Driving and Autism

I can drive.

You can drive? Are you sure you’re autistic?

Yes and yes! I learned to drive when I was 17. I found it extremely taxing (scuse the pun) due to having to take in verbal instruction – I didn’t know I was autistic but I did know that I couldn’t handle more than one verbal instruction at a time.

‘When you get to the end of the road, turn left, then your first right, then second on the left’.

*BRAIN SNAP*

After a few arguments, my (then) husband got the message that bombarding me with verbal instructions resulted in slamming of doors and tears. Sometimes I slammed doors and cried too, so he adapted his teaching technique – not that it worked all that well as my L plates spent more time flying through the air than they ever did attached to my car!

It was two years before I felt ready to take my driving test. I had three lessons (in all) with a driving instructor. Unfortunately, as soon as I saw the name of the test examiner, my heart thunk-a-dunked because he’d failed my brother a decade earlier. The bloke had a reputation for giving teenagers the fail slip first time so I was on a downer before I even thrust my size 4 moccasin onto the clutch pedal. Also, I was taking the test in the instructors car which, in hind-sight was a mistake because I had learned to drive in my Mini-Metro..

Long story short, I failed and instantly regretted not putting the examiner’s head through the windscreen on the emergency stop. However, I now understand the role that unfamiliarity played in me failing the test.

In contrast, I took the second test in my own car and it was a piece of piss, as the saying goes.

Independance

Learning to drive was difficult for me, but I was determined to drive because I struggled with public transport. Lesser evil, right? With me, it’s always been a case of one fear overriding another. However, getting myself from A to B is a different matter entirely. For example: A recent 20 minute trip to Hobbycraft involved me ‘driving’ the route via Google street maps, even down to checking out the exit route in the car park. It took minutes, but it was necessary in order to familiarise myself with the route.

I establish routines and end up going to the same shops and parking in the same places which makes my world safe, but small. But my problems are generally around directions. I’m shit at them, even with satellite navigation. In fact, my sat-nav’s most commonly used command is: ‘When possible, do a u turn’ or ‘Route recalculation’. One reason is I can’t judge distance very well. By that, I mean when I’m supposed to turn left in 350 yards. This is common with autistic people. The way around this is to use physical clues. My ‘life coach’ has ADHD and she counts the streets on her sat-nav so she knows when to turn. Where there is a will, there is a way, right?

Perception

Sometimes, I feel as if the car is moving faster (or slower) than the speedometer is reading. The perception of speed could be due to dyscalculia? Or anxiety. But, again, it’s common with autistic people in general.

Parallelophobia

I will hold my hands up and admit that I cannot parallel park and previous attempts have resulted in at least one tyre being on the kerb and me feeling like a tw@t. Hence, I’ll drive round the block ten times rather than try to parallel park! Thankfully, PP wasn’t compulsory when I took my test or I’d be on my 1000th attempt by now..

I can, however, reverse into a parking space on a car park. No probs!

The Law

Abiding by the law is important to me. For that reason, I had no problem learning the Highway Code – which in my day was basically a pamphlet. I don’t speed or park illegally and I get hella stressed as a passenger if other people break the law. Nor do I drive too slow, as crawling along a 50 mph road doing 30 is just as dangerous as driving too fast.

Despite my challenges, I’ve held a clean license for 30 years – aside a tea stain on my old paper one. I’ve adapted and overcome problems because being able to drive is my independence. The thought of having to phone for a taxi, then sit in a car and communicate with a stranger is equally as stressful as having to queue with the masses for a bus. Quite simply, if I couldn’t drive, I would turn hermit because public transport is generally too much for me – especially since my burnout.

Accidents Will Happen

I’ve yet to be involved in an accident as a driver, but it is a fear of mine and accidents do happen. Or is it collisions now? Either way, even the safest driver is at risk of some old timer’s slip-on jamming under the foot pedal resulting in a big dent in your rear end. I’m wondering if this is what happened recently when an old lady almost ran me over? Except it was my personal rear end that almost got dented. *still having the flashbacks*

I do worry about how I would cope in an accident as my brain malfunctions in an emergency. With this in mind, I keep a list of what to do in the glove compartment. I also have people listed as ‘ICE’ on my mobile phone. This is to aid the emergency services should I ever be unfortunate enough to find myself lodged in somebody’s bumper. Or they in mine..

In Case of Emergency (ICE) is a program that enables first responders, such as paramedics, firefighters, and police officers, as well as hospital personnel, to contact the next of kin of the owner of a mobile phone to obtain important medical or support information (the phone must be unlocked and working). The phone entry (or entries) should supplement or complement written (such as wallet, bracelet, or necklace) information or indicators. The programme was conceived in the mid-2000s and promoted by British paramedic Bob Brotchie in May 2005.[1] It encourages people to enter emergency contacts in their mobile phone address book under the name “ICE”. Alternatively, a person can list multiple emergency contacts as “ICE1”, “ICE2”, etc.- Wikipedia

Lots of autistic people drive, so don’t assume that a diagnosis will prevent you from learning. Anne Heggerty of The Chase fame passed third time. The bottom line is a person’s ability to drive.

Responsibility

The important thing to understand is that driving isn’t about propelling a car forwards. My lurcher could do it. (ish) It doesn’t make you a driver. It’s about making decisions and judgements which start with your own fitness to drive on any given day. This is why so many young people are involved in fatal collisions. They speed and overtake on bends for the thrill or to show off – totally oblivious to the potential consequences of their actions. These are the ones who kill others as well as themselves. I’ve never been that person. I don’t understand the mindset. But I have been a passenger in the cars of young men who are and all I can think was that they mustn’t have thought a whole lot about me to put my life in such danger.

I think that my autistic brain makes me a more conscientious (and safer) driver because I am hyper aware and my need to abide by the law means that I don’t speed or take unnecessary risks. I’m courteous and respectful and in that I am becoming a rare breed as too many people turn into ignorant arsewipes once their backside hits the driver’s seat. I will admit to the occasional flicking of the V’s to somebody whose abysmal driving puts my life in danger, but I’m only human, innit?

Need I remind you, 007, that you have a licence to kill, not to break the traffic laws.” Goldeneye

 

More Than a Movie..

My fascination with movies started in 1978 when I saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind – a film about aliens, aptly enough. I remember feeling scared, not about the movie, but of everything around me. The crowds. The smells. The cacophony of voices. The familiar feeling of wanting to be sick. The fear of vomiting in public.

