Sunday 26 November 2017

If home is where the heart is, mine is split in three!

Hoo yeah, that's a mighty fine pint.

I’m in the only pub for miles around. Outside the wind, rain and cloud are merged as one, while I sit staring at a head over an inch deep, floating on top of a settling pint.

By the time the black is separated from the creamy bubble-free head, this baby’s going to look, taste and feel like a true country pint.

What is it about Guinness and rural pubs? The country pint is alive, well and sitting on the bar in front of me, but for some reason it cannot be replicated in the city. All you need for good Guinness is a line that pours often throughout the day, and a cellar that’s not too cold.

Maybe that’s it: the cellars of urban bars are chilled to levels that might make penguins think twice, to satisfy the tastes of the young lager drinker. Or is it more about the average age of the rural drinker, the majority of whom still favour the stout over the continental cousins of the Harpic family?

Whatever the answer, I don’t care, as there's one right in front of me now.

I breathe out and give thanks.

It wonderful to be back in Mayo once more. As I watch the gold and brown liquids tumble and unfurl in the glass before my eyes, my thoughts wax lyrical in an unashamedly self-indulgent way.

Well really, if a man cannot indulge himself in his own head, as he sits after a long day’s work, staring at his pint, when can he?

Stretching this metaphor way beyond any reasonable bounds of poetry, I privately wonder whether, geographically speaking, my heart is not just like that pint.

If home is where the heart is, mine is split in three, you see.

I’m a Londoner, born and bred, and that honour will never leave me, but a couple of years ago I suffered a major crisis of identity as far as my roots go. 

Crossing London by tube from south east to north west, I became a little confused about where some of the new lines started and finished. Stopping on a platform, I stared at the Underground map, and then I crumpled inside.

Oh please no, don’t let it be so.

The pain that accompanied the sudden realisation that I’m a stranger in the city of my birth was followed by a tidal wave of loss and confusion.

Only a tourist looks at the tube map. Londoners never look. Not only do they have that map imprinted on their DNA, they also have etched on their cerebella detailed knowledge of where to stand on the platform at each station, to both maximise their chances of a seat while minimising their walk to the exit at the other end.

Even with this new-found ignorance, a part of me will always be a Londoner. I love that wonderful and unique city, but these days it represents only the misty condensed frosting on the outside of my glass.

Galway on the other hand is the whole black body of my pint. City and County, my love for both is immense and inseparable, but the black is nothing without the white, and County Mayo is my head; my haven; my lucky county.

 No light compares to Co. Mayo light...

Driving over the bridge past Leenane I’m awestruck as I pass the Party mountains, towering vast, cracked and caramel, beyond Maumtrasna.

I’ll drive through Westport, but it’s nothing personal. A pretty town that many claim is today what Galway once was. I’ll beg to differ: Galway today is the only Galway I want, whatever it might have been. If I want hordes of tourists and stags and hens on the rampage, I’ll watch them from the safe familiarity of Quay Street, thanks all the same.

Newport however is a different proposition, with its jaw-dropping bridge and aura of calm married to craic. Many a good night I’ve enjoyed in this town, and more to come, doubtless, but today I have far to go, so I drive on.

Through Mulranny where I turn right, heading away from Achill and into the glorious wilderness of Ballycroy, where I drive underneath skies of a size that’d put Montana to shame.

The winter boglands glow Trump orange, their endless miles picked out by the mirrored tops of turloughs, rising from the depths to greet the dark season. On three sides the mountains rise, black, majestic and reassuringly permanent, while over the ocean the hills of Achill glow a magnificent gunmetal grey in the midday sunshine.

On another day I’d take the left turn at Bangor and head past Belmullet, to the astonishing views afforded around Pollatomish and Benwee Head, and then drive on a wild backroad all the way to Belderrig. For 20 minutes I’d see not one sign of human life, save for a few bags of turf. It’s an excursion of astonishing beauty.

Indeed, whenever I’ve done that particular drive in the past I’ve allowed myself a whole day, as I need to step out of the car and walk in the raw splendour of true wilderness.

Such a rare and precious experience to enjoy these days in western Europe, it’s essential to have the time to fully appreciate it.

Today I’m not aiming for barren lands, but the hearth of some fantastic friends who I met when I lived up in Killala.


With mile upon mile of footprint-free white sand beaches; ocean stacks and stone circles; ogham stones, a round tower and ruined abbeys aplenty; with people as pleased to see you as you are to greet them, Killala remains Ireland’s best kept secret: the jewel in the crown of my lucky county.

Whoops, lost myself in thought there.
That pint’s more than ready for the supping.

Ah, that’s bloomin’ lovely, as they don't say in Mayo.

