Monday, May 16, 2016

A foreign country

Once upon a very long time ago in that foreign country that is called the past when English (and I expect the Scots and the Welsh and Irish were also called "English" then) would play Cowboys and Indians, and Cops and Robbers with no hint of guilt associated with any of those roles (Doctors and Nurses notwithstanding). In those days of Harold Wilson's white heat of the technological revolution and MacMillan's  wind of change blowing through Africa it was a common question to ask any child of primary age "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Well notwithstanding a temporary glitch where I wrote of my ambition to become a rag and bone man in an essay (Steptoe and son was popular at the time) the cliche was that every boy wanted to become an engine driver (this is pre diesel) and every girl wanted to become a nurse (well my mum when she was a little girlie did and she nearly was as well which is another story)

As we got a little bit beyond junior school it was the talk in the family (and pretty much fantasy when you consider the chances of it ever happening) that Marcus would become a doctor because he was interested in nature and biology (to the extent that children brought him road kill to dissect) and I would become an Architect (or Town Planner) because that was my fascination.

The nearest I have ever come to Architect is with my shed and greenhouse building but I did at least achieve some brief influence on the City Plan when phrases that I had originated were adopted during a process of negotiation around objections.

Well be that as it may, Marcus never became a doctor, indeed like me he crashed at the time of taking our A levels and the best he could do at University was a joint honours in geology and biology that he subsequently dropped out of.

By the time I got to Uni, I had also long forgotten my ambitions to become an Architect of Corbusian shining cities even if I was on the Universities building committee dealing with much more mundane concerns such as the infamous white tile problem with Yorke, Rosenburg and Mardall's grand design, and the need to renew the subterranean heating system which was causing endless problems (New York in miniature)

I digress and short cut to the future, that is to say the present. It is ever so funny, that on a day today when my doctor (MD) congratulated me upon becoming a doctor (PhD) I am reminded of all this. Marcus himself doesn’t quite know what to make of it in that he has said to me “but I was the one that was supposed to become the doctor”

I guess in time the novelty will wear off, I will get used to the routine that this is my title now and I have earned it. Perhaps I will even find something useful to do with it, but for now I can still be somewhat incredulous that I got here.

Sunday, April 03, 2016


This is my first post as Dr Larry Arnold, yes I made it all the way through to the end, but not without a huge amount of anxiety on the way, so this post is about anxiety, anxiety and autism I suppose.

I would like to list the three greatest anxieties in my life, in order of the most troubling. This is not necessarily the way you might expect an autistic person to list them, but it is the way I do.

1. Financial worries.
2. Health
3. Social concerns

Yes, as a card carrying, diagnosed and dumpster diving autistic, social concerns are only number three, but why?

Number one is my financial state, I think it always has been, but it has certainly got more precarious in the last decade or so, particularly as I have been accumulating debt as the consequence of pursuing a doctoral degree without the background of a lifetimes accumulation of savings from income.

In the current environment it has got worse as my income is getting smaller as a result of cuts to benefits, and even what I have is threatened. Bankruptcy is a real threat, being unable to meet the ongoing debt payments is a real threat. Any unexpected bill is a struggle to meet and it will only take a perfect storm of unwanted, but not necessarily unlikely events to bring that about. Why is it worse for me because of autism? Well that is simple, because I am at a severe disadvantage in the employment market, at 60 plus a doctoral degree is not going to help a great deal there, but hey, for better or worse I am a PhD now.

The second of my anxieties is health, again it is not to be supposed that this is something that diminishes as one ages. Indeed as I age it becomes more of a problem, and whilst this is the case for neurotypical folk as well, the difficulty in being autistic and poor is that I can neither afford those things that the health service will not provide for free, eg physiotherapy, or am I capable of negotiating a proper consideration of my overall needs with the NHS because of the third of those anxieties which I am coming to.

Social anxieties.

Covers a multitude of things but they are not threatening me as much as the two above, however they are part of the mix.  I am anxious because I do not know how to deal with unruly neighbours, and I am anxious because of my responsibilites as chair of the allotment association having to deal with unruly meetings and a whole lot else besides.