I also remember the feeling in my chest as the lights dimmed and the cinema screen flickered into life for the first time in my life..

Cinema was very different in those days and for the young (and undiagnosed) autistic me it made for a conflicting experience because of the queuing, crowds, uncomfortable seating and divs using the back of my chair as a foot-rest. Not to mention the aroma of hot dogs and cigarette smoke! That said, once the film started I was able to lose myself in the fantasy – providing my bladder wasn’t too full, that is.

In contrast, last week I went to see The Crimes of Grindleward – a completely different experience because all of the above (aside hot dogs) has been eliminated. Even crowds, if you choose the earlier showing times.

I’d imagine that a lot of autists love watching movies, either at the cinema or at home. That’s because being able to lose ourselves in fantasy helps to make existence on this confusing planet a little more bearable, no? And when it comes to the wizarding world, I’d guess many autists identify with the ‘non-magical’ versus wizards’ concept because it’s not dissimilar to the NT versus autistic one.That’s not to suggest that we have magical powers, because we don’t. Unless you consider photographic memory a superpower? Or that there is a war between autistic and non-autistic. It’s just that ‘No Maj’s’ don’t understand the wizarding world and vice versa.

There are many autistic traits to be found in the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts films. I mean, Newt Scamander has many Asperger traits, despite no affirmation from J.K Rowling. Then again, the film is set in the 1920s so Newt wouldn’t have been diagnosed anyway. And while it can be said that Harry Potter himself isn’t an autistic character, one can empathise with the range of emotions he goes through when Hagrid informs him that, actually, he’s a shit-hot wizard and those things about himself that he never understood – such as his hair growing back overnight – suddenly make sense which is not dissimilar to receiving an autism diagnosis.

Aside the film itself, I consider the credits to be an important part of the experience, but time and time again I find that I am the only person remaining in my seat as the last credits scroll up. It’s always the same. The end of the film comes, the soundtrack kicks in and there’s a flurry of activity with people standing up, coats being put on and a general mass exodus towards the exits. Some people hang on for the crowds to disperse and then they get up and leave which just leaves me..

I always watch the credits. One reason is that I like to see the names of the people who made the film possible. Another is that I’m a music fan and there are often several pieces of music of soundtrack played during the credits. Also, there is often something extra mid-credits or at the very end. Some movies use bloopers and in others the post credit scenes are a crucial part because it ties the movie up or leaves the audience (or who ever is left) in a state of anticipation.

*SPOILERS WARNING* At this point I’m going to use UP and Christopher Robin as examples so if you haven’t seen those films and would like to, please scroll down beyond the italics.

In the case of the animated film, UP, the credit scenes flip through Carl’s photo album and we get to see the adventures he has with Russell and Dug. As we see in the film, this is what Ellie wanted him to do after she was gone. Blended with the beautiful (and award-winning) score by Michael Giacchino these scenes brings this movie to a pleasing end. Everything is tied up and you leave the cinema feeling happy.

A more recent example is Christopher Robin where, after a few minutes of credits, there is a little sequence where all the characters are having a dance and a sing-song on the beach where there is an old man playing a piano. The old man is no other than Richard Sherman, a nine time Oscar nominee and writer of some of the most memorable songs Disney ever made. It’s a sweet touch and one that many people never got to see because they left the cinema as soon as the credits started to roll.

If I hadn’t stayed for the Fantastic Beasts credits, I wouldn’t have heard the fantastic soundtrack. Or learned that Mr Depp had a small army of people pandering to his every need. Or that his scary contact lens had its very own technician.

Then, there’s the flip from fantasy to reality..

I would happily sit in the empty cinema long after the credits have finished because I need time to adjust from fantasy to reality. But that’s not possible when the cleaners are giving you the evils because they can’t start cleaning up until you’ve shifted your arse.

In my younger days, I would go home and reenact everything I saw and then I would work the characters into my world using their phrases, mannerisms and style. I know now that it was part of masking – of being somebody I wasn’t because I couldn’t be myself. In those days, I was more out of this world than I was in it – something which my mother would testify to, if she were alive. She always said that I never seemed to be here. She was right. I was far, far away..

I wish I could take the credit for this quote, but it comes from a fellow autist in response to an online post I made about staying until the very end of the credits. I think that many of us will identify with it.

Earth is simply where my body is tethered…

These days, I don’t go home, shut myself away and reenact. Those days ended when I realised that nobody else I knew did such a thing – not on their own anyway. Drama was never an option for me due to my social and communication problems. Not to mention, crippling anxiety. Any enjoyment of being able to become different characters would have been lost in the discomfort of everything else. And so it’s down to music, literature and the movies to take me away from life.

In the cinema, the endorphins flood my body. The feel good hormones. The ‘I can fucking do this‘ hormones!

Then the experience ends. I push open the exit door and reality slaps me in the face with atomic force.

The anxiety. The weariness. The disconnection.

I’d give anything to turn around and walk back into that darkened room because that room is my wardrobe into Narnia. It’s a portal to another world – a world that understands me.

Knitting to Relieve Anxiety

When I was little, I asked my mum for a knitting set. I can’t remember why I deviated away from my usual Enid Blyton books. I just remember that I did. I also remember not knowing what to do with it once I had it. Nor was there anybody at home who could teach me. Needles (intentional typo) to say – the set was relegated to the back of my wardrobe and eventually to the local jumble sale..

Fast forward a couple of years to primary school *twitch* to where knitting was compulsory. Sadly, any interest I had in learning the craft was over-shadowed by my debilitating anxiety..

Our first task was to knit a hat or mittens. We got to choose which so I chose the mittens. The other children were able to get on with their knitting but my brain wouldn’t retain the information on the paper in front of me and I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn’t always understand the instructions and I was too anxious to ask for help.

I understand now that it’s virtually impossible to learn a new skill when overwhelmed with anxiety. But in those days nobody knew that I was autistic. Not even me.

Eventually the weeks passed and we moved onto needlework. More needles! Oh. Joy.

This time I ended up being made to stand on my chair as one of the more sadistic teachers ripped my work to shreads (literally) in front of the entire class. Not for the first time in my life, I was humiliated. And it wouldn’t be the last time either. It was, however, the last time that I would be obliged to knit or sew as those crafts would become optional in high school.

