Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: I have a feeling of droid

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

Excitement is mounting about the next Star Wars film.

Trailers have appeared online, beginning with the ominous words: "There has been an awakening - have you felt it?"

Oh dear. In movies, it's never good stuff that awakes. I just hope my hero - C-3P0 (Mrs 3PO's wee laddie) - isn't involved.

Saturday: Servants with time on their hands

Who, beyond unfortunates with sight problems, calls the speaking clock nowadays? I didn't even know it was still going.

Time is everywhere now. Time was when it wasn't. But, today, you don't even need a watch. So who's calling the speaking clock?

Well, civil servants at yonder Stormont are, at a cost of three grand a year. But why would they do that?

They must be sat in front of computers with the time on them. Perhaps they just want to hear that posh bird telling them where they'll be horologically at the third stroke.

In the interests of research, I've just dialled 123 and, sure enough, there she is, wittering on and on, till the end of time.

Maybe the civil servants are phoning her to look busy. I'm pretty sure I've done something similar in the distant past. But that was only to look as if I had friends.

Sunday: I won't be a snail male

I regret to announce that I will not be adding snail slime to my face. Even if it cleared up wrinkles and saggy bits in a trice, a man must retain his dignity.

And dignity and snail slime shall never be bedfellows. Despite this, the slime is now a key ingredient in the Dr Organic range of ridiculous things to put on your coupon.

As you might imagine, Chilean snail farmers are to blame. They claim to have discovered that their skin healed quickly when they handled the controversial gastropods.

Another scenario envisages one farmer saying to the others: "I've just thought of a great money-making wheeze."

The makers claim lathering on this gunk will make you look six years younger after just four weeks.

Assuming this is aimed at females, surely they'll have to forbid cheek-kissing by men-friends, who won't be happy at hoovering up this muck.

Monday: Keeping a healthy eye on pies

As this column believes most things should be banned, it'll come as no surprise to learn we support the outlawing of Xmas mince pies.

Even as a child I was wary of these. My body warned: "Whoa! Way too much sugar and fats in yonder repast."

However, Tory MP David Morris has accused Labour's health spokesman Andy Burnham of "turning into the Grinch who wants to stop mince pies at Christmas".

In reality, Burnham just wants to set legal limits on sugar, fat and salt in food. But that would kill off the controversial pies. To which we say: good.

Tuesday: And another health scare ...

DNA - it's everywhere. It's under your fingers and in your gob. In your armpits and, according to some scientific journals, gangs of it gather between your toes, spray-painting slogans like "You're doomed" and "There's no escaping fate" on the soles of your feet.

Take a look the next time you remove your socks - Saturdays for me - or ask your doctor to do so. DNA has a damned cheek, directing our lives and acting like the big boss. Now it's threatening to spill all our secrets, bringing us the bad news and mapping out our futures, yea, even unto the bitter end.

For the princely sum of £125 you can now take a DNA test that will tell if you are at risk of Alzheimer's Wotsname, Parkinson's, some cancers, baldness (no joking) and sundry other conditions.

You can even be told where you stand vis-a-vis liking coffee or Brussels sprouts and which exercise you should do for your physical type.

Disgustingly, however, the test involves providing a sample of saliva via the postal service - poor postie doesn't know what he's handling - to a laboratory where sundry oafs in white coats fry it up, put it in sandwiches and provide a report based on the taste.

But who'd want to know all that stuff? Imagine being told that you were going to go bald. As critics of the 23andMe project proclaim, it could make you morbid and depressed.

The future should be a time of hope, not dread. It's something that hasn't happened yet and so isn't rubbish like everything is at the moment.

Defenders of the doom of DNA say that knowing the kind of pain the Lord has planted in your body might impel you to stave off the evil day with exercise or by giving up smoking rather than giving up the ghost.

But there are other problems. The insurance industry could tell you to sling your hook. You could also see the lieges waddling down in droves to the NHS demanding treatment for something that hasn't happened yet.

Well, too late now. The genie is out of the bottle. Genetic consumerism is here to stay. As one top professor put it: "That ship has sailed."

Let's hope it's not the Titanic.

Wednesday: We're barbarians to Paxman

It's easy to criticise broadcaster Jeremy Paxman and make out he's a clown. But I'm going to give it a go anyway.

Jeremy's anal analysis of Britain is that London subsidises everything - especially Northern Ireland - and not that some other parts of Britain are subsidising London.

The truth is, London sucks in everything. It rakes in wealth and awards itself big public projects and government departments.

Entranced by the glitter, Leeds-born Jeremy flounces around in his toga, sneering snootily at the provinces.

He sees London as Rome and the rest of us as barbarians. How we wish this Pillock Maximus would pipe down.

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