Tag Archives: IQ

Don’t Be A Bird Brain

16 Oct

Followers will know that I like to blog about all kinds of stuff, but that I can become the gobbiest when it comes to the issue of ‘outsiders’. Yes, I get all crabby about those who are on the fringes of society (because of lack of income or birth right or connections) but I also get my knickers in a twist in relation to the way that people who are deemed to be a bit ‘different’, ‘quirky,’ ‘eccentric’ or who seem to be singing from a completely different song-sheet from the rest of us ‘normals,’ are treated.

Elvis falls into one of these categories.  Not only is his name un-cool (because most families don’t listen to Elvis obsessively as we do) but he also happens to be a budgie. And after Father Christmas delivered him to us last year I have lost count of the number of times people have exclaimed “Ha-ha! You have a budgie! Aren’t they a little old ladies’ pet? How bizarre!”

He was a loving little companion. Until he shat on my copy holder.

He was a loving little companion. Until he shat on my copy holder.

So even though our Elvis is one un-cool dude – he has clearly has a feathery little soul of his own. So he gets treated like royalty (better than royalty actually, if Prince Harry trucked up to our house – I certainly wouldn’t be cleaning his turds up with a wadge of Kleenex). During the daytime if the house is empty, Radio 4 is switched on so that he doesn’t get too lonely (he is a huge fan of Women’s Hour and has a bit of a thing for Jenni Murray). And if I’m working from home he accompanies me to the office (he’s sitting on the printer right now chirruping away – and yeah, it’s yours truly who has to leave the room if the phone rings. Not all professional callers are as understanding of a budgie’s need to squawk along to The Archers as you’d hope that they might be.)

Yesterday, I was in the middle of reading an excellent guide  for employers on how to create an autie-friendly workplace when my daughter (who was trying – and failing –  to train Elvis to sing a Beatles song) interrupted me with “Hey Mum, why do we use ‘Bird Brain’ as an insult? ‘Cause Elvis – and all birds – are way cleverer than my brother…” and this reminded me of a fantastic book that I recently read.

‘King Crow’ by Michael Stewart had me all fired up. Indeed, chuffed to bits. Because the action takes place in a very foreign, an oh-so exotic and distant place. Far-flung shores which are all too often overlooked by the UK south-eastern dominated publishers. Yeah folks, this venture into alien territory involves all of us suspending those LondonCentric belief systems and assimilating a superb tale that centres on a general geographical area known as ‘the North of England.’  And then focuses further on an even smaller microscopic part of the landscape which happens to possess a very un-Kensington and Chelsea place name. That of ‘Salford.’ Or pronounced ‘Sol-fud.’ (In case you somehow thought that it should be uttered as ‘SORL-FORRD’)

So yeah, thank God for people like Michael Stewart who are proud of their roots and who enjoy writing for the literati – as well as for plebs like me n’ mine. Folk who get all giddy because we used to wander through those exact same tower blocks which he touches upon.  People who know precisely what the terraced houses he mentions still look like (or indeed,  taste like … I used to have a thing for licking red brick work when I was a nipper. But let’s not go there.)

And my interest in reading this book was piqued further when I realised that the story is told through the eyes of a school boy who is autistic. Although the ‘A’ word is never used. It doesn’t need to be. Michael S  simply shows that his protagonist Paul Cooper, operates on a different plane to most others. And that Paul’s obsessive traits are focussed on birds (and unlike most teenage boys, this kid’s fixation is with on the ornithological – the feathery, rather than the female form.)

Who's The Daddy?

Who’s The Daddy?

Now, you might already be familiar with the ‘Rainman’/ Dustin Hoffman version of what being autistic might entail – but ‘King Crow’ is a beautiful reminder of how autism can take both stark and subtle shapes within a personality. And it also nudges the reader into realising that obsessions – which might at first hold no interest for the reader whatsoever, when so cleverly woven into a story with such a fascinating character – can leave your fingers itching to find out more via Google. Or cause you to fall into petulant arguments with your six year old as to whether “it IS a sodding Crow in the back garden. Or a raven.  Or…let’s get the damned field book out, eh our kid?”

I don’t normally blether on about books that you MUST read – but if you tend to care about the sort of things that I get all het-up about, then this is a book for you. And I won’t say anymore about it for fear of spoiling the storyline…

And for those of you who have already read this book and who have enjoyed other stuff delivered by Mr Stewart. you will be pleased to hear that his next book will be launced in the new year. (Although sadly, the guy cannot guarantee any budgie cameos.)

