Material Change and ‘Once in a Generation’

Four years ago today, I woke to the unwelcome news that Scotland had rejected independence. I knew polling was tight and that whatever outcome it wouldn’t be a decisive margin for either.

Brexit or ‘leaving the EU’ had a tighter margin of victory in 2016.

The similarities afterwards in terms of ‘buyer remorse’ or ‘no to yes’ are remarkable, even in terms of anecdotal tweets or other social media messages.

Somehow, or in some way, voters perceived their vote in a yes/no or remain/leave referendum as to be conveying something else.

Somehow, a block of Scottish voters thought ‘No’ meant things like More Devolution or near home rule or greater powers.

Somehow, a block of leave voters thought their vote was a vote for more money for the NHS or was to protest immigration.

The numbers have been shown in polling and again in terms of Brexit as being something that people misunderstood, from how little EU membership costs them, to why existing powers regulating immigration and people’s rights to live and work in U.K. weren’t used by successive governments.

I’m sure no one in Northern Ireland believed the terms of the Good Friday agreement could be overturned.

I’m sure no one believed that an exit to the EU would see the value of the pound plummet immediately after the vote making buying goods in euros or from the eurozone more expensive.

Now, in Scottish terms, yesterday and today saw a succession of social media posts from Unionists (British Nationalists in Scotland) heralding that four years ago, Scotland voted to remain in the U.K. and mostly all used the phrase ‘once in a generation’ vote.

Adherents to Brexit used the same term to describe their victory in the Brexit referendum.

Politically there are some that might have both view points as part of their right wing views.

The Scottish public hasn’t celebrated ‘We voted No day’ or made a particular significance of doing so.

There’s perhaps, a realisation of what happened after the vote and how Holyrood only gained marginally more powers rather than the ‘near home rule’ promised by some.

There’s a realisation that voting No, ironically for some to stay in the EU, lead down the line to ultimately leaving the EU.

Particularly affecting EU nationals who were allowed to vote on Scottish independence but not on the U.K. remaining in the EU.

So, can either vote be a ‘once in a generation’ event?

Put quite simply no. Neither ballot paper committed the voter to hold their opinion made on that day indefinitely.

In terms of events and press coverage and progress, Brexit hasn’t yet delivered a clear proposal or path.

All that has been clear is the creation of a rift in relations with Brussels rather than a clever plan that is of benefits to British Citizens.

Research papers made to House of Commons Library, House of Lords Library, London Assembly Research body , Welsh Assembly research body, Scottish Parliament information centre, all say much the same thing in terms of the economic effect in short and middle term period on Brexit.

These are compiled by the body’s independent researchers as information for all parties attending that parliament or assembly and cannot be seen as politically motivated for one party or one side of a debate.

It’s a view that a reasonable man can take and place in context of the advise that is out there.

Additionally all professional and trade magazines talk of issues and difficulties for the U.K. whether in terms of implementing or successfully carrying out the necessary changes that Brexit would need.

So, is Brexit a material change in circumstances that could be reasonably expected at the time that Scottish voters considered independence in 2014?

No, they were presented with a vote for No being for stronger safer devolution and as a vote to stay in the EU.

Of course, buyers remorse is a known factor after referendums and yes, people can be misinformed or can misinterpret the information as presented to them.

So, can any referendum really be ‘once in a generation’?

No. It would be impossible to ensure every elector or voter had the same level of information or understanding at the time of the referendum.

It may only be through information shared after the event in the news media or otherwise that would make someone change their mind.

Influence works in different ways, so using the ‘once in a generation’ phrase to describe the Scottish Independence Referendum is in itself slightly false and a way to politicise the result.

Especially in the context of the EU referendum as many voters believed staying in the U.K. union would mean that Scots were in the EU. It was a strong statement made by Better Together.

Brexit is a material change and if implemented in the form proposed could be quite detrimental to the interest of many Scots and especially given the way that the Brexit vote went in Scotland with well over 60% remain.

