Category Archives: Books

Advent Calendar Day 9: Adventures in Autism

With the way I’ve been feeling lately I’ve not really seen the point in doing anything and that includes writing, though I doubt myself when it comes to writing a lot anyway. I don’t find it easy to let other people read what I’ve written, especially when it’s fiction. Every once in a while I think what’s the point in writing anything when most of it is destined to go unread by anyone but me. Today I was provided with a very good reason as to why it’s important to keep writing a certain kind of story, that is the autism themed ones. Earlier I got sent a link to a post about a very offensive book about autism. A book which I’m not going to name, though I don’t really need to, the details will unfortunately make it clear. For there aren’t many books written by such a despicable human being who somehow manages to combine self centerdness, child abuse, hatred of disabled people and eugenics. The worst thing of all is the book isn’t fiction.

Before I read the link I thought “great another autism book written by one of those parents” but didn’t really expect it to be any worse than the many terrible articles and books I’ve read in the past. I was wrong, very wrong. I’ve read several articles and tweets about the book, enough to know that I’m not going to be able to read it without physically destroying the book in the process. I wish I could say I’m surprised, but not that much. It’s all too depressingly familiar. You live in a world where a parent of an autistic child murders that child and they are somehow the one who gets all the sympathy – then you can’t be surprised about stuff like this. Even so being sad their child is autistic is one thing, openly mocking them and writing a book in which you call them names and share their personal information, that is so far beyond the line it defies description. To think a few days ago I was ranting about the tv show The A Word and how terrible his parents are. In doing so I said “I’m so glad Joe is fictional because the thought of a kid having parents like that in real life is unbearable.”

Well, now it’s the other way around. I wish this boy were fictional. I wish as his evil mother thinks that autistic people like him and me didn’t have feelings and thoughts, that we didn’t understand that people like her hate us. What’s most disturbing about the book (I know, try and pick) is the review from a newspaper praising it for it’s “refreshing honesty.” You mean you’re glad this parent wrote this book saying how disabled people like her son are a burden, that they shouldn’t reproduce, openly making fun of them and terrorizing them? Are they glad because they think that way too but the constraints of civilized society prevent them from openly expressing their views? And now that a parent of a disabled child has said it they feel like it’s validated their views somehow? I’m so disappointed that Jon Stewart had anything good to say about this book, more disappointed than I can even put into words.

Anyway, the point I was going to make before getting lost in my rant is that without even actually reading it that book reminded me of why it’s important for people who actually understand autism to write about it. My stories are always realistic in that sense and sometimes that means they are a little depressing, but I write about the good and bad sides of autism. I don’t shy away from writing about difficult stuff and I don’t oversell the positives. My own situation has provided me with a perfect viewpoint as to how autism can mean very different things for different people. But when “those parents” rant at you about how you don’t understand autism because you’re high functioning they fail to realise that. Somehow their “normal” brain doesn’t register the fact that an autistic person like myself is highly likely to have at least one autistic sibling. Point that out and they’ll probably foolishly assume they’re “high-functioning” like you. Same as they foolishly assume that being able to type makes you capable of everything you need to do in order to function in the real world. With all their stupidity and rigid views maybe they have something wrong with them.

All that ranting and I haven’t even mentioned football once, that doesn’t happen often. It’s not like nothing has happened on that front today either, two coaches sacked in one day. Well only of them of them officially, Dortmund haven’t officially confirmed it yet but that’ll no doubt happen in the morning. It’s no surprise and I don’t mean because of the terrible streak Dortmund have been on lately. I’m not enjoying someone else’s downfall, just enjoying being right and winning my bet. They should have kept Thomas Tuchel. Ironic thing is in winning today Bremen helped me win my bet. All the same I would have preferred they not win, it’s put even more pressure on Freiburg tomorrow morning to beat Cologne. Thanks to Bremen winning Freiburg drop back down into 17th place. With only two match-days left it’s looking like it’s going to be another Christmas spent in the relegation zone.

Advent Calendar Day 4

I don’t have a title for today either but that’s not because I couldn’t be bothered to come up with one, more that the sticker and cards I got provided no inspiration. It’s fitting I suppose, getting a player I dislike on what is usually the worst day of the week. I didn’t like Sebastian Rudy when he played for Hoffenheim and I still don’t like him now that he plays for Bayern. It’s not because Monday is the start of the week that I dislike it (though obviously that doesn’t help), it’s more that the routine I’ve fallen into on Monday’s is not a helpful one. I didn’t have to get early today so I decided not to, but ended up waking up at 6:00am anyway, and after that getting back to sleep wasn’t easy. So even though I caught up on some sleep I may as well not have bothered. Thanks to that and yesterday I have something of a hangover, not alcohol induced of course – I don’t even drink. No, it’s more of an anger hangover, the lingering side effects of rage. And now I’m angry at myself for even being angry in the first place.

