Wednesday 20 June 2018


After days of solitude in Ballycroy, I head to Achill Island, where I find the same stunning scenery. Yet instead of contemplating my navel, the universe and all points between on a silent empty beach, I sit at Keem strand listening to the diesel rumble of the tea van’s generator.

With its turquoise waters and golden sand tucked into a tiny cove between the mountains, Keem will always be a spectacular beach, but now, under the wiggly metal Wild Atlantic Way logo statue, you can buy plastic toys and flat whites.

“Bloody great!” I hear you say.
Indeed, but not for me.

People are everywhere, and I'd rather be alone.

Everyone else seems more than happy to be part of a crowd, so acknowledging yet again how weird I am, I hit the road.

My drive into Achill passed as a melancholy song of faded tourist glory. Broken down hotels and boarded up pubs, and everywhere places called ‘lifestyle shops’, to attract the surfing crowds.

Everywhere has two contrasting sides, so I take a left turn to Doogort, and yes, great choice!

Here is the west of Ireland in its natural old-fashioned glory, ready and willing to embrace any tourists who happen to pass by. Such an admirably laid-back ethic was always going to fail economically, and now, by merely changing ‘West Coast of Ireland’ to ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ the miracle of marketing is working wonders.

Sitting on a rock at Doogort Silver Strand, I sup my soul food to the rhythmic
of gentle waves pulling pebbles. 

Just me and way down the far end of the beach, a mother and child.

Above a huge gull spirals on the thermals, its vast wings flapping not an inch.
The only sound: the ocean.

Much as I could sit here for hours, the noise of the water has hastened my need for a pee. In effect there are two states of middle-aged male existence: needing a pee or not needing a pee. Fuss not, I’m all medically checked out, as we men must keep an eye on our prostate glands.

Yoga helps with that, I find. Otherwise there’d be no way I could get down there for a look! Mind you, prostate cancer is no laughing matter.

Men in their 50s discover a new sense of urgency, as I do now, but no chance. 

An old fella with his Scottie dog has been keeping a disapproving eye on me for a while.

There's no natural cover, only a gap between two Portakabins, but no. That’d just confirm the old fella’s suspicions.

He would love that.

A couple of minutes later, knees locked together, I come upon Doogort Strand, an empty crescent of golden sands and foamy breakers. Banks of rushes border the grasses between me and the ocean, perfect for hiding behind methinks, so I race down there at top speed, discovering on the way the grass is completely covered in sheep shit.

As if approaching the winning tape 
I bundle through the rushes, 
which tragically don't turn out to offer any cover, 
and then I’m through them 
and charging onto boulders and rocks. 

My stumbling has broken my concentration.
I was not only focusing on the physical accomplishment of running on several different natural surfaces at high speed from a sitting start.

I was also using my well-practiced mental powers to instruct myself that

I do not need to go
I am in charge of my own body

I do not need to go

breathe ... kind of stuff.

Thinking is over. 
Now has to be the time for action. 

Feeling sufficiently obscured and past the point of control anyway, I do what I have to.

Then I stretch my arms wide, in triumphant relief, and turn to face the glorious Atlantic, noticing-for the first time to my left the two camper vans and families, sitting at wooden tables, sipping their tea.

None of them seem particularly disturbed by my unexpected floorshow, but I resist the quite strong temptation to take a bow, instead exiting stage left pronto.

It's hard not to love Doogort. Schoolchildren yell “Hi!” as I drive by, their mothers in rolled up trackies and well-loved T-shirts feeding carrots to donkeys at the roadside.

Everywhere I drive the powerful women of Mayo are out there working. On a lonely isolated bog, there she is, under the baking sun, cutting turf on her own; there she is, working a mower up that hellishly steep hill of a lawn, there she is, stepping out in her safety visor and hi-viz jacket, to strim the hedge.

While all this is happening, I am simultaneously writing this colyoom in my head.

Love scribbling.
I should probably give that a hashtag but I can't be bothered.

I'm so up my hole about being a writer that I manage to get lost. The road comes to an end by a pier beside one of those yellow signs showing a car falling into the sea.

That'll learn me to be a pretentious fool, but hang on, could that there be be Inis Bigle? I’ve visited it often from the mainland, and if it is, I can check exactly where I am on my nerdy ordnance survey map.

I make no excuses. I love maps and right now I'm adoring this one, because it’s telling me that is indeed Inis Bigle, and all I need to do is drive down here, turn left and left again.

For some sad reason I find it ridiculously pleasing that by using a blend of local knowledge, observation and map reading, I’ve gone from being utterly lost a minute ago to knowing exactly where I am, and how to get out of here.

