Monthly Archives: June 2010

Free at Last

I’ve posted this picture before of the tree in my front garden:

I have no idea what type of tree it is, Dendrology (yes, I did have to look it up) not being one of Tinman’s many talents, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not an oak tree.

No matter, when I arrive back from work the pub this evening I’m expecting a yellow ribbon to be tied around it. For I’ll be coming home having done my time (sorry if the song is now stuck in your head).

This is my 30th post in 30 days. My sentence is over.

So, 30 posts, about 15,000 words, two million brackets, and a surprising number of topics, surprising mostly in that not once did I have to resort to posting about how hard it was to think of a post topic every day.

I’ve learned a lot from the exercise. I’ve learned that you can think of things to write about if you really have to. I’ve learned that it’s easier once you keep to a routine.  I’ve learned that posts will grow and develop as they go, as long as you’ve made the effort to start them (the ice-cream van post, for example, started simply with the bit about the Colonel Bogey song, and the idea about where ice-cream vans go during the winter only came to me about half way through). I’ve learned, in short, that I really should do it more often.

That said, I’m bloody well taking tomorrow off.

Stern Expression

My passport expired last September, which says everything about the state of the Tinhouse finances, since it’s quite obvious that we haven’t been away anywhere since. And though we’ve no plans to go anywhere this year either I decided I’d better apply for one, since the backlog in the Passport Office caused by their industrial action means if I apply now I may get one by 2015.

This meant that I’d to get my passport photo taken, and become reacquainted with the limits set upon one’s facial expressions. I was not allowed to smile, squint,  show my teeth (what, hold them up beside me in a glass?), frown, tilt my head, have hair growing down over my eyes (fat chance), wear a hat, have unnatural flesh tones (bad news if I was the Tinman from the film), have my eyes closed or wear a fencing mask (actually, I was wrong, it doesn’t specifically forbid that).

In short, I had to construct an expression with no expression whatsoever, like Stephen Segal in, well, anything really. I did this in three stages:

  1. Adopt the wide-open eyes of a groom who has just had his bum groped by the bride’s mother during the group photo;
  2. Add the firm straight pencil-thin lips of a young man trying not to let his girlfriend know that he’s crying during the last five minutes of Ghost;
  3. Keep the head dead still like you do when you’ve a really bad hangover and you know that if you move it even one millimetre the guy from the start of Rank Organisation films will smack the inside of your skull with his gong mallet. Again. 

I’m proud to say I managed it very well, though the secret nature of blogging means that you will have to take my word for that.

The problem is I’m now stuck with the picture for the next ten years.

Exam Time

Tinson2 started his Junior Cert exams this morning.

The Junior Cert takes place half-way through your Secondary School career and is not, therefore, the most important exam you’ll ever undertake, since you’ll be back next year either way. It does, however, help determine which subjects you’ll do for the Leaving Cert and which level you’ll take them at, so it does play a part in shaping your entire future. So it is not to be sneezed at, and not just because they disapprove of noise in the exam hall.

And it is your first contact with State-run exams, and I well remember back when I did it (it was called the Inter Cert in those days, and there were no regulations prohibiting calculators, mobile phones or iPods as there are now, for the very good reason that they didn’t exist. You were, however, allowed to bring in a knife to sharpen your quill). Until you saw the very first question on the very first paper there was always this tiny fear that perhaps your school wasn’t teaching at the same high level as other schools, or perhaps was teaching the wrong syllabus altogther. One you saw that first question, even if it was a real stinker (Leaving Cert English 1975, WTF were they thinking, no I’m not still bitter), you felt yourself start to relax.

I was planning to write about the stress we put our kids under at such an early age, but I’ve thought back over the super-calm way Tinson2 has handled this over the last few months and my heart’s not really in it.

I’m deliberately writing this post early, before he’s finished today, before I find out how he’s got on. Because, in the long run, that’s not what’s important.

He’s a great kid, I’m proud of him as him, and that’s all that matters.

Not Quite Scorchio

Back in February Laughykate lit up the whole internet with this glorious picture of her niece:

(I hope you don’t mind me nicking it, LK, but I love it, & think as many people as possible should see it).

She said she was thinking of calling it Summer in New Zealand.

I thought of the picture this morning, June 8th, when I looked out of the window of our office and saw this scene (you can tell by the streetscape, by the way, that I work in a really high class part of the city):

Welcome to Summer in Dublin.

