Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Here's a tip ... this place is a real dump

The BBC's One Show had a short feature on CS Lewis and his wonderful Narnia books. Presenter Dan Snow was in the North having a look at some of the places in Belfast and in the countryside which inspired his writing.

Cut then to local woman and One Show presenter Christine Bleakley looking proud of the scenery. And she is right. There may not be too much else here but we do have some breathtaking scenery. Or, let me put that another way - it is breathtaking from a distance.

Driving around the highways and byways of rural Ulster, you soon realise that the place is actually a tip. Winter reveals just how many plastic bags, bottles, tin cans, burger boxes, old newspapers and various other bits of rubbish clog the roadside.

There is certainly casual litter. Who has not observed, at one time or another, someone roll down their car window and toss a cigarette packet or a sweet wrapper out?

They could, of course, bring them home and put them into their own bins but they value their clean car over tidy streets.

That is bad enough, but I have noticed worse of late: neatly tied plastic bags, full to bursting with debris, which are thrown to the side of the road.

It is infuriating to think that someone goes to the bother of gathering all their rubbish together, ties it up carefully in one bag, and then throws it out the car window. How dim-witted, thick and ignorant do you have to be to do such a thing?

And it is not just the lager lout who dumps his tins on the road. There is a collection of empty wine bottles sitting by a road I pass. They have been there for weeks. The bin lorries do not pick them up because, I assume, they are not in a proper bin and the locals are not going to pick them up. Why should they? They would spend their lives walking up and down the road picking up rubbish.

Would the countryside inspire Lewis, were he still alive? I suspect not: The Litter, The Waste and the Wine Bottles. See the movie at a roadside near you today.



Fasting just won't do ...

Lent approaches and the annual attempt to make some small fast challenges many Christians. I heard a story of one publican who wryly observed that the promise to give up alcohol lasts a mere two weeks.

The difficulty for many is that not only is the flesh weak but the spirit is also unwilling. Very unwilling. People in the West are supposed to be consumers above all else. We are urged day and daily to consume, buy, rent, spend. 'To consume is to live' is the message that the advertisers push.

To not consume - be it something as simple as a chocolate biscuit or a bag of crisps - is to be odd. Of course, companies do not mind you foregoing biscuits if you are doing it to lose weight because then you can buy their low-fat products. However, to fast on a spiritual basis, as a statement of faith, is just unacceptable. Little wonder then that it becomes so difficult to give up even a little.

Westerners are not supposed to do spiritual enlightenment through fast; that is the sort of thing they do in the East. That sort of thing went out of fashion here along with burning heretics and the anti-Christ. (Oh wait, the latter is still in vogue.) And if you do give up something, you give yourself a little Western leeway - " I will not eat crisps but I will still eat buns."

So, here comes Lent and here go the crisps, the peanuts, the chocolate biscuits, the buns, the cheese-and-onion flavoured rice crackers, the glass of wine and the bottle of beer. It will either be spiritual enlightenment or a breakdown. I give myself two weeks.



Robinson's one to talk

The DUP's real leader, Peter Robinson, has accused the SDLP of engaging in a 'low political stunt' by daring to challenge the programme for government and associated budget. High praise indeed from a man whose political career has been filled with low political stunts. Perhaps the SDLP should have tarted up its opposition by marching into Stormont under the cover of darkness - a la Peter marching into Clontibret - while wearing some natty second-hand Ulster Resistance berets. No doubt that would have changed a 'low stunt' into high oppositional politics, DUP-style.



Marty Mc: a Deputy First Minister's blog

It has been a good week for creating jobs Here. Ian and I have appointed four Victims' Commissioners and have, at a stroke, taken Mike Nesbitt off the dole queue. Don't be disappointed if you are sitting at home kicking yourself that you did not apply to be a commissioner. I know it must be galling, me and Ian saying that there would only be one commissioner and then deciding to go for four. Ian was a bit worried that we would be criticised by the media for our decision, so we decided we would not answer any questions from the Press. It is, after all, a democracy and we have our human rights too. I am happy to admit that I did give Ian a few tips for surviving interrogations that I picked up in the bad old days: "First, Ian, stir at a spot in the wall and whatever you say, say nothing." And he did not. And I did not. And isn't democracy Stormont style a wonderful thing?



Paris Hilton: cultural attaché to Ulster

Ed Babe is obviously angry with me. I thought he was rewarding me by sending me to see a game in the National Football League - except the NFL here is not the same as the NFL there. I was supposed to meet someone called Cross Mac Glen and watch some team called Our Ma play a sport called Gay Leek Football. I have nothing against Gay Leeks, in fact some of my best friends are gay, but I had no intention of watching Our Ma, Our Da or Our Wullie play ball in some field in the sticks. So I came up with a better suggestion. I told Ed Babe I would go to the rugby in Croke Park and stage a walk-out when they played the Soldiers' Song, thus highlighting the discrimination against Ulster- Scots. He thought it was a brilliant idea but it did not go quite to plan. I did not make it back in time to Croke Park for the anthems and could not stage a walk-out when I had not actually walked in. Don't blame me, blame Brown Thomas. Super store.



Last word ...

Sinn Fein has been urging Ed Poots to appoint an Irish language commissioner. Only one? Where is your ambition, a chara? The job for language commissioner could be filled at least six times over. I will dust down my CV just in case. After all, if you are not in, you can't win!

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