Monthly Archives: July 2009

Swine-y Todd, Flying Squad

Our company has a Swine Flu Committee.

We met for the first time yesterday. (Yes, of course I’m on it, that’s the kind of thing that always happens to me, though in this case I’m curious as to why. I spent a lot of the meeting looking at the six people in the group trying to figure out why we were the six specific ones asked to join. In my own case I finally decided that, as the virus is especially dangerous to both the elderly and to those with underlying health problems, they were covering both those angles by having me).

This is us...

This is us...

I got quite excited when I was asked to join. I pictured us as a pseudo-scientist group called the Anti Coughing, Hawking and Oozing Organisation (ACHOO). We would wear space-suits with our logo (the Flying Snot) on the left breast. Whenever anyone displayed any symptoms we would burst in from all directions like the scientists in ET, and the offender would be dragged away.

Alternatively I imagined we might be more sinister and clandestine. If someone sneezed we would glance at one another, tap our (clean) nose with our (sterlised) finger, and the following morning the employee would be simply gone, his cubicle empty, and with HR having no record of him ever having existed.

The reality, of course, was a bit more mundane, though our name -we’re called the Pandemic Team – is way cooler than my one. We discussed different types of hand-cleaning materials, argued over which posters were too disgusting to put up in the kitchen, and five of the six made the sobering discovery that only one person out of the 110 in the company knows how to do the payroll (by God, whatever drugs are out there, they’re going to make sure I get them).

Then we went out and sent round a company-wide e-Mail about prevention, care and how to recognise the symptoms. One such symptom that we mentioned (and we cut-and-pasted this from an official document) is having a temperature of 28 degrees. It’s a measure of how seriously our e-mail was read that only GoldenEyes (who already has all the handwipes, etc, on her own desk, she’s convinced she’s going to get this) pointed out that this should probably read 38 degrees.

She is, of course, right. If your temperature is 28 degrees you are not a swine-flu sufferer, you’re a frog.

Rebel Without a Vase

Ikea DublinThe new Ikea store has finally opened in Dublin. It’s slogan is “Bring Out Your Rebel”.


Three thousand people passed through the door in the first hour on Monday, and 5,000 over the whole day. Every weekend from now till hell freezes over (and that’s further away than it used to be, thanks to global warming) thousands of couples will get into cars, drive along the M50, queue to get into the car park. The sheer number of couples in the one place will make the spread of swine flu even more inevitable. They will collect a map and head off into the cavernous abyss, like Hans, Axel & the Professor on the trail of Arne Saknussemm. They will bicker continually. They will eat Swedish meatballs in the cafe, though normally an Irish person, when offered meatballs, will recoil as if they’d been offered cat vomit. The husbands will try to get glimpses of the score of whatever match they’re being forced to miss in order to share this experience. The wives will compare costs with the prices in the Belfast store. Those who bring children will lose them, scold them or smack them, and often all three.

They will come home with the two items they went with the intention of buying and three other items that they didn’t. They will bicker again as they try to fit their flatpacks into their car, and will know deep in their souls that this squabbling is just a mild appetiser for the truly humunguous row that they’re going to have when they try to put the stuff together.

And two weekends later they will go again.

If this is rebellion, then so is wearing a suit and tie, queueing for new Harry Potter books or watching Big Brother (the fact that I do two out of those three things does not invalidate my argument).

Any way, I’m going to bring out my real rebel. I’m never going near the place.

Back On the Bike

Well, I’m back at work.

My one day off was enough to at least get me back on track. I’m still going to go and see somebody about it, but at least for the moment I have the whole thing under control, even if it’s just fractionally below the surface.

Everyone here in the office thinks I had a stomach bug, apart from GoldenEyes because, well she’s my best friend in here and I wouldn’t lie to her.

So apart from her and Mrs Tin the only people who know what was really up with me are you lot (my kids think I just had a day off). As a result, I’ve discovered another good thing about blogging – you get to say things that you wouldn’t get to say to people that you know in the real world, yet there are still people who, though they’ve never met you personally, care enough about the virtual you to offer support.

