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

Sunday 11 March 2018

IT FELT GREAT TO BE TOLD TO DO NOTHING!



It’s mesmerising, nostalgic and distracting. Whirlpools of big fat snowflakes are swirling around outside my window and it’s difficult to concentrate on work.
 

Today we have been told to stay in our homes from 4pm. To softies like myself who grew up without millions of tons of enemy bombs falling from the sky, this form of national instruction feels as close to wartime as anything might.
 

Well, ye lads did call what the rest of the planet generally refers to as The Second World War: ‘The Emergency’.
 

Maybe in Ireland, land of paradox, this emergency is a war and we’re meant to see snow as an enemy.
 

Not my foe.
 

Given the rare frequency and low levels we see of snow here in the West of Ireland, it feels benign and beautiful as it falls.
 

We are not trapped in our home. We’ve just been instructed to stay in, and it feels rather wonderful.
 

Along with the rest of you I went altogether bananas, amassing gas cylinders, briquettes and enough food to feed a village.
 

We already had torches, batteries, matches and candles, because we live on the Atlantic seaboard. Storms always come and go, as does electric power.
 

It would be disingenuous to complain that somehow Met Eireann got it wrong, just because where I live, nothing bad happened. East of the Shannon people were doubtless very thankful for the precautions they took, but while it’s easy to lose ourselves in logistics, here, right now, with the Snapper, my friend Whispering Blue and Lady Dog in the house, not one of us is the slightest bit nervous.
 

Alone here during Storm Desmond I was, as Biblical types might have it, sore afraid. Apocalyptic tropical rain fell, relentlessly, constantly at full force, from dusk to dawn and into day.
 

The house was completely surrounded by water. A river appeared at the top left corner, up by the shed, rushing and roaring down a diagonal, cutting the garden in half as it tumbled towards Lough Corrib.
 

It didn’t have to go far, as the edge of the great lake had by then arisen from underground, unwelcome and threatening, flooding half of the garden.
 

There, here, there, out of the ground insane jets of water spurted up, appearing randomly and increasingly.
 

Inside the house I ran around lifting plug boards off the ground, stuffing pillows down the loo, wondering when the hell does one abandon ship, especially if you’re the only one around to look after the place.
 

In comparison this storm feels gentle; blissful. The only gripe I have is one that comes from that nerdy part of me, which deeply resents the way bad weather is now always called a storm.
 

The Beaufort scale has its faults, but after a few decades out here on the edge of the Atlantic, I’ve come to trust that storms come in at Force 10, representing something to be reckoned with and respected.
 

The world screams in a storm.
There are no ambiguities about it.
 

A few years ago, during a storm force wind, there came a Hurricane Force 12 gust, followed by what I can only describe as a geological punch.
 

For a nano second it seemed to lift this solid house from its foundations.
The Snapper and I were in the hallway at that moment, both instinctively reaching out and clutching the other.
 

If we were heading off beyond Kansas, we needed to be together.
 

Today I am thankful . Even though the media has only tales of blizzard misery, we are safe, warm and never smug. 
 

Storm Emma is falling in soft white lumps outside, the promised gale force winds coming only in ephemeral gasps and whines.
 

Lady Dog is a little pissed off that she can’t go for an adventure on the bog, but she hurt her paw a few days ago, so a small walk will suffice.
 

Beyond canine needs, all humans in this house can today be found standing in front of windows, bewitched by dancing flakes, watching the landscape gradually rise towards the sky.
 

The day the first flurry fell, the sky cleared at night, allowing the light from the massive moon to be reflected back by the snow. Our rural area of darkness shone with such an intensity we chose to sleep with blinds open, just to fully appreciate the astonishing power of that light.
 

My obsession with feeding the birds through their Winter hardship has grown to crazed proportions. Neither a twitcher nor an expert, I simply take great pleasure from feeding and watching the little finches, tits and robins.
 

My old mate Mr. Wagster, a pied wagtail with whom I bonded soon after I arrived here, now shows no fear of me whatsoever. He even introduced me to his wife the other day.
 

Patches of ground under the feet of all these feeding birds have gradually become bare. Their little talons and prodding beaks have scarified the grass and aerated the soil.
 