These social anxieties may not be the most debilitating, but they certainly contribute to my difficulties in dealing with the other two.

Social security?

What does it mean, well it ought to mean that people like me have some security in our lives, that our homes are not threatened, that our basic wants are not threatened, and indeed for all too many of us, our liberty itself is not threatened as the number of us that are detained under mental health provisions far from "home" is not insubstantial.

Give me a day tomorrow which was like the day today and that would be better than anything Omar Khayam can offer anyway, because that is the way I like it, that I can look out of my window on the same world and feel safe in tha.

Give me a fair chance to use my skills, but you don't do you, no not the employers, the law makers, the councillors and counsellors, and least of all the geezer on the number 10 buz.

Just realise that I have given as much as I am capable of to making this world a better place and to helping my fellow, so I think after that I do deserve a little consideration.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A memory of the Coventry Blitz

It is so long since I have blogged that I had forgotten this was still active at all.

Anyway this is not a post from me, it is a post from my dad, 75 years ago tonight, as tonight is not an ordinary night, it is the 75th Anniversary of the Coventry Blitz.

Then came the night of November 14th 1940. It was a cold but moonlit night, the full moon was so bright that it was almost possible to read a newspaper outside. The sirens sounded their warning about 7 pm and almost immediately we could hear bombs whistling down in the distance, and the sound of distant explosions. Anti aircraft guns added to the general din, the noise they made when they fired was a hollow bang like someone hitting an empty oil drum with hammer , and the sound of shells going off thousands of feet  in the air was a lazy crump, almost like a car door being shut. After about half and hour we realised it was going to be a big raid so we huddled under the stairs. There was my mother, my elder brother Fred who was 11 years older than me, and myself. I thin there was also one of  my elder sisters, but I am not sure. To be quite honest I was never sure where various members of the family lived at various times. My brother Fred armed himself with an axe and went out into the night. After a while he came back to tell us that fires were burning everywhere and the Germans were dropping a new type of incendiary bomb which exploded when it had been alight for a minute, scattering white hot burning magnesium for yards in every direction. They were very dangerous and much more deadly than the older type. By about 8 0 clock the raid was well under way, there was an almost continual noise, the sound of bombs screaming in the distance, the sudden whoosh of a bomb dropping neared followed by the blast of the explosion and that followed by the almost musical tinkle of shattered glass falling in the street. Then the bang and crump of anti aircraft guns, The noise of falling shrapnel from these was like hail,  occasionally a large piece would fall with a hiss and a plop as it went through a roof tile or bounced off the pavement. Sometimes a brick or chunk of masonry would crash to the ground outsider, flung hundreds of yards by some distant bomb and in between the sounds of the various crashes and bangs could be heard the very deep  pulsating roar of the German bombers as they flew at will over the city. We huddled in our cramped shelter under the stairs with only a hurricane lamp for light. Quite early on the electricity, gas and water was put out of action. I do not thing we had a drink of any kind, we were caught unprepared for such a long raid. The air became thick with the smell of smoke mixed with the acrid smell of burnt explosives and the peculiar smell of old houses that have been blown apart, a mixture of old plaster and soot. Although Crabmill lane was a couple of miles from the city centre, we were not very far from various factories. Around us, within ten minutes walking distance in every direction lay the factories of Morris Motor Works, Courtauld's, the rayon spinning firm, a little further on, Daimler and so on, and many smaller manufacturing companies. All these were potential targets for the Germans so bombs rained down all around us. I was only thirteen years old, and I was not really aware of the danger of the situation, but the fear was there. Time seemed to stand still and minutes became hours and gradually my senses were dulled by continual noise. I didn't know what time it was, it may have been about 11 or 12 o clock but suddenly the house shook with a terrific explosion. The rooms were full of dust and glass, the windows and doors were blown in, there was no sound, just the choking smell of plaster, hot air, and burnt gasses. Later on we discovered that a very large bomb had blown a crater in Stoney Stanton road only 70 or 80 yards away. Time stood still. I don't know if I dozed  off or not, but I remember a voice shouting "is there anyone in here" it was a warden. When we answered he told us that we must move out. There was a land mine sitting near the bomb crater just up the road. We moved quickly and gathered up a few clothes. I had two cats, one of which had disappeared. I was more concerned with them than anything else. The air raid warden guided us out and told us to make our way to the shelters in the Morris  Motor Works on the Bell Green Rd about half a mile to the north. We hurried out past burning buildings, perhaps relieved to be getting away. Eventually we found the comparative safety of the Morris underground shelter. The rest of the raid was spent there. I do not remember the "all clear" being sounded on the factory sirens, but by six o clock there was no more sound of German Aircraft. The only place we could go was to my married sister’s house at 284 Bell Green road. We stumbled out into the dark morning passing the wreckage of bombed buildings. The air stank, smoke hung everywhere, and here and there we passed a burning house, left to burn itself out, for there was no water to fight the fires, WE reach my sisters house which was full of refugees like ourselves. Most of them were women and some of hem had babies in their arms. I remember that one or two were feeding their babies from their breasts which I felt was a little embarrassing. I was just old enough to feel the awakening of sexual differences. No one really bothered, I guess we were all glad to be alive. I am very vague about the next few days. I remember my brother coming in, he had been into the city, he said it was a ruin.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

