Monthly Archives: November 2011

Talking ‘Bout My Girl

She is Tingirl to all of us here, but at home we call her The Bear.

This is not a reference to her temperament, to her temper or to a tendency to steal picnic baskets. It simply has something to do with her real name, though it doesn’t rhyme with it or anything, it’s just one of those family things that make no sense to anyone else. She has been lucky in many ways – Tinson1 regularly has to answer to Beansprout, and Tinson2 to Smoddler.

She is the youngest and the only girl. There are two directions in which a girl in that situation can go – she can become a tomboy, keenly joining in with all of the boys’ games or, as she chose, she can go for the girly-girl approach, relying on womanly wiles (which she appears to have been born with) to get whatever she wants from them.

This girliness has followed her into teenagehood – her room now sports photos of boys – loads of boys, the only one of whom I recognise is the guy from the Twilight films. She wears make-up and she dresses as if she is determined to catch pneumonia. She has a school coat with the school crest on it but would not go out in that at weekends if she lived at the South Pole. It appears to be the only coat that she owns.

She is an avid reader, a talented and passionate actress and something of a mystery to a dad who never had sisters and has no idea what she is thinking, or if she’s at the right age to be thinking it. As she has grown, though, we have become friends, sharing much the same sense of humour. We also share a love of Harry Potter, of baseball (yes, in Ireland) and of phone-voting for Song 9 in the Eurovision Song Contest each year without waiting to find out what it is.

As I have written before she wants to study drama and become an actress. This would probably lead to a life of poverty, long periods of unemployment and possibly many months away from home.

I hope she gets it, though, because she would happily put up with all of those things if she could realise her dream, and a life spent working at what you most love doing must surely be the most satisfying life of all.

I hope she gets it because it would make her happy. I hope she gets it because she is talented enough to deserve it. I hope she gets it because she is my daughter and my princess.

Tingirl, the Bear, is fifteen today. Happy birthday, my love.

Underline This

No matter what I write here Spellcheck will invariably find something to draw its red squiggly lines under, as if it were a teacher with an overenthusiastic red pen and I was a particularly inept pupil.

The fact that it doesn’t recognise word “blogging” particularly annoys me, as it makes me feel as if my hobby is one of those really esoteric ones, like numismatics or speleology, neither of which, by the way, it recognises either.

Of course the obvious thing to so is to simply add the word to its dictionary, so yesterday evening I clicked the “Spelling and Grammar” button. It informed me, as I knew it would, that blogging was not a word, and offered me the alternatives “bogging”, “logging”, “flogging”, “clogging” and “slogging”.

While I know what the phrase “bogged down” means I am a bit doubtful about the word “bogging”, and would hate to think that I have spent the last three years doing it. Perhaps I am bogging down (or up?) the internet.

There are other words it could have suggested, such as “cogging”, “dogging”, fogging“, “hogging”, ”jogging” (perhaps it knows me too well by now to imagine that I could possibly mean that), “togging” or “snogging” (really sadly, it has just put a red line under “snogging”, which might explain why it is always so vicious with its red pen).

There are also these:

Frogging: the effect that a cold has upon one’s voice;
Grogging: Spellcheck keeps trying to change this to gorging, and to some extent it’s right – grogging is overindulgence in cheap rum;
Llogging: cutting down trees, in Wales.
Ogging: finding any excuse, at any time of the day, to drink and then sing lewd songs, like Nanny Ogg from the Terry Pratchett books;
Sogging: over-watering a plant;
And zogging: trying to take over the universe, like General Zog. It is a synonym of cowelling, which takes its name from Simon Cowell.

Believe me, Spellcheck has not enjoyed the last nine lines of this post.


In my constituency of Wicklow there is a man who stands as an Independent candidate in every Local and General Election. He is self-employed and probably has a limited budget so his electoral campaigning each time consists of a small advert in the local paper showing his photograph and his policies, which are “no abortion – no water charges”.

Now this blog is too shallow a forum to discuss the merits or otherwise of his policies. I’m just struck every time by how divorced (another topic we won’t be covering here) from each other they are.

