Monthly Archives: July 2008

Lost and Found

I was in my local bar last night (someone has to kick-start the economy). There were just three of us left, and conversation had dried up momentarily. I looked over at the coat rack.

“Isn’t it amazing,” I said. “There are only three of us here, yet there are about twenty coats hanging there. How do people manage to go home without their coats?”

Then I looked a little closer. “Actually,” I said, “the green one is mine. I’ve been looking for it at home for about six months.”

I’d Scream, You’d Scream

Over on Twenty Major’s site on Friday last he posted about the fact that they are playing David Gray’s ‘Babylon’ over and over again at the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay to torture them. This led to a discussion about songs we’d hate to have continuously played at us.

That got me thinking – can you imagine what it must be like to drive an ice-cream van? The same one hurdy-gurdy tune over and over again, all day long?

How do you pick the tune? Does it just come with the van or is there a catalogue? If there is it’s a very small one, as they all seem to have either the Match of the Day theme, the Magic Roundabout theme or O Sole Mio.

You’d dread getting out of bed in the morning. You’d dread turning into each new estate.

I’m on my way to work at the moment, and suddenly feeling a whole lot better about my job.

Happy Anniversary

Today is our 23rd Wedding Anniversary.

Wow, 1985. Boris Becker won Wimbledon for the first time the day after our wedding, we watched the original Live Aid on honeymoon the Saturday after. Ireland was a depressed dump, Mrs T (Tinman, not Thatcher) lost her job about four months before the wedding, and I lost mine about four weeks after it. She soon got a new job, which she absolutely hated, but she had to keep at it because I went self-employed and really struggled at the start. We often ran out of heating oil, our car was a wreck and we were  frequently behind on our mortgage.

Fast forward to today. As Mrs Tin is only 45, she has now spent more than half her life married to me. She is, obviously,  a saintly, long-suffering lady.

When we’d been hitched for about about eighteen months we made friends with a couple who were five years married. That seemed so long, we just couldn’t imagine it. Now look at us.

She’s sitting at the kitchen table opposite me as I type this, and she has no idea what I’m doing. I know she’ll never read this, which is good, coz I’ve standards of cynicism to maintain.

We’ve had bad times – a miscarriage, the loss of a parent each (within 4 months of each other), a severe bout of depression for one of us (OK, me), and last years medical problems which gave birth to the name Tinman18. We’ve had great times, the birth of each of our three children, a fantastic trip to Italy for her 40th and an even better one to New York to celebrate 25 years since we ‘got off with each other’.

Overall, though, we’ve had far more good times than bad times. We’ve laughed an awful lot. We’ve fought an awful lot. But she’s still the best friend I’ve ever had.

Happy Anniversary, Mrs Tin. Love you to bits.

Smoke Free Zone

I am eight years off cigarettes today.

I’ve done some complicated sums in my head based on my 30-40 a day usage and what I think is now the price of fags, and I reckon I’ve saved about €24,000 in that time.

Where the hell is it?

I gave them up by reading “Allan Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking”. I’d never even heard of it, then in March 2000 I was in a  client’s office and he mentioned that he hadn’t smoked for three weeks after reading this book.

I bought it on the way home, and then I put it in a drawer. It sounded like the big opportunity I’d been waiting for, and I didn’t want to blow it. I had to wait till I was ready. Remember, this was 2000, and the entire smoking population of the world other than me had tried giving them up on the first day of the new millennium, and most of them were back on them before Paddy’s Day. I didn’t try then, arguing that I wouldn’t give them up just because eveyone else was trying, I wasn’t sheep (God, the crap you come out with to justify smoking). Realistically, though, I knew I just wouldn’t be able to do it.

But I did, desperately, want to. I had kids by then, and we were into the complicated linguistic game of explaining to them (a) they should never smoke, because only gobshites do it and it will kill you, and (b) no, daddy’s not a gobshite, and stop crying, he’s not going to die, and (c) oh, you’re just too young to understand, and (d) go to your room. I was fed up with myself, and really wanted to try.

In May we went to Ibiza on holiday. While we were there I went to one of those shops they have where you can buy cigarettes by the boxload, and I bought 800. A couple of things happened when I got home. One was that the 800 lasted exactly four weeks, which brought home forcibly exactly how many a day I smoked. The other was that during those four weeks I spent one hundred and four pounds in what I would call my pocket money, ie cash just spent on me, not counting groceries, petrol, stuff for the kids, etc. A newspaper every day, and four pints on my one night out, that was all I was spending money on.

