(Click on the title to be taken to the review, or on the reviewer's name for biodata, or simply scroll down the page)

Northern Ireland  by Marc Mulholland- Reviewer John Ewing 

Modern Ireland  by Senia Paeta.- Reviewer John Ewing

A Start in Art  by Alan Crowe - Reviewer Joe Sinclair

Words Work!  by Terry Mahoney- Reviewer Mark Edwards

Seeds for the Soul  by Chuck Hillig - Reviewer Stephen Bray

The Oxford Book of Health Foods by J.G. Vaughan & P.A. Judd - Reviewer Sep Meyer

The Gamesters' Handbook 3   by Donna Brandes and John Norris - Reviewer Michael Mallows







Northern Ireland: A very short introduction by Marc Mulholland.  172pp incl. bibliography and index. Oxford University Press.  ISBN 0-19-280156-2.   6.99, US$9.95.

The 1960 film The Siege of Sydney Street depicted a incident from fifty years earlier, in which two London anarchists held off the police in a gun battle that eventually involved the Horse Guards and Winston Churchill.  The film hardly bothered to provide a political backdrop for the encounter: the word "anarchist" was sufficient, without the whys and wherefores.  And yet it was successful; simply because, in placid postwar England, gun-battles were virtually unheard-of[1].

Just fifteen years on, though, such incidents were the everyday stuff of the TV news, and few would have thought the mere fact of a bombing worthy of a full-length feature film.
What happened?

This is a question to which very few people in England or Ireland could provide a coherent answer.  And sadly, one has the distinct impression that very few of them really want to know.

For those who do, Marc Mulholland's book is a good place to start.  It traces the current conflicts to the religious divisions of the 16th century, and shows how prejudice, interest and mismanagement combined to perpetuate strife through four and a half centuries.   Most of this period is covered with speed and clarity, providing a sturdy skeleton that may be fleshed out by further reading or diligent Googling (but be wary - most websites dealing with the "troubles" have a hefty bias one way or the other).  On reaching the late 1960s and early 70s, when violence begin to flare and the memories of the "peaceful" 1950s (there was only the one abortive IRA campaign, in 1956) atrophied to pipe-dreams, the painful detail begins.  The title of Chapter 3, Life Cheapens, speaks for much of what follows.

An account as brief as this is necessarily dispassionate, yet for much of its length the choice of incidents portrayed lend it great life and colour.  Once a sort of peace returns, however, the endless committees and councils, from the early cease-fire attempts up to the current struggles to achieve shared power in a Stormont parliament, occasionally make weary reading.  This is none of Mulholland's fault: they are indispensably part of the scene he has set out to describe.  Possibly, some of the despair that dwelt in the minds he depicts communicates itself to the reader.  Many initiatives were tried, well-meaning for the most part, and almost all were perverted by one side or the other, when not both.

Incidentally, I would recommend the book to anyone interested in the general mechanisms of provocation and conflict.  It shows how an initially impartial peacekeeper may wake up one morning to realise that he has become one of the interested parties; and in its accounts of subtle and unsubtle provocation, echoes of Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, and even the drum-beats preceding the current Iraqi war, may be heard.

So, what happened to shatter the complacent peace of the mid-sixties?  Simply that a long-running balancing act, based on gerrymandering and discrimination, finally became so unstable that it fell off the knife-edge into war.  That one of the earliest battle-cries was "one man, one vote" speaks volumes.

And the conclusion?  There is none.  "To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war," said Churchill.  For now, the jaws have it, but there is no real telling what the next generation will do.

[1] The film was an Irish production.  No further comment.

John Ewing






Modern Ireland: A very short introduction by Senia Paeta.  164pp incl. bibliography and index.
Oxford University Press    ISBN 0-19-280167-8  6.99,  US$9.95

Senia Paeta's approach differs from Marc Mulholland's in having the whole of Ireland as its subject and in taking a longer period under consideration.  Beginning with the 1801 Act of Union and the events that led up to it, it examines the emergence of modern Ireland, its people, its attitudes and its institutions, from the welter of movements and counter-movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

Paramount in this emergence is the Catholic Church.  Whereas in Mulholland's work Catholic and Protestant are principally identifiers for opposing communities, here the extent to which Catholicism shaped the Irish character is examined: its intervention not just in politics emerges, but also in education, in literary and artistic censorship, marital law, and in private and public morality.  A modern European might be astounded to read, for example, that it was not until 1993 that Irish law permitted the unrestricted sale of contraceptives.  Having grown up in N. Ireland myself, I can tell you that these attitudes added considerably to northern Protestant determination not to become part of an Ireland united under the southern constitution.