The reason I mention him here is because of a suggested WordPress topic from over the weekend: “would you rather read minds or live forever?”

Since I can’t read minds (and apparently therefore am going to live forever, indeed I’m going to learn how to fly) I can’t guess why WordPress chose such disparate options. The question “would you rather live forever or just to a ripe old age” might have been a thought-provoking one. The question “would you rather read minds or have X-Ray vision” might have been fun, though probably the sort of schoolboy fun that would be bound to mention the possibility of being able to see ladies in their underwear (well, I did say that this blog is shallow). But the two options above bear no relation to each other, and indeed if we’re willing to allow for their plausibility then there is no reason why they should be mutually exclusive. If they were going to pick options like these then here are some more suggestions for them:

Would you rather eat jam sandwiches or be able to speak Mandarin?
Would you rather sit in a chair or play the banjo?
Would you rather date Keira Knightly or have one foot larger than the other?
Would you rather travel by bus or be re-incarnated?
Would you rather be the colour magenta or the song Schools Out?
Would you rather visit the moon or smell lightly of jasmine?
Would you rather eat Maltesers or be Tilly Bud? (sorry if that fries your brain, Till).
Would you rather play in goal for Leyton Orient or have a dorsal fin?
Would you rather be able to see the future or sing opera?
Would you rather win the lottery or have a second head?
Would you rather be a brunette or Switzerland?
Would you rather I stopped now?

Oh Give Me A Home Where The Buffalo Roam

Have you ever wondered where the expression “cowboy builders” comes from? …


After months of delay, their new home was ready.

It had couple of weeks since they had last seen the building, which was in the style of a huge Spanish hacienda. Since this stood in an isolated spot in the wild West of Ireland countryside it is difficult to feel sorry for Peter and Melissa Jones for what now ensues. Objections had been lodged once the planning permission had been granted for this monstrosity but Peter and Melissa had money and money talks, usually in a loud vulgar accent.

Now their builders, Ponderosa Homes, had told them that they could move in. They turned into their driveway in eager anticipation.

It was clearly coffee-break. The workmen were drinking it around a small fire burning in the middle of what should have been their lawn. At the sight of the Joneses the foreman rose from the rocking-chair on the porch and nodded curtly to the workers, who headed back into the house to apply the finishing touches.

The foreman, Jeb by name, strolled over and plucked at the front of his wide-brimmed hat in greeting.

“Mr Jones,” he said laconically, “Ma’am.”

Peter looked at the fire crackling in the centre of the garden, then around at the rest of it. The garden consisted purely of dirt, though with tiny pieces of blue crockery here and there (this was not the builders’ fault, dig anywhere, whether in the Sahara or at the South Pole, and you will come across little pieces of blue crockery). As he watched a ball of tumbleweed blew by.

“There were supposed to be water features, and statues of cherubs,” he said. “Where’s Claude?”

“Your landscape gardener?” said Jeb. “He was here, but he’s gone.” Something about the way he said it put an image in Peter’s mind of a man swinging from a rope. He shuddered involuntarily.

Melissa had said nothing. She was staring at what appeared to be a small goal on their front porch.

“What’s that?” she said.

“It’s a hitchin’ post,” said Jeb. “It’s what you hitch a horse to.”

“We don’t have a horse,” said Peter.

“Hitch your car to it then,” said Jeb. He spat a huge brown wad of what Melissa fervently hoped was tobacco into the dirt. “I suppose you folks want to see inside.”

He led them into the house, through two swinging doors that neither of them remembered having been on the plans. The entire ground floor consisted of just one room, with a small piano in one corner and a bar running the length of one wall. The workmen were setting out small round tables with chairs at each. A set of stairs climbed the far wall, on which was a mural of a man, cleverly painted so that it looked as if he was climbing the actual stairs. Over one shoulder he carried a woman wearing very high heels, a lot of make-up and red petticoats.

Jeb walked behind the bar. “Fancy a drink?” he asked.

“I think I need one,” said Melissa faintly.

Jeb put a shot-glass on the bar, poured something from an unmarked bottle into it and slid it along the bar. Peter and Melissa watched it shoot off the end and crash to the floor.

