Monthly Archives: February 2010

Call From The Blue

A friend of Mrs Tin rang her yesterday. “Hello, Mrs Tin”, he said.

And that’s it. End of story.

“Bloody hell, Tinman”, I can hear you all thinking, “it’s not the most gripping tale I’ve ever heard. Things must be pretty dull in the Tinhouse if one member getting a phone call is the highlight of your week.”

That’s because I haven’t explained myself very well. Let’s try again…….

A friend of (insert wife’s real name) rang her yesterday. “Hello, Mrs Tin”, he said.

Now do you see?

She says she made that kind-of “Uhhh!” sound that’s known as a sharp intake of breath, and I did exactly the same thing when she told me that evening.

Her friend is on the committee of the Greystones Educate Together school, and apparently was on the internet when he came across this picture of a dragon’s head that he recognised being worn by a man that he didn’t. He read the post, put two and two together, and rang Mrs Tin to test his theory.

Now all we have to do is find out what on earth he was looking up when he came upon my picture. I’ve tried typing “man wearing dragon’s head” into Google and found nothing, except some extraordinary suggestions after I’d typed “man” and “wearing”.

Speed 3: Seat of Your Pants

If ever proof were needed that the Tinfamily are modest, humble folk, I offer in evidence the fact that our car is a Seat Ibiza.

It is known in these annals as the Tincar, and seldom can a nickname have been as appropriate. Going uphill seems to tire it out, mere falling birdshit leaves dents in its bonnet and driving over cobbles has the same effect on your bum as accidentally sitting on the jet in a jacuzzi.

In fairness it is nine years old, which is almost two million in car years. Other car-makes have come, had girls sit in bikinis on them at Motor Shows, won Car of the Year, fallen out of favour and vanished forever from the production lines while the Tincar has been doggedly chugging along. I described it here once as a VW Golf in casual clothes, and that pretty well sums it up – unremarkable, functional and safe.

Or not. Today we got a letter from SEAT concerning the brakes. Concern is the important part of that sentence, as apparently “the brake servo pipes may be prone to cracks, in which event the vacuum assistance for the power brake system may be affected”.

I’m not a mechanic, but I believe this is the technical way of saying “for fuck’s sake don’t drive down any steep hills”.

Recently Toyota discovered that a piece of metal the size of a tooth-filling was missing from its brake-pedal, and launched a worldwide media campaign recalling millions (thousands? hundreds? wasn’t really listening) of its cars. It is a measure of how highly Seat drivers are regarded that our risk of a high-speed brush with doom was notified to us by ordinary post, via a letter that took three days to get here.

It asks us to drive to our nearest Seat garage as quickly as possible. That, of course, is the problem. We may have no choice about that.

Pass the Word

Back in 2003 I had to work in Cork for two weeks. The programme Celebrity Farm, RTE’s attempt at copying Big Brother, was on at the time, and the Tin family watched it every night. This was not because we are (to borrow Anneelicious’s phrase) about as deep as a puddle (though we are), but because the singer Mary Coughlan was one of the contestants, and her daughter was in Tinson1’s class.

I was watching in the hotel in Cork when Mary was evicted. I texted “damn” to the then 11-year old Tinson1, and received the one word reply “bumber”. 

I thought this was hilarious, especially when I discovered that he had actually asked Mrs Tin how to spell “bummer” before he sent it (her defence was that the film Dumb and Dumber was out at the time, so she based the spelling on that). Anyway, ever since then the word “bumber”, rhyming with “number”, has been used by every member of our house whenever anything bad happens.

And I’ve always used it as my password for logging in at work, since it was easy to remember. However, over the past few months new procedures have been brought in at the office. Our passwords change every couple of months, and each one must have at least 7 characters, at least 1 uppercase letter, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 symbol. It mustn’t resemble our actual names, or any of our last 10 passwords. Not only that, but the program sneers at you as you’re selecting one, telling you your first selection is “weak”. It only moves through “moderate” to “strong” as you add so many characters that you can’t possibly remember it, so you end up writing it on a post-it and sticking it to the bottom of your screen. I can’t believe our netadmin team don’t see that coming.

A password regime like this is thought up by people who believe that computer genuises, if they turned to hacking, would forego the chance to empty out bank accounts in Switzerland and choose instead to break into our intranet forum and read our grumblings about the taste of the coffee. They won’t let you use something personal because, of course, the government know everything about you, and they’d soon work out which child/spouse/pet’s name you were using.

These people believe that the Will Smith & Gene Hackman film Enemy of the State was a documentary and not fiction. I’m afraid the last decade does not support their belief that the Powers-That-Be can see into your kitchen from a satellite in space and can tell what you ate for breakfast. It transpires that the P-T-B can’t tell a terrorist plot from a vegetable plot, and wouldn’t notice Osama Bin Laden if he delivered pizza to them while they were staring at their computer screens looking for him.

