Tag Archives: Sherlock Holmes

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




Beer For Brekkie?

21 Jun
A bit of the beer and a bit of a laugh never hurt the average 5 yr old at breakfast time...

A bit of the beer and a bit of a laugh never hurt the average 5 yr old at breakfast time…

I hate children’s TV. Was never a massive fan back in the 70’s. Even when there were only 3 channels. And since having children myself, I detest the damned thing even more. I despise the way we are faced with non-stop (mostly) utter drivel that turns my offspring into gaping, gawping, lethargic and moronic pixies. I abhor the fact that when you try and turn the box off my already hyper-brood morph into evil little harpies from hell.)

The Antichrist? Or Radio 4…

Still, I wouldn’t go to the other extreme and claim that The Telly per se Is A Medium Of The Antichrist. The TV can be an utterly fantastical learning opportunity for both parents and kids. *If* you do your best to steer away from 95% of kiddy-oriented crap.
So in short, we don’t ‘do’ kiddy TV very much. And certainly not in the mornings.
What do we do instead? Well, with a 5 yr old boy up just before 6am every day, we were definitely not up for the ‘let’s spend quality time together and practise our swahili!’ approach. We had to do something (other than locking the little git in the coal shed).  And as we are big radio-fans, our original approach was to try out Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. But in the end it worried us that the kid couldn’t tell the difference between Evan Davies and John Humphrys. And it got to us that he wouldn’t stop shrieking ‘Turn it Off! It’s those men that make daddy shout and swear and then he burns the toast!”
So then it was a move onto brekkie with Classic FM. After a few mornings of tears and protest-esque grebbing in their bowls of coco pops (8 year old girl “this music is made by like.. people who want you to fall asleep over your cereal”) they finally accepted this new development.
But please believe me. This Classic FM 45 mins each morning is NOT us trying to hot-house our kids into becoming some kind of classical musical prodigies. I would be quite happy if their only forte in all things musical turns out to be a penchant for the theme music to the Harry Sodding Potter movies. The sole reason that we crank up the radio is that the classical music definitely takes the edge off the morning crabbiness and the tendency to handcuff themselves to the hostess trolley so that they don’t have to go to school.

Adult Humour For The Kiddies…

If the wee blighters are ready on time, they are allowed to catch 5 or 10 minutes of ‘grown up TV’. (Not the news headlines. “It makes mummy get really evil. Or cry.”
So sometimes we have Sherlock Holmes On The Box (the old stuff – Jeremy Brett et al) but usually we revert to comedy. ‘Father Ted’, ‘Open All Hours’, ‘Everyone Loves Raymond’ and ‘Frasier’ might not be the favourite programmes of your average 8 year old and 5 year old but in our house, they are objects of veneration.
And mediums of education. Although not quite in the way that you might think. In a recent episode of ‘Frasier’, the star of the show caught a glimpse of himself looking rather un-cool and old-fashioned and muttured to himself “Good God! I’m Anne Shirley!” My girl thought that this was hilarious. I didn’t get the joke – the cultural reference was above and beyond me. She said “Muuum – you know – in Anne of Green Gables…”
(I had no idea, to tell you the truth. I didn’t do any of the children’s classics as a kid. I tell you – those audio books were the best investment ever and got me out of many a bedtime story-telling session…)
But this morning the bloody horse racing schedule had altered our usual ten minute glance of adult comedy. ‘Cheers’ was on instead, for the first time.
And here goes our script when the kids began to that genius programme for the very first time’…

Cheers for the Cha-Chas…

5 yr old Boy: HEY! What’s Frasier doing in this programme?
8 yr old Girl: Wow – yeah! That’s weird! Go back to your own show, you show-stealer!
Me: Oh, this is the series that first created the ‘Frasier’ character. The writers really liked him in this one. So they decided to make another set of shows where he was the main star.
5 yr old Boy: But where’s Niles?
Me: Niles isn’t in this one. It’s just Frasier, see? Niles comes later. In the ‘Frasier’ show.
8 yr old Girl: I like Frasier. He’s a …– a Si-kie ,.. a Sike…a whatever you call it. Doctor for your head when you’re acting a bit differently.
Me: (pleased that she used the world ‘differently’)  The word is a ‘psychiatrist.’
8 Yr old Girl: Well I wish they would send him to our school. We’ve got some right weirdos in our class. Especially that Bradley Morris*. He needs his head sorting out, he does. He’s got something wrong up there I think. Tap-tap Whirly Whirly…Do you know what he did the other day in the boy’s toilets? He got some of the….
5 yr old Boy: (interrupting her) Are they all drinking beer? Can I have some for my breakfast tomorrow?
Me: No.
5 yr old Boy: And where’s Daphne?
8 Yr old Girl: Daphne’s not in it, you doofus. She’ll be in the ‘Frasier’ one with Frasier. I like Daphne ‘cause she’s from Round ‘Ere int’ she mum?
Me: Yes, Rochdale’s not so far away from us.
5 Yr old Boy: I like Daphne because she’s got nice Cha-Chas.
Me: (a bit shocked) Nice WHAT?
8 yr old Girl: It’s a word for BOOBIES. The barman on this Cheers show call ladies’ boobies ‘Cha Cha’s’
5 yr old boy: Cha Chas, Cha Cha’s, Cha Cha’s, Cha Cha’s…
Me: (switching TV off) Right! That’s enough for now. We’ll miss the school bell if we don’t go now…

*Child’s name has been changed in order to protect his identity and his sheer stupidity in attempting to flush several copies of those Rainbow Fairy books down the boys toilet. Though to be honest, I can’t say that I blame him…