Sunday 28 July 2019



Emerging from the darkness of Jury’s Car Park, my face is misted with moist Atlantic air. Under grey skies I walk the morning streets of the city.

Like the tangy whiff of milk you decide has one day left, I’m a little bit off today, frowning, slightly daunted by the amount of tasks I have to cross off my list.

I chat for a while to the lass in the Spar on Mainguard Street. She’s sharp and witty and takes my brainbox up a gear or two. 

As I step out of the shop my body is instantly draped in a coat of wetness: soft day, as the locals would have it.

Taking a moment to stand still and stare, I watch and appreciate. Despite the blanket damp and melancholy ashen hue, most people on these streets of Galway are smiling.

Many seem to have time to stop and chat, in twos and threes; being human; enjoying some gentle craic; a little slagging; a dollop of gossip.

Emma O’Sullivan is dancing outside Evergreen at Johnny Massacre corner, and much as I admire her skill and artistry, I prefer to watch the tourists in her crowd, utterly thrilled to be presented with Sean-Nós dancing in the street.

Former All-Ireland champion, Emma is suddenly joined by a pair of 4 year-old twin girls, who run from their parents, and twirl and bump into each other, dancing as only 4 year-olds can.

I slip on that ‘local person with things to do’ expression (you know the one, I’m sure you do!), stride past the dancer and head towards Griffins.

Walking through the door I realise that my frown has been replaced by a wide-eyed smile, which is mirrored by the lass behind the counter.

We chat as I sort my weekly bread, and then I ease up towards Eyre Square, delighted to be living in Connacht.

Jobs all done, I head back down to Quay Street, where over coffee in the bar myself and Keith talk a little football with an Aston Villa fan from Milwaukee.

Then Kevin says something from behind the bar. I don’t hear it, but everyone else roars with laughter.

I know better than to ask anyone to repeat it, as the moment was then, so I say my goodbyes and step out, with the spring in my step accompanied by the sound of fading chuckles.

The rain has cleared and as is the way, in equal inverse proportion, Quay Street is mobbed.

Time for a little otherworldliness, so it’s up the wooden stairs for Sheridan's wine bar, above the legendary cheesemonger’s shop.

Over a tiny sip of something cold and dry I chat with Gerry about times past, and then dive into Buskers for an hour of solitude, privacy and peace in a big comfy chair.

A pot of tea, a scone and a newspaper, with a friend due, but not for an hour.

Ignoring the news I watch Cross Street TV unfold live, through the window.

People out there are still smiling.
I’m still smiling.
Galway makes us smile.

This year’s Galway International Arts Festival had energy pumping through the streets, locals excited by installations and a buzz reminiscent of older days.

There were smiles aplenty, built on a foundation that feels happy with its lot.

Life in Galway City and County can feel pretty tough, yet despite the weather, the fly tipping and the housing crisis, most of us would not choose to move.

Yes, complaining and moaning are a way of life, but I see the smiles on the street and hear the laughter on the buses.

Add to that innate happiness the broad rainbow of Galway’s artistic talent, and it’s no coincidence that such a great festival was born here.

Watching Macnas parades imprinted wonder on my soul. My first Arts Festival in 1993 had the Noah’s Ark parade, which was wholly splendiferous.

Jets of water shot out from God’s fingers. There was madness and joy, the air thick with exuberance

Years later, in 2000, I felt that same thrill all over again. Standing on a balcony opposite Jury’s, I had an incredible view of the parade as it emerged from Merchant’s Road.

It was impossible not to be infected by the happiness all around. Macnas produced an explosion of vitality and colour, led by the inimitable Little John Nee, working the crowd, getting us all giggling and excited.

Who was the guy in the marathon outfit, and the fat fella with the suitcases?

What was the story with the bride with the beard?

A gigantic cycloptic Phil Lynott drifted by, accompanied by inexplicable wobbly inflated heads.

Drums kerthrummped, brass bands broohaaahed, and children dressed in shimmering blue silk dresses danced on stilts.

Towering vacillating forty-foot people stamped immigration papers that sprayed water. 

A dancing caterpillar wiggled its ass as well as any Chinese Dragon.

I remember how deeply beautiful it all looked, just as I recall the local woman’s shout that came from behind me:

“Sure, who needs Rio de Janeiro when you have Galway City!?!”

Thoughts of months of rain and wind and damp spores on bedroom walls drifted into my mind and out the other side.

I could completely ignore the utter absurdity of her question, because I was drowning in the euphoria of the day.

Hell yeh, Galway is the perfect place for festivals, so it’s just as well we have 4,765 different ones every year.

However, to fully understand Galway, look away from the structured happiness. 

