Disability and Difference
When something is different, it is different because it is not the same as something else.
When some thing is not the same as something else it is different.
When something is unlike something else, it is different.
When something is different than most other things and unlike other things – that something which is unlike other things may become… unlikable.
In the worlds of oranges, tractors, spaghetti, gloves, paint boxes and fan heaters – the issue of difference is not an issue. I would guess that each inanimate, insentient object serves some kind of purpose or role. A ‘can opener’ can open cans. The idea that a tin can may be waiting to be opened by another object designed for such a purpose is silly. Although, designing a tin can that is self opening could be an interesting pursuit – the branding of ‘The Tin Can’ wo uld be cool. If someone designed a tin can which could go into a microwave without exploding – it would be called, simply, the ‘CanCan’. I guess, that that ‘someone’ could be me, but I am too busy trying to cook my tea.
But what of people and mice? Being different can be fun. One needs courage to be different. The big eared mouse, Despereaux, didn’t get where he is today by being ordinary. He was unlike other mice and he became unlikable and banished. And then the penguin with his happy dancing feet, what a life!
I, mistakenly, thought that the animated film about Despereaux was going to focus on his tail.
Having Asperger Syndrome often makes me say things that are unexpected and different. I behave, sometimes, in different ways to other people. Sometimes, lots of times, my brain is unlike many many other brains.
It is heart warming to know that we will never, completely, be robots or clones. I trust that being different is like each colour of each raindrop on each dandelion leaf.
Unlike is not Unlikable.
‘Well, prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more-than private estates of the Bonaparte family…’
I am on the first page of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ and I shall be here in ten years time. The book is heavy and could be used to anchor a 4×4 on a steep hill. It is a 1960 reprint and the sleeve is intact. I love the John Groth illustrations and the faded blue cover. I found this book, lying on the pavement, outside a ‘Second Hand’ shop in town. It is not what you think – the owner didn’t hurl it at a seagull rummaging in a Cornwall County Council rubbish bin – It was with many other, more boring, books beckoning passers by to take them home. I did an impression of the Bionic Man and my eyes focused on two unusual books; War and Peace and a 1958 edition of the Post Office London Directory.
In all the excitement I switch to a descriptive present tense!
The latter is just as beautiful as the Tolstoy reprint. It is a faded red hardback and has an amasing illustrative advert for ST MARTIN’S TYPEWRITER CO.LTD on the front cover. The directory is as big as my sink and I wander at my strength in getting both books back to my flat.
I reflect that all the books were in boxes with a hand written sign – PLEASE HELP YOUR SELF BOOKS FOR FREE.
I suppose that it is possible that someone had torn off the ending of the sign, giving the instruction a whole new meaning!
PLEASE HELP YOUR SELF BOOKS FOR FREE LIFT TO TRURO.
Anyway, the Directory looks good as a stand for a reading light and they have certainly cheered me up.
Too much of my time is taken up with the effort of challenging my own invasive negative internal dialogue. War and Peace is described as ‘entertaining’ and that is good.
My Asperger Syndrome co-morbid thoughts will be the death of me!
This drawing wins Koestler Trust Award 2010
Draft CV – Aly Gynn (Alyster Gynn)
Arts Council England Award Winner – 2006 (for developing art practices)
Visual Artist, Painter. Stand Up Comedian. Live Literature-Slam Poet. Singer/Songwriter.
Born Cornwall 1961
Guest Speaker and Performances for ESAN (East Suffolk Advocacy Network) and Suffolk NHS Mental Health Conferences/Open Days, 2007 and 2008 (enter quote from John Parr)
Guest Speaker and Performances for the National Autistic Society. Working directly with NAS teams on recent campaigns. ‘Think differently about Autism’ and‘I Exist’.
