Tag Archives: Family

Uncle Don

I didn’t post anything yesterday because I was at a wake, that peculiarly Irish tradition where a person is laid out in his own home the night before his funeral.

Once you’ve spent part of your evening sitting in the same room as a deceased person in an open coffin then any jokes you were planning to write seem a lot less funny.

He was Mrs Tin’s uncle and yet he wasn’t – he and his wife were close friends with her parents, and back when we were young such people were commonly referred to as Uncle This and Auntie That (there is a couple, now living in Canada, and if I met them tomorrow I would call then Uncle Bill and Auntie Julie, though their relationship to us consists entirely of the fact that for three years in the 1960s they lived in the flat above us in Tottenham).

Nowadays, of course, my real nieces and nephews, from the eldest (32) to the youngest (7) call me simply by my first name.

Uncle Don was a sweet man who never really got over the death of his wife Doris, a real fireball of chatting, laughing energy, just three years ago.

He leaves one daughter, Gillian, a girl who I first met when she was 24 and who is now 50 and has suddenly risen to be head of the family.

I couldn’t go to the funeral today because I’m back to work but I hope it all went well for her and her three children, who all had to give readings.

I was thinking about them this morning, and will be thinking about them in the days ahead.

Family Fun

Today’s post is very brief, because we have been out all day at my mother-in-law’s house.

She held a dinner for my brother-in-law who was 50 this week, the first of Mrs Tin’s family to reach that milestone. He and Mrs Tin’s two sisters were there, along with with their spouses and all of our numerous children.

We ate lots of food, ate even more desserts, walked it all off, watched two programmes (Geneology Roadshow and Nationwide Revisited, programmes that I know most of you have never heard of) on TV and made smart remarks all the way through both of them, slagged the girl doing the weather forecast (apparently we’re getting the tail-end of the US’s Hurricane Katya tomorrow, thanks guys) and made scurrilous and probably libellous remarks about a whole range of famous people both living and dead.

In short we had a great day, a real fun family occasion.

Homme D’Étain Dix-Huit

France here we come.

Tomorrow the Family of Tin flies (from Waterford) to the home of cheese, vin and half the Arsenal team, with SIL of Tin, her hubby and two kids, and the MIL, to stay in 3 cottages together in the absolute middle of nowhere near Bordeaux for 2 weeks.

We’ll either have a brilliant time, or kill each other.

The kids will definitely have a great time, especially my youngest & SIL’s 2 girls, since I’ve never seen any collection of cousins get on as well, except in Deliverance type movies. Tinson2, who only comes home from the Gaeltacht today, has always get on great with them all as well, and should still fit in with their fun, though his time in Connemara may have caused him to outgrow them slightly. I’m almost hoping so, so that he might be better company for Tinson1, who may well struggle for the two weeks. His girlfriend’s family went on holiday last week (to France as well), and the timing of the two events means that he’s not going to see her for a total of three weeks. They’ve already spent a fortune on calls and texts.

So, beaucoup de vin, un peut de bierre, and lots of healthy outdoor pursuits such as walking, swimming and cycling. I’ve just left work for the last time till August 5th, and feel very odd. Circumstances last year, such as a penchant (getting into l’esprit already) for sudden blackouts, meant that I took no holidays at all, so I was almost laughably giddy at work today, and to be honest, did sweet bugger-all. I know that I will be up to my eyes when I get back, being that the first week of each month is my busiest time anyway, but I’m hoping I’ll be refreshed enough to be able to take it in my stride. I also know that this will not happen, and that by about 11 o’clock on the first morning I’ll be swearing  I’ll-never-go-on-holiday-again-it’s-just-not-worth-the-shit-when-you-get-back, but, hell, that’s weeks away.

So, hopefully it will be fun. We’ll have a few laughs, have a lot of drinks, and talk in ‘Allo ‘Allo accents for two weeks (we’re painfully shallow). I haven’t dared look up the weather for Bordeaux and have schooled myself to accept that it will be like here, so I can only be pleasantly surprised, unless it snows.