On the negative side, metal and wood work were compulsory and I was shit at those too. 😦

Ten years later, my mother-in-law encouraged me to try knitting again and soon we spent many a happy hour knitting and nattering. It’s thanks to her that I was able to fall in love with the craft and overwrite those horrible memories of school.

40 years on from scholae horribilis, I can whip up a scarf or even a jumper as long as it involves the words ‘easy knit’ on the pattern. However, the problem with easy knitting is that it can be done on auto-pilot which means that there is plenty of room for Captain Crazy and the Psycho Platoon to march into my mind.

Knit. Knit. Knit. What’s that pain in my chest? Knit. Knit. Knit. What if I have a heart attack? Knit. Knit. Knit. What if the door is locked and the paramedics can’t get in? Checks tension. What if I can’t reach my phone? Knit. Knit. Knit. Is that asprin is in date..

You get me?

I figured I needed to challenge my brain, but patterns freak me out as numbers and sequencing = vacant face, though the common term is Dyscalulia.

The good news is that I was blessed with a stubborn-arse streak as well as my autistic brain. So last week  I found myself sauntering (I don’t saunter, but I like the word) over to the cash desk in the local craft shop clutching two balls of wool and a pattern for a fairilse hat. Yes, fairilse. When I go for it, I really go for it!

Long story short: it took me TWO DAYS (and much effings) to complete ONE INCH of effing fairisle, and that includes unpicking the effing thing SIX EFFING TIMES!!

The only way I could do the pattern was to write it down on note paper in a way that my frazzled brain can cope with. For instance, the pattern is twelves stitches (repeated) so I broke it down into three lots of four and ticked them off as I went along. I also have a stitch counter which is veeeeery stimmy. *drools*

Doing the pattern was time consuming but I was TOTALLY engrossed in what I was doing – therefore – no room for anxious thoughts. It means that the cycle of crazy thoughts was broken and that can only be a good thing. 🙂

For me, knitting is a very sensory experience and when done in a relaxed manner, it can be very beneficial to our health as well as our wardrobe. And it’s stimmy. While I’m click-clacking with my needles, I am not picking the skin off my lips. Or scabs off my skin. I know. I’m grotty innit?

I also like the different colours of the yarns because I am a colour freak. Me and colour is like tin foil to a cat! I recently had to prompt myself to move from in front of the Sirdar multi-coloured range as I was starting to drool. That, and the owner of the shop was giving me a funny look..

I especially love those yarns that change colour. It’s almost magical I tell you! But most of all is the sense of achivement in having created something that is not shite. It makes up for never having finished those frickin’ mittens at school. *TWITCH* Or everything else that I was unable to do or complete because of my anxiety.

Cor!

Knitting won’t cure me of my anxiety because I can’t change the rest of the world to suit me – as amazing as that would be. Anxiety is hardwired into me, along with autism. But I can see how it could cure anxiety in the non-autistic brain so maybe it’s worth digging out those long forgotten needles that have been gathering dust in the back of your wardrobe?

As for the little knitting set that ended up at the jumble sale? Well, I hope it found it’s way into the home (and hands) of a child who created something beautiful with it and that it was the start of a lifetime of creating beautiful things while watching Coronation street or Eastenders. Warms yer heart doesn’t it?

Or it ended up in landfill which is just as likely, but not as heartwarming. 😀

“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.”
Elizabeth Zimmerman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autism: The Dark Side

Generally, I have found autistic people to be supportive and friendly, but over the past few years it’s become apparent that the autistic ‘community’ has it’s fair share of.. how shall I put this?

Arseholes.

You see, there is this so called ‘war’ between the neurodiversity movement and the Autistic Dark Web and, believe me, dark is what you get. So switch on those SAD lamps, folks and I’ll take you to the dark side..

What is The Autistic Dark Web?

The Autistic Dark Web is a group of autistic people who find little or no positivity in being autistic and most would rip your arm off for a cure, though I doubt even they would thank you for a bleach enema! 😮

I visited the Dark Side recently and it was, erm, unnerving. It suddenly went icy cold and It was as if all the happiness had gone from the world.. or am I confusing it with the Dementors in Harry Potter?

How To Spot A Dark Webber

  • The rapid drop in temperature when you engage with one. (Brrrrrrr)
  • Dark images. (Menacing looking figures wearing hoodies)
  • Images of Buddah (Bit of a misnomer)
  • They often answer your question with a question. (Avoidance strategy)
  • You point out that they haven’t answered your question.
  • They belittle you by saying that ‘your’ effing inept at communication’.
  • You suggest they check their grammar before insulting others. (low blow, but what the hell)
  • They lose their shit and block you, but not before they call you a banker (intentional typo) one last time.

To be fair, some proponents of the Dark Side are able to debate without resorting to abuse. They are clearly articulate, but even then there is an air of superiority about them that prompts bile to reverse itself up one’s oesophagus and into the mouth. You get me?

But there is one subject in particular which has most dark webbers foaming at the keyboard and that is self-diagnosis.

Examples

“Stop speaking over autistic people. Plus stop promoting self diagnosis, it’s still dangerous.” ~ Twitter

I engaged with this delightful young lady and she called me a swear word that rhymes with punt. 😮

More?

“i dont get why people think they can self dx autism cuz when i was diagnosed they had to ask my mom about my early childhood that i dont remember at all” ~ Twitter

The professionals would have had a hard job asking my parents about my early childhood seeing as they were both dead. Aside nabbing the nearest medium and summoning them up via a seance – there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it either, but, surprise surprise, I still got a diagnosis.

How about this one?

“People give me headache. If someone tells you they felt ill for a decade and never addressed it save for adding it as selfidentity either they are lying or need to be seen as victims. I thought for years autism may explain things but never identified autistic until dx. #respect #” Twitter

Autism isn’t an illness, but it’s a popular argument over at the Dark Side and one dark webber used a brain tumour as her argument as to why it’s wrong to self diagnose. Is it a credible argument though?

Nope.

If you think you have a brain tumour, you generally see your GP and pronto or risk dying. To my knowledge, nobody has ever died of autism. Autistic people are at a higher risk of dying earlier due to co-morbid conditions (not to mention the strain of having to deal with pillocks on social media) but autism itself can’t kill you. A brain tumour, however, can render you as dead as a dodo!

There are valid reasons why people self-diagnose such as accessibility, lack of money for a private dx and having autistic children whose needs come before their own. It should also be noted that diagnosis isn’t always beneficial. However, the dark ones claim that the real reason people don’t go for assessment is because ‘they know they won’t meet the criteria.’

