Sunday 26 August 2018


As the injection goes into my tooth, the dentist’s words fail to reassure me.

“Charlie, this tooth is shattered, so I might not be able to extract the whole thing. There may be shards of tooth and bits of nerve left behind, in which case I’ll have to send you to the hospital.”

I wasn’t expecting an extraction. I’d made an appointment as the two teeth my dentist’s been nursing for a year or two were giving me gyp.

In the past she’d patched them up and talked about root canal treatment.
Too late for that now. After a brief inspection, she said immediate extraction was the only prognosis.

I just nodded and lay back.

According to my Irish friends I’m fortunate that at the age of 58 this is my first extraction. My postwoman puts it down to being raised in England but I’m not so sure.

I think it’s more to do with the fact that I’m a pervert: I don’t mind going to the dentist.

Settle down. I’m not saying I enjoy it, but as a self-employed person, if I don’t do my work, nobody else will. Hence, when I get the chance to delegate, I love handing over responsibility to other skilled professionals.

I absolutely wholeheartedly trust my dentist, so as I recline on her surgery chair I feel calm. More than happy to relinquish control to someone else, I exhale and relax.

I’m in safe hands.

This woman has looked after my Hampsteads for many years, and as well as showing expertise and compassion, she’s given me excellent advice.

Rather than trying to flog branded mouthwashes and toothpastes, she told me a few years back to prepare bottles of salt water with a few pinches of bicarbonate of soda. 

After eating, I sloosh that around and a few months back had the pleasure of hearing her say:

“All your soft tissue and gums look perfect!”

Ah! The rare bliss of a positive assessment from a dentist, but unfortunately today her opinion has travelled as far as it could in the other direction.

Wasn’t expecting to lose a tooth this morning, but as the locals say: ye’ll have that.

Can’t say I’m surprised though. Over the last two months my life’s been acting out a metaphorical manifestation of pulling teeth, so somehow it seems apt that someone is now physically pulling out one of my teeth.

Personal trauma was followed by notice to quit my house, so forced to flee excruciating Galway rents, I plan to find a home and build a new life where I lived years ago, among the wonderful people and places around Killala, on the CĂ©ide Coast of North Mayo.

Guiding me through my emotional bewilderment, a luxury of loved-ones have left me humbled. I give thanks, beyond all bounds of reason. I’m incredibly lucky to have so many people who genuinely care about me.

However I must confess it has proved exhausting trying to explain the truth and depth of my feelings to some, as they encourage me to focus on the positive and embrace the future.

Their motives are wonderful, yet their insistence that I think and feel as they suggest is wearying. I simply end up telling them I’m fine, so they might worry less.

When somebody we love is depressed or enduring emotional trauma, our first instinct as compassionate human beings is to make them feel better.

However, we each deal with life’s dark side differently. Some strive to avoid it, thriving solely on positive energy; others, like myself, do not.

One of my friends has been there for me consistently and remarkably, yet we share polar opposite perspectives on life.

He has himself overcome major challenges, and on occasion he finds it difficult to understand why I choose to dwell in the shadows, rather than seeking sunbeams on which to swing through life’s jungle.

I tell him that I need to be half way down the tree, looking at the ground, staring up at the sky, trying to make some sense of it all.

People like me are very aware of the positives, but by better understanding the negatives I might come through these recent trials as a man still able to love; a man free from the shackles of bitterness and anger.

If you become nervous or anxious around those enduring depression or trauma, don’t try to cheer them up.

It’s very possible they don’t want you to cheer them up right now. They probably just want you to understand that they’re going through a really hard time; that sometimes life can simply be irredeemably cruel and irrationally horrible.

If the victim of trauma can accept that, surely you can too?

Don’t tell them what you think they should do.
Maybe they're not ready for that yet.

Don't say you understand how they feel, if you don’t.
Don’t say “It’s for the best!” even if you believe it.

