Life

Mary Kelly: How the PM stood up to the bully across the Atlantic – in Love, Actually

Alas, truth did not imitate fiction when the orange-faced goon currently playing the role of president met his British counterpart during a Nato summit in London this week

US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the annual Nato heads of government summit in Watford this week. Picture by Steve Parsons/PA
Mary Kelly

THERE'S a famous scene in that otherwise truly awful film Love, Actually where the prime minister, played by Hugh Grant, hosts the US president( Billy Bob Thornton).

After initially appearing to laud the so-called special relationship, he then launches into a tirade against American interference and asserts the plucky resilience and independence of Britain, now finally standing up to the bully across the Atlantic.

Alas, truth did not imitate fiction when the orange-faced goon currently playing the role of president met his British counterpart during a Nato summit in London this week.

Time was, a White House visitor would be seen as an election winner for the incumbent PM. Not this president. Not this election.

In fact, Trump’s earlier endorsement of Johnson and his criticism of Corbyn were seen as a boost to Labour’s fortunes, as were his comments about the NHS being on the table in future trade talks.

Taking a leaf from the Boris playbook, he denied it ever happened. Instead, he wouldn’t take the NHS if it was offered on a silver platter.

“I’ve no idea even where that rumour came from,” the Donald chortled at a press briefing on his arrival. At which point you longed for some of the assembled reporters to shout out, "It was you who said it, you clown.”

Where’s Hugh Grant when you need him?

Boris kept a low profile during the visit, as he has done any time anyone from the Andrew Neil programme approaches. Since he has time on his hands avoiding interviews, the PM should’ve spent it watching a Channel 4's Dispatches programme about child poverty in Britain today.

Eight-year-old Courtney’s family were trying to live on five pounds a day because of a delay in their universal credit payment. She is seen emptying coppers out of a china ornament to try to help pay for the heating to be put on in their flat when temperatures outside have dipped below freezing and they’re waiting for Cash Converters to open next day to pawn their mobile phone.

* * *

SO IT turns out that despite my completely urban roots, born just a stone’s throw from Belfast City Hall, I am practically fluent in Ulster Scots. (Like the servant in Voltaire’s Candide who was stunned to discover he spoke in prose).

OK, so I mean that I got full marks in an online quiz to test one’s knowledge of the 'hamely tongue'.

I got 30 out of 30 and was invited to print off my certificate to say I had a "wheen o’wurds". It’s been a popular test though many got one definition wrong. Who knew that so many people don’t know what a skelf is? (a splinter, by the way).

A lot of people on twitter claimed some connection to rural antecedents but it clearly isn’t just Ballymena-speak. My granda, a Markets man through and through, regularly used words like “fernenst” (opposite) and “forebye” (as well as).

There’s a lot of defensiveness about Ulster Scots and, to be fair, some of the job ads written in the dialect did invite mockery. I mean, translating that a job was open to both communities to something like “nae matter wha fut ye kick wi”. Seriously?

It isn’t an equivalent to Irish but neither is it a “DIY language for Orangmen” as one Shinner characterised it. It is a colourful and vivid dialect without which our daily discourse would be a lot poorer.

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IF YOU didn’t catch the Seamus Heaney documentary The Music Of What Happens on BBC2 last Saturday night, I urge you to find it on the iPlayer.

It’s a moving glimpse at the life of our greatest poet through the eyes of his family and friends.

Northern Ireland should do far more to trumpet the achievements of this world-renowned artist. Let’s forget about the unchecked demolition of his house on the Lisburn Road where he wrote some of his early work.

Two days after he died in 2013 there was a perfectly observed silence at the All Ireland semi-final at Croke Park. His picture was shown on a massive screen and the crowd of 80,000 broke into sustained applause.

“I can think of no other country where a football crowd will have a minute’s silence and cheer a poet,” his widow, Marie, said with pride.

If we ever get a government back, it should honour his genius by fully subsidising the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy instead of leaving it to the local council.

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Life