Monthly Archives: January 2012

Doing What You Do

I’ve posted this post after the one before it in the hope that you will read the one before it after it.

No, my medication is fine, thank you, I just reckon that most people will start reading a blog from the top post downwards, so I’d like say this about the post that will come later, or did come sooner (look, if George Lucas can do it with the Star Wars series then so can I).

I made a mistake over the last couple of days. I believed that I was too depressed and unhappy to write, which is what I most love doing.

Then I realised that doing what I most loved doing would leave me too happy to be depressed.

So this morning on the bus I took out my netbook and started on a story for Sidey’s weekend theme. I had no idea where it would go and I didn’t care. It ended up surprising me, as many of my stories do, but that wasn’t what mattered. It took my mind of my (needless) stress and it made me happy.

This is what is important. This is me.

Twin Peeks

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “synchronicity”. If you don’t know who Jedward are I’m afraid this one might be a bit lost on you…

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The limousine glided to a stop outside the studio. The two back doors opened at exactly the same time, like the wings expanding on Thunderbird 1. A shoe appeared through each followed, again at exactly the same time, by another. John and Edward Grimes stepped from the car at precisely the same moment, as two cuckoos would at the exactly the same time from a cuckoo-clock, if such a thing as a double-barrelled cuckoo-clock existed.

The two identical twins walked in perfect step through two lines of screaming young girls to the revolving doors at the front of the studio and what is referred to in theatre as “comic business” ensued as they both tried to enter the same paddle of the doors.

They went into their dressing room, the one with “Jedward” on the front, the nickname given to them by newspapers such the Daixpress, the Neworld and the, er, Sun.

The word “Jedward” was written in biro on a piece of cardboard sellotaped to the door. This was week five of the X-Factor, and no-one expected them to last much longer. The press had laughed at them, Simon Cowell had lambasted them, Cheryl Cole had said something in a Geordie accent.

Yet they were still here.

They put on their stage outfits, each left leg first into the trousers, right arm first into the jacket. They sat together in front of the mirror combing their hair into the extraordinary shaving-brush style that had already guaranteed them eternal fame. Even in a thousand years time the Jedward will be as famous a hair style as the comb over, the mullet and the Donald Trump.

Two left elbows were bent, two identical Spiderman watches were consulted and two sets of feet swivelled towards the door. They stood at the side of the stage as the screaming of the crowd got louder and louder and the announcer roared out “Ladies and Gentlemen – JEDWARD!!!!”

They didn’t speak, they didn’t need to, their minds were as synchronised as their bodies. They leapt onto the stage, John left foot first, Edward leading with his right.

For the next three minutes, as they beat the song This Old House to death with their vocal chords they bounded about the stage like two puppies trying to chase an invisible car. Time and again they collided. A stage-hand extended his stage hand just in time to stop John tumbling into the audience. Edward attempted a street-rapper-like spin on the floor and when he got up he staggered dizzily into the drums of the backing band.

The music ended, and both finished with arms and legs spread in the classic end-of-routine pose, though John’s spread half a second behind Edward’s.

The audience went wild.

The judges had the startled looked of a groom who’s just been goosed by his new mother-in-law during the group photo. Simon Cowell called them a disgrace to entertainment. Louis Walsh said that God loves a trier, and God love them. Cheryl Cole said something in a Geordie accent.

They left the stage to thunderous applause, and headed back to their dressing room.

They sat down at the same time, grabbed a coke at the same time, took a big swig at the same time.

Lady Gaga’s backing troupe perform dances of astonishing synchronicity and no-one can name even one of them. John and Edward Grimes were household names with 20,000 followers on Twitter, a Facebook page with five million hits and a huge post-bag that daily contained several offers of marriage as well as a fascinating variety of ladies’ underwear.

A synchronised grin spread across both faces.

“If you’ve got it, don’t flaunt it,” they said together.

Back Again

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how overwork was getting to me, and about how the long days and lack of sleep were causing me to slip back towards depression. I wrote that I was going to fight the problem head on, was going to take the following week off and all would be well. You all wrote words of comfort and encouragement and agreed that a break was just what I needed.

Things got better, I got better and once again I wrote posts of shining wit, or at least a Spoonerised version of that.

