Read of the Week #88

From the week just gone, two topics have dominated my reading: politics in Britain, the Windrush scandal which intersects with Brexit so clearly for me, and the Referendum on May 25th on the removal/retention of the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution. Two reads each on those two dominate my choices there, I’m making no excuses for nailing my colours to the mast (both Brexit and the 8th Amendment were/are poor outcomes of public discourse). I’ve broken this post up with some humour and History, when political dust settles we should always have time to laugh and understand our History.

I’ve included the work of Donald McRae here before, and this piece from the Guardian combines several of my passions. An interview with Jürgen Klopp is always welcome reading for a Liverpool fan, but here Donald directs him into talking about Brexit, German politics and much else as only an expert journalist can. And this was before last week’s classic against Roma!

Taking that discussion a step further I was glad to find Kimiko de Freytas ‘harped my fear aright’ in this piece on the Windrush Scandal. The way the British government has treated it’s own citizens from the Commonwealth (or Empire as some would prefer it, I think) in an effort to scapegoat all immigrants does not augur well for the post-Brexit Britain.

Now for a moment of light relief. I’ve often turned to Patrick Freyne to make me laugh out loud in a room all by myself (the gold standard of excellent humour writing). Here he’s describing Francis Brennan, tv personality, though none of us really know know how or why, even Francis himself I think.

I’m picking two of the clearest pieces I’ve read on the Referendum. Both moved me to tears, both have I believe the ring of truth that comes from a position of authority. Chris Fitzpatrick is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, former Master of the Coombe and a university Professor. He warns of the danger of oversimplifying this so complicated issue, and urges the reader to think of the woman in the emergency room and the woman on her way to London. The second is by Caroline McCarthy who makes the clear case that providing the opportunity to chose is the best thing a Republic can do for its citizens. I’m voting Yes for the reason both Chris and Caroline so clearly outline. I’m voting Yes, decisions about so complex and at the same time human issues do not belong in as unyielding a document as a Constitution, but in laws set by our parliament.

Podcast of the Week sends us back to In Ireland in the revolutionary period. This History Ireland discussion on cinema as the newest mass media of the time is fascinating.

Finally, this potrait of Dora Maar by Pablo Picasso is the image of the week. I found it here.


Reads of the Week #86


It’s been a while. Easter and a family trip to London have taken my Sundays for a few weeks, but here we are again, collecting, curating, reading, sharing.

I’ve gone back a month or so to find this selection, and one thing is clear: I read a lot of amazing writing, I had over forty pieces to narrow down to a manageable list. I decided in the end to include writing that stayed with me over the weeks, that was of course high quality but also affecting. Hope you like them…


Next some poetry, since I changed jobs, I’ve had to make more of an effort to seek out verse and these poems by Fiona King about her son Adam really stayed with me. To be able to express the emotion in a family’s life in poetry is something rare.

A frequent visitor to this blog, this is Michael Harding writing about finding a voice as a young man, among other things of course.

Another writer who I revisit often is Anthony Wilson, usually for his poetry, but this piece On Being Chipper is so rewarding on depression and finding a place for talk in the dark.

For a complete change of pace and subject this piece by Matt Ufford who was sent to Iraq in 2003, writes about rolling into Baghdad on a wave of euphoria, but after all this time that war is still going on.

The death of Ann Lovett aged 15 after giving birth at a grotto in Granard, Co Longford in 1984 has always haunted me. There were only two years between us in age and I remember the topic being whispered about in the Ireland we had then. In this, the month she would have turned 50, Rosita Boland returns to Ann’s life with skilful writing that shows how far we may have come 34 years on.

This essay on Henry Worsley, the polar explorer, written by David Grann will take an investment of your time, but it will be very worth it. It reaches a devastating conclusion with powerful storytelling. The White Darkness.

John O’Brien writes here of the sadness of being an emigrant when someone ‘The death notice won’t say “surrounded by loving family”. I wasn’t fast enough’ (John O’Brien)


Time for some light relief. I’ve just discovered Tony Naylor‘s monthly column on How to eat and the most recent about lasagne made me laugh out loud, several times while sitting on the couch alone. Good sign.

