There is always

More than one path.

Saturday was a big day for every eleven year old in Northern Ireland. After having their qualifying tests postponed twice and then cancelled because of the pandemic, they all had to wait and see which school they had got into. The ones with siblings and the ones at the preparatory department stood a definite chance but for everyone else, it was literally down to luck. They actually called it a ‘lottery’. Imagine putting precious, vulnerable lives into a cruel game of chance!

Most were fortunate, but I know of a few who have ended up in a school they had put at the bottom of their wish list, and often one that they would never actually expect to go to.

That situation is one of the hardest I have ever heard of, because it is occurring in the earliest chapter of their lives. When you are eleven, you can’t see another way. When you are eleven, you just want it all to fall into place, or your parents to make it right for you.

There is a very small number of children who have already encountered crooked paths and unfair situations. But for the rest, this is the first tough time they have known.

When things went off course for me at that age, everyone bent over backwards to hide the rough or dark parts on the road. When I grew up, I had to look for the other way myself.

Life is not always an easy sequence of the best school then university then work, marriage, kids. But when the road is blocked, we have to look for another path.

It was because of this searching I discovered a love of writing. And a deep appreciation of the small and bigger things that life has given me.

I hope with all my heart that those children who are staring at what looks like a dead end or an unpromising path will be able to spot another route.

And I hope that someone is there to show them.

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