Monthly Archives: June 2012

Hello My Lovely

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “Nom de Plume”…


The Lady By The Lake, by Anne Murphy.
It was a splendid day at the Lake Rosebud Village Annual Fete. The sun shone brightly, the day was warm and a soft gentle breeze played playfully at the ladies’ summer dresses. Linda Sweetsoul, waving a magazine in front of her perfectly formed face to keep cool, was crossing the Green when she saw him. He was at the High Striker, and she watched how his muscles flexed beneath his shirt as he brought down the mallet. The lever shot to the top and rang a bell, both on the machine and in her heart. Her hand clasped at her perfectly formed bosom.
His hair was the colour of corn, his eyes the colour of cornflower, his tan the colour of corn-plasters –

“Seriously, Mister Chandler?” said Myrna Dancer, my literary agent. “Tan the colour of corn-plasters?”

I was startled. I’d been enjoying listening. I thought it was a good read, like the will of a wealthy uncle. I thought that because I’d written it.

Times were hard, harder than the heart of an ex-wife. Book sales were falling faster than a cat on a hot greased roof, bourbon prices were rising faster than the blood pressure of a banker, and money was tighter than Santa Claus’s belt.

It was Myrna who’d suggested that I write for Mills and Boon.

“They wouldn‘t let me,” I’d said. “I’ve seen the books, filling shelf after shelf like German cheeses in a Lidl store. They’re all written by dames.”

“Shows what you know,” Myrna had said. “They’re all men writing under noms de plume.”

I’d stared blankly at her, since I don’t speak Italian.

“It means pen-name,” she’d sighed, crossing her perfectly formed legs. “Petunia Chasteheart is really George Orwell, Emily Boyscomb is Arthur Miller, Evelyn Goodlove is Evelyn Waugh. They’re all at it.”

“All?” I’d said. “Surely not Hemingway.”

“Victoria Swooning.”

“Wow,” I’d said. No wonder he’s always getting into bar-brawls.”

“Men have been writing for Mills and Boon ever since Dickens wrote A Christmas With Carol, under the name of Festera Snozzlebutt.” There was a second of silence. “He was never great with names,” she’d admitted.

And now we were in her office and she was holding out my manuscript as if it was a four-day old fish. “It’s not bad for a first draft. Change Linda to Lydia, cornflowers to sapphires, corn-plasters to gold, and if you use the phrase “perfectly-formed” once more I’ll beat you to death with your own fedora.” She stood and walked to the door, hips swaying like the Lake Rosebud Rope Bridge on a windy day. I walked behind her, admiring a rear that I’d have described as perfectly formed, if I’d been allowed to.

As I left she said “and Anne Murphy is too dull. You’re now Stella Starlight.”

I was back three days later. She asked what took me so long, apparently some of the writers could do two of these books a day. She took the manuscript and continued reading from where we’d left off.

Lydia ran into him at the lemonade bar. He introduced himself as Chad Brad Cuthbert Byceptz. He wore his sweater draped over his shoulders, a sure sign that he was a pillock gentleman. There was a pale sweat on his brow from his exertions with the mallet, and she could smell the musky scent of his manhood manliness.
They talked until the sun sank, and on into the evening. He asked could he walk her home, and she invited him in. She offered him a drink, he said yes, so she took a bottle of bourbon from her desk drawer made some iced tea. Eventually he leaned forward and kissed her, and they went at it like bunnies went into her bedroom and closed the door ….

On and on it went, through break-ups then reconciliations, through heartbreak then joy, through bedrooms then lines of dots.

If it were a movie it would have had Jennifer Aniston in it.

I thought it sucked harder than a vampire with a toffee apple. Myrna thought it was great, and paid me a sum with more zeroes than a Norwegian Eurovision Song Contest entry. I took it and went home, feeling dirtier than the loser in a dung-throwing fight.

After a while I sat at my typewriter, and began to write:

Hammer Blow, by Raymond Chandler.
I could tell she was trouble as soon as she walked into the office. She had lips as red as rubies, legs as long as a Tolkein film and a rack you could stand trophies on.
“Are you Philip Marlowe?” she asked.
“That’s what it says on the door, doll,” I said.
“And you’re a dick?”
I shrugged. I’ve been called worse. “If you mean Private Detective, then yes.”
“I need your help,” she said. “My name’s Lydia Byceptz, my husband Cuthbert is dead, beaten with a fairground mallet, the cops think I did it and the people who really did it are after me.”

