Sunday 29 October 2017


Thanks to the wonderful Allan Cavanagh - good luck with the Cartoon Festival! Go to:

Soon after I first dated the Snapper, I was cringing in my car as she carefully, systematically and very crinkly-crunkly-noisily folded up her crisp packet, tucking in the final corner so that the empty plastic bag held its own triangulated shape.

Aware that I’d found it irritating, she turned to me and asserted calmly:

“It’s my thing. It’s what I do so get used to it.”

Since then I’ve grown immune to her triangulating compulsion, amazed only at the way size presents no object. Be it the tiniest sweet wrapper or a huge plastic Dunnes carrier bag, everything gets triangulated.

It’s what she does.
It’s who she is.

We all have our very own ‘things’. They are the foibles that define us, the quirks that can sometimes drive the uninitiated around the bend. They are the twitches and habits that you either fall in love with or move way from.

Essential to individuality, our eccentricities matter beyond apparently deeper differences. They are the driving force of our uniqueness.

Doubtless shocking to any who knows me, I confess to having one or two minor ones myself.

You don’t look at three quarters of a painting, nor just the top of a sculpture, so when watching a film I want to see the whole piece, intact, from beginning to end. No talking, no interruptions of any kind. 

Admittedly, if it’s Vampire Zombies v Predator III, such rules might not apply, but out of respect to the masses who’ve worked on the movie, I’ll give it my full attention.

Last week I was watching ‘The Place Beyond The Pines.’  I was completely absorbed by fine storytelling, yet seemingly without conscious thought, my left hand picked up my smartphone.

Is this who I am now?
If so, who the hell is that?

Alone in my living room on a wet Saturday afternoon, the fire is blazing and Chelsea are live on the TV. I’m as happy as I might ever be. 

If I made a 30 mile round trip to the city I could watch the game with friends, but although the camaraderie is fun, there’s also the chance that someone might sit next to me and blah blah blah in my ear all through the game, which drives me bananas.

So I convince myself the price of Sky Sports is cheaper than petrol and beer, so that I can sit in peace, able to focus on every aspect of the match.

Except - oh bloody hell! - I missed a Chelsea goal because I was reading about someone’s night out on Facebook.

After working days here in front of my computer, I eschew YouTube links people tell me to to watch, plumping instead for the mental stimulation of TV’s BBC 4, except Lucy Worsley has barely begun her explanation of the Reformation before I’ve picked up my smartphone to check Twitter and Facebook.

I don’t know who I am any more, while after years of resisting a smartphone, the Snapper now sits beside me, chucking gently to memes of doggy ears and messages from faraway friends.

Although we make sure to watch certain series together, and on occasion even talk to each other, we are now part of a vast tribe lost to their phones.

I used to sit outside Tigh Neachtain and look to the rooftops, enjoying the contrast between the grey slate, blue sky and green moss.

Now I’m head down double-chinned, trying to filter sunlight from my screen.

In the past I was contemptuous of those unable to appreciate being here and now, driven to record their time in Connemara through the filter of their phones.

Now I grab my phone on a walk, to photograph a spider’s web glistening in the early morning light.

Seeing it used to be enough.

Now I need to show it to the world.

Web designers and engineers Justin Rosenstein and Tristan Harris explained to Paul Lewis of The Guardian that they left their jobs at Google and Facebook to co-found an advocacy group called ‘Time Well Spent’, which implores tech companies to design less addictive software.

One of the team that created the all-powerful ‘Like’ button, Rosenstein noticed a few years ago that his ability to concentrate on the very things he wanted to focus on was being inhibited by technology.

“It was that kind of individual, existential realisation: what’s going on? Isn’t technology supposed to be doing the complete opposite of this? Everyone is distracted all of the time.”

Loren Brichter helped to design the swipe down/refresh software that pulls in punters on many social media. However she is not proud of her success.

