Belfast Telegraph

Oh yes they did! It's the Stormont pantomime 2016 - Cinder-Arlene and the Ghost of Biomass Past

No laughing matter: the folks on the hill are providing some serious entertainment this year
No laughing matter: the folks on the hill are providing some serious entertainment this year

By Lindy McDowell

Scene One

Cinder-Arlene is toiling away in the kitchen sweeping up ashes. Her Ugly Sisters enter, stage left.

Sister One: I'm so excited! Imagine - an invitation to the ball! And the prince himself will be there!

Sister Two: OMG! I can't wait either.

Cinder-Arlene: You two got an invite to the ball? I'm so jealous. How come I never get asked to these things?

Sister One: You get on with sweeping up that ash, ye girl ye. Nobody's talking to you.

Cinder-Arlene: But there's so much of this stuff. I'll never get this mess cleared up.

Sister Two: We did try to warn you about fallout from that biomass burner you insisted on having put in. But would you listen?

Cinder-Arlene (wistfully): I really wish I could go. What are youse two going to wear?

Sister One: Well, we did think something from the Kim Kardashian range...

Sister Two: You know, low neckline, high hemline, thigh split, backless, sideless, mesh front...the sort of tasteful thing a prince might notice.

Sister One: Then we read this article on the Queen's website advising that the Grace Kelly look is so much more elegant...

Sister Two: So Kim Kardashian, it is then.

Scene two

Cinder-Arlene continues to sweep up as her sisters leave to get ready. Suddenly there is a bang, a puff of smoke and spotlights are centred on a darkened figure in the middle of the stage.

Cinder-Arlene: What the..? Who's there? Stephen Nolan, is that you?

Voice: Don't be ridiculous, my dear. It is I. Your Fairy SPAD-mother.

Cinder-Arlene: Fairy SPAD-mother? I didn't even know I had one. Where have you been all week?

Fairy SPAD-mother: Waiting for the chance to fulfil your dearest wish. Tonight my dear, you shall go to the ball.

Cinder-Arlene: Ummm, how precisely? It's Christmas. I'm broke. The taxis are charging time and a half.

Fairy SPAD-mother: Here's how.. (She taps her wand and a supercar appears.)

Cinder-Arlene: Wow! Is this thing for real? (She touches it and yelps in surprise): It's hot!

Fairy SPAD-mother: You would be too, love if you were being kept in a showroom with constant Renewable Heating.

Cinder-Arlene: But I haven't got a thing to wear. I need a ballgown.

Fairy SPAD-mother (rolls her eyes): Ballgown? Have you been on that Queen's website as well? C'mon love.  It's 2016. You need something a bit more edgy.

Cinder-Arlene: Like what?

Fairy SPAD-mother (taps her wand): Like this. Theresa May in leather trousers. Now remember two things, my dear. Leave before midnight. And don't be driving the supercar in the 24-hour bus lanes. 

Scene Three

Cinder-Arlene is mingling with guests at the ball. Aladdin is showing off his renewable energy lamp to Snow White. The Three Bears are demanding answers about who benefited from the reheated porridge initiative.

Suddenly there is a stir as a new arrival enters.

Cinder-Arlene: Is that the prince?

Onlooker: Nah, love. That's Dee Stitt. Although he does get treated a bit like royalty round here.

Cinder-Arlene: So where's the prince?

Onlooker: On his way. He's just back from America. They love that boy in America, you know.

Cinder-Arlene: Prince Harry?

Onlooker: Nah. Prince Nigel.

At that moment a man wearing a lop-sided crown, a Cheshire grin and camel Crombie arrives at the top of the grand staircase.

Everybody: Prince Nigel!

Prince Nigel spots Cinder-Arlene. They chat. They dance. They're getting on like a house on renewable energy sources.

Suddenly: BOINNG!

Cinder-Arlene: No, no! Not the Bell! 

(She bolts from the room leaving Prince Nigel openmouthed.)

Prince Nigel: Now that's what I'd call a hard Brexit! But what's this, she's left behind? A trail of wooden pellets. If I follow this maybe I can find her and then we could have a happy ending.

Onlooker: To the ongoing Stormont pantomime, Nige? Not a snowball's chance in a biomass burner...

Don't be a dummy around New York police

Police in New York, alerted that an old lady had been sitting for hours in a car in sub-zero temperatures, smashed the window to rescue what turned out to be a remarkably lifelike mannequin.

Outraged at the damage to his vehicle, the owner subjected officers to "vulgar abuse". Here, he'd just have called the Ombudsman.

The police chief is unrepentant, however. "Just to clear the record, all citizens of Hudson should be put on notice that if you park your locked vehicle on the street on a sub-zero night with a life-size realistic mannequin seated in it, we will break your window." Sounds about fair.

Burning issue providing plenty of puns

Mike Nesbitt's "smoking gun". Heated debates in the chamber.

Calls for people to be fired. Statements stoking further anger. Careers in ashes... if ever a story lent itself to puns it's the current saga of RHI and those fuels on the hill.

But is this just another Stormont crisis?

Or a final bonfire of the vanities?

We'll find out in the weeks ahead whether the Assembly itself has a renewable energy.

Meantime, I would like to wish you all a Happy Christmas. I hope Santa comes.

I hope he makes it past all those biomass burners.

Belfast Telegraph


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