Monthly Archives: September 2012

Through The Square Window

The Paris Daily Review is running a series called “Windows On The World”, in which writers from around the world write about what they see from their windows. They haven’t asked me yet, but I’ve got mine ready for when they do …

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I can see a large tree from the window. This is fate’s idea of a joke. When you are in hospital with a broken leg, caused by falling out of a tree, then trees are not what you want to spend your days looking at.

I think it’s an oak tree, though I’m not an expert on dendrology, to me all trees are the same, they have leaves, branches and a contract with gravity that they will help prove its existence now and then.

As I say, it could be oak. Or beech. Or horse-chestnut – why “horse-chestnut”, anyway? Are there other sorts – cow-chestnuts, or zebra, or bison?

Sorry, I went off on a bit of a tangent there. Your mind tends to wander if you’re stuck in a room with no TV, a bed-pan that really should have been collected about 15 minutes ago and a view of the thing that caused all your problems.

It’s like putting in Dorian Grey in a room with the picture of Dorian Grey.

And why, I hear you ask (unless that’s just voices in my head, I’ve been in here for a month now) did I fall out of the tree? After all, I’m a grown-up, 38 years old, and my relationship with trees should be confined to picking apples off them, sweeping up leaves that have fallen from them and washing bird-poo off my car if I park under one of them.

Well, I was showing off. My son was sitting, as he had been all summer, in front of his Playstation, and I was going on about how he should get fresh air, about how much fun we had had as children, always outdoors. I explained Cowboys and Indians and he accused be of celebrating genocide. I outlined the game of conkers, and he asked “would you not just keep getting hit on the knuckles?” and I had to admit that you did. I explained the game of marbles, and he looked at me as if I’d lost mine.

I told him about Pooh-sticks. The withering contempt an eight-year old can get into a stare is quite astonishing.

And I said we used to climb trees. He said that sounded boring so I dragged him outside and made him watch while I climbed the oak, or beech, or for-all-I-know-banana-tree that grows unbidden in our back-garden, just to show him, and I’m sorry I used this phrase now, that “climbing trees is great crack”.

So here I am. For at least another month.

My son has offered to lend me his Playstation.

Starstruck

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “starry night”…

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It was a starry night. The kind of night which inspires poetry, the kind of night on which lovers sit side by silent side, gazing at the sky. It was the kind of night on which Dracula had to stay indoors, for stars after all are just faraway suns, and exposure to a night like this left him covered in small smoking holes.

It was the kind of night on which no man could fail to feel awestruck by beauty, and at peace with life.

“Ah, for feck’s sake,” said Dr Frankenstein angrily. Ok, except him.

A starry night meant no clouds, no clouds meant no storm, no storm meant no lightning, and no lightning meant no success.

The Creature lay lifeless upon his slab. Without lightning to super-power Dr Frankenstein’s machines, he was likely to remain so.

Frankenstein held his head (no, his own one) in his hands in despair. Igor felt sorry for him.

“Lots of things here in the house run on electricity,” he said (the year was 2010, by the way, I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear). “We could try some of them.”

The next two hours proved pretty fruitless.

Poking the Creature’s toe into a wall-socket didn’t work. Neither did sticking his head into the microwave, putting his buns in the oven or lying him in the bath and dropping in a toaster.

They connected him to their satellite dish. This didn’t work either, although unbeknownst to them every TV in the world changed simultaneously to the National Geographic Channel.

“Kick him in the goolies,” suggested Igor. “That would wake anyone up.”

“He is eleven feet tall,” said Frankenstein. “If it does work he will wake up in pain and very angry, and the first thing he is likely to do is punch the person who kicked him in the goolies.”

As a final, desperate effort Frankenstein attached jump-leads to the Creature’s nipples and turned on the car.

The Creature sat up.

“It’s alive!” said Frankenstein, because traditions are important.

“Master,” said the Creature. “What would you like me to do?”

Frankenstein hadn’t really thought beyond the experiment itself. Mad scientists seldom do.

“Er, don’t know,” he said. At that moment there was a loud hammering at the door. The villagers had arrived, with their pitchforks and their flaming torches.

Frankenstein smiled. “Well,” he said, “the first thing you could do is answer the door.”

The Creature did so. The villagers took one look at him and hid their pitchforks and torches behind their backs, several of them singeing the back of their head in the process.

