Monthly Archives: January 2012

Damp Course

Last week, as you all know, was not one of my better weeks and I was too pissed off to write about being pissed on, but my disposition is now sunny enough to write about rain.

I realise that since I live in Ireland the rest of this sentence is not a real surprise, but last Thursday morning it rained.

And what rain it was. It fell downwards, it blew sideways, it may even have rained upwards for a while. It lasted for only five minutes or so, but they were the five minutes during which I walked from my bus stop across the river to my office.

I had an umbrella, but an umbrella is simply a hat with a handle, it protects your head but little else. My shoes, trousers and for some reason the hair on the back of my neck (I may have been slapped by an unintentionally flying fish as I crossed the bridge) were all soaked by the time I arrived at work.

I sat down at my computer. It was not a pleasant experience. My trousers were cold and damp, and I could feel my legs rapidly becoming the same.

I was in danger of drowning by osmosis.

Then I had this idea:

I typed standing up for an hour, by which time my trousers were dry and I could once again let them touch my delicate skin.

It’s the kind of thing you can only get away with if you work in a room with just one other person, a girl who has known you for over seven years now and is already well aware that you are nuts.

I’m really proud of myself, though. It surely is the ultimate example of thinking outside the box.

Quiet Afternoon

It is Sunday lunchtime.

It is cold outside, the weather is if not frightful then certainly something that rhymes with it, but here indoors it is lovely and warm. On the radio in the kitchen a lively and interesting conversation is taking place among the guests on the always interesting Marian Finucane show.

In the sitting-room the press of a button on the TV remote would reveal not one but two Premier League soccer matches, one after the other. Saturday’s newspaper is only half-read, you still have Terry Pratchett’s latest book to finish and Game of Thrones to start. The couch is stretched out along the wall, waiting for you to stretch out along it and have your customary Sunday afternoon snooze (no, you’re not getting old, you’re just getting tired).

And where are you? You are sitting in front of an ancient computer that has less memory than a politician at a corruption tribunal, and because you can’t remember what its called you are typing the words “Davy Crockett’s hat“ into Google.

Blogging leads you to the strangest places.

Hat Trick

Sidey’s weekend theme is “the hat”…


It was the hat of hats.

It was Ladies’ Day at Ascot, and this time young Lady Brigadier-Smythe (her grandad had played in the football match in No-Man’s Land on Christmas day 1914) was determined to win the Best Dressed Lady award.

Last year she had turned up in a flowing dress, immaculate gloves and shoes the beauty of which were matched only by the pain they caused to wear them, and her hat had let her down.

She had laboured under the misapprehension that a hat is to protect a lady from the worst of rain or sun, and so had come in a sensible wide brimmed affair, like a flying saucer but with a bow at the front.

But other ladies knew that hats were, on this one day at any rate, literally one’s crowning glory. One had worn a wire coat-hanger curled into the shape of a question mark. One had worn a hat made entirely from chicken-bones (and to Lady B-S’s delight had been attacked by a cat). One had worn what appeared to be a cat.

yep, this

The winner had worn a hat in the shape of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, bare bosom and all. She knew that the competition was judged by men.

Lady B-S stepped from her taxi and walked to the bar where she had arranged to meet her three lifelong (she was 23) friends. Their names were Tabitha, Portia and Constance, but what passed for wit in a girls’ private boarding school had given them the nicknames Catty, Vroom and Prunes.

Her own name was Fleur.

“Hello, Bloomers,” said Vroom. “Nice hat.” The other two nodded in agreement.

Catty's hat

Considering the efforts of these three this was high praise indeed. Vroom wore a hat in the shape of Noah’s Ark, with toy giraffes and elephants peering out of the little windows. Prunes had gone for Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, complete with vase. Catty had chosen Carmen Miranda’s famous fruit-hat but hers included not just the hat, but also the head of Carmen Miranda wearing it.

Fleur’s own hat was in a league of its own, though. She had, as I’ve said, wanted the hat of hats and suddenly she realised that was exactly what she should make. Her hat was every famous hat from film and literature all clipped together. There was Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker, Indiana Jones’s fedora, Davy Crockett’s coonskin cap. There was Daisy Buchanan’s summer hat, Harry Potter’s sorting hat and Robin Hood’s whatever-you-call-that-hat hat.

