think I need to think about that.

Anyway, I don’t want my 50s to be like my 30s. I want them to be like my 50s, because I now enjoy 20 years more experience and learning than I did back then.

Of course life still presents massive problems, but I’m more aware of my weaknesses now, more able to understand my emotions, and better able to control how I deal with them.

One of that group of friends took pleasure wailing down the phone to me that the 50s were the beginning of the end.

Moaning with melancholic delight about the inexorable decline of our bodies, our journey lethewards, he said only oblivion awaited.

Er, yeh, thanks mate, but no thanks, all the same. I’m happy to be the age I am.

Even if I can’t dance without ripping a muscle, I have way less pain in my soul than there was in my 30s, and when it demands to be faced, I aim to have the wisdom to deal with it.

Anyway, truth be told, we’re none of us the adults that children imagine us to be. As a boy of seven, I’d look at man 50 years older than me and wonder how incredibly in charge of his life he seemed.

If only I’d known then that we all spend a lifetime making it up as we go along.

Sunday 7 May 2017

Why be ashamed of giving to charity?

 Thanks to the late artist and photographer Derek Biddulph.

Sitting outside a pub, watching Galway City walk by, happy as a scribbler in a daze when

“Mind if I join you?”

“No, not at all.”

“I know you to see you around. English, aren’t you? Nothing against the English. Have to say though, you’re far more snobby than we are! It’s your class structure, ‘cos we don’t have it. But what I really hate is people who force their opinions on you, time and time again.”


“You know the sort, just go on and on about the same thing repeatedly. Drives me nuts.”

“Me too!”

“Why would someone want to say the same thing, over and over again? Makes no sense. If you’ve made your point well enough, leave it, move on.”

Glancing over to make sure he wasn’t wearing a badge declaring  

I Love Irony, I shot a little hostility his way, in the form of a hissed impatient whisper.

“Couldn’t have put it better myself.”

Made no difference. On he went about snobs and people repeating themselves, until I let go of the rope, drifting off into my ocean of memories.

Snobs in Galway? I remember them, back when I was running a charity shop on Abbeygate Street.

My favourite customer used to arrive in the shop like the scent of Jasmine on a Summer breeze.

“Hello! Lovely morning isn’t it! Pretty soon now it’ll be afternoon. Then it’s evening and then well, night, I suppose. I hope so anyway. I mean, what would happen if it was morning right after evening? Just wouldn’t do at all! What was that? Oh yes, Spring is coming. Sure, it’s just like Winter, but with longer evenings.”

Succinct and indisputable.
The woman was a genius.

Working in retail involves making completely uncontroversial smalltalk all day, with a smile on your face. You might think that the weather affects everyone equally, but I was deeply disappointed to find out that here it was not as safe a subject as it had been In London’s shops.

I greet another customer.

“Hello there! Lovely day, isn’t it?”

“Well, no! It’s bitter! Bitterly cold, so it is. And the rain. It’s not right, not rain like this, not at this time of year. Something's wrong, let me tell you. I know! Oh yes, I know about these things.”

I like my job, so resist the temptation to scream:

“What the hell are you talking about? This is Galway for crying out loud! It rains all the bleedin’ time here!”

Thousands of meteorological opinions were aired in that shop, but only one managed to scare the hell out of me. It was uttered during the week of Solemn Novena, and perchance its perpetrator had been a little overawed by her visit to the Cathedral.

“Lovely day, isn’t it?”

“No it is not. It is raining and cold. We are all sinners.”

I just stood there, absolutely dumbstruck. Neither the time nor the place to enter into theological debate, I thought long and hard and came up with no other option: her inference was that it was raining and cold because we were all sinners, and therefore God was punishing us with bad weather.


Having a shop in Galway was a wonderful experience. As a blow-in, I love Galwegians, and the flow of mostly middle-aged women who came into my shop offered me a connection to the everyday lives of locals.

There were lonely souls who stopped in to chat and a laugh, and it was my pleasure to entertain and be entertained.

Others were genuinely stressed out and broke, reliant on our cheap clothing. My heart went out to them as they rushed around the rails
simultaneously crowd-controlling their kids
no time to stop.

On Saturdays we enjoyed a completely different crowd, in from the country for the day. I called them my ‘Gorgeous Mob’, because they were so devoid of ugly urban pretension, they had no qualms whatsoever about enjoying themselves as they bought second-hand clothes.

They just prowled the shop muttering
“Ooooh that’s gorgeous, gorgeous, really gorgeous!”

There was also something wonderful about the people who brought in bags of their unwanted clothes and then proceeded to buy more clothes. Their sheer absence of snobbery was refreshing. ‘Here’s some stuff I don’t want, and now I think I’ll buy some stuff some other people didn’t want.’

Simple and, for some reason, immensely reassuring.

Then there were the snobs. Those who, for some unrealistic reason, thought themselves better than others.

I’d spot one a mile off, flitting quickly around the shop floor, flicking her fingers disapprovingly along the rails as she walks by.

She doesn’t really need to be here, you understand. She just wants to see how the other half lives and - ohhh, is that dress really only £2.99? Well, okay, I suppose I’ll take it, but I'll probably never wear it, and please could you put it into this Moons carrier bag?

At this point I explain that our carrier bags are plain, so she has no need to feel stigmatised for visiting us lowly pathetic trogs.

Well, I didn’t exactly put it like that, but I sorely wanted to.

Instead I remind Her Snobness that it’s all for a good cause, and the tiny little piece of over made-up face that sticks out of her fur coat and foul hat smiles down at me and says:

“S’pose ‘tis, yah. That’s nice isn’t it? Now please, wrap it in that plain bag and then put it into my Moons bag.”

Fighting the desire to spit in her face and tell her never to sully my hovel of a store again, I settle instead for the smarmy smile of the pissed-off professional:

“Thanks. See you again. Lovely day, isn’t it?”

©Charlie Adley