Say wuh?

Then there are those whose debating skills just blow you away..

“Get tested or shut the fuck up.” ~ Twitter

Personally, I think this should be the tagline for the Autistic Dark Web.

As it is, I self-diagnosed for four years. The reality is that most self-diagnosers go on to receive a formal diagnosis, but simply being understood by another human being is enough for some. However, you won’t receive any support from dark web types who categorically state that you are NOT autistic until you have an official diagnosis and, what’s more, you have no business identifying as autistic!

Then there’s this.

“#autisticdarkweb I’m going to say it. If someone is married (or in a relationship), has children, has friends, and a good career or job, then they are not autistic. And should not be diagnosed as such because they are obviously not disabled by their ‘autism'” – Twitter

*sets fire to diagnosis papers*

In response to the above tweet – I’ve been married twice and I have three children. I’ve had five jobs over my lifetime and seven ‘real life’ friendships – none of them instigated by me. I’ve also had two eating disorders (A+B), a nervous breakdown, anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, chronic illness, IBS, chronic migraines, sensory disorder, insomnia and so on and so on..

At this point, I’d like to underline the living shit out of the next two sentences. Alas, WordPress only allows for one..

It’s the anxiety and the eating disorders and the chronic illness and the depression and the mental breakdown etc which gives a clue as to how hard it’s been to achieve all of the above.

In that person’s opinion, I can’t possibly be autistic because I tick most of those boxes. But the problem with ticking boxes is that it doesn’t account for the gargantuan effort it takes for an individual to achieve such things. Nor does it account for the cost to mental and physical health. Being a wife and mother doesn’t make me any less autistic – it just means that I’ve had to work hard to accoumplish it.

I’m also the mother of a really amazing autistic boy who has had many challenges to overcome in his nine years, including experiencing a hate incident at eight years old. But I don’t hate autism and I don’t hate being autistic because I have nothing to compare it to, so what’s the point?

To the dark webbers who claim that I’m not autistic because I have a family and don’t hate myself.

I didn’t expect to experience abuse or exclusion by other autistics. Granted, this was naivety on my part because autistics are clearly no different to neurotypicals when it comes to conflict. This is because humans are hardwired to fight. That said, conflict takes a lot more out of hyper-sensitive autistics like me and so it’s with regard for what remains of my sanity that this post draws a line under my interaction with the Dark Web (and Twitter) as my month off has led me to realise that it’s bad for my mental health.

Having been frost-burnt by several dark webbers, my advice is to leave them well alone – the hardliners more so. But should you decide to venture over to the Dark Side to take a peek for yourself, I suggest you wear your thermals.

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. ~ Stephen Hawking

 

Only in Dreams..

Spandau Ballet are performing in my living room, but the concert is cut short when Tony Hadley suddenly flounces off in the middle of Only When You Leave. (Apt, no?) The Kemps are shaking their heads in disbelief and the audience are on the verge of turning hostile when in strolls Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran..

Nick takes Tony’s place as lead singer, which is Strange Behaviour (see what I did there?) because his place has always been behind his impressive organ keyboard. Whatever. I’m up for it because Nick is my life-long crush – a man whose wheelie bins I would lovingly trawl for traces of his DNA. (not really, M’Lud.)

So, what’s a stalker girl to do? I have to make my existence known to Nick or I might as well DIE!

Gets weird (er)

I find myself on an old-style double-decker bus trying to out-run a typhoon. (Typhoons in Manchester?) It’s during the confusion that I corner Nicholas and confess my love for him – especially during the years 1980-1987..

At this moment he pulls me towards him and kisses me!!

I don’t want this moment to end. Ever!

No doubt I was attempting to snog my pillow thinking it was Nick’s gorgeous face, but this was one dream that I did NOT want to wake up from – typhoon or no typhoon!

When it comes to dreams, most of mine are weird and not in a pleasant way, but then I’ve always been a bit prone to weird dreams..

I dream a lot, which is interesting as studies have shown that a lot of autistic people have poor dream recall. Other studies, however, have shown that people with Aspergers dream vividly and recall their dreams very well.

I’ve had anxiety problems all my life and severe sleep issues for the last seven years so I wonder if anxiety plays a part? Or the menopause? If I remember rightly.. my dreams always turned a bit funky when I was on my period – aka – minus the calming influence of oestrogen.

I would imagine that many autists have anxiety, so high levels of stress hormones in the body at night will no doubt affect the quality of sleep and influence dreams. I also know that If I have a nightmare in the early hours, I will have subsequent nightmares because the stress hormones have flooded my body – therefore there is zero chance of me achieving dreamless sleep.

I’ve also had premonition and visitation dreams.

No, I’m not a nutter. Well, maybe just a little nutterish?

See, there is a marked difference between your ‘bog standard’ dream and a visitation one because normal dreams are fragmented and make no sense – especially if you’ve been at the cheese. For instance, you might dream about your house, but the kitchen is a swimming pool and your back garden is a supermarket and a grizzly bear is chasing you with a wonky trolley that transforms into a sports car. How many grizzly bears have you EVER seen driving a car? These kinds of dreams are your brain trying to make sense out of the information it’s taken in during the day – often without you realising it. Visitation dreams, on the other hand, are rational except the people in it (aside yourself) are often dead. Or about to be, as many people dream of loved ones at the same time that they die. They often appear younger and/or in ‘good health’. You wake from such a dream convinced that you’ve experienced something far too real to be a dream. What’s more, you never forget it.

There are theories about visitation dreams, but I won’t bother with the ‘psychotic episodes’ one that pseudosceptics insist on peddling because the thought of an afterlife gives em the willies!

One theory is that it’s to do with the grieving process and that may well be true, except that many of these dreams foretell the future. In one of mine, I saw my dad sitting in the same crematorium where his funeral service had been held, with his arm protectively around his brother. I distinctly heard Dad tell my uncle that he would “take care of him”. The dream felt very real. I didn’t understand it at the time, but it made sense a few weeks later when we got the news that my uncle had died – just six weeks after my dad’s death!

I remember that dream very clearly – as is the case with visitation dreams.

Case in point: My Nick Rhodes dream has been sitting in my drafts folder for months. I’d written the details down within half an hour of waking up because I knew I’d forget them otherwise. As a rule, I don’t make a habit of writing about my dreams, but this one was about Nick Rhodes – the love of my teenage life. The man I used to daydream about pulling up at the school gates in a big limo and carrying me out of double-maths like Richard Gere in Officer and a Gentleman. The fact that I was a zit-ridden fourteen year old didn’t come into it, but let’s not get bogged down with the legal implications as it was only ever going to be a one-sided relationship between Nick and my adolescent mind, y’know?

