Feline Focus

Feline Focus
My latest puma, July 2016


Beloved companion to Sarah, Nov 2015

Window To The Soul

Window To The Soul
Watercolour Horse, June 2015

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties
Watercolour Lionesses, Nov 2012


"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

Groucho Marx

Snow Stalker

Snow Stalker
Another snow leopard - my latest watercolour offering - July 2013

31 March 2010

Don't Mind Me Two

This is by way of an addendum to the last blog post, Sense and Sensibility.

I really find this business of not knowing my own mind a bit tedious at times, especially when I also have the annoying habit of making categorical statements, only to find that I have cemented myself in the wrong place yet again, and I’ve got to set about chiselling my way out!

In this instance I am referring to my statement about liking the change in the seasons. Now this is not strictly untrue: I do like things like seeing the flowers appear in spring and the arrival of the baby birds, not to mention all the wonderful fruit that makes its appearance during these warmer months (I have a ‘thing’ about food, especially fruit – I think it’s called an obsession!) However, my liking of the seasonal changes is mainly theoretical – I like the idea of it, but the reality appears to clash with my personality. I enjoy reading about them, and seeing pictures – the way they do it in magazines, directing your attention to whatever aspect of the change happens to be their particular interest (health magazines, food and lifestyle magazines, etc). I know it’s a bit of a bizarre thing to enjoy, but I have aspergers, don’t you know - bizarre is my middle name (er, not literally, you understand?!) And, anyway, I’ve given it up now because it was such an obsession and a distraction that I hardly got much else done but reading – anything!

I have a lot of these delusions about myself. Some of them are really quite funny. For instance I used to think that I was a gregarious social butterfly. I mistook not being able to stop talking once I started as a sign that I enjoyed social interaction, and was able to engage in light chit-chat! The fact that it would wear me out, that I would come away from such encounters with my mind racing and obsessing over what had been said (which could last up to a week until the next time!), and that I could only talk about one thing – namely me and my interests – failed to register. I had to have my neurotypical best friend tell me that this is what I did, and that this does not constitute small talk, and general polite conversation. I was aghast! Was my small talk not small enough, then? How small did it have to be? I mean, for heaven’s sake, I’m the woman who’s obsessed with the minutiae of life: you can’t get much smaller than that, surely?!! But no, apparently this doesn’t count. It’s not light enough, like a fairy cake – more in the way of a rock bun that’s been cooked too long!

So, to try to get back on track, this change business is not something I embrace wholeheartedly, or even half-heartedly at times – sometimes there’s no heart to be found in it whatsoever! I just have this idea that I do, even despite all the evidence to the contrary throughout my life. I keep thinking it’s just a matter of changing my attitude (ha ha ha, more change!) towards the idea of change, but as yet this has not worked, and I’ve been doing it a bloody long time now! Methinks it’s time I tried another method - accept that it’s intrinsically part of the aspergers and, for whatever inexplicable reason, change just isn’t something I’m ever going to find easy. Hell’s bells, I don’t even like changing my breakfast cereal, or the kind of knickers I buy! And I hate it when the Brussels sprout season comes to its end, and I have to figure out something else to buy in their place!

I hate the change in seasons, and not just because of the difficulties I have with deciding what to wear. I hate it when the clocks go forward here in the UK (which they have just done, and now I’ve lost an hour’s sleep, and I’d just got back into the rhythm of getting up earlier!), and the dreaded British summer time begins – in the middle of spring! It’s the time when all the people, who were safely locked up in their homes during the colder months while I was out taking my walks in blissful solitary peace, suddenly appear and the world feels overcrowded. Now I can hardly get from my door to where I walk without encountering someone, and even whilst indoors I can hear them going about their business outside.

What is it with people? Why does it seem they all have to come out at the same time? Couldn’t they do it in shifts? And why is it that they seem to have this propensity for gathering together in the same places, like sheep all following each other around? I mean, just look at what happens in the summer holidays when they all head for the traditional holiday spots and theme parks: can there be anything less conducive to a restful break from work or school? Is it any wonder half of them are glad when the holidays end and it’s time to go back?! (I do know that they are not all the same, and that they don’t all do these things: it just seems like it to me!) Me, I look forward to when the days grow shorter and the clocks go back, and I get my lost hour back (where does it go in the interim? On holiday, probably, away from all the people!). Not to mention, of course, all those surplus people suddenly disappear indoors.

And there, once again, I imply that I enjoy another change, but I am reminded of the fact that I apparently don’t respond well to the lack of light, the cold, and every other thing that goes with the autumn/winter season, and that it affects my mood and I become quite gloomy at times. I only ever seem able to see one piece of the jigsaw at a time, and never the whole picture, so I have to frequently be reminded of the truth about myself and my condition. It’s a bit of a bugger when you can’t quite remember who you really are!

