The Dentist

By the time I was 17, I’d had five years of braces, all four wisdom teeth taken out and two root canals, which were the result of my over-zealous orthodontist and his too-tight braces.  Anyway.

Like lifts, if I were afraid of dentists, I’d be screwed.  I’m not afraid of them.  Even with all my previous ‘work’, I hadn’t had a regular old lay-off-the sugar-please cavity, until my new dentist found two last month.

I know the difference between good dentists and bad dentists.  I liked my old one.  My new one is a sadist.

The only time I read tabloids is when I’m in a waiting room.  I was flipping through one on Monday, not particularly nervous.

I wasn’t bothered at all until they called me in.  While I transferred from chair to chair, the dental assistant put her hands on me. On my hips.  Without asking.  Now, I have a, shall we say, Can You Touch This? Questionnaire.

It goes like this:

Did I ask you to help me?

Are you any of the two people who made me?

Do I like you?

Are we friends?

Have we drank/laughed/slept together?

Are you my boyfriend?

If you can’t answer Yes to any of these questions, don’t touch me.  Even to help.  Because I lose my balance when people grab me.  Which doesn’t help.

I told her to let go and got into the chair.  And the dentist said ‘Well done!’ as if I was 3, and not nearly 30.

Getting back to the reason for my visit, even the novocaine jabs hurt, and most of it apparently landed on my tongue.  And I think the dentist got a little to drill-happy.  She said at one point, ‘Oh, look!  There’s still some left!’, and started drilling some more.

And I know that dentists like to talk to you when you can’t really speak.  I was expecting to nod in agreement when she said the weather was turning colder.  But she didn’t mention the weather.  She was more interested in how I took a shower in the morning.  With soap and water, like everyone else.    I didn’t smell of anything except maybe fear, so she had no reason to know my morning routine.

When she finally finished inflicting all kinds of pain, she asked, ‘How are you?’

‘…’Ine.  Ow ur oo?’   I then found my tongue, and said that what just happened was worse than two root canals.  It would have been better if she hadn’t slept through Small Talk 101 in dental school.

I went to the desk to get my 6 month appointment card.  And the receptionist asked if I lived in ‘sheltered housing’.   All housing is sheltered.  The walls, windows and roof keep my boyfriend and I sheltered from inclement weather and ignorant people.  Thanks so much for asking.  Have a nice day.

I came home and watched this.  Even though it hurt to laugh.

The Chair

And so, I switch off the computer and my eyes fall on my favourite chair.  Currently piled with duvets and a guitar, it is wedged between a loveseat and a laundry rack.  A penguin is perched on the loveseat, propped up by pillows and the last publically visible box in the house.  This is half of the office.  The half I can conveniently turn my back on while typing.

But I miss the chair.  It started out as my Grandfather’s favourite place to recline while calling out answers to Fifteen to One, or words on Countdown.


The Chair, in flat Number 2.

Many nights were spent watching baseball with Dad and Gramps relaxing in the same position, with their hands clasped behind their heads.  One night I noticed this and wanted to take a photo.  I then realised I’d been holding my hands the same way.  And I didn’t want to move.

I’d sit next to Gramps and read aloud the letters he received from old friends.  And write his Christmas cards as he dictated news in lines short enough to fit on them.  More often than not, there’d be actual snow falling outside as we went about this annual ritual.

I like Fall for many reasons. Fall allows you to be functionally nostalgic and cry into your coffee and possibly bewilder your boyfriend while also providing stuff to look forward to.  Stuff like Hallowe’en and Christmas, for example.

When I started to live in places that weren’t University halls of residence, the chair followed me.  I’d cover it with an alternating collection of throw rugs, which up until then I didn’t see the point of.  CJ and I would fight over which one of us would get to curl up on it.  She’d call a truce by jumping up on my lap or onto the top of the chair, guarding me the same way her ancestors and Kodi the dog guarded my Gramps.

In my last flat, I put the chair in front of my favourite window and officially proclaimed it The Reading Chair.

Sitting down in the chair and opening a book was a sign of sundown for me.  When I had a new stack of books to start reading, I could not wait to sit in the chair and see which book grabbed me first.

Without actually meaning to I bought four books for five pounds at two second hand shops this weekend.

I think I’ll liberate the Reading Chair and start reading one or three of them.

Switch Off to Switch On

Remember when I said I couldn’t write in clutter?  Well, I’ll add to it.  I now believe the people who tell you not to write on a computer connected to the Internet.  Because writing doesn’t happen.  Facebook happens.

I used to say I couldn’t write without music on, either.  Now when music is on, I can’t hear myself.  I get so caught up in the next song, and then the next one, I forget the next word and then they stop altogether.

And so, I’ve started to switch the computer off.  The office is set up with my desk, and Sarge’s desk, our laptops and his printer.  And I write in the living room or kitchen.  In a notebook, a real one with pages and lines.  I’m currently writing in three real notebooks.  I write every day, and my writing day starts when I switch the computer off.  There is now a difference between writing time and typing time.  The longer the computer is off the more there is to type when I switch it back on.

Try it.  The Internet will still be there when you get back.

Feels Like Home


''I Love Lucy
Image via Wikipedia

Sarge and I went back to Glasgow for my best friend’s birthday dinner last weekend.  After my gift-buying mission was complete and we went here for more vanilla (and hazelnut and gingerbread) coffee syrup, we went to my favourite coffee shop in my old neighbourhood.