The problem, which I was embarrassed to admit here at the time, was that I never took that week off. Because I had too much work to do I felt I couldn’t take the break that I needed because I had too much work to do.

From all over the world I can hear all of you you saying “Jesus, Tinman, you big gobshite” (though in a far more lady-like way, of course). And you are all correct, because of course the problem is back.

I got home at a quarter to eight on Friday evening (a time at which I get home far too often these days) and was in bed at half-past, not the way in which anybody should spend a Friday night. I slept until half-past eleven yesterday morning, got up for four hours (just long enough to see my team get knocked out of the FA Cup) and was back in bed by half-past three. I slept again until about 2.30 this morning and lay there until six (on a Sunday, a time that I previously thought existed only for people who are employed to shout “six o’clock and all’s well” (a profession which I believe is dying out, like thatching, building giant rock-catapults and walking in front of cars carrying a red flag) and for mad people like my dad and brother, who think that it’s the ideal time to get up for golf.

So I got up and started writing this, since I have given myself jet-lag.

There are four people arriving at the office at 8am tomorrow to get answers to a list of questions which they sent on Friday, and which already prove to me that (a) they are totally up themselves and (b) haven’t a clue what they are doing. I will not offer these opinions in their presence because we need to keep them happy (I must stress that the company is not in any trouble, we need their report for various expansion plans that we have for the coming year). They will be here for a week.

Adding this information to the fact that I already face my busiest week of the month has had the same effect as the kid at the other end of your see-saw suddenly deciding to get off.

The blindingly obvious answer, of course, is to get another job, to accept finally that the one I have is no longer fun, it’s hell on earth. But I don’t know if there are other jobs out there, and leaving would mean leaving the girl who is the other half of my work-team, and also frankly my best friend, at a time when she herself is suffering. The neck-and-shoulder pains which kept her out for the month of December have turned out to be Degenerative Disc Disorder and arthritis of the neck. She is thirty-three years old.

And it’s a job and a company that I’ve liked for a long time and would like to like again, for all its flaws, its petty unfairnesses, its constant pressure and its debasing Performance Management regime (I got the highest score that it is possible to get for the last quarter and still believe that the system is intrinsically evil). So I’ll stick it out for a while longer, hope that things improve (we are supposed to be getting a third person, that’s all we ever needed, the acceptance that we needed help) and just come here when I need to blow off steam (I’ve found this quite therapeutic, though I doubt it’s been much fun to read).

My attempt at Sidey’s Weekend Challenge will follow later in the week, as will my Weekly Drawing Challenge (I’ve just looked up WorkPress’s suggestion, ironically it’s “Hope”) and I’m making you all a solemn promise.

The next time I book time off I’m going to take it.

Can You Tell What It Is Yet?

Amid all of yesterday’s congratulations and kind words (for which I thank you ) I noticed a certain undercurrent of amusement regarding my cake drawing. The main purpose of this blog is to make people laugh so I am glad that you all found it so hilarious. Lest any of you believe, however, that I deliberately drew the cake badly for your entertainment let me assure that I did not.

That is the full extent of my artistic talent.

I am alone in the Tinhouse in having the drawing ability of a broken magnet. Our walls feature several paintings by Mrs Tin, all of which I think are amazing, all of which she thinks are crap (so she’s going to go mad when she finds out that I’ve posted this example):

Whilst children drawing on your walls is supposedly a bad thing, we did not think so when Tinson1, at the age of eleven, drew this mural on his bedroom wall of himself at the age of, well, eleven:

(Please excuse quality of photo – Tinson1 uses energy-saving light-bulbs, which save energy by giving out no light).

My own talents must lie elsewhere. My cake, as was pointed out, looked like a dog-bowl. An attempt at a dog-bowl would probably look like a jellyfish.

I must remember never to try to draw a jellyfish.

When our niece was about three we minded her for a week while her parents went on holiday. Thanks to parties, football matches and some meeting Mrs Tin had to go to I was left alone with her for three hours of the first afternoon, just when she was at her most bewildered and almost-tearful as to where her mum and dad were gone. In desperation I got some markers and asked her would she like to do some drawing.

“Draw Meemo,” she said.

