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Ant and Dec
Ant and Dec

Last weekend wasn’t the best of my life. I actually appeared (inadvertently) on the telly (BBC and UTV) on Friday night when I had the tough luck of having to cover the NI Assembly election count in Banbridge (Upper Bann and Newry/Armagh constituencies).

While the victors whooped and hollered, the vanquished slunk into the shadows, moaning about equality, respect and maybe the high price of broccoli, (one or two didn’t even turn up for the count, in the knowledge that they hadn’t a prayer. They had lots to say on social media, but who cares?) I’m not fussed on social media.

Election count staff count ballot papers at the main Belfast count centre, Titanic Exhibition Centre, in Northern Ireland's Assembly election.

Election count staff count ballot papers at the main Belfast count centre, Titanic Exhibition Centre, in Northern Ireland's Assembly election.

I got home after the count to a scrumptious supper of salmon, onion rings and small peas, with the family gathered round the telly watching as the last of the results filtered through from Belfast. (“We saw you interviewing what’s-her-name at the count!” they enthused. Fame at last…) But who cares?

I DID care that I had missed (thanks to the election count) a wonderful concert in Markethill on Friday night. The choir where I sing (Portadown Male Voice) was part of a tribute concert to our late, great, bass Richard Sterritt in the packed local high school main hall. Richard sadly passed away in November. (He was a brilliant Lambeg drummer).

I was one of only two missing members – the other guy was sunning himself in South Africa, ogling the elephants, giraffes and zebras, while my photographer Tony and I had to endure the effusion of the politicians who made it, and the slings and arrows of those who failed. (We were blamed by a reject’s supporter. It happens every time. Blame the Press). “Things can only get better,” I told Tony as we returned from the count to Portadown late on Friday night. But things didn’t get better. When Saturday dawned, we realised that today was Irish Cup day when Portadown were hosting Glenavon in the Quarter Finals. Many male choir members are Glenavon fans, who revelled in the fact that they duffed the Ports.

My great choral mate Sammy, who sings in the front row, Jim the South Africa tourist, and Big Stevie (who recently got married in the Philippines) are all Glenavon followers. Prior to the match, they played the canny and predictable game that Portadown would win. In the present Shamrock ‘Shambles’, they fooled nobody – 5-0 was the score. The ‘nil’ flattered the Ports.

Social media went into overdrive, with my friends from the choir (former friends, that is) in full flow. Filipino groom Big Stevie and South African holidaymaker Jim gave me the ‘High Fives’, and other assorted Lurgan fans joined in the fun. I informed them I had entered a sanatorium and cleared off to my brother’s house in Lisburn to watch the escapism telly of ‘Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway’ to cheer me up. No mission.

The jolly Geordies would – in any other circumstances – have been funny and uplifting. There was a session on bell-ringing, a sketch on the Crown Jewels being stolen, secret sofas in England, Northern Ireland (Portstewart), England and Scotland, some guff about ‘The Voice’, the ‘Win the Ads’ feature and… well, you get the idea. But try as they might, I didn’t care.

Sunday would be better though… But somebody at church had forgotten to turn on the heat and we were transferred to the church hall. When I got home, Assembly election programmes were flooding the airwaves. The presenters were doing their usual analyses, suggesting everything from a United Ireland (hard Border or soft Border, whatever that means) to Direct Rule, and – God forbid – another election in three weeks. Isn’t it great we have the erudite clack of Belfast scribes to map the way ahead? Who needs Brokenshire…?

The Press corps didn’t mention compulsory Irish language lessons, or compulsory heating boilers, or compulsory emigration. But give them time.

Ah well, I reasoned. At least after lunch I’ll be able to settle down to wall-to-wall ‘Columbo’ repeats on Channel 21 (5-USA, Freeview) and see the crumpled sleuth solve three complicated cases in an afternoon – he’s on from 1pm until 6pm every Sabbath.

Sunday’s offerings included the one where Johnny Cash appeared – awful actor but great Gospel singer. He piloted a plane, drugged his wife and a backing singer, parachuted out and watched while the plane crashed into flames among the Rockies. The special effects were as bad as Cash’s acting, but it’s a great story and his rendition of ‘I Saw the Light’ was sensational.

But I only got seeing the one episode. The wife wanted to see ‘Meet the Midwife’ after which the girls insisted on watching ‘Ant and Dec’, both shows having been recorded.

Then, as if the Glenavon brigade sensed my deepening depression, Facebook started going berserk again. I hate elections. I hate social media. And I’m not fussed on Glenavon…