Monthly Archives: August 2009

Unaccustomed As I Am

Back in the 80’s and 90’s I used to play cricket.

For many people that sentence is almost a confession of perversion. It is the equivalent of admitting that I eat cat-food, or wear women’s clothes, or like Dido. At Irish AA meetings, when people stand and say “I am Tinman, and I am an alcoholic”, the other members all say “Not to worry Tinman, at least you don’t play cricket”.

But there you go. Because my dad had worked in England he understood the game, and when we were kids it was always on the TV, so even though we were busy playing with soldiers/crayons/dirt we seemed to absorb the game through some sort of osmosis. Certainly I’ve never known a time when I didn’t understand the rules. Anyway, at the age of 27, when I stopped playing football due to a persistent ankle injury and a belief that I was getting too old (at 27 I thought I was old. Gobshite.), I took up playing cricket instead.

Taking up cricket in the belief that it’s a gentler game than football was a mistake, by the way. In about 20 years of playing football I damaged the aforementioned ankle and broke a thumb. In 11 years of playing cricket I broke two fingers and the same thumb again, lost the nail off one toe, and was hit in the head so often that I reckon it helped me survive the later blackouts and falls, since by that stage my skull had the consistency of concrete.

Time passed, Tinkids arrived, and eventually I stopped playing cricket too, apart from maybe one friendly game each season, and since the pacemaker I stopped even that, since being hit in that part of the chest (and I just know it would happen) would not be a fun experience. So I’ve lost contact really with the club, and the many people in there with whom I played, which is a shame. But of course many of them have left too, and the club is full of new members (I look up the first team’s results in the paper, and I know about two of them), so if, for example, you were to speak at their Annual Dinner on behalf of the guests, you wouldn’t know who did what, who to make fun of, what to say.

And on Friday next that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I did speak at it once before, in 1993, giving the club’s speech in reply to the guests, and I’m not bragging when I say that I was very good. This is because I’d been planning in my head for about four years what I would say if I ever was asked to speak, and was able to stuff in every joke I’d ever heard, ever. It went really well, and I never went to the dinner again, since I knew if I kept going I’d be asked one day to do it again, and I knew I could never match it (Mrs Tin’s birthday is in September, and that was always my excuse for not being able to go, and none of the club seemed to notice that her birthday could be any date between the 4th and 17th, and was always on a Friday).

Anyway, on Friday afternoon last, just as I was mentally winding down at work, the current President of the Club rang me (how he got my number I’ve no idea) and asked would I speak this year. I said no, I didn’t know anyone there and wouldn’t know what to say, and he said that didn’t matter and besides, he’d tried everyone else. It’s hard to fight blunt honesty like that, and I was already wavering when he said “I thought of you because of your speech all those years ago. I’ve never forgotten it”.

And that was me hooked. Flattery acts on the insecure like shiny beads did with the Red Indians, who would then sell New York to the White Man for a dollar, so I sold my soul to the club for a free dinner.

Now, of course, I’m regretting it already. I really don’t know what to say, I’ve only five days to think of something, and I have to warn you all that my posts may be dull and wooden over the next few days (insert your own smart remark here) as all my creative energy is directed toward producing something that won’t be greeted with indifferent silence.

Although if I’m really bad, at least I know I’ll never be asked again.

And The Big Limousine Disappeared

On Saturday night in my local we were watching the World Athletics Championships on BBC2. When they ended the BBC Proms Classical Music programme came on, and we watched it for a while. This is because we are a cultured lot, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the barman was outside changing a keg and none of us could reach the remote control behind the bar.

Anyway, watching it reminded me of two questions I’ve always wanted to know the answer to:

1. Does “La Donna é Mobilé” mean “The Woman is Moving”?

and, if it does, then

2. Does that mean that the aria was the original version of  “for 24 years I’ve been living next door to Alice”?

I’m not really very deep.

No Brainer

Polar BearA report on the BBC News website claims that polar bears’ skull sizes have decreased by between 2 and 9 per cent over the last century.

The report blames “physical stress”, and quotes the lead scientist as saying “Because the ice is melting, the bears have to use much more energy to hunt their prey”.

I have read that sentence a couple of times, and there is only one possible meaning. The bears are running around more, and as a result their heads are smaller.

In other words, exercise makes your brain shrink.

So I no longer feel envious of Tinson1 as he gets up at 6.30 to do his morning run. I’m no longer embarrassed by my flabby abs, my fecky pecs, and my abundance of moobs (the fact that I’ve a pacemaker means that I have three). I’m no longer ashamed of the fact that I’m not a member of a gym.

In fact, I feel quite big-headed about it.

What’s Brown and Has a Trunk?

…  a mouse coming back from holiday.

I’m in my second day back at work after my week off stuck at home, since we can’t really afford to go anywhere nice after Tinson1 turned out to be surprisingly bright and we’ve to pay €1,585 next month for him to start in Trinity.

