Monthly Archives: March 2011

Lighting Up the Town

Today’s post is the final part of a trilogy of fire stories. This is one I’m slightly reluctant to tell, since it doesn’t involve me. It does, however, concern a close relation (not Mrs Tin or any of the Tinkids) who shall henceforth be known as TinFamilyRelative, or TFR.

TFR drove quite an old car, since she was young and it was her first one. It therefore had to undergo an NCT (National Car Test, our equivalent of the MOT) each year. She took the car along and, slightly to her surprise, it passed. God knows what they did while they were checking it, but two days later she was driving it along just outside the town of Ashford when smoke started billowing from under her bonnet. She stopped the car, stepped out and looked under the bonnet, to discover that her engine was on fire.

Clearly she was in need of a fire extinguisher, which she didn’t have. She thought for a few seconds, reckoned that Ashford Service Station was bound to have a fire extinguisher, so got back into the car and drove down there.

Now, nowhere in the Rules of the Road does it state (a) never get into a burning car or indeed (b) never drive a burning car into a petrol station. Perhaps some laws are simply regarded as self-evident.

Anyway, she was proven right, the Service Station did indeed have a fire extinguisher. In fact it had several, and people arrived from all directions, spraying and spraying until her car looked like a clown after a custard-pie fight. They shouted a lot at TFR, who is well able to stand up for herself, and who simply shouted back until all present agreed that yes, the fire was out, yes, the town was still in one piece and yes, one of them would drive her home.

The tales of the last three days have led me towards a theory. I reckon it was an ancestor of ours, let’s call him Tin-Ugg, who discovered fire. There were many things he could then have done. He could have used it to warm himself, he could have used it to light his cave, he could have used it to cook meat. Being related to us, though, Tin-Ugg lit one end of a stick and poked it into an inactive volcano, just to see what would happen. The massive crater in the Yucutan Peninsula in Mexico, hitherto believed to have been caused by a giant meteorite, was the result.

If my theory is correct, the Tinfamily wiped out the dinosaurs.

Sorry, guys


Goodness Gracious

If you hide memories away in the dark at the back of your mind they will tend to huddle together. Then if you let one out it will bring a friend along with it. Yesterday’s story about fire has reminded me of another incident from my past, one which again will not feature proudly when they come to make the film of my life (which is only a matter of time – I see George Clooney playing me, though Charlie Sheen may be a more realistic option).

The Tinman in today’s tale is older than in yesterday’s story, since he owned a car, and thought that he was cool in that he both smoked and drove very fast. On the day in question I was belting along at my customary 70 miles an hour when I decided I needed a cigarette. I fished one from the packet and, having no lighter, slid open a box of matches and extracted one match, while all the time watching the road. I then placed the cigarette in my mouth, held the matchbox in one hand and the match in the other. I have no idea what I was steering with, it may well have been my teeth.

I struck the match, it burst into flame, broke in half, and the lighted half dropped between my legs.

The reason for the post title should now be clear.

Formula 1 drivers like to think they’re cool, yet will tear into the pits at the slightest sign that their tyres might be showing signs of wear and will absolutely panic if it starts to rain. I think it would liven up the sport immensely if they had to drive with their bum off the seat like a jockey urging on a horse, steering with one hand while flapping frantically at their crotch with the other.

Believe me, Michael Schumacher, it isn’t easy.

I’m a Firestarter

Yesterday’s WordPress suggested topic was “What’s the most on fire you’ve ever been (literally or figuratively)”. I reckon most people will take the topic figuratively and will write about the most amazing buzz they‘ve ever had. The creatively-minded will write about some wonderful day of writing. The sporty will write about a day in which they wiped the floor with the opposition. Síle Seoige will write about last week’s Kylie concert (Google “Síle Seoige Kylie“ if you wish, dear overseas friends, you’ve never seen such a fuss in the papers over so little).