It never occurred to me before but my appointments are usually on Tuesdays, and now that’s got me thinking as to whether or not that’s why Mondays never go very well. I don’t suppose I’ll have to worry about such things for much longer anyway, after a few months they always kick you off the list, regardless of whether you’ve gotten any “better” or not. This is just like anything else in life, it doesn’t matter what you do or say, the outcome will be the same anyway. And even if you do tell them truth, that doesn’t help either. You share your thoughts of death with them and they judge it to be serious or you actually try to hurt yourself then you’ll get seen by what they mockingly call the “crisis team.” And they are the most useless human beings you could ever hope to encounter. So much so that it makes you wonder if that’s part of their plan, to be so useless that you never bother seeking help again. Or to think even darker it’s to ensure that you see there really is no help there and everything really is pointless. So much so that death is the only realistic option. If only I wasn’t such a coward that is. Because that’s what I’m really angry about, that I could have done it and I didn’t. Right at the last second I changed my mind and I don’t know why.

I did accidentally get an answer to a question I didn’t even know I was trying to answer though. It’s weird how you’re reading the exact right book at the time you need to. After seeing The Snowman I decided to read the book again, partly to cleanse my mind of the disappointment that the film was. Also because I couldn’t remember the details of the plot to work out how much of the details they’d changed or streamlined to make the film work. The chapter that gave me the answer was when Katrine pays Arve Stop a none too pleasant visit, she almost kills him in fact. She almost ended up strangling him and in the process explained to him what the rushing sensation he felt was, that the oxygen deprivation he’s experiencing actually feels good. I answered my own question without even realizing it, the book didn’t give me the answer, just made me see that I had done so. I wrote about that in my death story, about a feeling of not only relief but something more akin to pleasure when the scarf is tightened. A few days ago when talking about stories and writing someone said (well typed if you want to be pedantic about it) that the best stories are often true. I guess in that story there’s a lot of truth and that explains not only why I have two versions with different endings but why I’m so fixated on the one where he doesn’t die. It’s not because I’m glad I’m still alive, more that it’s my expression of anger at that fact. It’s why I’m so fixated on writing about him being angry about having failed and still being alive. In one way or another it often feels like I’m the last one to know about my feelings or why I’m thinking/writing about a particular subject. I will admit one thing, it does feel good in a way to be posting on here again. Even if I am just ranting and feeling sorry for myself it feels somewhat of a relief to be honest somewhere.

Advent Calendar Day 1: King Jogi

Things haven’t exactly been good on the writing front (or any other for that matter) so taking on the challenge of posting every day may not be the best thing to do right now. Not least because the challenge is incomplete anyway because for reasons I don’t understand it proved impossible to get a Freiburg calendar. At first that gave me the perfect excuse not to even bother trying doing this, though I didn’t really need an excuse. The same excuse I use for everything else these days probably would have sufficed, that is the excuse of “I can’t be bothered.”

But seeing the contents of the DFB advent calendar I decided I had to at least give it a shot, even more so when behind door number one I got Jogi’s sticker and Manuel Neuer’s card. In place of the Freiburg calendar I had to get something and seeing as how the Bayern one was too expensive and there’s no reason to get a Dortmund one anymore I took the only logical option, I went with Matze and got a Borussia Mönchengladbach one. Though on that count I was to be disappointed because the Gladbach one is not like the Freiburg one at all, there are no cute little faces behind the doors, just wrapped pieces of chocolate. As for Freiburg whilst I may not have them in chocolate form this year I won’t be abandoning them, even though it looks like they are destined to spend Christmas in the relegation places again and relegation itself is looking more and more definite with every passing weekend. It’s not a lot of fun watching them at the moment but I’m not going to abandon them just because of that. I could never envision following another team anyway, so no matter what I wanted I’m with them.