You may well see me on the allotment and think I look reasonably fit, but it takes it's toll and in the evenings, and often the mornings too, I am none too mobile. Sitting at my computer does not do me any better than walking to and fro on my plot, digging and weeding and whatever, because that does my back in as well.

None of it is getting any better, my years (I was 58 last week) and the turn of the year hardly help. It's a wonder I don't go down with seasonal affective depression too, now the nights are longer. Indeed it maybe a bite from the old black dog that has brought this particular post on.

Whither am I going, and how much of a hurry am I to get there?  Well truth be told, I have prevaricated and excused and put off and procrastinated for too long to the point where I am not even concerned about reaching the end of the academic journey.

My priorities are all mixed up. To say that I am (literally) building a hedge against a Government that has managed to survive for too long (unlike me) about whom if one were to say (in lengthy peroration and nesting parentheses (see I can't help my prolixitiy any more than my lax joints (and perhaps bowels, (look you another nest of brackets) , ),),) about whom I will say, that to say they have little regard for the common people is taking litotes and understatement a little far, they have a positive hatred of us, to say that I am building a hedge against them is what I have been doing on my allotment and it has been more relaxing for me than the academic grind.

(or from trying to understand that last paragraph, which I shall dedicate to Frankie Happé and Kristina Chew)

I am not quite losing my marbles, though I did lose a black lens cap amongst the fallen leaves in Wappenbury wood on Sunday. However I have lost my enthusiasm for the academic project. I no longer have any desire whatever to pursue another set of grandiose post nominals.

I do feel however, that the write up of the Thesis is the boring part, and difficult too, when I run away with my own prose, (or it runs away with me, how strange this language, allowing such chiasmus)

I feel it is a stage I am not in a hurry to complete, and I feel the prize at the end, of wearing a silly hat in a big hall in front of lot's of others in similar Monty Python outfits is not the real prize at all.

I feel that the real end product, is the Autonomy journal. That is what has been made possible by this academic journey, it is the contacts I have made, and the learning, and research, learning not just how the peer review system and literature works, but figuring out how to make the new opportunities of open publishing and software work for me. I hope the internet will do the rest and that it will eventually take on a life of it's own ever further from mine.

And what has autism to do with all of that? Well for as much as autism is embedded into my being, for good or ill, I am embedded in the wider phenomenon of autism. Themes for Autonomy to explore, as we go a stage yet beyond self narrating zoo exhibits, a stage beyond so called "self advocacy" a term I have come to profoundly dislike for reasons I shall go into another time, but a stage where we take our proper place on the stage and get to challenge those core assumptions and assumed rights that we are always the subjects and never the originators of the ideas that have come to be included in the field of "autism studies".

