Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Nazi super cows are one heck of a mistake

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

Think of cows. What's the first thing that comes into your head? No, not steak and chips, madam.

Surely it is placidity. Think of those big, kindly eyes and the way the owners of said eyes just stand about eating grass, minding their own business.

Well, in a shock development, it has emerged that the Nazis created an aggressive breed of cow, a bovine monster engineered to be superior to non-aryan beasties.

In 2009 Derek Gow imported more than a dozen of the Heck super cows to his farm in Devon. Downside: they kept trying to kill his staff.

They have since been turned into sausages - the cows not the staff - which will maybe learn them.

The dastardly Nazi plan involved recreating a species of fierce, wild bull that used to roam the forests of Europe creating havoc. But that turned out to be a load of aurochs.

Tuesday: It's good to walk... Just ask 106-year-old Billy

How inspiring to read Billy Noble's secrets for living to 106: no fags, no booze, and plenty of walking hither and - if the weather isn't too inclement - yon.

Well, I've given up the first two and hope my earlier indulgences haven't take too much of a toll.

As for walking, I do that at the drop of a woolly hat, being lucky enough to live near a hill complete with woods that keeps things interesting and lets me commune mystically with Mother N.

Jordanstown man Billy used to ramble forth to Carnmoney Hill or Knockagh and instilled into his children the importance of walking.

It's an odd business, though. You set off and then, all other things being equal, you return.

But, in the process, your brain gives itself a shake and you get things in perspective.

Keeps you in trim too. I won't run, though. That's taking things too far.

Wednesday: Call centres don't have my ringing endorsement

Many people will, at some time in their lives, have considered working in a call centre. Some brave souls have actually taken the plunge, entering a dystopian world that parodies the fictional works of Huxley and Orwell. Workers are units, lavatory visits are timed, targets must be met and, of course, pay must be low.

Low pay is the basis of the British economy. Without low pay people would have money to buy things, which would help other businesses who would employ more workers who would have money to buy things, and so forth.

But this is not the British way. The workers must be crushed, wages for all but those at the top must be low, the poor must experience life as a struggle.

Nothing new in this. Apart from, arguably, a brief window of decency in the 1960s and 1970s, Britain has a long and proud history of treating its workers badly. Even at the height of the empire huge amounts of men were turned away from military service because they were malnourished and weak.

Today, call centres have replaced the factories and mines. A hoo-ha about possible data breaches at one such workplace in Derry has drawn attention to conditions in the industry more generally. Let me say that, as a shy person who hates being the centre of attention, I would not like a job that entailed wearing a ridiculous hat if I had reached or failed to reach my sales target.

They don't all do that but a feeling experienced by workers is of being "chained to a desk by a phone", as one woman told this newspaper. Much call centre work involves tele sales, which ought to be banned, or taking complaints, in which outraged lieges lay siege to earlobes. Call centres, sometimes compared to battery farming for humans, do not sound like happy places to be.

On the plus side, not having to meet people face to face is always an appealing thought. And, having spent most of my career in open-plan newsrooms, I always envied those little cubicles that people seem to despise. But I cannot think of much else to commend call centres. It is the emasculation of the trade unions that has allowed such places to proliferate.

The days of going on strike are no more, replaced by an authoritarian order of obedience and threat. Pity.

Friday: Issuing four-minute warning on social media is taking the nuclear option

I hope there isn't a nuclear attack. Not for the obvious reason that I don't wish to die.

But because of news that, instead of sounding a four-minute warning which would enable us to survive by hiding under a table with a newspaper over our heads, the authorities now plan to notify us by Facebook and Twitter. I'm not nostalgic for the old days.

But, unless you were chronically deaf, there was something to be said for a siren.

As for social media, I'm sure somebody would post a selfie of themselves grinning inanely in front of the mushroom cloud.

Saturday: Coca-Cola has no fizz, but I do like chipping away at fellow diners' plates

Even when relatively louche, I never got into Coca-Cola. Never seen the attraction.

But the lieges love it, so much so that it is their hangover cure of choice - accompanied by chips.

Chips I understand. My stern health regimen means I have them rarely now. But, the other night in a restaurant, I followed my usual routine of ordering a healthy dish, then eating more chips off the plates of my two fellow diners than they got to consume themselves.

As for Coke, even if the bubbles, caffeine and sugar bring solace to the sorry bonce, you can keep it.

Sunday: HP Sauce is losing its tang

Sales of brown sauce are plummeting fast, causing traditionalists to fear that the decline and fall of the British Empire cannot be far behind.

In particular, paeans have been written to HP sauce, which comes in iconic bottles depicting the House of Commons on yonder Thames.

It's made in the Netherlands.

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