Belfast Telegraph

Rab's week: Brendan Rodgers, John Wayne and Divis Mountain

Welcome to the sideways world world of our star columnist.

ROBERT McNEIL

FRIDAY: EXCELLENT EXERCISE FOR THOSE WITH THEIR HEADS IN THE CLOUDS

Whenever I move to a new area -- a frequent occurrence; I'm right restless, me -- the first thing I do is seek out the nearest hill. It shouldn't be too high or challenging, as I'm a busy man and have no time for crampons. Preferably, it shouldn't be overrun with dog-walkers, cyclists, joggers, the whole leisure-amenity brigade.

It should be a place for poets, even those of us who never got past "There was a young lass from Dunoon".

It should be a place to escape from the madding crowd, a place to think. For this news just in: it's absolutely necessary to rise above all the problems (or people, as they're sometimes called) below.

The ozone is better up a hill. You feel grass under your feet, which connects you to your soul as well as your sole. You get things in perspective.

So the opening of a new £500,000 walking trail on Divis and Black Mountain -- big hills -- above Belfast is really good news for residents of the city.

The 4.2-mile Ridge Trail offers folk the chance not only of a fine view over the city but distant sightings of the Mourne Mountains, Cumbria and Scotland. If the idea of vertical perambulation distresses you, there's even more good news. The clever trail, developed by Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland, follows the hills' contours so that drastic ups and scary downs are few and far between.

All you need, said the National Trust's Mike Dobson, is "a good, stout pair of boots". And clothing, of course. Best wear some of that.

According to top newspaper the Belfast Telegraph, there used to be more people living in the hills than in the city.

Primitive tribes tended to locate themselves on hills to defend themselves against other savage schmucks and, back in the day -- back in the era, really -- the current city space was merely a peat bog.

Today, 1,568ft above the hurly and arguably the burly, Divis is particularly enticing, a "hidden gem" according to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, because for 50 years it was Ministry of Defence land and out of bounds to any of the lieges who fancied waddling there.

Now it's open. And it provides the answer, folks. Life getting you down? Go up. See no way out? Go find the view. Weight of the world on your shoulders? Go stick your bonce nearer the clouds.

SATURDAY: MY ELF-Y RESPECT FOR DUKE

John Wayne was a fan of Tolkien? Who knew?

I used to abhor 'The Duke' because of his warmongering. But, later in life, I came to love his cowboy screen persona.

Walk tall, look the world in the eye: would if I could. But at least I, too, can appreciate a good elf.

SUNDAY: IT’S A FICKLE GAME... BUT I’VE BEEN A RED ALL MY LIFE

I'm loose with my favours when it comes to English football teams. As a boy it was always Liverpool.

This continued into manhood. When Liverpool won the European Champions League in 2005 I was on holiday in Yorkshire and -- full of beer and cake on my birthday -- ran round the woods in celebration. But, gradually, I was seduced by Manchester United. The fact that Liverpool and Man U hate each other made it all the sweeter to cock a snook at such tribal allegiances.

The glory-hunting jibe doesn't bother me either. An English team isn't your real team. It's a distant indulgence.

So I'm happy to be swinging back towards Liverpool and, in particular, manager Brendan Rodgers, the man from Carnlough whose tactical nous has taken the club within touching distance of winning the Premiership. Come on, you reds. Not the Manchester ones, obviously. The Liverpool ones. For now.

MONDAY: THIS IS THE KIND OF PIE TO PASS UP WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN

What in the name of the wee man next? They've only gone and invented a fish and chips pie.

Who they? They be Marks and Spencer, of all people, so I wouldn't be surprised if it had a soupcon of sugar in it, if their other offerings are anything to go by.

M&S claims the pie is reasonably healthy, at 581 calories a pop, including a layer of mushy peas.

But the illustrated pie looks deficient in chips for my liking. Chips should always come in plethoras. I'm not easily riled, but six or seven chips strikes me as an outrage.

TUESDAY: IT MAKES LITTLE SENSE TO BE A CREATURE OF HABIT

I've always said you Earthlings were creatures of habit. Now a study has proven me unusually correct.

I say "study", as if it had academic credence. But I'll admit right away it was a survey for Clipper Teas.

The point was to raise the profile of the controversial beverage, itself a habit for many leading citizens, yea, even unto drinking out of the same mug. The poll of 2,000 punters found three-quarters also bought the same brands of food, shopped at the same stores and ordered from the same takeaways.

The habit least likely to be changed was hairstyle. But since nearly everyone is bald nowadays, that's hardly an option. Habit's a terrible thing. Even sectarianism is a habit. It has no rationale. Few habits have much rationale.

So use a different mug. Try a different brand of cornflakes. If it works for you, I might even try it myself.

WEDNESDAY: KIDS WALKING TALL THANKS TO OUR STELLAR INVENTION

It's not every day that newspapers are uplifting. But how heartening to read about the amazing success of the Firefly Upsee, a device that allows disabled kids to walk -- and even dance -- with their parents.

That's one kind of dancing that this normally censorious column can condone.

Not only is the Upsee manufactured in Northern Ireland -- by Lisburn company Leckey -- but it's been backed online by Mr Sulu (George Takei) out of Star Trek .

Star Trek was the best equal sci-fi series ever, along with the fabulous Firefly.

This is all good.

Kudos to inventor Debby Elnatan. Go, kids, go!

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