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It’s Not Even the Past

image from

A new article in the journal ‘Annals of Physics’ claims an “anti-universe” exists in parallel to our own in which time goes backwards (Irish Times 26/03/22)….


Imagine a life in which you get younger every day.

In the Other Earth, on the far side of the cosmic divide, this is what happens. People there truly are borne back ceaselessly into the past. They die, live their lives and are born. Those lives are therefore very different.

The clocks go back in Spring and forward in Autumn, and the people there are never sure which one is the good one either. Online gambling does not exist. Anti-wrinkle cream does, though, because although those wrinkles are fading morning by morning most people are not prepared to wait.

The Other Earthlings do not walk backwards, We’re trying to have a serious scientific discussion here.

Imagine that you are in the twilight of your life. You have been with a partner now for many years. Your relationship is comfortable, warm and safe, like a big woolly jumper. But imagine knowing that this relationship is going to get more exciting, growing each day toward a climax, a sunburst, of love and intensity a few years from now. That the time after that will involve throwing off any woolly jumpers, along with everything else. And beyond that time there will be the fun of cinema trips, of kissing in cars, of wondering if perhaps this is the one, right back to the excitement and anticipation of that very first date. Isn’t that a thrilling prospect?

Of course, you know that every relationship coming along afterwards will not work out, but in each one you can wait patiently, knowing that a day will come when you have never met the person.

Imagine becoming faster and fitter. Playing sport again. Hangover immunity.

On and on your life will go, into the difficult teen years. This is not something to look forward – if that’s the right word – to, but it is better than the creaks, the twinges and the brittle bones that are moving, ironically very quickly, towards us here.

Out of your working life and into retirement. But this is not a retirement of bingo, golf and afternoon TV adverts about funeral costs. This is day upon day of play, of climbing trees, of blowing dandelion clocks, of staying out until the last rays of sun sink below the skyline.

Youth is wasted upon the young, we are told. Imagine it coming toward the end of your life, when you can really savour every glorious carefree day.

But the end of your life will be coming, just as it does here. You will lose your teeth, you hair, your ability to walk. But how different an experience to our final days. You will find every new experience a source of wonder. Your every achievement will be heralded and cheered. Your loss of language won’t matter, because adults will speak to you in gibberish, but with a warmth of tone that will leave no doubt that you are loved. They will blow raspberry farts on your belly, and you will find this the funniest thing in either universe. Your final couple of years will be pure joy.

Finally you will be born. No, I’ve no idea either.



Paper Tiger

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked Russian journalists, artists and bloggers to protest Russia’s invasion of his country. I am not Russian, nor a political blogger, so all I can do is re-publish this post from four years ago, the night after the 2018 World Cup Final…


Vladimir Putin woke early, as real men do.

He sat up and stretched, his magnificent pecs extending as he did so. He sat for a moment, planning his day. He might ride a horse bareback, and indeed bare-chested. He might head off into the woods to wrestle bears. He might ski across Siberia wearing only a pair of Speedos. He might climb every mountain, ford every stream. He might sing the song that that line comes from, in a deep Russian baritone, while performing a Cossack dance. He might swallow swords. He might eat fire.

Whatever he did, it would reinforce his position as the strongman of the First World, a giant among pygmies, the true Beast From The East.

Vladimir Putin threw aside the single sheet he slept under, strode across his bedroom, and threw open the curtains.

It was raining.

Vladimir Putin went back to bed.

During the torrential downpour at the World Cup Final medal ceremony yesterday, host President Vladimir Putin stands snug and dry under an umbrella, leaving the Prime Ministers of finalists France and Croatia to get absolutely soaked


Baby Brain

Britain’s NHS has apologised for issuing guidelines urging expectant mothers to prepare a “special meal” for their partners to avoid them feeling “left out”. The guidance has now been withdrawn, but this is what it said…


  • For breakfast add curry powder and sprouts to a bowl of Sugar Puffs. This should induce morning sickness.
  • Lemons, tomatoes, chocolate, cheese and peppermint are all causes of heartburn. Mix them all into his daily smoothie.
  • Replace his tea with Gaviscon. Give him twelve mugs a day, so he always feels he needs to pee.
  • Feed him so much and so often that he can no longer see his shoes. If this doesn’t work, hide his shoes.
  • Like you, he may get cravings. His will probably be for steak and chips. Ignore this and give him macaroni and custard.
  • Tell him he has to give up drink for nine months. That should put an end to this nonsense.