So, having explored the issue, I have come to the conclusion that no, I don’t like change. In fact, I BLOODY WELL HATE IT!!! This will not come as a surprise to my friend, who is constantly telling me that it’s the case: but to me, I’m always amazed. It takes me a while for things to fully compute, and then I can never guarantee that it won’t go in and disappear into the black hole that appears to materialise in my mind to swallow up all the really useful information I could do with retaining, leaving me with a swirling mass of gaseous waste to ponder on obsessively – the minutiae of life!

25 March 2010

Sense and Sensibility!

You know the statue “The Thinker” by Michelangelo (seated naked man with one arm curled up to support his forehead, probably to stop his brain from falling out!)? Well I’ve decided he’s an asperger who went outside to try to figure out what the weather was like in order to decide what to wear, sat down to think about it, and froze to death in that pose because he couldn’t feel how cold it really was!

This may sound a bit odd but to me, an asperger with sensory problems, it makes perfect sense. How do you figure out what the temperature is when your wiring’s all crossed? Me, I rely on my sight: I decide what the weather’s like based on how it looks! Oh, and I stick my hand out the window (once I’ve opened it, of course: the window, that is, not my hand!) As you may well imagine this method has never failed to not work, and I invariably end up dressed inappropriately. But still I persist with it - I know no other way, so I stick to what I do know, even when it’s been proven to be totally ineffective!

It’s not so bad when the weather is “behaving” as it should do ie hot in summer, cold in winter. But it’s the bits in between, the variations in temperature, the annoying hazy bits in the midst of the extremes of hot or cold that cause the problems. It’s almost like trying to piece the weather together using an identikit. If the sky is blue, and the sun is out, I decide it must be quite warm.

But then, of course, I have to take into consideration the season, and then into the equation come all the variables, designed to confuse the process. If it’s winter and it’s a “nice” day then it still probably doesn’t mean that I can go out in a t-shirt. However, if I’m going out walking then I might end up feeling too hot if I overdress, but I’ll probably be too cold at the beginning, and what if I don’t warm up at all? Should I just take a suitcase with me with numerous changes of clothes in case every single possible variation in the weather occurs whilst I’m out for my walk (an event which only takes an hour at the most)?!!

Even more confusing is if the weather is overcast and looks gloomy. This I have got down as meaning that it must be a cool day, because it looks like one, even in the midst of summer - but then you can never rely on the weather in England to behave anyway. It’s a bugger when you dress up ready for wintry weather only to discover it’s milder than the tropics! I should just employ myself a mobile valet to follow me around on my expeditions and carry all the clothes I have to discard as I begin to overheat!

I begin to see why it takes us aspergers so long to do anything! I have a decision-making process as long as your arm to go through which cannot be circumvented. Try to speed it up and all I end up doing is slowing it down further, leaving myself in a complete dither, and generally short-circuiting the system. I appear to be innately incapable of going from A to B: it just seems I HAVE to take in the rest of the alphabet, no matter that I might not want to!

So relying on my sense of sight is neither use nor ornament, but so too is trying to work it out using my hand. I am hopeless at gauging the temperature of anything. I regularly get in the bath only to find that it’s still too hot, no matter that I have checked it frequently with my hand. It has been suggested to me that I try using my elbow instead as it is much more sensitive. I have tried this, and it does appear to work better.

However, due to another peculiar and illogical aspect of my condition, once I have got into one habit I find it very difficult to relinquish it in favour of something better, something which actually works (‘cos the thing it’s usually intended to replace almost inevitably doesn’t work, and probably never did: I just seem to pick these things up like someone at a flea market attracted to all the useless broken bits that get left behind!) Bonkers as it might seem, it actually feels to me too difficult to change from sticking my hand in the water to putting my elbow in it: and, besides which, I have to bend down further to get my elbow in there!! As a consequence, it seems, I just tend to forget that my way doesn’t work and that there’s a better one.

And then there’s the small problem of having to gauge what exactly is too hot, since I have nothing to measure it against except my own peculiar, and frankly inadequate, understanding of the word hot! And for some bizarre reason, in diametric opposition to my dislike of the weather being too hot, I cannot seem to feel the heat enough when I get in the bath, and I hate finding that I’ve cooled it down too much because I’ve been unable to gauge in the other direction too!

I used to be able to figure it out by how red my body was, and how much sweat was pouring out of me (plus how light-headed and dizzy I felt!). I’d read somewhere that hot baths which made you sweat were good for you – they probably didn’t mean that hot, and I’ve since revised my opinion in light of the fact that I have pale, sensitive skin prone to drying out easily (so it’s really not that good for me at all), and aspergers, which means I haven’t got a clue what they mean by “hot” and “sweat”! Since I don’t go to those extremes any more it’s a little more difficult.

