I am autistic myself, and also branch secretary of NAS West Norfolk. This entry is a very appropriate starting point because it was my diagnosis and the role I then had running a support group for Asperger East Anglia that led me to create this blog.
B IS FOR BOOKS
I have always loved books, and am a very voracious reader. In addition to my own collection I am a regular user of several of Norfolk’s libraries, and yes I do use them to borrow books.
C IS FOR CRICKET
I have been an enthusiastic follower of cricket for over 3o years (my attempts at playing the game foundered on a chronic lack of talent). The fact that my employers had an auction yesterday and have another on Saturday means that I am off work today, and therefore able to listen both installments of the Women’s T20 double header. Here is the feature image from Saturday’s upcoming auction:
D IS FOR DETECTIVE STORIES
This is an extension of my love of books as a whole. I regularly borrow large quantities of detective ficition from thbe libraries. Among my very favourites are Edward Marston’s Railway Detective stories.
E IS FOR EAST RUDHAM
The village in West Norfolk where I began to rebuild my life after mental health issues had nearly destroyed me. I lived there for just over five years and was a regular visitor until my parents recently moved to Cornwall.
F IS FOR FERRY
I have travelled on many ferries in my lifetime, but the one I particularly think of nowadays is the Lynn Ferry which has been running for over 800 years.
G IS FOR GREECE
I first visited Greece for a family holiday about 35 years ago and have been back mnay times. It remains a favourite holiday location. I have produced a number of posts about my most recent visit.
H IS FOR HISTORY
One of the many subjects I enjoy reading about. One of the reasons I enjoy going to Greece so much is the presence of so many historic sites.
I IS FOR IRRELIGIOUS
I have been a staunch atheist for my entire adult life. For those who take the approach that the Northern Ireland census form used to I am a “catholic atheist” – that being the specific religion that I rejected. To paraphrase Richard Dawkins most people are as atheist as me about almost every god who has ever been believed in – I just go one god further than they do.
J IS FOR JOURNEYS
I love travelling, and being a lifelong non-driver am able to make good use of almost all my journeys – if the route is not familiar to me I will be observing the scenery and taking photographs, and if it is it represents reading time.
K IS FOR KERNOW
Kernow is the Cornish name for Cornwall (this is the only entry in my A-Z that overlaps with The Cornish Maid’s), and although unlike the person who inspired this post I do not live there I have been there a number of times over the years and my parents have recently moved to that part of the world. It is a Cornish picture that appears on the reverse of my personal cards:
L IS FOR LONDON
I grew up in London, and still visit the place on occasion. Also, I run a London Transport themed website, www.londontu.be. I will be back in London during the latter part of next week, for Marxism 2018 which runs from Thursday to Sunday.
M IS FOR MATHEMATICS
Another lifelong interest, and something that I am very good at. Here is a frecnet problem from brilliant.orgthat took my fancy:
N IS FOR NATURE
Nature has always been very important to me, and I love being out and about in nature with my camera for company. My name is often to be found among those supporting campaigns to protect nature, and as a thoroughgoing internationalist I take pride in having been the first non-Swede to sign the online petition to save Trosa nature.
O IS FOR OVAL
Because of their shape many cricket grounds have Oval in their name. The two with which I am most familiar are The Oval, in South London not very far from where I grew up, and served by two stations, Oval and Vauxhall; and the Adelaide Oval, which owes its name to a transplanted Surreyite who suggested it because he wanted to be reminded of home. Of the innings I have seen live at the ground the most memorable at either of these two venues was played by David Gower in 1990. England could do no better than draw the game, which as it happened was enough to give them the series. Gower made 157 in that innings, and by the time he was out the draw had long since been secured.
P IS FOR PHOTOGRAPHY
This is a hobby of mine, and also something I do at work. Here are some recent pictures:
Q IS FOR QUIZ
With my eclectic interests and retentive memory I am pretty good at quizzes (unless they are overloaded with questions about pop music), and generally enjoy taking part.
