Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Soda bread dunkied in diet coke, urgh!

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

The paper shows pics of an American sitting before a platter containing (deep breath): four pieces of soda bread and four of potato bread, four pancakes, four sausages, four bacon rashers, three eggs, three pieces of toast, two hash browns, two black pudding, tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms and chips.

I'm queasy just typing that. But the grub disappears - into the tummy of Randy Santel, a "professional eater and bodybuilder".

Nice work if you can get it. The incident occurred at Belfast's Newton Cafe Brunch Bar, whose assistant manager Angela Young noted: "He dipped his soda bread into his Diet Coke!"

Urgh, enough already!

Friday: Martin shows us the lights with proposal pic

Fab photie in the paper of Maghera man Martin McKenna proposing to his beloved, Roisin Laverty at the Giant's Causeway, with the Northern Lights overhead. The Lights live by nobody's timetable but Martin, an astronomy photographer, had done his homework in hoping for an appearance. That didn't stop him noting romantically that "it was like nature noticed us and put on a show".

Recently, I re-watched Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights, a charming documentary in which, finally catching an astonishing display in northern Norway, the actress felt the lights had rewarded her search.

I've seen the lights several times, but will never forget one dramatic display at midnight on a remote Scottish island.

As I stood alone by the shore, the whole sky overhead became a shifting, shimmering dance of coloured light. Never felt so small, humble and awestruck, except at that Hawkwind concert back in '75.

Saturday: Train your brain

Some time ago, I talked about a Paul McKenna technique that worked for me. When traumatised by some recent event, you get one recurring image of it coming into your mind repeatedly. You need to lose it.

Here's how: enlarge the image in your mind and enhance its colours. Really max it up. Then, slowly, turn it to black and white as you shrink it till it disappears.

Worked for me and, after an initial concentrated period, only needed topping up after a year or two. Paul (below) is now touting a new fear-banishing technique called "havening" that involves stroking your arms and imagining that you're walking on a beach.

I expect it coincides with a new book and must confess a natural wariness about a hypnotist - dodgy profession (says journalist) - on a self-help rap.

But if it works, it works. Fact remains: ya gotta train your brain, folks.

Sunday: The future of domestic technology

This time of year prompts us to look to the future, so consider this: once, our homes were our castles, now they're becoming our hubs. Yup, there's no place like hub as futurologists predict the house will become tech central, with gadgets akimbo and doo-dahs doing whatever doo-dahs do. Principal among said doo-dahs will be the 3D printer, which no decent ratepayer can get their head around. All right, we don't understand our computers, phones and electricity generally.

But, as scientific and technical expertise expands exponentially among those and such as those, the 3D printer takes the rest of us to a whole new level of ignorance. It's a printer that prints objects. Well, fair enough. I can't begin to understand that, and Lord knows I have tried.

Starter versions of 3D printers are already available at £500 and can be used - it says here - to print toys, handles and chess pieces. Eh? I'm not interested in any of these. What the hell do I want a handle for?

Futurologist Dr James Bellini has a handle on what's to come: "The centrepiece of our future is the British home, which is rapidly becoming the digital hub for our increasingly connected lives.

"From 3D printing to intelligent kitchen worktops, the smart home of the future will be a place of unlimited possibility for work, learning, entertainment and social interaction."

Hang on, rewind there. Intelligent kitchen worktops? With luck, that'll be ones that clean themselves. And make the dinner. And finish the crossword.

Other essentials of the near future include smart security systems, allowing you to check remotely on your pet or partner, and solar-powered chargers for gadgets (think I see a cloud on that silver lining).

At the same time as this is coming in, according to a report by energy giants SSE, other stuff is going out. So say bye-bye to traditional TV sets, landline phones and desktop PCs.

Can't say I'll miss the latter two though, oddly enough, my laptop computer just sits where my desktop used to be and never gets taken anywhere.

Amidst all of this dazzling progress, guess which household appliance folk chose as their favourite. Clue: it's nearly 100 years since it was first mass produced.

It is (roll of drums and chorus of kazoos)… the humble kettle. After all that, we just want something that brews a cheering cuppa. Lovely!

Monday: Dyson hoovers up land

Sir James Dyson, vacuum cleaning knight of the realm, now owns more land than the Queen of England. Dyson (67) has amassed 25,000 acres, compared to the Queen's mere 20,000 at Sandringham.

Crumbs, things have come to a pretty pass when there's more money in dust than ruling over us.

Tuesday: A lettuce far, far away...

There are many places we'd like to stuff lettuce. Anywhere but in our mouths. Now a team of science students at Southampton University has conceived a plan to land lettuce on Mars. That sounds agreeably far away.

The plan might appear whimsical, but has been shortlisted for potential inclusion in the Mars One landing pencilled in for 2018.

The controversial salad-style vegetable would be grown in a greenhouse using the Martian atmosphere and sunlight to become … what?

What if it develops eyes on stalks and big laser-firing hands?

I don't think these Southampton folk have thought this thing through.

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