Category Archives: 57 Channels and…

The Other End Of The Rainbow

image via

In this week’s WordPress Writing Challenge is they ask us to add “A Splash Of Color” to our posts, so I have duly done so. This story might be lost on people who don’t remember a certain kid’s show from the 60s…


It was Friday evening, and a group of Spectrum’s agents were sitting in their local bar, the Rainbow. Private Magnolia lowered his rapidly-emptied glass and leaned forward.

“It’s colour discrimination, that’s what it is,” said Private Magnolia.

“What do you mean?” asked Private Lilac.

“I mean, my promotion got turned down,” said Magnolia. “I reckon it’s because of my name.”

“Really?” said Private Raw Sienna. “And not in any way due to the fact that you got pissed at the Christmas Party, punched Captain Yellow, threw up all over Lieutenant Purple and tried to get off with Destiny Angel?”

“And faxed a photocopy of your bum to the President of Burundi?” added Private Dirt (seriously, look it up, it’s a colour).

“Er, well, I said sorry for all of that, “said Magnolia. “No, we get nowhere because we’re not called after well-known colours. Look at the people at the top – Colonel White, Captain Blue  -”

“Captain Ochre,” pointed out Lilac.

“Oh yeah. Well, he’s probably just there as a -”

“Token black?” suggested Dirt.

“Yes. I mean no.” Magnolia began to feel a bit less unsure of his argument, but by this stage it was his lager, rather than himself, who was doing the arguing. “And then of course,” he went on, “there is the famous Captain Scarlet.” He managed to say this with a sneer, quite an achievement for a puppet with a plastic face, it was like a botoxed woman being able to chew toffee.

“Why isn’t he called Captain Red?” asked Lilac.

“Not cool enough,” said Magnolia.

“Plus people would think he’s a ginger,” said Dirt.

“There actually is a Private Ginger,” said Private That-Odd-Colour-That-They-Paint-Hospital-Walls. “He works in archiving.”

“Exactly my point,” said Magnolia. “He’s not saving the earth from the Mysterons, he’s scanning old documents and eating his lunch at his desk in a room with no windows. It’s enough to make you -.”

“Green with envy?”

“Oh, shut up,” said Magnolia.

He’s Leaving Home

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “A Christmas Story”. I do a story each Christmas Day (and am currently struggling my way through this year’s), but here is a short one…

He had never seen his Dad so nervous, fussing over him as he prepared to leave.
“Make sure to wrap up warm,” said Dad.
“Dad, it’s near the equator down there,” he said, “I won’t even need a coat.”
“No, I suppose not,” said Dad. “It’s just because it’s December, I wasn’t really thinking. What are you going to do for money?”
“Oh, I’ll find a job,” he said. “Some sort of trade, perhaps.”
“And, er, about girls…” began Dad.
He smiled. His Dad knew pretty well everything about everything, except women. He was not alone among Dads in this. “Are you seriously going to give me the “birds and the bees” speech?”
Dad grinned too, his old, old face wrinkling as he did so. “I suppose you reckon you know it all. The younger generation always do.”
“Don’t worry, Dad,” he said. “I’ll behave myself.”
Dad smiled again. “That’s my boy,” he said.
They heard a blaring sound, like a fanfare of trumpets, or a taxi with a really tacky car-horn. “Guess I’d better be off, then,” he said.
They hugged, in the awkward way that men have.
“Look after your mother,” said Dad.
“Of course I will,” said Jesus. He shrunk to the size of a tiny baby, yet with a look of infinite wisdom in his eyes, then vanished.
“Goodbye, Son,” said God softly. “Christmas won’t be the same here without you.”

Sign Here

There is a programme on Channel 4 called “Hollyoaks” which has been running for as long as rivers and about which I know absolutely nothing. I have at least have some idea about other long-running soaps such as EastEnders and Coronation Street, if only from the front covers of magazines with names like “Soap Weekly”, or from listening to other people talking. For example everyone, whether a fan or not, knew that a train was going to come off a railway bridge and crash into the pub on Coronation Street weeks before it happened, and indeed we all watched it, it was great fun if you didn’t know or care about any of the characters.

But you never hear anyone say “Like, O!M!G!, did you see Hollyoaks last night!” and the front cover of “Soap Weekly” never has a headline like “Hollyoaks shock! Sharon having Dave’s baby!” (knowing my luck they are the names of two actual characters and none of you will now believe that I never watch it).

