Monthly Archives: July 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Purple

One man with a broken camera and a refusal to accept that this means the Weekly Photo Challenge no longer applies to him…


One of the oddest, and least challenged, things about science is that paleontologists can find one solitary bone and from it deduce what a dinosaur looked like.

The principle is as daft as finding one blonde hair and deducing the existence of Scarlet Johansson, and the fact that Scarlet Johansson does exist in no way weakens that argument.

These paleontologists would have us believe that all dinosaurs were ferocious, angry, million-toothed creatures, without having any evidence to back this theory up, such as for example a cave-drawing of one of them hanging out of a very tall building.

The human psyche disagrees, dredging up deep communal memories that none of us even know are there. So when someone was asked to design a dinosaur for TV, these memories forced their way into his subconscious mind and he invented Barney, because the T. Rex was in fact furry, gentle and friendly. And purple.

Other inventors have been unknowingly inspired by similarly harmless creatures. The child’s kite recalls the gentle Pterodactyl, dancing on the breeze. The mammoth sparked the idea of the 84 bus, slowly and meanderingly rambling about its unhurried business. The Velociraptor, a creature with a wide head and just one front leg, is evoked by a tricycle.

The friendliest of all was the Sabre-tooth Tigger.

All of these creatures frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee (now Boise, Idaho). Sadly many of them perished during our first attempt at inventing fire, a procedure involving a flint, some straw and some sticks of what turned out to be gelignite. The resulting crater was so large that to this day it is mistaken as a meteorite strike. The ice-age saw to the rest of them, as we sheared them to make coats for ourselves, there being no anti-fur campaigners about then.

Scientists will scoff at this, saying that humans were not around at the same time as the dinosaurs, to which I would reply well then who buried the bones. We were of course there, meddling with the balance of nature and causing havoc, just as we do today. The men were strong and carried a big club, which is why we now have the game of cricket. The women looked liked Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC.

The ancient memory of that is how someone created Barbie.

Water Babies

As the Olympics have started (I am Official Stud-muffin to the 2012 Games – well, jointly with Beckham) we were given three sports photos to choose from as our prompt at Saturday’s Inkslingers Workshop. This is the one I chose…



In most respects they were like all of the other teams – identical goggles identical clothes-pegs on their nose, identical teeth-filled, almost manically cheerful smiles. If all the Osmonds in all the towns in all the world had simultaneously been asked to say “cheese” you wouldn’t have seem gleaming toothy whiteness like that.

They did the same moves as all the rest, heads popping-up and turning at the same time like a group of children hearing an ice-cream van. They hovered with arms and legs at unbelievable angles, their legs in particular in positions that made men cross theirs uncomfortably as childhood memories of crashing onto bicycle crossbars were awakened.

But they were better than the others. In a sport where there are only three basic moves – wave, swim or impersonate a starfish, you have to do something different to stand out.

The photo that appeared in the papers the following day showed the in all their remarkable synchronicity, but had one major flaw. It was printed upside down.

The Band of Angels’ Olympic Synchronised Swimming Olympic Team won the gold by performing their routine dancing on the water.

All Dressed Up

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “variations on a theme”…


The huge front door creaked eerily as it opened.

There was nothing they could do about it, the doors of large castles are made to creak, and no amount of oiling will stop that.

Apart from that, though, everything was perfect at Morticia Addams’ Halloween party.

There were games. There was musical chairs, in which you fought each other for the privilege of sitting on a chair, and if you lost you made made to go and sit down, on a chair.   There was bobbing-for-apples, a strange game in which you inhaled water while attempting to pick up a piece of fruit you didn’t want. In another game a similar piece of fruit, now covered in toffee, swung on a piece of string and struck you violently in the face.

The room was brightly-lit and free of spider-webs. There was Beach Boys music playing. Everything was totally unspooky, and that was the whole point.

Morticia Addams throwing a themed-party for her fellow monsters. They had all had to come as humans.

She’d been too busy preparing the party to really pick an outfit, so she’d simply put on a pair of round glasses and was now Ozzy Osbourne.

