A night of chaos, cabals, and… careful optimism?

lighted Be afraid of the enformity of the rossible neon signage

There’s no popcorn left. We’re done out; wrecked from staying up late last night watching the world burn. A Major Incident was declared at the Larchfield Estate. Who among us didn’t Google Streetview it, and fantasise that they lived in the gatehouse opposite the entrance? All bets were off in what became the best Norn Iron Twitter feeding frenzy in ages. But the day had begun with formality. Kind of like the spectral observer in Philip Larkin’s ‘Dockery and Son’ …

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My Terrific Tadpoles: A Fond Farewell…

tadpoles in small pond

Last Tuesday evening, torrential rain ripped out of the sky. My mother hung behind me, trying not to get washed away on the trails of Tollymore Forest Park. The place was empty as we made our way towards the lake, carrying a small kitchen bin. Inside were two tadpoles, practically jumping up and out to feel the cool rain on their slimy faces. Their day had come. There had originally been five of them. Discovered in a dried sheugh outside …

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Boris Johnson survives vote of confidence…

Blond Ambition. Boris Johnson street art.London Street art Shoreditch.Shot on film, Kodak Portra 800, Nikon FM2n

Boris Johnson wins a confidence vote by Tory MPs 211 to 148. The mood music had been playing the tune of survival since early afternoon – that Boris would emerge from the vote of confidence sweaty, breathless and staggering – but no less defiant or verbose. A sort of political Tyson Fury. Stretched analogies of Shakespearean plotting and betrayal have been thick and heavy in recent days, but ultimately this rebellion has amounted to more of a butter knife instead …

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Grassroots Gaelic Football and All-Ireland Fever…

Tomorrow, Tyrone and Mayo will stand centre stage in the All-Ireland Football Final. It is the ultimate sporting showpiece, with desperate demand for tickets at a reduced capacity Croke Park. Ballygawley is bouncing and Glencull looks great – the spiritual Harte-lands of Tyrone GAA are dressed in red and white, and the bunting is up. There are good discounts to be had on car flags and headbands at Ballygawley Roundabout, as well, “each day between 4pm and 7pm”, according to …

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Tales from the Crypto: The world of digital money is exciting, strange, and full of risk…

I’m sitting on the toilet at 3am every night, doom scrolling on my phone. I am constantly refreshing and gorging on graphs. I must have the latest numbers… do I buy more, or sell? Am I a diamond-handed alpha, or a paper-handed cuck? Dogecoin – a novelty cryptocurrency – is surging, and the wider world of digital money has seen a remarkable boom in amateur investors recently, driven by online forums such as Reddit. These people are on a hiding …

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A Halloween Horror Story – The Old Schoolhouse…

You could just about see the roof of the old building, jutting out from behind a crooked tree, and I never believed my granny when she said that it’d once been the parish school – it was tiny. Barely a bungalow, with a few windows and an outhouse. Ginger told me that the last year of admissions was 1974, but that all the local children had gone there… including one in particular. The Big Man would call into my grandmother’s …

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Soldiers, Soup and Sandy Row: Challenging a fixed mindset…

The anecdotal examples given here are intended to act as blunt signifiers, and can hopefully trigger a much broader conversation on identity and growth mindsets – concepts that are very much intertwined and blurred together, positively, across the community already The American psychologist Carol Dweck is renowned for her research on mindset theories, and her work is widely referred to in the education sector. The general idea is that people who welcome challenging situations, who embrace their mistakes and value …

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Social Distancing Hasn’t Gone Away, You Know…

The Health Minister comes across as an extremely likeable fellow. Standing atop his podium, like an experienced but weary plumber, the civil and utterly decent Robin Swann is ever ready to plug any leaks in the flow of public compliance and adherence to Covid-19 guidelines. Despite having his feathers ruffled at the beginning of April, Swann took a dignified stance yesterday and opted not to weigh in with his own personal criticism of a certain someone’s attendance at a certain …

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Into the Darkening Sky: Memories of strange Donegal…

Rossnowlagh Beach, Donegal, on the last cusp of summer can give you a tingle of isolation that goes far beyond the blue-grey horizon. When the tide sneaks in (beware parked cars) it is loud and bossy, laying down challenges to trespassers and surfers alike to come and have a go. It is a place of the bleakest magic. For others, that equivalence comes from the lure of the North Coast, the Mournes or even just the skittering of birds along …

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Nationalist and unionist cynicism is responsible for these grotesque caricatures

They say that the creepiest place on earth is the Aokigahara Forest in Japan, home to the damned hordes of yūrei, or ghosts of the dead. Drawing the short straw for Northern Ireland in any cabinet reshuffle must often feel like a one-way ticket to that mythical Sea of Trees: Once a Secretary of State goes in, they seldom make it out. Certainly not with a plausible reputation. James Brokenshire, now officially in a reflective mood, must be mournfully aware …

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Dormant Stormont: Where is a good Reviving Spell when you need one?

On Monday afternoon John Lennon appeared, resplendent, at the doors of Stormont Castle. He paused, briefly, before swooping straight down the stone steps with none other than Marilyn Monroe herself. Then as the light in East Belfast shifted slightly, Gerry Adams came into focus; shaded 60s spectacles atop a wizened old nose. Michelle obediently came up to his ear, whispering something subtle, soft. And then, as the assembled throngs basked in his bearded wizardry, the Grand Master began to speak. …

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