Saturday, 31 July 2010


Rachael called me this morning, I missed the call. But I knew right away from her voice and it took me a while to get the courage to call her back.

We moved into a flat together some time after moving back to London, after university. We needed a third person and Rach had met this girl Holly doing a chalet season in Colorado. It was a gamble, I hadn't met her yet. "You'll love her," said Rach. I did, right away. She's the kind of person people fall in love with instantly, pretty, funny, warm & charismatic. The first night we moved in I was chatting to her with a glass of wine in my hand, I gestured and the wine flew out of the glass right up the white bedroom wall. She said she knew after that that we'd get along.

We grew up together in that flat, fledgling grownups, went out in Brixton, had silly times, attempted to have sophisticated dinner parties, supported each other through job losses and breakups. Between them they taught me how to drink. And when we'd come back late and drunk, she'd do interpretative Pan's People dances around the living room for me, her serious expression and ridiculous moves making me crease up with laughter on the floor. I loved her sense of humour, her down to earth quality despite quite a posh upbringing, the way she could talk to anyone and charm anyone.

She met Carlos at a barbecue we had, he went off to play rugby in New Zealand for 10 months but we knew they'd get back together because they were so meant for each other. When they got married, it was the most rocking wedding, and she looked like a 1940s film star. They had two gorgeous girls and moved to Brighton, and she started to get excited about the possibility of opening up her own cafe (being a passionate foodie - though disappointed when she finally made it onto Masterchef "They did their best to try and make you cry on camera...") Only there was this pain in her back that wouldn't go away. Eventually it was her osteopath that insisted that something must be wrong, something that the GPs had missed. By the time she was sent for tests, it was too late, she had cancer all over. She hung on for three years in pain. One of the last times I saw her, we went to the Beachdown festival in Brighton. She couldn't drink anymore but hash helped with the pain, so we all had hash cookies, just like old times. We all got the giggles. She was on good form. I'm so glad we had that couple of days.
Holly died yesterday. I can't believe I'm never going to hear her voice again. I keep hearing her, not saying anything very profound, just funny phrases that are typical of her, like "Born in a barn?" Or if I was ever in a stroppy mood she'd go "Touchy touchy, moody moody..." and it would make me smile. I know it was a release. But someone so young, so lovely, so beautiful and kind... my mind keeps spinning around and around the idea that she has gone.

Friday, 30 July 2010


I took the laptop back today. The faulty rainbow pixels were spreading across the whole screen so you couldn't see anything. Know how long it's going to take to a) let me know if they will fix it and b) get back to me? Four weeks. Yes.

(I'm on P's old desktop, which is making a loud humming sound like an angry hornet or a washing machine about to go into spin cycle, I fear that soon it might break free and chase me around the room.)

I saved everything carefully to a memory stick, work files, photos and sketches I'm working on for printmaking, nothing incriminating on there... except that as I'm standing in John Lewis audio visual department, I remember that there are some, um, naked photos of me on my laptop that I forgot to take off. Specifically, of my boobs. I'm not the kind of person who usually takes photos of their boobs, but it was pre-surgery and I didn't know if I'd come back horribly disfigured or what. I wanted a record of my tatas unblemished. Then (this sounds kind of morbid, I realise) I wanted to keep a record of the healing process so I took a couple of photos straight afterwards.

I was mortified, standing in John Lewis. I thought about taking the laptop home, then I thought, what the hell, they can think I am an exhibitionist or a freak, I don't care, I'm never going to meet them.

I was downhearted leaving the laptop behind though, I'm very attached to it. I didn't even buy anything in the Canary Wharf Waitrose downstairs, which is one of the wonders of Western civilization, that's how downhearted I was.

So, what phone should I buy to get me over this laptop-free, internet-free period? What phone do you have?

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Climbing into bed late with the laptop after a long night out, I'm catching up on what's been happening in the online worlds, when for the first time ever I hear loud stentorian snoring from my flatmates, so loud it seems to be coming from inside the room - wait a moment, it is coming from inside the room.

Someone invisible has taken up residence in my room - the hairs rise on the back of my neck. It seems to be coming from under the bed. It takes my all my courage to look under the bed & confront the intruder. Who is snoring like an emphysemic walrus under my bed?

