Monthly Archives: May 2009

Like Father, Like Son

Since he was born Tinson1 and I have done many things together.

When he was a baby on Saturday mornings I used to push him in his buggy on a long walk around Greystones and Delgany, stopping to look at horses in fields, and trains going by. When he got a bit older these trips would include a visit to a cafe for a coke. When he was twelve I took him to a Man U game at Old Trafford, and this became an annual thing  for a few years.

Last year in France he and I were sent into the village to post cards one afternoon and, since the legal drinking age is 16 over there, we spent a lovely hour chatting and sipping beer outside a bar (Mrs Tin does not know that, Jo).

One thing I have never done with him, though, is bring him with me as part of a gang while we went hunting for rival football fans to beat to death.

Because that is one of the many, many awful things about the death of Kevin McDaid in Coleraine last Sunday. He was beaten to death by Rangers fans out looking for Celtic fans after the last day of the soccer season (after Rangers, by the way, had won the league). Nine men were charged in connection with the murder on Friday, and two of them were a 47 year-old man and his 18 year-old son.

Of course, they have just been charged, not convicted, so I have to regard them as innocent. So I will do so.

Because the alternative would be that a man around my age would happily bring a son about Tinson1’s age out to commit criminal acts with him. It would mean that he would stand proudly by (the father’s been charged with affray, the son with murder) while his son kicked a man to death, and while the wife of this man was beaten too when she tried to stop it.

It would mean that he didn’t stop to consider that, if it all went as horribly wrong as it has, his son’s life as a free man would be over almost before it had started.

It would mean that he committed his own unique form of child abuse, in that he imposed his own bigoted, violent values upon his son, and in doing do ruined his life.

And surely no father would ever do that.

Oim Elos O

Ice cream vanAnother lovely day, and the first ice-cream van of the year has just plinkety-plonked its way up our road and parked in the turning circle beside the Tinhouse.

I’ve written before about how awful it must be to have to work everyday listening to a hurdy-gurdy version of the same song over and over again, but I’ve just thought of a way in which it could be worse.

When he’d sold his wares the driver had to back out of the circle, and I discovered that a reversing ice-cream van does NOT play its tune backwards.

I found this disappointing, but on reflection it’s probably just as well.

Because if it did, I’d say the step from being an ice-cream man to being a rooftop sniper might be a fairly short one.

And It Never Did Me Any Harm

As I said yesterday, I watched Michael O’Brien on Q&A on Monday night in my local with about four other customers, the owner and his wife (and by the way, it’s great to see the way the clip of his heartfelt outpouring has travelled around the blog world).

When he’d finished, we all sat in silence for a few seconds, then started to clap.

Then we all started to tell stories of when we were at school. None of us had been boarders, or had been at “corrective” schools, so we were all thankfully spared the buggery or rape which so many kids, from the same generation as us, had to endure. But we were all at school in the sixties, when corporal punishment was still allowed and indeed enthusiastically embraced, and each of us had a least one story of a savage beating.

This is mine.

Back in those days we used the type of pens with a sharp metal nib that you had to dip into an inkwell, the belief being that this would improve your handwriting, which would be essential for your future job prospects (the arrival of the computer keyboard come as a total surprise to the curriculum setters of my generation). In a class of giddy young boys it was considered the height of wit, if the bloke sitting next to you stood up to answer a question, to hold your pen just below his bum and then pull it away just as he sat down again.

And one day, when I was about ten, I got the timing of this disastrously wrong.

The results were spectacular. My deskmate yelped, leapt in the air, and then started to cry. There was no way of hiding what I’d done, and the teacher produced his leather strap and beat me with it. Since I was horrified at what I’d done, and knew I was in the wrong, and since this was how we were punished in those days, I regarded this as my due. Then he marched me to the headmaster’s office, told him what happened, and the headmaster beat me too. Again, I fully accepted that I deserved this. There were some crimes that demanded that the class teacher’s punishment alone was not enough, and this was clearly one of them.

Then the two of them took me to every other class in the school, told the teacher and the whole class what I’d done, and each of those teachers in turn beat me as well, in front of their own class.

Somewhere in the middle of this even I -ten years old, shocked at my behaviour and full of guilt – started to think “well, this is a bit much”. But they kept telling me that the guy was bleeding (which I realise now was unlikely), that he might get blood-poisoning from the ink on the nib, that he might even die, so I said nothing.

And I said nothing at home. When I related this story in the pueveryone said “no, because you’d have got the same at home”, and, while I certainly know I wouldn’t have been beaten, I’m not sure that they’d have taken my side.

Because that was the way things were then. If children misbehaved, they got slapped. We were all sent off to school to a bunch of people who our parents didn’t fully know, but to whom they’d given tacit permission to punish us physically if these strangers saw fit.

