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I'm normally more normal than this

I walk through the door, slipping on their front step and forget to speak to the humans first. Why is it that dogs are so magnetic? Why do I forget that people expect communication when I enter their home?

Further in and I swing my bag away from the tantalising hall table, kneeing myself with it and sheering off like I've been at the whisky. Luckily, they don't see this; only the dog sees it, and we are already friends.

Later, what seems like much later, (it's been 5 minutes), I am seated at a table with a young human who needs expert help with their educational problems. What they get instead is an expert eccentric who wants to help them enjoy learning. With time, we meet somewhere in the middle.

Poetry looms - I always start with poetry, it breaks down barriers as well as the spirit of recalcitrant teenagers. Then we argue over how many words are too many and I am accused by more confident students of being harsh, I am not harsh, blame Dickens.

I smile at their parents,…
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It's not my birthday

Un-birthday, non-birthday, just another day - all of them sound better than saying, 'It's my birthday'.
Birthdays are regular, inescapable events that roll round, bringing with them the equally regular and inescapable expectations of other people.
"What are you doing for your birthday?"
"What are you getting for your birthday?"
"Are you treating yourself? We went away to Paris for my birthday and next year I'm getting Jim an experience day on a helicopter."
I know that last one is quite specific, but people do very specific, special things for their birthday, often trying to top what has gone before or create dramatic experiences to celebrate coming, screaming into this world.
For my birthday I am always reminded of the Hobbit approach to birthdays where the birthday person is expected to arrange a big party for everyone and buy presents for all the people in their life. I actually like (LOVE) the idea of giving other people presents inst…

I'll build myself a house I can live in.

It's easy. I need these long ones for the base and the fat little square ones can be the corners, just there. Try some of the thin pieces and let's see if I can make a window happen without it falling in.

No? Well, I can use these square ones again and make a lumpy house with gaps for windows - all windows are different, after all. And then I have to think about the roof. Every house needs a roof.

Gripping the wide pieces - I only have two of those - I try to set them atop the rest and then it might look like somewhere I could live, or pretend to live. Tip them too far and they fall, drop too fast and they take the rest of the house apart. It takes dexterity to set them slowly and carefully on top of those square blocks I had to use because the other ones didn't seem to stay together.

Almost finished and it occurs to me this house has only one low storey and owes a lot to early man, if he had been able to paint everything he used in bright primaries. (Maybe he did and it …

Do not compose yourself

Composing anything about myself is harder every year, now that I care less about being composed.

Not-caring, losing the dogged self-consciousness lingering endlessly from the teenage years, is perilously close to freedom. But, as in any good story, the road to freedom is paved with many obstacles and exciting quests, and one of those quests is Do Not Compose Yourself.

This means not holding in the errant word or the spontaneous deed or the moment on leaving when you fall upon the step; or even the moment coming in when you ignore the humans because you like the dog better.

Do not be someone else, because to compose yourself means to create something new, to arrange the muted and unmuted parts into a creature made, considered, worked out by a hand quivering above the page.

Be the same old music. Fall over the step without fear - you are good at falling and mostly catch yourself on the way down. Say hello to the dog first, he is the most pleased to see you and it's a mutual love.


Doing the easy stuff

I've tried really hard this week. (I sound like I'm writing myself a school certificate).

Amanda tried really hard this week - well done!

I'd walk out of school, gripping it tight - but not too tight, I don't want it to crease - and it would be stuck on the fridge at home so I would know I tried really hard, and had it recognised.

As adults, we don't often get certificates, and if we do they are usually for something much more concrete like Level 1 Diploma in Animal Husbandry or Certificate in Pond Digging (intermediate). Compliments take the place of the gold star or the school achievement papers. We try and sometimes people say we've done well, they're proud of us, they care.

Problem is, as adults we are expected to do well without trying. Actually, no, I'm getting ahead of myself : we're expected to cope with normal life without trying. The difference between these two is a chasm sometimes.

I did well today. I managed mostly everything, and also …

Cats and Wolves and Call Centres

I have a self-imposed rule for dealing with call centres. The first is never to call them until the wolf is at the door. The second is to make the wolf wait til after 11am (no matter what time I get up, pre-11am is the dead zone). I've learnt from bitter experience that not following these rules ends up in mistakes and being treated like I'm 92.

Cue a call this morning. I'd been up half the night so my reasoning was to get it over with as waiting til after 11 wasn't likely to improve me in any way. Logic is great, except when it's based on 3 hours sleep.

I took it slowly, spelled everything, twice - I'm Cumbrian, and only the Irish and Indian call centres have any idea what I'm talking about. I was almost at the home straight and then...

I was asked for an 8 digit security word. It turns out I don't know any 8 digit words at all. Not one.

I sat there with tumbleweed blowing through while she helpfully repeated the request, as if I hadn't understood…