Ever since I got back from London I’ve been saying I’d write a post about the trip and the game, and post pictures of the autographs I was lucky enough to get. Not to forget the pictures I got of Jogi which are even more precious. But like so many other things I just let it slide. It’s not just that I don’t care about anything, it’s that I can’t even pretend I care. So since I got back I’ve pretty much done nothing. Unless you count of course writing extremely depressing stories late at night when I should be asleep, that I have no problem doing. The helpful insight I got from someone on that count was “maybe you’re writing depressing stuff because that’s how you feel.” No really, because I hadn’t worked that out. Just how stupid do people think I am? Anyway that sounds suspiciously like the beginnings of a rant so I’ll stop that there. Point is I haven’t done a whole lot, I’ve kept up with my Jogi videos but it doesn’t feel the same anymore. It feels like I’m just doing it because I don’t know what else to do. Which is pretty much how everything else feels too.

I’ve tried to resist the temptation of simply sleeping all day but it’s not easy, especially when I can’t get a decent amount of sleep at night. So that I don’t get stuck thinking obsessive thoughts I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, that’s probably the only good thing to come out of all this. The fact I’ve started reading like I used to again. I can’t even remember the last time I got through ten books in a month. That was my target for November, to read ten books. Just so I didn’t feel like a complete failure and that I could at least do that.

Though even that has slowed down over the past few days. All of a sudden out of nowhere everything just came to a shuddering halt, reality once more making it’s presence felt and reminding me that life sucks and this is the way things are. Almost like the universe is putting me back in my place, reminding me not to be too happy after all the excitement of the London trip. It doesn’t seem like it at all right now but I had been trying hard not to feel sorry for myself. But the truth is things have been slipping and I can’t ignore it anymore. Stuff is piling up everywhere, both in a physical and a virtual sense. I dare not even look at my main e-mail inbox anymore because from the few times I have been brave enough to take a peek I’ve seen the ever growing piles of increasingly irate messages.  I should have known something was really wrong when I stopped opening, sorting and otherwise dealing with my sticker collection. When I don’t care about or have energy for simple repetitive tasks like that then I know I’m really in trouble. But still I keep collecting things because what else would I do? I don’t know how to do anything else. It’s not like I’m going to go outside and make friends or something, there is no real life to be had. It’s the collectibles and the stories or nothing. Maybe if I wait this out they’ll make me feel happy again, like they used to do.

A Step in the Right Direction

I’m not sure why I decided today would be the day I break the bad habit I’ve let myself fall into of not writing anything, if it’s out of guilt that I’ve not posted something with actual words for over a month or if it’s something else. There are several other reasons which could be conributing factors, the sudden and unexpected change in my mood being one of them. The main other one being the reconstruction project I’m currently engaged in which turned out to have an unexpected silver lining. I’m still surprised at how I reacted to that; to the news I had to start over what has essentially been a three year project and that part of it had to be done in just under two weeks. I didn’t freak out about it, just got down to work and made a plan. I think that might have something to do with the improvement in my mood. It’s been so time consuming that Ive had little time to wallow in my misery or think about anything else, having something to focus on has been most helpful. I’ve been warming up to the idea of writing something for the past few days, indeed the words for the prompts of the past two days would have worked perfectly for me. But I didn’t want to force the issue, whether it’s a blog post or a story listening to your instincts is important, if it feels right you’ll just know. Hopefully some of those same instincts will return for other purposes too and I can get back to finishing some of the stories I’m in the middle of.

I haven’t gotten much of anything done lately, the reconstruction project aside. Other than keeping up with the Bundesliga which I couldn’t even think of giving up nothing else has seemed important. It’s not like I haven’t had ideas for stories, just no motivation to write them down. It’s far easier to play out scenarios in my head rather than wrestle with getting them down on paper, in much the same way it’s easier to talk to characters in my head than to real life people. And when I do talk to the latter it’s always about my obsessions these days which probably isn’t a good sign. Apparently that’s a sign of anxiety but then I’m almost always feeling anxious about something so that’s not really helpful. Then again I don’t have much time for so-called professionals right now. I’m pretty sick to death of them and their so-called knowledge of autism. I know they aren’t all that useless but it’s not always easy to remember that. Last week’s events helpled a little on that count, it’s not often I get to meet a professional who I think could actually be helpful. Talking to them is other step in the right direction mentioned in the title. Because not only did I do something I was not entirely sure about but I did so by myself. And that is new for me, going to an appointment like that without taking a trusted adult. Whether it turned out to be useful or not just getting out of the house was a good thing, I’m spending far too much time inside these days.