Perfect for a lawn. 
Hmmm. 

Maybe next year, if I move the feed each day, the birdies could actual cut the lawn over a period of a full winter, whilst keeping themselves alive.
 

You’re a genius, Adley.
 

That’s ecological balance and integrity sorted, delaying the moment I need shift my fat arse and use a mower.
 

Brilliant indeed.
 

As I watch the snow flakes fall up and down on freezing breezes and nature’s whim, I wonder if I’ll recall my cunning plan, by the time we’ve lived through three more seasons.

©Charlie Adley
02.03.2018.

Sunday 4 March 2018

THANK GOODNESS FOR THE REAL WORLD BEYOND FACEBOOK!


Last week I was lost for a moment between two worlds: the real one in which we smell farts, taste chocolate and feel the power of loving hugs, and the world of Facebook, where those with opinions dare to feel powerful, because nobody is staring them in the eye.
 
Packing Blue Bag I headed south for one night at my friend Angel’s gaff, down in Co. Kerry, and one night on my own in West Clare.
 
What a great time of year to see Ireland. With high pressure keeping the rain belts out in the Atlantic, I drove on empty roads, barely offering a brake light all the way from Briarhill to Abbeyfeale.
 
My heart felt light, my soul singing as I drank in the amber grandeur of the Kingdom’s hills; the rare sullen stillness of its bays.
 
 

Angel’s mobile is perched on a clifftop, so as we drank 325 cups of tea, talking nonsense of profundities and profoundly of nonsense, my eyes kept glancing out of the window, drawn below to great waves pounding jagged black rocks.



Forget that stuff about blokes not sharing their feelings. We have known each other for many years, understand each others’ madnesses and whilst keeping the industries of Sri Lanka and Kenya alive, we sat from 2 ’til 11:30, pondering life’s quandaries.
 
Then I fell asleep to the sound of Atlantic breakers, waking in the morning refreshed and eager for the day.
 
No schedule.
No rush.
 
Never have I seen that road from Dingle to Tralee so empty. In the Summer it becomes a hideous snake of tourist traffic, but on a sunny cold Thursday morning at the end of February, it was all mine.
 
Much of the time I drove in silence, and then I whacked on Christy Moore, singing along with the uninhibited vigour that solitude allows.
 
Eventually I felt I ought to see what was happening in the world, so I hit the radio, where all the talk shows were pondering the Florida school massacre.
 
I arrived at Tarbert 20 minutes before the next ferry crossing over the mighty river Shannon, so after a brief brisk stretch of the legs in the freezing cold breeze, I was happy to return to my warm car, where I checked my phone.
 
Oh look. Loads of notifications from Facebook.
 
A few days earlier I’d shared somebody's post about guns in America. Shortly afterwards a good friend of mine in California left a comment which read like a press release from America’s NRA (National Rifle Association), which I promptly ignored, because I know how intractable he is about his right to bear arms.
 
When I lived over there we became firm friends, and he supported me during what was possibly the most difficult period of my life. Thanks to decades of hitching, I’ve developed an ability to form bonds with people whose views I find repellent.
 
If I trust someone, believe that they are capable of compassion and kindness, then the fact that their philosophies of life differ from mine offers an opportunity to listen and learn.
 
Our friendship was formed in a particular time and context. While I know well how worthy of respect he is, my Facebook friends are able only to react to what they see: his comments, which read like pure nonsense to us Europeans.
 
In the past I have marvelled at the eclectic gathering of souls linked only by likes of Facebook posts. My life has many tendrils, at the end of which lurk extremists, moderates, warriors and peacemakers.
 
Usually I’m delighted that so many varied souls appear to enjoy this colyoom, but as comments inevitably started to arrive, attacking his unacceptable attitudes to gun control, I suddenly felt protective of my American mate, so I deleted the whole post.
 
Of one thing I am sure: if my friend is reading this he will now feel  outraged. Blessed with the body of a Norse god, he swims between San Francisco and Alcatraz island. His mind is sharp and witty, so he is more than capable of looking after himself, both physically and mentally. Indeed, his Libertarian views dictate that he will do precisely that, if necessary to the exclusion of others.
 