So, will Westminster grant a ‘People’s Vote’?

Will Holyrood determine a second referendum is required?

Whatever happens may lay to rest ‘once in a generation’ when referred to a referendum and see that the public’s interest is ensured by confirming or otherwise decisions made previously on a one off basis.

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The in-between bits.

It occurred to me that my posts may seem that I lurch from existential crisis to crisis.

Sometimes, things rumble about in the background of the day to day. I may be writing about issues that stretch days, weeks and months.

My long term attempts to get medical help, my long term attempt on PIP and pushing issues on Autism and Mental Health issues.

I have days where I’m not worth a damn and days where I do more than I intend to.

My weekends are about the kids, I also do bedtime for my younger two once a week and I see my eldest at least once a fortnight.

The in-between bits are the evenings that I watch Netflix or Now to catch up on shows or rewatch things.

I work, I try and figure out work issues and things in daytime and distract myself differently. I honestly need the routine. Being off work wouldn’t help me much.

I read rail forums and magazines on buses trains and urban transport.

I try and cook once a week to make something that will do me at least two nights of the week.

I use twitter and follow issues on there.

I might get caught up reading on disability or actually autistic posts. I keep myself going and am always trying to fill my head.

Some days I’m just wrapped up in anxiety and lack of worth and doubt and pain. Others maybe less so but it can turn on an incident or if people are being crap toward me.

Some days, it’s mainly headphones on and listening to music. It’s mainly country but I had a dip into top forty stuff to change it around.

I think that I tune out sometimes. I can get lost in thought or worrying and then try and distract myself with other things. I don’t solve anything, I maybe break issues down or see workarounds, not always though.

I leave at my door concepts like happiness and romances. I’m pretty much how I am because of those and all I can do is aim for contentment and just trying to push past the day.

I don’t want drama, highs and lows or anything much. I just want to be solvent and able to do what I need to do. If there’s not much after that, then that’s just how it is.

An average evening is me, myself and I. There’s not many phone calls or texts to worry about. I think I’ve scared off ‘friends’ and family over recent years and sometimes it’s ok and sometimes not. I usually hear from my eldest by messaging and my ex will sometimes update me on the youngest two.

Is it loneliness? To an extent and it’s also solitude in part too. I don’t have the means to go out, even if I was up to it.

If there’s a programme on Netflix great, if Twitter is being interactive then that’s great too. There’s always a bit of tidying up and always an early night to have.

It is was it is. It’s the inbetween bits between working and parenting. It’s the bits I thought I could fill otherwise but, time passes and it becomes a routine of sorts too.

Intersperse and sprinkle in those big dramas or letdowns and that’s it. I don’t know anything else.

What do I want and is it time to find the mask again? (Autism)

Who do you want Chic?

What do you want Chic?

I return to earlier thoughts and writings and try to answer both, or either of those questions.

A man in what is termed ‘middle age’ or still ‘young’ if life spans continue to increase.

What do I want?

Is it companionship, friendship, not facing life alone or is it a certainty about life?

Is it philosophy and wisdom or a hand to hold? Is it a shared hobby or fandom or interest?

Is it a pure heart or a dirty laugh?

Is it an old memory, certainty or the risk of disappointment with the frisson of temptation?

I suppose in the box that the medical profession and the research has for autistic people, there’s a question of empathy and understanding emotional context and the issues around social behaviours.

Having lived undiagnosed as long as I did around neurotypicals, did I merely echo their desires and emotions and needs?

Did I mask so well as to be amongst these interactions that I shouldn’t have comprehended or understood?

I knew maternal love and the fellowship of friends, I flirted and dated, I had children, I married. I care for children, I cared for my mother, I was also devastated to lose her.

I was delighted when my kids talked or walked. I take pride in their achievements. I joke with them, I try to marvel at what they marvel at. I get frustrated at the dog not coming back on command. I rant at the stupidity of governments.

