Monthly Archives: August 2010

Schools In

The schools have gone back this week. Even if you have no children of school age you would have guessed this because of the following:

  • The shopping centres are deserted during the daytime;
  • The weather is suddenly fantastic;
  • The County Councils have decided that now would be a good time to start all those roadworks that they’ve been putting off all summer.

On the bright side the morning streets are filled with little groups of teenagers, uniformed and wearing schoolbags the size and shape of Volkswagen Beetles, walking along in little groups, smiling, chatting and laughing.

The young are great.

Table Talk

“Well?” said Arthur proudly, “what do you think?”

“Er, it’s, its…” said Guinevere, searching for the right word. “It’s round,” she eventually finished lamely.

“Indeed it is,” said Arthur. “It’s my Round Table.”

“Yes, but why?”

“Because ‘King Arthur and the Knights of the Rectangular Table’ doesn’t have the right ring to it,” said Arthur.

Guinevere looked around the rectangular Great Hall, with its huge rectangular fireplace, small rectangular windows and unspoken-of rectangular commode.

“Haven’t you ever heard of Feng Shui?” she asked.

“Er, no,” said Arthur, “who is he?”

“Never mind,” sighed Guinevere. “It’s just ….. it doesn’t fit in.”

A frown crossed Arthur’s kingly face. “It’s unique,” he said. “None of the other Ladies will have one, and will envy you. One would have thought one would be a bit more grateful.”

“Would one?” snapped Guinevere. “Then tell one, where should one shop to get one a feckin’ round tablecloth for one’s feckin’ round table?”

“I reckoned Merlin could magic one up.”

“Merlin?” snorted Guinevere. “He’s fine at pulling a stoat out of a helmet, but when it comes to real magic he’s bloody useless.”

“I say, that’s a bit harsh,” protested Arthur, loyally but a touch dubiously.

“Is it? Look at when he tried to conjure you up a sword. Instead of it arriving in your hand it appeared stuck inside a stone miles away. By the time you found it half the countryside had tried to nick it.”

Even while she was speaking Guinevere was thinking of another problem. With a rectangular table she had been able to allocate seat-placings, and at Sunday dinners, when the traditional roast-pig-with-an-apple-in-its-mouth had been set upon the table, she had always gleefully arranged it so that Arthur’s mother spent the meal staring up the pig’s arse.

“How will people know where to sit?” she asked.

“Well, one hoped …” began Arthur, then faltered in the ice-cold blaze of Guinevere’s glare, “I mean, I hoped that you might embroider some place-names.”

“Yeah, well that’d be fine if you had friends called Mick, or Tom,” replied Guinevere. “Instead they have names like Sir Bleoberis, Sir Ector deMaris and Sir Glockenspiel. Ok,” she conceded, as Arthur raised an eyebrow, “I made that last one up. The point is, it would take ages to embroider place-names for them all. I’ve better things to be doing.”

“Really? Such as?” asked Arthur.

To Arthur’s surprise, Guinevere blushed. “Well, I’ve been giving Sir Lancelot, er, dulcimer lessons,” she said.

Arthur, who was brilliant in battle but brainless in romance, beamed at the mention of his friend. “Ah, yes. You’ve become great friends with dear Lancelot, haven’t you, my Queen?”

“Let’s just say I know why he’s called Lancelot,” muttered Guinevere. Aloud she sighed and said “oh, very well, we’ll keep the bloody thing. What are you going to do with the old one?”

And Arthur said (and please bear in mind that this was a long time ago, the environment hadn’t been invented yet) “oh, I’ll dump it in the lake at the end of the road”.

******************************************************************************************************************

Arthur hurled the giant rectangular table (yes, he could lift a table that used to seat 25 knights, he was able to pull a sword out of a stone, remember) out into the lake, watched the giant splash, and had turned back toward Camelot before the ripples ceased. Thus he didn’t see an arm, clothèd in white samite, emerge from the centre of the lake, brandishing the table.

“Bastards!” yelled the Lady of the Lake. “Stop dumping stuff in here! Swords, tables, supermarket trolleys (and I don’t even know what they are), I’m sick of it.”

She hurled the table out of the lake, from whence it landed high in a tree.

“That’ll baffle future archaeologists,” she muttered, slipping back beneath the waves.

Double Meanings

At lunchtime in the kitchen at work yesterday my friend GoldenEyes was reading through the collection of gossip, celebrity slagging and rabid readers’ letters that passes for a free “newspaper” in our city.

“It says here”, she said, “that Enrique Iglesias couldn’t get laid when he was younger”.

