Friday 17 March 2017

A RAMBLE AROUND WINDY WEST CLARE!


As I steer the car around Black Head and head south along Clare’s coast, my view turns from Salthill across Galway Bay to the Aran Islands. 

It’s early on a wet and windy Sunday morning. Ireland is sleeping. Apart from the busload of eager Dutch and German tourists I passed earlier, already prowling Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara, I’ve pretty much got the world to myself.

I breathe out long and slow.  

Perfect.

Thank you universe.
 

I need this right now.
 

A little headspace in a whole lot of stunning earthspace. 
Blue Bag packed in the back of the car.
 

Bliss.
 

It’s been a good few years since I drove down through Fanore. Usually I’ll take the Corkscrew Hill road, so I’m eyes wide with pleasure as I watch the westerly storm and high tide combine to pummel a thousand flat black rocks. Heroic waves spray towers of spume and exploding balls of salty froth high into the air.
 

Time to stop the car and be out there. To fully absorb all this glory I need to feel it on my skin. Pulling over in precisely the middle of nowhere, I wrap my tweed coat around me and stare out towards the roaring Atlantic. 

Not a human in sight, although at my feet there are ancient stones embedded into the rocky foreshore in a deliberate circle. Evidently thousands of years ago other people stood where I am now, and  -

- oh bloody hell! Would you Adam and Eve it?
 

Less than a hundred metres up the road, the coach I’d seen in Kinvara has pulled over, and is now spewing forth brightly-clad tourists. It's barely 10 on a Sunday morning, and they’ve already 'done' Kinvara. 

Very probably they woke up in Galway and will sleep tonight in Killarney, and they have as much right to be here as I do. Just wish they hadn’t chosen my particular middle of nowhere while I was actually there.
 

Climbing back into the car I head for the beach, to stand alone and face a mighty angry ocean.
 

Driving past Fanore I see a man walking a young calf towards me along the road. A mile further on I see another man walking a single cow away from me along the road. Either that calf was just taken from that cow, or there's a severe dog shortage in this part of West Clare.
 

Heading into Doolin I remember my first time here, the day after my first Paddy’s Day in Ireland. Back in 1993, I was less concerned with pacing my drinking. I’d left Taylor's Bar on Dominick Street at some stage of the afternoon, and then woke up on the floor of a friend’s caravan in Doolin.
 

Apparently I’d hitched, arriving unannounced in the middle of the night. She assured me I’d behaved well, considering my state, until I fell asleep on her floor, snoring raucously.
 

Today I’m hungry after all that sea air, so I pop into a pub for some scrambled eggs.
 

The server seems at best ambivalent about my presence, and asks me to pay first. Then a coachload of Germans walk in and I understand, not only why she was unimpressed by my feeble order, but also why I haven't been back to Doolin for so long.
 

It's beautiful but it runs a tourist conveyor belt that reminds me of Kilronan on Inis Mor. There are many places equally as gorgeous nearby.
 

Tonight I’ll be in my favourite, Lehinch, but first it’s time to enjoy a magnificent pint of Guinness in a pub in Lisdoonvarna.
 

The barmaid is handing out aspirin to a young customer.
 

"I've something for every occasion in my bag, so I have!" She smiles, and as she walks away, another lad whispers:
 

"Ribbed and flavoured!"
 

Slightly ashamed of myself, I chuckle along with the other naughty boys.
 

Just like everywhere else, the number of pubs in Ennistymon has shrunk. Used to be one for every week of the year. Now I'm having trouble finding somewhere that might be showing the footie. To be fair, Clare are playing later, and this is hardcore Banner country. 

Lehinch beach never disappoints, today the air dense with sea mist. Across the horizon, below the mighty red and black storm clouds, long pale cloudy fingers reach for the water, dipping into the ocean as they spill their load.
 

 

Over Liscannor a monster shower cloud looks as if it’s about to split open to reveal a Steven Spielberg flying saucer.
 

The fella at the reception of my inexpensive family hotel is as flexible and obliging as a submissive yoga master, juggling rooms so that I can be on the top floor and off the road. 

