Monthly Archives: May 2012

I Can See For Miles

I mentioned recently that I have acquired two pairs of glasses, one for short-range vision, one for seeing things farther away. It’s kind of an Amish version of bi-focals.

Anyway, things have gone fairly well up to now. I can read comfortably with the short-range pair, and, should I feel the sudden urge to do so, I could probably thread a needle, count the spots on the back of a ladybird, or, if not actually being able to count the angels dancing on the head of a pin, at least be able to see that they are there.

With the other pair I can see the surface of Saturn.

The two pairs came in identical cases, so I’m sure I don’t have to paint pictures of what happened this morning (you’ve seen my attempts at pictures, just imagine them with the wrong glasses).

I got onto the bus, fired up my netbook and started to type. What appeared on the screen appeared to be gibberish, which was probably actually the case, but blurred gibberish. On the other hand I could see traffic lights two miles away turning red, cyclists with no Hi-viz jackets were hi viz to me, and I could tell, not only how many passengers were at the next stop, but whether they were carrying the correct change or not, all of which would all have been more useful if I’d actually been driving the bus.

It’s a long and slow day when you struggle to read a computer screen, can’t tell 8s from 6s and generally manage to achieve nothing.

Though on the bright side, at least you can see the boss when he’s coming to see just how much nothing you are achieving.

Proof Positive

Last week they elected Head Boy and Head Girl for Tinson2’s class for next year, his final year at school. Tinson2 did not win either position, mainly because he had no interest in trying to, but during a family discussion that evening I said that being Head Boy wasn’t necessarily a good thing, look what happened to Cedric Diggory at Hogwarts. Both Tinson1 and Tingirl insisted that he was never in fact Head Boy so we Googled it. They were right and I was wrong, but that’s not important right now.

The important thing is that Cedric Diggory has his own Wikipedia page, whereas I, who have read more Harry Potter books than he has appeared in, haven’t.

Until now.


Tinman (pronounced “tin man”) is a blogger and stud-muffin of the highest order, who in just four years has established himself as a colossus of the internet, garnering a worldwide readership (of only 20 people, but spread all over the world).

He was born into a life of privilege [citation needed]. His father was descended from the High Kings of Tara [proof required] and his mother was Princess Anastacia from Russia [proof required]. He was thus born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and a small operation was required to correct this.

The Early Years

Like Mozart [1][2] (ignore the numbers, they’re just there for effect) , Tinman was a child prodigy. By the age of just three he had written a novella (in French), a book of haikus (in a book) and three episodes of Bonanza. All episodes of Bonanza were, of course, written by children (what, you didn’t know that, just look at the storylines) but they were usually aged at least six.

The Teen Years

In the 1970s the teenage Tinman’s puberty hit the female population in an explosion of desire and his face in an explosion of zits. He was the subject of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain [citation needed], Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face [seriously, citation needed] and Bobby Goldsboro’s Summer (The First Time) in which the older woman is believed to be Sophia Loren [proof? please? anything?]. A trail of weeping lovers was left in his wake [certification needed, and I don’t mean of that sentence] before he met the young lady, heiress to the Hoover millions (no, the vacuum makers, not the FBI guy) and Miss Venezuela 1982, who became Mrs Tin.

The Tin Years

Tinman’s writing talent, nay genius [nay, citation needed] continued to flourish. He wrote speeches for Oscar winners, the Queen, and Sarah Palin (he wrote that she could see rushes out of her window, it wasn’t his fault that she read it out wrong). But tragedy was to strike Tinman when his heart collapsed under the sheer weight of the love that he bore all humanity [oh, barf] and he had to have a pacemaker fitted. Luckily, while he was climbing Kilimanjaro just two days later [any record of that, anywhere?] his metal pacemaker was struck by lightning, giving him super powers [aw, come on]. Thus he has enormous strength, enormous brain-power and the most enormous [don’t even think about it]. For these reasons he is wanted by the New York Giants, the Smithsonian and Madonna [oh, for f**k’s sake].

He prefers to live quietly though in the tiny hamlet of Greystones, where he has four times been Mayor [cita – oh, forget it], with Mrs Tin and their three Tinkids, who have inherited their mother’s beauty and their father’s brains [poor them].

