NOT much in the way of revelations at the Covid Inquiry this week. The DUP is the Nasty Party in private as well as in public. And we’re not sure of the full extent of the private nastiness of Sinn Féin and Alliance because they had the good sense/bottomless cynicism to make sure their WhatsApp messages disappeared quicker than Ian Paisley on a final boarding call.

Given that background, I have activated an online mechanism that means if you’re a Sinn Féin or Alliance supporter you’re blocked from sharing this article and any attempt to do so will result in a lengthy internet ban. Serves ye right.

We’ve known for a long time now that Arlene Foster is not the kind of person you’d like to be stuck beside on the settee at a party. But after her performance this week we can only assume that she’s not the brightest candle in the chapel either. I mean, she had the whole of the previous day to scope the lay of the inquiry land: the demeanour of inquiry lead counsel Clair Dobbin; how she’s likely to line up an interrogation point; ways of buttering her up or getting round her; how not to make the mistakes that Michelle O’Neill made. But in no time at all Arlene was into that familiar slow-blink, narrow, pouting lips mode, progressing from there to the kind of you-looking-at-me? hostility that makes Jim Allister sound like Cary Grant on his third pint. Which must mean the girl can’t help it.

But even though Arlene’s legendary churlishness was put in a cake box with a silk bow round it this week, we also learned that she’s not even the most unpleasant DUPer to have been involved in managing the Covid crisis. That accolade has a rather surprising recipient – Peter Weir, a former MLA now resident in the House of Lords Care Home. I had thought Pete to have been yer typical mild-mannered bank manager type until the DUP WhatsApp revealed him to be something altogether different.

In one exchange, Edwin Poots said of an Executive meeting: “I had to comfort eat during the meeting I was so traumatised.” Pete replied: “Do you think Naomi has been doing the same?”

In another exchange, the nature of which we remain unaware, an unnamed DUP person remarked: “Not really a hunger strike if taking tea and coffee…” Pete came back: “In breaking news Naomi has died on the 114th day of hunger strike.”

Why Naomi is on Pete’s mind so much is not entirely clear to me. Nor do I understand why she comes into his mind out of the blue when he’s supposed to be dealing with a once-in-a-century health crisis. I do know, however, that if a picture of me existed like this picture of Pete eating a poke, then commenting on other people in relation to their relationship with food would leave a very nasty taste in my mouth.

Chinese whispers of mortality

I BOUGHT a bonsai.

That sounds like the title of a shortlisted Booker Prize work, but it’s actually a simple statement of fact. I haven’t become a mini-gardener because of a sudden interest in Asian horticulture or because I’m on a feng shui wellness kick, rather it happened because I’ve an eye for a bargain.

I wasn’t even in a garden centre or a flower shop when I bought it. I was making my way through the plant section of a huge DIY store when my eye was caught by the bonsais on display, ranging in price from around £30 to £80. A bright yellow sticker on this one told me it was only eight quid as it was in need of ‘a little extra care’. And making a quick calculation that the ceramic dish that it’s planted in and the matching plate in which the dish stands are easily worth that much on their own, I brought it home with the picture-hanging kit and spirit level that I’d come for.

PRIDE OF PLACE: What lies ahead for the Chinese elm bonsai – and indeed for us all?

PRIDE OF PLACE: What lies ahead for the Chinese elm bonsai – and indeed for us all?

But where to from here? The little Chinese elm is on my desk in work because it’s clearly too sick to leave in the house on its own all day long, and I’m watering it and feeding it a little plant food, just as Professor Google advised. But after a week those tiny dry leaves keep dropping and the thin upper branches keep getting more and more brittle, and a growing sense of powerlessness and inevitability is taking hold. I’d do a Gerry and give it a hug, but it’s too small for that and a light kiss seems somehow inappropriate as well as potentially tricky.

In quiet moments in the office – when everyone’s hushed and hard at work, for instance; when colleagues have all gone home; when somebody shouts ‘Anybody want to buy a ballot?’ – I ponder whether the purchase was spontaneous after all. Do I see something of myself in this fading little tree with its still-tough but bent trunk and its ailing offshoots?

Never mind the shortlist, maybe there’s a Booker Prize winner in this.

Complex is as complex does

GAZA – it's complex isn't it?

One day I think it’s a genocide, the next I don’t. It seems on the face of it that Israel is going completely over the top in slaughtering so many innocent people, but when you dig down deeper you begin to see that the crisis demands a rather less simplistic analysis.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Is it genocide, or just a horrid, understandable mistake?

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Is it genocide, or just a horrid, understandable mistake?

So I’ve been doing a bit of thinking and that thinking has led me to draw up a list, which as everybody knows, is the preferred Western way to deal with problems in life.

Reasons to call it a genocide.
• Israel has repeatedly told a million and a half people to move from their homes to safer places.
• It has then bombed those safer places and told a million and half people (now minus another few thousand) to move to other safer places. And on it goes.
• Israel has destroyed every piece of infrastructure that Gazans would need to return to living in their homes when the killing stops: Hospitals, schools, universities, agriculture, food production, water systems.
• Now that the million and a half (minus 40,000) have gone as far as they can and are up against a wall in Rafah, Israel is still bombing and killing when everything behind the refugees is dust.
• Israeli government ministers have repeatedly stated that they were going to commit genocide in Gaza.

Reasons not to call it a genocide.
• Israel and the United States don’t like it.

Still haven't made my mind up, but I've got the weekend to think about it.