Monthly Archives: February 2011

As Time Goes By

Mrs Tin and I met in a club called Rotaract. This was a junior arm of Rotary, for people aged 18 to 28, and was a part social, part charitable organisation. For example sometimes we’d have inter-club sport or quiz challenges, sometimes we’d fund-raise, or paint houses for elderly people. I had originally planned to say more about Rotaract here than just that, but I realise now that it was such a great organisation, and one that did me so much good, that it deserves its own post at some future date.

Mrs Tin joined about 4 months after I did, and we soon became good friends, and it became accepted by everybody that any time we’d to drive (at terrifying speeds, when I look back) to another club’s fundraiser anywhere in the country, that Mrs Tin would travel in my car, and that she would sit in the front beside me, where we’d happily chat for the entire journey.

One weekend we held a careers exhibition for young people in the area. Each of us had a little stand where we talked about the jobs that we did, from the point of view of someone who was just really starting out in the career and could still remember how tough the exams were, how crap the pay was to begin with, exactly how long you’d have to spend at college, rather than bring some person who’d risen to the top of the tree and who’d say, “oh, it’s a great career, I have two cars and we spend our summers in our mobile home in Courttown ” (the height of high-living in the 1980s, no-one had an apartment in Spain, except for people who’d got really drunk at Timeshare events in Marbella).

After the exhibition was over we went, as we always did, for a meal, then to the pub, then to a disco (that’s what they were called back then). We were all on a high after the success of the event, I was on a special high because I’d been on national radio to talk about it, and so I decided  to try (oh God, I’ve written about my blackouts, my pacemaker, my derealisation, my depression, but this is a truly mortifying post) to make this the evening on which Mrs Tin and I would become more than friends.

It did not start well. She was sitting in the pub on one of those long sofas that run along the wall, a friend was talking to her but sitting about two feet away. I strolled over and planted myself  nonchalantly between them.

What I hadn’t realised was that Mrs Tin was sitting at the very end of the sofa, my friend was sitting on a stool, there was no seat between the two and I dropped into the gap like a stone.

Anyway, we moved on to the disco, we danced in a circle like looners to the fast songs, and then the “slow set” started, and Mrs Tin and I slow-danced together as we had many times before since, as I’ve said, we were good friends. I should be able to remember the song (I’m trying to suppress this awful feeling that it was “I only have eyes for you”), but you rarely recognise the moment when your life is going to change forever, so I have no idea what was playing when we kissed for the first time, and became girlfriend and boyfriend.

The date was February 28th, 1981, thirty years ago today.

Happy anniversary, Mrs Tin.

Foreign Exchange

We’ve just come back from the Garda Station (that’s our police) where we’ve been signing the forms for Tinson2 to renew his passport. This will replace the current one, with its picture of a cherubic little 11-year old with one showing a lanky teenager (lanky by the standards of our short-arse family, at any rate).

He needs it because as part of his Transition Year at school he is off to Germany for four days to stay with a German family. This trip will take place in about four weeks time, and then in May the son from that family will come to stay with us.

When Tinson2 was very young we used to call him “Smoddler”, which was short for “Smiley Toddler” because of his happy disposition. Lest he sounds too perfect I must point out that earlier in his toddlerhood, when we were frankly afraid of him, he was known as “Groddler”, from Grumpy Toddler.

Anyway, we still occasionally call him Smoddler, because annoying your teenage children is one of the great pleasures of parenthood (on the way to the polling station on Friday we kept trying to persuade Tinson1 that voting is done by putting smiley faces beside the candidates you like and frowny ones opposite those you don’t), and since we heard about this we’ve been referring to the guy who’s coming here as “Der Schmoddler” and will have to try not to call him this to his face when he arrives.

It’s one more great Transition Year activity (he’s also at the moment being forced to do Home Economics, and has arrived home with stir-fried chicken and then caramel slices on the last two Thursdays) and I’m really glad they brought it in.

Weekend Break

Today is a day in which I appreciate the postaday2011 programme, in which I have made a vow to try and post something every day.

I watched the General Election voting results this morning, then has to watch Wigan v Manchester United in soccer, then had to watch England v France in rugby (people who don’t follow sport won’t understand the “had to”s in this sentence, but believe me. I had to) and now I’m watching continuing coverage of the election, which will go on well into the night.

On such a day in times gone by I’d have taken a day off from blogging, but I’ve committed myself to a post a day, so here I am, even if I’m not saying a lot.

All I can say to you is that I’ve a post written which can only be posted on Monday, since that is the only day on which it will make sense, and that on Monday afternoon, in the real world, I’ll be doing something so stupid that I should sell tickets for Tuesday’s post.

