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 #87

Seven more things to read, hear and see this week, some longer reads too, giving a chance to think and consider as we go.

Tim Don, Ironman and extraordinary human being, knocked from his bike in October 2017, crushing two C2 vertebrae vowed to run a 2:50 in the Boston Marathon on Monday. Some story from Lindsay Crouse.

He did it in 2:49 by the way


This is tough to read at times: Andras Forgach, Hungarian novelist found out his mother had been a communist informant who tried even to use their relationship to her spymasters’ advantage. Tim Adams on the echos of history in our world.

John McPhee on bears. That’s all you need to know.

When we look at the Windrush Scandal and the treatment of immigrants in Britain we can draw a direct line to Brexit. Again, history and the future linked, this time by Tanja Bueltmann.


This is something to give us hope: Carl O’Brien on Jialimey Vuong who wants to address the lack of diversity in teaching, by becoming a teacher.


Podcast of the Week is an interview with Declan Kiberd on Today with Sean O’Rourke. Just to hear the familiar voice of one of my most influential and engaging teachers is a treat.

This week’s image is from Danish artist Peder Severin Krøyer (1851-1909). “Fishermen coming home”. 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 #85

What does another eclectic mix of reading say about the reader? Magpie? Scattergun? unfocused? Whatever the answer, it works for me. The list of things I’ll read is endless, this week there’s music, poetry, sport, reading, fascism, women’s suffrage and Iran art. Magpie alright.

Here’s Thom Hickey on Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly. Every time I hear this album it transports me back to my first car, a red 83 VW Golf. Different days.

This is Christine Murray‘s Starlings. It made want to read more poetry as much I did in my 20s. So I did (more of that next week).

Next is Sonia O’Sullivan reminding me of the 80s, running was I wanted to do then, same for Sonia but she was better at it than any of us. How far athletics, and women’s athletics in particular have come since.

Next is a great project any English teacher, anywhere, not just here in Ireland should devour: the Bold Girls project from Children’s Books Ireland. Some great ideas for reading for and reading with young women.

We’re All Fascists Now by Bari Weiss is such a rewarding read because it is a challenge, no matter where you start from. I love reading things that make me think again on what I thought I understood. Most of the choices this week it turns out are about being transported back to who I was, this one is about who I am now, always open to a challenge.

Podcast of the week is the return of The History Show from RTE on the history of the women’s suffrage movement in Ireland. I loved it, it is what public service broadcasting is for.

And finally the image this week is The Lady Khorshid (1843) by Sani ol Molk. I found it here.

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.