I made some iced tea took a bottle of bourbon from my desk drawer, and set myself comfortably on the chair.
This was going to be fun.

Longer Days

The rain has just stopped, having fallen heavily all night. The sun is out, rising over the sea, a ball of almost-white yellow which may later turn to a more sun-like colour, yellow-orange and wearing a smiley face. A rayway of white light gleams across the snot-grey sea (really good description of its colour right now, I‘m surprised no-one ever thought of using it before), growing wider as it nears the shore.

As the song says, it’s looking like a beautiful day.

The only problem is that I know all of this because it is 6 am and I am sitting on the very first train into Dublin. I am on this train because I’ve been awake since 3.45, wondering how I’m going to do all the work that I have to do by next Friday, and so at 4.45 I got up and decided to get in early to at least make a start on it.

During January, February and March, as those of you around then will know, I worked the equivalent of 18 days in overtime in order, on top of my normal work, to help a firm of external consultants produce a report on our company which could later be used to attract Potential Investors. I would produce information, then reproduce it slightly differently, then produce different information altogether because it would turn out that they had actually not asked for the information that they needed. I answered questions, often several times, because, in my opinion, they never really knew what they were doing.

They finished their report, I announced that I was so fed up that I intended to leave the company, a lot of meetings were held and it was agreed that we would take on an extra staff member, that I would work normal hours and that I would leave every evening at 4.30. And this has worked well, I am happier at work, and I get home in time to see the Tinkids, or at least to hear them shout “hi” from behind the closed doors of their bedrooms.

Next week, as again you will all be tired of me banging on about, is the busiest week of our month, as GoldenEyes and I have five days to produce a 56-page report for Management. Since we got our new colleague this has become quite easy, and we have been able to manage it without working any overtime (we really are shit-hot). This month it is particularly important, as we have indeed found Potential Investors, and they are keen to see how we are getting on.

And the incompetent fuckers that produced the report last March are back.

The reason that they were taken on was so that Potential Investors would be directed to then rather than us, read their report, be stunned by its comprehensive and incisive analysis, and hurl money at us in bucket-loads, begging to be allowed to have just one-quarter of one millionth of one dectile (a word I learnt during the course of this week, people in business really do talk the greatest load of shit) of our glorious organisation.

The Potential Investors did indeed read the report, had one or two questions about it and, because the consultants don’t have a clue about what the report actually means, they have come running back to me. I’ve to answer more of their questions, once I figure out what it is that they need, and yet again, for the coming week be up with the lark (this morning I was up in time to cook its breakfast for it) and will be home with the, er, whatever that metaphor should end with.

On the bright side it’s a terrific test of the mindfulness course that I’ve just finished, a chance to see if I can remain calm, focused and free of stress while all of this goes on.

On the other side, I may just end up on the rooftop of the consultants’ building with a sniper rifle.

Me And My Shadow

The Inkslingers Workshop which meets at the Irish Writers Centre has grown a small offshoot called the Inksplinters, which meets during the week. Tonight our prompt was “shadows”, and this is what I came up with …
The three of us were appointed at his birth – his Soul, his Guardian Angel and me, his Shadow.

The Guardian Angel gets to do fun stuff, like pushing him out of the path of buses. The Soul, if it is lucky, will meet its soul mate, and they will live long, love-filled lives or, if the Guardian Angel will agree, might die tragic romantic deaths.

I just sit there.

Or stand there, or bungee-jump there, or dance to the bloody Birdie Song at weddings there. The point is that none of it is decided by me. While the Soul can weep and the Angel can soar, the nearest thing I get to entertainment is making rabbit-shapes on a wall.

At least the rabbit has its own shape. I don’t. At midday I am squat and fat. In the late evening I am thin and eleven feet long. And if you’ve ever complained about Seasonally Adjusted Disorder, just try being a shadow. When it rains I don’t exist at all.