Hoping He Will Phone

On Saturday night in the bar of my local (and just after I’d stated to the whole bar that no-one under the age of 40 ever drinks there) the door opened and two young girls came in.

They weren’t total strangers, in fact one of them worked in the pub a few years ago, they were two sisters out for the night who’d abandoned the lounge because it was too quiet and were hoping for a bit more life in the bar.

And that’s what they got, ending up in a sing-song with some of the patrons. The younger of the two, although she’s 28 and so was born in 1982 (God I feel old), confessed to loving 1950s music and sang some songs from that era. One of the songs she sang was Bobby’s Girl.

Bobby’s Girl is the kind of song that normally just burbles away merrily in the background if, say, RTE1 or BBC Radio 2 is on in a shop that you’re visiting, so I’d never really listened to the words before. Apparently the singer (now that she’s not a kid any more) each night sits at home, hoping Bobby will phone, because there’s just one thing she’s waiting for. And that’s to be (pum, pum) Bobby’s girl.

And if that happens (which I doubt, Bobby sounds like the kind of bloke who’d recognise a bunny-boiler when he sees one), well, what a faithful, thankful girl she’ll be.

There you go. That’s a popular 1950s song for you.

Can’t see Pink or Lily Allen writing a song like that today, can you?

Mellow Yellow

It is well known that books, papers and photos all yellow with age. It is not, however, supposed to happen with your TV picture.

But that is what, so gradually that at first we didn’t notice, has been happening with the picture on our 9-year old telly.

For example, this was the cricket on our TV this morning:

The ghostly mug in the top of the picture, which I’ve only just noticed now, is not actually the issue, it’s the colour of the pitch that I’m pointing out. They appear to be playing on the surface of Mars.

This is a picture of the darts that was on the next station up (as you may gather, we don’t watch a lot of the more intellectual channels in the Tinhouse):

I’ve been in many pubs where they have dartboards, and never have I seen one that colour. So, with the World Cup now just five days away, clearly something had to be done.

(I remember back to the 1974 World Cup. In those days everyone rented their tellies, and Totterdells thought up a brilliant marketing plan where, for the duration of the World Cup, you could hire a colour TV for the price you were paying for your black-and-white one. My dad went for it and, needless to say, we never went back).

Anyway, off we went this afternoon to Power City (that’s the name of the shop, my overseas friends, we don’t actually have a town called that), myself, Mrs Tin and the house’s technical expert, Tinson2. Mrs Tin was quite firm that we would buy nothing bigger than a 32″ model, but the fact that there were now two blokes and just one girl in the shopping party meant that when we got there she was outvoted. We ended up getting one that, when it was put in the car, took up so much room that Tinson2 and I had to be left behind, with Mrs Tin driving the TV home and then coming back for us.

And this is now the cricket:

And this is now the darts:

Ah, there they are

See, even the darts player is better looking on the new TV.

So now I’m really looking forward to the World Cup. At least when Holland, in their famous orange shirts, are playing, they will no longer look like a collection of disembodied heads and legs.

Drain Surgeon

I often moan here (well, what else is a blog for) about my workload at the start of each month, as I’ve to go in early and come home late every day in order to meet a really tight deadline. Even yesterday, when I’d left myself just nine minutes to write a post in order to meet my own self-imposed deadline, I still blew the first couple of those minutes griping about the past four days just to make absolutely sure you all know what a tough job I have.

Today a guy spent 90 minutes of a Bank Holiday Saturday blowing poo out of our drains.

The witty post title is his, too, as the business is called Drain Surgeons, and he did a great job, in that he has cleared it and we no longer have to hide in the house while neighbours wander about outside, heads up and sniffing like the Fee-Fi-Fo giant as they try to pinpoint the source of the dreadful smell that started out of nowhere around midday.   

He says it’s only temporary, however. The root of our problem is apparently just that, a tree root is blocking the pipe somewhere in our back garden (I honestly just looked back at the last two words there and found that I had typed “cack garden”). So he’ll be back on Tuesday with a little camera and will perform what is basically a seweroscopy to locate where exactly the problem is.

He will then dig wherever the blockage is and will hack out the root, the state of which can only be imagined, if that’s the kind of imagining you like to do during idle moments. Oh, and the weather forecast for Tuesday is for rain.