Yesterday I got encouragement and good wishes from people in three different countries. It really did help, and meant a lot.

Thanks guys.

Wrapped In Cotton Wool

I’ve nicked this from Lottie’s blog:


I read it last week and thought, wow, that’s really good, it sums up the way I feel with this depersonalisation thing, and then I pretty well forgot about it.

Until today.

I’m writing this post at home, at ten past three in the afternoon. In other words, I didn’t go to work today. I was awake ontime (in fact, as usual, I was awake at half past four) but I just couldn’t face another day of having everything happening miles away, while I carried on inside my head full of cotton wool. I feel a bit mortified now, I’ve rung in sick when there is nothing physically wrong with me, but just for once I decided to be selfish.

This thing has been going on for two years now, since the time when my blackouts were at their worst, and when we still had no idea what was causing them. One day I realised that I wasn’t really experiencing anything anymore, that I felt permanently numb as if slightly drunk. I realise that this was a defence mechanism, that my brain was shutting down my emotions so that I could continue to function, without sitting transfixed by terror at the fact that I might have something fatal. It’s the same numbing process that gets people through bereavements, and then it passes over time.

But mine hasn’t. I can still work, converse, write brilliant blogs, delude myself about my blogs, entertain and be entertained by the wonderful kids that I’ve been blessed with, but I’m not fully experiencing any of it.

And this morning I just gave up. The idea of another day in the office with noise going on all around me, but slightly muffled, of being asked sometimes why I’m so quiet, of facing two packed train journeys (I’m also now panicky in crowds since the blackouts) just felt like too much so, like a teenager with a hangover, I pulled a sickie.

Still, I’ve spoken to my doctor, and I’m going see someone next week (great, now I’m in therapy). And between that and the one day off, I already feel that I can cope better. I’ll have no problem going to work tomorrow, and having missed today I’ll be so busy tomorrow that it’ll just fly. Then next week I’ll hopefully begin the process of getting rid of this.

I’ve fought heart problems, and depression, and now I’m going to fight this.

Don’t worry, I’m going to win.

A Sort of Homecoming

Guess where I was yesterday….


U2 are back in Dublin, and the show was brilliant, but the main reason for this post is the photograph above. I am immensely proud of it, not just because I haven’t nicked it off Google Images like I usually do.

It’s because I took it with my phone.

As I have often said before, I am not exactly a child of the technological age. It is widely believed that the word “Luddite”, coined back in the 19th Century, means “anyone opposed to technological change”, but the exact meaning at the time was “a word nearly good enough to describe someone who’s crap at everything technical, which will have to do till Tinman comes along next century and really raises (or lowers) the bar of ineptitude, & we can start calling these people tinmen instead”.

I do have a digital camera, given to me by my adoring family last birthday. I asked for it because I thought it would be of use in my blog, but in fact every picture by me that’s ever appeared here has been taken on my phone. My digital camera is about to make it’s debut here, and perhaps you’ll see why:


That’s the only one of the 60 pictures taken on the camera yesterday that was taken by me. Once Mrs Tin saw that, it was taken away from me, and I was left to play with my mobile instead.

And so, when the blimp suddenly appeared behind the giant stage, I took that picture. On the screen of my mobile it looked grey and tiny, and I was astonished when I opened it on my computer this morning.

It’s better than anything Mrs Tin took on my camera. Well, apart from this one:


…or maybe this one…..


…or maybe, well, OK, any of them really.

Still, neither of us got what would have been the best picture of the night. As you can see, the area behind the stage was unoccupied, as Hill 16 at Croke Park has terraces instead of seats. This meant that all signs on the walls of the Hill were visible and at one point, as Bono was on the giant screen, the sign “Toilet” appeared above his head.

Even Bono himself would have laughed.

What’s In a Name

I see that in America (where else) Kelly Hildebrandt is to marry Kelly Hildebrandt.