He is the evolved embodiment of the American Way. To us in Europe, who prefer collective societies in which we all care for each other, his views seem facile and arcane, yet because I’ve some experience of the American psyche, 
I’m able to respect his views, even if I’ll never accept them.
 
America was formed by individuals who dared to make it happen. That frontier spirit exists still, morphed into a modern lifestyle that neither seeks nor requires external governmental help.
 
Obviously those who’ve never met my friend cannot possibly know what a truly good man he is. One of the great dangers of Facebook is that we congregate in mutually masturbatory groups, happily savaging those who dare to be different, all the while hiding from healthy diversity of opinion.
 
Yet there I was, a hypocrite committing an act of censorship, trying to spare my friend from a savaging that he would happily embrace.
 
Outside a sudden rumble of surf and diesel distracted me from my maelstrom of cyber confusion.  
The ferry had arrived.
 
Phew.
 
Time to put away my phone; desert the unnecessary world of cyberspace; embrace the soft green hills of Clare; walk the stunning beach at Lehinch.
 
Time to thrill at the freedom of this rare free day, and an evening ahead, perched anonymous on barstools in cosy local pubs.

©Charlie Adley
24.02.2018.

Sunday 25 February 2018

HAVE OUR LOOS BEEN DESTROYED BY PROGRESS?

 


I was on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere between Sydney and Melbourne. Must have been 40°C in the sun, and although very familiar with hitching, I was new to Australia.
 

Glancing down at Blue Bag on the ground beside me, I saw it was crawling with thousands of ants. An hour earlier I’d laid a wrapped burger on top of my bag for about five seconds, but clearly that left enough scents of interest to alert these - ouch! - little biting bastards to swarm over my most treasured possession.
 

Lifting Blue Bag I shook it and swiped it, encouraging an expeditionary force of the formic acid carriers to crawl up my arm.
 

That was when the pain hit me. 

My gut 

twisting 

and oh 
yes oh 
right now
urgently needing to 

void itself.
 

Natural ownership of my intestines had suddenly disappeared. They’d declared UDI and their contents were on a March for Freedom.
 

To my left, to my right, hundreds of miles of flat Australian beige scrubble.
Between them, a busy major road.
 

Nowhere to run, nowhere to pooh, except over there, a tatty old corrugated steel barn, so off I went, clenched of sphincter, to discover it actually had a toilet. 

The rest of the barn was exposed to the road, so there could be no commando ablutions. It had to be the little loo.
 

The dunny.
 

Oooogggghhh. 

Yuck.
 

There was no room for Blue Bag, and even if there had been I’d not rest it there. That bag had sat on every surface known to man and nature, but this was alien.
 

A tiny cubicle with daylight only peeping in below the corrugated sheeting, the air was old, stagnant and roasting. 

Every single surface had been colonised by beast, bug, mould or fungus, and as soon as I closed the door, I started to sweat like a power shower.
 

I’d have done it anywhere else. Give me a bush to hide behind and I’m your sub-human, but I couldn’t bring myself to drop my kecks in full view of all those passing motorists.
 

Chroist there’s a Pom over there taking a shit on sacred Aboriginal land! Call the cops! Get the bum extradoited!”
 

Stumbling out into the fresh air (40°C never felt so cool!) I was delighted to find Blue Bag ant free. Three minutes later that heat had dried me out. I was empty, happy and on the road again.
 

Sadly though I wasn’t free of that dunny.
 

The smell; the heat; the corrupted foul marriages being forged in there, between the human, animal and plant kingdoms: it has stayed with me since 1984.
 

That’s why I wasn’t surprised when the memory of it rose into my mind, making me laugh out loud last week, while alone in a Co. Galway pub toilet.
 

You see, I’d been getting all grumpy and unnecessary with the working of this Gents. All swish and modern, with polished surfaces and under doo-daa lighting, it caused me to raise my eyebrows when I first walked in.
 

Just a few years ago this very shiny Gents had been Da Jacks: that stalwart bastion of rural Irish pub attitude, with dead flies on the windowsills, cobwebs in the corners and a good millimetre of dried yellow scale under the collective trough.
 

Now, like wow, it looked so good, but that’s the point.
It just looked it.
 