©Charlie Adley

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Congratulations to Nuala O'Halloran and Frank Fahy, two of the many talented students on my recent Craft of Writing Course, who read live on the Keith Finnegan Show today.

Wonderful writing, beautifully read: I'm exceptionally proud of them both, as I am of the entire class.
Have a listen at

 (We start at 1hr:44, so slide the bar along to just before the end of the show.)

Sunday 19 November 2017

I'm not drunk - it was the compost!

The inestimable Harriet Leander...

As I head into the city I wonder if tonight’s the right night for my Organic Galway Ramble No. 3,256. I call them Organic not because my nights out are righteous or wholesome in any New Age way, but solely because I have no plans; made no arrangements.

I’m going to let Galway lead me.
That’s the way this city likes it.

PJ McDonagh’s represents so much more than my traditional starting point: it’s an essential component of any Galway ramble. 

However weak or pathetic you feel as you enter, you’ll be raring to go after the light crispy batter, piping hot flaky fresh white fish and incredible chips.

Dammit, even the vinegar tastes special as I eat staring at Biddy Ward’s pocket and poem once again.

Now that's better. 
All of a sudden your scribbler has a thirst.

Over two Jamies enjoyed outside the Quays, conversation with a pair of local characters leaps seamlessly from the Atlas Mountains to the moons of Jupiter. 

From there it’s a happy road of reminiscence to Apollo 8, to Borman, Lovell and Anders, the first men to see the dark side of the moon, whose mission filled my 8 year-old mind with inspiration and wonder.

Don't tend to like tigh Neactain at night, but I open the door to take a look and am presented by a sea of backs, a wave of noise and body heat. 

No thanks. 
Not got the energy for that. 
Tonight I want a gentle ramble, not a social scrum down

Now I wander down to the docks, to stare at the millpond that is the Atlantic on this rare calm November evening. Each step I take sends a shooting pain down my left leg. 

Sciatica on the way methinks, as I am an idiot who has yet again proved correct Einstein's definition of stupidity: do the same thing and expect a different result. 

This time last year I put my back out sorting the garden compost, and today I did it again.

As I said: idiot.

Standing right at the end of the docks, I’m caught between the artificial and natural worlds. To my right, under blinding electric spotlights, a pair of tyrannosauric JCBs are loading vast heaps of gravel onto a ship.


On my left, down in the darkness afforded by the sea wall, a heron stands in the middle of the stream. I watch him watching the water, waiting for his dinner to rise out of the inky shallows. Giant dumper trucks shovelling stone and muck and wild animals trying to hunt.

Just another night in Galway City.

Looking over to Nimmos pier I recall standing right at the end of it, dressed in my finery like a latterday French Lieutenant’s Woman, experiencing the Millennium New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

Fresh back from failure in America, I needed to be apart from it all and a part of it too. I heard the cheers from Eyre Square, and saw fireworks showering the skies above County Clare across the bay.


Dock One Seafood Bar has been several pubs, but for years has been drifting towards becoming a restaurant. It was Padraig's for dodgy dawns after mad bad craziness in Taylor's bar and losing the will to live in Le Graal. Then it was Sheridan’s, with fine dining upstairs, and as I take a look at the current menu outside, I mumble 

“B’god, that's fancy!”

Whilst in this neck of the waterside it’s impossible not to give thanks to Harriet Leander. Her tenure at Nimmos helped drag Galway’s gastronomy out of the Dark Ages of tinned sweetcorn and white pan, into the modern world of classic cuisine: fresh food, locally sourced, served with simple brilliance.  

The ingredients of Harriet’s Nimmos were a bar, two restaurants, 78 great characters, 43 eccentrics and a sprinkling of weirdos. Pure Galway in its transience, the place shone brightly for a few years, became a way of life to me, and then it was gone.

Thankfully that was after I'd been served a glass of red by a brunette, who then joined me on the other side of the bar. I cooked her dinner and later, Reader, I married her.

Walking into Dock One I’m greeted by the barman’s warm handshake and powerful smile. Aha! So this is where himself of the Quays disappeared to. A second ago I was wondering why, in a city crammed with great pubs, I'm going to a restaurant for a drink. 

Now I'm glad to be here, but the cool November air has hit my manparts, so I head to the Gents.

Unfortunately my gammy leg is forcing me to walk with that studied concentration usually associated with very pissed people trying to look sober. 

Unable to move in a straight line, I zig-zaggy stumble past a table of three ladies eating dinner, appearing to go out of my way to bang my hip against a stray barstool.

They laugh and mutter about it being early to be “that bad!”

I resist the temptation to explain I’m not that drunk, it’s the compost you see, deciding that would sound so obscure it might just confirm their suspicions.

Secretly I wish I was that drunk, as that'd make me a really cheap date.