The point is that this dream was special and a most welcome change from my usual Tarantino-esque offerings from my insane brain.

I had completely forgotten about the dream until I came across it one morning while I was looking through my unpublished posts. I read through it and honestly don’t recall any of it. I just know that it must have happened for me to write about it. In contrast, I remember visitation dreams in vivid detail, even though they happened years ago. I’m ruling out wishful thinking because if that was the case, surely I would remember every detail of my Nick Rhodes dream – especially the kiss part? Alas, I don’t remember it at all. 😦

Do you remember your dreams? Or do you wake up blissfully unaware of where your sub-conscious mind has been?

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.” ― A.A. Milne ~ Winnie The Poo

 

 

 

 

Disconnect to Reconnect

I have a problem. This digital age is making me ill and I need to cull my use of it for the sake of my health.

Don’t get me wrong, the internet and social media etc has its positives. It’s in social media (and blogging) that I have found my ‘tribe’ – fellow autists who understand me completely. And I’ve found some lovely online friends who I’d definitely make the effort to meet in real life. There is comfort in knowing that there are other people like me – regarding autism, anxiety and fibromyalgia. So, there are positives to the digital era. But there is also a dark side – a side which ramps up anxiety and deepens depression.

The internet is a place where fear and hate lives.

Cyber attacks.

Trolls.

The threat of ‘deletion’.

Addiction.

Fake News

Unwanted news and graphic pictures.

Katie Hopkins.

When it comes to social media, it seems to me that Twitter’s sweet little blue-bird icon should give way to a massive vulture with bits of flesh dangling from its beak because, DAMN! PEOPLE CAN BE SO NASTY!

Tweet this, Motherfungler!

With Twitter, people can be nasty and remain annoymous, whereas, back in the day, ‘trolling’ involved sitting at the kitchen table with a newspaper, a pair of scissors and some glue. There was a certain amount of effort involved, you get me? These days, people only have to switch on the PC (or other electronic device) to get their nasty on and, alarmingly, one of the worst social media offenders runs the United States!

But it’s not just social media that’s the problem. I’m starting to think that this digital era in general is making me ill – the screens and the amount of information in one hit. Not to mention, the addiction.

Take me back to the time of radio, books and record players the size of a small car.

Of simplicity.

I’m not against mobile phones per se. As a female driver, I feel safer with a phone to hand (not while I’m driving, obvs) The problem is that it’s no longer just a phone. It’s an intrusion.

Often, I don’t I don’t need to check my phone. It’s just habit. I mean, just how important is it that I have to see somebody’s fry-up? Or e-mails flogging me worming tablets with 10% off?

*Note to self: Order worming tabs*

Of the twenty or so e-mails I received this morning, two of them are from me!

I can’t do it anymore! I know the digital age is escalating my anxiety, so it’s in my best interests to disconnect as much as possible. Therefore, my plan is to have a month where I don’t use social media at all and to only read paper books. I may still blog because blogging is my voice. Also, I blog in the morning to scare up a bowel movement, innit. The adrenalin helps to get things moving, y’know? But that will be it. It will be an experiment to see if my anxiety levels improve.

I will remove any relevant apps on my phone because if they’re not there, I can’t be tempted, right?

I want my phone to help me, not control me and at the moment that slimline b@stard has me right under its thumb (ID)

To reconnect, I have to disconnect.

The thing is, I’m old enough to remember a time before the digital era, so I know how satisfying that feels. I feel sad that today’s generation won’t ever know that. What they will know is the anxiety and depression that comes with living their lives online, constantly comparing themselves to photo-manipulated versions of people who appear to live the perfect life.

It’s not real.

More importantly, there is the danger of developing problems with our spine. According to the British Chiropractic Association, our obsession with smartphones has led to a rise in the number of youngsters with back problems. This is due to the amount of time they spend leaning over their phones!

45 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds suffer from back pain – a 60 per cent rise from last year.

You Get Me?

Kindles.

Kindles are great. Especially those 99p bargains! But where is the joy in an electronic purchase? Standing in a book shop, inhaling paper and ink? It’s magical! It’s like catnip to a cat! You don’t get that with a Kindle!

Part of what made growing up bearable to me was the fact that I got to buy a book every week and part of that joy was the visit to the bookstore. Granted, there is the occasional whiff of ‘eau de fart’, but book shops are exciting places and it doesn’t surprise me that people feel stirrings within their bowel regions whilst being surrounded by all that wonderful literature. Personally, I’m too posh to fart in public, but I’m no stranger to having to put a book down, mid-browse, in order to sprint to the nearest loo!

I am part of the digital age whether I like it or not, but I know I’m not the only person on the planet who craves simplicity. As with any addiction – will power is required and I’m sick (pardon the pun) of feeling ill and absorbing people’s hatred on social media, so, disconnection will commence on November the 1st.

I am, in effect, closing down all those ‘open tabs’ that are draining me of my energy, creativity and faith in humanity. Not to mention, positivity and you do need a little P to battle mental and physical illness, no?

We already have months of the year where people are encouraged to stop drinking and smoking. Doesn’t it speak volumes that the same thing is starting to happen with social media?

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. ~ Anne Lamott

 

 

 

 

 

 

Racing The Bumblebee

 

After 46 years of not knowing who I was, you’d probably imagine that when I finally got the answer I would be happy?

Maybe, for other autists this is the case?

The truth is that I’m not a happy person. I feel happy occasionally, but mostly all the nice stuff is weighed down by anxiety, pain, and sadness.

It hasn’t always been this way. I’ve known happiness. Real happiness.

Until the age of five, I was happy. The world was a magical place. I was in-tune to the oneness of the universe and while I’m aware that some might consider that a bit ‘wanky’, everything is connected. The problem is that we grow older and become disconnected.

Children are open to most things because they are new. They accept what they see and feel because they’ve yet to be brainwashed with jaded and narrow-minded opinions of their elders who tell them:

1. There’s no such thing as ghosts!

2. Santa doesn’t exist!

3. There is no heaven!

However, none of these statements are fact.

1. There are such things as ghosts if you’ve seen one and I have, twice, and if you understand that we are energy and energy can’t be destroyed ( it can only change form) then ghosts are completely viable, no?

