Monthly Archives: June 2009

Put Away Childish Things


School’s Out… forever. Tingirl had her last day in the Bray School Project today (the picture above is from one of her first), and we now have no children left in primary school.

Tinson1 had his first day there on September 1st, 1996 when Tingirl was only six-ninths er, cooked, so the Tinfamily have had a connection with the BSP for her entire life. As indeed has she, as she was accompanying Mrs Tin on school runs and sitting quietly at school meetings long before she ever became a pupil there.

If leaving there is upsetting her, though, she’s hiding it very well (though not as well as Tinson1 did. In the car on the way home from his last day there, in a conversation with Tinson2 he referred to the BSP as “your school”). She is eager and excited about the prospect of secondary school, and keen to get on with what young people regard as the terribly urgent process of racing through their lives as quickly as possible.

Mrs Tin is similarly unfazed by the thoughts of leaving a school where she has been on so many boards and committees for so many years. She received many plaudits I think she will miss it more than she thinks she will, but only time will tell.

The school itself is wonderful, run by a bunch of really terrific teachers backed by ranks of dedicated and hard-working parents. It will still feature on the Blogiverse, as both Jo and Ciara still have kids there, and I’m looking forward to being able to keep up with events through them.

In earlier years I did a lot of the driving to school, so got to know the BSP quite well, but latterly have rarely been inside the door (today was only the third time in Tingirl’s final year) so I should miss it less than any of them, and I suppose I do. But I do feel that today is a significant one. Our youngest child has finished at primary school, and is growing up. She’ll be a teenager later this year, joining her brothers on the ever-shortening road to young adulthood. I’m happy for her, and proud of her, but I do feel a little bit sad.

We still have kids, but as of today we no longer have children.

He Ain’t Heavy

My one and only sibling is 50 today.

I’ve just rung him, and he’s fine about it, and thankfully this time so am I. When I hit 40 it didn’t bother me at all, but I was horrified when he got to 40 18 months later. I felt that if my baby brother was 40 then I must be really ancient. Now I suppose I already know that I’m really ancient, so how much older can I feel.

The Tinbro doesn’t feature too often in these annals, because we don’t see each other all that often. It’s not that we don’t get on, because we do, but his job takes him all over the country, and at the weekends he plays golf, with a lack of ability which takes him all over the countryside.

He’s a terrific bloke, so much better than me in every way. And yet because I’m the eldest he has always looked up to me, and I am both proud and humbled by this.

He has his own business which, thanks to the gobshites who ruined this country, is struggling at the moment, and he’s had to let some of his staff go. This hurt him deeply, as one of the most amazing things about him has always been the way he could manage staff and still have them as friends. Two of his three kids work with him, and I fear for all of them sometimes unless things improve.

But today’s not the day for all that. Today’s just the day to say Happy Birthday. As I said, I’ve only the one sibling, and I’ve been extremely lucky in the one that I got.

Worse Things Than Dying

When I was a teenager all the girls around my area were in love with either Donny Osmond or Michael Jackson, both of whom were the same age as me, so I’ve never liked either very much.

When I was a teenager Farrah Fawcett appeared in Charlie’s Angels, which we thought at the time was so cool (they had phones in their cars – imagine how great that would be). Farrah played Jill,  setting fire to my heart and several other parts of my anatomy. So it shouldn’t be hard to guess which of yesterday’s two deaths upset me more, and which I would regard as the most sad.

And yet.

I grieve for Farrah. She died far too young after a long illness. But I feel for Jackson too, and not just for his really early death.

FarrahFarrah was a beautiful, well-respected actress, had Ryan O’Neal as a partner for over 20 years and of course was the subject of the best-selling pin-up poster of all time (and you all know me well enough by now to know that I’m gonna show it).  Michael was a strange-looking, widely ridiculed singer who had a monkey as a best mate for a disturbingly long time and who was the subject of one of the most famous court cases of all time (and though he was acquitted, in the eyes of much of the world he’s still guilty).

