Visiting Fife

ImageI’ve heard it said that life is a metaphorical rollercoaster. It certainly sent a few unexpected ups and downs my way this weekend. I have very recently returned from spending the weekend visiting my dear friend, pen pal and future stepsister in law, Sarah, in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. After weeks of messing her around with endless phone conversations, facebook chats and my inability to decide on dates, that is. I spent my first evening there trying to think up a facebook status that would sum up my weekend in just one sentence. However, after posting a five sentence status which still didn’t do it justice, I decided I would have to elaborate on my blog. As I am now doing.

I began to think that maybe the weekend wasn’t getting off to the best start when, after a jolty plane landing followed by an equally jolty bus ride, I suddenly felt uncharacteristically travel sick. To the point where I may or may not have actually thrown up, just as my accompanying stepfather asked if I was feeling ok. Less than ideal for someone who hasn’t vomited for nine years (since a particularly unpleasant whalewatching trip). Including during stomach bugs, blood donations, animal dissections and migraines.

Being a sore reputation-breaker, my immediate reaction was to proceed to the airport as if nothing had happened and pretend that my throat and nose didn’t feel as if they were on fire. We eventually reached our destination, after not being able to find the hire car’s handbrake, and before I knew it, I was strolling around the delightful town that is St Andrews and enjoying a pub dinner with Sarah and her lovely friends (they know who they are).

Fife is definitely one of my new favourite places that I have visited. Forget De Montfort Uni in Leicester, I’m sorely tempted to move to St Andrews. Do Leicester and Loughborough have ice cream cafes which serve pineapple ice-cream milkshakes? Are there any beaches in the midlands where you can walk along a wall while trying not to fall headfirst into the sea or the dock? Not in my experience. With some disregard for my stomach’s earlier moment of weakness, I found myself up to my ears in ice-cream, flapjack, lasagne and fruit strudel. I somehow haven’t convinced Sarah that it was only due to her forcing it all upon me, and that I would never have given all that food a second glance otherwise. Honest.

When I wasn’t stuffing my face or having my picture taken by the beach with my hair looking as if I’d combed it with a hedge I also attempted to thrash her at Last Word and some trivia type board game. I managed to win one of our two rounds of Last Word, and spent the rest of our game playing time apparently looking as if my whole world had come to an end every time I did badly. All in all, the weekend was a great success. Well, for me it was. I guess I can’t really speak for Sarah, her housemate and their friends, so I will have to assume it wasn’t too nightmarish for them.

It was while we were hitting the town during the first evening that my stepdad, who was staying with my stepbrother, tracked me down to be the bearer of bad news. Lionel, elderly diabetic rescue cat and facebook celebrity extraordinaire, had had to be put down. Now, as a dedicated animal lover, the death of a pet is not an easy thing for me. On the other hand, neither is breaking down in tears in front of other people, which meant that after recovering from the initial shock, I managed to keep it at the very back of my mind for the whole weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I had a genuinely great time in Scotland; it wasn’t until I arrived home to a Lionel free existence that it really hit me hard. Particularly on hearing a detailed account on exactly how it happened.

Having planned to publish a blog post the very day I got back (Monday) I quickly found that my writing ability was seriously lacking. If it still is, then bear with me – it will hopefully be completely up to scratch ASAP. In the meantime, when I’m not staring at my borrowed suitcase thinking about unpacking, I will be mentally accumulating a montage of Lionel anecdotes. He had a facebook account, which I think must mean that it would mean a lot to him to have a blog post all to himself.

So there you have it. A roller coaster of ups and downs, tears and laughs, sickness, health and lots of rich food. And all in the space of three days.

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Stereotypes, cats and Asperger’s Syndrome

485302_10151707404378814_342990521_nAccording to Facebook, April is supposed to be autism/Asperger/special needs-in-general Awareness month. Over the years, I have had to become resigned to the fact that not many people understand what Asperger’s Syndrome is. Apparently, people have even asked my mum if I can talk! And if there is anything worse than people who know nothing about it, it is people who basically claim that they know everything about everyone with the condition when they find out I have it.

It has sadly not been unheard of for Mum to mention in a conversation that I have Asperger’s only for the other person to assume that I must have some degree of mental retardation. Or an obsession with physics, maths and computers. Or the emotional capacity of a robot. Actually, the word people have often used is “special”. The more astute you become, the easier it is to differentiate between special and “special”. Believe me.

I’ve also noticed that, on hearing words like Asperger’s Syndrome and autism, the first images that spring to many minds are the main characters from Rain Man and The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime. I enjoy the Curious Incident book as a good read and an interesting story, and have never watched the film Rain Man, so I guess I can’t complain. Unfortunately for whoever comes to such conclusions, stereotypes happen to be one of my main pet peeves. What with me being an “Aspie” with emotions and some (limited) social understanding, and all.

One of the few books that gives a clear, non-stereotypical portrayal is All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopmann. As the title suggests, the book gives a quick, concise comparison between people with Asperger’s and cats. Being a cat-lover, this is one of the things I like about the book. It has lead me to realise that actually, not only do cats show similar behaviour to people with AS, such as heightened senses and not wanting to mix with others.

Like AS people, cats are also given annoying stereotypes. The main one is that they apparently cannot show loyalty and love. Which explains why my furry friend Bouncer waits for me when I go out, gets excited upon my return and dashes into my room without calming down until I follow. And why some cats have, against all odds, refused to be parted from their owners and even other pets. At the same time, I do know that no two cats or Aspies are the same. Cliched, I know, but very true!

I realise I haven’t been as humourous with this post as with the previous ones, but I felt it was about time I came up with an interesting thought for the day, week, month, etc. I’m currently in the early stages of writing an article on a similar theme for a magazine, having been inspired by Kathy Hoopmann’s book. In the meantime, if anyone has any thoughts, opinions or experiences relevant to the topics mentioned I will be very interested to hear them. Bouncer clearly does, as he has just jumped onto my laptop and walked across the keyboard. Much as I appreciated the input, I ultimately decided that what I’d written would make for easier reading. I am sure he will understand this.