Empathy is not perhaps my forte, I do it and I mean it. I don’t do it falsely to others to gain their trust, I don’t make things a laugh when there’s something to be done. I’d rather do someone a favour than be the one giving them kind but empty words.

I seek nothing from friends but company and try not to be a burden. I see the unfortunate and try to see it through their eyes. I try.

Is it a naivety to try and see the goodness in others to not mock?

Is it a naivety to seek the online friendship of ‘neurosiblings’ to back the actually autistic with an online voice?

Maybe I do seek goodness in people’s hearts and souls.

Through rejection I certainly understand their darkness and the fear that inhabits them, their inability to befriend the different or the weak.

Wasn’t an easy process growing up as I did and steadily learning the mask and the behaviours to ‘fit in’.

I allowed myself the right to be ‘odd’ after my diagnosis in order to understand myself. I thought the mask was tiring and difficult as a daily process and a duty and expectation that others required of me for their sakes as neurotypicals.

Is my masking a ‘white lie’ or a fib to get along in a difficult and unpredictable ill defined stream of daily interaction with fellow beings?

A necessary evil? A poison with a sweet taste but bitter aftertaste?

Do I need it? Should I want to?

The answer is yes. An easier path, less hills to climb, smoother progress of a day and then another.

Do I have a distaste for faking and lying and having the chameleon ability to ‘switch it on’ when I must?

Yes, but I wouldn’t have a job or a family without it.

Do I feel guilt at the doors that my mask has opened? Yes, of course.

At times, it’s harmless and it’s gracious and helpful not just for me but for others. At times, my thinking is murkier and selfish. A means to an end. Another pay packet, another meal.

Is it calculating, does it border on manipulation? Does it use people?

Would I ask myself these questions if I was neurotypical and followed similar behaviours? Would I even stop to consider?

Do I have the ability to decode it and teach others? I don’t think so, but it’s certainly a thing I think about.

A high level of function is perhaps a help, perhaps a hinderance in overthinking. To be able to compensate for my inabilities to have enough verbal dexterity to get through situations and to sometimes even get my way.

The compensation through ability that had got me through my undiagnosed life. The masking that was almost good enough to leave me in peace from their privations.

But ultimately, I’m alone and I fear that and that brings me back to my initial questions.

Yes I do want company but I know not from who, apart from my children and the dog.

Maybe I can’t answer as to who I want.

Once the mask slips and the hurt and pain gets through it can be difficult to see otherwise and although the social skills can be approximated or thought through in sequence, the soul and essence of me is little changed despite the hard outer shell.

I may in time change my feelings but for now, I doubt there’s a who out there and my focus is on whether I use the mask that I know so well and that I’m so familiar with, to keep myself safe and keep myself going.

Not an easy topic and perhaps counter to those saying that autistics should ‘Take the mask off’.

The mask is of my making. It is me. I maybe am lost without it. Maybe I need it again.

At least I am now self aware and know that I do it.

The Call ?

‘Hello.. er…I wa..’

I’ve thought of calling help and support lines. I think without a script or prompts, I’d fail pretty badly.

Last time I tried and after a minute of initial chat, someone phoned the landline and kept ringing it. I got upset and flustered and had to give up.

An example of how messed up my life can be.

I’m trying to have a twitter break as I had a panic situation last Friday and all I could do was rant. I was flustered and upset and a bit broken.

So, I guess that I do need to make a call, but it’s a new GP practice and they do telephone chats..

Yes, it might not be as straightforward as an appointment, so I’ve been writing stuff down as preparation. (Now if I was allowed to email..)

So that was that, what I didn’t expect was others to notice my meltdown.

I can’t process properly the response I had after the meltdown on Twitter as I was tearful at the fact anyone actually noticed, let alone cared.

I got quite unsure as to what I could say in return. I still have no real idea.

Right now, I’m just confused. I’m in a mode where I can function and get through the day or the task but as soon as I’m home I’m mopey and listless and down.

