The Hidden Village of Aspergers

August 20, 2017

We need to talk about Kevin.

(Note: this mentions abuse, so may be triggering for some readers)

Never push a loyal person to the point where they no longer care. – Kevin Pressman

For my dad, I cried a thousand tears  / For you, I won’t cry one / You were rotten to my brother and abusive to my mum / I know you’ll look down on me for being a fat, depressive Jew / But I’d rather be anything as long as I am not like you – LucyShadow, ‘Kevin Pressman’

I’ve not posted on this thing for a long time, due to working two jobs, going to Space gigs, the usual, and not having much to say, but I’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time. As some people who know me might know, I write songs. I’ve been writing since I was 13 or 14, played my stuff at open mic nights and have started writing, or trying to, again. One song I wrote used an old tune I’d written in high school, and it ended up being a massive coping mechanism for me because I was finally able to articulate how I felt about my ex-stepdad.

It all began with football. More specifically, it all began with Kevin Pressman.

A bit of background for non-football fans: Kevin Pressman is a former footballer. He’s currently goalkeeping coach at Millwall, but he is most known for playing in goal for Sheffield Wednesday for nearly 20 years, during which time he scored an amazing penalty against Wolves in the FA Cup and made 404 appearances, the most out of all post-war Wednesday players. He joined Wednesday as a teenager in 1985, and left in 2004, aged thirty-six. He was one of many players let go by Chris Turner. Four years earlier, in 2000, his contract had run out, and as this article shows, he was pretty bitter about it. He’d grown up supporting Sheffield Wednesday as a kid in Dronfield, he’d outlasted several other goalies – Chris Woods, Pavel Srnicek (RIP), Matt Clarke, Ola Tidman, and so on – and had helped out with coaching at the club academy. Even now, he still cheers Wednesday on and irritates many a Sheffield United fan on Twitter. To the disappointment of many Wednesday fans, unlike other players who’d done their ten years, he never got a testimonial, which seems like a huge kick in the teeth for someone who’d spent so long at the club and been so loyal. (Even though, there are petitions calling for a Pressman testimonial, though the man himself is presumably too busy with his charges at Millwall.) I’d always thought Pressman was cool as a player, and along with Matt Le Tissier, Alan Shearer, Zinedine Zidane and the great Marco van Basten, he was one of my non-Everton favourites as a kid.

Where does my ex-stepdad come in? Well, firstly, he’s a Sheffield Wednesday supporter, and one of my best memories of him involves them. I was desperate for him to take us to Hillsborough, and in 1997, he took me, my brother Jack and my ex-stepbrother to see Wednesday play Chelsea (who, incidentally, are my current stepdad’s team). Wednesday lost 4-1, Dan Petrescu – who had recently moved from Wednesday to Chelsea – got a ton of abuse, and an annoying man behind us commentated throughout the match. But for me, it was like a bonding experience and a chance to spend quality time with my ex-stepdad. Football was one of the things that brought my dad and me together, and it was the same with my ex-stepdad, and it was part of a bigger picture. While he and Jack had a bad relationship – and for the sake of Jack’s privacy, I won’t go into detail as to why – I was the one who tried to be a good stepdaughter and make him like me. I did my chores and pretended to enjoy the incessant walks we went on. I even internalised some of his values, which is why it took so long for me to admit I had depression and needed help. Several years later, when he and my mum separated, Mum apparently asked, “How do you think Lotte will feel?” He dismissively replied, “She’ll be OK.” I started crying, because I felt like I’d been cast aside like a piece of trash. I also found it strange how he never came to visit me while I was a student, yet after the separation he sent me a card, which I threw in the bin. It felt like he only cared when it was convenient. I remembered how he’d comforted me at my maternal gran’s funeral, how I’d cried in his arms after admitting I’d been self-harming (Mum was at choir practice and Jack was too young to help). And now this.

What made it worse in retrospect was finding out that he’d been abusive to my mum – emotionally, if not physically. I’d heard them arguing, and by ‘arguing’ I mean yelling at each other and him making her cry. My dad had never done that. I won’t go into detail about the things he said, out of respect for Mum’s privacy, but one of the reasons why she is an alcoholic is because of him. At least he wasn’t abusive to me, thank G-d, but Mum and Jack are my flesh and blood, and if you hurt them, you hurt me too.

