Sunday 25 November 2018

Don't believe a word of your child's diary!

There’s a debate raging on the radio. The mother of an 8 year-old boy texted in to say she’s worried because her son has recently been spending a lot of time alone in his room, and now she’s found his secret diary.

Should she read it?

The expert in the studio is very clear with her advice:

“Absolutely not. That would be a massive betrayal of trust. Even if you pretend that you haven’t read the diary, the truth will very quickly become apparent to your son, in the way you respond to what he says.”

The texts flood in. Several say screw the expert and her opinions, this is that mother’s child and if there’s something strange going on, she needs to know about it.

Others agree with the expert, who replies to the dissenters by suggesting that if they want to know what’s troubling their children, why don’t they ask them?

Angry texts arrive in response, venting fury with this so-called expert. Has she ever tried to get information out of a child? If there’s any way of looking inside their childrens’ heads they’d do it: they’d read the diary and then at least they’d have the comfort of knowing what’s going on.

The expert fights back, rather sarcastically pointing out that the clue is in the name. It’s a secret diary.

I drive along with a big smile on my face as I listen to this absolutely pointless squabble.

Of course I understand how these fearful frustrated parents feel, and equally the expert’s suggestions are sound and sensible, but everyone on both sides of the argument appears blindly ignorant of one massive factor.

It’s not that the child in question is writing a diary at the tender age of 8, which in itself is quite wonderful and remarkable.

The vital insight the expert and parents all ignore is the very distinct possibility that what their children write in their diaries might not represent the absolute truth.

Quite apart from the fact that they’d have to decode the inner monologue of a pre-pubescent, it would be foolish in the extreme to decide that these private words, written on a hidden page, express anything that might resemble reality.

Any child of 8 taking pen to paper has my undying respect. This boy has discovered very early what solace can be found in scribbling.

My diaries started unofficially around 12 or 13, in no way coincidentally arriving the same time as puberty.

As my bits changed size and shape and hormones started racing around my system, I started slapping down atrocious poems, pure wails of angst and confusion, lacking only rhythm and rhyme, originality and substance.

By the time I was fifteen a torrent of testosterone and several other hormones had turned me into a walking sulking bag of boiling blood, powered by a cocktail of primal urges, ignorance and complete inexperience.

January 1st 1975 was the date I officially started my diary. Every single night before sleep for the next six years I wrote and filled a full day’s segment.

Somewhere along my peripatetic life’s journey 1976 has gone missing, but I still have all the others, including the half-filled final effort.

By that time I was 21 and no longer needed that kind of diary. If I wanted to purge my confusion and express my desires I could write fiction.

There was no point in blending fiction into my journal, but try telling that to me as a teenager. Massive insecurities and an overactive imagination filled five volumes, which I have now here in front of me, opened at this week in 1975, 77, 78, 79 and 80.

A glance over these pages confirms my worst suspicions. If that 8 year-old boy is anything like I was, his parents would be well advised to stay far away from their son’s diary.

There are some truths scattered sparingly over the years, but also there are glaring and often quite ridiculous lies.

Well, let’s not call them lies. This was written by me for me. I wasn’t trying to fool anyone, not even my sad and dejected teenage self, because even then I knew better.

Didn’t stop me though. Any woman I met in passing got a mention, regardless of whether she was an optician fitting my glasses, a girl I had a single dance with at a disco or the stranger I sat next to on the bus back from school.

All encounters were reinterpreted as either flirtations, potential relationships or major sexual encounters that absolutely never happened.

If my parents had read and believed my diaries, they’d have thought I was an adolescent sex god.

More importantly, I can see entries here which would deeply upset and trouble any parent or child psychologist.

Thing is though, I was a teenager, so if you look at Tuesday I want to kill myself, what’s the point, I hate life and everybody else. Nobody understands me, so why not finish it all off?

Then on Saturday I’m partying with people I describe as the best friends anybody could ever wish for.

If you’re concerned, ask your children questions. If they don’t answer, leave it a few days and ask them again, saying that you're simply concerned, that’s all, and if they ever want to talk about anything, you’re always available.

Afford your children the same level of respect you expect from them. As parents you set the rules and the standards of trust. If you’ve already breached those borders, do me a favour.

Don’t believe a word you read.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 18 November 2018


 Andrew steps out to escape the stink...

There is no finer way to start a day than to wake laughing, which this morning I did for the first time in many years.

A prolific dreamer, I enjoy or endure three every night. For the last few months my dreams have been tamed by the medication I’m on, which emphatically delivers me into deep sleep.

