Monday 29 October 2018


When the sun comes out in the late afternoon a mass of flying insects gathers around the ivy atop the old stone shed

I thought in previous years it was because the ivy was flowering, but this year it’s already gone to seed, yet still they swarm: flies, bees, wasps, hover flies - all manner of aerobatic beasties.

A big fan of fresh air, I’m forced to close all the windows for these brief sunny Autumnal hours, because the bluebottles swarm around the house. 

In fifteen minutes there’d be five of the noisy dive-bombing disease-spreading buggers in my living room: guaranteed to drive this colyoomist doolally.

Instead of feeling trapped inside I wander out, stand beside the ivy and take a look, while soaking up the sunshine, appreciating the rich deep colours of this season.

I truly love Autumn. In Jewish culture this is the start of the year; a time of beginning and restoration.

From the roof of the stone shed comes the music of a million insect orchestra. They’re all intensely excited about the ivy and

 - oh -              there!

High above I see a triangle of 12 swallows swoop past. For the last few weeks I felt a brief pulse of excitement each time I saw swallows, thinking that maybe my local brood were still around, but no.

Turns out this house is under some kind of swallow M1 motorway. The regulars who nest in the barn over the wall left weeks ago, and these are birds heading south from somewhere further north.

My brain swims as I try to work out how far they must have already flown, if they are only this far south now.

Migration is a hard taskmaster.

Bird word travels fast. Here come the crows, up from their colony in the high trees at the crossroads. They’re lining up on the telephone wires, eager to feast on the insect smörgåsbord dancing in the ivy.

It’s a good day for crows.

Every day seems to be a good day for magpies. On their mission to take over Ireland’s hedgerows and gardens, they’ve done away with a couple of my flighted friends.

Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed watching a pair of pied wagtails, who became very used to me. When I first moved in, Mr Wagster used to perch on top of the heating oil tank, but then, as I fed the birds through tough winters, he became almost tame, walking over to take food a mere few inches from me.

Then last Spring a pair of magpies arrived, kicked out the wagtails, along with the tits and sparrows, and now they truly rule the roost.

Mind you, the robin is hanging on in there. He won’t be budged, diving down from the trees as soon as he sees me in the garden. 

As the days become shorter I expect less from myself. As the wind speeds up, my mind slows down. Watching the clouds turn golden as a storm builds and then purple as it blasts through makes me feel calm and meditative.

This is the time of year for that magical blue and yellow spray can. WD40 is the stuff of Autumn, somehow both lubricating movement while repelling moisture and inhibiting rust.

That latch on the front gate is rusted and stiff, but a quick spray and it’s slip sliding away.

Next up, the windows need the full treatment. Attracted by the electric light inside all summer, their surrounds are veritable cities of spiders and anything else that’ll eat midges.

Hundreds of little brown clusters, some maybe stored dinners, others perchance gestating babies. Needs to be done but it’s not painless, destroying such a thriving ecosystem.

Then a spray of the WD on the stiff window handles, which are threatening to break off until ah, there, now they’re perfect. Another hefty spray onto the sliding metal window bars that are past their best.

Before I put the WD back into Joey SX, I spray his battery terminals and any other electric bits I see. That’ll protect them from damp and ease the demands of those cold morning starts on my car’s electrics.

Was a time I’d lift a car’s bonnet and be able to point out the distributor, spark plugs and HT leads, the alternator and carburettor.

Now it’s all moulded plastic and Japanese wizardry, designed to keep fools like me away and dealerships busy.

The lawn has been mowed and mulched for last time, and as I write that I know certain male folk of my acquaintance will be both chuckling and relieved.

All Summer every Summer they are bored and infuriated by my endless tales of woe with lawnmowers. No man ever had worse luck with various machines and a procession of companies that purport to mend said machines.

My god, it’s only a rotating blade. How hard can it be?

I (and by proxy those aforementioned giggling blokes) have suffered verbal abuse and obfuscation while trying to get the bloomin’ mower sorted. Three of the last six growing seasons I spent ‘waiting for parts.’

Apparently men become obsessed with their lawns. In truth, I couldn’t give a monkey’s if there are several different types of grass, moss, weed and wildflower growing in the lawn.

Instead I become fixated on the weather, and which day will be dry enough to get out there and cut it.

Okay: I’m obsessed with not being able to mow the lawn.

Doesn’t matter now. ’Tis done until Spring. With the clocks going back, mornings will light up a little, while at the other end of the day, the hastening of darkness allows self-employed scribblers to call it a day, light the fire and think of what to cook for dinner.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 21 October 2018

Arlene Foster gets up my nose!

