A Sort Of Open Letter/Blurt

In ‘Adventures in Mental Health’ and the ongoing ‘Inside the Inside’ at http://www.leanonus.co I’ve tried to paint a picture of what it’s like being me through time. This ‘place’ here is for different-ish stuff, and if I feel like being less formal, I can be… or not.

Over the last few years, I’ve been experiencing all kinds of new things, especially enjoying the pure communication which is twitter. I like the discipline of keeping thoughts to a small a clear format. I like the way it’s best to follow the protocol of
‘Say’ something
Get a reply from one or more people
Reply to those I wish to
WAIT for further reply.

Something else I enjoy is that purity in the communication. While everything is very public, it’s also extremely intimate somehow. It’s not like a forum or chatroom, it’s very different. Whether using a real name or not, there’s usually an honesty about things… and the fakers soon get found out and ignored. Best of all, it’s mind-to-mind, liberated from the restrictions of appearance and the ‘real’ world.

It isn’t just that, though. I’ve ‘spoken’ with national and international figures – politicians and campaigners, actors and directors, musicians and writers… all kinds. I’ve attempted to point out to politicians and broadcasters where I think they’re going wrong or right and had replies (sometimes). The best part is being able to do something that would send me high with happy if I was in that position: I CAN THANK THE PARTICIPANTS IN A FILM OR TV SHOW THE MOMENT I FIRST SAW IT.

I remember the feeling of gaining that applause at the end of the show, and – rightly or wrongly – make an assumption that no matter how many recordings one makes, the crew and fellow cast’s applause ain’t just quite the same… for me, towards the end of rehearsals it wasn’t, anyway. Not less honest… just… punctuation. Very welcome and needed punctuation, but everyone had seen me do these things before, so… *shrug*

Then, having emoted and pretended and mostly got my lines and moves right, projected my voice and kept the audience in the moment of the story we were unfolding… curtain call and… there it is! Oh, some are standing, too! Yeah! Yeah! A few dips of the head, a couple of waves and smiles, then off to get the crap washed off my face and back into real clothes.

So I like to give virtual applause; especially for new shows. I use the #hashtag (until I find out it’s something else and I’m only in a dark sideroom in cyberspace!), I @theshow and @theTVchannel with my thanks: especially when a hot new International show gets 1st run free to air instead of being tucked away for years behind a paywall.

I’ve even been known to @actors and @crew directly. A lot of people do, and it’s a nice little touch when for my virtual applause, they favorite or reply with a simple ‘thanks’. That really makes my day.

You see, casts and crew do actually work hard to make these shows happen, and were I in their position I would definitely enjoy seeing the audience reaction; enjoy the applause. It only takes a minute or two.

And when there’s an ongoing conversation and faves and RTs from cast and crew, this is wonderful beyond words. Sure, we all know they’re only people, but… I imagine that even at a convention, people like me get tongue-tied and awed.

As a regular performer in a community theatre company, I knew my friends and neighbours would be supporters, but I wanted to give them more each time. I wanted my next performance to be better as I gave something back.

So to those who engage – especially unexpectedly – with we fans, I give you thanks for being who you are. For caring about the show and for realising that we care about it too and that – in a fractious world which can be so ugly and harsh – these brief moments of pure communication mean so much. On both sides.

Long may such things continue… for I honestly think that these oases of mutual ‘thanks for doing/enjoying the show’ are when we are humane to and humble with each other.

Surely Most Excellent.


The Strange Case of A Nearly-Forgotten Face

The photo at the top of the web page looked out at me, the face in it so familiar, yet now totally unknown to me… and the name beside it confirmed my suspicion. After nearly forty years, He’s hardly changed.

Back when we knew each other, from infancy to mid-teens, all I knew at first was that he was a little older than I (instead of many years like my older brother), and when He came to stay – along with his parents and sister – I just felt like I had someone of more-or-less my own age to play with without even leaving the house.

Depending on the season, we’d climb trees and run around in my massive garden or if the weather was too cold and wet or whatever we’d play board games indoors – computers were for futuristic science fiction in those days. It was fantastic to be able to share like this; most of my friends had brothers or sisters within a couple of years of themselves, whereas my brother and younger sister were 16 years apart, with me in the middle. Most of the time, I had felt like an only child until He came to stay.