So there you go, lots to look forward to in the coming week.

Now my only problem is to fill tomorrow.

Polling Day

Today is a landmark day in democracy, a day to rank with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of apartheid and the suffrage for women.

Today Tinson1 got to vote for the first time.

We have a General Election here in Ireland. It’s been a fairly low-key campaign so far, everyone knows how angry the Irish people are at the collapse of our economy and the fact that we’ve had to bail out banjaxed banks. Even opposition politicians seem wary of listening to us rant “on the doorsteps” (I hate that phrase) so we’ve had about as many callers as the Bates Motel. Mysteriously our hallway is full leaflets reminding us of how wonderful each candidate is, which I think they must be slipping through our letter-box in the middle of the night.

We did have one caller, and I must pay tribute here to a female candidate for a wonderful piece of electioneering. She called to our house when only 14-year old Tingirl was home and chatted away to her about her policies, about how we need more women in politics, and that “woman to woman” she needed all the support she could get. Tingirl was thrilled to be thought of as a grown-up, keeps pushing the woman’s literature at us, and in four years’ time she’ll probably be part of the woman’s election team.

There are a large number of young people standing for election, which I think is great. The best-known, now at any rate, is 23-year old Dylan Haskins, whose profile received a huge boost when it was reported that on one of his posters, beneath where it says “It Starts Here”, someone had spray-painted the word “puberty”.

Anyway, Tinson1 was very passionate about it all, knew where each of the parties stand on a range of issues and was very definite about who he was voting for.The secrecy of the ballot is, of course, sancrosanct, but since I told you all last autumn about how he was baton-charged at the student march, I’m sure we can all guess he didn’t vote for the current Government.

And what about me? Well, there was a time when I used to write quite a lot about politics here, before I realised that it was more fun to try and make up daft stories than to write about a government who was doing the same. Any of you who read my stuff back then has a fair idea of what I think of the current lot and those of you who didn’t have only to read the sentence before this one.

There are many, many reasons why I voted to get rid of this Government, but here is one more. When I was a young student I knew that my parents knew nothing and that their whole generation were making an absolute feck of absolutely everything. My dad used to challenge me on this belief and in time I came to realise that it was not entirely true. Tinson1 has, of course, the same opinion of my generation,  but this time he has a massive weight of evidence on his side.

This Government has made it impossible for me to beat my son in an argument. I can never forgive them for that.

Ten Years’ War

I don’t remember the exact date, but I know that it was sometime between Valentine’s Day and February 28th, so today’s as good a day as any to use.

Today, then, is the tenth anniversary of my nervous breakdown, and the onset of my first real bout of depression.

I realised later that it had been coming slowly, that for a few months I’d been really down and had a constant feeling of dread, though I’d no idea what of. This was there even during the good times, and since the Tinkids were 9, 6 and 4 at the time, there were many, many good times as they played and learned and grew.

Then, on some date that we are calling today, I did a job for a client (I was self-employed back then). She had a look at it, said it looked grand (and I’m sure it was, I was really good at what I used to do, which makes what followed all the odder) and I got up to go. Then, as I was leaving she said “well, sure I can ring you if I’ve any problems,” and all the way home I kept thinking “she’ll look at it properly now, she’ll think what is this crap, no-one’s done stuff this way for twenty years, she’ll sue me, I’ll end up in jail”.

And that was it. It sprung a small leak in the dam which was protecting my mind from waves of stress, self doubt and coal-black sadness. The dam burst, the waves swept in and my mind was submerged.

My mobile rang on the way home. It wasn’t the client, but at that stage it didn’t matter. I stopped at the beach near home and hurled the mobile out into the sea.

The next morning I didn’t get up. Nor on most days for a while after that. Mrs Tin just told the kids I was sick and they accepted that, which was great because I couldn’t have faced them knowing what was really wrong. Tingirl wasn’t yet old enough for school and I would pull the duvet tighter and tighter around my head as she’d play “Wade in the Water” by Eva Cassidy all day long on the sitting-room CD player because she loved it, and eventually I start to shudder whenever I heard it begin.

I did go to my doctor (even I’m not that stupid), he gave me medication and lots of calming advice, and in time things got better. I’ve had two bad bouts since, in 2003 and about 3 years ago, but I’m fighting it pretty hard. Mostly I fight it by laughing at it, for example by referring to 2001 as “the year I went mad”, and to the fact that I have a psychiatrist as “now that I’m a mental patient”. Blogging helps too, every now and then I feel down and vent about it and you are all tremendously supportive.