The bulk of the work, though, remains with the political travails of England and Ireland, and their varying desires to be a part of each other.  Although this remains a tangled web - looking through the index, I can count over 100 different organisations,  all of whom had a say at one time or another - we are led through it with ease and clarity.

Although I read it as a companion to Mulholland's book, this book stands on its own, and I can well recommend it to anyone wishing to obtain a broad view of the evolution of the modern Irish nation, with less of the grim detail of what has transpired in the North for the last thirty years.

John Ewing


A Start in Art, by Alan Crowe.  Seacroft Books, 126 pp (including copious black and white graphics throughout and a 12-page colour centrefold,  10.50.   ISBN 0-954446-70-4

I have to declare my partiality . . . and my pride . . . as well as my small contribution to the publication of this book.  I hope that the review itself, and my delight in its appearance and excellent content, will nevertheless be sufficiently impartial.  My partiality derives from my involvement with the author from the book's beginnings as a potential project, through several meetings when (wearing my ASPEN hat) we thrashed out ways and means of bringing the project to fruition, to the moment when I left Alan to his own devices and the exploration of ways and means of having the book published and printed.  I like to feel that his success in carrying the project through to completion was in at least some small measure the result of "empowerment" by ASPEN, as promised in our publicity.  I'm also delighted that he chose to adopt my suggested title for the book.


Having declared the partiality, let me now describe the book. 


Alan Crowe has a singular advantage.  Commonly, "how-to" books are written by experts in their chosen field for the use of novices.  It is not, therefore, altogether uncommon for a slippage to appear between the ability of the writer to convey knowledge comprehensibly, and the ability of the reader to follow the instructions intelligently.  Alan Crowe is not merely an expert in the field of graphic design, draftsmanship, and the practice of every type and medium of art over a period of more than 70 years, but he is a writer who is able to express what he has done (and what others should do) in a lucid, simple and easily understandable way.


And the book is not merely comprehensible, it is also remarkably comprehensive for a work of a mere 126 pages.  Furthermore Alan's lavish illustration with so many of his own wonderfully evocative works - many of them revealing his delight in and love of his local New Forest flora and fauna - alone would be "worth the price of admission".


New Forest ponies is one of the book's illustrations


It is always a pleasure to see a craftsman at work and, in the way the book has been laid out and so lovingly crafted, the intention of the writer to convey his feelings of pleasure at the hobby of painting and drawing, particularly for those who have retired and are looking for a satisfying way of spending their new-found leisure time, has been wonderfully fulfilled.


From "Those first bold strokes", through the use of "Tools, time and Space", with a few meanders in the direction of "How to Copy", where to find your subjects, how to frame and hang, he ends up with a flourish on how to file, sell and otherwise dispose of your completed works.  And having seen the "miles" of corridor wall covered with his paintings in his retirement home, this is no small concern.


So exciting a read was it, that I would be sorely tempted to take up Art myself,  were I not already so heavily engaged in producing this magazine!


Joe Sinclair


Words Work! by Terry Mahoney.  Crown House Publishing. Paperback,  18.99 

There is no such thing as society a certain Mrs Thatcher once said, only individuals. I was reminded of this quote when reading Terry Mahoneys book about the application of NLP techniques to classroom teaching. The authors understanding and knowledge of NLP is clearly extensive and he is also familiar with our current education system. As a result he is able to offer a plethora of linguistically- based strategies to develop positive behaviour in pupils. As an NLP Master practitioner, I have tried some of them myself, and know that they can work, to a certain extent, depending on the context. As an experienced classroom teacher, I also know that they are best suited to 1-1 teaching, particularly with children who have specific learning or emotional/behavioural difficulties.

Hence the relevance of the quote by Mrs Thatcher. Our current education system is still based on the Victorian model where 30 or so children are taught by one teacher, sometimes with an assistant. When children are put together in a room to learn, they become a class, and as such require class management skills. At the same time they are still individuals, and while it is fine to recognise that they all have different learning preferences, is it really practical, given all the other demands currently made on teachers, to identify each pupils meta-program? Difficult enough for the primary teacher; impossible, Id say for the secondary teacher who may teach 200 or more different pupils each week. It is revealing that the phrase this child or this pupil is used frequently, rather than the children. Teaching a class is a different proposition to teaching a child, and the major fault of this book is that it fails to acknowledge this difference. I have had first hand experience of devising lesson plans which attempt to cater for different learning preferences and motivations; now I no longer need to do that, and I can enjoy having at least part of the weekend to myself again. 

