Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Lost Plot

Professor Robert Langdon stared at the rows of small tablets arranged before him, each with a letter, symbol or number engraved thereon.

Katherine Solomon, his third girlfriend in as many books, watched on in admiration, taking in his firm jawline, taut biceps and magnificent physique – so typical of a, well, historian.

Langdon studied the tablets, occasionally carefully pressing one in an order pre-ordained long ago. At the end he chose one with the enticing and thrilling inscription “Enter”, tapped it delicately, and Google found the website he was looking for.

“Got it!” he exclaimed proudly. Katherine sighed with suppressed desire. She would have run her fingers through his wiry hair and suggested they go someplace private, but the chapters in the book were too short for stuff like that.

“See what I’ve found?” he said. Katherine stared at the computer screen in front of them. At the top it had the words “Worth Doing Badly”. In the article below a man seemed to be telling the World-at-Large that he was going to a football match on Saturday, in the optimistic and mistaken belief that the W-at-L would find this interesting.

“Er, it’s a blog,” she said.

Langdon was impressed. “Oh, you’ve heard of them,” he said. “It is indeed a blog, from the old Sumatran word ‘bellock’, meaning short message.”

“Really?” said Katherine, “I thought it was short for ‘Weblog’.”

“A lot of people make that mistake,” said Langdon. “Thomas Jefferson, one of the first and greatest Freemasons, was actually the first to use a Bellock. Indeed, he wrote under the pen-name ‘Hilaire Belloc’, meaning ‘short witty message’. He used to write mostly in limericks.”

Katherine, who was fairly certain that Belloc had been a real person, felt the first tiny seeds of doubt.

“Anyway,” said Langdon, “these ‘blogs’ are now hiding among all the other websites on the Internet. They are the main method of communication of one of the oldest and most secret societies on earth – the Geeks, founders of modern civilisation.”

“Wasn’t that the Greeks?”

“Alas, what damage can be done by a simple misspelling. Most people think they know of Ancient Greece, but in fact the country was called Geece.”

“You’re kidding,” said Katherine, who was beginning to understand why Robert’s previous two girlfriends had left him.

“Indeed not,” said Langdon. “The Geeks were once the most powerful and knowledgeable race on the planet. Then all the other major civilisations – the Romans, the Spartans, the Preposterons, the Madeupnames – joined forces against them, and they were driven underground. But they have remained a secret society all these years. It is rumoured that their mantra is ‘the Geek shall inherit the Earth’. They conspire all the time to rule the world again.”

“Isn’t that a bit far-fetched?”

“Is it? Compared to a man being the Son of God? Compared to Re-incarnation? Compared to Santa Claus?”

“Er, I don’t think anyone actually believes in Santa,” muttered Katherine, but Langdon wasn’t listening.

“Unfortunately for them, I am on their trail, and now I have found the Blog of their leader.”

Katherine stared at the blog again. “This guy’s their leader?” she said dubiously. “He comes across as an idiot.”

“Only because you can’t read his Blog as I can,” said Langdon. “The signs are all there, as clear as DaVinci predicting the Television by putting one in the Last Supper (Editor’s Note: have a look, it’s right there at the front). Look, for example, at the first symbol in the Blog’s title.”

“The ‘W’?”

You see a W. I see a Spider – symbol of deceit – upside down.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. Need I remind you that I found this site on the Web.

Katherine could feel the beginnings of a headache. Also she was starting to notice that his jawline wasn’t really that firm, his biceps that taut, or his physique that magnificent.

“And that’s not the only clue,” said Langdon. “Hidden inside the third word, visible only to a Scholar such as myself, is the word “Bad”, often used as another word for evil.”

Katherine made a sound that can best be shown in print as “!”

“And the final proof,” said Langdon smugly, “is the name this man has chosen. He has selected “Tinman”, from the Ancient Myth Of the Oz Wizard. The “Tinman”, according to the legend, had no heart, and therefore was not human at all. Clearly our Tinman sees himself as a god.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake,” thought Katherine, looking around for her coat.

“Not only that,” continued Langdon, as only he could, “he has added two symbols to the end of his name – a 1 and an 8. Not a lot of people know this, but if you add 1 and 8 you get 9, and an inverted 9 is a 6, and 666 is the Number of the Beast.”

Unnoticed behind him, the sound of clacking high-heels grew more and more distant. Katherine had accepted that her spinsterhood had a while to run yet.

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Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, in a quiet room which he had entered via a Portal (or door, as they called it in Ireland), Tinman read the last page of the new Dan Brown book, sighed a deep, deep sigh, and rubbed his hands over his steely, piercing eyes (sorry, the writing’s infectious).

His head felt as if someone had syringed the StayPuft Marshmallow Man into it through his left ear.