Anyway, on Sunday morning I put on the TV. Someone had obviously been watching Channel 4 last thing the night before, so two young people appeared on the screen, with a tiny girl (or a normal sized girl and some digital technology) appearing in the bottom right corner, relaying the dialogue in sign language. I pressed the info button see what the programme was and it was “The Hollyoaks Omnibus”, all the episodes of the week shown in one go (if you have TV dinners, do you have to eat seven of them while you’re watching?) .

Anyway, the couple (possibly Sharon and Dave) spoke for a while, the girl signed what they were saying, then they started to kiss. This went on for quite a while, it seems there is a lot of snogging on the Hollywood omnibus, though not as much as there is on the last Greystones omnibus to leave Dublin on a Saturday night, nor is there as much smoking upstairs.

During the kissing, as you can see, the girl just stared expressionlessly at the couple. I started to feel sorry for her, she looks like she’s playing gooseberry to the Fee-Fi-Fo Giant and Mrs Giant. But where else could she look or what else could she do? I’m sure there were smoochy slurpy noises she could have mimed, or the occasional sigh, but perhaps there is no sign language for this kind of sound.

If I were her I’d have done that thing where you turn your back, put your arms over your own shoulders and appear to be kissing someone.

That’s why I don’t get jobs like hers.

Rain, With Rain Later

Siobhan Ryan

On the news last night weather forecaster Siobhán Ryan warned that we are in for a spell of “weepy weather”. In case we thought we’d misheard, those two words appeared on the map behind her.

We lay people have always used everyday words to describe our weather. Here in Ireland we have the phrase “soft day, thank God,” which is used on any day in which the rainfall is not quite at the level where Noah would unpack his toolkit and start wondering what a “cubit” is.

A bit of everything

We expect more learned terms from the Met Office staff, though, so why the phrase “weepy“? It’s possible, though both (a) unlikely and (b) gross that Siobhán is forecasting a plague of sores (coming up from the Azores), but it seems more likely that they are dumbing the forecasts down for us, believing us incapable of understanding terms like isobars, occluded front and anti-cyclone (it’s a protest march about strong winds). They reckon we’ll guess that weepy weather, for example, involves sniffly drizzle, like a woman who has just watched “Marley and Me” on her own.

If we grasp this idea, they plan to use these others:

  • “Let’s get the boobs joke out of the way first” weather: a warm front.
  • “Double Maths-class” weather: Two hours of unremitting greyness.
  • “Forgotten birthday” weather: frosty. Very frosty.
  • “Broken boiler” weather: cold showers.
  • “Hail to the Chief” weather: hail, falling on Barrack Obama, obviously.
  • “Dumped by Text” weather: squalls of torrential rain, interspersed by bursts of angry thunderstorms.
  • “I’ve just won the Lotto” weather: blue cloudless skies, because you’ve just moved to the Seychelles.
  • “My team got beaten by a dodgy penalty” weather: your dog is sporadically struck by lightning, as if you’d kicked him.
  • “Lager, then a Chinese on the Way Home” weather: gale-force winds.
  • “Economist” weather: gloom, then a bit brighter, then gloomy again – and on and on and on.
  • “German cousin” weather: Claudia Speltz (sorry)
  • “The Government’s fate in the election next Friday” weather: hefty snotstorms (Sorry about the misprint there, it should read heavy snotstorms).

That’s it for today. I hope you all have a lovely day tomorrow, warm and mild and pleasant.

A “Tinman” day, in fact (snorts of derision from Mrs Tin).

Licenced to Bill

RTE frequently run ads exhorting us to pay our TV licence, and warning of the inevitability of detection if we don’t. In these ads sceptical Licence Inspectors smile condescendingly while flustered evaders come up with excuses such as “the baby ate my licence”, “burglars stole our licence (though oddly not our telly)” and “TV? No, that’s not a TV, it’s a portal to another dimension”.

In one old ad inspectors sat outside a house in a van with blacked-out windows with a rotating satellite- dish on top, saying things like “the TV’s in the back room. They’re watching Lost“.

This is the image of Licence Inspectors that RTE would like to portray – hardened, all-knowing, hi-tech sleuths, like Philip Marlowe with Wikipedia.

In reality this is all bollocks. I used to work from a Georgian house in Dun Laoghaire – the front room downstairs was my office, the rest of the building was in flats. About once every 18 months – certainly not nearly as often as RTE would have you believe – there would come a knock on the front door, and the person standing there would announce himself as a TV licence inspector. He would ask had I a TV, I’d say no, it was just an office. I’d ask would he like to come in and check, and he’d say no. Sometimes the person would ask were there other people in the house and I’d reply yes, but they were all out at work.

