I am genuinely amazed when I hear that people have come as tourists to visit Belfast. Not as day trippers from the Republic, but as full-blown Gee-whizz-George-take-a-picture tourists from the US of A or some other foreign part. I am not talking either about the revolutionary tourists who sometimes wash up to talk conflict resolution.
No, I am talking about the honest to goodness tourist who passes through, takes a few pics and turns up in the news saying what a wonderful time they had in Belfast and how friendly everyone was - except, of course, the ones who stole my camera or hit me over the head with a baseball bat and robbed me.
What surprises me the most is how anyone could get excited about visiting Belfast. There is nothing in Belfast. In fact, there is even less in Belfast than there used to be - and that is saying a lot. The Ulster Museum and the Lyric Theatre are shut and the only interesting things culturally in the city centre are the Linenhall and Central libraries. Libraries, mind you. I am as much a culture vulture on holidays as the next person, but I don't visit local libraries while abroad. Cathedral Quarter? Please, spare me. A couple of 'bohemian' haunts but nothing of substance. Blink and you will have missed it. The Big Wheel? Nice attraction, but its popularity is as much about the paltry choice of activities available in the city centre as anything else. Something to do is admittedly better than nothing to do - but not by much.
And as for the shopping, Belfast city centre is one of the most unfriendly shopping environments for pedestrians who are all jammed on to footpaths that are too narrow and who must regularly navigate busy roads to get to the shops on the other side. (Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was shopping in Belfast!). Added to that, is the varying nature of footpaths that greets shopper and tourist in Belfast. Will the path be tarmac or paved or cobbled or just full of holes? Pushing a buggy around the city centre is like undertaking a Top Gear challenge.
And tourists come to see this place; even at this time of the year; especially at this time of year? Why? Seriously, why?
Comedians adrift on a sea of BBC rubbish
Holiday television is rubbish. UTV I can excuse as I am not paying for it but the BBC is another matter. One of their latest offerings, Three Men in Another Boat, was little more than an exercise in taking licence payers' money (my money and your money) and giving it to three comedians - Dara Ó Briain, Griff Rhys Jones and Rory McGrath (who's he?) - for fun and japes at sea. Both episodes of the series were made up of the Three Boatmen ad-libbing very badly: here comes Dara out of the pump-action bog. Ha ha! Here's Griff complaining about having to cook for his two man-children. Boo hoo!
I mention it only because I attended a workshop for scriptwriters in Belfast recently. (No, I am not pitching a series to the BBC.) Most of the people in the room would kill to have any of their work produced; getting a little development money from the Beeb would be a dream come true. The brutal truth is that the vast majority of them will never see a word of theirs on screen. Yet even the very worst of them could have come up with programme ideas better than Three Men in Another Boat. Perhaps they can comfort themselves with the fact that their ideas are simply not mediocre enough for the Beeb?
A dog's life on street
And so it is Christmas and another rat-mongrel dog makes an appearance in another house in the street. Hurrah! Another yappy pooch to disturb the peace and quiet of the back garden during spring and summer. Another whining mutt that is never walked and whose only form of exercise will be to bark at the postwoman during the day and to howl at the moon during the night. Christmas: hark the herald angels sing. Or in the case of where I live - hark the howling animals shriek.
Children on a knife edge
Ending up in Casualty over the New Year is often associated with drunken adults falling over in the street or getting into a fight. Alas, children are not immune to accidents - as I found out when one of mine took a tumble in the kitchen, landing on the open dishwasher and splitting a finger on a knife. Her mother and me bundled her into the car and took her to hospital where the electronic information board promised us a wait of one to two hours. Thankfully, we were seen after 30 minutes, the child's finger was glued and we went home. Top tip for 2008? Always, always, always, put the sharp knives in the dishwasher facing down.
Marty Mc: a Deputy First Minister's blog
I am a little disappointed this week. I had hoped that the Queen of England would be big enough to offer me a little something for my trouble in ruling this little part of the Not So United Kingdom. But no, forgotten once more. Some might say that it is a bit odd for a republican revolutionary to be looking for recognition from Elizabeth II but I think it is a bit odder that I wasn't offered. There is an issue of parity of esteem here. The establishment can't just go handing out baubles to unionists and tame nationalists without offering something to the rebels. There should be a d'Hondt for Honours, something which would allow republicans to - reluctantly of course - accept tribute for all they have achieved Here. And I don't want any wee knighthood either. I want something big. It is a pity that no one thought to offer me the title, Earl of Tyrone. It would have been appropriate. No one could say that the former Earl of Tyrone was soft on the English. Maybe next year: arise Baron Bogside!
Paris Hilton: cultural attaché to Ulster
I have spread my wings and taken my political expertise to Malaysia where the health minister, Chua Soi Lek, has been caught in the act of doing the you know what on video. I am glad to say that he took my advice immediately and owned up to what he was doing. I helped him draft his statement in which he said: "I feel proud - at least I dared to admit it. I never said that it was not me. I never even said it was doctored." I felt proud too. Chua is a lot more honest about what he has done there - unlike local politicians here who never admit to anything.