For that person right now it’s far from the best. Maybe until now your loved-one wasn’t even aware that this worst existed, so no, it’s not ‘for the best’ for them.

Don’t say “It’s meant to be!” or, heaven forbid, “Everything happens for a reason!”

What does that even mean?

If you’re not asked for it, don’t give advice. Simply listen to your loved-one, acknowledge that they are going through a very hard time, and maybe reassure them that they’re dealing with it well.

Oh, and while we’re at it, “That’s one less tooth to worry about!” doesn't help much either!

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 19 August 2018


You’re crammed into a car with your entire extended family, hurtling down a hill when the brakes fail.

Pedal to the ground horror.
Up ahead the road forks.

One way heads up a hill towards a garage, the other downhill, straight for a cliff edge. 

One way your car stops and everyone is safe; the other you all crash to your deaths or, if you’re lucky, suffer unattractive painful injuries.

The car is the UK, and while we might hope that a nation powered by the fifth largest economy in the world would have the sense not to aim for the cliffs, the Prime Minster clings madly to her steering wheel.

Instead of asking the EU for more time, she hopes her car might fly.

In an attempt to keep in touch with feelings in my native country, I watch the audience on David Dimbleby’s BBC Question Time. Picked to represent complete cross-sections, these British people are erudite, intelligent and witty.

My English heart feels proud of this essentially British mix of cultures that creates a national and natural charisma, and then, like Nancy Sinatra, they go and spoil it all by saying somethin’ stupid like:

“I was a Remainer but now I don’t care. Just get on with it and Leave. I can’t bear it any more!”

Aim for the cliffs?
What’s the rush?

The British are famously a stoic bunch, so why don’t they think past their impatience, rather than destroying their childrens’ future?

Generally if the Tories say they’ll do something dreadful, they do it, and it’s dreadful. Universal Credit springs to mind, but now they’re about to drive the entire nation over No Deal Cliffs, and few seem to care, because they’re so wretchedly bored with Brexit. They just want it over.

“If it were done when ’tis done, t’were well it were done quickly!”
Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 7.

Clearly the British haven't changed much since Shakespeare’s days.

When Boris Johnson delivered his resignation speech in the House of Commons, after being sacked as Foreign Secretary, he was not Bumbling Funny Boris.

Starting his leadership campaign, he wanted to sound like Winston Churchill, because Johnson is obsessed with the wartime leader.

Most unusually, Boris spoke slowly and clearly, using words aimed directly at his voter base.

“It is not … too late … to save … the dream of Brexit!”

Pure Trumpian rhetoric, from another whose political career has been moulded by lies, incompetence and obfuscation. Even if he fails to get the required 48 signatures to run for Tory leadership, Boris will survive the criticism heaped upon him for writing vile nonsense about Muslim women, because he knows many Tory voters agree with him.

By insisting he was defending “...liberal values against extremism...” he used the same dangerous Doublespeak that has proved so effective for Trump.

This odious bile touches the hearts of the dispossessed and the envious, the forgotten and the begrudging, the bigoted and the intolerant. Anyone ready or eager to blame others is welcome in this tent, and they are many.

Theresa May behaves ever more like Basil Fawlty. She’s put all her hopes into her plan, her precious Chequers Agreement, yet tragically (it might look comical were it John Cleese rather than the Prime Minister) she appears utterly blind to the fact that nobody on any side agrees with her.

Ever since the referendum I’ve felt that no deal would be negotiated. At first I thought the process would stumble and fall over the Irish border, but incredibly the UK government hasn’t even agreed what they want yet.

My Dad used to talk about bringing things down to “the lowest common denominat” and this I heard out of the mouth of the new Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. After May sent her ministers all over Europe, hoping a good lunch might make the integrity of the Single Market crumble, Hunt started talking about something he called an "Accidental No Deal."

Nobody has the slightest clue what he meant, but Hunt then sank lower, going on to say that this would be the fault of the EU, and create a resentment in the English against Europeans that would last generations.

