Monthly Archives: October 2012

To Table 23

Ok, I didn’t win (but congratulatons to Grandad, occasional visitor here, who did).

There were four groups at our table at the Blog Awards Event on Saturday and as it happens all of us were finalists in some category, and one by one we all watched someone else win.

Still, it’s not the winning it’s the yadda-yadda-blah, etc, and we did have a really good time, supporting each other and at one stage all supporting the table when one of its legs collapsed.

So to my new-found blogmates at Business Bloomer, This is Knit and Cigar Loving Doorman, it was great to meet you all, and hopefully we’ll all meet up again next year.

When they’ll need a stronger table, to support the weight of all our trophies.

Awards Night

On the equivalent of this morning in each of the last three years I have written that I am here in Cork/Galway/Belfast for the Irish Blog Awards, how much I’m looking forward to them and how much I’m hoping to meet people who will become blogmates for life, as I did in previous years with Grannymar and Speccy.

It’s six in the evening, I am in Naas (it rhymes with mace) awaiting tonight’s awards, and this is the first mention I’ve made of it. The difference this year is that I am one of the finalists in the Best Humour Blog Category, and quite honestly I don’t know what to say. I was going to say nothing at all, but have realised that just looks weird.

I am remarkably calm about the whole thing, and have achieved this Zen-like state by simply blotting the whole thing from my mind ever since I found out a fortnight ago that I had got this far. Sometimes derealisation has its advantages. I haven’t thought about winning, nor about not winning, though I have just now practised an Oscar-like-I’m-thrilled-for-the-winner smile.

All I can really say is that I hope that it is great fun, that I meet some really great people, that I overcome the shyness that Tinman doesn’t suffer from but that his alter-ego does.

And I hope that the whole event goes really well, as Beatrice, Lorna and Amanda, the three amazing people who have organised it all, deserve it to be a big success.

Real Time

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “the illusion of reality”….

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He had many names.

Most knew him as Batman. Others referred to him as The Dark Knight. He was sometimes known as Bruce Wayne. Villains sometimes called him “that idiot in the tights.”

His mum knew him as Danny. He was eight years old. But he was Batman, and with his four-year-old brother Jason as Robin he fought the villains of Gotham City from his HQ in the Batcave, with its Spongebob Squarepants wallpaper and its poster of the Irish Euro 2012 Soccer Squad.

He fought the Joker, a giant teddy-bear of Jason’s.

He fought the Penguin, who was a toy penguin, bought for him after Happy Feet came out.

He fought Catwoman, a Barbie taken from their sister’s room. (He had once asked in a toy shop for Catwoman Barbie and the man had told him politely that there was no such thing, though just for a second you could tell that he was thinking that it wasn’t a bad idea). He used Skiing Barbie instead, at least she wore a one piece outfit.

He had the Batsuit, a gift from Santa. He had the Batmobile, a real sit-in car bought for his birthday by his parents. He had to pedal it to get it to go, but his Dad had told him that in the films Batman was also pedalling furiously as the Batmobile tore along, and certainly there is no evidence to the contrary. He had the Bat Utility-Belt, in which he usually kept a toy ray-gun, a toy Sonic Screwdriver (yes, that’s from Doctor Who, so what, crime-fighters regularly lend each other stuff) and a small carton of Sunny Delight, complete with straw.

Jason was an obedient if useless sidekick, much like the real Robin. As his older brother was his hero he would follow him pretty well everywhere, but occasionally he would explore other distractions. On one occasion, while they were in the Batgarden and Batman was thumping the Joker (shouting “Biff!” and “Kapow!” as he did so) he looked to see if Robin was dealing with the henchmen (a collection of now unused Cabbage Patch Dolls) and found instead that Robin was playing with dog-poo.

“Holy dog-poo, Batman!” he’d shouted, holding it up.

“Holy Jesus!” Batman’s mother had cried, racing out of the front door.

Danny’s dad had painted the Batlogo onto the bulb of his night-light, and as he snuggled down in bed each night, after a hard day’s crime-fighting, he would stare happily up at the Batsignal on the ceiling.

You could argue that all of this was the illusion of reality, that he wasn’t really Batman at all. But it was real to him, and that’s what matters.

It was the reality of illusion. It’s what keeps childhood so special.

For The Birds

It seems that I have vertigo.

This does not apparently mean that I am afraid of heights, though co-incidentally I am.

It does not mean that I have the urge to follow ice-cold blondes up into tall towers, though if one were to ask I’d hate to be rude.

It does not mean that I have an irrational fear of Hitchcock, or that I have to fight really hard right now against a really bad joke.

It does mean, though, that I am temporarily dizzy, that I have to do some simple exercises, and that I shouldn’t drive for about a week.

