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 [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 11 – Dissonance

When news came of my aunt Mary P’s diagnosis I was in London studying for my finals. They thought they would operate and they tried but couldn’t. It was terminal. From that moment on I started living this dual reality. My body went about my day-to-day life in London but the rest of me was [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 10 – Beginnings

A little over 3 years ago I went to see a one of my clients giving a talk in London. He’s an American very active in the Catholic community, so his talk was in St Patrick’s Church on Soho Square. He told me to meet him at the door of the sacristy afterwards and we [...]

Cultural Forces: Day 9 – Londoner

I have two friends who are brothers. They were born in the US to German parents and moved to London when they were around 10 and 12. You can still hear a little something in their accent that speaks of both their heritage and place of birth. Officially they are British citizens but I once [...]