His mind was stuffed to capacity with symbolism, symbols, and cymbals (he had distinctly heard the sound “B’dum tish” in his brain everytime Langdon had solved yet another mystery).

He knew that they were going to remain there until he could blot them out by reading another book.

He had to get to a Library – fast.

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Shanghai Express

Being Shanghaied was something that used to happen to sailors when unscrupulous captains were looking to fill a crew for a voyage.

A man would go into a bar, people there would get him very drunk, and he’d awaken the following morning aboard a ship bound for the far east to pick up spices (and scurvy).

The modern, Tinman equivalent is to go out for a quiet drink and come home having committed yourself to go to a football match in England next Saturday.

I was out with a friend last night when his phone rang. His side of the conversation went “hello…what, why can’t he?…well, maybe we can get someone else…actually, hang on a second.” He then turned to me and said “how would you like to come to Manchester United v Sunderland on Saturday,” and yet again the derealised me heard a voice very like mine saying “sure, I’d love to.”

Now, I do like football, and have been to matches in the UK before. Indeed, this will be my eleventh game. But the first four were when I used to be sent to the UK for work, and was there anyway, and the later ones were reached through the medium of flight. I used to bring Tinson1 to a match each year as a Christmas present, then the last time we brought Tinson2 as well, and the tradition only ended the year I was blacking out, & we decided it probably wasn’t a good idea.

Each year we made an event of it, flying over and staying in a hotel both the night before and after the game. In other words, we did it in style, and, if we weren’t quite part of the “Prawn Sandwich Brigade” so denigrated by Roy Keane, we certainly weren’t the re-incarnation of old fans in flat caps with rattles. If anyone ever chanted “who ate all the pies” at us, we’d have to reply “well, not us, because we wouldn’t eat that crap.”

My friend and his three mates (well, two this week, which has opened the door for me) don’t do it that way. The match is on Saturday. They are leaving Ireland on Saturday, and leaving the UK on the way home on Saturday. And doing it all by car and boat.

As far as I can make out, the itinerary is: get up at six, get picked up at seven, drive to Dun Laoghaire, catch the boat to Holyhead, drive through Wales to Manchester, have a few drinks, watch the match, have a few drinks, drive back from Manchester through Wales to Holyhead, have a few drinks waiting for the boat, catch the boat back to Ireland (having a last few drinks on the boat) and then be driven home, arriving at 7am on Sunday (I should point out here that the driver is a non-drinker – we’re not totally mad). All that just for 90 minutes of football (well, 96 minutes, probably – it is United, after all).

As GoldenEyes here at work says, it sounds like the kind of weekend that four 25-year-olds would have. But, although I am the age of two 25-year-olds, I don’t have twice the drinking capacity, and I’m quite worried.

My mate is hoping that it’s a good game. I’m just hoping I don’t throw up in the car.

Worth Doing Bard-ly

In Laughykate’s post last Friday she mentions that her brother originally set up her blog as a platform to sell her book (which we all keenly await).

She is not the first author to write a blog while waiting to be discovered. It is a little known fact that Shakespeare himself had a blog, writing under the name of Bardman.

See what you think.

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March 15th

My publisher rejects my plan for a play about  a pair of star-crossed lovers, since it hath an unhappy ending. He sayeth that I know nothing of how chick-lit works.

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March 16th

One of the regular routines which takes place in our household is Shouting At Mrs Bard’s Handbag.

Whenever Mrs Bard has to go out anywhere there is a frantic search for her handbag. If she is unsuccessful the Bardkids and I all stand together and shout “Handbag!”.

It never works.

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March 17th

I have a new idea for a play, concerning a merchant in Venice (I am hoping to get a grant to go there for research purposes) who borrows money from a Jewish moneylender, who demandeth a pound of flesh in return.

“Christ, don’t slag the Jews,” sayeth my publisher, “hast thou not heard of Tommy Tiernan?”

“Er, no,” I reply.

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March 18th

The Government sucketh.

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March 19th

I hast received a comment!

How blogging worketh is that each of us is assigned a wooden pole in the town square, and each day one pins one’s latest article up on one’s pole (or post, which is from whence the name cometh).

And this morning I had a reply pinned under yesterday’s post.

It is from someone called Anon, and it sayeth that I am a wanquer.

I know not what this word means, so later in my local (The Hopping Leper) I asked my friend Chaucer “wouldst thou say that I am a wanquer?” He laughed so hard that ale shot down his nostrils.

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March 20th

My publisher hath suggested that I try comedy. I send him a draft of a play set on Midsummer Night, with a cast of fairies and elves. He complaineth that there art no jokes in it, and suggesteth that I introduce three new characters – an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman, all co-incidentally named Patrick.

I tell him that he knows nothing of character development, and he telleth me that I know not my arse from my elbow.

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March 21st

I am becoming concerned about how many brackets I use in my writing (I hast read that they are the sign of a teeny, teeny mind).

