Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeill

Friday: Caral's theatre-going no big drama

What is it to be cultured? I consider myself small-c cultured, but all I do is read comics and watch the telly.

Maybe once a year I'll go to an art gallery — though I visit the amateur exhibitions in our local library every month — and once every 10 years I'll go to the theatre.

You have to factor in that I don't like going out generally. So I feel for Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin (right, at the Lyric Theatre with author Jennifer Johnston), who has been slated for not going to the theatre enough.

If I were a politician, I'd just lie about going.

But politicians have higher ethical standards than I do.


Saturday: knock it on the head, you idiots

I hope Belfast youths aren't seriously arming themselves with hammers for fights, as reported.

Lord knows, the samurai swords favoured by the nation's neds were bizarre enough without dipping into dad's DIY box for weaponry.

Recently I banged my head on something and the pain was awful. I got to thinking how dreadful it would be to have one's bonce struck with an instrument.

That's the trouble with neds. They don't think things through. I blame culture.

Too many films show violence as the answer. Fine, perhaps, when punching a Nazi in the snoot. But hammers against the lieges? Give it up, lads


Sunday: blame the beeb for Clarkson

Much talk in the Sunday papers about whether Jeremy Clarkson should be sacked. I've no hard feelings on the matter, though I believe he should be imprisoned indefinitely.

The charge? Having a face like a pantomime dame. His latest gaffe is some kind of racist comment. I don't get over-concerned about what words people use. Banning words is antithetical to freedom.

Some people are private racists, who pretend otherwise in public. In the media, many people resort to the “both sides” mantra to make themselves look balanced, when they know one side is to blame.

So Clarkson (above) is at least being honest in a surreptitious way. But paying him £1m a year for being a prat has made him think he can get away with anything.

Perhaps if the BBC stopped employing so many long-faced, anti-Scottish people called Jeremy that would help.


Monday: My diet takes the biscuit

This is how dieting works. I don't normally eat biscuits but decided to have some for a change.

At the supermarket I spent ages choosing something with hardly any calories. Found chocolate sticks that had 11 calories each. Came home and ate 14 of them before I'd got my coat off.


Tuesday: Jury's out on latest big health trend

Meditation? I’m in two minds...

The art of meditation and mindfulness has become popular.

Mind how you go. No, I mean it. You've got to man up and get control of your mind, man. You must have noticed that mindfulness is all around. It's the idea that, instead of letting chaotic, unco-ordinated, endlessly repetitive gibberish flit through your brain lobes, you take command of the situation, breathe deeply, clear out all the rubbish and just be… a vegetable.

No, I jest. You just meditate to take your mind off things, as it were. You stop running on autopilot. Many of you will be familiar with this stuff, as you can read about it in everything from Woman's Own to The Existentialist Argus & Advertiser.

It's no longer the province of New Age yogis and is spreading rapidly to the most unexpected areas.

Thus, we read that mindfulness is ‘the new mantra for moneymen’, as one headline put it. A ‘quiet revolution’, we read, has gripped the City of Londonshire, with funky financiers finding solace in clearing their heads and seeing if they have a soul.

Someone at evil behemoths Goldman Sachs even said: “In years to come we'll be talking about mindfulness as we talk about exercise now.”

I see. We'll be saying: “I can't be bothered.” Well, maybe. Although it sounds right easy, clearing your noggin of dull thoughts about dinner and whether somebody gave you a funny look is, in actual fact, quite difficult.

If you give it a try you'll find you empty your head momentarily but, turn your back for a minute, and all the old stuff comes rushing back in: I think I'll have the pie; I'm sure they were laughing at my trousers; what time's the football on? On it goes, endlessly turning.

The trick is to breathe. It's right handy breathing.

It brings your mind back into focus —for a couple of seconds before mundane thoughts about trousers and pies intrude yet again. But they say that if you stick at it you can get things under control and become literally self-possessed. Result: a new calm you that doesn't get so agitated by stuff.

There's talk about introducing mindfulness to hospitals and schools. Or what about Stormont, where volatile, un-British unionist politicians are always apt to lose their self-control?

Me? I give it a go from time to time, and my jury's out. I've an open mind on the subject.


Wednesday: socks and sandals fashion scandal

No! Once again I say: No! Not to Scottish independence, obviously. That's a big Yes. But, no, more important than freedom or constitutional politics, is this urgent issue: wearing socks with sandals is now becoming acceptable.

Nay! It's worse than that. This affliction of the lower limbs is becoming the height of fashion.

David Beckham and Puff Daddy have been doing it, which makes it more or less compulsory for everyone now.

But it's surely nothing to do with what's in or out fashion-wise. Objectively speaking, socks with sandals simply looks wrong. It's a boot in the senses of all sensitive observers.

This column has often defended the unfashionable. But it will not excuse the aesthetically disturbed.

Of course, the problem wouldn't arise if people desisted from wearing shorts. But, after the Lower Limbs (Compulsory Covering of) Bill was heavily defeated in Parliament, there's been no stopping the leg-flaunters



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