andrewgodsell

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Archive for the tag “Asperger’s Syndrome”

#GeorgeOrwell, Memories of 1984, and #Aspergers

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After a break of a few days, during which I have been feeling anxious and unwell, I return to this Blog.

I have decided to post another chapter of my new book, Obsessive Compulsive Asperger, looking back at events in the years surrounding 1984.

Much has changed since then but, more than 30 years later, a lot of the interests I had as a young adult feel familiar.

George Orwell, a man who probably stuggled with Asperger’s, remains my favourite author. His warnings about the dangers of totalitarianism lurking in our dubiously democratic society are as relevant as ever.

Despite the scepticism of many people, I have remained interested in politics, and (just about, in view of this years purge) a member of the Labour Party, intent on tackling the Tories.

So here are my memories, in a chapter entitled The Lion and the Unicorn.

In the Summer of 1981, our family went on holiday to Newquay, in Cornwall. This was not particularly enjoyable, as we stayed at a poorly-managed hotel (worse than the establishment in Fawlty Towers, but not funny), with most of the staff departing during the course of our fortnight there. A few weeks after I left school, a results slip showed I had passed six “O” levels. Failures in English Literature and Computer Studies did not prevent me subsequently writing books with the aid of computers. I became a student at Farnborough Sixth Form College in September 1981, studying for “A” levels.  I also played for the college chess team, participating in a local league and national knock-out competition, the latter sponsored by the Sunday Times.

Excitement on sitting down to watch England’s first match in the 1982 World Cup finals, against France, live on television, grew as Bryan Robson opened the scoring after just 27 seconds. England beat France 3-1, but goalless draws in the second stage, with West Germany and Spain – the latter being the host nation – meant England were eliminated, despite being unbeaten in the tournament. West Germany later reached the Final, where they lost 3-1 against Italy. During August I saw Manchester United win 3-1 at Aldershot, in a match that raised money for victims of the Falklands War. Following this I visited Spain, as we had our first foreign family holiday, the location being Lloret de Mar, near Barcelona. We stayed in a large hotel, which was impressive, apart from unpalatable food. A year later I went on an extended family holiday for the last time, at the village of Cala Bona in Majorca.

I reached the age of 18 at the end of 1982, and made plans for the future. I decided against going to university, having spent enough years in formal education. A growing interest in politics was strengthened by frequent discussion at college. As a member of the debating society, I made a speech advocating that Britain should withdraw from the European Economic Community. A college assembly attempted to follow the format of the BBC’s Question Time programme, with myself on the panel, providing a critical view of the Thatcher government’s approach to unemployment. Thatcher proclaimed herself a “convic­tion politician”, opposed to consensus. Her major preoccupation was an attempt to revive British capitalism, through monetarism. Thatcher’s policies proved a calamity for Britain, with reduced public expenditure, reduced taxation (especially for the ruling class), an attack on the trade unions, and the sale of public assets. When Thatcher took power, more than a million people were unemployed. The number of unemployed people increased to two million in August 1980, and three million in January 1982.

I read lots of the works of George Orwell, and was particularly impressed by The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius plus Nineteen Eighty-Fourfact and fiction respectively. The latter book is a brilliant warning about the dangers of totalitarianism, and a satire on the politics of the era in which it was written. In the character of Winston Smith, who starts to write a diary on April 4 1984, Orwell conveyed the outlook of an individual battling to express a minority view – “sanity is not statistical”. During the Spring of 1983, I read the first volume of Karl Marx’s Capital, one hundred years after his death. I felt the influence of Marxism as an approach to politics, economics, and history, being persuaded by Marx’s critique of capitalism, which is shown to be exploitative, and prone to recurring crisis. Capital ranks as a monumental piece of world literature, full of illuminating quotes and allusions.

In May 1983 I voted for the first time, supporting the Labour Party in a Hart District Council Election – Hart covered Fleet and surrounding villages, including Hartley Wintney. The following month, I voted for Labour at a General Election, and felt demoralised as Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives were returned to power, with a majority of 144. Shortly after the General Election, I made the first in a series of visits to the House of Commons, observing proceedings from the visitors’ gallery. On that first visit, I saw Edwina Currie, a newly-elected Conservative MP, make her maiden speech. Edwina was immediately followed by Harriet Harman, feted as Labour’s most glamorous woman MP, who won a By-Election a few months earlier. I was joined by granddad on one trip to Westminster, during which we saw Margaret Thatcher at Prime Minister’s questions.

