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.

The Great Escape

This is today’s Google Masthead:

….. so let’s all celebrate with him.


Harry Houdini sat in the corner of the pub, raised his pint of Guinness and wished himself a Happy 137th Birthday.

He had performed many wonderful feats of escapology during his lifetime. However, they all paled to the level of smoke-and-mirrors-David-Copperfieldery when compared to his annual birthday trip to the pub now that he was dead.

Harry's homeIt was so impressive because it was effectively an escape in two parts. His body had to lift the lid of his coffin, push its way through six feet of earth, push aside a load of gravel and then fight its way through the dozens of bouquets of flowers that people insisted on still leaving upon his grave. This was pretty routine for a man who had once been manacled to an albatross,a bouncy castle and a statue of Ozymandias and had been dropped into an erupting volcano. He had escaped with just singed eyebrows, mainly because the statue had taken most of the force.

His only problem had been the year when he emerged from his grave just at the wrong time, and had spent two hours running from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

While this was going on his soul also had to escape from heaven, which involved slipping on an angel’s costume that he’d bought in a fancy dress shop in 1922, sneaking past St Peter (note to new readers, I do sometimes write posts that don’t have saints in them), then picking the lock of the pearly gates with a key that he had made from a piece of manna.

Once outside he simply had to let himself fall. The four-thousand mile an hour plummet  from the skies was still his favourite birthday present to himself, though the squelchy, sucky thud in his ears as his soul re-entered his body was still one of the most disgusting things he’d ever heard.

He loved this day every year. He came to the same pub and sat in the same corner. No-one paid much attention, since he didn’t look his age. When you live in a coffin things like sunburn and holes in the Ozone layer tend not to be a problem for your skin. Neither are laughter lines.

He never bothered talking to anyone, he’d always preferred silence (he could have answered Conan Doyle during those séances, he simply hadn’t wanted to). He would just stare around him in wonder at the changes in fashion, at the variety of new drinks, and at the fact that Alex Ferguson was still Manchester United’s manager, since they’d fought each other for the British Bare-knuckle Boxing Championship in 1897.

He finished his pint and stood up to go. Just for a second he considered having another, then thought better of it.

When you’re going to spend the next 364 days underground in box you don’t want to overload your bladder.

Good Grief Christina

From Saints.SPQN.comWhile poking fun at virtually all of sainthood yesterday I left one saint out, since she deserves a post all to herself.

A short detour to Rantland will now follow. Whenever I clicked into a link it would turn from blue to purple, and I noticed all related ones did too. For example, after I’d clicked into ‘football’ I noticed that ‘football players’ had turned purple as well (they’ve no saint, by the way, which makes a bit of a mockery of Maradona’s Hand of God).

Early on in the vast list I found the category ‘against depression‘, which obviously I had a look at. After I’d done so I discovered that ‘insanity‘, ‘madness’, ’mental illness’ and ’mentally ill people’ were now also purple. We constantly fight the stigma attached to depression, striving to convince the world that it is not a sign of mental illness, but it seems the Catholic Church does not agree.

Anyway, back from Rantland, and back to the Patron Saint Against Depression. Prepare yourself, gentle reader, to meet St Christina the Astonishing.

Having a boastful adjective attached by a ’the’ to the end of your name tends to happen to people intent on world domination, such as Attila the Hun, Ming the Merciless or Cowell the GuyfromXFactor. Saints don‘t go in for it as much. St Patrick, for example, was not known as St Patrick the Magnificent, nor was Joan of Arc known as St Joan the Fire-eater, or at least for not as long as she’d hoped. But when you read about Christina you find that Astonishing doesn’t really do her justice.

She could not stand “the odour of sin” from other people, and would avoid contact by climbing trees or buildings, hiding in ovens or cupboards or simply by levitating (the “simply“ in that sentence is not mine, it‘s from the article itself and implies it was the easiest of her options).

She slept on rocks, wore rags, and begged (though who from, given the paragraph above, is not immediately obvious). She would spend long periods in tombs, would stand in freezing water or would roll in fire. She should be the patron saint of saunas.

What I do find astonishing is that she was born in 1150 (near Liege, she’s Belgian, Mwa, I’m just saying) and died in 1224, which means that after all that she lived to be 74. It’s an interesting alternative to eating your five-a-day.

Anyway, for us depressives this flying anti-socialite, part iceberg, part chestnut-roasting-on-an-open-fire is our role model, and the one who is to intercede on our behalf to God.

That should really depress us, but actually she’s cheered me up enormously, by making me feel quite normal.

Perhaps that’s why she’s a saint.

Saints Preserve Us

In my St Patrick’s Day post I said that I did not know if there was a Patron Saint of Humility.  I did in fact look it up but learned that because all saints are humble there was no particular saint allocated to the role (yet there is a Patron Saint of the human race, and since all saints are…oh, never mind).

But the websites to which my searches led me were fascinating. There seem to be Patron Saints for or against just about anything. Lest (biblical type word thrown in for free) you don’t believe me, there are Patron Saints of all of the following:

  • Blackbirds
  • Ammunition
  • Bikers (Columbanus – the original Hell’s Angel?)
  • Outbuildings
  • Breast-feeding (St Giles, er, a bloke)
  • Gravel
  • Civil Disorder
  • Jugglers (Julian the Hospitaller, presumably since being hit in the face by a shower of skitttles when it all goes wrong must be quite painful)
  • Open Sores
  • People who are unattractive
  • Herpes (sorry, English readers, but it’s St George)
  • Fencing
  • Bakers of Holy Wafers
  • Ice-skating
  • Computers (Isidore of Seville, who died on the 4th of April 636, the year they brought out Windows DCXXXVI)
  • Invincible people (?)
  • Lions
  • St Mirren Football Club (surprisingly, it’s St Mirren)
  • Mad dogs
  • Piles
  • In-law problems (there are 11 saints listed, it must be one of their bigger departments)
  • Fainting
  • Greetings
  • Hermits (wouldn’t have thought they’d want one, but in fact have two – Anthony the Abbot and the aforementioned St Giles, who thus is the weirdest double-jobber in history)
  • Post Offices
  • Fish
  • Unjustly lost lawsuits (Nicholas of Myra, though God knows what he can do for you)
  • Purplers (to be fair, I’m only including this one because I have no idea what that is)
  • Against losing keys
  • Against hail
  • Discretion (not telling you who)

Although I could go on forever, I will leave you with the Patron Saint of Being Late in Learning to Walk. All of our children were prone to this because our house has wooden parquet floors and each in turn found that stumbling, toddly steps were no match for the sheer speed at which they could whizz along on their bottoms.

Tinson2 was especially late, taking up walking at the age of nearly two-and-a-half. Perhaps we should have told him that if he didn’t walk he’d end up with a really big bum.

After all, the Patron Saint is Vaast of Arras.