Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hard Times

Tinson1 started his Third Year Physics exams in Trinity College today. He isn’t home yet so I don’t know how he got on. He was unusually nervous, perhaps because it seems that there are no repeats this year. If you get above a certain score you get to go on, if you get below it then that’s it, you leave with something like a diploma, and I’d say that a person with a Diploma in Physics has as much chance as being allowed near an atom-splitter and as I’d have of being allowed to design a suspension bridge on the basis that I once owned a set of Lego.

Yesterday I told him all the things that I was told as I faced exams, that he’ll be fine, that he’s very clever, that he’s been studying all year and is bound to know more than he thinks, just at this moment, that he does.

I also told him that I remember being told all of these things myself and that they didn’t help my nerves in any way at all.

But I told him that we love him and are proud of him as a person, not as a student, and I texted him this morning to tell him all of that again, in case he really is less clever than we think he is and it didn’t sink in the first time.

When he sat in front of the first paper this morning and realised that there were things on it that he could answer I hope that he started to relax. He deserves to succeed and to continue his journey, step by step, toward doing what he really wants to do.

Best of luck today and all of this week, my son.

Another Year Older

When I published my 1,000 post a couple of months ago, I included this drawing:

Some of you were less than complimentary. Pseu reckoned it was a fuzzy fez, Viv thought it was a hairbrush, Tilly said it was a steaming dog bowl. All quite insulting and, even more annoyingly, funnier than anything I had written in the actual post.

It’s what started my Weekly Drawing Challenge, where I resolved to draw WordPress’s photo topic each week.

This is the first chance I’ve had to draw something for a second time, the first chance to see if I’m getting any better. So you can decide for yourselves whether this cake (yes, cake) is better than the last one:

Before you all get your evil commenting pens out, let me be the first to admit, now that I look more closely at it, that it does resemble the Titanic after a heavy lunch.

Anyway, why have I set myself up for a good slagging again?

Because my blog is four years old today.

Takes A Little Longer

Sidey’s Weekend theme is “Impossible”….


Jim Phelps walked into the phone booth and shut the door. There was, as he expected, an envelope and a small tape-recorder. He opened the former and turned on the latter.

“Good morning, Jim,” said the voice that he had come to know so well. “The picture in front of you is of my son. He recently sat his exams at this (Jim instinctively turned to the next photo) school. I have spoken to him about his answers and he will not do well. He said that the longest river in the world was the River Dance, he listed the major muscles of the arm as biceps, triceps and forceps, and he said that the capital of Hungary is Turkey, since he reckoned that whenever people are hungry they eat turkey.

His mother has her heart set on him becoming a doctor and with the results he will get he will not make Med School. While this is good news for potential future patients I do not want to see my wife disappointed (aw, he loves his wife, thought Jim) because when she is she hits the gin and becomes a right bitch.

The papers have not been corrected yet, and are locked away in the headmaster’s office. The sheets in your envelope contain the correct answers which I put together and which my son has copied out in his handwriting.

Your mission, Jim, should you decide to except it, it to replace the original exam papers with these ones before the headmaster corrects them on Monday morning.

As usual, should you or any of your IM Force be caught or killed the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”

“What does ‘disavow’ mean, exactly?” muttered Jim to himself.

“I don’t know either,” said the voice, startlingly. “Anyway, good luck, Jim. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.”

Jim watched as the tape slowly melted. Could be worse, he thought, I could have had to eat it.


That evening he sat assembling his team. He did this by staring at a photograph of each one before selecting the ones he always chose – the guy with the flat back to his head, the guy who looked like a vampire, the sultry woman, the token black. They met, they drove to the school and they went silently about their plan. What that was is unclear, none of them ever seemed to do anything apart from Jim.


Jim was in a harness, air-swimmimg towards the headmaster’s desk when a teacher walked in and across the room toward him, because of course they were in a school and therefore there were no touch-sensors in the floor. Luckily Jim was wearing a mask which was an exact replica of the headmaster’s face, a remarkable achievement when you consider that the best that Madame Tussaud’s can do is make President Kennedy look like Captain Scarlet.

“Hello, Mister, um..” said Jim.