“I have two kids and I regret every minute that I’m not paying attention because my smartphone has sucked me in.”

Our brains are being adapted by technology. 

Each time you’re attracted to that red dot on Facebook’s icon, or just want to get rid of it, you’re responding to a reward-based behaviour that activates the brain’s dopamine pathways, the neurological routes designed to offer comfort, heat and all life’s good stuff, which also create gambling and drug addictions.

Now that 87% percent of people wake up and go to sleep with their smartphones, and people tap or swipe their smartphones on average 2,617 times a day (ouch!) it’s more important than ever to hang on to your differences.

Concentrate on being your fantastically wonderful self: alphabetical spice racks; picking your teeth with your toenails; hiding a hazelnut under a pillow; triangulated crisp packets and all.

Otherwise, in exchange for slavery to software, you’ll lose everything that makes you an individual.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 22 October 2017



By god it feels good to be working on something. Not just anything but something that requires creativity; something that I can describe as ‘my work.’

Nothing gives a writer more sense of identity, more self-confidence and self-doubt, more elation and dread than writing freely.

You have to make a living in this world and while I truly appreciate being able to earn money doing what I love, I also yearn to write unleashed.

Over the last few years I’ve started many stories. Enlarging scribbled almost indecipherable notes into sketches, I then tried filling out those sketches into substantial pieces of work, but each time I failed.

They didn’t grab me at all.

A writer never wants to throw anything away. Even when that note or half-written story feels empty of purpose, void of strength or simply offers no reason to exist, you keep it.

On my desktop there’s a folder called In Progress and inside that there’s another folder called Where Does This All Go?

Inside there I dump the detritus of years of failed attempts at whatever it was I was trying to do. Not once did I get down on myself. 

Instead I walked away from each piece knowing that I’d given it my best at that time, and might use some part of it in the future, or maybe not: either way, there had been no harm in its creation.

At least I tried.
At least I had a go.

I’d kicked my imagination up its backside and made sure it was still alive.

Then in March I was over in Tel Aviv for my lovely niece’s wedding, so I was able to spend some time with my friend and teacher, the Israeli writer Iris Leal. Although she’ll always be my teacher, these days we meet on level ground.

Nobody has had such an influence on my writing. Back in 1986 I was living in a manky old flat, two floors above the shops on London’s Golders Green Road. Two years previously I’d quit a lucrative marketing job to travel around the world, all the way scribbling frantically the first draft of a first novel into a red hardback copybook.

Returning to London homeless, I sofa surfed for 6 months, until lifetime friendships were sorely tested. Eventually I found that flat in NW11, and there I sat, wrapped up entirely in the image of being a writer.

When Iris wandered unannounced and uninvited into my living room, she found me sitting at a desk, banging away at a typewriter, with the requisite number of screwed-up pieces of paper strategically strewn around the floor, an ashtray overflowing with still-smoking fags and a bottle of whisky (no ‘e’ as it was Scotch in those days) within a hand’s reach.

Artless, craftless and wonderfully ignorant, I was chucking the story out of me, so when Iris looked at my work she could feel my raw passion, and thankfully believed I had sufficient talent to adopt me, to take me on as her unofficial pupil and try to drum some craft into me.

Over two excruciatingly painful years she taught me ten years of craft...

Over the course of two excruciatingly painful years she taught me ten years of craft. Back then, more than ever since, we occupied polar opposites of literary ambition. 

Iris would take all day to write three sentences, with, as she rather melodramatically put it: “The ghosts of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Thomas Mann at my shoulder as I write!” while I was knocking out 2,000 words a day, concerned only that anyone able to read might appreciate my work.

Happily now we both understand that we are different writers, on completely disparate missions. She wants the recognition of her literary peers, grand prizes and eternal glory, while I am wary, fearful of fame and the ensuing loss of privacy, happy to improve, hopefully one day coming up with worthy work that is uniquely my own.

