Just back from three days (work) in Belfast. It was my first time there, despite the fact that it is a 35 minute plane ride from Manchester airport, although with the 3 hour delay it didn't feel like that. Apart from the accents, Belfast felt a lot like England. I viewed it a bit like an "add-on" bit of a computer game - like with Fallout 3, when you've compelted the game, you can purchase an extra bit, which gives you some different locations to explore - it's basically the same, but they throw in a few new weapons and buildings. Belfast is my add-on game.
According to the people I was working with, Belfast is more socially conservative than "over the water" (which is how I heard England being described). "It's like 50 years ago", one person said. Religion, community and family seem to play a bigger part in people's lives, than they do here, where we don't know our neighbours' names, even though we're hosting "key" parties for them.
Poor old Iris Robinson got a lot of mentions also. For those of you who don't follow Homophobic News, Iris is a former Northern Ireland Unionist politician who said on the radio in 2008 that homosexuality was an "abomination" and that it made her feel sick and naseous. Later on, at a Northern Ireland Grand Committee session on Risk Assessment and Management of Sex Offenders, she said: "There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children". How delicious then, that it later turned out she had been having an adulterous relationship with a 19 year old man (and his Dad apparently before that), and she'd gotten out two loans totalling £50,000 for him, which weren't declared to parliament.
I suppose he is rather good-looking. And he'd have been at his sexual peak. Poor old Iris - she just couldn't resist the charms of an attractive young man, giving her quite a bit more in common with her abombinable gays than she would like to admit. If only Tennessee Williams had been alive to write the script of her life. I just wonder who will play Iris in the Hollywood version? Susan Sarandon? Glenn Close? It's a plum role.
As a born-again Christian, Iris took the Bible completely at face value - "Leviticus 18:22-23; You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." Although I do wonder about her views on some of the other bits of Leviticus, such as "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard." Leviticus 19:27) - I'm sorry God, but now you're coming across as a rather snippy hair-stylist. I don't like Mohawks either, but I wouldn't want to ban them. They can look nice on some people.
Similarly, "Do not wear material woven of two kinds of material." (Leviticus 19:19) It seemed that God wasn't a big fan of polyester. Nor does he like seafood. "But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you." (Leviticus 11:10) I suppose seafood is something of an acquired taste - and I guess with all that creating stuff and judging people and smiting, God hasn't really had time to develop a more sophisticated palate. If he were to come round your house for tea, you'd probably have to give him egg and chips with white bread.
Now had Iris started ranting at people wearing polyblend jumpsuits, or eating Calafornian sushi, then at least she'd have been consistent. Bonkers but consistent. However, there are so many ways that she's mired in hypocrisy that.. well you couldn't make her up. Nor would you want to.
I don't like the Bible. It's boring and too long for one thing. If it had turned up on my desk, I'd have failed it. Actually no. I'd have put a red cross through it and replaced it with a single sentence "Oh just be nice to each other." Although I might have kept in the bit about polyester being an abomination. Because, really, it is.