Monthly Archives: September 2011

Only Trying To Help

I have often slagged Spellcheck over the fact that it doesn’t recognise the words blog, WordPress or Spellcheck (and will now slag it over the fact that it does not recognise the word slagged) but I’m being a bit unfair. When it draws its squiggly red line under words on your post it is not disapprovingly tut-tutting (oh, no way, Spellcheck, everyone days “tut-tutting“), it is in fact offering to help.

Smug-looking, isn't he?

It is a bit like the Microsoft paper-clip who offers to write letters for you. I can in fact write my own letters, most people can, so my reply is always no. If it were to say “it looks like you’re writing a blog, would you like me to think up ideas for you” then we could become friends for life.

All Spellcheck wants you to do is click the little “ABC-tick” box at the top of the screen, where it will offer what it reckons are more legitimate alternatives to the words you have used. The problem is that it underlines so many words that it becomes the grammatical Boy Who Cried Wolf, and you tend to ignore it.

Last week I typed the word “squggly” (in a sentence about Spellcheck and its red lines, in fact), but I took its squeal of red-lined horror as literary snobbery about the word “squiggly” so I made no attempt to check what I’d written and “squggly” is what now appears in the post. It’s actually a nicer word, I may use it all the time from now on.

Anyway, in my surprise at its not recognising the word “slagged” I have looked up its suggested alternatives. One of them is “shagged”.

Perhaps this is why WordPress topic-setters don’t get upset when we say that they deserve a good slagging.

(You can tell I’ve absolutely nothing to write about today, can’t you? The paper-clip is fired).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fall

I was quite scathing about Autumn just a few weeks ago here, bemoaning the fact that I am getting up these days in the dark, but now that it has been set as a photo challenge I have to pretend that I like it, or else give my trusty mobile phone a rest for a week and sit at home and sulk.

And there is no doubt that Autumn can be quite beautiful. There are trees changing colour:

Sometimes a whole road of them:

Blackberries grow…

…and ripen.

(those two pictures were taken two minutes apart, the ones in our back garden are way ahead of the ones in the front).

And of course, there are crop circles:

And that should be the end of the post, but I did not in fact take the picture above, so it’s time to pay tribute to this week’s guest photographer. The field above is on a steep hill coming into Greystones where the bus gathers up considerable speed, so my attempt at taking the photo ended up like this:

As you can see, not only did I not get the bales of hay, I didn’t even get the field. So today I left my mobile at home for the day (that’s no big deal, no-one ever rings it) and this afternoon Mrs Tin headed up to the field. She walked along this path (note fallen autumnal leaves):

Got to this hedge:

Took this picture for some reason:

And ended up with this:

with bales of hay, multi-coloured trees, trees beginning to look bare, in short all of autumn in just one shot.

And she did all of this just so I could use a “crop circles” joke on my blog.

Did Anne Hathaway ever take photos to help Shakespeare with his work? I think not.

Onwards and Upwards

Nothing gets your day off to a bright start better than a 7.30 am visit to your psychiatrist.

I presume mine offers such an early appointment so that people can visit him and still be at work on time (I was in at ten to nine), avoiding explanations that they might have to give if they arrived later. “Sorry I’m late, I’ve been at my shrink” is a sentence which bosses tend to remember when the time comes for handing out promotions. As a career move it has the same effect as writing “I hate my job” on your Facebook page, or making one of the girls in HR cry (a long story, but she is actually a friend of mine and it wasn’t really my fault).

Anyway, we’re still working away, trying different techniques and medicines to see if we can crack the derealisation, the feeling that everything that is happening is slightly unreal, which I’m surprised to realise I’ve been suffering from for four years now (time flies when you don’t notice what’s going on).  It‘s the only real mental issue that I have left. My lying awake from 3.30 am each morning is gone (I wouldn’t say that I sleep like a baby, but since babies wake up every three hours and cry their eyes out that’s just as well), my stress levels are massively reduced, my unfounded fears now lie unfound and, touch wood (my superstition is gone as well), I haven’t had a bad bout of depression for over two years. So the derealisation is the only problem left, and as my shrink has said before it is notoriously hard to shift.

He told me this morning he knows one woman who has had it for 20 years.

Just as well I don’t get easily depressed any more.

