Thursday, March 25, 2010

He's not autistic, he's a very naughty boy

Well thankfully the health care bill squeaked through. There's a hell of a long way to go yet, but this is surely a step in the right direction.

An article on Asperger's syndrome is the cover story of the latest North & South magazine. I had to visit three dairies to get a copy - the first two had apparently sold out. Maybe that had something to do with the striking image on the front page: a screaming boy holding two bananas to his head like horns. The headline reads, "Asperger's (in big black capitals) or just a very naughty boy?" My mum does the odd spot of relief teaching; a couple of weeks ago she had a boy in her class who according to Mum, "had Asperger's or ADHD, I'm not sure which, but he's really just a little shit." She might have been right for all I know; I never saw him. But that does go to show that there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the condition.

Jen Birch made an appearance in the Asperger's piece. It was a good article, I thought, and it raised some interesting points. In recent years autism in all its forms has become almost sexy, forming the basis of numerous characters in books and TV, but in reality it's a very unsexy condition which makes life difficult for anybody who has it and those close to them.

I might be buying North & South again. There are plenty of other good articles, and I'm still nowhere near reading it all. For instance there's one about the dying (or is it?) art of handwriting in the digital age, and another about Kiwi-based board games. I remember as a kid trying to invent board games. Or rather my dad, who is a very creative person, did the inventing, and I just tweaked them a bit. One of the games involved racing cars on a three-lane "track", the idea being that you use more fuel by driving in the fast lane but get there, well, faster. The winner was the first to complete a certain number of laps (twelve?) but if you ran out of petrol you were in deep doo-doo. You would pick up cards along the way telling you to do this or that, with the pit stop acting as Monopoly's jail. Another of Dad's inventions was a mountaineering game played on a pyramidal "board"; it was a very clever idea I thought, but things quickly got complicated and we abandoned it. Maybe I'll think of resurrecting it one day. I should point out that I rarely played games as a child; the only kid of a similar age around was my brother, and he was never interested. If we played Hangman he'd pick a three-letter word, which was always CAT or DOG. I had a football table, but he'd only play with me if it was the first to score one goal. You get the idea.

North & South also gave me some ideas for books to buy when I'm in the UK (they're too expensive here): Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey and Petina Gappah's An Elegy for Easterly, a story of life in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe. I'll try and make the most of the exchange rate (the pound has plummeted against the Kiwi dollar) when I'm over there.

Monday was a strange day. I saw my counsellor in Albany at lunchtime but I also had tennis up there that evening. Because I currently don't have a car, I basically had to stay up there all day (by the time I'd arrived home on the bus, I'd have had to leave again almost immediately). I hadn't planned my day at all; on the bus I thought to myself, how stupid! I'll be stuck up in Albany all afternoon with nothing to do. The only thing up there is that bloody mall which I've avoided like the plague since the day it opened. Why didn't I plan something?! I felt another bout of depression coming on. I mentioned all of this to my counsellor who did have a couple of ideas: Borders or the cinema. I find malls to be depressing places. They don't have toilets, they have restrooms; some of them even have elevators instead of lifts. But as malls go, the Albany Mega Centre wasn't too bad. I didn't find anything worth watching at the cinema (and besides, that costs money) so I spent my remaining three hours in Borders. They had a vast array of poker books (oh dear) but I eventually sat down to read Daniel Tammet's Embracing the Wide Sky. Thinking I could walk from the mall to the tennis centre, I completely lost my bearings. Already running late, and getting more and more frustrated, I gave in and called a taxi. As it turned out the walk would have been about five minutes.

I was in a bad mood for the start of my singles match. As we warmed up, I knew I'd get blasted off the court. I remember thinking, please just let me win one game. I won the toss and, as always, I chose to serve first. This isn't because I have any confidence in my serve, rather that I don't like serving at 5-4 or 6-5. As if I'd reach any of those scores in this match! I lost my first service game to love - I had no control of my forehand. So I started hitting backhands whenever I could, nearly all of them to my opponent's backhand. He made a surprising number of errors, and after an hour, to my astonishment, I was just one game away from victory at 6-4, 5-3. I promptly dropped serve, and easily the longest game of the match ensued as I tried to break him for the match. He would hit a big unforced error followed by a crunching winner, a pattern that continued throughout the game. On one occasion he skied a ball off the frame, over the fence, on to the bonnet of a car parked outside. Match point. Then bam! Ace. Four match points came and went, and it was 5-5. What happened next was unexpected: I won the next two games easily to win the match. The killer blow was a one-handed backhand winner I hit on the run in the last game. We then won our doubles comfortably, 6-2 6-4. At last I've got used to playing with Superman. I felt sorry for one of my team-mates who lost an interminable singles match against an opponent who put virtually no pace on the ball; it felt as if he was being sucked into a black hole. We won overall by four matches to two.

Mum and Dad's town of Geraldine made an appearance on Campbell Live last night. Tourists in campervans are bypassing Geraldine because they're all now fitted with Navmans (Navmen?) which send them in a different direction. I doubt my parents would have watched it, because like many of their generation, they've got dozens of channels but only ever watch One.

Richard is a big fan of the Cult, a British band who I'm ashamed to say I was ignorant of until a couple of weeks ago, despite coming from the UK and knowing some of their songs. My favourite song of theirs would be Fire Woman. The Cult are playing in Auckland just before I go away; I might be interested in seeing them.

This is my hundredth blog post and probably one of the longest. It's taken me over a year to get this far. For anybody who can’t be bothered trawling through all my ramblings (I can’t blame you), I’ve plugged all 100 posts (including this one) into Wordle, a nifty tool which creates a “word cloud” based on a text. Words that appear more frequently appear as a bigger word in the cloud. So here goes:

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