R IS FOR RAILWAYS
Railways are one of my special interests. I have travelled on railways in many different countries and have also built up a decent collection of railwayana. I may add to my collection on Saturday.
S IS FOR SCOTLAND AND SWEDEN
These are two of my favourite countries to visit, both very scenic. I could find no way to split them so I have decided to honour both places.I have produced a number of posts about both Sweden and Scotland. Here are a couple of pics: A view from Strome Castle, Scotland
This river is in Northern Sweden.
T IS FOR T20
Yes – another cricket related entry. T20 (where each side bats for 20 overs) has been a great success since its introductiuon in 2003. However the new 100-balls per side competition is being too clever by half (and consigning the County Championship to the start and end of the season when conditions are least suitable for long form cricket).
U IS FOR UNIVERSE
I find it fascination reading theories about our universe, its possible origins and its possible place in a wider cosmos. I also find the history of how we moved from considering our planet to be at the centre of a fixed universe to recognising it as pale blue dot (hat tip to Carl Sagan who wrote a book of that title) in the immensity of the cosmos to be fascinating.
V IS FOR VARIETY
One of the things I enjoy about my current job is that there is plenty of variety there. I am firmly in the camp of those who say that variety is the spice of life.
WHY EVOLUTION IS TRUE
Jerry Coyne’s 2009 book with that title remains a firm favourite (along with his more recent Faith versus Fact), and it is also the title of a blogrun by Professor Coyne that I follow.
X IS FOR EXHORT
As I near the end of this post I exhort you to produce your own version – it is time consuming but fun. You have seen my version, and if you followed the opening link you have seen the version that inspired me to take on this challenge – now go and do likewise!
Y IS FOR YARBOROUGH
This is a bit of a cheat – it is my way of mentioning the game of Bridge which is a firm favourite of mine. A yarborough is a hand with no card higher than a nine and 4-3-3-3 distribution, and is named in honour of Lord Yarborough who had all bridge players at his house contribute a guinea to a kitty, while if someone had the misfortune to be dealt the hand that now bears his name they got 1,000 guineas (he was on to a winner – the actual odds against the hand coming up are 1827 to 1). I do not get to play very often but I am a pretty good player of the game.
Z IS FOR ZOOM
A zoom lens can be a real boon for a photographer (my current camera has a zoom capacity of up to 60X) – a little tip from experience is to not stretch the zoom lens right to its limits – leave a bit of space around whatever you are photographing (you can always crop it out during the editing process). This post was inspired by a Cornish blogger, so I end with a Cornish picture.
The first in a series of posts about #Autisticspecialinterests that will be appearing here during May.
Here as promised is the first of a series of posts I shall be doing about my special interests. I am starting with public transport, and in this post I shall be referring to events that took place long before I was diagnosed as autistic.
GREAT ORMOND STREET HOSPITAL AND THE BIRTH OF A SPECIAL INTEREST
I was a patient in a child psychiatric unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital for over a year in the early 1980s. The trigger for the illness that put me there appears to have been a bout of chickenpox. For the first half of my time there I was an in-patient, at the hospital 24/7, and then when they deemed it safe for me to sent home at nights I was a day patient. Although I cannot remember a time when trains did not interest me, it was during this period that I would say that my special interest in public transport was formed.
My family moved to London in 1979, when I was four, and I have a London Underground map from that time:
Now, here is an edited version, highlighting the two key stations:
Tooting Bec was our local station, just about a mile from our house, while Russell Squareis the station for Great Ormond Street Hospital. My father would take me there in the mornings and pick me up in the afternoons, using London Underground. We took some very bizarre routes, as my fascination grew, which sometimes led to my father getting awkward questions from ticket inspectors (yes folks, in those days London Underground had on-train ticket inspectors).
