Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Miss NI's parking skills mirror my own

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

Following news that footer pundit Phil Neville can't make a cup of coffee, I was more disturbed to read that the current Miss Northern Ireland cannot parallel park her car.

I was disturbed because Rebekah Shirley was perturbed. But it's nothing to worry about. For this news just in: I cannot parallel park either, except in the space outside my house. And last time I looked (around 2007) I was a man.

It's the motor industry's fault. The parking problem not my gender. They make mirrors patented by a fairground.

Recently, I borrowed my mate's natty wee vehicle and, parking up, the left mirror showed I was hugging the kerb perfectly. We opened the door and I was a foot off. How is that possible?

The mirror would have to show me up on the pavement to be parked perfectly. Somebody - a journalist or whatever they're called - should expose this scandal.

Saturday: Skye's the limit for hols

I'm losing track of all the Manic Mondays, Tremendous Tuesdays, Wallaby Wednesdays and so forth that now make up our characterful weekly lives.

The latest is Sunshine Saturday, which has just passed and saw your hero driving through blizzards for a week away to the Isle of Skye in Scotlandshire.

As it happens, Sunshine Saturday doesn't refer to the weather on that particular day but to the day you book your summer holiday. I say "you", and you may be saying: "Pshaw!" That is a good point, well made.

For I don't book summer holidays now either. I've only got this place on Skye because friends offered it to me at short notice.

I'm not organised enough to plan ahead for a holiday and, besides, I live in daily expectation of Armageddon.

As it happens, sun is shining on the snow-capped mountains I see before me. That'll do for now.

Sunday: Cream of tech neck cures

Smartphones and tablets are creating a terrible illness that only a £6 jar of cream can cure.

Tech Neck features sagging and creased skin, caused by constantly looking down at gadgets.

The cream is Forever Youth Liberator Y-Shape Concentrate. Funnily enough, that's exactly what I thought it would be called.

Monday: Advice gives us food for thought

It's funny how, for all the healthy food advice dished out daily by experts, the lieges have their own priorities.

Firstly, when Cadbury's US owners changed the chocolate on their Creme Eggs, there was rioting in several rural areas.

Campaigners objected to "cheap imitation" chocolate being used in the controversial, fondant-filled snack.

Secondly, when Belfast's That Wee Cafe started selling crisp sandwiches, the peculiar repast sold out within hours.

Moral: give the punters what they want. That said, I once saw a man put a meat pie on a roll.

But he was from Aberdeen, so what do you expect?

Tuesday: Getting to the dart of the matter

I've long been fascinated by hypnosis.

Since many problems are rooted in the brain's basement - the subconscious - it might make sense to have a professional poke about in there to see what he can find.

That's assuming they know the way in and, once there, aren't tempted to make you do a rooster-dance when anyone says "Tuesday".

How intriguing, therefore, to read about darts player Scott Mitchell confidently taking a world title after hypnosis by Ballygowan-based therapist Stephen McKibben.

Stephen reportedly gave Scott composure and focus. I asked my doctor about these. He said I'd need a personality transplant.

Wednesday: Lady doth protest too much

The sinking of yon Titanic provides a textbook benchmark of how we might have behaved ourselves. If you're a young person, with your gadgets akimbo, think of it as a computer game, in which you have to save yourself and, for extra points, others.

The forthcoming sale of a letter by an aristocratic survivor who escaped in Lifeboat No1 has highlighted the complexities of escape. The lifeboat in which Lady Duff-Gordon and husband Sir Cosmo escaped was occupied by only a dozen people despite being able to take 40.

Folk claimed Sir Cosmo bribed the crew to row faster rather than rescue others. Later, Lady D-G wrote to a friend: "According to the way we've been treated by England on our return, we didn't seem to have done the right thing at all in being saved!!! Isn't it disgraceful."

It is. Firstly, I thought it was just shouty wackjobs on the internet who used triple exclamation marks. Secondly, "don't" not "didn't". Thirdly, there should be a question mark after "disgraceful". And fourthly, as today, by England she means Britain.

But you get her gist. Just what would we have done ourselves? You can't underestimate terror's effect on ethical sensibilities. Deep within us is a primal instinct to survive. Scientists say it's almost as strong as the need to eat chips.

The most scared I've ever been was when a chap pulled a knife on a group of us. After 30 seconds of thinking about disarming him with a flying kung fu kick, I lapsed into paralysed terror. My body took over from my mind.

Perhaps more germanely, I was once adrift at sea in a small boat whose engine had broken down in the darkness. My nautical companion often spoke of my calmness.

But I couldn't see the point of panicking. It was the early days of mobile phones and, while we had sparse coverage, we managed to alert someone on shore who picked us up, guided by the phone's light. However, the Titanic was bigger, went over on its side, and was miles from anywhere. Part of me thinks I'd have trampled the heads of children to get on a lifeboat.

But part of me thinks I'd just have called someone on the mobile. Then I'd remember: mobiles haven't been invented yet. Yikes!!!

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