Simple and clean, my room is fine. just a tiny bit off-kilter. As I do what men do standing up, I notice that the loo's cistern lid slopes to the left. The mixer tap in the basin is also skewed well to the left, for some reason making me feel as if I'm on board a boat.
 

The kettle tea and coffee tray is well-stocked but nowhere near an electrical point. Maybe that's why it's so well stocked - nobody knows how to use it.
 

Gasping for a cuppa I lift the whole tray and carry it carefully to the seat by the window, where there's a double electrical socket. As I try to plug in the kettle, the whole socket wobbles and shifts in an alarming way, considering it’s attached to the mains.
 

Oooerrr...

Do I want that cuppa? 
Well then, get over it.
 

I do and it's worth the gamble. If it hadn't been, I'd now be a pile of ashes on a carpet in County Clare and could neither have written this, nor gone out tonight to once again delight myself, by gently rambling around the varied, chatty, warm and wonderful pubs of Lehinch.

©Charlie Adley
09.03.2017

Sunday 12 March 2017

The Oscar for best exposed bum goes to...me!

The wonderful Emma Thompson - she pinched my bum with gusto!
 
Rather than dwelling on an imbecilic cock-up concerning envelopes and selfie-obsessed idiots at last week’s Academy Awards, I remember the fantastic films nominated in 1995. Both Pulp Fiction and Sense and Sensibility swept me away with their superb screenplays and performances.

Emma Thompson quite rightly won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. It took her seven years to write and then she played her part with understated brilliance, and then she tweaked my bum with gusto.
 

What was that?
 

Don't tell me Emma Thompson ever had physical contact with your nether regions.
 

Oh go on then. Tell me. Tell me another base and sordid tale from your quirky past. Tell me a bizarre story involving toilets, a genuine Academy Award Winner and your scribbler’s bare naked behind.
 

Back in the 1990s, my dear friend and actor Chris was on a world tour with Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company, performing in King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
 

At the time, I was living in West Yorkshire, so I crossed the Pennines to spend some time with Chris when the tour reached Manchester. He arranged my tickets, so that I could see Lear in the evening, and Dream the following afternoon.
 

To be honest, I was a little nervous of this double-whammy of old Bill Spear and his barmy 17th century lingo. There is a painful scar on my brain that resembles the words ‘A level English Literature', yet I was absolutely blown away by both shows.
 

Richard ‘Dickie’ Briers (smiley Tom of ‘The Good Life’ himself) was just a tad too cuddly as crazy King Lear, but Emma Thompson’s performance as the fool was dazzling. She hammed it up just right, dragging herself around the stage on her knees, with such resigned expertise that you ended up believing her/him an amputee.
 

The following lunchtime, Chris brings me backstage to meet the cast and crew before the matinée, and before you can say ‘dealer takes two’, I’m being invited to play a little dressing room poker with Dickie and the lads.
 

Never one to spurn a chance to take money from those that have it, I sit down and await my cards, but sadly the game is not to be. Just as we start playing, a cheery boyish Kenneth Branagh appears in the doorway and announces:
 

“20 minutes!”
 

It’s a bit like being in a fire station when the siren sounds. All of a sudden everyone has a mission, and I have none. Chris does his pursed-lip smile thing as his hand directs my back out the door.
 

I confess to him that I desperately need to use the loo. He points down the backstage corridor to the left, and says he’ll see me later, but right now he has to become a moth.
 

“Fair enough!” says I, walking swiftly off, feeling the urgency of my mission building with sudden vehemence.
 

I test the first door I come to, and at the sight of washbasins and the like, I fly into the middle cubicle, lower my jeans and feel immediate, wonderful and substantial relief.
 

With my breathing returned to normal, I look around the cubicle for some entertaining backstage graffiti. Just imagine the legions of great actors that must have sat right here, on the backstage po-po at the Manchester Palace Theatre.
 

Oh no. 
Oh good god no.
 

To my left sits a sanitary towel disposal container. Even given the trendy nature of thespians, I doubt very much that they share their toilet areas with the opposite sex.
 

