Did You Watch ‘The A Word’ ?

Last night, like thousands of other people in the UK, I tuned in to watch the BBC’s new Drama ‘The A Word’. Actually, if I’m honest, I watched half of it last night. I fell asleep halfway through it and watched the rest this morning.

The falling asleep is no indication of the quality of the programme by the way, I’m just tired and not very well at the moment.

Before I watched the first episode I didn’t know much about it, just that one of the main characters is a young boy with autism. The A Word is the story of a family who have been working around their young child’s differences for so long that they find it difficult to admit that he might have a significant problem. When Joe’s parents are forced to entertain the possibility that there might be something ‘wrong’ with their son, their reaction, and those of their friends and family, make for an emotional drama that will feel familiar to many of us who have first had experience of neurodiversity.

Joe’s story is very different from that of the autists in our family but I recognised some of the emotions, behaviours and situations.

The boy who plays Joe is a very good actor; he’s not autistic himself but he is very convincing in his role. One thing to remember though is that if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person, They are all so different. Not many people would pick out my daughters as autistic but one has a diagnosis, one is in the process of getting one. In fact I have had many people express surprise if I mention it. ‘Are you sure?’ is an often asked question. There are less girls with autism than there are boys, and they are harder to spot, but they are out there.

Joe is shown as a musical genius, listening to music through headphones at all times and having an encyclopedic knowledge of songs and lyrics. Not every autistic person has a special skill. Some children with autism are savants and have these ‘special talents’ but many others don’t. Some have below average abilities, some are average, and some are above average.  Special skills make for good TV in this case and do allow the use of an excellent soundtrack for the series.

I  also thought the process of diagnosis was portrayed unrealistically as most families I know have had to wait for months, or even years, for a diagnosis. We were turned down for assessment twice for DD2 before we had to get CAHMS involved. From there we were granted a referral and then a diagnosis. And for us, it wasn’t actually a shock  at that point, it was more a relief that we could get some help.

Of course, what help is available depends on where you live..

It’s going to be a good series, I think and well worth a look even if you don’t think you know anyone with autism. Because actually, you might one day, and more importantly you might learn something. And with knowledge comes tolerance.

Did you watch The A word? What did you think? Did it remind you of your experiences?

The A word shows on BBC1 on Tuesdays at 9pm or is available on iPlayer.

The A word

My Sunday Photo

This week DD3 was invested as a cub. She’s a bit old as she’s already turned 10, but her Brownies group closed down at the end of last year and one of her friends asked if she’d like to join her cub group so they could go on a camp together!

She’s been attending the group since Easter and enjoying it very much. Last week she made her ( non religious) promise and joined the group properly.  She also attends Guides with her sisters on a different night but come September she’ll have to decide which path to follow, Scouts or Guides, as both are on the same night.

I have to admit I am hoping she will choose Guides as I haven’t worked out how I will clone myself for pick ups yet!

As you can see, our dogs had to be in the photo too. F loves to smile for the camera!

F and L cub


My Sunday Photo

My Sunday Photo

Last week I shared a photo of one of our cats who gets possessive of anyone who sits on the sofa.

This week, I’d like to introduce you to his brother who allows the kids to hold him in all sorts of weird positions. Here he is being used as a phone rest by my eldest. He doesn’t  seem to mind at all

Phone rest cat

He also tries to follow the little two to school each morning, which scares me as we have to cross roads to get there. I would hate for either of the cats to get run over but I don’t feel we’d be being fair to keep them as indoor cats.

The local wildlife would probably rejoice if we did. For the first couple of years, these cats only brought in frogs but have since graduated to mice and birds. Along with the odd camellia.

Look. My cats bring me flowers!

Things cats bring in

My Sunday Photo

Knowing What You Want To Be

We are in the middle of GCSE-choice hell here.

DD1 is 14 and in year 9, and it seems so young to be having to choose subjects to specialise in.  It seems like such a big thing right now and a lot of the advice is along the lines of keeping your A level choices in mind!

This hasn’t helped. My daughter has only a vague idea of what she’d like to do ‘when she grows up’.  She tells me a lot of her friends are quite sure and I can tell she is getting anxious about not knowing, but surely it’s not unusual?

I can’t help because I always knew what I wanted to be. When I was four, I asked my mother if animals had doctors. It’s probably indicative of my family’s life style choices that I didn’t already know that vets existed , as we always had plenty of animals. But once I knew they were a thing, that’s what I decided I’d be. I never wavered from the idea, despite less than encouraging adults in my life, and eventually I did become a vet. Whether or not it’s a career choice compatible with family life is another debate for another day.