Kelly Katrina Hildebrandt and Kelly Carl Hildebrandt met on Facebook after she decided to look up other people who had the same name as hers.

This story is sweet, though admittedly in a custard-type of way (nice but still slightly barf-making). She won’t have to change her name, need a new passport, or practice a new signature with her forename and his surname (we know you do it, girls). He won’t have to struggle to remember her name in the mornings. There is, however, one drawback that they don’t seem to have considered. In these modern times, when people no longer use Mr, Mrs or Ms, most of the letters that arrive at their house will be addressed simply to “Kelly Hildebrandt”.

They will end up opening each other’s post.

This has its drawbacks should you wish to (a) buy Leonard Cohen tickets as a surprise for her birthday, or (b) collect porn, or (c) get brochures about issuing divorce proceedings (did you notice how their relationship went steadily downhill in the space of just three letters of the alphabet there? Perhaps that says more about me than about them).

They say that they aren’t going to call any of their children “Kelly”. I think this shows a lack of committment to the whole joke.

Even the IBM machine in Catch-22 that promoted Corporal Major to Major after just one week in the army had more of a sense of the absurd.

Things That Go #X**!! in the Night

Women who bitterly (yet proudly) complain about the pain of childbirth, or men who scream girlishly when they get, er, themselves nipped by their fly (actually, is it not a contradiction to scream girlishly when caught in your fly?) have never been woken in middle of the night by a cramp in their middle toe.

I’m just saying.

The only good thing about it is that, like banging your head against a wall or listening to Dido, you feel so great when it finally stops. The trouble is, though, that even though the cramp itself has stopped you now have a pain in your calf that lasts for minutes more, a stiffness in your neck that lasts for hours, and a cold shoulder from fellow occupants of your house whom you have woken with your first yell that lasts for days.

Anyway, this morning I googled it (who needs doctors) and, among suggestions about putting your feet on a cold floor (been there, doesn’t work), eating bananas and taking potassium (how? by eating matches?) I found this suggestion :

“This really works with toe cramps and having done this after suffering toe cramps for months, I thought I would pass it on. I was on a yacht, coming down the steps barefoot. My middle toes started cramping and a Doctor on board told me to pinch my nose tightly on both sides. It works. Instant relief. Try it.”

This sounds so unlikely that I’d love it if it works, and I’m almost hoping I get another one soon so I can try it.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

A Boy at Heart

We grow up, and become more mature. We get ourselves up in the morning, and drag ourselves off to work as hard as we can at jobs that we have found for ourselves. We buy houses, find spouses, have children. These children think that we are the most most mature and sensible people they will ever meet. In short, we become adults.

And yet inside each of us adults there is still a schoolchild, a kid who finds the words “poo” and “bum” funny, and to whom the ultimate in humour is a person falling over.

Yesterday I watched the golf on telly, and ,while it was an amazing and unforgettable day, as 59-year old Tom Watson came so close to winning, what I will remember most was a remark by one of the commentators. Speaking about fellow commentator and former player Ken Brown, Mark James said:

“Well, it can get cold. That’s why Ken Brown used to soak his balls in hot water for an hour before going out.”

(Did you smirk when you read that? See?)

And last night in my local, when the highlights of the Tour de France came on (I don’t know why we put it on every evening, none of us have a clue what’s going on), I found myself thinking “I wonder do cyclists soak their balls in cold water for an hour after coming in” and realised my inner schoolchild is still going strong.

He’ll be around as long as I am.

Batteries Not Included

My post earlier this week about the battery in my pacemaker has reminded me of a topic that is (literally) close to my heart.

Every now and again I read about proposals to get rid of disposable, non-rechargeable batteries and replace them all with rechargeable batteries by such-and-such a date. The arguments for this course of action always refer to the environment, cost in the long term, and how disposable batteries add to landfill. Laudable sentiments all.

