Sunday 28 January 2018


While you’re all doubtless excited about the arrival of Spring next week, Lá Fhéile Bhríde, buds bulging and crocus bulbs bursting out of the ground, this contrary colyoomist will feel a sense of loss.

Of course I’m glad to see the light earlier in the morning, but equally I’ve enjoyed those extra minutes in bed, afforded by the darkness beyond the glass.

I’ll not miss the flu, nor the wiping of the inside car windscreen. I’ll be pleased when it’s light late enough to find the wee hole in the ground that secures the front gate. 

No fun, struggling in a howling gale and sideways rain under a moonless sky, one hand holding Lady Dog’s lead, the other scraping the gate bolt along the ground, cursing aloud about fluorescent paint, and what great idea that'd be.

I won’t miss those moments when Winter feels adversarial. It might be Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, the lack of sunlight and vitamin D that brings your mood down. It might be all that Christmas frenzy, a hissing cauldron of stress and activity so very far from Silent Night.

Or was it the psychological warfare of naming storms that tipped you over the edge? We who live on this Atlantic seaboard know that unless it’s a Red warning, we’re not bothered. We’ll take your gales, your 8s and 9s, but when it hits 10, we notice.

You can’t help but notice, because a storm makes a noise of its own; a jaw-dropping intestine-squidging roar that makes you give thanks you can close the window and stay safe and warm inside.


Now they give a name to anything Orange or above, so we feel constantly under threat from names with no faces. Inevitably it is the storm least hyped that delivers the most shocking blow, but nobody really expects the Met Office or Met Éireann to get it perfectly right.

Mind you, if I were on a boat…

While those storms are scary and limit your lifestyle, they also offer us coastal county dwellers a raw encounter with nature that few others experience; a reminder that we can make plans, but in the face of an Atlantic depression, they are puny.

Storms fill your head and lungs with adrenalin, which is why some young ones become pure idiots and drive their hot hatchbacks through breaking waves, but all of us profit from the high we feel as the wind dies and the skies clear.

We feel physically lighter; not just pleased to have survived another humdinger wind, but aerobically pumped up on the same free ions that inspired Beethoven to write his Pastoral Symphony.


Yet for every mad moment of tempestuous fury, Winter offers profound calm. For each day lost to grey skies and seemingly endless hours of rain, there will be early Winter mornings that offer combinations of colour so stark and strong they force my feet to be still, and then my breathing. These are the reasons I will miss the passing of Winter. 

Naturally I love warm weather and sunshine. I love to lie on the grass under Summer’s bluest sky, watching wispy clouds pass overhead to the soundtrack of a host of insects.

But also - call me weird if you must - I like to stand on the bog road with my dog at 8:30 on a mid-Winter’s morning, watching the huge sun creep above the hill, slashing the sky over Connemara so that it bursts a blood red snakeskin pattern above pitch black mountains.


I love the abruptness of Winter silence. 
Trees demand attention, starkly silhouetted inverted lungs, plugged into the planet.

Over there a fox appears in daylight, because it has to, and I admire the size of the beast, surprisingly brown, with a yard long brush ending in a white bobble. By god, it’s thriving.

When all the undergrowth is stripped back, Winter allows you to encounter Ireland’s wildlife up close. The pair of herons that in midsummer would have no need to be close to humans now launch themselves out of the drainage ditch up the bog road.

Lady and I stop in our tracks as they rip-roar out of the reeds, casually flapping their great dinosaur wings, rising straight up only to settle back down 20 yards away on the bog.

At midday, dazzled by the low sun, I stand under a deep blue sky, vivid rust bogland to the horizon.

Swimming in the stillness, the only sound the breeze in my ear.
Winter alone offers that, sometimes even in the city.

For a brief couple of weeks the place is empty. Bad news for landlords, but marvellous for antisocial types like myself, who’d rather listen to one wise or witty person than the unintelligible babble of a festival crowd.

Having survived the other three seasons, I know most of you love our long Summer evenings. On those Connacht nights when you can simultaneously see dusk in the west and dawn in the east it feels like a reward. The Snapper cannot wait for those endless days to return, but here again I fail to conform.

I like evening. Maybe it’s because I work for myself, or maybe I just take after my mum, who talks of ‘digging in’, but at the end of a day I like to light the fire and enjoy a few hours as a family together.

When I lived in west Connemara my living room had windows on three sides. All the endless Summer daylight sent me a bit bananas, pacing around on my own, longing for the night to come.

In a few weeks dawn will arrive at silly o’clock, and new life will burgeon forth.
We’ll all be filled with energy and enthusiasm, but deep inside me, there’ll be a warm thought for Winter's cold calm.