As the 800 dwindled to the last 40 or so, I realised that I could go back to spending a fortune, or I could finally read the book. It helped enormously when I figured out that the last of the cigarettes would run out on July 5th, so that my Wedding Anniversary would be my first day without them. I took the book from the drawer, and started to read.

One of the good things about it is that it tells you to keep smoking till you finish the book, so you’re reading it without any pangs or cravings. I’d imagine it would be very hard to read a sentence about how good you’ll feel if you’re shaking with longings, yelling “what the feck would you know about it, you sanctimonious git” before hurling the book violently into the Liffey. What I felt was clever was that he doesn’t give you his reasons why you shouldn’t smoke, he directs you toward your own reasons which you already have in your head why you shouldn’t smoke. He points out the contradiction in claiming that tobacco both helps you concentrate and also helps you relax, or the irrationality of claiming that smoking is harmless and enjoyable while simultanously praying that none your children ever take it up. He breaks the addiction down between nicotine need and habitual need, points out how much of each 24 hour period (when we’re asleep, while we’re on the train, while we’re eating) we spend without nicotine without feeling an urge, thus showing us that the nicotine is not the real problem (indeed the nictotine urge vanishes after a couple of days), and then helps to find ways to break the habitual need, the lighting up, the having something in your hands, the automatic picking one up whenever the phone rings.

At about midnight on July 5th, I finished the last page of the book, stubbed out my last cigarette, and went to bed. I was now a non-smoker (that’s one of the pieces of advice from the book – if you’ve stopped smoking, from day one you’re a non-smoker, you don’t say things like ‘I’m trying to give them up’ otherwise at what stage do you make the move in your head from’person desperately trying’ to ‘person who doesn’t smoke’?)

I got up the next morning and went to work in a fantastic mood. In those days you could still smoke at work, and in any case I worked alone, so I was heading straight into the room where thousands upon thousands of fags had met a fiery end, but I wasn’t in the last afraid. And rightly so. The day passed like a dream, and I knew I had it cracked.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, but a lot easier than I had been afraid it would be. People said it would be hard when I went to the pub, but I couldn’t wait, it was a chance to show myself that I could still go out with my friends (there were 3 guys I hung around with in the pub, and they all smoked) and enjoy myself. And it was simple, because I quickly realised that there is no specific time in the pub at which you light up, so there is no real habit to break. What I did find, though, is that when I walked out the door to go home, I suddenly felt the urge, and I realised that every previous time ever that I had walked out that door I had lit a cigarette, and that smoking it would last exactly the length of the walk home.

I had to go through everything at least once, every client visit, every social event, the first Christmas, the first time I got really seriously drunk at a party (because that’s the time you’d take one from someone without thinking). Each of these brought it’s own brief pang. I played in a taverners cricket match about eleven months later, and realised I’d never been in the changing rooms before without a cigarette. I went to a wedding and for an instant missed lighting up the second I came out of the church.

Generally, though, it was easy, and milestone passed by – one month, six weeks, three months, six months, and then – One Year! That day I felt proud and also, suddenly, terrified. While I had targets it was easy to keep going, but what was my target now? A year and a month was silly. Two years? Five years? Forever?

That was when it really hit me – I was looking at giving them up forever. I thought back over all the good times of the previous year, took a deep (smoke-free) breath, and moved on.

I can’t recommend it enough. People ask do you feel better afterwards. Physically, I think it’s not so much that you feel brilliant as that you realise how absolutely shite you felt before, and how this had become the norm for you – the constant coughing, blocked nose, headaches after especially bad smoking days, shortness of breath after running, the hacking, phlegm-filled paroxysm of coughing after you tried to sing. I used to have a pain in my chest every Monday from the amount of cigs i’d smoke over the weekend, but I didn’t mind coz I always knew it would be gone on Tuesday. Can you imagine being content about only having a chest-pain for one day a week?

Mentally, though, you feel absolutely fantastic. Again, you realise just now badly you felt about yourself before – embarrassed at your stupidity, guilty about the money that you could be spending on other things for your family, angry at your helplessness at not being able to give up, upset at your children asking you to quit. Now you are proud, confident, happy. You’ve taken on one of the most difficult things a person can do and beaten it. You are a wonderful person.

Please, everyone, give it a go.

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July, America.