Au Revoir.

The West’s Awake

Spent the weekend in Spiddal in the Gaeltacht visiting Tinson2.

First, a short moan (I’ve been called that before). The Galway road is about fifteen years behind the Sligo road, in terms of development. While the new Moate by-pass looks about ten minutes away from completion, the road from there to Galway is a nightmare of single-lane, double-white-line dreariness where, if one person wants to drive at 51 miles per hour, that’s what we’ll all do. The people of the West deserve better.

The Cruiscin Lán

The Cruiscín Lán

For the last two years, when we went to visit Tinson1, we’ve gone down on the actual Saturday morning and come back that evening. This year we decided to go down on Friday, visit T2 on Saturday and stay over again that night. As soon as we decided that I rang An Crúiscín Lán in Spiddal, since I so much wanted to stay there.

I still remember it from family holidays, although they were probably nearly forty years ago. It wasn’t a hotel then, so we stayed in a B&B somewhere nearby, but there would be traditional Irish music, the food was fabulous, and I still have a vivid picture of moonlight playing across the water of Galway Bay out the back window. The trad music is gone now, but the food is still terrific, and the staff are charming and friendly.

And not just there. On each of the three years now we’ve gone for lunch to Paraicín’s, which is a couple of miles on the Galway side of Spiddal, and again the food there is great, and the view is lovely. There is a large shop just outside the town called Standún, like an Avoca or a Kilkenny design, which is visited by tour buses and which sells all the tweed, báinín, Newbridge & Guinness related stuff that you’d expect, but at a reasonable price that you wouldn’t.

In Spiddal itself there is a little craft centre, with shops selling candles, celtic jewellery, weavings and things

The craft centre

The craft centre

like that. One of the shops, An Spailpín Fánach, sells T-Shirts & hoodies with humourous slogans in Irish, and a new T-shirt this year says “Tabhair dom an cáca milis” on the front, and “Ciúnas, bóthar, cailín, bainne” on the back.

In all of these shops, and in the supermarket, and by the bean an tí, we were made welcome. The weather, while not sunny, was warm, and you found yourself really hoping that, even at this late stage, we get some sort of a summer, as these people deserve to do really well.

Tinson2, by the way, is tanned and happy. He has made new friends, tried new foods and new pursuits, and his Irish has improved enormously.

The people who run these schools, and the women who turn over their homes to the children, are providing a wonderful service, not only to our native language, but also to the youth of our country.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.


Happy Anniversary

Today is our 23rd Wedding Anniversary.

Wow, 1985. Boris Becker won Wimbledon for the first time the day after our wedding, we watched the original Live Aid on honeymoon the Saturday after. Ireland was a depressed dump, Mrs T (Tinman, not Thatcher) lost her job about four months before the wedding, and I lost mine about four weeks after it. She soon got a new job, which she absolutely hated, but she had to keep at it because I went self-employed and really struggled at the start. We often ran out of heating oil, our car was a wreck and we were  frequently behind on our mortgage.

Fast forward to today. As Mrs Tin is only 45, she has now spent more than half her life married to me. She is, obviously,  a saintly, long-suffering lady.

When we’d been hitched for about about eighteen months we made friends with a couple who were five years married. That seemed so long, we just couldn’t imagine it. Now look at us.

She’s sitting at the kitchen table opposite me as I type this, and she has no idea what I’m doing. I know she’ll never read this, which is good, coz I’ve standards of cynicism to maintain.

We’ve had bad times – a miscarriage, the loss of a parent each (within 4 months of each other), a severe bout of depression for one of us (OK, me), and last years medical problems which gave birth to the name Tinman18. We’ve had great times, the birth of each of our three children, a fantastic trip to Italy for her 40th and an even better one to New York to celebrate 25 years since we ‘got off with each other’.

Overall, though, we’ve had far more good times than bad times. We’ve laughed an awful lot. We’ve fought an awful lot. But she’s still the best friend I’ve ever had.

