Monthly Archives: November 2009

Ungood Words

I read in the paper today that the word “unfriend” – as in, for example, “you slagged my blog, so I’m unfriending you” has been named word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

They said “it has both currency and potential longevity. In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice”. You could say exactly the same thing about the word “shite”.

Still, you gotta love (or at least unhate) the NOAD. As an American dictionary they don’t even know how to spell the word “colour”, yet still feel they can set themselves up as a lexiconological (I can make up words too) authority.

Is the word “unfriend” really going to end up in everyday usage? If I thought so, I’d throw up.

Or “de-lunch”, as I’ve decided to call it.

Weekend Break

Mrs Tin and I were away for the weekend, at this hotel here, photographed courtesy yet again of my trusty mobile phone:  


(Sometimes the photography in this blog is better than the content).

It’s the Slieve Russell Hotel in County Cavan (note to my overseas readers, Slieve is from the Irish word for mountain, and is pronounced “shleeve”, and Cavan is pronounced, well, Cavan, unless you’re from Cavan, in which case you pronounce it “KYAvun”).

You can tell by the picture that it’s quite an upmarket hotel, and if you needed any further proof, this was parked outside: 



I was given a free night’s stay there in a work-related thing, so we added in the extra day and off we went. We ate a lot, drank a lot, and were surrounded in the bar each evening by wedding guests, which means I spent the weekend staring at pencil-thin women, strange arrangements of leaves laughingly known as hats, and more cleavage than is good for a man with a heart condition to look at.

We came home yesterday to a pizza-box mountain and three children who looked suspiciously as if they hadn’t been to bed all that early.

And that’s it really. There’s no real story (or indeed point, I hear you say) to this post, but, having had no holiday this year it was nice to have even a short break.   


Golden Slumbers

Since I have started to sleep a bit better, I have noticed a strange habit that I have developed (normally people will sit up and pay attention when a blogger announces they are about to reveal a strange bedroom habit, but then most bloggers aren’t my age. Remembering to leave out my surgical truss for the morning is about as strange as my bedroom habits get these days (that’s not true, by the way, I’m just trying to be funny (yeah, well, we’ve told you before, don’t try that (shit, how many close-brackets do I need now to get out of this sentence in one grammatical piece?)))), (think that’s right).

When I turn over in my sleep, I always turn to my right.

If I am lying on my left, this is of course quite simple, and indeed blindingly obvious. However, if I am lying on my right, and wish to face the other way, I will still turn to my right, dipping my right shoulder and dragging my sleepy face across the pillow and then finding some way of squeezing my left shoulder under me so I can emerge triumphantly (though too asleep to feel smug) facing in the desired direction.

This would be harmless enough if it weren’t for the fact that turning all night in the one direction causes my body to act like the key on a sardine tin, with the duvet playing the role of the lid. I end up effectively mummifying myself, tightly wrapped in a tog-cocoon, while unfortunately leaving Mrs Tin cold, in every possible meaning of that sentence.

I don’t know how to explain it. Perhaps in a previous life I was a chicken on a rotisserie. Or a pig on a spit (which would account for my dislike of apple-tart).

Anyway (oh God), what strange bedroom habits do you have?

Medal Of Honour: Rising Sum

An article in yesterday’s Irish Times was headed “How Nintendo can help your child with Maths”. I didn’t read it, because it was very long and I have the attention span of, er, sorry I forgot what I was going to say there, but anyway I’m sure they are right. Here is the Department of Education’s first ever Nintendo-sponsored maths test:


1. Tinson2 queued outside Xtra-Vision till midnight on Monday last to be there for the release of Call of Duty 4. How long did it take Mrs Tin to wake him for school on Tuesday morning?

2. You ask your Grandmother for a Nintendo DS for your birthday. She buys you a nice warm jumper instead. By what percentage does your love for her fall?

3. On a scale of one to fifty, how ridiculous is Mario’s moustache?

4. Before Tinson2 went to school on Tuesday morning, he hid his new game (which in fairness he hadn’t even taken out of its wrapping) so that Tinson1, who’s off this week, couldn’t play it while he was gone. How frosty, in degrees celsius, has their relationship been since?