This post must seem a bit startling, coming out of the blue after reams of relentlessly cheerful stuff, but as I say it is ten years ago, and I hope that marking that milestone will put one more brick in the dam that I’ve been carefully re-building.

I will end with the story of another brick that I put in. Four years ago I bought myself the Eva Cassidy CD that has “Wade in the Water” on it, and forced myself to listen to it. I have it on my iPod now. I don’t like the song much, but that’s because I don’t think it’s a particularly good song.

The point is it doesn’t remind me of anything.

Rain, With Rain Later

Siobhan Ryan

On the news last night weather forecaster Siobhán Ryan warned that we are in for a spell of “weepy weather”. In case we thought we’d misheard, those two words appeared on the map behind her.

We lay people have always used everyday words to describe our weather. Here in Ireland we have the phrase “soft day, thank God,” which is used on any day in which the rainfall is not quite at the level where Noah would unpack his toolkit and start wondering what a “cubit” is.

A bit of everything

We expect more learned terms from the Met Office staff, though, so why the phrase “weepy“? It’s possible, though both (a) unlikely and (b) gross that Siobhán is forecasting a plague of sores (coming up from the Azores), but it seems more likely that they are dumbing the forecasts down for us, believing us incapable of understanding terms like isobars, occluded front and anti-cyclone (it’s a protest march about strong winds). They reckon we’ll guess that weepy weather, for example, involves sniffly drizzle, like a woman who has just watched “Marley and Me” on her own.

If we grasp this idea, they plan to use these others:

  • “Let’s get the boobs joke out of the way first” weather: a warm front.
  • “Double Maths-class” weather: Two hours of unremitting greyness.
  • “Forgotten birthday” weather: frosty. Very frosty.
  • “Broken boiler” weather: cold showers.
  • “Hail to the Chief” weather: hail, falling on Barrack Obama, obviously.
  • “Dumped by Text” weather: squalls of torrential rain, interspersed by bursts of angry thunderstorms.
  • “I’ve just won the Lotto” weather: blue cloudless skies, because you’ve just moved to the Seychelles.
  • “My team got beaten by a dodgy penalty” weather: your dog is sporadically struck by lightning, as if you’d kicked him.
  • “Lager, then a Chinese on the Way Home” weather: gale-force winds.
  • “Economist” weather: gloom, then a bit brighter, then gloomy again – and on and on and on.
  • “German cousin” weather: Claudia Speltz (sorry)
  • “The Government’s fate in the election next Friday” weather: hefty snotstorms (Sorry about the misprint there, it should read heavy snotstorms).

That’s it for today. I hope you all have a lovely day tomorrow, warm and mild and pleasant.

A “Tinman” day, in fact (snorts of derision from Mrs Tin).

If You Go Down To The Woods

It began to rain in Sherwood Forest. It fell in giant, splattery drops upon Maid Marian’s head and trickled icily down the back of her neck.

It did nothing to lighten her mood. It did nothing to darken it either, but only because there was no blacker that Marian’s mood could get.

This was not how she had pictured her life turning out.

It was just over a year now since she had first met Robin Hood, at a market in the city of Nottingham. He had brought her to a tavern for a meal, and she had sat entranced as he spoke passionately about a  political system he called “wealth re-distribution“. Essentially he believed that the wealthy should donate to the poor, sounding thus like a true socialist. A girl less struck by his rugged good looks might have noticed that he seemed not to know how to use a knife or fork and appeared to have twigs in his beard, but she was smitten.

He told her in lived in the forest with his band of brothers and she decided to move in with him that very evening, which tells us how hard it was to land a good husband in those days.

She had imagined a picturesque wooden cottage, in a garden lit by sunlight dappled through overhead branches (she had also, briefly and rather disturbingly, imagined herself in a blue and yellow dress surrounded by seven small men, but had managed to blot that out).

Typical forest day

She had not imagined living literally in the forest, sleeping on a bed of wet leaves under a roof of wet leaves. She had not imagined Robin’s method of wealth re-distribution to involve highway robbery. She had not imagined having to hide regularly from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men.

Most of all, she had not imagined that she was expected to tend Robin’s “band of brothers”. Maid Marian was her name, she had not intended it to become her occupation.

For instance, she had to cook for them all. Admittedly this was a simple enough process which basically involved sticking whatever deer, wild boar or, on bad days, stoat they had managed to shoot that day over a giant fire until it was as black as her mood. They would then quaff ale, tear at the meat with their teeth, and then listen to Alan A’Dale, the minstrel, sing a succession of ditties all of which began with “Twas on a merrie May morn” or some such shite. They would then drift off to sleep in a chorus of grunts and earth-trembling snores.

