Public Appearance

I recently wandered down to my nearest comic book store, as I hadn’t been for quite a while. Between writing new stuff, designing the look for my next new anthology and trying to revise a bunch of questions and answers for an important test, I’ve had very little time to keep up with my other, somewhat geeky, passions.

So, I decided that, as it was such a nice day, I’d head out into the sticks to my favourite little town on the edge of Dartmoor for a coffee and maybe a little graphic novel retail therapy. I wandered in and saw the member of staff on duty was not my friend, but the owner of the store, so I tried my hardest to do the whole small talk thing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not them it’s me and I am very aware of this fact. Nevertheless, I think it went smoothly and I even managed to pick up a graphic novel for the price of a caramel latte, so it was a win-win situation.

I started talking to her about my work (ie my new anthology and the attempt at podcasting) and my recent performance at the local Ways with Words literary festival, as the owner was not aware of my books, etc. She had a brainwave! The Bookseller’s Association is apparently having a poetry day in October, and she asked if I would be interested in going down for a poetry night to read some of my work. I happily said ‘yes’ as it would give me a chance to strengthen my delivery and interpersonal skills, as well as promote my latest book, Scribblology V2. I would also get the chance to try out some of my new scribbles and test the water, so to speak.

So, it’s official! I will be speaking at the poetry night at Gnash Comics, Ashburton, in October. Stay tuned for more details.

Stay Safe X

Sneak Peak

I’ve had the cover art for my new anthology back from the graphic artist I had to design it. I’m so pleased with it I thought I’d share a small thumbnail of part of the finished article.

This next anthology won’t be out until at least April 2019 but early reviews of some of the content is very promising. You’ll have to wait and see though I promise it will be worth the wait.

Ambulocetus

I’ve started something that many people do at the beginning of the year for a week or two, maybe three if they’re really dedicated to it. Yes, I’ve joined the gym. Why have I done this seven months into the year? Well, it’s due to a number of things. One, I’m tired of having a silhouette resembling Alfred Hitchcock. Two, some customers have said that I’m tubby and that the exercise of going up and down the stairs in the pub might shift a few pounds. Three, my podiatrist told me I was damaging my feet being “seriously obese”. Four, I had a heart scare the other month, resulting in a ambulance ride to A&E. Five, I’m going to be topless later on in the year,when I start visiting the swimming pool.

That being said, I’ve set out a plan of going to the gym three times a week first thing in the morning, when there aren’t many people in the gym. I start with around half an hour on the treadmill while listening to the latest episode of my favourite podcast. This is a great way to clear the backlog of podcasts and to get my heart rate going. Then I hit the weights and work on my arms, legs and abs. Once I’ve got this routine going I’m planning to go to the gym Mon-Fri Tuesday and Thursday would be just using the treadmill only, until I can swim (I can’t yet as I have a new tattoo).

I have also stopped my habit of just eating junk and eating three to four times a day, I’m now eating two meals – one main and one sandwich-type meal. I’ve cut out the sugar-loaded fizzy drinks and sweets that I love, and I drink an average of seven pints of no added sugar orange and pineapple squash per day.

I’m not sure I can see any difference in my appearance, though Mrs Bob can. I can’t, however, deny the facts and the facts are I’ve dropped a couple of kilos in the first week which I’m happy with. After getting the equivalent weight in sugar out of the cupboard to see, I am pleased that its actually quite a loss.

So let’s see if I can get myself back into shape, well a shape other than round. I’ll keep you posted as to my progress on here, wish me luck guys and girls

Stay Safe X

Sensory Issues

Many people on the autism spectrum have difficulty processing everyday sensory information that most neurotypical people take for granted.  Any of the senses may be over or under-sensitive, or both, at different times. These sensory differences can affect our behaviour, and can have a profound effect on a person’s life.

Sometimes an autistic person may behave in a way that you wouldn’t immediately link to sensory sensitivities. A person who struggles to deal with everyday sensory information can experience sensory or information overload. Too much information can cause stress, anxiety and sometimes physical pain. This can result in withdrawal, challenging behaviour or as a worst-case scenario, a meltdown. These issues and senses are as follows, but not limited to:-

SIGHT

Under-Sensitive

  •  Objects appear quite dark, or lose some of their features.
  • Central vision is blurred but peripheral vision quite sharp.
  • A central object is magnified, but objects on the periphery are blurred.
  • Poor depth perception; problems with throwing and catching; clumsiness.