We all have limits, personal and professional, and sometimes they blur, one into the other, producing thoughts that are plainly unacceptable in our 21st century woke culture.

Thank goodness we are allowed to express dislike of politicians’ policies and on occasion even admit to disliking a politician or two, for their failings; their corrupt or ambitious natures.

What you cannot do is say you dislike a politician’s appearance. How many times did this colyoomist want to write about Charlie McCreevy’s teeth, but no.

Beyond the confines of morally respectable prose, I have a personal loathing of disingenuous behaviour, so I’m not going to write some kind of half-humorous apology for my struggle.

I’ll just cough it up and take the flak.

There are at the moment so many reasons to disagree with Arlene Foster, so many causes threatened by her policies that we could all fill many pages with heartfelt discord and righteous debate.

Yet my feeble spirit has already lost the plot.

I have gone from feeling mildly irritated by her, to outraged that the British and Irish people are being held to ransom by her, to so viscerally furious with her that my insides cramp as I see her floating around the corridors of Brussels in her special white dress, twitching with excitement, her hubristic hands writhing over each other with the evangelical enthusiasm of a person who knows that this is their moment.

Her tiny life is suddenly being played on a world stage. She’s got the UK government by their short and curlies, to such an extent that Theresa has had to resort to pleading with moderate Labour MPs opposite to support her uniquely unpopular plan.

If it were simply a matter of intractable political differences that’d be fine, because that’s just falling to see somebody else’s point of view.

But that’s not it.
It’s her nose.

There, I said it.

Hands up, folks: this is below me. The only reason I’m sharing it with you is because this feeling troubles me so deeply, excuse the painful pun.

I wouldn’t take kindly to another scribbler writing about my asteroid of a belly, or the orchestral bowel brass section that is the soundtrack of my morning ablutions. If anyone’s going to have a go at me on a base physical level, it’ll be me. That’s my job.

I can write about me but you can’t, so it’s bugging the hell out me that I’m so obsessed with Arlene Foster’s nose, but I am.

Maybe it’s a mental defence mechanism. She offends so many different aspects of the values I hold dear, that now, as she smiles with the knowledge that for this instant her hand is writing the book of History, my brain retreats back inside itself to stay safe.

I know I have to see her, listen to her and read about her, because I am fully obsessed with the future of this island, so I need an escape route.

But really, why did it have to be something physical?

I’ve managed to embarrass myself all by myself, and confess as I wrote that just now, I resisted the urge to cry aloud with maniacal roar

“And it’s all YOUR fault, Arlene, yes it is! Haaaa-ha-haaaaaaa!”

Who am I? 

When I see her, my eyes and mind now focus only on her nose. Away from matters personal and politically incorrect, it’s all so unprofessional. 

Who might ever take my work seriously if I witter on about pantomime step-sister noses, and now this colyoom must change tack, for fear it drifts into the aforementioned disingenuous tripe.

Judging a person on how they look feels utterly infantile. I suspect my reaction comes from encountering hypocrisy on so many and such fundamental levels, I feel free to share instinctive responses. 

This has become biological, because hypocrisy twists my guts like nothing else.

On the BBC 6 o’clock news a couple of weeks ago I watched Foster insist that her red line was very simple. 

There was no way under any circumstances whatsoever that Northern Ireland could ever be considered different to the rest of the UK. That was not up for negotiation. Never would be, in any way, shape or fashion.

Three items later came the cake story. On its own the case and controversy created a very healthy debate about the conflicting differences between the freedoms of worship and expression, but it was not a story that could ever run in Manchester. It‘d not happen in Halifax.

It had to be in the 6 counties of Northern Ireland, where LGBT rights are completely different to the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Most of any modernising legislation against such vile discrimination in Northern Ireland has come despite the worst efforts of the DUP, via direct rule from Westminster or lengthy hard-won court cases.

As a Jew only two generations from the holocaust, I am very aware that we were not the only community gassed to death. I will not turn my back on the LGBT community who died alongside us and still struggle for freedom.

Don’t even get me started on how Northern Irish abortion law differs from Britain.

Good! Discovered what’s wrong with me.

There are just too many reasons to dislike the DUP and disagree with Foster.
There’s too much at stake for her and them to hold so much power at this crucial time.

I’ve regressed and now just watch a nose.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 14 October 2018


With the closure of the Westwood Hotel I feel I’m saying goodbye to an old friend. It was for years the place for a toastie and pint of Guinness when I’d an hour to kill; an emergency peeper stop on the way back from town; the bar where I took my students for a celebratory pint after the last lesson of my Craft of Writing Course; the place where I meet friends flying in from abroad.

Whether they landed at Dublin, Knock or Shannon, they have all found their way to the Westwood, and from there after hugs and welcome pints, I lead them back to my gaff.