I passed three “A” levels, but was unemployed for several months after leaving college. Then I was offered a job by the London branch of Dresdner Bank, based at Frankfurt, in West Germany. Employment with Dresdner, as part of their audit department, began on December 28 1983. The bank was situated at Frederick’s Place, a cul-de-sac adjoining Old Jewry, just off Cheapside, in the City of London. The building was a wonderful labyrinth – I initially worked in a mezzanine office, tucked away in a corner, at a tangent from a staircase linking the ground floor with the first floor. Benjamin Disraeli worked in the building as a youth, a fact commemorated by one of those distinguished blue plaques on an exterior wall. During his employment with a solicitor, Disraeli was told by a female friend “You have too much genius for Frederick’s Place: it will never do”. Indeed it did not, and the young man set out on a series of adventures.

I started writing a detailed diary on January 1 1984. This opened with a combination of activities and opinions, linked to interest in politics, and the works of George Orwell – themes destined to recur down the years:

I begin this diary on the evening of the first day of 1984. The year is one that has long been awaited in connection with George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. As expected, the general view of the connection as put across by the media has been distortion – or at least misunderstanding – of Orwell’s views. It is being asserted that the book is prediction and wrong, when in fact it is both a clever satire and a useful warning. I hope that if anything is to come from the connection of the book and the present year, it will be increased understanding of Orwell’s views. Given the current state of the media in this country, I believe the myths surrounding the book will largely remain. The book opens with Winston Smith beginning a diary.

I decided a few months back to keep a diary, to provide a record of my thoughts and actions, which I could then refer to at future dates. Besides simple nostalgic sentiment, such reference has intellectual value. George Orwell, in his As I Please column, in the issue of Tribune dated December 17 1943, wrote “One way of feeling infallible is not to keep a diary”. In the March 22 1946 issue of the same newspaper, Orwell’s In Front of Your Nose was published. In this essay Orwell advised that keeping a diary, or record of one’s views on events, was of value. If this was not done it is possible that “when some particularly absurd belief is exploded by events, one may simply forget that one ever held it”. I propose to record in this diary a regular account of my activities and also my opinions, hopes, fears, predictions etc. When these are set down to be read, and re-read, it will not be possible for me to believe that opinions I held once, but then wished I had not, were not held in the first place. In this of all years I believe that to be valuable. I saw the New Year in with a Channel 4 programme hosted by David Frost. Ken Livingstone predicted that this year might be a bit worse than last or a lot worse. I expect the former myself, but am optimistic about the long term.

When starting to write the diary, I wondered whether it might be published one day, far in the future. By a convoluted process, some of which happened in 2007, extracts from my diary have now found their way into this book.

Dresdner provided a contrast to the efficient image of both banking and the Germans. There was disorganisation, plus strange procedures, but a generally informal atmosphere, and working at the bank was entertaining. At the start of my time as something in the City, I lacked confidence, but chat about football with the blokes, and readiness to be teased by the women, helped break the ice with colleagues. My anxieties in the working environment continue to this day.

I joined the Labour Party in September 1984. I had been born in a National Health Service hospital, and educated in a comprehensive school, while I believed in democratic Socialism, equality, free trade unionism, internationalism, and Britain playing a positive role in the world. These factors made me a natural supporter of the Labour Party. That Autumn I took a holiday in Yugoslavia, staying at the village of Porec, in Croatia. I was attracted to Yugoslavia by a combination of excellent climate and innovative Socialism, based on industrial democracy, decentralised power, and non-alignment – but unfortunately not parliamentary democracy. The weather was rainy, but I enjoyed my visit, and the drinking of Slivovitz, the local plum brandy. Back in Britain, I attended a couple of Labour Party meetings, staged at Farnborough, which focussed on the national strike by coal miners. Each meeting featured a speech by a Labour MP, the first of these being Dave Nellist (member of Militant). The latter meeting was addressed by Dennis Skinner (legendary “Beast of Bolsover”), a former miner, and impassioned critic of the “casino economy”. Dresdner Bank was conveniently situated for visits to Parliament, which I often made after work. One trip to the House of Commons in 1984 was followed by a letter to Bernard Wetherill, the Speaker, asking about the public availability of amendment papers for Parliamentary debates, to which I received an encouraging reply. At the start of the next year, Timothy Wood, a Conservative MP, handed me a copy of a Local Government Bill, as a Commons committee debating the legislation adjourned for dinner. There is no such thing as a free bill, however, for I had already bought a personal copy – besides financing it as a taxpayer.

