Monday 16 April 2018

Do The Bloomin' Weather Hokey Cokey!




Coat comes off and the anorak returns.
Mower gets a service and the woolies are shelved.
Gloves slip on and the wellies come back out.
Coat’s off the hanger and you’re back wearing woollies …
 

In out round about
You do the Season hokey cokey and
You turn around
And that’s what it’s aaaall abaaaarrrt!

Oooohh the hokey cokey!
Oooohhhh the hokey cokey!
Ooooh the hokey cokey!


It’s Winter Spring Winter Spring
And that’s what it’s all abow-owwww-out!
 

Lovely day isn’t it! Mighty! No?

Haven’t a clue. At this moment outside my window the sky is blue, the wind chilly and the showers fierce, but that’s five minutes ago and by the time you read this we might even be in the middle of a heatwave.

Or a blizzard.

Around nature’s year we construct things called seasons, and then we build expectations as to what the weather should be like. 


In England, February is perceived as pure Winter, but here in Ireland you insist it’s Spring, and then each year endure melancholy rituals, on barstools and kitchen chairs throughout the country, complaining that it’s “…terrible awful cold for Spring.”

Tending towards the binary way of thinking, we’ve evolved to believe something either is or is not.
 

Either it’s Winter or it’s Spring.
 

If it’s Winter I have a blanket on top of the duvet and two bottom sheets. I know from sleeping outside that it’s what’s underneath you that keeps you warm. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare old duvet, next time we hit a cold snap tuck it under your bottom sheet.

Ohhh yeeeaaah mumma!

You’re a slice of cheese sliding under a grill.
As soon as your flesh touches the sheets warmth envelops you, above and below.

Weeks ago I decided that Winter was over, stripped the bed, turned and rotated the mattress and packed the blanket away for another 9 months.

Then, after a few cold nights telling myself I was a pathetic weakling, mollycoddled by central heating who should harden up, I finally caved in, admitting I’d prematurely emptied my load into the laundry basket. (ooooh matron!)

Recovering my blanket I restored the quota of bottom sheets to three, and then a few days ago stripped the whole bed again.

Oh, the hokey bloomin’ cokey.

Meanwhile the world outside our windows has to cope with whatever weather it’s given. Thankfully nature evolves at a pace that reflects climate, rather than weather, so plants and animals have mechanisms that adapt and cope.

Spawny goo will protect the nascent tadpoles from the dried-out drainage ditches and deep frosts, and the next day, the same substance will be helping them survive flooding.
 
                               
As if our local ecosystem somehow knows how desperately our souls are yearning for sunshine, each year’s first flowers offer just that: primroses, dandelions, daffodils and forsythia pump forth explosive golden promises of Summer days to come.

 Thanks as always to the Snapper for her beautiful snapperage.


The ubiquitous gorse not only glows yellow, but also offers our senses the aroma of coconut suntan lotion. If you stand beside one and close your eyes, you can almost imagine you’re on a tropical beach.

Well, until hailstones start to pierce your skin.

Then there’s that adage about not casting a clout ’til May is out, and the debate about whether it refers to the month or the flower of the Hawthorn tree. Either way, if we wore the same amount of clothes at the end of April that we do in January, we’d be sweating like Rafa Benitez’s rough bits.

As with many old rural sayings, behind the words lies a simple truth: there will be frosts until the end of May, and that’s a blooming important thing to know, if you’re living off the land, as they were back when Yorkshire people turned farming advice into poetry.

To me there’s far more sense in the old quotation often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain:

‘Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get.’

There’s a reason we talk of Climate Change. While our temperatures in the West of Ireland bounce around, our climate changes in tiny increments, and although most talk is of global warming, our lives here on the Atlantic seaboard will not benefit from balmy new temperatures.

As Greenland’s ice and the Arctic ocean melt, vast quantities of freshwater are dropping into the Atlantic, desalinating the water and in the process cutting off the flowing loop of the North Atlantic Drift.

Keeping us a toasty 5°c above what we should be at this latitude, our benevolent Gulf Stream has already stopped on several occasions, so far always restarting, but experts say there’s a 50% chance of it failing to recover in the next 60 years.