Monday, October 21, 2013

Peer pressure and the press

Being the editor of a new academic journal is nothing like I thought it would be.

Whilst I set out from egalitarian principles I have come to realise that the exigencies of peer review means that I have had to reject more potential articles than I would have liked.

This partially explains the delay of the second edition (which is in preperation)

Anyone who has been involved in trying to get published will realise the gestation period is a long one. That is out of my hands, because one is dependent not only on overcoming ones own inertia, but the sometimes long response times of others in the chain.

It has been  tempting to slip in an article of my own (no questions asked, I am the editor after all) but that will not do, albeit the first edition does showcase a short essay of mine, it is there for historical more than current relevance along with reprints (can one talk about reprints in a digital context?) of other important work, which is part of the journals ethos as well as new papers.

Anyway this bloggy blogatory whatever style of writing won't do, and I have had to reject an article of my own, even though it can be found on a bona fide academic repository. It's just not good enough.

The article in the next edition that does bear the Author's authorship has had to be considerably rewritten to pass muster, even though it has been presented orally in an international context.

I am afraid the second edition of Autonomy will be nothing like as compendious as I had hoped, but I shall have to get over that, I guess it takes time to build it up and there are articles currently coming up for peer review or under consideration that just are not ready for this edition, delayed though it is.

What is the impetus for getting it together at last? Well the summer has been a long vacation for me, my allotment has made the most demands, and the round of NAS meetings the next after that.  The NAS is out of the way now I have retired, I shall only be having four meeting a year after this. My doctorate can wait, (who needs it?) but people at my Uni have been asking questions about Autonomy, so I had better get a move on. Anyway vanity publishing apart, no edition would be complete without an editorial and that is even more difficult to write than a paper or a review, because that requires me to actually read the stuff that has been submitted and approved for the current edition.

Which reminds me, I don't know about anyone owing a cock to Asclepius, Aesculapious or whatever his name was (Socrates would probably know) but I had better get round to invoicing the NAS for the first commercial transaction of the Autreach Press. Well this enterprise does need to be self supporting doesn't it?

And yes folks, for all you doubters, although it is hosted in my web space, which I pay for, it is nonetheless an authentic registered journal with an editorial board and peer reviewers.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The parting glass.

This has been quite a significant weekend for me, not necessarily because I am getting increasingly careless and forgetful, leaving a bag with my nightclothes and spare underwear in the hotel room, and now glad to be home for a change of underwear and socks, oh no, not for that.

I have now ceased after I think 12 years (or maybe more, I told you I was getting forgetful) on the Council of the NAS and 9 on the Board, to be on either.  I didn't resign, I was pushed. The NAS instituted a constitutional ammendment ( I think the USA could do with a few of those right now) limiting the number of terms one could serve, so it was time for my retirement.

I might have continued on the Council, but I made a decision there was no point. It is always the case that (unless you have done something spectacularly bad in office) you stand a greater chance of being re-elected if you have already been in. I thought that my continuing when there was no chance of progressing back to the board, would only be blocking the opportunities for others who could do so if they were elected onto the Council.

In other words seniority or senility notwithstanding, there is a time to move on and leave it to people with more remaining energy than oneself.  I shall not miss the somewhat stressful journeys to London and back, and the stays in a hotel I have to confess I find less than pleasant (even with clean underwear and socks).

It also means I can potentially change my relationship with the NAS.  I can be more critical (theoretically that is, as I am told I have never particularly pulled any punches in what I have said when I have disagreed with it) but more than that I could engage in a commercial or employment relationship, something I have been unable to do for all those years I have been in governance.

If you should ever catch my little cameo appearance in the NAS "Ask Autism" product/project about to be launched at anytime, I might add I was not paid for that, or anything else I have ever done for the NAS, beyond my train, bus and taxi fares. There you might be enlightened for if they have not edited out I inform the world that I was not by over a decade the first autistic person to be elected onto the board of an autistic organisation, that was Thomas McKean on the Autism Society of America back in the 90's.