That’s what my doctor told me when I drove to her clinic.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy

My camera is broken, but each week I take on the WordPress Photo Challenge anyway…
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It was very cold this morning, but it’s three o’clock now, and it’s a beautiful afternoon. The sun is shining and while there is a coolness in the air, it’s a clean coolness that perfectly complements the warmth of the sunshine, like an iceberg dropped into a volcano, though that metaphor might be a bit strong.

Walking along the riverside’s boardwalk in Dublin’s city centre on an afternoon like this it’s impossible not to feel happy, and I do. I’m not used to being there at this time of the day, watching the sun wink along the ripples of the river and watching people sit contentedly in the sunshine, some reading, some just watching the world go by. There’s a young man of in his twenties sitting with a pipe in his mouth, a real gnarled-old-man’s pipe, and this makes me smile, not because it makes him look daft, though it does, but because he looks so confident with it, as only the young can look.

I can only stay happy by ignoring the reason why I’m strolling along here at this time, which is that I have left work early because I don’t feel well. Both yesterday evening and again at lunchtime today I felt really dizzy, and am on my way to my doctor to see which of my five theories she agrees with:

A: that my blood pressure suddenly rose;
B: that my blood pressure suddenly sank;
C: that I’ve had a panic attack;
D: that someone is spinning my head around in an Exorcist-like fashion;
E: that I’ve been taking E.

Anyway, I’m not worried that it’s serious, I’d just like to find out, so I’ve taken the afternoon off. Generally I’m one of these people who believes that I should only miss work if I’m really unwell (say if I’ve been rolled flat, cartoon-like, by a steamroller), and I feel a bit guilty leaving early.

And a bit guilty that my punishment for skiving off has been a walk full of contentment, and warmth, and beauty.

And that I feel so happy about it.

A Bit Of The Other

The challenge at Saturday’s Irish Writers Centre Workshop was called “Fifty Shades of Oh Please NO, no sex! I’m Irish!”. The idea was to write about desire, and sex, without mentioning sex.
Those of you who come here regularly are probably dreading what’s to follow…
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She had lovely melons.

That had been the first thing that he had noticed when he saw her at her stall at the Farmers’ Market. As well as her melons, she had great buns. He stared at her and felt a stirring at waist level, near where his striploins were. They were on a little shelf in front of him, because his butcher’s stall was next to hers.

She noticed him looking at her, since men lack subtlety in these things.

“Cucumber?” she asked.

“Er, what?”

“I said, would you like to try some of my cucumber?”

She didn’t normally offer her wares free, but she felt strangely drawn to this man. He had strawberry-blond hair, and she grew strawberries. Some people, of course, would have called him ginger and that was fine too, she used it in her baking.

She looked at his body. His biceps were well-developed from wielding his chopper, his legs were strong and firm from chasing escaped cows, and his abs were rock-solid, because he went to the gym three times a week.

And besides, if you can’t have a man in uniform then a man in an apron is the next best thing.

And he knew that she was hot since she had just had to bring her box over from her van.

Whenever business was slow they would chat. And over the weeks they got to know each other better. He learned to his delight that she was great with her hands, as she practiced both knitting and crochet. She discovered to her surprise (and delight) that he knew twenty-two positions, vacant ones at various Farmers’ Markets around the county.

Eventually they became partners. It was a relationship made in heaven. She was a grower, he was a butcher, and between them they could produce the most impressive meat and two veg you have ever seen.

Boldly Gone

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “those that survive”…

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It had been hours now, so they had to face it. Molloy wasn’t back, and he wasn’t coming back.

Crewman Conway raised a glass. “Absent friends,” he said.

“Absent friends,” said the other three, members of one of the smallest clubs in the Universe, and one to which Molloy would not, apparently, be applying for membership.

They called themselves the Survivors Club. Each of them were unknown, forgettable faces, and each of them, at some time, had beamed down to some planet with Kirk, Spock and Bones, and had survived.

They were like mayflies who had lived into a second day.

Each of them had been filled with joy when they had been posted to the Enterprise. They had dreams of exploring strange new worlds, and of seeking out new life and new civilisations. Each of them also secretly dreamed of a planet populated solely by fantastically beautiful and lonely females, who would enslave them, because that‘s just the way men are.

The reality had been different. They had indeed explored strange new worlds, but only ones from which some Starfleet beacon had suddenly ceased to broadcast, or from which there was a strange energy reading, or which had fired missiles at them. Anyone with any common sense would have avoided such planets like the plague (oh, some of the planets had contained the plague), but Kirk was attracted to them like a toddler to a shiny object, and would always decide to send down a landing party, generally of about four people, all with phasers set on stun. Once there they would invariably meet huge gorilla-like creatures, or balls of pure gas, or beings whose staple diet was human brains, despite the fact that these beings had never met a human before.