Speech at No.11 Downing Street, London(2008) for the NAS. Met with the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, MPs and NAS Charity Proponents. (enter quote from Alistair Darling and the Johnathan Shaw – Minister for Disabled People)
Contributed to Robin Hammond’s (International Photographer) – UK Exhibition, ‘Think Differently’ – Had portrait taken by Robin and later made a speech at the London Opening of the National touring Exhibition. Speech followed by a performance of my song ‘Friend of Dorothy’ http://www.myspace.com/shedoesntdomaths
Wrote and Performed ‘Abacus’ (Slam Poem) and gave speech – Houses of Parliament, London. (Audience NAS Campaign Leaders and MPs)
Judged the Prose entries of the National Autistic Society ‘Creativity Competition’ – Made a Speech and presented prizes – London. 2009
(enter quotes from Matthew Downie, Gemma Redgewell and Jane Asher)
Press: Interviews and Portrait Photographs.
Daily Mirror – Miriam Stoppard, East Anglian Daily Times, Cornish and Devon, Bury Free Press, Good To Know Website, NHS Website, NAS Website (blogs) Own Websites and Blogs, BBC Radio Suffolk, Breakthru Radio – Planet Beet Show, Gaydar Website
Filmed: BBC and ITV Breakfast News with Matthew Downie NAS Campaigns Manager. East Anglian Mental Health Development – Stepping Forward. Personal You Tube-Site now finished. Autism Research Society – Diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and Volunteer for Research Development. Filmed and Recorded at Numerous Venues Arts and Festival Performances plus Campaign Conferences throughout East Anglia and London (enter quote from Sarah Holmes – Director, New Wolsey Theatre)
Weekly blogs/diary for the National Autistic Society.
Writing and recording jokes, weekly – for the ‘Planet Beet’ Radio show- (Norwich) – Part of Breakthru Radio – World Wide, based in New York (Indie music and unsigned bands) Show Producer and DJ ‘Mr. Jason’ Old School Studios, Norwich
Suffolk County Council commissioned Writing and Performance of the Live Literature Poem ‘442’. This work for the Suffolk Racial Harassment Initiative Conference at Leiston High School. ‘442’ was also made into a DVD and contributed to the ‘Let’s Kick it Out Campaign (Racism in Football). (enter quote from Leon Mann-former European Marketing Director) Performance at Ipswich Town Football Club.
Enrolled Nurse (General) Trained at North Devon Hospital and worked at Plymouth City hospitals. – 1982-88
FE Lecturer in Visual Studies, West suffolk college. 1993-1998
Teaching within a Further Education Context, Visual Studies and Fine Art (pre-degree students) Part-time basis with continuing Arts practice
Community support Worker, Suffolk County Council (Social). – 1998-2000
Working in a respite (short break) context within a team. For adult Service Users with Learning Difficulties (including Autistic spectrum Disorders)
FE Lecturer in Learning Support, West Suffolk College, 2000-2003
Teaching and developing the curriculum for Further Education Students with Severe Learning Disabilities. Specialist areas – Art, Music and the Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
Continuing Art Practice while teaching – Painting
Art and Creativity Projects (alongside formal employment) 1994 – 2009: Three Square Meals – writing and poetry. Small World – design and graphics. Felt pens Have Feelings Too – Painting, Poetry, Music and comedy. Exhibited Paintings
Project of 30 canvasses ‘Sphere of Poetry’ – Completed Painting Works (Still to be exhibited as a complete series and Statement)
Housekeeping, Cleaning and Caretaker jobs for financial stability and Independence (part time) 2005-2008 – Alongside Continuing Arts Professional Development. Brief Time – Employed as a Carer for a NAS Home (Aug-Nov 2008)
BTEC National Diploma Art and Design -Plymouth School of Art and Design 1998-1990
2:1 BA (Hons) degree in fine Art – Falmouth School of Art and Design – 1st class for Dissertation 1990-1993
Masters Degree Fine Art and Cultural Studies – Norwich School of Art and Design – 1994-96 (
Certificate of Education in Post Compulsory Education Anglia Polytechnic University -1996
The initial certificate in teaching Basic Skills (literacy) City and Guilds – 2002
The initial certificate in teaching Basic skills (numeracy) City and Guilds – 2002
Other Qualifications and skills:
Computer Literacy and Information Technology Stage 1 – OCR – 2002
SchoolSafe Core programme – Suffolk county Council – 2001
Suffolk Social Services – Kerrison Conference and Training Centre : Standard Training Course For Staff Working With Learning Disabilities 1998. Risk: Choices, Independence and Implications 2000. Sexuality and People with Learning Disabilities (Levels 1 and 2) 2000. recognising and Responding to abuse – policies and procedures 1999.