Happy Anniversary, Mrs Tin. Love you to bits.

Think of the Children

I watched an “Al Murray – Pub Landlord” gig on TV the other night. At one point he talked about when his first child was born. He said he felt pride, humility “and a burning urge to hang all paedophiles whereas before I hadn’t given them a second thought.”

How right he is. Having children immediately ends one’s laissez-faire attitude to the world, and makes one more right wing than Adolf Hitler.

I reached adulthood in the early eighties, when the posturing of Reagan and Andropov made nuclear war seem more probable than possible. I remember a friend of mine pointing to the top of her forehead and saying “I hope the bomb lands right here” and us all agreeing with her. We didn’t mind dying, we just didn’t want the radiation.

All that as changed now that we have become parents. I hate warmongers with a passion. I hate people whose greed, lust for power or mistaken religious beliefs might endanger my children.

Where once I tolerated dope smoking, I how hate all drug takers and sellers, as they might lead my children down that path.

In fact, I now hate: paedophiles, drug dealers, vandals, people who can’t handle their drink, drunk drivers, speeding drivers, motor bikers, smokers, bullies (whether bullied themselves or not), racists (my daughter has a little black friend and the idea that anyone would insult this child is sickening), people who think the laws about fireworks don’t apply to them, any eejit who’d buy a quad bike for their kids, laser pens, several species of dog-owner (people who let their dogs shit in the street, people who let their dogs bark at or run at people, people who own ridiculous breeds of dogs like rotweilers), Arsenal (nothing to do with my kids, just don’t like them), middle class gits who take soft drugs, SUV drivers (not because of the environment, because SUVs are killing machines), bad teachers, people who obtain drink for children, anyone who says people who commit random acts of violence deserves a second chance, and the makers of South Park.

In short, everybody.

Boy meets Gael(tacht)

Another milestone this week. Tinson2 has gone to the Gaeltacht for 3 weeks.

Tinson2 is thirteen. While any parent will love and defend their children to the ends of the earth, most of us know what they are really like deep down. And my son is the sweetest person on this planet.

He was the grumpiest, angriest baby of the three of them. It used to bother me that he didn’t smile when you appeared in front of his cot the way the eldest had, but simply held his hands up, demanding to picked up so he could get on with his busy day of crying, turning his face away from food and sticking out his lower lip. Like his elder brother he made no effort to walk, but would rocket along the floor (we have wooden floors) on his butt. Indeed, he was even better than his brother at it, as he would use one hand as a paddle and sort of flip himself along, with his bum practically coming off the floor as he galumphed along. He did try to walk one day. He got up, toddled one or two steps, then obviously thought to himself “sod this for a game of pokemon, I can move twice as fast on my arse” and went back to the backside shuffle. It was only when we were teaching his younger sister to walk, getting her to stumble along between two of us kneeling about five feet apart, that he got up and joined in, walking beside her & encouraging her.

Because by then the miracle had already occurred. He had become his sister’s great mate. To say we were terrified of what his reaction to the new baby would be was putting it mildly. He was just 18 months old, surly, often angry, and all the worst horror stories of children trying to hurt younger siblings were in our heads as my wife sat at home with our new arrival while I collected him from my sister-in-law’s. I got home and carried him into the sitting room where the moses basket (God, I couldn’t remember there what the thing was called, how quickly you forget) held centre stage. “This is your new baby sister Susan” we said. He knelt beside the basket and put his hand gently on the blanket. “Soo-soo”, he said, with a big smile on his face. I still have the photos (oh, I wish I knew enough about all this stuff to be able to publish them) of the whole thing – him in his big outdoor one piece coat-thingy, hair all sweaty because of the heat in the room, with a huge grin on his face.

And from that second on they were like twins – absolutely inseparable. I’ve already spoken about how Tinson1 became an only child again, and it’s as good as true.