Her husband Gomez played Clark Gable, which she felt was cheating since he looked like him anyway. She had pointed this out and he had said “frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”. In reply she had turned him briefly into a handbag, because women always win arguments.

The other guests had made more of an effort, though some of them had been limited by their own appearance. The Mummy had come as Mr Bump, and in fairness there was little else he could have done. And the many, many ghosts had merely been able to tie-dye their sheets but had shown great inventiveness. One now represented the garish colours that humans wore playing golf, another the national flag of Burundi, another the Shroud of Turin.

Among the rest Count Dracula, by combing his hair forward and clutching his cloak around him, made an excellent Professor Snape. Doctor Frankenstein had gelled his hair into wild shapes and come as Alfred Einstein, while a grey-bun wig and a walking stick had transformed his assistant Igor into Grandma Walton. And everyone admired his Monster’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, though the Monster hadn’t in fact known that the party was fancy-dress.

The Headless Horseman had jammed his head onto his shoulders, jammed a stetson onto his head, and come as John Wayne. The Bride of Dracula, in the revealing white night-dress in which she’d been involuntarily wed, had come as Marilyn Monroe standing over the air-vent.

The Invisible Man had come as Cardinal Richelieu, although obviously you had to take his word for that.

Macbeth’s three witches, thanks to tight-fitting mini-skirts and some spells to rid themselves of their warts, did an astonishing impression of the Supremes.

Christopher Lee had come as Peter Cushing. Lee was not, of course, a monster, but had appeared in so many horror films that they had invited him as a special guest.

The only awkward moment was provided by Thing, the Addams Family pet hand. He had clenched himself into a fist, stuck out his middle finger, and put a tiny mortar-board on it. For this he had been sent to bed.

No-one likes a Clever-Dick.

In The Swim Again

Just because something is a good idea once, that doesn’t mean that it will be the next time.

I got up this morning at seven, and no sooner was I in the kitchen than I realised that my headache was back again.

Well, swimming in the sea had helped last Thursday, so why not try it again?

Because (and I now know this by the empirical method) there is a big difference between swimming at eleven on a sunny Thursday morning and swimming at eight on a cloudy Saturday one.

There are upsides. The beach was almost deserted, apart from a couple of people walking their dogs, occasionally throwing sticks into the water for them to fetch (dogs really, really will do anything for love, including that). I was the only person swimming. At that time of the morning I was probably the only person swimming along the entire east coast.

Admittedly the swim itself was just as pleasant as it was the first time. Again I swam for a while, sat just within the water’s edge for a while, then swam again. Again I felt exhilarated as I came out.

But on Thursday last the sun warmed me as I dried myself and dressed. This time a sharp cool breeze made me shiver and played modesty-threatening games with my strategically-worn towel (I was afraid that that the sudden appearance of a bare arse might be a welcome diversion to a dog that has been forced to spend its morning retrieving sticks from cold water).

What was needed was a hot shower when I got home, but since no-one else was awake I couldn’t turn it on, so I sat wearing two t-shirts and a hoodie in front of the TV, watching as the cup of tea that I was clasping slowly turned my two index fingers from white to a normal hue.

I wasn’t shivering, I was actually shuddering, as I proved to myself when I poured my tea down my neck. I realise that there are two ways of looking at that sentence, and it is the external one that I mean.

I had turned on the TV because this, of course, is the first morning of the Olympics. I watched some rowing, some cycling and then they put on the swimming.

I scornfully watched what are supposed to be the world’s greatest exponents of this art go about their well-paid business. Some of them wore a second, rubber, skin. Even those who didn’t wore trunks that looked far better insulated than mine. They all wore little plastic tea-cosies to keep their heads warm.

None of them stubbed their toes on hard sharp stones. None of them got slapped in the face by seaweed. None of them turned their heads to breathe and swallowed an unexpected wave of salt-water. None of them fell into the hidden drop which is about ten feet into the water on Greystones beach.

Oh, and the pool was heated.


Going Swimmingly

I am not at work today.

Since about last Friday I have had a headache that I just cannot shake off. I have been able to stun it into submission with paracetamol, but it struggles up after about two hours and comes back, nagging me from inside with its dull ache.

