12 Pages


At a recent book launch1 I shook hands with a couple, both teachers, who had completed an in-service Bachelor of Education degree as students of mine twenty years earlier. As the usual pleasantries and banter were exchanged, almost in unison they stated: ‘You haven’t changed a bit’, and followed spontaneously, despite my protestations as to the inaccuracy of their assertion, with ‘and it’s younger looking you’re getting’. As we all know, both assertions are commonplace, fanciful inaccuracies, and run counter to common sense understandings of the nature of change. Additionally, taken together, both statements cannot be true as they are contradictory! The fi rst statement expresses an attachment to continuity – ‘not changed a bit’ – despite the passage of two decades, while the latter suggests that I am regressing to a more youthful state – to some land of youth where the ageing process is postponed indefi nitely! Alternatively, both statements are a kind of compliment that, despite the passage of time, I appear to be in reasonable shape , have not changed to the point of being unrecognisable, thus a kind of embodiment of change and continuity. Despite the positive camoufl age, on closer inspection both statements are indicative of a cultural ambiguity and diffi culty with change, particularly in a media-saturated context where ‘youth culture’ is pervasive; where size zero or an appropriately rippled six-pack are the archetypal benchmarks against which everyone, regardless of age, lifestyle and inherited genetic make up, is ‘measured’. In a tacit unarticulated manner, they indicate that culturally we struggle with time, change and continuity. This is not the exclusive domain of the Irish; such dilemmas are ubiquitous!