Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Finished Posts of May

Since I started my run of posts for the last nine days of May with a post about how I was going to have a run of posts for the last nine days of May it seems only appropriate that I should end the sequence with a post about how I have now had a run of posts for the last nine days of May.

To those of you still here even though you now know how dull this post is going to be, or those of you still wading your way through that opening sentence (don’t worry, I’ll wait for you) all I can say is that the exercise taught me very little that I didn’t know before, but reminded me of things that I needed reminding of.

Firstly, you can’t beat a good vow. Promising to the world at large, even if the large part of the world at large isn’t listening, that you are going to post every day concentrates the mind wonderfully, or horribly if you like, forcing you into thinking of something, anything, to write about. Topics that you would normally dismiss with scorn, like for example walking upstairs, are viewed as having definite potential. Watch out for future posts about me using my bus ticket on the bus, the fact that the grass in my garden is green, and which leg I put into my trousers first.

What this reinforces is that writing causes writing. Starting a topic, no matter how mundane, will lead you in directions that you didn’t expect to go, grow jokes inside your head, give you sudden ideas for things you can put in which are actually not bad.

And, though again I knew this already, it reminded me that I have a group of loyal readers who are also now friends and who will come here and support me, even if my post consists of a Chinese take-away menu written backwards (watch out for it, there’s a joke about Pork Sour And Sweet that’s absolutely hilarious).

Most of all it’s reminded me that if writing makes you feel less depressed, then there is no sense in stopping writing because you are depressed.

So I’m looking forward to getting back into it, to hopefully thinking up stuff, to writing every day.

Though I might take tomorrow off.

Upstairs Downstairs

People who have been reading this blog for a long time (I mean you’ve read a lot of posts, not that you’re slow readers) will be familiar with this picture:

Our house

Which is of the Tinhouse. People who have been reading this week, and have been paying attention, will have read this sentence in the recent Step by Step post:

Indeed I’d done 681 before I’d even left the house, which is what happens when you run downstairs, put the kettle on, run back up to bring your clothes into the bathroom, go back down to make your tea, go up and have your shower….

There are four references there to our stairs and, as you can see, we live in a bungalow.

What’s going on here? Is Tinman deluded, thinking he leaves in a bigger house than he does? Or do the Tinfamily live in a house like the Tardis, bigger on the inside than on the out?

Or perhaps there’s a Tincave beneath the house from which Tinman fights crime, where he parks the Tinmobile (well, not that bit, obviously, you can see it in the driveway), his Tinsuit and his valuable array of Gizmos, including his Tin-Utility-Belt (it contains all utilities, including light (a torch), communications (a mobile phone and gas (a tin of beans), his Tin-Metal-Detector (it doesn‘t work, it just keeps pointing at him), and, in case of emergency, his Tin Whistle.

In fact, the answer is quite simple. When you enter our house you are in a hallway, surrounded by the bedrooms. The sitting-room is in front of you, and because our street was built on a hill there are three steps down into it.

Walking up these three steps is known in the Tinhouse as “going upstairs”.

This is a cause for much merriment among my friends. Whenever I say things like “I went up to bed” they say “what, in your bungalow?”. And it is not only me. I have heard Tingirl on the phone saying “no, it’s upstairs, I’ll go and get it” and then saying “we do so have an upstairs. Yes we do, stop laughing”. I’ve asked the Tinsons, and the same thing happens to them.

That’s all for today, then. I’m going to close my laptop now, and charge it in my bedroom.


Tiny But Tough


This time they had employed a girl.

The Wolf smiled to himself. This was going to be even easier than the last time.

The last shepherd had been a boy who had let the sheep wander into the meadow, which was practically the Wolf’s frying-pan. The boy himself was under a haystack and, despite the scratchy, potentially eye-poking nature of the hay, was fast asleep.

Little Boy Blue had eventually arrived, blowing his horn, but by then the Wolf had made off with a month’s supply of mutton, spare ribs and rack-of-lamb.