I’m going to take it slightly more literally by telling a tale in which I do not end up covered in flames, but neither do I end up covered in glory.

It involves a Tinman in his late teens and a chip-pan. As far as I know they are a thing of the past, people tend now to grill chips. Back then however, we didn’t need snowboarding, bungee jumping or parachuting to give us the thrill of danger, because each Saturday we got to fill a deep pan with flammable oil, add some flammable potato, and place it upon a gas flame. You also had to shake it violently every now and then to make sure the chips were evenly cooked, adding to the fun by splashing now boiling oil in all directions.

I was in my parents’ house one day cooking chips when the pan went on fire. Calmly I just opened the back door, fired the blazing oil out onto the grass, and decided I might have cornflakes instead. Then the extractor fan above the cooker suddenly burst into flames. Now I was no longer a man dealing with a burning chip pan, I was a youth dealing with a burning house. With a three-year old nephew asleep upstairs.

There was no time to ring for anyone, no time to shout for anyone, I simply had to put the fire out. So I did what any teenager who’d decided that science was too difficult at school would have done. I filled a saucepan with water and, in a pancake-flipping motion, hurled the water up into the electric fan, and repeated this until the flames went out.

Apparently that was a bad thing to do. Apparently water and electricity do not go well together. I know this now, because I was told. Repeatedly. By just about everyone who was told the story over the next few weeks. Which was just about everyone, in the family, in the town, in the country. “What were you thinking?” was a common question, which the answer “that I had to put this bloody fire out” did not seem to satisfy.

I still don’t know why. Fire put out, nephew safe, back garden weeds comprehensively napalmed.


Losing Time

I am on the bus, trying to type on a netbook that is rising and falling gently in time with my panting, and it’s bloody dark.

My mind and body refused resolutely to go to sleep at eleven last night, obstinately and admittedly correctly pointing out that this was not the hour at which they usually went to sleep. They pointed to something called circadian rhythms, I pointed to the clock radio. They pointed to the fact that the clock radio is old enough to have Roman numerals, I pointed to something called Daylight Saving Time, and that we would be getting up earlier too. They asked was I mad, then apologised for bringing that up.

They were sent to bed at eleven anyway, since I am notionally in charge (kind of like with the Tinkids), but took their revenge by remaining awake, not just until twelve, but until well after that. They then gleefully nudged me awake every ten minutes or so throughout the night, saying “don’t you have to get up earlier?”

And I did get up on time, in fact at 6.24, a minute before the alarm should have gone off. I stumbled out to the bathroom and, for the first time in a couple of weeks, had to turn on the light. My mind and body were not impressed (“Daylight Saving Time my arse”, I heard part of me mutter, quite possibly my arse).

I tried to be quick. I suspected that the bus might be early, since I figured many of the usual passengers from earlier stops might not have the same control over their mind and body as I have (I had to fight my fingers to type that sentence), so I resolved to leave the house on time. But things like putting on my trousers or recognising which of the 22 toothbrushes in the bathroom was mine (there are only 5 of us, who owns the others?) seemed much harder this morning, so I left the house a couple of minutes later than usual, the bus was indeed slightly early and I caught only it only by racing to the stop and banging on the door just as it was about to drive off.

This was them

The panting has pretty much stopped now, but I suspect my body is not speaking to me (my mind hasn’t really spoken to me since the derealisation started) and I feel like all of the Numskulls (none of you probably remember them, from the Beano) have gone on a work to rule.

The saying may well be “Spring Forward”, but I have definitely fallen back.

The Busbell Always Rings Twice

A WordPress suggested topic during the week was “What’s the Strangest Thing That’s Ever Happened to You on a Bus?”……

It was cold that morning on the bus, colder than my ex-wife’s heart. The five or six saps stuck with catching that first bus, one so early that it might as well have been last night’s last bus, sat hunched with their collars pulled right up, and their hats pulled right down.

