Monthly Archives: April 2020

Long Distance Love

Tinson2 is twenty-five today.

We will not be giving him cake, not being giving him candles, not be giving him hugs. This is not because of lockdown, but because he is in Australia.

He’s a year into his two-year visa there. So far he has worked in a restaurant, in a mountain-top bar, on a farm, at a vineyard, in a lettuce factory and in a cocktail bar. This is not because he keeps getting fired, it’s because you have to do a certain amount of farmwork to get the second year of your visa.

At the moment he’s working nowhere. The cocktail bar, which he loved, has of course been closed, so he’s looking at all sorts of other jobs, but then so is everyone else.

But he’s staying there. During a family conference we agreed that since he stayed there while Australia was on fire and we weren’t, what’s the point of leaving when they have a virus that we have too. (During the conference he let slip that the fires had been fifteen kilometres away at one point, something he had never mentioned at the time). So he’s still in Fremantle, still upbeat, still being the positive, happy-go-lucky, laid-back, wonderful person that he always have been.

And there will be cake, and candles, and hugs, via FaceTime. We will sing Happy Birthday, and tell him that we love him, and are proud of him, just as we always have been.

Happy birthday, super son.




There Are No Words

The group that oversees the creation of new emojis have said that there won’t be any new characters added in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic ….


Class of 21’s instructor (image from

After she broke it to them, their instructor smiled weakly and tearily, then left. The Class of ’21 just sat in stunned silence.

They were distraught. They were gutted.

They were gobsmacked – or facepalmed, as Emojis would have it.

They had worked so hard, trained so long, gone through such a rigorous selection process, but now found themselves not so much falling as tripped at the final hurdle, the worst case of Success Snatched From Jaws since success was snatched from Jaws.

Some wept softly. Some stared into space and into the void of their future. Some turned, out of habit, to their phones, but quickly pushed them away, unable to look at the lucky ones, like Smiley Face, and Party Balloon, and Melon, still smugly living the dream. Their dream.

Eventually one of them spoke.

“I reckon it’s a conspiracy,” said Bougainville Flag.

“You’re kidding?” asked Kumquat.

“No, I’m not,” said Bougainville Flag. “Look, my country voted for independence in December, Papua New Guinea aren’t happy about that, now suddenly our flag’s not going to be available for two years. Co-incidence?”

“Well, yes,” said Tinfoil Hat.

The others looked in amazement at each other, then at him.

“Wow,” said Constipated Face (available in five Skin Tones, right up to purple). “I wasn’t expecting you to be the voice of reason.”

“Oh, I just mean it’s got nothing to do with Papua New Guinea,” said Tinfoil Hat. “Obviously it is a conspiracy.”

The others visibly relaxed.

“And he’s back,” said Warthog, smiling.

“So who’s behind the conspiracy?” asked Haggis.

“Apple,” said Tinfoil Hat.

“Makes sense,” nodded Kumquat. “She knows I’d be more popular than her.”

Tinfoil Hat sighed. “Not Apple the Emoji,” he said. “Apple the Company.”

He (there had been no plans for a female version) looked around gravely at the group. Who laughed.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” snorted an Emoji who looked as if she was astride a small invisible pony.

“Obviously I’m not saying they started the virus, Twerking,” said Tinfoil Hat. “But they’re using it as an excuse to close down the Emoji program.”

“But why would they?” asked Warthog. “Everyone loves Emojis.”

“Loved Emojis,” said Tinfoil Hat. “Back when they were good. They loved Rofl, and Broken Heart, and Thumbs Up. But over time we became like Celebrity Big Brother, having to produce a new line-up every year but without anything good left to put in. So now there’s Electric Plug, and Amphora, and Upside Down Face. There’s even Question Mark, presumably for people who don’t know that there’s an actual question mark on their keyboard. So gradually the public have stopped giving a shit.”

“I could have helped them say that,” muttered Constipated Face, mournfully, “if they’d let me.”

Tinfoil Hat went on. “And finally,” he said, “we came along. The Class of Twenty-one. The worst bunch yet.”

“Now hold on,” said Warthog. “That’s a bit harsh.”

“Is it?” asked Tinfoil Hat. “How many people write every day about their warthogs? How many conversations are there worldwide about Bougainville? People might use the Haggis emoji -” Haggis looked pleased -“but only if they have Puking Face too.”

Haggis glared at him. “And what about you?” he sneered.

“Well, obviously only people like me would use me,” said Tinfoil Hat. “And obviously we’re the last people who would.”

There was a silence, during which, as they tried to work through that sentence, everyone briefly had the same expression as Constipated Face.

“Any-way,” said Twerking, eventually,”you’re basically saying that they’re getting rid of us to save money?”

Tinfoil Hat nodded, rubbing an imaginary banknote between his thumb and two fingers – an emoji, curiously enough, originally mooted for the now abandoned Class of 2023.

The Class of ’21 thought about this for a while, with minds emptied of hope, leaving more room for absurdity.

“Makes some sense, I suppose,” said Warthog, eventually. “It’s like when NASA scrapped the last two moon missions because the public lost interest.”

“Yeah, right,” said Tinfoil Hat. “Like the moon missions ever happened.”





Got The World On A String

A piece of 50,000-year-old string found in a cave is the oldest ever discovered. It suggests that Neanderthals knew how to twist fibres together to make cords – and, if so, they might have been able to craft ropes, clothes, bags and nets (New Scientist 09/04/2020)….


Ugg (image from me)

All morning Ugg had been in his man-cave.

This was the small opening in the rock beside his and Ogga’s own cave, where he went to “invent” things, a process which seemed to Ogga to involve a lot of hammering, a lot of swearing, and the occasional unexpected fire.

Now Ugg appeared at the entrance to their home, carrying a number of items which he set on the floor. Ogga looked at one of them and screamed.