However, when you are part battery-operated, as I am (and might otherwise be landfill yourself), then such pleas on behalf of our planet carry a little less weight than they otherwise might. The battery which runs my pacemaker will last about eight years, and will then have to be removed and replaced. It is, in other words, both disposable and non-rechargeable, and I would have it no other way. When I try to imagine having a rechargeable one I get a disturbing mental image Wile E Coyotein my head. This involves my nipples, a pair of jump-leads and the motor from a Moulinex Food Processor (the pacemaker is quite small, after all, and anything stronger might have a Wile E Coyote effect).

Clearly, then, the only other answer is to come up with some method of powering me without a battery at all. A small nuclear device might work, though just writing that sentence aroused NIMBY feelings in me that I hadn’t realised were there. Just as people will support nuclear energy till they discover the plant is being built in their village, I think a nuclear battery is a good idea as long as it’s not wearing me as a dinner jacket.

I would be reluctant to eat anything that might make me burp, plus I’d have an afterlife longer than Jacob Marley. Also, I have enough problems at airport X-Rays as it is without being a person carrying an internal bomb.

The Greens’ three main alternative suggestions all have their merits. I could be wind-powered (I’d have to eat beans – great, now I’m doing fart jokes), I could be wave-powered (they might give me a grant towards a jacuzzi) or I could be solar-powered (three trips a year to the Canaries, paid for on my Medical Card).

I’ve just looked up “alternative energy” in Wikipedia (the fount of all wisdom) and met for the first time the phrase “bug excrement”.  Apparently scientists are altering the DNA of bugs (seriously, guys, do you never watch Science Fiction movies? They should form one whole module in your course) so that they can convert agricultural waste into fuel. Really? How much poo do bugs produce? Just how big will the power stations have to be?

Anyway, if they’re thinking of using it to power pacemakers, they can piss right off. While I don’t exactly treat my body as a temple, I’ve no intention of filling it with earwig-shit.

Finally, of course, there is alcohol. Cars have been run on ethanol for a number of years now, and I’m hoping that people are working on ways of expanding the use of alcohol as an energy source. Indeed, I’m hoping that they have been carrying out experiments on real people in real pubs, and that I myself have been unconsciously participating (in all the possible meanings of that phrase) in these experiments.

If they can find a way of making me run on Guinness, I might just live forever.

Blame it on the Buggy

Last year, here in Ireland we were grudgingly impressed by the sheer gall of ex-FAS Chief Executive Rody Molloy, who claimed that, since he was “entitled” to travel first class to New York, by not availing of this option he could use the saving to bring his wife along, and we taxpayers should be happy with that.

In the UK there has been reluctant admiration for the creativity of their politicians, with their expense claims for moats and duck houses, and their ability to pass their “second residence” designation back and forth like a frisbee.

When it comes to true corruption, however, we in these islands are still rank amateurs. Step proudly forward India.

Two three-star army generals there had 27 golf carts paid for by the army by passing them off as military vehicles.

Golf buggyThe first guy bought five of them, calling them “motorised carts for medical patients” and had them delivered to various hospitals before moving them to several golf courses. His successor bought the other 22, listing them as  “track alignment reconnaissance vehicles (TARVs) for sapper units”.

Bizarrely, instead of admitting the wrongdoing, and punishing those involved, the ministry of defence defended (well, that’s what they do) the golf cart purchases to the Comptroller and Auditor General, claiming that they “facilitated the noiseless reconnaissance in close proximity to the enemy and helped in quick laying of track material”.

In my opinion, the CAG should call their bluff, and during the next military engagment in India (and they’re not that infrequent) he should ensure that the two generals concerned, and any other officials involved in their justification, are sent out to fight in the buggies. They may indeed “facilitate noiseless reconnaissance”, but the generals just might find that this advantage is outweighed by the fact that they are sitting on a battlefield in a glorified supermarket trolley that has no armour, no weaponry, and a top speed of nine miles an hour.

A golf cart is not a military vehicle. Unless, of course, all the years I’ve been misunderstanding the meaning of the phrase “Hitler’s bunker”.