Finding Nemo was out at the time so it wasn’t hard to guess what she meant. I drew a Nemo, coloured it in and even left a little white stripe along its back. (I also drew a Dory who, as you all know (or if not will have to take my word about, damn you SOPA) was blue. I coloured her in blue but my niece kept poking me with a purple marker. “No, Dory’s blue,” I kept telling her (my drawings may be rubbish but they are obsessively accurate rubbish). Anyway, the phone rang, I found my way out of this forest of brackets to the kitchen to answer it and when I came back she had scribbled over my blue Dory in purple).

After the longest afternoon of my life Mrs Tin and Tingirl returned home. Tin-niece showed them our page. “That’s a really good Nemo, Tin-niece,” said Mrs Tin. “I drew that,” I said. “Oh,” said Mrs Tin. “Seriously?” said Tingirl.

Anyway, I have an idea. Although WordPress’s daily topics are gone, it does still set a Weekly Photo Challenge. I’ve ignored it so far this year, but I’m now going to use an adapted form of it, the Weekly Drawing Challenge. Whatever they suggest I’m going to do a drawing that attempts to represent it.

Even if I write nothing funny all week, you’ll have that to look forward to.

Well That’s Just Grand

It’s all fine reaching one thousand posts, but what do you actually say about it?

I’m glad I did the 999 post yesterday, because it’s a more interesting number, with its connotations of emergency services, its subliminal programming that you’d really love nine 99-ice creams right now and the fact that it’s the number of the beast upside down.

One thousand, though, lacks the same interest.

Look it up in Wikipedia and you are told that it is the number between 999 and 1001. This is impeccably factually correct, though unlikely to come as news to many people. In any case, anyone who has doesn’t know what 1000 is probably won’t know what 1001 is either, so the above information will be of little help. It’s a bit like telling you that an aardvark is “an aardvark with a hat on, but without the hat”.

The article goes somewhat downhill thereafter, difficult though that may seem, and in this way it does perform a service. If ever you are feeling down about your blog, or believe that your writing is dull and uninteresting, read Wikipedia’s article about One Thousand and gleefully tell yourself “well, what I write is more fun than that”.

The only thing of note in the article is that it reminds us that there is a phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. If this is true then I’ve pretty well wasted the last four years when I should have taken up art instead , so I’ve decided to disprove it. I have counted and read (1000 posts written and still as thorough in my research as ever) the first one thousand words of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (up to the word “him” on the third page, in case you’re interested).

We meet Mr and Mrs Dursley, we learn that Mrs Dursley has a sister that she pretends she doesn’t have, we meet the delightful Dudley, and an owl flies past the window. Dudley throws cereal at the walls, Mr Dursley drives to work, passes a cat reading a map and thinks about drills (it’s because he works for a company that makes them, not because he’s mental). He sees a lot of people in cloaks, goes into work, yells at five people, makes phone calls and decides to buy a bun. He walks back to the office with his doughnut (they must have been sold out of buns), overhears a group of people mention the Potters and their son Harry, is flooded by fear (I’m hoping that’s not a euphemism), hurries back to his office and snaps at his secretary not to disturb the one-thousandth word, him.

Try getting a picture to paint all that.

Anyway, to mark the milestone:

(You can see why I didn’t take up art, can’t you?)

Dial 999

As I was approaching my 100th post I got the idea from Jo of using that post to list one hundred things that I like. I started work on it at about the 70-post mark, making my choices, deciding on a running order and (sorry SOPA) picking photos that I would use.

I’m not going to link to the list, but it includes things like cricket, Star Trek, Big Brother and (sigh) women’s bums (with a terrific photo of Yelena Isinbeyeva to show what I meant, in case any of the four readers I had at that time didn’t know what a woman’s bum was).

Eventually I decided that the post was finished and ready to go, but obviously it was number-specific, in that I could only use it for my 100th post or it was pointless. And I had only written 95 posts.

Oh, how I limped agonisingly towards the target. My 96th post was about cats or something, the 97th was as exciting as watching paint dry (it may well have been about watching paint dry), the 98th was written in Urdu.

For the next one I wrote a post called “Stuck on 99” in which I confessed that one of my first loves was Agent 99 from the original “Get Smart” TV series. I reported how as I got older I moved on to Emma Peel from the Avengers, then to Purdey from the New Avengers. I showed a photo of each of them, meaning that SOPA now have a file on me an inch thick (that’s true, I’d show you a picture of the file if they’d let me).