This week I got that out the way first, going out on Monday so at least I didn’t have that to beat myself up about. I had to make myself go as usual but it was worth it, no matter how bad I feel turning down the opportunity to see a Franco Nero film at the cinema is not an option. Had I known the exact plot of the film beforehand I wouldn’t have gone to see it but it’s a little late for that now. Seeing a film about making the most of life, death and coming to terms with your own mortality probably isn’t the best thing for me to be watching right now. And given my reaction I’m going to say it wasn’t such a great idea. I’m still kind of embarassed about that, I hate people getting upset and I hate it even more when that person is me.

The thoughts which appeared in my head during the film were even more troublesome. Why I would suddenly start thinking of that story again I don’t know. I’ve still been thinking of death over the past few weeks, that hasn’t gone away. But I haven’t been actively thinking of carrying out such an act. Strange thing is it’s not Matze I was thinking about, rather it was afterwards, what would happen to his parents. I don’t know if this is just me working out such things in my head so they make sense to me, or if it’s me talking myself out of it. Or perhaps I’m just curious what happens afterwards, this might be me answering the question the psychiatrist put to me. He asked me what I thought came afterwards and I didn’t have an answer. I know he meant for me but obviously I’m thinking about other people too. Two thoughts in particular got stuck in my mind during the film, would his parents be angry if he didn’t leave a note and what they would dress him in for his funeral. Morbid thoughts I know but I couldn’t help it, they really did come out of nowhere.

What it means for me I don’t really know, I haven’t let myself think too much about it. I’m trying to balance the need to keep busy whilst not pushing myself too hard and doing too much. Because I’m very aware this seemingly good mood I’m in could disappear in an instant, I need to be prepared for that, for everything to come crashing down again.The last post I wrote was about that, keeping my expectations of myself reasonbly low. That hasn’t changed any, I still need to be careful of not expecting too much. At least after what happened at the weekend I won’t be pressuring myself to socialise more, thinking I could change my routine that way is just about one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever had. On the matter of good ideas my current choice of book probably isn’t the best either. The Robert Enke book has been on my mind the past few weeks, it’s only logical I suppose. I’m trying to work out if I’ve got anything worth living for and in doing that I can’t help but think of him. I can’t stop myself from wondering if he couldn’t find a reason to stay alive how am I meant to? Weird thing is he committed suicide on the 10th November 2009, and the second chapter of the other book I’m reading starts on the 10th November 1938. It’s even stranger because the book Winter Men is set in Germany and it starts with the death of the main character and you soon learn his brother killed himself. What interests me is Gerhard thinks he’s the coward for not doing the same thing, more to the point he envied his brother for being able to. It’s strange because suicide is seen by some people as the coward’s way out. I agree with him, I don’t think it’s cowardly. Carrying on living a shadow of a life because you’re too scared to do anything on the other hand, now that’s cowardly. I spend all my time losing myself in other people’s stories so I can run away from the fact I don’t have one of my own. All that time spent creating stories for other people and I can’t work out what I should do.

Advent Calendar Day 22 & 23: The Missing Day & The Book Thief

I really needed today to go perfect, after spending all day yesterday catching up on sleep and the week’s previous events I needed one perfect day at least. I’m happy to say it started out good and for once stayed that way. With getting the two premium packs of FIFA 365 cards in the post I was worried that might turn out to be the high point of the day, a case of starting good but not ending up that way. And to make it even better I got a Philipp Lahm card in the second pack:

20161223_191030-1 philipp-lahm-fifa-365-2016-17-fan-favourite-cardI started writing this post on Friday after I got back, I didn’t get very far though. I was a litle more tired than I thought, so today should actually be yesterday. The point still stands though, the day did go fine.  There were a few minor things I got in a flap about but most of that doesn’t seem so important now. The main thing being the newly configured Christmas market, I read in the news about extra security measures and all that but didn’t really know what that would mean here. It just caught me by surprise, half the stalls not being where I expected them to be. I’m not complaining of course, I understand why, they don’t want any stalls closer to the road than they have to be.

As for everything else I think I’m too tired to be obsessing over anything. Just the other day I was reading about some idiot online who doesn’t believe that social anxiety is a real thing and that people who claim to have it are just nervous really. That it’s normal to feel nervous in new situations or a little uncomfortable at times. There was so many things wrong with what they think I’m not even going to bother to go into it, I don’t want to ruin my day. But there are two points I want to make, I would give anything to just be a little nervous. And secondly anyone who thinks that way should consider this, in a strange way I’m grateful to be so tired today simply because I can’t think straight and thus won’t obsessing over anything that happened yesterday. That’s not to say those things won’t come back and bother me later though, in fact I can guarantee they will. It’s not just about feeling uncomfortable sometimes, for me it’s never feeling comfortable, no matter how well I know someone or how much I trust them. It’s always second guessing myself, always doubting if I’m saying or doing the right thing. It’s the fact the simplest of conversations require so much thought put into them that it’s easier to just never talk at all. Like I said there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to just be a little nervous.

