Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Imogen is my eight-year-old saving grace. A little odd, for our family, she is amiable, affable, easy going, forgiving, hopeful, friendly, patient and all the rest. She wanders round in her own little cloud of quiet optimism and is the reason that her brother was tested for special needs, instead of the family being tested for hereditary insanity.

Look at Lewis on his own and I would forgive you for thinking he is being dragged up by a mother who only remembers him every so often. Look at him side by side with the perpetual winner of the annual 'most likeable child' competition at school, and you see things in a different light.

To be fair I do worry that Imogen excels at nothing except being happily and unobtrusively in the background, and that her constant certificates for 'smiling' or 'caring' or other mannerisms are hastily made up by teachers who cant remember a thing about her except that she never goes against the flow.

She's not Pollyanna (thank God, I think I'd puke), but heres an example, today.

Imogen has repeatedly told us that she has after-school Art Club this term. She has been excited about it constantly for a full term, since January when they first discovered it was oversubscribed and split the children into two groups. She has been particularly emphatic about how much she is looking forward to it, on Tuesdays. It was going to be Tuesdays.

Today was to be her first day, as no school clubs reconvene on the first week back after a holiday. It was her sole topic of conversation all the way to school this morning, and........... it turns out they split the group into two HALF terms. She has walked past the teacher leading the class every day for six weeks before the Easter break and the bloody woman has never once mentioned it was Imogen's turn already.

We only found all of this out after scouring the school, thinking she had got the wrong room, when we finally went and asked the secretary.

Imogen went grey and very quiet, you could see the total heartbreak and panic on her face, the disbelief. She tried not to look at anybody at all on the way out of school.

Tears? Just one, and that only when she quietly mentioned that she wouldn't get to finish her picture, the one she had started on the first day, before they split the group; the one she had been finishing, in her head, every day for the last fourteen weeks.

So know we are going to try starting a bucket for papier mache and maybe, if I'm really unlucky, do a bit of salt dough as well. What else could I offer? How could I not offer? She's sitting there, waiting for me to finish typing, looking all renewed and hopeful.

Here we go............

Friday, April 08, 2005


This is a steam valve post, asbestos clothing recommended.

Not last night, but the night before, we had a power cut. It happened at midnight long after my husband had gone to bed (he's not really an old fart - he gets up at 5) and as I was doing a last few things on the web, very slowly and stupidly, because by that time of night I usually have my eyelids propped open with matchsticks.

I forgot to mention - if Gary gets up at five, I am up by five thirty, as his idea of tiptoeing round is to find six or seven reasons to come back into the bedroom, half of them requiring the light on and a lot of under-the-breath grumbling.

He also leaves all the other lights on, washes his hair, bangs around in the kitchen and watches a bit of Breakfast TV news 'quietly', and if that doesnt grate on my nerves until I get up, then he has the knack of leaving the bedroom door 'almost shut', you know, that position where the latch hits gently against its casing with no perceptible rhythm. Its like chinese water torture or that moment in some TV shows when they announce the winners after a looooong pause. It drives me mad. Just as I am beginning to relax and think it wont happen again - tap!

Funny thing about me - I am great in a crisis, I'm a real gumboots girl, the bigger the disaster the better I cope; practical, optimistic, caring, a whirlwind of positive activity and support. Its the little things that turn me into the demon bitch from hell.

Anyhow, the powercut; the lights, the computer, everything went off with a pop at midnight, on a very dark night. This is a family home (well thats a nice way of putting it) and its the Easter holidays and this is not the sort of place, at the moment, that I would invite anyone to. OAPs and the blind wouldn't stand a chance. My left thumb is still sore, probably from fumbling in the dark for a wall corner that was closer than I thought, but how my insteps survived plugs and plastic toys is anybody's guess.