Time to head to Newport for lunch! I deserve it!

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 10 June 2018


All these years I’ve written you, and now I don’t know what to do. It was all so safe and comfy, seeing you through my English eyes, sometimes in awe, occasionally mocking with affection, yet always different; always other.

This citizenship malarkey is confusing. I’m still the same bloke I was two weeks ago, but now I’m Irish too. Does that mean I have to change the pronoun? 

Do I now have to write we instead of you? I haven’t suddenly become one of you, any more than I’ve stopped being a London-born Englishman.

My late father’s face comes to mind as I ponder this quandary. After a bruising day at school at the age of 10, I turned to him.

“What are we, Dad?”

“What do you mean?” 

“Well, some of the boys at school were saying I’m not English, ‘cos I’m Jewish, so I don’t belong here.”

“Ah, well, here’s what you are. You’re English, Yiddish and rubbish, and never forget it!”

As he said the word rubbish he twinkled his eye at me, so that I knew he was being ironic; that we were, in fact, very far from rubbish.

“English, Yiddish and rubbish? Is that what I tell them?”

“No! Not like that. Say it with pride and they’ll leave you alone.”

Hey Dad! There’s a new one on that list. Now I’m English, Irish, Yiddish and rubbish.

All in all quite a cultural cocktail.

That suits me well. I’m happy being an identity mongrel. I’m proud to be English, Irish and Jewish. More than mere labels, each identity means a lot to me, yet none wholly defines me; nor would I want it to.

As my freshly-conferred Irishness gently assimilates into my soul, I realise that my confusion over pronouns was slightly crass and premature.

Nothing needs to change.
I will always write of you.

It’ll always be you, because I’m a blow in, and always will be. I’ve a shiny new certificate that says I am one of you, but I am not of you, and never can be.

The west of Ireland has been kind to me, but sadly that was because when I arrived in 1992, the Irish people were still suffering from a national lack of self-confidence, pummelled into their souls throughout their lives.

At first it mystified me. Why were these hard-working creative people just sitting round feeling sorry for themselves?

As a self starter, I found that compared to the time and energy I’d need to invest in London, great reward was available in Galway, for very little effort.

Ever since Ireland’s inception, an overbearing establishment of legal, political and clerical institutions did their darnedest to make sure the Irish felt bloody awful about themselves.

No surprise then that this State reached out to the EU and USA for solutions. 
'Sure we’re only a small country so what would we know?' and all that nonsense.

Only a politician could call the changes Ireland has made over the last 25 years a “quiet revolution.”

Quiet up in your ivory tower maybe, Leo.
Down here, where us proles live, it has been exuberant and exciting. 

This is a great time to be Irish. Now the Irish people are modern, compassionate, assertive and confident, while their establishment is ancient and tired, constantly trying to seduce global conglomerates to be Ireland’s latest post-empire overlords.

Everything has changed in Ireland since I’ve been here, save for this.

Now is the time for those in power to stop wasting Irish money subsidising overseas corporations, who come and go without a care for the Irish. 

Why must everything big from elsewhere always appear better to a ruling Irish eye?

Last year thousands danced in the street when Galway was named European Capital of Culture 2020. Yet if you remember the Volvo Ocean Race, you cannot say you're genuinely surprised that much of the 2020 affair has been, so far, something of a farce. 

In 2009 Galway fell prostrate in front of the hi-tech billionare boats, while Irish talent, in the shape of Irish chefs, Irish musicians and local Irish suppliers were left unpaid in its wake.

At the same time, over the river, the Claddagh Boatmen - Bádóirí an Cladaig - were forced to battle bureaucracies that would break lesser groups. 

Yet they survived and thrive today, traning a new generation of Galwegians to build, sail and navigate Galway Hookers, the traditional boat that brings global identity to our county, our flag and crest.

This year Galway hosted Edfest for ex-Galway busker Sheeran, whose gigs bought serious green folding to the local economy, whilst simultaneously the council was trying to legislate against busking in the city.

Why do Irish politicians fear others’ success? 

Now is the time for the Irish establishment to reflect the talent, graft and enthusiasm pouring forth from Irish people.

Now is the time to invest in Ireland’s best resource: the Irish people.

Never mind the 8th. Take a look at Article 1 of your own constitution:

“The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government, to determine its relations with other nations, and to develop its life, political, economic and cultural, in accordance with its own genius and traditions.

It’s been right there, ever since your independence.

The founders of your nation trusted the genius of Irish people. It’s evident to the rest of the world, so why do successive Irish governments refuse to acknowledge that the Irish people are ready to be believed in, encouraged, invested in and trusted, in accordance with their own genius and traditions?