That was the first time we saw the desperate admission that No Deal was at the moment the only deal on the table.

Hunt presented the English lowest common denominator: It’s all the foreigners’ fault. We are better than them.

Instead of offering strong opposition, the Labour Party’s plan is ludicrous and unworkable, so when the UK drives over No Deal Cliffs in 8 months time, the English people will turn to somebody who sounds positive; someone who can use Churchillian rhetoric to stir the blood; to help them believe he can make Britain great again.

Sound familiar?

Living in and now thankfully a citizen of Ireland, this Englishman wonders whether Johnson is so deluded he truly believes he can build a successful economy from the ruins of a No Deal crash.

What hurts me most is the astonishing impact a No Deal Brexit will have on my adopted country.

According to the IMF, while other EU countries would suffer a fall of 1.5% in economic output, both the UK and the Republic of Ireland would be hit by a massive 4% drop.

That’s more than 50,000 Irish jobs gone, and a hard border with the North.

History has a cruel sense of humour. After centuries of occupation, the English still manage to devastate Ireland, even as they try to move further away.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 12 August 2018


Magic moments don’t come often in life, so when the memory of one rises, I indulge myself in the glory of it.

I was reading about how the students of Manchester University chose to remove Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ from their Student Union walls.

The university’s Liberation and Access Officer, Sara Khan, said:

“We believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment and human rights…”

My eyes blurred over the print, my mind filling with memories from 2006…

I was in the front passenger seat of a Foroige minibus, looking back at my squad of 10 teenage Traveller boys. We were about to participate in the World Cup Five-A-Side competition.

16 youth squads from projects around the country were heading for Drom’s fantastic facilities, each representing a World Cup nation.

We were Portugal, and weeks before we’d managed to source the Portuguese national strip for the lads. They were thrilled to see the famous burgundy shirts.

“Can we wear them tonight, Charlie? Can we wear them now? Go on Charlie! Can we? I’m putting mine on any feckin’ way!”

“Oi! Leave those shirts alone. You’ll be playing three games on the day, ‘cos it’s a group stage, so those strips have to last and look good ’til at least the third game.”

“Til the feckin' final!”

“Yes, Thomas, we’ll see. First though we need to train. Right! Heads up lads, look forward. After me: We are Portugal. We play for Honour.”

“We are Portugal. We Play For Money!” they chorused in return, as always collapsing into giggles.

I knew that on the big day they’d be excited, nervous and slightly over-heated. If I played my cards right I could harness that excess energy and help them apply it to create a great experience, but what would captivate them?

What might make them feel calm, strong, unified and confident?

There could be some at the competition prejudiced against them and unafraid to voice their feelings. What could I do or say that would make these economically-deprived teenage boys from east-side estates think before they acted?

Words. That’s my way.

Immediately I thought of ‘If’, printed it out and practiced reading it carefully.

On the morning of the competition I was dry-mouth nervous. This was a gamble. There was a distinct possibility my sudden diversion into the world of poetry might be a colossal disaster.

Maybe they’d snort in mystification and think me a pretentious wanker, yet as I looked at Kipling’s words, I felt confident he was talking their language.

The word ‘classic’ can be applied, when a poem written in 1909 can speak to Traveller lads in 2006.

Before we drove out of the Community Centre car park in Ballybane, I turned around in my seat and faced them.

“Right lads. Listen up. I’m going to read you something.”

“Not now Charlie. Let’s get going.”

“Yes, now. There will be no talking until I finish. None. Right? Good. Now listen.”

I started slowly, doing my best to milk the most meaning from the beautiful words.

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.”


As I read I glanced over my sheet of paper and saw to my astonishment that every single boy was enthralled; emotionally and spiritually sucked in to these timeless ideals.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.”


Out of the corner of my eye I saw John and Sean, their chins dropped, mouths agape.

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!”

I paused for a few seconds, to give us time to take it all in. Nobody twitched, sniffed or blinked.

