And then a hero comes along ...
Woken up feeling a little flat today after the excesses of yesterday? Here's a serving of feelgood, with my annual list of heroes from the past year. Enjoy this one ... next week, I'm naming my villains
Joanne Dorrian and Kathleen Arkinson
These two ladies are united by grief and the shared desire to find the bodies of their murdered sisters.
Bizarrely, Joanne Dorrian (23) believes she was turned down as a trainee cop with the PSNI because she spoke to a senior loyalist in a desperate bid to find out more about the murder of her 25-year-old sister. Who said natural detective work and wanting to solve a foul crime are prerequisites for that career?
Kathleen Arkinson, too, has been a tireless campaigner - and for much longer - to bring the man acquitted of the murder of her teenage sister, Arlene, to a re-trial. He is already behind bars, but for killing Kent girl 14-year-old Hannah Williams, nine years after Arlene went missing in 1994.
If only the police had heeded her warnings about the killer's identity, instead of digging up her own back garden in Castlederg in a blaze of publicity, there would be at least one family not remembering a dead child this Christmas.
For their courage, dignity and determination, we should all applaud them.
David Healy/Lawrie Sanchez
Ah, yes. Something of a double-header here. Healy makes it as a hero for obvious reasons - three of them stuck in the onion bag against mighty Spain. Sanchez, though, underwent the real trial over the few days between losing to Iceland and triumphing over the Iberians. Slated in the meejah, the talk was of resignation amid his fiercely expressed disgust at the unjustified barracking. Even at full-time against Spain, when the world was at his feet, the harassed manager still felt personally under siege as he struggled with bereavement. His critics laboured to justify their barbs as Norn Iron recorded its second historic win under Lawrie's brief reign. Like a trooper, he fired back at his detractors and stayed at his post. Thankfully, we have him for a little while longer.
It can't have been easy for Fr D'Arcy to reveal how he was sexually abused as a young man by older priests. Never mind that he's no stranger to the limelight, it was a risky step. Still, he did it with his usual fearlessness and thoughtfulness, showing how it was possible to have a successful and productive life after abuse. His book, A Different Journey, is said to be one of the biggest sellers of this Christmas. Get a copy while they're still on the shelves.
Not many women would relish getting up close and personal with Michael 'I'm A Celebrity, Let Me In There!' Stone and security guard Susan Porter was surely no different. But it was a bad day for "Stone, Michael Stone" when he met Susan at the revolving doors of Stormont. It was Operation Cancelled, as this genuine unarmed heroine - who'd previously served with the RUC for 22 years - stopped him in his tracks and proceeded to hold him there for what seemed like a few years. There must have been some good in the RUC, after all, said Adams and McGuinness as they congratulated her afterwards ... or something like that.
It's a bit of a double-edged sword being an Ulster beauty queen, as Blue Peter's Zoë Salmon found out last year and Diane Sayers the year before. This year, it's Gayle who's been through the mill, thanks to her former boyfriend - and father of her six-month-old son Brandon - Jim Corr. Let's face it, she deserved better. After all, she did sleep with the only member of The Corrs absolutely no one fancied. But at least he found out he couldn't muck her around. Tired of his 'nights out' without her, she left him. Way to go!
Hurray for the woman who made it acceptable again - in fact, obligatory among the McCartney showbiz cronies - to make jokes about disability. The same people who preen themselves over their 'charidee work' at Comic Relief, think nothing of spluttering their bile on live TV, as Jonathan Ross did at the recent Comedy Awards.
But now she's been alerted by police about a serious death threat from some of her estranged husband's Liverpool fans, maybe Heather will enjoy a little bit of respite over the Christmas.
There aren't enough Catholics in this column, so let's redress the balance by putting in the biggest one of all. The Panzer Pope got into his stride with one of the few broadsides of the year directed at the growing influence of Islam in Europe. Certainly, it's impact was greater than the Pontiff intended and, of course, it wasn't as hysterical as the Imams felt or thought it was - is anything? But nonetheless, it was a refreshing pope - I mean, poke - in the eye going in the opposite direction.
Jacqui's the Newry woman who brought out the best in Ulster people. She has Motor Neurone Disease and committed the crime of getting pregnant. "I think it's totally selfish of this woman to have had a child when she knew she was going to die € my sympathy is with the child she brought into the world knowing she wasn't going to be there for it", said Mrs 'Do As You Would Be Done By', live on Stephen Nolan's show on Radio Ulster. Single mum-of-three Jacqui had been forced to ring the programme for help after being refused permission to bring her three-week baby son Ethan home from hospital because a care package had yet to be set up.
"Where's the father € why are you not chasing him with the same vigour you are chasing the media?", opined Mr Charity, another Christian soul.
Thankfully, within days of Jacqui "chasing the media" her little boy arrived home.
A close call this. Her crucifix-strewn tour was accused of blasphemy - utterly predictable. But her later adoption of Malawian infant, David, earns points. Despite liberals' cranky arguments that it would be better if the infant had remained ethnically pure and condemned to a hopeless future in an orphanage - relying on their annual Christmas gift of a goat - it's really hard to fault Madonna for giving one child a home, where he'll be loved and cared for.
... a certain gentleman of my acquaintance. Cuddly of disposition, wise in the ways of the world, with friends in the most unexpected places and the knack of turning up on the doorstep at moments of crisis and rescuing even impossible situations. In spite of a penchant for fish and milk, no one looked more comfortable in a dinner jacket than the be-whiskered gentleman known as Sir Humphrey. Or was more appreciative of a tummy-tickle. And if there was one man who would never be caught out on a rainy night, it was himself. Good night, old friend, I'll miss you.