It was the world’s longest worm.

“Get it away from me!” yelled Ogga.

Ugg looked down at it and laughed. “Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s not a worm. It’s a piece of string.”

Ogga stared at it. “How long is it?” she asked.

Ugg thought. “I’ve no idea,” he said.

“Well, what’s it for?” asked Ogga.

“Lots of things,” said Ugg. “Look, you can wrap presents.” He handed her an object, something around which a small piece of animal-hide had been wrapped, the whole thing being secured by a short piece of string.

Ogga took it, looked at it in confusion for a moment, then pulled gingerly at the end of the string. She gasped at the effect as the bow opened, the string fell away, and the parcel unfolded like a flower. Then she frowned.

“It’s a stone,” she said, stonily.

“Well, yes,” said Ugg. “I was just showing you this as a prototype, it’s not an actual -” he saw her expression and moved on hurriedly. “It also ties things together,” he said. “Look.”

Two stones,” said Ogga. “Presumably for people who don’t want to carry one in each hand.”

Ogga (image also from me)

“Ah, yes,” said Ugg, “but what if you wanted to carry three stones?”

“And why would I ever want to do that?”

“Not stones, then. Logs. Fish.”

“That’s what you’re for,” said Ogga. “Any other uses?”

“Oh, lots,” said Ugg. “I’ve imagined quite a few.”

“Mnmm,” nodded Ogga, intrigued. “String theory. And what have you imagined?”

“Well, clothes.”


“Um, yes, for summer, when it’s too hot to wear this hide. I pictured myself in some sort of top made of this.”

“A string vest?”

“Yes,” said Ugg. “I think it would be cool.”

“I suppose it would,” said Ogga, “though only in one meaning of that phrase. And what would I wear?”

“Well, I was thinking of a sort of string two-piece -”

“Dream on, caveman,” said Ogga pleasantly.

Ugg blushed. “Most of all, though,” he said, “I could use it for hunting.”

“What, as a lasso?” said Ogga. “It’s going to be some sight when a mammoth charges through the village with you skidding along behind it, frantically trying to use your heels as brakes.”

“That’s not what I meant,” said Ugg. “I could make a net and could use it to catch fish or small animals. For bigger ones I could use this.” He picked up a small branch which had been bent into a curve by having a piece of string too short for it tied at either end. He also picked up a short stick, sharpened into a point.

“Watch this,” he said. He placed the rear end of the short stick against the string, then pulled, bending the branch even further. He turned and aimed out of the cave.

Ogga held her breath.

Ugg released the string. The branch unbent at enormous speed. There was a lash-like whipping sound.

The pointy stick dropped to earth, landing between his fortunately well-splayed toes.

“Why, Honey,” said Ogga mock-sorrowfully. “Failure to launch.”

Ugg pulled the stick out of the floor. He looked so downcast that Ogga regretted making fun of him. She took his arm, hugging it. “They’re great ideas,” she said, softly. “They just need work.”

He smiled at her. “I’ve one more idea,” he said. “I’m going to make bags.”


“I’m going to make a small kind of mesh with handles,” said Ugg. “For women to carry stuff around.”

“We could keep absolutely everything in it,” breathed Ogga, agog.

“Exactly,” said Ugg. “I was thinking of calling it a Her-mesh Hand-bag, and -”

“I want one,” said Ogga.



Stately Tinman Came From The Stairhead

Since lockdown commenced we have heard numerous stories of people who were going to use what is light-heartedly being referred to “all this new free time” to embark on long-deferred self-improvement projects. People were going to learn a new language, lose two stone, replace the battery in the smoke-alarm that ran out in 2004.

Our situation was to be regarded not as a problem but as an opportunity. We have been given lemons so should make lemonade, using instructions from YouTube.

It turns out that this is not what has ben happening. Bored people have been watching Sister Act rather than Citizen Kaneplaying Candy Crush rather than chess, and not so much baking bread as eating bread.

We have been given lemons and are putting them in our gin, which we are starting on at eleven in the morning.

Not only that, but an article I read yesterday said that now was not the time for all these grandiose schemes, that they only increase stress.

Sadly the realisation that self-improvement is a bad thing that no-one else is actually doing anyway has come too late for me.

I decided that I would read Ulysses, so I am reading Ulysses.

It is not going well.

I have read it before. I was a student on the 1970s, believed myself to be an intellectual, and therefore took on anything that was as long and impenetrable as my sideburns. Books about philosophy. Progressive-rock double albums.  2001: A Space Odyssey.

And of course, knowing that Ulysses was the toughest, cleverest, esotericist (Joyce makes up words, why can’t I) work of them all, I hurled myself eagerly at it. And bounced right off.

I read to the end, though by reading I mean following the words on page after page, letting the meaning not so much flow over me as pass somewhere nearby. I ticked it off my smart-arse bucket list and moved on.

And in time I put away childish things, such as doing stuff just to think myself clever, and moved into adult life. I thought no more about Leopold, Stephen or Molly for decades until I saw this:

It is cleverly priced. Had it even been €5.99 I wouldn’t have bothered, but at less than four euro it got me thinking “sure, even if I give up after ten pages, so what” so yes I said yes I will Yes.

Then didn’t. That was in 2016, and I brought the book home and never even opened it.

Cabin fever, though, does odd things to a man, so this week I’ve given it a go (and I’ve just realised that it has so fried my brain that I accidentally first published this post three hours ago, when it was only half written). I’m on page 262 and have no idea what’s going on. I’ve just finished what I think is the Sirens episode (the book is a series of episodes supposedly mirroring those in the Odyssey but there is nothing in the text that hints at which one is which) and the second last sentence is “Pprrpffrrppfff.”

I have four-hundred and-twenty pages to go.