“What are you doing, Headmaster?” asked the teacher, who fortunately was the German teacher, Helmut Uhm (an impossible co-incidence? Yes, this is why it’s called Mission Impossible).

“Er, this is my new exercise equipment, said Jim desperately.

“I see,” said Uhm. “Well, there’s a woman outside,  not saying anything, just looking sultry. Do you know anything about her?”

“Yes, she’s here for an interview for a teaching post in, er, mime,” said Jim.

“Very well,” said Uhm, and left.

Jim tore off the headmaster mask and breast-stroked, if that’s the phrase I’m looking for, his harness over to the desk. He got out of it, as he always had to, by unbuckling himself and dropping face-first to the floor.

He opened the desk-drawer, which was full of confiscated items including a catapult, a copy of Playboy and the plans to a secret US missile system. Still, these were not his problem. Underneath all of them he found the exam papers, flicked through them to the one he wanted and replaced it with the new set.

As he was putting the sheets back he happened to notice one of the answers. The longest river in the world was now the River Phoenix.

As Jim left he reflected that the voice on the tape would not be the voice on the tape if he’d been clever enough to be a doctor.

Jim could do many things, but combating inherited dumbness – well, that was impossible.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sun

Our blogmate Speccy has already pointed out that this is not the best week to have “Sun” as a topic here in Ireland (thanks to a strong wind it was actually raining inside our bus-shelter yesterday morning).

(By the way, in her post that I’ve linked to above she has a link to a post of mine, so it is possible that I’ve now created some sort of blog black-hole that will swallow the whole world, but to be honest the weather’s so shite that I don’t care).

I do have this picture

which I took for the topic “Through” last month, and then couldn’t think up anything to say about it. It’s the sun setting as seen through the plant which GoldenEyes and I bought the day we moved into our new office.

And I had reckoned that it would have to do (not that it’s bad, I’m very proud of it, it’s just that it wasn’t actually taken for this particular challenge) until this morning while I was having breakfast in the kitchen, and I saw this:

It’s the sun reflecting off the back window of our neighbour’s house.

So there you go, a picture of the sun without the sun actually in it.

Just like Speccy’s picture, in fact.

A Vote of Confidence

If you ever feel that your blog is actually quite good, that you’re entertaining people all over the world and that you write articles that are stimulating and interesting, then let me tell you that it’s a bit disillusioning discovering that one of the searches that brought someone to your blog this week was “zzzz”.

Apparently I am the internet equivalent of a nice bedtime mug of cocoa.

Weekly Drawing Challenge: Sun

This week’s challenge is hardly worthy of the name. Even I, with all the drawing ability of a broken magnet, can draw the sun:

Yes, it is the sun, and no, it’s not a World War 11 sea-mine.

The sun, of course, features in a number of  songs. For example, there is The Sun Has Got His Hat On:

There is Lucky Old Sun:

And the Beatles’ Abbey Road has not one, but two sun-songs – Sun King:

and Here Comes The Sun:

Ok, I have to admit that last one looks more like road-kill.

Anyway, I’ve decided to do something slightly different. In tribute (kind of) to the most famous newspaper in Ireland and in the UK, a Rupert Murdoch owned publication notorious for its sensationalism and catchy headlines, I offer this picture:



I call it Lying In The Sun.

Troubled Water

There is currently a debate taking place in Ireland about the introduction of water charges (“debate” is an old Irish word meaning yelling insults at the other side without recourse to facts, statistics or evidence). There are those who believe that charging for water will encourage conservation, while others ask why, in one of the dreariest, wettest countries in Europe, we should pay for something that you can find literally lying on the street.

The government have not helped by telling us (all in the space of a week) (a) that we will have to pay for the meter, though not for its installation; (b) that we will have to pay for both the meter and the installation; (c) that the charge for the meter will be €40 per year for 20 years, which is about eight times the cost of an actual meter; (d) that they have no idea how much the charges for the actual water will be, and are refusing even to make an estimate; and (e) that we’re to shut up asking questions, we’re starting to get on their nerves.

It is believed that each household will have a certain free allowance based upon the size of the dwelling (not sure how that’s relevant, unless we plan to flood all of our rooms once a year) and the number of occupants therein.