Yesterday at work I just got fed up with it, didn’t feel that I should take yet more tablets and so I just came home and lay down in  a dark room. I woke at work time this morning, realised that it was still there and so took today off too.

It seems to be coming from tension in my neck and upper shoulders. I have an exercise where I hold my left hand above my right ear and pull my head over to the right, and then vice versa. For the last few days I’ve only been able to move it a couple of inches.

One fairly obvious answer would be to go for a swim in our local leisure centre, but I am not comfortable exposing my torso to other people. It has three visible  though unattached scars, as though I was attacked by Zorro when he was drunk, and the pacemaker is a visible lump which makes me look like a cartoon character who has swallowed a tennis ball.

I was bemoaning these issues to Mrs Tin when she said “why not swim in the sea”. It turns out that she was only joking, but should have learnt by now not to do that. I sat in the garden in the sunshine, thought about it for a while, then came back into the kitchen and announced that I was going for it.

And I did. I walked down our beach (an uncomforable experience, there is a reason why our town is called Greystones and not Goldensands), left my clothes and towel in a little pile (the disadvantages I mentioned above were advantages here, when you have three scars and a tattoo no-one is going to steal your stuff) and strode manfully in.

It was cold, I can’t deny that, and I am sorry that I premiered the made-up word “Numbits” in yesterday’s post since it has a far more relevant place in today’s, but it was great. I swam for a few strokes, let waves fall over me, went and sat on the beach just at the water-line, so that the water would lap over and under my legs, and then did it all again.

At one stage the pockets of my shorts filled with air and I remembered that the Tinfamily, on holidays in Majorca or Malta long ago, used to refer to these as “side-butts”, thus adding nostalgia to an already fun experience.

I’ve been home about an hour now and have already eaten a bowl of strawberries with custard, three Jaffa cakes and a tomato-filled bagel. I am still starving.

And my neck is slightly better, I can roll it from side-to-side now without getting that sound as if a platoon of soldiers is marching on gravel.

It’s 1.20 now and I have an afternoon stretching in front of me that consists of blogging in the sun, reading in the sun and snoozing in the sun. If you’re going to pick a day to be sick, then try and pick a lovely one.

I’ll be back at work tomorrow, hopefully far browner than when I left there yesterday. I hope they understand.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Another week in which a man whose camera-phone is no longer working refuses to accept that the Weekly Photo Challenge might not be for him…


pic via chefjeffjeff

Some of you will remember the comic the Beano, and will remember the Numskulls, a group of tiny boffins who ran the various Departments of someone’s head. We thought of them simply as a cartoon strip for the entertainment of children, but suppose they really exist? It’s no sillier than the idea that all of our thoughts, emotions and intelligence come from electrical impulses, and that our personality depends whether we are left-brained rather than right.

Perhaps they have been with you since the second you were born and gave that first cry, when the Mouth Department cranked open its double doors and blew loudly into a set of bagpipes.

Since then they have yanked out your first tooth, applied curlers to your first lock of hair, produced the dribble to smear over your first toy.

They have learned with you, the Brain Department trying to make sense of Periodic Tables, Venn diagrams and the plume of ma tante. A lesson on the facts of life filled with them with horror on behalf of the Numbits further down.

They clear specks of dust from your eyes by pouring buckets of water out of your pupils, washing the windows of your soul. They use laughing-gas to make you laugh, sleeping-gas to make you sleep, and marsh-gas to make you fart.

They make ear-wax, though heaven knows why, perhaps they have shares in the cotton-bud industry.

In other words they ensure the smooth running of your ears, your eyes, your brain.

They ensure the running of your nose, too, by trickling treacle down it. If they are feeling especially mischievous they will roll their floor-sweepings into a round ball, dust it with gunpowder, ram it into the torpedo-tube of your nostril, and ignite it.

When you are asleep the Forehead Department sneaks out to paint wrinkles on your forehead.

When you are hungover they get hungover too, so they take it out on you. The Mouth Department rolls out a carpet along your tongue, the Ear Department turns its controls up full so that every sound is as loud as thunder, while the Brain Department bangs on the inside of your skull with a large wooden mallet.