Then we'll instantly be plunged into a freezing cold climate.

That’s not weather I’m talking about.
Not a cold snap, but a devastating temperature collapse.

So next time you’re giving out about how the weather can’t make up its mind, just stop and give thanks.




Yes it’s sideways hail, but in ten minutes there’ll be blue skies, heat from the sun and bumble bees buzzing in your ear. 


We have it so easy here. We’re not flooded. We’re not on fire. There is no drought; no desert; neither earthquakes nor volcanos erupting (my bathroom habits notwithstanding).

The weather might feel atrocious, yet our climate is temperate and terrific.
 

Long may it stay this way. I’ll take warm, windy and wet over constant cold and blizzards any day.


©Charlie Adley
07.04.2018

Sunday 8 April 2018

CRICKET IS PERFECT FOR THE IRISH!




Irish cricket is on the way up. Now recognised as a full ICC member, Ireland’s first ever Test cricket match will be played against Pakistan over the weekend of 11th/15th May.
 

Forget your glorious Grand Slam and that goal in Stuttgart 30 years ago. Now, finally, through cricket, you have the chance to enjoy the best possible means of retribution against the auld enemy.
 

Ever since moving to this country I wondered why, more than any other population colonised by the British, the Irish hung on for so long to their loathing of their imperial oppressor.
 

The only other ex-colony where people talk with as much venom about the English is Australia, but their verbal attacks are laced with confidence.
 

Why?
Because they know that they have regularly whipped our English arses at our national game, in intimidating fashion.
 

Does a beating on the cricket pitch really hurt the English as a nation? You’d better believe it. Many other countries colonised by the British have revelled in returning to give their old brutaliser a sound beating.
 

Australia, the West Indies, South Africa, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have all contributed to a realisation that the British are these days far from dominant in the cricketing world.
 

Imagine Roy Keane in his prime, decked in whites with a dash of green, sneering and snarling as he runs up to hurl a rock-hard leather ball at 90 mph towards an English chinless wonder.
 

Dribbling yet?
 

Cricket should suit the Irish down to the ground. Intelligent, contemplative, subtle and intense, it encompasses all the best Irish characteristics - even wit. Better still, the game has official breaks for both Tea and Drinks.
 

Although there are many speedier One Day versions of the game, a Test Match is as slow as Gaelic Games are fast. After five days, it may well end in a draw, which in cricket does not mean the match has been tied. It just means five days wasn’t long enough for two teams of eleven to bat and field twice.
 

Why? 
It was the weather, of course, and what could be more Irish than that?
 

Well, how about James Joyce, who wrote in Portrait of the Artist:
 

“The fellows were practising long shies and bowling lobs and slow twisters. In the soft grey silence he could hear the bump of the balls: and from here and from there through the quiet air the sound of the cricket bats: pick, pack, pock, puck: like drops of water in a fountain falling softly in the brimming bowl.”
 

Who needs rules, when there is such poetry in the game?
 

Clearly Australian captain Steve Smith decided he didn’t, and the ensuing outrage reflected an anachronistic and romantic vision of cricket; this sport, that more than any other is supposed to transcend human nature, with fair play integral to the game’s DNA.
 

Not all sports are equal. In football players cheat as a matter of course. When a player in the box feels the wispy damp breath of an opponent on the back of his neck, he will collapse to the ground.
 

Later, in the studio, every aspect of this gymnastic collapse will be interpreted, and one ex-player will say:
 

“I’ve seen ‘em given!”
 

while another will nod approvingly, offering:
 

“He’s been smart, so he has, and I have to say, you can’t blame him.”
 

Cheating at cricket is difficult and if discovered creates international incidents.
 

Bowlers rub their ball and spit on it to shine up one side and rough up the other. Most cheating comes when a bowler rubs something abrasive over the dull side of the ball, to enhance its swing in the air.
 

Many bowlers have been filmed lifting strange substances from their pockets, pants and gordknowswheres, apparently oblivious to the fact that cameras are all over the ground.
 

