What’s in a picture : Number 16?

Good Friends

I don’t have friends.

That’s not inviting the sympathy vote or asking for any, it’s just how it is.

I find people hard to cope with so whilst I have work colleagues who I like and get in with, I don’t count them as friends. We don’t hang out, you know?

But holidays and travel throw up different types of relationships. For a set period you are thrust together with (hopefully) like minded people with whom you share a common interest. And out of that can grow a friendship that, even if you don’t see each other again, means that you keep in touch.

Jenny and Peter are from New Zealand and shared our houseboat in Kerala during those magical times on the backwaters. This picture is 4 years old now and we haven’t seen them since we spent 17 days in their company. But I’d like to think we are friends and we exchange regular emails and Christmas cards. We had good times and shared a lot of laughs during our time together.

In 1990 I went to India for the first time. As I’m a Patrick I suppose it was only natural I bonded with a Patrick and a Patricia who were on the same trip. Patrick passed away in February this year but ever since 1990 and hopefully for years to come, we’ve exchanged Christmas cards and I’ve sent them journals of my travels.

A trip to Sri Lanka in 1997 saw me meet Jeff and Inga from Sweden. It was Jeff’s surname that caught my attention as he stated it with one of my favourite footballers. Turned out he was the players Uncle and so it was perhaps inevitable that we got talking and a friendship developed. Again they’re another couple I would say are friends now rather than just people I met on holiday.

So I do have friends. They may not be your friends. They aren’t close bosom buddies who I go to the pub with or socialise with but they are friends. In fact they’re the best kind of friends, the distant kind, the kind I can give back, undemanding of me, non-intrusive and not those who expect anything from me other than a card or the occasional email.

Yes, I have friends.

Just not close ones, geographically or emotionally.

And that’s fine.

One size does not fit all

The square peg in round hole.

One thing I have noticed since I started work is that very few places treat you as an individual. Conformity to an expected set of standard or ideas is the rule.

And when you are Autistic it doesn’t work that way.

Take my current role.

I have so many leave days per year. If I have nothing specific planned like a big holiday, then I will take some time at Christmas (to avoid total burnout) and work one day less a week for a while to give me longer weekends. I will also carry the maximum number of days forward.

There’s little more damaging to me than being forced into taking leave for the sake of taking leave. What’s the point?. Time off with no clear plan is painful to me. I sit at home thinking I could be at work and doing something. I’m not good at relaxing or whatever it is NTs do…and I don’t have any DIY jobs or gardens to tend to.

So I hate being forced into taking time off.

But they do not get it. They think I’m gaining some sort of advantage by not taking time off, that I’ll have more leave than them. But I won’t. I’m not asking to carry more leave over than I’m actually entitled to. On the contrary I’m doing more work than I’m contracted to and saving them money.

The NT view is that we are all the same and that rules have to be applied fairly to all. Whilst the latter is true and rules should be fair I’m asking for appreciation that I’m not one of them but an individual. I’m not asking for special treatment but an understanding that forcing me to do A or B is detrimental to my health.

Forcing me to take X% of my leave by an arbitrary date is also unhelpful. What’s the significance of the percentage or the date?. If my NT colleagues want leave then they can have it. I’m certainly not stopping them.

I’d also like to be treated like an adult. I’d like to think that I can read a calendar and see my colleagues leave and work around them, not have to be organised by a third party and ordered around. I’d like to think I’m responsible and sensible but perhaps I’m not and I really do have to be hammered into the round hole like all the others.

So, one size does not fit all. Another frustrating Autistic experience.

I’m sure there will be many more!.

In XXXXX we trust


It’s a small word but such an important one. We want to trust our partners, our children, our employers, those who look after our money or our legal affairs, and we want to trust our politicians.

Trust is in short supply. We are worn down by lockdown and the news that we…want to trust? but are not sure we can. Trust that’s been eroded by bias or failures to ask the right questions.