You often hear the expression “playing with someone‘s head“. Perhaps that’s what the Numskulls are doing with ours.


A Chink In Your Armour

It’s Monday evening and you are on the bus home. You’ve had a good time at work, you’ve laughed with your friends, dealt competently with your job and have walked to the bus stop in glorious, about-time-July’s-nearly-over-sunshine.

You have a post written (it’s not that good, forget about that part) and are going to transfer it from Word onto your blog as soon as you get home.

It’s been a good day.

Then something, just one thing, one tiny insignificant moment of your day creeps under the tent of your content like a wasp under the tent of, well, a camper. It stings.

The tiny incident – a look, a word, even a silence, becomes less tiny. It becomes a slight, or a threat, a problem. You are now in trouble.

You invent scenarios that will never happen, could never happen. In your head you carry on full conversations in which you are angered, or disappointed, or just plain hurt. Or you provoke these in the other person.

You know this is all rubbish. You try to think positively, to use common sense, you tell yourself to stop being a horrendous gobshite, but it’s too late. A black cloud now covers the sunshine of the real world.

It’s no longer a good day.

You reach home. You don’t bother with the blog-post, you don’t bother with your dinner, you go to bed. It is six-thirty in the evening.

It’s Tuesday evening now, and I am on the bus home. Today there was no slight, threat or problem. There was no rabidly offensive conversation. There was another day like Monday was, remarkably unremarkable.

You, my friends who come here, sometimes wonder at my imagination. It does indeed take me to the most amazing, fun-filled places, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

But sometimes it’s a real pain in the arse.

Said It With Flowers

At the writing workshop yesterday we looked at the crime story. We were given the sentence “I was the first into the Botanic Gardens glasshouse that day and there she was, her legs wrapped around one of those strange mountainous plants from Borneo with a note around her neck that said:”

Copperface Jack’s, by the way, is a notorious Dublin nightclub, and the Joy is Mountjoy Prison…


I was the first into the Botanic Gardens glasshouse that day and there she was, her legs wrapped around one of those strange mountainous plants from Borneo with a note around her neck that said: “Tina’s Hen Party”.

You see girls like her all over Dublin city on a Sunday morning – wearing T-shirts with some girl’s photo on it, Playboy-bunny ears that light up, and an expression that says that they’re hungover, sick and wish they were dead.

Trouble is, this girl was.

It was hard to say what the cause of death was. This wasn’t because there wasn’t a scratch on her. It was because she’d been shot, stabbed and had marks on her neck as if she’d been strangled.

Oh, and she was missing her head.

“Suicide?” joked my partner, Bud. Bud wasn’t his real name, it was Aloysius, but he preferred Bud. Most people would.

“Very funny,” I said. “Someone wanted to kill this girl really, really badly, and they did it really, really well.”

“How do we find out who she is?”

“She’s Tina,” I said.

“How do you know?” asked Bud.

I pointed to the L-Plate that was stuck to the front of her skirt. “They only do that to the bride-to-be,” I said.

“How do you think she ended up here?” asked Bud. “It’s a long way from Copperface Jacks.”

“Dunno,” I said. “Let’s find the rest of the party and ask them.”

It only took a few phone calls to establish that a bunch of girls up from the little town of Kilkenny had rented one of those StayDublin short-term apartments for the weekend. We paid them a visit and broke the news. One of them said “Are you sure it’s her? We’d better ID her.”

I showed her a photo of what we’d found. She threw up on my tie.

“Any of you know did she go off with anyone last night?” asked Bud.

“This is a hen-party,” said one of them. “What happens in Dublin, stays in Dublin.”

“Not in a murder investigation, doll,” I said. “The only thing staying in Dublin will be the killer, in the Joy.”

“And of course Tina’s head, if we can’t find it,” said Bud.

I ignored that. “Did she meet a guy?”

“No,” said one of the girls. I’d tell you some of their names but they all looked the same to me. “We didn’t bother with guys, we just drank shots and danced around our handbags to I Will Survive and It’s Raining Men.”