In 1990 England captain Mike Atherton was found with grit in his pocket whilst playing against the Aussies. He claimed he used it to dry his hands. 

For some reason, nobody believed him.
 

Alongside ball tamperers come cricket’s match fixers, like Salman Butt of Pakistan who was sent to jail in 2011, after a tabloid betting sting revealed teammates had been deliberately bowling terribly during a Test at Lords.
 

My personal favourite cricket cheat was the brazen Shahid Afridi of Pakistan, who eschewed subtly rubbing dust for taking a good bite out of the ball, in broad daylight, during a test against Australia. He later told reporters he’d just been trying to smell the ball.
 

Right: from the inside of his stomach!
 

Now questions are being asked as to why the Australians emptied sachets of sugar into their pockets during the last Ashes Series.
 

Strangely, this actually riles me. With the arrival of the Indian Premier League, cricket has gone the way of football: all money and TV rights, but for some bizarre reason the Ashes still really matter.
 

Having watched Australia once again give England a thrashing, I’d prefer to think it was all fair, square and … well, cricket.
 

Sadly Ireland just missed out on qualifying for the next Cricket World Cup, so to tide you over until your first Test match, contemplate the wonderful cocktail of brute force and eccentricity included in this despatch from the 2005 Ashes Test at Lords:
 

“A bouncer beats Ponting for pace, and crashes against the grill of his helmet, cutting the Aussie skipper on his right cheek. A drinks break follows, to allow time for the blood to stop flowing.”

©Charlie Adley
29.03.2018

Monday 2 April 2018

GALWAY CITY WON'T LEAVE ME ALONE!





Under the early morning sunshine of a deep blue Claddagh sky, Paddy and I chat about what he needs to do to my car, Joey SX. 

We have a good manly laugh about inconsequential nonsense, and then I walk down the hill towards the river.
 

Oh my sweet lordy, this is truly a lovely day.
 

The vivid green of the grass on the piers sings come hither to my eyes, so I wander over, stare at lobster pots, faze out to the rush and spritz of the mighty Corrib, and then accidentally sun-dazzle my eyes, by staring up to see if I can spot a cloud anywhere at all.
 

It’s 9:15 and Paddy said 2 was the earliest he’d have the car ready for me. 
Splendid. Several hours of ‘me time’ ahead, as Life Coachy types might say.
 

With my back to the city and that cold easterly wind, I call my mum and listen to her tales of London life, as I stare across today’s calm silvery water on Galway Bay, over to the purple hills of Clare.
 

We talk for ages, and I hear myself laugh on at least two occasions. Being under the influence of a depression doesn’t mean I’m unable to giggle.
 

Each dose is different, presenting new challenges, upsides and inabilities. Despite this being one of the most powerful funks I’ve ever encountered, I’m delighted that it has not robbed me of my vital energy.
 

Usually it’s impossible for me to say which comes first: the depression or the lack of desire to go for a walk. Sometimes I only realise I’m depressed after I notice I haven’t walked for three days. 

Thankfully during this nasty bout I’ve wanted to walk and have walked.  Beyond all the prozac and mindfulness in the world, putting one foot in front of the other is my most powerful mental medicine. 

Now in Week Three, you probably wouldn’t notice if you met me on the street. Those who insist on putting a label on everything could describe me right now as a High Functioning Depressive, able to smile and socialise.
 

Thankfully my teaching remains a pleasure; my passion intact as ever. There seems to be little limit to what I can do, yet I cannot stop the tears rolling out of the sides of my eyes. The wrapping paper is shiny but inside it’s a different story.
 

Inside I am filled with darkness and dread. My own brain is tempting me to visit mental places that will do me harm. 

After a lifetime of this malarkey, I’ve learned to spot these thought patterns, acknowledge them and decide not to go there.
 

Whatever happens, I intend to enjoy this gorgeous Spring morning, free to lurk in quiet pubs, drinking tea, reading endless newspapers.
 

First stop: a leisurely Full Irish at the Galway Arms.
 