“Been there,” I said with feeling, “or rather haven’t been, if you know what I mean”.

“It also says,” she continued, ignoring my plea for sympathy, “that he markets a range of Extra Small Condoms”.

I thought this was very brave of him. Perhaps he wants to make people who aren’t very tall feel better about themselves, since maybe he’s not too tall himself. I decided to ask was this so.

And that’s what I should have asked. “Is he not very tall?”, I should have said. But I didn’t.

“Why, is he very short?” is what I actually said.

That was pretty well the end of that conversation.

(There was one originally one more sentence to this post. Grannymar commented last time that you would all sit there taking bets about what my next topic would be. Therefore the post ended “bet you didn’t see that coming”, but when I saw what I’d written I had to go for a bit of a lie-down in a quiet room).

Lagging Behind

Sorry, I know you all look forward each day to Booker-standard writing and sparkling wit, and I know that if you can’t find any anywhere you come and read my crap instead (perhaps I should have said “read my rubbish” – reading my crap makes you all sound like Gillian McKeith).

I’m not totally jet-lagged – I get up at my normal time, do my day’s work and then come home, but then I drift off at odd times, so I’m going to bed early so that I don’t sleep on the couch for two hours and then lie awake all night.

More than jet-lagged, I’m jet-mealed – I find I get hungry at really odd times of the day or night.

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t been around much. I’ll be back on Saturday – promise.

Well, There He Is

I know that many of you are already familiar with Matt.

For those of you who aren’t, Matt is a young American guy who was travelling in Hanoi when his friend persuaded him to do the one – terrible – dance that Matt knows, and filmed him doing it. This became such a hit on You-Tube that a company, Stride Chewing-Gum, sponsored him to travel the world filming his dance in different places. He put the resulting film on his website, wherethehellismatt.com, and got so much feedback that the company sponsored him to go again, this time inviting people to join him.

To watch the resulting video, set to wonderful music, click the link above and prepare to be enchanted.

And why have I decided to bring Matt up today? Well, it’s because of this photo, the gobsmacking highlight of my trip to New York:

That’s Matt’s video, being played on a giant screen. In Times Square.

Even though I’ve never met him, I felt so proud of him and for him.

Life goes in strange directions. I bet when Matt was growing up he never foresaw himself making a short film that would delight the world. But his video has been watched over 30 million times now. That’s 30 million brief bursts of joy that he has given to people.

Not many other people get to do as much good with their lives.

A Tin-lishman in New York

I don’t want to bore you all (never stopped you before, Tin), with a long blow-by-blow account of our trip to New York so, on the basis that a picture paints a thousand words, I’ve decided to present our holiday via a series of photos.

1. Firstly, in case you don’t believe that I was actually there at all, and since it’s high time I put a picture of myself on this blog, here I am:

That’s me, just in front of the grey panel, to the left to the small building. The picture was taken from our room by Mrs Tin.

2. They say there are thousands of Irish working in New York, and this appears to be true:

(I should explain that the Garda is the name of the Irish police force).

3. Speaking of police, the stereotypical belief that New York cops stop all the time for doughnuts is just not true:

Sometimes they stop for burgers instead.

(That’s a cop car outside McDonalds & Wendy’s. Honestly. Crap picture, I know, but it was the best I could do without making it obvious I was filming them, which might not have gone well).

4. A friend of Mrs Tin is from Brooklyn, and he recommended that we visit the Brooklyn Brewery, which we did, and that whilst in Brooklyn we go to this bar, where they sell a range of beers like the one on the right. As you can see below, we duly did this:

A brief summary of that day: beers at brewery, beers at bar, bed at 6pm.

5. This Starbucks had free Wi-Fi (unlike our hotel, $17 a day, they could shag off), so we went here every morning for breakfast so that we could email the Tinsons, and so that they could ignore the chance to email us back. The reason that there doesn’t appear to be any sunshine in the picture is that the cafe was in the shadow of the Chrysler Building (I should really mention at least one touristy thing).

The reason I’m showing it is that it was here that I found out that Mwa, my favourite Belgian (in your face, Poirot), had had her baby. Congrats to you and Babes, dear friend.

6. At Yankee Stadium they refused to sell beer to Mrs Tin and me (combined age, almost as old as the Yankees themselves) since we had no photo ID to prove that we were over 21. As an example of the triumph of Adherence To The Rules over plain common sense it’s pretty hard to beat.

The annoying thing is that they would probably have sold us a gun, as long as we were prepared to buy one with the Yankees logo on it.