The old jacks had a turn tap, with a lump of soap and a rotary towel. You could wait for the water to heat up, use the soap and wash properly, then pull down a foot of pristine cotton and dry your hands.
 

Instead I found myself playing an absurd game which involved running up and down, hitting three hot taps on three basins so that I could get enough water to wash my hands, before the timey thing ran out on the rising faucets.
 

Five seconds of tepid water doesn’t do it for me. I understand the pain in the hole it is for landlords when someone floods the bathroom, by leaving the tap on, but please, ease up on the tap technology, especially as so many pubs are trying to flog us food these days. 

If there’s cooking and eating going on, give hygiene a chance, eh?
 

At least there’s the electric hand drier. 
Surely that must be an improvement on that old towel nonsense? 

Sadly, no. Most of the electric hand driers we encounter emit a delicate and gentle kiss of sparrow’s fart, which would take several centuries to dry your hands, so instead we end up wiping them on the back of our jeans.
 

Well, I do.
 

At the other end of the scale come the skin shrinkers. Their pummelling blasts dry your hands quickly, leaving them feeling warm and lovely.
 

Unfortunately, in the process, they have also scattered infected faecal droplets of water all over your hands, arms and face, as well as Jackson Pollocking all the surrounding walls.
 

The Dyson goes one better, by needing you to slide your hands in and out of a slat.  Rather like one of those old fairground games, where you had to guide the ball along the curvy metal line without touching it, you must dangle your hands in and out of the drier without coming into contact with the plastic, as that tiny area has been touched by every single hand that’s passed this way.
 

What was wrong with the rotary towel? They cry about the environmental and monetary costs of laundry, but what about the manufacture and running costs of these electric jet streams drying your pinky?
 

Grrr.
 

Then I remembered that microwave of an Aussie dunny and all was good. 

What a spoilt brat I can be sometimes. 
This is a wonderful loo.
 

Don’t much fancy ordering food, though.


©Charlie Adley
12.02.2018.

Sunday 18 February 2018

Is there anything greater than a lifetime of friendship?





I had bit of a moment back in 2012. Standing at the back of the little upstairs bar in the Róisín Dubh, I was listening to Tuam songwriter Seamus Ruttledge explain that this charity gig had been organised by Conor ‘Monty’ Montague, his old friend from way back in the early 90s.
 

Way back?
 

But I was there, then, meeting them both. Writing columns under noms de plumes Freebase Kevin, Swami ben Carpenter and Pink O’Bum, I was part of Seamus’s freebie rag, which was locked in a minor battle with another Galway newspaper.
 

Here were these local boys saying they had been friends forever and I, a mere blow-in, had been part of it too, 20 years before.
 

Truly, I am a man blessed by friendship. To my English heart, these good men were part of a group I considered to be new friends.
 

I had not grown up with them. I had not shared my life with them from the age of 13 onwards, as I have with my friends from London. 

A few are now scattered around the globe, but the vast majority of these lifetime friends still live in England’s capital, at addresses that have not changed, with telephone numbers that I know off by heart, engraved on my cerebellum during crazier years, when all was in flux.
 

A truly amazing bunch of people, now many parents and grandparents, we all live separate lives, but still keep in touch and meet up every now and then, for either gentle visits or lairy reunions.
 

Even better, when we see each other or even speak on the phone, there is no question of having to explain yourself in any way. We know each other far too well to need preambles.
 

Alongside our families we are the foundation stones that support each others’ lives, offering profound and unique comfort, love and joy throughout the entirety of our collective lives.
 

Best of all, we know that the rest are there. As a man living a blow-in existence, far from family, the knowledge of their presence gives me great comfort. 

 
 A Good Friday gathering circa 1980 something... I wondered where the Guru was, until I spotted the red shoes on the left, and the fact that everyone
is listening to someone...!



Yet I've been blessed all over again, by the friends I’ve made beyond England. 

Online I’m now able to keep in touch with  friends that I made working at the University of San Francisco, while several of my Australian mates seem ever eager to share England’s Ashes defeats with me. Old friends from my youth work days stay in touch on Facebook and yes, new relationships are rarely yet sometimes spawned in my comments boxes.
 

Visits and real contact are rare and special, but the best friends to have today are the ones on your doorstep, and there again I have been exceptionally lucky.
 