Although the camp was in the open air, with the wind whistling constantly through it, it somehow it always smelled of fart.

Alan A’Dale was not, of course, the only Merry Man. There was Friar Tuck, a strange monk who constantly whispered a spoonerised version of his name at her. There was Will Scarlet, from whom she often had to remove arrows fired by the Sheriff‘s men. This was because he insisted on wearing a scarlet tunic in a green forest, which made him as inconspicuous as a polar bear in a pint of Guinness.

Then there was Little John, so named because he was over seven feet tall (this was what passed for wit among the Merry Men). He never said much, but she knew he watched her when she bathed in the little rockpool near the camp. This was fair enough, because she watched him whenever he did the same. After all, he was seven foot tall, and was proportionately built, and remember Marian had the kind of morals that had led her to run off with Robin Hood after knowing him for just two hours.

Anyway, today she was struggling with the fire when Robin approached. “It cannot be easy to light a fire in such a downpour, you poor wench” he said, and did not notice the way her eyes narrowed, which was his first mistake. To her horror he went down on one knee before her. “We hast been  together for a year now, and methinks it is time we became man and wife. After all,” he continued, “I feel the need to produce some sons to carry on my ways. I might call them ‘hoodies’.”

Maid Marian picked up a fallen branch and hit him hard over the head with it. Then she went to the secret place where he hid the gold (he always kept a certain amount to cover overheads, I told you he was a socialist), re-distributed it to herself and left the forest forever.

After all, he HAD called her a “poor” wench. She felt sure it’s what he would have wanted.

Off The Menu

It was during yet another wide-ranging lunchtime conversation at work that I learnt the word “fruitarian”. Fruitarians, apparently, will not harm any living thing. So they will not pick an apple from a tree, in case it harms the tree, but will eat only an apple which has fallen from it.

This strikes me as being like people who will buy goods from the dodgy guy in the pub if he assures them that “it fell off the back of a lorry“, but would recoil in horror if he told them that he’d actually nicked them off the lorry.

Many foods thus available to normal vegans (well, they seem normal now) are not going to appear on a fruitarian’s plate. It would be hard for them to explain to fellow zealots how, for example, they were eating chips. Lettuce, cabbage, carrots are all also out. They seem doomed to a life of apples, bananas and chestnuts.

Where most of us would swear violently and think ourselves extremely unlucky if we were hit on the head by a falling coconut, fruitarians would regard this as being manna from heaven (they are allowed to eat manna from heaven, if they ever find any).

Sorry, doesn't count

Fortunately for them, Tinman Publications are here to help, with our new book – Gifts from Above, a list of foods that fruitarians can eat that they might not otherwise have thought of. Among these are anything which (a) has fallen from above and (b) is dead (Wile E. Coyote does not count, therefore, as he appears to be indestructible). Here we go:

  • Octogenarian Squirrels
  • Pine-cones
  • Chestnuts (you mentioned them above, I hear you say, but don’t ignore the mine-like outer shell, it’s how they make Ferraro Rocher)
  • Plastic bags (they must blow out of the tree eventually)
  • Lemmings, if you’re at the bottom of the cliff
  • Birdshit, or, for that matter
  • Blue Ice
  • Tree-huggers who fell asleep
  • Leaves
  • Icarus
  • Tree-houses  (a large one can provide food for an entire winter, especially if you’re willing to eat the cushions inside)
  • Vultures, if they’ve died of starvation expecting you to die first
  • Twigs (serve them as All Bran, no-one will know the difference)
  • The parrot from the Monty Python sketch

My book will offer tasty recipes for serving all of these (apart from Icarus, of course, who already comes lightly-toasted), but this raises an interesting philosophical problem. Are fruitarians allowed to read books? After all, books come via a long process that begins by subjecting trees to a fate quite similar to that of Robert Shaw at the end of Jaws. Well, my books are printed on re-cycled paper, which I think is fair enough, I reckon you can only kill a tree once, this time doesn’t count.

Buddhist vegans, who believe in re-incarnation, may beg to differ.

You may feel that I am mocking fruitarians here, but reflect upon this. If Eve had been a fruitarian, we’d still be living in Eden, safe and warm.

If a little hungry.

Making an Entrance

While picking couples for my “Star Crossed Losers” post on Valentine’s Day,  I thought briefly about Antony and Cleopatra, but realised I didn’t know very much about them.

While ignorance like that has never held me back before, I decided I’d better make some sort of effort, so I Googled them.

