Monday, July 25, 2011

Bail me out

At work today I pressed various buttons in various spreadsheets, achieving nothing. The one button I really needed - the ejector seat button - was nowhere to be seen.

Tonight I we had the autism group. A record attendance of eight, half of whom were new faces. I'd say it was my most enjoyable session yet. Whether that was down to the people, or because it provided a nice contrast with my shitty day at work, I don't know.

Amy Winehouse. I remember a couple of years back dreaming that she had died. When it happened for real last weekend it was hardly a shock, but still very sad, especially because she had no real friends at the time of her death as far as I can tell. Today they were playing one of her albums in JB Hi-Fi. I hung around in the store for a while to listen to a few of her songs which just happened to suit my mood. I thought she was a very good singer; sadly she joins the long list of artists who died at just 27.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Big Smoke

I touched down at Auckland airport on Saturday lunchtime; from there I made my way to the autism group. I'd forgotten what a head-spinning occasion it can be, and that's speaking as someone who has never been diagnosed with any form of autism. Trying to keep track of ten conversations (or monologues) at once is no easy task. But for all the acoustic challenges the monthly meeting presents, it's still a wonderful thing they've got going up there. Autistic adults need all the support they can get. The Arie Smith case was a major topic of discussion again. The point I made (when I finally got a word in edgeways) was that Cantabrians are less tolerant of people who are a bit "different" than those from other parts of the country. In addition to having Asperger's, Arie is gay, and I'm sure that doesn't help his cause in red-and-black territory. Whatever, it should be blindingly obvious to police that he has a disability, and they should show some compassion (and common sense) by dropping the case.

That evening I settled into my hotel room in Parnell. The woman at reception wanted to know my ZIP code, then told me my room was on the first floor when it was on the ground floor. She sounded perfectly Kiwi to me, so what was with all the American terminology?

On a sunny Sunday morning I went to La Cigale, the popular French market nearby. I only bought some odd bits of fruit but was fascinated by their wine cellar. When it comes to the price of vintage wines it appears the sky's the limit. I couldn't figure out why a bottle sometimes differed in price by $100 from a seemingly identical bottle right next to it. Maybe Richard (who is something of a connoisseur) could give me some idea.

This 1957 Chevy was parked outside the market. A beast of a car with a number plate to match. Forget all those vowelless what-the-hell-does-that-say combinations you see so often; this one gets straight to the point. On the subject of plates, the letter G has started to appear as the first letter of standard (non-personalised) issues. It took a long time to get through the F's in spite of all the combinations like FAG and FUK that they must have skipped over - a sign of the tough economic times I guess. My Camry dates from the two-letter system - appropriately, given my reluctance to make decisions, those two letters are UM.

Sunday afternoon was a bit stressful as I hung around in the city, not really knowing what was happening. This wasn't anybody's fault but by the time we saw the final Harry Potter movie (Richard, another member of the Aspie group and myself) I was really past caring. The film was good, I think, but I hadn't seen any of them since number two and I struggled to concentrate. I was feeling a bit low and my mind was in a dozen other places.

Monday was an unusually busy day for me on the social front. First I met Julie in Devonport for coffee. The mental health system in Auckland has failed her, she's seen six figures disappear in failed finance companies, and most recently her dog (which he was very fond of and gave her some purpose in life) has been put down. She was understandably upset when I saw her. The good news is that she intends to leave Auckland and make a new start (at the age of 65) in Wellington.
I then met Mandy, the only contact I've kept from my last so-called big job. She left the company last September, nine months after I made my exit. She now works for another insurance company and is much happier there. We walked along Takapuna Beach in the sunshine, something I used to do regularly before our offices moved to an impersonal business park where there was nothing to do at lunchtime but attempt the crossword. As a side note, who should I meet on the bus from Devonport to Takapuna? None other than Bazza, for whom going to the shore is almost a day trip.

I had a quick catch-up with a guy from an employment agency who I still keep in touch with, and then met Andy in the Mad Dogs and Englishmen pub in Wairau Park for a drink. In his life things are moving at breakneck speed: he's got engaged (he met his fiancée just six months ago) and there's talk of houses, kids and all those things normal people have. Andy left shortly after six but I stuck around and ate a lamb shank (tasty and more meat than I'd bargained for). I got back to the hotel at around nine and eventually fell asleep watching darts on TV in a flashback to the early nineties.

On Tuesday I met Richard at his new flat in Greenlane after losing my bearings a bit on the way. He lives with three females if you include the Siberian Husky. I think it's a very positive move for him. We had lunch at a nearby eatery and a decent chat. He hopes (as do I) that he can make a trip to Wellington in the coming months. I then hung around town, which is something I did quite a lot of over the long weekend. When the time came to catch the Airbus I was very glad to leave: I find central Auckland an incredibly soulless place.