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Far from interruptions, the end was met by a collective silence I’d never experienced before, followed by sighs and grunts of teenage approval:

“Fuckin’ hell, Charlie!”

A rare moment of magic, made possible by poetry.

The students of Manchester University can write whatever they want on their walls, but for me there is no controversy. All of us are flawed; artistic types notoriously so.

Be it Kipling, Bowie or Picasso, what’s important is the art, not the creator.

Kipling’s poetry is of its time and place, and on occasion overtly racist, yet just because it is now fashionable to judge the art of yesterday by the standards of today, I will never stop loving ‘If’.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 6 August 2018

Don't listen to me - read what my students say!

Before you book your place on my Craft of Writing Course (starting September 6th - details below) take a look at what my students say:

The course was fabulous. I learned a great deal about the skills and techniques of writing. I have enjoyed every minute of it. Thank you so much for all your feedback.

I am learning so much. Thank you. You have an amazing passion for words - it oozes out of you - and a great energy that is wonderful to be around.

I was very familiar with the language of can't and couldn’t, but in recent times and in your creative classes I have learned a vocabulary that involves embracing the terms can and could. Thank you for sharing your time, thoughts and energy and thanks for forcing me to see life with a new perspective.
Many thanks for the excellent course. I found it thoroughly revealing. Thanks once again for the enlightenment and the fun.

Thank you for believing in me.

I felt privileged to be part of the group. Your enthusiasm runs deep. It’s clear that you do this for the love of the craft. You have so much to give to people and are so generous with your time and passion. I can only offer you my gratitude for a wonderfully inspiring, educational and thought-provoking eight weeks.

Thanks for a fabulous course. It was practical, factual, educational and jovial - a masterclass in how to teach with fun!

I booked this course with no real expectations. Little did I know that it was going to be one of the most enjoyable courses I have ever attended and that I was going to learn so much. The course layout, notes and your personal involvement made it a very easy and enjoyable way to learn.


My course is designed for anyone who would like to improve their writing skills, from complete novices to published novelists. 

Just as carpenters must learn how to use their tools, all writers benefit from learning their craft.

Anyone can learn this craft.
There is no mystery to it.

In friendly and supportive lessons I will show you how to overcome fear and write a first draft. As well as learning how to develop characters, structure, plot and voice, you’ll discover how to use shape, pace, tense and dialogue to enhance the power of your words.

My course will boost your confidence, while enabling you to write as you’ve always wished. 

I'll also give advice about how to sell your writing.

Only 12 students attend each course, and thankfully they do sell out, so if you’d like to reserve your place, please email me your phone number and any questions you might have as
soon as you can:
I look forward to hearing from you, and will call you back.

Charlie Adley's Craft of Writing Course
Westside Resource Centre
(beside the church and library, bus stops and parking)

Thursdays, 7:15 - 9:00 pm
8 weeks: September 6th - October 25th.

€120/€110 concessions

Sunday 5 August 2018


“Buster, he sold the heat…with a rock steady be-eat…”

High above me, pumping out of the tannoy speakers in the warehouse roof, this booming voice announced itself by speaking Jamaican words with a white London accent.

A couple of seconds later the air was filled with a sublime fusion of ska, reggae and pop, all wrapped up in cockney and Caribbean rhythms.

It was 1979 and we’d never heard anything like it. All round the warehouse blokes stopped in their tracks, smiles stretching their faces as they soaked up the exuberance of Madness.

I was 19, a soft middle class lad in a working class world of hardened men. Industrial Temping was an ancestor of today’s gig economy. The agency sent me off to factories and warehouses, sometimes for a day, sometimes for months. The work was hard, the pay poor, but for me it was perfect.

As soon as I’d saved up enough money I was free to board the ferry to France once again, to spend a few months hitching around Europe.

That summer the sounds of 2 Tone exploded into our lives. After years of going to three gigs a week during punk, live music was the backbone of my existence.