I’ve just read that the Space Shuttle, due to take off this morning, is bringing six mice to the International Space Station.  The report says:

Although Nasa has flown rodents on the shuttle and station previously, they have never been left behind for a long stay in space. The mice are scheduled to return aboard Nasa’s next shuttle mission in November.”

It’s a bit galling when mice have a more exciting holiday than you have.

Normal Service is Resumed

I’m back. Did you miss me?

I was off last week but, as I said, wasn’t going anywhere, so I fully intended to keep posting, as I knew my massive readership (no, I’m not calling any of you fat) would pine away if I didn’t.

I did Monday and Tuesday, went to see Inglourious Basterds on Wednesday (with a friend who loves the movies and who needed cheering up. I hate violent films and still can’t get some of the images out of my head – and they weren’t even the gory ones, coz I had my eyes closed for them), came home, wrote half a post about the film, had to turn the computer off for some reason, and didn’t turn it back on for the rest of the week. Instead I watched the Ashes cricket all day and the World Athletics Championships all evening, and I’m only back at a computer now because, well, I’m back at work.

There wouldn’t have been a lot to say, anyway. Life with the Tinsons, while Mrs Tin & Tingirl were away, consisted mostly of  monosyllables and pizza, and we’re at that time of the summer when there is no real news in the paper to get animated about. At this time of year newspapers have about ten pages less than usual in them, though costing the same amount, and contain variations upon just three different types of article:

The Human Interest Article:

A letter posted to Mary Murphy of Swinford, Co Mayo in 1943 has been delivered to her – sixty-six years late. The letter, from Joe O’Toole of Kiltimagh, Co Can’t-remember-what-county-that’s-in-and-can’t-be-arsed-looking-it-up, contained a proposal of marriage, as the two were “walking out” at the time. Mary, a spinster, has decided to accept the proposal, which is unfortunate as Joe by now has a wife, five children and seventeen grandchildren. “Well, I thought the old cow had ignored my letter,” explained Joe.

Or, the Scientific Claptrap Article:

New research has shown that toddlers who throw a tantrum and lie on the floor screaming in supermarkets are more likely to dive on the pitch feigning injury during football matches. This is due to an unusual gene, which scientists are calling “The Ronaldo Gene” (he’s left United, so he’s fair game).

Or, the Weather-Related Article:

People who have complained that this is the wettest summer on record have been told  to stop whining by the Met Office. People who decided to have a (wait for the horrible new word) “staycation” (aaargh!!!) in Ireland have moaned about the ordeal of being stuck in a tiny caravan staring out at the rain, while surrounded by four squabbling children and a dog. Met Eireann have pointed out, however, that there have been worse summers, citing in particular the one where a Mr Noah and his family spent a six-week staycation stuck in a tiny ark (it should have been bigger, but none of them had been sure what a cubit was) with two of every creature and, by the end of the holiday, 46,000 rabbits.

So, it’s just as well I didn’t post anything.

One of His Five a Day

When I said yesterday that caring for the Tinsons was going to be a doddle, I wasn’t kidding.

When I got up this morning Tinson1 had gone running, and this was on the kitchen table:


Of course, I know it can be spread on bread, but the loaf  of bread I so lovingly baked bought for them them is still unopened. The inescapable conclusion therefore, Watson, is that Tinson1’s breakfast consisted of a couple of spoons of that chocolatey stodge, straight from the jar.

The jar claims that it’s packed with over 50 hazelnuts, which is at least something. Its other ingredients are: sugar, veg oil, fat-reduced cocoa (?), skimmed milk powder (what’s the point of all the fat-reducing and skimming, when the first ingredient is “sugar”?), emulsifier (to paint your insides nutella-colour), vanillin (nah, me neither, perhaps it’s a mixture of vanilla and penicillin – just think, an ice-cream that kills bacteria, the ultimate comfort food), and, finally, whey powder, in the only occurence in history where the word ‘whey’ is not accompanied by the words ‘little’, ‘miss’ and ‘muffet’.

He ate all that, and then went running.

Truly, the young have stomachs of iron.

Boy Zone

We’ve been minding our two nieces, aged 12 and 9, for the last two weeks while Mrs Tin’s sister was in Oz (no, I mean Australia, I’m not suggesting that she’s the Wicked Witch of the West. Honestly). Anyway, she’s coming home this weekend, so Mrs Tin has taken the nieces down home to Sligo (which, now I come to think of it, is the West). Tingirl has gone with them, and they’re going to stay for a few days, so, like the attendance at a Star Trek convention, the Tinhouse is currently one-hundred-percent male.

So I’m back house-husbanding again. Again I’m discovering that objects that we think are inanimate are actually mischievious bastards with a vicious sense of humour. When I approach the sitting room to collect crockery for the dishwasher one cup will be delegated the task of hiding behind a chair, and when I go to the kitchen it will then climb back onto the centre of the coffee-table to stare accusingly at me when I come back in. (And even as I’m typing this I’ve just noticed a knife on the kitchen table that I’m typing at, though I collected everything up about ten minutes ago). Sometimes I swear I can hear giggling from the dishwasher.

