Thursday, September 08, 2011

Where was I?

He phoned just before 4pm.
"I've crashed, " he said.

Being married to a man who loves his sports cars (not to mention the motorbikes) means that I've been expecting this call for nearly seventeen years. When it finally came, I was grateful he'd phoned me himself, having hung up on the emergency services lest they get to me first.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
"I'm fine," he replied, "but I think I've hurt my foot."
I had a little panic then: this is a man who could slice off his finger and mention only a small cut.
"What sort of hurt-your-foot," I asked.
"It hurts when I move it, and I'm stuck."
Poor lamb. He was stuck in the wreckage for over an hour while they searched for him (he didn't know exactly where he was, and his satnav had been flung out by the force of the impact). Eventually, he was spotted by a kindly farmer, bumbling along on his tractor, who noticed something unusual sticking out of the hedge...

Altogether, he broke three bones; one of them in four places, and the 'hurt foot' required a major reconstruction of his lower left leg. Three months, and three operations later (so far), it remains encased in a steel frame (with all kinds of exciting bits to twiddle). He doesn't get much pain now, he says, and has stopped swearing at his leg, but I can tell you he swears a lot at his crutches instead.

Now he's past the seriously-injured stage (sleeps well, can stay awake all day, isn't popping pills every hour), he's reached the frustration stage. He thinks he's better (which is laughable), and being a man, he's trying to get on with Normal Life. Only he can't. Not even nearly. Hence the swearing. This is at least as hard to live with as having a fragile, bed-bound, smashed-up invalid in the house.

He's getting better. Not day-to-day, or even week-to-week, but if we look back a month, he's much better than he was. Eighteen months, the consultant said, and we've done two of them already.

These people have made it all possible: the Brighton Orthopaedic Trauma Team, who are talented and lovely with it; Queenie, who thinks she's neglected me, but has just been wonderful; Jane and Angie who have picked up so many pieces I've lost count; my dad, who paid for a cleaning fairy; and my kids, who stepped up to the mark when I needed them to.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Forget gruelling... I had a fantastic weekend!

I left home on Friday evening, and caught the Caledonian sleeper from Euston. After an unusually restless night (despite having a cabin to myself), I arrived in Aviemore early the next morning with only a few hours sleep in the bag. My mate picked me up from the station (and took me for a slap-up breakfast, bless him), and we headed into the hills for a little stroll before the Scottish Bikeathon the next day. The weather was foul (8h spent inside the bloody rain cloud), but the mountains were conquered regardless!

We camped out before getting up at 5.30am to make it back to civilisation in time for the Bikeathon. The ride (26 miles) was loads of fun, and we met up with other friends for lunch half way round. A huge thank you is due to all of you who sponsored me; I raised £600 (at the last count), and the event as a whole raised over £35,000 for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

We needed a beer after the ride, and some food, so we headed for the pub. Sometime later, and because we'd all had a few drinks the reasons are too complicated to explain, we ended up (suitably dressed, if I remember rightly) in the pub's outdoor hot-tub with several other friends. An hour and a half later...

We still needed to find some food, and somewhere to stop for the night, so it seemed like a good idea (at the time) to gate-crash a nearby music fest. There was food [tick], more beer [tick], and camping [tick tick]. We also discovered Charlie Mckerron was playing; this was a particular treat, because not only is he a first-rate fiddle player, he's also rather a dish.

With another early start to catch my train the next morning I was desperately short of sleep, but it was more than worth it! And it was all in a good cause after all.

If you'd still like to contribute to my sponsorship fund, you can do so here:

Monday, June 06, 2011

Gruelling Weekend

I'm riding in the Scottish Bikeathon, 26 miles through the Highlands in aid of Leukeamia & Lymphoma Research. I'm doing it with the widow of my friend Piet Ketelaar, in his memory.

I've raised £255 in four days. My target is £1,000 by the day of the ride, June 19th.

If any blogmates out there are prepared to sponsor me, I'd be hugely grateful. You can make a payment online at

It's not part of the event, but I'm also planning to climb Cairn Toul, the UK's 4th highest mountain, the day before the bikeathon... It's going to be a gruelling (but ace) weekend!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Ever listen to a particular song on the radio, and find yourself taken back to when you heard it first?