Or should I say our?

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 3 June 2018

I walked in the rain and became Irish!

Truly the Kingdom of Kerry is a magical place. I went to Killarney, drank a pint of Guinness, walked in the rain and the next day I was Irish.

As I stroll the rain-sodden streets I wonder whether they chose this town for Citizenship Ceremonies because walking around Killarney is like being dropped into an essential oil of Irishness.

Strains of Wild Rover and Maggie permeate the dripping air.

What could be more Irish than the rain?

It rains soft rain and then it rains summertime rain, with huge wet drops that pierce your clothes as arrows through armour. 

It rains drizzly rain, and then it rains more wet-making rain, and then the wind picks up, lifting the wetness and turning it into sideways rain.

It rains all night and it rains all morning, all afternoon and evening.

Never mind your forty shades of green. Forget Eskimos and all their words for snow.

The Irish have as many for the rain.

There's a power shower in the bathroom of my packed B&B. This is Killarney and Americans demand such things, but the complimentary soap is so tiny it actually fits inside my tummy button - such is the tireless research done for you by this colyoom.

Is this Ireland? A failed attempt to keep Americans happy?

The Full Irish breakfast is delivered by the same smiling Eastern European staff member who checked me in at reception yesterday. She brings me coffee instead of tea, and no butter for the toast, but her smile makes me happy.

Is this Ireland? An immigrant workforce making the best of a bad job?

I’ve a few hours to kill before the Citizenship Ceremony so I drive along  sodden roads listening to Pat Kenny discussing a murder.

Doesn't get more Irish than this, surely?

I'd forgotten the glory of this drive from Killarney to Kenmare, even when pelted by the rain. The road winds and drops to reveal sumptuous lakes and mountains under cloudy veils. Ladies View, Torc waterfall, all the famous spots are simply wonderfully splendidly Irish.

Sitting on a comfy sofa in a tea shop in Kenmare, staring at tourists walking in the rain, I try to decide what to wear for the Citizenship Ceremony.

Although aware of the significance of this day, I feel this is a two-way deal. Of course I want to be Irish, but equally, Ireland must want me too.

I’d rather present the real Charlie Adley, in his t-shirt and jeans, than some trussed up replicant in a shirt and tie.

Beyond the tea shop window, American tourists appear to believe they need six layers of Gore-Tex to protect them. 

Maybe to be truly Irish is to embrace the rain. My dear friend Orla was the first Irish person to tell me, 26 years ago: 

"It won't melt ya!"

How else might an Irish Citizenship Ceremony start but with a queue in the rain?

Inside the INEC centre, right here in the capital of Paddywhackery, the brass band on stage plays those two quintessentially Irish tunes: New York, New York and It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing.

Minister Charlie Flanagan continues the showbiz theme, stepping up to the microphone with a

Helloooo! No, come on, I didn’t hear you! Hellooooo!

He tells us that one day our grandchildren might be so lucky as to officiate at a ceremony like this. Looking around at the thousands of happy faces, I hope many will aim their sights higher than politican.

Then, quite beautifully, he instructs us not to forget the country from which we came.

Your history's not contraband. We welcome your diversity. Bring with you your songs, your music and your stories. If you’re from India and Pakistan, please bring your cricket bats!”

Well, that’s righteously spurned all the Australians, South Africans and West Indians in here, not to mention this Englishman, but the Minister’s message is welcoming, warm and well-intentioned:

Then he performs the sacred rite of talking about Ireland’s 800 year dispossession.

Then we take the oath, and it’s done.

Was there ever a better time for a celebratory whiskey? I walk through the crowds and rain to the nearest bar. Inside there's plenty of thirsty punters but no barman in sight.

Now, that’s Ireland. Or is it? 

Ah here he is!

“Jameson please.”

“We have no Jameson.”

“You are kidding.”


“Okay. Give me a Crested 10, please.”

Top shelf, as it should be today. I'm Irish, but more than that, I’m safe. 

After 26 years in this country, my healthcare, pension and status are no longer at the mercy of incompetents like Gove and Rees-Mug. I didn't want to lose it all.

The clouds are lifting off the mountains. It has stopped raining.

I'm safe. 
I'm Irish.

Unlike the whiskey, it's going to take a while to sink in.


I need to thank the wonderful Katya Okonkwo, of the Galway City Partnership, whose free advice and patience was immeasurably helpful.

Also, thanks to Ann the lawyer, who gave great counsel, stamped all the forms yet took no money. Where else in the world would a lawyer insist that as she had been our neighbour six years previously, she couldn't possibly accept payment? One of the many reasons I love the west of Ireland.  

©Charlie Adley