I know a lot of people are anti-American. I know their governments are often wrong, often corrupt and invariably incompetent. In this they are no different to ourselves, and indeed most other democracies.

Their people, though, are generally warm, open and friendly. And New York is simply the greatest place on earth.

So have a nice day, today, y’all.

P**s off, Fine Gael

The Government confirmed yesterday that qualified drivers accompanying learner drivers cannot be breathalysed, and there are no plans to introduce such a move. Fine Gael’s reponse was immediate. Their spokesman Fergus O’Dowd said:

“I plan to raise this with the Minister because quite clearly if the accompanying driver is p****d and not fit to drive themselves they cannot be properly supervising the learner driver. It is ridiculous.”

This is opposition for opposition’s sake. If a couple go out, have a few drinks and get their teenage son or daughter to collect them and drive them home, this is something to be encouraged. What penalty would O’Dowd impose on them? Losing their own licence? Might as well risk driving themselves, so.

Big Brother Blog (5)

So Jen will face Rex on Friday. My guess is that Jen will go. She is the perfect example of what the pressures of the BB House can do to you – though sweet and charming at the start, she has become a total moan, and the focus of most of the trouble in the house.

If she does go, it may be the making of Bex. She has been sucked into the unhappiness, and is starting to behave quite alarmingly. If Jen goes and the others welcome Bex back into the fold, she could return to being the funny person she was at the beginning.

In fairness to Jennifer, she did nominate Rachel and Kat. She said their happiness was both annoying and fake, and followed that through in the nominations process, though she must know that nominating Kat will not make her popular with the public.

Luke, though, who was sent to jail for hinting to Bex that she should nominate the happy couple, was smart enough to make two safe nominations, keeping himself in with what he still reckons is his adoring public (he’s thankfully wrong – two girls who told me last week that they wanted him to win are disliking him more and more as the days go by).

As for Dale – Christ, man, you don’t like Stuart, you don’t like the situation with the three of you, for God’s sake nominate him.

We don’t like him either – it could solve all your problems.   

Big Brother Blog (4)

Jesus.

Friday’s & Saturday’s programmes were just astonishing.

At the start of the Friday show Davina told us Dennis has been kicked out for unacceptable behaviour, so one would be expecting something bad, but I just gasped aloud when Dennis spat so suddenly into Mohammad’s face. One of the most amazing things was that only Darnelle and Mario seemed to appreciate just how serious it was, and that there was absolutely no way in which he could survive. The others felt he had been unfairly treated in some way. God, guys, even in football you can kick someone, trip someone, even headbutt someone, and while you’ll be sent off you won’t lose the respect of other players, but to spit at an opponent will still bring the wrath of the entire opposition, the crowd and the media down upon you. He simply had to go, especially since Alex had already gone for brainless threats that no-one really took seriously.   

As for the row that started it all, well, Rex really is a fish out of water in there. His posh accent, education and constant references to his successful restaurant business would alienate him from the others in any event, but it doesn’t help either that he has zero social skills. He come across as bossy and arrogant, and he has an unfortunate smirk on his face at all times. He kept this smirk on while he was apologising to Jen for smudging her painting (remember, he wouldn’t have done that to a Monet), and this made his apology look false. For someone so allegedly well-bred it was a pretty badly worded apology, too.

Still, he apologised, & it would all have died down at it not been for the Beef-cake Boys competing to see which on them could be Jen’s knight in shining armour. each of them blundered in, each of them made it worse, and then Dale ordered Rex out of the room, well, no bloke would take that. Then the eyeballing started, the “will you make me?”s started and then almost everyone got involved. Mohammad by now is completely paranoid since whatever he does in the house these days some-one seems to find fault with him. He jumped in to defend Rex, the only one who still seems to like him, and Dennis, who had already had his problems with Mo, just let rip. The sight of poor Kat crying through the whole thing was quite distressing.

Mario did a great job (he does grow on you) in calming down the lads, while in the other room all the girls (including Luke) just kept fanning the flames. The following morning, after Dennis went, Jen burst out that she hoped justice was done, and that Mo would be evicted by the public that night. Then she gave out to Darnelle for criticizing them all for defending Dennis. Again, the silly girl doesn’t see that spitting outdid anything that had ever been in the house before, ever.

Anyway, needless to say, Mo stayed, because the public don’t see anything wrong with him at all, and Jen’s mate Sylvia went with 90 per cent of the vote.

It’s going to keep getting better and better.