Later, if I feel strong enough, my spirit fortified by food and solitude, I’ll head out into the world and maybe even chat to someone.
 

Galway City however has other ideas.
Evidently town doesn’t trust me to be on my own this morning.
 

Crossing Dominick Street I bump into local filmmaker, creator of Galway’s Super 8 Shots Film Festival and all round good guy, Julien Dorgere. We chat for a while and I enjoy his company, but by the time he heads off I’m gasping for a cuppa.
 

I make pace to PJ’s place, but look, walking towards me is Peter Connolly of the formidable Claddagh clan.
 

Peter and I have been friends for years, ever since I became a massive fan of the Claddagh Boatmen - Bádóirí an Cladaig. I haven’t seen him for ages, so when he suggests joining me for breakfast, I’m delighted.
 

Sadly my blancmange of a brainbox can’t take in the news about those who strive to keep Galway’s marine tradition alive and thriving.
 

As we munch our eggs and bacon, Peter shares intriguing news updates, but where there was once grey matter, there is at the moment only goo. Long ago, The Ramones explained it thus:
 

"Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em / That I got no cerebellum!"

Taking their advice I explain my mental condition to Peter, encouraging him to continue with his news, while I do my best to assimilate information.
 

Peter has a wealth of fact and detail at his disposal. I admire him and share his passion for Galway‘s unique boats, but today all I can distinguish is that the Hookers are the sugar bowl, the salt cellar is the City Council, the pepper pot is the people in Hong Kong who have fallen in love with the boats, and the teapot is … what, sorry mate, what was the teapot again?
 

Having thoroughly enjoyed his company I leave Peter feeling frustrated that my brain proved so useless.
 

I very much want to hear it again, so if you’re reading this, Peter, please forgive me and get in touch.
 

Then I’m verbally yanked over to The Waistcoat, playing his bodhrán at Johnny Massacre Corner, and unable to reply, I stand and listen to him.
 

Finally, I grab a few minutes alone with a mug of tea outside tigh Neachtain, but ah, here’s Matty, always a pleasure mate, and Rob, long time no see, and here’s a handshake from fellow columnist Dick Byrne, and there’s a
 

“How the hell are ya, hoss?” from Dalooney.
 

As arranged ,Whispering Blue also arrives, and then, just as the party is made complete by the arrival of The Body, Paddy calls to say my car is ready.
 

Today Galway is in charge. My chaperone, my therapist, my hiding place and playground, this city knows best. These cobbled streets have seen it all.
 

Thanks Galway, for showing me how far from alone I am. 
I’m not able to feel it right now, but I know I’m a lucky man.

©Charlie Adley
21.03.2018

Sunday 25 March 2018

DEPRESSION IS A PART OF ME, JUST LIKE BACK PAIN!


As my eyes opened this morning, I was immediately aware of its strength.  

Phwhooo, this one is a doozy: a real humdinger.
 

‘Oh boy, here we go again!’ I thought to myself, remembering how strange I’d felt yesterday evening, as if I was coming down with something.
 

Turns out I was. I don’t care whether depression is an illness, a condition or a disease. As far as I’m concerned, you can call it whatever you want.
 

It’s back.
 

People often tell me I’m brave to write about depression, but I genuinely don’t feel it. The only reason I’m writing about my mental state today is that, given the force of this dose, I’m unable to write about anything else.
 

At the risk of sounding tediously liberal, I can’t see the difference between one bodily function and another. 

Well, yes I can, in that I don’t eat through my botty or pooh out my mouth (although some might beg to differ) but where others think of the mind as a separate entity, I perceive it solely as part of my body; my oneness.
 

I don’t separate the mind that creates the thought from the fingers that somehow magically tap it into the computer.
 

The fact that my brainbox does things that many others do not feels no more nor less important than my two squeezed vertebrae. If I were really brave, I’d be writing about the reasons I use a certain cream, but I’ve no intention of telling you that, you’ll be delighted to hear.
 

Thanks to an ace physiotherapist, who gave me ten stretches to do each morning, I can now live free of back pain. 

