Tag Archives: properly awesome

global chatter

It’s been nearly a month, but what with the excitement, the exhaustion, the cleaning, and all that Christmas  brings, I haven’t been able to tell you about the Great Day Out. The TED day out. TEDx Belfast Women, held in early December.

Of course I had hummed and haaaed. What would I be doing at something like that? That’s for grown up thinkers, or creative young people, not for sleepy sorts like me… I can’t remember to do the ironing, how can I change the world?

I took my courage in my hand, I paid the money and I had a bit of a panic. Then I realised Auntie Sadie was going, so I’d know one of the creative energetic young people. She could poke me if I started to snore.

TEDx events have a combination of local speakers at the venue and shared videos from the main TED site, an interesting mix. You can watch all of the talks here.

Jenny Radcliffe- the lie woman- wondered about her job, “does it serve me?” What a challenging thought. When I had a job, what would I have answered? Another thought that resonated, “I don’t want to be helpless. I want to be a superhero.”

Lady Christine Eames talked about the importance of working with people in “their here and now.” This was echoed in the later talk from Jane Chen in San Francisco, who spoke about developing medical technology for infants to be used by mothers rather than doctors, “who cares about the problem most?”

I was fascinated by Catherine Clinton, and wished she’d been around when I studied history. I may have attended more lectures. She talked about the importance of creating a voice, the development of consciousness as part of education, and the need for resilience, creativity and future planning.


We saw a video about Dame Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley, the first freelance computer programmer, who spoke of gender discrimination, working from home and maths. She had escaped from Germany via Kindertransport and spoke movingly about her need to “make sure my life was worth saving.” Goosebumps.

Those creative young people were represented by Maya Penn. She’s 13. She’s properly awesome. See?

From San Francisco, we saw Diana Nyad talk about her Cuba- Florida swim. By now, I was a little overwhelmed. All these people, all these remarkable, inspirational achievements. This woman just kept on going. She had a team, they found a way and she just kept on going. How hard can that be in life? To just keep putting one foot in front of the other?

Susan Hayes asked “What makes you different?” Listen to what people say about you, believe in your strengths, focus on what you can do. Articulate how you are different- if you can’t do that, how can anyone else? Recognise your achievements, every day. What 3 things can I do next week? Her talk was well timed: I was reminded that I needed to think about me, not just be awed by other people.

Sadly, though, my head was full. My notes become even more patchy after that. I know Sheryl Sandberg inspired me to buy her book, Lean In but you’ll have to wait until I’ve read it for more deep meaningful insights.

I was exhausted by the day, but I’m exhausted by most days. Importantly, I was nourished and challenged. These events are for everyone. I’ll be back.

My jaw dropped. I cried.

Would you like some powerful documentary story telling?

I was gripped.

I winced, and worried for a young man I’ll never meet.

I felt the anxiety and the efforts of his teachers.

I wanted to hug them all.

My eyes just kept on dripping.

An excerpt from the Channel 4 series Educating Yorkshire. Thank you to all who shared 6 months of your lives with us.

our great loss

I’ll never see Heaney now

Who will tell us the truth about ourselves?

Who will make us listen?

Who will keep us from the herd?

Who will remind us of the hope and the history, our foolishness, and our losses?

Rest now, Seamus.

Clearances, VIII

I thought of walking round and around a space

Utterly empty, utterly a source

Where the decked chestnut tree had lost its place

In our front hedge above the wallflowers.

The white chips jumped and jumped and skitted high.

I heard the hatchet’s differentiated

Accurate cut, the crack, the sigh

And collapse of what luxuriated

Through the shocked tips and wreckage of it all.

Deep-planted and long gone, my coeval

Chestnut from a jam jar in a hole,

Its heft and hush became a bright nowhere,

A soul ramifying and forever

Silent, beyond silence listened for.

playing away

Back in the mists of time, Santa brought a present. Tickets for an event, at some unimaginable future date.

By Saturday afternoon we were ready. The route was printed. We ‘d found a carpark. Our friendly neighbourhood babysitter expanded her repertoire to dog walking duties.

The McSpecs headed south, to Dublin. We drove past the venue, parked where we’d planned. An amble down a busy street, through tourists and shoppers and statues of “random guys” figures of historical and/ or literary note.

A retro American themed diner. Shed loads of food.


Two doors down, the theatre.

TV talent show winners, dancing. Oh, such dancing. Irish dancing never used to be like this.

Footstorm is the original show devised by Prodijig. A time travelling, battle ridden story. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy rescues girl. Good and evil. (We weren’t there for the story.) New music, fantastic lighting. Unlike any feis I was ever at.

My jaw dropped. The hair on my arms stood on end. Familiar steps, at great speed, but way beyond anything I’d seen before. Irish dancing, without the upright form or traditional music associated with ‘Irish’. Story telling, done well. Defying its form.

At one point I was admiring how well choreographed a battle scene was, when I realised I’d forgotten the feet. Their feet were continuing to do incredible things while the story unfolded. As with all experts, they made it look relaxed and easy.

We didn’t get lost. Girls slept on the way back, and I imagined Irish dancing to non traditional tunes by The Jam and Family of the Year as we headed home.

Anything is possible.