It is Fizzy, (the mardy house cat) who gives me a wounded look when I turf her out from her comfortable crib on top of my wheely suitcase.

Thank fuck for that, I thought I had a ghost. A ghost who snores.

Monday, 5 July 2010

On Autism

These are notes which I took for work. I thought I might get to present them in a staff meeting or something but it never happened, so here is as good a place as any to put them. Feel free to skip it. For me it was all a revelation.

“People give each other messages with their eyes, but I do not know what they are saying”

Person with autism. Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, ed. Eric Schopler

Theory of mind: the ability to attribute thoughts and feelings to others, and to understand that others have perspectives that are unique and different from our own. Theory of mind has been referred to as “the capacity to mind read.” There is evidence that this ability is impaired in people with autism. Discussion of theory of mind has made us aware that there is a system of unspoken communication which carries essential information, but which people with autism do not have access to.

Carol Gray also makes the point that confusion and feelings of being overwhelmed and misunderstood are not just felt by the individual with autism, but also by parents, professionals, friends, etc. To improve social communication, methods and materials must address both sides of the social equation... She encourages parents and professionals to “abandon assumptions” – we interpret people’s behaviour through assumptions based on common social understandings, but a person with autism may be perceiving events very differently.

The result is a shared social impairment – two people interpreting the same event differently. This makes it difficult to understand one another and interact. Parents or professionals become frustrated if a child responds “inappropriately” or “without apparent reason”, but the child with autism may view the statements or actions of others as out of context, illogical and overwhelming. To them, their response makes sense.

Social stories and comic strip conversations were tools developed by educator Carol Gray to help people with autism with social interactions, and to bridge this communication gap. Conceived by Carol Gray in Michigan in the early 1990s, they are used to translate these “secrets” of social interactions for people with autism.

Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism ed Eric Schopler

Sensory perception. I went on a course at a fantastic special needs school where they told us about sensory perception and about developing a 'sensory profile' for each child. Everybody has over or under sensitivity to the senses - for example, whether you prefer a very strong massage or a gentle one tells you whether you are over or undersensitive to touch, or if you prefer to study in silence or listening to loud music tells you about your over or undersensitivity to sound.

Children with special needs such as autism give cues to understanding their sensory perception in their behaviour - if a child rocks themselves, for example, this may be connected with their proprioception or vestibular senses (sense of motion and sense of balance,) and they are trying to calm themselves and hype themselves up at the same time - to find their 'window of optimum performance', as the nice lady on the course described it. It may seem puzzling behaviour but in fact they are trying to deal with their senses in the best way that they can.

We all do this to a greater or lesser degree, but if you imagine that many children with autism cannot speak or communicate easily, these behaviours driven by their individual sensory perception can communicate their thoughts and feelings clearly, if people are aware of them and can learn to read them, and it opens up the pathway to communcation and understanding.

I was working with a little boy with autism all this year. He has been a pleasure and a delight all around, but it was a challenge... When they cut the budget for special needs (or marshall all the special needs kids into special schools away from the normals - like much else about Tory policy, it is all thoroughly thought through and consistent - where is the money going to come from for special schools, which require a ton of money, greater staff to children ratio and specialist resources & training, if they are cutting the special needs budget in mainstream schools along with everything else?) and these kids lose their one on one support, it is going to be fucking terrible.

Sunday, 4 July 2010


"No road offers more mystery than that first one you mount from the town you were born to, the first time you mount it of your own volition, on a trip funded by your own coffee tin of wrinkled up dollar-bills you've saved and scrounged for, worked the all-night switchboard for, missed the Rolling Stones for, sold fragrant pot with smashed flowers going brown inside twist-tie plastic baggies for. In fact, to disembark from your origins, you've done everything you can think to scrounge money save selling your spanking young pussy."

Mary Karr, Cherry. That's the way to start a book. And it gets better. Buy it, read it, just read it. I keep telling people it's the best book in the world but do they listen? And read the Liars' Club whilst you're at it.

(I'm not giving this away, oh no, I leant my copy out and never got it back, now I've just found a copy in a junk shop I'm never giving it away again. I put this post up for all those poor cheated people who turn up here in search of something about books.)

Update - she had a new book of memoirs out last year. Nobody told me!