Sunday 29 September 2019


The hamster on my roof can’t run fast enough to stream Netflix, so I sold my soul to Rupert Murdoch, for a Sky satellite dish.

Thanks to the wizardry of digital tele, I’m almost completely protected from ads, by recording everything and whizzing through.

Between 6 and 8 my TV world goes mental, as I record the BBC 6 o’clock, RTE 6.1 and Channel 4 News, fascinated to see how the Irish reports differ from the UK versions.

Relax: I’m not suggesting you become sad news nerds like myself. I’m just revelling in the wonders of modern viewing.

I know the tech I’m using is considered pure ancient these days, yet truly could not give a damn, as it meets my needs.

Also, thanks to my limited amount of channels, I’m not feeling crushed by the tyranny of choice, like many millennials.

As Apple and Disney move to join Amazon and Netflix in the world of flush  platforms, younger viewers are changing their habits.

Light years from water-cooler moments, their choice is so vast they can’t see the point of watching a show, in case nobody else is. 

Their chances of sharing their views and experience on social media is rapidly vanishing.

My age group are adopting the ways relinquished by those millennials. Last year the number of over-55s who regularly watched several episodes of a series in one night almost doubled.

I’m not surprised the viewing patterns of young ones have become scattered and splattered all over the shop. Given their attention spans, I felt deeply impressed by their binge watching capabilities.

After the invention of the TV remote control and the arrival of multi-channel TV, teenage attention spans shrank to under 3 minutes. 

Writers on soap operas started to insert viewer reminders and recaps into their scripts, to make allowances for an audience who had, in all likelihood, turned over and come back again.

As the model of an upstanding submissive citizen you know me to be, my behaviour has slotted neatly into what my age group is meant to do: I started binge watching, and now understand why it’s so beguiling.

Story arcs and writing rhythms are now designed to be best enjoyed in quick successive episodes. Waiting a week is totally last century.

Then, almost as bereft as when I finish a good book, my series is gone and I look to see what I’ve taped while I’ve been off in the world of Succession, Billions or The West Wing (natch!).

I used to like watching Bear Grylls’ Island series. There was something vaguely fascinating, on an almost anthropological level, about watching a bunch of Brits dumped into the wilderness. Class and bigotry always came to the fore, and it was all quite fun.

Yet evidently some genius thought the program lacked something, so now they've turned it into a bloody gameshow, with boxes of money stashed around the island.

Oh for God’s sake. 

How could survival not be enough?

No, can’t watch that. It’d be too kind to say “gilding the lily” because the original program wasn’t a lily, and it’s only grown worse.

What about that ‘High Society’ I taped from Channel 4? Bunch of people who’ve never smoked weed go to a café in Amsterdam to see if they like it.

Could be a giggle.

Indeed, it might have been, had the participants not been instructed to go one stage further. 

Rather than just seeing how marijuana might affect them in a safe and controlled environment, the program makers insisted they include a life-changing talk during their experience.

This lovely bloke from the Midlands is coughing up his guts, as he pulls on a pure grass joint.

He’s getting absolutely mashed for the first time in his life, completely unaware that his girlfriend is planning on having a heavy discussion with him, about their sex life and where their relationship is going, on national tele.

Oh no.
No no no.
Don’t do that.

The poor wee lad’s having a lovely time, paddling fast-flowing rivers of chocolate by blue meadows full of pink fluffy bunnies.

Why get him stoned and then force him to be serious?

Why isn’t the central premise enough? That might have been entertaining. Now it’s all back story and meaningful, the show’s just become dull.

More more more. Always they have to put on two layers of icing.

If TV tells too much, then ads say way too little. Despite my attempts to avoid them, they slip in through breaks in live sport, and even though I see so few of them, they still manage to drive me bananas.

Aer Lingus is advertising the price of a flight from Ireland to the USA. 

The voiceover says that this price is available only as part of a return flight, which means that fare doesn’t really exist; that their offer is a load of old hooey, and grrr…

Here’s an orange. You can have it for 50 cent, but that’s just the price of the peel. If you want the fruit inside, that’ll be another €1.00.

I turn off the tele to read the paper before I have a rupture.

Yet even my beloved Observer newspaper is guilty. Winning an interim DV Award for Disingenuous Bollocks it runs an ad that offers ‘Free Sports section!’ and ‘Free Review!’

That’s like saying you get a free newspaper when you buy a newspaper.
We’ve shows that offer to much truth and ads that offer too little.

Stuff the lot of ‘em.
I’m off for a walk.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 22 September 2019

I'll wear that anti-intellectual hat!