There is nothing particularly wrong with the actual content of the book, except that Mr Mahoney attempts to cover far too much ground. As part of my NLP training, I spent four days learning about clean language and it took much role playing to get the hang of it. The book covers the subject in one short paragraph.

Similarly, whole books are written about emotional intelligence and circletime - quite rightly as they are complex subjects, worthy of far more than a passing reference. 

I am saddened to have to be so negative about a book that in a different context could be a valuable teaching resource. As I have said, it contains material that could transform teaching and Im sure that some teachers will find it inspiring. I sincerely hope that some will try out some of the techniques suggested. But until the current Government - not Mrs Thatchers, but still - takes on board that a radical rethink is needed about how we organise the education of our children, this book, despite its optimistic title, is doomed to gather dust on the nice idea, shame it wont work shelf.

Mark Edwards  


Seeds For The Soul, by Chuck Hillig.  Black Dot Publications, March 2003.  Price $18.95 (Paperback) 276pp ISBN 1-55395-844-6   

Seeds for the Soul is the latest and perhaps most ambitious book from Chuck Hillig who has written a number of elegant books introducing readers to the Advaitic tradition. 

Advaita is a Sanskrit word which means undividedness. From an Advaitic perspective consciousness/matter; life/death; sickness/health are all unified as not one, not two, and not many.  But Chuck Hillig invites readers to experience Advaita for ourselves, not as a concept, but as reality. He comes closest to presenting Advaita as a concept when he writes: 

The indivisible pretends to be divisible, assumes a point of view, and then struggles to, seemingly, regain what it had never really lost.   

What is remarkable about Hillig, is that unlike many writers within the Advaitic tradition its clear than he cares deeply about the world and the people he encounters. This is just as well because when not writing Chuck is a licensed marriage and family counsellor.  For Chuck the  key to effective therapy resides in providing safety for people to fully complete their relationships with life in its many forms, including others and self.    

Seeds for the Soul is double value: it may be read  as a student or as a seeker for Advaitic awareness, and it points the way to your true nature. Read it as just a regular person with problems and it provides practical insight and help to enable you to enjoy a richer experience of yourself. Hillig admits that there are inconsistencies in the text, but then there are inconsistencies in life and indeed in most religious or philosophical works. So who cares?

In Chapter One Hillig asks the big question: 

Is life happening to you,

for you,

in you

or as you? 

Later he cautions us that life will mean to us whatever we say, or believe it to mean. Its an elegant idea supported by our experiences of self-fulfilling prophecies and experiments in quantum mechanics. But thankfully Hillig does not refer to any of these!  Instead he encourages us to be willing to swallow the entire universe and thus accept what is. Later in the book he extols us not to chew too much. I differ with him here for I enjoy savouring, chewing, and inwardly digesting. But nevertheless Hilligs message is still valid. 

The Universe, says Chuck, does not want you to be wishy-washy. 

Just taking this one line and reflecting upon it for a week will reveal so much, and enable you to achieve even more. The beauty of the line is that its written in simple language that we can all understand. And this comment is true for the entire book. 

Some of Hilligs insights are stark and obvious. For example: 

Of all of the people that youll ever meet in your life, you are the only one that you will never leaveor lose.    


If you want new results in your life, then youll have to change your old beliefs.    


Our primordial fear is actually of being loved so completely that our experience of separation from others will dissolve entirely and well disappear. 

The book is a remarkable work, which gets better every time you give yourself the joy of dipping into it. Its simplicity adds to the profundity of its message. It concludes by quoting a campfire round that we all know, but in the context that old round is transformed and transported into a recipe for living. 

I thoroughly recommend Seeds for the Soul. 

Stephen Bray



The Oxford Book of Health Foods by J.G. Vaughan and P.A. Judd.  Oxford University Press.  2003.  Hardback 19.99.  188 pages.  ISBN 0-1-9-850459-4

Even had I not been interested in the subject matter and presentation of this book, I would have wanted to review it simply for the pleasure of holding it in my hands, browsing the contents, and eventually  placing it on my bookshelf as a valuable reference resource.  It is beautifully produced and very attractively illustrated.  Simply to turn the pages and gaze at the pictures is therapeutically relaxing.

But the book is much more than simply one of coffee-table character.  Not only does it provide a comprehensive guide to good health available via common fruits and plants, including all the more recent "fads" such as St. John's wort, jojoba, and the New Zealand green-lipped mussel, and illustrate them all beautifully, it also provides a scientific critique of the evidence and health claims made for each product.