A wave of English blow-ins swept into Galway during those early 90s. I washed up in a tiny house in Salthill, crammed under low ceilings and mouldy crumbling walls with two other Englishmen, large both physically and in personality, while next door was a 24 hour Party House of mayhem and madness.
 

If you didn't want to meet an Irish person you really didn’t have to, but I hadn’t hitched from Malaga to Galway to hang out with a crusty from Surrey. 

 Check out your scribbler's magnificent 1970s Jewfro!

Thankfully one night Blitz approached me in the Jug O’Punch and introduced me to The Body, while back in their gaff Whispering Blue had just returned from Berlin and was kipping on the sofa.
 

Only a few minutes was needed in town with any of those lads to understand that life here in Galway was unlike anywhere I’d ever lived. I’d seen 4 continents, where in small rural communities everyone knew each other, while in cities nobody did, because that’s how you survived.
 

Yet here was a city where everyone knew everyone They had grown up together, lived amongst each other, and Howyas flew constantly in all directions.
 

Even though the lads could not have done one single thing to make me feel more welcome, I felt constantly then - and now - a blow in.
 

Believe me, sometimes that is no bad thing, yet at others so strange. I feel neither less nor worse in any way, simply aware that, just as I have my lifelong friends back in London, Galwegians have their lifetimes living around them.
 

Why this now? Well one afternoon a few weeks ago I was sitting outside Neactains with two friends, both of whom worked behind the bar of an Tobar back in 1992.
 

One of them I know very well, while the other I admire and and respect. As they sat and swapped stories I gave up trying to know who was that and when did they do what, as the boys were off in a time and place of their own.
 

It is genuinely lovely to listen as two people share a myriad of lost laughs together. I experience it often when with my Galway brethren. It reinforces my feeling of foreignness in no bad way.
 

I have my own crew who know me that well, and in between I have all the other new friends, melded into my life during decades in Ireland.
 

Old housemates, firm and forever; ex-colleagues and bosses now much easier to chill with as peers; the triumvirate brotherhood with Angel and Yoda; a good chunk of a village in North Mayo; tea and buns with Dalooney and a couple of hedonistic reprobates in Clifden who I love dearly, and of course the Snapper, my most loyal and most loved friend.
 

I’ll always be a blow-in, and that’s just fine, because your old friends are like mine in London.
 

Fortified by them, I’m privileged to be able to say I’ve known my Galwegian friends for 25 years.
 

How lucky am I, to consider them my new friends?

©Charlie Adley
05.02.2018

Sunday 11 February 2018

WELCOME TO MY RANDOM RULES OF RECYCLING!



Tucked in behind the stack of dinner dishes sits an empty bottle of fabric conditioner. Well, I say empty, but there’s half a centimetre of pink Lenor at the bottom, growing slowly as the fluff-giving liquid slides down the sides of the bottle.
 

If the Snapper were doing dishes tonight, she’d wash out the bottle and lid and leave them to dry on the draining board.
 

I pick it up, scrunch it and chuck it in the landfill bin. Then I rinse out the two empty two litre bottles of Diet Coke that were standing by the Lenor and leave them to dry.
 

What am I up to? Not too sure, to be honest, because matters Green fire up constant conflict in my brainbox.
 

I feel no confusion over my intentions towards the environment. Willing to acknowledge that my presence on this planet causes harm, I strive to create eco-ambitions that make sense to me.
 

For a long time a strongly cynical part of me has wondered if our Irish multi-bin systems really do any good.
 

I’m sure that the food waste, tea bags and egg boxes I tip onto my compost heap will return something to the plant world. Yet I wonder how much of what we recycle at home ends up crushed into a massive cube of shite, which is then loaded onto a container ship with hundreds of similar shitey cubes, sailed around the world and dumped off the coast of Bangladesh, where desperately impoverished locals try to salvage a wretched living off our waste.
 

I’ve always suspected there’s an element of psychological warfare behind our wheelie bins. Compared to the amount of waste created by industry and commerce, our domestic detritus feels almost insignificant, yet as long as we do our bit, we feel okay.
 