My heart sinks down to my toes. Oh please don’t let me be in the Ladies.
 

At that very moment, I hear the door open, and three very female voices announce their arrival. My heart rises from my toes and drops out of my bottom, travelling west down the U-bend.
 

How bad is this?
 

How much do I want to be caught lurking in the famous ladies’ loo?
 

Best sit very very quietly until they are gone.
 

My blinking sounds like thunderclaps, my breathing like a wheezy gale, but I remain undetected, and exhale deeply as I hear the chitty-chatter stop and the door close.
 

All is silent now, and I must grab the moment, before anybody else walks in.
 

With one movement, I kick open the cubicle door and grab my jeans, pulling them up as I enter the washroom area. In the massive mirror in front of me I see my reflection, an ungainly image of bare thighs, exposed buttocks and - and also staring into the mirror, not three feet away from me, there stands Emma Thompson in her flowing white Helena robe.
 

Her mouth falls agape as I frantically explain who I am, apologise and make swift my escape.
 

Sadly, most of the production passes me by in a blur, so fraught am I by the horrific events of earlier, but by the end of it, I have calmed down, and feel happy to be walking along the street with my mate, proud of his achievements and thirsty for a pint or three.
 

Behind us we hear excited female voices, and Chris turns around to see Siobhan Redmond and Emma Thompson heading along behind us.
 

With a slight edge of pride in his voice, he turns to me.
 

"Hang about mate, I’ll introduce you! Siobhan, Emma this is my friend Charlie and -"
 

at which Emma Thompson walks behind me, and very obviously and sportingly pinches my arse as she greets me:
 

"Hello Charlie! I didn’t recognise you with your trousers on!"
 

Chris turns to me, almost lost for words.
 

"I can’t leave you alone for one minute, can I?" he exclaims, sounding just as proud now, for very different reasons, as he had the moment before.



©Charlie Adley
01.03.2017

Saturday 4 March 2017

HOW CAN WINTER BE OVER IF IT BARELY EVER BEGAN?

 
For the last four months I've been feeling like the fella in the Western, who’s peering nervously over a vast expanse of empty prairie towards the lonely distant mountains, turning to glare at you with nervous menace and whisper:

“It’s quiet. Too quiet.”
 

Now that we’re nearer Paddy’s Day than St. Bridget's, it’s fair to say that Winter is over, but did it ever begin? It seems a little strange to this northwest London Jewish blow-in to be talking weather in terms of saints’ days, yet all religion relies on a calendar to map our seasons.
 

All around me the yellows are emerging, and while it’s thrilling to see celandine, primrose, daffodil and forsythia announcing the end of the dark season by bursting forth their butter sunshine glory, I’m still twitching around, glancing fearfully over my shoulder like a Vietnam vet, waiting for Winter to hit.
 

Technically we’re in Winter until the equinox, but in our irrational and wonderful human way, we feel we are now in Spring. While we know only too well that big weather can hit our Atlantic coast at any time, if a conveyor belt of storms roars in off the ocean now, they won’t be Winter ones.
 

Many might think me mad, but I’m unsettled by this lack of Winter. The sun and moon behaved themselves, so we knew where we were in the year, but the weather did nothing.
 

Hallelujah you might cry. Your livestock are not stuck isolated on a tiny lump of elevated ground on a floodplain. You’ve not had pipes built into concrete burst from double digit freezing temperatures.
 

Storm Doris packed a short sharp punch last week, but apart from that we’ve had a couple of gales, a few frosty mornings and generally calm and benign weather this Winter.
 

So why would I wish it otherwise?
 

My excellent friend the Guru used to take himself off to India every Autumn, returning to Ireland in Springtime, but after a few years of this lifestyle he found himself feeling exhausted. 

Might it be, I suggested to him, that your body and soul need a Winter? Maybe you need to slow down in three months of darkness, sleep a lot and sit by the fire.
 

Despite the views of the American vice-president, we were not plonked onto a readily-prepared perfectly functioning planet. We have evolved with it, our needs linked to the seasons.
 