Two podcasts stand out over the last few weeks. If you haven’t subscribed to Second Captains yet, you should, this podcast was made free after it struck such a huge chord. It’s an amazing coversation with Sinead O’Carroll and Richie Sadlier about consent, sexual health and education in the wake of the recent high profile Belfast trial on two rugby players. Also, it’s the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more than sport in this podcast, not a week goes by that I don’t learn something about something I hadn’t even thought about before.

The second podcast is an interview that shines a light on a too often ignored part of the Peace Process, that is the role of Northern Irish women. This interview by Lyse Doucet with Monica McWilliams is heartening, enlightening and frustrating in equal measure. Monica is amazing by the way. Another important listen.

This week’s image is Beautiful Women at a Yashiki – Designed by Chobunsai Eishi which is at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, which, by the way, is a beautiful museum well worth a visit. I found it here.

Reads of the Week #83

It has been a long week, mainly because I entered my late 40s and haven’t been able to shake the cold I had last week. Added to that, I haven’t read as much I usually do. But, as in previous posts from weeks when I fell behind, the things I did get to read and share are pretty special.

First is a piece by by Isabel Hayes which is marked by her honesty, openness and heartbreaking experience of miscarriage and ivf. A compelling read.

Next, given the Winter Olympics have dominated life in this house for past two weeks, here’s a piece by David Segal on a broken ski pole that entered Norwegian folklore.

Third on the list this week is another piece by Michael Harding, which almost defies description beyond saying it’s a perfect slice of rural Irish life.

This next choice is the latest short piece from Katie Coyle, who is another regular contributor to my weekly lists. What I like about this piece is it is as much about how to send your daughters out into the world as about anything else.

Couldn’t chose between two podcasts this week , so here’s both: What’s the Deal With Eleven? In which John McWhorter explains the etymology and pronunciation of English numbers. What I love about this series isn’t just the nerdy joy of how John expands on his theme, but the detail that goes into constructing forty minutes of aural joy. Secondly, here’s Melvyn Bragg and guests discussing the Dreyfus Affair, the 1890s scandal which divided opinion in France for a generation and gave me some of the most interesting History classes down through the years. The joy of explaining how France repeatedly tried to tear itself apart between 1870 and 1914, and yet survived was something I always looked forward to. Another In Our Time podcast.

And finally the image this week is ‘The Tenth Hour (XVII)’ by Bharti Kher, which I found here.

Reads of the Week #77

Christmas has come and gone, the reading goes on. This is a selection of the best things I read over the break, so it’s slightly longer than usual. Switching off the phone over Christmas for three days might not sound like a revolutionary act, but for me that’s extraordinary! So there’s plenty of interesting stuff still in the bank to share in the weeks to come.


First here’s a story about a basketball coach who can’t quit from Adam Zagoria. It struck a chord with me: teachers who have to suddenly stop on retirement must find themselves in a strange limbo sometimes.


This next piece is raw, honest and tragic. Mimi O’Donnell writes on the loss of her partner Philip Seymour Hoffman.


This piece by Jen Gann about her son is moving and frank while dealing with some of the issues the debate around the 8th Amendment will bring up in Ireland will bring up.


For a bit of fun head over to Instagram  to see Accidentally Wes Anderson which does the job of location spotter quite well for the next Anderson movie.


I loved this piece by Theo Dorgan about the place he came from. Home is so important, and so is remembering where we came from


Most of the education reading I did over Christmas I chose to challenge me. This post by Katie Martin did just that on collaboration and teachers supporting each other.

If we want to improve skills and knowledge and the application of them in our classrooms, we must move beyond telling people what to do and get into classrooms to help them problem solve, reflect, tweak, and learn together and collectively figure out how to move forward.
Improving our practice is always worth it.


This is just a beautiful essay on the triggers that set us off remembering someone who’s gone from Roy Hoffman. A Sister’s Nurturing, in Countless Home Haircuts


Two podcasts now, the first is on Suffragism from In our Time. Very apt for the year that we are entering because (some, not all) British, and, by association Irish women were given the franchise in 1918. Consistently brilliant programmes from the BBC here, by the way.

And the second is on the sounds our computers make  from Twenty Thousand Hertz. A fascinating look into what the noises our devices are making, where they came from and who designed them.