Wouldn’t it be lovely, just once, to head off in the opposite direction to him, or to curl up like a crime-scene outline while he’s standing for the National Anthem, or to have passers-by look at him and then look down at the shadow of a bosomy woman in a skirt and high heels.

It’s a job for life, though unfortunately for his life, not mine. When his time is up mine will be too. The Soul lives on (or comes back as a tree-frog, depending upon your religion), the Guardian Angel gets his wings, but as for me, the Shadow, although I’m won’t be the one who caught cold, or caught malaria, or caught the 4.15 train from Drogheda in the small of the back, will be as dead as the dodo.

Worse still, as dead as the dodo’s shadow.

Avec Moi Le Deluge

On Thursday night it rained.

Oh, how it rained. You could hear it on the roof, you could hear it playing music with objects in the back garden, you could hear it flattening supposedly summer flowers.

There was a reason for this. It wasn’t caused by global warming, low pressure, anti-cyclones, the Gulf Stream or Al Gore. Just four words were all the explanation that anybody would have needed.

Tinson2 was going camping.

He has been camping about four times before, on a Par 3 golf course owned by parents of a friend of his, and the weather has been the same. He has never known the delights of drinking tepid tea full of twigs from a chipped tin mug, of listening to night-time rustlings that could be anything from rats to mammoths, of falling into a clump of nettles whilst peeing in the dark.

All he knows about camping is that it involves sitting in wet clothes in a wet tent, being dripped on from above and osmosissed from below. All he knows about camping is that it is miserable.

In other words, he is learning a valuable lesson.

A Taste of Heaven

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “Food”….


Khione slid her tray along the rail until she reached the hot food section of Eternal Flame, the canteen of Olympus. Hestia, Goddess of Cooking, scooped up a large glop of yellow, scrambled-egg-like mush and slapped it onto her plate.

“Would you like fries with that?” asked Hestia.

Khione gave her an icy stare, which when you’re Goddess of Snow is not just a cliché. Hestia just shrugged, wiped the ice off her hair-net and turned to her next customer.

Khione moved along, a drink was decanted into a paper cup with a sound like a scalded vacuum-cleaner and was added to her tray, which she carried over to the table where her friends sat. They all had identical meals.

“Gods,” said Khione, “I’m bloody sick of Ambrosia.”

The others nodded in agreement. “And Nectar,” said Hermes, taking a drink. “Honestly, it tastes like Sphinx-piss.”

“In fairness to poor old Hestia,” said Uranus, God of the Heavens and of Schoolboy Sniggering, “she does her best to vary it. Ambrosia curry, Ambrosia salad, Ambrosia burritos, you name it, she’s tried it.”

“Yes, but there’s a theme there,” said Aphrodite. “They all contain Ambrosia.”

Uranus shrugged (don‘t read that aloud). “It’s the Food of the Gods,” he said. “She doesn’t have any choice.”

“What do the Roman Gods eat?” asked Demeter.

“Pizza and pasta,” said Wikipedia, Goddess of Knowledge.

“What are they?” asked Athena.

“Flattened-out dough, and dough served in silly shapes.”

“Wow,” said Khione, “and I thought we had it tough.”

They munched away in moody silence. Suddenly Apollo slammed down his fork. “Look, we don’t have to put up with this. I mean, are we men or mice?”

The other Gods stared at him.

“Ok, bad choice of phrase,” he said. “What I mean is, it’s time we ate what we want to eat. Back in a minute.”

He vanished briefly, then returned laden down with paper bags.

“Where have you been?” asked Khione, “and what is all this?”

“Earth,” said Apollo, “and this is called Take-Away.”

They all looked doubtful. Then Angelamerkel, Goddess of the Greek Economy, gingerly opened what happened to be a bag of chips, and the smell of salt and vinegar caressed their nostrils for the very first time.

They dived in.

Never had they savoured such tastes. Aphrodite ate a Big Mac, though she took the two gherkins out first. Hermes had the Chinese, including the two weird pieces of wood that came with it. Khione became the first being from outside Ireland ever to taste a spiceburger.

Suddenly there came a roar from behind them.

“What is the meaning of this?” said Zeus, furiously. He snatched up a bag, sniffed at it, fell under the spell of the aroma as the others had, and took a bite of the cooked meat inside.