Given the credentials of the two authors (Vaughan is Emeritus Professor of Food Sciences at King's College, London, while Judd is Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Central Lancashire), both are eminently qualified to provide this evidence; and to substantiate it. 

Jojoba - for which, the authors state - there is little evidence to substantiate certain claims.

A book, therefore, suitable for both the health food faddist and the health food sceptic, and as one who falls neatly between those two stools, I am doubly compensated.

And how appropriate, too, that the review of a book devoted to health foods from vitamin supplements to herbal remedies should appear in an issue of Nurturing Potential whose main theme is devoted to Notions, Potions and Nostrums.

Sep Meyer

The Gamesters Handbook 3 by Donna Brandes and John Norris.  Published by Nelson Thornes.  1998.  Paperback 148 pages.  Price 15.25.  ISBN 0-7487-3504-6

Building on the excellence of its predecessors1 and 2,  Handbook 3 offers a lot of new material and many completely new games.  This excellent book will be useful to almost anyone, in the class room or training room, who has any involvement with developing self-awareness, confidence, assertiveness, decision-making skills or trust. 

Gamesters are teachers, organisational consultants and managers, families, and anyone who, as the authors say, knows that games can enrich the lives of their students, their families and friends, their colleagues, and themselves. 

Under Self-esteem and Communication, Learning Games, School Subject Games and Mostly just for fun, are about 80 games, inspired and informed by and deeply rooted in Brandes and Norriss vast experience as educators and trainers.

Some games were new to me, others were variations on old themes, some I had long forgotten, others I was pleased to rediscover. The 80 or so games that occupy about 100 pages would make the book very worthwhile, the section on inventing new games, makes it more so.  But neither of these is the main reason I want to recommend strongly that you buy, study and use this book till the pages, or you, fall apart although, as a well crafted item, the book, at least, should survive some heavy usage. 

Brandes and Norris explain their ideas, principles and strategies, with humour, insight and compassion, even love, that comes from and invites us to go far beyond mere game-playing. 

The games are set in the context of Student-Centred Learning (SCL) a systematic approach to learning in which facilitator and participants are mutually engaged in planning, organising and evaluating any work and projects, presupposes that people learn best when they are DEFT i.e.

      Discovering things for themselves;

      Enjoying themselves;

      Feeling in charge of themselves;

      Taking responsibility and ownership for their learning 

The Gamesters Handbook 3, eloquently and elegantly offers many challenging, engaging, provocative, fun methods for enabling effective participation in the emerging patterns of work and work organisation, for which according to a group of industrialists, seven Key Competencies are required, namely:

      Collecting, analysing and organising information.

      Communicating ideas and information

      Planning and organising activities

      Working with others and in teams

      Using mathematical ideas and techniques

      Solving problems

      Using technology 

Other matters covered or touched on include debriefing and questioning, the role of games in organisations, diversity, pace and style, wrapping up a session, when the students want to lead. The case studies, all from teachers, none from business people (a small niggle) are useful, and the (few) boxes on unpacking give excellent hints and tips for debriefing the exercises. 

Whether, as a teacher, trainer, team leader, you are just cutting your teeth or very long in the tooth, the range and richness of this books fresh and exciting contents and heart-warming style should not only make it a great addition to your bookshelf, but could (re)enthuse and inspire you. Buy two copies, one for yourself and one for a group worker who seems somewhat faded and jaded. Everyone will be the richer for it!

Michael Mallows

John Ewing is a Systems Engineer who has worked in various domains ranging from implantable cardiac devices to the measurement of low-intensity radioactive emissions.  He currently runs his own company in Alsace, France.

Joe Sinclair is a writer, editor, publisher, and non-executive director of a shipping line . . . amongst other activities . . . one of which is the publishing of Nurturing Potential.

Mark Edwards was a head teacher, who still teaches part-time but combines this with writing articles, educational consultancy and entertaining people who like to hear badly performed rock, pop and music hall classics.

Stephen Bray  trained in the arts of dynamic therapy, family therapy, gestalt, process oriented psychology and NLP, he now spends his time supporting those who wish to help others. He currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey.

Sep Meyer is a graduate of the London School of Economics and, since his retirement from a commercial life, has been devoting his time to a totally non-commercial activity, writing poetry and drama. 

Michael Mallows is a management consultant, therapist (specialising in adoption), an author, a healer and a workshop facilitator.  He is also, incidentally, a consultant editor of this magazine.