Forget about the bad stuff for now, as well as the cards there’s something else I got yesterday. Everytime I get a little extra money in my pocket I spend it on books, and yesterday was no different. Two of them I’m particularly happy about, not just because of the subject matter but how nice the covers are. I don’t normally take pictures of the books I buy but I’ll make an exception here, they are two delightfully Germanic covers:

20161223_190929-1On the subject of books that brings me to the second topic in the title, my annual re-read of The Book Thief. The plot point which bothered me last time still bothers me a little, yet I want to read it anyway. It’s not so much I don’t care, more that the positives outweigh the one negative point. Reading it again is like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen for a long time, like a good friend you accept it’s flaws as being part of them. It’s one of those books I feel like I can never get tired of and each time I read it I get something new from it. I think it’s a very fitting book to be reading now. Not because it’s about Germany, where it takes place is not really relevant to what I’m thinking about, it could be anywhere. It’s the people that are important, not the place. It’s foolish to think that the Holocaust is some uniquely German thing, all people are capable of that level of hate and of acting on it.

Time and time again I’ve tried to work out why it’s one of my favourite books. If it’s because the story is being told by death or because it’s set in Nazi Germany. Actually whilst both those things play a part neither of them are the main reason. I think I know now what that reason is, it’s Liesel’s foster-father, her Papa Hans. And no it’s nothing to do with his name, though I will admit it’s really hard to type Hans and not Hansi. It’s what he does for Liesel, the way he helps her as best he can make sense of the world. It probably doesn’t make much sense to him either but amongst what’s going on he takes care of her, teaching her to read and so much more. I could do with that right now, someone to explain all of this, to make everything make sense. That’s part of it anyway, the other thing is the words themselves, the very topic of the book. But it’s not stealing books which I’m thinking about, rather stealing words.

The Book Thief made me realise it’s something I take for granted, being able to read that is. I never considered what it would be like to find that hard or be unable to read at all. I taught myself to read at a young age and have never liked or needed to be read to. The importance of being able to read can’t be understated, yet it’s not all there is. Reading is one thing, understanding what you’re reading is another thing all together and what I worry about the most. Not just with the written word but in conversation too. There’s one particular event in The Book Thief which really sticks with me, one line which I can never forget. “You can steal a book but you can’t read one.” And it’s how Liesel solves her problem which makes it so memorable to me. Unable to read the book in front of her she starts reciting from memory a chapter from The Gravedigger’s Handbook. Reciting but not necessarily understanding, that’s why it sticks with me. So much of the time I feel like I’m saying and hearing things but not really understanding them. I’m never really quite sure about what I’m saying, or if it makes any sense. It feels like words are my best friend and my biggest enemy at the same time. I hate them but I need them.

That’s enough about books and words for now, just one more day to go, today is the final day of the calendars. At least I don’t have to worry about how the final post will go, I have that all planned out and there won’t be a lot of words in it, there’s no need, the pictures will speak for themselves. But before that is the previous two days, day 22 & 23. Day 22 saw striker Harvard Nielsen make his appearance in the Freiburg calendar and he was followed by Christian Streich who needs no introduction. I won’t have any problem picking  a good picture or GIF of him that’s for sure. And in the Dortmund one was Raphael Guerrerio and Marco Reus:

20161223_190702-1Christian Streich & Amir Abrashi - 1.FCK v SC FreiburgChristian_Streich_celebrates_Freiburg_v_FurthChristian_Streich_goal_celebration_SC_Freiburg_v_1_FC_Union_BerlinChristian Streich - SCF v RBLChristian_Streich_celebrating_promotion_2015_16Christian Streich & Alexander Schwolow – SC Freiburg v Heidenheim 1SC Freiburg - Meister der 2.Bundesliga 2015-16 - Christian Streichchristian_streich_and_nils_petersen_celebrate_sc_freiburg_v_eintracht_frankfurt