That was over three years ago, but each week I get three or four visitors here who arrive having typed “Agent 99” or something similar into Google Images. This is because, if you try it, the first picture of her brings you to my blog, so complete strangers hoping to read about her get instead  to read some bloke constantly writing about how he can’t think of anything to write about. I’d imagine few of them come back.

Thus my 99th post is more famous than my 100th, and that is why I have decided to make a bigger deal of today’s post, my 999th, than I will of tomorrow’s (yes, it will be tomorrow, anyone who has to skip a day because he can’t even think to write “today’s is my 1000th post” really does have Blogger’s Block).

It is possible that the title of this post may cause inconvenience to some people, but I doubt it.

Anyway, anyone who types “Dial 999” into Google instead of actually dialling 999 possibly deserves to have their house burn down.

A Copy of Reality

The SOPA and PIPA laws have been defeated, but Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “an alternate reality“, and somewhere there’s a reality where they’ve actually been passed…

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It was another cloudless, scorching day in Greystones, proof already that we are in an alternate reality. Above the whirr of the air-con, as it struggled to lower the temperature in our house castle (sure why not) I heard our doorbell ring. I went to the door to find two men dressed in suits as black as their sunglasses. One of them flashed a badge briefly (very briefly, it could have been a Tesco Club-card for all I saw of it), then looked down at an official-looking  piece of paper.

“Mr Real-name-inserted?” he asked.

“Pardon?” I said. He looked momentarily sheepish. “Sorry,” he said, “we only know you as Tinman. We don’t know your real name.”

“Then how do you know where I live?”

“GPS in your pacemaker,” said the other one.

“Look, who are you? ”I asked.

“You can call me Mr Sopa,” said the first one, “and this here is Mr Pipa. We’re with the US Government.”

“And what are you doing here?” I asked.

“We’re here in Yerp to stamp out Foreign Intellectual Property Piracy,” said Mr Sopa.

“And you think I’m a foreign intellectual?” I asked (slightly proudly, I must admit).

“That’s the kind of thing we’re here to stop,” said Mr Pipa. “That joke’s already been used in a comment on Janie Jones’s blog.”

“I know,” I said. “It was my comment.”

“Nevertheless, it’s on a US website now,” said Mr Sopa, “so it’s under copyright in the US. You could be fined up to fifty thousand dollars.”

I was stunned. “I don’t have that kind of money,” I said.

“We don’t like hearing that,” said Mr Pipa.

“I didn’t like saying it,” I replied.

“And that’s only the beginning of your troubles,” said Mr Pipa. “You’ve stolen the three words ‘worth’, ‘doing’ and ‘badly’ from a Mr Gil Chesterton.”

“You can’t steal a word,” I said.

“Ever heard the expression “can I have a word”? Well, if someone can have a word then someone else can steal it.”

While I was trying to construct a smart retort built around the phrase “have a crap” he continued. “Worst of all,” he said, “you’ve stolen the name ‘Tinman’ from, well, the Tin Man.”

“He’s not actually a real person,” I pointed out.

“Yes,” said Mr Pipa, “but he’s an American not-a-real-person.”

I looked pleadingly at Mr Sopa. “Can you talk some sense into this guy?” I asked.

“Sorry,” said Mr Sopa, “he’s on a higher pay-grade. I have to answer to him.”

I know I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help it. “You mean you’re Pipa’s bum?” I said (and I know I shouldn’t show this -> photo either, but let’s face it, I’m in enough trouble already).

“That’s insulting a Federal Officer,” snapped Mr Pipa. “You’re under arrest. Sopa, read him his rights.”

Mr Sopa began to read from a book. “You have the right to remain silent -”

“Hang on,” I said, “did you write that?”

“Er, no,” said Mr Sopa.

“Then you’re breaching the copyright of whoever did,” I said. “You could be fined up to -”

“Yes, yes, we know,” snapped Mr Pipa.

“Keep reading me my rights,” I said calmly, “if you can afford it.”

Mr Pipa stared at me for a long time. “You really are a foreign intellectual,” he said (this is, remember, an alternate reality). “Come on, Sopa, we know when we’re beaten.”

The two of them turned and got into a long black clichéd limousine. I watched it drive away and kept watching until it was out of sight.

“Hasta la Vista, baby,” I said.