On October 17 1984, I attended my first World Cup match, as England commenced their campaign in the 1986 qualifiers, beating Finland 5-0, with Mark Hateley scoring twice. I talked with two pretty Finnish young ladies, working in Britain as au pairs, who sat behind me in the stadium. Afterwards, travelling by tube train from Wembley to Waterloo, I found myself sat next to another lady from Finland, and enjoyed a chat with her, which stimulated laughter, and suggestive comments, from several other passengers. Mentioning my encounter with her fellow nationals, I asked the lady if she was an au pair. This flirtatious Finn announced she was a nanny, who thought it would soon be time for me, as a naughty boy, to go to bed. (Dot dot dot? Actually nothing more to report).

The 1984 Dresdner Christ­mas party was held at the Churchill Hotel. Several people did party pieces, and I sang John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over), oblivious of the possibility the Germans might not like this. For Christmas our family visited mum’s parents at Salisbury. We had a great Christmas, dividing our time between eating, drinking, and watching television at home, and visits to the local Conservative club – some of the family were members, and I did not wish to spoil Christmas with a boycott. Granddad was a staunch Conservative so our political ideas had little in common, but we enjoyed discussing them. Sadly I never saw my grandfather again, as he died suddenly from a heart attack on May 5 1985. This was a traumatic event for his family. Granddad was a wonderful man, and I was to miss him in the following years.

In March 1985, at Wembley, I attended the Final of the Milk Cup – the name at that time of the League Cup – in which Norwich City beat Sunderland 1-0, with a fine performance from Steve Bruce, in defence. Earlier in the season, I had half-seen Norwich win 4-0 at Aldershot, in a Third Round replay, amidst very thick November fog. Mick Channon, in the twilight of his career, was among the goalscorers that day. I returned to Wembley on May 18 1985, hoping to buy a ticket for the FA Cup Final, in which Manchester United met Everton. I negotiated purchase of a ticket from two officials of the Surrey branch of the Football Association. Prior to the match, an emotional minutes silence was observed in memory of the fans who died in the fire at Bradford City’s ground the previous week. During the first half both teams failed to produce impressive football. Play improved as the second half progressed, but the game remained goalless. Twelve minutes from time, United’s Kevin Moran became the first player ever to be sent off in an FA Cup Final. The continued absence of a goal meant that the match went into extra time. With 10 minutes remaining, United’s Norman Whiteside charged with the ball through the Everton half, and into the penalty area, scoring with a curling shot. As the ball hit the net, I erupted with joy. Man­chester United held on to the lead during the closing minutes. When the final whistle arrived, I again celebrated wildly. A few minutes later, Bryan Robson lifted the trophy.

Another great Wembley occasion followed on July 6, with a concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I arrived early, and managed to get a place near the front. For hour after hour, I stood in the crowd on a very hot day. It was uncomfortable, but totally worthwhile, as I got a great view. Bruce displayed amazing energy, and built a rapport with the fans, while his band provided tremendous support. The show began with Born in the USA, and continued with a succession of fine songs before Bruce took a break, following Thunder Road. The second set included a stunning rendition of Because the Night.  The encores ended with a lengthy medley of Twist and Shout / Do You Love Me. Bruce had been on stage for just over three hours, with a performance that was almost unbelievably brilliant – witnessing it was an inspiring experience.

During August, I returned to Yugoslavia, staying at Ulcinj, in Montenegro, a few miles from the border with Albania, the most isolated country in Europe. On a tour of the area, I saw part of the border between Yugoslavia and Albania, marked by a line of trees, viewed from a distant vantage point on a hillside – an eerie moment. In the Autumn, I went to Dresdner Bank’s belated Summer party, at the Savoy Hotel, and felt a bit uncomfortable in the luxurious surroundings. A man in attendance in the toilets commented on my not wearing a jacket. When I asked why this was worth mentioning, the man said he assumed my wallet was in the jacket pocket, and I could have given him a tip. I could have observed that it might cost a lot to spend a penny.