“Yes?” said the Creature.

“Er,” said the villager who suddenly found himself at the front of the mob, “we heard you were new around here, and wanted to know if you’d like to come to the pub with us.”

And so it was that the Creature became part of village life. He cleared gutters without needing a ladder. He helped the village win the local soccer league, scoring thirty-two goals, all from headers. He helped local farmers milk their cattle, bringing the cows into the parlour two at a time, one under each arm.

And what of Dr Frankenstein? He decided, after all his months of hard work, that he needed a holiday, and booked two weeks in sunny Majorca.

On the second day there he was struck by lightning.

God has a wicked sense of humour.

Bridging The Gap

The Weekly WordPress Writing Challenge is Mind The Gap, and is something about opinion polls. I’ve ignored that and written about generations instead…

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Grandad was baby-sitting Charlie.

It was a partnership with established roles. Grandad watched TV and made himself the occasional cup-of-tea. Charlie was the sleeping partner.

Though not always, or it would have been no fun. This evening Grandad smiled happily to himself as he heard small feet on the stairs, then put what he hoped was a stern look on his face as a small head appeared around the door and a smaller voice said “I have a pain”.

Grandad turned off the TV. “And where do you have this pain?”

“In my tooth.”

“Which tooth?”

“The one under my pillow.”

“Er, what?”

“Whenever one of my teeth falls out I leave it under the pillow, and the tooth-fairy buys it for a Euro. Does she buy yours too?”

“Not exactly. I leave a line of six of them out for her each night, but she has to have them back by morning. It’s a kind of tooth-library.”

Charlie looked suspiciously at him, so Grandad continued “ anyway, the important part of this chat is the bit where you have a pain in a tooth you don’t have.”

“It hurts where the gap is. Maybe it’s the tooth’s ghost.”

“Great try. Now go back to bed.”

“I can’t. It’s like being stabbed with a lightsaber.”

“You can’t get stabbed with a lightsaber.”

“You can so.”

“Lightsabers are pure energy.”

“How do you know that? Did they have Star Wars when you were young?”

“Yes, Charlie. Long, long ago, in a century now sadly far, far away, they had Star Wars. Your Mum had Princess Leia hair.”

“Really?”

“Don’t tell her I told you that.”

“Ok.” They did their secret handshake, which involved fist-bumps, a high-five and a bunched hand held to the heart.

“In that case you can sit up for a while. Do some drawing or something.”

Charlie got his colouring book and worked away for a while. Grandad had a look at the book. A postman had been coloured in entirely in blue scribble, looking as if he had collided with an exploding Smurf.

“That’s really good, Charlie,” said Grandad, “but you should try to keep the colour inside the lines.”

“Why?”

“Because -” Grandad paused. “Do you know Charlie, I have no idea. Have you got another book and some more pencils?”

The two of them were side-by-side, heads bent over their books, when Mum came home. “Why aren’t you in bed?” she said.

“Because I had a pain in -”

“- his tummy,” said Grandad.

“We’ve been doing some really cool drawings, Mum,” said Charlie. “Look at Grandad’s horse.” Mum looked at the book and frowned.

“Why is it green?” she asked. “And why haven’t you kept between the lines?”

“A very wise person once taught me that you don’t have to,” said Grandad, and winked at Charlie.

“Well, take Charlie up to bed,” said Mum. “Really, you shouldn’t have let him stay up so late.”

“Sorry,” said Grandad. He mouthed “Princess Leia” at Charlie, who giggled.

“What are you two laughing at?” said Mum.

“Nothing,” said both of them together. Grandad took Charlie by the hand and they went upstairs. When Grandad came back down Mum was still staring, perplexed, at the green horse. “It was hit by a giant snot,” said Grandad helpfully.

Mum snorted, though fondly. “Honestly, Dad, sometimes you’re as big a child as Charlie.”

“I certainly hope so,” said Grandad. “And I hope I always will be.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

A weekly series in which a man whose camera has broken takes on the WordPress Photo Challenge anyway…

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On that first day, he had wondered were they coming to attack.

They had sent ships before, weird spider-like things that had sat down heavily in the dust but had proven to be unmanned, remotely controlled like a model aircraft, or like Super Mario. But this ship was different. This time a door had opened and a ladder had dropped to the surface.