©Charlie Adley

Sunday 21 January 2018


At the time it didn’t feel like abuse. Yes, there was a clandestine cloak over the event, in the shape of the pump shed behind the school pool, but to me and my mate, more than anything, it just felt exciting.

Well, that’s what I thought at the time, yet invisible to my teenage consciousness, deep innate within me, a moral code governed my memory.

Hence there I was, driving the backroads of Ballygonefishing a few years ago, when my brain decided that after 40 years, the time had come to return that event to my life.

Oh yeh, that happened.



We were 13 year-old boys, in our final year at Prep School, and I was flying high: Patrol Leader, Dormitory Prefect, almost top of the class, loaded with friends and having fun.

Our boy bodies were changing. We never met any girls, and knew all there was to know about sex, as long it was between locusts.

You needed no experience to teach at private English schools.The only requirement was an Oxbridge degree, to placate paying parents, so Prep and Public schools were magnets for sexual predators.

He was young, charismatic and as popular with the boys as a Master was permitted to be. He asked me and my mate if we’d ever fooled around, and then he took us to that pump shed and showed us photos of his ejaculation.

We’d never even seen an erect mature penis, so were grateful to him for contributing to our wholly inadequate sex education. There was no physical contact and although it evidently had to remain a secret, I did not feel wronged.

I remember well the emotional, physical and verbal abuse we suffered from teachers on a daily basis. Yet, of its own accord, my brain erased all memory of the photos from my life for 40 years. 

Had I felt traumatised at the time I’d understand. For me it proves we have an innate sense of right and wrong, an in-built ethos that precludes the necessity of artificial religious codes.

Several years ago I was walking down Taylor’s Hill, ushering a group of teenage girls back to their clubhouse. I’d only been working with this group for a couple of weeks, and things had not been going well.

For years the club had been run by a young woman from the local community. All the girls loved her, so when they saw the verbal aggression and antipathy she showed towards me, the teenagers picked up on it.

Our group of 15 girls were spread out over 20 yards of pavement, their long-term leader at the front, with me a good five yards behind the last girl.

“Charlie touched me! Charlie touched me, miss!”

Various screams of shock and amusement from the other girls.

After 8 years as a youth worker I’d learned not to get sucked in. I literally bit my lip, to stop myself protesting “No I didn't!” out loud. 
Any verbal exchange would prove fatal.

Instead I waited for my colleague at the front to respond.

Not a single word came.

As we walked down the hill the girl continued to shout that I’d touched her.
Continuing my silence I looked down towards Galway and saw my life here crumble in an instant. This life I loved, gone: obliterated by a whimsical teen.

This is a small place. Innocent or guilty, once the word is out, you’re screwed. Gossip will create terrible fictions. Friends will become erstwhile. Jobs will disappear. I’d have to move. A refugee from falsehood.

My silence continued, and gradually my accuser failed to remove the laughter from her voice. At no time did a word of support emanate from the person I was supposed to be working with.

As soon as they were back in the clubhouse I walked home, called my boss and resigned. I did not feel safe in my workplace.

You could say I’m lucky. My abuse was not physical, although the mental repercussions are still becoming clear. A year after that exposure I was bottom of the class, friendless and three stone heavier. 

In the past I put that down to the fact that I didn’t fit into the mould of English Public Schools, which exist only to create Oxbridge candidates. Uninterested in that future, I felt discarded; expendable. 

Now I wonder.

The feeling of being wrongly accused was utterly terrifying.

What an indictment of our culture, that it takes Oprah to lead the charge, after society deems the crimes of the Church and the boasts of the US President insufficient to change behaviours.

Now we hear talk of a backlash, of men hitting back against women. After centuries of the physical torture endured by women at the hands of men, even the word feels inappropriate.

I have written in the past about my disappointment with the way some women have abused their hard won power. Inevitably attacking men, they use the same sexist language that they battled to eradicate, while displaying attitudes they previously claimed to abhor; but equally, no, this is not the time for a backlash.

It’ll never be time for that.

If there is to be a dreadful avalanche of accusations then we must adhere to due process. I know how it feels to be abused, and I know how it feels to be wrongly accused. 

Vigilantes are not the answer, but neither is a backlash.

Revolutions have a horrible habit of leaving behind losers. Hopefully, as the abused come forward and society takes note, respects them and convicts their abusers, women will gradually grow to trust the billions of good guys out here, who are appalled yet still hated and feared.

We’re on the same side, so let’s talk less of backlashes and more of heartfelt mutual respect.
©Charlie Adley

Sunday 14 January 2018

This British Bulldogs's got Brexit Flu!

