Sunday 20 May 2018

THE SUN IS OUT - THIS MAN IS OUT!



 
At last our natural world here in the west of Ireland is bursting with life. I can feel underneath me as I walk a burgeoning latent power, eager to rise, erupt, unfurl and bloom, to blossom and produce fruit.
 

After that long winter our local ecosystem is in a heck of a hurry to catch up with itself. The dazzling white flowers on the leaf of the hawthorn arrived this year while there were still white flowers on the buds of the blackthorn. 

With bluebells dancing alongside primroses, everyone in the ground is shaking their natural booty thang together this spring.
 

Given a few hours of solitude and an absence of rain, your scribbler has been out there too, fulfilling - or rather, trying to avoid repeating - my annual destiny.
 

Until the compost I made last year is spread, I can’t start to make compost once again.
 

Of course I can, but within my neurotic little existence and the chaos that is my brainbox, this seasonal ritual creates a tiny bit of order.
 

Each year I lift the grey plastic sheet, reveal the new compost, and proceed to load the wheelbarrow, at some point completely screwing up my back and carrying on regardless.
 

Has to be done, dammit.
Nothing more important for the soil - gaaawooorr! - and what did I go to all the trouble of making it for, if I’m so feeble a man I can’t even spread my own


ooh ooh ca-ha-hoooghhh 

breathe 

... compost?
 

This year I set a target of weeding the wildflower bed and shifting the compost without leaving myself on anti-inflammatories and heat pads. 

Thankfully I’ve a secret weapon, in the shape of ten stretches which I do, well, not exactly every morning, but 5 in 7, or 4 maybe, but you know, I do them and thank goodness.
 

They take about 25 minutes and have transformed my life.
 

As I sit here now, a couple of hours after the muck spreading, I’m not exactly pain free, but as the enlightened physiotherapist advised me, that’s because I’ve been using my muscles. 

I am, however, intact and mobile. Victory is mine, even if it’s a feeble one over my own body.
 

Last year’s waste turned this year’s goodness has now been returned to the soil. The roses, soft fruit, forsythia and the two purply bushes I don’t know the name for have more than a fighting chance of thriving.
 

That makes me feel good, because despite living in the First World, where everything is instantly available, we have not lost our animalistic need to grow food; to excel outdoors; to understand the land we share with plants and animals.
 

There’s a reason gardening makes good therapy. What else is 'grounding' if not sticking your hands in the soil? More than anything else, planting is what has led to the debatable success of our species.
 

The soil has allowed us to thrive. Without its ability to grow plants to order, we would still be in caves. Maybe that’s why I find pleasure in restoring some of what we’ve taken, to nurture future growth: it’s a kind of a thank you, and please can we have some more?
 

There are simple delights and benefits to being outside, and much to give thanks for here.
 

Our Galway air comes clean and fresh off three thousand miles of Atlantic Ocean, as the lichens on our local rocks will attest.
 

After months of storms and floods we here in the west of Ireland drain every droplet of joy and Vitamin D from the warmth of our May sunshine, because oh, there, it’s gone again, until that cloud passes.
 

Tomorrow I’m mowing the lawn, yet as I look down at it now, I already feel guilty. The first few cuts this year I had the blades lifted, partly because it’s best for the grass, and partly because I’m a soft git.
 

All those dandelions are keeping bumblebees happy and buzzing along. By tomorrow lunchtime they’ll all be gone.
 

Admittedly in the surrounding fields there are 20 billion kazillion more, but, well, as I say, I’m a soft git: the same nurturing soul thrilled to see the birds I fed over the winter at this moment dining on beasties in the flower beds.
 

It’s Saturday morning yet inside the living room the fire sits unlit. Football Focus has not been watched (yet).
 

I’m out: a grateful animal, gambolling in pastures, physical and spiritual.
 

This morning has been great, my energy reflecting the excited levels of spring. As well as the compost, I’ve done three loads of laundry, now 
flapping on the line in the stiff breeze and sunshine.
 

The swallows who live in the barn are back and flying low, which usually means low pressure and rain coming in, but not today. 

They all agree, the BBC and RTE, the app and what we can actually see:
we’ve a couple of dry days clear and no mistake.
 

Ah there. That’s what the swallows are after. 

Another bunch of flying somethings, hatching out of Lough Corrib, just down the bohreen.
 

I know the mayflies and the damselflies, but I’m no expert. We see a lot of hatches round these parts, but I’ve no idea what these abundant little fellas might be.
 

However, I do appreciate how it’s lifting my spirits to sit here, enjoying the healthy ache of bodily labours, while a mere few feet in front of me, nature’s aerial acrobats are feasting on the wing.
 

Better go and have a shower now.
Just realised that yer man isn’t spreading slurry.
 

That whiff is me.

©Charlie Adley

20.05.2018




Thursday 17 May 2018

IF FEAR IS YOUR WEAPON YOU’VE ALREADY LOST!





