The trouble with public holidays and ill winds

Public holidays aren’t good for newspaper columnists. Little happens on them and even when it does – you probably won’t hear of it. Broadcasters think news matters enormously except when it comes to public holidays. Isn’t that strange? Instead of having our usual news programmes on at the usual times, we get perfunctory bulletins at the most unpredictable of times. It’s annoying. News junkies can bog off on public holidays.

On other days, they give us enough breathless news to ensure we’re addicted. We get our daily ‘fix’ but when it comes to public holidays we have to go cold turkey. Turn on the TV for our nightly dose of intelligent debate on the Euro Zone crisis and instead we get an old film. Why would anyone who watches Paxman grilling politicians on Newsnight want to watch a film?

So no more public holidays, thanks all the same. It’s hard enough to write a column without missing the gift that keeps on giving. We need news of politicians. They can be relied upon to say something silly. It’s manna from Heaven for newspaper columnists. Politicians and columnists need each other.

Of course those who have proper jobs are only too glad of a day off. “I’m no great royalist,” said a friend the other day, “but if Her Majesty wants to give us another day off, then I’ll take it, God bless you, ma’am.”

Ah well, it’s an ill wind that does nobody any good, as they say.

Ill winds? That’s the trouble with life here in these northerly isles. The Foyle is lovely, as is the Thames, but even in the so-called ‘summer’ all rivers can be cold and un-inviting. They’re wind tunnels. Didn’t those who planned the pageant on the Thames know that? Temperatures around London are frequently a degree or two higher than they are in Derry but that’s not reliable.

I’m not a royalist but I wouldn’t be cruel to them. Hasn’t Queen Elizabeth suffered enough? She’s spent years being nice to poor people. Many of them have had to live off far lower levels of state aid than her family.

Then, she had to spend hours on the river at the head of a “rag, tag and bobtail” procession. It was obvious that the queen was freezing. The grand old duke was cold too. He kept moving around trying to keep warm. The queen is a ‘trooper’ for an 86–years–old lady but she looked so utterly miserable. It was cruel to the elderly couple. It’s little wonder that, the next day, he was laid up in hospital.

Meanwhile, BBC commentators in their nice warm studio overlooking the river were much happier. They had ridiculous, ear to ear grins every time they were on camera. The gush they were expected to produce for the occasion obviously prohibited them from admitting that Queen Elizabeth looked cold and miserable.

Didn’t those who planned the pageant know what weather conditions on the water can be like? If they didn’t, they should have. Some sort of glass shelter should have been provided on the boat for its elderly passengers.

Norn Iron is a political minefield

The big trans-national stores that have been killing off our family owned businesses are having difficulty getting the hang of this place. That’s hardly surprising as some of us haven’t got the hang of it either.

A month ago a large store on the north western fringes of Derry was broadcasting announcements to shoppers about their special ‘Union Jack’ range of goods to celebrate the royal jubilee. They’ll go down a bomb with shoppers in nationalist Derry, I thought to myself. The old ‘butchers’ apron’ range is just what Derry’s shoppers have been waiting for.

Next up, Tesco sent their staff special commemorative badges to mark the jubilee. Then some bright spark realised that the badges mightn’t be universally popular here and so they were promptly withdrawn. Thus the store which is slowly but surely taking over the world, cack-handedly managed to annoy both sides. Every little helps – to annoy us, as they might now be thinking.

Then I happened to notice that red, white and blue bouquets of flowers prominently displayed in Sainsbury’s at Strand Road went unsold over the jubilee weekend. It was a waste of nice flowers.

Then it was global coffee company, Starbucks’ turn to be confused. In its Starbucks Ireland twitter page the US owned company asked Irish customers why they were proud to be British. “Happy hour is on! Show us what makes you proud to be British for a chance to win,” said their company tweet.

Again unsurprisingly, the PR gaffe provoked an angry response. An American responded, “That’s right Ireland, you’re British now. Starbucks just made it so, via capitalism.”

I was left wondering if the MP for Coleraine and Limavady had set up a public relations company. Is he advising trans-national companies? Is there a Gregory Campbell school of public relations? He would have been proud of the stores except, of course, for that kerfuffle at Tesco. Ah sure it’s hard to please everyone here, or even anyone here.

When culture isn’t divisive enough

Apparently the City of Culture thing isn’t annoying enough nationalists. It won’t be to the liking of the MP for Coleraine and Limavady until it annoys more Derry people. Gregory Campbell is playing the zero sum game. It’s tedious in the extreme.

Writing in last week’s Sentinel, Mr Campbell had various objections to the launch of the programme for the year’s events.

First up, two Sinn Féin Ministers commenced their speeches in Irish and “not once mentioned that Londonderry is indeed the first ever UK City of Culture,” wrote the MP for Coleraine and Limavady. Couldn’t someone have spoken in so-called Ulster-Scots? Ah yes, silly me, sure I forgot it hasn’t been made up yet. Then “numerous” people were “Derrying at every possible opportunity,” says Gregory. At least he never “Londonderrys” at every possible opportunity! Then Phil Coulter sang about, “the town we all love so well” as Gregory describes Phil’s famous song. Well, most of us do love the town but it sounds as if the MP for Coleraine and Limavady can’t stand the place.

Mr Campbell does his supporters a shocking disservice by encouraging them to share his negative, divisive, petty and mean-spirited attitude. What did Peter Robinson, mean when he told us there’d be no more, “them and us”? And, when Peter Robinson was last here didn’t he take to ‘Derry/Londonderrying’ at the first possible opportunity?

Another good line on Corrie

Ken Barlow and café owner, “Wroy” Cropper were persuaded to go to Dennis Tanner’s stag do if they could be home in time to watch a TV documentary on Roman aqueducts. It was on at ten o’clock. Most men only go to stag dos if the strippers will be there by ten o’clock. If only we could all be as sensible as Ken and “Wroy”. Don’t you think so?