Belfast Telegraph

One small kiss for man, one giant leap for earthly differences

By Robert McNeill

Britain and the equally cosmic realm of ooter space have a new Patrick Moore. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a Londoner with parents of Nigerian origin, takes over the helm vacated on BBC4's The Sky At Night programme by the late, great Sir Patrick.

He's gone to that great observatory in the sky. Interestingly, olde worlde Patrick held trenchant views about immigration, but Dr Aderin-Pocock is endearingly forgiving, telling the Guardian newspaper that their shared enthusiasm would have trumped such earthly differences.

"We would have found common ground. I think he was of a different era, and times evolve." Not much sign of evolution among a small gang of nutjobs recently breaking the windows of Polish immigrants in east Belfast.

You do wish sometimes that you could blast such miscreants into ooter space. But as Dr Aderin-Pocock put it: "In space, race doesn't matter." So maybe we're better keeping it that way and confining our window-breaking intellectuals to the planet Earth. Preferably underground.

Dr Aderin-Pocock, needless to say, was profoundly influenced by Star Trek, and in particular by Mr Spock, whose logical nature sometimes makes me emotional, too.

Not as emotional as the woman in Quebec, Canadashire, who spent £20,000 in Earth money transforming her basement into a replica of the Starship Enterprise.

You're supposed to think such folk loopy, but I love their dedication to something more meaningful than Ikea's interior design.

As it happens, I am, like most Bel Tel readers, currently re-watching the original and best series of Star Trek. This series featured the first inter-racial kiss on television, between Captain James T Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura, whose shapely legs still haunt my dreams.

I have a dream: that the heroic window-smashers of east Belfast put down their bricks and, instead of being incarcerated underground, start studying for the UK's first space science qualification.

Pioneered in Northern Ireland, the GCSE covers the diet and health of astronauts, space mapping, and planetary geology.

It'll help learners find work in the growing space industry, something supported by the Northern Ireland Space Special Interest Group, recently formed to help local companies prosper – and live long – in the economy of the final frontier.

The idea of evolving toward ooter space makes a brick through a window seem just so backward. Instead, let's all go onward and upward, with Dr Aderin-Pocock showing us the way.

Pax your bags, Jeremy says a stint in uniform would have done him good

Paxman news, and it's at least a couple of weeks since the bandy-legged TV journalist made the headlines.

"What's he done now?" That's a good question, eloquently put. He's only gone and described modern society as "cosseted" and spoken of his love for uniforms. When I say Paxman, I mean Jeremy of that ilk. How many Paxmen do you know? If you do know one, I hope they're not as full of Pax as Jeremy.

The broadcaster's latest faux pax concerns the First World War, he being annoyed at assumptions that it was cack.

However, he has a point in comparing a society based on service to one based on gratification.

His legs straddling a four-seat sofa, the insulting, big-nosed broadcaster added: "I'd have done better for having time in uniform." He'd have done better doing time in my opinion.

Meantime, we await his next pronouncement with well-disguised excitement and curiosity.

Why I'm in mood for a laugh

Happiness, the greatest gift that I possess. These words of Kenneth Dodd, philosophy technician at Diddyland University, have been given added force by the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

It measures prosperity through gross national happiness (GNH) rather than gross national product (GDP).

Now Northern Ireland is set to follow Bhutan's example, after responsible figures at Stormont – no, madam, not the janitors – promised to take happiness seriously.

They're backing a report by the Carnegie Trust UK, produced with Queen's Uni's law school, which calls for a "new conversation" in Northern Ireland. And not one that ends: "No, you shut up!"

Bhutan's happiness strategy is working, with improvements in life expectancy, education, and even infrastructure. Which proves the prescience of the aforementioned Ken, who advised: "When you go to measuring my success/Don't count my money count my happiness."

Mind you, he also told the Inland Revenue he didn't owe them anything as he lived near the seaside. Marvellous.

Ladies can't afford to sit around

Stand up when I'm talking to you. It's for your own good, particularly if you're female.

An American study of 100,000 women links sedentary behaviour (strong relationship of seat to bottom) with potentially fatal diseases.

No word about men. Or whether they should still give up their seat for a lady.

Belfast Telegraph


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