Monthly Archives: August 2009

Show Us Your Nuts

Any potential suspense attached to how I got on at the loony bin Psychiatrist this morning has largely been dispelled by the very existence of this post. For it’s pretty obvious that, unless I’m typing this with my nose (and God knows I wouldn’t be any slower), I am not presently  in a straitjacket.

The whole experience was, well, an experience, and oddly very enjoyable.

My preparation began subconsciously last night when, while left in the house for a while on my own, I ended up watching an episode of Monk. It was only while he was sitting with his shrink that I realised that this probably wasn’t the best thing to be watching (and also realised, sadly, that he’s one of the TV characters I most identify with). Anyway, this morning I got up (got an extra 90 minutes lie-in too) and set off for a morning of detailed analysis.

By me. Everything that happened was carefully examined to see what clues, if any, could be gleaned. What should I wear? (“Will I try and look casual, professional, frazzled”)? My appointment was in Stillorgan at 8.30, & I’d to get there by car. Since my normal trip is to the city centre at 7, and I get there by train, I’d no idea what the traffic might be like. Imagine if I got there late (“what would that tell him about me?”). To be safe I left at 7.30, and was there at ten to eight (“how anal will he think that is?”).

I went onto the building (known as the Stress Clinic), explained to the large black Security Guard who I was to see, and he escorted me (“why? because I’m dangerous?”) to a seat outside the doctor’s door. Here I suffered the only really uncomfortable experience of the whole morning – there was a girl already in with him, a girl with one of those, “like, you know, D4” accents, and I could hear what she was saying. I thought of listening to my iPod (“what if he catches me? Will he think I’m withdrawing from reality?”) but decided instead to look at the magazines. These consisted of: 3 Hello!s, one OK!, one Look!, one Bazaar (“why doesn’t Bazaar have an exclamation mark? Is their Editor depressed?”), and a copy of the Irish Medical Journal. This told me that either (a) there are far more mad women than mad men or that (b) his secretary buys his magazines.

I flicked through a couple of these (Jennifer Aniston has a new boyfriend – who knew?) and eventually the girl came out. I met my doctor, handed over 250 euro (told you I was mad) and I was welcomed for the first time into a Psychiatrist’s room.

He sat in a chair, and I was directed to a comfy 2-seater sofa (not a couch, which I must admit, being a huge fan of stereotype, that I was slightly disappointed with). There was a five-cent coin on the seat, which had obviously fallen out the the pocket of my predecessor (“or had it? What will it tell him if I pick it up?” By now I was ridiculously paranoid). I left it there – sat on it, in fact – and in a quiet and reassuring voice he asked me to tell my story.

Which I did. He impressed me several times at his perception (when I told him about my blackout/pacemaker/heart problems, he said “ah, did they tell you it was Stokes-Adams Syndrome?”, and when I said no, they never mentioned that, he Google’d it and there it was exactly as if someone had followed me around for eighteen months).

He says I don’t have depersonalisation, I have “derealisation” (and again, Google backs him up), and has started me on tablets to try & calm inner anxieties & to combat the ridiculously small amount of sleep I get each night.

I’ve to see him again in six weeks, but I really am hopeful that he’s putting me on the right track.

Dead Fed Up

Yesterday’s post about Honey, to whom the angels came “one day when he was not at home/when she was there and all the alone”, has made me wonder.

Do you reckon there’s a corner of heaven where all the song characters who were born just to die young and tragically so that callous songsters could milk the royalties hang out together?

I like to think there is.

Somewhere up there there’s a bar called “The Falling Piano” where Honey, the Leader of the Pack, the guy from “Seasons in the Sun”, Joanie from “Hello, This Is Joanie” and Billy- who was told not to be a hero – all meet every night to lament about the virus/bullet/runaway truck that cut short their lives.

Now there’s a bar where you don’t want to have to listen to the sing-song.

Pavarotti – Notti

I may have mentioned once or twice that I drink in the bar rather than the lounge of my local pub. There is a pool of about 40 people who form the clientele of the bar, predominantly male and middle-aged, and on any evening I can just turn up, knowing that were will be between two and twenty people there, and that there will be quiet and interesting conversation. Every so often, though, someone will decide that what would make the evening just perfect is a good singsong.

These are not nights for people with a nervous disposition, or with anything resembling musical taste. The standard of singing in my local is patchy at best. Participants generally fall into one of three categories: those who sound like a grizzly bear who’s just eaten a broken bottle; those who sound like a hyena who’s just been punched in the nuts and, worst of all, those who sound like Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia.