On Wednesday - my first day back at work - I felt pretty low. All my thoughts were a function of the state of my mental health. That evening though I spoke to someone in the UK about my business idea, and since then I've been back almost to normal, whatever normal is any more.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Having a smashing time at work

Here's a bad analogy to describe what work is like at the moment. It's like a game of tennis where I'm hitting nice-looking forehands and backhands but don't know what the object of the game is. Keep the ball inside the lines? Outside the lines? Try to hit the lines? Hit my opponent? Smash the window of the car parked outside?

Perhaps surprisingly, this state of confusion isn't getting me down. My business idea (i.e. my Plan B) is starting to take some kind of shape, and I've got a long weekend in Auckland to look forward to. On Saturday I'll be popping along to the Aspie group and seeing the latest (and last) Harry Potter film.

Good news: after getting a second opinion (and without shelling out 80% of its value), my car is back in action.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Arie Smith-Voorkamp: for heaven's sake let him go

Last night I attended the Wellington Asperger's group. The hot topic of conversation was Arie Smith-Voorkamp, the young Asperger's man who "looted" two light bulbs from a vacant building following the February 22nd earthquake in Christchurch. I was moved by last weekend's Sunday programme in which he and his partner were interviewed; it was upsetting to see how the police had treated him. Public opinion has been highly supportive of Arie since the programme aired. I hope that common sense prevails and the police decide not to waste any more hours and taxpayer dollars on this case. Let the man go.

Here's an interesting autism-based website - - which has an article on Arie.

We had two new members at last night's group. It was a pleasure to meet them. This Saturday I'll be at the Auckland group for the first time in four months. I'm looking forward to that a lot.

My boss left last Friday; work has already ratcheted up a few notches since then. In the last two days all my feelings of inadequacy have flooded back. A short break from the office (I'm taking next Monday and Tuesday off) could be just what I need.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No great shakes...

At 3:35 this afternoon I felt my first ever earthquake. I was just sitting at my desk at work and it felt as if someone had jogged the table. I'm used to sudden movements now - the rickety lift in my apartment block greets you with a mini-earthquake whenever it stops - so I probably wouldn't have given today's tremor a second thought if the word "earthquake" hadn't been mentioned. It was a 6.5 (yes a biggie by the raw measure of magnitude) located just west of Taupo but 150 km deep. The depth explained the pattern on Geonet's intensity map - what looked like a random hotchpotch of greens and yellows over a wide area instead of a more concentrated Christchurch-style pattern. Here's Wellington's seismograph:

On Friday night I spoke to Gran (now in her 90th year) for the first time since I moved to Wellington. After endless answerphone messages and being transferred to nowhere by reception, I'd almost given up hope of ever getting through to her. She was very confused but at least she knew it was me and was looking forward to a plate of fish and chips. I think and hope I made a positive impact on her. Dad reckons that he and I are the only two people able to make such an impression; I'm inclined to agree, so I must make a persistent effort to call her once a week.

I happened to wake up at two o'clock on Monday morning in time to see Djokovic's virtual walk-on-water second set against Nadal, which he won 6-1 en route to his four-set victory in the Wimbledon final. With 48 wins and only one defeat this year, he really is operating on a different plane.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tennis so good it sent me to sleep

Yesterday I was pretty much zonked. I watched the men's Wimbledon semis in bed on Friday night, or tried to as I dozed off at regular intervals. By the morning I hadn't seen much tennis and I hadn't slept much either, although to be fair I did see the first three sets of Djokovic's win over Tsonga and I'm very glad I did. The athleticism of both men blew me away; at one point they were both on the ground but were still able to continue the rally.

I didn't watch any last night's women's final. Wasn't expecting that result at all. Well done to giant-killer Kvitova whose "kv" combination is trickier than the "zv" of Zvonareva and Zvereva. As for tonight's match between Djokovic and Nadal, it promises to be a real barnburner - wouldn't want to pick it.

Last night I had a very tasty butter chicken curry from Taste of India on Cambridge Terrace, then spoke to Richard on the phone. He's now found himself a new flat - after two years in a far-from-ideal boarding house that's a huge relief. I look forward to seeing his new place in two weeks. (I had half-jokingly suggested he move into the spare room in my flat, and if it didn't happen to be a few hundred miles away he might have been keen.)

After picking up some fruit and vege (and a Boston bun) from the market I had lunch at my cousin's and spent most of the afternoon there.

Here's a first (I think) since I moved to Wellington: zero rain all weekend!