Mercifully there were smelly tea lights left out on the fireplace (there are a few strange advantages to not putting things away, it seems) but with all the streetlights off and the total darkness, it was a game getting there. I only have ceramic tealight holders and it was too far to go to the kitchen for a saucer, so the light I managed to create was very dim indeed and, held close, seemed to being a better job of scorching my corneas that casting any illumination on the room.

It was at this point, in absolute silence, that my ten year old son woke, crept to the front room and walked straight into me. I have never been so terrified in my life.

So, with him sticking close in a move-your-elbow-and-he'll-have-concussion sort of a way, and by the light of a quarter inch flame deep in a china pot, I found the electricity cupboard which doubles as the coat cupboard, checked the readout on the meter at the furthest darkest most flammably packed corner, ascertained that there was no power coming in to the house (before realising, doh, that the streetlights weren't on, so I could have guessed without checking), fumbled to the other end of the house, found the phone book, found the emergency number, rang it very slowly using the keypad like braille, got an automated message giving me another number, rang that, and found out that 'men were on their way but no-one had any idea how long it would be'.

Oh great.

By this time its about twelve thirty, so I take the limpet slowly back to bed, tuck him in, have a short, urgent, whispered argument with him about why I can't leave a naked flame in his bedroom just to make him feel better; trip, stumble and fumble my way out of his personal plastic soldier bombsite and into my own room, half wake the other half to let him know his alarm clock isnt working (he's really good at waking up without it, so long as he knows he's without it) and collapse gratefully into the beckoning pit. The last irritation, I believed, was the waxy scent of the tea light after I blew it out, which remained right beside me on the bedside table, just in case, along with my lighter.

You know that glorious, overtired feeling when there seems to be an age between ticks of the clock, and in each space muscles rush to unwind and meld with the bed, sleep hormones flood your body so that breath by breath there is less of it still feeling like its attached to you..... bliss.

Tick...spine unlocks,....tock...warmth sweeps over,.....tick....legs are asleep,.....tock.....head goes fuzzy, ...tick....."Mum?"

"Er, mum?"


"I'm scared"

(in gruff, slurry voice) "Don't be daft, go to sleep"




"Someones outside with a torch.......... I think we've got burglars"

So what did I do? I got up, of course, went to the window and had a look. No torches, no burglars, but a (battery operated?) burglar alarm on the house opposite is dolorously winking a tiny white light, normally completely unnoticeable. Gentle conversation ensues, whilst husband lightly snores and occasionally adds to the suspense by appearing to be about to grunt or snort instead.

Waking Gary up is NOT a good idea. Once he's awake, he's awake and he lets you know about it, all night. He could enter the world championships for solo prostrate mattress trampolining, and the grunts would make a weighlifter proud.

This is going on a bit, so, anyway, settle son down, settle self down, count to ten and start again.

End result: at five to one in the morning even Gary (who's half awake impressions of Father Jack ought to be legendary; fuck, bollocks, grrr....) agrees to let the sprog share our bed for the night, for the sake of reduced peace rather than none at all. So I'm lying there waving one arm about in the air and using my lighter like a Barry Manilow fan so that son can crash and stumble toward the light. He gets into our bed by climbing over the end and walking up the middle.

Five minutes later the lights come on.

This ought to be the end of the story, except that the house was immediately lit up like Battersea Power Station and involved me (who else?) getting up and going round turning things off.

Son goes back to his own bed.
Son decides he's still a bit scared of the dark now, gets back up and turns his bedroom light back on.
I lie there trying desperately not to notice the warm yellow glow from the hallway,
And the power goes off again.

When it was finally repaired at coming up for 2 am we were back to three in a bed, son and husband both sideways trampolining in the search for space and me clinging to the mercifully solid edge of the mattress like a spare plank.

5.30 am yesterday morning I woke to find Gary fumbling for socks, one overheated child making his unconscious way to the middle of my pillow away from the cold patch where his dad threw the blankets back, and the cat on my head, or rather nested at the top of same pillow, pretty much in my hair. I didnt even have an inch of space to roll over.

