Monthly Archives: April 2011

Where I Lay My Hat

Me, but invisible

I’ve a post written for tomorrow which took most of today to write, so I was really stuck for this evening. I decided I’d follow WordPress’s prompt no matter how what it was. Since recent suggestions have included what I’d do if I were President for a day, or if I was invisible for a day, I wasn’t hoping for much (if I were President and invisible for a day I’d grope Colin Farrell’s bum – I should point out that our President is a woman, so I have to pick what I’d bet she’d like to do, otherwise the whole premise would be silly).

Anyway, this is the WordPress topic:

“Where do you find acceptance? For your ideas? For the secret notions you have for who you really want to be? Or think you are? Who are the friends, family or co-workers who are most accepting of your true self? And how do they demonstrate their acceptance? What is different about how they treat you than other people?”

See guys? A post about you lot.

Drama Queen

Tingirl’s drama school starts its new term this week.

She’s always been quite a quiet girl but changes totally once she gets on stage. She’s been with this group now since she’s been about eight, and I’ve always noticed that in every scene she is in she never stops acting.

We should probably have seen this coming since we went to Portugal on holiday when she was five. They would water the grass outside with sprinklers and the trajectory of the water would sometimes take it right up the steps of our apartment. She and Tinson2 would play chicken with the water, leaping back as it neared the steps, and once we heard her say “is that all you’ve got, Mister Sprinkler……if that’s your real name.”

I reckon that proves two things: that we let her watch too much TV, and that she’s a natural.

Dinner Date

A question (not from WordPress yet, though I bet it’ll come up) that you often see is “Who would you like to have as guests at a dinner party?”

Dinner Table (thanks, Matisse)

People generally say Albert Einstein, Stephen Fry, Germaine Greer and so on. Some will mention Gandhi, many now opt for Barrack Obama, though be honest, if Barrack Obama was coming to your house you’d spend so much money on cleaning and redecorating that you’d have no money left for food.

Marilyn Monroe gets a seat surprisingly often. I suspect this is because you can pretend you are picking her for reasons of historical interest, and so sound less lecherous than picking, say, Charlotte Jackson from Sky Sports News, whom I have picked at random because she’s on my TV screen at the moment. The hope that either of them might play footsie with you under the table should be filed in the “dream on” drawer in your life.

Charlotte Jackson (thanks, God)

People imagine that there will be interesting and stimulating conversation, and among the group mentioned above, for example, there probably would be. The mistake is in assuming that you will be able to keep up. People who wouldn’t cook for a top chef in a million years will invite a collection of geniuses to converse with them and believe that they will hold their own in this company.

Imagine telling them that you have a blog. And write stuff about Living Next Door to Alice on it. After that they will speak to you very slowly and loudly (“He Says That Space Can Be Bent”).

No-one ever admits that they think the whole thing might be a tedious ordeal, or that they don’t really like meeting strangers no matter how many of the Kennedys they have shagged.

Mrs Tin went to a dinner party last Saturday, while I was over in Manchester. It was in the house of the couple who are Tinson2’s godparents, and there were two other couples there that we know. That’s where you’ll find interesting conversation, and laughs, and warmth, and friendship.

They are the ideal guests at a dinner party – friends.

Voices In My Head

Yesterday morning I was eating my toast
And thought “why don’t I write a post
About Alice.”
So I rushed to the laptop and wrote with pride
But silently, insidious and snide
The bloody song crept slowly into Tinman’s mind.
Oh, I don’t know when it’s leaving or when it’s gonna go
It’s costing me my reason and I’ve got to let you know
That for twenty-four hours I’ve been sharing my head with Alice.
Twenty-four hours just waiting for the chance
To listen to U2 or maybe Adam and the Ants
Now I’ve gotta get rid of this stupid song about Alice.
I don’t hear the birds sing, the sound of the lark
I can’t hear the telly, or even dogs bark
Only Alice.
I go “yah, yah, yah” and I cover my ears
I whistle “Hey Jude” and she says “I’m still here”
And the crappy old song sings slowly inside Tinman’s mind.
Oh, I don’t know when it’s leaving or when it’s gonna go
It’s costing me my reason and I’ve got to let you know
That for twenty-four hours I’ve been sharing my head with Alice.
Twenty-four hours just waiting for the chance
To fill my head with “Layla” or perhaps “The Safety Dance”
Now there’s only one way to get rid of this wagon Alice.
I don’t want to do it, it fills me with dread
There’s one song drives all others out of your head
Even Alice.
So I’ve gritted my teeth like a man who has piles
And I’ve sung “I Would Walk Five Hundred Miles”
And Alice has disappeared…
Oh, I’m really glad she’s leaving, it’s great to see her go
But now I’ve a new problem because I have to let you know
It’s the very last resort that I took to cure me of Alice
Now I’ll spend at least a month with The Proclaimers in my head
I’ll hear them in my office and I’ll hear them in my bed 
Because NOTHING gets rid of the song that got rid of Alice.