Holy bloated bedbugs, Batman! I’m not under the duvet, I’m slammed against the mattress. 

Thankfully it’s been ages since the flu and I met up, so I’d forgotten how crushing this feeling is.

Unable to sleep for the last 48 hours, I’m dazed, incoherent and immobile. This bastard bug has me floored me, damaging my body from top to bottom. My head hurts, but you'd expect that. My toes are cramping weirdly. I’ve a rash breaking out over half of my body and a pain in my gut like I was stabbed with a stiletto.

My teeth are jangling and aching and in my middle, even my bloomin’ dangly boy-bit baubles are  - Ouch! Ohh! - tender and sore.

Stay warm, they say. Keep an even temperature and drink fluids all the time, they say. You have to flush your kidneys, to rid yourself of all the toxins, they say, which is all well and good, but these morsels of advice don’t go well together.

I’m drinking water by the gallon, but as a result I need to go to the loo every half an hour, which means leaving the warm cosy environment of my sick bed. Trouble is, on the way I go through a temperature change that brings out of me explosive sneezing fits.

I can’t help the fact that, at the best of times, I sneeze very loudly, and with the backing of this virus it now sounds like I've smuggled several tiny piglets into the bathroom, where I'm systematically strangling them.

In fact the only laugh I’ve had out of this illness so far was when the Snapper told me that one of my sneezes, amplified by the echoey bathroom walls, gave Lady Dog such a shock she fell off the sofa.

As the fever first hit, Storm Eleanor was raging outside, offering a hellish and apt soundtrack to my suffering. However, despite all my whingeing, I’ve not had it as bad as herself.

December was a difficult and demoralising month in the Adley cave, with obstacles to ambition appearing suddenly, constantly and randomly. My usually endless resolve and boundless optimism were already starting to fail me when, a week before Christmas, the Snapper came down with her first bout of flu.

Burning chest coughs and high fever kept her bed-bound for a week. Despite my own deteriorating health, I had to keep going, as our lovely doggie needs to be taken out for walks, peepers and poopers. 

Everyone took great pleasure in informing me that we are the bosses and the dog’s needs come second, but when you can you tell that to the dog’s bladder and bowels, let me know!

I knew I was running out of steam when I managed to prang my poor car’s rear offside wing three times in three different supermarket car parks on the same wretched morning. The signs were there, but I couldn't be ill.

Not while she was.

True to Christmas Miracle form, herself became well again, and we enjoyed two days of communal festive revelry. Then on Stephens’s Day (Boxing Day in this house) she fell ill once more, this time with what I suspect was the Australian Flu.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say she shrank and shrank, until I was really worried about her.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, it finally took control of my systems. Walking Lady Dog, I felt as if I was tripping out. Lady sensed something was up, as I tried not to fall over. She walked very slowly, looking up at me, as if to say

“Go to bed, you fool!”

Left with no choice but to seek reinforcements, I abandoned my stoic post on the Bridge and picked up my heroic friend Whispering Blue. A brave and loyal man, willing to risk his own health to help others, he stayed a week, looking after the dog as we looked after ourselves. With his arrival I could let go and finally allow myself to be ill.

I am, in fact, writing this in bed, a trembling snotball of a man.

It’s a rare experience that offers us nothing, and this illness has taught me a lot. All those vital things I was stressing about? They don’t matter any more. 
The tiny matter of our citizenship applications will have to wait. The chase for that massive payment is on the back burner, until I stop burning. Things I considered most urgent have been wholly let go.

“Remember that, Adley!” I tell myself, as I squash an ant strolling over my bedroom floor. 

No chance.

Thankfully this is not (yet!) anything like as bad as the Beijing flu that nearly killed me in 1993. I’m also grateful that I haven’t had the gastric nasties that came with her bout of Aussie flu.

Seems like this British Bulldog has got full-on Brexit flu. None of yer Johnny Foreigner bugs for me: just the good old-fashioned traditional cold, cough and fever, accompanied by an absence of energy that feels alien and utterly dispiriting.

A few months ago the Doctor decided that as I’d never presented myself with flu at his surgery, I didn't need a vaccination.

Now I wish I’d pointed out that I’d never go to the doctor with a flu virus, as there's nothing he can do, and yes please, stick me with your needle.

Some believe vaccinations only make things worse, encouraging viruses to mutate and disguise themselves, so that our immune systems cannot spot them.

It’s all very humbling. There’s nothing medical science can do to cure these viruses, and no war has killed more people than the flu.

Excuse me: I’m off to the loo to impersonate some more piglet murders.

Stay well!

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 7 January 2018

A fine breakfast starts a good year?

Delighted to be back working with the inspired Allan Cavanagh of 
Caricatures Ireland (
Feels like the band's back together again.