Part of their problem is a widespread belief that quality is synonymous with volume. Thus a man who quietly sings a lovesong (usually about his mother) will be listened to with polite indifference, but a man who yells out some song about drinkin’ or fightin’, making only occasional bouncing contact with the actual tune like a dodgem car will be encouraged throughout with whoops and shouts of “Good on Ya”.

It is widely known in the pub that I am not a fan of these shoutfests, because of my often-expressed opinion that there are only two parts to any song, namely the words and the tune, and if you’re ignoring the latter and don’t know more than half of the former then you can’t really be said to be singing the song at all. We have reached a compromise, though. They have promised not to keep saying “now it’s Tinman’s turn to sing”, and in turn I have agreed to desist from making howling-dog noises during especially loud efforts, and have also promised not to repeat the evening when I pointedly took out my iPod and listened to it.

One of the guys, a bloke called Walty, has a voice very different to the others – very light, and with that peculiar tremble that some people can achieve, and which someone (OK, it was me) has christened Walty’s Warble. His taste is more eclectic than the others, and last night he  sang Bobby Goldsboro’s song Honey. Well, he sang some of it, before reprising the end of the first verse halfway through the second and eventually tailing off into mumbling silence as he realised he didn’t know as much of the song as he thought he did. I, unfortunately, know most of it, and have now been carrying it around in my head all day, and may yet have to resort to you-know-what.

Honey is a unique song in that it is both very sad and also wildly and unintentionally funny. For example, in any real relationship the line “she crashed the car and she was sad/and so afraid that I’d be mad” would surely be followed, not by “but what the heck”, but with “and she was dead right”.

My favourite line, though, is “and I surprised her with a puppy”. There are a number of possible scenes that this invokes, including one that is not suitable for a gentle blog such as this, but whenever I hear the line I picture Honey in the bathroom, having one of those long girly baths that involve oils, candles and lots and lots of bubbles, and just as she is almost asleep Bobby silently opens the door, hurls the puppy in, and shuts it again.

I can hear the yelps, shrieks and splashes even as I type.

Xanadu

One of my personal favourite posts since I started blogging is this one (Yep, the repeats continue) about the demotion of the planet Pluto. It’s not just because it attracted a really serious comment from someone in the States who obviously felt far more aggrieved about the situation than I did. It’s because I woke up that Saturday morning knowing exactly what I was going to write about that day, and with about half of the post already formulated in my head. Many of my posts look as if I’ve written them in my sleep, but that one I actually had.

I mention this today because of a strange postscript to yesterday’s post. As I said, I woke up shaking just as the football match was about to start, but also realised that in my dream I was also composing a blog about the match even as I was waiting for it to begin. I was writing about the four ancient defenders on my team, and the sound their bones made as they started to jog onto the pitch, and in my head when I woke, barely hanging together like a dandelion on a windy day, was this paragraph:

“And as they started to run, the creaking started. Oh God, what a sound! At first it was audible only to dogs, who felt it in their heads like a trillion nails being scraped along a trillion blackboards. Then it spread rumblingly around the world. Whales out in the deepest ocean suddenly felt as if Enya had learned to sing Wagner in whalesong and , bemoaning the fact that they had neither ears, nor indeed fins long enough to reach them if they had, resorted instead to trying to blot out the noise by covering their blow-holes with their tails, which merely caused them to turn blue (except for the Blue Whales, of course, who went a rather disturbing blackberry colour). As the sound grew in intensity and shriekiness, in Finland Bjork could be seen on the balcony of her apartment, frantically scribbling down ideas for lyrics for her new album.”

I’ve just about managed to get that written down before I forgot most of it. I’ve left it exactly as it was, even though I know that “shriekiness” is not a word (and I have my doubts about “rumblingly”), and that Bjork is from Iceland and not Finland.

And this morning I woke to find that I had made up the following joke in my sleep:

“Fans of Ferrari were devastated this morning to learn that their new driver is not, as previously reported, exWorld champion Michael Schumacher, but in fact former US jockey Willie Shoemaker”.

Ok, it’s not going to make comedians all over the world bow in grudging admiration, but it’s still not bad for a person who went to bed at 4.30.

I feel like a bit like Coleridge, who famously woke to find that he had written the poem Kubla Khan in his sleep, with the main differences being that (a) he was out of his head on opium and (b) his poem is actually very good.

I may just have to give up eating cheese.

The Dream Team

Last night I had the weirdest dream. I was captain of an office football team, and we were about to play an important match.