 

 

Once Upon a Time – An #Asperger Story

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsessive-Compulsive-Asperger-Andrew-Godsell-ebook/dp/B01MSTMUOQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480596376&sr=1-2

Hello I am back, with more thoughts linked to my new book.

The first chapter is a summary of my condition, adapted from a piece I wrote for this Blog a few months ago:

https://andrewgodsell.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/aspergers-syndrome-and-obsessive-compulsive-disorder/

This is followed by a short account of my childhood, and the origin of some anxieties that remain with me, set out below:

Once upon a time, fairly long ago, but not far away, it was a foggy Winter day. To be precise, this was Monday December 14 1964, and I was born at 5.20 in the morning, the location being Aldershot Hospital, in Hampshire. I was the first child of Phillip and Jill Godsell, who had set up home in Fleet, a quiet town five miles from Aldershot. Dad was a civil servant, working at the National Gas Turbine Establishment, part of the Ministry of Defence. A Labour government had recently taken office, led by Harold Wilson as Prime Minister. The Beatles were at number one in the singles chart, with I Feel Fine – featuring feedback introduction, courtesy of a deliberate error by John Lennon.

My mother, who may be biased, has often recalled I was a lovely baby, who did not cry much. I was baptised at Christ Church, in Crookham (a village adjoining Fleet), on February 14 1965, but have since converted from the Church of England to atheism. Mum noted progress in a Baby Book, from which it appears I was a slow starter. I did not begin to crawl until the age of 11 months, and stood up for the first time five days after my first birthday. A few months later, I learned how to walk, taking the first steps without help on April 7 1966. During the Summer, mum, dad, and I went on holiday at Paignton, in Devon. I learned how to kick a football at around the time England won the 1966 World Cup, beating West Germany 4-2 in the Final, at Wembley. My parents vaguely recall that I watched the match live on television, sat with my father. I was only 19 months old (or should that be young?) at the time. Within a few years, I became aware of the enormity of England’s success in winning the competition. I was destined to publish a book entitled The World Cup, in 1990.

On February 14 1967 mum gave birth to another son, named Mark. I do not retain any memory of my brother as a baby, but have been told I was fond of him. In mum’s record, my first response to stories arrived at the age of two and a half years, which means mid-1967. Strikes me as surprisingly late, considering my subsequent fascination with stories. In the Summer of 1968, mum, dad, Mark, and I had our first holiday together, visiting a caravan site at Rockley Sands, in Dorset. Mark and I were unwell during the holiday, and my being sick in the caravan one evening is my earliest definite memory – not an ideal starting point. In 1969 our family had a caravan holiday at Selsey Bill, in West Sussex. Drives around southern England often took us along “George Carriageway”, this being my name for dual carriageway, which I thought was built by a man named George. Another favourite phrase was “cold wind”, something I would say when looking out of windows on Winter days. I have few specific memories of my early years, back in the 1960s, but recollect a happy time. I often wonder what would happen if we could only connect the past and the present.

I joined Gally Hill Infants School, in Crookham, at the start of 1970, aged five. There was an anxious start, with tears in the first few days. I felt a lot of worry at school, despite being a good learner, struggling to integrate – I remember collective lunchtimes being daunting. I was often picked upon by one of the boys, a bully who was older than me. At the same time, I was befriended by a girl in my class, named Nicola, who attempted to guard me from threats of violence. Many times in my life, I have looked upon females as protectors. I attended the school, which combined solid Victorian buildings with modern prefabricated classrooms, for two and a half years. It felt a rather gloomy place. On the brighter side, I enjoyed Friday afternoon breaks, wandering around the playground alone, looking forward to the weekend, and the comforting surroundings of home.

A few months after I began school, we had a holiday at Brean Sands, near Weston-super-Mare, in Somerset, being based in a Pontin’s camp. This was part of a series of extended family holidays. Mum, dad, Mark, and myself generally went on holiday with my mother’s parents, Ernest and Dorothy Collings, plus my mother’s sister Sally, her husband Neville, and their sons Stephen, Gary, and Martin. The visit to Brean Sands was repeated in both 1971 and 1972, following which there was a holiday at another Pontin’s site, located at Camber Sands, in East Sussex, during 1973.