Horse Sense

Ireland will conduct a horse census for the first time later this year…


Q1. Is your name:
a. Traditional (Dobbin, Blue)
b. Grandiose (Sovereign Princess, Thundercloud)
c. Sponsored (Kellogg’s Frosties III, Toilet Duck)

Q2. Are you:
a. Chestnut
b. Piebald
c. A horse of a different colour

Q3. Sex:
a. Stallion
b. Mare
c. Gelding, and pissed off about it

Q4. Is your occupation:
a. Racehorse
b. Carriage or cart puller
c. Little girl’s pony (hobby horse)

Q5. State your highest level of qualification:
a. I’ve won the Derby
b. I’ve won a rosette at a gymkhana
c. My farts can be heard two fields away

Q6. If you were led to water, would you;
a. Drink it
b. Bathe in it
c. Stop suddenly and propel your rider into the water

Q7. Do you like Dressage:
a. No



A Portrait of the Artist as a Way to Fill an Afternoon

Back in the days before photography, the self-portrait was regarded as the ultimate test for an artist, his or her showstopper challenge. At the bottom of the aesthetic ladder was the bowl of fruit. Next came the view of the countryside, then the scene from the bible, then the thirty-foot long depiction of some battle. The final rung was to be able to accurately represent something that the artist had only ever seen in a mirror.

The mirror played an important part back then. This explains why the artist-come-models are always looking off to one side. It may also explain why none of them are ever wearing clothing with words on them like Adidas, or Abercrombie and Fitch.

The self-portrait was a test not just of one’s artistic ability, but also of one’s integrity, the visual equivalent of today’s Linked-In profile. The artist had to fight the urge to make themselves a bit more handsome, a bit taller, a bit less fat. You may think that they would also have to fight false modesty, the urge to make themselves look hideous, but in fact they were unlikely to do this anyway. Art for art’s sake is a beautiful concept, but in the real world artists have to eat and they knew that there is a limited market for paintings in which the subject looks like the runner-up in a face-punching contest.

Most importantly of all, the self-portrait had to convey a sense of the tortured soul within. There are no known works in which the artist is smiling, or eating a giant bowl of ice-cream. No-one wanted to hint, in any way, that painting for a living might in fact be fun. Thus in every picture the eyes stare glumly back at you, the face is gaunt, the pallor is pallid. Munch’s self-portrait, for example, shows him slack-jawed and wide-eyed in misery, though luckily for him he was such a bad artist that no-one realised it was supposed to be a self-portrait, and to his surprise it was hailed as a masterful depiction of the awfulness of existence.

There are no known nude self-portraits. The modern selfie generation should reflect upon this.

Sunday Stroll

Bandstand on Bray promenade, about 5 miles from my house (image Wikimedia commons)

On Sunday afternoons before the advent of TV, people would stroll along the promenade of seaside towns, and act posh. They would dress in their best clothes – the men in shiny shoes and shinier suits, the women in skirts too long to walk comfortably in, as if they were trying to perform Riverdance in a sleeping bag. They would stop at tea-rooms for scones and clotted cream, the pathway to clotted arteries.  They would buy candy-floss, an unruly dandelion clock of flying sugar, for grumbling children to whom the Sunday walk was simply the boredom of church moving into extra-time.

And they would stop at the bandstand. There local musicians would dilute the beauty of classical music and popular tunes of the day by adapting them to the barking honk of brass instruments, seasoned by the occasional ting of a triangle. People would circle the bandstand to watch the performance while stiff onshore breezes meant that other people two hundred yards west got to do the actual listening.

The performers were protected from the elements while the crowd found it literally rained on their parade. In the bands’ defence they were doing their attendance a favour here, since a tuba filled with water produces a sound like whale-fart.

The band would finish with their most popular number, bid the crowd farewell by the name of their town, and leave.

The bandstand is the original festival venue.

Writers Tears

Seen in the Celtic Whiskey Shop, Dublin

Writers Tears is an Irish whiskey. It says so on the bottle. Having established that, you may be thinking that there was no need to further point out that it is a product of Ireland. If you are thinking that then you’ve never asked yourself where Mars Bars come from.

It is aged in American and French oaks, however, which is baffling. We have trees of our own.

The name is probably fiction, judging from the size of the bottle, unless they used a lot of writers, or just one writer on a very bad day. Since we are meant to be a melancholy bunch do not rule out the latter.

Whiskey drinkers describe it as smooth. Do not be fooled. Whiskey drinkers describe all whiskies as “smooth”, in the same way that winter swimmers describe all water as “lovely”. In reality the tiniest sip of whiskey feels as if you’ve been waterboarded with paraffin, and then force-fed a firework. One wonders have whiskey drinkers ever tasted, say, smoothies.

Writers Tears is bitter. That very sentence, with its clash of singular and plural, sounds like the best of Irish writing itself. Writers Tears is fiery. It can be bring tears to your yes, wrench your stomach, and stays with you long after it is gone. It can lead to confusion, exhaustion, and headwreck.

It is basically bottled Ulysses.

Carry On Wordcamping

This weekend I will be at WordCamp Dublin 2019.