5. The highest you’ve ever got in World of Warcraft is Level 13. What level is it acceptable to tell your friends you are on?

6. Your father is trying to learn the solo from Smoke on the Water on Guitar Heroes. How many times will he play it badly before your mother leaves him for good?

7. You buy a game for 90 euro and trade it in three months later for fifty per cent less. How is this different from what Liverpool did with Robbie Keane?

8. Draw a Venn Diagram of the 25 people  in your class based on the following information: 10 of them have a Wii, 22 have an X-Box, 19 have a PSP, and 2 have none of these things, but occasionally have a suntan.

9. Why don’t they bring back Breakout, the video-arcade game from the 1970s, and the only game Tinman was ever any good at?

10. Your uncle and you are playing Table Tennis on the Wii. Your uncle says to your aunt “you should try this, you could do with the exercise”. Just how far up his bum does the doctor have to stick his hand to get his console back for him?

Wheat, Maize and Grain

When I was at school Geography was the educational equivalent of the Big Mac gherkin, unloved and discarded by virtually everyone.

This was because it was unrelentingly dull. We were a given a light snowfall of information about a number of countries, none of it deep enough to actually stick. Generally speaking we were taught the name of the capital city and the chief exports. As far as I can remember the exports always included wheat, maize and grain, and these three words featured in the first sentence of every exam answer I ever gave (“the chief exports of Ireland are wheat, maize and grain”…. “the chief exports of Antartica are wheat, maize and grain”… “the chief exports of the Sahara…” etc, etc).

Doing “projects” meant being a handed a map of Ireland stripped of all characteristics other than an outline of the counties, and being asked to fill in the names. This was as exciting as Geography got.

And because it was so dull, we all ended up forgetting about half of what we learned. I presume that’s why, although I can tell you where the North and South Poles are, I haven’t a clue about the whereabouts of the East and West ones.

When people slag Americans for how little they know about Europe, they assume it’s because they never learned about it. In fact, they were taught about it, but just couldn’t be arsed remembering. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, the same goes for us in reverse. One night in my local we managed to name 48 of the 50 US States. I was told to find out which two we were missing and returned the following night to report that we were actually missing five, since one of the ones we had listed was actually in Canada and two others weren’t States at all.

But somewhere along the way Geography upped its game. I think it began when the six-nation Common Market evolved via a series of leaps and bounds into the 27-nation EU (well, to be strictly accurate, 26 and Britain, who were given Free Trial Membership back in 1973 and still haven’t fully decided whether they like it or not). Suddenly Geography was no longer a dead, fixed subject, like Latin, it was changing all the time.

The collapse of communism halved the number of Germanies, while the number of Balkan countries exploded, often explosively. The roll-call of world nations changes with a rapidity that keeps atlas publishers in Ferraris and World Cup organisers in therapy. And climate change and global warming means that the very shape of countries and continents is changing.

The Burren

The Burren

Tingirl is doing Geography and has three projects to hand in by Christmas. These are on the Burren, earthquakes and tornadoes. The Burren is a wild and lovely part of County Clare, earthquakes are strictly speaking Geology and tornadoes are just weather, but all three are more exciting than drawing the path of a river or a relief map of a fjord, which is the kind of crap homework we used to get. As a result kids these days love Geography.

Everyone has a Trivial Pursuit achilles heel. I’m sure you’ve guessed mine. I’d slide my wedge-filled pie-dish into the very centre, my fellow players would say “geography” in unison, I’d be asked some baffling question containing the word “scree” or “delta” and I’d retreat in humble embarrassment.

Hopefully the kids of today will be spared that humiliation.


For the first time since 1996 the adults in the Tinhouse outnumber the children. The number of children has dropped from three to two, while the adults have increased from two to three.

Tinson1 is eighteen today (Tinson18, I could now call him, but won’t). He is legally an adult, allowed to drink, vote, buy over-18 video games and watch X-rated movies. A whole new world is therefore opening up to him, since he has never voted before.

One year and a day ago I wrote this post about the day before he was born, and about how our life changed forever. How quickly the 18 years since that day has passed, and how wonderful it all has been. He’s been a ridiculously happy baby, a winning though occasionally scarily angry toddler, a successful and popular schoolboy, and then, although he’s referred to in our house as GT (Grumpy Teenager), he’s been a very personable teenager.