Chatting over coffee in Tel Aviv, Iris asked me to describe in precise detail every minute of my working day.

“You are being lazy, Charlie. Do not be blasé about your life, Charlie!” she admonished me. “I want a short story in six weeks.” 
“You are being lazy, Charlie. Do not be blasé about your life!"

Sometimes that’s all you need: someone you respect who takes your writing seriously. Two weeks later a story fell out of me in a second person voice and it felt right.

Second person is not a voice I’d ever recommend to any writer, and certainly not a voice that you force out - you never want to force any of your writing - but for that story the voice felt absolutely perfect.

Buzzed up and inspired, I tried the same voice on those old sketches and unfinished stories languishing in the Where Does This All Go? folder. Thankfully once again it fell out of me.

It had to, if it was going to work.

As before, the second person proved perfect, somehow distancing my narrative and unleashing the stories’ potential.

Iris told me aeons ago that a writer is like a pressure cooker; that each time you talk about your work it loses some steam, some pent-up power.

So why am I writing about this work in progress in this very public newspaper?

 Image result for charlie adley writing cartoon

Well, starting a book is a terrifying process. After so many fallen flares of optimism, I wait until a body of work starts to build, gradually trusting that the process is this time truly up and running; that a book is being written.

Here I am, breaking Iris’ rule, forcing this book to be real by sharing its existence with you.

Feels so good to be writing unchained once more. If it proves good enough, you might see it one day.

Wish me luck.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 15 October 2017


Holy macaroni! Am I hallucinating? Did my housemates slip a tab of acid into my tea? No, they wouldn’t do that. Well they might, but not on the first day of my first job in Galway.

From my tiny semi-slum in Salthill I’d walked to Bishop O’Donnell Road, where my legs froze and my heartbeat rose, as I stared at my destination: the Rahoon Flats.

When I’d told my Galwegian friends where I’d be working, they’d muttered about heroin and violence, but to my Londoner’s eyes the towers looked neither too daunting nor deprived.

It wasn’t the buildings, but the huge mural painted on the side of one of them that took my breath away. Who else in Galway would recognise Bradford’s skyline, the very city I’d left 7 months before? 

After a one-way flight, I’d randomly hitched around Europe looking for a home, ended up in Galway, found work with Traveller children in the Rahoon Flats, where I now stood, rooted to the spot, my eyes running over those familiar silhouetted mosques, the museum, the mill chimneys, the terraces of tiny houses wound around the hills that used to be home.

A born scribbler, my first instinct was to write about this coincidence and mystery, so I did some research, and discovered that Bradford and Galway were twin cities.

They’re what?

Looking here and there and then here I started to feel giddy, so I typed Double Vision onto the sheet of paper in my typewriter, launching into a rant about the glaring differences between the two cities.

Bradford is in the centre of England, built on 7 hills, while Galway is almost flat and very much on the coast. Bradford has the largest Pakistani population outside of Pakistan, while Galway, back in 1992, was almost completely white.

The list went on, and when it was done I strode into town, clutching three sheets of paper. Uninvited and dry-mouthed, I walked into the Connacht Tribune newsroom, asking for the Editor.

Mike Glynn read my copy and that was the start of our beautiful friendship and working relationship that this week turns 25.

No journey worth its salt runs without twists and bumps. The colyoom stopped for 4 years when I moved to America, and in 2009, along with the economy and much human dignity, Double Vision was removed from the scene of the crash, yet both times it was returned to me, for which I am truly grateful.

Apparently, before I first wandered into their workspace, Mike and that pure gentleman Brendan Carroll had just decided that the City Tribune needed an outsider’s perspective, to reflect Galway’s rampant population growth. That was my brief, but I figured that everything I thought came from an outsider’s perspective, so I wrote whatever I wanted.

Well, that’s not true.
Two obstacles stood in the way of my free speech.