 Anyway, my password expired again this morning, and I was frantically trying to think of something, when I read the instructions again. “Don’t use real names”, it said, and in an instant I knew what to do.

My new password (I may as well tell you, it’ll change again soon) is Jomwalaughyk8# (you’re the ‘#’, SaS, it’s meant to be cricket stumps).

The program has grudgingly conceded that my password is “strong”. Bloody right it is.

Slight Overpayment

Did you know that if you’re paying a bill online and, because you’re not paying attention, you enter the date in the payment box, you end up trying to pay Meteor €23, 022, 010?

Luckily I didn’t have quite that much money in my account, so the transaction didn’t go through (and I think I may have melted my bank’s website). If it had, I’d now have enough phone credit to be able to phone Liechtenstein for ten minutes every day for the next nineteen thousand seven hundred and ten years (yes, I am bored at work, and yes, I do have a calculator).

Which isn’t much use, since (a) I don’t know anyone in Liechtenstein and (b) even if I did, I’m sure the conversation would flag after the first couple of hundred years.

Thank You, Someone

I’ve been nominated in the Best Personal Blog category in the Irish Blog Awards.

So have 118 other people, so it’s not exactly time to start planning an acceptance speech, but it’s still a nice feeling. Some of the people who I know read this are nominated too (hi, K8, Grandad, XBox), so congrats to all of you as well.

Last year I got nominated too (& also for Best Newcomer) and didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. I realised afterwards that this was rude to whoever had nominated me, so this time I really want to say thank you to whoever you are.

To my real astonishment I also got nominated for Best Blog Post, for this one about a day I just couldn’t go to work. It’s nice to see such craven laziness being rewarded.   

Really though, I’m amazed that a post that I wrote more than six months ago made such an impression on someone that they remembered it and suggested it. It makes me feel very proud, and very honoured. 

Thank you again.

Second Hand

This is a picture of the T-shirt I wore to work yesterday.

This photo will tell you a couple of things. The fact that I can wear something like this to work tells you that I’m not a barrister, a bank manager or (and you’ve probably already guessed this) the President of the United States. It will also tell you that ironing is not high on the “To Do” list in the Tinhouse.

But apart from revealing these facts, I’m sure you’re wondering about the point of the photo. In a week where many Irish Blogs are writing about our Minister for Defence, who’s had to resign after he lied, then lied about lying, then lied about lying about lying, and finally lied about lying about lying about lying (there’s my blog duty done) why would Tinman do a post about his clothing? Well, it’s because of where I got it from.

Tinson1 gave it to me because it’s now too small for him.

Now, I’ve loved watching him grow up. I rejoiced as he went from being our little man to being our medium-sized man, celebrated with him when he reached the same height as me, and even laughed with him when he overtook me. But getting his hand-me-downs is just a teeny bit humiliating.

I feel a bit like Goldilocks. On Tinson1 the shirt is too small, on Tinson2 it would be too big, but on me it’s just right.

I’d be a lot more upset about this if it weren’t for the fact that some of his clothes are actually quite cool, and I’m quite looking forward to getting my hands on them.

I might never have to buy my own clothes again.

Tumbling Down

I’m watching a lot of the Winter Olympics at the moment. I love it, because the sports are so varied, and raise so many questions. Such as “what do the middle two guys in the four-man bob actually do?”,  or “has there ever been an ice-hockey game without a punch-up?”, or “how does anyone get to be good at ski-jumping?”. This last one is especially intriguing, since surely the landing after your very first effort, when you haven’t a clue what you’re doing and leave the ramp with your left ski pointing up your right nostril and the other one pointing over your left ear, must hurt, jar and stretch bits of you badly enough to ensure that you never try it again.

I love the snowboarding, which is strange because I’m not young, am not a computer games designer and have never called anyone “dude”. Nonetheless, I think it’s great, a sort of antidote to the dullness of some of the other sports,  like that one where they ski for miles and stop every now and then to shoot at something, like a Dalek on a winter holiday.

The inclusion of snowboarding is the Winter Olympics showing that it’s moving with the times and doesn’t take itself totally seriously. The Summer Games equivalent would be to include, say, frisbee throwing, or perhaps some made-up sport where girls wore bikinis and hurled themselves about on sand.

Anyway, Rose commented on yesterday’s post here about how words mean different things in different parts of the world, and this is certainly true here. Eurosport use a Canadian commentator for the snowboarding, and whenever a lady competitor flies off in the opposite direction to her board in an explosion of snow, bobble-hat and massively expensive sunglasses the commentator will exclaim “and Lyndsey/Juliette/Stephanie (none of them are ever called Mary, or Ann) has fallen flat on her fanny”.

The Winter Olympics are also on the BBC. I’m betting they don’t say that.

