Belfast Telegraph

Struggling to explain the truly inexplicable

By Frances Burscough

What a terrible week it has been in the news. I know Manchester so well, having lived there for years as a student before I moved to Belfast.

Dad studied there at the school of dentistry. My brother, John, trained there at the medical college. Numerous family members live there, as well as countless friends. But then to discover that the person who did it lived in the exact same area as I did, in a street I know so well...well, the shock of that was atrocious too.

At the moment, I’m staying with my dad, who’s 84, looking after him as he slowly descends into the twilight world of senile dementia. His intelligent, learned mind is faltering noticeably every day, shutting down and rejecting information as his memory fails and his ability to assess and analyse diminishes.

But he’s still sharp enough to realise what is happening. Every day he’ll say three or four times, “I’m losing it, I really am”, as he struggles to remember what day it is or what he did 10 minutes ago.

And so it is with news on the TV too. Like so many of his age, he sits in front of the TV trying to fathom what is being said and trying to make sense of the stream of information.

If there is something he doesn’t understand, he’ll turn to me and I’ll translate it into simple terms. But trying to explain to my dad the events in Manchester Arena proved more difficult than anything ever before.

His knee-jerk reaction was simple and predictable. “Why don’t they just arrest all the Asians?” he asked.

“The man who did it wasn’t Asian, dad,” I replied. “He was from Manchester, but his parents were from north Africa.”

“Well you know what I mean. The Muslims. Why don’t they just arrest all the Muslims?”

Well this was a proper can of worms alright. Where to start, and how to explain it without being patronising? After all, this is a man who was — at one time — one of the most well-read and perceptive people you could ever meet. “That wouldn’t work, dad,” I said. “The perpetrators are just a tiny minority of a huge population. You can’t just round up an entire people because of a few evil ones, can you? What about the 99.999999% or more who are completely innocent and blameless?”

“Yes, but what about just the ones who wear the heeby-jeeby or whatever it’s called...”

I could see this wasn’t going anywhere. I was tempted to say, “Never mind, dad. Just forget it. Don’t you worry about it”, but a) that would be a complete cop-out and b) I was more than well aware that this story was going to dominate the news for weeks to come. So I decided on a different approach.

“Dad, remember when I moved to Northern Ireland in the ’80s? (Yes...) Well it was right in the middle of the Troubles. Bombs were going off and people were being killed, not just in Northern Ireland, but in England too. There was even a bomb in Manchester, wasn’t there?

“Well, there was one night back in those days when I went to a big charity do at City Hall in Belfast. Suddenly, in the middle of the evening, there was a bomb scare and everyone had to evacuate the building.

“On the way out, someone turned to me and said, ‘It’s those bloody Catholics again, threatening bombs and violence. They should lock them all up and throw away the key’.”

I gave him a minute to digest the story (which is true, incidentally. The person who said it shall remain nameless). Dad has been a devout Catholic all his life and brought up all eight of his children the same way. If anything made the point, that surely would.

“What would you have said to him, dad?” I asked. “Would you not be outraged at what he was saying, that all Catholics should be locked up because of the actions of a small minority?”

“Yes, but I’d probably have punched the b***** in the face for saying all Catholics are violent,” he replied.

It wasn’t the ideal reply, but at least I think I got the message across.

Hair may be shorn but it’s far from forlorn

For the last few years, the so-called undercut (head shaved bare on one side while the rest is kept long) has been thee coolest hairdo for women.

David Bowie started the trend in the ’70s, Rihanna re-invented it, and for a while it seemed like anyone who’s anyone was sporting the hairstyle, including Alice Dellal, Mel B and Sarah Harding, as well as lots of celebrity offspring including Maddox Jolie-Pitt and Willow Smith.

But now the look has evolved into something even more severe and startling, with a full number one buzzcut being worn by the fair but hardly faint-hearted.

It’s probably no surprise that the champion of this new look is none other than Cara Delevingne, the avant-garde and on-trend supermodel/actor who got it done two weeks ago for a part she’s playing and is apparently thrilled with the radical results. She simply bleached the millimetre-long roots silver and, hey presto, she’s like an exotic alien from another planet.

Kristen Stewart, Zoe Kravitz and Katy Perry all followed suit, and they also all look amazing in an ethereal kinda way. But will it catch on with terrestrials like us? I doubt it.

This week I’ll ...

Mostly be making a number of appointments to get my hair done, but it won’t be the new buzzcut look that I’ll be going for, though (see right). In fact, I think I’ll just get a few blow-drys booked...all with celebrity stylist Jason Shankey. Let me explain. Jason has come up with a great idea to attract more (female) clients to his salons. From just £25, the salon will be happy to offer you a glass of prosecco and then continually top up your glass while you’re having your blow-dry. That’s what I call a bubble cut! For further details, contact the salons on 028 9027 8272 (House of Fraser) or 028 9068 1291 (Lisburn Road), or visit the website www.jasonshankey.com.

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