None of these species ever had their weapons set on stun. We seem to be the only ones in the Galaxy to have heard of such a setting.

And on each of these daft forays Kirk would bring one unknown crewman, ostensibly for them to gain experience but in practice because he had learned that they acted as talismans, warding off evil from Kirk by attracting it to themselves.

Some had been melted, some vaporised, one turned inside-out, one turned into a pillar of snot and one accidentally squished on his wedding night to some creature five times his size.

The crew of 500 which had left Earth now stood at 122. People were working double shifts, or forsaking time off. Several jobs were no longer being done. The food replicators had not been serviced for over six months, and now produced only salt-and-vinegar crisps.

But these four were The Survivors, though at some cost to each of them. Browne had had an organ harvested, but luckily by a race interested only in appendixes. Harvey’s head now faced the other way. DeSilva had lost all of his body hair, but it was fine, he was Brazilian.

Conway was the doyen of the group, the wonder kid. Not only had he been unknown and unheard of when he beamed down to some stupid rock, but in addition he had had only two days to go to retirement. Spock, had he been asked, would have calculated the odds of his survival at 2.326 million to one, but here he was, though he was now part man, part petunia, thanks to some weird pollen disease on the planet.

The four were still in the bar, each silently thinking about those not as lucky as them, when the door schwooshed open and Molloy came in.

“You’ve survived!” said Conway.

“Sure did,” said Molloy. “you won’t believe this, guys, but the planet is full of fantastically beautiful and lonely females. They want to enslave us.”

“Are we leaving orbit?” asked deSilva.

“Not exactly,” said Molloy, “There’s a queue at the transporters two hundred yards long.”

And so it was that the unseen, unsung, unknown heroes of the Enterprise fulfilled their greatest dream. The females enslaved them. They made them mow the grass, put up shelves and take their feet down off the coffee table.

Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.

Married To Darwin

I couldn’t make our writers’ group meeting last Tuesday, but the prompt was (don’t ask me where it came from) “Married to Darwin”….
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She heard him running excitedly down the stairs from his study, and groaned inwardly, dreading what new crazy theory he’d come up with. He burst into the room.

“You’re an ape!” he exclaimed.

“And you’re a pig,” retorted Mrs Darwin.

“No, my dear, you don’t understand,” said Darwin, “I’m not calling you an ape – well, I am, but I’m saying that we’re all apes. That’s where we came from.”

“How?”

“We evolved. Over time we grew our intelligence, lost the need to walk on all fours, gave up swinging from trees.”

“And why do you reckon apes? Why not elephants?”

“No trunk.”

“Tigers?”

“No stripes.”

“Unicorns?”

“Now you’re just being silly.”

“I’m not the one being silly. You’re the one saying that we used to have arms that reached to the ground and a habit of eating fleas that we dug out from under our armpits.”

“I’ve studied it, and I’m sure. Our ancestors were apes.”

“How far back? Your mother, perhaps?”

Darwin decided to ignore that.

“No, centuries ago. Before that we lived in the sea.”

“Apes lived in the sea? What did we swing out of, shipwrecks?”

“We weren’t apes then. We were fish.” Even as he said it, he knew it sounded daft.

“Really. And how did we – what was your word – evolve? Did we mate with mermaids?”

Darwin, who had been so sure of his theory when he had started down the stairs, began to feel less certain. He was starting to regret descending from his room, much as the apes had regretted descending from the trees into a world filled with bears, snakes and David Attenborough.

“And what about the Ark?” asked Mrs Darwin. “And Adam and Eve?”

Darwin had been dreading this bit. “Didn’t happen, I’m afraid,” he said.

Mrs Darwin, a staunch Catholic, reached for a rolling-pin. Darwin decided it was time to prove his theory of Survival of the Fittest. He ran, out the door and down to the pub.

When he returned, two hours later, he found that Mrs Darwin had gone to bed. She had, however, left his dinner on the kitchen table.

It was a banana.

Crime Scene

“I’m not really the detecting type, Chief,” said Superman. “I’m more of an action hero, catching women who have fallen from a high-rise, or holding up collapsing bridges, or stopping a runaway bus by standing in front of it and head-butting it.”

“I know,” said the Chief of Police, “but this is the fifth similar case this month, and we’re trying to prevent a panic. We really need your help.”

“Ok then. Who’s the victim?”

“We don’t know. There isn’t a body. There never is. There isn’t any blood, and there are no spent cartridges. There isn’t even a witness willing to offer the helpful information that they had saw a man running away and that, while they hadn’t got a good look at him, they were sure he was black and about five feet eight, or perhaps white and six feet two. Or possibly a woman.”

“Then how do you know that there was even a crime?”