We all know we have to contribute to the saving of the planet, so if we’ve washed out our cans of baked beans and placed everything in the right bin in the correct way, we can feel we’ve done everything we can.
 

If we go through this palaver each day we’re allowed to forget about the planet with a clean conscience. We need not worry our silly heads with the mass pollution created by industry, because we’ve put our newspapers into the blue bin.
 

Are we just being placated: fooled into thinking we’ve done enough?
If you’re finding it hard to take ecological sermonising from the bloke who just put a dirty plastic bottle into the landfill bin: welcome to my world.
 

Riddled with distrust of those who sell to us and govern us, I instead devise random rules of recycling. The clean Diet Coke bottles required no soap to clean out. A quick sloosh with the water and they’re off to recycling, but that yucky leftover fabric conditioner was going to go down the plug hole. 

It would need hot water to wash out, which uses up electricity, and then I’d be pouring phosphates and all sorts of crap into the drains; the septic tank; Lough Corrib; the Atlantic Ocean.
 

What is point of damaging our local environment just so that I can obey the rules? (why use the Lenor at all, I hear you cry!)
 

In the same way, I’m buggered if I’m going to use pints of hot water and Fairy Liquid to wash out a jar of peanut butter, just so that it can go in the glass recycling.

There’s no shortage of sand in the world. I worked for a while for the Glass Manufacturers Federation and I can tell you: we’re doing those lads a great favour.
 

My head spins like a windmill blade as I listen to greeny types giving out about wind farms. Of course powerful rulings about how far they must be built from housing need to be adhered to, but what would they rather have? 

Peat farms destroying Ireland’s great bogs and clean air?  
Nuclear power, perhaps?
 

I fear that all this legislation in favour of electric cars is nothing but a one-way street to a nuclear future. In 2017 there were 31.7 million cars on the roads of the UK, yet their government plan to rid their country of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. Where is all the electricity going to come from?
 

Talk of clean electric cars utterly bamboozles me. How is electricity a clean energy? Even if, in 20 years, renewable and recoverable sources provide all the UK’s domestic output, that leaves a heck of a lot of cars needing charging.
 

Inevitably that will be when nuclear energy returns from moral exile.
 

At least with nuclear power we can be absolutely certain of one thing: it will go wrong. There will be a disaster which will wreck our lives and the environment.
 

I love the idea of wind farms and tidal energy, but we also need to ensure that in our eagerness to save our environment, we’re not screwing up the one beneath the sea.
 

Having already bleached much of the planet’s coral reef, we need to look out for the oceans. Wind turbines create noise that interferes with many aspects of marine life, particularly cetacean navigation. Humpback whales lose their ability to migrate. Dolphins pods become beached.
 

Is there anything more terrifying and disgusting than that vast artificial island of plastic drifting around the Pacific Ocean? An evil country in search of an owner, nobody takes responsibility or funds an expedition to clean it up.
 

What could possibly be more important to our ecosystems and climate than ridding the oceans of plastic?
 

Hmmm, yeh.
 

Right now, that might be me going back to my bin and taking out that bottle of Lenor.
 

Think of the poor fish, Adley.
 

Sorry, septic.
Sorry, Lough Corrib.
 

Holy microbeads, this recycling business sure is confusing!

©Charlie Adley
31.01.2018.

Sunday 4 February 2018

Is Ireland becoming more modern than England?


While I loved my travelling years I carried much more of a burden than the weight of Blue Bag on my shoulder. At the tender age of 17 I discovered that an Englishman abroad has much to prove to the world. 

The drivers who helped me on my way as I hitched around France uniformly imagined I was German, because I spoke French.
 

“Allemand?”
“Non, je suis Anglais.”
“Vraiment?”
 

As a student of history at school I knew we had plenty of it with the French, but naively imagined that because we’d liberated their country 30 years before, they might show some generosity of spirit to the English.
 

Silly me.
 

Gladly I did share much love and generosity with the French, but that was as an individual, after I’d found out how to shrug off my Englishness.
 

As the decades and continents went by I grew weary of that process. Time after time I was charged with the slaughter of however many thousands or millions the British Empire took from that particular part of the globe.
 

Yes I know, it was appalling, but you see: I wasn’t there. 

