Belfast Telegraph

Anyone puzzled at the enduring appeal of Dickens need only examine his greatest legacy to the world - Christmas - to discover the key to his popularity. [stock photo]

Gail Walker: What Dickens taught us is that the people who need us most could be on our own doorstep 

Outside the air is crisp as snowflakes fall from a darkening sky, prettily frosting the lattice panes while inside the fire roars merrily in the grate. Lit by the glow of the flames and tasteful candlelight, the expectant upturned faces of cherubic children. Who can that be, coming up the garden path? Why, ’tis none other than old Mr Fezziwig and — ’pon my soul — he has brought some revellers with him, to sing no doubt rousing renditions of appropriately seasonal songs and revels.

American adventurer John Allen Chau (AP Photo/Sarah Prince)

Gail Walker: Tragic clash of existences that shows us ours is not necessarily best way of life 

The death of American Christian missionary John Allen Chau, killed in a hail of bows and arrows on the tiny island of North Sentinel (a part of the Andaman group of islands in the Bay of Bengal) as he attempted to convert the inhabitants to Christianity, produces a mixture of emotions. The first, of course - and let us be candid about this - is a kind of wry bafflement. Missionaries? Tribes? Conversion? It seems like the bones of a Two Ronnies sketch from the 1970s.

'What can we do? We watch the floral tributes growing bigger and bigger outside the King Power Stadium, read the tweets wishing Glenn a speedy recovery and the articles about the player in his pomp, say a prayer if so inclined, feel sorry for those loved ones in panic or bereavement, and we remind ourselves that this is what people do when they do the best they can with a fate beyond their control'

Gail Walker: Hoddle's illness and Leicester crash stark examples of how random life and death really are 

I don't know that much about Glenn Hoddle. I know even less about Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the late owner of Leicester City Football Club. But as Hoddle recovers from his sudden serious illness at the BT Sport studios on Saturday, and as a city and the footballing community unite in grief for a figure who did much good for his chosen place, who became not just deeply embedded in a football club but in the life of tens of thousands ordinary people, it is hard not to be moved.

The late Ray Galton

Gail Walker: The golden age of TV broke new ground ... what a shame we’re unlikely to see a repeat 

It seems we are reading the obituaries more frequently now of familiar entertainment stalwarts. Cilla Black, Ronnie Corbett, Ken Dodd, Bruce Forsyth, Liz Fraser, Denis Norden ... as the names reel off, they bring with them memories of what must be the golden age of TV. Maybe a 50-year period, when it was all new and all familiar at the same time, and a period which was long enough to have captured several generations in its shiny spell, before the internet came along.

Arlene Foster speaking to the press at St Tiernach's Park, Clones

Gail Walker: Arlene Foster's visit to Clones makes it a little bit easier to live in peace together 

Let's be blunt about this. The GAA has never been a part of the Ulster Protestant cultural background. As far as "sports" go, apart from it being yet another preserve of blokes looking for balls, there was the very clear message that Gaelic games was to do with being Irish, nationalist, possibly republican, and certainly Catholic. The vast majority of Protestants didn't then and don't now fall into any of those categories.

Alan McMaster before he retired from the tool shop

Why shops like McMaster's take the raw material of life and, as if by alchemy, turn it into living history 

Tomorrow Gavin McMaster will lock the door of the famous W M McMaster's store, just as four generations of the family have done every workday evening for the past 122 years. But tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow McMaster's - "The house for quality tools" as its distinctive black-and-gold signage proclaims - will close, never to re-open. And a little part of this city's history will be lost forever.

Rory McIlroy

From banning the word Brexit and unshaven men to dancing MLAs ... my 15 wishes for 2018 

1. Just one day in the year when the word "Brexit" is banned. It's obviously too late to replace it altogether - but we'd even had enough of Grexit and Spexit, however, briefly, without having to be saddled forever with this awful childish non-word, which has become part-oath, part-sneer, part-threat and all-parts meaningless. It's the new Boaty McBoatface - another infantile creation of social media which amused students for a few months some time ago, but the word "Brexit", sadly, will be with us for the rest of Time.

Regulatory alignment ... No regulatory divergence ... Regulatory alignment ... No regulatory divergence ... Regulatory alignment ... After days of falling in and out of hypnotic comas due to last week's Brexit furore, I've only realised that there are just 12 days to Christmas. (stock photo)

Gail Walker: Welcome to the real Twelve Days of Christmas ... and not a calling bird or a piper piping to be had 

Regulatory alignment ... No regulatory divergence ... Regulatory alignment ... No regulatory divergence ... Regulatory alignment ... After days of falling in and out of hypnotic comas due to last week's Brexit furore, I've only realised that there are just 12 days to Christmas. And they're the real 12 days of Christmas, not the ones with lords-a-leaping, calling birds, or a French hen (what is that exactly? A chicken with a Gauloise moodily dangling from its beak?). Still, thankfully considering my mentally befuddled state, they are the same every year.

Harvey Weinstein is under fire from Tinseltown, but not Roman Polanski

Weinstein was abandoned by Hollywood, so why does it still lavish honours on Polanski? 

There's hypocrisy. Then there's Hollywood hypocrisy, as Tinseltown throws producer Harvey Weinstein to the wolves with scores of actors confessing to knowing something about his bullying, sexual harassment and predatory behaviour. But not everything, of course. The bottom line is that, yes, Weinstein's harassment was a kind of open secret, but not the kind of open secret that, you know, you kind of do something about it.

'But autumn? It's the middle child of the bunch - sensible, easily-pleased, unambitious, chilled-out'

How the warm days, cool nights and gorgeous ambers and browns make me fall for autumn 

The nights are drawing in. The sound of disgruntled children in department stores as they say "Muuummm! I can't wear flares/straights/pleated/non-pleated trousers. I would look such so uncool." Good programmes starting again on the TV (even the ridiculously-named Rowling detective Cormoran Strike is shaping up nicely). All those glossies advising women how to put the Sizzle Back into Summer (basically wear something wispy and throw your arms up in the air for no apparent reason) are vanishing from the newsagent's shelves. Sniff... nary a woodsmoke barbeque to be had. And, joy of joys, look there are the Thinsulate woolly hats starting to appear in corner shops! Soon, the Ferrero Rocher will be causing the shelves to buckle in all-night petrol stations.

Elvis Presley (RCA Records)

Elvis was more than A Big Hunk o' Love... he was someone that we could all relate to 

There might have been rock and roll without Elvis Presley, but not as we know it. While it may be correct in terms of one strand of the music's origins, black artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard were never going to cut the mustard. Nor were Bill Haley - middle-aged with a kiss curl and chequered suit - or Jerry Lee Lewis or Buddy Holly, hugely gifted certainly, but also geeks. None of these were going to make it happen. Why?


From Belfast Telegraph