“Why, this is the dog’s bollocks!” he exclaimed.

Apollo took a look at the writing on the bag. It said “Prairie Oysters”.

“He’s not wrong there,” he muttered.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Close

My old computer and my old phone are refusing to speak to one another. The computer, in fact, refuses to acknowledge that the phone exists, even when the phone is, well, plugged into it. Now that’s just gotta hurt.

Anyway, the upshot is that I cannot upload any pictures. Which, for a photo challenge, does pose a challenge.

So you will just have to imagine the pinkish blur which was going to feature here today. Because although I could have gone for close friends, close relatives or, had there been any aliens about, close encounters of the third kind, I had simply taken a photo with my thumb over the lens.

You just can’t beat the classics.

Than I’ll Ever Know

Having told you all that Tinson1 and I were going on the beer last Friday because his exam results were coming out, I should really have let you know that he passed them.

He will start Fourth Year Physics in September, and must begin by carrying out a nine-week project.

The one he has chosen is “3D Optical Architecture for very high efficiency solar collection“ (I know, piece of piss, but then kids don’t have it as tough these days as we did back in the day, when we had to learn Latin, Viking and Fletching).

This project will not take place in his own Trinity College, though, a mere train ride from our house. It is in Wake Forest University.

In North Carolina.

I must confess that all I know about North Carolina is that it is above South Carolina, and even that is based on logic rather than actual geographical knowledge. But since he got the news yesterday we have consulted (possibly for the first time ever) our huge Atlas of the World and have learnt that he will be getting up five hours later than I do (no change there), that the state’s capital is Raleigh, that it has humid subtropical temperatures, and does not appear to be populated by bears, alligators or any of the other creatures which make other US States so entertaining in movies, though less so when your son is going to live there.

Needless to say he can’t wait, and we are delighted for him.

Although it carries the term “furthering one’s education” to a whole new level.

Double Jobbing

The imminent release of the movie Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter is a reminder to all of us that many well-known characters with far too much time on their hands take to other jobs in order to keep themselves busy. Here is a short list of some of the best known …

Hannibal – Ringmaster. All of us know that Hannibal crossed the Alps with a lots of elephants. Most of us, though, know little else, vaguely remembering that he was a either a Hun (shouting “dumbkoff!” a lot), a Vandal (football hooligan) or a Goth (depressed and dressed all in black). In fact he was owner of a great circus, as we would know had we learnt the second verse, “hundreds of custard-pies Hannibal had, when Hannibal crossed the Alps”.

Tom and Katie – X-Files solvers.  Tom Cruise is the Mulder of the pair, passionately believing that aliens, in particular the great Xanu, really exist. Katie Holmes is the more sceptical Scully. She does believe, though, that the loot is out there, in Scientology bank accounts to be exact, and would frankly rather that it had stayed in theirs.

Bertie the Bounty Hunter.  The ex-leader of our country will go anywhere and do anything to collect money, whether as hand-outs, lecture fees, loans, gifts or money won on horses. Once appeared in an ad for the News of the World sitting in a kitchen cupboard drinking a cup of tea. That’s probably the funniest line in this post, but sadly it’s true.

Maggie Thatcher – Tomb Raider. Moves around the world taking valuable artifacts, the epitome of capitalism. Try not to picture her in the outfit, though, or you won’t sleep at night.

Lady Gaga – Wonder Woman. Feel free to picture her in the outfit, I certainly have. She carries a whip and can spin around in a circle without getting dizzy – proof enough for me.

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Robot. Seriously, just look at him in real life – wooden, expressionless, monotonic. His decision to play the part of a robot was a stroke of genius, the ultimate example of hiding in plain sight.

Simon Cowell – The Hulk. As any crap singer who’s ever screeched out “My Heart Will Go On” on the X-factor knows, don’t make him angry – you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. The mystery, though, of how all of the Hulk’s clothes rip and fall off whenever he hulks while his trousers prudishly stay on is solved by considering the high-waisted huge ones that Simon wears.  