Over and over again I said it, car after bus after plane; town after village after city; relentless, just about anywhere and everywhere in the world.

Gradually my response reduced to an aggressive tone of voice delivering a defensive reaction:

“Not me mate. Wasn’t there.”
 

As is the way with the human condition, the more people accused me of evildoings by spurious historical proxy, the more I dug my heels in.
 

I wouldn’t apologise to them for being English. Of course there’s no excuse for what happened with the Empire, but as I said umpteen times, not me mate, wasn’t there.
 

Secretly, I felt a perverted and wholly immoral pride. This itsy bitsy country took over a third of the entire world? Coal, steel and misguided ambition, allied to the fact that English soldiers could thrive in any weather conditions and live without sex for months, while any food they ate would be better than what they’d get back home.
 

Cracking jokes about the British Empire to Irish readers?
 

You might be forgiven for seeing no humour in it, yet in the same way that I have tried to rise above my native country’s history, the Irish are now emerging from their historical hatreds and latent loathings.
 

Tragically I probably now suffer less historical abuse from the locals, because those of a racist bent have in Ireland these days others more different in appearance to vent their vile spleens upon.
 

I remember the farmer leaning on the gate a few years ago, trying to bond with me in exactly the wrong way.
 

“Ah but y’see, Charlie, they’re not the same as you and me.”
 

This from the man who’d spent the previous three years endlessly haranguing me in the pub about my nationality, now hoping to bond because we were both white.
 

I’d never apologise for being British. I’m proud to be British. I’m proud of a country that has given the world constitutional democracy, football, the internet and Strictly.
 

How can I not feel pride when I think of England’s stand against the nazis? While ye lads were euphemising about an emergency and your enemy’s enemy being your friend, our grandfathers fought fascism.
 

What’s not to be proud of in that?
 

My heart pumps when I think of July 5 1948, the day the National Health Service was born.
 

Aneurin Bevan launched the manifestation of a unique and wondrous dream: to give the British people one organisation that included hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists, to provide services free to all.
 

Civilisation should be determined by what we can do for those able to do less. With the launch of the world’s first Welfare State and the NHS, England proved to be a most compassionate country, whose government genuinely hoped to improve the lives of the masses.
 

As Irish people anywhere in the world (with the possible exception of England!) you will be received with joy and comradeship. 

As an Englishman, I feel there’s much to be proud of, but also I fear that while Ireland is emerging from history, shaking off those hair shirts and miserable chains of bondage, England is rapidly descending into its past.
 

When I moved in 1992 to the West of Ireland I saw England as the modern world, and this place a beautiful anachronistic backwater.
 

Now there are 2,000 food banks in England. The country which created welfare is relying on the compassion of the general public to feed their poor.
 

When there’s a rise in Social Welfare payments in this country, the compassionate people of Ireland make no noise, save to celebrate what they see as a sign that things are improving.
 

A surefire way to win votes in England is to promise to cut the dole. Universal Credit is not only the disgrace of this Tory government. It’s also an indictment of everyone who voted them in.
 

As Ireland finally to clambers into the modern world with the legalisation of divorce, marriage equality and soon a woman’s right to choose, England shrinks back behind its borders, dreaming of the glory left scattered on those Normandy beaches.
 

While the older English decide that all their ills are the fault of others from outside, young people overwhelmingly voted against Brexit, so there is hope for the future.
 

Here in Ireland, youth counts for a massive third of the population. For the first time in 25 years it feels to me as if I might now be living in the more modern country.


©Charlie Adley
24.01.2018.




Sunday 28 January 2018

I’LL MISS THE CALM AND COLOURS OF WINTER!




While you’re all doubtless excited about the arrival of Spring next week, Lá Fhéile Bhríde, buds bulging and crocus bulbs bursting out of the ground, this contrary colyoomist will feel a sense of loss.
 

Of course I’m glad to see the light earlier in the morning, but equally I’ve enjoyed those extra minutes in bed, afforded by the darkness beyond the glass.
 

I’ll not miss the flu, nor the wiping of the inside car windscreen. I’ll be pleased when it’s light late enough to find the wee hole in the ground that secures the front gate. 