A quick detour through Mary, Mary Quite Contrary’s garden on the way home had got him some fresh mint to top the whole thing off.

The boy had been fired and they had advertised for a replacement. Since the only requirement was a willingness to be delighted by a red sky at night you’d have thought there’d have been lots of applicants, yet somehow they’d ended up with this young girl.

She had had the job for less than a day now, and seemed to have lost her sheep.

It’s not easy to see how she could do this, what sheep mainly do is follow, so you’d have thought she’d have been unable to shake them off unless she’d taken up rock-climbing, but there she was, and there the sheep weren’t.

The Wolf prowled the area, and after an hour or so he found them. They were on their way home, dragging their tails behind them, not an easy trick when your tail is three inches long.

A thought struck the Wolf. If can they find their way home, he thought, then why on earth do they need the girl?

A crook struck the Wolf. He turned in surprise.

The girl stood there, swinging the crook back for another go.

“I’m Little Bo Peep,” said the girl. “Leave my sheep alone.”

“Not a chance,” said the Wolf, “I’m in the mood for a kebab.”

“Then you’re wasting your time,” said Bo Peep. “I’ve seen the lump of meat they slice kebabs from, and none of my sheep have a leg that thick. Come to think of it, no sheep on the planet have a leg that thick. I think you’ve been eating elephant.”

She swung the crook again and caught the Wolf on the side of the head, the most painful thing to have happened to him since Little Red Riding Hood had punched him in the face. (Why is everyone called “Little” in this town, thought the Wolf as he fled, they’re all as strong as horses).

Eventually he stopped running, at the top of a hill overlooking a small valley. There were three small houses in the valley, and each house seemed to be built slightly differently, as if the local store carried only a very small stock of each type of building material. Three pigs (the Wolf just know that they would be called “Little” Pigs) were sitting chatting in the garden of one of the houses.

All thoughts of lamb vanished from the Wolf’s mind. It was time, he thought, to bring home the bacon.

Still huffing and puffing from his long run, he started down the hill.

Surely nothing could go wrong this time.

Weekly Photo Challenge: In The Background

Tinman’s camera-less version of the WordPress Photo Challenge…


Steve ran. Oh, how he ran, wide-eyed in panic, every now and again looking back over his shoulder, because when you must, absolutely must, run as fast as you possibly can nothing keeps you going full-out like breaking stride every couple of seconds to look backwards.

It was all to no avail anyway. The Empire State Building still fell on him.

The Director called “cut”. Steve pushed away the cardboard boulders under which he had supposedly been crushed, and headed off for lunch.

They were filming Independence Day, and he was an extra.

That was his job. He had hurled himself into the water in Titanic and begun swimming, presumably towards America, or perhaps Southampton. He had been an expendable crewman in Star Trek, and an expendable baddie in The Expendables. He’d been attacked by piranha in Piranha, by snakes on a plane in Snakes On A Plane and (with Samantha of course) had had sex in the city in Sex And The City.

Sometimes he had more than one part, an extra extra if you like. He had been both a wizard and a muggle in Harry Potter, an orc and an ent in the Lord of the Rings (he’d never been sure which was which) and, thanks to the marvels of CGI, he had sword-fought himself in Braveheart.

He had never had a speaking part, although occasionally he got to yell “aargh”.

And why did he do it? Because it meant he was in the movies.

Here Comes The Sun

When I vowed to post on every one of the last nine days of May, I was not expecting one of them to be astonishingly sunny.

The temperature is still only sixteen degrees, but that’s irrelevant. Global warming has given Ireland a succession of disappointing summers, so when we get a cloudless day like today we go absolutely mental. People rush down stony beaches to hurl themselves into a still freezing sea, like someone getting into a shower five seconds after they have turned the hot water on.

Men show off horrendous legs in horrendous shorts. Women forego tights to wear open-toed shoes with red-painted toenails peeping from them. Everyone eats their own weight in ice-cream.