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March 22nd

Bardson1 hath started in school, where he will learn up to seventeen of the letters of the alphabet, how to count to ten without the use of fingers and toes, and how to hit a spitoon from 25 paces.

On his first day there, he hath joined the Archery Club.

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March 23rd

The Elizabethan Blog Awards took place this evening. Walter Raleigh, writing as Twentypipes, took most of the awards. I think his popularity is due to the fact that he calls everyone a Count.

The award for Best Blog by a Buxom Irish Wench went to Lady Jo DeMamma, the Duchess of Brae.

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March 24th

A curious development.

I had been working on a new comedy, wherein the Prince of Denmark lives in a Haunted Castle with his mum and is visited by the ghost of his father (with hilarious results). Last night, however, depressed by my failure at the awards and my continuing lack of success as a writer, I re-wrote much of it, having the Prince’s uncle as a murderer and finishing it with a bloodbath in which absolutely everyone dies.

To my astonishment, my publisher is delighted by the new version. He says that audiences will lap it up, and that I am on my way to stardom.

He says it hath the Tarantino factor.

College Dude

Tinson1 is in his first week at Trinity, and this is a picture of outside our front door this morning:

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Our family just loves a good stereotype.

In fairness to Tinson1, I have to confess that the cone was actually put there by Eircom, who had to dig up part of our driveway to fix our phone line. The co-incidence of a traffic cone appearing at our door on the very week that Tinson1 became a student, however, was just too delicious to ignore.

So how is his study going? Well, not at all, really. His lectures don’t actually start till next week. This was Freshers Week, and all he’s done so far is register, pick his subjects, meet his mentor and join a load of Societies.

Although he’s doing Science he’s joined the Law Society (who seemingly throw the best parties) and the Philosophical Society (who presumably don’t much mind whether people like their parties or not).

Ironically, just as he’s found ways of filling both his days and evenings for the four years to come, he has received a text from the Army Reserves who had to reject him because of cutbacks last spring. It seems there is a chance he may be allowed to join after all.

That ship has sailed, however,and I would be relieved if it were not for two things.

He has joined both the Paintballing Society and the Rifle Society at TCD.

Hopefully his forthcoming acquintance with people from Law and Philosophy will teach him what it’s legal to shoot at, and whether it’s the right thing to do.

Boy With the Black Stuff

In Flann O’Brien’s book The Third Policeman he suggests the theory that, after a lifetime spent in the saddle of a bike, the molecules of policeman and bike would start to mingle, and eventually the policeman would become part bike, leaning against walls while idle, etc.

If his theory is correct, it is possible that I am now 70% Guinness, and therefore should make brief reference to this special day. Today is Arthur’s Day, celebrating the fact that the Guinness brewery was founded 250 years ago in 1759, and at 17:59 today a concert is taking place in the Guinness Storehouse which will be broadcast, in pubs only, all around the world.

Pint of GuinnessIt may surprise those of my readers not from here that not everybody in Ireland drinks Guinness. It is possible to retain’s one’s Irishness while not liking it, in the same way that it is not obligatory for us to like Riverdance, boiled bacon & cabbage, or those songs that begin with a long nasal “Neeeeahhhh”, which can only be sung with one’s eyes closed and one hand cupped over one ear.

It is true, though, that Guinness has come to be seen as a symbol of the Irish, and rightly so. It is popular, inclined to be bitter, and too much can give you a real headache.

I’ve only recently reverted to Guinness, having actually stopped drinking it for a few years. Like a 50-year-old flirting with a selection of blonde ladies, I underwent my own mid-life crisis by flirting with a succession of bland lagers. As an excuse for this infidelity I can only offer the standard male excuse, which is that Guinness drove me to it. As a wife will change for the worse after a marriage (I only get away with stuff like this coz Mrs Tin doesn’t read this blog) Guinness altered for the worse after it had originally ensnared me.

Back in the 1970s Guinness introduced a new stout called Guinness Light (with the unfortunately prescient tag-line “they said it couldn’t be done”). It was less heavy and bitter, and aimed at younger drinkers, so I drank it one night. I should point out that I was not a mad teenager on a weekend spree, I was a guy in his 20s out with his brother and sister-in-law for a couple of quiet Tueday night drinks. So the fact that I spent the following days vomiting solidly (if such a thing is possible),till I was eventually throwing up green stuff that I reckoned was the lining of my stomach, was entirely down to the product, and not at all due to my youthful excesses.

And apparently I wasn’t alone, as Guinness Light died a quick and unmourned death. Instead of leaving well enough alone, however, Guinness were still determined to attract the younger drinker, so about a decade ago they messed with the formula of the Guinness pint itself.