Like Peas In A Pod

On TV last night somebody used the well-known cliché “I wouldn’t know him from Adam”.
I’ve never really understood this phrase. I know, for example, that most of you have never met me, but I doubt that you wouldn’t know me from Adam.
Just to make sure, though, should any of you ever meet both Adam and I at, say, a cocktail party, keep the following points in mind when trying to figure out which of us is which:

  1. Since the human race grows by three inches every one hundred years, Adam will be very, very short. Actually that doesn’t really help, since so am I.
  2. Adam will look like a man who has eaten at least one of his five portions of fruit. I might well be eating a deep-fried Cadbury’s Crème Egg.
  3. I may have the slightly thoughtful look of a man who is wondering if the front of his property needs painting (though I doubt it, I‘m not that bothered). Adam will have the desolate, haunted look of a man who has had his property re-possessed.
  4. Adam will look as if his hair has been cut by his wife, there being no mention of hairdressing in the bible until the advent of Delilah many years later. I will look as if my hair has been cut by my local barber for a mere nine euro, so Adam’s hair may well look better.
  5. I will be able to converse on a wide variety topics, from the state of the world economy to how Arsenal haven’t a hope of winning the league with that defence to Beyonce‘s legs. Adam will know a lot about snakes.
  6. Adam will look like a man who has been nagged by his wife into doing something he didn’t want to do. I will look like a man who has been told not to finish this sentence the way he originally planned to.
  7. Finally, and I can’t stress enough just how big a clue this is, Adam will be naked, apart from one strategically placed fig-leaf. I will not be similarly attired.

I have no idea where one might obtain a fig-leaf.

That Is The Question

When I was 17 I sat my Leaving Certificate English exam (the Leaving Cert is the big state-set exam that we all do at the end of secondary school, the points we get from which determine whether we can get into university and what courses we can do when and if we get there).

Every year on the English exam they asked a question about Yeats since he is Ireland’s greatest ever poet, so I made sure that I knew more about him than even his mother did (in fairness this wasn’t hard, she probably didn’t read his poetry any more than my family read my blog).

Anyway, on the morning of the English exam I took the paper and turned confidently to the Yeats question, read it calmly, then read it again, a little less calmly. By the third reading I realised that I was in trouble.

I couldn’t answer the question because I didn’t understand it. It was as if someone had taken a collection of common English words and hurled them at the page, like one of those artists hurling paint from a tin onto a wall. No matter how often I read it I had absolutely no idea what they were asking me to do.

It is unfortunate that I cannot reproduce the question here. Ask Google about the dinosaur or the paleolithic era and it offers page upon page of information, but ask it about the 1976 Leaving Cert English paper and it says sorry, history doesn’t go back that far. Admittedly it was 35 years ago, the exam paper was printed on papyrus and we wrote our answers on parchment using a quill made from the wing-feather of a dodo, but there were computers about, even if they were the size of a battleship and long division referred to the length of time it took them to answer. The question is lost, however, so you will just have to take my word for its impenetrable density, something like my own during the maths exam the following day.

In the end I had to answer the question on Paradise Lost instead, a poem which, because it was long and dull, I had read exactly once.

Of course I was young then. Years later, when I was about 30, I found the exam paper while I was clearing out a load of old stuff. I was now older, more educated and more widely read. I turned confidently to the Yeats question.

I still had no idea what it meant.

And why do I bring this bitter memory up today? Because I think I know now what became of the person who set that question. Yesterday’s suggested WordPress topic was “would you rather laugh with the sinners, or cry with the saints” and I have absolutely no idea what that means either.

So my tormentor from 35 years ago now works for WordPress as a topic setter.

And to make extra cash he ghost-writes spam comments.

All My Own Work

I’ve never made up a joke before.

By which I mean one of the question/punch-line jokes which make the world go round, giggling.

But on Friday night, while I was trying to think of something to write about feet, I came up with this:

Q. What happened when Fred Flintstone drove his car over a broken bottle?

A. He ended up with two flat feet.

Well, it is my first attempt ever.

Footprints in the Sand

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “feet”.


Once there were thousands of them. They roamed freely about the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, proud, magnficent and extremely hairy. They were smarter than monkeys, stronger than apes and mistier than gorillas. They would surely have become the Primate of the primates were it not for one small flaw.

They were not known as Bigfeet.