And people have barbecues, the chance to swap meat cooked thoroughly and safely in your kitchen for the same meat burnt in spots over an open fire.

While I have done none of the above, I have unashamedly slept Sunday afternoon away in a sun-lounger in the back garden. I am now slightly pink (rather like barbecued chicken normally is), but I don’t care.

After all, the Pink Panther is probably the coolest person on the planet.

Get A Grip

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “handles”…


The King looked up as Sir Olaf the Inventor entered his throne room. He moaned, and not just because he did not want to see Sir Olaf.

Kind Frederick of Saxe-Coburg was King of, well, Saxe-Coburg (sometimes the answer to the question “what’s in a name?” is “everything”), part of what is now Germany. It was Oktoberfest and the King felt that it was part of his Royal duty to join in. Then, as now, Oktoberfest was a month of quaffing, an old Germanic word meaning “pouring beer down the front of your face”. Oktoberfest meant mornings of sore heads – some caused by hangovers, some by being punched in bar-brawls, and some by banging the back of your head on the toilet-cistern when getting up after throwing up. It was a time of debauching, bauching, and de-flowering, which is stealing flowers from gardens to present to your wife in a desperate attempt to atone for the fact that you have come home five hours after you said you would, and that you are wearing a traffic-cone on your head.

Even when the King was feeling at his best a meeting with Sir Olaf was difficult, as Olaf’s inventions tended to be a little odd. He had, for example, invented the bicycle pump, although he had to admit that since nobody had yet invented the bicycle it was of limited use. He had invented the German war helmet with the spike on top. This was only useful if you charged head-down at an opponent, but many had learned to step aside so that you impaled yourself into the fence behind them, with some of them adding insult to injury by shouting “Olé” as you passed by.

The King had given Olaf a knighthood in the hope that he would take it as a hint to retire. Instead he had invented the knight hood, though it had no eye-holes in it since, as he said, the hood would only be worn at night.

He was a remarkable inventor, but not very good at spelling.

“Ok, Olaf,” sighed the King, “what is it this time?”

Sir Olaf reached into his satchel and produced a goblet, though one with a difference.

The King shook his head. This was a mistake, since it caused the feeling that someone had just struck the inside of his forehead with a tin bucket. “It seems to have grown ears,” he said, when his head stopped spinning.

“I call them handles,” said Olaf proudly.

“What are they for?” said the King.

“They are for carousing with your friends,” said Olaf. “If, for example, you are in wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen and would like to clink and drink one down, you can do so without trapping your fingers between the goblets.”

“I see,” said the King. “And this goblet -”

“It’s not a goblet,” said Olaf, “I call it a tankard.”

“Why?” asked the King.

“Because I thank hard before I came up with the idea,” said Olaf, whose grammar was on a par with his spelling.

Just then Queen Margareta entered the throne room. She pointedly ignored King Frederick, and looked instead at Olaf and the tankard. “Interesting,” she said.

She took the tankard and, to Olaf’s horror, broke off one handle. She held it daintily by the other handle, and found that her little finger stuck out of its own accord.

“It would be perfect for drinking tea with the ladies,” she said, almost to herself.

“What’s tea?” asked Olaf.

“Don’t know,” she said. She smiled sweetly at him. “Invent it.”

She sailed galleon-like from the room. The King and Olaf looked at one another.

“She likes it,” said the King. “And it’s the first time she’s smiled since Oktoberfest began. This calls for a drink.”

The King poured some beer into his goblet and into Olaf’s tankard, which Olaf had to admit looked better with just the one handle.

“To the tankard,” said the King.

They clinked their vessels together. The King’s fingers got trapped between them.

The word that he uttered was the first ever in what is now often referred to as Anglo-Saxon.

Go Ahead, Back Up

Last night, on the way home from a school event and thus with Tinson2 and Tingirl in the car, I drove Mrs Tin to quilting in her friend’s house. Her friend lives up a country lane, and then up a steep winding driveway.