I had been chosen as captain because I was the youngest, and I was to be the main player in midfield, because I was the quickest. This would be fine if in my dream I was once again in my twenties but no, I was exactly as I am now.

The rest of the team were, well, ancient. Our goalkeepers name was McAuley. I know that because it was printed on the back of the violently pink padded anorak that he wore as a jersey. Above that he wore an ordinary plain tweed cap. I can still picture all of the back four. They had a combined age of infinity. One of them looked like Eric Sykes, the rest looked much older. Their hair was grey but their skin was much, much greyer. As they gathered at the changing room door they still wore jackets and ties. Indeed, I noticed that all of us were in street shoes and had our trouser legs rolled up. There were eight of us.

“Where are the three new guys?” I heard myself asking. “They said they’d meet us in the bar,” I was told. Sure enough, the dressing room led out directly into a crowded and very smoky bar. The three new players stood up, cigarettes and whiskey glasses in hand. “You can tell this was a long time ago,” I said rather bizarrely, explaining the lack of a smoking ban to my sleeping self.

We all headed out onto the pitch, my team moving with a quiet and dignified air of fatalism that was painful to watch, and be part of. The pitch suddenly became a rather small indoor hall, and I realised with a sigh that our ball control in our street shoes was not going to be tight enough for this pitch.

Our opposition were a type rather than a collection of individuals. They had a football strip that matched, in a smoky mustard yellow. All of them were blond.  Their captain made his way towards me. I extended my hand towards his, having removed the fingernail from my middle finger like a thimble before I did so. At the last second he held out his left hand instead of his right, because his right hand now held a large railway sleeper, for no obvious reason.

The referee tossed a coin and I called heads. The coin clearly landed as heads, but the other captain said “right, we’ll kick off “. This left me with choice of ends. We were indoors with no wind and no slope, so there was no advantage to playing either way, but I was annoyed by having been cheated out of the toss, so I opted to change ends, making each goalkeeper walk to the opposite end of the pitch. “I’ve always wanted to do that”, I said to the referee. I looked at his face (he was ancient too) and realised that this had been a mistake. I could expect no favours from him now.

The ball was placed on the centre spot, my team moved slowly and painfully into position and … I woke up.

I woke up panting with fear, yet also almost sobbing with relief that we would not now have to play the match. I just knew that awful, gut-screwing humiliations would have befallen us had the dream gone any further.

What was it about? Who knows. We’ve all had the walking-into-an-exam-having-done-no-study dream, and I’m particularly partial to the waiting-to go-on-stage-in-a-play-without-having-learnt-my-lines dream, but this was somehow scarier. In this one I’d done nothing wrong, and indeed neither had my team, but I could tell that this fact was not going to help us in the slightest.

As I wrote that last sentence I realised that perhaps it was suppressed anger and helplessness at how we ordinary citizens are being fucked even though it wasn’t us that did anything wrong. Perhaps it was the fact that I read last week that the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank reckons that it was the fault of small shareholders that they lost all their money in the banks, and his brazen denial that the banks have been bailed out in any way, or that it was his job to have prevented them from acting irresponsibly (if it is well known that the Government will not let any bank fail, then it is the job of the Central Bank to make sure that the banks do not risk this happening. Antone who doesn’t see that as self-evident should not work in the Central Bank).

Perhaps it’s the fact that this twit still has his job, when so many other people have lost theirs. Perhaps it’s the fact that, less one year after the banks ran screaming to us for protection, they are now putting up interest rates for ordinary borrowers, because they’re losing money through writing off loans to big borrowers. Perhaps it’s the fact that not one senior person in either the banks or their supposed regulators has been fired over what has befallen us (being allowed to resign on a large pension does not count).

If this really is what the dream was about, then the sleeping me is a lot more deep than the waking one.

Couch Potato

Bethlem Royal Hospital in London is apparently one of the foremost psychiatric hospitals in Europe. Unfortunately, because of its long and sometimes inhumane history, and because it gave us the word bedlam, it will forever be associated with the very worst type of lunatic asylum – as Wikipedia says, “the epitome of what the term “madhouse” connotes to the modern reader”.

I’m sure every city has its equivalent. In Dublin it’s St John of God Hospital. While it does  wonderful work in the field of mental health, anyone who ever grew up in Dublin shudders when they hear the words, and can still hear elderly aunts and grannies speaking of some unfortunate and saying “and the poor divil ended up in the John O’ Gods”.