There’s no better way to start the day and this new year than with a fine breakfast, and I’m not talking about a healthy breakfast. Much as I love my weekday porridge or yoghourt, fruit and muesli, everyone deserves a little treat, so every Saturday I enjoy taking myself out for a Full Irish.

Of course I’m aware that rashers, bangers and thick rings of black and white do my body no good whatsoever, but for some bizarre reason the pleasure I incur from the entire experience replenishes my soul beyond reasonable expectation.

Sitting in peace and quiet, taking my time, perusing the lies and nonsense written about the Beautiful Game on the back pages of red top tabloids: it all puts a smile on my face.

As a self-employed person it’s really important I create one real day off each week. That day starts with this breakfast, and when everything goes right, I can import enough bonhomie and relaxedness to turn into a half decent human being for the entirety of the following week.

Over the years I’ve built in my head what others might consider a rather sad list of ingredients to make the experience perfect. 

Spare me your witty accusations of First World Problems. That’s where we live, and anyway, there’s way more to this than food.

If I go to the same place on a regular basis, I’d like to be treated like a regular. They don’t have to know my name or even what I want to eat, but a smile of recognition goes a long way.

In the Full Irish there comes a variety of hot meaty ingredients that require  two eggs to spread the flavours and mix the tastes around.

One egg just won’t do, so if that’s all the menu offers, I ask for another.

Then there’s the matter of butter and marmalade: are they on the table, or will I have to ask for them? 

Oh and please don’t be bringing me steaming hot toast sitting on top of melting butter packs.

At this stage you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m a right little pain in the arse as a customer, but you’re wrong. I’ve spent my youth working in shops, bars and restaurants, and am incredibly grateful that somebody has come to work on my day off.

For years, after I moved out of the city, I went to a pub in a nearby town. 
Each week I’d have to ask for an extra egg, and a little later try to catch the waiter’s eye to see if I could please have some marmalade, but the place was nice, and the staff friendly.

Then it changed hands and I knew none of the faces, and more to the point, they didn’t know mine. Up to then the breakfast had been €8.50, so I could leave a tenner and know that I’d paid a decent tip.

Then the new manager said “€9.50 with the extra egg!”

I looked at her and handed over the tenner, knowing that I’d left an inadequate tip, mostly because she’d just charged me a whole euro for an egg.

She also lost a customer, as the next week I visited another pub nearby and discovered breakfast nirvana.

The smell of woodsmoke doesn’t even appear on my sad little brekkie wish list, but its calming effect was most welcome as I walked through the door.

Two eggs on the plate, butter and marmalade on the table, lovely smiley staff and an all round perfect experience, with enough price room under the tenner for a good tip.

After a couple of weeks the waitress smiled at me as I walked in, asking if I wanted 'my usual.'


Maybe it’s something to do with a blow-in’s desire to belong, this neediness of mine. Or maybe it’s just the passive delight of enjoying good service.

Did I say good? I meant excellent, as on the second or third occasion that my friend Whispering Blue accompanied me, the same waitress told him he wanted the same as me, but with coffee, and she was right.

She took pleasure in being brilliant at her job and we both appreciated it, as we did the food.

As I sipped the hot strong tea my mind drifted off to the last time I found a place that ticked all my breakfast boxes, long ago in Spud Murphy’s cafe on Dominick Street.

Just back from failure in America, I wrote in this colyoom about how much I’d enjoyed my breakfast in that cafe, and to my surprise and delight, the manager printed it out, laminated it and stuck it on the cafe wall.

For months afterwards he refused to take money off me for breakfast. He had no idea how profoundly his recognition and generosity affected me, at a time when I so wanted to feel utterly back home.

Nothing survives save change, and the great waitress is gone. 
I miss you, Katie!

Now they pass me a menu; a stranger once more. Not only that, the prices have gone up.

I'll get over it, because it's my place, even if they don't know that any more. I won’t stop going there, so it looks like I’ve just got to get over myself and accept that my Full Irish Experience now costs €11.00 with tip.

At this point I need to throw in an honourable mention for PJ at the Galway Arms, who opens on the stroke of 9:00 and offers an honest hot feed for €8.50 (or €8.75?), accompanied by his extraordinary vocals.

I mention the time because many places that advertise All Day Breakfasts don’t start serving ’til 11:00. If I waited until then, I’d be such a grumpy bastard I wouldn’t dare inflict myself upon the public.

No, I’ll stick to my favourite place, and take the price punches. 

They make me feel welcome, bring me copious amounts of tea and hot food and then leave me in peace. 

What more can a man ask for?

©Charlie Adley