Tomorrow, We Fly!

Well, in the early hours, anyways.

This past few days has been hectic! We have been packing, picking up supplies, tidying, cleaning and generally preparing for our week in the sun.

Sunday was great, because my father – in – law ran the London Marathon for Barnardo’s, a children’s charity for disadvantaged children around the world. I did want to go to London, but because I still haven’t got the hang of big crowds yet, I stayed home. But I was able to borrow Josh’s laptop to track the father – in – law’s progress, and he didn’t do too badly, actually!

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Yesterday I went shopping with the sister in law, as I needed some swimwear and sandals. Luckily the summer ranges are just coming out, otherwise I would of had some problems.

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I love the rainbow bikini, as it’s funky and quirky, and the orange flowered swimsuit has a cute skirt and tummy control, just so I can feel more confident on the beach or by the pool. The white one looked nice, but didn’t fit over my chest comfortably, so when I get back, I will be taking another trip to Portsmouth to take it back.

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These sandals are brilliant for me, as I am so clumsy, I will trip up over the thinner soles. The current fashion for thick soles, has made me feel much more confident with walking around without scuffing the sandals, or doing my toes a mischief, which I do every summer.

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I did attempt the traditional pout selfie on the way back, but obviously failed miserably, but it was fun to attempt. I know I’ll always be the goofy sister – in – law, but that is what I do best!

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I also bought some nail polish, as I like having a pedicure and manicure when I get ready for holiday. It was three for two on Barry M products, and the gel polishes look similar to getting a shelliac manicure, and blue is a nice holiday colour, so I got three shades of blue, then did my manicure and pedicure after a full on bath. I couldn’t decide which one to go for, so I did all three in a running pattern, and they don’t look too bad, if I’m honest.

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And the mother – in – law fixed my Kindle Fire, so I’ve been downloading a load of free ebooks onto it, so I’m excited to have some new things to curl up on the pool chair with. Mostly some classics on the public domain, like King Arthur, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as I might write a novel set in these domains for young people.

So, we leave here at 3am, and then will be getting a 6:30am flight to the sun and sand, very exciting! To be honest, I could seriously do with the holiday, if I’m honest, university has been very stressful, and I’ve been feeling awfully uninspired to write much for either the anthology or any university stuff. I am hoping that I can get some really good prose down so I can hand in most of the stuff for when I get back after Spring Break. But I guess  we shall have to wait and see!

Spring Break Is HERE!

So, I’m home for Spring Break!

It has been a long couple of weeks, with battling deadlines (I lost, but mitigated circumstances have become my best friends), dealing with some rocky stuff with ‘friends’ and losing, and then finding myself along the way, but now I’m back in Hampshire.

I got the train to Fareham in the afternoon, after all my usual meetings, (my mentor got me coffee so I’d attempt to work), and got back home in time for tea. So it was a quiet one watching telly and cuddling the cat.

Yesterday me and Josh took my sister in law out for coffee, which was nice, and even though they didn’t have prawns, I did enjoy a tuna salad, and then we wandered around the charity shops.

And today, I’m sat in front of the telly, enjoying coffee and cuddling with our cat.

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I’m trying to relax as much as I can, whilst catching up with my prose writing and edit some poetry. But, that said, only a few days to go until holiday! I need to get some sandals, a couple of new swim suits (one piece or two, I can’t decide), and I might purchase some reading material for by the pool…

The endless possibilities…

But that’s for Monday, and I’ll be catching up with my carer, and my housemate, so that should be good :)

In the meantime, perhaps some plans for writing might be good…

I Survived! Or, Amsterdam 2014!

So… Amsterdam.

Let’s say that I made it to and from in one piece.

I left Bath at 8.30pm, meaning that I sadly had to miss the final for Battle of the Laughs, which I was gutted about, because I was really rooting for the other comedians who were battling their way into the hearts of the students, to get that all important Summer Ball gig. But, we set off into the night, snuggled in blankets and munching snacks in the hope that we’d go to sleep on the coach. Alas, we didn’t, even though I took my sleep medication. But we got onto the ferry, and sailed away into the abyss of Europe.

That said, we got into sunny Amsterdam at 8.30am, after twelve gruelling hours on the road. After dropping our bags off, the intrepid explorers decided to go grab breakfast. 