But hey.  Back to the report that I mentioned earlier*. And an excellent quote from it. Courtesy of a fella named Stephen Shore. Who offers some very sage advice.  Which I reckon, should be applied not only to autism but to many other hidden impairments. And to the overall issue of ‘intelligence’ itself.

“If you’ve met one person with autism. You have met one person with autism.” (Stephen Shore.)


Never mind your bloody bird-brain! Sherlock's latest cerebral rival...

Never mind your bloody bird-brain! Going pipe to claw.  Sherlock’s latest cerebral rival… (and never mind my northern bias – check out Museum of London’s ace new exhib on our Sherlock and his incredible legacy)


* ‘Making Employment a Positive Experience for People in Calderdale’ By Matthew Lowe – for Calderdale Council and National Autistic Society




Pushing Her Nibs

9 Oct

Why? Why would anyone in the world NOT want to put pen to paper? To reach out, to inform, to entertain or to explain themselves via the written word? I had never understood those who didn’t like to write.

Until I bred a family of aliens. (Although they think that it is I, who happens to be the odd one out…)

I started this blog after a bit of a personal journey. One that involved having to do rather a lot of swotting up about dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia. Not dysentry so far – although my other half now tells me that he was admitted to hospital with this as a toddler. So we seem to have ticked that box too (no jokes about this not being too much of a surprise, what with him being from Birmingham and everything. He is very sensitive about anti-Brummie jibes.)

Thanks to the lovely people from the charity Potential Plus UK,  I’ve  learned lots about human intelligence and learning differences. And I’ve made some wonderful friends along the way who, on the ‘trickier’ days, remind me that the brightest sparks in the world often struggle with the bizarre cobbled-together thing that we call the english language – and which is a never-ending battle for those with dyslexia.

mind games article and comp CHRON

The Mam writes. She writes books! Oooh – bully for her. Not everyone can write like a woman possessed.

So, that’s all very nice for me. But when you’re the little kid and you look around and see everyone else doing the 3 R’s  beautifully, it really can sap your confidence.  My own gal looks at me writing away (by hand, or keyboard) and often sits there saying “Oh…I wish I could do that…I wish that I could write like you can!” I try not to answer back “well, practice makes perfect”- because let’s face it. It doesn’t always. And there is nowt worse than someone for whom something comes so easily, telling you that *you* just need to try harder.

But a couple of weeks ago I had a little idea in order to Up The Writing Ante for my girl. Following a bit of a mum-daughter spat, I chucked a notebook at her (not literally – although I was quite tempted to at the time…) and said “Look! Just write a diary! Write about how horrible and mean I am in it. It will make you feel better. It certainly worked for me when your grandparents were being  being particularly evil and acting like the worst parents ever.”

She warmed to the idea (apart from the fact that she had to actually *write*.) And then came idea number two. It suddenly occurred to me that kids today are missing out on what truly was a Rite of Passage in the writing stakes. When we were nippers, at our schools in Manchester (probably all over the UK), we all had to write in pencil – until our writing had become neat enough in order that we were ‘allowed’ to use a fountain pen.

Oh the pride – the sheer joy – of choosing your first little fountain pen! Shall it be a long cartridge sort? Or shall I use a pen that goes with the short stubby little ones?  Do I want to use a pointy nib? Or a flat-tipped one so that I can make my letters look all-medieval scripty?

I started getting all dreamy, waxing lyrical about those fond recollections… and then she goes;

“What’s a fountain pen?” So it was off to the shops for me.

Two weeks later we have a kid who every night, writes her diary religiously. “Because it feels so beautiful and smooth with the ink flowing. I can’t stop writing! I love it now!”

My treasured fountain pen and the lass's own new pen ("Even though it's Hello Kitty - it's still the best pen ever!")

My treasured fountain pen and the lass’s own new pen (“Even though it’s Hello Kitty – what I can’t stand – it’s still the best pen ever!”)

So sure – give me your ipads and your computer keyboards and your wii things. But let us not forget that some of the oldies are the best. And if you struggle with holding a pen and letter formation – then using the ancient methods might well be the preferred choice for you and yours…


It’s a dying breed, it is. It needs to be resurrected.

(And – as child number 2 noted “It’s really cool cause you can shake the ink everywhere. And probably stab someone with it!”)