Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Millions just for a bit of goofing around

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

What do you want to be when you grow up? Answer from the kids: rich. Way to go. The late Lady Thatcher must be reclining peacefully in her grave, a beatific smile upon her desiccated coupon.

To be fair, it was only one in five of children aged up to 10 who answered thus in a survey for top academic institution

Other popular answers included "famous", a "police officer" or a "zoo keeper". The latter two offer hope at least.

Why anybody would want to be famous is beyond me. Being the centre of attention is top of my nightmares and, were I ever to become a noted success at something (singing, say, or just having big hooters), then I would walk the streets disguised in a beard.

And, yes, I do spot the fundamental flaw in that plan.

But, beyond fame, being rich was the most frequently proffered answer from today's little darlings. I, too, would like to be rich. But that's different. I'm an adult with an Amazon habit to feed.

How to get rich, though? Easy: oust one of the current characters on US TV comedy The Big Bang Theory. Oddly enough, I'd just watched an edition on DVD when I learned the lead characters were paid $1 million dollars an episode.

The episodes are only just over 20 minutes long, so that's $50,000 a minute, which is £29,600 in normal money, which is higher than the average annual salary in Britainshire.

Your brain is hurting. So's mine. Which is ironic, since the programme is about ultra-brainy nerds.

This news discomfits me greatly. I love the show and, when I watch it, feel sorry for the geeky misfits living together in flats (despite being top scientists) and dressing up in Star Wars outfits.

To read that, at the end of the show, the real characters bathe in money just doesn't sit right.

It reminds me of an Italian guy who ran the chippie where I used to live. I felt sorry for him, slaving all night over a deep-fat fryer.

Then, one night, I saw him leave the premises in evening dress and get into a brand new Jag. Word was he spent his spare time, and our fish supper money, in casinos.

In his case, it may have been merited. But for goofing around on telly pretending to be goofy? That truly is rich.

Friday: Stormont saves the day

Who doubted Stormont would rescue Portaferry's much loved Exploris Aquarium?

Under threat of closure, things looked grim for the 3,000 marine creatures blundering about aimlessly in the water.

But Stormont is putting in funds. Save Exploris spokesperson Cathie McKimm said: "They really have done the right thing." Aren't politicians wonderful?

Saturday: The force be with you!

The strangeness at Skellig Michael continues. Everyone has been sworn to secrecy about the filming of Star Wars: Episode Who Cares that's been taking place on the island off the Co Kerry coast.

That's understandable. No one wants the plot leaked, and directors like peace to get on with the important task of shouting "Action!" and "Cut!" Without directors, films could neither start nor end.

But it transpires that boatmen ferrying film equipment to the island have been collared by the authorities for not having the correct paperwork.

A specious excuse for having a wee nosey if ever there was one.

Sunday: A lotto generosity from Margaret

Wow. Just wow. Strabane EuroMillions lottery winner Margaret Loughrey plans giving away £26 million of her £27m windfall.

She told Sunday Life: "As soon as I won the money I said it would go for the good of the town. I've already given half of it away. I always said one for me, and the rest for the town."

Until a few months ago, unemployed Margaret (48) lived on £58 a week benefits.

Which of us would do what she has done? Not me. For a start, I've never done the lottery, mainly because my parents' carefully calculated strategy for lifting us out of poverty was the weekly delusion that the pools coupon would come up. Never happened.

I've a friend who's promised me a million if she wins. Never going to happen.

But it happened to big-hearted Margaret, to whom we say: "Enough! Now treat yourself to something nice."

Monday: The lard after the ring

More bad news for marriage: it makes you fat. An important study for Men's Health Forum found new wives can't help feeding up their victims or spouses.

Result? The waistband pushes out like an expanding universe. Research by boffins at Leeds Metropolitan University backs the basic finding that married men are fatter than their single counterparts.

Speculation surrounding the bloated condition of married men suggests they may develop a sweet tooth when married.

Also, having got hitched, they don't have to stay trim any more for the monkey-style competition for a mate. It's a jungle out there, but a larder at home.

Another theory is that some wives deliberately overfeed their husbands to make them less attractive to other competitive females.

Whatever the case, it's nice to think of couples being happily settled and digging into cosy cakes. But society disapproves of lard, so I'm afraid the gym beckons, lads.

Tuesday: Low expectations, bad results... you can still be happy

Grimly, we turn to a subject dear to my heart: happiness. Researchers at University College London discovered that the secret of Formula H is not to expect too much from life.

Using MRI scans to measure folks' brainlobes, they found those with low expectations were the happier group when they got good results from decision-making.

So it's not so much how well things are going, but whether they're going better than expected. Makes sense. But what happens when you have low expectations and get bad results?

Well, then you can experience the joy of saying: I knew that would happen.

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