In the Autumn of 1972, I moved to Crookham County Junior School, known as Sandy Lane, after a nearby road. In the first year I was unsettled by my teacher, Mrs Stark. She was a pleasant woman, but could be stern, and reduced me to tears on several occasions. Another source of anxiety was inability to tie my shoelaces, until I received patient lessons from a girl named Carol. Mrs Stark said I was the cleverest boy in her class, and remarked that I never gave up trying to achieve things. Perseverance is a quality I have retained.

My father had been a close friend of John Noakes during the 1950s, when they served in the Royal Air Force. In 1972, with my brother and I regular viewers of BBC’s Blue Peter, dad wrote to John Noakes, seeking a reunion. One day a neighbour told us that John had arrived looking for dad, while we had been out, and left his telephone number. Dad called John, and our family met up with the Noakes family at their home. We encountered Shep, the Blue Peter dog, looked after by John, but there was not any sign of sticky-back plastic. Mark expected to meet Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton, and was surprised the three Blue Peter presenters did not live together. Following this, John and his son made a return visit to us at Fleet. This was my first brush with celebrity, and I learned that John Noakes was basically an ordinary bloke, despite having found national fame. Meeting John sticks in my mind as a great childhood experience, and a story I still enjoy re-telling – here’s one I did earlier (could not resist that).

Dad represented the RAF at youth level football, with the opposition in one match being the Wolverhampton Wanderers youth team, featuring Ron Flowers. Within a few years, Flowers was a part of a Wolves team that won the Football League, and appeared in the fledgling European Cup. Flowers was also an England international, playing in the 1962 World Cup finals. My father enjoyed being an amateur player, for Bemerton Heath (in Salisbury) and Fleet Spurs. I developed into a football fanatic, and followed Manchester United, enthralled by dad’s stories of watching the “Busby Babes”, a team decimated in 1958 by the Munich air crash, which caused the deaths of eight players. Manchester United became the first English club to win the European Cup, a feat achieved in 1968, but the team, starring George Best, rapidly declined during the next few years. England were also losing their way. At the 1970 World Cup finals, played in Mexico, England were beaten 3-2 by West Germany, after extra time, in the Quarter Finals. The 1974 World Cup saw England eliminated in the qualifiers for the first time, as they lost 2-0 away to Poland, and were held to a 1-1 draw in the return match, at Wembley. I watched live television coverage of both games, played during 1973, being gripped by the drama of the World Cup. Another early football memory is mum and dad allowing me to stay up later than usual, at the age of seven, to watch the first half of the 1972 European Cup Final, live on television. When I went to bed, the match was goalless, but Ajax went on to beat Internazionale 2-0, with a pair of goals from Johan Cruyff. Subsequently a golden era for English clubs saw the trophy being taken in seven out of eight seasons, between 1977 and 1984, by Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, and Aston Villa. As an adult, I would write about this, and much more, in the book Europe United: A History of the European Cup / Champions League – published in 2005.

The Easter holiday of 1973 included a visit to Stonehenge. I remember being captivated by the aura of Stonehenge, with the ancient stones sat in quiet isolation, holding thousands of years of memory. This was a wonderful survival into the modern era of our earliest past. I felt the power of history, something which still holds my imagination. Sometimes stories develop, and expand, over a long period of time. Fully 35 years after the first visit to Stonehenge, a piece about the place would form the opening chapter of my book Legends of British History, which arrived during 2008. There will be some material from that book later in this chronicle. The trip to Stonehenge occurred during a weekend with granny and granddad, at their home in Salisbury. Mum, dad, Mark, and I frequently visited granny and granddad, and retain happy memories. There was tea-time, with lots of cakes, followed by our eating suppers of crusty bread with cheese and pickle, before retiring to beds where the sheets and blankets had been tucked in very tightly by granny. In the sitting room, a large clock ticked solidly, and chimed each hour. Displayed in a bookcase below the clock, granddad had a collection of books, mostly history and novels, some of which I read. Alice Rattue, my great grandmother, was a lively character, and I recall visits to her home in Green Croft Street, in Salisbury, the street in which she lived for most of her life. Always seeming to wear grey pleated skirts, Alice swore quite a bit as she recounted disputes with a next door neighbour. Although illiterate, Alice was able to write her name. Alice had been born in 1892, a few months after William Gladstone became Prime Minister for the fourth time, and died during the first of the two 1974 General Election campaigns. The February Election led to Labour regaining power, nearly four years after losing to the Conservatives.

