Monthly Archives: July 2020

A Life Lacking Structure

The sunlight poked through the window. It danced into the room, shining a spotlight over the bed where Rapunzel was in a light sleep. The duvet was tangled in her limbs, her hair dragged into a messy bun, destroyed by the constant tossing and turning throughout the night. This light is the only indication of the beginning of another day. As the sun hit Rapunzel’s face, she blinked, living in a blissful momentary ignorance. She suddenly remembered where she was and her face curled up. She turned over, away from the sun and pulled the duvet over her head. Now, in her own dark little cave, she takes a few moments to calm herself. The anxiety builds in her body as her skin feels like it’s vibrating.

Breathe in. Pause. Slowly, breathe out.

Not much help. She begins to sweat in her cave, so, she whips the duvet off her and sits up. The anxiety is constant, she may as well just swallow it.

She shuffles into the kitchen and switches on the kettle. The rumbling whistle fills the silence, feeling louder because of the vast emptiness. She momentarily wonders if it will
explode but reminds herself to push the anxiety down. She can’t spend all day bogged down, again.

She sits by the window and looks at the world below. She is up in her tower, eight floors high and wonders how many days she has been stuck here. The days melt into weeks and it all becomes a blur. Her sense of time is completely lost. She can only tell time is passing because her hair has continued to grow, a brunette shadow has been growing slowly and consuming her former self.

A monster has taken over the world. It has pillaged through villages and taken so many lives. Human contact is forbidden. Rapunzel hasn’t seen another human in weeks as people fear each other, not knowing who could be possessed. It can enter the human body and kill them from the inside. It sometimes lays dormant and uses the human as transport until it finds a vulnerable host. The leaders have locked the people away in order to slow the monster down. Everyone has to wear face coverings as a way to disguise themselves from the monster. There are workers on the frontlines trying to slay the beast, with little reward. Rapunzel feels disgusted that she is upset about her own life when these people work so hard to save others. She is in awe of their strength.

She fills her time by flicking through books, getting lost in someone else’s world, completely escaping her current reality. But once she closes it, she is brought right back. Back to the four walls that box her in.
When night falls, she sits on her bed and stares. Looking at nothing. Feeling nothing and everything all at the same time. For such a quiet space, the anxiety is so loud. It bangs off the walls and rips through her like fire in her veins. It stops her in her place. Rapunzel plays music to drown it out but it doesn’t work. She is alone. She is scared.

She wonders when the world will go back to normal, but she knows it never will. The normal she was used to is no more and the future is unknown. No one knows if the monster will conquer. They just know they have to keep fighting.

She thinks of the playwrights and authors. How will they document this portion of history? Will there be children who learn of these times and are thankful that they didn’t experience them? How will they see the leaders who didn’t do enough? What if this monster will always be a part of their lives? Everyone wants normal, but what is that now?

The night fades into the next morning. Rapunzel is still sitting, still staring. What is the point in going to sleep early? The days have no structure. Stories need structure, a beginning, middle and end. That is what Rapunzel was always taught in school. How can you structure these stories when it feels like there will never be an end? They are just drifting through this horrific middle, or is this just the beginning?

Breathe in. Pause. Slowly, Breathe out.

A whole day has just passed by and nothing has happened, nothing that would be worth telling in a story or play. She will wake up tomorrow and do it all again. How long will she drift until she finally reaches a new equilibrium? Rapunzel lays back and waits for sleep. The world will spin around her, she will stay frozen in time.


Today’s story is not by me. It was written by my wonderful, brave daughter Tingirl, who moved to London just in February and spent eleven weeks of the lockdown on her own in an eighth-floor apartment in Croydon. This story was published yesterday on,, a website set up to act as a journal for this time, publishing poetry, short stories and non-fiction about the coronavirus.   

With No Maps To Guide Us We Steered Our Own Course

On this day back in 1985 Mrs Tin (or Miss Not-tin, as she then was) and I got married.

It was the Saturday before Live Aid, that’s how far back it was.

We were basically children. I was twenty-seven, while Mrs Tin was just twenty-two, younger than any of our own children are now.

But that was what you did back then. There was no living-in-sin – and at that time it was still called living-in-sin – so if you’d been going out together a few years and decided that you were in love, you got a ring, you got a mortgage, and you got married.

Plus life-expectancy was about forty-eight, so it didn’t do to hang about.

And here we are, thirty-five years later, still together, still in our same first house, and still in love.

Google tells me that this is our Coral Anniversary. I have no idea what to do with this information. Google also tells me that corals form reefs, which I already knew, and that they breed by ‘broadcast spawning’, which I did not. Perhaps it’s intended to give us something to talk about during our long day together.

Because we will be spending it together. Although lockdown is theoretically over, I’m still being urged to work from home, so today will be the one hundred and fifteenth consecutive day on which we have spent all day together.

If ever you want to test a relationship, that must surely be how.

And it has gone brilliantly. In the first place we get to sleep for two hours longer each morning now that I don’t have to get the bus into Dublin, but in addition we go for a walk together every day, we watch crap together on the telly each evening and we’ve been having a wonderful, calmer, more joyful time.

Young and all as we were, it looks like we made the right decision all those years ago.

Happy Anniversary Mrs Tin, wife, lover and soulmate.

No Smoking Area

On this day twenty years ago I gave up cigarettes.

It marked the end of a long and turbulent relationship. I had started at the age of fifteen, way back in 1973, when Nixon was US President, the Beatles’ Blue and Red Albums were released, and the UK joined the EEC, an association that they too would eventually break.

The reasons why are embarrassing and stupid, a combination of curiosity, peer pressure and the fact that I was a moron. How little I enjoyed it it shown by the fact that just one year later I gave them up, though for just one year.

Then in 1983 the boyfriend of a girl I worked with got hypnosis to give up. He was so impressed that when he was leaving the course he enrolled her for the following Saturday. She didn’t want to go on her own so she asked me to go with her.

She was back on cigarettes on the Sunday. I stayed off them for three-and-a-half years.

The reasons why I went back on them are embarrassing and stupid, though this time can be distilled bluntly into the fact that I was a moron. And remained so for seventeen more years and thousands more cigarettes, all of them unmemorable and unsatisfying.

Then, in July 2000, I read Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Stop Smoking, and my life changed.

Allen Carr passed away in 2006. There have been a few very special people throughout history who have left this world having made it an immeasurably better place, and I would count him as one of them.

If you are reading this and want to quit cigarettes then I urge to to get his book. It tells you to keep smoking while you are reading it, and then, as you smoke and read, the book calmly and logically dismantles each of the reasons that you think you have for smoking. pointing out all of the absurdities inherent in them by simply waking up your own common sense.

It was late on the evening of July 5th when I finished the last chapter and elatedly stubbed out my last cigarette, knowing with absolute certainty that it would indeed be my last.

And it has been. I do still occasionally, even now, dream that I am back on them, usually for some reason on the terraces behind the goal at a football match. In these dreams I find myself reasoning that this doesn’t really count because I’m not smoking during any other part of the day, proof that the self-delusion that got me hooked on them in the first place has never really gone away.

But that’s being too hard on myself. I have done something truly remarkable, and today is a day to celebrate.

We all need another hero. Sometimes it’s ourselves.