Squinter’s review of the year: part one

By Squinter

JANUARY

LOYALIST community representative Jim Wilson said on the Nolan Show on Tuesday morning that the continuing violence was having a detrimental effect on a number of aspects of East Belfast life, but he singled out for attention the damage that was being done to “the Chinese takeaway trade”.

Now Squinter’s as fond of an oul’ carryout at the weekend as anybody else and there are times when nothing but a plate of fried rice and chicken and gravy chips will do. And, of course, the hot food takeaway business is a key part of every local economy in every town and city in Ireland and Britain. But even so. Surely there are other things more deserving of our thoughts than the fate of the Jade Dragon or the Bamboo Cottage.

Or maybe it wasn’t the Chinese restaurateurs who supply the city’s insatiable appetite for noodles and prawn crackers that Jim was concerned about. Maybe it was the salt-of-the-earth types from the huddled streets of the East who make a living from delivering the steaming white bags with the stapled receipts who have elicited Jim’s concern. After all, they’re in the firing line too, even if most of them are not in the taxman’s files.

Or could it be that he’s concerned primarily not for those who make a living from the wok, but for those who consume its produce. Could it be that the Great Black Bean Blockade of 2013  is a step too far for the loyal and long-suffering Pradisins of the lower Newtownards Road…?

Night. The unmistakeable strains of The Sash are heard. Jim rummages in his pocket, scans the caller recognition and presses answer.

– Sammy! Bout ye!

– Bout ye, Jimbo.

– What’s up, big maun?

– Nathin’ much, Jim.

– ’At’s good. So till what do I owe this here honour?

– Well, Jim, I called a Chinkers an hour ago and they’ve just called me back till say the driver can’t get thoo.

– Ah know, ’em kids are goin’ boogaloo out there.

– Enough’s enough, Jim. Ah’m all for gittin’ the fleg back up and all, but the

Pradisin people can only take so much.

– What can Ah do, Sammy? It’s a war zone, so it is.

– Git them for till call it aff, Jim. Ah’m sittin’ here with a case of Royal Dutch. Celebrity Big Bror started half an ire ago. Mih belly ’hinks mih thoat’s cut. Fer Jayziz sake, Jim, I can’t hear ’em sirens for the sound mih guts is makin’ and that dirty big Chinkers is sittin’ gittin’ coul’ in the back of

Stewarty’s Mondeo.

– Be strong, Sammy, and try for till remember: The darkest ire is jus’ before the dawn.

– So yer sayin’ yih can’t help muh?

– Nat the night, Sam. The night’s a wash-out, so it is. But Ah’m on the radio with the big fella on the biggest show in the country in the mornin’, and if there’s anyone can unnerstaun’ what yer goin’ thoo right nigh, it’s him.

– Tell it like it is, Jim. Tell him what them Fenians are doin’ till the poor Pradisins of this here laun’. Tell him I was out on the streets for Drumcree and we always made sure the Chinkies nivver stapped. Tell him Carson nivver thought we’d be dingin’ friggin’ Pat Noodles while the Kafflicks laughed at iz.

– Ah will, Sammy, ah will. Nigh you fire sump’n intill ye and take it easy. It’s hard for till believe right nigh, but some day we’ll both luk back at this and laugh.

– Okay, Jim. ’hanks, big maun. Night, night.

– Night, night, Sammy.

– Oh, and Jim?

– Yis, Sammy.

– Is there a chippy open

anywhere?

 

FEBRUARY

THE test that foreign nationals are required to take if they want to become subjects of the United Kingdom has been changed. Previously, the test had concentrated more on the nuts and bolts of living in Leeds instead of Lahore. Typically, applicants were quizzed on how a water meter operated, the protocols of a post office queue, the ins and outs of job interviews and so on. But no more.

Suddenly the ‘Life in the UK’ multiple choice questionnaire is focusing heavily on the glories past and present – mostly past, it has to be said – of the British way of life. Or as the Home Office puts it, the new quiz “focuses on the values and principles at the heart of being British.” Subjects about which would-be UK subjects are required to be in the know are the Battle of Trafalgar; Stonehenge; the union jack; Shakespeare; St George; warm beer; cricket; ladies on bicycles on their way to evensong – that kind of thing.

The Migrants’ Rights Network, which campaigns on behalf of foreign nationals, is not happy. Director Don Flynn says the test reads more like “an entry examination for an elite public school”. But Immigration Minister Mark Harper is chuffed to bits with the new test. He said: “Instead of telling people how to claim benefits, it encourages participation in British life.” He added: “We have made radical changes to the immigration system and are determined to reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands into the tens of thousands by the end of the Parliament.” Which would appear to suggest that the test is not a test at all, but rather a Keep Out sign. Oh, well.

There’s a shorter version of the test which you can do online, and as you can see from the accompanying picture, Squinter’s not sure he’s cut out to be a subject of the Germans and Greeks at Buckingham Palace. Squinter has it on good authority that failing the test spectacularly is not grounds for deportation, but even so, he suspects a knock on the door is not out of the question.

