A big election’s coming
That’s vital for the Union,
To keep at bay those who pray,
With incense and communion.
In Newtownards a taskforce
Was quickly brought together
For Ulster folk with hearts of oak
At the end of their loyal tether.
And they said they’d call a rally
To make their feelings known,
About the border and future disorder
And their love of the English throne.
They’d have a stage and speakers
Who’d plead their sorry plight,
Who’d make a show and strike a blow
To win the long, hard fight.
They’d bring in lots of marching bands
With flag and flute and drum
And then they’d see with joy and glee
The promised rising come.
‘Hold on,’ said a stranger
At the back of the wee hall stood.
‘We walked the walks and talked the talks
And it nivver done no good.’
And he talked of rallies past and gone,
That didn’t make the press.
That promised much of such and such
But ended up a mess.
That one in Enniskillen,
Beside a cop shop gable,
Where most of the crowd, although quite loud,
Were sat at the top table.
And then the one in County Down,
Not far from Jury’s Inn,
Where the only craic was a bloke on his jack
On top of a wheelie bin.
But this one will be different,
The doubtful stranger was told,
We’ve got a plan to bring a man
So brave and strong and bold.
We’ve had men of iron with balls of steel,
Some reserved and some quite showy,
Their Protocol threats were as tough as it gets,
We’ve even had Kate Hoey.
That wee binman tried his best
To get the big crowds out,
And sunny Jim was full of vim
But still no-one was about.
But now we’ve lined up someone
Who’s bound to bring them flocking,
A political ace who’s on the case
With facts both true and shocking.
The stranger listened and was told,
‘We’re going for the kill, son.
No caps we’ll doff, the gloves are off,
We’ve booked thon Sammy Wilson.’
Amidst the driving snow and wind
In the town of Markethill,
The loyalist horde along Main Street poured
And no-one felt the chill.
Sammy stepped on to the stage
And a hush fell on the town,
The great man sighed with quiet pride
And spoke to claim his crown.
‘You loyal friends and brethren,
We stand for Ulster’s sake.’
But a tomato rotten and ill-begotten
Hit him up the bake.
‘Go home, you shameless Lundy!
We want someone in your stead.
You’re a bigger joke than your Covid poke
With your big oul’ purple head.’
Then boos and jeers and hisses
Filled the Armagh air,
As Sammy coughed and spluttered oft
Amidst the raucous blare.
With shouts he tried to plead his case,
But they refused to hear his yarn.
‘Are you deaf? Just take wee Jeff
And piss off back to Larne!’
In years to come they’ll tell the tale
Of the Markethill confrontation,
When Sammy tried to turn the tide
For the loyal Ulster
They’ll speak of that damned Protocol
And his attempt to ditch or park it,
And with a heavy sigh they’ll wonder why
They’re still in the Single Market.

It’s just different spec, but what the heck?

REVERSE PARKING: another aspect of modern motoring that has Squinter pining for the Hillman Avenger.

REVERSE PARKING: another aspect of modern motoring that has Squinter pining for the Hillman Avenger.

SQUINTER changed his car two months ago. Or was it three? Who knows these days? Same car as the old one, only with a clatter of new features that have become, if not standard on most cars, at least very common.
Chief among the new-fangled gizmos that Squinter has been, ah, blessed with is a reversing camera. Squinter’s daughter’s had a reversing camera for some time. And of course Squinter’s been in the car of friends equipped with a similar gadget. And all have assured Squinter that it is a game-changer in terms of getting the job done:
• Gives you a clear view of what’s behind you.
• Guides you into the lines in a parking bay.
• Let’s you know when it’s time to stop.
Squinter always listened to these reversing camera recommendations and  nodded and smiled, but in reality he harboured certain reservations. Staring forward at a small screen when you’re moving backwards? Paying attention to the dashboard when all the action is happening outside your rear window? Not sure about that.
Fast forward and Squinter’s doubts have been seen to have been justified – and then some. Because while Squinter tried gamely in the first few weeks to use the camera, he gave up some time around Christmas and he’s still reversing the way he always reversed – rear-view mirror, wing mirrors, glances over the shoulders. Simple, classic, timeless. And that reversing camera is as much use to him, as the old saying goes, as an ashtray on a motorbike.
Might have worked had the reversing camera been just that – a camera that shows what’s behind  you. That would undoubtedly be something that would come in handy on occasion, but nothing’s ever simple any more. Because while the camera does indeed give you a view of what’s to your rear, included in the moving image are rectangular boxes drawn in different-coloured lines. As far as Squinter can make out, one displays the actual direction in which you’re moving; another displays the direction you should moving in the event you’re getting it wrong; one indicates the nearest object to your rear bumper; and one indicates the object furthest away from your vehicle.
You can see that this has already become rather involved just in the describing of it, but that’s nothing compared to the actual experience when the moving image is overlaid with an ever-shifting grid of multi-coloured lines, themselves sometimes moving, sometimes not (right). Squinter’s willing to suppose that were you to have been taught to drive in a car with a reversing camera you would never reverse in the traditional way as long as you had a licence. Or even that if you had the commitment to study to the lines, to educate yourself about their meaning and to keep using the camera even when you have the urge to go back to the old way, then a time might come when you’re won over. But Squinter is possessed of none of the requisite commitments and so backing up remains a time-honoured exercise in eye, neck and head movement. So thanks for the offer of assistance, but no thanks.
Still on the subject of assistance and there’s another electronic helping hand that’s Squinter’s not sure of either: Lane assist. The vehicle has sensors that help keep you between the lines when you’re driving forward, whether it’s on a surface road or a motorway. First time Squinter touched the road paint when driving the car home after picking it up, the short and urgent beeps had him gripping the steering wheel for dear life.
convinced for a second that he’d pushed the bluetooth ejector button or the smartphone charger port was going to start hissing out poison gas. But then he noticed the rather melodramatic flashing red icon on the dash panel telling Squinter that, far from touching the line for a nano-second, he was about to crash and burn in some unseen offroad abyss. Add to that the fact that the warning beeps sound even when you deliberately change lane or overtake, and there’s another aspect of modern motoring that has Squinter pining for the Hillman Avenger.
Or the Morris Marina.