From Cleggan to Kilconnel, Knocknacarra to Doughiska, the place’s true forte is something incredibly simple, essential and good for us all: Galway makes us smile.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 21 July 2019


Friendly young Mr. Musculoskeletal Triage is talking me through me the X-Ray of my knee on his computer.

He highlights and enlarges different sections, telling me how those spurs are signs of wear, and that those tiny spheres, floating loose in the middle, have been there a long while, as they’re all rounded.

“I’ve seen a lot worse knees!” he declares, to which I respond: “Hurrah!”

He goes off and leaves me in his room.

I sit there and think how incredibly lucky I am to have access to this level of free care.

I’ve travelled a fair bit, and seen people in developing countries who will never have a doctor. Even in First World America, it wasn’t until I found full time employment that I had a doctor and a dentist.

That felt so weird to this European. I was working as a temp in San Francisco, paying my taxes and the rent, yet when I needed medical attention I had to go down to the City Clinic, which was at that time a crazy cocktail of a drunk tank, A&E and homeless shelter.

The staff were friendly and did a great job, but the care and time they could allocate was tiny compared to the way I’ve been treated in recent weeks.

With achingly long waiting lists, patients stuck on trolleys and cancer screening debacles, there’s much wrong with Ireland’s Health Service, but there’s a hell of a lot right about it too.

People just don’t work those hours for that pay unless they are dedicated and vocational.

As it happens, my knee is as good today as it has been for months. I figure you have to take responsibility for your own health, and even though I’ve been a walker my whole life, I’ve had to switch to cycling.

Exercising outside gives my spirit and mood a vital boost. I don’t make myself sweat every day, l find my arms resting on my belly when I sit in my armchair.

Over the winter I allowed myself alarming levels of comfort eating. I grew huge, and being an absolute prat who doesn’t practice what he preaches, I continued to ignore the crushing pain in my legs.

Sciatic symptoms down the left; inflammation of the knee in the right.

Having a high pain threshold is a pain in the backside (arf!) because if you’re an idiot like me, it becomes easy to accept a life of severe discomfort.

Ah, stuff that: agony.

Sat still or striding, my legs were hurting for months. Well-meaning friends suggested mantras to release pent up emotions, while others insisted that the doctor was the way to go.

I feel sorry for them (my legs, not my friends, although now I mention it, I wonder!) as they’ve the horrific and unenviable job of holding me up, in all my voluminous wonder.

Around April I started to take anti-inflammatories on a regular basis and then sat down and had a stern chat with myself.

Walking means impact, and the golf ball sized swelling that had taken up residence on my knee was my body’s visible protest against it.

Changing my ways felt hard. I’m not built for speed. While others ran, I walked. I walked and walked and loved it, and walked and walked some more.

No more.

Wheeling my old bike out the shed, I got busy with the WD-40, inflated the tyres and climbed on board.

Gradually I built up my morning ride until now, even though I’m home in 30 minutes, I’m sweating and gasping (oh you sexy beast!) but not hurting.

My new GP sent me off to Roscommon for an X-Ray of the knee. No appointment, just a letter from the doc and easy peasy Batman, I was in and out in 20 minutes.

Yesterday I had the appointment at Mayo General, and when Mr. Musculoskeletal said he was sending me for X-Ray, I told him I’d already had that done.

“Ah, but y’see, we can’t access the Roscommon X-rays here.”

At that point I could’ve gone off on one, asking what the hell had I driven all the way to Roscommon for, if they couldn’t send the bloomin’ things to his computer?

Instead I figured the way it probably worked was that the Roscommon X-rays went to my doctor, as she sent me there, and then she referred me to this hospital.

Even though it’s simply plain wrong that they can’t all see the same X-Rays, I shut up and went off for new X-Rays and 10 minutes later was looking at them on his computer.

I already knew that my knee wasn’t going to get better. Once you pass the age of 50, you no longer get an injury from which you’ll recover: you acquire a condition that you have to manage.

‘Keep on keepin’ on!’ seemed to be Mr. Musculoskeletal’s advice. Mix a bit of walking in with the cycling, and stay pain free.

I’d been seen by a GP, two X-Ray departments and an expert in bones. Everyone had been exceptionally kind, and I had paid nothing, save for my tax contribution.

Access to free healthcare is described as a basic human right, partly because when you experience it, you feel more human.

All those people, their expertise and equipment were available to me. I must be worth it.

Mind you, there’s two physical phenomena no medical expert will ever cure.

The sounds of this man standing up:

The intake of breath grunt “Grufff!”

The rising “Ohhhhh!”

The arm-stretching “Eeeeeearrrghhhh!”

The steady on the feet there, Adley “Phoo-woawoawoohhh!”

Then, after the day is done, and alarmingly similar to the noise my late father used to make, the sound of a middle-aged man sitting in his chair:


©Charlie Adley

Sunday 14 July 2019


Happy Birthday Allan!