So who do we trust?. I’m guessing that the list is getting smaller. I don’t trust a celebrity to tell me how to keep fit any more than I trust financial advice from Spongebob Squarepants, although I understand that the Bikini Bottom Bank does have an attractive interest rate on its accounts! ..probably because they’re offshore!

The Cummings affair has demonstrated most clearly that trust in politicians, what they say and what they do, has sunk once more.

I understand defending a person but you can’t defend the indefensible and that’s what Boris is doing. The saga might have blown over if Cummings had said, “I’m sorry, it was stupid of me” instead of his self-righteous indignation at being caught and his “I’m better than you and more important than you” attitude.

We have been trusted to observe lockdown. We have been trusted not to bend the rules and although some have broken that trust they’ve been a tiny minority of people.

We trust our leaders to be honest. They’re not. We trust them to have principles. They don’t. We trust them to lead by example. They haven’t. We trust them to sack those abuse our trust in them. They won’t.

Sadly this episode, one in which trust in each other has been paramount, and one in which we should all have pulled together as one and trusted each other because we had to, in order to save each other, has now gone the other way.

It’s turned into something far worse, an exercise in untrustworthiness in people who should have lead by example, who could have lead by example and yet who failed miserably.

They say you have to earn people’s trust.

As it stands I think that will be a long time in coming…or did I mean Cummings.. ?

My lockdown trauma

It started on a Tuesday.

Don’t ask me which one because now every day seems like a Tuesday …or a Saturday…or a Thursday.

But it was a Tuesday in mid March.

I went into work to be told I shouldn’t have been there, that we were going into lockdown and that I’d be working from home when they could dredge me up a laptop.

And why had I gone in when others hadn’t?. I’d gone in because, oh gosh, I don’t look at Facebook each morning before work so I’d missed the “don’t come in” message in the newly formed work group. Of which I was not a member!. Good eh?

Now working from home is the Autistic dream, right?. Wrong. Well maybe. Perhaps. If you have got space and everything’s arranged as you want it and you feel…ready. Which I’m not. Or was. Am still?. Probably.

So, desk…okay, kitchen table into front room. Laptop, a few notes I grabbed from work..bingo.

I’m a tax adviser who works with elderly and vulnerable adults and sorts out their tax issues for them. I work for a charity and it’s technical stuff. You get some very angry people, you get some very distressed people and although as a charity we only help those on low incomes you also get the person who earns £100K per annum ring up and treat you like shit because hey, you’re open and their accountant isn’t!

Such is life.

I do the emails of which there are lots. I answer the phone which rings many times. I check our volunteer networks advice records and I work my arse off trying to get the job done.

I work 9.00 to 4.30 Monday to Thursday. Or I did.

Lockdown arrives and I now work, or check in, every day even bank holidays and weekends. I log in earlier to avoid being submerged as I try to do two peoples jobs and not met the side down. and yeah, I’m overdoing it.

But the trouble is that it’s always there!. It’s several feet away from me. I don’t leave work because work never leaves me.

Our head of Trustees tells me I’m doing a great job from her second home in France. My colleagues talk about their gardens and summer houses.

I look around a damp, dilapidated flat I rent and thank them for their insensitivity. I don’t have a home as such, nor a garden and certainly not a summer house!.

We get emails telling us we must take annual leave or lose it. I wonder where I will take my annual leave and if I require my passport if I should travel so far as the bedroom. I don’t like taking pointless leave because having nothing to do just makes my mental health worse than usual but my structures deteriorated alongside that so I find this email threatening and unwelcome.

My partners self employed but can’t work as she looks after vulnerable people. We do a bit of shopping for them and collect their newspaper but that’s about all we can do to help.

So she is home 24/7. In the same room, watching tv whilst I try and work. She never goes out apart from shopping so I have to force myself out everyday to escape her because, as much as I care about her, this just isn’t healthy.

We argue a lot. I still give her money every month from my salary and she’s got stuff in the bank and she gets paid for the shopping and paper collecting. But suddenly I’m paying for our shopping on a weekly basis instead of us paying and now I’m hundreds of pounds down. The COVID grant she gets as a self employed person more than covers what she’s lost so far yet I’m out of pocket!.