2. Santa existed in human form. His name was St Nicholas and as Santa Claus he lives on in every parent/guardian who ever put a present under a Christmas tree in his name.

3. People who have been clinically dead who come back to life with stories of heaven or a place beyond normal consciousness.

‘If heaven existed, then everybody would experience the same thing!’

Says who?

It depends how you think of heaven. Maybe my heaven will be a massive library? Maybe yours will be that special beach you visited once? Or do you associate heaven with clouds and a bearded bloke wearing sandals? The point is that many people experience another state of consciousness during cardiac arrest (even brain death) which suggests that our consciousness does not die with our bodies.

Children are open to the unseen and the mysterious, this is partly what makes childhood so magical, but childhood is brief and there comes a day when it ends and my childhood’s end came when I was 11 years old. Bonfire night. Talk about ‘out with a bang’? The stomach cramps I’d been experiencing for weeks turned out to be the onset of my periods. I wasn’t ready, but is anybody ever adequately prepared for puberty? Not us and certainly not our parents who have to put up with their sweet little children turning into argumentative arseholes!

The big P coincided with a house move and a new school where I was bullied from word go. Here is where the sadness became a constant emotion. Magic struggles to thrive in such conditions and a few years later I discovered the numbing effects of alcohol and it all but vanished into the vaults of my mind. But there have been moments where the universe has reminded me that there is more to this life than what people think. I’ve always known it, but sometimes I forget it because mental illness clouds the mind. This is when the universe has to work harder to get me to notice but when I do, it lifts me enough to keep my head from going under.

Recently I was having one of those days.

I was on an old fashined steam train and I was alone in the carriage. The track was only about a mile long so we were going slow enough to be able to appreciate the countryside. Something told me to look to my left and when I did so, I noticed that a massive bumblebee was flying level with my window. It flew in a straight line with my window for about fifteen seconds, though it felt like hours. This tends to be the case when a connection is made. Time as we know it, changes. It slows down. The movies depict this by freezing everything around the subject (s).

A thought crossed my mind..

I was racing a bumblebee!

Not THAT Bumblebee!

There was this connection. The bee and I were one and, no, I hadn’t been at the cider!

It was magical.

It was funny and uplifting and amazing and all those wonderful feelings that had been covered up with the haze of mental illness.

We forget that everything is connected, but the universe has a habit of reminding us and often at the exact moment that we need the reminder the most.

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
Charles de Lint

This was one of those moments.

This was the magic of my childhood. I noticed this kind of stuff all the time and I couldn’t understand why other people couldn’t see it too? But growing up does that to a person. Those spaces in our mind where the magic is recieved are gradually replaced by worries, sadness and useless information.

Enchantment gives way to stress.

Mental illness is an enchantment killer. Catastrophic thoughts are like weeds that strangle the life out of every beautiful thought you’ve ever had, You stop feeling the magic. Sometimes you stop feeling full stop. You become disconnected from the universe and eventually, yourself. It’s at this point that you struggle to know what the point of it all is. The years of suffering yet to come stretch out in front of you and you feel a sadness of such depth that you cannot begin to describe it. It scares you. You don’t want to feel this way, so you fight, but it’s like quicksand; the more you struggle, the quicker you go under. It’s only when we stop struggling that we get chance to breathe and in that moment we can see that the universe has sent us a life line. All this time, we thought we were alone, but we were not. We never are.

The only issue I’ve ever had with that is when I’m having private time on the loo. Do the unseen respectfully float off elsewhere? I hope so because there ain’t nobody, alive or dead, who needs to witness me having a tricky bowel movement, you get me?

To you, the bumblebee race might seem insignificant. Fanciful? I can see why you would. But this was something you had to experience.

Of course, you can choose to ignore such things or write them off as coincidences, but you will never know magic or enchantment if you continually slam the door on it.

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it ~ Roald Dahl

Then there’s the sea.

A lot of humans have a connection to the sea. This could be because we’re mostly made up of water, but there is also this spiritual connection to water. Except for boys who develop an aversion to it until they discover start fancying girls (or boys).

Or it’s simply the desire to try and conquer the sea because it’s bigger and stronger us? Despite having nearly drowned, I love to look at the sea. It calms me. It always has. The way the waves crash when it’s stormy or gently roll when it’s calm. It’s moody, like me. The sea has the capacity to kill me, but it also has the capacity to calm my anxious thoughts in a way that no drug ever has or ever will.

“Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”
Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Then again, I am the Cancer water sign so maybe that’s another reason why I’m connected to it? It would certainly explain why I walk sideways. Or is it to do with being deaf in one ear? You know, balance? Either way, my walking is very crab-like!

So, in one week I got to race a bumblebee and stare at the sea and it provided a lull in the chaos within my tired middle-aged brain.

More importantly, it gave me hope.

I know that enchantment exists. It’s never not been here. I just lost sight of it because anxiety and illness clouds the mind. It’s like when a radio loses it’s signal. The capability is still there, you just have to re-tune the station.

 

 

 

 

 

Coping Strategies: What Can Help You Not To Mask?#TakeTheMaskOff

This week – how to be mask-less (ish) and survive with marbles intacto.

Firstly, no more f**ks shall be given.

By ‘f**ks’ I mean Not giving a f**k is living whilst BEING YOURSELF.

It’s time to be selfish and I know that for most of us autistics it’s a BIG ask because we’re so used to worrying about not upsetting those around us, right?

We’ve suppressed who we are, just so other people don’t feel uncomfortable around us?

Well, as my dear old mum used to say (frequently)

Sod THAT for a game of soldiers!

Or was it conkers?

Anyway, it’s time to take back what’s ours – which is our rightful place on this planet!

We need to be us.

Not a version of us.

Or someone we quite like off the telly.

Us.

And if people start giving us a hard time for being our glorious selves – we can walk away. We can also flick them the V’s, but why waste the energy? Haven’t we wasted enough precious time and energy on those toxic tw@ts?

Self Care

Self-care is essential for autists. You’ve got to know when to put yourself into recovery mode and not to try and override your brain when it’s telling you it’s about to malfunction!

If you are the overly sensitive kind of autist, you’ll need to steer clear of bad news or toxic people. It (and they) will have a detrimental effect on your mental health.

It’s also important to be mindful of how much time you spend on electronic gadgets and social media. The autistic brain often struggles to cope with copious amounts of information in one hit. This is why we get headaches and anxiety. Set yourself time limits and stick to them and don’t take your electronics to bed with you!