If you’ve not been a regular customer you don’t have the right to feel regret at the folding of a business, but emotions don’t follow the rules. Even though it’s been 15 years since I stepped into the place, I was truly sad to see that Jordan’s in Ballina had also closed.

As I drove past last week my heart sank to see the boarded buildings in the terrace looking drab, deflated and dilapidated. It might have been closed for some time.

Back at the turn of the millennium I used to enjoy going in there while waiting for the bus from Galway to arrive. There was an intangible quality about the place that I loved. I felt as if I’d been immersed in a Virtual Reality version of Reeling In The Years.

Deep red carpet, wooden bar stools and a long well-polished brass hand rail that leads the eye to the far end of the bar where, clustered around a comforting coal fire, the daily gathering of The Brethren of the Bar is in full swing.

Pure Irish culture, ancient and alive.

Arriving deliberately an hour before the bus, I’d plant my arse on a barstool, order a Jamie, approach the Observer crossword and sigh with contentment, as the bar’s entertained by the old fellas’ banter.

Evidently they’ve enjoyed a fine day. Pleasantly oiled and well humoured, they are ripping the proverbial out of each other with the cruel sharpness of men who have drunk together for years.

The young brunette barmaid hums happily as she keeps herself busy, well able to handle her regulars.

“I love you Aoife!” exhales Tall Rakey-Thin, as she hands him his ‘pointa spesh.’

“I’m glad somebody does!” she replies, leaving himself with a gaping three tooth smile, mumbling “Ahh, but I do! I do, I really do I do do...”
as his mouth sinks towards his beer.

Chunky Beetroot-Faced Flat-Hat turns to his mates.

“Here’s one! Here’s one, I tellya! Tink of a number. Go on!”

“Oh, hmm, yesh, I have one.”

“Double it!”

“Ohhhh, jusht a second now. Hmm. Okay.”

“Now, times it boy, boy, boy shix!”

“Ohhh jeeze Mikey, what’re ye feckin’ at?”

“Just do it man. For feck’s sake, it’s not dat hard izzit? And now, now add ten, divoide boy two, and take away the cofff coffff wheeze coff oh feckin’ Jayzus Mary and Jo Jo Jo cofff coffff wheeeeeze take away shix, and you have da nomber ye firsht tort of!”

His toothly-challenged friend disagrees.

“No. No, I don’t. I have terteen, and I shtarted wid sheven!”

“No you don’t!”

“Yes oy do, ye old bollox!”

“Well, ye got it wrong den, dincha? Can ye not add and shubtract? I feckin’ said double it and add 22!”

“Ye never shed nuttin’ like dat, not a bit of it, oh no, not a bit of it!”

“Ah well, try it again!”

“I will not. ‘Tis borin’ and you have it wrong anywayze. So now, c’mere, I have one for you now. Listen to dis one. Hey, Aoife, c’mere and lissen to dis one! Now, if it takes me a week to walk a fortnight, how long will I walk in a day?”

“Eh? What da cofff cof wheeze cof what da fock was that?”

“Oh, maybe I got him wrong, now, lemme tink, ah now yes yes yes let me see now, maybe what I meant was it’s a fortnight to walk a week?”

“I love you Aoife!”

“Like I said, thanks, I’m glad someone does!”

“I do! I love you Aoife.”

“Thanks, and by the way, my name’s Deirdre!”

With that the barmaid turns away and bites her lip to stop her laughter as behind her this revelation brings forth an eruption of uproarious hilarity from all, followed by some reassuring backslapping, and then, from somewhere deep inside the giggling manly huddle, there emerge words that make me wonder if this whole thing is not some kind of set up.

“Ahh, a bit of auld craic, ’tis all ye want! A drop o’liquid, and a bit of auld craic!”

Did he really say that? Had I just been entertained by an improvising installation of actors, employed by Discover Ireland to show tourists drinking near bus stations a little local life?

This quintessentially Irish collection of words felt simultaneously a cliché and powerful, because it was one, and as such, here in Jordan’s bar in Ballina, it was enhanced by authenticity.

Years later I’m able to enjoy all over again remembering those archetypal words that so many imitate and jest of, yet nobody really expects to hear.

Ireland is a much poorer place for the loss of these hotels and bars. The Brethren of Bars are now mostly dead and buried, their lifestyle, as my late father used to say, destroyed by progress.

That night, as I rose from my barstool and put on my coat, I nodded towards them, wished them well and left them to their lives.

Outside the rain had stopped, the clouds were gone.
Autumn’s cold air grasped my lungs.
Stars shone from a moonless sky.
The bus was in.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 7 October 2018

I want that Gone Upriver state of mind!

