A night of chaos, cabals, and… careful optimism?

There’s no popcorn left. We’re done out; wrecked from staying up late last night watching the world burn. A Major Incident was declared at the Larchfield Estate. Who among us didn’t Google Streetview it, and fantasise that they lived in the gatehouse opposite the entrance? All bets were off in what became the best Norn Iron Twitter feeding frenzy in ages.

But the day had begun with formality. Kind of like the spectral observer in Philip Larkin’s ‘Dockery and Son’ , Jamie Bryson was grey-suited, visitant. He strode up the steps into Stormont like Machiavelli himself. Had The Prince arrived? At least one bystander was seen to jump out of his way. Others, warned: “He’s got a folder, he’s got a folder!”

Just what was he up to?

Are some of us trying to turn JB into a cult of personality? Last night, like it or not, he was certainly a political raconteur. And for a moment, he ascended to the heavens, where ‘X’ marked the spotlight. But there are experienced auld hands around him. The old photograph of Jim Allister, Kate Hoey and Ben Habib, looking like they’d just come from the matinee at the Grand Opera House, came to mind. “Sorry, the pantomime’s over for the year, folks.”

Oh no it wasn’t!

The now infamous, unholy and iconic artifact that is Bryson’s Twitter thread was unveiled at 7:34pm. If it’s somehow possible to turn his shower of words into a kind of parochial NFT, it’d have huge value, such was the demand for JB last night. But it was a spoof, surely? Had to be. Was the Man with the Tan leaking the plan? Say nathin’! Or, was there a DUP cabal at work, instead?

Pure buzzing. One person on Twitter said the whole saga was better than Netflix. In fact, despair descended when Bryson appeared to stop live-tweeting for 20 minutes at one stage. “Has the leak been plugged?”, we all cried out. Concerned fingers and thumbs mashed the dirty screens of their phones, with a little shame, and much excitement. Even technophobic older relatives were brought on board, with the madness shared on several family group chats. “C’mon, Gran, give it a scroll.”

It was after ten-thirty. Over on Newsnight, Nick Watt said that Rishi was “ready to go.” But where was Sir Jeffrey?

On The View from Stormont, Alex Kane joked gently that the waiting press wouldn’t get their dalliance with Donaldson until…4am! Paul Clark leaped forward: “Are you serious?”, he demanded. A watching Professor Heenan simply nodded; intrigued and resplendent.

But, long runs the fox – and it was just before 1am this morning when JD emerged from the recesses of the Larchfield Estate. He made a grand enough speech but, basically, we all know Jeffrey was quoting from Jurassic Park, when Laura Dern says, “Mr. Hammond, I think we’re back in business!”

Go on ahead, sir; there’s no dinosaurs here.

After the mics, leads and cameras had been packed away, the rural roads of Ballynahinch became nocturnal again. In bed last night, I dreamed of a beaming Allister emerging and patted Bryson on the back.

“That’ll do, son,” he said, smiling. That’ll do.”

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