Sunday, 3 March 2019


What foul modern skulduggery is this?

I enter the hotel room to find myself confronted by a miniature model of an alien spacecraft.

This sleek chrome and black construction is nothing more than one of those pod coffee machines that millions use every day, all over the world, but to this ageing scribbler, it presents two challenges.

First I’ll have to suss out how to use the damn thing, while also trying not to feel like that old bloke on social media, filmed trying to start his hoover by repeatedly yanking the electric lead, thinking it worked like a lawnmower.

I laughed my socks off watching him, but now I’m the no fool like an old fool; incompetent; worthy of mockery.

Paranoid and thirsty, I try to make a cup of tea.

Alongside the rows of multi-coloured sachets of fancy shmancy coffees on the tray below sits a pile of teabags on strings in packets.

Surely they’d not be so cruel as to taunt me, were a cuppa not possible?

How hard can it be?

Take off this plastic jug on the back and fill it with water. It doesn’t really click back in place quite right, but it’ll do, I hope.

Now take the teabag and what? Put it into the mug, Adley. Keep it simple. Then place the mug on the little metal platform and just run hot water into it.

At the back I find the power button and the machine comes alive. An under-lit glow of 90s Nightclub Blue appears, while in front of me three flashing white lights offer a tiny, a medium and a big cup.

How big is their big cup?
Is that bigger than this mug?
Is there now a universal size of coffee?

A Grandee Tallee Muchico, or somesuch?

Will the water overflow the mug?

I press the big cup light and nothing happens. All lights continue to flash.

Okay, so maybe it’s waiting for something to be put in its slot.

I slide the teabag inside where the coffee sachets are meant to go and press the mug button again.

Nothing happens, but then I notice a swivel handle that runs around the outside of the machine. It lifts from the back, just like a detonator handle in a cartoon.

I raise it over the whole machine until it rests flat, facing me.

All of a sudden lights stop flashing, the big mug light stays on, and water begins to hiss and gurgle at what sounds like great pressure.

I look at the coffee sachets below, thinking how robust they look, compared to a teabag.

Oh bugger! What have I done?

That teabag’s going to get mashed to a papery meshy stringy pulp and no, ye eedjit, of course you don’t put teabags in there!

With imaginary Star Trek emergency klaxons ringing in my ears, my mind cries ‘Abort! Abort!’

Switching off the machine, I reach to save the teabag, which promptly drops down and disappears into the machine itself, apparently lost forever.

Damn and blast and how do I get that out now?

Down on my knees I search for an opening but find none, and then realise the sachets must drop somewhere. The teabag has simply fallen down to the place of dead sachets.

‘That’s a relief!’ I think, slumping onto the edge of the bed, contemplating the ecological disaster caused by used coffee pods.

3g of coffee comes in roughly 2g of packaging, each taking between 150-500 years to break down, dumped several million times, every single day.

This catastrophe of consumerism ruins my walks, where I see the detritus of life left everywhere.

Every five steps there’ll be a can or bottle thrown from a car, while the ditches below are swamped with split bags of domestic waste.

I’m lucky to have the time and space to sort my rubbish and recycling, because bin trucks will not come here. I pay 6 quid for each bin bag and €3.50 for a ticket for recycling, and then drive 20km to the Civic Amenity and 20km back.

Driving with a carload of month-old crap is, well, smelly, and I resent having to pay to recycle.

Where’s the incentive?
Well, apart from the Polar Bears and our own mass extinction.

Yeh, I know.

What I resent even more are the dilemmas modern society forces upon us.

Some questions should never be asked. Galwegians are presently gripped by an immoral dilemma: should we care for our dying or the environment?

If this is the answer we seek, we are asking the wrong question.

Watching RTE 6.1 news I find myself torn, both morally and personally, because Galway is still a community.

I’ve known Caroline Stanley, of Friends of Merlin Woods, ever since I arrived here in 1992. She was my first next door neighbour, and now makes clear that their fight is not against the Hospice, but for the environment.

Speaking on behalf of the Hospice, there’s Keith Finnegan, who recently showed me private kindness, while my Craft of Writing Course students enjoy the opportunity to read on his show.

I flinch when others pour scorn on birds and butterflies. I know we need bees and biodiversity to survive, and equally I love the Galway Hospice and respect everyone who works there.

I refuse to make this choice between life and death.

Anyway all I want right now is a cup of tea

One last attempt: put the bag in the mug, hit the power, lower the mad handle, lights flash and hey, happy days, here comes hot water!

Hours later I notice a plastic strip card right above the coffee machine. “Six Tips To The Perfect Cup Of Coffee!” it says, with six photos for idiots like me.

Okay, I’m not an old fool.

I’m just a regular everyday fool, who looks but does not see.

©Charlie Adley


Renato Zanette said...

Hello Charlie.
You finished your editorial with "I’m just a regular everyday fool, who looks but does not see."
Then, below your name you added the date: "03.04.2019" that is April...
Was it especially to test the readers' attention?
Sorry for my English not so good.

Thank you.

Renato Zanette
Treviso - Italy

Charlie Adley said...

That is so funny, Renato. At least I'm a man of my word, who looks but doesn't see. It was a simple yet important error. I wish I was as witty and intelligent as you suspected!