Secondly, I am an Everton supporter myself, but reading the interview with Kevin Pressman, I began to see parallels between his relationship with Sheffield Wednesday, and my relationship with my ex-stepfather. Pressman loved Wednesday to pieces, gave his all for the club (especially in Steel City derbies), and stayed with them through the good times and the bad, even after they were relegated, even when he was dropped in favour of Chris Woods, and they eventually cast him aside like a piece of trash, never even giving him a chance to say a proper goodbye (compare to how Everton treated Tim Howard in 2016). While I was upset about my mum remarrying at first, I genuinely wanted to make a go of things. I wanted everyone to get along and I really wanted my ex-stepdad to love me. I wanted to win his respect and since Jack was the ‘bad’ child, I felt I had to be the ‘good’ child. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Like Pressman, I felt like I’d been kicked in the teeth when my ex-stepdad – like the powers that be at Sheffield Wednesday – stopped caring. Sometimes I even wonder if he resented the fact Mum had children. And like Sheffield Wednesday in the 00s, my blended family began to show cracks. Pressman wanted to get Wednesday back into the Premiership, and I wanted a normal family, but my parents grew further apart and split, living separate lives under the same roof, then in separate houses, then officially divorcing in 2008. I may not be a goalie (back when I played football, I was more of a defensive midfielder), but I understand the pain of being loyal, or trying to be loyal, to someone, only for them to gradually erase you from their life.

One day, I had a dream about Sheffield Wednesday, and a line about ‘watching Kevin Pressman’ got stuck in my head, and gradually I came up with more and more lines and wove them into a song, the song I’d been meaning to write for years. Music has been one of my coping mechanisms, and writing that song was a huge release for me – I still listen to it when I need a kick up the arse. I’m going to end this post with the final line:

I’d rather be at Hillsborough watching Kevin Pressman / Than spend another life with you.

 

 

September 6, 2014

Armageddon

UV rays, Factor 40
This game of Twister’s got a little bit naughty

Here’s something about me which may sound surprising: I like parties.

More specifically, I like parties where I can catch up with friends, people get a bit pissed but not to the point where there’s vomiting (of which I have seen and done my fair share) or fights, the music’s good, there’s noms and drink on tap, you don’t have to worry about the police closing you down or gatecrashers, and everyone’s generally chilled and happy. Most importantly, I like parties where I know people. I always found Jewish Society parties difficult because I could count the number of people I knew on one hand, and I coped by getting drunk. This is not something I would advise. A couple of bevvies are OK, but when you’re on meds and you have a tendency towards getting depressed, you have to watch yourself. I’m not worried about turning into my mum, it’s more that when I drink when I’m unhappy, I end up turning into a maudlin drunk and/or saying and doing things I regret, such as one time in Germany where I stole a pretty little glass from a pub, only to smash it in a jealous rage after seeing a guy I fancied getting off with another girl. I cringe when I think about it. Kids and animals could have hurt themselves on that glass.

I like parties that are not being thrown by me. I am, frankly, shit at entertaining at home. My parents gave a fair few dinner parties and my brother always had a gang of friends over for his birthday (and had a clandestine party while my mum and ex-stepdad were away one weekend, though fortunately he and his mates did not trash the house and cleaned up before the parents came back, and they were none the wiser). I can only remember having one birthday party, when I was in infant school, and I hated it. I found the whole experience really stressful. Ever since, whenever I’ve wanted to do stuff with friends for my birthday, I’ve gone out to a restaurant or pub or club. I’m less self-conscious when I don’t have to do the cooking or fuss over guests and make sure they’re entertained. Parties are not fun when the host is neurotic. I’ve yet to host a Passover seder for the same reason; I can lead prayers and the Hallel, which I know fairly well from having to sing them at synagogue, but the thought of cooking for a group of people and having to cater for different dietary requirements and abide by the kitniyot rule (which I don’t keep, but some of my friends do) brings me out in hives.

One good friend of mine, E, who I have talked about before, always threw the best parties. I have so many happy memories of those parties, mainly involving people doing stupid things while drunk, such as burning a Michael Jackson doll in effigy, climbing on the roof and balcony, and playing games of Binhead where the loser had to do a dare (mine was ‘rant into a sink’; apparently the only words anyone could understand were the swear words, of which there were many). Sadly, I missed the one where several men got naked. At one of those parties, my ex-boyfriend and I got together. I also went to a few in Sixth Form, mainly at my friend Clare’s house in Vicar’s Cross. I was with like-minded people, there was always good music playing in the background – Hole, Radiohead, System Of A Down and so on – and I was starting to come out of my shell. Then there were all the society parties at university. The Rock Soc ones were fun (save for the first year end-of-term party, which culminated in me vomiting into my sink and passing out on my bed); the J-Soc ones were tolerable if I knew enough people. Purim parties and Booze for Jews were the best; at least at Purim parties, everyone looks and acts like a tit because it’s customary to dress up and drink until you ‘can’t tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman’ (cue booing). (I was annoyed that my ‘avenging angel’ outfit didn’t get in the Jewish Telegraph.)

