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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 September, 2003, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
A nation of saints and scholars?
The Greek resort of Faliraki has become synonymous with inebriated young Britons having a wild time on holiday.

But is a typical night out in the UK just like Faliraki without the suntans and Ouzo? BBC News Online's Smyth Harper went to Belfast to find out.

Bradbury Place
Bradbury Place buzzes with youngsters having a good time every weekend

The dangerous-looking girl lunged for the drunk lad who was annoying her in the chip shop queue.

Wielding a four-inch stiletto heel as a weapon, she was a formidable foe for anyone, and it took four of her friends to hold her back.

"If you don't get out of my ***** face, I'm going to ***** kill you," she screeched.

Welcome to a night out in Belfast.

The lad, who was about 18 and whose aroma was an interesting mix of Red Bull and vodka and stale vomit, was not put off and continued to laugh at her.

Both were very, very drunk. And clearly hungry - they calmed down as soon as they had some chips.

Party city

Belfast has a great mix of bars and clubs.

There are some which are highly sophisticated and chic, such as the exclusive Red Square and trendy Apartment. But for a fun, unpretentious, night out, the city can't be beaten.

Girls wait for ambulance

At first glance, dour Belfast doesn't have much in common with the Greek resort of Faliraki, but at Shaftsbury Square from midnight to about 3am on a weekend you would be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into a scene from Club Reps.

That was where the chip shop - the best in Belfast - was that we ventured into at about 12.30am - between leaving a pub and going to a club. We weren't alone. In the queue there were at least 40 people in front of us.

The wait for my pasty - a peculiar Northern Ireland delicacy which has nothing to do with Cornwall and involves potato, meat, onion and spices pulped together covered in batter and deep-fat fried - would have been intolerable, had it not been so entertaining.

But by the time we left there were at least 50 people behind us.

Outside it was a sea of drunks as hordes of people - mostly aged between 16 and about 22 - decided whether they wanted to stay out or go home.

Cheesy choons

Earlier we had been in some of the old haunts we had not been in for several years.

The clientele at the cheesy - but fabulous - bars like the Eg, the Bot and Lavery's are sickeningly young. With the boys you can tell, because their shirts are just too well ironed for them to do it themselves, and with the girls their make-up is of a thickness of those trying to look older.

The Botanic Inn
Belfast does cheesy nightclubs like no other city in the UK
One exception was in the Eg where we saw a woman cavorting on the dance floor in a manner that did not befit her very sensible, and middle aged, hairstyle.

But, sure, it takes all sorts.

Back in the chip shop, though, we had inadvertently caused a row.

A woman - not stiletto girl - had started shouting at a boy, who could not have been more than 17.

"What the ***** do you think you're ***** doing bunking the ***** queue?" she demanded. The boy slurred something in reply. He, too, was very drunk.

We hadn't noticed him slip into the queue in front of us. She was in front of him, but she had noticed.

"If he done that to me, I'd have taken him out and tore his head off," she said to us. I believed her. So did the young man, who staggered back.

No-one swears with quite the same element of charm, poetry and menace as a Belfast lass.

Salacious, but safe

But it's all in good fun.

There is little trouble. On an average weekend, between eight and 14 people are arrested for public order offences, and there is little violence.

Sitting back in Manchester, where an air of menace often prevails in the city centre on a weekend night, I'm getting quite misty-eyed for my Belfast days.

Or perhaps it's just my pasty repeating on me.




SEE ALSO:
TV show blamed for Faliraki trouble
31 Aug 03  |  Lancashire
UK officers meet Faliraki police
31 Aug 03  |  Lancashire
Switching from seedy to saucy
29 Aug 03  |  Lancashire



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