Peter finally found his voice. “But this isn’t what we asked for at all, you gobshites!” he said.

Silence fell over the room. The biggest of the workmen, a man called Bull, stood up, very slowly.

“Did you just call us gobshites?” he asked.

Peter was terrified, but stood his ground. “Yes,” he said.

Bull grabbed the bottle from the counter and smashed it over Peter’s head, which hurt a lot less than Peter would have expected it to. Melissa furiously punched Bull in the face and he fell back onto a table, which collapsed. A man swung a chair at Peter and Melissa but the couple ducked and he smashed it over the head of another workman by mistake. Upon seeing this one of the workmen sat at the piano and played honky-tonk music whilst all of the others began to fight each other in a furious flurry of fists and fragile furniture. One ran towards Peter and Melissa, but Peter linked an arm under each of Melissa’s armpits and she swung her two feet up into the man’s face, knocking him backwards through a window and out into the yard.

This went on for thirty seconds or so before there was a gigantic boom, then a tinkling sound. Everyone turned, ears ringing, to the bar where Jeb was standing holding a smoking shotgun. He had intended to fire it into the ceiling, but the shot had glanced off the chandelier (I forgot to mention that) and embedded itself in the wall, as a result of which the man in the mural now had a huge hole where the sun don’t shine (the sun didn’t reach that end of the room).

“If you folks ain’t happy with our work,” said Jeb quietly, “just pay us what you owe and we’ll be on our way.”

Peter, full of fight now, was about to say that he’d pay nothing (nuthin’, in fact) but Jeb cocked the shotgun again and Peter got out his cheque book.

Jeb took the cheque and touched the brim of his hat toward them again.

“Good day to you, Mr Jones,” he said politely, “Ma’am”.

He left, with all of his men trailing behind him. Peter and Melissa looked around the room helplessly.

“I don’t think we’re going to like the en-suite,” said Peter.

Suddenly the swing-doors opened again, framing Jeb. It must have been raining outside, because now he wore a poncho. He reached one hand underneath it and Peter reached for a stray chair-leg, but all Jeb produced was some pages, which he handed to Peter.

“If you folks could hand out these flyers to your friends I’d be much obliged,” said Jeb.

Peter looked at one of the pages. It had a picture of Jeb at the top and underneath was written “If you ever WANTED some buildin’ done, then JEB SMITH would REWARD you with an excellent job for less than €10,000.” Joe held it up to Melissa, who was standing a few feet away. From there all you could see was the photo, the words in capitals, and the price. She grinned at Peter.

“Don’t worry,” she said to Jeb. “We’ll put them up everywhere we can.”

Pot Luck

Sidey’s weekend theme is “Bubbles”…


“What does ‘hubble’ mean?” asked the Second Witch.

“Er, what?” said the First Witch.

“Hubble. You said that the chorus is going to be ‘hubble, bubble, toil and trouble’. What does ‘hubble’ mean?”

“It doesn’t really mean anything,” admitted the First Witch. “I needed something to rhyme with ‘bubble’.”

“Well, that’s another problem,” said the Third Witch. “‘Bubble’ appears in the second line as well. You can’t just keep using the same words in a rhyme, that’s just silly.”

“You might as well say something daft like ‘Da Do Ron Ron Ron, Da Do Ron Ron’,” said the Second Witch.

“Well if you two are so smart what do you suggest?” asked the First Witch.

“How about rubble?”

“Or stubble?”

“Seriously?” said the First Witch, “you want it to be ‘rubble, stubble, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble’?”

The other two didn’t look quite sure. “How about double?” said the Second Witch eventually.

“Yes, we could say ‘double double’, to show how seriously we’re doing the toil and trouble”, said the Third Witch.

“And because there’s no such word as ‘fourble’,” said the First Witch snidely. “Ok, we’ll go with ‘Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble’. Everyone agreed?”

“Speaking of ‘bubble’,” said the Second Witch, “the cauldron’s boiling over.”

She was right. Massive bubbles had formed on the top of the steaming cauldron. The First Witch rushed to move it off the fire, but the handle was too hot and she yelped in pain.