I attended my first football match on February 17 1974, joining dad and friends in seeing Aldershot draw 3-3 with Southend United, in the Third Division. During May, dad took me to Wembley Stadium, and we saw England beat Northern Ireland 1-0, in the British Championship – this was exciting, although the atmosphere was not all it could have been, with the crowd far below full capacity. A few weeks later, I was thrilled by the World Cup finals, despite the absence of England. West Germany, the host nation, beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the Final. In 1975, dad, Neville, Stephen, and I went to a European Championship game, seeing England beat Cyprus 5-0, with Malcolm MacDonald (sometimes “Supermac”) scoring all five goals – four of them from headers.

Many of my happiest childhood memories stem from holidays in the sun, at Goodrington, a village adjoining Paignton. Mum’s extended family visited Goodrington in each year from 1974 to 1980. On the first of these trips we stayed in a cramped boarding house, owned by a grumpy couple, which did not live up to an enticing name, Paradise Lodge. In subsequent years we based ourselves in the comfortable Goodrington Lodge Hotel. We became friendly with the family, named White, who owned the hotel, and several other regular visitors. The hotel was a short walk from Goodrington Sands, the two parts of which are known as the “morning beach” and “afternoon beach” respectively in our family. We used to rent a beach hut at the southern end, which had soft sand, and base ourselves there in the mornings. We would move to the northern part of the beach, with compacted sand, in the afternoon – to enjoy swimming, making giant sandcastles, and playing tennis. The tide comes in fully on the “afternoon beach” so in practice it could not always have been used – but I have the recollection of many afternoons on that beach rather than the opposite. On Wednesday evenings there was a regular disco at the hotel, hosted by the manager, John White, who endeared himself to young and old alike by inadvertently introducing records by Showaddywaddy as performances from Showaddyshowaddy – seemed even more of a tongue-twister. The discos were preceded by cricket matches in the neighbouring park, with our family being joined by other guests. The games got rather competitive, from my perspective – there were arguments about the rules, plus displays of frustration with opponents and team-mates alike.

Cricket was a sport I followed with interest, including attendance at a few Hampshire matches. During 1974, I saw part of a County Championship game, in which Hampshire (the previous seasons champions) beat Worcestershire (who went on to win the title this year) by an innings. The trip was organised by Neville, who was a keen cricketer, playing for Droxford, a picturesque village near Hambledon, “the Cradle of Cricket”. In 1977 Fleet was the scene of a benefit game for Barry Richards, the brilliant South African batsman who played for Hampshire. An injury prevented Richards from playing that day, but I was able to get him to autograph my copy of the benefit brochure. The progress of the England team featured in excellent BBC coverage, with television pictures being complemented by Test Match Special on the wireless – the word dad used for radio.

Dad was my hero as I grew up, with his offbeat sense of humour, and enthusiasms, being a great influence. Mum was the more practical, and steady, member of the family. Mum was also, as dad often remarked, an excellent cook. My parents grew a variety of fruit and vegetables in the back garden. I had lovely moments on Summer afternoons, sat in the garden, eating blackcurrants or strawberries, and watching butterflies flit among the flowers and plants. Each year we travelled to Cheltenham, the home town of the Godsell family, for the August bank holiday weekend, staying with Yvonne, a sister of dad, her husband David, and their daughter Elaine. Dad and David took Mark, Elaine, and I on visits to Pittville Park, with another cousin, Linda. I recall boat trips, with my poor steering rendering return to the perimeter of the lake problematic. On one occasion, reaching an island, I rapidly hopped onto land, whereupon Linda tried to do likewise, but fell into shallow water, and had to wade ashore. We would also visit my dad’s parents, Christopher and Phyllis (nee Cook-Cove). It was saddening to see Christopher, my grandfather, suffer very poor health for several years, leading to his death on March 19 1976.