Tinson2 did have middle child syndrome, though, which I realised even before I knew such a thing was a recognised problem. Older child knew more than he did, so there was no point trying to compete on knowledge, and younger child was more cute, so there was no point trying to be babyish. He developed into a child almost desperate to do eveything right, having seemingly decided that if he couldn’t be the clever child or the adorable child, he could at least be the good child. Every time he did anything wrong, like spill a drink, he would dissolve into floods of tears and say “I’m sorry” over and over again. I sure people who saw us when we were out must have thought that we beat him regularly for mistakes at home.

So this little bundle of fears and worries, who spent all his time with a far younger playmate, headed off to school. As if things weren’t bad enough for him, his April birthday meant that it was borderline as to which year he would start, and by starting him in the earlier of the two possible years he was one of the youngest in the class, continuously going to friends’ sixth birthday parties before he himself had his fifth. Occasionally he would get teased about how babyish he was, and how quick to get upset, and would arrive home in tears.

The great thing, though, is that he did have friends. His time spent with his younger sister had by now given him a kind, caring nature that couldn’t help but shine through. (I still remember how we met a barking dog on the street in Kusadasi, and how he immediately stood in front of his sister.) He was warm, helpful, considerate and, by now, very funny, and quickly established a group of close little friends. He still worried a lot about what people thought of him, and still hated to look babyish, but this grew out of him in time. One evening at the age of about ten he announced that he had to get a photograph of himself for some poster they were putting up at school. He went through a load of old pictures and eventually found one of him at the age of about two, with a baseball hat backwards on his head, and those thick baby socks on his feet. “I’ll have this one,” he said.

He finished national school and has just completed his first year in secondary. Again, he seemed so much younger and smaller than all the others on the first day. None of his friends from the BSP were going to the same school, yet in no time at all he was part of a new little group of closely knit friends. They all went to their first disco last month, so again the house stinks of Lynx (his elder brother has graduated to Lacoste), but it was more a rite of passage thing I think than any serious attempt at getting off with women (I may be the most naive parent on the planet for all I know). He had astounded us all, a family for whom changing a light-bulb counts as DIY, by taking wood-work and metalwork, and our house now contains a key-hook, a letter-rack, a tortoise, a toothbrush holder, a wooden ship, a minature sliothar and a metal shovel that he has made over the course of the year. He bought a second-hand Scalextric set at a school fair and wired it up himself. He dug out an old Nintendo 64 that his brother used to have and worked out how to fix it. I sometimes thinks he was accidently switched at birth.

And now the Gaeltacht. Interestingly, he didn’t want to go to the one his brother has gone to for the last three years, but once his brother said he wasn’t going (he has a girlfriend now) he was quite happy to go there. Again, he seemed too young, sitting all on his own on the coach with his head barely visible at the window, but apparently the older ones were discussing whether the eldest son would be coming. “Are you talking about Tinson 1?” he piped up, “because I’m his brother.”

He seems to have no fears anymore. He is sweet, kind, thoughtful and almost always good-tempered. He has a very dry, and very funny, sense of humour.

He’s just great.

Look Around, and You’ve Grown

My eldest son starts his first job tonight, as a lounge boy in the pub I drink in. He went off this morning with his CV (an exercise in padding that would make the Michelin Man look thin), spoke to the owner by himself and was accepted.

He’s sixteen. Where the hell did it go. I remember so clearly the night he was born. He wasn’t due for another eight days.I had just finished working on a panto I was writing for the drama group I was part of at the time. It was about half-past ten, so I decided I would go for one drink to help me sleep. As I was saying this to my wife I looked at her and thought “she’s twice the size she was this morning”, so when I drove to the end of my road, instead of turning right to the pub I went left to the garage and filled the car with petrol. At 2am, when she suddenly leapt out of bed, I was still wide awake. I remember the drive in, and how I broke the speed limit deliberately in the hope I would be stopped by the Guards so I could say “sorry, but my wife’s having a baby.” I remember how the two of us kept giggling as we were walking up and down the corridors, scared and thrilled at what was about to happen. I remember it becoming daylight outside as Mrs Tin fought with the contractions in the ward, refusing an epidural, as indeed she would with the next two as well. Most of all though I still remember the shock when his face appeared. We’ve been told that we look alike, but that first look at what was essentially me looking at me was something I’ll never forget. There was never going to be any problem feeling a bond with him after that.

