Cultural Forces: Day 21 – Unresolved

“I had a pretty dark period myself not so long ago,” my friend told me. We were talking in the pub about another friend who was in the midst of a significant personal struggle. “I didn’t realise that,” I said. He told me a little more about it and then returned to his point about [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 20 – Glimpses

Last year I gathered a small but eclectic group for the first Dunfanaghy Retreat. People travelled from England, Colombia, Australia, and all over the US to come together in Donegal. The location was, as one participant put it, not even the middle of nowhere but the end of nowhere. On the first day we gathered [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 19 – Smoke Signals

I always thought of English as one of my weakest subjects at school. By the time my GCSEs rolled around I felt pretty confident with English Literature – I’d studied the texts, followed in class when the subtext and deeper meanings were explored, and I understood the breakdown of the characters and their motivations. English [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 18 – Extraction

“Now, what extraction is he?” We were at a wedding in Derry and an older woman was asking one of my mother’s friends about John. I know older people in Derry who claim they can tell whether someone’s Catholic or Protestant just by looking at them but put a non-white person in front of them [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 17 – The Mystery of Joan

There wasn’t a huge amount of space for one-on-one time when I was a child. That’s how it is in big families, there are always plenty of people around. But for a few years I had an hour or more of undivided one-on-one time with Joan every day. I’d walk to her house off the [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 16 – Absences

John and I started going out during the height of my personal development years. I was heavily into Tony Robbins, I’d just stopped eating meat and was into clean living. I’ve always been pretty clean living, even before the Tony Robbins phase. I always knew that my not drinking was at least in part about [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 15 – France 2016

Growing up I could count the number of Protestants I knew on my two hands. And most of those I didn’t consider ‘proper’ Protestants either. Most were either married to a Catholic or the child of a Catholic. I didn’t know anyone who was truly steeped in the traditions of the Protestant community in Northern [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 14 – Honest Questions

Nobody ever told me not to ask questions but I figured it out all the same. Not that I didn’t ask any questions, I was always asking questions. I couldn’t receive a single instruction at home without questioning it, much to my father’s chagrin. I was a bottomless pit of questions about the minutiae of [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 13 – Deep Democracy

The news was a constant background noise when I was kid. Bombs, shootings, riots reported over the radio while we sat around in the kitchen or in the car. When I was maybe 7 or 8 we were driving home from a day out when news of the latest shooting was announced. A man was [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 12 – Redrawing Lines

I was maybe 10 or 11 and David Ervine was on the news. I have no idea what he was talking about, I wasn’t paying attention until my uncle said, “He seems like a decent sort, that fella, you know.” The other adults in the room nodded in agreement. I stopped what I was doing [...]