Sunday 15 January 2017

Sleep only helps if you know you've slept!



Here I am, wide awake in bed. 
Is it Tuesday? 
Which bed is this? 
How does water break?
Was I ever well? 

Where am I?
 

Oh yeh, I’m visiting my mother. London calling. Brain swirling, body coughing up a storm. Put the light on, look at the watch, see the time.
 

2:15 am.
 

Please no. Please don’t let me feel this awake at two in the morning. If I have a bad night now that Beelzebub of a chest infection will make another curtain call.
 

I’ve just finished the second load of antibiotics, but maybe the bastard bug was viral after all.
 

Been ill so long I've forgotten what well feels like. I know thousands of you out there have suffered the same way. 

Weeks ago, the Snapper’s New Year’s Eve kiss was an exceptionally brave effort, of which I was wholly unaware. 

Apparently she stole into the bedroom at midnight and planted a smacker on my lips, as they flapped in and out, chugging forth a bellowing snore of snot and human slurry.
 

You romantic beast, Adley.
 

Must sleep. Can’t get ill again. Must not infect my 87 year-old mum, who is at the moment fitter than both of her sons. Last night I was half of a dubious double act: The Coughing Adley Brothers of North West London.
 

Must sleep. After a good night's sleep the next day I feel well. Must feel well so I can be a helpful and pleasant visitor, otherwise what the hell am I here for?
 

Must sleep. Simple as that. Must sleep. Pick up the book. That'll do it. Chaim Potok writing about an artist’s struggle to remain faithful to his Hassidic Jewish traditions, while creating what his community considers idolatrous paintings.
 

20 minutes of that and I’ll be back in the land of nod. Eyes swim over the tiny print. Mind sinks into exhaustion, then suddenly rises up, bursting into the realm of anxiety and that dazzling glaring light, reserved for utter wakefulness in the middle of the night.
 

Is this the third week or the third month of it? If things are messy on my insides, my outer shell has fallen to pieces. I have a body that demands exercise, stretches and what we humans generally call movement. 

I’ve been out for walks but can only manage short excursions and afterwards I feel disproportionately exhausted, which it puts me off trying it again for a good while. 

When I do walk (I still have to go to the loo) bits of me that once were firm are now wobbling up and down like elephant’s jowls. My flesh is either shaking or bulging out and oh boy, it ain’t pretty.
 

So I’ve lain in my bed or sat in my chair, trying to enjoy the detritus of Christmas goodies that I was too ill to eat at the time. 

Trouble is my taste buds are wiped. so I’m only feeling the sensation of chocolate biscuits and mince pies on my tongue, rather than savouring them
 

Not much point in poisoning my arteries with them really, but I feel robbed, so I’m being a stubborn ignorant prat and eating them anyway. The payoff from this cocktail of physical inertia and intense calorie collection is brutal though.
 

At last, the words blurr on the page. Brain going bye-byes. Eleventy thriple. Chilcott Report. Dirty socks and marmalade. Turn out the light and sleep. Beautiful restorative sleep will come, I know, and wow that must be some full moon.
 

Look at it shining through the curtains! Unusual for a full moon to show so strongly in London!

Back in my County Galway home, in an area of little light pollution, a full moon can burn its light through the bedroom blinds so powerfully that I have been known to get up to check I haven’t left the exterior lights on, even though I know I haven’t, because I can be quite altogether neurotic when I want to be.
 

But here, in the bright suburbs of the megatropolis? How can it be so bright here? And hey, hang on a minute. It’s not the time for a full moon. It was just past crescent when I left Ireland, so at best it must be half full and why am I even contemplating matters such as full moons and crescent moons when I should be asleep? 

3 in the morning now. If I have a sleepless night I’ll be useless. My cough will return with a vengeance, and how will I live with the guilt of giving an 87 year-old woman a life-threatening chest infection and oh my good god I am so far from sleep now it’s ridiculous.
 

Look at those curtains. I swear that moonlight is glowing even stronger now than it was before.
 