Thanks partly to the poster, Farrah will be remembered for her beauty. Michael will be remembered as a freak.

Farrah was loved when she was alive and will be mourned now that she’s dead. Jackson, whether in or out of one of his strange marriages, always struck me as dreadfully, dreadfully alone.

You get one go at life on this earth. Looking at the pair of them, I know who’s life I’d rather have had.

So It’s Good News, Then

If Paul McCann of the accountancy firm Grant Thornton ever decides to take up politics I predict a long and successful career for him.

He has shown a talent for spin which would leave most of our current politicians gasping in admiration.

Mr McCann had just been appointed Examiner of a company called Laragan Development, which was building apartments in two different locations in the Dublin area. 95 homebuyers who had paid deposits of €15,000 or €20,000  are being released from their contracts, as the apartments will not now be built for the foreseeable future, but will receive just 1 per cent of their deposits back, i.e, €150 or €200.

Instead of acknowledging that this is a disaster for many of these people, Mr McCann “noted the 95 individuals or couples who had put deposits on the properties would “suffer an immediate impairment”, but they would also receive a “substantial benefit” as they would be released from their contracts and could acquire alternative properties at a “substantial discount” in the current market.”

What sort of Pollyanna, glass-half-full crap is that?

I’d suggest to Mr McCann that to most of these people the loss of €15 to €20,000 is not a “financial impairment”, it’s an absolute nightmare. I’d also like to ask him how he thinks they might qualify for the “substantial benefit” that he mentions, since they will only acquire the alternative discounted properties to which he refers if they get a mortgage, and in the current market the notion of 100% mortgages is long, long gone. In other words, they’ll need a deposit. Probably around oh, say €15 to €20,000.

There’s a hole in the bucket, Dear Paul, Dear Paul.

I think the substantial benefit of Mr McCann’s well-paid profession has caused an immediate impairment in his ability to see how things are in the real world.

Rise of The Machines

In the month that Terminator 4 and Transformers 2 both opened in the cinema, I am being stalked by the MBNA computer.

Phone robotI think it’s because I forgot to make any payment off my credit card before the 8th and, though I’ve now made one, it takes 3 to 5 working days to be credited, so in the meantime a computerised voice rings my house each day and tells me to urgently ring a number in London (in London? Feck off, ye have an office in Carrick-on-Shannon, why can’t I ring that?).

We are all of course used to talking to machines by now. It began with the humble answering machine, where you got the chance to listen to a friend tell you and any potential burglars that he was not home right now. He would then proceed to give you a twenty-minute lesson in how to leave a message after the tone, often speaking over the tone itself.

As time went on people got more smart-alecky about their message, saying things like “Hi, this is Joe, you know the drill”, or just “Speak!!!”. Others took to singing their message, or couples in the early soppy stage of living together would speak alternate words.

While much of this was fairly sick-making, at least you could recognise the voice of your friends, and at least you were only speaking to their machine because they weren’t available. But big business took the idea, Frankensteined it, and came up with machines that you had to speak to even if the company was open.

These have now morphed into two types. There is the standard one, which asks what your call relates to, and offers you four or five options. None of these options will match exactly your reason for ringing, but each will sound just relevant enough to leave you unsure. As a result you will select none of them, and the machine, muttering an almost audible “fuck’s sake”, will put you through to one of their representatives, since it’s only they who know how to cut you off while trying to re-direct you.

The other newer type is the one where the machine asks you questions, then repeats your answers back to you and asks is it right.  You can always tell when someone in your office is in conversation with one of these, as their side of the call will consist of long silences punctuated by the occasional word spoken in a monotone, followed shortly by “yes”. At least once during the whole ordeal the machine will say “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that”, the implication being that your thick regional accent is a bit too rough for its tender ears.

One slightly endearing thing about these machines, though, is that they will always try to interpret what you’re saying. I know this because I had to ring the Tax Office recently and, just as their machine said “please state which type of tax your query relates to”, I sneezed. There was a brief pause, and then the machine said “You have selected Relevant Contracts Tax. Is this correct”? I had to hang up in the end, because my resultant fit of the giggles was frying its brain.

