Get that monkey off your shoulder
ANOTHER day, another couple of passwords to come up with, and to forget almost as soon after.
I can cope – just – with regularly used security codes... for a while. They quickly get burned on to my brain.
But just as quickly as I have learned my password at work, I am asked to change it. That happens every three months or so, and sooner if the IT bods have to do a little jiggery pokery and need to know how to get on to my computer. After I have shared a password, I must set a new one.
There are five social networks to log into occasionally, each with its own password (I was warned by a security expert never to use the same one for different applications) and half a dozen more for special "press section" access for work-related websites I visit regularly.
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Add in the security log-in on my phone and my home computer and the list grows. I haven't touched on the passwords that come into play for online shopping and banking and insurance.
For most I do what I guess most people do: use a basic password, customised for each application. I try to tweak each password with the addition/ subtraction of a letter or two from the website's title.
Some sites pass judgment on my efforts. "Low security" they will warn, or demand: "passwords must be at least eight characters". So I add a punctuation mark here or there.
And I forget where.
And then when I go back to the site I am prompted to give the name of my first pet (did I use the name of the tortoise I shared with my brothers when I was eight or was it the name of the cat, my first "solo" pet?) or my memorable date (was it my wedding anniversary, my wife's birthday or my daughter's birthday?).
Eventually I guess correctly and am sent an email prompt with a new password, which then has to be changed to yet another new security code.
The worst case is that I fail utterly and have to phone the helpline (the larger and more successful the organisation, the fewer people man the phone), wait on hold for an hour – and then am told that a new password will be sent.
And so every day and another password or two, especially as I spend more time searching for bargains online and am pushed into registering each time I shop.
It is also much easier in the real world of metal locks on doors and boxes. If only I could remember where I put the car keys.
WHEN I'm not spending my time dealing with the aftermath of the crazy antics of an 11-year-old boy I'm pondering what to buy him for his imminent birthday.
By the time he has blown out the candles on his cake, the run-up to Christmas will be gathering pace.
Two presents to buy and one dilemma: what can I get him that is indestructible and cheap?
What he doesn't break he loses or leaves out in the rain. What he covets costs a fortune.
The problem occupied me as I attacked the undergrowth which passes for our garden and hauled the mound of twig and timber off to a quiet corner.
My thoughts were interrupted by an eager young voice.
"Can I help?" he asked.
Help? Good God; presents must be on his mind, too, I reckoned, until he asked his follow-up question: "When are you lighting the bonfire?"
Ah, yes; boys are like moths to a flame.
He spent the whole evening burning sticks, lighting torches and cooking food on the bonfire.
He will never eat the skin of an oven-baked potato but he devoured ever scrap of the bonfire-charred spud. "That's epic," he said, and I had to agree. I'd forgotten how good a smoky, crusty baked potato is, oozing with butter and eaten in the dark.
He had no interest in the flickering of a TV screen that evening. He had eyes only for a dancing flame.
The next day he raked over the coals and got enough heat out to toast some marshmallows.
So that's his present list sorted: a kilo of King Ed's, two packets of marshmallows, an old newspaper, a pile of kindling and a box of matches.
Umm... maybe I'll hold on to the matches. I don't fancy chargrilled furniture.
CHESTER Zoo has opened up its enclosures so business bosses can learn from the monkeys and apes.
The management course encourages the big beasts of the office to learn from their primate cousins.
A key thing for the bosses to learn is "when power works, when hierarchy works – and when dominance is not effective", according to the man running the course, biologist-turned-leadership expert Patrick van Veen.
Which reminds me of the monkey school of management, which a headteacher explained to me a couple of decades ago.
"Picture this: you don't have problems or workload, you have monkeys on your shoulders," he said.
"Whenever your boss calls you into a meeting he is trying to offload one of his monkeys on to your shoulders. What you must do is get one of your monkeys on to his shoulder instead. Job done."
That's a philosophy which has served me well. And now shared, it's a weight off my shoulders.