The Chief led the way toward the crime scene. As they neared it, Superman began to get an “uh-oh” feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“Have a look at that,” said the Chief.

The Chief was pointing at a pile of clothes. In the corner of a phone booth.

“It’s definitely a serial killer,” he said. “We think he lures his victims into a phone booth (“Seriously?” thought Superman, “how do you lure someone into a phone booth?”), makes them take off all of their clothes, and then kills them and disposes of the body. We call him the Stripper.”

Superman could feel himself start to redden.

“We’re putting all of our resources into this,” said the Chief. “We’re cancelling all police leave, we’re all working double shifts and we’re not even stopping for donuts. It’s going to cost the city and its citizens a fortune, but we have to do it.”

“Maybe there isn’t a killer,” said Superman desperately. “Maybe the people were simply too hot.”

“It’s December.”

“Or spontaneously combusted.”

“There’s no pile of ash.”

“Or got abducted by aliens.”

“There’s no such thing.”

Superman, from Krypton, decided to let this go.

“Leave it to me, Chief,” he said eventually. “I’ll sort it out.”

He didn’t know yet what he was going to do, but he was dealing with people too dumb to see through a disguise that consisted purely of a pair of glasses, so he was sure that he could come up with some convincing story. Everything was going to be fine.

And then suddenly it wasn’t.

“Let me through,” said a voice. “I’m a reporter.”

Superman’s heart sank. He could sense his super plans crashing around his Superears as Lois Lane burst through the “Do Not Cross” tape and stood staring in shock at the pile of familiar clothes, the tie she had bought for Christmas and, lying forlornly on the top, the tell-tale glasses.

“Oh my God,” she said. “They’ve killed Clark.”

As Bats As A Blogger

The WordPress Writing Challenge for this week is called “Easy As Pie”, and is about similes and metaphors. This may sound as riveting as a book about rivets, but in fact it gives me the chance to mention the little-known fact that most similes mean exactly the opposite to what we believe them to mean (the phrase “as ironic as a similarian” has dropped out of current usage, but it is as relevant today as it was back before the hills became as old as the hills). Take these examples:

As easy as pie. There is nothing easy about pie. You have to peel and then stew the apples, or boil the rhubarb, or persuade four-and-twenty blackbirds to sit patiently while you cover them in a duvet of pastry. You then bake the whole thing in an oven, frequently producing smoke as thick as, well, you are for undertaking all this, and then make a little pattern of a flower to put on top.
In that time you could have simply bought a packet of Jaffa Cakes, admired your mess-free kitchen and then sat down in front of Downton Abbey with a large glass of red wine.

As nutty as a fruitcake. It has fruit in it, not nuts, the name is a big hint here.

As naked as the day you were born. On the day that they are born most people are naked for a grand total of about four minutes. “As naked as the night of your stag party, when you wake up handcuffed to a traffic cone with one eyebrow shaved off (no, you, not the cone) and a tattoo of Kenny from South Park on your left buttock” is much more apt.

As dull as ditchwater. Tap water is dull. The water in a ditch, on the other hand, might contain leaves, rare beetles, supermarket trolleys, typhus, an abandoned bicycle frame, perhaps even a body.

As happy as a pig in shit. The moment the pig was caught in the orchard with the apple in its mouth it knew it was in deep shit. And it was right, they roasted it without even bothering to take out the apple. Believe me, it wasn’t happy.

As right as rain. Seriously?

WordPress also ask us to attempt the “epic simile”, one which goes on for several lines, and gives this example by Homer:

But swift Aias the son of Oïleus would not at all now take his stand apart from Telamonian Aias,
not even a little; but as two wine-coloured oxen straining
with even force drag the compacted plough through the fallow land,
and for both of them at the base of the horns the dense sweat gushes;
only the width of the polished yoke keeps a space between them
as they toil down the furrow till the share cuts the edge of the ploughland;
so these took their stand in battle, close to each other.

This shows that Homer had a lot of time on his hands, and that he was as nutty as a nutcake. I can’t help but feel that should you introduce this sentence into a conversation you will find your audience begin to drift away, possibly to hurl themselves into ditchwater.

Still, they have asked us to attempt one, so here goes:

As happy as a man who, born to humble beginnings, dragged himself up by his bootlaces (resulting him in him falling backwards onto his arse) and put himself through university by working as a kissogram before winning the lottery and gladly realising that he didn’t have to finish college (he had got there on a basketball scholarship but was only five feet four, it wasn’t going well) so went instead on a trip around the world, had fleeting but enriching relationships with a young girl in a grass skirt in Tahiti, a rich widow in St Tropez and a beach-volleyball player in California before realising that there was no place like home (yes, he was from Kansas, how did you know) and driving back in his Ferrari to his loving mum. Who fed him pie.

There you go. Easy as standing on a log.