Although I’m in awe of the way those stretches make my whole body feel after a few days, I’m very human, so when the pain goes, I become lazy, complacent and forget to do them.
 

Then I go and do something stupid in the garden, involving wheelbarrows and sweat, and I’m crippled again, back on the anti-inflammatories and morning stretches.
 

As with my back so with my brain: both are vulnerable, both prone to causing pain, but the great thing is that I know it.
 

Both come and both will pass.
 

Don’t think anyone with back pain would approach me in the streets of Galway and hug me and cry on my shoulder, as through mouthfuls of my tweed coat they tell me how my colyoom about mental machinations helped them so much, because they felt less alone.
 

The Irish have made great strides towards removing the stigma of mental health, but holy guacamole, Batman, seriously? In 2018 people still feel utterly isolated, merely because they have depression?
 

I know they do, as lonely hordes contact me in large numbers whenever I write about it, and that is way more upsetting than being depressed.
 

I’m glad to be there for them as they explain how they suffer from depression. Knowing better than to try and cheer them up, the only advice I ever give is to suggest that they change the way they describe it.
 

I tell myself and others that I live with depression, just as I live with back pain. It’s part of who I am: it comes and goes and if I want to make the effort, there are things I can do to help myself.
 

I absolutely refuse to say I suffer from depression, because I don’t want to turn my own brain into an enemy. I live with it, as when it’s not there, I don’t suffer any more than I do from back pain when there is none.
 

My mental equivalents of back stretches are mostly found outdoors. To nourish my soul I’ll walk an empty Connemara beach, feeling insignificant in face of the constancy of the tides and the permanence of towering cliffs.
 

To nurture my spirit I’ll work on the attainment of wisdom. In my tiny philosophy of life, I reckon that wisdom comes from a cocktail of knowledge and experience. As long as I continue to both learn and do, then I will learn from the doing and do what I have learned.
 

“Spare me your fancy shmancy guru babble!” you cry, but let me explain.
 

Experience has taught me that depression is a part of my life. Bizarrely, sometimes it hits at the happiest of times, but this one right now comes as no surprise.
 

My life has been extremely testing for a long while, and when confusion and frustration meet exhaustion, they conspire together and kick open the door to depression.
 

Thankfully I’ve learned from my own process what works and what doesn’t.
Aided by the sure knowledge that it will pass, I’ll do what I can to help myself.
 

I will reach out to friends, and tell them I’m hurting.
I will allow myself to cry if that’s what I need to do.
I will roar loud and wild like a savage beast in the privacy of my own space (don’t want to scare the pooch!)
I will talk to my head doctor about it, just as I would go to my body doctor if something physical was awry.

I will know, always, that it will pass.
 

Maybe it will be gone in five minutes. Maybe it’ll still be upon me when you read this, but I don’t care.
 

I cannot make it go away, any more than I can swap squashed vertebrae for fresh ones. 

It’s who I am and I am not broken. 

I’m just someone whose brain gets gripped in a vice; someone whose perception of the world changes, in a manner akin to that of being drunk, except that instead of levity and fun, my altered state offers only desperation and dread.
 

To be honest it’s brutal right now. I don’t use SSRI medication, as on my way out of this dose I might enjoy a manic upswing, equally as mad as depression, but crammed with a fantastically joyous and creative energy.
 

I’ll take the darkness every time, if in exchange I can experience that uniquely vital feeling.

©Charlie Adley
14.03.2018

Sunday 18 March 2018

IF WAR RETURNS, BLOOD WILL BE ON TORY HANDS!



I’m so sorry. I apologise to those people in Ireland who feel that the English are increasingly hostile towards your country.
 

Nobody set out to damage the island of Ireland. Generally, few English people ever spare Ireland a moment’s thought.
 

I understand why, as I was one of them.
 

Ever interested and politically motivated, I knew absolutely zip about Ireland until I moved here. I’d travelled around the planet twice before ever stepping foot in the county next door.
 

When I finally did, it very much felt like I was going to Ireland because I’d run out of other countries. If that sounds insulting, even contemptuous, that’s my point.
 

