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.