And while he’s doing that I’ll be sitting in a warm, dry office with a mug of tea on my desk, moving my fingers around a keyboard and occasionally sighing deeply at how onerous my lot in life is.

I feel a bit silly now.

Photo Finish

The first four days of the month at work are, as I have said previously, a very busy time for my friend GoldenEyes and I, as we meet a deadline that only the most brilliant of employees could possibly achiveve (my boss has discovered that I have this blog).

Therefore I don’t get to draft or even plan any posts at work. This is not a problem if I write stuff in the evening, but on Fridays I head straight to my local after work so myself and the other lads can bitch (though in a manly way) about how tough our week has been.

Also not a problem, unless you’ve committed yourself to a post every day for 30 days. So I ran out of the pub at 11.35, turned on my computer at 11.51, and it’s 11.57 as I write this word.

Sorted.

Something Similar

I wonder where ice-cream vans go during the winter. Perhaps there’s a giant lock-up garage somewhere near Carnsore Point and, on the day when the temperature first drops into single figures (August 10th), they all begin their journeys from all over the country, gathering in large flocks to swoop and swarm in formation before making their way south for the winter, or at least as far south as they can get without actually driving into the sea. There they are greeted by a Government Official (Agent 99, of course), and arranged according to family. “Can we have all the Mr Whippys over here please? And all the Mr Softys over there”, and so on. They arrange themselves in long, orderly rows and hibernate for the winter in a gentle slumbering silence broken only occasionally by one of them muttering “no, we don’t sell burgers. Now piss off”.

(Incidentally, I’ve used the word “flocks” up there, but what actually is the collective noun for ice-cream vans? A swirl of vans? A scoop of vans? A month of sundaes of vans?).

Anyway, the arrival of summer has coaxed our local ice-cream van back onto the roads. And, as is inborn into the species, it cheerfully announces its coming each evening with a merry ditty which sounds as if it’s being played on a xylophone echoing through a toilet u-bend.

The tune our local vendor has chosen is called “The Colonel Bogey March”. It may be more familiar to you as the song used in the film “Bridge on the River Kwai”, and will definitely be familiar as the song in which a testicular census is carried out on Hitler and his three closest pals.

If that’s the song he wants to choose, that’s fine by me, though I can’t say I’d fancy listening to it all day every day for the whole of the summer.

The only problem is that it’s very catchy, and within five minutes of the van’s passing each evening you can guarantee that Mrs Tin will start lustily belting it out while working away in the kitchen. And she doesn’t do the instrumental version.

Being in the same room as your children while their mother is yelling out “and poor old Go-balls, had no balls, at ALLLLL” can be a touch embarrassing.

Piston Broke

When you write a blog like mine you are always looking for a whimsical, self-deprecating angle, something that will amuse one’s readers by gently making fun of oneself.

Take, for example, a situation where you wrote a post last weekend about how you were forsaking the boring, reliable, dependable train, and that from yesterday, June 1st, you were committing yourself to bus travel by buying a monthly ticket. Imagine how funny it would be if you could then report that the bus broke down on the way home on that very first day.  The temptation to invent such a story would be huge, though you’d know that this would be a very bad idea. Your readers would know that you made it up, things like that don’t happen in real life, you’d lose all credibility.

The great thing about my life is that I never have to make stuff up, because things like that really do happen. Regularly. So yesterday evening, on my first evening as a paid-in-advance bus-commuter, the bus genuinely did break down.

Sometimes I think my guardian angel is a Ghost Writer (by which I mean the ghost of an dead writer, not someone who writes this junk for me) who, having suffered during his own life the agonies of Writer’s Block, helps me avoid it by filling my life with daft occurences and odd coincidences.

Either that or Dublin Bus are so desperate for new customers that, having noticed me catch the bus for the first time a couple of weeks ago (well, they do admit their buses have CCTV), they put their very best bus on the 84x route until they lured me in. Once they saw me buy the monthly ticket they were able to relax and put back on the usual bus, the one held together with duct-tape and dried snot, the one that runs on the same engine as a pub-toilet hand-dryer.

I’m consoling myself by figuring that things can only get better. However, if I ever see a horse-and-cart (with or without the horse-nappy) approaching the bus-stop, with “84x” daubed on the side of the horse in day-glo orange lipstick, I’m back in the train-gang.