The Future

Where Tinman goes from here is entirely up to him. He is tipped to be the next Secretary General of the UN [proof? nah, didn’t think so], the next Pope [look, you’re not even a priest] and the next James Bond [that’s it, I quit].

The world is his oyster, which is a pity because he doesn’t like oysters.

Different Strokes

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “Contrasts”….


There is a belief that the staff of dating agencies sit around in little groups, going carefully through the profiles of applicant after applicant and caringly trying to match each one to a potential life-partner.

There is also a belief that the girls on the late-night ads, sitting on their beds in bikinis with a phone in their hands, are genuine candidates just waiting to meet you with a view to friendship and maybe more.

Neither is actually true. The profiles are typed into a computer, certain words are matched, and introductions are made more in hope than in expectation, and indeed more in indifference than in hope.

To make matters worse, the bosses tend to be too busy picking out the girls for the late-night ads to do any of the inputting, so this is usually left to the most junior person in the office.

At Dover Soul (slogan “the sole gate to your soul mate”) the inputting was done by Donna, a secretary whose only ambition was to be a WAG, so who scanned all the male applications eagerly in case any of them were famous footballers, and then typed the others in with all the care and attention of a boyfriend sitting dutifully through Sex and the City 2. Thus the odd mistake crept in.

A Pole named Agata who liked dancing, for instance, was entered as a pole-dancer.

A man called Gay (short for Gabriel) was entered as being gay. Donna paired him with Robin (who luckily was a girl, Donna hadn’t read that far, that one actually went quite well).

A girl who simply sent in her CV looking for a job found herself being rung by Pete, a truck-driver from Leeds (she had put down that she had a full Driving Licence).

An Art Student called Linda found herself matched to Joe, a painter. And decorator.

A Czech girl who described her English as Excellent was sent a PDF of the office Microsoft Excel Manual.

And Anne, who said that she was a keen walker whose hobbies included reading and supporting the World Wildlife Fund, was paired with Dave Walker from Reading whose hobbies included watching WWF.

Their first date began quite badly. She asked what he thought of Kazuo Ishiguro, he asked who he played for. He asked her did she like real ale, she asked what fake ale was. Once they realised that they had been hopelessly mismatched they both laughed, and since they were both genuinely nice people the rest of the evening went surprisingly well.

They are still together. She likes it that she can occasionally show him a piece of art, or read him a poem and watch the wonder in his eyes as he sees their true beauty.

He likes teaching her about the offside rule, assuring her that belching loudly after lager is perfectly acceptable and watching the wonder in her eyes when she tastes something like Pork Scratchings or Chilli Peanuts for the first time.

In the evenings they sit together in companionable silence, she reading and listening to Bach in her headphones while he watches men throw each other about a ring on the TV. (She secretly looks up from her book when a particularly muscular male appears, he secretly listens to the Brandenberg Concertos when she’s out).

All in all, they are one of Dover Soul’s success stories.

Though not quite as successful as Agata and the 78-year old former Polar Explorer she was paired with, who enjoyed five glorious, loving years together before he passed away in bed (and I don’t mean in his sleep) and left her an estate worth five million pounds.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer

Polar air has been flowing down over Ireland since March 30th.

I know this because Smiley Evelyn said so. Evelyn Cusack is the sweetest of all the weather forecasters on RTE (all actual people from the Met Office, so they know what they’re talking about, or at any rate their guesswork is more educated than others). She will stand in front of a map on which Ireland is not visible at all under the bands of rain, will forecast horrendous weather for the following day, and then will finish with the happiest smile you have ever seen.

On the Penultimate Day, when it comes, Evelyn will say something like “Tomorrow should see Horsemen, perhaps as many as Four, sweeping across the country. There will be waves of weeping and torrents of teeth-gnashing. Expect bolts of lightning, especially any of you who might have written a post lately slagging some story from the Bible. The outlook for the following day is that there won’t be one. Well, goodnight,” and her face will have a beam as big as a lighthouse.

I mention all of this to explain why I’m so excited by the fact that today was warm and sunny, it’s not something we’ve had a lot of lately. So, I worked through lunch (boo) so that I could leave work at 3.15 (hooray) and be in my back garden at half-past four. I then took out this:

and  this:

(ignore the weird twig thing on the table, I’ve no idea what it is, Mrs Tin’s gardening is a closed book to me).