My friend, a previous editor of this newspaper, has done a runner. Up on stage in a packed arena, I’ve given him a high fallutin’ tootin’ introduction, but just as he would in real life, he’s shunned the massive crowd and had it on his legs.

Enter stage left Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, who come over to tell me that it’s all right, really. Everything’s okay.

I wake up and wonder at the inside of my brainbox. Three times every night it delivers crazy vivid dreams.

I’ve slept eight hours, so why do I feel so tired?

What’s happening today? I’m off into Galway to see friends, and for once I don’t have a big list of stuff to do.

Just drive in and have a laugh. That’d normally put a smile on my face, but I’m feeling all fuggy. A shower and a healthy breakfast will sort that out, I tell myself, and 45 minutes later I’m in my car, Joey SX, heading south.

Why is there is a frown on my face?

Where is my usual exuberance at the prospect of hanging out on Quay Street in the sunshine?

Why do I still feel so tried?

What is this feeling that’s enveloping my being?

Ah, yes. I know it.

Hello old friend. It’s never good to see you, but after a lifetime together, I do know that my depression comes with benefits.

It’s been a long while, and considering what happened over the last year, I'm truly surprised this is the first time I’ve been visited by my black dog.

Then again, it makes perfect sense for it to come now. I don’t have any control over when depression arrives, but this timing seems more than coincidental, as this is the first period my schedule has been clear, save for the most important thing of all: my own writing.

I’ve been waiting for a reaction to all that has happened, and now here it is.   

At least this time I realised what was going on. Rather than my usual two months of denial, I woke up and two hours later I understood.

Often there’s no apparent reason for the darkness arriving, but this time it’s no mystery.

Needier than usual, I sought support over the last year, yet it sometimes felt as if others turned their backs or disappeared entirely.

My head doctor says if you have two people in your life that you can talk to and trust, then you are a lucky person. 

I have four or five times that many, and truly know I am blessed, so each hurting has been successfully counteracted by giving thanks for how lucky I am.

Throughout the last year that worked really well, but little by little a succession of personal disappointments eroded my spirit.

Enter depression.

Before you all sigh and tut “poor thing”, you must know that for me there are many positive aspects to being depressed. I suspect that this particular depression will actually be quite helpful, even though I wouldn't say I'm enjoying it.

My depression can be quite liberating, because as showers of lethargy wash over me, I know I will expect nothing from myself.

I can just abandon myself to it, because there's nothing I can do about it. Things will not get done. Lists will be ignored, and that's all fine, as usually I'm so on top of my lists and getting things done, that they're all done.

Well almost. There's always stuff to do, but now is not the time to be doing.

Freed from obligation, my emotions can flood out, uninhibited by any need for me to keep it together.

Exercise will return the day the depression leaves. Getting on my bike every other morning is my mental and physical medicine, just as exercise’s absence is the flag bearer of my darkness.

I miss it and let it go. I allow myself to let everything go while I’m like this.

Maybe by the time you read this I’ll be emerging fresh, re-invigorated, pumped full of the joyous creative torrent that accompanies my upswing.

Maybe it will last for months.

Whichever, it will pass.

Depression is an essential part of me, as much as my arm, my heart, my imagination and spirit.

Fighting it would be as senseless as cutting off my hand because I’d broken a finger.

I am in my altered state, where I feel enclosed and stifled, while the world outside my existence appears to have changed. It's as if I'm the same and everything else is different.

I don't need mending, because I am not broken. 

I don’t need reassuring. 
I don’t need to be told to hang on in there, or to cheer up.

I will be like this for however long it takes.

This is just another form of me.

My self knowledge is almost comforting, yet it isn’t. It just helps me to feel safe, because I understand what's going on.

At the moment and for the foreseeable future, I'm in my dark place.

Safe and unsound.

As I write this I’m sitting by Ballyloughane Beach on a cloudy day, staring across the calm still grey waters of Galway Bay, towards the faded pink hills of the Burren.

The scene reassures me, yet I know that while I can see the beauty, I cannot experience it.

I will be patient, and appreciate what is going on.

I don’t want to bum out your summer, or rain on your Arts Festival Parade, so I’ll stay here, in my sanctuary, where I can be exactly the way I need to be.

Thank you universe, for giving me this peace.

I’ve accepted depression, and know it will pass.

It’d be great if you could accept it too.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 7 July 2019


Summertime in Galway City slips up a gear or three next week with the arrival of the 31st  Galway Film Fleadh.

Running from Tuesday to Sunday, the festival is packed with premieres, historical treasures and masterclasses.

Hottest ticket this year is a documentary called ‘Cumar - A Galway Rhapsody.’