I know I sound laughably blinkered and rose-spectacled in this post, but it honestly is true. He’s a super kid, and will make a super adult.

Today we’re celebrating. It’s half past two in the afternoon, and already we’ve drunk Buck’s Fizz (thanks to his Godmother) and are heading out for a meal soon.

He is young, clever and charming. I envy him, I admire him, I’m proud of him.

We love him.

Lookin’ for a Virtual Hug

It’s time I came clean with myself.

I keep deluding myself that I have Bloggers Block, and can’t think of anything to write about. That’s not really the problem. I have plenty I should be saying, and just don’t want to say it.

The simple fact is that I’m quite down at the moment about how slowly my getting better is going, and have refused to put that in writing. After I first went to see my shrink (a sentence I’m still astonished to find myself using) I felt that I was actually on the road to recovery. Of course I knew that one visit and a couple of days of new drugs weren’t going to cure me overnight. Of course I knew I had a long road ahead, but still felt really hopeful.

And, thus wearing my happy head, I’ve produced about six weeks of cheerful bloggery, some of which I’m really quite proud of, and was looking forward to continuing in this vein until my declining years (declining what, I wonder? Drink? Cigars? It?).

Of course (again) I knew there would be times when I’d feel frustrated at my slow progress, and vowed to recognise that frustration as a good sign in itself, a sign that the derealised drifting from day to day was giving way to more awareness and emotion about my illness, and therefore more awareness and emotion about life as a whole. And in general I have, even though I’ve started waking at four a.m. again, and once that happens the days just become daze. But recognising that there will be setbacks and accepting them when they come is one thing, but being happy all the time about it is another.

So I’ve had nothing funny to say (yeah, yeah, I know), and should have been saying this instead. After all, this is my safety valve, an outlet for my frustrations, angers and fears as much as for my desire to be entertaining (one of my strongest needs, I have to admit). But I’d been enjoying writing the lighter stuff, and just didn’t want to go back to, well, whinging.

And I know you won’t all look at it like that, and I know you’ll be concerned and supportive, and I hope you all know that your encouragement really, really helps me, but I just didn’t feel like putting you all through it again.

Which was wrong. You’ve all stuck with me this long, I should have realised sooner that I could dump on you all again.

That’s what friends are for, and that’s how I think of you lot.

And I’m gonna hit publish now, before I get embarrassed about that last sentence.

No Flash of Inspiration

In Dublin on Saturday there was thunder and lightning, accompanied by a short torrential downpour that brought flash flooding to some places.

I love thunderstorms, so an event like this should have been a Godsend to a blogger instructed to write about the weather whenever he can’t find anything else to write about.

But I don’t live in Dublin, I live in Greystones. And, although it’s only 19 miles south of Dublin, we had no storm, no lightning, no rain. We just had an overcast sky the colour of our town’s name, and I didn’t hear about any of this until lunchtime today.

I could have had a field day. I could have written about the wonderful smell that accompanies thunder. I could have said how much I love that really heavy rain. I could have talked about how much more thrilling lightning becomes when your chest is part metal and your knowledge of the effects of being struck by lightning comes mainly from superhero comics. I could have done all of this, had it not rained on my parade by, well, not raining on my parade.

Now, I’ve always accepted that I will never be able to write a decent autobiography since I had none of the disadvantages that are such an advantage in a truly interesting life-story. My parents were not poor, not alcoholics and showed no inclination to beat us. I was not one of seventeen children. I was not forced to start work to support the family from the age of ten. I did not then put myself through college at night, earn and then lose a fortune by the age of 22, lose part of an ear in a bar-brawl in Barcelona, spend a year as a ghost-writer to Jackie Onassis, wake up hungover one morning with a tattoo of Betty Boop on my left buttock or end up in jail due a case of mistaken identity.

Other writers have that kind of luck, and I envy them. All I have is a couple of mildly interesting maladies and a trio of currently less interesting children.

So if God decides to liven up a Halloween Saturday by making the sky vomit enough water in just four minutes to fill Lake Windermere, is it too much to ask him to make it happen a bit further south?

Some of us have blogs to fill.