Which reminds me, I brought out a book, so that I could ignore it.

Finally I prepared myself a drink. I poured some of this:

then I added this:

No, I don’t know what it is either, I found it in the cupboard behind the Tonic Water. The picture on the label would seem to suggest that it is made from some sort of berries. Or intestines.

Finally I added a soupçon big lump of this:

and ended up with this:

Ok, it looked more impressive at the time, now it just looks like rusty Alka-Seltzer.

Anyway, it tasted lovely and I could get used to living like this.

But this is Ireland, so I don’t think I’m going to.

Forbidden Fruit

“Have a peach,” said Adam. “Or a pear. Or a kumquat -”

“What’s a kumquat?” asked Eve.

“Not sure,” said Adam, “I haven’t got the hang of all the names yet. It think it might be the curved yellow one.”

“I think they’re called banananas,” said Eve. “Anyway, I don’t want any of them, I want the apple.”

“Why?” asked Adam.

“As part of my five-a-day,” said Eve. “An orange, a grape, a tomato-”

“Not a fruit,” said Adam.

“I think actually it is,” said Eve. “Anyway, those three, a mango and then the apple.”

“Have a fig,” said Adam desperately.

“You kidding?” said Eve. “When He creates toilet paper I’ll start eating figs again.”

“Look, please don’t eat the apple,” said Adam. “He lets us do everything else, He even let us have those Seraphim with flaming swords as really tacky garden ornaments. This is the only thing He’s ever asked us not to do, and I don’t want to piss Him off.”

“You’re afraid of him, aren’t you?”

“Bloody right I am,” said Adam. “Remember when He was building that mountain and a rock-slide started, and He blew the top off the mountain? He said afterwards that he was just creating the volcano, but I reckon he was waxing wrath.”

“Yes, well He won’t blow bits off us,” said Eve.

“I don’t know about that,” said Adam. “All the unicorn did was pee in the River Styx and now it’s just a horse.”

“Well I want it,” said Eve. She walked over, took it and took a bite.

“This tastes amazing,” she said with her mouth full. “Here, hava a go.”

Adam sighed, then he too took a bite form the Apple of Knowledge.

They stared at each other.

“Wow,” said Adam, “you’ve got nothing on.”

“Neither have you,” said Eve, with a look of admiration that Adam had never seen before.

Halfway through what happened next Adam thought “He really isn’t going to like this either,” but by then he didn’t care.

Ringing Once Again

Those of you not from Europe do not get the annual pleasure of watching the Eurovision Song Contest.

The rules are simple. Each country must produce a song that makes telephone-hanging-on-music sound interesting, the singers and their obligatory backing group must perform a dance routine as synchronised as a box of table-tennis balls dropped onto a marble floor, and the presenters – one male, one female – from the host country (last year’s winners) must yell “whoo!” and “isn’t this great!” (yes, in English, no matter where they’re from) every few seconds, while conveying with every strained nuance of their body-language that they can’t stand each other.

Oh, and Portugal must enter the same song every year, although the Tinfamily seem to be the only people who have noticed this.

The growth of Europe from about thirty countries to about four-hundred-and three over the past 20 years (a Geography textbook has a shorter shelf-life than a carton of milk) means that we now have two Semi-finals as well as a Final, and the first of these is tonight.

Which means that Tingirl and I get  to continue a Tinfamily tradition.

For those of you who weren’t around here two years ago, this is what I mean:

Tingirl & I sat watching the second Eurovision Semi-final tonight (well done, Ireland, by the way). RTE commentator Marty Whelan explained that this year voting opened from the very beginning, so that you could vote for Song 1, say, as soon as you heard it (apparently under the old system the later songs were doing better, as people couldn’t remember the earlier songs by the time the voting opened). After Song 4 he reminded us again: “don’t forget, you don’t have to wait, you can vote for any of the songs you’ve heard right now.”

“Or, of course, songs that haven’t been on yet,” I said. ”you could vote now for, say, Song 9.”

“Why, who’s Song 9?” asked Tingirl.

“Don’t know,” I said, “I’m just saying you could vote at random for anything, before you’d even heard it, if you felt like it.”

We looked at each other for a moment, my wonderful daughter and I, and then we both smiled.