Created by director Aodh Ó Coiléain, a broad cocktail of local artists offer through chat and craic rare insights into the belly of the city’s artistic beast.

I’m fired up, so in honour of film, and just because I can, I’m going to hit you with some personal favourites.

This list is being created as I write.
Later I’ll wail about the movies I forgot.

Let’s start in 1954 with Elia Kazan’s ‘On the Waterfront.’ Forget petulant Johnny in ‘The Wild One’ and his mumbling mafiosi parody in ‘The Godfather’: dockworker Terry Malloy is Marlon Brando’s finest role.

Stunningly lit by cinematographer Boris Kaufman and given wings by Leonard Bernstein's score, Brando’s hero is accompanied by a phenomenal cast including Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger.

From brutal dockyard we leap into a green and rarely pleasant land, with Ang Lee’s ‘Sense and Sensibility.’

Emma Thomson spent years lovingly adapting Jane Austen’s novel into a superb Oscar-winning screenplay. 

Within the film, as Elinor Dashwood, Thompson produces a moment of acting that takes my breath away every time.

Watch it and you'll know, as well as seeing Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant play parts they were born to.

I defy you not to fall in love with Rickman’s Colonel Brandon.

From the gently insane manners of old England we move to the brutality of the asylum.

Working on a screenplay by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman, adapted from a story by Ken Kesey (you have to honour the writers!), Milos Forman created a masterpiece with ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’

A satirical allegory, a comedy, a tale of horror and cruelty, the film offers an astonishing cast of heartwarming eccentrics, as Jack Nicholson’s Randle Patrick McMurphy meets his nemesis in Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched.

Enthralling and disturbing, the film won five oscars in 1975, and its observations on our attitudes to otherness and conformity still ring terrifyingly true.

Next up comes the first of my curve balls. Pixar’s ‘Up’ took me by surprise when it popped into my head just now, but long into my 6th decade, I’m able to appreciate the wonder of today’s animation, in a way only those raised on Top Cat can.

Grumpy widower Carl ties thousands of balloons to his house in a bid to fly off to the rain forest, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a young stowaway on board who’ll heal Carl’s heart.

There are dog jokes, a comforting sense of humanity, and dreams coming true in ‘Up.’ We’re all allowed a little sentimental sugar-coating every now and then.

Enough with the nice, already.
Enter Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’.

Others might choose Mean Streets, Raging Bull or Taxi Driver, but this is the movie that delivers it all.

Marty’s in his prime, De Niro is born to play Jimmy, Joe Pesci’s entire career is defined by one scene in this film, while Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill is the portal to our world, where people like this really exist.

Better still, Hill’s voiceover is replaced by his Jewish girlfriend Karen, played by Lorraine Bracco. She went on to become Tony Soprano’s therapist Dr. Melfi, and in this essentially macho world, it’s great to hear a woman’s perspective.

My pulse races just thinking about it.

Time to relax then, with a gently whimsical curve ball, in the shape of Percy Adlon’s ‘Baghdad Café.’

Flawed and in the end a tad cringey, this gorgeously oddball film shows the relationships that develop when German tourist Jasmin Munchgstettner (Marianne Sägebrecht) accidentally ends up at the Baghdad Café, a truck-stop diner/motel in the middle of the Southwest American desert.

Atmospheric, weird and wonderful, we’ve a boomerang, a piano and magic tricks, while Jack Palance puts in a tremendous turn as Jasmin’s suitor, and CCH Pounder plays a blinder as Brenda, the owner trying to keep the place together. Gradually the two women form a strong bond, and life feels just a little better.

From fluffy duvet filler to bloodstained cars. It’s time for Travolta and Thurman to get on down in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction.’ Through labyrinthine time-twisting story threads we follow Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth as they generally get up to no good.

Harvey Keitel pops in to save the day and Ving Rhames chills the blood, and oh, let’s not forget that watch and Christopher Walken’s backside: Tarantino at the height of his powers.

The reels nearly empty, yet I haven’t had time to wax lyrical about ‘Man On Wire’, James Marsh’s Oscar-winning utterly inspirational documentary about egocentric hero Philippe Petit, who in 1974 defied the law (and common sense) to realise his life’s dream of walking a tightrope across New York’s Twin Towers.

I wanted to wonder whether Francs McDormand outdid her blistering performance in the Coen Brothers ‘Fargo’ with her imperious turn, years later, in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.’

No space to explore opening sequences, like Woody Allen’s jaw-dropping monochrome Gershwin adoration in ‘Manhattan’, and Ry Cooder’s guitar following Harry Dean Stanton’s Travis as he emerges from the desert, at the start of Wim Wenders heart-wrenching ‘Paris, Texas’.

That’s a wrap. 

I love film.

©Charlie Adley