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It was lovely to nibble on a light snack whilst beginning to re-read Diary of a Young Girl, as it made sense to read the story of a brave young woman going through a terrible experience, whilst walking the streets she would of known and loved. We had plans to visit The Secret Annexe the next day anyway, so context was needed.

After that, we decided to have a wander around our surroundings. We were really lucky to be getting such amazing weather, to be honest! I brought my posh DSLR camera that I got for Christmas, so was very able to play tourist for a change, and get snap happy. I’ll show off a couple of my favourite ones:

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It was so lovely, that I agreed to hire out a bike with a couple of my friends for a couple of hours. Considering that I hadn’t cycled since I was fourteen, I was pretty nervous, especially as I’d spent quite a bit of the morning watching all the locals whizzing around like pros (seriously, some of the kids were on their smartphones, on Facebook, whilst moving!). So, after being shown how to use the bike locks (which we soon forgot) and how the brakes worked (that would prove to be rather handy!), we set off. It wasn’t long before I was wobbling all over the place, half on the pavement, half on the road. My shoe kept falling off in the middle of the cycle road, and we went the wrong way down a one-way path (doh!), and then we had pandemonium trying to lock and unlock our bikes when we went off for dinner (a lovely Italian place!), before I managed to get the hang of cycling, by which point, we had to give the bikes back. At one point, I had Dutch cyclists swear at me (it sounded like they were, harsh tone of voice!), so I swore back in English (though a mother did have to cover her daughter’s ears, whoops!), and an older gentleman came up to me in the street and said “You need to learn to ride bicycle. Get off pavement!”, when I thought I was on the road… DOH! I did try though, which I guess was the main thing.

The next day, we bought 24 hour public transport tickets, and set off to find the Anne Frank House museum. 

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It was another beautiful day, as we boarded our first tram, and trundled off to Dam Square, where we’d have to walk for another ten minutes to find Prinsengracht, where the museum was. We got there at about 10am, to discover a massive queue! I’d hoped at that time in the morning that it wouldn’t of been so busy, but I forgot for a moment just how famous Anne and her beloved diary is. Anyone who is anyone would want to come to see the place where Anne and her fellow hiders lived until that fateful day when they were captured. 

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This was the queue at around 11am! It just got madder and madder as the minutes ticked by. Although, that said, listening to the bells of the church that Anne used to love made me feel more determined to swallow my impatience, and get through the queue and into the Secret Annex. But, I did bring the diary with me…

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It kept me busy whilst the queue shuffled slowly forwards. But we got in, and that was the main thing. We read out extracts of the diary, as well as the afterword, when a couple of my friends asked if Anne survived the war unfound. Unfortunately someone did tip off the hiders to the Nazis, who took them away to the dreaded concentration camps, and only Otto, Anne’s father, survived. 

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We were not allowed to take photos inside the Secret Annexe, so this was as far as the camera got. However, I agreed with this policy even if my friends didn’t, as you don’t want to ruin the experience by taking lots of photos and disturbing other visitors, not to mention that some artifacts get affected by light damage, especially when subjected to flash photography (see, there’s the old museum volunteer in me coming out!). But seeing the postcards on the wall, the books they read, the maps on the wall where they tracked the progress of the Allied forces, brought it home for me, that these were not just stories on a page anymore, but real people, and real lives. This was even more emphasized, when we got to the room where Anne’s original diary is kept, in a glass case, for all to see, as well as pieces of paper where Anne had written short stories, or her draft of the novel she was writing about the Secret Annex, based on her original diary. 

I then had to pop back home, as my card started playing up, because I needed more funds to be loaded on, which meant I missed out on the canal cruise I’d wanted to go on, which was a shame. But before then I bought the film made in 1959 about Anne’s diary, as well as a graphic biography of Anne’s life, which I simply couldn’t bear to leave behind. We went out for one last time, to another lovely Italian restaurant, where I had a really nice calzone. We wandered the streets of Amsterdam as the nightlife awoke, before turning in for the night, as we had a long journey ahead of us for the next day.

And then we left Amsterdam the next morning, at 11am. We travelled back into England, which took us longer than planned as we got stuck in traffic. But we soon made it, and lugged all our suitcases and bags back into our rooms, before I flopped into bed.