The Man in the Moon was about to have company.

He knew they were from Earth, that planet of blue and green cheese that orbited his Moon. He had watched over the years as they had sent various little machines into space – stuff that could predict the weather, or at least get it wrong more expensively, stuff that could beam radio signals around the planet.

And now they had come. Perhaps they would be wide-eyed and green. Perhaps they would be squat, brown and continually wanting to go home. Perhaps they would be Killer Tomatoes (there is a version of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes in the psyche of every species in the universe).

The Man in The Moon watched a figure appear at the top of the ladder. Yikes, he thought, they have huge heads, one gigantic eye and are enormously fat. Then he realised that that was just the astronaut’s spacesuit. He waited until the guy reached the bottom step, then walked up behind him.

“Greetings, earthling,” he said.

It is not widely known that the actual first words spoken by mankind on the surface of the moon were “what the f**k?”

The Man in the Moon hoped that that was the limit of the astronaut’s shocked reaction. You don’t want to be trapped inside a spacesuit with your own poo.

“I’m the Man in The Moon,” he said.

“We thought you were a myth,” gasped the visitor.

“Nope, I’m real. I’ve been here for centuries.”

“How have you lived so long?”

“Healthy living. No salt, no cigarettes (I’d love one, but I can’t get them to light up here) and daily swims in the Sea of Tranquility.”

“Well, my name’s Neil Armstrong. I come in peace.”

“Just as well you do. Try anything and I could zap you with my ray-gun, or pelt you with moon-rock, or set the Clangers upon you.”

The Clangers (via BBC.co.uk)

“The Clangers?”

“Yes, they’re my pets. They’re like whistling mice. Believe me, you don’t want to be caught by the Clangers.”

“Er, well, I’ve come for a visit. Is that OK?”

“Sure thing. Do you need a hand with anything?”

“No, we – well, actually, hang on a bit.” Armstrong raced up the ladder, and came back down with a camera. “Would you mind filming me coming down? We wanted to show the world the first man stepping onto the moon, without thinking it through that of course there’d be no-one here to picture him doing it.”

Armstrong went up the ladder yet again and then, with the Man in The Moon filming him, descended slowly, muttering something about steps and leaps. Then he was joined by another astronaut, a guy called Buzz. The two of them were as giddy as two kids on their first day in playschool. They jumped up and down, picked up rocks, took pictures of their reflections in each other’s helmets. They planted a flag. Buzz played golf, as men will do at every possible opportunity.

They stayed for three days, then there were long goodbyes, man-hugs, and promises of secrecy.

Five more missions arrived over the next four years, then mankind took instead to revolving around its own planet in a space station, like John Tracy in Thunderbird 5. They sent ships to Mars and Jupiter, looking for signs of life (there was no-one there, the Man in The Moon could have told them that, they’d joined forces to attack Uranus, like a galactic form of piles). The Man in The Moon resumed his solitary existence.

Except he didn’t.

While Neil and Buzz were bouncing gleefully around (on space-hoppers, of course) he had filmed the inside of their module, using the camera they had given him, and when they left he had built his own spacecraft using bits of the earlier unmanned ships. He regularly visited Earth thereafter (making sure to arrive in isolated places where anyone who spotted his craft would be written off as a crank) and slipped unobtrusively into earth life.

He wrote the song Moondance for Van Morrison. He taught Michael Jackson how to moonwalk. At the moment he is Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the UN.

People say that the moon has a great influence over us. It’s hard to have more influence than that.

I’m Pressed. Impressed?

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This is a modest, self-effacing blog run by a modest, self-effacing man.

Today, though, I am allowing myself to be immodest, though I’m not exactly sure that’s the phrase I’m looking for.

Each day WordPress has a page called “Freshly Pressed” on which it lists what it reckons are the best of that day’s posts, or, as it puts it itself: “the best of  515,249 bloggers, 1,056,179 new posts, 1,397,545 comments & 229,044,509 words posted today on WordPress.com”.

It says that on this page below (image-capture courtesy of Tinson2, I wouldn’t have a clue how to do it): 


And there, right at the front, is the piece I wrote about the blues yesterday. Out of 229 million words that they could have chosen, they have picked my 374.