“So tell me, Charlie, why do you spend so much time talking to stupid people?”

It’s mid-1980s and I’m at a dinner party in North West London, attended by an Israeli writer and a Lebanese poet.

I’ve been holding my own in a lively discussion that revealed what I saw as the brazen intellectual snobbery around the table.

These people had tunnelled into the depths of many philosophies and climbed mountains of classic literature.

Me? Well, I’d been around the block a few times, but at that time very much enjoyed curling up in bed with a good Stephen King.

“What do you mean by ‘stupid people’?”

Iris smiled, impatient that I demanded she define what she knew I already understood. (Blimey! Just reminiscing about intellectuals can make me write sentences like that!) 

“I mean, you know, people who have not studied. People who have not read. You know, stupid people!”

“But I haven’t studied, and according to you the books I read are stupid, so what’s the difference between them and me?”

Staring at me she stretched her eyes wide open, tilting her head to the left.

“What’s the difference between you and a stupid person? Come on!”

“Yeh, exactly that. You lot sit here pontificating intellectual matters that I couldn’t care less about, and -”

- and yes, that’s why you are here, Charlie. You are the anti-intellectual.”

“Anti-intellectual? Hoh now, that’s a good one! Wish I’d had that one at school, when they told me I was stupid. Oh no, sir! You see, sir, I’m an anti-intellectual, sir, not stupid at all sir, no sir, not me, sir.”

Over the decades I’ve tried to explain to a dubious Iris that everyone has their own wisdom. Her question arose as back then I was forever quoting people who had given me lifts.

When hitchhiking you’re transplanted into a unique, intimate, one-to-one in a stranger’s car or truck. For some reason, people found it easy to talk to me, so by the time I was 25 I’d learned a tiny bit about a million things.

I knew that Kiwi sheep shearers used a five blade comb, so when their Aussie competitors claimed greater speed per fleece, you had to take their 7 blade comb into consideration.

That stuff matters in Waikato.

I knew that hardcore Labour voters from Yorkshire were secretly voting for Margaret Thatcher, even though they disagreed with everything she said and stood for, because they saw her as strong.

Was that stupid, or merely a political opinion?

I knew a little of what it was like to be the mayor of a French town; what it feels like to leave your wife because she won’t let you windsurf enough; who it was that went down to the beach near the Bay of Isles each morning, in her flowing white dress and black silk scarf, to dance barefoot on golden sands to nature’s music.

Often I moved on from a lift thinking I hadn’t agreed with that person, but never did I condemn them for being stupid.

“Anti-intellectual? Yes, of course, that’s what you are!”

“Never even heard the term before, but how very bleedin’ intellectual of you to know which hat to put on my head. And there I was happy with no hat, but hey, I’ll wear that one, as long as you stop writing people off as stupid. It’s incredibly ignorant. Makes you look stupid.”

Why this memory now?

Well, to protect myself from the dumbing down of the media, I’ve developed a new rule. Depending on your lifestyle you can call BSR either the Bar Stool Rule or the Bus Stop Rule.

BSR states that if the person on the radio or TV is spouting drivel I’d refuse to engage with at a bus stop or on a bar stool, I turn the device off.

BSR includes all vox pops, those pointless segments beloved by BBC News, where random people on the street are asked for their opinions.

I couldn’t give a monkeys that Trevor from Doncaster thinks sooner we’re out the better, or how Madge from Ebbw Vale feels the whole thing’s got out of hand.

However, if I’m dissing the views of people, have I become an intellectual snob?

No, not at all. If I want to know what people think, I’ll ask people what they think.

When I want news, I need expert analysis from someone at least aspiring to deliver informed objective truth.

The perils of intellectual snobbery are best illustrated by a lift I had in an 18 wheel rig, heading past Goole on the way to Hull.

The trucker was a gnarly middle-aged stubbly Yorkshireman, in a grey faded Pink Floyd T-shirt that failed to cover his ample beer gut.

As we hit top speed on the M62, he smiled and raised his hand.

“Don’t mind me like, see. I’m listening to t’radio.”

Robert Robinson was asking the questions on Radio 4’s Brain of Britain, a quiz show that made University Challenge look like Winning Streak.

Puffing on his Rothmans, the trucker stared straight ahead as he answered each question.

“Oh, erm, Xerxes, aye, Xerxes.”

“Fulani, Fulani, oh I know them, ah, they’re them nomadics, mostly Muslims, scattered over West Africa.”

“Ranters? Now, they’d be yer primitive Methodists, weren’t it?”

“So, now if I were in t’Splügen pass, I’d be in ’tLepontine Alps, goin’ from Lombardy to Grisons. Aye.”