I lived around the corner from it, and it must have seemed like I held court there.  This is the place where I met friends, laughed, gossiped, waited and wrote.  I looked out onto the street and scribbled

what I saw, listened and noted what I heard.  I ordered a vanilla latte and took a photo of it while waiting for it to cool.

My time there reminded me of Friends, only with better music and without Joey.

It was the setting for my epic first date with Sarge, nearly a year ago.  We’d had lunch and then walked in the rain, finding refuge at my favourite table.  We left five and a half hours later, high on caffeine and life.

Sarge dropped me off at my front door; I went up to my flat and defrosted a pizza.  And then threw up.   Maybe in early solidarity with Sarge, who hates cheese.  Maybe I knew I’d had a day-long, epic last first date.  Maybe both.

Fast forward to Saturday.   Same coffee shop, same table, different conversation.  And as I sat there and listened to the music, I might have had a moment.  I might have teared up a little.  And if anyone asks, I might blame my tears on PMS.

I had more happy moments sitting at a table amongst my friends, making plans to do it again.  I was grateful for the fresh night air and being out in it with people I love and who make me laugh.  Even the taxi driver was in a cheerful mood.  We went home to my Dad’s and an air mattress on the floor.  I love that mattress.   No, I really do.  I imagine watching me get up from it is like something from an I Love Lucy episode.  And I love Lucy.

Pancakes were on the table and show tunes on the stereo on Sunday.  And I might have had another moment.  I won’t blame the PMS.

We went back through my old neighbourhood on the way to the train station.  Thought about stopping for coffee, and then said we’d have one at home.  One with hazelnut syrup in it.  Make that two.

My Top Ten Books & Authors


Cover of "The Crow Road"
Cover of The Crow Road


I’m going to add this as a page, but I also thought it could be a post.   Some links contain spoilers, but they are there if you want to click them!

(Some of) My favourite books:

The Crow Road

by Iain Banks

The Catcher in the Rye

by J.D. Salinger

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

Grace Notes

by Bernard MacLaverty

Emotionally Weird

by Kate Atkinson

American Pastoral

by Philip Roth

Sense and Sensibility

by Jane Austen

Spring Snow

by Yukio Mishima

Oracle Night

byPaul Auster

And I also think The Road should be required reading for everyone.

I’ll quite happily read everything these people write:

Paul Auster, Haruki Murakami, Michael Chabon, Douglas Coupland, Amy Tan, Alice Hoffman, Augusten Burroughs, A.L Kennedy, Isabel Allende and Jonathan Safran Foer.

What are your favourites books?

You talkin’ to me?

I went to an interview type thing today.  This involved wearing something that isn’t a sweatshirt and getting on the bus.

Now, regular readers will know that I am newish to this city.  And not the best with directions.  I travel with people so I don’t get lost.  I choose not to get lost.  I choose to have a PA, or Sarge, with me when I don’t know where I’m going, or even when I do.

I do go places on my own.  These days, such places must be seen from my flat windows.  If I can see it, I know how to get back.  I am not confined to my house, or my chair.  Nor am I afraid of the world.  Quite the opposite.

It’s just that more often than not, the world is physically inaccessible to someone on wheels.  And therefore, I choose to have someone help me with steps and traffic and buses that don’t stop, even when I have hit the stop siren.  Because I want to get off the bus.  Maybe I have an interview to go to, or the rest of my life to get on with.

I should say at this point that as well as a people-watcher, I am an eavesdropper.  And sometimes I hear strangers talking about me.  If people feel the need to voice their opinions and pass judgement on me, the least I can do is remember it to record later.  Perhaps on a blog.

This is what I heard on the bus today:

Lady (term used loosely) 1:  Is she on her own?

Lady 2:  No, of course not.  How could she be?  That other one is in charge of her.

Excuse me?  The only one in charge of me is me.  Just because I choose to have someone with me does not mean I am not in charge of myself.  It isn’t my fault that the world is inaccessible to my wheels.  The wheels I need to live my life.  The life that I am in charge of.

I wanted to wave my CV in these ladies’ faces.  Because I happened to have it with me.

Hey girls, see these Universities?  These offices?  That’s where I’ve been.  All by myself.  Uphill both ways, to use your lingo.

But I didn’t.  I learned from a young age to pick my battles.  Because I’ve had more of them to pick from.

I used to tell people I fell off the back of a motorcycle.  The people who would look at me walk and then ask my parents what was wrong with me.

Nothing, they’d say.

And then I would tell them I fell of the back of a bike.  It’s not that I’m ashamed of the CP, but when I was younger I liked to watch people’s faces as they tried to picture a kid on a motorcycle.

Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

When I was about 7, I was walking up the incline in a movie theatre, in front of these whispering old ladies (not unlike the ones on the bus today); who must have thought it was interesting to see this not-too-short person walking with crutches.  And I fell.  On purpose.  It was perfect, as if in slow motion.  I fell backwards and made it look like I hit my head, which I didn’t.  All of a sudden these three faces were staring down at me, and I smiled.  I got myself up and went out with my Dad, who till then wasn’t sure what I was doing.  Behind me I heard:  See Barb, I told you she was going to fall!

I turned and said:  And I heard you, too.

I said no such thing today, just got off the bus and on with my life.  Laughed about it, even.

I’m even allowed to write about it.  Because I said so.  And I’m in charge.