Belfast Telegraph

Why it would be great if things really weren't like this all the time

By Lindy McDowell

I was on an easyJet flight earlier this week and it goes without saying I checked out the inflight magazine for items that might give offence. Being from Northern Ireland we should never knowingly pass up on any opportunity to seek out insult in even the most unlikely places.

It was the August edition, I'm glad to say. Nothing of import to report. So back to the papers and an interesting item on the fashion pages.

The latest hairdo, we're told - one favoured by the Caras, Khloes, and Mileys - is, apparently, "a messy up do". A clump of hair on top of your head twisted into what's described as a half bun.

In the fashion-forward way of these things that half bun description is contracted into one conjoined word to give the "messy up do" its catchy name.

The Hun.

Surely there is someone around here who could, who should take offence at that?

The thing is, you look for it hard enough, you can find the offensive in just about everything, just about everywhere. Our problem is this, I think. We have given too much voice and sometimes too much clout to the high horse battalion of the legions of serially offended.

We're so busy looking round for wee petty things to get bothered by, we're overlooking the big stuff.

The most potent four letter F-word in the local lexicon is "flag". Nothing is more likely to set us all off on one. And no, I'm not suggesting that there aren't aspects of flags and emblems various groups hold dear, that both sides of the community have good reason to find offensive.

But were we ever so symbol obsessed as we are now?

All these years on from The Agreement (and we still can't even agree about what to call that) ... it was supposed to be so different, wasn't it?

Remember those two wee lads in the old feelgood ad with the Van Morrison Days Like This soundtrack?

For anyone too young to recall - and there will be plenty - the film featured two small boys, maybe about 10 years of age, meeting up on a day at the seaside, playing together, tumbling in the sand. Stuff falls out of their pocket. A King Billy badge. A GAA badge. Each picks up the other's symbol, studies it and then play resumes.

Okay, so it was a bit trite and simplistic. But you just wonder where those two young lads (presumably in their mid/late 20s) would be now in real life. Still shrugging their shoulders in their live-and-let-live way and still good friends?

Or sniping nastily at each other on Twitter about this week's minor matter of offence?

We used to hope that, post-Agreement, things would settle in Northern Ireland. They haven't so much settled as coagulated.

There has been a build-up of sectarian pus which now finds online outlet in endless, circuitous argument about how awful the other lot are ...

The saddest thing about all this is that clever voices - what passes for our chattering classes - have allowed debate here to be subsumed under pettiness. In some instances, have led the charge.

Occasionally the bigger headlines of the week make everyone sit up and take notice. But mostly we're too busy niggling about small slights we don't worry too much about the big picture.

The big picture right now isn't, to put it mildly, good.

Men being gunned down. Paramilitaries on both sides still rampant. Stormont toxic ... How have we let this happen?

Wouldn't it be great if it could be like this all the time? That's what the man asked in the old ad voiceover. 2015 update - it still isn't.

Taking stock after markets meltdown

The week began with Black Monday, as the stock markets went into meltdown over the reportedly precarious state of the Chinese economy.

This is the first Black Monday since ... oh, let's think ... the last Black Monday. Or Black Tuesday.

Or indeed Black Any Other Day of the Week. Which is why we all know what this latest economic panic now entails. Endless Robert Peston on the evening news.

Financial forecast experts analysing things they didn't see coming. Graphics of graphs with plummeting red lines. And even more wind in Donald Trump's sails. Black days indeed.

Time we froze out cut-price lobster

Lobster. It's the latest thing in budget supermarket special offers. For around a fiver you can pluck one from the freezer aisle and the world's, well, your lobster.

Although the future is not necessarily so rosy for the lobster itself. How are these things killed before they are frozen for the mass market?

Any description I've ever read of how to prepare the poor crustacean for the pot does not bear thinking about. How are they farmed?

Great to see some products once viewed as a luxury made available at more accessible prices. Bring on the cut-price champagne. But lobster? Surely not?

Belfast Telegraph


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