Advent Calendar Day 6: Snow King Florian and Papa Sokratis

Sometimes you get some sleep and it seems to fix everything, other times like today it makes no difference at all. Waking up I was just as tired as before I went to sleep and it took what felt like forever to actually get out of bed. I really did want to stay there, to not have to move and get up. I had nothing I really had to do today yet I felt that way anyway.  And I don’t feel much different to yesterday. In fact I feel worse in one way but that’s entirely my own fault. I shouldn’t be reading about such things when I’m in a good mood let alone when I’m feeling like I am right now. It’s not like I need a reminder of people’s ignorant attitudes toward disabled children and disability in general. I recorded three games tonight and haven’t really watched any of them. I’ve seen a little bit of all of them and that’s all I’ve done, I just couldn’t focus on anything. And to make the night a little bit more disappointing I didn’t get a Jogi video. Though I did at least get one of Miro to make up for it. So at least that’s not so bad. There’s nothing like that to make up for the rest of the stuff but at least I got something to show for the night, even if the day once more went to waste the night didn’t. Well not for me anyway, for Gladbach on the other hand it’s a night they’ll very much want to forget having lost 4-0 to Barcelona. Bayern were also facing Spanish opposition in the form of Atletico Madrid. They got a much wanted 1-0 win, the points meaning nothing in terms of the final group standings but it being very much a point of pride. The goalscorer was Robert Lewandowski and he has something else to be rather proud of, announcing that he’s going to be a father.

I don’t know how to straighten this all out, everything I’ve tried hasn’t worked. Leaving me to consider that at this point maybe I should just accept it. I mean it’s not like it makes much difference,  I have nowhere to be in the day. It’s not going to cause any real problems right now. All that matters is being awake in the daytime for weekends. No-one would care if I disappeared out of sight completely during the week. It would be a relief in a sense to stop fighting it. I don’t know what if anything I should do, I’m just tired of feeling tired and I want all of this to go away.

When I wake up I can’t and don’t want to think about anything. And after a few hours when it gets really late then I can’t stop thinking. All these thoughts come out of nowhere and I don’t know what to do with them. Most of them aren’t of any use, there’s nothing to channel into a story. It’s just anger and frustration at the ignorance of other people mostly. There’s nothing that can be channeled into anything constructive. And right now that anger extends to the book I’m reading. It’s the Icelandic one I mentioned in yesterday’s post named “The Draining Lake.” The source of my anger being the fact Erlendur agrees with a suspect who makes a comment about how you’re not allowed to call mentally disabled people halfwits anymore. They both agree that political correctness has rendered language useless in order to avoid offending anyone. From my experience people who complain about language being too politically correct these days are usually the ones who want to say the most offensive things and are unhappy they can’t anymore. How would they feel if they had a disabled relative and someone saw fit to refer to them as backwards or a halfwit. No doubt they wouldn’t like it very much. But then such people tend to be hypocrites of the highest order. It’s a curious book to be reading right now because part of it takes place in Leipzig and there are characters named Tomas, Niels and Emil. With the setting and that last name it just adds insult to injury. I really don’t like Leipzig, not the city of course, just their football team.

I don’t want to be thinking about any of that but it took root in my mind and I got fixated on it just like always. I want to be thinking about the stories I’m meant to be finishing but they aren’t going well. It’s just so hard to focus on anything. When it’s late enough like it is now I can at least read, whilst I’m grateful for that I’d much rather be able to write something. I hate not doing anything, if I’m going to spend all my time alone in my room I at least want something to show for it and something other than countless hours racked up on yet another game. Not that it’s an option anyway, I can’t even be bothered to do that. The only thing I really care about is getting back to my stories, writing is the only thing which feels important. I know ultimately it’s just as meaingless as anything else I do but they matter to me. Obsessing over the fact I’m struggling to write probably isn’t helping. I should be working out how to get in the right kind of headspace to do that, focusing on being calm and relaxed enough, in other words not getting angry at random people on the internet. I think spending a bit less time reading such things and more time reading books is what’s called for. I do at least have plenty of books to read and I don’t have to worry about picking any either. I know what I’m reading over Christmas, one of those books being  my by now annual re-read of The Book Thief. Plot hole or not it’s one of my favourite books and reading it in December has become something of a tradition now and you don’t mess with traditions. Speaking of Christmas I woud have liked to finish Jogi and Hansi’s Christmas story by now, it would have been perfect with it being St Nikolaus day but unfortunately it’s nowhere near finished. It’s just like everything else I’m working on right now, a lot of ideas but all of it in fragments and half written chapters, no coherence anywhere in sight. Which could pretty much be said of everything right now actually.

As for what to do now I have no clue, stay up and I’ll end up regretting it, go to bed and I’ll end up feeling much the same way. Whatever I do it ends up feeling wrong. I feel the same way about my plans on Thursday but I’ve said yes now, so there’s no backing out. I don’t like letting people down. Besides it’s the same as deciding whether or not to stay up or go to bed, whatever I do I’ll end up paying for it and regretting it.