By this stage this is starting to look a bit like a serious, grown-up blog, so I would like raise a few serious, grown-up points.

There are presently five people living in the Tinhouse, so presumably at the beginning of the year we will get an allowance for these five people. What happens when Tinson1, as he is determined to do as soon as he graduates, leaves the country? Do we have to report this fact to the Water Police (motto: “To Serve You Shower”) or do we get to gleefully use the rest of the yearly allowance by standing under a garden hose and pretending that we’re Gene Kelly standing under the broken gutter?

Or perhaps we could sell our excess to other, less fortunate people, say a young couple who have a baby on January 2nd, just too late to qualify for the additional ration.

Mention of babies raises another point which doesn’t seem to have been considered – the age of each occupant. A new-born baby, for instance, needs a huge amount of water.

First of all, as I recall there always has to be a supply of cooled-boiled-water, though I have to admit that I can’t remember why.

A new-born has to be bathed every day. At least five babygros per day will go into the washing machine, along with the astonishing number of articles of his parents’ clothing that he has managed to cover in baby-sick.

Yet by the time the same child is three he will need almost no water at all, as he will drink only Sunny Delight and will be washed by spittle applied via his mother’s handkerchief. A bowlful of water each week for his pet goldfish (and the occasional toilet-flush as each one is literally buried at sea) will be all that is required.

I offer these insights to the government, but to be quite honest I don’t think they’ll listen, so I’m just going to wash my hands of them.

If I can afford it.

About A Boy (Again)

Today is Shakespeare’s birthday (and also his anniversary, dying on your birthday is a real tragedy, the kind of thing that would happen in, well, Shakespeare). Not a lot is known about the man, other than that he is the world’s greatest playwright, writer of some of the most famous sayings and phrases of all time.

Today is also Tinson2’s birthday. He may be a household name only in our household, but his use of language is every bit as impressive as Shakespeare‘s

For example, a day at school, an evening with friends or his performance in an exam would all be compared by him to a summer‘s day, describing all of them as “fine“.

When asked when Mrs Tin and I were going to meet his girlfriend (effectively, when shall we three meet) his answer was a pithy “eh, never”.

And do any of Shakespeare’s characters reply to a question like “pray, whither goest thou?” with an answer as expressive as “out”?

Tinson2 could be described as laconic, were it not for the fact that the word has too many syllables. He is laid-back to the point of being horizontal. Yet he is brave and determined when it comes to standing up for what he believes is right. Many of these beliefs relate to his hairstyle, the time he should go to bed at and how long a shower should last, but he detests unfairness in all forms and will firmly express his opinions on any situation in which he believes somebody is being hard done by.

He refuses to watch the X-Factor, for instance, not because it’s shite, but because the unkind comments infuriate him.

Tinson2 is seventeen today. He is smart and charming, relaxed, independent and friendly. He is a typical teenager, and that is a true compliment, as in so may ways they represent humanity at its most interesting and interested, at its most open and most idealistic.

We are proud of him and love him.

Happy birthday, son.

Jack Of All Trades

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “Odd Jobs”….


Around about the time that Ugg discovered fire, his friend Ojob created the hat. Both kept you warm but Ojob’s invention was better, since it was transportable and didn’t attract wolves to your camp.

Over the centuries the family changed its name slightly and the Oddjob Millinery Company became a family business with some truly inventive creations. They designed the knight’s helmet with the little strip over the nose (because everyone knows that if someone swings a sword at your face the really important thing is that you don’t break your nose), they designed the pirates’ bandanna, though it was basically a folded-over handkerchief, as they didn’t put too much effort in since they rightly reckoned that the pirates weren’t going to pay them anyway.

They invented a Magician’s Hat, an incredibly complicated exercise in quantum physics, since like the Tardis the hat had to be bigger on the inside than on the outside as it had to house not just the owner’s head but also a rabbit, three white doves and a piece of ribbon that went on forever.

They came up with the German WW1 helmet with the spike on top, since they reckoned the methodical Germans would need somewhere to keep their paperwork.