I could buy a thermometer, I suppose, and find out what is considered to be the ideal temperature for a bath? But I’d probably just ignore what it registered if it didn’t match up to what I felt was the right temperature, totally forgetting that the reason for acquiring it in the first place was because my in-built thermometer doesn’t work properly! You just can’t win with aspergers!

Perhaps one answer to the problem of trying to gauge the weather is to move to a country where they have only one type, with hardly any variation in temperature – Siberia, perhaps, or Africa? A bit drastic, I know, especially as I hate it being too warm or cold. But then think how much time I would save trying to decide what to wear, not to mention what clothes to buy, which is another joyous event in itself! I could just buy the same outfit for every day of the week, but in different colours so that people didn’t get the idea that I never get changed!

But then there’s also a little problem I have with travelling anywhere further than the local town without suffering extreme anxiety. And, anyway, I don’t think they sell soya milk, peanut butter, or goji berries in either of those countries, not to mention all my other very specific dietary requirements! So maybe I won’t bother after all. Besides which I like England. I even like the changes in weather: each season brings with it such an infinite variety of exciting and inspiring things. It just takes me and my body a while to catch up and adjust to each change, so it’s a good thing that there are only four seasons in the year! And, asperger or not, who wants to almost freeze to death or swelter in a heatwave all year round?!

No. I think I’ll just stay where I am and learn to adapt to the peculiarities inherent in having aspergers. But I don’t really have much choice – my body would still follow me if I decided to move, so it’s a bit pointless trying to escape from it! I just need always remember not to copy The Thinker’s example, and forget to put on my clothes before I go outside to check on the weather – especially if I end up in Siberia!!

10 March 2010

Einstein Rules!

"I used to have a handle on life but it fell off!”

I read this somewhere ages ago and thought it was very funny. Now I also find that it is totally appropriate to where I am!

Life is confusing. Aspergers is confusing. Put them together and all I get is a lot of confusion. I sometimes feel like a kitten all tangled up in a ball of wool, not able to find the beginning or the end, and when I do manage to find one or the other the only place it leads to is back into the tangled mass!

I remember reading a book called ‘A Short History Of Nearly Everything’ by Bill Bryson. It was really good, and brought science to life and made it interesting, mainly because he wrote a lot about the people as well as the science itself, putting it into historical context. It’s never been a subject I’ve been particularly interested in, but after reading that I acquired yet another obsession, and would go to the library (my most favourite place on the planet!) and get out more books on the subject. It didn’t last for very long: there aren’t that many books of a similar nature to Bryson’s, and there weren’t that many science books (or any other kind!) in my local library, and I soon got bored, not to mention totally perplexed by it all. But it did give me yet another excuse for getting out more books to read!

I can’t remember most of it, though I do have my own copy, but the one relevant bit that has always stuck with me is to do with Einstein. I didn’t know at the time that I had aspergers, nor that he is supposed to have had it too, but even then I felt a sense of identification with his desire to understand and explain the universe, to put it in a neat little box with a rigid set of rules (or laws), and set down a definitive answer that no-one could refute. And for a while it worked: until some bastard came along and threw a spanner in the works, saying that his General Theory of Relativity didn’t apply to everything in the universe – namely atoms! They untidied the universe, and came up with a separate set of laws called Quantum Theory, and Einstein then apparently spent the rest of his life trying to find yet another definitive answer to the whole lot because he didn’t like there being two different sets of rules. It didn’t make sense to him, and it upset his need for rigid order, I expect.

I can understand his being upset, and then being driven by his obsessive need to tidy it all back up again. I’ve had theories of my own. Granted they are nothing so grand as explaining the nature of gravity (and, in so doing, apparently coming up with the single greatest scientific discovery of all time); and they are nothing to do with science, nor will they ever change the world: but, nonetheless, they’ve been very dear to me in explaining the inexplicable, mainly to do with human nature, and they have given me a firm anchor – until, of course, some bastard comes along and blow-torches their way through the chain, leaving me cast adrift once again!

So now I’m trying to give up theorising and setting everything in concrete: it has a tendency to set on me in the wrong place, usually while I’m at sea, and I end up nearly drowning myself in my own theories! (All of this, by the way, is not to be taken literally, you understand?!) It’s difficult to do, though, especially after a lifetime of practice, and the little problem of it being part and parcel of the aspergers. But I persist, knowing that it may take a while, but also trusting that it is possible for me to change. It’s just knowing what bits can be changed that’s the other problem: I have a tendency to try to change what I can’t, and then get frustrated when nothing happens. And, ironically, my main obsession at the moment is with the idea that I can stop being obsessive! Ah well, back to the drawing board (as Einstein might say!)

