Archive for May 2012
I always struggle for shoes to wear day to day with pretty dresses. I often default to boots when it’s not sandals weather, but find that I am a bit bored of the stompy ’90s look. I do have properly glamorous heels, but anybody who has seen me out and about knows that my CP leads to rubbish balance, and frankly they hurt. That’s fine for events, but not so good for daytime wear.
These F-Troupe wedges from Urban Outfitters were something I spotted in filming pics from the set of Doctor Who’s 2013 series. Jenna-Louise Coleman, the new companion, is sporting a pair. A lightbulb went off in my head…WANT. They’re exactly what I need. Work well with tights and skirts/dresses, black, bit of heel from the wedge, flat rubber sole, lovely to look at, comfortable. Practical without being a statement. Perfect.
Costiness: £145 from Urban Outfitters
Last week was jam-packed with meetings and important phone calls, for somebody who doesn’t have a proper job or get any financial benefit for such things at any rate.
The week began with a lovely chat with Jane at the OU about their disabled student services conference this November. I will be attending to talk to staff about my experiences and supporting students with autistic spectrum conditions. During the week, I met with various other groups and asked the Leeds Autism Partnership Board for support for my involvement in the Undiscovered Workforce campaign. It ended with Jayne from Rachel Reeves‘ office and Debbie from the NAS.
Rachel has been a keen supporter of my work on the campaign and is going to help me to improve the situation regarding employment for people with autism in Leeds. I have been working hard lately with a variety of different people towards organising a big event next year involving all the stakeholders around employment and autism in Leeds. The support of my MP and her team is vital in this and making things better generally, and it was great to talk to Jayne and Debbie about the situation as it is and the next steps we can take. Rachel has helped members of the local community with many things recently, from re-opening post offices to improving bus services and saving the historic Bramley Baths.
If employers and Jobcentre Plus fully understood the issues people with autism face in getting and sustaining employment, the positive aspects of the condition and the simplicity and ease of some of the reasonable adjustments that can make productive work possible, the level of unemployment for people with autistic spectrum conditions could drop dramatically. Employers in Leeds should be trying to diversify and support their workforce. People like me have skills and traits like loyalty, focus, creativity, an alternative approach to ideas and the passion and commitment that organisations should be harnessing to give themselves the competitive edge that helps companies to survive and thrive in a difficult economic situation. All it takes is flexibility and true understanding. Awareness doesn’t amount to much if attitudes don’t change.
Blue Peter is moving to the CBBC channel. It will no longer be on BBC1. Adults secretly still watching will have to tune in to a children’s channel. Well, we did it anyway for The Sarah Jane Adventures and will do so for Wizards vs Aliens, right?
Anyone who knew me as a child knows that one of my major special interests (a feature of autistic spectrum conditions) was Blue Peter. Everywhere we went, I would look in charity shops and car boot sales to increase my collection of Blue Peter Books (what they call their annuals) and associated memorabilia. I watched the programme obsessively, had a Blue Peter diary made by Letts and regularly wrote to Jim’ll Fix It to ask if I could be a presenter for the day. OK, being wobbly wouldn’t have helped me get through the famous audition process, which involves (or did) interviewing somebody while bouncing on a trampoline, but it was my dream for a long time. I even went to a CBBC open audition when I was 19. Not for BP, for the “broom cupboard”, but I was dreadful.
I didn’t have many friends when I was young. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that I have Asperger Syndrome. I was lonely and miserable and having a difficult time at both home – my father was an abusive alcoholic – and at school, where I was bullied. I wrote letters to my favourite programme, Blue Peter. It didn’t hurt that it also had links to my other favourite, Doctor Who, and still does.The first Blue Peter badge I won was the Green badge, for writing about the environment. I was a keen environmentalist as a child, having the Blue Peter Green Book, and I collected large numbers of aluminium cans to be recycled for charity.
Then I won the Blue badge. I sent in pictures, stories, ideas for “makes”. I wrote near-constantly to the BP office. I was miserable. They responded. Not just with form letters, but with help and advice. They made me feel appreciated, like somebody was listening. They knew I collected memorabilia, so sent me signed photos of new presenters and pets, old promo cards for previous presenters, any booklets they had lying around. It was amazing.
I won the Silver badge because I ran a Blue Peter Bring & Buy Sale with my mum, and covered every surface with the stickers they sent. My sister won a badge herself, but mostly the family used mine to get the two of us and other children into visitor attractions for free. That element of the badge has always been open to abuse, especially once grown-up winners were able to sell their badges on Ebay, and these days children have a photocard to present as well as the badge. We went to the Yorvik Viking Centre what felt like a million times. Beamish. Loads of places. The BP office sent a booklet with all the places we could go, in the days before many museums had free entry.