If I thought I could send on that last paragraph to anyone that could get me support, I would. Expressing it verbally or getting the chance to do so is the more difficult thing.

I’m mindful of what I write and how it comes across and I have to be responsible.

I think my honesty gives me a difficulty in that I overshare or over-detail. Probably an autistic trait, but personality based.

My tweeting tends to be sharing information and a healthy dose of sarcasm. Mainly defensive and not a great detail of original content.

It can be a mix of Scottish Fitba, Scottish Politics, Autism issues and a magpie’s curation of tweets.

But I do think that my mood and feelings can influence me even if I’m only liking or retweeting others.

It’s important to me as my window on the world and an opportunity to interact with others. I don’t lightly take a step backwards, but it had been occurring to me for a little while that I needed to consider my reliance on it.

For all the interaction, maybe it’s not healthy for me and I might get back to reading or other interests.

But maybe I need to dial some numbers first.

The sort of post you don’t want to write. (Autism)

At times, we can deceive ourselves on who we are, what we are and how we perceive ourselves.

There’s no worse prism than dating websites as I’ve learned over the last few years.

I’ve hardly been proactive at it, but at the same time, I do look at women that are around my age and in a similar situation. A realistic viewpoint.

I very much tried not to take it too seriously or be too hopeful from the start.

But, after a while, you do look every night at the screen and wonder and hope.

It’s interesting as there’s so many people. I’m ‘not alone in being alone.’

There’s a myriad of types, looks and personalities. In itself, it’s interesting and a certain sort of online experience. A curiosity.

The main thing I’ve learned is to never expect a reply and even then, never to believe that anything will progress beyond a chat.

There’s lies about age. There’s lies about situations and availability and there’s also some people that just want to serially chat with no actual intention of dating.

In the last few months, I’ve realised that I’m getting nowhere with any site.

It’s a picture game.

Like/dislike, swipe left/right.

Even after that, there’s reading their bio and looking at distances.

I wasn’t seeking a pen-pal or a person to message. I wasn’t seeking anything much really.

My delusion was thinking that I could pick up the reigns again and be able to have another aspect to my life.

I’ve written before about my fear that I could become celibate through circumstance.

I think that’s likely to now be the case and I even have doubts about my ability to cope with another person and their expectations.

I had said to myself that I’d be honest about my condition and my situation.

In most cases I haven’t had to worry that far as my face is doing a good enough job in keeping down any interest.

I had tried occasionally changing the photographs and the biography and sometimes it seems to help.

The learning experience is that it’s not easy to cast yourself out there and expect something. There’s pride and belief that you can do better.

There’s an element of hope, which in itself is a dangerous thing and there’s that random factor and feeling that maybe just this time.

Obviously, it’s far easier to buy a lottery scratch card and get the disappointment over quicker.

‘I’m Chic. I’m 45. Separated father of three. Overweight, balding and greying and I have one of those things… ‘

Yeah. We deceive ourselves, don’t we?

Yeah we do.

More realistically, I can plan to look after myself a bit better, eat better, sleep better and try and live better. Not a grandiose plan, so it has a chance.

I’ve already been able to fill the hours alone and I can be a bit more clever in using my free time. I could learn something or just chill out.

The advice when you internet search ‘giving up dating’ is basically not to.

I think I’ll stick it to the man by giving up.

I hadn’t planned to, I hadn’t thought that I’d be celibate and relatively okay with that. If I need companionship in future, I’ll consider getting a dog.

I don’t want to categorise myself further. I’m still a single straight man. I just won’t be looking for anyone any longer and if happenstance changes then fine.

If I see myself as anything else then fine. I’m in no rush to add another descriptor. I have enough already.

So, that’s what was in my head. It’s brewed a while, but I got there.

Next step. Reading those books on Tao and thinking acceptance and being wiser for experience for once…

Me and the Alp.

Was just reading about Geraint Thomas winning on Alpe D’Heuz today in the Tour De France.