Rolling out of bed, I walk to the window, part the curtains and look outside to see daylight. Morning has broken, long ago, and going over to my phone I see that the time is 7:55.
 

My watch insists it is 3:15, but the rest of the world says differently and hallelujah! I did not have a bad night at all. In fact I slept for over 8 hours. Now I just need to work on adjusting my head and body to this fresh dawn; this happy truth.
 

Wake up and feel wonderful, because you are rested and repaired!
 

Blurrgh.
 

Hmmm, might take a few minutes to convince myself of that. At least I know I haven’t suddenly become an insomniac. The reason I couldn’t get back to sleep was because I’d kipped enough already. 

Even more silly, all those worries, fears and concerns that cascaded around my brainbox for the last hour had no basis in reality.
 

Note to self: when taunted by those dark three in the morning voices in your head, remember it might be twenty to eight.
 


©Charlie Adley
8.1.2017

Sunday 8 January 2017

Appreciate the darkness and give thanks for the light!


What now? What now for us, as we emerge from the blur and rush, to face once again the normality we so eagerly tried to escape over the last weeks?
 

How bleak is your midwinter?
Well, that’s pretty much up to you.
 

After last year it’d be so very easy to drift listlessly into the doldrums. Under Connacht’s low grey January skies it’s tempting to feel oppressed by humanity’s apparent lack of direction.
 

In the past I’ve often trodden that path. Having lived with depression throughout my life, I now make sure to consciously and truly appreciate the times when I am not being taunted by my Black Dog.
 

Life ain’t worth a pooper if you fail to learn. Today there are many things that could be better about my life, as well as the world in which I live, but right now I’m alone in the house, just me and the keyboard, and I give thanks for many things.
 

Thanks for this lovely house. Naturally we'd be happier to own our own home, but on the outskirts of Jakarta in 1985, I saw two children emerging from the three corrugated metal strips they called home.
 

A lean-to, tied together with scraps of rope, it was wedged inbetween the railway tracks and surrounded by hundreds of others.
 

The two little girls wore perfectly clean white shirts, and black skirts with pleats starched and ironed to a standard that would pass inspection at the Big House.
 

Immaculately-dressed children were popping out of tiny filthy wobbly sheds all over that shanty town. Living with neither plumbing nor electricity, those kids could all have starred in a Persil ad, yet the muddy puddled rusty ground beneath their feet festered with cholera.
 

So yes I give thanks. I could feel more secure, but oh my goodness we are so safe.
 

For 350 days of the year in the West of Ireland we will have sunshine and showers, in a temperature ranging between 10 and 20 degrees. The earth here does not quake. Fires the size of counties do not ravage this land. 

Yes, it’d be lovely if it was more sunny, but then you’d be wiping clean every grain of sugar you spilled by the kettle, because millions of ants would share that climate and your kitchen.
 

Of course I could do with another 500 quid a week, but if that meant I lost time to walk and stare then I’ll pass, thanks all the same.
 

In the past I’ve been crushed commuting on tube trains, stuck in miles of stationary traffic, twice a day, five days a week. While it’s great to have the dosh, there is value and then there is money.

Bloody easy for me to say, admittedly, with just myself and the Snapper to look after. If there was a house full of rug rats to feed, clothe and educate, I might not sound so glib. That dream did not come true for us, so we created another which included four legs and a wet nose.
 

I was unwell throughout the festivities, coughing and snotty in a particularly sexy way, so I was forced to surf it, rather than immersing myself in the joy and fun, but I was aware that they were present.
 

That’s all it takes: to know that the good is there.
 

Somewhere between the hokey old American schoolyard cry ‘Turn That Frown Upside Down’ and the relentless desire for positive thinking in New Age philosophy, there’s a comfy lumpy mattress of middle ground.
 

That’s where you’ll find me. Yes, I’ll be entertaining darkness and negative thoughts, because without them the positive become meaningless. My cough is a pain and I am allowed to moan about it a tiny bit, but I have access to healthcare, so I tend to shut up and feel lucky.
 