Prior to this Guinness was a heavy drink with the consistency of soup. When they messed with it they produced instead a load of watery shite that gives you, well, watery shite, and although they quickly realised their error, they have never been able to get the original standard back  (If you think this is just nostalgia talking, notice how many of their ads relate to quality control, and to how many people they have on the road checking the standard of the pint. They know themselves that they have a problem).

No article about Guinness would be complete without a brief mention of its effects on your insides. For an accurate and hilarious description of a visit to the toilet after a night drinking Guinness I recommend Twenty Major’s first novel, and all I say in addition is that you will notice that Dr Gillian McKeith has never had a Guinness drinker on her programme, because if she had it would cure of her of her curious obsession with poo forever.

Anyway, today is Guinness’s birthday, and for all that I have given out about it here, I am doing so in the same way that one gives out about a favoured uncle – full of deprecation, but with an underlying affection.

Here’s to the next 250 years.

On Yer Bike

SP_A0075This arrived in the post yesterday. It’s my Dublinbikes membership card.

Dublinbikes is the new bike-rental scheme in Dublin. 450 bikes have been placed at 20 different stations around the inner city, and the idea is that you hire one, make your journey, and leave it off at another station somewhere.

The system is based on the Velib system operated in Paris. This has been very popular, though unfortunately the bikes themselves have been subjected to extreme vandalism. Some have been found up in trees, some have been thrown into the Seine. If that’s the sort of behaviour that goes on in Paris, then many people fear for the bikes in Dublin, but Dublin City Council have optimistically said they are confident that the same thing will not happen here. (If they are speaking very literally then they are of course correct – it’s almost impossible to throw a bike into the Seine from here).

Anyway, for some reason I’ve decided to give it a try. I’m planning to use it to cycle to and from the station each day. The main flaw in my plan is that I’ve cycled just once in the last 35 years. That was last summer in France, when I cycled around a lake with Tinson1, and, as a description of how my nether regions felt afterwards, well, I just can’t top this . So, before I embark on my intended route, which will involve cycling along the traffic-packed quays, I’ve decided to practice for a few lunchtimes on some quiet roads around here.

Today was my first effort. I wobbled, wavered, went too slowly sometimes,  and discovered that the bike wheel is exactly the right width to get caught in the tram tracks of the Luas. The bikes are painted blue and are quite distinctive, so I attracted quite a bit of attention and comment, and was the butt of quite a lot of dry Dublin humour (sorry, but the word butt is at the forefront of my mind at the moment, as already I’m starting to feel a saddle-shaped pain in mine). Occasionally I’d work up a bit of speed and start to enjoy it, but then I’d hear traffic coming along behind me again, and I’d cravenly slow down & sometimes just pull in and get off.

Is it safe for a derealised man to cycle around a large city? Possibly not, which is why I’m just practising at the moment, & if I don’t feel happy then I won’t take it any further. Then again, thousands of people cycle in here, every day, so if I’m careful I should have nothing to worry about.

Besides, I have this.

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I didn’t have a blog when I reached my 50th birthday, so never got to report how funny all my workmates found it, since none of them had even had a 40th, and indeed many hadn’t had a 30th. There was great excitement – and a cake – that morning, then about 15 of them brought me for lunch and insisted I had wine, and my timesheet for that afternoon still stands as a far finer work of fiction than anything I’ve ever written here.

My blackouts, at that time still unexplained, were at their most frequent around then, and I was still hitting my head off large parts of Dublin city, so among many other presents GoldenEyes and the Overlord bought me that cycling helmet.

And I kept it, though I was never quite sure why. And today, for the first time, I got to wear it.

My bum will probably be really sore after today’s workout (it’s sentences like that one that get you loads of hits, Mwa), but hopefully I’ve found a new and useful form of exercise.

I’d Like to Thank the Judges

I’ve only very recently started looking at my blog statistics, mainly because I’ve only very recently found out how to look them up.

Of the 74 views I’ve had so far today, 4 came here after searching for “Ear Trumpet”. That’s understandable, I recall using a picture of an Ear Trumpet in a post about Tinson1 failing the hearing test for joining the FCA.

In second place, 3 people came here after typing in “Dickhead of 2009”.

Since it’s not a phrase I ever remember using, I can only assume that Dickhead of 2009 is an award, and that I’ve won it. (And about time, I hear many of you say).

While it’s not exactly the Nobel Prize for Literature, a win is a win is a win. I am especially gratified at the fact that I seem to have won it with a quarter of the year to go, implying that I so out-dickhead everyone else on the planet that there was no point waiting any longer to see if I could be overtaken by some dark horse.

And it’s not as if I had no opposition. Bankers, politicians, Kayne West, the guy who let the Lockerbie bomber go, Serena Williams, the scientist who broke the Large Hadron Collider, Michael Jackson’s doctor, whoever decided we needed another film based on a Dan Brown novel, all of these made strong cases, yet were swept aside.

I wonder am I allowed enter again next year.