The Bigfoots had one extremely large foot the size of a rowing boat and one very small one about eight inches long. In other words one foot wasn’t even a foot.

The reasons for this are shrouded in mystery. It is believed that the bigger foot was for stamping out fires, skating on the frozen lakes during winter and kicking annoying raccoons into the next field. The smaller one was, like Ryan Giggs’s right foot, simply for standing on.

As I say, once there were thousands of them. Then along came man who, as is man’s stupid way, proceeded to hunt them down. They used their hides as blankets, their toe nails as shields and their bigger foot to build garden sheds.

They would roast and eat the smaller foot and announce that it tasted like chicken. This is not surprising, everyone throughout history forced by circumstances to eat badger, panda, dormouse, python or the limbs of plane-crash passengers less fortunate than themselves has described the taste as being “just like chicken”.

The one exception to this rule is the McDonald’s Chicken McNugget.

Now there was just one of his kind left. He hid himself in the woodland of British Columbia, away from prying human eyes. Occasionally he would accidentally leave footprints in the mud (everyone would excitedly photograph the huge footprint, no-one ever noticed the smaller one beside it) and just occasionally he would appear for a second in full view and be captured on film, as in the famous photo shown here.

One day he was sitting disconsolately at the side of a lake when he saw what he thought for a second was his reflection in the water. Then he turned and his mouth fell open in astonishment.

There was another Bigfoot standing behind him.

Not only that, but she was female. He could tell that because her toenails were painted (on one foot using that little brush they use for painting Airfix models, on the other foot using a roller). She was also carrying a handbag, though what it might contain was a complete mystery to him, as indeed is the case with all handbags to all males.

David Attenborough sneaked up through the woods beside them at this point, and in his words:

“Slowly. They circle. Each other. He offers her. A coconut, a mating ritual among. Primates. She. Takes the coconut and. Crushes it under her bigger foot, confirming that she. Is interested. They rub. Noses, then he moves behind her. And, noisily, they”

Anyway, enough from David Attenborough, he can get his own blog. They were a perfect match for each other, since his right foot was the larger one, while hers was the left. They hugged each other, danced around in circles (there was, of course, no other way they could dance) in glee, and became mates for life.

In time they were blessed with offspring and to their delight each child had two feet the same size. Suitably shorn of their hair they were able to enter human society.

The boys inherited the big feet and became circus clowns. The girls got the tiny feet and became ballerinas.

The parents still live in the same wood, where they have fun playing with us humans. They love to sit side by side at the lake where they first met and wiggle their toes in the water, causing fishermen at the other end of the lake to fall out of their boats. By walking side-by-side they can produce huge left-and-right footprints in the sand, giving rise to the myth of the swartzenegger. And if they come upon a lone human with a camera they jump from the woods and wave cheerfully at him.

They know that the advent of Photoshop means that there is no way that his photographs will be taken seriously.

Weak Days

What is my favourite day of the week, and why?

This is another of those WordPress prompts which make you wonder just how hard they are trying these days. I’m hoping that they collect and analyse the answers, since I’m guessing that Saturday and Sunday will feature more often than Monday and Tuesday, except perhaps among company bosses or people whose house is full of screaming young kids.

In fact every day of the week has something going for or against it, so here is a short summary, starting of course with Monday (Sunday is not the beginning of the week, if it is then why is it part of the weekend)?
So here we go:

Manic Monday: Most Mondays, really. You wake up a couple of minutes before the alarm goes off, luxuriate in the fact that it’s Sunday and slip back asleep only to be blasted awake moments later by the klaxonic blare of your alarm clock, the most awful sound in the universe other than Achy Breaky Heart. You rush across your bedroom, standing on something painful and then hop swearing into the bathroom, standing in something icky that you desperately hope is toothpaste. The day can only get better from then on you reckon, but somehow Mondays tend not to. There are, of course, the Happy Mondays, the Bank Holidays and such, but these rather unfairly tend to be shorter than Manic Mondays, mainly because you don’t get up until eleven.

Ruby Tuesday: the 40th Tuesday of the year, usually the first one in October, when the summer is over, you’re getting up in the dark and you’ve started wearing your big coat again. It is the feast day of St Prozac, the patron saint of dejection.