The point is that it’s hard to be closing doors on subjects if you don’t know if they will ever be useful to you.  DD’s school is very good at making sure all the girls get a well rounded education no matter what choices they make, so I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end but if you have a child who is 14 +, do they know what they want to do for a job?

How old were you when you decided? Or do you still not know?

career choices

Choosing GCSEs. Can You Help?

DD1 is 14 and in Y9 of school and it’s time for her to make some choices.

Those of you who have children in Y9 or above will know exactly what I’m talking about; she has to choose what subjects to do for her GCSEs.

And this year it’s especially difficult as the curriculum is changing and she will be doing the ‘new’ GCSEs. No seems to know exactly how these are going to work, or what they will entail yet. Just that they will require more exams and less internal assessment, and they will be much harder. This knowledge is not doing anything for DD’s anxiety.

One of the confusing things ( for me, at least) about GCSEs, is that different schools require their pupils to do different subjects. At our school, the kids have to do the core subjects- maths, English, science-but aren’t required to do the exam component of PE and RS. They do have to choose a humanity ( RS, classics, history or geography) and a language ( French, German, Spanish or Latin), and then they get two ‘free’ choices.

DD has decided to do RS as her humanity as she enjoys the philosophy component, and is pretty sure she will take Spanish as her language but is struggling with her two free choices. Our secondary school is academically inclined so the list of other subjects is possibly not as comprehensive as it is at other schools.

DD feels that part of her problem is that she doesn’t yet know what she wants to do ‘when she grows up’. She’s a bright girl with good work habits and could pretty much do anything she wanted to. She’s not especially drawn to maths or languages but gets good marks for all her subjects.

She likes kids and animals, and likes helping people. She’s good at science, but doesn’t want to do a science for an A level and is good at music, but doesn’t want to do it for GCSE. She thinks she could possibly teach, or become a therapist of some sort but she doesn’t know.  And I can’t help as I wanted to be a vet from the age 4, and had my sights set on that throughout my school career.

A lot of her friends know what they want to do already, and this adds to her sense of unease. But surely at 14, it’s not that unusual to not know what direction you are going to go in as an adult?

Do you have older children who were in the same situation? Maybe you didn’t know either? Has anyone got any advice for my worried daughter?

choose subjects for GCSE


My Sunday Photo

It’s a year ago today that we lost our lovely Lurcher, Willow. If you want to hear the full story, you can read about it here.

If you don’t have time, all you really need to know is it involved a fox, a van and specialist vet care that cost over £8K. After which she died anyhow.

We had some insurance, but not enough. At least we know we did everything we could for her.

A year on, I have dreaded the run up to this day but now it’s here, it’s not so bad.  We’ve looked at photos and told stories about her and earlier this week I spent some time making a little Lurcher feltie that is supposed to look like her.

The dog-shaped hole she left has been filled by a rescue dog who has fitted in to our family well, but of course there is never any filling the Willow-shaped hole.

We still miss her pointy nose, hairy butt and mad zoomies last thing at night.

I just can’t believe a whole year has passed since we last saw her.

Willow Feltie

My Sunday Photo

My Sunday Photo

Our garden is quite neglected in winter. Only the dogs use it, and this morning one of them decided a little renovation was in order.

One of the planters we had tomatoes in last year was the object of his efforts.

I think you will agree with me when I say his efforts were not consistent with basic garden winter maintenance.

Or maybe he’s trying to tell us something?

Farley Mess
My Sunday Photo

The One Where All The Plumbing Goes Wrong

So, about 10 days before Christmas, this happened to us.

Water damaged ceiling
This is our kitchen ceiling. Right above it is our hot water cupboard with two pumps attached to the tank. One goes to the shower room, one goes to the bathroom. and when one started leaking the contents of our tank suddenly appeared in our kitchen.

My husband managed to turn off the relevant taps and stop the flow, but by that time there were litres of water swilling about above our heads and it would be several days before we could do away with the bucket needed to contain the leak. A kind friend lent us a dehumidifier which has really helped.

It took a day for a plumber to get to us so for a while we had no water, including no flushing toilets. Anyone who has been in this situation will know it’s truly grim, and will understand why I spent a lot of my time encouraging the kids to ‘go’ at school instead of saving it all up for home!