I only discovered this because I idly flicked to my blog just before I left the office this evening and discovered that I had 15 comments awaiting moderation. I went rather fearfully into them, wondering had I accidentally offended some entire group of people (the Blues Brothers and their extended family, perhaps) and one of the comments said “congrats on making Freshly Pressed”.

I went to the WordPress page and there I am. Since I spent most of last year making fun of the Daily Post prompts WordPress have proven themselves to be bigger people than me, though since I’m only five-foot-five most people are.

The results have been pretty startling. People (and you are all so welcome along, by the way) have been commenting not just on yesterday’s post, but on others. People have ticked “Like”. People have said they are now following my blog. People have offered me their hand in marriage. I may have made that last bit up.

My stats chart for this month now looks like the skyline of Skibbereen would if someone built the Trump Tower at the end of the Main Street.

Tomorrow is, of course, another day, and my fifteen minutes of Pressedness will be over. But before I revert to my old, humble self, could I direct your attention again to the phrase “the best of 515,249 bloggers, 1,056,179 new posts” just in case you missed it the first time.

I’m thinking of changing the blog’s title to that.

Song Sung Blue

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “blue”, so here is Tinman’s guide to one of the most famous of all music genres….

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The first requirement of being a blues singer is that you woke up this morning. Of course, most of us did, but we don’t feel the need to complain about it. Your next problem could be anything – your woman could have left you (the Lovesick Blues) you could have a hangover from last night’s pub-crawl (the 12-Bar Blues) or you might be tired after the walk uphill home (the Hill Street Blues). This problem will form the second line of your song.

In case your audience don’t get it, the first and second lines are then sung again, before the verse ends with one line summing up just how bad the situation is. An example would be “Woke up this mornin’/Found ma woman gone/woke up this mornin’/found ma woman gone/Now I ain’t got no-one/to put ma dinner on.”

It is important to note the use of the word “woman”. As a blues singer you are never left by your girl (that’s boy-bands), your honey (that’s Bobby Goldsboro) or your doll (that’s just weird). You will certainly never be left by your wife, because you won’t have one.

All blues numbers have the same tune. This is a golden rule. The sole optional amendment is that a harmonica, the musical equivalent of nails on a blackboard, is sometimes thrown in, so that the listener’s agony can match that of the singer.

This singer’s name will not be something like, say, Julian. No, blues singers have names like Silly Hair Jones, Bicycle-Pump Wilson or Old Yeller Jackson, who got the name not because he was a terrible singer, but simply because he was an old geezer.

It is the only occupation in which you can call someone “Fats” without them getting offended.

The typical blues singer lives to be about 120, singing night after night about their considerably more than fifty shades of blue.

There is only one thing that they are afraid of, and that is happiness. Nothing can kill a blues career quicker than to wake up one morning, and find that things are good.

Coz there ain’t no cure for the Funtime Blues.

Weekend Break

Weekend away!

As part of her birthday present (as well as the iron) Mrs Tin and I are in Enniscorthy for the weekend. The Irish readers among you may feel surprised by this, as Enniscorthy is not often mentioned in the same sentence as, say, Paris, unless that sentence is “Enniscorthy is nothing like Paris”.

It’s a small town, but we’re hoping that it will be fun, filled with old pubs and interesting shops, or vice versa.

And the hotel is lovely, which is the main reason I picked it (the other was that we could be there in under an hour). It has a swimming pool, which will compensate for my missing my morning weekend swims in the sea (which may be soon taking a seasonal break anyway, since it’s starting to get a bit nippy). I’ve shied away from swimming in pools since my operations, but have decided to go for it this weekend, lending myself street cred with my three chest scars and my tattoo. People are going to think that I’ve survived a vicious knife fight at sometime in my past, which may come in handy if I arrive at the breakfast buffet at the same time as someone else and there’s only one croissant.

I am also, for the first time ever, going to use a gym. I do get exercise, I have weights, I do press-ups and sit-ups and Tinson1 has a bar at the top of his door on which I do pull-ups, and of course I do swim, but I have never before rowed a boat that isn’t in the water, or trudged along a treadmill going nowhere, unless that’s a metaphor for office life.

Neither have I ever cycled a bicycle that’s up on blocks. I can’t help feeling that it’s a waste of energy that could be utilised in some way.

If they connected me up to the bike it might charge my pacemaker.