Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Hmmm, er, hoaxer could have made a better call to PM

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

A hoax call to David Cameron, Prime Minister of England and the Other Bits, was disappointing.

According to Dave's own account - and I trust him implicitly - his BlackBerry rang at 11am while he was out for a "nice walk" with his family.

This was after returning from Saudi Arabia, where he'd had a nice time celebrating the life of late bloody tyrant King Abdullah.

Says Dave: "The voice said he was sorry to wake me up, which I felt was strange as it was 11am. I rapidly asked 'Who is it?' and the voice said 'It's a hoax call'…"

Talk about a missed opportunity. Surely, having got that far, the caller could have had some fun. Masquerading as head of GCHQ, he could have got the PM to memorise and repeat a daft password, like: "The sheep wear no trousers in June."

Taped for the internut, it would have gone viral.

Monday: Fish ok for womb-swimming tiddlers

There are people who get pregnant - women, I believe they're called - and they receive even more health warnings than normal citizens.

One warning was that eating fish while pregnant could harm unborn children, because fish contain mercury.

However, Ulster University boffins, with colleagues from New York's University of Rochester Medical Centre, found that eating fish might not be so dangerous after all.

Cautiously, they called for further investigation.

It's not a green light for getting down the Ravenhill Road and stuffing your face with mackerel.

The key, as ever, is moderation - and taking all health scare stories with a pinch of salt.

Tuesday: Plastic not so fantastic

Sounds like plastic surgery needs a makeover.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons says trade has been hit by last year's scandal about faulty silicone in breast implants.

Folk now feel that maybe natural ain't so bad after all - and probably better than being filled up with gunge.

Wednesday: Judi's taking up needlework

Tattoo news, and yon actress Dame Judi Dench is the latest celeb to consider submitting to the inky needles.

Dame Judi told Good Housekeeping magazine - you have your reading, I have mine - that, while worried about a permanent gaffe on her skin, she was tempted to have a tattoo celebrating her 80th birthday.

A big tasteful M on her forehead might be suitable, recognising her marvellous depiction of the secret service chief in the James Bond movies.

But she's thinking of something Indian representing life and love. Well, on your skin be it, love.

Just have it checked by a reputable translator.

Friday: Beware the wrath of god, thieving Christian zealots

I have discovered a new word: psychopomp. Don't pretend you know what it means either. And don't take any wild guesses: a showy ceremonial by somebody deranged, stuff like that. Nothing of the sort. Million miles wide of the mark.

For reasons that will become clear shortly, I trust you are not hiding a psychopomp on your premises

A psychopomp is, I have learned from Wikipedia, a creature that escorts newly deceased souls from Earth to yonder afterlife. It's from the Greek and means literally "guide of souls".

In Jungian psychology, it refers to a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. Who'd have thought?

If this is all Greek to you, consider this: there's an Irish element involved here. The Celtic sea god Manannan Mac Lir was seen as a psychopomp.

Though closely associated with the Isle of Man, which he protects with a cloak of mist when trouble comes, he's also a top act in Irish mythology, giving King Cormac Mac Airt a magic cup that breaks if three lies are spoken over it and is made whole again when three truths are spoken. Hey, they should have one of those at Stormont. Better still, Manannan had a boat called Wave Sweeper, a sword called The Answerer and a cloak of invisibility. He was associated with a "cauldron of regeneration". This is better than Star Trek and Dr Who put together.

I discovered all this after reading about a bizarre crime, in which a 6ft statue of Manannan Mac Etc was stolen from a mountain top above Limavady.

In its place was left a 5ft cross emblazoned with the words "Thou Shalt Not Have False Gods Before Me". Not unnaturally, this has led the police to suspect that fundamentalist Christian nutters are behind the heist.

Local folk are furious, and Limavady funeral director Aaron J McGrotty has offered a financial reward for its return.

Tell you what: I wouldn't be nicking a psychobob who possessed a sword called The Answerer. It's even possible that, already, Manannan has wreathed his captors in a mysterious mist and is preparing to escort them to the underworld.

And I bet they thought a stiff fine and a few hours' community service was the worst that could happen.

Saturday: Case of taking the piscean

It was Mackerel Galore on Ravenhill Road. Whereas the Scottish island of Eriskay famously got Whisky Galore, east Belfast got a lorryload of oily fish.

But, hey, you don't look a gift mackerel in the mouth. The lorry spilled its load of 600 fish near the junction with My Lady's Road.

And, while some people not unnaturally helped themselves, others just stood by the side of the road looking bewildered. Perhaps they'd have preferred haddock. Whatever their tastes, and some surprising moral scruples, later they helped the authorities to clean up.

Stern health warnings advised that the controversial migratory creatures might not be safe to eat, but local experts declared the fish fresh and filled their freezers forthwith.

There is a moral to this tale and, while I have no idea what that is, we must hope that a film mogul somewhere sees the potential in this peculiar piscean episode.

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