We voted for Song 9.

It turned out to be the Netherlands, and anyone who’s ever watched the Eurovision knows that since it was the Netherlands, it certainly wasn’t dull. It was called “Ik Ben Verliefd” (Mwa?), the guy responsible for the Smurfs was involved in it in some way (I’m not making that up), and it featured a girl who seemed to be clockwork, a huge hurdy-gurdy and lyrics that included the words “Sha-la-la” an awful lot.

When it ended Marty laughed and said “well, they certainly sounded as if they don’t want to bother with hosting it next year.”

“Shut up, Marty,” shouted Tingirl and I in unison.

And sadly he was right, they got absolutely nowhere. But it kept Tingirl and me interested, even after Ireland had been read out early as one of the ten qualifiers, hoping that what Tingirl kept referring to as “our song” would get one of the last few places.

When it ended we shrugged, looked at one another, and smiled again.

We’re looking forward to the Final on Saturday. As soon as the voting opens, we’re voting for Song 9 again.

And why am I reproducing an old post? Because I don’t have a lot of time.
The Eurovision is on in a few minutes, and as soon as it starts Tingirl and I are voting for Song 9.

Weekly Drawing Challenge: Hands

It’s been a while since I’ve done the Weekly Drawing Challenge. I missed last week’s, for example, which was “Blue”, but in case any of you felt cheated, here you go:

There are some drawing challenges that even I can’t mess up.

I’m not doing the Photo Challenge, but I am posting this one photo, which is relevant in as much as there are hands in the picture:

Janie is in the Irish Times.

For my drawing I have a real-life model to, well, hand. I have placed my left hand on the sketchbook, it is stone-still, as any good model should be, and is also naked, again as any good model should be.

And this is what I’ve come up with:

It does look a bit as if someone has blown up a surgical glove, but it’s not too bad.

So all would be fine, if the challenge was “Hand”. Unfortunately, though, it’s plural, so my left and right hands have had to switch roles. The right is now the model, the left is now the artist, and this is the result:



Now we know how God created Norway.

Dine and Dash

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “Something old, something new”…


Ugg sat quietly painting on the wall of his cave. It didn’t need painting, it had been done only six months previously, but his wife Nagga believed that a home needed continual re-decoration (she also believed that it needed something called shelves, though when pressed upon this she could not say why).

He was painting a picture of a mammoth being pursued by a group of spear-toting men. This was him exercising his creative side, since in his experience this procession usually took place the other way around.

Nagga walked into the cave. “Dinner,” she said.

Ugg sighed and put down his brush. Nagga was the home-maker, he was the hunter-gatherer, so it was his job to find food and her job to burn it.

“Are you going to go there?” she asked.

He had resisted for so long. The idea was an abomination, a denial of what he what he was, an insult to his very manhood, though he wasn’t sure that last phrase meant exactly what he intended it to. Gathering food was all about hunting, not shopping.

But he knew that she wanted to try it, and he had loved her ever since the day he had dragged her to this cave by the ponytail.

“Ok,” he said. “I’ll go there.”

He put on his quiver of arrows and took up his spear, though he knew that he would need neither. He marched up through the village to the huge cave belonging to Dunl and Muc, the one with the teeth of a sabre-tooth tiger forming a huge ‘M’ shape outside.

Ugg sighed, and stepped into MucDunls.

The cave-cum-shop specialised in Fast Food. Ugg reckoned that fast food was rarely in short supply, it was slowing it down that was the problem, and had expected that within months the cave would have to close its, um, well, would have to cease operating.

But Muc and Dunl had believed that the villagers would occasionally like to eat food that didn’t try to kill them back, and would be willing to pay to have it presented to them in post-mortem form. They had been right, business was booming.

Ugg approached the counter and a young lady in a brown uniform approached him. Everyone behind the counter wore brown uniforms, which was not surprising since animal-pelts were the only clothing on offer and brown the only colour, since the zebra had not yet evolved. Ugg stared in bewilderment at the range of foodstuffs painted onto the wall behind the counter.

“I’ll have the Dodo MucNuggets,” he said eventually, “and a Big Muc.”

“Certainly,” said the girl. “Would you like fries with that?”

“What are fries?” he asked.

