Sunday 27 February 2022

How to be Irish #498: Can you feel the Feck?

Thanks as always to Allan Cavanagh at

Two questions. That’s all I had, when I arrived here, back in ‘92. 

A newly-appointed newspaper columnist, wholly ignorant of all things Ireland and Irish, I condensed my gaping inadequacies into two simple questions.

Yet in your obfuscatory paradoxical Irish way, you failed to answer both, offering only nebulous enigma as solutions.  

At least, that’s how it sounded to my English ears at the time.

"What’s the Left/Right difference between the civil war parties?"


"Why do you wimp out and say feck when you really mean fuck?"

Responses to the first came in the predictable shape of that ahhh you have to go back to the Treaty claptrap, which was of absolutely no use to me.

As a political animal I had to write about the politics of today’s nation, without going on about a treaty signed 70 years ago. I was left utterly clueless about what anybody was and nobody was not.

The other answer was short, precise, yet no more illustrative.

'Feck? Oh sure, yeh, y’see, feck is different.'

'Oh really. Don’t think so.'

'Yeh ’tis.'

'Well how is it, and why is it different, then?’

'It’s errrrr, ohhhhh, emmmm, hard to explain, like, dy’see.'

'Never. Go on, surprise me.'

I neither expected nor really wanted clarification anyway.  

Clarity’s for wimps.

30 years later I not only know the answer, but feel it too. In fact, I now know that I couldn't fully know the answer to feck until I felt it. 

Just now I was walking the beach. My lungs were raging painfully in protest at the freezing cold wind, forced upon them by my spirit, which demanded I make the most of low tide without a soul in sight.  

A few months from now this beach will never be empty. There will be camper vans in the upper car park for months on end, and many other humans who, much to my flagrant begrudgery, also have the right to enjoy the beach.

But right now there’s nobody; not a single soul on a Sunday morning.
Walking on, now with the wind at my back, I enjoy
rare minutes of sunshine, as clouds rush and tumble across the sky.  

Apart from making sure to occupy and appreciate this natural bliss, I’m thinking about the What’sApp message I sent my brother earlier.

We were texting about pruning apple trees, and I said I’d be at it too, as soon as the feckin’ wind dropped.

Down on the beach I realise he’d probably think of it as a crude curse, a tiny blade less fierce than its Anglo-Saxon cousin.

But I now know what it is.

I felt it when I wrote it.
I feel feck ergo I understand feck. 

Yet like the Irish, I couldn’t necessarily explain it, exactly.

You’ve given me a signed stamped certificate saying I’m Irish, and a passport which confirms it, but the two reasons I can no longer say I’m English through and through have nothing to do with paperwork.

Conjoined with the feeling of feck is the Irish non-verbal verbal experience.

From the moment I arrived in Galway, I noticed how people sometimes offered agreement by sucking a sharp intake of breath onto the roof of their mouths, loud enough to be heard, yet too soft to be spelled.

I wrote about it in Double Vision, back in 2017, when I first spotted myself involuntarily doing the hissy thing, to show concord. Ireland had changed my breathing patterns.

Now I feel the feck.

Another level of assimilation. altogether, so it is now.

Behave Adley. Be respectful.

I’ll always be English, Jewish and proud of both, but now my Irish is engrained in body and mind.


 ©Charlie Adley


Thursday 24 February 2022

My heroes are those who save lives!


Four years after 9/11, I was standing beside New York City’s ‘Ground Zero’, reading the hoardings hung on the wire fences around the site of the attack.

One of them declared: “In memory of all those great American Heroes.”

Turning to my friend, I observed

“It’s strange the way the word ‘hero’ is used these days.”

I was about to explain how they were innocent victims rather than heroes, but I never got the chance.

A hand grasped my shoulder. 
I was spun around to face a grey-haired man in an anorak and spectacles.

“Hey! Show some goddam respect!” he hissed at me.

Had I shouted I might have understood this man’s rage. But I'd whispered. The scene before my eyes had filled me with sadness, and my voice had dropped, as if we were in a church.

I was showing respect. I wanted to explain to this man what I meant, but I could see the pain behind his eyes; the loss; the anger; so I dipped my chin and simply said 
walking away with my tail between my legs.
Who knows who he loved in the Towers?
As much as my heart broke for all those lives lost and broken, my sadness spreads far wider, to the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims in Iraq who died, as a result of that attack. 
Members of the public killed for no good reason. 
The powers that be have long referred to civilian deaths during wartime as ‘collateral damage’.

It’s a hellish long way from ‘hero’ to ‘collateral damage’ but they are one and the same person.

Very sad.

Whenever particular wars flare up, foreign populations become especially agitated, seeing one ousted overpowered people as more important than others.

I cannot. I just see a human life, each as vital as all the others. 
Now, enveloped as we are in a new crisis in a very old war, my heart bleeds fiercely, as it always does when I contemplate such horrendous debacles.

There is no way to wage war tidily. Even the crisp technology of remote-controlled drone warfare kills innocent victims aplenty. 

Far from being disrespectful, I am honouring all the dead; their sacrifice. There are always so many innocent victims. 

Of course there are heroes. Incredible daring and courage is displayed on a regular basis. When it's employed to save lives rather than destroy them, it's particularly heroic.

I’m not saying that all killing is bad. Give me a gun and I’d shoot a Nazi stormtrooper, no problem.

My heroes, however, tend to be those who dare to save their troops. Give me Shackleton over Scott every day. 
Scott was an amazing man, brave and honourable to the core. Yet in the same way that the English celebrate Dunkirk as a victory, they worship a man who came second and perished with his comrades.

Shackleton’s expedition failed spectacularly, yet he didn’t lose a single man. I have read his own account of the Endurance expedition, the ensuing landing on Elephant Island, the incredible journey in the James Caird and the epic crossing of South Georgia. 
These were tough men, hard and steely in a way so far beyond our sofas, iPads and cappuccinos, I suspect it no longer exists.

Despite his strong ambition and a desire for glory, Shackleton made every decision based upon his greatest chance of keeping everyone alive.
That’s my kind of hero.
Together we pray now, for Shalom peace. 

©Charlie Adley