For years Rastas and Punks had mixed at gigs and been friendly, sharing a common enemy in Skins, but this new driving dance music, this monster sound had its roots in ska, which had always been Skinhead music.

Amazing gigs at the Electric Ballroom and the Hammersmith Palais followed. I remember huge line-ups, with The Specials, The Selector, Madness, The Modettes, Dexy’s Midnight Runners and The Beat all performing on the same night.

2 Tone spoke our language, sometimes politically scathing, at others touchingly sympathetic to love-lorn youth.

Rich in anti-establishment spirit, 2 Tone founder Jerry Dammers let all his lable's bands leave to form their own lables. Madness went Stiff, the Beat created Go Feet - everyone moved on.

Thanks to 2 Tone we’d enjoyed a bucket load of unbridled joy. Black, White, Punk, Skin, Rude Boy, Mod and Rasta: we’d all danced together, unified by joyous music.

Once you’ve shared the glory of a raucous gig, there can be no further animosity.

If only that had been the case at my place of work. I remember well that day I first heard Madness, because it coincided with the breaking of Tony’s mug.

With his lank long greasy hair, yellowed buckled teeth and sad weary eyes, Tony was an unlikely figure of fear. The foreman, emaciated in his faded Humble Pie T-Shirt and skull belt-buckle, he ruled that warehouse like a stoned Stalin.

During tea break I got distracted while chatting to young Jimmy about that new band we’d just heard, and my finger flipped Tony’s mug onto the concrete floor, where of course it shattered.

“Shit mate. Now you’ve done it. That’s Tony’s mug. He loves that mug.”

“Yeh? Loves his mug does he? Really?”

“No, yeh, really! Tellin’ you, he bloody loves that mug. You’re in deep doggydoo mate. What was your name again?”

At first I thought he was just winding me up, because I’d been the target of a series of practical jokes ever since I’d arrived at this assignment. I was used to it, imagining this trial a rite of passage that everyone had to go through.

Looking back now with a smile on my face, I realise that they were just ripping the shite out of the posh lad. One day my car wouldn’t start after work because they’d taken the rotor arm off the distributor.

“Ah come on, lads! You’ll have to do better than that!”

A week later my car wouldn’t start because there was some rubber tubing stuffed up the exhaust pipe.

“Ah come on, lads! You’ll have to do better than that!”

“We did! That tubing’s your radiator hose. Least, it used to be!”

These tests I passed with ease, but Tony’s revenge was more challenging:

“Oi, you, mug-smasher. You’re walking bundle today.”

Silence fell as every other head turned to look first at Tony, to make sure he really meant it, and then at me, to see if I was up for it.

These were times far from Health and Safety. I had to climb on top of a mountain of 20 metre long u-shaped reinforced steel struts, piled high by the loading bay.

Then judging carefully where the middle was, I'd loop a cable tie around a square of 25 struts, followed by another cable around the same 25 at each end, creating an open-ended bundle.
Unistrut bundles, exactly the same today as they were in 1979...

Standing on the floor beside my bundle, I used the handset to move the roof crane, bringing it directly over the middle cable tie, which I then hooked into the crane.

Every single eye in the place was watching. Hoping to hell and back I’d tied the middle one precisely in the middle, I slowly, oh so very slowly lifted the bundled with the crane, holding a finger loosely inside the struts at my end.

I’d heard the other blokes talk about “walking your bundle” and how you wanted your finger to be floating inside.

If you touched the struts for a second too long they’d simply tip up, fall out and crush you to death.

Over the tannoy came the sound of Chas Smash’s voice:

“One! Step! Beyoooond!”

No no no.
Not now.

Apart from the irony of the words, given my predicament, that was one moment it’d have been madness to dance to Madness.

10 days ago Galway danced to Madness like mad fools, and the Galway Races are almost run, so congratulations to GIAF and Ballybrit, and well done to you, the people of Galway, for enabling another incredible summer stuffed with successful festivals.

Nowhere gives better madness!

©Charlie Adley
959 words / 5,253 characters