At least it was a good day in terms of what the calendars had to offer, two players that I like a great deal, the Dortmund one having provided one of my favourite ever GIFs.  The player in question being Sokratis Papastathopoulos, or for those who don’t want to brave that tongue twister of a name and are somewhat fond of him Papa:

20161207_044604-1Thomas_Tuchel_celebrates_Dortmund_v_MainzSokratis- Augsburg v Dortmund - DFB Pokal 2And Florian Niederlechner is plenty special too having scored plenty of important goals for Freiburg in their promotion campaign last year, not least the winner against RBL which is the reason he’s called the Snow King and both goals against his old club Heidenheim on the penultimate day of the season. Funnily enough he also scored against his old club Mainz when Freiburg played them a few weeks ago:

Florian Niederlechner - SCF v RBL 1Florian Niederlechner - SCF v RBL 2Florian_Niederlechner_first_goal_SC_Freiburg_v_1_FC_HeidenheimFlorian_Niederlechner_s_second_goal_SC_Freiburg_v_1_FC_Heidenheim

Sticking with It: When to give up on a book

I don’t have a hard and fast rule about when to give up on a book. I’ve often thought I should have one but have never been able to decide upon what the rule should be. Nor am I sure if indeed I should have such a rule. Sometimes you just know you’re not going to get to the end of a book, from the first few pages you just know it’s not for you. I don’t like making snap judgements about books but sometimes you just know. Equally there are other books you stick with even though you have negative feelings about it based on the first few pages or the first chapter. I stick with it usually because someone has promised me I’ll love it. I’m reading a book right now that required me to make a decision of that nature. Whether I should force myself to continue reading it. The book in question is “A Man Named Ove.” I was excited about getting it and I liked it at first. Then about fifty pages in something changed. When I realised I was spending more time thinking about the book than actually reading it then I decided to give it another shot. In doing so I found that continuing is the right course of action and also came across a potential reason why I stopped reading it.

As the title suggests it’s about a man named Ove. His wife died recently and he plans to kill himself to be with her. Because he thinks he can’t live without her. As he put it he never lived before he met her and not afterwards either. I’ve read a little over 100 pages and so far two of his suicide attempts have been interrupted by his neighbours in some way. In other words life keeps getting in the way. His determination to complete his task is still there but he’s doing these things, helping these people because his wife would want him to. She’s gone but he’s still living for her. He wants to be with her but he doesn’t really want to die.

Death and deliberations over such matters is something which occupies my thoughts quite a bit of the time. Without realising it the book got to me. It’s why I stopped reading it I think. I’ve never gotten that far in such a plan but I’ve certainly made a lot of plans. Like with Ove life just keeps getting in the way. The problems remain, the reasons for wanting to do it are the same but there’s also reasons not to. And those reasons aren’t real. There are times I want everything to go away and I think the only way to achieve that is by not being alive anymore. Except it’s not really what I want, I have to keep reminding myself of that fact when I think such thoughts. It’s what Ove himself is learning. At least I hope he realises it by the end of the book anyway.

To get back to the topic of giving up on books it’s not something I do often. I can remember the few books I’ve started and given up on. Three autism related books, one which was written by a so called professional and I had to stop reading because the way the author talked about people with autism and learning disabilities was just downright offensive. Two others which were personal accounts, one I just didn’t get along with and the other wasn’t especially well written. Though it’s a translation so that may be the reason. Either way I couldn’t finish it. Another book I gave up on after reading just a few pages was one about a team of soldiers who’s role is to defuse explosive devices. It covered their tour in either Iraq or Afghanistan. It felt like it was trying to be Generation Kill and I realised I’d rather just read that again than a cheap imitation.

Unless I really hate a book I don’t like to give up on it. I don’t know why, maybe my obsessive and completionist nature has something to do with it. I’m more likely to put aside a book and come back to it later than give up. I did eventually finish A Man Named Ove and it was worth the battle to finish it. All those people who got in the way, or he saw as getting in the way, he helped them without even knowing it. His life with his wife was over but it didn’t mean his life had to end.Without even trying to he found that his life still had purpose. He carried on doing what he always did, helping people and always doing the right thing. And he never did get around to killing himself.