When I was perhaps a bit too old to watch the programme, at 14, I won the Competition badge, which was then as it appears above and not the new orange design. I was a runner-up in a design competition. I had been away on a German exchange with school and had a rotten time, but came back to find the badge and our family’s first computer. The latter changed my life, the former was the last link to my childhood. I couldn’t win any more badges. In those days, there was no purple badge for reviewing the programme, and I had missed out on any of the special “birthday” badges for programme anniversaries. I stopped sending letters some time after that. I was too scared to take their advice of phoning ChildLine, but I knew they wouldn’t keep sending a teenager stickers and long letters. A few years later, my father threw much of my memorabilia into the fire, including two of the badges, and later still the remaining badges were stolen off a jacket at a gig. I still have the books.
What about the Gold badge? Well, it remains my goal… When I was regularly writing to the programme, the only people who appeared to get one were departing presenters, Olympic athletes and people who had done amazing things like save lives. I knew I hadn’t done anything as good as that, I wasn’t exceptional. I wasn’t a hero. But these days, Gary Barlow has one, David Tennant has one…maybe I CAN do enough to get one. It would mean more to me than any other honour. I don’t want to be an OBE or Dame; I don’t need a medal or any other award, whatever I do. I just want a Gold Blue Peter badge.
Thank you to the BP office from 1987-1995 for being so kind to a lonely, autistic kid. I will never forget you.
My iPad (latest model) arrived today. I have been saving Amazon vouchers from surveys and every bit of cash forever for it.
I have an inexpensive cover for it, because I’m not idiot enough to walk around with a naked expensive device, but I saw this today and melted. Sadly, it’s way out of my budget. Especially now I’ve spent all said budget on iPad and cheap accessories.
If you don’t watch Doctor Who (what kind of freak are you?), you won’t know that River Song, who is very close to the Doctor, keeps a diary. It was given to her by the Doctor, and is leather bound and styled to look like the TARDIS. Joe V. Leather have made a leather iPad cover (also available for various Kindle models) that looks exactly like it. WANT.
Costiness: $94.99 (about £58.82 at the time of writing) from Joe V. Leather
I am not one of those people with 500 pairs of shoes, nor do I find shoe-themed confectionery and accessories even faintly attractive. I am fairly sure I couldn’t walk in these. But they are kind of pretty. They’re a 7, but I’m a small 8 and the backs are open. Mmm. By Carvela Kurt Geiger, in the sale.
Costiness: £39 (was £150) from Shoeaholics
My campaign work as an Ambassador for the National Autistic Society has kept me very busy this year, and I was honoured this week to be invited to their 50th birthday celebration reception at 10 Downing Street, hosted by Samantha Cameron.
I crowdsourced a dress via Twitter, with my friend Meg coming to the rescue. My mum helped me buy some fabulous footwear. Richard, my hairdresser, sorted out my unruly mop. I got ready at my in-laws’ house and got the bus to Westminster.
I had to queue up with all the other guests – including Jane Asher, arriving in a swish car – and then show my invitation card and passport (for ID purposes). We then trotted down the street to more security, putting our bags and jackets through airport-style scanners. We weren’t allowed photos inside, but entering Number 10 felt very much like walking into the lobby of a posh, businesslike hotel, crossed with a stately home. Only with more policemen with guns everywhere. There is a wooden set of small cubby holes, each containing a white card imprinted with a black number. You remove the card and slide in your (switched-off) mobile phone or PDA. No electronic devices allowed in the house, so this is a cloakroom for smartphones – or so it appeared on the night. Then came the actual cloakroom, for those who had jackets/coats and larger bags.
We were then directed up the stairs to the reception rooms. I paused before entering the Terracotta Room. Everyone was trying to decipher Tracey Emin’s neon art piece above the door, which says in a scrawl “More Passion”. It’s quite a dark hallway, so it’s very visible.
I was cheered to note on entering the room that there was another non-alcoholic option than water or teeth-stripping orange juice – I was offered elderflower and pomegranate fizz, garnished with mint. Very convivial. I got the same regular top-ups as the wine drinkers, too.
I had a lovely evening, with gorgeous canapes and wonderful company. I was one of the blessed few able to meet Ms Cameron for a few moments, and passed on my mother’s good wishes. Daughter points won. Her speech was brief, but welcome, recognising as it did the work that the NAS do and the issues people on the spectrum face. Mark Lever, the chief exec of the society, also talked briefly. I must confess, I was perched on a very posh sofa at this point, as my feet are not used to the glamorous heels I was sporting. There were quite a few of us hobbling out and into flats at the end of the night.
I enjoyed meeting trustees, NAS staff, journalists and fellow-campaigners, including some fabulous Young Ambassadors. The only disappointment was that the loos were very dull, no exciting toiletries or decor. Could have been a basic hotel or pub. Spruce up your facilities, Dave.
On the way out, we were allowed to have our photos taken outside the famous front door. It was all a bit quick and blurry, as people needed to get out and we couldn’t shut the door for long. Here I am, looking a bit gormless in my frock.