Things that might help include the use of visual supports or coloured lenses, although there is very limited research/evidence for such lenses.

Over-Sensitive

Distorted vision

  •  Objects and bright lights can appear to jump around.
  • Images may fragment.
  • Easier and more pleasurable to focus on a detail rather than the whole object.
  • Difficulty getting to sleep as sensitive to the light.
  • Light hurting your eyes or causing headaches

SOUND

Under-Sensitive

  • May only hear sounds in one ear, the other ear having only partial hearing or none at all.
  • May not acknowledge particular sounds.
  • Might enjoy crowded, noisy places or bang doors and objects.
    You could help by using visual supports to back up verbal information, and ensuring that other people are aware of the under-sensitivity so that they can communicate effectively. You could ensure that the experiences they enjoy are included in their daily timetable, to ensure this sensory need is met.

Over-Sensitive

  •  Noise can be magnified and sounds become distorted and muddled.
  • May be able to hear conversations in the distance.
  • Inability to cut out sounds – notably background noise, leading to difficulties concentrating.

SMELL

Under-Sensitive

  •  Some people have no sense of smell and fail to notice extreme odours (this can include their own body odour).
  • Some people may lick things to get a better sense of what they are.

Over-Sensitive

Smells can be intense and overpowering. This can cause toileting problems.
Dislikes people with distinctive perfumes, shampoos, etc.

TASTE

Under-Sensitive

  •  Likes very spicy foods.
  • Eats or mouths non-edible items such as stones, dirt, soil, grass, metal, faeces.
  • This is known as pica.

Over- Sensitive

  •  Finds some flavours and foods too strong and overpowering because of very sensitive taste buds. Has a restricted diet.
  • Certain textures cause discomfort – may only eat smooth foods like mashed potatoes or ice-cream.
  • Some autistic people may limit themselves to bland foods or crave very strong-tasting food. As long as someone has some dietary variety, this isn’t necessarily a problem. Find out more about over-eating and restricted diets.

TOUCH

Under-Sensitive

  •  Holds others tightly – needs to do so before there is a sensation of having applied any pressure.
  • Has a high pain threshold.
  • May be unable to feel food in the mouth.
  • May self-harm.
  • Enjoys heavy objects (eg weighted blankets) on top of them.
  • Smears faeces as enjoys the texture.
  • Chews on everything, including clothing and inedible objects.

You could help by:

  •  For smearing, offering alternatives to handle with similar textures, such as jelly, or cornflour and water.
  • For chewing, offering latex-free tubes, straws or hard sweets (chill in the fridge).

Over-Sensitive

  •  Touch can be painful and uncomfortable – people may not like to be touched and this can affect their relationships with others.
  • Dislikes having anything on hands or feet.
  • Difficulties brushing and washing hair because head is sensitive.
  • May find many food textures uncomfortable.
  • Only tolerates certain types of clothing or textures.

One Small Step

Today, I’ve done something that, just a few short months ago, I never thought I would do. “What did you do?” I hear you ask. Bungee? Abseil? A parachute jump?

Hell, no. This is much worse than all those things combined. I went to a local literary festival called “Ways with Words”. They had a ticket-only event called a Poetry Breakfast, which was essentially a group of poetry lovers reading their favourite pieces of poetry in an ‘open mic’ format. I bought two tickets.

This was the first event like this I had ever been to, and it was also the first time I’d ever read a piece of my work in public. I took two pieces with me – one from my last anthology, Scribblology V2 and one from my upcoming third anthology (which has two working titles, “The Grand Leveller” or “The Black Lodge” but that is still up in the air).

The main thing is that I managed to stand up in front of the mic and read confidently. I’m so proud of myself for managing to take this step, and as a result I’m now looking at other events and competitions. I’ve even offered to appear on a podcast that had asked for submissions and have been asked to guest on another podcast about autism, so I guess this ride has finally started for me.

As with every expedition or journey, it begins with those first tentative steps in the right direction. The only thing holding me back is fear or doubt, but I’ve learned that these chains will keep you captive unless you break free. So, grab your emotional bolt cutters like I have, break free and join me on your own version of my rollercoaster!

Stay Safe X

Grumpy Old Man

It occurs to me more and more lately that I’m not as young as I think I am, despite my hip dress sense and my love of modern music and extreme sports. I do like trance and hip hop music, as well as modifying my car.

