So you'll have heard by now of the Flag Protests which are sweeping Belfast, and making us Look Bad On International News. Now, the truth, of course, is that the majority of us are going about our daily business without much difficulty, and that the riots have been on about 3 roads; but none of this looks terribly exciting on the telly, so they have to make it look like we're all out there throwing bricks at whatever gets in our way, and generally setting fire to things and yelling a lot.
Still, every now and then they(*)'re having a Big Protest, in which they aim to bring Belfast to a standstill. In fairness, this is not difficult: as we've seen in the past when a lorry parked itself in a bus lane, or a set of traffic lights went out, or someone fell off a bike at a particular junction, Belfast's road network is built on the principle that "Every action has an equal and entirely complementary reaction, which will only ever compound the original problem until the whole thing stops moving altogether". I could probably bring Belfast to a standstill myself, simply by placing a cardboard box in the middle of a carefully-chosen road junction (**).
But tonight is one such Big Protest, with people coming out in droves in the likes of Greyabbey to register their disgust at the flag not flying twenty times as often here as it does in the rest of the UK. It is possible that this could have a negative effect on local businesses, most of whom have no influence over the Thing About The Flag and are only trying to Get By In Times Of Recession, so a Counter-Thing has been suggested, which involves us all going to local cafes, pubs and restaurants this evening to have a Nice Time.
Now this is precisely The Sort Of Thing I Like, as I would much rather live in a city which has pubs and cafes and restaurants, and has plenty of them for me to choose from, even though I don't really eat out, than live in a city which doesn't give me the option of eating out but which has a flag flying above a building I can't even see. So I suggest that we all take this on board and eat out tonight, or, as in my case, have a cup of tea out. And maybe if we see protesters who we know we should offer to take them for a cup of tea also, and they might see that it's Quite Nice to go for a cup of tea and it's also warmer than being at a protest, and then maybe they will calm down about the flag thing and we can all just Be Friends And Have A Nice Time Drinking Tea, which is, in any case, much more British than complaining(***).
(*) 'they' being a group of people who spell things badly on Facebook
(**) I don't plan to. I'm just saying I probably could, because that's how Belfast's road network is constructed
(***) I mean, seriously, did you see the portrait that Kate Middleton has pretended to like? Seriously people: follow the lead of your Monarchy - no matter what happens, smile and nod, and drink tea.