And he would go away. They never called in the evening, when they might actually have found some of the flat-dwellers at home. They don’t go around in blacked-out vans, they don’t know you’re watching Lost, they don’t feel sorry for you if you are.

Their detecting stretches to keeping a list of who actually has a licence, and relentlessly harassing anyone on that list who doesn’t immediately renew it.

When I first got a licence, about 18 years ago, I paid for it by credit card, and ticked a box authorizing them to charge my card every year from then on. And that’s how we’ve operated ever since, the money would vanish from my account, the licence would arrive in the post (don’t know why they bother actually giving you one – an inspector’s never going to call to a house where they know the person has one) and the whole transaction would take the minimum of fuss. Then last year a note arrived with the licence saying that they weren’t going to accept payment by credit card anymore, and that I’d have to pay by a different method from this year on.

They changed the arrangement, not me. So when the renewal date arrived on April 1st I did not, you’ll be surprised to hear, rush straight to the Post Office to stand in an hour-long queue with eight brand-new twenties clutched eagerly in my fist to immediately pay for something that I don’t actually want (why do I need a licence for a TV? It’s not a gun). Instead I decided sod them , they can bloody well wait till I’m ready now, and the battle of nerves began.

So far I have received five letters carrying various shades of menace (the third of the five, bizarrely, was called a Final Notice, which is a somewhat fluent definition of the word “Final”). Some have gently sympathised that I have understandably forgotten, others have sternly hinted that I am little better than a thief. None of them has been signed.

Last week I relented and paid it, since I knew the whole thing was freaking Mrs Tin out (in fairness, it’s far more likely to be her than me to be at home if an inspector does call, and she’s not had as much experience at dealing with the bullying of petty bureaucrats as I have). I paid it online, and was informed that the licence will be sent within the next ten working days (what, do they weave them by hand, like tapestries?).

In the meantime I have, of course, received another letter. This one asks me to sign a Statutory Declaration (their capitals) as to whether I have a TV or not and return it to them immediately.

I was going to ignore the letter, except for one thing. There is a place on the Declaration where it says (again, their capitals) DO NOT WRITE BELOW THIS LINE.

I’m afraid they don’t know me very well.

Vow of Unsilence

Yer one from V

Sarah Connor

I have a confession of infidelity to make.

Over the past week, I have been cheating on my blog, by seeing other women. 

As the number of programmes that the Tinfamily had recorded had used 98% of the available space on our Sky Plus box, so something had to be done. We instituted a “Look or Lose” policy, where each day at least three programmes had to be watched or deleted, and preferably both. Thus I have spent far more time than a man married to a blog should with women as diverse as Sarah from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bones from, well, Bones, and the weirdly attractive Anna from V

The only good thing about this is that I felt really, really guilty as evening after evening passed with my blog unvisited, like Puff the Magic Dragon after Little Jackie Paper grows up. I felt a blow of guilt in my chest every time I heard anyone say log, dog, jog (though for more reasons than one), snog or the Welsh town of Porthmadog (admittedly the last one didn’t happen very often, nor sadly did the second last). I felt the same guilt, rather oddly, every time I had to use the Backspace button on the keyboard at work, which brought home to me just how much time I spend correcting  & re-writing stuff here (doesn’t show does it).

Even this afternoon, during a meeting at work, someone mentioned a well-known Irish business person and said “and she blogs as well”, and I found myself thinking sadly “I used to do that”. 

So, with a Clintonishly contrite expression on my face, I’m back. But I’ve decided that I should face some punishment (anyone expecting any tales of whips, leather or self-flagellation at this point will, I’m afraid, like most other visitors to this blog, be doomed to a feeling of disappointment). So I’ve set myself a target to prove my faithful fidelity. I must post something each day for the next 30 days. No matter if I’m drunk, ill, hungover (or all three), no matter how tired, or how stressed, no matter how glorious the weather outdoors (I’m taking a calculated gamble there), I must sit and write a post each day until June 12th (when, by chance, the World Cup starts, which is bad news for my blog again).

It’s also bad news for you lot. Just imagine what crap I’ll come up with when I have to post every day. There’ll be stuff about the government (there aren’t thirty different ways of saying “the Government sucks”, but I’ll have a go), stuff about how hard blogging is, even stuff about shaving your ears (yeah, yeah, I did that on Monday, but I reckon if I sneak it in again on about Day 27 I’ll get away with it). It’s not going to be pleasant reading all that for the next month.

Which is good. At least I won’t have to suffer alone.