“She wasn’t interested in other men,” said one of them. “I should know, I’m Laura, her bridesmaid and best friend. All she was interested in was David.”

She said the word David with her lips in a sneer, like the face you’d make if you were trying to spit gin through a gap in your teeth into the fire. “You didn’t like David,” I said.

“He wasn’t good enough for her,” said Laura. “No man was good enough for her.”

Just an hour ago this case had looked tougher to crack than one of my wife’s hard-boiled eggs. Now it looked as plain as my wife.

“You want to tell us what happened, Laura?” I asked.

“I did it,” she said defiantly. “I though it was me she loved, that David was just her beard. Last night, after this lot had passed out from mojitos and Bacardi Breezers, we got a taxi out to the Botanic Gardens. I wanted to give her a rare orchid, as a sign of our love. She told me she really did love David, that she’d just been with me because she was bi-curious. I was furious, so I killed her.”

“And why did you wrap her legs around the tree-truck?” I asked.

She blushed. “Symbolism,” she said. “She’d made her choice.”

“What did you stab her with?” asked Bud, who felt he’d better say something before we forgot he was in the story.

” A shears I found the in the Gardens.”

“And cut off her head with?”

“A hedge-trimmer I found in the Gardens.”

“And shoot her with?”

“Oh, I brought the gun up from Kilkenny with me,” she said. “Me ma says Dublin is an awful dangerous place.”

Burning Bright

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “deflagrate”, and yes, I do know what it means, now that I have looked it up…..


Deep within him he could feel it starting.

Polly the parrot sighed, rested his head against the bars of his cage, gritted his beak, and waited. The time was almost here.

He suddenly burst into a single, white-hot, searing flame, scorching a nearby pot plant and, to Polly’s brief delight, scaring the crap out of the house-cat, the imaginatively named Kitty.

Polly had deflagrated, living only a small pile of ash.

From which, a couple of seconds later, his head slowly re-appeared, then his body and finally his legs, like Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in Doctor No, only smaller, less sexy and actually nothing like that at all.

Polly was not, in fact, a parrot. He was a phoenix, whose real name was Purefire.

He waddled to the front of the cage, looked deep into Kitty’s eyes and said “piss off, moggy.”

Kitty fled.

For Polly could talk. In a hundred and five languages, in fact. You don’t get to live through lifetime after lifetime, each over 500 years years long, without picking up stuff.

Nobody ever seems to find it strange that parrots can talk. Humans would be astonished if monkeys or dolphins, acknowledged as the planet’s most intelligent animals, suddenly decided to recite Emily Dickinson poems. Yet they find nothing odd  about the fact that a mere bird (and remember, they use the term bird-brain to mean dim-witted) can loudly demand a cracker.

Most parrots are phoenixes. As rare birds they were constantly hunted, for zoos, for their plumage or for the fact that, if you timed it just right, they made excellent barbeque firelighters. The birds eventually decided to hide in plain sight, concealing their mighty intellects behind a veneer of friendly stupidity.

As he began his newest incarnation Polly, as he always did, looked back on the one just gone. It had been one of his better ones. He had accompanied Columbus on his voyage, creeping out of his cage each night to turn the map around, trying vainly to get it through to Columbus that India was in fact in the other direction. He had been in Italy during the Renaissance, living a life of luxury in the house of the Medicis, though occasionally, if a hat needed splendour added, he would unexpectedly have one of his feathers plucked, an experience not unlike a bikini-wax.

For five glorious years he had been Long John Silver’s parrot as they roamed the high seas in search of treasure. He was encouraged to shout “pieces of eight” at regular intervals, although he had no idea what that meant. Still, as Silver’s vocabulary consisted mostly of the word “Arrr” he still felt that he was the more interesting conversationalist of the pair.

He spent much of his life, of course, locked in a cage, but a cage-lock was no problem to someone of his age and experience, so when the tedium of pretending to be thick got too much for him he would slip out and help to create masterpieces. He added the flowers to VanGogh’s “Sunflowers”, which was originally simply to have been a painting of a bowl (VanGogh was mad, he hadn’t noticed). He wrote “Kubla Khan” (Coleridge was drunk with opium, he thought he’d done it). He finished Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, though unfortunately the pages got lost down the back of a sofa.