We came to a bus-stop, a hand as slender and pretty as the neck of a swan was held out, so the bus came to a halt. The doors opened and in wafted a perfume like I’d never smelled before, beautiful yet somehow deadly, like an angel’s fart. Along with it wafted in one of the most lovely broads I’d ever seen. She had hair as black as night, eyes as blue as sapphires and lips as red as lipstick.

She spoke softly to me, in a voice as sweet as the honey that you pour onto a lover and then… er, well, anyway, she’d a lovely voice. “Take me to Dublin,” she said.

“Sure, lady,” I said, “but it‘s gonna cost.”

“How much?” she asked.

“Two euro sixty cent,” I said. “That’s the standard fare.”

She took out her purse and fished out the money. I noticed a driver’s licence in the purse. “How come you don’t just drive?”

She looked down at the purse, then quickly up at me. “You a detective?”

“Nope,” I said. “Sam Spade, bus driver.”

Ann Margret

“I’m Lola,” she said. I wasn’t surprised, dames like that never have names like Ann or Margret, except when they’re Ann-Margret.

“And what do you do, Lola?” I asked. “Some kinda Government job?”

“You could say that,” she said. I’d hadn‘t really had to ask, she had “spy” written all over her in letters as big as my overdraft. “I work for the Post Office,” she continued.

“Sure ya do, doll,” I said, and winked. This seemed to confuse her, perhaps she’d thought no-one would ever see through her cover. Suddenly she stared straight ahead, her eyes widened  and then she said those three little words that everyone in my line of work dreams of hearing one day.

“Follow that bus!” she ordered.

I didn’t have to be told twice. I floored the pedal and the bus shot forward faster than a snot from an unexpected sneeze, so fast that three of the schmucks sitting at the back fell off their seats.

“So level with me, Lola,” I said. “Why are we following this bus?”

“Because it’s driving on the right side of the road, and you weren’t,” she snapped. I gotta admit this was true, I hadn’t really been watching the road, I’d been giving her the eye and a man’s only got two eyes, though that excuse doesn’t look as good written down as it did in my head.

She gave me one last look as smouldering as the fires of hell then walked away down the bus. Guess I’d blown it by letting her know I knew the Post Office story was as fake as the tan on a chick in a nightclub. I heard her clomp upstairs on heels as high as, well, an elephant’s eye, since it’s harder to keep thinking up these metaphors than you’d think.

I don’t know what goes on up there. I’ve heard people snooze up there, I’ve heard people talk non-stop on their bloody mobiles, I’ve heard guys get out tiny netbooks and write stuff called a blog, probably really sending secrets to their bosses in Commieland.

It might all be true, I’ve never been up there, I’m not allowed leave my seat for any reason. As my bosses keep telling me, my bus don’t drive itself, or wouldn’t have if I hadn’t nipped into O’Toole’s Store that time to buy cigarettes and forgot to put the handbrake on. My bosses had to pay for all the damage I did to Fagan’s Bar, the one our ex-political boss, Bertie “Dig-out” Ahern, drinks in.

Of all the gin-joints, in all the towns, in all the world, I had to run into that one.

The Non-blue Blues

My blue hair is gone.

It turns out that it wasn’t what hairdressers call “permanent” which apparently means a few months, it was “semi-permanent” which means a few weeks.

That’s fine, it served its purpose, I raised €2,700 for the Irish Cancer Society, so all’s well.

Well, almost.

In order to get the blue to take at all they had to bleach it first, so that it was this colour:

The problem is that this bleach was more permanent than the blue, so my hair is now pretty much that colour. A bigger problem than that is the number of people who have said “oh, I see your hair’s back to its normal colour.”

This was never my hair’s normal colour. It was fairly grey, but there was also quite a bit of brown left, at least as far as I knew. Suddenly my hair is white, about twenty years sooner than I’d hoped, and the general opinion is that this was always the case.

And then last night Tingirl was watching TV, and to my horror I saw my doppelganger.

I am now Gunther from Friends.