The first was my complete ignorance of all things Irish. Having lived and worked in London, Melbourne and Barcelona, I arrived in Ireland to find there was neither divorce nor contraception, and that married women had relatively recently been ‘allowed’ back to work.

The nation had morals mired in the 1950s, a younger generation groping awkwardly through the early 1980s, and an absence of respect for the environment worthy of the 1970s.

Ireland was a fabulously infuriating paradox, with no political Left or Right, help-line phone numbers that were somehow illegal and white Travellers the only available targets for racism.

Quickly and utterly bemused and confused, I wisely protected myself behind a nom de plume

After writing about abortion in my second week, someone telephoned the Tribune and threatened to blow up the building. 

Further intimidation, in the shape of used condoms, a dog turd and photos of a monkey foetus arrived in the mail.

On top of that, Irish libel laws turned out to be vast and vague, presenting huge problems.

If this colyoom ever feels toothless to you, please understand that in the last 6 months alone 2 pieces had to be pulled: one was too specific about a company damaging our marine environment, while the other, written so carefully that a local retailer who had abused and ripped me off was unidentifiable, apparently meant that any business might lose out and sue.

Aside from such serious matters there’s been craic aplenty. At the risk of going all dwaaarling luveee, thanks must go to Dave O’Connell, for inflicting Double Vision onto Connacht Tribune readers; all the friendly faces in the newsroom (and Mac) and, of course, my cast of friends and loved-ones.

Thanks to Whispering Blue, The Guru, Angel, The Body, Blitz, Dalooney, Yoda, the Magician, Artist in Blue Towel and of course The Snapper.

Thanks to you also, my loyal colyoomistas, for buying this newspaper in a digital age.

Double Vision came about because Ireland and England are simultaneously so similar and different. However, thankfully there is one wondrous and internationally unique trait we share: slagging is to attack with affection, and it only really works when reciprocated.

As an Englishman living in the West of Ireland, I accept regular hysterical and historical slagging. Soon after Double Vision started, people told me they’d enjoyed my colyoom.

“My what?”
“Oh, you know. Your colyoom in the paper. Your ar-tickle.”

Aha! So in the same way that the Irish watched a fil-em rather than a film, they read a colyoom, not a column.

This colyoom says thanks. 
See you next week.

©Charlie Adley

Tuesday 10 October 2017

When the news feels too scary...

Sometimes you watch the news or read something in the paper and your spirit plummets. 

The world seems beyond redemption. 

Your mind spins as you struggle to make sense of it all.

Are you really a member of this species who so readily seek out hatred; who appear to savour the horrors of war?

As a news junkie I’ve adopted ways of protecting myself from what I call ‘nadir moments’, so before you drop down a canyon of personal despair, seek comfort in this guide to dealing with hate.

The last story that affected me badly was concerned with a fairly unsensational man. UK LibDem politician Vince Cable is remarkable only in that he’s become his party’s leader at 74.

I have no reason to disbelieve his recent revelations that as Business Secretary during the Tory-LibDem coalition government, he saw up to nine studies that showed:

“… that immigration had very little impact on wages or employment, but this was suppressed by the Home Office under Theresa May, because the results were inconvenient.”

Even now I feel a stab of fury: an inconvenient truth, suppressed by a Tory who is now Prime Minister, because she knew better than to care about mere facts. 

May knew well that immigration was boosting the UK economy, because along with cohorts of business leaders, The Institute for Fiscal Studies had advised her that the UK’s migrant workforce was actually creating jobs for UK workers.

Yet instead she sat on all those reports, because people don’t want to hear that immigration helps. They want someone to blame. They need to hear talk of controlling borders, and so the hate continues.

My heart sinks through the floor as I wonder who the hell we are. Do facts now play no part in the machinery of democracy? 

There’s nothing new in politicians saying what they know people want to hear, but don’t we want to hear the truth? Are we fearful of the truth?

People wash their hands by talking of post-truth eras and alternative facts, while their bigoted beliefs are bolstered by a bombardment of lies on social media. 

