To my wife, my friend, my love, and currently my bubble-buddy.
Happy birthday, wonderful girl.
To my wife, my friend, my love, and currently my bubble-buddy.
Happy birthday, wonderful girl.
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 pendemic.ie,, a website set up to act as a journal for this time, publishing poetry, short stories and non-fiction about the coronavirus.
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.
Mrs Tin and I are not in Portugal.
This ought not be newsworthy. We are also not in Antarctica, Burkina Faso, or the express elevator in the United Nations Building. We are not in Bratislava, Medicine Hat, or the currently empty stadium of Accrington Stanley Football Club. The world, in fact, is made up almost entirely of places where we aren’t.
The thing about Portugal, though, is that it is where we should be.
This morning we should have got up at a ridiculous hour, since a holiday is not legally a holiday if it doesn’t so start. We should have checked that we had our passports, made our way to the car, checked that we had our passports, driven to Long-Term Parking, and checked that we had our passports. We should then have caught the courtesy bus to the terminal, where someone would have checked that we had our passports.
We should have gone on to catch a flight, been met at the airport, and should now be sitting in sun-loungers at our resort, wondering if two o’clock is too early for a beer.
We should be wearing shorts that scream “I’m on holiday”, whilst whispering apologetically “and my wearer is colour blind”.
We should be spending the coming week eating pasteis de nata, cozida à portuguesa, and dobrada, though perhaps not so much of the last one since it seems to be a tripe-and-bean stew. We should be drinking our way through the resort’s cellar of Vinho Tinto. Instead we’ll be eating sausage and chips and drinking our way through our fourth box of lockdown tea-bags.
While walking we should be staring in awe at lovely churches. Instead we’ll be glaring in ire at non-distancing joggers.
Because we will be out and walking around our home town, since I’m off anyway. Our company made those of us who had holidays booked take the days in any case, as otherwise all one thousand of us are going to try to be off during the same two weeks in September.
So here we are. No swimming pool. No local entertainers. No umbrella, neither shading us nor in our drink. Also no pub, no bookshop, no sport on telly.
And it’s just started to rain.
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.
It was just like in the song.
This morning – Wednesday morning, as it happens – at five o’clock, as the day began, Tingirl left home.
What was unlike the song was that she didn’t have to sneak out, leaving a note that she’d hoped would say more. Mrs Tin and I were up with her, enthusiastically helping her pack two massive suitcases into our ancient car, driving her to the airport and accompanying her in to bag-drop in case either case failed the 20kg test (this wasn’t the case, 19.7 and 19.9) in which, sigh, case we’d have returned home with several pairs of discarded shoes.
Our baby girl is moving to London with her degree in Media and PR, pursuing her dream of writing for TV and radio. She is excited and scared, and so are we.
We will miss her – her beautiful smile, her cheerful chatter, her ability (unique among the Tinfamily), to take a good group selfie. I will miss watching Bones, and Love Island, and Doctor Who with her.
But we are sure that she will do well. She is a lovely girl with a warm personality, and is diligent and hard-working (she worked here in a really stressful job that included all-night shifts, to raise the money to fund the early part of her stay). In media she has found something that she loves, and has sailed through every exam associated with it.
So best wishes, my lovely princess. May all of your dreams come true. You deserve it.
We are sad that you are gone. But so very, very happy for you.
Photo taken in our sitting room yesterday morning, January 11th…
The last light went out in the last bedroom. The house was silent.
In the sitting-room the Crib Dwellers woke and stretched. The First Wise Man looked idly around the room, then his mouth opened in horror.
“Jesus Mary and Joseph!” he gasped.
“Yes?” said Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
“No, not you,” said the First Wise Man. “It’s just an expression of surprise.”
“Is it indeed?” said Mary icily.
“Never mind that,” said the Second Wise Man. “Look around.” They all did so.
The room was empty.
Well, not empty. It still had furniture, a TV, and clutter, but the massive tree that had dominated the room for almost a month was gone. So too had its lights and baubles, so too had the tinsel, so too had the plastic mistletoe pinned above the door, a tribute to the classiness of the house’s owners.
It was as if Christmas had never happened.
“Sweet Mother of God,” breathed Mary, then stopped in confusion.
“See?” said the First Wise Man. “It’s what comes from years living in an Irish household.”
“But this is terrible,” said Jesus. “We’ve missed the Attic Trip.”
The Attic Trip was an annual event. Every year the Christmas paraphernalia was gathered from around the house and stuffed into a huge plastic bag, then carried up a stepladder and put into the attic. Every year something got left behind, and spent the next eleven months sitting in incongruous isolation like a camel in the Antarctic.
This year it looked as if it would be the turn of the Crib Dwellers to be the house’s version of the unicorns missing the Ark.
“Are we sure?” asked Jesus. “Maybe they’ve just taken down the tree.”