Instructor in Basic manual Handling – West suffolk College – 2001
Many short course and workshop with Suffolk making art work, Menta and Suffolk Business Link 2003 – 2006
Commissioned poetry and school performance for Suffolk County council – Racial Harassment Initiative (442) – 2005
Many Short Courses and Contribution to “Making Art Work’ Suffolk County Council.
2009 July-Nov Levels 1 and 2 Literacy, Numeracy and Arts at ‘Eastwood Park’ HMP (as Prisoner) Image illustrating this CV is ‘I am not a number’ completed as part of an Art Course at the prison. Self Portrait – biro on paper (original in the care of Tutor Nigel Brown-HMP) – Wins Koestler Trust Award 2010
Born Alison Gynn, name on certificates and exhibitions until 2001. Aly Gynn 2001 – ongoing shortended version of Alyster. Alyster legal name of Artist and chosen Male name since January 2009 – ongoing. Alyster is a Transsexual Man.
Professional Development Update
Music: Back To The Drawing Room : Album and Performance 2006 – 2016
Fine Art: Exhibition of Paintings – ditto ditto 2003 – 2013
Writing and Live Literature: The Hurry (novel) and 2nd Stage of ‘Felt Pens have Feelings too’ – Live Literature Poetry Performance. (Stage 1 – Arts council England Award – Development of Work 2006)
Ongoing – 4 Stages.
(Thumbnail image – portrait : Wendy Turner Red Shed, Bury St Edmunds – cropped, 2006)
Many turn out to discriminate against me and bully. Some don’t, they keep trying but eventually give up. I don’t get the relationship of friendship and there are no set rules.
Rule no. 1
Come for a cup of tea every two weeks, for the next 15 years, and we will sit in the greenhouse and talk about different varieties of tomato plants.
I could be everything that a friend needs to be – but something more important than friendship will get in the way. Something that, in essence, is not more important than friendship: a puzzle, a painting, a piece of music, a pre-occupation with words, an obsession with car engines – all these things sit, like limpets, around my skull.
No! – they are my skull.
I juggle the need for companionship and friendship with the fear of failure. Based on experience and the, seeming, inevitable – I rip and tear before it breaks.
In my world I believe that I can do anything, And, apart from three things, I can. The first thing that I cannot do – is to experience the world as society demands that I should. Secondly, I cannot control the random sigh, laugh, yelp or sneeze of the person in the queue behind me. Thirdly, I cannot fly.
I am in a box, listening to dust.
I am in a room, softly feeling my own breath stroke my wrist.
With the profound, multiple, overt and subtle discriminations of my every day – It is difficult to feel that I belong. Society appears to need me to fit in, even if it kills me.
I can be included, but only if I lie and say “I know that tree how you know that tree”.
It is proving to be quite difficult and he keeps thinking about the second page of a ‘Mills and Bam Bam Boom’ paperback.
He tried, Once, to publish with them. Actually he tried twice. His first attempt included an (autobiographical) take on the handsome Doctor being a post operative Female to Male Transsexual. The poetic descriptions of Doctor Gordon with a ‘Stand and Pee’ prothesis were too much. Too much for Cynthia, certainly. Cynthia was one of the secretaries. As in – Cynthia was one of the secretaries.
David feels slightly guilty that she was the proof reader for new writers and genres to the Publishing House.
Apparently she fainted at page 16.
Doctor Gordon’s hand brushed, gently, against Nurse Bindle’s fob watch. His newly formed hairy arm seemed to tremble (the hairs were new – not the arm)
With his second attempt ‘Passion at the vicarage’ – The publishers notified the police.
David reminisces about past love lifes, some have remained as friendships and some are best forgotten.
He wanders if he will ever try again and, too quickly, he decides against it.
There is a science of remembering he thinks to himself. If there was someone with him in the room – he would say
“There is a science of remembering”
The other person may say something like
“Oh!, is there?”.
And then he would have to explain what he means by that. It is enough, for the moment that he is remembering love and picking out his belongings from the derelict houses of passion. In storage his things and heart – but he will belong again.
