Monthly Archives: May 2010

Borrowing Mwa’s Blog Title

There was great mirth last year over the tale of Ireland’s serial traffic offender, Prawo Jazdy.

Over 50 cases of Prawo Jazdy being cited for speeding or parking took place, because police officers were writing down the first two words on Polish people’s driving licences in the belief that this was their name. In fact the two words mean “Driving Licence”.

It’s great to know we’re not the only ones who can get Lost in Translation (see, ta, Mwa). Today’s BBC News features this road sign, from Swansea:

Thanks, BBC

Since all Welsh road-signs are bi-lingual, Swansea council produced the English wording for this sign and then emailed their in-house translation service asking for the Welsh bit. They got a prompt reply, put the words on the sign, and put it up.

The promptness of the reply should have made them hesitate. The lower half of the sign actually says “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated”.

I love it. I really hope they leave it there.

Hake and Hearty

As part of my medical assessment by TILDA (or HOTDOG, as we here know them) they did a cholesterol test, and they have sent me the results.

The score was high – not screamingly high, but enough that I should do something about it.

The helpful leaflet they sent with the results suggests that I “consider appropriate lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking, reducing salt intake and going some days without any alcohol”.

The problem is that I don’t smoke, I put salt on nothing and, despite the number of times that I mention my local here, I don’t ever drink on any day when I’ve work the following morning (not, I must admit, out of any great work ethic, simply because I sleep so badly if I drink and know I have to get up early that it just isn’t worth it).

So I’ll have to follow their other recommendations, most of which seem to involve eating “oily fish”.

That scary phrase shows how hard it is to keep to a healthy diet. Combine the adjective “oily” with any other noun – person, hair, Formula 1 Racetrack – and the result is not good. With fish, however, oily is best, having the same good-for-you effect as cod-liver oil, while unfortunately having much of the taste and smell of cod-liver oil.

I’ve had to look up which fish count as oily, and have met for the first time words such as katla, orange roughy and pangas. I have a feeling the TILDA people who complied the leaflet have never seen what passes as a fish counter in our local Tesco, where all they know about fish is that they have fingers.     

Oh, I’m not supposed to eat fatty meats, by the way. In other words, HOTDOG is forbidding me hotdogs.

Bus Boy

Tinman's chariot

Today’s post will fill at least one of my readers with horror.

There are two ways into Dublin from Greystones. There is the DART, our train service, and then there is the bus, the 84, the very name of which will make Jo shudder.

And I’ve given up my monthly Train Ticket and am getting a monthly Bus Ticket instead.

The DART is clean, quiet and reasonably efficient (certainly given Irish Rail’s definition of the word efficient). The journey takes 50 minutes, and because I’m getting on at the first stop I can always get a seat.  The rail line runs along the coast, so that you’ve a sea view the whole way in, apart from the two sections where it runs underneath Bray Head, so that you go through two long tunnels. It is the obvious way to travel.

I’ve been doing it for years, and I hate it. It’s overcrowded, boring and full of girls with really loud ringtones, all with the same name (I know this because they all answer their phone and say “Hello, Amonda Dort”). 

As part of Irish Rail’s improved service this year (and again, only in Irish Rail-speak can a reduction in the number of morning trains be called an improvement) the DART now runs from Greystones every 30 minutes. One  day earlier this month I wanted to be at work at bit early, not half an hour early, so decided that instead of getting the 7.30 DART I’d get the 7.15 bus. Forty-five minutes later I was hooked.

Now I should explain to Jo, who is taking short breaths into a paper bag at this stage, that I am not getting the 84, I am getting the 84X, and the 84X is to the 84 what Eyjafjallajökull is to a scented candle. The 84 is a lumbering behemoth that weaves off the main road into every single bottleneck, picking up passengers in ones and twos at stops set twenty feet apart, like a bin-lorry on bin day. The 19-mile journey takes 90 minutes, and to put this into perspective it only took Apollo 11 three days to get to the moon.

The 84X (the X apparently stands for Xpresso, I think it runs on coffee) stops only at selected stops, and avoids the bigger towns on the way in altogether. At one stage it even travels along the motorway, where admittedly it is overtaken by absolutely everything, including kids on skateboards and grannies forced by sheer swearing frustration into making their first ever venture out of the slow lane.

And, at the time when people actually need to get to work, the 84X is very frequent. There are eight buses in the 50 minutes between 6.50 and 7.40, then one more at eight o’clock. And then, its work done, it vanishes for the rest of the day. It is the Brigadoon of buses.

It’s the same in the evening, there are five buses out of Dublin between 5 and 6.30, then it turns back into a pumpkin.

I ended up getting it most days this month, even though I’d already bought a train ticket, and from June 1st I’m switching full-time. At the moment I’m having so much fun I don’t even read – I sit upstairs, at the front if possible, letting the 10-year old me out again (I haven’t yet made a little hole in my ticket yet and blown into it, trying to make a sound out of it like a kazoo, though I’d love to have the nerve). I’m seeing places I’ve passed for years from a higher perspective, watching mad drivers, gobshite cyclists, lunatic pedestrians. The DART’s sea-view can’t match that, unless one day a Viking fleet hoves into sight. 