I was in awe of him from the time I was about eight years old. At that age, I did not know how express things in these terms, but what both attracted me and made me want to run away and hide was his humanity. His gentility. I never felt worthy in his company – but then, it is not surprising in retrospect, as such feelings go with the territory in which I live: except we did not know it then. Feelings of inadequacy and suicidal ideation can be the norm for such as I, as I discovered upon diagnosis at the age of 50, and subsequent personal investigations into the nature of Asperger’s Syndrome.

What would He think of me now, broken as I am? How badly did it show back then? All I can say is that He only ever showed me kindness and friendship… until the we both got to be the age where we would stay at home when our parents went on holidays.

So one time, I was looking forward to him coming to stay and he had stayed home. Or I had stayed home when my own parents made the return visit. I am not sure which way around it was… either way it is now lost in the misty haze of time. Perhaps we would have grown apart naturally over time, and lives had led to college, university and beyond.

Yet… at random… from a link sent to me… looking older and as humane and genteel as ever, His eyes gazed at me, unblinking, unseeing, possibly unknowing that it was I looking back at Him. 

Did he know where this piece would end up when he sent it that day? Was there a suspicion and could this have been a way to reach out? The possibilities rattled in my mind… but then again, what if it was simply random? An accident. Fate.

Either way, the question persisted… what, if anything, should I do?

Because I am so very broken, and have become more so over the years as my Autistic Condition plays havoc with all I see and hear. What is for the best?

For 20 years now, I have avoided any romantic relationships with women because I did not feel I had anything much to offer. In the last couple of years I was working at Comet, I was too impovrished to afford much more than taking deep breaths as a luxury, then when I finally succumbed to HeadCrash in 97… well… I did not feel I could even offer myself.

From my disastrous marriage I had brought with me the idea that although many say all you need is love, it just is not enough. Money helps a lot. It buys a stable platform upon which to build a life; it is not the be-all and end-all, of course, because also in that framework is a stable psyche. With the exception of the first, none of my relationship partners had been prepared to stick around during my… ‘phases’-despite expecting me to give unflinching support to them no matter what they put me through.

So to extend that premise, knowing that I am part of a group of people regarded (according to opinion polls) as amongst the lowest of the low; that I have ‘Phases’ and internal instability and am even less social than I ever thought possible…


I have even less than I had previously.

So, maybe I should turn away from the long-gone past and not bother anyone with it; do what I always do and simply suck up the unwelcome emotions only to expell them in a controlled manner using a film or music to let it out.

I have many secrets, as does He, but… He is one step ahead. I know He has read at least SOME of my memoirs as published on http://www.leanonus.co (Adventures In Mental Health and The Inside Inside)… so salient points of my last 40 years are there in as much detail as I could bear to share.

And I..? I know almost nothing of Him. Of His life. Dare I publish this, if so, how should I hope this be interpreted?

As a tentative hello or as the goodbye we never said?

Post Script.

He then went and voted to leave the EU, little realising that it was exactly what the people pulling the strings behind those we THINK have power want.

Just goes to show how people can change, how people can be duped, how… I’ve avoided telling him what I think. The betrayal – not just to me, but thousands in my position.

I forgave my ex-wife her duplicity and her shagging someone else… What I never will forgive is that it was with a Tory.

This feels the same.

And it isn’t for me to forgive, it’s for future generations either to laugh mockingly or to weep with sadness.

For now, I just fade… Fade… Fade…

Working Mythology

1-“People LIKE the flexibility of Zero Hour Contracts”

When I worked for Comet in the 80s and 90s, despite being contracted for 35 hours, I never knew from week to week when those hours would be. The ‘excuse’ was that the store needed to be flexible with demand and customer flow, and ‘to give staff variety’ instead of an easy routine.

My experience is that I felt constantly destabilised by knowing only on a Saturday afternoon which my day off would be the next week. I couldn’t help wondering what was so wrong with a  fixed weekly rota, which with goodwill would be flexible to illness and holidays… after all, it would save the manager the time to make up the rota.

I was ‘invited’ to a ‘leadership evaluation seminar’ once… that is, told to turn up at a motel in best bib and tucker for informal assessment regarding my suitability for management training. There were several different ‘workshops’ and I was tiring of all the bullshit when The Exercise Of The Hours was unveiled to us. It went something like this: If Bill is on holiday and Mary has phoned in sick, complete this hours chart for next week’s hours, bearing in mind that Tom and Harry need Tuesday and Thursday off. 