In the end I reckoned they weren’t quite pathetic enough so I left them out, but I’m so glad I looked them up because I got to read the start of Shakespeare’s play, and thus found the greatest stage direction of all time.

The curtains open, two guys called Philo and Demetrius enter, Philo speakes ten lines, and then the play says:

“Flourish. Enter ANTONY, CLEOPATRA, her ladies, the Train, with Eunuchs fanning her”

I so wish I’d written that line.

I also wish now that I’d taken amateur dramatics a bit more seriously in my 20s. The group I was in tended to do comedies and pantomimes, we’d never have taken on something like Shakespeare.

My own work CV, if I ever need to use it again, would contain one or two oddities (I worked in a bingo hall for about a year), one or two lies (“I am fully computer-literate”) and an awful lot of padding (“interests include reading and walking”, most people put down. I’d do the same, because the more truthful “interests include going to the pub after work on Friday and sleeping through Premier League Football on the couch on Sunday afternoons” doesn’t generally impress HR departments).

But imagine if I could add the line “March 1986 – April 1986: was a Eunuch, fanning Cleopatra”.

It wouldn’t matter what job I’d applied for, I bet I’d get at least as far as the interview stage.

Hung for a Sheep as a Lamb

On two different occasions this week people have come to my blog after searching for “Baafada Supply”. This is not a phrase that I’ve ever used, and indeed Google doesn’t even acknowledge that the phrase exists. Still, if a post about Baafada Supply is what the people want, then it is my duty to give it to them….

My great-grandad, Jeremiah Tin, was a versatile man. He was both a sheep-farmer and an inventor, a great believer in versatility, and it is because of versatility that Baafada Supply has been our family business for over one hundred years now.

People often ask about the name of our company. When my great-grandad was a toddler he used to be brought for walks across our fields, which now form much of Greystones. When his mother would say “look at the baa-lambs” he would point to the older sheep and say “baa-fadder”, meaning lamb’s father. His elder brothers, showing the rapier-sharp wit which has been a feature of the Tinfamily down the generations, took to calling him “Baafada” and the name stuck. So did his interest in sheep (which is rumoured to be common here in County Wicklow) so when he started his own business in his early twenties he took to selling mutton. The name of the company practically picked itself.

Back in those days the cheapness of mutton made it a very common dish among the poor, but the poor do not have much money (you heard it here first) so sales were slow and the business would have gone under were it not for Great-grandad’s first invention. He noticed how the stringy bits of mutton got caught in your teeth, and this is how he invented dental floss, which started the company flourishing.

Then came a great stroke of luck, when the Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze” was published. In it a man was drugged with powdered opium in a dish of curried mutton, the strong taste of which concealed the drug. This plan was quickly copied by wives of all social strata anxious to get a good nights sleep and not anxious to have a fourteenth child. Never one to miss a business opportunity Jeremiah started selling the Powdered Opium as well (with his picture on the bottle, like Paul Newman’s sauces), but was surprised to find that this was illegal, and had to flee to the US. Once again luck was on his side, with the arrival of prohibition. To avoid the law Jeremiah had changed his name to Jack Daniels, and it was under this name that he started marketing a drink consisting of 11% alcohol and 89% sheep liniment, which still sells to this very day to the kind of drinkers who don’t mind if they occasionally go blind for a couple of hours.

And what of Baafada Trading? Well, Grandad Tin (Jeremiah Junior) took it over and ran it very successfully for years, until the later years of the twentieth century. Then as people grew more prosperous they decided that mutton wasn’t good enough for them, they wanted lamb instead. Lamb chops were in and mutton-chops were, well, a type of facial hair. We might have faced ruination, but JJ was as brilliant as his father. There had always been a limited market for mutton wool, to make hairshirts for penitents and unconvincing wigs for idiots, but JJ had a better idea. He compacted the wool, added pink detergent goo and the Brillo Pad was born (indeed, during the making of one batch he forgot to put the goo in, and accidentally invented Shredded Wheat).

Which brings us up to today, when I now run Baafada Trading. The dishwasher has replaced the Brillo Pad, Hair Restoration Clinics have replaced the wig and commonsense has replaced Shredded Wheat, yet still we are successful, thanks to a master stroke of which any of my forebears would have been proud.

I invented the kebab.

Since the kebab is eaten only by people who are very, very drunk I simply substitute mutton for lamb, and no-one can tell the difference. These, remember, are people who believe that the thing in the picture on the right is some part of a lamb, so I’m guessing they aren’t culinary experts.

I have opened a subsidiary of Baafada Trading, which now runs a chain of stores selling my products. I call these stores Abrakebabra.

It’s an Arabic word, meaning “mutton dressed as lamb”.