Belfast Telegraph

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

And could we all please try to make at least one friend from, you know, the 'other side' this year, asks Gail Walker

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.

2. A bit like the reality it describes, it seems. Let's hope that whatever is going to happen regarding leaving the EU happens quickly and much less painfully than has hitherto been the case. I never thought we'd ever see the day when the risk of a return to violence in Northern Ireland would be used as an incentive to remain part of the EU. A mismatch there, or what?

3. That someone will please explain what a "Bitcoin" is. And whether or not it is a safer currency than regular euros, or sterling. And, if so, how do we get lots of it very quickly. The usual story.

4. That the staircase at Stormont will become as hard to get access to as the iconic staircase at Titanic Belfast. Thus, politicians won't be able to descend the steps, like Shirley Bassey on the Morecambe and Wise Show, to tell us the usual bad news about Talking about Talking about Talks. Or, if they must ...

5. ... that they are forced to come down tap dancing like Jimmy Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, without looking at their feet.

6. That the Bank of England considers attaching small strips of Velcro to the new plastic fivers and tenners. This is the only way I can see how these slippery notes, when they are in pairs, can be stopped sliding against each other so much that they crawl out of your coat pockets and handbags and gentlemen's trouser pockets, making good their escape. They are also very difficult to flatten, uncrease, or set in even a slim pile on any surface. So springy are they that, when they are concealed, say, in a birthday card for a niece, or nephew, they tend to pop out like a jack when the card is opened, threatening to put out an eye. It's a tiny design flaw, granted, but those are exactly the sort that cause the most annoyance.

7. That television will finally simply give up competing with the internet and just close down completely on Christmas Day, as a mark of respect for the various channels' inability to produce a single programme worth watching. Don't even suggest that extended editions of the soaps and Mrs Brown's Boys count as festive offerings. Rather, since we can't have any inventive new sitcoms, or credible popular costume dramas - no, Little Women doesn't count - let's reinstate old-fashioned Christmases, with no TV at all. Then we can all doze off in front of the box with a clear conscience.

8. Obviously, while you wouldn't be expected to marry, or embark on a romance with, anyone from across the sectarian divide - that would be far too much to ask of anyone in Northern Ireland - but it would be nice if each of us managed to make at least one close friend from across that divide in 2018. Wouldn't it? Go on. Break the habit of a lifetime. After all, there's an unpleasant name for people who don't have such friends ...

9. That the city fathers, er, mothers, er ... parents ... take the logical leap and simply designate footpaths as cycle lanes and put those old, curmudgeonly pedestrians who stubbornly insist on "walking" places into the current cycle lanes on the actual thoroughfares. Since cyclists prefer the footpaths anyway - as a means of evading traffic congestion, dodging traffic lights, or, even better, advancing up the road by nipping in and out between vehicles in a traffic jam - it makes perfect sense to have a lane on the street itself for the sole use of pedestrians. Of course, cyclists, if they dismounted, could use the pedestrian lane as well - wheeling their bike, they would technically be pedestrians, too. All round, it would make much more sense to have walkers beside the traffic and cyclists on the pavement. Pedestrians have to step onto the roadway in any case when a cyclist mounts the pavement, so this would just formalise current practice.

10. It's time for Rory to scoop another Major. We've the Open coming to Portrush next year and it would be nice to have at least one more global notch on Rory's belt before then. Make it the Masters, son.

11. That once and for all we get this "Merry Christmas versus Happy Christmas" conflict resolved. I've always been keen on the former, firstly because the idea of "merry" is a most pleasant one, conjuring up a little tipsiness as well as an already fairly jolly disposition. Secondly, it also leaves the door open for the "Happy New Year" greeting. Whereas you can't really say "Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year". You're beat there right away. Of course, "Happy Christmas" isn't just as naff-sounding, though - there is always something a little self-conscious and Bob Cratchity about "merry". Is it not also just a little too "English" for our Celtic tastes? As in, "Ye Olde Merrie England"? Do we like that? Come on. Let's get it sorted.

12. That we fix the Honours Lists properly. No more endless acronyms in descending order of merit. Is a BEM higher than a CBE? Who knows? So let's just have the Big Gong for the gents, the Big Gong for the ladies, and one universal gong for the other worthies, from CEOs to cleaners. That's only three. Maybe have at least one Big Gong recommended by popular vote. HMQ can always decline the recommendation, if it's a particularly loathsome individual promoted by social media, like (fill in your own loathsome name of choice).

13. An end to the fad for beards. Or "bairds", as they are known in my home town. Nope. Time to get the shears out, chaps. I've had enough of young men in public places with strips of pulled pork, or Tayto crisp shrapnel, dangling off their bristles. Make you gag.

14. That we will be able to read TV credits again. An old bugbear this. At the end of every programme, the credits are shrunk and put into a tiny corner while the rest of the screen tells you that coming up next is Vera. You will never know who was responsible for the onsite catering and keygripping and sometimes they were the best things in it by miles.

15. That Ulster Rugby take out copyright on the SUFTUM chant as soon as possible. Even light exposure over the holiday to the PDC World Darts Championship exposed the dreadful "Stand Up If You Love The Darts" chant bellowed out by (mostly) very portly men. SUIYLTD doesn't quite have the ring of the Ulster Men about it.

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