I know from reading reviews online that some people found the book a little too depressing, that they didn’t like the fact Ove complained about everything. But he didn’t, he just called things as he saw them. Not everyone likes to pretend that everything is all fun and games, that life is great. It’s one of the things I liked about Ove, that he didn’t feel the need to pretend. I don’t usually like books about relationships or romance of any kind but this I liked. Seeing the effect his wife had on him was sweet. It didn’t matter how other people saw him, he knew she loved him and that she could see the real him. It’s all that mattered.

Some books you have to battle with to finish and others you get through so fast you’re disappointed you read it so quickly. The book I finished reading yesterday falls into the latter category. The book in question is Shtum. It’s about an autistic boy named Jonah and his parents fight to get him into a school which can meet his needs. Right up until the end of the book I thought it was perfect. It gets all the autism stuff right (which is to be expected because the author has an autistic child) and it doesn’t sugarcoat it. It shows honestly the challenges of taking care of an autistic child and more importantly of the way such challenges are made more difficult by the very people who are meant to help. It illustrates perfectly the cruelty of the bureaucracy in relation to the education system and special needs. The author employs a neat trick to do this, part of the story is told through letters and reports about Jonah. Laid bare in front of you is the often dehumanizing way such systems view children like Jonah. The way they reduce them to meaningless phrases and statistics. One point he makes well in this way is the fact the education system points out they only have to provide an appropriate education for Jonah. Not the best, not one which is most suited to him, it just has to be “appropriate.” You wouldn’t accept that for a non-disabled child so why is it good enough for a disabled one? And what they mean by appropriate is often far from it. They want to send him to a standard special school, one where they won’t really teach him anything. He’ll spend his days in a classroom just being occupied, being kept busy.

In some ways it succeeds where the TV show The A Word failed. The book is mainly about autism but it shows the rest of their life too, it makes it perfectly clear that whilst autism does take over your life in a sense the world around you is still there. Showing the constant battle with the education authorities and social care and all the rest of it the book makes one very pertinent point. The autism is difficult to deal with, but it’s not what necessarily consumes your life and runs you down till you have nothing left to give. More often that not it’s the refusal of the education authorities to do what they are meant to. The way the system works kids are set up to fail. In fact when it comes to autism they have to fail before they can get help. That’s the kind of thinking the system is predicated on when it comes to autism. They won’t just send them to an appropriate school to begin with. You have to try mainstream first, fail terribly, watch it at all fall apart and then get the right placement. They seem not to care that they’re destroying a person in the process.

Not pulling any punches means the book may make some people feel uncomfortable. No doubt they’d prefer the world portrayed in The A Word where you get whatever you need just by asking for it. In spite of showing how hard it can be to take care of an autistic child the book also shows how much they love their son. It gets across the point that finding it hard to take care of him doesn’t mean they love him any less. They aren’t sending him away to school for their own sake or because they want him gone, it’s what best for him.

The book itself is perfect, it’s the afterword that’s the problem. There’s two points I find contentious. First of all the author likes and praises The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I’m disappointed that anyone who knows anything about autism can like that book. It’s a book based on crude stereotypes and does nothing to change perceptions of autism. Secondly he talks about how views of autism have changed in recent years. How autism, especially Aspergers has almost become fashionable and that it’s even been adopted as a badge of honour. In his words “This was galling to me and, no doubt to the countless other families dealing with the day-to-day misunderstandings and devastation it could bring.”

Now I don’t view it as a badge of honour, but it’s a part of me and I accept that. What’s the alternative, to be ashamed of it? Also he’s speaking for himself, he should realise that, his view is not necessarily one other people share. Whether that be autistic people themselves or their parents and families. You can recognise the difficulties it causes and be sad about that yet at the same time be proud of the good things. It’s a shame because one good point I was going to make about the book was that it gets across the fact it’s not all doom and gloom, yes it’s hard but there are funny moments and happy ones just like with any other child. This is one count The A Word fails on to me,  but then his mother is too obsessed with making him normal than accepting her son for who he is and trying to make him happy, so that’s no surprise really.

It’s the fact he specifically referred to Aspergers that annoys me, the reason being that sometimes people like to try to make the argument that it’s not a real disability, not in comparison to “real autism.” I’m not saying he’s implying that but still it bugs me. In the foreword his son is described as being “profoundly autistic.” In other words his experience is of a severely autistic child with learning difficulties. Point is his experience is not with Aspergers. So maybe he should refrain from commenting on or trying to tell to us how we should view it. If someone who has Aspergers wants to view it as “a badge of honour” then that’s their prerogative. It’s not the way I feel about it, but if someone feels that way about it then I respect that.