Before I condemn our species as rotten for voting Trump, I remind myself that two million more people voted for Hillary. Also, I’ve no doubt that many millions of Trump voters made their choice despite the bigotry he espoused, not because of it.
 

Violence is the voice of the unheard, and politically you can’t appear more violent than voting for the Donald.
 

Doubtless he will impact my life in some ways, and possibly harm the lives of many others, but down here at Charlie Central, the air still smells sweet off the mountains.
 

I need to understand the news, but won’t let it stop me embracing the glory of Connemara. When depression hits, it wipes beauty from my eyes. I will look at the hills I saw the day before and know that they are beautiful, yet feel unable to appreciate it, there and then.
 

So while my spirit allows me to smile, I refuse to let the bigotry inherent in Brexit unduly  bother me. Once again the unheard shouted loud, but my native country was and is split down the middle, so whatever your opinion, it’s far from unique.
 

Personally, I’m more concerned about desalination of the northern Atlantic. With the Arctic melt reaching cataclysmic proportions, the chances of losing our conveyor belt of warm coastal waters grow greater every day. Without that protection, we plunge instantly into Muscovite winter conditions, for which we are in no way prepared.
 

Yes, I’m worried about that, but hey, I’m going to take a break in a few minutes, stand on the back step, sipping tea, as I watch the finches and wagtails feasting on the birdseed I put out this morning.
 

I refuse to let last year put me off this one. Aware of the darkness out there, I’ll fortify myself with the goodness that surrounds us all.


©Charlie Adley
28.12.2016

Saturday 31 December 2016

2016 Awards cancelled as Team DV goes WEXIT!


In a bizarrely-worded statement released yesterday morning, Team DV announced they had taken the unprecedented step of leaving the planet:
 

“That’s all folks. We’re out of here. Stopped the world and got off. That’s what we’ve done. The full WEXIT. We’ve tried to inject a bit of satire into the drudgery over the years, but after looking back at the last 365 days, we simply lay down and wept. Satire died upon the arrival of that brace of blonde idiots, with enough sanity and power between them to eradicate our species before teatime. Farewell, good luck and as they say, thanks for all the fish.”
 

Hello? 
Err, hello? 
This is Malcolm from Bognor, the caretaker of DV Tower. It’s all gone a bit mental here. The phones don’t stop ringing and there’s TV crews from all over the world outside. I new the DVs were big alright, but I didn’t realise it’d be like this, with everyone calling up trying to get the latest on the 2016 Awards.
 

I keep telling them to call back tomorrow. Trouble is they do. It’s all driving me a little nutty, truth be told. Seems like they won’t go away until somebody comes up with some DV Award winners.
 

Trouble is, nobody’s turned up to work for days. Word is they’ve all naffed off and left me behind. Scarpered, they have, had it on their legs, and they’re not coming back to planet Earth any time soon.
 

Right then, so then, seeing as how that’s the situation then, and seeing as how I want bit of peace and quiet, I’m just going to have to knock out the awards myself. How hard can it be? Now, where’s the ‘on’ button on this computer thingy…?
 

...several hours later...
 

Right, so, welcome to the 2016 DV Awards. We’re going to start with this year’s Pablo Picasso DV for Recreating Guernica, which goes to The West, for the Shame of Aleppo. While we faffed around feeling sorry for ourselves about Trump and Brexit, Putin expanded Russia’s military front, from The Persian Gulf to the Baltic States. 

While the UN sat back and liberals like me and you denied our governments the right to intervene, Russian warplanes rained hell unopposed.

I’m only the caretaker, so what would I know, so tell me, if you can, why the media is willing to use the word ‘atrocity’ when the killing is on the ground, but not when apocalyptic slaughter falls on innocents from the skies? 
 

Phew, that was all a bit serious. This awards malarkey isn’t as easy as it looks. Maybe there’s a reason they were on the keyboards and I was up a ladder.
 