So, there you go, a post about buses. You can’t say we don’t tackle the burning issues of the day here at WDB.

Sit On This and Swivel

I think I’ve discovered the cause for the headaches that I get during the afternoon at work.

It’s my chair.

Of course it is, Tinman, I hear you all thinking, that’s because you have your head up your bum.

That may well be true, but that’s not what I mean. I have one of those standard office chairs, one that swivels, with two levers that control the angle of the backrest and the height of the seat. Each morning I set the chair at the correct ergonomic height (nah, I don’t know what it means either, it’s written on the bottom of the chair) and type merrily away until about lunchtime.

Unfortunately it won’t stay up for as long as I’d like it to (oh please, I’m talking about the chair). As the afternoon drags on the chair slumps lower and lower, much as my spirits do (perhaps we’re soulmates now, like the Third Policeman and his bike). As this happens very gradually I don’t notice, so it never occurs to me that my shoulders are being forced higher and higher, my neck is scrunched lower and lower, until finally I end up with the posture of Bela Lugosi as he becomes a bat, or the Phantom of the Opera hunched over his organ (I’ve re-written that sentence five times, that’s the cleanest version I can come up with).

Obviously (here comes the science bit – concentrate) this puts strain on my shoulder and neck muscles, which of course leads (under the Holistic “de hipbone connected to de thighbone” Principle) to a splitting pain between my eyes.

Perhaps the office will pay for neck massages.

Sight Unseen

Tingirl & I sat watching the second Eurovision Semi-final tonight (well done, Ireland, by the way). RTE commentator Marty Whelan explained that this year voting opened from the very beginning, so that you could vote for Song 1, say, as soon as you heard it (apparently under the old system the later songs were doing better, as people couldn’t remember the earlier songs by the time the voting opened). After Song 4 he reminded us again: “don’t forget, you don’t have to wait, you can vote for any of the songs you’ve heard right now.”

“Or, of course, songs that haven’t been on yet,” I said. “you could vote now for, say, Song 9.”

“Why, who’s Song 9?” asked Tingirl.

“Don’t know,” I said, “I’m just saying you could vote at random for anything, before you’d even heard it, if you felt like it.”

We looked at each other for a moment, my wonderful daughter and I, and then we both smiled.

We voted for Song 9.

It turned out to be the Netherlands, and anyone who’s ever watched the Eurovision knows that since it was the Netherlands, it certainly wasn’t dull. It was called “Ik Ben Verliefd” (Mwa?), the guy responsible for the Smurfs was involved in it in some way (I’m not making that up), and it featured a girl who seemed to be clockwork, a huge hurdy-gurdy and lyrics that included the words “Sha-la-la” an awful lot. 

When it ended Marty laughed and said “well, they certainly sounded as if they don’t want to bother with hosting it next year.”

“Shut up, Marty,” shouted Tingirl and I in unison.

And sadly he was right, they got absolutely nowhere. But it kept Tingirl and I interested, even after Ireland had been read out early as one of the ten qualifiers, hoping that what Tingirl kept referring to as “our song” would get one of the last few places.

When it ended we shrugged, looked at one another, and smiled again.

We’re looking forward to the Final on Saturday. As soon as the voting opens, we’re voting for Song 9 again.

Living Doll

The recent marital problems of couples like Ronan & Yvonne Keating, Cheryl & Ashley Cole and Tiger & Elin Woods just emphasise how hard it is to maintain a celebrity relationship. I am reminded of the sad tale of one of the most famous couples of all…


The girl we all know as Barbie was born Barbara Millicent Roberts (seriously, look it up), and was the quintessential Daddy’s girl. While she was not as bright as her sister, Margaret Hilda, who went to the UK and took up politics, her adoring father still spared no expense on her education, so that by the age of 17 she already had a pilot’s licence, a black-belt in judo and the ability to say “dressing up is fun!” in 22 languages.

Having been blessed with a remarkably pert bust and legs that went on forever it was no surprise that she took up modelling, and it was during a TV commercial shoot that she first met Ken Carson. Ken was a struggling young actor who’d had a few small roles – he’d been rescued by the Thunderbirds, blown up by Team America and, wearing a false wig and moustache, had spent six months as the Swedish chef in The Muppet Show. They went for dinner a few times (Barbie got to wear some of her best frocks) and soon became girlfriend and boyfriend.

Their first vacation together was not a success, as it exposed the fact that they had totally different interests. Barbie spent the holiday horse-riding, water-skiing, lion-hunting, kayaking, bull-fighting, space-shuttle driving and, bizarrely, rickrolling (get your Rick Astley Barbie, only €22.99), while Ken sat moodily at the pool oiling his abs and nursing a hernia, since he’d been the one who’d had to carry her suitcases.