Of course, there were also terrible parties, like the rave I went to at Ed Whalley’s farm (he was a Chester politician with a reputation for being a bit eccentric) where most of the kids there were people who’d bullied me, or a party at the Scout Hut where I had one alcopop too many and got a ton of flak for it at school when it got out that I’d been drunk; the party at my ex-boyfriend’s house where one woman had an epileptic fit, I had a major depressive episode, and a guy was kicked out for breaking my ex’s guitar; or the Year 11 leavers’ party where I was so ill my mum had to pick me up, I told my ex-stepdad to fuck off, and spent the next day with an enormous hangover. It was a learning experience and a wake-up call. Rarely did I get so paralytic again. I hated the feeling of being out of control, and only really did it because I thought that was what you were supposed to do.

One reason I went to society parties at university was to push myself out of my comfort zone, to meet new people and socialise. It was hard, and there were a good few false starts and nerves, but it did help me become more confident, although I still have to make sure I’m in the right mood for fear of being a massive downer. I am not a massive party animal; I am a homebody at heart and always have been, and these days, due to being ill, I don’t go out much. But I don’t want to become a recluse either. Not everyone with Asperger’s enjoys parties, and that’s fine. They’re not for everyone and a room crowded with people and noise can be hell on earth for people on the autistic spectrum. But for me, the odd one is fine. In a way, it’s a form of self-care; I need to remember how to talk to people and interact with them. It’s something I worry I’ll forget.

March 27, 2014

Juno 54

Filed under: music — kankurette @ 10:53 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

“I think G-d puts you on this earth to do certain things. I think He put me on this earth to (be a musician). I hope so anyway, because it’s the only thing I can do.” – Franny Griffiths

When asked if I’d rather go blind or deaf, I don’t know what to choose. Can I take a third option and lose my voice? If I went blind, I’d have to give up reading. If I went deaf, I’d have to give up music. There are ways around this – talking books and feeling vibrations – but it wouldn’t be the same.

You might guess, from reading this blog, that I might just be quite a big fan of Space. Last week, they toured with Republica to promote their new album, Attack Of The Mutant 50ft Kebab. I spent a good part of last week following the tour and went to see them in London, Liverpool and Manchester. At Manchester and London, I hung out with them after the gigs, and it gave me the determination to conquer the nasty little voice in my head telling me they didn’t really like me. Over the years, they have kept me sane. This is not an exaggeration.

They aren’t the only band I like; I’ve been into the Pogues since I was a toddler (no exaggeration – my parents used to play them all the time, and I got a bit of a surprise when I found out the Old Main Drag, one song I loved as a kid was about rent boys), and I’ve taken Mum to see them a couple of times as a birthday present. They and Abba and the Beatles were the soundtrack to my childhood; Space, Hole, Catatonia and the Manics got me through high school (and so did the music magazines I consumed); RATM and the Deftones took me into Sixth Form; System Of A Down through my gap year; Tori Amos and Regina Spektor and many, many more at university. Music is everpresent in my life. It is my comfort, my escape, just like books. To drown out phone conversations and students and babies on the bus, I plug myself into my iPod and I’m away with the fairies. I’d rather have one noise in my ear than several at once.

This might sound a bit weird, coming from someone who hates crowds and goes into sensory overload, but I love going to gigs. The noise doesn’t bother me, although I could never have withstood My Bloody Valentine’s feedback fest; the only drawback is the crowds, and being pushed out of the way due to being short. OK, so I’ve had the odd bad experience – nearly getting asphyxiated at Rammstein, bad period pains at Garbage – but the good outweighs the bad. I’ve seen Moby, Muse, the Zutons, the Manics, Radiohead, We Are Scientists, Le Tigre, Sleater-Kinney, the Sugababes, Soulfly, Tori Amos, Fear Factory, Cerys Matthews, Machine Head, Marilyn Manson, Queens Of The Stone Age, the list goes on. I went to the Leeds Festival in 2002; the Reading Festival every year from 2003 to 2008, Glastonbury in 2004, 2005 and 2007; Download in 2006; Latitude in 2010; Primavera Sound last year. I’m seeing Super Fast Girlie Show next month, and Nine Inch Nails and Janelle Monae in May. I don’t go to as many gigs as I would like, mainly due to being ill and losing enthusiasm for things generally (I stopped reading Q Magazine a couple of years ago as it was too expensive and I felt out of touch), but I don’t want to give it up either. Some people find the idea that you might watch the same band more than once weird – my friend Sarah, who goes to a lot of gigs, gets this all the time – but every gig is a different experience.