Populists appear to fill the void left by empirical truth, claiming to represent the voices of the unheard, perpetuating lies believed by the great misled.  

That’s when you end up with Alternative für Deutschland winning over 90 seats in the Bundestag.

They claim that Islam does not belong in Germany.

As a Jew I find such absolutism plain terrifying.

As a human being, I despise this whole paradigm of politicians stoking racial hatred to gain power, placating the people their redundant systems have so sadly failed and

and oh god 
and oh no 
and oh there's no hope for us, so eager to seek division and conflict 
and all of a sudden I’m there, in the bad place, where it all feels too much.

Taking a deep breath I exhale slowly, climb into my car and drive over to the east side of Galway City, where I can sit and have a cuppa with Whispering Blue.

My friend has a brain the size of a planet. He knows so much that somehow, each time I hit the fear zone, he puts everything back into perspective. By the second cuppa we’re talking about whether Pep can play Sergio Agüero alongside Gabriel Jesus.


When I worry about nuclear war with North Korea, I go for a walk up the bohreen and stare at the long golden grasses that fringe the edge of the bog, waving in the stiff Autumnal breeze. I wait until I feel comfortably calm, happy to accept I'm unable to influence that situation.

When my anger erupts over the way successive governments have awarded themselves (and all of Ireland’s bigwigs) disgustingly vast and decadent pensions, while spending on the homeless crisis has shrunk beyond belief, I give to the Simon Community, so that I can feel truly dissociated from their rampant greed.

When my brain turns into mental spaghetti as I try to work out who is more dangerous - a clever populist like Johnson or a dumb demagogue like Trump - I pull myself back from the brink by heading to one of the West of Ireland’s myriad white sand beaches, where I sit on a rock, watching the tide ease out. 

As my fury rises at the injustice of Direct Provision and the nauseating hypocrisy of Irish governmental attitudes to immigrants, I grab Lady Dog’s rope toy and we have a game of Grr and Pull.

When I worry about Climate Change I walk the Prom, reassured by the familiarity of what still is, rather than agonising over what might be lost.

Instead of upsetting myself over the future of humanity, I hug my wife until she can hardly breathe, feeling the wonderful oneness and unique intimacy of such an embrace.

When life as a whole goes horribly wrong, I head to my hills, the Twelve Pins, because in my personal experience, there is no spiritual ailment that Connemara cannot cure.

It’s our duty as humans to know what makes us feel better. Of course everyone has different ways of surviving the horrors of the world. It’d be plain weird if you turned up for tea at Whispering Blue’s gaff.

Whether you go to the cinema with your kids, share coffee on Quay Street with friends or row a boat across a lake on your own, you must remind yourself that in contrast to most of the world out there, your life here in this corrupt tiny republic is pretty bloody marvellous.

Don’t feel smug: appreciate it, and if you value your personal safety, stay away if you see me on a beach.

© Charlie Adley

Sunday 1 October 2017


“Can I help you?”

The brown-haired woman smiles at me through the hatch at the reception of the laboratory at UCH. I pass her the form my doctor gave me. 

“Ah lovely. You can leave that with me.”

“Ah, actually, I’m here to pick up a …”

For the first time of many that morning, I struggle not to say ‘pot to piss in’, instead blurting out

“…a container.”

“Oh. I see. Right, well just a moment, please.”

She turns to a fair-haired woman who also shakes her head.

“Sorry, we don’t know exactly where they are, so can you wait for himself to come back? He’ll only be a minute.”

“Sure, I’m in no rush.”

They disappear and I lean on the hatch shelf. A tired-looking bloke in a blue coat arrives with a large bag full of samples, which he pours through the window into the awaiting box.
Blimey. That’s a lot of work for them.

“Are you being looked after?” asks an older woman who appears at the hatch. She too smiles as I reassure her that I’m fine, they’re looking for - oh never mind.