Worming Away

It was our company’s year-end at the end of December, so the auditors are in now doing our accounts.

The girl who comes to do our audit is friendly, funny, occasionally very mock-flirty (or possibly just wants me – hey, I can dream), and a really hard worker. She is also probably going to be out of a job next month, because her firm are having to let people go (I’m old enough to remember the last recession, & so not to find this all that surprising – the fact is many accountants haven’t a clue how to run a business either).

Although she’s facing the dole she’s still working as long and hard as ever. When we remarked on this she laughingly compared herself to a friend of hers currently seeing out her notice in another company, saying “she’s doing sweet f-a. She wouldn’t move to worm herself.” 

I’ve never heard this expression before, and imagined it was probably popular among cat-people (by which I mean people who like cats, not people who’ve been genetically altered in a Spiderman-like way after being bitten by one). I found it very evocative – imagine being so determined to do nothing that you wouldn’t even try to rid yourself of worms if you had them.

It was only on the way home that I realised that she’d said “she wouldn’t move to warm herself”, in a Limerick accent.

This was disappointing. I prefer the other one.

Feel free to use it, and startle your friends. It just might catch on.

Ordered Disorder

Among the numerous mental health issues afflicting me at the moment is my disturbed sleep. I go to sleep more or less straight away, but wake many times during the night and finally wake and stay awake really early. This is not because I’m one of those people who doesn’t need a lot of sleep because if it was I wouldn’t keep falling asleep while watching football and wouldn’t feel so feckin’ tired all the time.

I usually sleep facing my alarm clock, so when I do wake I know what time it is, and last night I woke at midnight, one minute to one, one minute to two, three o’clock, one minute past four, five o’clock and two minutes past six.

Even my sleep disorder is becoming anal. I’m waking more or less every hour, on the hour, like a human Big Ben.

So I’m not just cuckoo. I’m a cuckoo clock.

Labour of Love

Have you ever wondered how certain saints end up as patron saint of certain things?

Most people believe it is because of some event that happened during their lives – e.g., St Francis of Assisi had a pet gerbil, so he’s patron saint of animals. This is not, in fact, how it works. As in any other giant organisation you start at the bottom and work your way up. Thus for every saint who has a real top job, like St Vitus (patron saint of dance), or St Elmo (patron saint of fire) there is a junior with much smaller responsibilies, such as (& I’m not making this up) St Honorius of Amiens, the patron saint of bakers of holy wafers.

Those saints who opt for the Foreign Office section, becoming patron saints of countries, face a long trip to the top. St Patrick, for example, was patron saint of an iceberg, then a mudbank in the middle of the Mississippi, and finally the crater left by the meteorite that destroyed the dinosaurs before at last landing the plum Ireland job, where he got to banish snakes and get absolutely hammered every St Patrick’s Day.

St Valentine (ah, Tinman, at last we see the point of this) was patron saint of (& again, why would I need to make stuff up when the reality is comic gold such as this) plague, bee-keepers and fainting. I have thought long and hard about why we need a patron saint of fainting, and what he might be expected to do, but have come up with nothing. Anyway, when St Cupid was promoted to God of Love the role of Saint of Love became vacant. St Valentine applied for the post, and was called before the interview board.

It did not start well. The first part of the aptitude test was Romantic Poetry. Not only did St Val have absolutely no creative talent (yeah, yeah, very funny), he was also colour blind. His poem “Roses are green/Violets are white/your boyfriend says/you’re a bit of all right” did not score highly.

But if he shot himself in the foot with his poem, at least it was only in the figurative sense. Next up was Archery, where he was to show his prowess with Cupid’s Bow. As he drew back the bow, the string popped out of its nock (I’ve looked up Google, no-one has ever typed that phrase onto the internet before) and St Val pinned himself to the floor by his left foot. To add insult to this injury, the board decided that the expletive he uttered when this happened (“Fuck me”) was a more romantic effort than his poem had been.

And yet he prevailed. In the Chocolate test he invented the dark-red syruppy goo that goes in the centre of heart-shaped chocolates. In the Candlelight Dinner section he invented a spreadsheet using which restaurants could raise their prices by twenty per cent for the evening. Finally, in the Freestyle section he came up with the idea of the anonymous Valentine Card. A person who receives such a card can dream it’s from the long-legged blonde in HR, never knowing that it’s actually from the 60-year old gay guy in Accounts.

Impressed by all of this the board gave him the job, much to disgust of his rivals, St Halmark and St Tobleron, each of whom had plans of their own for the role. And in fairness he hasn’t done a bad job. His name is still remembered, the word “love” features in more songs than, say, “aubergine” or “tractor”, and on February 14th middle-aged, cynical, partly-metal men can still be surprised by being given a breakfast like this:

Happy St Valentine’s Day to you all.