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A reflection, and a social experiment….

I’m just out of the kinhower, and as often happens in the shower, new ideas spring to mind, and old fleeting thoughts or notions come back to the fore.

Since coming out of the shower (and getting dressed and all that), I have taken to the big grassy hill behind the apartment that has a great view of Cork city (see photo above) to share my social experiment with you before it leaves my head again until another random shower sometime in the future….or maybe never. First of all, I need to fill you in with a bit of background information.

You see, I’m not from Cork. Actually, the relevant point isn’t that I’m not an original Corkonian, but what’s more relevant is were I am from. I grew up in Andersonstown in West Belfast. The thing about West Belfast at that time (without turning this into a lesson on the conflict in the north), is that we were somewhat on the edge of conformation with authority, and many times on the opposite side altogether. In my own case, and that of most of my friends, a mistrust of officialdom would be a polite way to put it…and I would like to take pains to point out that it was not without cause. Intimidation, and discrimination towards our community was quite regular at times, and in particular towards the Irish language movement, of which my family and I, and many of our friends are a part. This pretty much bred the ‘if its not there, set it up yourself and don’t depend on outside help’ mentality out of which grew the most vibrant and progressive Irish language community in Ireland. For example, when I started Irish medium Bunscoil Phobal Feirste primary school (from which we were evacuated several times owing to some kind people letting us know that there they had left a package of explosives in the vicinity of the school grounds), there was no Irish Medium Secondary School for pupils finishing up their Primary Education, and therefore Meánscoil Feirste was born. For the first 10 years of the Meánscoil existence, the government tried to close it down and refused to give it official recognition as a school owing to the language being used as the medium for the classes. Protests were plenty, and visiting dignitaries from the American senate, the Black Civil Rights Movement, and far beyond pledged their support for our cause, and eventually through no small effort from the founders of the school, parents, and teachers, the school was eventually given funding, and official recognition. Just as well because our classrooms were getting smaller by the year as new students came on board and classrooms were being divided in half to accommodate the growing numbers. Now among the best performing school in the north of Ireland, the re-named Coláiste Feirste is flourishing in the newly established Gaeltacht Quarter. Many more initiatives and structures were born from necessity and lack of official support in West Belfast in modern times. No cultural center? The Cultúrlann was born. No radio station? Raidió Fáilte. Housing for Irish speakers? Gaeltacht Bhóthar Seoighe. No Football Team? Laochra Loch Lao. Irish speaking restaraunts? Take your pick. Social club, bookshop, cycling club, book club, art gallery, theatre, newspaper….the list just goes on and on. ‘Ná habair é, déan é’ (‘Don’t say it, do it’), was the modus operandi WAY before Nike started to use ‘Just Do It’ as their motto. Maybe the board of directors took a spin in a Black Taxi down the Falls road someday when they thought of that, who knows! In any case, serial innovation, and unadulterated vision is what has grown the Irish language community in West Belfast, and needless to say, it rubbed off.

So now I live in Cork, and for the last two years, I have been on the rollercoaster that is starting a business. A journey, which from talking to fellow business starters, it seems, universally has its ups and its downs. Nowadays, I feel like I have grown somewhat of a toughened skin to the point where the good days are delightful, and the downs require a level of rolling with the punches and having the metal to keep going, revisit some part of the system that needs to be refined, start again, rebuild, and keep moving forward. The lines from Rudyard Kiplings poem ‘If’ is on auto-loop in my mind for the last 2 years.

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss…”

At times, any sane person would ask themselves why on earth they would venture to start a business these days. And any sane person who starts a business will also ask himself or herself if indeed they are sane. So why, I hear you ask?!

At ACLAÍ, our message is very clear. We deliver results to our clients in a way that just is not possible in the mainstream fitness world through providing personal training like you have never seen before. Our core values include, Expertise, Value, Quality, Growth, and Fun. Our team of coaches are all from a sport and exercise science background, and have dedicated themselves to the vocation of learning, coaching, and training themselves. Moreover, our system works. In the last 2 years we have trained the Cork Senior Football team, have athletes competing (and winning) nationally and internationally in athletics, swimming, triathlon, and running, started a personal development book club, and raised money for various charity initiatives. Just a few weeks ago, one of our members ran solo from Malin Head to Mizen Head, completing 15 marathons in 15 days to achieve the feat. Just last week, a stunned doctor took one of our past members off his blood pressure medication after 3 years. We helped another chap regain his life by building strength and mobility that eradicated a painful and costly back injury. I could go on and on. I believe in what we do, and our members get the benefit every day of the week. When I see one of our clients doing well, or hear that they won a race, or can take the washing down after years of not being able to reach overhead, my chest expands with pride. I know that these are things that would not have happened if it were not for ACLAÍ, or at least that we have contributed to it in a positive way. That’s what keeps me going, and that drives my team and I to keep on improving, and keep on innovating. ACLAÍ is my incarnation of ‘if its not there, then set it up it yourself”. But I digress! I told you I had a social experiment to share with you.

One of the most enjoyable parts of running a company, is that one is afforded the liberty to try things out without the stifling red-tape normally associated with actually getting things done. So here goes.

The idea came from having a penchant for critically viewing the norm, and asking if there is another way, and probably my background as a scientist and my affection for trying things out to see what happens. It likely has roots in studying politics in school, or reading about the olden ways of the trader and peasants, or perhaps the socialist ideals of Che Guevara presented in his pre revolution book ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’. Whatever curious instinct that compels me to jump on board to present a TV documentary from time to time likely contributed to the desire to try things like this out as well!

In the spirit of ‘ná habair é, deán é’, I want to throw out the ancient yet seemingly disappeared practice of barter for the next week, to see where it goes. A step outside of the status quo. At ACLAÍ , we have a premium service, that un-does the joint stiffening activity (or non-activity I should say) of the ‘modern Western lifestyle’, builds a strong and healthy body, and encompasses the development of lifelong positive habits. The rules of barter suggest that both parties must have what the other wants, and that a value for each service or product is established. At the moment, I don’t think we have any great need for a particular type of service (but I’m open to suggestions if you want to convince me that we are missing out by not having your service at our disposal), so I was thinking of initially throwing the idea out there to providers of quality foods like meat, vegetables, fruit, fish, etc. Do you want to train with ACLAÍ to improve your sporting performance or transform you health, mobility, or bodyweight, and at the same time have some useful product or service to offer in return (namely some kind of food)?!

The experiment is on for a week. And will close on Wednesday the 17th of June at 10am. Of course, we will take you on with good old-fashioned ‘airgead’ as well if you don’t have a product or service to barter with, but if you feel like throwing off the shackles of being dependent solely on the paper stuff with the harp on it, then drop me an email or message below.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this and your community spirit is inspiring i hope someone took you up on the barter as exchanging and sharing talents is a great idea. As i read your experience the south african word ubuntu came to mind which im sure you know means humanity and that we are all connected. I found your article helpful and inspiring as i have just spent 5 years working for a charity which supports people in prison back into the community and tommorow i leave this behind to move to ireland to develop a charity running forgiveness workshops and open space forums on forgiveness. As my father suffered from a disease called alcholism i have found peace and healing through a 12 step programme called alanon and have been studying Bishop tutus book of forgiving which takes you through a 4 step path to forgiveness. Just wondered what your thoughts are about forgiveness and i have an aunt who lives in cork so would you be interested in meeting up for a coffee and chat. Hope to hear from you soon if not thanks for a great article and keeping that community spirit going. in friendship charlie

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