7. The plaque below was outside a door on the same floor that we were saying on.

This of course means that two dashing, noble romancers with youthful good looks have now stayed on that floor, but that’s not why I’m showing it. You’ll notice in the last sentence that it’s not film buffs who claim he stayed there, but hotel buffs. In other words, people who are interested in hotels. As a hobby.

God, and people think trainspotters are nerdy.

8. Finally, and as proof that I really am a dashing romancer, here’s me and some French bird:

Well, she is French, she just lives in New York.

In short, we’d a great time. Can you tell?

No More Workin’ for a …Week or Two

I have discovered something about office life.

If you are in the office on your last day before an 11-day break, and if you spend the day unconsciously humming “it’s a jolly holiday with Mary” from Mary Poppins (a song which, in fairness, you normally can’t even stand yourself), then at some point, sooner or later someone will politely suggest that you “shut the fuck up”.

And when that happens, you will beam at them like a lighthouse.

Fact.

Mixed Reviews

One of the great things about the Internet is the way in which it has taken a lot of the luckydipness (yes, it’s a word) out of overseas travel.

There was a time when venturing abroad meant putting your trust in a tiny photo in a holiday brochure, one showing a magnificent apartment building fronted by a massive pool, with a delightfully blue sea lapping gently up to a golden beach just behind the complex.

When you arrived you found that the photo was indeed just that, a photo on the wall at the reception of the miserably grey compound to which you were now committed, in every sense of that word, for the next two weeks. The building was designed by architects who had honed their skills designing 1960s Eastern Bloc missile silos.The sea was two miles away by expensive-and-dangerously-driven taxi. The pool was the size of those paddly disinfected things we have on the way in to our own pools, and had something floating in it that you desperately hoped wasn’t going to feature in the restaurant later that evening.

They hadn’t mentioned that there would be bingo. All day, every day, with compulsory attendance. Or that their local wine tasted like liquidised badger. Or that they had a rainy season – not from September to October, but from October to September.

(I’m sorry, I’ve depressed even myself there. I’ve actually never had an experience like that – every holiday we’ve brought the Tinkids on has been brilliant).

Anyway, cometh the Internet, goeth the crap. Now you can look at a whole gallery of pictures of your prospective venue. And not just ones carefully selected by the owners – there are forums, Google Maps, internet guides.

And of course there are reviews. The New York hotel in which we will be staying from Thursday has 298 reviews on tripadvisor. 88 of these say the hotel is excellent, 17 say it’s terrible, the rest are somewhere in between.

Either there are two hotels in Manhattan with the same name, or the hotel is schizophrenic. The lobby, it is widely agreed, is crap (really? who cares?), but there all unanimity ends. The hotel is both excellent and terrible. The decor is both lovely and shabby. The staff are both rude and incredibly helpful. The rooms are both tiny and luxurious.

And therein lies the problem. You don’t know the people who are writing the reviews. All you know about them is that they are possessed by an urge to share their opinions with the whole world via the Internet, and I’m sure we all agree that’s a fairly disturbing character trait.

Perhaps the critical ones are grouchy gits who wouldn’t be happy if they were reclining on a sofa being fed grapes by nubile maidens. Perhaps the fawning ones won their trip in a complete-this-phrase-in-ten-words-or-less competition, live in real life in a tenement high-rise and are pathetically grateful to be in a building with lifts that actually work. All you can do is read, close your eyes, and take an educated guess.

The guy who complains in his review, for example, that “not all the channels on the TV were working” should really just save his money next year and holiday in his living room. The girl who enthuses that the sheets and pillows were “incredibly clean” possibly needs a new landlord back home. The guy who moans that there was no microwave in his room could perhaps try eating more fruit. And the girl who gives out that “the traffic was really noisy” should probably have Googled “New York” before she booked her trip.

My favourite, though, is the one that starts “the queen-sized bed was very small for a family of four”.

At least we know we aren’t going to be the weirdest people who ever stayed there.

Almost There

At 7.30 this morning I headed from my bus-stop across the Millennium Bridge over the River Liffey and walked along the delightfully soulless street on which we are lucky enough to have our office. The streets I have to cross are tiny, the buildings are square, brown and come right out to the footpath and, while it was a sunny morning, the sun wasn’t high enough to shine over these buildings, so I was in a sort of dusk, with sunshine tantalisingly close above.

Suddenly, and quite without intending to, I pictured myself on a wider street, still with square, brown buildings, and again with the promise of sunshine above, but this time unable to shine upon me simply because the buildings were so very, very tall.

We’ve three days to go before we head for New York and this morning, for the first time, I got really excited about it.

I’m in a New York state of mind.