Dragons’ Den, No 1: Totally Crackers

(Dragons’ Den is a programme on BBC in which people with business ideas pitch for investment in front of a group of five rich people, the so-called Dragons. This short series of posts (very short at the moment, this is the only idea I’ve got so far) tells of episodes which didn’t make the air).


“Good afternoon, Dragons, my name is Tinman, and I’m here to show you my business idea.”

“Good afternoon, Tinman.”

“Here’s my idea – I’ll just hand one to James and Duncan here.”

“Don’t we get one each?”

“No, one between you, that’s the whole idea. Now, let me show you what it does.”

“I’d be amazed if it does anything – it seems to be a toilet-roll core covered in coloured paper, with each end of the paper twisted into a tulip shape. I’ve a five-year old daughter who could make this.”

“Er, really? Well, tell her I thought of it first. Now, James and Duncan, I want you to grab an end each and try to pull it away from the other person.”

“Why? I don’t want it.”

“Well, pretend that you do. Now, pull hard!”

“Oh dear, they’ve ripped it in two.”

“That’s ok, Deborah, that’s supposed to happen. Now, did you all hear the bang?”

“Which one? The bang that came from the product, or the sound of James and his chair toppling backwards onto the floor?”

“The first one. That’s caused by a small strip of sulphur stuck inside. Now, Duncan, you got the bigger half, so you get the prizes inside.”

“Big deal. All that’s in here is something paper in an elastic band, and another piece of paper with writing on it.”

“Actually, there was something else. It shot out at speed.”

“Well spotted, Peter. That was the toy.”

“Really? What was it?”

“Just some indeterminate plastic blob. Don’t worry, the toy will always shoot out and vanish.  In fact, after a couple of years I plan to stop putting the toy in at all, and people will just assume it’s shot into the fire. Now Duncan, I see you’ve taken the rubber band off the paper. See what it is?”

“It appears to be a pink paper crown.”

“It is. Now, put it on.”

“But I don’t want -“

“PUT IT ON!! Ha, ha, er, sorry about that. It’s just that whoever gets the hat must wear it.”

“Says who?”

“I don’t know – it seems to be some sort of law of nature. Now, read the joke on the other piece of paper.”

“Er, what do penguins order in McDonalds? Iceberg-ers.”

“That’s not very funny, is it?”

“You’re not wrong there, Theo. Wait, there’s another one. What do you get if you cross a stoat, an octogenarian and a blind lapdancer?”

“Now that’s more like it. What’s the answer?”

“Er, dunno, the piece of paper runs out.”


“I don’t know either. That’s the advantage of the short piece of paper, you don’t have to think up punchlines.”

“Well, I don’t know, Tinman, why do you think anyone will – PUT THE HAT BACK ON, DUNCAN!!, er sorry, don’t know what came over me there – buy this?”

“Because it’s FUN, Deborah. Remember how James fell over backwards? Just picture your granny doing that at the dinner table, the whole family would be in stitches. And then there’s the bang, and the hat, and the jokes. How could you not love it? I hope to sell fifty million a year, at twenty quid for a box of six.”

“What’s it called?”

“I call it the Cheerful Cracker. Anyone interested?”

“I’m out.”

“I’m out.”

“I’m out.”

“I’m out.”


“It’s expensive,  it’s tacky, it’s annoying and it will cause family rows.”

“Wow, you’re right. I should call it the Christmas Cracker.”

“Do that, and I’m in.”

Out On The Toon

Kathyrn Thomas

I was passing through the kitchen on Sunday evening, while Mrs Tin was watching RTE’s travel programme “No Frontiers”, and I heard its main presenter Kathryn Thomas (and sure let’s have a picture of her, she’s gorgeous) say this:

“Tune in after the break when I’ll be investigating the shopping in Chicago, while Síle Seoige seeks out the sophisticated side of Newcastle.”

Clearly there is a pecking order among the presenters, and equally clearly Síle is not at the top of it. The words “shitty” and “end of the stick” come to mind.

The news that Newcastle has a sophisticated side will come as a surprise, not least to the Geordies themselves. It is true that Newcastle has been described as Paris-upon-Tyne. It is equally true, however, that it has been described thus only once, and that was by me in that last sentence.

Indeed, Geordies might be offended by suggestions that they are sophisticated. They see themselves as tough folk, eking out a tough bleak life in a tough bleak part of the world. They regard Yorkshiremen as softies with an over-optimistic view of life. It’s no co-incidence that their football team plays in black-and-white.

And here it is...