I asked for this and last weeks’ hours sheets, to be told they weren’t relevant. So, much to the amusement of the other candidates (laughing AT me, mind), I declared that this exercise was moot… then explained why.

“As a manager, I would want my store to be high-performing and with the best trained, most able and willing staff in the company. One method I would use would be to give everybody regular basic hours. In other words, Harry here would always have a Thursday off so he could plan his life around that, and any extra hours would be by an ad hoc negotiation. Everyone knows where they are, simple routine, less work for me and if extra cover is needed, management gets out on the floor and gets their hands dirty… which builds a bond with the staff and leads to better morale.”

The stunned silence at these words of Heresy was as deep as if I had walked into a Xtian church during a communion service and took a shit on the alter. Needless to say, I wasn’t selected.

But I know from other experiences that what I had said held true. Till the time I left, I never had overtime from that point onwards, and sometimes went for nearly two weeks without a 24 hour period to call my own.

2: “We’ll give you more money in your pocket by introducing a lower tax rate and higher personal allowances before paying tax and national insurance.”

In truth, this is a smokescreen and deprives the country of much needed revenue… but also deprives low-paid workers of something far more important: feeling included in society. Each year, the tax threshold would rise, and every year the net difference it made was pence per week. I was being told by politicians that I would be better off, and all I had to show for it was maybe enough to get a cheap bar of chocolate. Then, the 10p tax band came in and that added 50p a week.

Aside from that, though, I felt throwaway… disposable. I wasn’t being paid enough in a full time job to be worthy to contribute my hard earned shekels to pay for roads, hospitals, schools and police… or to contribute to other people’s welfare payments. I felt devalued and unvalued, ultimately disenfranchised and implicitly not important enough to vote. So I didn’t.

There is only one way to reverse such alienation: ensure that everyone has a (better than) living wage, and that everyone pays tax and national insurance – after all, back in the 50s when the Welfare State first started, despite workers losing a few bob, they all felt included and considered that this stuff of society was for everyone. It DID draw people together.

3: “The Minimum Wage has lifted people out of poverty… to attract the best Upper Management talent we must compete with high salary packages…” Many people know that upon asking about wages, the reply is that the minimum wage is ‘the going rate.’ Thirty years ago, if companies wanted the best staff at ANY level, they would compete with a few pence extra an hour, longer lunchtimes and so on. I nearly destroyed my tv when I watched one Undercover Boss episode and, yea verily this Boss did utter unto one of his minions, “I can’t do anything about the low wages…” Er, yes, you can. Pay more, you skinflint.

At Comet, we had a complete change of Board Members for the third time in two years and the new board did a tour, fetching up at where I worked and swanning in. I was introduced to a Fat Controller who effusively asked what I was looking forward to about their new and glorious leadership. I look this twonk in the eye and said,

“You’re irrelevant to me.” I let it sink in then continued. “If we say that the company is a single store, and you guys are the management team, then you can swap and change as much you like, and we staff who generate the turnover YOU need for a successful business will keep on doing what we do.

“BUT,” I went on after a brief pause, “if WE all quit and you had to hire new staff without product knowledge and company experience, then turnover and profits drop, and the company fails. Ergo, you need us, but we don’t need you.”

Some people just can’t handle the truth.

And thirty years ago, when I started work, it was standard practice to negotiate your wages at the interview. Yes, there’d be a low starting rate for an introductory period, but you’d immediately say what you thought you were worth. Companies who wanted the best – even cleaners – WOULD negotiate and deal.

Before cleaning in hospitals was contracted out to the lowest bidder, attempting to make the most profit by buying cheaper less effective cleaning products and not paying decent wages, there was no such thing as a superbug dissolving people’s flesh and so forth. At the time, hospital porters and cleaners left in droves because they couldn’t live on the paycuts. How many people’s lives would have been better off as a knock on of these companies having the same attitude to their cleaners as their directors? Countless. So it’s simple: you want the best? Pay the best. And realise that the true wealth creators are the people WHO ACTUALLY WORK FOR A LIVING generating turnover, producing goods, maintaining things etc.

THESE are the people who make the company work, and if they are well-rewarded with the loyalty and generosity of those for whom they toil, then they will return that loyalty with productivity and also feel an engaged part of society by paying plenty of tax and national insurance while still having plenty left over… and voting for their political benefactors.

I wonder… am I the ONLY one to see this as the way forward? The way to make ours a better place?

Or maybe The Powers That Be don’t want these things..?

Now that just doesn’t make sense.