Friday, October 31, 2008

Writing again

My first assignment for the OU Advanced Creative Writing course was duly despatched last night. After spending time on the novel and other small bits and pieces it was weird having to write to length and to a deadline again, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. Tomorrow is a writing workshop, the first of two on the course and a chance to meet our tutor, so I'll be off into London for the day, a welcome break after a very stressful half term.

I have been inspired and encouraged by Calistro's recent wonderful news, and now that the assignment is out the way it will be back to the novel next week.

Three notable things:

1. Snow on our cars yesterday morning, almost unknown in October.

2. Our little neighbour was thrilled with the Maltesers we gave him for Trick or Treating this evening.

3. Son 1's discharge is being planned due to the fantastic progress he has made in recent weeks.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Potentially controversial

A fierce debate on an internet forum yesterday has left me feeling quite shaky about the way the world views young people like son 2.

It is a fact of life that older people with learning difficulties can display behaviours which might be considered cute or quirky in a younger child, but are perceived as threatening in a bigger person. It is something that every carer is painfully aware of and the reason why every trip outside is planned with military precision and a view to risk assessment, including potential risk to the public. Nothing in our life can be spontaneous.

But a lot of our young people can be friendly in a way which is not age appropriate. I'm not talking about sexual here, that is a different matter altogether and should never be tolerated. But son 2 might suddenly stretch out a hand to gently stroke someone's arm for example. It his way of showing friendship and is the reflex reaction of a small child. Son 2 might be 14 but he has the cognitive function of a four year old and the social awareness of less than a two year old. I try always to be aware of this possibility, but if I am on my own with him I can't be standing on both sides to prevent it. He is also over 9 stone and too strong for me to physically move him away, as I could when he was smaller and before I wrecked my back doing so. On the rare occasions it happens, we firmly tell him no, apologise profusely and explain he is autistic. I have never yet met a negative reaction from the public if I do this.

Now of course we all understand about personal space and indeed son 2's school have done a lot of work with him on that very subject. But to find some people on a special needs forum stating that they would consider such a gentle touch to be assault, has rocked me to my core. It has made me question whether I should take son 2 out at all on my own, yet often there is no choice and our rare trips out together are limited to very familiar places anyway. Of course I appreciate there are two sides to every story, I do understand that other people don't want to be touched. I certainly do not condone such behaviour and do my best to prevent it, but it would seem that for some people that is not good enough.

Yesterday, after reading the forum I collected him from playscheme. In order to do so I had to park in the neighbouring supermarket car park and walking him back through, I found myself struggling not only with the usual worry of keeping him away from cars, but now from people as well (and those two aims are not really compatible anyway.)

So where do we go from here? Do I never take him out? Or do I risk a member of the public accusing him of assault? He is 14 now and about to hit a delayed puberty, it is a problem that will only get worse as he gets older, even though he is a child who is considered by all his teachers and carers to be very gentle and actually vulnerable himself. That gentleness is something we have worked so hard over the years to achieve, but now the world seems to want to throw it back in our face.

Sometimes your best just seems not to be good enough.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In the worst possible taste...

Call me old and boring if you like, I think I must be one of the few people in the world who doesn't 'get' Russell Brand. And Jonathan Ross' interview techniques can sometimes leave me cringing too, especially when he can't take his eyes off a female guest's cleavage.

The BBC pays these two men a lot of money, by anyone's standards. But their latest stunt was just sick. I'm not sure an apology is enough, learning some self control would be better.

Three notable things:

1. A recent disagreement on an internet forum has left me wondering yet again why some people can not and do not want to understand the challenging behaviours that can arise in people with learning disabilities but no obvious physical disabilities. Challenging behaviour can restrict lives just as much, if not more so, than being wheelchair bound.

2. The sun is shining. Hooray!

3. I've still got that pesky commentary to write...

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Picador blog

I have a post on there today.
Read it here

Three notable things:

1. My OU assignment story is written. Just the commentary to go.

2. Thanks to some extra respite care last week, I am surviving halfterm so far...

3. I'm on The Picador blog today. Did I already mention that?!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To MA or not to MA?

Longer-term readers here will know that I had a plan for my writing career which went something like this...finish my 'accidental' OU Open degree with the Advanced Creative Writing course then try to get a place on a Creative Writing MA, all whilst writing my 'blockbuster' novel.

Well of course I was at risk of overloading myself, especially whilst juggling so many other family things at the same time. I have studied almost continuously for the last four years and I think I might actually appreciate a break from academia. There are also a number of practical barriers to accessing an MA course at this stage of my life. Not totally impossible, but not easy.

So this week I have done some serious thinking and I have committed myself to the novel. I shall still be doing the OU course, which will be complementary, but for now the idea of an MA is on the backburner.

Finish the degree, finish the novel and the MA courses will still be out there. In fact there may be even more choice. But I wonder if I will still want to do one?