“Hi Dave. I want to write about the 8th, so I'm checking with you about balance.”
 

The Chief Editor rested his bearded chin in his hand.
 

“Balance isn’t an issue this time around, Charlie, but, oh, can you try not to be too emotive?”
 

“No, don’t think I can do that. Erm, how about I avoid being dogmatic?”
 

Dave laughed, sighed the sigh of a good man conflicted, and nodded in agreement.
 

I was free to write what I wanted.
First, however, I had to solve a mystery.
 

When I arrived in Ireland in 1992, there was an abortion referendum campaign in progress. Back then a hardcore liberal, I felt no doubt. Of course the Irish should vote Yes.
 

To my disbelief, I discovered that the referendum wasn't offering that option, but three questions: should a woman be allowed to leave the country; should a phone number remain illegal and should the life of the mother be considered equal with that of her unborn child?
 

I’d been around the planet a couple of times, seen societies ancient and modern, but never anywhere that aspired to be the latter so mired in the former.
 

Confused, I found myself falling in love with the West of Ireland at exactly the same time I discovered there was in this country neither divorce nor contraception; that less than 20 years previously, married women had not been allowed to work.
 

Shocked to my core, armed with a massive ignorance of all things Irish and a spanky new newspaper column, I dedicated the second and third Double Visions to the abortion issue.
 

Then came the backlash. The dog turd in the box. The envelope loaded with used condoms. Then some nutter threatened to bomb the Connacht Tribune building, and finally, City Tribune Editor Mike Glynn had a word in my shell-like, advising me not to write about the same thing again.
 

So I didn’t, but still the angry letters came, telling me to go back to where I came from; photos of monkey foetuses in dustbins; scrawled notes of hatred suggesting I was anti-Church and damned to Hell.
 

If fear is your weapon of choice, you’ve already lost the argument.
 

Later, during seemingly endless years of sexual abuse revelations, the only notable thing about this colyoom’s contribution to that debate was its absence.
 

At first I thought I was just too upset and inexpert to write about such personal heinous scandals. Then I felt riled enough to write about the constant use of the euphemistic term ‘Clerical Abuse’ and complain that it sounded like a punctuation error, more than child rape.
 

But I didn’t.
Wasn’t worth the hassle I’d get.
 

At last I realised I’d been successfully intimidated. I’d always imagined intimidation being an in-your-face life-threatening experience, but no. It crept up on me, insidiously devouring my courage and desire for social justice.
 

I’d be unworthy of this space if I relented to intimidation, so why haven’t I been sharing Facebook posts or retweeting links that sing the truth to me about this referendum?
 

Partly because I’m still wary of getting all that hate stuff, and partly because I now have a far deeper understanding of why some feel so very strongly against abortion.
 

Yet more powerful than either of those reasons, there lies my frankly ridiculous, almost infantile reaction to the issue. Of course I understand that in this world, matters as personal as this are dealt with by legislation, and here in Ireland an amendment to the constitution, but in my ideal world, none of this would be necessary.
 

My soul is offended that we must vote at all, because I cannot fathom what it’s got to do with us.
 

I’m not being disingenuous, absolutely not washing my hands of my responsibilities, but I will always feel deeply emotionally offended that we as a society have to make this decision.
 

What you do with your body should not be on my agenda. I don’t want a public vote on whether I have a tooth pulled. You wouldn’t appreciate it if I poured your glass of wine down the sink, citing the condition of your liver. 

Your sister doesn’t want to wait for my permission to have that tumour removed from her stomach, and no, I’m not comparing a cancerous growth to a bouncing baby: I’m likening a host body to a host body.
 

I promised to avoid dogma, so I’ll keep this personal.
 

I could not walk up to a stranger and tell them what is best for them.
 

I could not order a stranger to have a child.
 

If I could, I’d be neither willing nor able to pay for that child’s housing, health and education.
 

Nobody likes abortion.
Nobody plans to need one.
Nobody seeks one out on a whim.
 

Every time a woman decides she needs one, she is in crisis.
Who am I to tell her what’s best?
 

I’m mighty glad I didn’t.grow up as the product of a rape.
 

I don’t want any woman to endure the daily horror of questions about when her baby is due, silently knowing she will never produce life.
 

I don’t want any doctor or nurse to feel terrified of saving the life of a woman, for fear of going to jail.
 

I don’t believe any women ought to die because of somebody else’s religious beliefs.
 

My religious beliefs are just that: my own. I do not seek to impose them on anybody else.
 

I wish we didn’t have to vote on such a personal issue. As a UK citizen I have no referendum vote anyway.
 

If I did I’d be out there on the 25th, making Ireland a safer place for women and a more compassionate nation for us all.

©Charlie Adley17.05.2018.

Monday 7 May 2018

We All Ate City's Dust!