There is alot to be said for ‘Real’ friendship he concludes in his mind.
There is alot to be said.
And one day, I will say it.
He is wearing casual clothes and he walks along the bit of the beach where no one goes.
He would like to say that he is at ‘One’ with nature. He thinks that that sounds a bit too poetic and unachievable (given the circumstances). An ice cream with a chocolate flake would bring him back, but he has deliberately walked away from the obvious. He has walked too far along the beach and he knows it. He doesn’t want to be wearing these jeans and knitted sweater. He doesn’t want to be wearing these socks and trainers. he doesn’t want to be wearing this face. And then a dog appears in the distance. A dog appearing in the distance means that it is taking it’s owner out for a walk on the beach. He does not want to see them and, for some strange reason, he is more worried about the dog seeing the face he is wearing than the owner.
If the owner of the dog comes from behind the dunes calling for the dog , he will cope. Will he cope? – Yes, he will cope. He is still capable of saying something like “It’s a bit breezy today”. He is still capable of smiling alongside the phatic exchange. But the dog will see through him. The dog will smell every thought that is going through his mind. He will throw his thoughts away, just for a moment until they have walked past him to another part of the beach. He will throw his thoughts away just for a moment and hope that the dog does not think that they are a stick to bring back to him.
They have gone.
I want to be wearing a dress he says to himself. I want to be wearing a dress he says to the sea, the slack sea. I want to be holding a pink bucket and spade he says to himself. I want to be looking for pretty sea shells he says to himself.
He is alarmed when the sea whispers a phatic, affirmative response -” You can” she yawns.
I must go home, he thinks. I must go home, he says.
One day, when the tide turns – I will be ready.
The owner of the dog says “Hello” to the Woman. The Woman is reading the Sunday papers and she greets them with a smile. The dog waits and sits by the hatchback, convinced that one day the handle will be dog friendly and a wet nose will open the catch. He opens the catch and the dog jumps up into the warmth. He sits in the car with her, finds one of the soggy tomato sandwiches and scrums for the sports pages.
“Was there anyone else on the beach?” she asks him (glancing up from a theatre review).
“Yes” he responds.
“That’s strange” she says
“Yes” he replies.
“Do waiters have to be patient”?
James is at the Job Centre and his ‘Back to Work’ interview with Mrs. Spicer is not going well.
“What, exactly are they waiting for? – is table no. 3 taking too long to order”?
Mrs. Spicer is, seriously, thinking about putting in for early retirement, she has just had her 42nd birthday.
“Will there be lots of noise in the restaurant and kitchen, usually there is too much noise in restaurants and kitchens and people will be talking won’t they?”
“OK”, she offers, “If restaurants are out of the question – what about Gardening, Parks and Leisure industries?”
James holds up his hands and stares at his fingers. He moves and stretches each finger like a dancer limbering up. The palms of both hands are face up now and he is determined to make the tips of two of the fingers on each hand touch. All those lines and movements are his hands. Now he takes the soft pad of each index finger and watches it intently.
Eventually after what seems like eons, he lifts his face to hers. “I don’t like leisure Mrs. Spicer – I don’t think there is a job for someone like me”.
“Well you would be working James – you wouldn’t have to do the leisure bit” she replies with great patience.
He suddenly jolts up out of the chair and excitedly exclaims and explains something in a loud voice, seemingly to everyone in the Job Centre.
The security guard shuffles slightly (him and Mrs. Spicer do an eye contact thing which confirms that she is OK with the Excitable Young Client)
“I could work in a nice garden. I used to collect leaves!”. He Shouts
Mrs. Spicer asks him to sit down and talk some more about his leaf collection.
I had 4,876 at one point – but Dad asked me to take them out of my bedroom because they began to smell.
I collected several obcordate leaves. They are the same shape as a heart you see Mrs. Spicer. I loved those leaves and now they have gone gone gone gone”. James is slightly rocking now in his chair as he mourns the loss of his leaf collection.
“Maybe not gardening” gently suggests Mrs. Spicer.