“Plant-roots pulled from the ground, sliced into tiny strings and boiled in oil,” she said.

“Sounds ghastly,” he said, yet he bought some. He found he could not stop himself. He also ordered a MucFlurry and a MucDonut, though he had no idea what either of them were.

He watched as his order was prepared. A piece of mammoth-meat was beaten flat with a club (huh, easy when it’s dead, he thought), and was then laid above a fire. When it went brown it was placed on some bread, then some lichen and what looked like two pieces of bear-snot were placed upon it (he looked around the cave, most of the customers had taken these out) and another piece of bread was placed on top.

He didn’t watch them make the Dodo MucNuggets. Sometimes a name tells you everything you need to know.

He brought the food home to Nagga, and had to admit that the BigMuc tasted amazing. He reached for a MucDonut and dropped it. He watched it roll across the floor, and had an idea.

That day Ugg invented the wheel, which proved an enormous boon to the whole village.

MucDunls were able to build a drive-in.

Hi Mum

My Mum died back in 1987. She was 55 at the time, which the 29-year old idiotic  me thought was a  reasonable age. Now that I am 54 I am realising just how young she was and just how much more life she should have had.

She would have loved the Tinkids (thankfully my brother had two children before she died so she did have the pleasure, however briefly, of being a grandmother).

She would have loved the fact that Tingirl took her name as her Confirmation Name, honouring a granny that she never met.

She would have loved what I do here. She was always full of support and encouragement for my attempts at writing, even just the essays I’d write at school.

Today is her 80th birthday, which is why I am thinking especially about her.

Happy Birthday, Mum.


If I Open My Fingers A Little Bit More


When I was a child I loved the poems of AA Milne.

The stories were fine, though very few of them seemed to go anywhere, but the poems were just wonderful. Almost half-a-century later I can still quote huge chunks of The King’s Breakfast and almost all of Teddy Bear (“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise”).

I can recite every single word of Vespers, the story of Christopher Robin saying his prayers.

The reason that I mention this today is not to show off (to mention I can recite the complete libretto of Cosi Fan Tutte would be showing off, and also completely untrue) but because tonight is the second night of my Mindfulness Course and I am starting to feel that Christopher Robin and I are related.

In the poem Christopher Robin is saying his prayers and his mind wanders in all directions (“wasn’t it fun in the bath tonight?”, “I can see nanny’s dressing-gown on the door”, “and I close my eyes and I curl up small and nobody knows that I’m there at all”).

Last week we were given a CD and asked to perform a Body Scan each day, where the voice on the tape asks us to become aware of our bodies, part by part. I am not doing well so far.

A typical (mental) conversion between the voice and me goes like this:

Voice: “Start by bringing awareness to your feet, how they feel, perhaps they are warm or cold…”

Tinman: “They are quite cold, I should probably still be wearing woollen socks. Still, it’s bloody May now, when the hell is it going to start getting warm, Global Warming my arse…”

Voice: “… now bringing awareness to the lower legs..”

Tinman: “Damn, missed the feet bit, still, I’m concentrating now -”

Voice: “…. to the hardness of the shin bones…”

Tinman: “I’ve seven episodes of Bones recorded now, I’ll never get to watch them. I’m stopping getting into crime series’ from now on.”

Voice: “… and to the …”

Tinman: “Well, apart from Castle, because Detective Beckett is gorgeous.”

Voice: “… and bringing awareness to the fingers, now at rest..”

Tinman: “Yes, and they do so much work during the day, typing and stuff, oh God, I haven’t done my blog yet, what the hell am I going to write about. Bugger, I’m getting nowhere with the awareness, I wonder if being aware of that counts, I might ask her at the class tonight, or actually hopefully someone else will, I don’t want to look like a gobshite. Anyway, come on Tinman, big effort, you can do this -”

Voice: “… and that concludes the Body Scan Meditation Exercise.”

Tinman: “What? No, wait, all I’ve been aware of so far is that the ceiling needs painting, that you didn’t ask us to bring awareness to any of our naughty bits and that, while the jumper I’m wearing is a beautiful blue, it hasn’t a hood, whereas my hoodie has.”

am trying, and I’m hoping it will get better, though at the moment I feel related not just to Christopher Robin but also to Pooh.

Who, after all, was a Bear of Very Little Brain.