She looked totally ridiculous, which is why she was going to win.

The four wandered ostentatiously around the winner’s enclosure, as did all the other ladies, eager to be noticed. They were so busy trying to spot who might be the judges that they did not notice that the sky was growing darker and darker.

Suddenly the skies opened in sheets of stinging torrential rain.

The effect was catastrophic. Vroom’s Ark filled rapidly with water (with open windows it was always going to, I don’t now how we have any animals at all) and slid sideways off her head. The sunflowers’ bowl filled with water too, getting heavier as it did so and causing Prunes’ stiletto heels to sink into the grass like tent pegs, leaving her pinned to ground which true racegoers would now describe as “Good to Soft”.

Catty’s hat now looked like the guy in The Scream wearing a squid.

They were not the only ones struggling. Question-mark girl from last year, now with her coat-hanger bent into a map of the Solar System, was struck by lightning, undoing four hours of painstaking hair-straightening. A lady who’d come in a hat made from spaghetti now looked like the Medusa.

As Fleur stood transfixed in horror, a man ran up to her holding out a banknote.

“I’ll give you fifty pounds for one of your hats,” he said.

Wordlessly Fleur unclipped Popeye Doyle’s pork-pie hat and handed it to her. A woman approached with a similar offer.

Fleur had never considered a career in retail millinery (indeed, she had never considered a career at all) but over the next twenty minutes she cleared her stock. Captain Hook’s hat went for forty pounds. The Mad Hatter’s hat, despite having an actual price tag on it, fetched over twenty-nine pounds more than its advertised ten shillings and sixpence. The hat worn by Ilsa during the final scenes of Casablanca went for one  hundred pounds after Fleur told the buyer that it was the actual hat from the actual film, since she was a fast learner.

All this time the royal procession of carriages had been passing by, the occupants waving bravely at the dwindling crowd. Suddenly a man called from one of the carriages.

“I say,” he said, “could I buy a hat too?”

She squelched over to the railing and the man handed her his card. “One doesn’t of course carry money on occasions such as this,” he said, “but one is willing to pay sixty pounds, plus one would like to take you to dinner.”

She wrote her phone number on the “10/6” label and handed it to him along with her last remaining hat, the kerchief worn by Mama as she settled her brain for a long winter’s nap on The Night Before Christmas. He put it on, winked at her, and his carriage resumed its journey along the racetack.

Fleur looked at his card. He was the Duke of some county so small it didn’t even have a cricket team and he was about four-hundred and thirty-third in line to the throne, but who cared, he was royalty.

She stood in the pouring rain with a huge smile on her face. She hadn’t won the Best Dressed Lady prize (a gorgeous girl with a stunning figure had won it, the rain had rendered her dress clinging and almost see-through, and as I’ve said the judges were men), her make-up now made her look like Alice Cooper and her hat now consisted solely of the wide brim, making her look like the Patron Saint of Really Big Halos, but she was six hundred pounds better off and had a date with a Duke.

It really had been the hat of hats.

Loving and Giving

They say that Friday’s Child is loving and giving. I’m a Friday’s Child, but strangely Friday is normally the only day of the week when I’m not lovingly giving the world a post.

Perhaps it doesn’t apply if you’re a Friday the 13th’s Child, as I am (just for a second you thought “oh, it must be his birthday today so”, didn’t you?).

But I just had to come here today, to say thank you to all of you for your kind words and thoughts over the last few days. I’m feeling a lot better now and I cannot tell you how big a part you all played in that.

Last month I wrote a post about the fact that there are currently seven billion people on the planet and that on the day before just 21 of them had visited my blog. Patti commented  “But just think of how amazing it is that of all those billions, people from around the world found you!

And it is amazing that people all over the world, most of whom you will never meet, care about you and help you through the bad days. People who think that blogging is a lonely hobby (they’re wrong about it being a hobby, it’s an obsession) never seem to understand that.