“Watch out,” said the Second Witch, “you’ve made it wobble.”

“Or wubble,” said the Third Witch, with a grin.

The cauldron suddenly toppled over and its contents spilled out onto the grass, where they burned a smouldering hole. The newt whose eye was to have been added to the concoction began to lap it up. Since it contained wool of bat, poison’d entrails and scale of dragon it had the taste and potency of poteen and the newt soon staggered away, pissed as a newt.

Eventually they got the cauldron re-filled, though this time with substitute ingredients from their surroundings such as head of daisy, nut of chest and turd of dog. Again they boiled it and again bubbles rose and popped on its brim. The First and Third Witches stared at the Second one.

“Oops sorry, my line,” she said. “‘By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes’.”

“Or goes,” said the Third Witch. “Look, we’ve missed him.”

The three stared down the winding path. They had been so busy with the cauldron that they hadn’t noticed Macbeth (or Scottishplay, as he was known to his more superstitious friends) passing them by. As they watched he vanished around the corner and out of sight, and history.

“Now what do we do?” wailed the Second Witch. “We have this spell that confers greatness followed by downfall and we’ve no-one to use it on.”

“It’s ok,” smiled the First Witch, looking up the path. “Here comes Plan B.”

The others followed her gaze. Strolling towards them was Tiger Woods.

In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning

I didn’t write a post on Thursday 24th, but I’m counting this one. It will appear as having been posted on Friday 25th, but it’s 1am and as far as I’m concerned that’s still Thursday, Friday begins when my alarm goes off.

This tale really starts on Wednesday, whenever that was. We had a visit from one of those Compliance Officer types that Red Tape (cousin of Red Adair) likes to send along to bother you just when you’re really busy and there are only 21 working days left this year. It was obvious within five minutes to him that we were compliant but he had his little boxes to tick and copies of things to collect, so I spent three hours finding, photocopying and fuming and the second he left I got a really blinding headache. The light hurt, the noise hurt, I spent an hour in front of my computer doing absolutely nothing, so in the end I went home.

I went to bed at six in the evening and slept like a stone. I woke at 4am but I’d had 10 hours sleep so that was no problem. At least not until last night this evening Thursday, when I got home feeling exhausted and so went to bed at nine.

And woke up at midnight.

I’ve been awake for over an hour now, which is why I’m up writing this, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to go back to sleep afterwards. Because our Christmas Party is on Friday night (ie, either tonight or tomorrow night depending on what time you call this) and I probably won’t home until about 2 am, so if I don’t go back to sleep I’m looking at a 25-hour day.

And yes, it is ridiculous to have a Christmas Party on November 25th. On the bright side, it’s in the room in the Guinness Storehouse where they poured the pint specially for the Queen when she came to visit last summer, so since I’m off drink at the moment she and I will have refused to drink Guinness in the same room as each other, so I’m thinking of her as a kindred spirit.

Google tells me that, having got up five hours ahead of schedule I an now in the same Time Zone as Uzbekistan, so “Good Morning”, or “Hayirli Tong”, to all my Uzbek readers.

You have to hand it to me. I’m the only person who ever got jet-lag in the comfort of their own home.

Dress Sense

An article in yesterday’s Metro, the freebie paper handed out at bus tops and railway stations all over Dublin (they’d have it at Metro stops too, except we don’t have any) revealed that men take thirteen minutes to get dressed to go out, whereas women take only ten. The following may explain why ….

Woman: “I’m going to get changed now .”

Man (watching football on TV) “Ok, love.” (Total length of conversation: 3 seconds).

Woman goes upstairs (30 seconds, though that’s a guess, since I live in a bungalow), takes off the clothes that she is wearing (30 seconds), takes from the wardrobe the dress that she decided on five days earlier (5 seconds) and slips it on over her head (5 seconds). Tries to reach behind her back to zip herself up (45 seconds), considers calling Man, but hears roar from downstairs (“Jesus, ref, penalty!”) and decides not to bother . Resumes her struggle with the zip, which she finally manages to get up (4 minutes). Does that thing where she inches the lower half of her dress down towards her knees by tugging at various parts of it, as if she was putting a pillow-case on a pillow (3 minutes). Looks at all parts of herself in the mirror via a series of contortions that Houdini would be proud of (20 seconds) and walks back downstairs (30 seconds).