A few seconds later a postman arrives with a mountainous pile of letters and packages, along with a huge plastic container, which he clasps to his chest as he’s buzzed through the locked doors. 

Appearing again the other side of the hatch, he lifts the lid on his box and tips countless packages and smaller boxes into a vast plastic tub.

Holy mackerel! This would be comical if it wasn't so sad. In the few minutes I’ve stood here hundreds of samples have arrived for testing. 

These workers are under the cosh, but somehow they’re all still a pleasure to deal with, even if they can’t find a …well, y’know.

“Hello there. Can I help you?”
This time it’s a young man with dazzling white teeth.

“No, thanks. They’re looking for a container for me.”

“Ah yes, just a moment.”

He leaves and through the glass front doors I see him talking to another bloke and a woman. They point along the corridor and up the stairs, and finally the young man heads off.

“Are you alright there?”

She’s a fresh-faced 20something in a white coat. I explain what’s going on and she nods vigorously, assuring me she’s on the case.

In a small way I’m starting to feel a tad guilty. Seven different members of staff have now been involved in finding this container, while heaps of vital urgent work await them in heaving boxes, over-spilling tubs and crammed cartons.

“Here we go then!” announces a completely different woman, making her hatch debut.

I thought I’d be getting something that looked like a specimen bottle, with an expanding top, to facilitate the flow, so to speak, yet instead she gives me a flat-sided two litre container.

“Thanks so much!” I smile and wave as I leave these friendly heroes to their intimidating workload.

Looking down at the bottle top, I see the word ‘Acid’ written in marker pen. Given that they had so much trouble finding it, I’m now a bit worried they might have given me the wrong bottle, so I unscrew the top and sniff.

Clean as a whistle, but there’s a little liquid still in the bottom, so tipping it upside down I spill what I believe to be water onto the lab steps, only to jump backwards a full foot, as the liquid hits the ground with a


Bleedin’ mother of holy Nora, Bobby Tambling and nutty cheddar cheese!

A six inch bubble of fizzing froth is exploding off the concrete and 
I’m all shook up. If I'd put my dangler into that bottle I’d have been racing to A&E, unable to leave any sample at all.

Returning to the hatch I encounter the young man again.

“Can you help me, please? I’ve just had a bit of a moment.”

Flashing the whitest of toothy reassuring smiles at me, he shoots through the doorway, where he clocks what I’ve done. Immediately reaching into a nearby flower bed, he grabs a handful of dead leaves and drops them over the acidic eruption.

“You poured the acid out?”

“I er yes, I did, because I didn’t know it was acid. I mean, I’m meant to pee into this bottle, so I didn’t think it’d be designed to burn my bits off.”

“Oh no, you don’t go into the bottle. You need a funnel!”

“Ah, oh, well that makes sense. Bloody glad you told me.”

“So am I! Just get an empty big bottle of coke or something like that, cut off the top, wash it thoroughly and then use that as a funnel to err…”

“Yes, I see, thanks so much.”

For once in my life I decline to complain how it might have been handy if the woman who gave me the bottle had mentioned the lethal liquid lurking inside. 

She and they are our warriors of the HSE: underpaid, overworked and every single one cooperative and friendly.

“Fair play to them!” I say out loud as I walk away, finally looking at the large sticker on the side of the bottle:

Contains strong acid. Causes severe skin burns and eye damage. 25mls of 50% concentrated Hydrochloric acid. 
Pour urine SLOWLY into container in such a manner that it does not reach bottom of container directly 
(i.e. pour down along inside of container.)
All of a sudden I’m overjoyed that I spilled the acid and made a mess on the steps, as without my prattery himself wouldn’t have come out and told me to use a funnel.

With the staff so overworked and my observation skills apparently reduced to pitiful levels, it might have been better had the warning on the bottle said:   

Absolutely never piss into this pot, unless you want your premium bond quickly and painfully dissolved.

©Charlie Adley