No fun, struggling in a howling gale and sideways rain under a moonless sky, one hand holding Lady Dog’s lead, the other scraping the gate bolt along the ground, cursing aloud about fluorescent paint, and what great idea that'd be.
 

I won’t miss those moments when Winter feels adversarial. It might be Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, the lack of sunlight and vitamin D that brings your mood down. It might be all that Christmas frenzy, a hissing cauldron of stress and activity so very far from Silent Night.
 

Or was it the psychological warfare of naming storms that tipped you over the edge? We who live on this Atlantic seaboard know that unless it’s a Red warning, we’re not bothered. We’ll take your gales, your 8s and 9s, but when it hits 10, we notice.
 

You can’t help but notice, because a storm makes a noise of its own; a jaw-dropping intestine-squidging roar that makes you give thanks you can close the window and stay safe and warm inside.
 

 

Now they give a name to anything Orange or above, so we feel constantly under threat from names with no faces. Inevitably it is the storm least hyped that delivers the most shocking blow, but nobody really expects the Met Office or Met Éireann to get it perfectly right.
 

Mind you, if I were on a boat…
 

While those storms are scary and limit your lifestyle, they also offer us coastal county dwellers a raw encounter with nature that few others experience; a reminder that we can make plans, but in the face of an Atlantic depression, they are puny.
 

Storms fill your head and lungs with adrenalin, which is why some young ones become pure idiots and drive their hot hatchbacks through breaking waves, but all of us profit from the high we feel as the wind dies and the skies clear.
 

We feel physically lighter; not just pleased to have survived another humdinger wind, but aerobically pumped up on the same free ions that inspired Beethoven to write his Pastoral Symphony.
 

 

Yet for every mad moment of tempestuous fury, Winter offers profound calm. For each day lost to grey skies and seemingly endless hours of rain, there will be early Winter mornings that offer combinations of colour so stark and strong they force my feet to be still, and then my breathing. These are the reasons I will miss the passing of Winter. 

Naturally I love warm weather and sunshine. I love to lie on the grass under Summer’s bluest sky, watching wispy clouds pass overhead to the soundtrack of a host of insects.
 

But also - call me weird if you must - I like to stand on the bog road with my dog at 8:30 on a mid-Winter’s morning, watching the huge sun creep above the hill, slashing the sky over Connemara so that it bursts a blood red snakeskin pattern above pitch black mountains.
 

 

I love the abruptness of Winter silence. 
Trees demand attention, starkly silhouetted inverted lungs, plugged into the planet.
 

Over there a fox appears in daylight, because it has to, and I admire the size of the beast, surprisingly brown, with a yard long brush ending in a white bobble. By god, it’s thriving.
 

When all the undergrowth is stripped back, Winter allows you to encounter Ireland’s wildlife up close. The pair of herons that in midsummer would have no need to be close to humans now launch themselves out of the drainage ditch up the bog road.
 

Lady and I stop in our tracks as they rip-roar out of the reeds, casually flapping their great dinosaur wings, rising straight up only to settle back down 20 yards away on the bog.
 

At midday, dazzled by the low sun, I stand under a deep blue sky, vivid rust bogland to the horizon.
 

Swimming in the stillness, the only sound the breeze in my ear.
Winter alone offers that, sometimes even in the city.
 

For a brief couple of weeks the place is empty. Bad news for landlords, but marvellous for antisocial types like myself, who’d rather listen to one wise or witty person than the unintelligible babble of a festival crowd.
 


Having survived the other three seasons, I know most of you love our long Summer evenings. On those Connacht nights when you can simultaneously see dusk in the west and dawn in the east it feels like a reward. The Snapper cannot wait for those endless days to return, but here again I fail to conform.
 

I like evening. Maybe it’s because I work for myself, or maybe I just take after my mum, who talks of ‘digging in’, but at the end of a day I like to light the fire and enjoy a few hours as a family together.
 

When I lived in west Connemara my living room had windows on three sides. All the endless Summer daylight sent me a bit bananas, pacing around on my own, longing for the night to come.
 

In a few weeks dawn will arrive at silly o’clock, and new life will burgeon forth.
We’ll all be filled with energy and enthusiasm, but deep inside me, there’ll be a warm thought for Winter's cold calm.

 

18.01.2018.
©Charlie Adley