And by the way, not one of the people who beat me that day was a priest or a brother. The school – Harold Boys’ in Dalkey, may it burn to the ground – was under the overall control of the parish priest, but all of it’ s teachers were lay people, married, with children of their own.

An awful lot has been said in the last week about the behaviour of the religious organisations at the time. And rightly so. As followers of God, their’s should have been the benchmark, the standard of care for the young which lesser lay organisations aspired toward. Instead they merely led the rest of the herd in cruelty.

But people have asked how it could have happened. And, while the ordinary people of the time would have had no idea that their priests and nuns could reach such depths of sexual depravity, they have got to admit that they knew and accepted that these people would beat children of both genders, starting from the age of four. They would say “well, I was beaten at school, and it never did me any harm”. In many cases they would beat their own children. They would certainly slap them.

Ireland was indeed a terrible place in those days. But it wasn’t just the religious that were responsible for that.

A Brave Man

Last night in the pub, since we couldn’t agree over which sport to watch, the owner said “right”, and put on Questions and Answers. So it’s purely by chance that I saw this guy, Michael O’Brien, talking about the Ryan Commission report into child abuse, and the abuse he himself had suffered:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jHqndf9Kx4

I’ve never heard such anger expressed so eloquently. He didn’t swear, didn’t make an eejit of himself, didn’t stray off the topic, didn’t lose control. His icy fury far more powerful than any wild rant would have been.

Some of the things he said will stay with me forever.

He is a true hero. And so is his wife.

Gifts From Above

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This is a picture of the apartment block next to our office.

Notice the state of the upper window.

It’s possible that what’s covering the window is bird-shit from a really big bird (an ostrich, perhaps, or maybe a dragon) with a dreadful case of the runs.

But that’s unlikely.

The window is on the second floor, and there are three more floors above it. What I reckoned happened is that last night was such a lovely night that the residents of that apartment decided to leave their window open. The windows open outward from the bottom, like a canopy.

And during the night one of the residents from one of the floors above threw up out of his window. (Or hers, though I’m betting on it being a bloke).

Since they’re on the second floor, and the windows only open a few inches, it’s not easy to see how they’re going to clean it off.  And the weather’s getting warmer.

There is a saying “good fences make good neighbours”.

But realistically, good fences aren’t much use if said neighbours are going to vomit at you out of the sky.

The Sun Has Got His Hat On

SP_A0040

Sunshine!

Warm, brilliant, heart-lifting sunshine!

The picture above is not from Majorca, the Algarve or Sardinia, but was taken in my back garden this morning. Centrestage is my beloved sun lounger, a Father’s Day gift from the (almost as beloved) Tinkids about five years ago, and still the best present I’ve ever received.

For the first time this year (and remember it’s more than one-third over) God has decided to give us a sunny day that isn’t a Tuesday, so everything I’d planned to do today has gone out the window.

Instead I’ve sat, and sometimes lain, in the lounger. I’ve read a bit, slept a bit, and had a great time.

You can see a newspaper in the photo, but to be honest I’ve only read a couple of pages. There will be plenty of damp, dreary days (starting, apparently, with tomorrow) to read about the cruelty a generation of our children received from church-run institutions, the short-sighted greed of our bankers and builders, and the sheer incompetence of our politicians, but today is not one of those day.

Instead I’m going to be postitive. Especially since it’s now three hours and forty-two minutes since anyone started up a motor mower.

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I’ve just discovered that this is my 300th post, and I’m glad it’s such a happy one.

Pretentious? Moi?

Since I drive only to the station each day, while Mrs Tin drives Tingirl to school & then drives to shops, meetings and the gym, she has taken to driving the Tincar, while I drive Tincarjunior, a tiny Peugeot that we bought from her mother.

This car has been overheating lately, so we have twice had it patched up. This morning, however, just as I reached the station, the overheating light came on again.

The guy who repairs our cars reckons it needs a new engine, and wonders if it’s worthwhile given the car’s age (it’s older than two of our children). So we have to decide should we get this one fixed, buy another one, or revert to being a one car family.

BallygowanWhile we’re deciding this, however, I have to get the car home this evening, so I’ll have to fill the radiator with water. I have no container in the car, so I decided to buy a litre bottle of coke, pour out the coke (I don’t drink it) and fill the bottle with water. When I got to the shop, however, I realised that this was stupid, I could buy a litre bottle of Ballygowan and I could actually use it.

I’ve just realised what this actually means. In the middle of the worst recession of all time, I’m going to be driving a car whose radiator is filled with mineral water.

I’m also now thinking of filling the tyres with liquid gold, the petrol tank with the crushed horn of a unicorn, and getting a man to walk in front of the car, spreading rose petals in front of me.