In some respects, it’s a very stark wake-up call that I can’t be young forever and that I can’t do some of the things I used to do, like extreme sports, clubbing then drinking all night with my friends, racing my motorcycle, etc… all things I haven’t done in at least 7 years. I guess we all have these “eureka” moments where we realise that maturity and wisdom have finally caught up with us. While I have spent most of the last ten years refusing to get older, I’m finding a lot of things that millennial do are strange or downright weird to me, and this makes the transition into being an old(er) man a bit easier.

It’s little things that are slowly making me realise that I’m getting older. In fact, I’m starting to turn into a bit of a grumpy old man. I’m looking at the things that my children’s generation are into and thinking to myself WTF? It’s not just one thing in particular, really, it’s lots of things. The television programs they watch and find entertaining, the music they do and don’t like, the role models they have and worst of all the mentality of “I’ve got a YouTube channel with some followers so I’m going to be a famous millionaire by the time I’m 30”. That aside, let me look at these things individually and I’ll explain this grumpy old man’s take on them.

The quality of popular TV has become consistently worse. We now have an onslaught of reality-based drivel, like Big Brother, Love Island, Geordie Shore and TOWIE, which just show the younger generation that you can be a thick, talentless individual and still be rich and “famous”. I mean, really, some of these so-called famous people are so stupid, a Barbie or Ken doll (whom these celebs aspire to look like) would have more common sense.

Unfortunately, children look up to these people as role models. Surprisingly, in this day of personal computers in ‘phones, watches, etc, the younger generation who have a world of information in their pockets are not getting smarter; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Here are some genuine pearls of wisdom I’ve come across:

Why do women never have to take a DNA test to see if the child’s theirs?

Where is the 2014 Brazil World Cup being held?”

As a result of these so-called celebrities, the younger generation think that if they create a YouTube channel, and get some followers, they will get rich without having to do any hard work. This is, in part, due to social attitudes amongst their peers, but it’s also partly our fault as the older generation. We told them they could do anything, they just had to want to do it. This, alongside the “everyone gets a medal for taking part” has left us with a generation of youngsters with no motivation or drive.

As for the music, don’t get me wrong, I’m not stuck in the Brit pop and grunge era of the 90’s or older. In fact, I listen to lots of different music from The Doors and Hendrix right through to Eminem and Bring Me The Horizon. My gripe with youngsters and music is twofold: Firstly, the majority of their music is not organic, it’s manufactured – basically it’s some kids being told how to dress, what to sing, etc. I’m not saying we didn’t have that in our time, but it was very rare.

The other thing is the attitude towards older music. My youngest once said, while hearing Jimi Hendrix, “What’s this rubbish?“… well, I informed her that without this “rubbish” she wouldn’t have the music she has today. The other brilliant faux-pas was when a popular American rapper teamed up with Paul McCartney (of the Beatles). The rapper’s fans went crazy, saying how good it was to give “this Paul guy” his big break, or that Paul’s career is now going to explode thanks to said rapper. I thought it was satire but apparently not… they actually thought Paul McCartney was a newbie.

It’s after looking at all this that I realise that, as much as I’d like to be thought of as being young for years to come, I’m actually happy to be getting old. I know this rant makes me seem like a grumpy old man, but I’m a grandparent who’s moved to the coast to enjoy his later life, so I guess I am allowed to have finally matured into a grumpy old man. As someone once said, I used to be “with it”, but then they changed what “it” is, so now “it” seems weird and scary to me.

You may well laugh, but it will happen to you. Be assured of that!

Stay Safe X

Offensive? Moi?

I made a huge mistake last night, which didn’t come to light until this morning. In my defence, I didn’t realise it was a mistake at the time or I probably wouldn’t have done it. Ok, I might have done, but I probably would have checked with Mrs Bob first. She says she would have suggested I didn’t post it.

“What was this gargantuan mistake”, I hear you all ask? Well, I had decided to post a joke on a local NHS autism group’s social media site. Other jokes are posted on there, and this one was not rude, racist or sexist at all, just maybe a little ill -advised; in fact, here it is below – you can decide.

JOKE WARNING!

I Am Deleting The Following People in This group As They Do Not Contribute or post.

[inserted a long list of fictional names here… none of whom were people in the group]

If you went through this entire list looking for your name, I do apologize for completely wasting your time. I’m not even an admin and have no clue who these people are. I stole this from another page and thought it was funny.”

