Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: You're looking swell, Dolly Parton... at tender age of 68

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

Old wood burns better, old wine tastes best. And old singers? Well, Dolly Parton, still looking good at 68, sure sounded the business at Glastonbury by all accounts. Age is what you make it. True, I can confirm that when I reach 68 in 40 years' time or whatever it is (my arithmetical skills are not what they were), I will not be wearing a white and silver rhinestone-embellished trouser suit.

But neither shall I be wearing a flat cap and dowdy old overcoat. Apart from anything else, I'm fed up of wearing these and fancy a change.

But it isn't just Dolly who's boogieing into her dotage. According to hip journal The Daily Mail, others wowing Glastonbury included Yoko Ono (81), Robert Plant (68) and Bryan Ferry (68). And Debbie Harry: 68? Tell me it ain't true.

I'm all in favour of this. Absolutely. Rootin-tootly. All the way. Er, up to a point. I have to watch The Rolling Stones through my fingers. Not a pretty sight.

Does there come a time when dignity and age become incompatible? The Who have perhaps decided so, as they've announced a "long goodbye" tour (they're in Belfast on November 28). Who knows how long the goodbye will be? Some acts take 25 years about it. And, let's face it, not all were totally brilliant. As with The Rolling Stones – but never The Beatles – most Who albums consisted of two good songs and a load of tedium.

Many of these bands apparently at the forefront of the cultural revolution were actually financially astute and revealed years later that they were also politically reactionary, and never took the drugs they eulogised either.

But, hey, it's only rock 'n' roll or, in Dolly's case, country. Who'd have thought? Once widely sneered at – correctly – as rednecked schmaltz, there's a strain of country that remains resolutely creative. Try Ryan Bingham's first "new country" album Mescalito. I'm telling you, man, that album brought me within an inch of giving it all up and heading off for a new life in Texas. However, in the end, I just went down the public library as usual.

Technically, this music is "Americana" and, all politics aside, for its contributions to film, TV and music, I'd defend America against all enemies. And, while not normally in thrall to anything royal, I get down on bended knee before America's Queen of Country, Dolly P.

Monday: Wedded bliss... if you can bare to be together

How to keep a marriage happy, eh? Many answers have been suggested: food, shared tasks, wee treats, hard drugs, a hut of your own with a lock on it.

Now, top pollsters have come up with what they think is the answer: sleep naked. How very dare they?

Surely that sort of thing just puts ideas into people's heads? The poll was for Cotton USA and, in it, 57% of British people – egad! – who slept in the nude said they were happy in their relationships.

That compared with 48% of those in pyjamas, 43% of nightie wearers and – staggeringly – 38% of those in onesies. Anyone in a onesie secretly harbours thoughts of having an affair with a Teletubby. Indeed, I thought the European Union was going to ban onesies.

Only 23% hated it when their partners wore socks in bed. Honestly, what is wrong with the other 77%?

Tuesday: Raise a glass to man with hand on EU tiller who's four sheets to wind by noon

I don't know anything about the European Union because I never read anything about it and, let's face it, neither do you.

So let me say swiftly that this is really a piece about excessive drink consumption. Hooray!

Jean-Claude Juncker is the new president of the EU Commission, which is nice work if you can get it, which you can't, so forget it.

The poor schmuck has taken a pounding in the London Press for (a) being foreign generally and (b) drinking himself into a stupor before lunchtime most days. Allegedly.

One unnamed British politician said: "I regarded it as pointless talking to him after 12 o'clock ... I have seen him so p***** that he was dribbling."

Aw, how loveable. He reminds me of Petra Von Boozer, a Continental student I knew at college, who could drink a navvy under the table.

All terribly reprehensible. And a little bit hilarious.

Wednesday: T-Rex wouldn't stand a chance these days

Every morning I praise the Lord that his dinosaurs no longer walk the Earth. We wouldn't have gotten on. Apart from anything else, their ruddy roaring would waken the dead. And then there was the way they ate.

The largest and best were vegetarian, but the nastiest were meat-eaters who'd bite your head off without so much as a by your leave.

News that more than 100 different species of the critters once roamed Britainshire makes scary reading. But these tedious tyrannosaurs and their ilk are well out of it now. I doubt if they could handle the stress of modern life anyway.

Friday: I'm under Amelia's spell

Well done to 11-year-old Belfast girl Amelia McDowell, who won the All-Ireland Spelling Bee in Dublin.

Words that came up included reconnaissance, malapropism, speciesism, sentimentalism, vermicelli, Mediterranean, pragmatism and pantomime.

My spellchecker can handle these, though I'm not entirely clear what they all mean. One is a sea.

Saturday: £4k to rent tent? That's a bit rich

You'd have to be pretty minted to rent a tent for £4,000. And most community groups ain't minted.

I say "tent", but we're talking about a marquee – ooh, swanky! – that a Government department ordered for use in deprived areas of Londonderry.

Even by marquee standards it's opulent, with chandeliers, drapes and wooden flooring. However, in a surprise development, it hasn't been hired yet.

Community groups say that, apart from anything else, they'd be scared to damage anything in the luxury wigwam.

The only solution is to rent it out to posh campers, who wouldn't dream of spending a night under canvas without chandeliers.

Belfast Telegraph


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