Love Triangle

When Sally got the word, she ran around the room, hugging herself in glee. “Now to ring Sam,” she thought, but then paused. How to play it? She couldn’t sound as triumphant as she felt, so she decided to play it cool. She dialled the number, the number she had known by heart for twenty-four years now.

He picked up, and his beloved voice said “Hello?”

“I suppose you’ve heard about Alice?” she said, as nonchalantly as she could.

His reaction nearly caused her to give up on him there and then. Other men, (normal men, her inner voice whispered) would have said “no, what about her?” They might have assumed that she had a cold, or had been bitten by a dog, or had dyed her hair blonde. Less normal men (but still more normal than him, persisted her inner voice) might have feared she’d been kidnapped for ransom, sold into slavery, or abducted by aliens. But she heard the phone hit the table, and knew that he had rushed to the window and looked outside, because the one thing he feared more than anything else, more than germs, dogs, hair dye, kidnappers, pirates or aliens, was that Alice might have found a boyfriend.

She heard his receding footsteps, heard his anguished wail, and knew that she had timed it perfectly. She knew that at that very moment the big limousine was pulling slowly into Alice’s drive.

She hung up. For the moment her job was done.


Sam was devastated. For twenty-four years he’d been living next door to Alice, and had never had a chance to tell her how he felt, because how many opportunities come along get in a mere twenty-four years? Three or four hundred at least, you may be thinking, but you’ve got to remember that Sam (Smokie was his nickname at school) was a timid soul who still hadn’t left home by the age of twenty-four, and who always assumed the worst in any situation. He watched Alice leave her house. Just for a moment he caught her eye, but he forced himself to remain expressionless, not wanting to let her know his pain. He didn’t know why she was leaving, or where she was going to go. He guessed she had a reason, but didn’t want to know, because wallowing in self-pity was easier that way, and Sam liked to stick to stuff he was good at.


Sally called back after what she considered was a decent amount of time, which, considering the big limousine hadn’t yet disappeared, was probably only about two or three minutes.

“Alice is gone but I’m still here,” she said.

The anguished sobbing at the other end of the line stopped. “Got him,” thought Sally. “Rebound sex,” thought Sam, and thus began a relationship which made Burton and Taylor look as settled as Ma and Pa Walton. They fought, they rowed, they left each other several times, but the fact that they were both obsessive loopers meant that they were made for each other, and they stayed together, so united that many years later someone mentioned Alice and Sam thought “Alice? Who the f**k is Alice?”


And what about Alice? She and her workmates had hired a limo to go to a Kylie concert in style (a fact that Sally well knew, the conniving cow), and she came home four hours later to find that her childhood sweetheart had got off with her supposed best friend.

You’d think she’d be devastated, but she found herself quite relieved.

When she’d been young she’d been mad about Sam. They’d carved their initials deep in a tree-bark (her name was Alice Richards, his was Sam Edwards, it hadn’t looked as well as she’d hoped), she’d written about him in her pink diary with the little lock on the front, she’d practised writing “Alice Edwards” over and over again.

And then she’d grown up, and he hadn’t. Even as she left in the limo this evening he was staring expressionlessly out the window at her. Sometimes she shivered when she thought about him.

And worse still she’d had to listen to Sally going on about him, night after night when they should have been out enjoying themselves.

Now at last they were together, and she felt that she was free. She was young, her family was rich (a big limousine had pulled into her drive, to get a limo into my drive I’d have to move my house into my back garden) and she had her whole life ahead of her.

The following morning she was walking to the shop when she passed Bobby from a neighbouring song. He smiled at her, she smiled shyly back, and he asked her to go for coffee.

She became Bobby’s Girl.

Friday Filler 2

Those of you who wait with bated breath for each of my posts, expecting to be enthralled by sheer genius, will find the Friday fillers, where I go to meet my mates after work and arrive home with 10 minutes to write a post, a bit disappointing.

Those of you who are more used to me will be thankful, in that these are like normal posts, only mercifully shorter.

I do have a post for the morning, see you then.

Over Cocky

Things have changed a lot in the world of courting since I was a young lad.

In those days you took a girl out to the pictures, or occasionally for dinner. You would eventually move from hand-holding on to kissing and, after a respectable period, maybe five to six months, you might be allowed to touch her chest through six layers of clothing.

Times have moved on, Ireland has changed, things move a lot quicker. And today at lunch in the office – the source of so much of my knowledge of modern life – I discovered that some young men, when embarking on a night of clubbing, will book into a hotel in advance. Knowing that there will be trouble if they book a single room and then arrive late at night with a young lady, they will actually book a double room under the name of “Mr and Mrs Smith” or something equally original in the hope, indeed expectation, that a pseudonomical Mrs Smith will have been found by the end of the evening.

Many of us aghast at this. “And what happens if he returns empty-handed?” asked one of the girls, having not filtered that sentence through her head before she said it. “He has to pay for a double room for nothing.”