Electronics = Stimulating= Insomnia= Godzilla

To Socialise or Not to Socialise?

This is very much down to the individual. Some autists love to socialise. Others, like me, don’t. But sometimes socialising is necessary because people get married and die and stuff.

So what to do?

I have devised a plan.

Firstly, it’s OK to decline invitations. That event will go ahead without you and nobody will really give a toss whether you’re there or not once they’ve necked a few ciders!

Secondly, reserve the right to cancel at the last moment. Tell your host in advance that you may have to cancel. It’s up to you whether or not you disclose the reason why, but I am always honest about my anxiety and fibromyalgia.

With a bit of luck, this will put them off ever asking me again! Muhaha

Thirdly, don’t feel obliged to make small talk with people. Do what makes you comfortable and if that’s sitting in the corner with a massive slice of Victoria sponge and a pint of gin – sobeit.

Fourthly, you have the right to throat punch anybody who tries to drag you onto the dance floor to do the ‘macarena’ or any other dance that involves synchronisation on a mass scale. The reason is that autistic people are generally uncoordinated, innit. Then again, one can flourish the no f**ks given card and unleash your magnificent stimmy-moves along to Dancing Queen.

Dance or punch. The choice is yours.

Finally, leave when you need to leave – even if it’s after ten seconds.

When it comes to employment, you don’t have to go to works ‘dos’. It’s NOT compulsory. People invariably get drunk, make prats of themselves and spend the next six months avoiding every work colleague they propositioned whilst under the influence of thirty-six Pernod’s!

If the words ‘work’s do’ make you feel so anxious that you do a bit of sick in your throat, it’s probably best that you stay at home and watch Casualty in your Pokemon onesie instead!

Remind yourself that this is your world too. It might not feel like it, but it is. And we only get one shot at life (shameless cliche) so why waste time wearing masks that will only suffocate us in the end?

For what it’s worth, I do believe that masking has it’s place, but only as an occasional ‘aid’ that benefits the individual. Like everything else – when something is used to excess, all benefits are lost. In the case of masking – people develop mental illnesses because of the effort it takes to be someone else and subsequently the loss of their own identity.

All I ask is that people understand the consequences of long-term masking.

We need to understand our limits and for those rare occasions when we have to push ourselves into uncomfortable territory (such as weddings or funerals) we MUST practice self-care – before, during and after the event. The exception to this is our own funeral because if there is ever a time when no f**ks are given – it’s when it’s us who’s lying in the coffin. You get me?

Being yourself is hard after a life of masking. I know. But we were never meant to be ‘one of the herd’. (another shameless cliche)

In trying to be the same as everyone else we just end up standing out even more, but not necessarily in the way we’d want to.

Who do ewe think ewe are? (sorry)

I recently drove through Dartmoor where there were wild horses grazing among thousands of sheep. It was a breathtakingly beautiful place. It’s also a bit arse-clench-y when sheep wander in front of the car like they are some kind of death wish. Point is, the sheep vastly outnumber the horses, but they co-exist with them. The horses are not trying to be like the sheep. The horses are comfortable being horses and the sheep accept them and get on with the important task of grazing or having a poo.

That’s the kind world I’d like to live in.

Not the grazing and pooing bit. Obvs.

Then again..

I mean all autistic people living as autistic people.

Will that happen in my time? Probably not, but I really hope it will happen in my son’s lifetime.

The only way that can possibly happen is to #TakeTheMaskOff.

 

 

 

 

Diagnosis/Self Awareness – How Does That Affect Masking?#TakeTheMaskOff

 

Until the age of five, I didn’t mask. There was no need to. I was free to exist in my little world without fear of ridicule. I was happy with who I was. Then one day my mother took me to a strange place. This place was loud and scary and had lots of other children in it. It was a sensory nightmare.

My mother stayed with me for a while, then she got up to leave. I remember trying to leave with her, but she told me that I had to stay there. So I did what many children do on their first day of school – I cried.

The teacher sat me on her knee, but it didn’t comfort me because I didn’t like the closeness of her. She was a stranger invading my personal space, but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t do anything to change the situation. A bell rang (loudly) and we were told to go outside where it was hot and the noise was deafening. It hurt my ears. I mean really. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, so I just stood in the middle of the playground trying (and failing) to process the sensory stimulus that was threatening to overwhelm me.

That was the first time I remember experiencing loss of control.

At that moment, a girl walked up to me. I thought she was going to talk to me. Maybe offer me some friendliness? But she didn’t say a word. Instead, she looked at me as if I was something particularly nasty. Like shit? Then she pinched me hard on the arm.

Whatever I was expecting it wasn’t that.

To the onlooker, it must have looked like I didn’t react at all, but inside of me all hell was breaking loose.

I stared at my shoes while my brain went into overdrive.

I remember wanting to run off home to be with the family who loved me unconditionally and the invisible friends who understood me.

I also remember that nobody came to help me.

Nobody.

How could nobody have seen this?

And why had my mother left me in this horrible place?

At the end of that first day of school, I went to collect my coat, but there was something else on my peg – a mask. I placed it over my face and I wasn’t me anymore.

I wore it for the next forty-one years.

In my forties I became ill. The mask had been slowly suffocating me and now I was struggling to breathe – to live.

During this time I saw a doctor who saw beyond my anxiety. He sent me to see a psychiatrist who sent me for an autism assessment.

Nine months later, I was formally diagnosed as autistic.

First there was relief. Then came the grief – not for being autistic, but for all the time I’d lost trying to be something I’m not and can never be. I grieved for the fearful child that I’d been, the troubled teenager I became and the adult who masked so much that she lost her own identity!

In the beginning, masking is helpful because it provides a way to fit in with everybody else, but over time the mask gets heavier because you lose energy and strength. The mask starts to suffocate you. But you’ve worn it for so long you don’t know how to take it off. Then, life has a way of forcing change upon you and it often comes in the form of mental illness.

Mental illness shrinks you. Literally, in my case. My clothes became loose. My skin lost it’s elasticity. My mask came loose. In the end, it came away with no effort at all, but it was because I was ill. I thought I would feel vulnerable without it, but mental illness takes you to the darkest place you could imagine. A place you NEVER want to be again. I would rather take on the world in it’s full judgemental glory than go back there!