It was a wonderful experience, and one I would love to repeat. I’d better start saving up for going back, I might persuade Josh to go with me, I think he’d love the laid back vibe of the place, not sure if he’d want to hire a bicycle though… 

 

 

Why Me?

Who gets a full on winter cold in March?

Obviously I do…

And I’m supposed to be going to Amsterdam tomorrow.

I’ve got a blocked nose, a tickling cough with lots of gunk. My head aches and my ADHD has kicked off big time because of it.

I just want to curl up in bed and be nursed back to health, but I promised myself I would actually attempt to start attending lectures and learning something…

On the bright side, I do go on holiday tomorrow! I’m going to do the last of my packing tonight, that’s if I get the chance to…

In Other News…

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This week just gone has been very unusual, as I’ve done things that have changed the way I view the world forever.

This time last week I was preparing for my debut into stand-up comedy. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, just to see how it feels to get up on stage and attempt to be hilarious for a paying audience. I entered the university’s ‘Battle of the Laughs’, which is like the traditional ‘Battle of the Bands’, but instead involves stand-up comedians rather than bands. The prize is to perform as headliner for the Summer Ball, in the comedy tent (we’ve only had this for two years, but we’re one of the few universities to have them), and last week was the first heat. I really enjoyed the rush I got when getting introduced as a stand-up by our lovely compare, and appreciated the laughter that I got from a few of my jokes. I didn’t get through to the final, but it was the experience that counted, and I’ve decided that I really would like to get some compare experience in next year.

I’ve also helped out at an Asperger’s Awareness training session with the financial team at university. I really appreciate the fact that various teams on campus want to be able to help students with autism and Aspergers to be able to get the proper support they need in a way that is comfortable. It makes me happier to think that people are starting to become more aware of how the disability can affect the day-to-day life of someone on the spectrum, and that they want to help in every way that they can to make the student’s lives a lot easier. Hopefully they will be rolling out the training across the board, so that all staff members of all departments of the university become more aware of autism and Aspergers and the issues they face. Speaking of issues, Josh sent me the link to a Youtube video, that I think you’ll all find rather interesting:

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This is from Carly Fleischman, a young woman who has non-verbal autism, she communicates using a computer and speech software so she can explain what she needs/wants/etc. This video shows how it feels to be autistic, and the difficulties that you face when you’re dealing with sensory overload, and how it affects the world you live in, as well as how frustrating it is to be unable to explain what you want.

It’s an amazing video from a really inspirational person. It really shows what someone can achieve, regardless of their disability. If only other people could learn that we autistic people don’t want to be shut out from the world, but actually want to be given the opportunity to join in, and really make a difference, one that can change lives, for the better.

Also, next Thursday, I’m off to Amsterdam! My guidebook came through the post from Amazon, and I’ve flicked through it, getting more excited! The itinerary finally came through as well, so I’m so excited! I’m hoping that people will be able to come to the Anne Frank House with me, whilst one of my friends wants to go to all the places in The Fault in Our Stars, and to re-read the book, whilst I’m re-reading Anne’s diary. The only thing I’m dreading is all the actual travelling, as we’ll keep travelling from Bath to Amsterdam through the night. And I suck at sleeping on public transport. So I might have to ask for travel sleep meds from the doctor, as well as a letter from him to explain why I’ll be carrying sleep medication in my luggage. Oh my, so much to do before I leave as well, all the packing, the learning of some basic phrases, making sure my euro card comes in time…

I’m also going to partay! Yes, I’ve been invited to another Comedy Society party, and I’m really excited, as they always throw the best house parties, with Cards Against Humanity, Epic Rap Battles and other general awesomesauce stuff! I love parties, as long as I prepare myself in advance, like earplugs for sensory overload, making sure my handbag is packed, and that my phone is fully charged. It ought to be a great way of letting off steam after this really bizarre week that I’ve had

Other than that, it’s just a lot of catching up with work, writing and the writing of a comedy sketch involving material from my stand-up…

So…

I finally had my ADHD assessment yesterday. It was after social services finally sent the information to my psychologist, who then sat me down and did the assessment interview. It took place in a tiny poky office with bright, white walls. It felt very surreal, and didn’t help that it was first thing in the morning when the event took place. I finished my bottle of water very early on, and needed the toilet for a while.