The cover image this week is one of my favourite pictures: Hunters in the Snow (Winter) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder which we were lucky enough to see about fourteen years ago in Vienna. I used it in school all the time. Some great conversations began there. I got it from the very cool Google Arts and Culture.

Reads of the Week #75

As we draw nearer to Christmas, the time to read seems to shrink, but, in the knowledge that in two weeks time the festival of reading that is the holidays in our house will kick off, we plough on and grab a moment where we can find it to explore the thoughts of someone else, and, if we are lucky we find something that changes us, in a small way maybe, but leaves us with a mark, a small dent on ourselves that we learn from, and remember.

Regular readers of the blog will know how much I value the writing of  Kenny Pieper. Just read this piece:

It’s time to shout from the rooftops… that we have things to to say; that we will no longer be silent and humble and shy about the great things we do in our classrooms. Lift your head up; look people in the eyes: you are a teacher.

The full post is here.

Two weeks in a row for Malachy Clerkin on the list. This week he wrote about Galway’s Niall Donohue, Galway hurler whose death was remembered in the midst of his friends succes this year.

Everybody moves on, though. From good days, from bad days. They go about their lives and leave you to yours. Niall Donohue ended his on Wednesday, October 23rd 2013 and left behind a family, a community, a hurling club and a county team, each of them bewildered in their own way at the loss.

The full article is here.

Miriam Lord: I had no hand, act or part in writing my column No extract, no spoilers, it’s hilarious and perfect.

Trump, Israel and the Art of the Giveaway by Tom Friedman, pulls no punches, but isn’t laughing at Trump like so many, this is deadly serious.

Trump is a chump. And he is a chump because he is ignorant and thinks the world started the day he was elected, and so he is easily gamed.

A building like no other, which will captivate you whether you are religious or not, La Sagrada Família is expertly described in this 99% Invisible podcast. Love these podcast, love Barcelona.

And finally this week, Cafe Pittoresque, 1917 by Georgy Bogdanovich Yakulov  Armenian painter, stage and costume designer is image of the week. I found it here.

Reads of the Week #74

A week of professional satisfaction and personal reflection. In a week where you visit the National Museum and the Houses of the Oireachtas for work, you can’t complain, work is good and I’m getting to do things a few short weeks ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of.

But, this week also had the birthday of my brother Conor who died in 2006. The 2nd of December is always sad, mainly for what have been.

Anyway, there’s a sporting theme to this selection, with the exception of the image I chose.

Malachy Clerkin is one of those writers who covers sport but pushes out of those pages to say things with far more import. This piece is about a fan who as a boy collected autographs and letters from GAA stars. Sounds simple, but it becomes a story of Ireland now and Ireland then, and how much our culture means to us.

This piece by Natasha Frost on Ann Gregory, the African-American golfer is an amazing piece of history, again teaching us that we wouldn’t be where we are in our world without trailblazers who pressed on against the tide.

I ran middle distance races when I was a teenager. If I’d managed my studies and athletics better I might have been closer to the people Ian O’Riordan writes about here. Ireland’s athletes once ruled American college races.

When Irish distance runners ruled American colleges.

This obit of Dorothea Findlater is an account of such a full life of sport, history and I’d guess huge fun, it does what an obit should: make you wish you’d known the subject in life.

Podcast of the Week is from 99% Invisible and tells the story of the graphic design of Mexico Olympics 1968. It’s what I love about this series, it makes you look again at the familiar and tells you something new about it.

Image of the week is Gustav Klimt’s Death and Life I found it here.

Reads of the Week #72

The weeks fly by and with them the reading becomes more specialised, more focussed. Whether it’s a president or a teacher, a dying man or a lottery winner, the time of year tells us things are silently taking shape beneath the surface, and we have to make do with what we can.

We’re lucky to have a President who is so versed and interested in History, this speech from his recent visit to Australia on the Famine and the scattering of the Irish is powerful.

This piece by Matt Bencke broke my heart.

Here, John Thomsett sets out how schools should approach professional development: it’s a primer for those of us in this area of education and for school leaders too.

Podcast of the week is 99% Invisible‘s account of how El Gordo, the lottery in Spain, is both a thing of beauty and a strange ritual.

And the cover image this week is from Jo. I found it here.

Have a great week everyone.