Moving swiftly along to one of our annual faves, the Through The Looking Glass DV for Nothing Being As It Appears goes to all the Street Food restaurants that have recently opened in Galway.
Call me stupid, but Asian Street food sounds a heck of a lot like food that is served in Asia on a street. 


Okay, so it doesn’t have to be in Asia, but once it’s cooked under a roof supported by a solid structure, otherwise known as a building, it ceases to be street food and is just … well … food.
 

Quay Street now has two noodle restaurants, while the tiny road mourns the loss of a pair of Galway institutions: Camilla Cutler’s Druid Lane Restaurant and the Galway Pet Store, who (hopefully) shared nothing in common, save for being independent businesses run by terrific characters.
 

Couldn’t get through this year without mentioning the 1916 Easter Rising Centenary. Everybody else did, all the time. Given that back in 1916, swathes of Dublin’s population felt antipathy towards Republicans, because the food on their tables was paid for by the unfortunate bastards fighting in the trenches, I wonder: had the British Empire not behaved as the British Empire always did, and instead of creating martyrs, had spared the lives of those brave men, would this Republic now exist as 26 or 32? 

Mind you, that ‘Home Rule is Rome Rule’ crew were already ironing sashes in the north. Some things never change.
 

To that end, this Brit announces the First Annual Britain Means Britain  DV, which naturally goes to all those magnanimous compassionate souls who voted for Brexit. Broke my heart. Not the leaving of the EU, but the way scapegoating proved so effective a tactic.
 

Next comes the Volvo Ironman DV for Promising Millions To The Local Economy, which of course goes to Galway’s nomination as Capital of Culture 2020. Let’s hope 2020 will truly fulfil its potential, because Galwegians have had their fill of major events promising to bring wealth, which instead leave long trails of unpaid locals.
 

This year’s Marie Antoinette Let Them Eat Cake DV for Ignoring The Poor and Needy is shared by the tragic double act of Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny. While trying to ‘save face‘ with global corporations, they made international arses of themselves, by refusing a sum of tax due equivalent to this nation’s annual health budget.
 

Finally, the Dónal Óg Cusack DV for Bravery In The Face Of Ignorance goes to two women who shared the twitter handle @twowomentravel. By live-tweeting their enforced journey to England, they gave voice to many thousands of the unheard, who’ve gone before.
 

Oh lorks! Run out of space. 
Always wondered what editors do and now I know. 

Anyway, until they come back from wherever they’ve gone, this is me, Malcolm the Caretaker from Bognor, DV Tower, County Galway, signing off.
©Charlie Adley
18.12.2016.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Charity? It's a very personal business...

 Charity working at its best in the shape of our beloved Lady Dog.

 Every Christmas many of us try to take the spirit of giving beyond our families and friends by donating to charities. Whether it’s through the cards we buy, the SVP envelope through the door or a bucket shaken in the street, we extend our generosity to others who need our help.

Some used recent charity-related scandals as an excuse to stop giving, but not this scribbler. If a charity is registered I consider it worthy, and anyway, for me, giving to charity is a personal matter.
 

Rather than getting dazed and confused, wondering which charity deserves the most, I simply follow my feelings. 

Many cannot understand how anyone can donate to help doggies and donkeys while there are people starving to death in the world, but we humans are a wonderfully mixed-up bunch, and what twangs your heartstrings might make no music on mine.
 

My Christmas cards go three ways. Croi, for my father who died after many strokes throughout a long decline; Crumlin Children’s Hospital, for the loss of Alana, and the Galway Hospice, for Sonja and for helping me and so many others.
 

I give what I can afford and then I give a little more, because for goodness sake, it’s not as if I’ll be going without, compared to so many others.
 

However, a few weeks ago I discovered that when it comes to charitable giving, I do not like to be bossed around. Two parcels arrived at the same time, from two different charities.
 

The first I opened was from Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, an incredible crew of creative people who have overcome the most challenging disabilities to express themselves through art.
 