Both my parents were into music; my dad was a self-taught guitarist and wrote music reviews for the student paper at Stirling, while my mum sang in various choirs. I grew up listening to mixtapes in the car and learning to play the piano. I also learned the cornet for a bit, but was shit at it, though I did buy a trumpet a few years ago (and I need to practice more). I played the flute in high school, mainly because I didn’t want to learn a brass instrument (in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t), the drums, and taught myself to play the guitar. At university, I was in a band called Midland Railway for a bit, and I played open mic nights, sometimes with my then boyfriend. Most of the people I’ve been out with are big music fans; my ex-girlfriend made me a mix CD for my birthday. They’ve not all liked the same bands as me, but some overlap does help, admittedly. Having bands in common gives one something to talk about.

Music might not seem an obvious avenue for someone with Aspergers, according to the stereotype, but there are musicians out there who are on the spectrum. Ladyhawke, Gary Numan, Craig from the Vines, Abs from 5ive, possibly Thom Yorke. So much for people with Aspergers not being creative or imaginative. Hell, I write the odd song myself, I wrote songs as a coping mechanism while at uni, though I haven’t written any for ages and some of my old lyrics make me cringe. Cerys Matthews, Franny Griffiths and Tommy Scott, James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore, Regina Spektor, Tori Amos, Kirsty MacColl – I’d draw inspiration from all of them. I find my stuff quite hard to categorise. Wailing and piano-bashing, I guess.

I find some types of music, such as the weird noise stuff my brother listens to and happy hardcore, impossible to listen to, although strangely, I don’t mind death metal. My iPod has everything from Willie Nelson, the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Glenn Miller to Cypress Hill, the Spice Girls and Naruto theme tunes. I’m happy to give any genre a go. I never really got into boy bands, although I did have a soft spot for East 17 and PJ & Duncan, and went through a Boyzone phase during my first two years of high school. That was one area where pressure didn’t get me too much. In the Times article I quoted recently, there was a teenager, Nina, who hated Rihanna and other popular music, preferring the likes of Nirvana. Her family noted that she didn’t care what was cool. Reading about her, I thought, “Good for you, Nina. Like those bands because they make you happy, not because you feel you have to.” Peer pressure got me in other ways. My music taste was one niche I determinedly carved out for myself.

March 12, 2014

Disco Dolly

Filed under: music — kankurette @ 10:10 am
Tags: , , , ,

Me, I only like my rock and roll
Am I with the right girl, cos I’m all alone
She likes to boogie while I stand at the bar
And I feel like a freak who can’t let go
And I’d like to stand dancing round a pink handbag
But I’ve got no rhythm, I’ve got lead in my shoes…

Originally the ‘Disco Dolly’ post was going to be about clubbing, since I pretty much am the poor guy in the song, but I decided to do a post about music festivals instead. My first music festival was Leeds 2002, as a punter. It was the last festival on that particular site, but thanks to idiots blowing up toilets and the council finally having had enough, it was relocated to Bramham Park, which, as it turns out, is in the arse end of nowhere. Due to some confusion, I applied to work as a steward at the Reading festival the following year, and went on to work at every Reading festival until 2008 (I was going to do the 2009 one, but dropped out due to becoming ill, and I was gutted about this as Radiohead and the Deftones were playing), as well as Glastonbury in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The only other festivals I’ve been to as a punter were Download in 2006 (as Tool were playing and they rarely come to the UK), Latitude in 2010 with my family, and Primavera Sound last year.

In all honesty, I actually prefer stewarding. Having some kind of structure to my day helps. The atmosphere on the campsites is lovely – you’re more likely to see people sitting around a campfire and chilling than getting into fights – and at Reading, the showers and toilets are slightly better than the ones on the normal campsites. You also get meal tickets, although I’d still advise buying your own food outside the site if you’re at Reading, and if you’re lucky, you get to work on a stage where your favourite band might be playing. I got to watch the Manics while working on the Radio 1 Stage in 2008, and Sleater-Kinney while working in the Carling Tent in 2005. On the downside, it also meant I had to watch Test Icicles. At Glastonbury, the only job stewards do is staffing the gates, and you are expected to work overnight, and no matter how sunny it gets, you will freeze your fucking arse off. Some stewards brought duvets and had a kip in the cage when it quietened down.