In 1997, I took a fortnight’s leave from my work. I was 24 and sorted myself a flight to Paris and with a euro domino ticket literally headed south on the TGV to Lyon and then Grenoble.

I figured with European timetable books and maps that I could see the Stages at St Etienne and the Alp.

I call it, ‘the Alp’ as that’s what it’s known as in Cyclesport.

Most races go up from Le-Bourg-d’Oisans at the door of the hill. It’s literally a vertical kilometre from the valley floor with 21 hairpin bends to allow the road to climb up the Alp.

It’s known as the ‘Dutch Mountain’ as cycling fans from the Netherlands go crazy for it and as luck had it, I got a lift to the foot of the hill from some Dutch guys that I stayed with in the youth hostel with.

I think there was six of us in that small car. Not quite sure how we all got in as there was a fair bit of beer in the boot too.

I wanted to experience the hill by walking up the road.

It took me well over three hours and at the narrow roadside were cars and camper vans and at each U bend of the road leading upward were groups of fans with Flags, Banners and the names of their favourites painted or chalked on the road. French, Belgians, Italians, but mainly the orange of Holland.

I was offered a can of beer at every turn. After 4 or 5 hairpins. I wondered what I had let myself in for. It was steep on foot. A Well built but narrow mountain road with retaining walls at the sides.

Eventually, sweating and tired. I made it to the top. Thanks to generosity of strangers, my day pack had a mix of bottled and canned lagers. Without intending it, I had a ‘cargo’ like many of the hardcore fans.

I rested and watched the race on the big screen at the top of the hill. France Television had a unit there and there was the usual final kilometre decoration of barriers and banners on the way to the stage finish.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I saw a remarkable win by ‘ Il Pirata’ – Marco Pantani, an Italian climber that had a reputation for bravely attacking in the mountains.

He rode alone the last ten kilometres after ditching the race leader on route. A special bit of cycling.

Sadly Pantani died in 2004 aged 34. He was a small guy with a shaved head and a patterned neckerchief around his head. He went and attacked himself and was a phenomenon in the late nineties as stage winner and also a race winner in the major tours.

Whoever wins on the hill, it’s the Alp. It’s a incredible sight as a place in itself .

What should be a ski station in high summer becomes a busy place with thousands of cycling fans there to witness one of the greatest tests in the Tour. It’s the tarmac, the walls, the hairpin corners and that gradient.

I’ll go there again one day. I hope.

As a postscript, I had a disposable camera type thing with me that day. I did take a few snaps that day, but have no idea whatever happened to the pictures. I recall the blueness of the sky and freshness of the air the most.

What to say?

Sometimes I lose the desire to write or blog or whatever I do here.

It goes. I have things in my head and sometimes they don’t come out.

I might be thinking autism or politics or football or transport, but it doesn’t happen.

I try and stop myself having grand and unfeasible ideas. Ground myself.

I’m doing day to day and getting by. Seeing the kids, keeping up. Mood comes and goes. I watch TV, I try and listen to music.

I can’t push myself over getting ‘help’ or treatment, it’s not really going to happen unless I have a breakdown. I’m trying my best not to. See paragraph above this one and repeat.

So. What to say?

Do I want to break the cycle and think that all I’m doing is existing?

Do I want to think there’s more to life?

I’ve wondered about dating and also wondered about not.

The idea of accepting that’s it and I’m done is something that’s been kicking around my head.

I know I’m not brilliant and know I’m not maybe where I want to be, so understanding that what I may want to do and what I may be able to cope with.

I dunno. It’s effort and trying and believing myself well enough to project outwards and thinking and thinking.

A step forward is at least is knowing or thinking that it’s something to think about, but a step at a time. As ever.

But? What do I have to do?

Nothing is maybe the answer. Maybe I do nothing. Maybe I just think about it all a bit more. Leave it be.

Hope, Cross fingers, continue muddling along.

Onward. Ever onward.