Then for a few days we had no water in the bath, and only boiling hot water from the shower. We were diluting that down to a reasonable temperature in a trug then having bucket baths in the shower cubicle. The kids absolutely hated this and the little ones wanted to sit in the bucket and bathe that way.

Anyhow the plumber eventually replaced one pump  so our shower had both hot and cold water, but then  he discovered the second pump was also leaking. So we’ve been without a bath for almost six weeks. It’s not a biggy, we’ve coped, but life is easier with a shower and a bath when you have four kids!

Finally, last Saturday, the plumber showed up with our second pump. Everyone was very excited about the prospect of a bath but no sooner had he fitted the pump, than he noticed another leak. This time at the top of the tank.

The part involved had to be ordered so he turned off ALL the hot water, told us it ‘should’ be in by Monday and waved good bye a little too cheerily for my liking.

It’s really hard to keep 6 people clean when you have no hot water. We started off  by boiling the kettle for hot water for a bath, but after we’d done that 17 times and only had an inch or two in the bottom of the tub, we decided it wasn’t a viable option. We considered all visiting the local pool and showering there, but wouldn’t you believe it, their showers are out of action this week too!

In the end we have imposed on some very kind neighbours who have put up with our brood parading through their house and messing up their bathroom every evening. DH is okay, he has a shower at work, and I’ve resorted to cold bucket baths!

Monday arrived, and so did the plumber with the part in hand. I hoped he wouldn’t take too long because I was hanging out for a hot shower.

Five minutes later he was downstairs and confessing he had ordered the wrong part. He thought he could get the right part by Wednesday…

So here we are, 5 days into having no running hot water. I know it’s not essential to but it does make modern life much easier and more pleasant. I’ve had a text from the plumber sayinging part is expected ‘late pm’ today. I have replied saying that I don’t care when it arrives, I want it fitted ASAP!

I have everything crossed that today will be the first day in 2016 that someone can bathe, while someone else showers but I’m probably kidding myself, aren’t I

And of course once the plumbing is sorted, I can start ringing around plasterers to get quotes for the ceiling. I suspect that will be a whole different blog post.


Things That No One Else In This House Ever Seems To Do

There are six people in this house. Me and five others. So I refuse to do everything, just because I’m not working full time out of the house.

Don’t get me wrong.  Other members of the family do do stuff. They wash, cook, feed and clean out animals and usually keep their rooms tidy.

DH does his fair share considering he works long hours and the kids do stuff when asked. Usually. This is not a rant about anyone specifically.

But there are some things that no one else in this damn house ever seems to see, or do anything about, unless I get on their case.

These are, in no particular order:

1/ The post. Our mail slot is in our front door so any mail just ends up in the hall way. No matter how many people get into the house before me, it gets left there. Sometimes when I finally pick it up, it has footprints on it.

2/Sofa cushions. The kids always throw our sofa cushions on the floor rather than just moving them to the other end or sitting on them. And it seems they would rather step over or on them than pick them up and put them back.

3/ The table. Apparently ‘Clean up after your tea’ does not mean ‘wipe the table free of crumbs and spilled ribena’ to my offspring.  Can I just say that no one in this house seems to know how to clean up ribena properly.

4/ Towels in general. Bath towels, hand towels, tea towels, it doesn’t matter. Apparently they dry just as well when left in a heap on the floor.

5/ Coats. Coats are for throwing in the direction of the coat rack or kitchen chair. Who cares if they end up on the floor?

6/ Rubbish.  This belongs in the bin, not on the table, the floors, the windowsills, the bookshelves or down the back of the sofa. And of course if I ask someone to sort this out, then they always say ‘It wasn’t me’. I ignore this and ask them to bin it anyway.

7/ Dirty socks.  Six pairs of feet can add up to a lot of abandoned socks. These get left where they are taken off. In the hall, on the sofa, on the bottom step, in the toilet!!! I want them ssafely delivered to the dirty washing basket or utility room. Is this unreasonable?

I am not a martyr, I do not suffer in silence.

I am forever asking people to sort these things out, but it’s like Groundhog day. The next time the post comes or there is a pile of towels on the floor, no one does anything about it unless I ask/tell them to.

I am determined that one day, someone will pick the damn sofa cushions off the floor without prompting.

And I can’t wait until the kids are old enough to have houses of their own to look after. I’m going to go and visit and drop my coat on the floor all the bloody time.

mail in hall