Thank you all again. I’m the Friday’s Child, but it is all of you who did the loving and giving.


Revolving Doors

Picture an old, long-closed hotel. Inside it is dreary, desolate and lonely, with deep black shadows and frightening scurrying sounds in the dark.

Imagine that the only things that work are its revolving doors and that sometimes as you pass the hotel you step into the doors and roundabout yourself in them. You catch brief glimpses of the dark as you whizz merrily by, but you always emerge into the bright sunshine.

Sometimes, though, you get it wrong and find yourself stepping out of the spinning doors into the darkness.

Now imagine that all of this is your brain. Or mine, at any rate.

Too many long days, too many work problems, too little sleep (I work up at three yesterday morning, which would sound absolutely dreadful were it not for this morning, when I woke at ten to two) have made me miss my stop, as it were, so I have stepped out of the doors on the wrong side.

Some people get lost in the dark of the hotel. Some even try to book in. I have always found my way out, and will do so again, although the doors are harder to push from that side.

I am taking next week off (yes, this is only my seventh day back at work after a whole ten days off, what’s your point) to rest and recover. 

It is January, so I am unlikely to feel sunshine on my shoulders, but I will yet again feel sunshine in my mind.

My Comp Floweth Over

On the right-hand side of this page there are my awards, two compliments paid to me by kind readers.

There should be a third award, that of “World’s Slowest Typist.” I actually entered this competition in 2009, but by the time I had filled out the online application form they had already announced the 2010 winner.

I have been usurped as the slowest thing on the internet, however. By my computer.

The little netbook that I use on the bus is fine, faster than the bus in fact. But at home I have an old Panasonic Toughbook.  I bought it when I was self-employed and had to bring it to a different location everyday, so I needed something that would not break if I dropped it.

This thing would not break if it was hit by an asteroid. It is the size, weight and colour of a headstone, could stop a bullet and, if swung in both hands, could knock out a rhinoceros.

But I gave up being self-employed in 2005, so the machine is at least six years old, which is two-hundred and twenty-five in laptop years. Over that time a lot of stuff has been loaded onto it.

Over Christmas I got myself a new iPod with a bigger memory (you wouldn’t believe how quickly you can get bored with the same 686 songs) and put another 300 songs into the library.

It may have been the sheer number of new songs that sent the computer into shock, or maybe it was its being introduced for the first time to a song I’ve always wanted to own, William Shatner’s version of Common People. Either way it now opens websites, including this one, at the speed of a daffodil opening its petals. I don’t surf the internet anymore, I belly-flop into it and sink slowly to the bottom.

The Tinkids have suggested an external hard drive, sayng that it will speed things up if I move some of the programs to it. They say it’s like having a second brain.

I’m going to try it. If it works I might try to get a second brain for myself.

Same Bat Time

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “Sunshine”….


The attack was perfectly planned, and perfectly timed.

Gotham City’s four greatest villains arrived simultaneously, one at each corner of the Gotham First National Bank, and confronted the policeman on duty outside. The policeman were Gotham’s finest, though if you consider the fact that Commissioner Gordon, a man with all the intelligence of a stick of rhubarb, had risen to the very top of the force then “Gotham’s finest” may not be the ringing endorsement that it sounds.

At the North corner the Riddler stood baffling the guards with riddles like “why did the chicken knock-knock?” and “my first is in y, but not in 7”.

At the East corner the Joker stunned his victims with a serious of seasonal funnies borrowed from Janie’s Blog.

At the South corner the Penguin approached the policemen with his curious waddle, like a man trying to hold in a fart, and rendered them mesmerised with nerve-gas from the tip of his umbrella.

The Guards at the west corner were mesmeried too, by Catwoman simply standing in front of them in high heels and her skin-tight leather suit, idly swinging her tail in one hand.

Some women just don’t need nerve-gas.

With the police guard taken care of the villains’ henchmen raced into the bank. The tellers tried to stop them but were met by flying fists, causing words like “Biff!” and “Thwack!” to appear briefly in the air. Within seconds it was over and the fearsome foursome approached the safe.

The world spun briefly around clockwise, a sign that the story is about to move to a different location.