Because we were late the space outside the front door was filled with the cars of her friends, so there was nowhere to perform my legendary nine-point turn (see below). I had to reverse down the driveway.

I am not keen on reversing. I could say that it is because I am an optimist who believes always in looking forward, or I could own up and say that it is because I am the worst reverser (astonishingly, Spellcheck recognises that as a real word) on the planet. Drunken people at discos attempting to moonwalk are better at going backwards than I am.

If I drive into a car park I ignore any space that I might have to reverse out of, always looking for two spaces in front of one another where I can drive through one to sit facing forward in the other. Often such a pair of spaces will be so far from the shop itself that my house is actually closer.

As part of the Irish Driving Test you have to reverse around a corner and come to rest with your car parked perfectly alongside the footpath. During my driving lessons I generally ended up with the car at two o’clock, no matter what time I actually did it at.

In my actual test (back in 1980, in a chariot) I had already done the three-point turn in nine, as mentioned above, in a space about two feet square in the middle of the road (my instructor had told me that the most important thing is not to hit either footpath), and I knew that I had got at least one road-sign wrong. The tester left the reversing exercise until last, and I did it with exactly the same result as always.

I realised afterwards that I must have been very close to passing, which was why the tester decided to give me a second chance. But I had already decided that I had failed, so when he asked me would I like to try it again my addled brain thought that he was just trying to humiliate me, and I said “no, thanks”.

“Come on,” he said, “just give it one more go.”

Sighing deeply, I tried it again, and for the one and only time ever it went perfectly, though I rather spoiled any illusion that this was normal by exclaiming “Wow”.

“That’s it,” he said, “you’ve passed.”

Anyway, back to last night. With the rear-view mirror filled by two ever-growing teenagers, I tried to reverse down this driveway in what was now dusk, using only my wing mirrors.

It took a while.

Several times I realised that there was so much room on my side that I must surely be close to the bank on the other side. On other occasions I found my side scraping the hedge. Each time I would drive a few feet forward, then start all over again.

Eventually I saw the white pillar that marked the end of the driveway. I drove towards it, then realised at the last second that it was on the left-hand side of the exit and not the right, and that I was about to drive into a wall. I went forward again, drove the last couple of feet out onto the lane, and the police car that had been watching me for the last ten minutes sounded its siren.

The driver got out of the car and, as they say, “approached my veh-hic-ell”. He asked to see my licence, was probably startled that I had one, then explained that they were in the area because there had been a recent spate of robberies. He obviously realised that there has never been a gang of robbers that consisted of two kids in school uniform and a really crap getaway driver, so the atmosphere became very friendly, especially since his female partner, sitting in the car, never stopped laughing the entire way through.

“Have I embarrassed you in front of your children?” he asked eventually.

“Not really,” I said. “The embarrassing thing was the way they kept talking to each other and ignoring what was going on the whole time, obviously thinking “Dad’s reversing, we’ll probably be here for an hour or two”.”

Just as he was getting back into his car he looked at me, grinned one last time, and said “Boy, you made some balls of that.”

I have on occasion, I’m sorry to say, had to deal with the police after speeding.

Last night was the first time I came to their attention for going too slow.

Step By Step

English: Logo

Today marks the start of something called the Global Corporate Challenge. According to their website, companies all over the world will be taking part, and the idea is to help the world become fitter by encouraging all of us (yes, us, of course our company are doing it) to walk at least ten thousand steps a day for the next sixteen weeks..

Each of us has given a small counter called a Pulse which we are to carry at all times. They call it an “accelerometer” because it measures not just steps, but all of your movement, converting it into the equivalent of steps. The website says that every form of exercise counts, including swimming, although the next paragraph of their instructions says that the Pulse is not waterproof and should not be worn while swimming.

Those of you who have just wondered about one particular form of exercise should remember that in order to have somewhere to carry your Pulse you will have to do it with your socks on.