Spy Wednesday: A good day to have a Mission Impossible marathon, and laugh wildly at the plotlines. In the second film Tom Cruise takes off a mask of the face of his enemy to reveal that he is in fact himself. He then pulls off another mask, revealing that he is in fact the enemy, before finally pulling off a final mask to become himself again. Did none of the enemy’s henchmen notice that their boss had shrunk to four-foot-two and had a head the size of a pumpkin? In the first film he is chased up a tunnel by a burning helicopter, a sight that has to be seen not to be believed.

The Man Who Was Thursday: a day of celebration of the life and works of GK Chesterton, without whom this blog would not have a name. Well, it would, it would just have a different one.

TGI Friday involves splodging on the sofa watching Television Generated Images, the more mindless the better, starting to store up energy for Manic Monday.

Six Word Saturday: a blog that people visit each week to sum up their lives in just six words. An example from me would be “Can’t Say Anything Funny About Saturday”, whilst you might have “The Others Aren’t Funny Either, Tinman”.

And finally, Passion Sunday. Sadly, it rarely lives up to its name.

Fairy Tale

While writing the draft of a post this morning, typing as always with the speed and elegance of a gazelle (and if you’ve ever seen a gazelle typing, you’ll know that’s not good) I left the letter ’l’ out of the word unfairly. Spellcheck drew its schoolmarmish squggly line under it and I corrected it, but not before it got me thinking.

It seems that there is no such word as “unfairy”.

So though priests can be unfrocked, friends can be unfriended and adults can be unadulterated, a fairy is a fairy for ever, for better or even for worse.

This means that Tinkerbell could knock back a bottle of vodka, punch the Easter Bunny solidly in the face (can you imagine how much the Tooth Fairy would have to pay for his two front teeth), get off with Santa Claus and then throw up noisily into the Genie‘s Lamp, and she would still be a fairy next morning. Admittedly she would feel absolutely dreadful, her head would be pixillated in fact, but at least she’d feel better than the Genie.

Remember this the next time you scoff at the idea of there being fairies at the bottom of your garden.
Upset them and they can kill off your roses, infest your lawn with Snotwort (if that‘s not a real weed name it should be) and do unspeakable things to your garden gnome’s fishing rod, safe in the knowledge that they can’t be unfairied.

It makes you wonder what Fairy Liquid is made of.

Little Ears

Two things have prompted today’s post, yet another sorry saga of my poor parenting. The first is last week’s tale of the angry man who catches my bus each morning. The other is more noteworthy, in that twice last weekend I drove the ten-mile round trip to and from the neighbouring town of Bray.

So what, I hear you say, but the fact is that I reckon that those two trips take the number of times that I’ve driven this year to five. Only one of those occasions took place at night-time and I couldn’t for a second remember how to turn on the lights.

For many years I was the default driver in the Tinhouse. This was because (a) I already had a car when I first met Mrs Tin, (b) I’m older and (c) I taught her to drive (and our relationship survived, and if you think that’s impressive, I also taught her mother to drive).

Then the blackouts began and I had to give up (although no-one expressly forbade me, and indeed one doctor asked me how they were affecting my driving), so for seven months from August 2007 Mrs Tin drove everywhere.

I am now perfectly able to drive again, but without us needing to discuss it Mrs Tin has become the chief driver of the house. When we go out anywhere I instinctively head for the passenger side and she for the driver’s side.

On the whole I’m glad. During the time I couldn’t drive I realised how much I had come to hate driving in dreadful traffic full of half-witted gobshites, by which I meant absolutely everyone other than me.

For Tindriver was not the sweet soul that you all know from this blog. Tindriver was an impatient, speeding, intolerant git, a man who drove with one finger permanently on the horn and another one permanently pointing at other drivers.

If I’d been in Ancient Rome, mine would have been the only chariot still mobile by the end of the first lap.

But when Tinson1 came along, singing happily to himself in the baby seat at the back of the car, I felt I had to tone down my language. I didn’t cut it out altogether, the roads were too full of, well, drivers for me to be able to do that, but I took to muttering under my breath, much like the angry man on my bus, happy in the knowledge that he couldn’t hear me.

Then one day someone pulled out in front of me and I had to stop very suddenly. And I heard an exaggerated sigh from behind me, then a one-year old voice muttering “Uck Ake”.

I can’t say it cured me, but it certainly made a difference.