Still, it was theoretically possible to avoid all of this by refusing to ring such companies, and corresponding with them only via post or e-mail. Now, however, machines have taken to ringing you at home, so there is no escape.

And they are ringing you with the same lack of cop-on that led the Daleks to believe they could rule the universe as long as the universe agreed to live only in bungalows. So far the machine has spoken to Mrs Tin, Tinson2 and then Tinson1. On each occasion it has blurted out that this is an urgent message for Tinman18, ignoring the fact that I might not want members of my family to know that there is an issue with my credit card, and has gone on to state the number that I’m to ring, just once, so that none of them have had time to find a pen and write it down.

While any day now they will register that I have paid them money (why does it take five days? It only takes three to fly to the moon) and the problem will just go away, I do hope that they ring at least once more, when I am actually at home. I want to hold the phone up against my iPod, play music at them, and every now and again pick up the phone and apologise for the delay. I might occasionally try and sell them something.

After all, their call is important to me.

Ping Go the Strings of My Heart

I took yesterday afternoon off to go to St Vincent’s to see my Cardiologist, only to be told that my appointment is the day after tomorrow.

I was quite psyched up for yesterday. I was going to ask why my muscles stay in spasm for so long after my pacemaker does its thrice-daily test-run, why it sometimes actually stings when it starts up, and why this has started a bruise which now stretches down the inside of my left arm almost as far as my elbow. (I read that sentence back a second before I published this, and realised that it said “my muscles stay in spam”. This is a fairly accurate description of my current physical condition).

In other words, I was going to give out. It’s true that familiarity breeds contempt – I used to be just grateful that the pacemaker had cured my blackouts, now I’m starting to get annoyed about why it can’t do it a bit more surreptitiously.

Anyway, it turns out I was there on the wrong day (perhaps all the scans that said there was nothing wrong with my brain weren’t entirely accurate), so my complaints remain thus far unvoiced.

My pacemaker celebrated this by turning itself on at four o’clock this morning and continuing to ping away until I eventually got up at 5.15 in frustration.

The bloody thing is laughing at me.

Who’s The Daddy

SP_A0057Today is Father’s Day, and rightly so. We men deserve at least one day in the year where we have our dinner handed to us, and are free to splodge on the couch all day and watch sport (it’s just as well Mrs Tin doesn’t read this blog, since she’d probably have to be restrained at this point).

RTE have certainly tried to ensure the day is a success, as they have chosen tonight to broadcast the final ever episode of ER – the one with George Clooney, Anthony Edwards and Goran Whatshisface all returning – and wives all over the country will be suggesting to their husbands that they pop down to the pub for an hour or so, leaving them free to sit in front of the TV with a dirty big bowl of ice-cream and a dirtier, bigger grin.

The picture above shows the cards that I received from my children, and proves that they certainly can’t be accused of being hoodwinked by the blatant commercialism of the day. I remember my mum always saying on Mother’s day that she preferred stuff we made ourselves to stuff we bought, and I used to wonder was she just being nice, but I now know that she was telling us the truth. The homemade cards that I get each birthday and Father’s Day mean everything to me. (They can also occasionally provide yet another in-family joke. About five years ago Tinson1 made his card for Mrs Tin in such a hurry that he wrote “Happy Moter’s Day” on the front, and Mother’s Day has now vanished from the Tinfamily annual calendar, while Moter’s Day is in).

The cards, by the way, are arranged on a leather chair and not, as it may appear, on the arse of our pet elephant.

Anyway, I find the whole day very humbling. I am always astonished by the obvious love in the eyes of these three wonderful young people, and have no idea what I have done to deserve it. They see me as strong, protective and wise, and I see myself as anything but.

But it is also very uplifting. If these kids think I’m great then I must be doing something right.

So I’m getting what each of them wished for me on their cards.

I’m having a Happy Father’s Day.

Drama Queen

Tingirl and her drama class had their end-of-term showcase today.