Woman: “How do I look?”

Man (not taking eyes from football): “Great, love.” (Total length of conversation: 2 seconds).

A variation on the last two sentences (Woman: “Does my bum look big in this?” Man: “No“) also takes two seconds, either way bringing the total to ten minutes.

Act two then begins…

Woman: “It’s your turn now.”

Man (still watching football): “Ok, love.” (Continues to watch football).

Woman: “NOW.”

Man (sighing): “What do you want me to wear?”

Woman: “Whatever you like.” (Total length of conversation: 15 seconds).

Man goes upstairs (50 seconds, because he’s walking backwards, still trying to watch the football), takes off the clothes that he is wearing (30 seconds) and roots around in his wardrobe for something to wear (2 minutes). Puts on his favourite rugby shirt and a pair of jeans (30 seconds). Runs back downstairs (5 seconds) to catch the end of the football, which has now been replaced by Grey’s Anatomy.

Woman: “Is that what you’re wearing?”

Man: “Yes.” (Total length of conversation: 2 seconds).

Woman: “Welllll …..” (Total length of the word “well”: 8 seconds).

Man: “You said I could wear what I like.”

Woman: “Yes, but not that.”

Man: “What, then?”

Woman: “Wear your blue shirt. And the tie my mother gave you for Christmas. And those grey trousers. Actually, no, wear your pin-striped suit.”

Man (sarcastically): “Would you like me to wear a top-hat?”

Woman (deaf-to-sarcastically): “Of course not, dear. You don‘t own a top-hat.” (Total time since the word “well”, 50 seconds).

Man goes back upstairs (70 seconds, because he’s trudging), stares in astonishment (for 30 seconds) at the blue shirt, the tie he got for Christmas and the pin-striped suit, all of which are somehow laid out on the bed, although at no time has Woman passed him on the stairs. Takes off rugby shirt and jeans (30 seconds) and dons his appointed wardrobe (5 minutes, because he has to have four goes at getting his tie right, since occasions like this are the only times he wears one). Walks back downstairs (30 seconds).

Woman: “You look lovely, dear.”(2 seconds) Straightens his tie and brushes something invisible off his suit. (8 seconds).

Total time: 13 minutes.

On the bright side, Man did get to choose his own socks, though he mysteriously couldn‘t find his Bart Simpson ones.

And if you’ve checked the additions above, you’ll find that the woman’s time is ten seconds short.

That’s the 10 seconds she spent hiding them.

Cosmetic Servery

As part of the ongoing talent that the Tinkids are showing in the Art of Science, if there is such a phrase, Tinson2 and two friends recently won a Chemistry competition at school, not, as we thought (he doesn’t say a lot) among their classmates, but among every Second Level School in County Wicklow.

Their reward for this was spending last week getting Work Experience in the laboratory of the cosmetics company Oriflame. We suggested to him that since their products are not tested on animals (though imagine the blogging scoop I’d have had if he had come home and told us that he had spent the day sweeping out hamster cages), they might be tested on him, but instead he was set to work making the kind of stuff that women everywhere believe makes them more beautiful (men can‘t talk, we don‘t shave for three days and instead of calling the result “scruffy“, which it is, we call it “designer stubble“ and persuade ourselves that we look like Colin Farrell).

On the first day he loaded mascara into one-kilogram jars. I’m not an expert on mascara, but I reckon that one kilogram would make a woman look like a panda and a panda look like a black hole.

On the second day he loaded lipstick cases. This involved placing the cases on a little conveyor belt below which was an solid brick of lipstick, which would be fired at high pressure up into the cases. If a case wasn’t in exactly the right position the jet-propelled lipstick would simply sweep it aside and splat itself against the ceiling, which Tinson2 reported was completely red from such incidents.

On the third day he made a Body Cream called Aloe and Water Melon. There are several possible remarks about melons in my head at this moment, but as a blogger with an almost exclusively female readership I have decided that it is better if they remain there.