“I’ll check the Snowmen,” said Joseph.
He ran to the other end of the room. The slow tread of his return spoke more eloquently than he could.
“They’re gone,” he mumbled.
Jesus shook his head sadly.”It says a lot about the status of religion in this household,” he said, “when they remember to pack that collection of home-made weirdos while we’re treated like Kevin from Home Alone.”
“Maybe there’ll be a second Attic Trip,” said the Third Wise Man.
“There won’t,” said the Second Wise Man. “The Attic Trip is strictly a once-a-year event, like your birthday, or, um, er -”
“Christmas?” suggested Mary helpfully.
“Exactly,” said the Second Wise Man. “So we’re stuck here.”
“We could make it to the attic ourselves.” said the First Wise Man. “I saw a film once where some toys moved house after they got left behind.”
Mary sighed. “In the first place,” she said, “that film was not a documentary. In the second place, we would literally have to move house, bringing the whole stable with us. Sooner or later the dim-wits that live here are going to notice it’s still here, and even they will think it a bit odd if we’re not in it when they do.”
“But I want to go back to the attic,” said the Third Wise Man plaintively. “It’s our home.”
That was true. While they had to spend December downstairs, for the rest of the year the Crib Dwellers lived contentedly in the attic among the discard of the now-grown family. They had friends – the complete set of Harry Potter action figures, two Bratz dolls and a bobble-head David Beckham. Joseph was building a plant garden in an old Croc. Jesus played Snake on a Nokia phone. Mary was working her way, turning each huge page one at a time, through the Twilight books.
Now they stared gloomily around the sitting-room. There was very little there that was going to entertain them, unless they tried getting tunes out of blowing across the top of empty wine bottles.
Morning came, their time for sleep, so in their uneasy slumber they didn’t hear the phone ring. All they knew was that their house was suddenly lifted, like Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz. They were stuffed into a smaller than usual plastic bag.
“They’re throwing us out!” whispered Joseph.
They were carried, then heard the scrape of the step-ladder on the bathroom floor, then felt themselves lifted, swung and dropped. They scrambled to the mouth of the bag and looked out.
They were in the attic. Impossible as it seemed, like Halley’s Comet appearing back into view because it had forgotten something, there had been a second Attic Trip.
“What happened?” asked the Third Wise Man.
“I heard the woman yelling in panic at the man,” said Mary. “Apparently her cousin had rung from the UK and announced he was coming to stay for a few days.”
“What?” said the First Wise Man. “No-one ever comes to stay.”
“Looking at the empty wine bottles, that’s no surprise,” said the Second Wise Man.
“Well, he is,” said Mary.
Jesus smiled. “It’s a Christmas miracle,” he said.
Our girl is 23 today.
Tingirl, lovely baby, cute little girl, teenager-like teenager, is now a wonderful young woman. She is adored by her older brothers, fiercely loyal and close to her friends, passionate in her beliefs.
She works now, in a difficult but very important job, but her plans are to move abroad, to work in radio or TV, fulfilling her lifelong ambition.
We love her and are proud of her. She is her Dad’s princess, and always will be.
Happy birthday, my beautiful girl.
The new series of I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! started on TV last night.
“Celebrity” is one of those words that has changed meaning in recent years, like “literally”, “sick” and “friends”. Once used to refer to giants of screen, sport or literature, it now means anyone who has been on the X-Factor, appeared briefly in a soap or has found, to their horror, that they are not famous anymore.
So this year nine celebrities and Caitlyn Jenner (even I’ve heard of her) have gathered in the jungle in Australia, where over the next three weeks they will endure ghastly trials, shortage of food and the boisterousness of Ian Wright’s laugh.
They will sleep in the open, with snakes, frogs and spiders crawling over them. They will shower in freezing water. They will eat kangaroo anus to earn a meal, though had I to do that I would never eat again. They will crawl into dark spaces filled with bugs, rats and cockroaches.
They will be well paid for all of this, and a closely watching team of experts will ensure that they are never in any danger.
It’s formulaic mindless rubbish. Every year I swear I will not watch it. Every year I do.
But I mention this guilty pleasure only because of the photo at the top of this post, which is not from the programme. By co-incidence it arrived earlier today from Tinson2, currently working at a vineyard near Melbourne, and is a picture of something that jumped out of a vine this morning and ran up his arm.
He is not being especially well paid for all of this, and has no closely watching teams of experts to ensure that he is never in any danger. He will not even get the chance to see Nadine Coyle in a bikini.
But the title of this post is mine, used purely because it matches the title of the show. Tinson2 would never use the phrase. He is eight months in Australia now, after his two years in Canada, and is enjoying every single second.
In three weeks time somebody on I’m A Celebrity will be voted King or Queen of the Jungle. To us it’s him.