I masked because the world didn’t want the real me and I needed to try and be like everyone else to survive. Being me wasn’t an option – certainly not when I was school in the 70s and early 80’s. It also meant that I flew under the autism radar.

Masking delays diagnosis. Boys are diagnosed a lot earlier because they are generally crap at masking. The example I can give is of my son and myself. My son doesn’t mask and he was diagnosed at 4 years old. I have masked for the majority of my life and I was diagnosed at 46 years old.

Since my breakdown and subsequent diagnosis, I no longer care what people think of me. I get to be me, now.

Epilogue

I walk out into the middle of the infant school playground towards the smaller version of me.

She looks lost, awkward and out-of-place.

She’s hurting, but nobody knows it.

I gently take her hand and whisper, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve got you now’.

We walk past the girl who is responsible for the bright red mark on my younger self’s arm.

We could use the law of retaliation and give the little bitch an eye for an eye, but this is about healing, not revenge.

So we place the girl’s image into an imaginary balloon and let it float up into the sky.

Then we walk off into the cloakroom where a solitary coat is hanging on its peg.

I remove the coat and replace it with a well-worn mask.

We don’t need it anymore.

We’re free.

Reasons I Hate Summer: Holidays

Holidays are all about unpredictability and unfamiliarity – two things that I don’t do well with because I’m autistic, innit. I’ve never got what all the fuss is about! There’s also the sensory issue of sand in EVERY crevice which turns bum (and flap) wiping into a hazardous experience, no?

Then there’s the flock of seagulls. Not the 80s pop group with questionable hair-dos. I mean beaky bastards that crap on your hair and steal your chips!

Give me your f **king chips!

Is it me, or are seagulls a lot more feisty than they used to be? Maybe they’ve watched too many Steven Seagull movies? Geddit?

Anyhoo, I remember childhood holidays – at least, I remember a few. I don’t think we went every year. That was probably because we couldn’t afford to or maybe I’ve blocked a few out? Of those that are etched into my memory, I remember the entire family cramming into musty-smelling caravans with daddy-long-legs the size of Brazil and being made to strip off on the beach as apparently it wasn’t socially acceptable to wear your coat? As any misfit will tell you – coats are not just an outer layer of clothing – they are armour and it matters not that it’s 30 degrees in the shade and every other kid is running around in swimsuits and shorts!

Then there was the stress of having to choose which Enid Blyton’s to pack into my little suitcase, because as Dad used to say, ‘It’s a car, not the bloody tardis!’

My misery was reflected in the photographs that flopped through the letterbox about a month later. Photographs of me scowling and me giving the thumbs down and me being a generally miserable tw@t. In contrast, there was Dad – smiling, laughing and working his arse off trying to cheer me up.

I’m sorry, Dad. You worked hard all year. You deserved a nice holiday. I wish I had made more of an effort. 😦

To be fair, my eldest brother ruined at least one holiday because he was a teenager and teenagers are by default – arseholes.

I NEVER WANTED TO COME ON THIS STUPID HOLIDAY! YOU’VE RUINED MY LIFE! I HATE YOU!

Once I became a parent myself, I understood the effort (and money) my parents had put into our holidays. My stress levels increased because being a parent means that you are responsible for others as well as yourself. Plus, it’s your job to make happy memories for your children. So I forced myself to ponce about on beaches with beach balls and stuff. Unfortuately, my performance anxiety came on holiday with me, so having a ‘fun’ game of cricket on the beach scored high on my shit-o-meter, especially when I fell over due to poor coordination!

If you’re my kind of autistic, you’re mostly you’re counting the hours until it’s time to go home.

I don’t enjoy holidays. I survive them.

One thing I do when I’m on holiday is to observe other people because they make holidaying look easy!

But there’s usually a drama or two and one year it involved a lifeguard diving into the swimming pool to rescue what turned out to be one of my kids!

There was me and the MIL partaking in a little poolside afternoon tea (might have been lager) while (then) husband was in the pool with the kids and somehow he managed to lose one. Of course, I was thankful that my little ‘Pwince’ had been rescued (and didn’t seem at all fazed by the experience) but it buggered the rest of the holiday up because, you know, people stare, point and say. ‘That’s them!‘.

Thankfully, it’s not always my family providing the drama..

One summer, when my eldest boys were younger, we went to one of those beaches you can park on. You just open the car-boot and unload your shit onto the sand. Fabulous, no? So, there I was, semi-relaxing in my chair. I had a classy plastic tumbler of warm cider and a racy Mills and Boon. (Blaze series). One of the kids was literally burying the other one in the sand. Textbook stuff. The alcohol had taken the edge off my anxiety. The weather was warm, but not hot. It was fairly pleasant.

My shit-o-meter was at a tolerable 3.

Then, a 4 x 4 rocks up, bringing with it a family of five and a dog. They also appeared to have brought their entire house with them – chairs, tables, parasols, wind-breakers, picnic, bats and balls – the works!

The woman got out of the car, stripped to her skimpy bikini and flopped onto a beach towel with a magazine. They had two younger kids (who were seconds away from killing each other) a psychotic dog and a Goth teenager who point-blank refused to get out of the car because the sun was out and they wanted to avoid exploding into a million bats. Obviously!

4 X 4 Man started out by carefully positioning stuff and each time he asked for some help with getting stuff out of the car, his family ignored him. Within fifteen minutes he was ramming things into the sand and beating the living crap out of the wind-breaker pegs with his beast of a mallet. (NOT a euphemism)

It was like watching David Banner turn into the Hulk.

As I recall, the straw that broke the camels back was when one of his kids kicked a ball and it hit him in the face.

4 X 4 man’s face went turned a funny colour.

Then, he completely and utterly lost it!

I’VE HAVE ENOUGH OF THIS SHIIIIIITT!

The kids went silent.

Goth Teen rolled the window up.

4 x 4 Man’s Mrs looked up from Catherine Zeta’s arse.

The dog started to bury itself.

4 X 4 Man jumped up Basil Fawlty style and started throwing everything into the back of the car – his language as colourful as his face. Five minutes (and numerous ‘SHITS later) he and his family were wheel-spinning across the sand towards the exit.

Wish You Were Here. Not.

You see, holidays are not all smiling faces and Beach Boys on the iPod.

My dream holiday would be me locked in a library for a week with a vending machine, a kettle and a huge box of teabags!

My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them.

My dream holiday would be a) a ticket to Amsterdam b) immunity from prosecution and c) a baseball bat.”~ Terry Pratchett