He would occasionally pretend to be other birds. He had quoted “nevermore” at Edgar Allen Poe. He had spent a summer as a stork, delivering babies to villages that did not have a maternity hospital. He modelled for Christmas cards as a robin.

A brief holiday in Mauritius had not been a success, and he had escaped only through an emergency deflagration.

The 20th century was a golden age for him. He wrote “Yesterday” for the Beatles (Paul thought John wrote it, and vice versa). On TV he played Road Runner, Foghorn Leghorn and Woody Woodpecker, though he discovered that the last of these roles was actually more dangerous than being a phoenix, since most humans, upon hearing his catchcall, felt the urge to shoot him.

He spent two wonderful years touring with Monty Python, playing the part of the dead parrot.

As he moved towards old age, getting into his four-hundred-and-eighties, he settled for a more sedate existence, becoming a house pet. He had accompanied a number of old ladies through their declining years, the only drawbacks being that they all owned cats and that they all called him Polly, since parrot-sexing is not an easy science. One of these ladies had left her entire fortune to him, and he now owned an old house in Norfolk which he would visit late at night, hooting like an owl and swooping like a bat, in order to give ghost-hunters something to get scared about.

He got to keep up with the news by reading the paper that was daily changed on the floor of his cage, and in most houses he had a view of the telly. When his owner went out he would drift around with the ducks in the pond in the local park, eating as much of the bread thrown to them as he could, since you can get really, really tired of sunflower seeds.

And had he found love during this existence? Yes, he had, with another phoenix called Flamina (or Polly, to her owners). They had enjoyed a passionate relationship, filled, appropriately, with the ardent fire of true love.

She was an older woman, and they knew that she would deflagrate before him, but they were still taken by surprise when it happened, at a most unfortunate time.

It was the night he wrote “Great Balls of Fire”.

Stating Point Of View


“She wouldn’t lock the door, she’d ring the police.”


“If you’re sixty-four and you’re still out at quarter to three, your wife’s not going to think you’ve been at a disco -”

“- a what?”

“-a dance, or at a Rolling Stones gig. She’s going to think you’ve fallen, or that you’ve forgotten where you live. People who are sixty-four have a cup of cocoa and go to bed when the telly programmes end at eleven. They don’t go on the razzle with their mates, trying to do the Hucklebuck and putting out their hips.”

“Ok, but “if I’ve been out till quarter to three, would you call the cops” doesn’t really sound very romantic.”

“It’s no less romantic than the line “you’ll be older too”. Try saying that to any bird and see if she’ll still be sending you a Valentine, never mind birthday greetings and a bottle of wine.”

“Apart from that bit, what do you think?”

“Not much. There’s the grandchildren, for instance.”

“What about them?”

“Well, in the first place, no-one can balance three kids on one knee. And secondly, their names. No English child has ever been called Chuck.”

“Perhaps they’re Americans.”

“Then why do they rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight every summer? They could go to Niagara Falls, or Salt Lake City.”


“It’s in Utah. It’s where that bunch of kids that keep turning up on the Andy Williams Show come from. And no-one calls a girl Vera anymore, it went out with, well, Vera Lynn. They name them after current singers.”

“So what you suggest?”

“Lulu, Tom and Englebert.”

“With the line before it being “we shall scrimp and singlebert”?”

“I don’t know. Look, this album is supposed to be our masterpiece. We’ve got She’s Leaving Home, and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. This just doesn’t fit in.”

“But if we leave it out, what do we put in?”

“Well, George has some more guru things with sitars, and lyrics no-one understands. And Ringo’s written another song.”

“Oh God.”

“I know. Hang on, here it is – it’s called “Me and My Jellyfish”.

“What is it with him? Submarines, Octopusses -”


“Shut up. Look, my song would be better than either of those.”

“I suppose you’re right. We can’t put in a song called Me and My Jellyfish. It’d be like a song called, I don’t know, I Am The Walrus.”

“Exactly. People would think we’re on drugs.”