Sometime in January, I was slurping coffee in my study with Jane – no doubt discussing the more unpleasant habits of small children – when the Peatbog Faeries came on the stereo. Now I first heard the Faeries on the juke box in my Scottish local, and in an instant I was there, drinking fine ale and soaking up the craic. I couldn't help it: I started yammering on to Jane about the pub, the beer, my mates...
Jane's eyes began to glaze.

"Why don't you come with me?" I exclaimed. "I'm always thinking, 'Jane'd like this' when I'm there. We could drive up in a day (s'only 600 miles), have a couple of days there, and drive back. Crazy, I know, but hell, life's too short..."

Jane (and others), after much deliberation, declined; but my ace blogmate, Womagwriter, whom I have long bored witless regaled with tales of Scotland, was more than game. Lovely woman. But mad, obv.

So last week we hit the road, drove for ten hours, had two fab days walking (see right), met with friends gu leòr. And drove home again. 1,316 miles.
All because of the Peatbog Faeries.

There's a Will Young song I'll forever associate with a roundabout on the A27. The smell of dry earth has me rolling down an M1 embankment in a red Ford Cortina estate. The taste of mushroom soup always takes me to Knebworth International Guide & Scout camp, 1981. And after last week, I'll never hear another Snow Patrol track without thinking of the M6...

What takes you back, and where does it take you?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Why a Good Friend is like a Good Cup of Coffee

Having been brought up on a mix of granulated instant and bullies, I hated both coffee and people. There was never any point giving either of them a second chance; why bother when you know you’re going to hate the experience? Besides, before I could ever try (or retry) anything new, I had to understand how it worked… in meticulous detail, and neither coffee nor people seemed worth the effort.

So I wish I could remember what peculiar circumstance took me out of my comfort zone and into Costa for the first time. The discovery that there existed something other than Nescafé transformed me from a tea-shop-bourgeois to a coffee-bar-chick. It was a happy occasion, and just reward for my bravery. (Oddly though, and despite my now-renowned love of the stuff, it took until today’s barista treated me to an impromptu latte-making lesson, that I realised I've never needed to understand the process to enjoy the coffee.)

People have taken me a little longer.

I had long-since got as far as realising that I don’t really hate people, per se. It was my inability to understand how they work that rattled me. I’ve always been frustrated by the lack of a blueprint or data-table to reveal the hidden workings of human interaction; there is nothing tangible for me to dismantle, inspect and put back together. If only people were more like coffee machines, I could understand them better, and perhaps be more trusting.

My aspie diagnosis was my Costa moment: it has enabled me to realise that the people I love are not just those who profess to understand me, but those whom I don’t feel the need to understand – people I can let be without having to know every detail of their every motive. It’s like not just letting someone else drive, but being able to shut your eyes while they do it: unnerving to begin with, but so much more relaxing once you get used to it… a bit like your first taste of good coffee after a lifetime of granules.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Education. Education. Education.

My Asperger's diagnosis has brought many issues to the fore, not least my pitiful state of education.

Despite my love affair with learning, I have only the barest formal qualifications. I try not to be bitter about the delay in my diagnosis and that I received no support at school, either educationally, or pastorally: it's hard to study when the girl behind is flicking Tip-Ex in your hair (again) and the teacher is laughing (again) because she's too incompetent to do anything else.

I escaped the savagery of school at fifteen, with the minimum qualifications. My parents were horrified, in a predictably middle-class way, and packed me off to sixth-form college threatening withdrawal of all my human rights. Having had enough of being pushed around, I left home.

I stayed on at college though, and did manage to gain an A-level. You see, I still loved learning, it was just life I couldn't cope with.

I lasted 13-months in the workplace (nuff said). After three years of self-employment, I gave in to the realisation that I had to get more qualifications; £90 a week was just not enough to live on. Even then.

And so to university. Again I loved the learning; but again I couldn't hack the rest of it. I had a breakdown after three years, and dropped out with nothing to show for the bad taste in my mouth.

I'm still scraping a living. I sometimes wonder how different life would have been if I'd been diagnosed as a child, but I don't believe in regrets; I believe only in moving forward from this point.

It's taken me fifteen years this time, but I feel ready to give education another go; this autumn, my youngest will be starting school. And so will I. Wish me luck. I want to get it right this time.