The three-and-a-half years that he was an only child were just brilliant. He was an exceptionally happy baby, waking up singing every morning in his cot and then bursting into a big beam when I’d peer in at him. I remember his first few words, and the morning he started calling “Mamadada” from his cot, which I count as his first sentence, since by using the two words instead of one he was clearly saying “I don’t care which of you comes & gets me, but one of you shift your arse.”  He could talk before he was one, but couldn’t walk till he was nearly two – again, just like his dad. I remember freezing Saturday mornings walking him in his pram around Delgany and Greystones, stopping at now extinct farms to look at the horses and the hens. He loved buses and trains, and it made the day if he saw either on our journey. He had a toy bin lorry, and on Thursdays he would stand in the front garden with his little lorry and wave at the binmen as they came by.

At around Christmas we told him there would be a baby coming in April. He spent the next few months asking was it April. This became awkward when it was April, and we had to tell him it wasn’t, since his brother didn’t arrive till the 23rd. That morning, at 5am (do babies have no idea of time?) I went in to call him. “You have to get up, Mum’s going to the hospital to have the baby,” I said. “Is it April?” he asked sleepily. “Yes, son, it’s April,” I answered. He swung his little legs straight out of the bed and stood up, and I almost burst into tears. I felt so terribly guilty for the fact that we were about to change his life forever, that he would never again be the sole focus of our lives. I felt we were betraying him.

Of course, it wasn’t like that, he got on great with his brother, though the fact that he got a surprise (for all of us) sister just 18 months later meant that he effectively became an only child again, just with two annoying smaller people in the house.

Since then there’ve been many, many more memories – his first day at school (he was so shy), his football career (again, like his dad, he loves all sport and is rubbish at most of them), the time he won a musical statues game in Ibiza at the age of about nine, his first trip to the Gaeltacht. I remember one day he was walking through the living room and I was walking the other way. I picked him up, walked about four steps, and put him down again. “Now you know what time travel is like,” I told him.

Later came his first discos (I used to bring himself and his two mates in the car and the smell of three different brands of Lynx would make my eyes water). They’d end at 11.30 and sometimes he’d be out the door at 11.30 and seven seconds. “Didn’t score, huh, son?” I’d say. “Shut up, dad, ” he’d wittily reply. I’ve always been able to slag him, and he takes it really well.

He’s done well at school, though they say he could try harder. He astonished me, and proved that he’s not just my clone, by coming first in science every year to Junior cert, and now in physics this year. “Science?” I said the first year, ” you couldn’t have, I was crap at science.”

He has a lovely girlfriend, pretty, open and bright, and I’m proud to see that a girl like her would like him.

When I said earlier that he would no longer be the focus of our lives, I wasn’t of course talking about Mrs T, who is the ultimate helicopter mum (hovering about him). A couple of weeks ago he brought his girlfriend out for dinner in Greystones, about a 15 minute walk away. Later the phone rang, and my daughter and I heard Mrs T’s half of the conversation, which went “no, I won’t collect you, ” and “don’t be ridiculous, it’s only a short walk.” She hung up and scornfully said “he wanted me to collect them & drive them up here coz they’re both stuffed after their dinner” she said. “Did you ever hear anything so stupid.” While she was ranting I noticed she was putting on shoes. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Er, well, I’m going to collect them, ” said Mrs T. My daughter & I just fell around.

And tonight he’s starting work. It’s the next big step along the road, and I hope it goes really well. He’s a great guy, earnest, honest, determined, funny. Sometimes he’s an idiot. But we are so very, very proud of him.