07 March 2010


What is it with aspergers and things? Why do I get so attached to stuff, and end up hoarding? And, let’s face it, some of the stuff is useless, and cannot be classed as having sentimental value, or any other kind! And yet I still do it.

I didn’t realise that I did it until fairly recently. I thought that I was rather good at clearing stuff out, and keeping my home clear of useless clutter. I hate clutter, and chaos, and yet it seems to regularly follow me around, and I’m always amazed when it happens! I don’t mean to do it!

I have learned to override my instinct to hoard, and throw things away, otherwise I would now be living with piles of boxes, not to mention carrier bags, glass jars, papers, clothes, and just general miscellaneous bits and pieces for which I can find no use, but am loathe to throw away “just in case ...” Just in case of what? That there might be a sudden world shortage of cardboard boxes exactly when I really need them? Or, perhaps, all the carrier bags in the world suddenly become an extinct species?!!

I had a clear-out the other week and discovered, to my complete surprise, that the “few carrier bags, glass jars, and boxes” I keep, to be re-used and recycled, had somehow multiplied when I wasn’t looking: it was like they’d mated and had off-spring! I decided to throw most of them away, with the helpful guidance of my NT friend who told me what was a reasonable amount of carriers to keep, and talked me through whether I really needed the boxes and the jars (the answer was no!)

And then came the hard part – actually discarding them! It was like pulling teeth, or losing an arm: “Couldn’t I just keep these three jars that are really nice to look at, and which I’ve had for ten years, but not actually used, but if I try hard I’m sure I can find a use for them now that there’s the threat of having to get rid of them, PLEASE?!!” “And I really like this particular carrier bag, and that one, and that one is useful for heavy stuff, even though they’ve all been stuffed in this bag with the rest and forgotten about, and never used either, OH PLEEAAAASE?!” And the boxes: “I might move ... in a year or ten! Or the thing that came in the box might break down, and then how do I send it back? Okay, so most of them are for things that are now no longer under warranty, but they could be really useful ... Oh, okay, I’m just stalling for time!”

It’s weird, isn’t it, how attached to things we get? And try explaining that to a neuro-typical. Hell, try explaining it to yourself!! I’ve used the good old stand-by of it being because things, unlike people, can be depended upon: funnily enough I’ve had two computers conk out on me, not to mention hi-fis giving up the ghost, washing machines dying, lawn-mowers fizzling to a halt, etc,etc. And that’s just the major appliances! But the idea that they don’t require any emotional attachment from me is quite bonkers considering that that’s exactly what I do end up becoming – emotionally attached! And that’s even to the bloody carrier bags!

It’s worse when the thing I’m trying to let go of is something that has been of real use and value to me, but has now come to the end of its life – for that I feel almost as if I am abandoning a faithful old companion! I bought myself a new yoga mat a few weeks ago. I’ve had my old one for nearly seven years and I desperately needed a new one. I was very excited to get the new one. However, I am attached to the old one and was loathe to just throw it away in the dustbin: it just seemed so callous! If it were possible I would probably have a burial ground for all the things that I have to get rid of, and give a funeral service!

So anyway I put it away, with the idea that perhaps it might come in handy for something: I could use it for when I travel (er, “when?” being the operative word!) so that I don’t lose or spoil the new one. I told my friend. She told me I was hoarding again, and to throw it away. I dithered, but in the end I did it. I know she’s right, and I really don’t want to live in a house full of clutter so I know I have to keep on throwing things away when they are of no use, despite what my strange mad asperger’s voice tells me, and despite the peculiar feeling of loss I experience every time I have to get rid of something.

So basically I have come to the conclusion that I don’t know why I do it, I just have to accept that I do. And then I have to decide whether I want to keep on doing it, and risk being pushed out of my own home by piles of rubbish accumulating, or to change the behaviour. One thing I do think is part of it is that I have great difficulty in distinguishing between what is and isn’t important or of value, and so I have the fear that if I get rid of something it will turn out to be the very thing that I needed at some point in the future. In order to curtail this possible eventuality I then just want to keep everything. Fortunately I have been blessed with a friend who helps me with this stuff so I don’t have to struggle with making those kinds of decisions by myself. But even this does not explain the weird emotional attachment business, and perhaps nothing ever will. As the French might say, “C’est l’aspergers!”

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
An experiment in watercolour and gouache

Quotes Quota

"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.

"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."

From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Copied from photograph of the same name by Roberto Dutesco

Quotes Quota

"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama

"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."

Malcolm X

On The Prowl

On The Prowl
Watercolour tiger

Quotes Quota

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step."

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

C S Lewis