Monthly Archives: March 2016

History teacher, facing a crisis of identity, seeks new planet to inhabit.

A few years ago, I had a group of students, the Last Breakfast Club, who were insistent that I should share my credentials in the personal ads of the Belfast Newsletter.  Don’t worry.  I didn’t agree.  They had many helpful suggestions?

Of course, as a History teacher, I rush towards every new interpretation.  We crave new understandings.  We are a rare breed!

Recently, I led a Mural Tour through Belfast.  Goodness.  I am so sorry for how bad it was.  Despite this, I inevitably thought about what the Murals mean to me.  To be honest, nothing.  The Murals, the Flags and the Symbols seem to say to the respective communities, ‘we are you and you are us.’  It all feels rather disturbing to me.  We used to say, “For those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible.’  For those with vision, the whole conflict was not inexplicable.  It was a tragedy that everyone understood.  It was always a conflict that we all hoped and prayed would end.  I have to make this absolutely clear.  I have shed too many tears for those I didn’t get to know and those I could have known.  I have also shed tears for those I knew.

When we visited Corrymeela recently, with a group of our European friends, you wouldn’t believe how emotional that I was.  It felt like my heart grew heavier with every step.  Once again, I had to place a stone of remembrance at the heart of where reconciliation began.  I had to place the right foot before the left foot and tentatively move on.  Our heart, our love and affection, our actions, our feelings, encapsulate who we are.  We have to reach out.  We have to care.

We have to love.



Euroclio 2016. The informal evaluation.

The week began with a final look through the program with the Euroclio gang.  Let me thank the Euroclio folks for their absolute dedication to this project.  I think that we are all in agreement; Alan, Sinead, Sean, Peter and myself, that it wouldn’t have been possible without your drive and input.  There may have been more than a few frustrating moments.  Some of these moments were undoubtedly caused by me.  As we frequently say in these parts, ‘what are you going to do?’  It is important not to dwell on the past, or as the outgoing Minister of Education noted, running off script, ‘you can’t teach History.’  That was all a little puzzling?

Nevertheless, the initial City Cab driver did denote that it would be a lot better if we didn’t teach History.  ‘What a load of balls on the falls?’  Well, there is only one ball that welcomes you to central Belfast.  It is known as the ‘Westicle.’  I learned such gems, as I went out on a personal tour with Peter, a tour that gave me all the tools to lead a distinguished panel of guests around the Murals.  I made a notable mistake.  I located the infamous ‘Castlereagh Barracks’ in the wrong part of the city.  What are you going to do?  At least the story was good.  All things considered.  I think the tour of the Murals went well.  Thanks to Peter.

Then there was the whole workshop thing.  I worked on my workshop for the last year.  I was really freaking out that I would let Euroclio down.  Honestly.  There is no doubt that I am an absolute ‘history geek,’ but with Alan dressing up as Gusty and the gang and Lesley giving her inspirational Prisoner to Peace talk, I was really under pressure.  I enlisted as many friends and students that I could get.  Thank goodness.  Louise and Jamie kept me calm.  My students were amazing.  The perspectives represented gave a real picture of the multidimensionality that is Northern Ireland, the past, the interrupted future and the future that has yet to be determined.  Personally, it was a great pleasure to introduce Terri Hooley to some of the dedicated delegates, as he proved that there was never anything without a twist in the Northern Ireland that was.

I should mention the Pub Quiz.  Yes.  I did read the first 300 pages of a book to get ready for the quiz.  I tried to pick really obvious questions.  I failed.  Sorry about that!  What are you going to do?  One silver lining.  The Movie Section was a lot of fun.  I hope that everybody had a good laugh.

I forged great friendships.  People that will always mean the world to me.  I wasn’t being flippant when I spoke about the bus struggling up this and that hill.  It was a golden moment.  The bus struggling allowed me to chat endlessly to my new friends on the back seat.  (I should note that one of my friends on the back seat commented, ‘stop talking about all of this conflict stuff; tell me where to get a good Northern Ireland whisky?’  Or words to that effect.)  I really need to learn Spanish, because I am really impressed by the dedication and efforts that are going into next year.  Fair play.  It will be amazing.  If you need any help on the International Pub Quiz, it might not be a good idea to ask me?  Ha!!!

Action points.  Never judge a book by it’s cover.  (If you are preparing a quiz, make sure that you get to the end of the book!!!)  Embrace the fact that the comfortable ‘me’ needs to constantly embrace the ‘uncomfortable’ to make a real difference.  Work to ensure that Northern Ireland teachers get the opportunity to interact with the depth of opportunity and enlightenment that exists within a cross-cultural embrace.

The HTANI began as an abstract notion.  It is beginning to become concrete.

I will add no more commentary on the Easter Rising and the Somme.  You are the experts now.

One love.



The House that Jack built.

Life will always choose life.  Life will always move towards a maximised life.  Life wills survival.  Life expects.  Life takes.

I will look at the migrant crisis from two perspectives.  One is called the expectation of life.  The other is called the failure of life to embrace other lives.

Does life itself determine that all should hold an expectation of a satisfied existence?  That seems highly unlikely, as the majority holding in the life stakes has already determined that life is expendable.  It is seemingly unnatural, but to be expected, that life should perish whilst seeking to live a maximised life elsewhere.  There is an absolute failure of life to embrace other lives.  Interestingly, what equates to my planet also equates to your planet.  What life I have may influence, deter or fascinate you.  What is equally clear is that life will continue beyond me.  It will include a lot of those that I tried to ignore.  Life will always choose life.  Life will always move towards a maximised life.  Life wills survival.  Life expects.  Life takes.

It is about time that we all helped.  Unless we collectively will that the House that Jack built should fall?


The Zenith and Nadir of life.

I reached my personal nadir one generation ago, although the beginning of that generational shift still feels like several seconds ago.  The gravity of life pulled me through the Earth’s crust and towards the centre of myself.  A centre that was not exactly rounded.  Meltdown.  For a long while.

When I fixed my face skyward again, I didn’t exactly jump.  I bumped along.  For a long while.  I then realised that I was looking down on the earth again and that life can have an upward trajectory.  A zenith.  I haven’t reached it yet, but I am trying my hardest to get there.

I am not trying to comfort anyone.  I just offer hope to everyone.

Life has several million possibilities and only one nadir.

I promise.