“The Mystic Masseur? Oh, that’d be written by that foreign fella, VS Naipaul.”

I watched and listened in awe, wishing Iris could be there.

Why do I spend so much time talking to stupid people?

Because people aren’t stupid.
Everyone knows a lot about something.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 15 September 2019

Autumn’s fading glory brings rebirth.

Our months and seasons are not arbitrary artificial affairs, decided upon by committee and vote. They are periods of time defined by the experiences of hundreds of generations before us.

Nature doesn’t follow our calendar: it created it.

I love to sit outside, watching the seasons emerge, burst into life and then sigh, fade and die.

Elevated, surrounded by trees and fields of pasture, the ecosystem hereabouts is thriving.

Clearly it’s not pristine, as there are sheep and cattle being farmed by humans, but over the last 9 months I’ve seen an incredible diversity of plants and animals around my patch.

Every week - sometimes it feels like every day - there’s a shroud of different small flying things draped over the walls of the house, or crawling in their thousands, like a living carpet, over my car Joey SX.

My life here has improved immeasurably since the landlord cut back the huge laurel that stood at the end of the cottage.

Millions of midges disappeared from my immediate environment, leaving only the other gazillion trillion who live around the trees.

Great news for me, with a clean fresh breeze able to flow around the western gables, but disaster for the two spiders who lived in my tiny bathroom.

Even though I’m an old-fashioned arachnophobe, I’ve had to contend with spiders of all shapes and sizes on my travels, and understand that beyond irrational fear, it’s good to have them around.

There are webs inside nearly all of my windows, which I’m loathe to clean up, as they act as nature’s own midge screens.

However, a couple of weeks after the laurel was cut back, I noticed that Mr. And Mrs. Leggy were no longer lurking the corners of my loo.

With their tiny daddy longlegs bodies, they weren’t very threatening, so if they wanted to eat midges, that was fine with me.

Clearly that laurel had been the source of their food supply, and although we’re well used to hearing Sir David and young Greta remind us how fragile our ecosystems are, it was instructive to see how one act impacts another life, right here in my home.

Spring and early summer were very dry, My cornflowers grew 2 and 3 feet tall before they encountered rain. The morning after a small downpour, I found them keeled over, so I cut them for vases, and the fresh growth underneath is still flowering.

My first summer here had to be a bit of a gardening experiment. Now I have some idea of what thrives here and what merely survives.

I’ve a gaggle of friendly finches and robins, and can now see the first hint of red emerging on the young robins’ chests.

Bees loved my flowers, thrumming around all summer, while one bumble made a home in my garden bench, dumping chopped up leaves on the ground below, gradually ferrying in the vegetation as construction continued.

By their very nature, wildflowers loved it here. Nigella are coming through late, along with the French marigolds, while the nasturtiums are still bursting with energy. Rich deep purple towers of delphinium were utterly splendid, but long gone.

The sunflowers are spent, the darkness is creeping closer, and I’m curious to see how autumn happens here.

Not looking forward to the impending deluge of leaves from the splendid trees all around me, but it’ll be good exercise, raking and bagging them up for leaf mould.

Right on cue, on August 30th, my sweet peas decided summer was over.

After a wet and windy night, two of my three trellises hurled themselves to the ground, the sweet peas crushed and sprawled, still attracting butterflies and bees, but never again to stand upright and glorious.

Nature flows like a temporal river, which we then divide into months and seasons.

Change comes once more. Outside my window the Scotch Pine is bending and twisting as the cold front pushes through.

The car windows are damp in the morning, and there’s a freshness in the air that I love.

Low sunlight powers jaw-dropping radiance through distant dark clouds.

The advancing twilight bursts with bird activity. Swifts swoop and dive, feeding in lattice patterns under crimson skies.

Bats cavort over the lawn at dusk, suddenly changing direction, as if banging into invisible walls.

A pair of wood pigeons explode out of an ash tree, flying away in different directions.

Crossing from the back field to the wet meadow, here comes the fox, and oh, there’s another and another and another!


Having feasted on the prolific local bunny population, the fox cubs have grown so much it’s now difficult to tell parent from child.

Across three fields I see the ground-level grey mist of a downpour easing my way.

It’s a mistake to see autumn as an end. We Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah, our new year, in September, which makes perfect sense. 

 ...them's red berries, theyze is...

Walking the bohreens, I see hawthorn branches drooping under the weight of clusters of plump red berries, and brambles laden with bulbous blackberries.

Autumn’s fading glory brings rebirth.