Thankfully I’ve some idea of their challenge, as I’ve been watching Landscape Artist of the Year on TV. One of the painters was a Thalidomide victim, born without arms. It was moving and inspiring to watch as he drew a precise line pencil plan of his painting with his toes, and then painted the colours into the picture with a brush in his mouth. 

He explained that unlike able-bodied artists, he could not apply paint while standing back and looking at the picture as a whole. Instead each brush stroke had to be pre-planned to perfection, as he was forced to paint incredibly close to the canvas.
 

What a shame then that the marketing strategy of this charity decided the best approach was to send me cards and a letter telling me how I’d be happy to pay for them.
 

I need to be clear about this: I think it’s a wonderful charity, but if only they’d sent me a leaflet, or an invitation to order some cards, everything would’ve been different.

Instead I felt as if they were making an assumption about me and my money, and when I looked for an envelope to return their cards, so as not to waste them, I found none.
 

Somehow the experience just turned me off. Up until then I hadn’t realised how important it is for me to decide to whom I give, yet their strategy left me feeling guilty and wasteful as the cards are not the kind I’d send anyway.
 

The other package was a small cardboard box, sporting only a sticker saying: #stopkeepingmum. The box had been addressed to me as a Tribune Columnist, so clearly someone wanted publicity. Curiosity developed into intrigue as I opened the box to find no letter, no leaflet, just a very cute little blonde toy doggie, wearing a #stopkeepingmum label.
 


I’ll never know if the charity were aware of how much the toy looks like my own Lady Dog. Maybe it was happy coincidence, but my interest was now piqued, so I put #stopkeepingmum into my web browser and arrived at a home page with a short tragic video about the plight of the mothers of puppies at puppy farms:
 

“The first thing that will hit you is the stench. Once your eyes adjust to the darkness you’ll see them. They’re kept in cages, covered in their own faeces and soaked in urine. They have no bedding and limited access to fresh water. They are nameless mothers who have never known daylight. To the people in charge they are breeding machines, forced to have litter after litter until their bodies are exhausted. Their only experiences with people have been cruelty and neglect.”
 

Nothing had been presumed. I didn’t feel lectured. At the risk of sounding cold-hearted, their marketing was perfectly pitched.
 

As a species, the absolute least we must aspire to is to be benign. Being cruel and vile to intelligent animals for monetary gain is not something anyone needs to do.
 

What did #stopkeepingmumwant from me? How much was this going to cost and for what?
 

The first commitment their website asks for is merely a promise to ask to see a puppy’s mother before you buy one. Then comes an invitation to share your promise on social media and only then, finally, comes a chance to donate money.
 

Did I send them a wedge of my hard-earned green folding?
 

 

I didn’t, because I’d already contributed through Christmas cards and must now put all my remaining resources into the needs of my family, which alongside the Snapper includes one Lady Dog, aged five and three quarters, adopted years ago from Madra.ie - the most splendid charity, whose hard work has deeply enriched our lives, as well as providing a lost soul with a loving home.
 

Donating money can be complex, but compassion is not. 
Combine the two and the world becomes a better place.
 

Enjoy a peaceful loving Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice and Diwali, and may your God be with you.

©Charlie Adley
10.12.2016.

Sunday 18 December 2016

Don't mention the ketchup in the coffee thing!



I’m on the FB2 Flybus from Oslo to the airport and having trouble keeping my eyes open. Come on man, don’t miss the little you’ll see of Norway outside of the city.
 

Beyond the bus window the grey light of a winter dawn reflects off the dusting of snow on the barren rolling fields.
 

The weekend visiting my good friend Blitz and his far better other was gentle and most pleasant, as had been the two days I’d spent in 
London with my mum on the way to Oslo.
 

However, I’d felt exhausted for weeks before I left and as the trip approached, it became a kind of self-fulfilling worry prophecy.
 

Oh no I am so tired. Will I be able to do it? Should I go at all? Will I cancel one bit of it? Which bit will I cancel? How can I explain that?
 