TEENAGE YEARS – GOING SOLO
In later years I was able to explore on my own, and when I was in my early teens the child rate for a one-day travelcard was only 90p, so I would often go out on a Saturday and explore London transport in detail (I used various local railway lines as well as the Underground, though in those days I did not make much use of buses). It was also in this period that I discovered the London Transport Museum at Covent Garden.
A big moment for me was the opening of The Docklands Light Railway (I travelled on it on its first day of operation way back in 1987, and it was a huge buzz to be there at the start of a new development in public transport). In particular I first developed the method of visiting Greenwich described in this post on www.londontu.be as a teenager, and since the DLR was then pretty much brand spanking new I claim to be the pioneer of that method.
Like most who have been regular users of it I came to despise the Northern Line, and later in my teenage years it was a thing with me to make my excursions without using the Northern line (this meant starting and finishing at one of various railway stations which were walkable from home – Tooting, Streatham Common, Streatham, or Streatham Hill). A frequent finish to my excursions was to take the Hammersmith & City line to Hammersmith, get an eastbound District line train to Earl’s Court and then cross the platform to get a Wimbledon train, finally changing to railway train to Tooting.
At the same time as I was exploring public transport in London to the full I was also learning more about its history and development.
Very late in my teens I became a regular commuter, because after finishing at my local comprehensive I decided to resit my Chemistry ‘A’ Level and do the first year of Maths and Physics ‘A’ Levels at Richmond Upon Thames College of Further Education, whose local station was Twickenham, two stops west of Richmond. I had two regular routes there, either travelling in my mother’s car as far as Baron’s Court (the nearest station to the school she was teaching at in that period), District to Richmond, train to Twickenham, or from home, walk to Balham (about a half-hour walk, perfectly manageable for an 18 year old), get a train to Clapham Junction and change for another train to Twickenham. The fastest trains over the Clapham Junction – Twickenham section were those going to Reading, which did it non-stop. Those trains were also the only ones that still had manually opened and closed doors (two choices folks, either slam the thing, making a monstrous crash, which most people did, or learn, as I did, how the catches worked so that one could shut the door quietly).
When I revisit this series, probably at the weekend, the story will move away from London, as I did, and will indeed go international. To finish for today, here are some old pictures of Tooting Bec Station, taken from the book Bright Underground Spaces:
Introducing the concept of National Park Cities, publicising a thunderclap about the same and displaying some of my own photographs.
To take part in a Thunderclap you have to be on at least one of facebook, twitter or tumblr, so for the benefit of those among my readers who cannot take part I am also including some recent photos of my own that tie in well with this particular thunderclap.
NATIONAL PARK CITIES
The idea behind this thunderclap, set up the folks at team4nature is that there are recognized health benefits to people having easy access to nature. Among the potential pioneers of the concept of a National Park City is London, and you can declare your support here. To take part in the thunderclap click here, or on the image below, which shows the story in full:
Here are some of my recent nature pictures, which also feature the two main parks in King’s Lynn, The Walks and Lynnsport Park and sections of Bawsey Drain and The Gaywood River.
Some thoughts on shared space streets and Exhibition Road in particular.
Much of this post will also be appearing on my London Transport themed website as well as here because of the location of the particular shared space road that brought this issue to my attention. That location is of course Exhibition Road, London – a location very familiar to me from when I lived in London and was a regular visitor to museums. Here is a map for you to orient yourselves:
WHAT IS A SHARED SPACE ROAD?
A shared space road is a road without pavements, with no clear distinctions between where cars, cyclists and pedestrians should be. According to some this arrangement reduces accidents. However, a recent incident on London’s Exhibition Road has called this into question. Here is a tweet from campaign group Transport for All:
This (to me) raises two questions to be taken in turn:
CAN SHARED SPACE ROADS WORK?
I am uncertain on this one and will welcome evidence from people with experience of shared space roads in their localities. My own view is that they could work but the following is necessary:
Clear signage explaining what a shared space road is and what that means.