The biggest downside, besides the crowds, was dealing with drunk, arsey punters. If you get an early morning shift, they’re OK to deal with, but as the festival goes on and the Carling flows, it can get a little nightmarish. I had to call my supervisor over after I had a panic attack, due to one punter yelling at me because something had happened to his ticket. You also have to repeatedly answer the same questions and tell people the same things: no, you cannot piss on that fence, use the toilets. Please do not sit on the barrier around the sound tower. X is on at X hours. Yes, I am afraid we are going to give you this goodie bag when you come in, and insist on checking your passouts and tickets every time you have to go to your car (Glastonbury only – they are somewhat hardcore about ticket checks). No, you cannot come on this platform, it’s for disabled festivalgoers. No, you cannot meet 50 Cent, and it’s not our fault he left early (stewards do not get backstage passes, though a mate of mine did bump into Dave Grohl while wandering around the walkway around the site). It does pay off when you can genuinely help someone, though – I gave my water to a girl who was feeling faint one year, and in 2004, one one day I escorted people to the medical tent, especially during Green Day’s set. Earlier, Ian Watkins (as in the paedophilic Lostprophets singer, not the bloke from Steps) had had the bright idea of getting the crowd to part and then charge into each other, and a lot of people got injured or lost things.

Here are some tips for anyone with Aspergers who is considering going to a music festival. Bear in mind that this is based on my experiences at Download, Primavera, Reading and Glastonbury – if you’re going to V, say, or Bestival or one of the smaller festivals that are springing up around the country, such as Kendal Calling, your experience might differ a bit.

– Familiarise yourself with the site. If you come to the festival before it starts, have a wander around and get to know the place before it gets jampacked with people. Glastonbury, in particular, is massive and there are loads of little areas that have nothing to do with music. Some, such as the Lost Vagueness, are a bugger to find, so get a map / programme if you can. Make sure you know where toilets, water points etc. are. and – I cannot stress this enough – make sure you know how to get back to your campsite from the various stages.

– Drink plenty of water. It can get very hot. Of course, this means you will have to wee a lot, and the toilets are pretty horrible, but it’s better than getting dehydrated.

– Be aware that there will be crowds, especially in between bands when people are moving from one stage to another. Stay near the back if you want to make sure you get to another stage on time. If you’re worried about crushes, stand near one of the sound towers, or off to the side if you’re at the front, as I did for the Pixies in 2005.

– If anyone you know is going, arrange to meet up with them – it helps to have someone who knows the festival, and who can be there to support you if things get too much. Agree on meeting points, as long as they’re specific.

– From a musical point of view, don’t just stick to the Main Stage / Pyramid Stage. Check out the other stages too if you’re not sure who to see. I saw some fantastic sets by smaller bands while working in the Carling Tent at Reading, for instance, and the small stages at Latitude are full of surprises. Glastonbury has loads of speakers in places such as the Left Field or the Green Fields, and most festivals will have film or comedy tents.

– Programmes are your friend, as are those little lanyard things with a list of bands on. It helps to know who’s going to be on and when / where, so you can plan your day accordingly. If you’re stewarding, bear in mind that you might not get to see everyone you want to see, as you won’t find out your shift times till you get on site and they give you your gear.

– If you’re worried about sensory overload, get some earplugs. If you’re stewarding on a stage, your supervisor should have some to hand.

– Be diligent about your valuables. I’d advise against taking iPods to the festival, personally, though you will need your phone, especially if you’re with other people. Don’t take a ridiculous amount of money and make sure it is somewhere safe when you sleep. I’ve never had my money nicked, kina hora, but one woman camping near me at Download did.

– Be careful about drink / drugs. Being off your tits in a large and unfamiliar environment is a bad idea if you have Aspergers, especially when it gets dark and you risk getting lost. I’m not saying you shouldn’t drink at all – I couldn’t when I was on duty, but I did have the odd bevvy when I wasn’t working – but don’t get paralytic. Stay in control. I personally have never done drugs at festivals as I worry about the potential of having a bad trip.

– Be aware that people might go a bit nuts on the last night, especially at Reading and Leeds, and by ‘going nuts’, I mean burning tents, chucking gas canisters on the fire, that sort of thing. If you’re not that arsed about the last headliner, you might want to leave the festival before the end on the Sunday night.

– Make your tent distinctive if you can – put a flag or some balloons or an inflatable sheep or something on it, or make sure it has a fairly distinctive cover, to avoid getting lost in a sea of green. Mine has flowers on it.

– One final piece of advice for stewards: don’t be afraid to disclose your Aspergers, and any problems it may cause for you. Oxfam will try to help if they can.

Hope this helps!

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