Meanwhile, Squinter has written to the Home Office to request that a residency test that is specific to This Here Pravince be drawn up to ensure that prospective residents of Noel‘’n’ Alan know what they’re letting themselves in for. As a first step, Squinter has forwarded a sample exam for the consideration of HM Govt.

 

1. Northern Ireland’s second city is called

q Derry

q Londonderry

q Stroke City

q Portadown

 

2. Loyalist protestors who throw petrol bombs are engaged in

q Disorder

q Rioting

q Trouble

q Unrest

 

3. Northern Ireland will leave the UK and become part of a new Irish Republic

q Never

q Never

q Never

q Never

 

4. The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party is

q Mike Tyson

q Mike Myers

q Mike Nesbitt

q Mike Reid

 

5. The national sport of Northern Ireland is

q Rugby

q Cricket

q Golf

q Blocking roads

 

6. The GAA is

q The IRA at play

q Northern Ireland’s largest sporting organisation

q Best not mentioned

q Too Irish

 

7. The acronym PSNI stands for

q Police Should Never

Interfere

q Pillagers Still Not

Incarcerated

q Police Service of Northern Ireland

q Protestant Irritation Needs Indulgence

 

8. The founding father of the state of Northern Ireland is generally regarded as

q Jackie Fullerton

q Edward Carson

q Frank Carson

q Julian Simmons

 

9. Northern Ireland is famous for building

q Suspense

q Ships

q Walls

q Bridges

 

10. People from Northern Ireland are

q British

q Irish

q Northern Irish

q Rory McIlrish

 

1-4: Begone, you Lundy!

5-7: You’re going to have to get out more (protests in most towns, most evenings)

8-10: Jamie is proud of you

 

MARCH

TO the Dundonald International Ice Bowl on bank holiday Monday, via the Kings Road, where the Tullycarnet estate presents itself to passing traffic by means of a series of grim murals, most of them of the Uncle Andy variety.

An international facility this may well be, but on the flagpoles outside the Ice Bowl the flags of many nations don’t fly as they do at the UN. Rather, this being Castlereagh Borough Council property, a peculiarly inward kind of internationalism manifests itself. Snapping in the wintry breeze are the union jack, the Scottish Saltire and the Ulster flag.

Castlereagh Council knows as well as anyone that the good people of Dundonald alone are not of sufficient number to keep the large facility solvent. It’s the carloads and busloads of children and young people brought there from across the city and beyond by parents, schools, youth clubs, sports clubs, churches and so on that keep the building and its tenants ticking over. And, whisper it quietly, many of those who arrive smiling and excited for a skate or a bowl are of a Fenianly persuasion, for whom a large union jack and an Ulster flag represent a cold kind of a welcome.

Why Castlereagh Council thinks it’s appropriate to make such a political statement at a place that depends for its income primarily on children is not entirely clear. Is it important to them that Catholic children arriving from Andytown or the Market or Colin or Lurgan are made aware as soon as they step off the bus that they are in Protestant territory?  If that’s the aim, then the Council can pat itself on the back for a job well done.

But the person responsible for the Dundonald Ice Bowl union jack could never be accused of being responsible for a job well done because, well, let’s see now, what’s the best way to put this? In Ulster-Scots perhaps? If so, then here goes – thon flag is boggin’.

If Castlereagh was interested in inculcating a sense of respect and dignity around the flag, then they’d do what’s done at public buildings in the United States, for instance, and take the flag solemnly down in the evening and hoist it joyfully in the morning. Heck, it’d be a major improvement for the Ice Bowl flag if the Council just put it in the washing machine every couple of months. But no, as is so often the case, up it goes and up it stays until it falls to pieces and somebody kicks up a stink about the stink – somebody like Squinter, for instance.

The DUP, who for decades have run Castlereagh as their personal fiefdom, have form in this regard. A while ago Squinter wrote about the state of the two union jacks flying outside the party’s office in Seymour Street in Lisburn. To call them dilapidated would be to seriously underestimate the state into which they had been allowed to fall. But on the upside, once Squinter alerted the Lisburn faithful to the error of their ways, new flags were put up before you could say For God and Ulster.

So come on, Castlereagh, get that flag down and get the Persil out. Dundonald deserves it, the Borough deserves it, Belfast deserves it, the Province deserves it, but most of all, all those little Catholic visitors deserve it.

 

APRIL

TO Dundrum on Sunday for a dander up the hill to a place Squinter has never visited before – Dundrum Castle.

It’s unremarkable enough as far as castles go, relatively modest in size. What marks it out, though, is the breathtaking view it commands of Dundrum and Murlough bays below and the Mournes away to the south.  It’s a State Care Historic Monument, but the information contained in the plaque at the entrance is minimal, and there are no further plaques inside the perimeter wall or around the keep to add further to the visitor’s knowledge. Which is possibly why, on a fine spring afternoon, with the nearby Murlough Bay dune system chock-full of walkers and Newcastle groaning with cars and visitors, Squinter had Dundrum Castle all to himself.