So while I know that Winter has come and gone, I don’t feel that it has, and that unsettles me in a surprisingly profound way.
 

Where were the storm force winds that create their own singular noise, the howling crashing roar that sounds like a giant dam has burst a hundred yards from your house? 

Where were the storm surges that wreck cars in Salthill car park, ripping giant boulders out of the sea wall and hurling them onto the flooded rushing gushing road?
 

My first year in this country was spent living in a tiny place just off the Prom. The house was one or two notches up from a slum. My bed’s straw mattress brewed all manner of blood-sucking damp-dwelling beasties, while directly above, the ancient flimsy roof struggled to support a cracked and crumbling chimney.
 

As the gales howled I lay there wondering which gust would bring the whole lot crashing down upon my head.
 

Young and drunk, rash and eager, we regularly walked up the road to experience the ferocity of the weather, as it battled to merge the Atlantic with the land. Anyone who’s faced into a storm force wind knows how exhilarating it feels; how tiny and powerless you become in the face of proper weather.
 

There was that mad bad Winter of 2010, when the ice on the leaves of the trees sat two inches thick. Three of the four roads in and out of Galway were impassable, and my friends from the outer limits of Co. Roscommon arrived ravenous on Christmas Day, having existed cut off and powerless, melting snow on their wood-burning stove so that they might have drinking water.
 

There’s not one bit of me that would wish for a Winter like that, nor another like 2013/14, when over a dozen brutal storms passed over the houses of the West of Ireland, pummelling our spirits, threatening to break our wills with its relentless assault.
 

No thanks. I’d rather have the non-Winter just past than that, yet there lurks something primal within me that feels concerned about the way this year’s Winter went AWOL.
 

Storm Angus arrived last November, with Barbara and Conor hitting in December. Doris arrived two months later, so if we’re to make it down the alphabetical list to Ivor, Jacqui and Kamil, it’d have to be a pretty cataclysmic March.
 

Jacqui and Kamil? I’m sure there’s a bigot out there already complaining that even the storms sound like immigrants now.
 

While discussing the weather, as we all inevitably do, a friend recently explained that over the last several decades, Ireland’s annual rainfall has barely changed. The same amount gets dumped on us every year, just not necessarily in the same season.
 

Alone during Storm Desmond, I watched water encircle this house, rise up the outside walls and sprout out of the ground in spontaneous spurts.
 

A river suddenly ran from the top left of the garden to the bottom right, as the turlough that yearly takes a quarter of our garden rose to meet the lake that was once our driveway. It was plain terrifying; not an experience I’d like to endure again.
 

This year the turlough has barely poked a puddle from the ground.
 

It’s quiet. Too quiet.

22.02.17.

Sunday 26 February 2017

Irish sleaze oozes from Adams to Zappone...



Sometimes it’s great being an outsider. Over a quarter of a century I’ve tried to understand and assimilate into Irish culture in many ways, but where justice and accountability are concerned, my adopted home remains to this Englishman a foreign country.
 

For a moment last week I couldn't remember what it was that Garda McCabe had originally blown his whistle about. Barely surprising really, when you consider how depraved the affair has become since then.
 

Penalty points: that’s where this matter started, and while the UK drips with vice and scandal, when the finger of blame is pointed at public figures, they either step down or go inside.
 

Ex-cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his wife Vicky Pryce were both sentenced to eight months in jail for conspiring to swap penalty points. Job done.
 

Here in Ireland a conspiracy to help bigwigs avoid penalty points has gone the way of all Irish scandals: she said that he told her that they never spoke about what didn’t happen, never, not a word was uttered, not a paragraph written, no report made or memo sent, until the other fella says well, now that he thinks of it again, he did say that, in person, and actually in great detail to both himself and herself, many weeks before, but when he’d said they’d said that, he really didn’t want to say it, because they were not only misleading the Dáil, but oh now isn’t it terrible, they were misleading the Irish people themselves.
 

