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The Irish Border 

Maybe, I’ve done something wrong.

Just sit tight. Big breath. They are carrying guns after all. 

A routine patrol. A quick check on where you’ve come from, where you’re going, and what’s in the boot (trunk) of the car.

I start to say that I’m heading to Loughbrickland, but wonder whether the English accent asking would have heard of that place, given that it’s hardly a hamlet - more of a homeland. But it doesn’t have another name - or not that I know of. I hesitate. My hesitation draws a look, and it feels like I’ve made a mistake. I’m failing this test. I don’t like to fail tests, so a worried look shoots across my face. I don’t know whether they’re army, police or otherwise. They all carry guns, and they never introduce themselves. I’ve got nothing to hide. But now it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like I’ve done something wrong…

Neither of us wanted to be in that situation - on one side of the car door, the armed foreign inquisitor and on the other, a local youngster having recently passed his driving test. But the whole interaction starts from a point of suspicion - on both sides. I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong - but maybe…

I grew up in Northern Ireland during the height of the troubles. It was them and us. At least that’s what my community drip fed me. Local communities were polarised. Education was polarised. And these man-made social borders meant that I couldn’t see how much we had in common. I remember many times going on caravan holidays to the Republic of Ireland, and being surprised at the real differences I could see between North and South:

  1. The roads in the South were awful (they’re much better now!)
  2. It was a lot sunnier than the North (that’s not too difficult, mind...)
  3. There didn’t seem to be any police or army with guns awkwardly hanging around. In fact there didnt seem to be any police at all.
  4. There were no daily helicopters overhead or road checkpoints.
  5. The locals seemed very friendly and relaxed. Looking back, it’s no wonder people called it “the free state”...

Anyone who’s lived in Northern Ireland knows that making the border in Ireland more visible will only cause division.

Because division is what borders do best.


Remixing the
Irish Border

I've used the Visual Thinkery Remixer platform to create the graphic above. It's a simple drawn map of Ireland that acts as a mask for two uploaded images. It might even work on your phone. Why not remix and share it back at me?


Here may lie an Open Badge programme. Time for a pre-mortem…

#coop, #openbadges, @DAJBelshaw, @grainnehamilton

Pre mortem

Last week I was facilitating a Think-a-thon with a WeAreOpen client in Edinburgh alongside co-op member Grainne Hamilton. We were helping our client to think through the integration of an Open Badge programme into their current offering.

The Pre Mortem is an extremely helpful way to air intuitive spider-sense discomforts amongst the team, without anyone being seen as negative or disloyal.

Here’s Dr Doug’s whistlestop tour if you’re curious…


The post Here may lie an Open Badge programme. Time for a pre-mortem… appeared first on Visual Thinkery.

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19 Alternative Anniversaries


19 Alternative Anniversaries

We’re married 19 years – what is that? Nearly Sapphire? Stainless Steel? Blotting paper? This year, instead of writing me a card to mark our 19th wedding anniversary, my wife thought it would be a good idea to come up with a list of alternative anniversaries. So, over a shared plate of restaurant nachos, we set to work…

The post 19 Alternative Anniversaries appeared first on Visual Thinkery.

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Blues Brother, Soul Sister


be more blues brother

As my head hasn’t really returned from holidays yet, the rest of me is very susceptible to falling down a rabbit hole on the interwebs…

Internet > Twitter > Aretha Franklin > The awesome “Think” scene from The Blues Brothers movie >  The full movie on Netflix …

Truth be told though, Aretha Franklin has no equal…

The post Blues Brother, Soul Sister appeared first on Visual Thinkery.

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