As towering willow herb collapses into fluff, as the tractors bring the turf in and the heating oil trucks rumble out, I feel an exhalation of relief from the fields and hedgerows:

“Whoof! Quite a show! Well done everyone!” 

All their growth has worked. While fruit fall to the ground, while seeds fly through the air, the cycle continues: new life begins.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 9 September 2019


Governments used to govern. They used to declare a direction and aim their populace towards it.

Over the last 25 years global corporations developed economies more powerful than many nations.

Our governments could no longer govern.
They could only react.

That’s when it all went wrong.

Struck impotent by market forces, governments relied on supplying whatever these massive corporate entities needed.

You voted in election after election and it made no difference. Whoever you voted for the government got in, and whoever they were you felt ignored, disenfranchised, deserted and powerless.

Our party political paradigm is broken forever.

It’s not an attractive look, all this governmental trembling with sycophantic excitement at the prospect of investment from a foreign multinational, or twitching with fear as one pulls out for more favourable rates elsewhere.

When the Berlin Wall came down, we felt headed towards an acceptance of otherness: an appreciation of how much we can collectively and individually gain from the differences in each other.

As it turned out, Soviet communism wasn’t the only political system that took a fatal blow back then.

Having defeated its dreaded alternative, capitalism grew stronger than the countries it fed on.

If we as a species survive long enough to have historians looking back at now, they will see populations of humans running around in panic, desperately trying to feel empowered and heard, after their old system failed them.

We all like to feel strong, convinced and led. Let down by the failure of party politics, millions of unhappy people have sought refuge in distant ideological corners, huddling with others they perceive as similar, looking for meaning, safety and belonging.

With powerful government out of the picture, the alternatives are stark: either let the corporations rule, insert microchips into our brains and turn us into products, or turn to a demagogue.

I hate the word ‘populist’ as much as the execrable term ‘ethnic cleansing.’ Tyranny should not sound fun, nor genocide healthy.

Those of a rightist bent are drawn to populist charismatics, like Johnson, Trump, Le Pen and countless others handed power on fictional manifestos, because people want to believe in impossible future glories.

Others of a more lefty persuasion find reassurance in identity politics, which involves politicising your ethnicity, religion or sexuality.

Ever-expanding hordes of self-righteous moralisers have become equally as judgemental and narrow-minded as the dictators they claim to despise.

Thankfully Ireland lags behind the rest of the western world in this struggle. The ideological differences between the two major parties here is unfathomable, as yet far too enigmatic for data farming algorithms to fully dissemble.

So while we can, let’s raise our national, separatist and rainbow flags, and be proud.

Why shouldn’t we be?
Go ahead and eat only what you feel is ecologically fair and humane.
Wear the traditional clothing of your grandparents’ homeland.
Cook the dishes of our neolithic ancestors.
Ask to be referred to as he, she, it or anything you want.

I don’t care.

I don’t care where you come from or who you sleep with. Identify yourself as whatever you want, as long as nobody suffers unsolicited emotional, psychological or physical pain.

Just do me a favour and don’t go on about it.

I’m happy for you, truly I am, but I don’t seek your approval, so why seek mine? 

Be and do what you must, enjoy life, and, oh yeh, don’t try to impose on me or anyone else what we should be, say, eat or do.

I don’t care if you’re straight or fluid, black, pink, pescatarian, Sagittarius or evangelical.

I’ll see the person, not the labels.

What I do care very much about, however, is the direction identity politics is taking.

The fight against what was known in the PC prairies of Lefty Land as ‘cultural appropriation’ has now turned into a McCarthyite witch hunt, employing the weapons of thought limitation and artistic control.

Cultural appropriation was a term conceived to help protect vulnerable cultures from dilution.

Now it is now being imposed on the creative process, delivering a dogmatic rigidity in what needs to be the natural home of free thinking.

This inverted bigotry is causing hate-filled invective in the world of publishing. 

Authors who write about characters with different skin colours, or sexual orientation to their own, have their books rejected.

Publishers now employ Professional Sensitivity Readers, who will highlight anything the author has written that might upset somebody.

Writers are vilified, threatened with violence and harassed daily, if they are perceived to have crossed the cultural appropriation line.

Lost in the post party-political void, those who mock the rhetoric of the Right for its prejudice insist on imposing their values on others, by enforcing limits on creativity.

The Left needs to wake up, unshackle itself from the straightjacket of excessive protection, and remember that people need freedom of expression, not a choice between two types of dictatorship.

I saw a placard at a rally that read:

Let’s Make Orwell Fiction Again!

I don’t care who you are, how you live or describe yourself.