Three notable things:

1. Son 2 has started rock climbing with school. I would love to be a fly on the wall.

2. I did a very small charity 'audit' yesterday as a favour. I'm so glad I no longer work full-time in accountancy!

3. I'm very impressed with the look of Caroline's new venture, BubbleCow. I'm sure it will be a great success.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

For those who have Virgin media TV...

...put it on to channel 109 and tell me how many hours you could watch/listen to that without going completely mad.

(Son 2 seems to think it is the only channel worth watching. He is very controlling. I am trying really, really, hard to ignore it, but I fear my mental health is suffering...)

Three notable things:

1. After a flash of inspiration on a bus last Saturday, I have written half a story for the first assignment of my new writing course.

2. I am getting excited that the course will also help me to pick up the novel writing again.

3. Over the space of three days I lost a tutor and gained a new one.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The X Factor

I live in a testosterone-fuelled household, so Saturday evening viewing has to be ITV rather than Strictly Come Dancing, which I can of course catch up with on BBC iPlayer anyway.

The X Factor is so far living up to what you'd expect. An array of weird and wonderful contestants at the audition stages. A handful of people who can sing but perhaps get further than they otherwise would because of their backstory. Judges sniping at each other from time to time. A new judge, Cheryl, who has shown an unexpected emotional side.

And at last we now know the final 12 for the live shows.

The groups - Louis
Frankly I don't care, none of them will win, but I liked the boy group best.

The over-25s - Danni
Did you notice how Danni looked a little like Joan Collins in the last programme? Anyway...Rachel, raw talent but a risk. I personally would have chosen Susie over Ruth, she was more consistent. Daniel, lovely guy with a very sad story, but not a star...??

The boys - Simon
Austin can sing but can he hold it together for the live shows? The other two don't inspire me yet.

The girls - Cheryl
The strongest category this year, crammed with Amy/Duffy wannabes (I love Amy and Duffy's music so in my mind that is not necessarily a Bad Thing, but I thought they were seeking someone original this year). There were four very strong contenders so sadly one had to lose out, but personally I think I would have chosen Hannah over Diana.

Three notable things:

1. How do I write a constructive criticism of a short story I hate ( but was written by a member of our course team)?

2. A long phone conversation with an old friend ths morning provided a good catch-up and some unexpected sad news.

3. Son 1 will be 17 tomorrow. My baby is old enough to learn to drive. How can that be?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Reviving bookersatz

Unfortunately Annie, my co-editor and I were both otherwise engaged over the summer with family matters, study and life in general, so bookersatz had to take a back seat.

Today I have posted up a great review of Caroline Smailes' Black Boxes by HelenMH. I have one or two other reviews in reserve but we are now actively looking for contributions. The philosophy behind bookersatz is to post reviews of books we have enjoyed and would like to recommend to others, and to encourage our readers to add to a debate via the comments.

So if you would like to send in a review for consideration (200-300 words is ideal, certainly no more than 500 words) please contact me for details, the link to my email is in my Blogger profile. We will sort out the layout and photo, we just want as wide a range of books and contributors as possible.

Three notable things:

1. I can't believe I haven't blogged about this year's X Factor yet. Watch this space.

2. We are searching for cures for chronic insomnia (for son 1, not me!) Any ideas?

3. Reading, writing and a little bit of studying. I'm looking forward to the next 9 months...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Silent Witness

Did any of you watch this on Wednesday and Thursday?

I don't want to give too much away, as it is on iPlayer for anyone who wants to catch up, but I just found the story so depressing. It depicted an area of London where some of my friends have lived, indeed one is still there. It showed the sort of society which spawns the knife and gun crime which we hear so much about, the hopelessness, the inevitability that the cycle of violence will continue.


Three notable things:

1. I was stared at by two foxes in the garden yesterday. They are getting bolder.

2. Our next door neighbour knocked last night as her shoe had flown over the fence into our garden whilst playing football with their son.

3. This made me laugh. I never thought I would find Schiller funny.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A short breather

So the final assignment for E301 has been submitted and received by the Open University. I can finally pack the books away. It has been a fascinating and challenging course and I don't regret having taken it, even though it was bloody hard at times!

Onwards now to writing again. But I decided to take this week off. On Monday I wandered around charity shops in search of play scripts and screenplays, as the Advanced Creative Writing course concentrates on drama in all forms as well as poetry and prose. I sat in Starbucks and had a coffee. I took the bus home in the sunshine. Yesterday I huddled indoors, feeling the cold. I started to tidy the house. I read lots of blogs and surfed the web. I did a little knitting. I dragged son 1 out of bed at lunchtime.

Today I went to the parent support coffee morning and managed to fall flat on my face in Tesco's carpark. Life goes on as usual...

Three notable things:

1. We continue to celebrate the tiny steps son 2 is making in his communication. On Saturday he told his music therapist that it was time to finish by pointing at her watch and then at the door.

2. I've had a bank account with Lloyds TSB since I was 18. Should I be worried?

3. Sarah Palin's political ineptitude is astounding. It would be funny if it weren't for the fact that she could end up a heartbeat away from being President of the USA.