She left home this morning and took her autistic son to school. Robert is 6 years old and it took him seven minutes to cut ten pieces of jam sandwich into a perfectly formed tiny cubes. Just this morning, she watched him run across the playground into his classroom. She is allowed to kiss him, firmly, on his head and she does so because it gives her great pleasure. She thinks that it also gives her son pleasure because if she forgets to kiss him. He stands still, cocks his head and looks to the sky. He will stand like this for several minutes before she realises she has forgotten to kiss him on the head.
This morning she felt a wave of panic and terror sweep over her. She was thinking of him in the future trying to survive in a world of world and even more world. And his being so different.
She knows James Dawson, siting in front of her, has Asperger Syndrome. She knows because she read his application form and her colleague Maureen had said
“your 9.30am appointment has Ass something or another”
Mrs. Spicer knows all about ‘Ass something or another’ – Which is why, she too, watched him – watch his hands – watch his watch – watch her back – watching him – watch his hands before coming back to the dialogue.
James is quite impressed. with Mrs. Spicer.
Not many people allow him time to think about everything he needs to say and think about.
And if his needs are neglected he could combust like a big fat toad full of porridge and the legs of the toad will shoot across the galaxy with an almighty bang and the world will come to and end just like that while people are watching the TV with Noel Edmunds and the sausages which are cooking under the grill will burn and spit and then the fire engine will come. And then the fire engines might not be able to save the toad because the fire people are out on strike (well, technically, inside outside on strike)
That’s what can happen if James is interrupted from thinking about his heart shaped leaves.
“I could do your job!’ he suddenly declares, beaming with enthusiasm.
They laugh. They laugh together. They both laugh. Together at the same time.
“Yes James” she hoots “ You could do my job”
He is a 19 year old man and he cocks his head and his dreamy pool eyes are wide open. They are directed at the invisible cobweb tucked up in the Job Centre ceiling. It is invisible but James can see it.
They sigh. They sigh together. They loth sigh. Together at the same time.
James leaves the Job Centre excitedly promising to work on his application as the:
Lead Space Director General of NASA in charge of the sub engines, risk and assessment and technical overseeing… “just in case a job like that comes up!”
“And if it does” mumbles Mrs. Spicer to the cobweb “ If you don’t get it – maybe, one day Robert will.
I am hiding in this hotel room, but not successfully. Gary has just phoned to say he wants the article by tomorrow morning. Gary has emailed four times to say he wants the article by tomorrow morning. Gary doesn’t need the article tomorrow morning and three other reporters are covering the story. He will pick one of us seconds before the deadline and he will pick the deadline. He will pick one of us like he picks his nose before wiping his hand in the crotch of his trousers. I have watched him, many times, shake hands with some unsuspecting quarry.
I have written the article and each time he wants me to change it. It is not good enough for him, which means it is not bad enough. The disposability is not tangible and people will read it for too many seconds. They may even read it twice. They may even think about it.
It is about a Woman who stole cosmetics from a supermarket. Gary obtained the full list of items by using the ‘Freedom of Information’ act.
A purple plum lipstick, An eyebrow pencil and a Foundation – ‘Beige Shimmer’. She also stole, it seems, an item from the Woman’s Fashion aisle – knickers from the ‘Special’ range. And that was, probably, why the supermarket was so keen to press charges.
She ran apparently.
She ran through the car park, through the petrol station, through the car wash and up the dual carriage way for a couple of hundred metres. It is reported that she then disappeared either by clambering over the hedgerow or by having an accomplice driving past at some established time.
Gary is on the phone, again, ranting and spitting bile down the receiver. “Your article is to be called – Not even a ‘Tranny’ would wear them!,” he orders “Stop writing all this crap about his Gender Reassignment”. I point out that I wrote about her Gender Reassignment and that I don’t want to write the slang ‘Tranny’. I also tell him that none of that is, even, relevant to the story.
“If you want this job Joe” he snarls, “write the article and highlight that he complained about the quality of the knickers in the courtroom”.
I tell Gary that I don’t want the job.
I lie back on the bed and study the cobweb in the corner of the room. I smile and sigh as I remember my childhood running through fields chasing dandelion clocks.
She was right, the quality of the fabric is of net curtains and it feels cheap next to my skin.
Parisian Silk knickers are better.