And there we go.
1,500-odd words, and believe me, grouped together, some of those are pretty odd1 off to the proof-reader in Austria.2 Only yesterday, she informed me, as a friend, you understand, that I needed a better dotage.
OK. This is an inhouse term we use… in the house, actually. If we use it outside, people think we’re barmy – and rightly so, in my opinion.
Only the other day, I heard a woman recounting the tale of her Autistic Spectrum3 uncle and the things he’s added to their own internal family dialect. When he was happy he would exclaim “It’s a double-decker bus ride!” When he was sad, he would cry, in tones of misery “The hills are ALIVE with the sound of MUSIC!”
And I can see what he means.
Not, I hasten to add, that I am suggesting that Autistic folk are barmy. More that the neuro-typical amongst us may have a little more leeway in conventional expression, but still opt for codes which mark us out – possibly as people to move away from as quickly as possible.
Once upon a time, Mrs. B. and I had a shared office or study upstairs at the front of the house. It caught the afternoon sun nicely and was a great for watching the world go by when, in fact, I should have been working out Border Gateway Protocol problems and testing router password strengths (using White Hat hacker techniques, of course, for the benefit of the company I was contracting to. Officer.)
Then Our ‘deetha arrived. Eventually, we cleared out the small back bedroom, or Dumping Ground, as I informally termed it, and it became her nursery. Then she grew some more. It wasn’t an ideal nursery, anyway: the pipes from the boiler run beneath the floor and the evening temperature in the summer can reach an airless 27 or 28°C. The front office had to go. With a fair degree of sweating and complaining, I swapped two large, over-laden desks around the house – one to the downstairs front bedroom, the one which used to be a garage and is still insulated about as well, and the other into the back bedroom, which I took as my workspace.
It was at this point that Our ‘deetha started to learn to speak – she was getting on for three and it was about time. Eventually, the questions ‘where’s Mummy?’ and ‘Where’s Daddy?’ started to arise. I was sitting in the back bedroom, ‘playing’5 on the computer, as Mrs. B. would have it, when I heard Ardeetha ask “Where’s Daddy?”
As I called down, there was a sotto voce reply which had far too little in the sotto department, for somebody standing at the foot of the stairs.
“I think he’s in his dotage, sweetie,” muttered Mrs. B. as I called out “Here’s Daddy,” or something similar.
“Oohhhh. Daddy’s in his dotage!”
And off went our girl, happy with both a new word and the position of her acknowledged father.
Eventually, Mrs. B., hankering for space to put visitors and an inveterate house-stirrer and rearranger, demanded I move to join her in the freezing front office and turn my boiling back office into the small bedroom it was designed to be. I complied, holding my back theatrically.
However. In that time, I had quit the joys of IT and was now a full-time stay-at-home parent. Very similar6 to IT, but with even worse pay. I now worked from the kitchen when computer-stuff needed to be done. Left in single possession of the out-of-sight-out-of-mind ‘Mummy’s dotage’, Mrs. B. worked and gently scattered stuff. Stumbling out of there at the end of the day, tidying was not in her mind and, it being ‘her’ area, I didn’t go in to mess. Who wants a well-intentioned but uneducated-in-your-ways cleaner fiddling with the papers on your desk? I used to need a day t least to sort my stuff out again if somebody at work had tried that gag with my desk. I wasn’t about to bring that level of annoyance and acrimony-creating stupidity to my own hearth, etc, etc.
And then Mrs. B. had a brilliant idea. I’d just got the dining area sorted out very nicely. ‘Why’, she thought, ‘don’t I leave this messy, dusty, chilly office and go and work on the dining room table? I am Brilliant!’
This, however, puts her within hearing, very close hearing in fact, of me, in my dotage, in the kitchen.
Now, for me, writing is a lot like reading – mentally, at least. The brain has to sink down into the reality of the story; the world outside fades and there we are, slinking along behind a machete-carrying psycho-killer as they slide up to the Tumnus Household in the forests of Narnia7. Being asked to re-engage the brain to discuss details of a contract, or parking arrangements, or whether there’s WIFI now in Beatrix Potter’s house, or being asked to cha cha, is a real jolt and it takes time to get back into the flow – if you can remember where you were at in the first place.
My proofreader had more than the usual list of ‘I think you may have meant…’ entries; I explained the difficulties, adding “and my feet are cold on these floor tiles” to the list; she, in turn, informed, as a friend, you may remember, that I needed a better dotage. And the only dotage in town is the messy, stirred about, ex-garage, ex-downstairs front-bedroom, now ex-Mummy’s dotage.
Now. Would you think I was being paranoid, if I suggested that I’d suddenly had the suspicion that Mrs. B. had moved slightly, more irritatingly, closer so that I would see the gap and move in to clear the place out, at which point she could return to her rightful place, a place great for watching the world go by when, in fact, she should be digging into that exciting world that is contract management?
Who knows. Around here, neuro-typical is a feature: we try and work around it as best we can.
1Well I mean ’em to be, anyway.
2Isn’t globalisation wonderful?
3I know I mentioned the other day we have the condition as a feature4 of the family, but I don’t intend to go on about it too much. It’s just that the word ‘Austism’ does make the ears prick up. Once, it was ‘paragliding’ or ‘would you like a drink?’ which caught my attention. How life changes.
4As in the IT phrase ‘It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.’ that is, ‘a bug we couldn’t fix but we learned to cope with – here’s the workaround’. A bit like the way Gmail’s ‘five second undo’ feature arose from an approximately five-second delay in getting a sent mail processed. It was simply rebadged as a ‘hey, I forgot to say’ or ‘NOOOOO! I didn’t mean that, bring it BACK!’ device. True, as far as I know.
5I think I was re-purposing one of our old desktop tower systems as a Linux server with Samba, to allow the Windows boxes in the place to share the filesystem, but to the none techy, that’s playing. I am not bitter.
6There’s NEVER a manual when you need one, if things go wrong in public, it’s definitely your fault, no matter what you thought when you started the job, you are on call 24/7 and your working life is commanded by a person who really does have the intellectual and emotional capacity of a toddler. See?
7There’s some pretty weird fanfic out there.