Whenever I wonder whether Mrs Tin and I are making a good job of parenting or not, I always have this benchmark to measure us against.
My own family moved house while I was on holiday.
The year was 1979, the holiday venue (irrelevant to the tale, I only mention it in case you’re curious) was Ibiza, and the chief instigator of the whole thing was our solicitor.
My parents decided in May of that year that they wanted to move. They searched around a bit and found a house (while I was away at a wedding in Birmingham, now I come to think of it) that they liked, and they struck a deal.
Having never been involved in anything legal (or indeed illegal) before, my parents knew no solicitors. I did though, the solicitor for the company I was then training with, and I got him to do the job.
I have written once before about this wonderfully strange man, Eddie Masterson. He booked into Barry’s Hotel in central Dublin for one night one night (read it again, it does make sense) and stayed there for over twelve years, using it both as a home and an office. He loved to give the impression that he was poor, wearing suits that I think he crumpled deliberately, all of which were dusted in ash from the cigarette that hung permanently from his mouth. When he wasn’t soliciting he wrote songs for a variety of Irish singers, two of which became very big hits. He played for the Jimmy Magee All-Stars, a celebrity Gaelic Football team which played fund-raising matches for a variety of charities (he once scored a headed goal in a game, which is not allowed in Gaelic Football, but because it was him the ref allowed it anyway).
Although he was about twice my age we hit it off remarkable well. One year our tiny office got as far as the semi-final of a big Inter-Business Soccer Competition (we had no trouble picking the team, there were only 11 of us working there) and he wrote a song about how we would win the trophy, about how we were unbeatable, and every verse ended with “because Tinman is the King”.
(To briefly sadden yet gladden the story, I had left the company when he died, but they rang me to tell me so I went to his funeral, both because I wanted to and because I was afraid there would be no-one else there. The church was packed, a Government minister (later to become Taoiseach, our prime minister) gave an uproariously funny eulogy, I saw two other ministers and innumerable musicians and sports stars in the congregation, and felt really proud for Eddie, and for having known him).
Anyway, he acted for my parents over the long summer months as the house was being built, but legal wheels moved slowly in Ireland in those days, and when I left for Ibiza in early October there were still many things to be sorted between us and the builder and between us and the people who were buying our house. Closing the deal was still weeks away
Or not. Apparently the day I left Eddie rang my dad. “If I get this all sorted out in a fortnight, will Tinman go to the wrong house when he gets home?”
“I suppose so,” said my Dad.
“Then watch this,” said Eddie.
There followed two weeks of astonishing solicitorship which culminated in a Friday afternoon where my parents handed over the keys of one house, received the keys to another and moved to a town ten miles away.
And at seven o’clock that Sunday morning I arrived at my house (having let the taxi go at the bottom of the road, even Eddie couldn’t have foreseen that bonus) and discovered that I had become that fairly rare creature, an orphan whose parents are still alive.
Over the time I knew him we slagged each other, played jokes on each other, told jokes to each other, but I never got close to matching what he did to me that fortnight.
Because Eddie was the King.