The Queen – Consulting Detective. From her lodgings in Central London the Queen and her loyal-but-dumb sidekick, Prince Philip, travel the country in a horse-drawn carriage, where she solves crimes with her incisive brand of questioning (“and what do YOU do?”). Her defeat of the Corgi of the Baskervilles, a huge beast almost a foot tall, is a classic example of the expert use of a slipper. 

I’d write more (Kenny Rogers – Werewolf was coming next), but I have to leave. The Tinsignal has appeared in the sky, and I must slip into my mask and skin-tight suit (steady, girls) and head off in the Tinmobile to protect Greystones City from the Penguin.

It’s been a very cold winter, he’s migrated here and is eating all of the fish-fingers in Tesco.

Words Fade Away

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “social media”…


The smoke arose in cushion-like black puffs, some large, some small. Gradually they formed a tower of small clouds, visible for miles.

General Custer sighed.

“What’s that?” asked his lieutenant, Captain Jones, recently promoted from sergeant in a blaze of  illogical ranking.

“It’s called a b-log,” said Custer, “because it’s caused by burning logs. This one’s by a guy called Metal Heart Throb.”

“What’s he saying?”

“He’s telling the whole world that he intends drinking firewater this evening with his son, Plays With Atoms,” said Custer.

“Like anyone cares,” said Jones.

“You’d think,” said Custer. “But just watch.”

A few seconds later, from hills all around them, eight little towers of smoke began to rise. One little ball, in a miraculous feat of blanket-waving, formed itself into a smiley face .

“What are they?”

“His commenters,” said Custer. “They all come to tell him how great he is. In fact, he’s more popular than Big Chief Step Hen Fry.”

Another column appeared, this one of ragged wispy smoke, drifting aimlessly.

“What does that one say?” asked Jones.

“It says,”It in fact was an amusing account it, look advanced to far added agreeable from you,”” said Custer. “It’s from someone called Lurid Pink Meat, everyone ignores him.”

“But the rest of them,” he went on, “are She Who Laughs, From Home Of Cross Aunt, She Who Laughs From Upside Down Land, Small Flat Cake, Mother’s Mother With Toyboys, Looks Not From The Front, Internal Chromosome With Need To Travel. And Jo.”


“They’re all women,” said Custer, “or “Humans Whose Hips Sway In An Attractive Way,” as his people call them. They seem to love him, whereas I haven’t spoken to one since we met that Pocohantas back in that village two years ago.”

“The one who slapped your face and called you a Man Who Plays Alone?” said Jones.

“Er, yes,” said Custer. “Anyway, I’ve decided I’m going to try this b-logging. I’ll soon be more popular than this twit.”

“What will you call yourself?”

“I know what women want,” said Custer, who didn’t, since he lived exclusively with men. “I’m going to call myself Little Big Horn.”

It didn’t end well.

A Toast To Success

There are now only two days on which I drink.

One is Christmas Eve morning (morning?!?). This is one of the Tinfamily traditions. Ever since Tinson1 was about eight we have gone to my local pub (I am an excellent father and role model) on Christmas Eve morning, he wraps whatever presents he has got for his two younger siblings, we wrap my present for Mrs Tin, and I have one or two drinks to prepare myself for that evening, when I will be surrounded by presents, mystified by instructions, bereft of batteries, and bleeding from the thumb from the incorrect use of a screwdriver.

When we arrive the owner has a scissors and a sellotape-dispenser on the counter waiting for us. Sometimes outsiders get sucked into your family traditions too.

The other day is the day on which his college exam results come out. This tradition has not been running for as long (obviously, he didn’t start college at eight) but means a lot to me. When he passed First Year I thought he would celebrate wildly with his friends, but the results for different subjects come out on different days so apparently wildness was not taking place and he actually had nowhere to go. I said to him “well, I’ll be in the pub watching France play Uruguay in the World Cup if you want to join me”, and to my surprise he did.

And to my great pride and welling-upness, when he passed Second Year and Mrs Tin asked him what he planned for the evening, he said “I’m going out with Dad”.

His Third Year results come out today, and again we are going out together. It’s 8am as I write this, I don’t know at this moment whether he has passed or not, but either way we will go out this evening, and chat, and bond, and have fun, and I will yet again wonder and rejoice at the fact that this wonderful young man is part of my life.