WordCamps are conferences of WordPress users held at various locations all over the world. Users, hobbyists, web developers, designers and business owners gather at these not-for-profit events to learn or teach more about WordPress. I got a notification about it a couple of months ago, in which they were looking for contributors, attendees and volunteers.

Neither of the first two were for me – sessions like Building a packing application using the WooCommerce REST API would not be in any way improved by my presence. To me, my posts are my musings and my WordPress blog is the copybook that I write them in. My sole technical skill is to occasionally change the theme of the blog, in other words the layout, colour scheme and font, from a variety of options offered by WordPress. This is the equivalent of putting new stickers on the cover of my copybook.

But I get that copybook for nothing. WordPress doesn’t charge me for using it, and if they weren’t there I would never have had a blog, so would never have written the stories I’ve written and never have had as much fun as I’ve had in doing it. I feel I owe them something back, so I am a volunteer. I will be at the registration desk (at 7am!!!), will be dispensing tea and coffee, will be lugging stuff around.

I hope it’s a great success – the organisers have put a huge amount of work into it, I’m looking forward to it.

The image at the top is our Wapuu – Wapuu is apparently the WordPress mascot, and for each event the organisers produce their own variation. Ours is evocative of the literary history of Dublin, so he is wearing clothes like James Joyce and is writing in a book.

I think he looks like Pikachu dressed as the Tom Baker Doctor Who, but that’s just because I’m shallow.


Goes Around, Comes Around

Every Christmas I buy Mrs Tin a calendar for the kitchen wall (wow, you’re thinking, and I know, but she’s worth it). She turns over the page at the start of each month and fills the little day-boxes with birthdays, upcoming events and all the other administration required to run the Tinhouse.

This year’s calendar features twelve paintings by Monet, and to be honest they’ve been something of a disappointment, until this months:

It called the Blue Row Boat, painted in 1887, and it caught my attention as I was sleepily making tea in front of it on Saturday morning. I reckoned that I could make a story out of it, exploring how the ladies had managed to climb into the boat in those dresses, why there were no oars, what mishap had befallen them that had led to them having seaweed on their hats, and how the lady at the rear of the boat had apparently caught a fish with her bare hands.

Take a photo of the calendar, I thought. Don’t bother, I thought half a second later, just take the picture off the internet. So I went to the room I write in and googled Blue Row Boat, stared at my screen for a few confused seconds, then went back out to the kitchen to look at the picture again. Just to be sure.

The kitchen picture you have seen, but this is what is on the internet:

The Blue Row Boat (Claude Monet, 1887)

It is on numerous websites, including, who you have to presume know what they are talking about.

So it looks as though our picture is the wrong way round, and perhaps they have made similar errors on other calendars, that somewhere there is a Van Gogh calendar showing him missing the wrong ear.

Perhaps not, though. Investigation showed that none of the other pictures in our calendar are the other way round, so what if this is another painting altogether, painted later the same day?

After all, Monet would have engaged the models for the whole day, so why not make use of them? Why not do a series, telling a story? Why not, at the very least, do a second one in case you drop jam on the first one on the way home?

This second picture might be called The Girls On Their Way Back To The Riverbank, or Les Filles Sur Le Chemin Du Retour Au Bord De La Rivière, as Monet would have called it (Google Translate has been a Godsend to this blog, expect a whole post soon in Norwegian), depicting their damp, dispirited return to dry land.

And maybe there are others, by other artists, their least-liked ones of a series, the artistic equivalent of Non-Favourite Child. Maybe there’s a Two Hours After The Birth Of Venus, where she is now clothed and being visited by adoring grandparents. Maybe there is a  Morninghawks, with the iconic loners replaced by dawn joggers ordering smoothies. Maybe there is a Tidying Up After The Last Supper.

Maybe, somewhere, there is a Mona Lisa Goes Home, showing just the back of her head as she walks off into the Tuscan sunset.

Bring Me Sunshine

Following on from Donald Trump’s suggestion that hurricanes should be nuked to stop them forming, he has issued a checklist detailing how to deal with other weather scenarios:

Lightning: Beat it away with a baseball bat. Or, better still, a metal frying pan.

Wind: Point enough fans towards it to exactly balance it out. Admittedly, this might cause a tornado at the point where they meet, so:

Tornado: Drop a bowling ball into it. It won’t stop the tornado, but if timed right the ball could be shot out directly at North Korea.

Too dry and hot: Not sure. Ask the people who organise Glastonbury.

Drought: Shoot arrows at the sky.

Snow: Allow global warming to turn this to rain.

Rain: Move to California.

Rainbows: Follow them to the end to find the crock of gold.

Climate Change: Follow the activists on Twitter to find the crock of shit.

Hang on, you just said global warming would stop snow: No I didn’t. Fake news.

Hail: To the Chief, yes, that’s my song.

Unrelenting drizzle: You’re from Ireland, aren’t you?

Dense, impenetrable fog: Become President.