Yesterday wasn't so bad, considering. OK I was on auto pilot, a few million more braincells than usual refused to fire up, I probably made some serious bloopers and I was aware of a slight shiver of muscular fatigue, all day. Being a mother strips you of all pride however, particulalry pride in your ability to function as a member of society, so I slipped back in to new-mother-zombie-mode (once learned, never forgotten) without a flicker of guilt or shame at functioning at the level of a mental patient.

Catch 22 with autopilot, for me anyhow, is that my body clock defaults to the previous day's settings, in other words last night I was wide awake until 1 am and half awake until sometime around 2, again, and today I am a little more irascible, a little more inclined to feel that the world and I should be back up to speed, when we're so obviously not.

Perhaps this wasnt the best morning to decide to answer an email I had tactfully ignored until now. Perhaps today would be a good day to remember that I have the capacity to kill people and destroy lives and relationships with the demure lifting of a single eyebrow, and put a conscious effort into refraining from exercising it, irrespective of the feel-good factor.

On the other hand theres an eclipse today, which my friend Annie says is like a full moon with knobs on, so maybe we are all a bit twitchy and my own private meltdown will go unnoticed amongst everybody elses.

Eclipses are to full moons as guys are to women.

Get it?

After all, they're just big girls, with knobs on.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Email #14

Thank you for your email. I have forwarded this to Ms Caseworker-manager who is dealing with Lewis' case.

Kind regards. Mr Caseworker

Email #13

Dear Mr Caseworker

This is to let you know that I have called Sendist in Darlington, who put me on to Mr Adeshiyan in London.

I explained that when I applied for tribunal I was under the impression that no note in lieu had been issued. Now that misunderstanding has been corrected I see we are free to re-apply for statementing in May 2005 and not six months or more into the future.

He is sending me a cancellation form in the post, so this will slow things a little.

If you like I can fax you a copy of my cancellation, once I have filled it in.

Best regards


Saturday, April 02, 2005

My Ten Year Old

Living with a kid with Aspergers causes as much stress for him as it does for me. Somehow I feel inferior, and I struggle to keep a veil of parental interest across my face whilst he lectures me on his latest theory.
God alone knows where they come from.

In the past two weeks he has come back to me, time and again, with his developing theories (which seem to work themselves out in the back of his head whilst real life goes on regardless) about:

  1. Liver cells re-grow. You can lose a bit of healthy liver and (he tells me, I don't know) it will grow back. So he wants to identify and extract the gene and use it to allow people to re-grow limbs.
  2. Fingernails might snap under pressure but they are quite strong and flexible, so he wants to design a way to allow skin to take on some of the properties of fingernails, to resist injury.
  3. This one is his pet project, because its just for fun and not for saving lives (he's hot on saving lives and sometimes it gives him a headache) : black holes are supposed to be gateways to other dimensions (actually he called them something much more scientific, but I forget) so he wants to harness that, design them, and make it so you can step in at this end and out in China. We had a big discussion about whether you would need a really weak field or a really small hole, to achieve that.
Oh yes, and we also had an argument about whether spaceships would need to be anti-gravity or impervious to gravity, ie function in a non magnetic fashion to start with; the differences between speed and manouverability in a vacuum and in gravity and whether the vacuum is really a vacuum or whether its really thin gravity because otherwise why don't all the planets just wobble off. Or something like that.

Anyway, thats what a genius, dyslexic Aspergers kid does with his easter holidays, behind and in between watching Ed Edd & Eddie, beating up his sister, enjoying the satire and irony in Buck Rogers or The Simpsons (you know, the adult political stuff), beating up his little sister and playing adult computer games (they have to be adult - he's too good at them). Just for fun, you understand. Well maybe for fun, I suspect its a life-long obsessive concern for the safety of not just the human race, but individuals, but one that he senses it's advisable to dress down. He has a big heart and big plans. I wonder where he'll be in ten years.