I think those pills have been keeping my nightmares at bay, and last night I dreamed about something that actually happened, which I’ve never done before.

The reason I woke up smiling was because, while I was asleep, I’d spent some time with my friend Andrew, who I haven’t seen for years.

We first met decades ago, in the early morning queue outside the Mad Dog In The Fog, an Irish/English pub in San Francisco’s Lower Haight. 

England were playing Holland in Euro 96, and although Andrew is of Scottish descent, he’s a lover of the Beautiful Game and allergic to neither the craic nor (back in those days) the odd pint or five.

Tall and thin with bright white hair, piercing blue eyes, strong cheekbones and a chin to match, Andrew is a warm charismatic man. Raised in Clapham, he has a cockney accent that makes Del Boy sound like an imposter, and better yet, he’s an old school Chelsea fan.

Must confess that when I first heard his hardcore accent, I imagined Andrew to be working class through and through, so when after the match we went back to his gaff, I was shocked to find myself in a mansion in the city’s fashionable Marina district.

“Blimey! So what do you do for a living then, mate?”

“I’m the Senior Vice President of a marine insurance company, Charlie.”

Oh god, what a prejudiced fool I can be!

Let’s blame the English class system and move on to several years later, when I was living near the wonderful village of Killala, Co. Mayo.

Andrew called to say he was flying from California to Dublin for his friend Deirdre’s wedding.

I’d met her over there, and was delighted to be invited too. Then Andrew told me he’d booked us both into the Shelbourne Hotel the night before the nuptials, his treat. 

We’d have a friends’ reunion, a lad’s night out and from where I was standing, in my wellies, in a muddy puddle in a farmyard, it all sounded very exciting; very grand and posh altogether.


Right - time to get cracking. I needed to turn myself and my car into respectable beasts. Living alone in the countryside I let my standards slip quite considerably. 

My house will be clean, but my clothes might not. I mean really, what’s the point of putting on a clean sweatshirt when you know that nobody is coming to your house?

Last night’s dream started with me packing my suitcase for a five star hotel and wedding. The all-purpose grey suit was still in its dry cleaning cellophane, so that’d be fine for the wedding, and a pair of chinos and an ironed shirt for the Shelbourne bar.

Perfect, but before I set off I needed to clean my car, Betsy the Blue Bubble.

Opposite my house was the Cooperative’s creamery, outside which lay a massive hose, with a girth of several inches. I drove over there and let Betsy have it, blasting her paintwork with a high pressure flood.

Then I chamois leathered her dry and she was sparkling, ready to escort us from our grand hotel to the wedding. 

Setting off I felt thrilled at the prospect of seeing my mate and having a couple of days craic in a completely different world to my solitary rural existence.

As I passed Longford I started to smell something. They must be spreading slurry, I thought to myself, but the smell gradually became a noxious overwhelming reek, even as I entered the urban Dublin area.

Winding down the windows I gasped lungfulls of fresh air, as I realised with horror that this inescapable unmistakeable stink of animal shit was coming not from far away, but right underneath my feet.

Evidently, as I’d pootled the backroads of north Mayo, Betsy had picked up a carpet of dung on her underside. The power shower I’d delivered earlier served only to dampen it, and now it was delivering its revenge,

I tried my best to deter the valet parker outside the Shelbourne. Honestly mate, I’ll park her myself, you just show me where, but no, he insisted.

I turned away rather than see his face grimace in shock.

Poor sod. Seriously, it was hard to breathe in Betsy without gagging.

I said nothing to Andrew about Betsy’s aroma, hoping that the wretched stench might dissipate overnight.

Sadly no. Standing outside the hotel in our wedding finery the next morning, I saw the valet parker was holding his breath and screwing up his face as he returned my car.

Time to come clean about the pooh. Andrew was unimpressed, justifiably worried that he’d stink like the backside of a friendly Friesian all day, but we did manage a laugh.

Well, you have to, so we did, uproariously, and that’s why I awoke with a chuckle on my breath: I’d relived that whole episode, enjoyed Andrew’s company all over again and started the day in the best possible way.

(Then I received an email that left that smile on my face all day. Each year at this time a loving and lovely daughter informs me of her mother’s birthday. A loyal colyoomista for many years, the very wonderful Catherine Wade recently celebrated her 95th birthday. It is my absolute pleasure to wish her many more, and thank her for all the years she has read my blather.)

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 11 November 2018


It’s taken me a few weeks to calm down, but I need to write this.

One of the reasons I love living in the West of Ireland is that here I feel far from the madding modern world; distant from wars and Trump’s ragings.

Now that feeling is gone.
Now we are vulnerable.