He spent day four in the Stability Chambers, where the products are tested at different temperatures because of the varying conditions in warehouses throughout the world.

Tinson1, doing physics at university, is now into his 3rd year wearing a lab coat and goggles and hasn’t brought us home so much as a phial of radioactivity. Tinson2 at the end of his week brought home lipsticks, toners and eyeliners (no, he was given them, it wasn’t like the way we one would empty a hotel bathroom). He also brought home two bottles of the result of Friday’s work, an aftershave which is currently being tested and for which he was permitted to choose the colours.

If ever you see Eau de Fils-Etain Deux in the shops, you’ll know who invented it.

Talk Like An Egyptian

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “a picture is worth a thousand words”.


“I will be carried upon a bier,” said Rameses II, “borne upon the backs of slaves.”

“Ok,” said Rosetta, his secretary.

“I will be buried in a stone coffin, with an exact image of me engraved upon it.”

“Er, ok,” said Rosetta.

“Write it down, said Rameses II (how his surname is in Roman numerals is a mystery), “and make sure to write it backwards, as is the Egyptian way.”

“Will do, boss,” said Rosetta, and wrote “norom” on her piece of stone.

Rameses II was planning his funeral. After all he was 32, and in a land full of poisonous asps, plagues of locusts and nothing to eat but figs (which on the bright side did lead to a huge bowel movement every day, which apparently makes you a better writer), 32 counted as old-aged.

“I will be buried in a large building with food to sustain me, and with my wife for, well, other needs.”

“You will in your arse,” said Nefertiti, a stunning-looking woman clad in precious stones, almost see-through pyjama-bottoms and a Dora the Explorer hair-style. “If you think I’m going to be buried alive on the off-chance that a dead bloke might wake up looking for a quick one then you can get stuffed.”

“Actually I intend to,” said Rameses, “I plan to be mummified, which involves, and I quote, ‘removing the internal organs, removing the brain through the nose and then dessicating the body in a mixture of salts’.”

Everyone stared at him in astonishment. Rosetta surreptitiously wrote “ynool” upon her stone.

“Then I will be covered all over in linen bandages. It seems that this will give me the ability to chase and kill grave-robbers, even though I will only be able to lurch along at two miles an hour and won’t be able to see where I’m going.”

“Why would there be grave-robbers?” asked Rosetta. “What would they steal?”

“Many things,” said Rameses, “because I intend to be buried with all my possessions – my gold, my jewels, my golf-clubs” (yes, it existed even then).

“Balls,” muttered Nefertiti, who had plans of her own for the gold.

“Exactly,” said Rameses, “giant balls of stone. That’s how I intend to keep my goods safe, with traps – stone balls rolling down chutes, spikes shooting up through the floor, thousand of scarab beetles pouring through the walls, camel-shit dropping from the ceiling” (that one was dropped from the final plans).

“You mentioned a huge building earlier,” said Rosetta. “What will it look like? I will have to give plans to the architect.”

“I plan to erect a huge mausoleum,” said Rameses, “It will be rectangular and over five hundred feet tall, dwarfing every other building around. It will be the biggest erection you’ve ever seen.”

Everyone tried to stifle a giggle bar the eunuchs, who didn’t find it funny at all.

“What’s rectangular?” asked Rosetta.

“It’s like square, only different,” said Rameses. “Not all of the four sides are the same length.”

“I don’t get it,” said Rosetta. She handed him her stone (turned carefully around). “Draw what you mean,” she said.

Rameses closed his eyes and pictured what he had in mind. He imagined himself standing at the foot of this great building, staring upwards as perspective, which he had never heard of, made the building appear to grow narrower the further up he looked. He drew it.

“It will look like this,” he said.

They built it as per the drawing. Rameses was not happy with the end result but Nefertiti, thrilled at the fact that it saved the cost of one whole wall, encouraged him to keep it. And introduced an asp into his bed to encourage him to live in it sooner, before he got any more daft ideas.

A picture can be worth a thousand words. Unfortunately they may not always be the right thousand words.