“Well, he gets two breakfasts,” I pointed out. And then I started to wonder. Do the staff recognise guys like this? Do they sit him at a table for two, bring him eight sausages, two fried eggs, six rashers and twlve slices of toast?

And do they then come around and say “and would sir like another two cups of coffee?”

I hope they do. I know I would.

Ma Belle Fille

On Monday our receptionist showed Tinson2 how to tend reception while she spent an hour showing a Health and Safety Inspector around the office. This paid dividends when our receptionist unexpectedly had to take today off, and for the day callers to our company (pop. 252) were greeted by a 15 year-old boy.

He answered the phones, put callers through, greeted visitors, got them to sign in, contacted the correct people to deal with them, and scanned many, many documents for staff members, because none of the rest of us actually know how to use the scanner.

He is absolutely exhausted, and therefore will be unlikely to be awake to bid “au revoir” to his younger sister Tingirl, when she heads off to Paris in the morning.

Or later tonight. It all depends on whether you view 2.30am as being early tomorrow or late this evening. Either way, thats when she’s heading off to meet at the school for the Second-Years’ traditional  4-day school trip.

Unstereotypical Paris photo (via

They will visit Disneyland, go up the Eiffel Tower, see the Mona Lisa, boat-trip along the Seine at night and, being teenagers, will probably eat in McDonalds.

Tinson2 did the same trip when he was in Second Year (Tinson1 got Barcelona) and loved it. I’m sure she will too. Her normally ice-cool demeanour has been replaced by dashing about and speaking faster than the speed of sound, which doesn’t really matter as the pitch of her voice is so high this evening that only dogs can hear it anyway.

I’ll be up to wave her off anyway. I hope she has a great time.


Last night I noticed that I had received exactly 2,500 comments (no, in total over three years,not just on last night’s post) and duly thanked Thug In a Cocktail Dress for being the one to bring me to that figure. It would be a lot more celebratable if I ignore the fact that at least a quarter of those comments are probably from me.

By chance I also noticed that Askimet claimed to have protected me from 4,988 spam comments. I’ve just looked, and there are seven in my spam queue, the second of which will take me past 5,000. Since I rarely try to sell myself viagra or extensions to my bodily extremities I can only assume that all of these are real spam comments, and I acknowledge here that the phrase “real spam comments” may well be one of the silliest I’ve ever used.

Anyway, it’s hard to ignore a milestone like that, so against all commonsense I had a look. The comment, which was on the post I wrote about the National Census and about how I’d have to rate my own health, reads:

Eigentlich ein super Post, nur kannst du beim nächsten Mal nicht n bisschen ausführlicher sein? Dies wäre wirklich toll 🙂

The guy thinks it’s a super post, which endears me to him already, though “nicht n bisschen” sounds worryingly negative, and “ausführlicher” sounds even more worryingly gross. The smiley at the end, though, tells me that I am not to take what he says too seriously, so it was tempting to unspam him and let him join our happy band.

Either that, or Babelfish the sentence, which is the option I went for. They have translated it as:

Actually a super post office, only you can be in more detail with next time not n little? This would be really mad 🙂

He thinks I’m Postman Pat, apparently. And he’s giving out to me, telling me how to write my blog.

“Nicht n bisschen” seems to mean “not n little”, so perhaps he’s trying to sell me viagra after all.

And the smiley looks lot more sinister when it is directly preceded by the word “mad”.

They say that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. That’s not always true.

Men at Work

As part of Tinson2’s Transition Year at school he has to do three weeks’ work experience. Last autumn I reported how he worked for two weeks in our local pub, and this week he is coming to work with me.

Things did not start well this morning. When Tinson1 was eight he described his five-year old brother as “the indestructible sleeper” and teenagerhood has, unsurprisingly, not improved his wakeability. While I was in the shower Mrs Tin called him and called him and called him. He finally got up just as we had to leave, I handed him his bus fare and we headed to the bus stop. The bus arrived, he reached into his pocket and realised he had left the bus fare on the table. We had to let the bus go, ring Mrs Tin to bring us the money, and we then chased the bus like stagecoach robbers, finally catching it four-and-a-half miles along the road.

After that things went well. We arrived together with our identical lunchboxes and he sat at a desk two along from mine. He spent most of the day working on a job I needed done, but also tended the phones for an hour while the receptionist showed a Health and Safety Assessor around (“Hello. I am Tinson2. This is Wheredadworks. How can I help you?”) and delivered a tender for a contract, finding himself a taxi, getting to the potential client before the closing bidding time, getting the taxi to wait for him and getting a receipt to prove we had delivered the tender on time.

The important thing that it was all real work. the job he’s doing for me is one I have to do every month, and if he wasn’t doing it then I would have to, the salesperson responsible for the bid would have had to have got the taxi to the client herself, and the phones would have been diverted to someone while the receptionist was occupied.

We have plenty of ideas for him for the rest of the week, some quite mundane, some hopefully interesting, but he seems to be happy as long as we keep him occupied, so I’m hoping the week goes well.

As long as he gets up in the morning.