look upon my walls, ye mighty, and despair

As I wrote my previous post about overseas holidays, tourism etc. it crossed my mind’s eye to write a piece about one of the lesser known; or rather less-well-publicised, areas of the British Isles, especially from a tourist perspective. I refer of course to the delightful City of Belfast, Capital of the fabled land across the water; otherwise titled the Province of Northern Ireland.

As we sit in our homes; in the villages, towns and cities of Wales and England, planning our lives in serenity, peace and comfort; not many people realise that certain differences exist in the planning regulations for people whose homes are on even two sides of the same back garden lane in that strange twisted City, filled with strange, mentally twisted people, in that strange, weirdly beautiful but sadly scarred Province called Northern Ireland.

For example, did you know that allowances must be made, when alterations or extensions to a house are planned, for the extra reinforced fencing which must be in place when the building work is completed; mainly because, if the fencing and added protection is missing, the house might well well be the target of a firebomb, pipe bomb or a rocket? Why the possible attacks? “Sure,” the owner might reply, “because my home abuts a ‘Peace Wall’, and there ain’t much ‘Peace’ around if it is not backed up with a thirty-foot high reinforced fence.”

This is the British City where, just fourteen years ago, parents and children had to literally run a gauntlet of spitting, jeering Loyalist gangs in order to gain access to their Primary School. Imagine, little girls sworn at, bullied and spat at, with rocks bouncing off the police vans brought hastily in to protect the little Catholic girls and their terrified parents as they ventured to walk in an area which was long termed ‘Ours’ by the Loyalist scum surrounding them: because they simply wanted to go to school!

The politicians from both sides of the Northern Irish divide might preen and smirk in front of the cameras, and the prancing from the murderous godfathers who sit for SinnFeinIRA is met by the equally lunatic dancing from the Unionist DUP and UUP politicians, spokespeople for the UVF and UDA gangsters, and you don’t hear too much condemnation of the ‘Walls’ from either side, mainly because the realists know that, ungainly the solution might be, at least it works, with the morons from either side prevented from easy access to the other, and are thus prevented from charging off the reservation, and causing mayhem amongst their enemies; who live just across the street.

So take the tour, ‘click’ on the thumbnails, and gaze in silent horror at the ‘Walls’, and then decide for yourself if you reckon the ‘Peace Process’ is spelled correctly, or is it just another political fudge with an uncertain sell-by date!

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A man walks his dog on the Loyalist side of one of west Belfast's peace walls in this October 5, 1994 file photo. REUTERS/Crispin Rodwell

A man walks his dog on the Loyalist side of one of west Belfast’s peace walls in this October 5, 1994 file photo. REUTERS/Crispin Rodwell

and did you pack your AK-47 yourself, Sir?

I have often wondered why the time to either accomplish or publish certain ‘surveys’ is taken; as the results are so blindingly obvious. Most of the ‘commercial’ surveys are just self-congratulatory rubbish disguised as advert statistics viz. the efficacy of cosmetics, or personal health products; but occasionally we come across a ‘survey’ which defies the very definition of reality.

We are told that Travelzoo asked some 2000 British people who were considering holiday trips if they chose their holiday destination based on not only the possibility of sun, sand and booze, but also whether they might face death from a machine-gun attack (Islamic Tunisia); a night in the cells (Islamic Dubai in the event of drunkenly and/or openly screwing a female companion who was definitely not your wife); or swift deportation for taking your clothes off on a mountain top just to see if you can withstand the cold (Islamic Malaysia). Allied to the last charge for the naked morons was the belief that they had caused an earthquake by being uncaring of local tradition. Hell’s gates, what is the point of climbing a bloody mountain if you cannot strip down to your tighty-whities when you reach the summit?

Was the whole idea of this alleged ‘survey’ to expose the ludicrous stupidity of the average British tourist? When the very Internet is literally buzzing with Muslim killers in Paris, in America, in Egypt and in a dozen other spots where guaranteed sun is accompanied by the morning wailing from the muezzins leaning over their minarets; they had to actually ask if people had actively considered a risk? When will people just accept that the Muslim populations welcome Westerners for one thing, and one thing only: their cash. They respect dollars, pounds sterling, euros, roubles: they do not welcome, respect or indulge the bearers of that money. The lunacy of families traipsing thousands of miles to some ‘getaway place’ where they proceed to bake themselves to either red raw, or deep brown during the day, then eat and drink themselves stupidly insensible on an evening seems to be ingrained into the national psyche. and Travelzoo seriously expects these cousins to the average imbecile to have made their choices based upon an intelligent study of the local traditions?

There was a opinion piece published after the latest murders/killings/jihad attacks had occurred in Egypt, and this ‘travel-wise’ writer was pouring out his worries about how the locals ‘depended’ so much on the Western tourist footfall, and how devastating it would be if they never returned in large numbers.

For me, the very idea of a trip to Spain’s Benidorm or the Balearic hedonist-party is something just short of a swift visit to the Second, Third, Fourth and Seventh Circles of Dante’s Inferno on a Thompson’s 767; but that’s just me speaking. But the true peace of mind achieved by the innumerable visitors to the fleshpots of the Spanish beach resorts is from the other truth that there aren’t, as yet, a multitude of Muslims actually living there. I sometimes smile at the lunacies of a huge number of people all getting baked (in both senses of the word) in these places, but they are, to not coin a phrase, just like us. The visitors to the beaches of Magaluf, despite such dampeners on the lifestyle as the noted frozen cocktail bar below shuts reasonably early and there is minimal noise from the bar across the street.” don’t need to worry if the next footfall on the beach path belongs to some raving religious jihadi nut-case with a bad attitude and a loaded AK-47; the Guardia Civil has an impressive record with keeping the peace.

So, TravelZoo’s survey query to the would-be holidaymakers; was it helpful, demonstrative, or just plain daft? My own reply would simply be, the simple truth that most British holiday travel is booked on the basis of ‘cheap flights, lots of sun, cheap booze; but not many questions about what that amplified bloody singing in some foreign language is all about, especially as it wakes them up after they’ve just got to bed after a first-class piss-up!