– oOo –

We are now at Gotham Police headquarters.

“Tis a shockin’ state o’ affairs altogether,” said Chief O’Hara in the type of Irish accent used only by leprechauns, Darby O’Gill or Tom Cruise in Into the West. “What are we goin’ to do at all, at all?”

“Well,” said Commissioner Gordon, “luckily I’m wearing my Policeman Unstupefying Belt.”

“You don’t have one of dose, Commissioner,” said the Chief. “You’re thinkin’ o’ him.”

“Yes, and where is he?” snapped Gordon. “You did turn on the Bat-signal, didn’t you?”

“Indeed and I did,” said O’Hara. “Perhaps it’s broken.”

“Holy Used-up Battery, Chief!”, said Gordon (Robin’s phrases tended to rub off on you after a while), “let’s check!”

The two climbed to the roof of the Headquarters. The Bat-signal was switched on and was working, beaming its Bat-silhouette pleadingly into the sky.

The cloudless midday sky, filled with bright sunshine. The bat-signal was invisible.

“Dose dastardly diddlers!” said O’Hara, “attackin’ during daylight!”

From the streets far below came the rumbling sound of Gotham City’s biggest safe being slowly dragged down the road behind the Penguin’s duck-car. Commissioner Gordon sighed.

“Why can’t he just get a mobile phone like everyone else?” he said.

How Far?

One of the last Daily Posts, which I never got around to tackling, asked “what’s the longest you’ve ever walked in a single day?”

Already, even from the far side of the world, I can hear Laughykate saying “oh for f**k’s sake, Tinman, don’t”.

Well, the farthest I have ever walked in one day is twenty-five miles, which I did in a charity walk back when I was in the Boy Scouts (about forty-five years ago, back in the last century, in black-and-white).

There you go, LK, I didn’t mention “I will walk five hundred miles” at all.

Oops, sorry.

Old Acquaintance

I wrote recently that you know you are getting on in years when one of your children gets called for Jury Duty (it’s been and gone, he didn’t get picked for a case). I can now top that.

You know, as a couple, that you are getting on in years when, although you have three children, you are the only two in the house on New Year’s Eve.

All Tinkids scattered in all directions to parties all over Greystones, leaving Mrs Tin and I alone to watch Jules Holland, do the ten-second countdown and go out into the front garden. We do this each year to watch the fireworks display on the hill behind our house. Fireworks are illegal in Ireland but that has never mattered, as long as there are teenagers with money there will always be a market, even a black one, for things that go “whoosh!” and “schweeee!”, like WordPress congratulating you on finishing a post.

We actually had quite a fun evening watching TV and drinking a cup of kindness (yet), but let me tell you, that peculiar hand-holding thing that you do while singing “Auld Lang Syne” looks even more peculiar if there are only two of you.

I just hope no-one looked in our window as they were passing by, they’d have thought we were Judo-Wrestling.

Uncle Don

I didn’t post anything yesterday because I was at a wake, that peculiarly Irish tradition where a person is laid out in his own home the night before his funeral.

Once you’ve spent part of your evening sitting in the same room as a deceased person in an open coffin then any jokes you were planning to write seem a lot less funny.

He was Mrs Tin’s uncle and yet he wasn’t – he and his wife were close friends with her parents, and back when we were young such people were commonly referred to as Uncle This and Auntie That (there is a couple, now living in Canada, and if I met them tomorrow I would call then Uncle Bill and Auntie Julie, though their relationship to us consists entirely of the fact that for three years in the 1960s they lived in the flat above us in Tottenham).

Nowadays, of course, my real nieces and nephews, from the eldest (32) to the youngest (7) call me simply by my first name.

Uncle Don was a sweet man who never really got over the death of his wife Doris, a real fireball of chatting, laughing energy, just three years ago.

He leaves one daughter, Gillian, a girl who I first met when she was 24 and who is now 50 and has suddenly risen to be head of the family.

I couldn’t go to the funeral today because I’m back to work but I hope it all went well for her and her three children, who all had to give readings.

I was thinking about them this morning, and will be thinking about them in the days ahead.