I was the first on the board of the NAS though, and as I leave I learn that another was elected on Saturday.  I hope I have done my bit towards making that a less exceptional fact than such things would have been considered in the past.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Return to Blogging

Perhaps now is the time to dip my toe back in the water.

I guess those turbulent waters have settled somewhat and maybe the fanatics and the fools have all left the blogosphere by now, leaving this sometimes fanatical and foolish blogger free rein to reign again. (have I got my spelling right there?)

Anyway I may well change my profile picture and other stuff but here goes.

This year will see some changes. I have for the most part spent my time on my allotment which has been a particularly important focus in my life given as it has fed me quite well, never mind it needs constant attention. I have built a shed, and am quite pleased with myself for that, and something that approximates a greenhouse. Next year I intend to construct something on the lines of the fruit cage I inherited to protect my brassicas from marauding pigeons.

Other than that I have fitted in a fair amount of travel, with the NAS, Birmingham University and conference speaking. Not international travel mind you. That is not for me, nor ever will be. I do all my international business right here on the internet, with my servers sitting in sunny California creating a jurisdictional nightmare I suppose should I ever get on the wrong side of the tyrant Barack Obama or his minions (dare I say controllers)

Well that is enough of the politics. The state of UK politics is even more dire, the most any sensible person can hope to do is survive until the next election, which of course brings me back to the allotment.

I shall be retiring from the NAS for the most part next month. It will be the end of 9 years on the Board and I think something like 12 or 13 on the Council, I have lost count. I retire from the board because I have to. There is a new set of rules that prevents anyone from completing more than 3 terms in a lifetime of membership. I retire from the Council of my own free will, to make way for fresh blood in the hope that there is going to be some continuity of autistic membership on the board, which I would only be in the way of if I remained, blocking the career path of some other autistic wannabe trustee.

I will not be gone from the NAS scene for good however. That is not my style, it has played all too much a role in my life for me to be able to deal with that change.

I shall remain on the Brand and Development committee, which is the "innovative" arm of the NAS, it's commercial part, which for statutory reasons is registered as a seperate company from the NAS charity itself. I think it is important for me to remain there, and at this current time it is where I can both keep an eye on things, and I think be of maximum effect in the organisation.

Will I ever complete my Doctorate? Well I have finished the formal period anyway and am this month entering what is technically called "Thesis awaited status" In other words I have a terminal date by which I must submit my thesis, so I shall be slowly completing the write up. It is no longer the most important thing in my life, the qualification will just be a gloss on what I already know, I don't really need it unless I am intent upon a carreer in academic teaching, and I see now, this close to my sixtieth that it is probably not going to happen unless there are major reforms and changes in academia, which is still moving rapidly in the wrong direction away from the sort of mileu I would be happy to be permanently employed in.  Still "Thesis awaited" status is a convenient way to remain connected for as long as I can, and get some continuing advantage out of University affiliation.

For the record my last academic presentation at the Sheffield Normalcy  conference was probably my least academic in terms of subverting the paradigms of Normalcy, something which too few presenters seemed to be interested in doing. I am not a musicologist, but I presented on Moondog I sang the introduction, launched immediatly into playing a Moondog piece on my flute and puntuated the proceedings with recordings of Moondogs extraordinary and influential music.  Ok there was a sociological and disability studies context and autism is never far away from the picture, as it is what I literally do every day, but it certainly was not the kind of thing I have done elsewhere. It's not the first time I have done something quite like that however, as many years ago I did a similar thing called "From William Morris to Morris Dancing" for the local branch of the William Morris society where I interspersed a more than hypothetical connection with recorded and actual performance.

I was totally in character for the Moondog part however, dressed (stylishly according to some commentators) in a blanket and I even managed to perform on the streets of Sheffield in the early morning waiting for the Uni to open it's doors.

So the big question? Why am I blogging again. Well I expect I still have things to say, and saying them on Facebook is a bit parochial, not to mention limited.