I opted to join because ten thousand steps sounds like an awful lot, and I hoped that it would encourage me to get fit enough to some day manage it. We’ve had our Pulses since Friday, just to try them out and get used to them. On Sunday I did 2,900 steps, but that was because Sunday was an unexpectedly glorious day, and I spent most of it asleep in the garden. On every other day I’ve done between eleven and thirteen thousand.

Now that I’ve discovered that I do ten thousand steps in a normal day anyway I’ve kind of lost interest, with fifteen weeks and six days to go.

The other benefit is supposedly to the company, as it will encourage camaraderie (Spellcheck just drew a squiggly red line under that word so I looked at what I’d typed. It was the word “comaderaderie”. Well, I’m sure it encourages that too). A questionnaire that each of us filled out when we first logged on asked how we feel we get on with our workmates, and you can see it coming from a mile (about three thousand steps) off that in sixteen weeks time they will ask how we feel about them now, believing that we will all admit that this has brought us closer together. It’s the bipedal equivalent of falling backwards and having a workmate catch you.

Anyway, by the time I got to work on this first morning I’d already done three thousand three hundred steps. Indeed I’d done 681 before I’d even left the house, which is what happens when you run downstairs, put the kettle on, run back up to bring your clothes into the bathroom, go back down to make your tea, go up and have your shower, eat your breakfast while walking up and down the kitchen (this is not for the challenge, I always do it) then run back up to clean your teeth, before racing around gathering lunchbox, bag, wallet, etc and heading out of the door. If Henry Ford’s time and motion people saw me they’d have a fit.

Add another 1400 steps for the walk to the bus, 1000 more for the walk at the other end to the office, and you’ll find that the steps do not add up to 3,300. This is because you’re not counting the 200 steps I did on the bus. Now, my bus is not a Flintstonemobile, we do not drive it with our legs out of the bottom. No, the two hundred steps are a testament to the state of Dublin’s roads and to the state of the suspension of Dublin’s buses.

I think the poor Pulse thought that I was white-water rafting.

The Darling Blogs Of May

I have come back to my blog, cleared the tumbleweed from the front lawn, thrown out the virtual milk delivered by my virtual milkman, and sneezed violently at the dust that has lightly carpeted my brain.

I’ve been away from it for a week now. It all began when I couldn’t think of anything for the Weekend Theme, went on when I couldn’t think of anything for the Photo Challenge, and then panic took over and I couldn’t think of anything at all.

I’ve just gone through my junk mail. People who would like to sell me extensions (not to my hair, nor to my house) have written more on my blog than I have. They tell me that rarely have they read insightful forthrightness so many, or that I am found this really useful.

Their stuff is better than anything I’ve written in the last week.

I’ve been stuck for ideas before, of course, everyone has. Shakespeare got so stuck after writing Henry IV that he was reduced to writing Henry IV, Part 2, thus inventing the sequel, so it is he who is responsible for Police Academy VII, though his stuff has better jokes. But I’ve always tried hard to fight through it, to write anything at all just to get me going. But sometime on Saturday I conceded that I just couldn’t, and went to the  pub instead to watch the European Rugby Cup Final, which featured two French teams that I know nothing at all about playing a sport that I‘ve no great interest in. That made it easier not to open the computer on Sunday, and after that Monday and yesterday were out too.

There are now nine days left in May, and I am vowing here that I will post something every day. This piece, where I tell you that I will post something everyday, counts as today’s. I know that this is cheating, it’s like counting the Table of Contents in a book as one of the pages, but you’ll have to allow me this one, I’ve got to start somewhere.

You can expect posts about how hard this is, about how surprisingly easy it is, about how many days I have left to go, about the weather and how you couldn’t possibly blog in this heat/cold/humidity/plague of frogs.

Somewhere along the way, though, I’m hoping that I will get some idea for some story, and that normal service will return.

I’ve missed it.