I’ll never forget the way Jose Mourinho looked on the day he became Manchester United manager. At the moment he realised his greatest ambition, he looked bored, disinterested and inanimate; a waxwork model of himself.
 

Two years previously he’d returned to Chelsea, his sanctuary in the Premiership. Eager to crucify him for being way too successful, the UK media were completely over-excited.
 

However Mourinho 2.0 was a miserable man. His confident smirk gone, his jaunty optimism lost, he presented miserable shrugs, pouting lips and an absence of enthusiasm.
 

Something died in Jose Mourinho’s soul in November 2010, when Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona beat Mourinho’s Real Madrid 5-0. The charismatic twinkle in those handsome Portuguese eyes, which simultaneously irritated and attracted us all, was extinguished forever.
 

Up to that moment Jose’s career had been prodigious. Yet after receiving that thrashing from Pep, Jose said he felt impotent. For a man who craves power above all, that was a rare moment of truth.
 

Nevertheless, returning to the Premiership, Mourinho did what he usually does: win the title in the second season at his club. Then Chelsea did what they usually do, and fired the guy who won them the title.
 

This left Mourinho free at last to sit on the Red Throne of Manchester. 
But lo, what was this fresh horror?
 

On the Blue Throne, ruling the other half of the same city, his nemesis, Pep Guardiola.
 

Having sat on both Spanish thrones and the mighty European thrones of Milan and Munich, these two old foes now faced each other once more.
 

After a season to impose their style, we were ready last August to watch this mighty conflict resolve itself.
 

Reinforced by the strong tall meaty spine of Matic, Pogba and Lukaku, The Tactician built his favourite vehicle: A tank, ready to roll over any opposition.
 

The Magician prefers to drive a Ferrari, prioritising speed, style and flair. The blue Ferrari ran rings around the red Tank, leaving the rest of the league to chew on their pixie dust as they disappeared over the horizon.
 

Pep’s Ferrari evolved an aura so intimidating that opposition armies laid down their weapons, psychologically beaten before the referee blew the whistle for kick-off.
 

Thankfully even the best cannot escape defeat. We all have our own nemesis, and lurking in the wing s, waiting to bring Pep down was that rarest of beasts: a funny, warm, charismatic German, who it’s impossible to dislike.J├╝rgen Klopp’s exuberant Liverpool outplayed City at their own game, both in the league and Europe.
 

Teams reflect their managers. United play Jose’s dour safe football. Dripping style, class and confidence, playing games laden with goals and attacking football, Manchester City and Liverpool are a pleasure to watch, as are Spurs on occasion.
 

While other European leagues dwindle into two or three team hegemonies, the Premiership is becoming more thrilling than ever. For years there was only the Big Two of Arsenal and Manchester United, but now a Top Six has emerged.
 

Nobody is going to rule the Premiership for years. It’s just too full of great teams playing wonderful football.
 

Far from the peacocks at the top, the harshest drama is to be found down in the nether reaches of the league, where the future is full of fear.
 

So supreme is the Premiership that for those clubs financially unable to participate in its insane bazillion pound transfer market, the only target is survival. Firing manager after manager, these clubs desperately struggle to stay in the Big Money League.
 

If only they could clone survival specialists like Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis, they could hire a Pulis straight after firing a Pulis.
 

My beloved Chelsea FC succeeded once again in sending me even more loopy than I naturally am. If teams reflect their managers, Chelsea are a basket case, firing any manager who wins a major trophy. 

Wonderful Carlo Ancelotti won our only League and FA Cup double: fired. Roberto di Matteo won the Champions League: fired. Mourinho won us the league three times, along with a rake of domestic cups: fired twice.
 

If you want to keep your job at Chelsea, don’t win anything. 

Follow company policy and sell your best players. 

Both of the favourites for this year’s Player of the Year Award, Kevin de Bruyne and Mo Salah, were considered “Not good enough for Chelsea...” and sold, along with countless others. Buy strikers that only play 20 games a season for their previous clubs (Costa, Morata) and midfielders either returning from injury (Barkley) or utterly useless (Bakayoko).
 

When Chelsea manager Antonio Conte instructed his players to stay in their own half for the entirety of the Manchester City game, it represented not only my low point of the season but my nadir as a Chelsea fan - and that’s saying something! Throughout that shameful 90 minutes I endured an identity crisis.
 

Who were this team?
 

Not my Chelsea.
 

Unpredictable, exciting and confounding, Chelsea always have a go. If you’re not trying to win, why the hell did you get out of bed?
 

My only consolation was that if we were bad, the Gooners (Arsenal) were worse. Arsene Wenger even managed to complain about his own fans as he announced his retirement.
 

This season’s high point? Hopefully when we beat Manchester United in the FA Cup Final, on May 19th.
 

Come on you Blues!



©Charlie Adley
25.04.2018.