Three hours, and an awful lot of questions later, my life changed forever. ‘Yes, that’s a positive diagnosis for ADHD, more on the attention deficit part than the hyperactive, but you definitely have ADHD.”

It was a strange moment in my life, when my questions about my life were answered, when I realised why I wasn’t a typical autistic woman, why I struggled so much as I got older, why I couldn’t cope at college or when I started university. It was a mix of relief, as well as dread, as it means that the way I live my life will be completely different. I’ll have to create new strategies, potentially change my diet/go on medication to manage my condition.

But now I know why I find lectures and seminars difficult, and why I can’t seem to follow routines, as well as explaining the anger that I feel sometimes, and the feelings that I have that swing from one to the other at the drop of a hat. I know now why I struggle to sleep properly at night, and why I spend every day exhausted by life.

I’ll hopefully be seen by someone in Bristol soon, to discuss options for potential treatment of the condition. But for now, I guess I have to get some actual work done…

Autism and Education

There has been a big debate about education for autistic children in the UK recently. Lots of parents feel like the education system is unable to look at their children’s needs and allow the parents to decide whether their child needs to be in special needs education or mainstream education. As an autistic person still in the education system of Great Britain I feel that it is important from me to add my two penny piece to the discussion.

Primary school was okay, as my needs were a lot greater than they are now. I had a lot more difficulties with socialising with my peers than I do now and I really did struggle in the academic environment of a mainstream school. I remember being transferred to a mainstream primary school at the age of seven, and I only lasted two terms because the teachers were not trained in how to deal with my anger issues or how to engage me in the classroom. This is where the special needs education system really shone to me in my life, as it made me feel more confident to pursue my dreams and ideas, and I remember leaving primary school feeling excited about the next stage of education and learning.

However, the special needs secondary school I that was then transfer to was awful. I was put in with students who were very much less able than me and was expected to be at that same intelligence level. When I completed the very basic work that we were set, and I asked the something a little bit harder something that would actually test me, they were unable to give me the work that I asked for. I actually started feeling very stupid because I was talked to as if I was stupid. I was treated like somebody who wasn’t intelligent, someone who wasn’t passionate about learning and education and wanting to better myself, like someone who didn’t have dreams and someone who couldn’t achieve. I started hating going to school, the bullying was rife, because I try to read harder books than the other kids, because I tried to beg students from the local comprehensive school next door to give me copies of their homework as they walked past the gates. I longed for history lessons that didn’t involve colouring pages, English lessons that didn’t involves cross words or word searches and maths classes with real textbooks, just like the ones I saw the children in the mainstream school carrying into school.

Not only this, I went to school in fear. We had a kid in our class who had severe ADHD, severe anger problems, which caused him to become violent at the drop of a hat. Every lesson involved being evacuated from our classroom, as if it were a war zone because he got an angry and started throwing things, chairs, tables, books. There was one time when he could beat me up, because the teacher had left us alone in a classroom, and I’d accidentally said something angered him, to the point where he was about to slam a table into my back, and potentially kill me. If a friend hadn’t gone to get the teacher (who had gone into the staffroom to get a cup of tea), I wouldn’t be here now talking to you. I was lucky, that my foster mum managed to get me out, got me into that school where I would never have to beg the kids for homework. I got high grades in my GCSEs and was lucky that I got into a good college are now into the good University, where I get a lot of support from my autism and other conditions which have since been diagnosed with.

The special needs system is excellent in this country for those with severe learning difficulties, and severe autism. For the brighter kids, the kids that dream, the ones that you yearn to have just as good an education as their mainstream counterparts, however a lot needs to be done. It is hard to come to a middle ground, simply because every autistic person is completely different, there is no such thing as too autistic people who are completely alike. Even if the more able students were put together and actually taught to the curriculum, and the less able students being kept together and being taught the things that they need to learn, that would probably make secondary special needs education a lot better. All you need is common sense, and a gut feeling to make sure that your autistic child gets the education they deserve, because they do, deserve the best education they can get regardless of their ability.

(Please note that this was my personal experience of the special needs education system. There are some wonderful schools out there that cater excellently to the needs of autistic students, my friends and I were just highly unfortunate with the provision in my area.)