Just never tell me how I may use my imagination.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 1 September 2019


Who says you can't have elephants on your CV?

Watching the rain lash down outside my office window, three little words transport me to a place in my past I hadn’t thought of for yonks.

As the weather moved in this morning, I measured it silently in grades of wetness.
Wet Wet
and then Wet Wet Wet.

And that was it: the band; the interview; a time when your colyoomist lead a very different life altogether.

At 25 I was impetuous and eager with the courage of youth, free from aches and pains and unburdened by fear. I’d done the world circle and felt as immortal as I ever could, were it not for that fear of death thing.

It was the summer of Live Aid, 1985, and back home in London I needed a job, because London demands it.

I had tasted good job. At 23 I started working for a Japanese company, and experienced what life could be like, when you’re grafting hard, yeh, but being paid fairly obscene amounts of dosh to do what comes naturally.

Great money easy peasy. Soul destroying too, the utter pointlessness of it in the order of things, but it didn’t hurt in the way that bad jobs hurt.

Hoh no. Bad jobs came in many forms but all delivered deep tedium. 

Even if you really want to express your creativity, show initiative or work with the team blah, when you’re rushing around a warehouse the size of a small suburb, or unloading an endless stream of trucks, you just do the job.

Nothing wrong with trucks and warehouses. 

Good honest work, but there are few ways to shine.

I’d done a crazy amount of varied jobs, survived the tedium and invested my wages rashly.

Having tasted good job, I knew I must return there.

Sofa-surfing in London was exhausting. I needed a wage pronto, so I asked my friend, the cartoonist Martin Rowson, to inject a little magic into my CV.

He obliged with his customary flair, adding climbing vines and a benign elephant, like you do, and I printed out 20 frankly extraordinary CVs.

If they didn’t work, I’d not print any more. 

The brazen arrogance and artistic ability on view said what I intended: that I knew how to market myself, and therefore could market anything or anyone.

Colyoomistas know I can be weird, and hands up, I’ll admit it. I love interviews.

You’re all squirming, and I’m here saying bring it on.

Wasn’t always so keen on the job, which is why I work for myself, but I always found the theatrical thrill of interviews great fun.

Those CVs worked a treat, cutting through queues and application processes, straight to oak-panelled board rooms, where I enjoyed testing and brilliant interviews for jobs I’d only dreamt of.

Looking down at the Thames from the top floor of London Weekend Television Tower, being asked questions about football in a job interview, it was hard to feel things were going wrong.

LWT were pretty cutting edge 34 years ago. They wanted someone to head up their new technological marvel team, that allowed footballers’ pictures to appear on the TV screen as they were being talked about.

I fessed up that I was no technological marvel, and suggested that somebody else could do the job better. I wasn’t looking to settle for less and neither were they.

Then there was the head office of English Heritage, for a fascinating chance to work in the history of my native nation, and there was ICL, representing the cutting edge of the computer world at that time, and then there was Polygram.

That was the doozy; the best interview I ever had, and the only interview I can think of that I failed at against my will.

All I’d been told about the Polygram job was that it absolutely wasn’t being Van Morrison’s manager, nor his assistant, but somehow seemed to have elements of both.

Mostly it sounded an exceptional and thrilling challenge. I knew Van was a complex man, so I was ready to be asked about how I might deal with his foibles

What I wasn't prepared for was the barrage of quick-fire questions shooting out from the meedja haircut three man panel.

Not yer usual where do you see yourself in five years yawn stuff, but fast, random explosions, demanding opinion.

“What’s your favourite book of the last year and why?”
“Best punk single and why?”

“Top three films of the last decade?”
“Most influential band of the last 25 years?

This was exciting. The prize was great and I was enjoying myself, in touch with pop culture enough in those days to play their games,

But then I went and spoiled it all.

“What does the album cover look like?” he asked, as he put on an LP.

I listened to a few bars of laid-back shmoozy intro and offered:

“Late night half-empty jazz club.”

It was a new band they’d just signed, called Wet Wet Wet.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

There was no hiding it in the room.

I think they’d been enjoying the fact that, up until then, I’d been well able to surf their wave, but my ride came crashing down.

Looking back, I wonder why more people don’t make their CVs different? 

That one broke every rule in the book. After Rowson’s delightful title page comes another with one tiny paragraph about me, while all subsequent pages were memos, letters and testimonials to my work.

Just a different way of doing it: letting others speak for me.
Doors opened wide.

Wet Wet Wet indeed. 

 Bit past the rock’n’roll lifestyle now.

It’s still raining out there.
Great writing weather, I call it.

©Charlie Adley