My mental health deteriorates. My partners Mum dies on Easter Saturday with COVID 19. Now a friend dies from Cancer. I stab myself and start self harming again because I feel so suffocated, so trapped by it all.

We argue more. About money, about her lack of exercise, about the fact she watches tv whilst I’m trying to get my head around people’s tax codes and capital gains tax!.

I try and eat healthily but it’s become a diet of pizza and chips. Cheap as chips. A cheap meal. Smoothie for breakfast, no lunch, dinner as above. My diabetes is probably rampant but I don’t want to check it. I don’t want another failure to add to my already considerable list.

I drag my fibromyalgia ravaged body for miles around the fields. I jog. I do weights. Anything, well almost, to try and not put on weight and keep myself healthy in some aspects even if my diet says otherwise. It’s a losing battle but I keep doing it.

I don’t sleep. I’m up and down like a yo-yo and although I’m bone achingly tired I’m more likely to sleep through ‘The Repair Shop’ than in my bed. The will to live starts ebbing away.

And that’s where I am. Morale shot. In constant pain. Tired. Exhausted. Overdoing it. Disillusioned. Undervalued. Under appreciated. And now really hacked off about following the rules when others can’t. Social distancing when others can’t be arsed. Giving my all for others when others give nothing for me.

Oh, and my neighbour screams at his kid, day in, day out. or tells everyone about the Chinese plot to cull the world through COVID 19. Yeah, I have that to contend with as well.

If you made it to the end of this, thank you. Sorry it went on a bit.

It’s just that this has gone on a bit and I’m tired of it now. Very, very, very, very tired.

Stay safe. Stay well.

See you on the other side. Perhaps.

What’s in a picture : Number 16

Nothing to see here!

This is an unremarkable photograph.

Except in the sense that I was there when I took it. Except in the sense that I can close my eyes and still feel the heat in the sun as it shone down upon me.

Except that, if I close my eyes and then open them again I can lose the people and make the place mine and mine alone.

I love travel, you know that right? I mean I really love travel but just sometimes, people get in the way. Not all people and not all the time but just occasionally you want to snap your fingers and make everyone else vanish so you can have the time and space you want to walk through history at your own pace and sit awhile unbuffeted by the noise and the crowds who want that exact spot you are standing or sitting in.

I want to move at my own pace and feel I’ve had my fill of a place. Of course sometimes I spend too long in somewhere that isn’t really to my taste and then on other occasions I feel as though I get a snapshot of somewhere rather than the lingering panoramic view.

The Taj Mahal is infinitely preferable with 100 people rather than 10’000 and despite seeing it on three occasions I don’t think I’ve ever really had the opportunity to appreciate it. Too many snapshots and not enough movies.

So yes, people. People who get in the way, people who detract from your enjoyment, not maliciously or deliberately but just by being there.

And yes, they’re probably feeling the same way about me.

What’s in a picture : Number 15

Early one morning just as the sun was rising..

It’s that first morning.

The first morning when you pull back the curtains of your room and think to yourself, “We aren’t in Kansas anymore..”.

Most of my flights are overnight and lengthy so I’m usually arriving somewhere in the late evening or very early morning. It’s room, unpack and bed without seeing anything of the city or the place you are in.

And then you get up in the morning and realise there’s a heat in the sun as it comes up. A heat you don’t get back home. The city (I live in a rural town) comes alive before your eyes. Shopkeepers open up, the roads get busier (usually manic) and there’s a hustle and a bustle; a vibrancy about the place.

Through the windows you can hear cars moving and hear horns blaring and the general hubbub of life.

It’s that first shower and shave in a strange bathroom and the ritual checking of what you will need for the day; camera, money, hat etc. Picking the right clothes and realising that today you won’t be making breakfast because somewhere in the hotel that’s all being done for you.

It’s the first morning…and it’s magic!