Tingirl has been enrolled in a Drama School in the Mermaid Theatre in Bray for about 3 years now, and at the end of each term they put on a little show. Today’s consisted of 2 courtroom scenes, written by the students themselves, and Tingirl played the bailiff of the court in the first one, and Counsel for the accused in the second.

It’s a real joy to watch this collection of 12-year olds acting their parts with such gusto, such talent, and with each passing show such confidence. Certainly Tingirl is a revelation. A naturally quiet girl, who’s repsonse to most questions is “fine”, she arrives out of rehearsal every week with a big beam on her face and chats away about what they did all the way home.

And today it was great to watch her, always acting, always in character, and to see the eager way she rushed over to us at the end to see what we thought.

That’s why you continue as parents to find money for things like this, no matter how your disposable income is decimated by extra taxes and reduced pay.

You spend your income on the essentials for living, and Tingirl’s drama class brings her to life.

Life’s Simple, in Theory

So Tinson 1 has finished school.

He sat his final exam, Chemistry, on Tuesday and left his schooldays behind him. He got home, gave us a carefully analytic summary of the exam (“piece of piss”) and invertebrated down in front of the telly, as if already settling into his future role as one of the unemployed.

After a while he admitted that he felt a bit strange, watching TV without a hearing a nagging voice inside his head telling him he should be studying (he usually had a nagging voice outside his head telling him the same thing, and I think Mrs Tin is now as at a loss as he is).

Anyway, when some friends rang to say they were going to play football down in the leisure centre he jumped at the chance. He played the game, went back to someone’s house and then walked home, getting in at about 4 a.m.

During the football apparently he got some sand or dirt into his sock, but instead of stopping and removing it he played on, so now most of the skin has come off the sole of his foot. Therefore he spent his first day as a grown-up lying on his bed with his foot in a bandage.

As his father, it is my job to worry about him when he does silly things, and I have to thank him for giving me so much practice.  But remember, this guy has applied to college to do Theoretical Physics, so now I’m starting to worry, not just for him, but for all of us, for our planet and indeed for the populations of distant worlds in galaxies far, far away.

EinsteinThe Principle of Cause and Effect seems to have passed him merrily by, and the thought of him in a very few short years spilling coffee into a worm hole, getting sand in the Large Hadron Collider or sneezing violently into a bowl of Dark Matter (it comes in bowls, doesn’t it?) should strike fear throughout the entire universe.

Was Einstein that scatty? Actually, looking at his hairstyle (a generous use of the word “style” there) he was possibly worse. The Principle of Cause (using a comb) and Effect (neat hair) seems to have escaped him too.

At least Tinson1 always knows where his hair-gel is.

There are Naked Women in this Post

Because headlines have to give you the gist of a story in very few words, they can sometimes be taken up wrongly.

For example, Nicolas Sarkozy is currently at the funeral of Omar Bongo (nah, me neither – apparently he’s President of Gabon). I know this because my attention was grabbed by a headline on the BBC News Website which read ” Sarkozy jeered at Bongo funeral.”

Christ, I thought, that’s going a bit far, even for Nick. I had visions of him sitting sneering in a corner saying “You call ziss a palace? – we have maisons de chiens bigger zan zis palace. And your vin is merde, it tastes like lion’s peess. And I am much, much taller zan ziss Bongo was.” (Zat, sorry, that last part would be true. Mr Bongo apparently wore built-up heels to make himself look taller. As a shorter Omar Bongogentleman myself who was a teenager during the Platform-sole 70s I could have told him that this doesn’t work, and this -> photograph provides further proof).

But of course when I read the article I realised that it was Sarkozy who was jeered, by sections of the crowd (always a good move when the leader of one of the nuclear-capable states turns up in your tiny country).

While my misunderstanding in this case is not the BBC’s fault, headlines can often be deliberately misleading, as Holemaster recently pointed out. Unscrupulous sub-editors will often use a sexed-up headline to encourage you to read an otherwise fairly dull article.

I frown on such tactics.