Meanwhile the real the Irish people stare hopelessly at their TVs, wondering when these feckin’ gobshites are ever going to pull their heads out of their backsides and get their priorities right.
 

Instead of force-feeding the gullets of the legal system, stuffing our tax euros into lawyers’ wallets like food down the throats of Foie Gras geese, they might one day return to other questions, such as why do we have to decide whether we can afford a dialysis machine or a CT Scanner?
 

Every soul in this nation knows well there is ample money to restore HSE patients’ dignities, but it’s wasted in a status quo spawned in a culture that accepts corruption as a way of life; a culture wherein it’s perfectly acceptable to enhance your political career by exploiting a conspiracy that has discredited a brave man.
 

This colyoom isn’t going all 9/11 on you. Just look at the plain facts. Does one living person truly believe that the specific use of the words ‘digital penetration’ was a ‘clerical error’?
 

Casting a shadow over lesser matters such as who is running the country, there hovers a much darker question: why does Irish society tolerate such decisions being made in the highest of places?
 

Individuals and cartels acting with impunity are capable of doing whatever they like in this country, and none of them will ever spend time in jail for any of it.
 

There is no law of criminal defamation in Ireland, so even in the extremely unlikely eventuality of somebody actually being found guilty of perpetrating a smear campaign, it does not constitute a crime. That’s the way they’ll get off, just as they always do in this country.
 

Arriving in Ireland half way through the Beef Tribunal, my jaw dropped when two years later the accused parties were given the gentlest of admonitions.
 

Since then there’s been so many scandals and tribunals that I started to compile a list, but only made it as far as the ‘B’s (Burke, Buchanan, Barr, Barron, Breen…) because I found myself falling asleep counting corrupt Irish sheep.
 

Truly, Irish sleaze oozes from Adams to Zappone, protected by endless tribunals that can run longer than the lifespan of the judge. 

Collectively they’ve cost us taxpayers well over a billion euro, after over 60% of the costs are awarded to witness lawyers, banks and other institutions.
 

A tidy billion euro spent, yet damn all justice served. Our rulers sit far from question and accountability, protected by a balustrade of obfuscation.
 

We know that it makes no difference which combination of political parties are in charge in the Dáil. We know that it made no difference whether Kenny or Martin was Taoiseach.
 

Both would offer the same shabby performance, seeking only to protect their career at the expense of a man, now increasingly lost in this process, whose life was devastated by his own State, on a mission to destroy him.
 

Opposition parties failed to serve the country by delivering justice. Instead Independents stood on their heads, spinning like hip hop dancers, desperately trying to appease and appear separate from government, while simultaneously wholly a part of government, because they want us to believe they have authority, without any guilt by association.
 

The human ingredients of Irish government are irrelevant. What matters here is a country that has given birth to an accepted culture of smear and character assassination.
 

An honest policeman’s efforts to seek justice have ripped apart his life, been transformed into a sex abuse scandal, a cover-up and a vote of confidence in the government.
 

We’ll never know why was there such fear about what a whistleblower had to say, as with all Irish scandals, the guilty parties will never be found.
 

Those who decided to destroy this man will survive, protected by their high towers. The enquiry will run for years, without anybody ever being held to account, let alone in handcuffs.
 

©Charlie Adley
20.02.2017


Sunday 19 February 2017

I MAY BE ALL OVER THE PLACE BUT I’M GOING NOWHERE!


Sometimes looking after your body feels like such hard work. After over two years on a waiting list, I’m eventually awarded an appointment at a local clinic, where the very excellent physiotherapist gives me a programme of 10 exercises to do each morning.
 

Along with my everyday warm-up, the whole caboodle takes only a half hour, and after a few weeks I start to feel amazing. My body is moving as one unit - apart from the more wobbly bits - and after full-speed walks with Lady Dog I feel no pain in my back.
 

Fantastic! My spirits are finally lifting. After a long bout of that coughy flu bug everyone had this winter, it's wonderful to feel once again the spiritual and emotional boost of good physical health.
 