During the 18th Century offshoots of the family arrived at Ellis Island on the Poorandhuddledmasses. Business in the US itself was steady but slow, until the day came that changed the lives and the fortune of the family forever.

Somebody invented baseball.

The Oddjobs put their Thinking Caps on (they had light-bulbs fixed to the top that lit up whenever they had an idea) and set to work. For actual baseball players they invented the metal protective helmet, and quickly realised that by cutting off the earpiece farthest from the pitcher they could diversify into protection lower down. But the real goldmine was the fans.

The Oddjobs invented the beer-hat, from which fans could drink beer while watching a game (an upmarket version for Ascot was one of their rare failures, since when the champagne bottles over each ear popped they tended to propel the owner backwards into a wall). But the income from the beer-hat was peanuts (you could also store peanuts in it) compared to the humble baseball cap. Fans would buy up to fourteen hats each, as long as their team’s logo was slightly different on each one. Not only that but women, and children and people who didn’t like baseball at all would wear them as well. Wearing the peak straight, curved, backwards or slightly to one side each meant something different. The baseball cap became a statement, a piece of clothing that says more than t-shirts that actually say something.

Their crowning glory (sorry) was the invention of the Velcro strip. This led to the One Size Fits All cap, they didn’t even have to make different sizes anymore.

The beginning of the end, though, came when the supposedly important people of the City in London (not the doctors or the firemen or the police, people who moved figures around on screens) wanted something to tell them apart from ordinary plebs (like doctors or firemen or the police) on the Tube. Joe and Jack Oddjob, the brothers now running the company, came up with the bowler hat. The toffs were thrilled, never knowing that the Oddjobs were laughing at their arrogance, since the hat represented a potty turned upside down upon their heads.

It was the bowler that proved to be the undoing of Joe Oddjob, though. He realised that a bowler with a steel brim would be a lethal weapon against any opponent who didn’t have, say, a gun, and so he perfected the model and applied to become Goldfinger’s henchman.

His brother Jack knew it would end badly, since the life expectancy of Bond villains’ staff tend to be about five minutes shorter than that of the villains themselves, but the lure of fifteen minutes of fame was too strong, and Joe headed off to a life of crime, henching (nah, me neither) and eventual death in a hail of bad Bond puns.

A grieving Jack threw his hat (even sorrier) at the millinery business, but since he had no training in anything else he took to whatever work he could find, painting, tarmacing your driveway, turning up at your door selling Christmas trees and making the leak in your dishwasher even worse.

The Odd Job man was born.


I have a wireless keyboard and mouse that I use when I’m working on the ancient, steam-powered laptop that I use at home. The mouse is like a little puppy (a sentence you don’t often see very often), faithfully following my every command. If I threw a stick into the sea I’m sure it would have a go at getting it back, or at least click on the email address of the Lifeboat Service.

The keyboard is more like a pet cat. It does what it wants to, when it wants to. I occasionally look up from it (yes, I have to look at the keyboard when I’m typing, I’m not like one of those people who can look up and talk to you while their fingers are still working away, or one of those smug git pianists who can roll their head and close their eyes soulfully while playing) and find that it has left out some letters altogether, or has provided (it just typed “prvded” there) a torrent of others.

I came here this morning wanting to look at emails, so I typed “” into Google, so that it could Sat-Nav me to the correct starting point. The keyboard had plans of its own (as most cats do) and when I looked it had typed three “l”s, a “v” and thirty-eight “e”s into Google’s search box.

Now I’d have thought that when asked to search for “lllveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” (astonishingly, Spellcheck just drew a squiggly red line under that) Google would either have told me to get stuffed or would have blown up. I should have had more faith in the thousands of staff who work there, frantically looking up encyclopedias, thesauruses and Wikipedia so that they can come up with an answer in half a second:

Google does admit that it could not find an exact match, but it has provided a list of possible alternatives. While this is a tiny bit like a shop assistant telling you that they don’t have this jacket in your size but they do have one three sizes larger in a different colour and would you like to take that instead, you have to admire their dogged refusal to be defeated.

Meanwhile I have more Es than a beekeeper (a melee of beekeepers in a teepee, in fact).

I might throw a Rave.