I mention this because, as I wrote last week, I’ve decided to take further steps to try & rid myself of the depersonalised feeling which has dogged me for the last two years. My wonderful GP has referred me to a psychiatrist, and, because I work in the city centre, recommended me one in Exchequer Street. When I rang, though, his secretary said that he was quite heavily booked in that clinic at the moment, but that I could have an appointment next Wednesday in his other clinic.

Guess where that is. My aunts and grannies would be quite proud.

Since I’m just interested in getting better, I don’t care in the least. I actually think it’s quite funny, though Mrs Tin is a bit concerned about one thing. She knows well that I still refer to 2001, when I had a breakdown caused by stress and depression, as “the year I went mad”. One of my oldest friends is having his 50th birthday party tomorrow, and a lot of people we haven’t seen for years will be there (some of them haven’t heard the whole Tinman/blackouts/pacemaker saga yet. They have no idea of the treat they have in store).  Anyway, she has forbidden me from saying, when asked what I’m up to these days, that “I’m a mental patient in John O’Gods”.

So I won’t. Probably.

Smokes, Daggers… and Darts

I read that our glorious ex-leader Bertie Ahern is to become a sports columnist for the News of the World.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people have rushed to give work and therefore credibility to a man who basically lost his job because his tales of how he came by large and unexplained sums of money became so laughable that even his own party could no longer stand by him. He has written for the Irish Times, presented the Gaelic games programme The Road to Croker and had the four-part series Bertie screened about him, and indeed appeared in it.

In fact, at one stage he was on TV so often that I suggested that he was to get his own TV Channel (what? yes, I’m doing repeats. It’s the summer, that’s what happens. Haven’t you seen the TV schedules?). Most sycophantic and cringemaking of all though, was his appearance as Guest Panellist Number One in a series of , well, one, on RTE’s soccer programme The Premiership. During this he referred to Liverpool’s Michael Owen (then a gigantic star, at the height of his powers) as Michael Owens, so expect his new column to feature several references to golfer Tiger Wood.

And my reference to Tiger hints at the root of the Bertster’s possible future problems. We know he loves the Dublin Gaelic Football Team, we know he supports Manchester United, and his evidence to the Mahon Tribunal – that large sterling lodgements to his bank accounts were the proceeds of horse-racing winnings – tell us that his knowledge of the Sport of Kings is beyond compare (unless he was lying to the Tribunal, and surely not). However, a knowledge of three sports doth not a sports journalist make. Does he think, for example, that England should play an extra seam bowler in the Ashes test at Yelena in Bertie postHeadingley tomorrow? Were the All Blacks wrong to try to run the ball from everywhere against South Africa last Saturday (sorry LK)? And what now of the chances of my beloved Yelena in the pole vault at the World Athletics Championships next week, now that  Svetlana Feofanova has had to withdraw because of a leg injury?

I reckon that I know a fair bit about ten or twelve different sports, but wouldn’t presume for one second that I’d have enough knowledge to write a sports column. As long as he receives money and is in the public eye, however, Bertie seems quite happy to take on a job that he’s not going to be any good at.

After all, as the 400,000 people now on the dole will tell you, it won’t be the first time.

A Fond Farewell

Yesterday I was at the funeral of one of the guys who drinks in my local. I’ve been to loads of them over the 24 years I’ve been drinking there, of course, as one by one the stolid and silent old men who sipped their pints of Guinness at the bar died off, but this guy was 53, and the first of our generation to go (I’m refusing to consider the notion that WE are now the old guys at the bar).

Anyway, it was both sad and lovely. His photo was on the coffin and, though I was two rows from the back of the church (there was an enormous attendance) I could see his huge smile, which is what everyone will remember most about him. The priest described him as “having a great sense of humour, but someone who took no prisoners” which made the whole church laugh as it summed him up perfectly. He was loud, argumentative and very, very funny.

A girl played the harp throughout, and not just church music – she did a version of Sting’s Fields of Gold that made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. He had lived abroad for the last few years but when he became sick he returned home and stayed with his sister for his last few months, and his niece – a girl of about 18 – read a poem that she wrote about his time in their house. When she finished, all around the church you could see the rest of the guys my age from the pub staring fixedly downwards so that no-one could see the tears in our eyes.

And last night we all told our stories about him – his jokes, his rows, the relentless way he used to wind up the bar manager over Manchester United.

I’m not really sure why I’m posting this – I’m not trying to make any point, but this morning I was talking to my dad and he asked did I have a nice day yesterday and I said “yes – er, though I was at a funeral” and I realised that, strangely, it had been a very nice day.

It would be lovely to think that Dave saw it all, and saw how popular he was.