A very low speed limit for motor vehicles (even lower than the 20mph which is now commonplace in the vicinity of schools) fiercely enforced – speeding on a shared space street should be punished more severely than speeding elsewhere because of the greater risk of hitting someone.
Referring back to my first bullet point it needs to made clear that motorists are always expected to give way to cyclists and pedestrians.
Given what I know of London drivers I do not think that London is the right city to be trialling these (although Rome and Paris would both clearly by even worse options!)
Setting the scene for a series of posts about Marxism 2017.
In approximately two hours I will be off to catch a train to London for Marxism 2017, four days of political meetings. Given the location I will have regular wi-fi access and will blog regularly about the event.
Most of the rest of this post will be taken up with pictures of my timetable, but before I put them up a note – I have ticked the meetings that I definitely intend to go to, and put question marks against those I am considering (if for example there are two in one slot that appeal and I have not yet made a final decision).
More trouble for #SouthernFail. They should lose their franchise forthwith, either being run direct by the government or being put under the umbrella of TFL…
Plans by an under-fire rail company to change the way it staffs its trains will lead to “unacceptable” and repeated breaches of the Equality Act by denying disabled passengers the support they need to travel, it has been claimed. Southern – which operates train services across parts of south London and southern England – is planning to replace conductors with “on board supervisors” (OBSs), whose job will not include stepping onto the platform at stations. Campaigners fear that introducing these supervisors will mean that disabled passengers who need assistance on platforms at unstaffed stations could be left stranded and unable to board their train. Southern is also planning to allow OBS trains to operate with only a driver in “exceptional circumstances” – which is likely to make travel even harder for disabled people – and has also admitted that two-fifths of its trains are already driver only operated (DOO). Southern is embroiled in a long-running industrial action over its plans to
The conclusion to my series of posts about Marxism 2016.
Welcome to my fifth post in this series about Marxism 2016. Since Marxism adopted its current format of running from Thursday afternoon through to Monday afternoon in 2005 (before that it used run from a Friday evening to the afternoon of the following Friday) the Monday morning has usually been the quietest time of the event, before the closing rally finishes things with a flourish.
GETTING THERE AND THE PLAN
I wished to arrive early at the event so as to have time to deposit my main bag in the left luggage room for the morning and then prepare for the day. I was accompanied on this last journey in from Walthamstow to the Institute of Education by the other person who had been a guest in the house I was staying at, and who I had discovered was also autistic. We left in good time and had a very smooth journey to the event.
THE MORNING MEETINGS
My first meeting, Lewis Nielsen on What Would a Revolution Look Like? down in the drama studio was interesting, and well worth attending. The second meeting, Camilla Royle on How Big Pharma stops us making progress in Nunn Hall was excellent. As well as stuff from Bad Pharma (Ben Goldacre’s classic) she mentioned the Martin Skhreli case. This meeting was a worthy lead up to the closing rally, due to start at 2PM in the Logan Hall.
THE FINAL RALLY
The Final Rally was quite simply magnificent. After several prominent campaigners, including a trainee nurse and a junior doctor, the last two speeches were by Richard Boyd Barrett TD and Michael Bradley. I left during the applause at the end of Michael’s speech, wishing to retrieve my bag and leave the building reasonably swiftly. This meant that I missed the singing of the Internationale.
My departure during the applause for Mike Bradley enabled me to make a swift exit from the building, which had the extra benefit that I got to King’s Cross station at 15:37, so was able to travel back on the 15:44, which I had not expected.
An account of my experiences onj the opening day of Marxism 2016, topped and tailed with details of getting there, and getting to my accommodation after the final meeting.
Welcome to the first of what will be a series of posts about Marxism 2016, a five-day political festival that happened in London between June 30th and July 4th.
I made my usual allowances for things to go wrong, catching the 10:54 train out of King’s Lynn. This then ran very smoothly, meaning that I had time once at the event to deposit one bag, pick up a final timetable and plan my meetings without hurry.