The real problem, though, was that Ken couldn’t handle being with a woman more successful than he was. After all, Barbie was the most recognisable skinny girl on the planet (eat your heart out, SJP), while most people wouldn’t be able to pick Ken out of a line-out consisting only of him, Captain Scarlet and Alec Baldwin. Furthermore, his association with her was affecting his acting career, as he was now being offered only the kind of roles that had previously gone to Hugh Grant. Depressed, he turned to heavily to drink. Suddenly Ken having a six-pack was no longer a good thing, so the couple decided to split, which they announced through their publicity agents, Mattel (they couldn’t afford Max Clifford).

See the resemblance?

Things turned out pretty well in the end for Ken, though. After a wild period during which he had a string of girlfriends, including Sindy, one of the Bratz and Florence from The Magic Roundabout, he then amazed everyone by finding true love – with a gonk (that’s her over there ->). In time they settled down and got married, and eventually had twin boys, whom they named John and Edward.

And what of Barbie? Well, she turned 50 last year and still looks as beautiful as ever, though some say this is due to plastic surgery (in fairness to Barbie, it’s the only kind can she get). In recent times she has been seen in the company of Action Man. While he is 7 years her junior he shares her passion for dangerous and adventurous pursuits, with a separate outfit for each one. He is also still single, so Barbie’s adoring fans may yet have their deepest wish, and she may yet get to wear her most special dress of all.

She’d want to hurry, though. Rumour is that Lara Croft has her eye on him.

Not Good at Everything

One of the girls came up to me at work today. “You got Portugal in the draw,” she said.

“That’s not too bad,” I replied. “If Deco and Nani play well, if Ronaldo proves he really is one of the best players in the world and if Spain, Brazil and (whisper it) England all mess up then Portugal could be dark horses for the World Cup.”

She stared at me. “No,” she said, “you got them in the Eurovision.”

I’m screwed.

And of course I deserve it. This time last year I wrote that we in the Tinhouse have a theory that Portugal enter the same song in the Eurovision every year, just to see how long it will take someone to notice.

God remembers stuff like that.

More About Names

It is widely known that Oprah Winfrey’s TV company is called Harpo, because that’s her name spelt backwards.

Whenever I’m invited to start my own TV company (and it’s surely only a matter of time) I’ll have to call it Namnit, which would make me seem like a war veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

If Bono starts one, though, well, many people would think the name would suit him perfectly.

(Don’t try this game, Grannymar, you’ll sound like a Klingon ordering lunch).

Mug’s Game

I was in the kitchen this morning and I asked Tinson2 if he could hand me a plate.

He went to the cupboard and returned. “All the big plates are in the dishwasher,” he said. “There are only these tiny plates,” he continued, holding one out to show me.

The above conversation illustrates how clearly the mug has replaced the cup in the modern kitchen.

My fifteen-year old son doesn’t know what a saucer is.

It Brings Tears to Your Eyes

A few years ago we has some really sunny weather (ah, I hear you thinking, this is one of Tinman’s fiction posts, but actually it’s true). I was sitting happily in the back garden when suddenly my eyes began to hurt, seemingly from deep inside, and tears poured from them in floods. I decided that sweat must have been running down into them from my forehead, so I went inside and washed my face and eyes thoroughly, but it was quite a while before the pain subsided. The following day I was back in the garden when it all started again, even worse. This time the running eyes lasted for hours, and I could only see by opening one eye at a time. Mrs Tin and I were starting to get really worried when Tinson2, who was about ten, piped up “my friend is allergic to every type of sunscreen except one”.

I’d never been allergic to anything before, and was always fascinated by how they find out what you’re allergic to, given that it could be anything in the entire world. I imagined that there’s a giant clinic somewhere where they have one of absolutely everything, which they prod you with one by one alphabetically until something brings you out in a rash (if you’re allergic to zebras you’re in for a long day).

The sunscreens in the Tinhouse come in just two strengths. Since I’m a bloke I use Factor Minus Two, which is the stuff you squirt into the barbecue if you feel it needs a bit of a gee-up. Mrs Tin and the Tinkids use Factor Three Hundred (essentially a burqa in liquid form), and since it was the start of the summer I had decided to ease myself in by using theirs. It transpired that I was allergic to the brand that I used, so the answer clearly was never to use it again.

The trouble is that winters are long and my memory is short. Now that Ireland’s mini ice-age is over (yes, it was an ice-age, you don’t see any dinosaurs around, do you, because the last seven months killed them off) I had to put on sunscreen again this morning. I opened the cupboard and stared at the wide range of bottles on offer, the shher number of them a tribute to the undying optimism of the Tinfamily that each coming summer will be a cracker. All the top brands were there – Ambre Solaire, Hawaiian, L’Oreal, Lidl – all experts in skin-care and dodgy science (Oil of Olay claims to tackle the seven signs of ageing. I’ve tried it, and on the three signs that bother me most – losing my hair, losing my faculties, losing my attractiveness to women – it wasn’t worth a shit).  

Anyway, I stared at them all, trying to remember which ones make me mouth-wateringly brown, and which merely make me eye-wateringly sore. Eventually, in an allergy-based version of Russian Roulette, I just grabbed one and hoped for the best.

Which is why I apologise for any uncorrected spelling errors in today’s post. I can’t see the bloody screen.