Clouds too play hide and seek, rushing to glower blackly overhead whenever they hear me open the back door with a pile of washing, and then vanishing again as soon as I decide not to leave the clothes out.

In general I’ve a more laid-back approach than last April, when Mrs Tin went to her cousin’s wedding in Barcelona. Then the kids were at school, & I’d to make sure they got up in time, had the right books and clean uniforms, and were fed a comforting and nutritious meal when they came home. In other words, every appliance in the kitchen (washing machine, cooker, fire extinguisher) was on at the same time, all the time.

Now it’s the summer, the Tinsons get up ridiculously late, and then vanish either to their friends’ houses or their rooms. And since there are no girls in the house, there’s no real point in making a big effort with the cooking, since the Tinsons would eat lino if I put it in front of them, as long as it came with chips.

In other words, the pizza shop is going to make a fortune.

I Don’t Think So

Tinson2’s friend was here yesterday, and at one stage as I walked through the living-room they were on the computer. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of the word in the Google search-box and got all the way to the kitchen before my brain, which had been thumping frantically on the inside of my forehead with it’s fist, finally got me to listen to what it was trying to tell me. I walked back to the living-room.

“Why are you looking up Sky-Diving?” I asked.

“We want to see how old you have to be before you can do it”, said Tinson2.

“Ah crap, it says you have to be eighteen,” said Tinson2’s Friend. “Wait though, it says you can do it if you’re sixteen as long as you have parental permission.”

“Great,” said Tinson2, “only a year & a half to go (they’re 14 & a bit).

“I think you’ll find,” I said, “that the most important part of what TS2’sF just said is not the word ‘sixteen’, but rather the two words ‘parental permission’.”

As this sank in they became crestfallen so quickly that I could actually see their crests falling. Then I saw a thought jump into both their heads so clearly that it was as if I could actually see a light-bulb turn on above them.

“Listen,” I said, “I want you both to promise me something. If you know somewhere where you can get really good fake ID, I want you to promise me you’ll just use it to go drinking.”

Sometimes parenting is just about accepting the lesser of two evils.


Just after I wrote this I went off on a blog-tour, and found that LaughyKate had written this.


Short Stuff (Stop Calling Me That)

Some things that happened this week:

  • An Irish Rail staff member has got on my train each of the last two evenings. His bright orange jacket proclaims him to be part of their “Revenue Protection Unit”. That’s right, he’s a ticket-checker.
  • At my friend’s 50th Birthday Party last weekend I discovered that one of his sons is called “Queue” by his mates, because that’s what you get if you type “Steve” into predictive text. His friend Amy (boy, box, cow) is not a predictive text fan.
  • I’m taking this afternoon off to take part in a sailing race, even though I’m a complete landlubber (i.e., a Chinese man who polishes South African currency). It’s a charity race, where each yacht is crewed by 4 experienced sailors and 3 novices. I did it last year, and it was great fun.
  • Finally… back in 1970 we went on a school tour to Penrith, in the Lake District in England, but I don’t remember it being as much fun as this…..


Er, sorry about that… not only have I this afternoon off, but I’ve taken next week off as well (not that I’m going anywhere or anything), so I think I’m a little giddy.

About A Boy

Yesterday was Leaving Cert results day, so my post should have been about Tinson1 and how he got on, but hey, I had mental issues to write about, and I don’t have a whole category called “It’s All About Me” for nothing.

Anyway, he did fine, he got 470 points. I got 26, which gives the impression that he’s 18 times cleverer than I was, but of course the system has changed.  Back when I did it (in quill and ink, on parchment) there were simple A’s, B’s and C’s, and you got 5 points for an A, 4 for a B, etc. Now there is A1, A2, A3, etc, and the whole thing is much more complicated. Funnily, if you use the simplified version then he got exactly the same number of each grade as I did all those years ago, though in very different subjects.

Anyway, he has enough points for Trinity (just down the road from my office. “Hey, we’ll be able to do lunch”, I said yesterday, just to see his attempts at hiding the flash of horror that shot across his face), though not for the Theoretical Physics course he was thinking of. This means that my recurring nightmare, where the world explodes in a fiery molten ball while he stands in his lab going “Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!” (he’s not laughing specifically at you there, Mwa), will not now take place.

He is planning now on taking General Science. As a scientist there are many directions in which his career might go – he might invent a small device which will make cars run on baby-sick (a never-dwindling resource), or he might become one of those No-Shit-Sherlock scientists who, after two years of research, produce a report stating that men spend more time than women thinking about boobs.

Either way, that’s all in the future. As for today, he’s delighted with himself, and we’re as proud of him as usual.