MEETING 1: CORBYN, THE LABOUR PARTY AND THE STRUGGLE FOR SOCIALISM
This meeting, with Mark L Thomas as speaker was scheduled for the Drama Studio on level one of the Institute of Education building. However, the numbers of people wishing to attend led to a last minute change of venue to the Elvin Hall.
The talk started, as it had to, with some stuff about the attempted coup against a leader voted for by 59.5% of the membership. The 172 PLP members who voted for the motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn are vastly out of step with their membership – most are pro-austerity while their membership is anti-austerity.
One of the points made about the progress of this attempted coup was that if it succeeded Labour would have lost all claim to be regarded as democratic party – 172 highly placed individuals would have demonstrated that their opinions counted for more than those of over 250,000 who voted for Corbyn.
Mark L Thomas reckoned that the right-wingers in the PLP had two fears:
As people who depend on election results they feared that Corbyn could not win an election and…
As right wingers they feared that Corbyn could win an election (Blair himself had said opnely that he would rather lose an election than win one with Corbyn as leader).
This meeting was an excellent and inspiring start to the event. Of course since then tens of thousands of people have joine the Labour party, many stating that their reason doing so is to support Corbyn.
I will finish this section with a suggestion/ challenge: if the 172 are so confident that they are in the right why don’t they resign their seats, triggering 172 by-elections, in which they stand without the benefit of the Labour rosette against whoever the CLPs choose as the Labour party candidate? Of course the answer to this is the same as the answer to why hasn’t one of these individuals garnered 51 signatures and challenged Corbyn to a leadership battle: they know that in a fair, open fight like that they would get thrashed.
A late addition – it appears from breaking news that the Chilcot report (it is fairly obvious from the timing of the attempted coup against Corbyn that they wanted him out before Chilcot was released) is very damining – here is a snippet from a much longer piece that can be viewed here:
In its damning report the inquiry panel found:
Judgments about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – WMD – were ‘presented with a certainty that was not justified’;
There was ‘little time’ to properly prepare three military brigades for deployment in Iraq, the risks were not ‘properly identified or fully exposed’ to ministers, resulting in ‘equipment shortfalls’;
Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were under-estimated;
Planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam’s fall were ‘wholly inadequate’;
Mr Blair’s government failed to achieve its stated objectives.
MEETING 2: WOMEN, SOCIAL REPRODUCTION AND THE FAMILY
This meeting, with main speaker Sally Campbell (editor of Socialist Review magazine, and author of Rosa Luxemburg: A Rebels Guide) and chaired by Ruby Kirsch was also very interesting and lively.
THE OPENING RALLY
Finally in terms of first day meetings came the Opening Rally, at 7PM in the Logan Hall. We heard from a variety of workers who have been involved in struggles in various places (as well as speakers from the UK this panel included an Irish TD and a French railway worker. Perhaps most impressive were Victor and Juan, two cleaners who spoke by way of a translator, and who have been part of an all out strike in the heart of the City. After all these amazing contributions Amy Leather (organiser of the Marxism festival) made the last speech. The whole thing was superbly chaired by Emma Davis, a teacher.
The person who had put me up last year had offered to do so again this year. Unfortunately he could not attend the opening day of the festival, so we had arranged a meeting point at the Rose and Crown on Hoe Street, which I located without undue difficulty.
I chose to use Russell Square because although I knew Euston meant a journey without changing I wanted to top my Oyster Card up and reckoned I would wait less long at Russell Square than at Euston.
A Piccadilly line train arrives
The change from Piccadilly to Victoria at Finsbury Park is cross-platform.
From here to the meeting place was about a ten-minute walk.
An announcement relating to the next five days, accompanied by some photographs.
This is by way of an alert for my followers. Between now and Monday I will be in London attending Marxism 2016, and my computer access will be sporadic at best. Here are some pictures to accompany this brief announcement…