26 April 1967

Last year, having hit 35, I did a web page about April 26. Desperate to stay awake today, I was googling people who shared my precise date and year of birth, and came up with a few obscure celebrities who I had not heard of – the musician Green Velvet, born Curtis Alan JonesWWF wrestler Kane, born Glen Jacobs aka Marianne Jean-Baptiste. And there are a few less famous people too, whose home pages, or employers, or sports teams, happen to have listed their birth date as the same as mine. At some point I’ll get around to listing them.

Then I came home, tried a slightly different Google, and to my astonishment realised that there was in fact someone who I knew of, who in fact I had quite close links with, who was also born on 26 April 1967, though in sunny Santa Monica, California, rather than in damp and not-yet-troubled Belfast. Like me, she always had a strong interest in politics; unlike me, she actually did her first degree in it, graduating from Stanford in 1989 and then getting a job with the National Democratic Institute for International AffairsFulbright Scholarship as an excuse to be in South Africa in the run-up to the first ever multi-racial elections due to take place in 1994. Amy Biehl never saw those elections, though she had worked hard for them to take place; on August 25, 1993, driving through a South African township, she was dragged from her car in a racially motivated attack and murdered.

That was just over ten years ago. Anne and I were looking forward to getting married at the start of October. I was just getting re-engaged in Northern Irish politics, barely aware of where Bosnia was, let alone the other countries that have become part of my life since then. As I jiggled the baby on my lap this evening, trying to read the website of the Amy Biehl Foundation, I realised how lucky I am to have had the last ten years of my life; and also how proud I am of the work that I do, which is probably about the same as Amy Biehl would have been doing if she were still alive. Over the summer break I had some doubts about whether I really wanted to continue trying to make the world a better place, or whether in fact I should sell my soul and find a more lucrative and less demanding job. Thse doubts are now beginning to dispel.

Basically, I do the work I do because I’m good at it and mainly I enjoy it. Yesterday I was invited to argue with the Bosnian prime minister and foreign minister at a public meeting and then went on to brief a senior Euro-politician about the situation in the Balkans. Today I’ve been emailing various of the ambassadors I met in Vienna over the last week to find out what the latest is in the Moldovan peace process. I love it when it’s going well, and if I were only sleeping a bit better I would be able to maintain a more balanced perspective.

One thought on “26 April 1967

  1. I have yet to be disappointed by Ian Rankin’s fiction, which is somewhat unusual for such a prolific author.

    I liked Hand’s Waking the Moon, but I also know people who hated it — and I can’t really predict who will end up on each side. It’s a very particular kind of world.

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