I had seen this on another group, and thought it was just a harmless bit of fun, so I posted it. Boy, was I wrong. It turns out that one person on the group, who is a new member, became extremely offended by this joke and left fifteen increasingly angry comments on my post. Then, this morning, he actually called the group’s administrator on the phone to complain and demand that I was removed from the group. I then found I couldn’t access the group. A bit harsh, I felt, but it’s their group after all.

I have now established that I had not been booted from the group by the admin, but they did not understand why I was no longer a member, as I had not left. I received a kind email from the group admin, who made it clear that they realised it was a harmless joke, and I’m told that the offended person was spoken to and that he issued a public apology to me on the group. I can’t see it yet, as I have not decided if I will rejoin it.

I know, as someone on the Autism Spectrum, that we may not get certain jokes from time-to-time, but was that an acceptable reaction to a genuine error of judgement, even if it did cause offence? I’m going to have to say no. If I had been approached and they had said they found it offensive, I would have removed it. I’m not into upsetting other people, even if I don’t understand what I said that offended them. I see things all the time online that I find highly offensive and it’s clear it was posted provocatively, but I am like many adults, and don’t give the person who posted it the satisfaction of showing any form of reaction. I just scroll on. It seems to me that nowadays people are either very sensitive to the slightest upset online, or that certain people go out of their way to find something to complain about, saying it’s offensive and that it upset them.

Honestly, there are bigger things to be offended by than a silly misplaced joke. I could run a huge list of REAL problems that we could and should be offended by, but it’s common sense to most people.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be upset or offended by things on social media or the internet in general. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t sweat the small stuff, yeah? There are bigger things to get angry over. Maybe one little joke isn’t it.

Stay Safe X

Memento Mori

There are moments in everyone’s life that you will look back on and realise they were some epiphany or another. This weekend, I had a massive one, but before I tell you that, let’s start at the beginning.

For a few days now, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather. I have been having sharp, stabbing chest pains near my heart, but being a typical bloke and apparently quite stubborn, I refused to call the doctor and make an appointment. Finally, on Friday, I listened to my wife and decided that I really needed to see my doctor about it, so I made the appointment and thought nothing more about it.

The following day while I was at work, I began to feel very lethargic and my left arm and leg didn’t quite feel right, they felt weaker, and I was feeling slightly out of breath. However, I had a job to do so I said nothing, and decided to push on with the first part of my Saturday split shift. I left work and met Mrs Bob (who picks me up when I’m on a split) I said to her I didn’t feel too well and I tried to relax and not worry.

When I got home I decided to try and cool off by jumping in the shower, while Mrs Bob got my lunch ready. It was during this time that I became worse and started to find my breathing a struggle, so Mrs Bob called 111 for some advice.

They decided that my symptoms indicated that they should send an ambulance out to give me the once over. Unfortunately for me, after the paramedics had wired me up, they said I needed to be taken in to hospital for further tests. This meant a trip to A&E on a Saturday afternoon.

Once there, I had a couple of cannulas placed in my arm and it was bandaged up. I was wired up to machines, having bloods taken and finally an X-ray of my chest was taken before the results came back. It was thankfully not a heart attack or angina, but more likely it was pericarditis, which came as a relief to be honest. That means the sac surrounding my heart had got infected and possibly fluid had accumulated around it, putting my heart under pressure.

I was very happy to be released from the hospital and a very worried Mrs Bob drove me home. I was happy to be home with my family (Mrs Bob & Dog) as it meant I could sit in my recliner, do nothing and relax as instructed by the doctors. T’was while I was relaxing at home that I had this epiphany.

Even though I’m sure I was in no real physical danger, it’s events like this that make you realise a number of things. I am not getting any younger, despite my efforts to the contrary, and life is too short to hold grudges and hatred. The only person that gets hurt by that stuff is me. I want to look forward, not back, and not ruminate on things that have happened before. It’s also made me really appreciate what I have and not take it for granted. I want to live my wonderful life Mrs Bob and Dog, and enjoy every minute with them. I want to forgive and forget anyone who has hurt or wronged me and leave that in the past.

We all think that we are going to last forever, which is again, sadly, not true. Finally, when that final bell does toll, and we are reunited with loved ones that have gone before, I wondered how I will be remembered by those I hold dear. Have I done the best in life I can with the gifts and talents I have been given? How about you?

Stay Safe X