Time to head off west now, where I feel less of a visitor. Even after a quarter century I'm still thrilled by the sight and feel of the River Corrib rushing under Wolfe Tone bridge, vibrating the walkway as it hastens Connemara's rain into the Atlantic.

Thank you universe, for providing such a calm and benign evening for me to hop and limp around my dry windless city.

Monroe's and the Crane bar beckon…
©Charlie Adley

Sunday 12 November 2017


As I grow older my finger drifts further and further from the cultural pulse. As a teenager in London I needed to know what was hot and happening, and thanks to my much-missed mate Jon Lewin, I usually did.

Jon had a way of anticipating each big musical trend. In May 1976 he took me and my mate Martin to the Hope and Anchor, to see a band called The Jam. 

This was six months before the Sex Pistols released Anarchy in the UK, and we were hesitant as we’d heard mention of swastikas and goose steps connected to the nascent punk phenomenon.

Inside the pub there were only a few people milling around and we watched the three piece outfit deliver a tight set, but left unconvinced, wary of the Union Jack displayed behind the drum kit: it smacked of nationalism at a time and an age when we didn’t want to belong to anything, except each other.

A seminal moment in a young life, to be there, at punk’s beginning, and over the next few years I used to cut out the adverts in the NME for the Marquee Club on Wardour Street, because with them, from Monday to Thursday, you could get in for free. I saw The Clash; The Damned; The everybody starting with The.

Inbetween acts, two young lads called John Cooper Clarke and Lynton Kwesi Johnson walked on stage, armed with their biting poetry, recited to a backing track playing on a little Philips tape recorder.

We knew we had our fingers on the pulse, because those gigs were part of the pulse, and this we did, after school, as often as we could.

Tremendous gigs involving The Specials, Madness and The Selecter cemented my burgeoning love affair with reggae, so Jon Lewin took me to Dub Vendor Record Shack on Ladbroke Grove. 

On the way there he explained to me the new concept of dub, and how it was going to change music forever.

I had my doubts but should have known better.

During my late 20s I danced my ageing arse off to Madchester music, still went to Ramones gigs (unequivocally the best live act ever) but by the time I arrived in Galway in the early 1990s I was happily out of touch, which was just as well.

No disrespect to the local clubs and DJs. They played great tunes and we all danced like pure eedjits and had a right larf, but having been raised on the cutting edge of modern culture, the Atlantic edge of the Continental plate offered something … different.

Here at last I accepted that my finger had drifted far from the source, and ever since I have listened to what can only be described as ‘old’ music.

By way of replacement, I lived by the use of and attuned my ears to the language, taking a rather sad and pathetic joy in sharing with my colyoomistas what I anticipated would be the next trendy word in the local vernacular.

Way back in 2009 this colyoom sent out a warning flare, alerting you to the overuse of  ‘iconic.’ Sure enough, what was once a word that carried weight and power has been endlessly devoured and regurgitated by the 21st Century’s endless hunger for hyperbole. 

Now a spent force, ‘iconic’ is used to describe crisp flavours.

Three years ago Double Vision raised an alarm about certain experts’ overuse of the word ‘so’ at the opening of a sentence. 

Everybody does it now, as if it was as natural as taking a breath.

It is a rare sentence that needs to start with ‘so', so (!) I stand back, pretending to be all cool and down with the kids, accepting that like wow man, language is like an evolving life-force, like water flowing downstream man, ever-changing, all the while privately and silently, nerdily and slightly guiltily, removing the word ‘so’ from the sentence just spoken, telling myself that it works very well without it.

Then I smile and continue my day, aware with each passing week that I am less and less in touch with everything.

Even though I’d consider myself fairly well politically informed, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Neocon and a Neoliberal. 

What’s more, middle aged and treading water midstream, I feel no inclination to find out.

I will recoil from anything that is not a stone which describes itself as ‘Bijou’. Same goes for ‘Boutique' as in

“Oh it’s an amazing hotel with an organic herb garden and a rooftop infinity pool. It’s boooteeeek!”

To me that means it’ll be a minuscule lavishly furnished massively overpriced room above a very noisy street in a city centre.

No thanks, and while you’re at it, you can keep your Artisan and your Gourmet, your Craft and your Legend.

Ah, legend. What a tragic shame. If it’s now acceptable to describe Olly Murs as a legend, what space have we left for real heroes to emerge?

These days the only finger on my pulse is checking for a heartbeat. 

Less cutting edge, more Grandpa Simpson, I sit in my armchair and cry out:

“What did he say?”

“Oh! Is she the one from you know, you know, that thing with the cake?”


“Sorry, I just drifted off. Can we rewind it a few minutes!”

Beside me the Snapper answers patiently, doubtless wondering what her future holds.

Thankfully she has never told me to chillax, because she understands that chill and relax are words that individually do their job admirably, while their combination adds zilch to their impact.