As a Londoner, I neither disliked the Irish nor Ireland.
I’d no idea I was saving the best ’til last.
 

A student of history at both ‘O’ and ‘A Level’, my English education taught me one Irish date:1846, and one name: Raleigh, who I read about in a Ladybird book at the age of 7.
 

The English don’t hate the Irish.
They just don’t care.
 

Like you and me, the English are constantly bombarded with political lies and let-downs, so when told “Oh, Ireland, yes, well it’s all very complicated you see!” they are happy to shrug their exhausted shoulders.
 

The same psychological tactic of telling the public it’s all too difficult for them to understand is proving an effective device in the whole Brexit process. Worn down by boredom, the British are more than happy to relinquish interest. They just want it over and done with.
 

Your Irish emotions might calm if you appreciate the depth of whimsy and bluff that’s driven Brexit since its inception. There was never a plan to destroy the peace process. 

Nobody was thinking about Ireland at all. 

There was just a vain Tory Prime Minister who needed to leave a greater legacy than being the bloke who screwed a pig’s head and left his daughter in the pub.
 

Political legacy is a tricky business. Blair had years of boom but all they remember is Iraq. Clinton had economic growth over two terms, but his legacy consisted of sperm on a dress.
 

What could Cameron do? 
How might he change the political landscape of his country?”
 

If only history saw him as the man who ended civil war in the Conservative Party; the man who finally silenced the batty Eurosceptics who’d been raging for decades. If he called a referendum, surely the great people of the United Kingdom would vote Remain and finally shut those arses up, once and for all.
 

Brexit was the result of Cameron’s whimsical punt, followed by the crass misjudgements of the Remain campaign’s 'Project Fear', which left Boris and his band of lying Leavers all the territory of hope.
 

From whimsy we move to bluff, and the reason why Brexit has been so farcical: none of the main figures are campaigning for what they believe in. Theresa May is a confirmed fan of the EU, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has always been a hardcore Eurosceptic.
 

Without their hearts in their words, neither of these leaders appear in any way convincing. They don’t even sound convinced by their own arguments.
 

Boris may be eccentric but he’s far from stupid. Naturally a Remainer, he’s willing to burn his ethics and the Good Friday Agreement on the bonfire of ambition. Never equate him with the British people.
 

Addicted to watching the tragedy unfold, I wave my hands around in the air and emit grunts of pain and frustration as I listen to the MayBot once again say she wants out of Single Market and Customs Union, but no border in Northern Ireland.
 

Arggghhh.
 

If she hadn’t paid £1.2 billion for the filthy services of the DUP, there might have been a border in the Irish sea, but England now has Arlene Foster’s grip on its government’s goolies, and we know she’ll hurt ‘em.
 

If only just for once Sinn Fein politicians lied openly, in public, taking the oath and sitting in Westminster, the peace process might be saved.
 

However, as we know, Northern politicians on all sides prefer to lie about lying than save lives.
 

Now Corbyn decides to save the Custom’s Union, which might offer hope to Ireland, were Labour actually in power 

There are easily enough Tory rebels to bring down this government, but then what? Is a General Election a year before leaving the EU helpful in any way? 

Still, always, comes this talk of carrying out the will of the people. 17 million said Leave. 16 million said Stay. That’s a margin of error, not a mandate. 

Subtract the protest votes and the bus lies, add those who have since learned the truth and the will of the people changes.
 

If you’re Irish and offended, please don’t take it personally. The average English person feels no contempt for Ireland: merely an unjustifiably lazy but understandable ignorance. 

Ambivalent or at worst utterly disinterested, the English are unaware that their apathy will devastate the peace and restore physical partition.
 

Cut these battered English souls some slack. They have been serially lied to, misled and manipulated throughout this miserable process.
 

If they are guilty of anything, it is that they’ve let the bastards grind them down. If you’re Irish think Lisbon Treaty, multiply it by 1,000 and you might empathise.
 

The English just want to get on with their lives. If that means a border in Ireland, well, what can they do about it?
 

If war returns to the Six Counties, blood will be on Tory hands. 


©Charlie Adley 
18.03.2018