Soft day, thank God

Their love affair with Newcastle United is the only show of emotion that they allow themselves (how they marry and have children is a mystery) and has reduced Newcastle’s fashion industry to just one item, the Newcastle team shirt. It is worn by everybody, every day, whether there is a match on or not. The only ones who don’t are those who wear no shirts at all, the group of bald, boobed, beer-bellied bruisers who stand bare-chested at each game in St James’ Park, defying the howling, banshee-breathed gale that sweeps in from the North Sea, and a temperature which rarely rises above two degrees. Even they, though, are loyal to the team colours. They may not be a wearing a shirt, but the shirt that they’re not wearing is a Newcastle shirt.

Mother's milk - if your mother is a camel

Mother's milk - if your mother is a camel

Newcastle’s fashion world, though, is a sea of choice compared to their drinks industry. You have two options in any pub – you can drink Newcastle Brown Ale, or you can fook off. I spent a week once there in a hotel which literally sold no other beer. And sure why would they, since once your taste-buds have tasted their first Nukey Brown they lose the will to live, and indeed the ability.

Essentially, Newcastle Brown Ale is brewed by taking a bottle of standard beer and leaving it open somewhere warm, till all the head has evaporated. It is then strained through one of Alan Shearer’s old football socks. Then they decant it into a NBA bottle, the sock is stuffed in for good measure, and the bottle is rolled downhill  through coaldust. The resultant beer tastes like vole-spit, and does alarming things to the colour of your pee after a couple of days.

Anyway, I never got to see the end of the program, so I’ve no idea whether Síle found what she was looking for or not. My guess is that if she found a pub where they gave you a glass with your bottle of NBA she was doing well.

I Wuz Robbed

There was a prize for last place on the Eurovision draw at work.

With about 36 juries gone and just six to go,Lithuania were a full seven points behind everybody else. They had amassed 14 points at that stage, out of a possible 432. Even near neighbours Estonia had only given them two. They were looking good, by which I mean really bad.

Then they were given seven. By Ireland.

Still, not too bad, I could still share the prize. Then the second last jury, Azerbaijan (seriously? they’re in Europe?), gave them one, which put them ahead of Finland.


Incidently, Eurovision’s website now reveals that Ireland finished 11th in their semi-final, so missed out by just one place.

In the first semi, Czech Republic got no points at all. I have pointed this out to GoldenEyes here at work, who says that the competition is stupid.

Exactly what we say whenever we do really badly.

Classy Crap

So, the Eurovision Song Contest takes place tonight, without Ireland. The girls were really good, and did themselves proud, but it was not to be.

The Tinfamily will still watch it. It is one of those things that we all do together. There are those who say that its rubbish, that the songs are crap, that the voting is too parochial, that some of the acts are laughably over the top, and to those people the Tinfamily will simply say “er, we know”.

A show does not necessarily have to be classy to be enjoyable, and the Eurovision is the supreme example of a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. That was the problem with us entering Dustin the Turkey last year, we tried to make a laugh of a show that already knows how to laugh at itself.

Tonight we will make an event of it. We will sit with popcorn and drinks, with a sheet of paper for taking notes. Each song will have a comment written after it, so that, during the voting, if Ukraine, say, get twelve points we can just look at the list and say “oh, yeah, the girl in the red outfit in the hamster cage” (I’m not making that up, incidentally).

And we will give each song marks out of ten. From years of doing this I have discerned that Tingirl has the kindest personality, as she seldom gives anyone less than three. Not surprisingly I have the worst, frequently giving songs zero, and very occasionally minus zero (I’m not let go any lower). Not only do I give songs zero, I often write it down before the song has even started, simply by the look of the singer (a big hello to Greece tonight, by the way).



So what of tonight? Norway are the favourites, and their song is just bad enough to justify that. The afore-mentioned Ukraine is energetic and fun, and I see them as dark horses. I was hoping to get them in the draw at work, but got Lithuania instead. They are first on, a guy in a trilby singing a song that starts sounding like Queen before recoiling from such a display of possible talent and drifting off into mediocrity. My favourite song is Estonia’s, which means it has no chance. I like Turkey because the girl is singing in her bra.

Turkey - God, I'm shallow

Turkey - God, I'm shallow

And there is a theory in the Tinfamily that Portugal enter the same song every year just to see if anyone will notice, and we have visions of a big party in Lisbon each year when they get away with it again.

Anyway, we will laugh, shout at the voting patterns, give out about the song that wins, and ten minutes after it ends we’ll have to struggle to remember who did win.

It’s perfect disposable Saturday night TV.