Utterly removed from the latest teenage trends in music and modern idiom, which these days evolve on Snapchat, Spotify and Instagram, I’ve no idea what’s going on.

Have to say, I really don’t mind.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 5 November 2017


I’m pumped up with goodness and positive energy and yes, now is the time to make those phone calls.

You know the ones. They start with recorded messages before you even get to the press-button menus and holding tunes.

Don’t go there, Adley. 
Don’t spoil it now. 

I’ve checked that my happiness tank is full and my fortitude levels are way up my mental dipstick. It'd be stupid to wreck the mission by blowing a gasket now, leaking anger into my brainbox at the thought of what lies ahead.

Whatever it is you’re calling a company or institution about, it’s never the fault of the person on the other end of the line. They didn’t make the rules. They’re not responsible for your predicament.

You’re way more likely to get a result if you've a full tank of patience and a purring engine supplying a smile to your voice. Act a bit human. Call them by name. Get into all that empathy hoojamaflip.

Anyway the first call isn’t to a bank or internet service provider, so it won’t be too bad.

She says hello, University College Hospital, and I ask to be put through to Mental Health Services.

It rings. It rings and rings and I do not mind. I am ready, prepared, and I’d rather listen to a ring than an ear-shattering rendition of Total Eclipse Of The Heart played on a blade of grass.

This is fine.

It rings and rings, so I sit back, breathe out and relax, thinking of all the people rushing around that hospital, trying to make the best of scandalously ill-funded jobs.

Oh, I’m back to reception.

“Sorry about that, I’ll try another number for you now.”
I’m surprised and gratified that she even knew I was still hanging on.


It rings and rings. Rings and rings and rings and then I’m back to herself again, who apologises again and puts me into another number which, yes, rings.

Holding the phone a little away from my ear, I think of how busy Mental Health Services must be right now, with everyone upset about the Tracker Mortgage scandal.

More homes lost and lives ruined by banks, but really, what do you expect?

Until the guilty bankers and politicians of this republic are sent to serve proper time in real jails, they will continue to operate with impunity from inside the cartel they constructed decades ago.

If you don’t arrest and imprison people when they steal money, they will do it again.

My own mental health is more challenged by the way the Irish focus their ire upon the banks - companies that openly exist to serve their own purposes - rather than the €13 billion of tax revenue refused from Apple. At present the Irish government are pursuing an expensive legal case against the EU: fighting not to take it.

Every time I think about the immorality of this stance, bile rises from my gut, tasting dark and visceral on my tongue

It utterly enrages me, yet nobody protests.

We should be taking patients on trolleys out of A&E and wheeling them into Dáil Éireann, demanding our billions. We should be taking homeless people to the doorsteps of rich cabinet ministers’ homes, demanding they give up their bedrooms until we are given our billions.

How can you not be outraged by this? You were upset for a short while, but now you shout at the banks, and -

“Hello? Can I help you?”

Through at last, but now I’ve been diverted to the outskirts of the system, and although she’s thoroughly helpful, she’s unable to find out what I need to know.

Ah well. We’ll leave that then.  
Time to move on to the ESB.

Here comes the first pre-recorded preamble of the morning and by god it goes on. Yes many are still tragically without power after Ophelia, but having told me straightaway the number to ring about outages and fallen cables, the recorded voice then goes on and on, listing websites to visit to find updates, while I’m wondering how the hell you find websites if your power is down and -

Ah! Here comes the pushbutton number menu, 
beep yeh, 
beep yeh, come on, 
beep and hooray! 

I’m through almost instantly to a woman who explains she’s sorry, but she can’t help me. Then I crank up my sob story a level or two and she reacts with intelligence and compassion, suddenly having an idea, trying it out and yes, there you go Mr. Adley, that is now done!

“Thank you so much! You have been great! Goodbye, and thanks again!”

Well this is going positively all lardeedaaar lovely. The universe is working my way today, so maybe now’s the time to make the Eir call.

Cue ‘Dum Dum Dum’ noises, thunder rolls and voiceover from a man with glass shards in his throat:

It’s time … to make … the Eir call!

Except it isn’t. Three times I go through the whole cycle of pre-recorded preamble and press-button bollocks, and three times I sit listening to the same tune, because each time I speak to an Eir person, they say they’ll put me through to Loyalty.

At first this news makes my heart leap with hope, but each of the three times they put me through I sit, increasingly angry, listening to the same pop song over and over again, until someone picks up their phone and puts it down again.

That was Eir’s Loyalty department.
Three times they hung up on me.

Given that Eir had gone to the trouble of actually naming a department after the concept, I so wanted to believe that Loyalty meant something to them.

Tank now empty.
I know my limits. 

Make a mug of Builder’s tea.
Eir are just too strong for me.