Or maybe there’s more to it than that, because the town below was also as quiet as the grave, the only sound being cars swishing by on the main road, on their way, no doubt, to Newcastle, or on their way home. A small number of large but tired-looking union jacks along the road don’t help, and doubtless a good few Catholic families unaware that this is a predominantly nationalist town are put off stopping for ice cream or fish and chips. In which case the flags have done their job – so well done for that.

But more off-putting even than that is the air of quiet decrepitude given to the town by the number of derelict buildings that face the road – buildings that clearly weren’t abandoned yesterday or last week, but have been standing there and crumbling for a good few years. Which is a pity because some of them are close to the scattered handful of very good pubs and bistros which continue to do business there.

Is anyone at Down District Council aware of any of this? Do any of the six councillors representing the area – two SF, two SDLP, one Alliance and one UUP – stand up at meetings and point any of this out? Given the way things look in Dundrum, you have to doubt it.

 

MAY

WILLIE ‘A Hundred Per Cent’ Frazer has been busy setting up a new party, since that seems to be just the only thing that his bail conditions allow him to do. He and a few of his like-minded chums, including ex-BNP Scotchie Jim Dowson, gathered in the La Mon House Hotel last week to launch the Protestant Coalition, a new party that Willie and Jim have decided will save Ulster from certain doom.

They describe themselves as an “anti-politics” political party and vow that if in three years time they have succeeded in giving the DUP and the UUP a bloody nose, then they will walk away. Presumably this means that if they fail miserably they’re going to stay, which is so utterly surreal and bonkers as to virtually defy belief. But Squinter’s been taking a look through the very un-PC PC website and their new paper, Protestant Unionist Loyalist Voice, and that disappearing-act talk is only the start of the madness.

The PUL Voice editorial is written by ‘Carson and Craig’, which Squinter cautiously assumes is a pseudonym. The PC is unequivocal about who’s who and what’s what. “The problem we Protestants face is not the republican movement, we know what their agenda is and we beat them hands-down in the troubles.” A few pages later and in a feature explaining what the PC is, we get this: “The genocide against the Protestant people is not over; the guns may be largely gone but the war still rages against us and our Britishness via the political battlefield and the republicans are having more success now.” So, they beat the republicans hands-down during the conflict but the republicans are winning. Got that? Good.

Elsewhere in the paper there’s a three-page feature on ‘the Loyalist Spring’ illustrated by an inspiring picture of thousands of people happily waving union jacks. The author writes: “The political awakening among Protestants reminds me of the ‘Arab Springs’ appearing all over the world.” Arab Springs all over the world, eh? And there’s Squinter thinking they were only in the Middle-East. And wait, a closer inspection of that lovely picture reveals that it’s actually been taken in London, and an even closer inspection reveals that the Londoners in the picture are holding union jacks with the Daily Mirror logo in the middle. What a celebration outside Buckingham Palace has to do with the Loyalist Spring is not entirely clear to Squinter.

Still on that piece about the Loyalist Spring and finally Squinter finds something on which he and the PC can agree: “Our identity transcends normal rational thought and behaviour.” Willie, Jim – you can say that again.

Then they kind of go off-message a bit with an impassioned but frankly ill-advised few lines about the fleg. “Our flag is, to us, akin to a holy relic that many normal, decent loyalists would, without hesitation, gladly sacrifice their life for, or for that matter, fight for.” Pssst! Jim, Willie: Squinter realises that neither of you are from Belfast and therefore not completely clued into the nuances of the working class Protestant ethos. But comparing the fleg of are fa’rs to a holy relic is bound to go down like a decade of the Rosary at the Scarva Sham Fight. So, lads, knack ’at oul’ taulk on the head! Ulster demands it!

Please note: no proofreaders were harmed during the preparation of this article.

 

JUNE

EMBARRASSING doesn’t begin to describe it, really. The BBC’s Question Time floor plan (right), in which they had Education Minister John O’Dowd down as ‘SF/IRA’ and the DUP down as ‘goodies’ might have been put down as a bit of a laugh if it weren’t for the fact that Question Time is one of the BBC’s most deadly serious programmes.

Somebody suggested recently – Squinter can’t remember who it was – that perhaps it’s time for the BBC to have a BBC correspondent, such is the number of stories that the BBC and its employees are generating at present. If the queen of England had a memorable ‘annus horribilis’ in 1992, the past 12 months have been an ‘annus abominabilis’ for Auntie.

But clearly the broadcaster has learned something from the abysmal way it has handled its other recent travails, because when Sinn Féin lodged a complaint, their finger was barely off the ‘send’ button before the BBC issued an apology.

Meanwhile, assuming the Beeb doesnt make the same mistake again, we’re going to be left to guess for ourselves in future what the BBC thinks of its guests.

Shouldn’t be too hard.

Concludes next week

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