Despite all the discrimination the Irish have suffered, this country has no Hate Crime legislation. Growing up in England, I saw a generation of racists being arrested and jailed.

Recently this newspaper’s Dara Bradley quoted a senior Galway garda saying: “…racism and racially motivated incidents are not a major problem in Galway.”

Sorry, but that’s not for you to say.

Believe me, when you’re the victim of racial abuse, be it physical, psychological or political, it feels like a major problem.

Today young African footballers are being abused by visiting players and staff on Galway pitches. The Agency for Fundamental Rights ranks Ireland third worst out of 12 EU states for harassment of people of African background.

The reason that Garda have to say what they do is because they have no legal need to collect data about racist incidents.

The fact that reports of racist incidents appear low does not reflect a lack of racist incidents. There’s no incentive for victims to report Hate Crime.

Victims don’t go to the cops if they know there’s nothing the cops can do.

Instead they end up feeling even more powerless and unwelcome in this country.

Around the world, from Turkey to Brazil, the Philippines to the USA and all over Europe people are voting for right-wing extremists.

Surely we’re safe here though? If populism came to Ireland, what form could it take?

No fan of conspiracy theories, I have to accept that the online forces of alt-right have successfully influenced many recent elections around the world.

As we saw during the abortion referendum, they have for some time been slavering for a wound through which they might access Irish politics. Time after time they failed to permeate the arcane crust around Ireland’s unfathomable party political system.

Then an attention-seeking businessman slashed a gash into our decency, enabling the forces of alt-right to flood in.

Irish politics changed forever.

Pouncing on the dragon’s venomous tongue, alt-right finally breached these shores. Users of online forum 4chain left a barrage of anonymous comments praising Casey for attacking Travellers and saying that Jewish people “basically live in the White House”.

Fake twitter accounts were created to promote Casey, whose image was then mocked up as the quintessential alt-right symbol, Pepe the Frog.

Casey doesn’t care that his online supporters are dangerous people. When asked during the Virgin Media debate if he’d run a divisive campaign, his glib response was:

“I’ve been shooting up the polls all week!”

Take a look at his language:

“…people from Africa, people from India, people from all different continents, they are different ethnic status. The people in the Travelling community are not. They are as Irish as you and me.”

If ‘they’ are exactly the same as ‘us’ then why refer to them as ‘they’?

Casey’s racist rhetoric simply makes no sense.

Travellers are different. They are no more ‘us’ than you are Jewish like me, yet all of us - Travellers, Africans, Asians, even Jewish Englishmen - are equally Irish.

Last year I picked up my citizenship certificate and applied for my first Irish passport. Nobody asked about my ethnicity.

I’m no less Irish than you.

Of course Casey’s remarks won votes. We laughed when Brendan Gleeson’s character in The Guard declared: “I’m Irish, sure, racism’s part of my culture!” because it’s true.

This country has a massive way to go to alter its attitudes, as proved by Casey’s rapidly swollen voter base

When Galway Bay FM’s Keith Finnegan debated Casey’s remarks on his show, he said he’d never seen such a vast amount of texts of support for a man simply expressing a point of view.

Overreacting because of my ethnicity, I sent a text suggesting that there were also a lot of people showing support at the Nuremberg Rallies, where Hitler was just a man expressing his point of view.

They call it populist because it’s popular. If the public had their way we’d have public lynchings. That’s why we make laws: to control the angry mob, attain justice and protect the vulnerable.

Casey retreated to “I’m not a racist” but he doesn’t decide that. Along with many other Irish people, he clearly struggles to understand that only your victim decides if you are a racist.

If you abuse people using different words to the ones with which you abuse your friends or family, or display aggressive attitudes and behaviours towards a group you identify as different, then you are a racist.

If those people or groups feel they’ve been abused for being what they are, then they are victims of racism.

Irish people need to stop judging themselves innocent of racism. This country needs Hate Crime legislation, defined by abuse of race, religion, sexuality or disability, so that victims are protected by law.

In the meantime we need to acknowledge that racism is a problem here.

If you’re a victim or referred to as ‘them’ you already know.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 4 November 2018


It’s that utterly soul-destroying moment when you’ve far to go, yet find yourself stuck behind a car that brakes as each car passes on the other side of the road.

I learned to drive in London and find the roads of the west of Ireland a doddle, so I’ve little reason to road rage. Oh, except for those drivers who take three years to turn right into their own driveway: they do it to me every time.

This slamming on the brakes whenever a car passes stuff is only acceptable from overseas drivers, who’ve never seen Irish roads. This guy in front of me in his silver hatchback is evidently a tourist, but he's also a Dub, who's only now found reason to venture west of the Shannon.