I’m not just bad. I’m doubly bad.

Bad once, because for the second week I’m unable to write about anything beyond my tiny unwell existence.

Bad twice, as this inadequacy is wholly due to me being that pain in the backside bloke who doesn’t take his own advice.

Don’t tell me you’ve got the flu. You’ll only receive a long lecture about how viruses are pernicious little bastards who trick you into thinking you’re over them, so you go and do stuff, only for the sods to return, slamming you down on the bed like a leaden lump.

On and on I preach. Be careful. If you feel oddly disoriented when you step out the front door, don’t do it.

Blah blah blah advice which turns into pure nonsense, as before you can yell  

“Hypocritical gobshite!” 

I’ve gone and done exactly what I tell everyone not to.

After two days rest and gallons of water drunk those vile symptoms (that doubtless turned the stomachs of brave colyoomistas last week) had gone.

Overjoyed that I was getting better, I remembered my mistakes of the past and tried to take it easy, but life in its wonder and insistence does keep happening.

At the moment there is nothing small on my life agenda. Only the major stuff, most of which is, by its very nature, out of my control.

Trouble is, I’m a bit of control freak. Even though I truly accept that just about everything that happens is out of my control, I fail to resist the urge to influence the minuscule crumbs I might control.

Instead of resting and recuperating, I flee home and drive north, and stay here, where I am today, a few hundred yards from a splendid beach. There’s neither TV nor internet and I so don’t care.

On the drive up here yesterday I thought about how great it’d be to do an old favourite circular beach walk I haven’t done for years, but ’twas not to be. 

I may be foolish but I ain’t stupid. Stopping for supplies I suddenly found myself breaking into a raging sweat while merely ambling around a shop.

Bugger. Still ill.

Yes but the appetite is back and I’ve more energy, so how much harm can a wee ramble do? My spirit rises with the thought of clean sea air, space and peace, so after unpacking off I head, and 20 minutes later I collapse back through the front door, knocked corblimey sideways.


You got me.
Can’t be me yet. 

Still under siege.

I give in.

Useless; blue; immobile.

Need to kick those viral moody blues into touch though, so instead of walking on the beach, today I walk to the beach, sit on the stone wall by the car park and breath.

Blasted by the beauty of the bay, embracing the vast Atlantic, my self-obsessed head finally emerges from my anally-retentive backside.

From my perch I can see far distant breaking wave tips whipped into sepia spume.

Wouldn’t have noticed them if I’d been walking on the beach.

This is soul sustenance of a different kind to the physical hit of a good walk.
Thanks. I appreciate being deeply here.

Back sitting by the stove in my hideout, I confess to a DVD drive and a decent pair of speakers.

To many of you I know this sounds mundane, unworthy of a mention, but to this ageing scribbler the chance of watching a box set represents a thrill.

When others talk of watching entire series over one or two nights, or several solid days, I quietly think to myself:

‘Where do you get the time?’

Don’t get me wrong. My armchair cushion has a deep arse groove. I sit for hours in front of the tele, but the only two box sets I could say I’ve ever ‘done’ are both ancient: The West Wing, episodes of which I still watch when I need an urgent Trumptidote, and The Sopranos.

Back in 2008, when my dad died, a box set was the size of an item of furniture. Grieving on the sofa for two months, confused patriarch Tony and his family and gang got me through.

Eat your heart out, Freud.

Thankfully right now nobody’s died, but my life is in chaotic flux, and today all I’m able to do is rest and recover; to find the strength to rebuild.

At the moment I’m pure useless to the world and myself, and if there was ever a better time for a box set, I never met it.
Coming up: another old beauty, in the shape of Northern Exposure.

Embedded for me with personal memories of time and place, this series revolves around catalyst Joel, a neurotic Jewish doctor forced by the State of Alaska to administer to the far-flung community of Cicely.

Rich in quirky characters, laden with witty writing and stunning wilderness scenery, there’s much to enjoy. Despite the many lives I’ve lived since I first watched it, I know one episode will comfort and inspire me now, as it did back then.

In the final season Joel heads upriver to help a Native American and doesn’t come back. His friends find him calm and neurosis-free, living in a tribal village, drying salmon and shaping fishhooks.

The ultimate urban materialist has gone native.

Joel’s discovered that once you’ve stripped away life’s veneer and chaff, left only with literally the bare bones, nothing matters but those bones.

He finds peace for the first time in his life.

I consider myself incredibly lucky, as twice in my past I’ve found and lived in deep peace.

As soon as I’m finally rid of this virus, I’ll be back on track towards that upriver state of mind.

In the meantime I’m allowing myself a box set. 

© Charlie Adley