Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Fancy Cavehill or Cultra? Maybe it's just the grass is always greener

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

Oh, to live in Cultra or Cavehill. Both appeared in UK-wide lists of the best places to reside. Cultra, near Holywood in County Down, came 14th in a Times top 30. It has Holywood Golf Club and the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, if that sort of thing floats your boat.

I was more impressed with resident Cathy Martin's description of the beach and coastal paths, as spaces make places for me. Cavehill, in north Belfast, appeared on another list, drawn up by the unbearably aspirational Sunday Times, which praised the area's great schools and transport links.

There was also the small matter of Napoleon's Nose, not an olfactory Gallic protuberance but a mountainous outcrop said to resemble the famous Frenchman's proboscis.

For resident Maureen Coleman, the area's real strength lay in its heart and sense of community. Good points. People make places. Make them rubbish in many instances. But, sometimes, as in Cavehill by the sound of things, you can be lucky.

How I admire people who have a strong identification with place. For I am a restless soul, ever looking towards the next hill or tower block.

I'm well aware, too, that you can't live off the view. Places pall, for me at any rate, and it's easy to take things for granted.

Even the suburban hill and woods, where today I'm wont to waddle, sometimes make me think: "Oh, not there again."

I could probably walk it blindfold. We are creatures of habit but, when habit becomes routine, we rebel and long for pastures new.

The grass is always greener elsewhere. Sometimes, I wish I lived somewhere more vibrant. Not booming with doomph-doomph-doomph dance "music" but with restaurants, pubs and, hell, even shops.

But if I lived there, doubtless I'd pine for small sylvan hills. Perhaps I'm just talking hillocks. Of course, you must factor in house prices. At the height of the UK housing boom, folk in England sold their house every year because it produced a greater annual income than their salary. Way to go. But how long could you go on doing that? At some point, you have to put down roots.

My advice is to make the best of where you are. But don't let that stop you dreaming of a wee place in Cultra. After you've struggled and worked hard to win the lottery.

Wednesday: Food for thought on meal times

It's odd when you think about it. Why eat three meals a day?

Breakfast, lunch and dinner, eaten daily, at more or less the same times. How did that come about? The uncontroversial habit is examined in Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, by Abigail Carroll.

She says there's no evidence that the practice is beneficial. It's just an artificial construct that European settlers considered more civilised than eating seasonally and fasting like the Native Americans did.

Now, of course eating seasonally and fasting are all the rage in "civilisation".

The more history unravels the more embarrassed we feel.

Thursday: when Kate went Gaga

Kate Moss has really let herself go.

But it never does the controversial supermodel harm.

You fear a reckoning is coming, after years of partying hard and not looking too tragic.

Indeed, she's inspirational to those who believe life is meant to be enjoyed. Takes all sorts, I suppose.

But the proof of the pudding is in the drinking and today's news is that Kate overdid it so much late last year she was taken away in an ambulance.

The incident occurred at a party in an "ultrachic" London hotel and restaurant. I was unable to attend as I was reorganising my underpants in chronological order of purchase (checked against diary entries).

Only the night before, Kate had partied in Paris with the Gaga. I didn't get where I am today by partying in Paris with the Gaga.

And, if Kate isn't careful, she won't get where I am today either.

Friday: Bad manners in online advertising

Say what you like about old-fashioned print, at least no one ever came up and shoved a leaflet in front of what you were reading or, worse still, blasted some music at your head.

But that's the reading experience online. You open a new website page and an overlapping page comes in front of your face inviting you to subscribe to a newsletter.

Or you get a blast of music and loud yapping from an unseen video on the page.

It's a symptom of living on the planet that extra-terrestrials call Salesville.

All human life is now advertising.

Saturday: A pie with Buckfast?

Were I not teetotal and vegetarian, I'd try Buckfast-and-beef pie, soon to hit Northern Ireland's supermarket shelves. Surprisingly, for something involving alcohol and pastry, the controversial comestible comes from Scotlandshire. But don't deep fry it. Do as health-conscious Scots do: put it in a smoothie maker and drink it.

Monday: Why I don't have much time for Apple's fancy new watch

I don't have time for Apple any more, so won't be spending hundreds of pounds on their new watch.

Time was when I loved Apple's stuff, but they priced themselves out of my market. Plus they're less hippie and more yuppie now, if you'll excuse the archaic terms.

Still, Apple product announcements are always exciting. Here lieth the future. Or, as Billy Connolly wants his headstone to say, "Is that the time already?"

The new watch is billed as "the most advanced timepiece ever created", though folk won't be buying it for horological reasons.

It's basically a computer on your wrist, though you need an iPhone to make it work. And indeed to make you work. Much of the hype is about the watch getting you to do exercise.

"It's like having a coach on your wrist," says Apple. Oo-er. Watch out for your wife running off with it then.

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