“It’s a bloody main road!” I scream out loud alone, safe in my private metal shell. “There’s bloody white lines for gods sake. Think this is narrow, idiot? Oh hooooooo hoh! Just wait!”

Purposefully ignoring the way all us other drivers are not at all dead, or intent on driving into each others’ cars, yer man admirably concentrates on keeping his two kids and wife alive as long as possible.

If this was America he could get nicked. Slow driving is incredibly dangerous and recognised as a crime over there.

Yeh but I’ll get there and all is good. 

Slow down Adley.

The day before last weekend’s Bank Holiday I packed Blue Bag and catapulted myself far away.

That was the essence of my cunning plan. Go as far as you can as quickly as you can and then creep closer to Galway.

Another kingdom, my friend Angel’s home in Kerry offers me sanctuary, peace and serenity, tea and talk.

Inbetween long comfortable silences, borne by years of friendship, I’m ranting and he’s listening.

That’s the way it is today.
More tea?

Angel may not see it any more as he has lived here for years, but outside my friend’s windows I look down from high clifftop to the mighty Atlantic, as it slams into defiant black rocks below.

Straight ahead from our perch my eyes blur into Kerry’s magical coastal swirls, spikes and isles.

I love falling asleep in his mobile. It’s a different kind of silence to the one I enjoy at home. My silence is the wind playing violin on my home’s rooftop or the smash of hailstones crashing onto my bedroom windows.

Natural phenomena do not affect my slumber. I’lI sleep through all of that - in truth I love it!-  but if there’s the slightest artificial sound, a motorbike somewhere in the townland, alpha male kicks in and I’m awake.

Laying on Angel’s fold-out spare bed I revel in the sound of rain on the roof, a troupe of metallic pigmies tap dancing on my head. The waves crashing on the rocks below soothe me and I’m off away for a good eight hours.

Next morning I drive past a place in Dingle called ‘Dolphin Booking Office’.
Is that the place where dolphins go to book a swim with humans?

Round the seemingly endless bends from Dingle to Tralee, where jaw-dropping views remain unseen as it’s eyes on the road territory, if you want to avoid the approaching oblivious coaches.

Then north to Tarbert for a pub, to read the paper and relax, anonymous in public.
That night I spend in splendid isolation at Castle View House on Carrig Island.

Friendly and attentive, Patricia and Garrett Dee run this charming gentle B&B, and with no pubs nearby and no licence to sell alcohol, it’s not for everybody. 

Tonight it’s exactly what I want: peace and quiet.
Nobody wants or needs me.

Outside my bedroom window there is a castle.
Time to stare at the river and sky for a few hours.

Over dinner Garrett talks gently of a lifetime’s work spent hosting. He is such an amiable man. If I had to host tourists for that long, well, let’s just say that’s why he runs the place and I’m his guest.

Tonight peace.
Tomorrow north for Bank Holiday by the sea in Kilkee.

First though a gloriously sunny Saturday to pass, challenged only by a freezing your bits off northerly gale.

Just before Loop Head I stop and fortify myself with excellent coffee and scrummy blackberry and apple pie in Kilbaha Gallery. Garrett had recommended the place.

You listen to the locals.
That’s the way it works.

 The sign in the cafĂ© loo says "Smile! You're in West Clare!" and I do because I love West Clare. People are as their stone. I feel most at home with the granite people of Yorkshire and Connemara. If they offer you a handshake or a barstool you're worth it; you've earned it.

The gentle limestone souls of Clare with their easy smiles are so different. They feel to me today as welcome as they are welcoming.

When passing cars on the backroads of Clare, the single finger raised from the steering wheel in greeting will not suffice. Here only the fully-lifted open palm, accompanied by beaming smile will do.

By nature I'm a bit of a minimalist, happy to acknowledge another's existence by looking across and lifting a fingertip. I love this intensely human rural Irish behaviour, but it causes me no end of strife in London, where it takes me 48 hours to stop scaring the locals.

Loop Head Lighthouse is absolutely splendid. Steve the guide has no end of information - really, no end! - and then, out on the top platform, pinned back by the gale, I gaze out to the pancake cliffs and Loop Head itself.

The Bay View in Kilkee lives up to its name, giving this space cadet the perfect room: a tiny bay window with a chair, one way looking out to the beach and crashing waves, the other to distant sheep-terraced green hills 

Just what this scribbler needs while life is in chaotic flux: friendship, solitude and tonight, if I feel up to it, a wee smidgeon of craic in Kilkee, ready for home tomorrow.

©Charlie Adley