Instead I went online and booked a triangle of tickets from Dublin to Heathrow to Oslo to Dublin, and - oops, there goes the chin, dipping again. 

Stay with it Adley. 
Don't be dribbling in front of the locals now. 
You’re in public. 
Look at Norway out of the window and then sleep on the plane. 

Yes, I know it’s only a two hours flight, but bloody hell that’d help. Any sleep I can grab will prove vital, because I can’t be dropping off like this in four hours, when I’m sitting at the wheel of my car, doing 120kph on the motorway home.
 

At the airport I manage to get myself into a sweaty lather, by walking at speed, up and down the Departures Shopping area, increasingly desperately looking for a newspaper. Despite it being obvious they have no international newspapers, my minuscule brain refuses to accept that fact.
 

Slumping into a chair I glance around to see everyone staring at their phones; thumbs stroking the screens of their tablets; fingertips flying over the keyboards of laptops.
 

I’m a dinosaur. I want a newspaper.

The fights with SAS were exceptionally cheap and when I see the plane I understand why. Crammed to the rafters, we are wedged into tiny aged seats, clothed in fabric that reminds me of 1973.
 

As ever, I’m by the window and the bloke sitting next to me is of slight build, yet somehow as he lands in his seat he manages to take control of the armrests on both sides. Then he enthusiastically spreads his knees wide sideways, as if myself and the unfortunate on the other side of him do not exist.
 

Never mind. I’m putting in the earplugs and will hopefully wake up in two hours with half a head of crushed flat hair, that’s been resting on the window as I slumber.
 

That’d be lovely, except, oh, there he goes, off to the loo, just after take-off, so I’ll just drop off while he’s gone and - Oh! There he is, back from the loo. And there he is, pressing the button for the flight attendant. And now he’s drinking wine, and now he’s buying presents for his two daughters which I’ve seen on the screen of his iPhone. 

Now he’s off to the loo again and now he’s buying Duty Free and at no point in the entire flight does he sit still, except when finally, just as we start our descent into Dublin, he collapses his head back, mouth hanging agape, snoring through a bumpy landing.
 

Long before, I’d removed my earplugs and given up on feeble dreams of sleep. Reaching into my bag I discovered that his spread thigh had been resting on my chocolate bar. 

Not only had the bastard been keeping me awake, he’d also melted my bloomin’ Twirl.
 

Grrrr. 

I stare at his sleeping face with darkness and begrudgery in my soul.
 

Then it’s off to the car and a plan to stay alive by keeping awake. I decide I can make it to that roundabout in Athlone with the McDonalds and the petrol station. I’ll make it there, down a double espresso for boost and a quarter pounder for ballast and that’ll get me home.
 

The motorway comes to an end at the Athlone bypass yet for some reason I sail around it and am heading west without sight of the roundabout. Now on the M6 to Galway, I’ll have to go all the way to Plaza Services to find sustenance.
 

With the belly rumbling and my focus crumbling, I just about make it. Stumbling into the restaurant area, where everything seems bright to my sleepy eyes, I order a big burger and a tall double grande large espresso americano with extra coffee.
 

Falling into a seat, I find myself unable to eat the burger. Just get that coffee into me; keep awake.
 

I drag myself over to where sugar and wooden stirrers are available, but where is the milk?
 

If I drink this much caffeine without milk, my gut will kick back so powerfully I won’t need the car to get me home.
 

Where’s the milk? Where’s the bloody - ah! A plunger! That must be it.
 

With urgency I shoot two large dollops of tomato ketchup into my coffee and freeze.
 

Did anyone see that?
Do I care?
 

Carefully stirring only the upper half of the drink, I slug back two-thirds of it, with not a trace of tomato hitting my palate.
 

The caffeine kicks in at Oranmore.
 

Whooooooooosh!
 

By the time I get home, I’m wide awake, mad as a hatter and twice as fruity, muttering mysteriously and maniacally to the Snapper about how nobody needs to know about that ketchup thing.


©Charlie Adley
07.12.2016.