Whispering Blue is out visiting for the weekend, and I’m finishing my stretches in the living room before we take Lady Dog out.for a good long ramble The sky is cloudless and blue, a heavy frost encrusting the land, and I’m very much looking forward to heading outside when -
 

Wooooaaooohhhh…….
 

My legs collapse under me and I fall into my chair, clinging onto its arms as my lounge suddenly spins round and around, up and down, just like a carousel.
 

Facing the fireplace I watch with pure horror as the windows arrive in front of my eyes and disappear behind me, below me, above me, and then come round again. 

This was not your average dizziness in the head. I felt stationary (as I was) but the world around me was whirling and dipping and rising, as if I was sitting inside a raffle barrel.
 

Finally it dissipated and I wobbled into the kitchen.
 

“Whoah mate! Just had the weirdest bloomin’ dizzy spell. Up was down and round about and total madness, but I reckon it was just something to do with my exercises. Look, it’s gorgeous out there. Let’s head off and tramp some hoary bog!”
 

Not such a good idea. My legs felt as if they’d been at sea for three months, so we came home quickly and I sat down and did not dare move for a very long time.
 

A few spinning rooms and a fairly unpleasant night later, I see the doctor who tells me I’ve a form of labyrinthitis. If it’s viral it will pass in ten day or so, and if it’s not viral then there’s a tiny piece of calcium lost in a middle-ear tubule and only a certain manoeuvre, performed by a physiotherapist, can get it loose.
 

As I write now I’m not sure which it is. I’ve been to the physio and she seems to think it’s non-viral, so I’m doing the required manoeuvre. 

The Snapper isn’t convinced, because she knows well how foolhardy and stubborn I usually am in the face of illness, yet for the last few days I’ve been utterly wiped out, sitting in my chair, snoozing and dribbling in particularly sexy fashion.
 

There are vital things we take utterly for granted and it’s not until they are robbed from us that we understand their importance. The first time I was in an earthquake I felt slightly traumatised, not so much because I felt my life had been in danger, but more the result of feeling the earth move under my feet.
 

Orgasmic innuendos aside, it was the most troubling experience. 
Throughout my entire life the ground was there: solid; trustworthy; something so fundamental to everyday life that it never crossed my mind it might somehow disappear, until … whoooooaaah!
 

So it has been. Long periods of relative calm and then I’m clutching the mattress, as the universe’s fairground worker whirls my personal waltzer.
 

All this will pass, but it made me wonder about perception. Of course I know what my living room windows look like, but how did I see them in front of my eyes when the back of my head was turned to them?
 

Very similar to vertigo, this particular number I’ve got feels as if an external force is reeling my environment around, up and down.
 

Compared to some though I’m lucky. Consider those who suffer from Glass Delusion, which first appeared back in the 17th century, when a new clarity of glass was achievable, and considered by some supernatural.
 

Much rarer, yet still suffered by some today, Glass Disorder victims believe they are actually made of glass, and therefore in imminent danger of shattering.
 

Then there are syndromes known as ‘parasomnias’, which include Sexsomnia and the splendidly named Exploding Head Syndrome. 

Sexsomnia involves a sleeping person unknowingly instigating and performing sexual acts, whilst far way in the Land of Nod. Although a verifiable condition, Sexsomnia has become controversial, as it’s been cited as a defence against rape.
 

Exploding Head Syndrome usually shows itself very soon after the victim has fallen asleep. From inside their own heads they then hear either bombs going off, gunshots, screams, wild animal roars or, as suggested by the syndrome’s name, the sound of their own head blowing apart.
 

Sitting at the kitchen table, the Snapper and I chat about all these horrible illnesses and I try to convince myself that what I have at the moment is in some way preferable to other weird stuff.
 

As I witter away I see herself idly looking at a piece of junk mail that’s just been delivered.
 

Leaning over I take a look myself, only to see big bold wording announcing: Over 50s Funeral Plan.
 

“Steady love!” I offer. “I may be all over the place but I’m not going anywhere yet!”
 

We both laugh out loud. Always the best medicine.
©Charlie Adley
09.02.17.