I made my first journey abroad at Whitsun in 1976, joining a junior school trip to France. We stayed at Dieppe, and visited other sites in Normandy, including Fecamp and Rouen. In September I became a pupil at Court Moor Secondary School, where my mother was a member of the kitchen staff. Dad continued to work at the NGTE, with his role including the testing of Concorde engines. I developed an interest in family history, which was initially to last for a couple of years. Uncle David drew up a family tree of the Godsells, which prompted me to produce an equivalent chart covering my mother’s family. Ernest and Dorothy, my grandparents, provided information, some of which we found in a Family Bible, printed way back in 1877. The genealogical notes in the Bible opened with the marriage of William Pillar and Bessie Collins, at Dawlish, in Devon, during 1883. They were the parents of Alice Pillar, who was in turn the mother of Ernest.

I played in a couple of reserve team football matches for Court Moor. In 1977 pupils and staff went to see England play the Netherlands. The Dutch masters gave a brilliant display and won 2-0, inspired by Johan Cruyff, who later described this as the best performance of his career. On another school outing to Wembley, we saw England beat Northern Ireland 1-0, in the 1978 British Championship. That years World Cup finals were held in Argentina, but England were not there, having been eliminated in the qualifiers by Italy, on goal difference. Argentina beat the Netherlands 3-1, after extra time, in a bad-tempered, and dramatic, Final – on a pitch littered by an amazing ticker-tape (actually strips of toilet roll) greeting from the home crowd. Two members of Argentina’s squad, Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa, joined Tottenham Hotspur a few weeks later. In September, I saw Villa play for Tottenham, when they drew 1-1 away to Aldershot, in a testimonial match.

I attended filming of an episode of Are You Being Served? at a BBC studio in London, during November 1978. With mum having obtained dozens of tickets, a coach trip was organised, with mum, dad, Mark, and I being joined by lots of friends. It was fascinating to see how the programme was made. Prior to filming, we found ourselves in a studio corridor, alongside Wendy Richard and Penny Irving, who were dressed up as Miss Brahms and Miss Bakewell respectively. Dad exchanged hellos with Wendy and Penny. As a curious teenager, suddenly catching sight of a prominent pair of ladies from the exciting world of television, I was left in silent admiration.

Having previously gained a place in the junior school’s chess team, I represented Court Moor at that game. My place in the Court Moor team was secured by a good position in a school chess tournament in the latter part of 1978. I became rather obsessive about chess at this time, with enthusiasm turning to stress about my performance in the competition. My GP referred me to a paediatrician, who prescribed a course of Valium. I took Valium for a few weeks, did not feel any better, got worried about being on the medication, and stopped taking it. I was wrapped up in wider anxieties, about school work and my future. For some reason, which I did not really understand, I was lonely during the latter part of my time at Court Moor. Having been outgoing and popular, I became rather introverted, and was suddenly lacking in real friends. I was a bit of an oddball, who did not fit in, and suffered some bullying.

In May 1979 a General Election was won by the Conservative Party, with Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister. I wrote about this grim event in the book A History of the Conservative Party, published a decade later (1989). I felt the outgoing Labour government, in which Jim Callaghan replaced Harold Wilson as Prime Minister (during 1976), performed fairly well. The Labour government’s position unravelled during the “Winter of Discontent”, as the effects of industrial disputes were exacerbated by severe weather through the Winter of 1978-79. Long afterwards I can still recall (picture this) myself walking home from the centre of Fleet, on a cold day in February 1979, with lots of snow on the ground. I had just bought Blondie’s Parallel Lines LP, this being the start of a record collection, which grew rapidly in the next few years. Besides Blondie (fronted by Debbie Harry, an adorable illusion), my initial favourite artists included Elvis Costello (lyricist of genius), and the Sex Pistols (leaders of Britain’s punk rock movement). In August 1979, I bought Because the Night by Patti Smith, a passionate love song that had been a major hit on its release the previous year. I also purchased discs by Buddy Holly, tragically killed in an air crash back in 1959, at the age of just 22. With a great admiration for the Beatles, I became interested in John Lennon’s solo records. The senseless murder of Lennon, in 1980, left millions of people around the world with feelings of immense sadness.

I acquired several records by Bruce Springsteen during 1980, starting with the Born to Run single. Next I bought Bruce’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, a remarkable album, released two years earlier, portraying a life in which struggle is combined with optimism. On May 30 1981, an excited 16 year old attended a concert by Bruce and the E Street Band, at Wembley Arena, which lasted nearly three hours. The highlight was Because the Night, a song Bruce recorded for Darkness on the Edge of Town, but decided not to use. A tape of the song had been passed to Patti Smith, working on Easter – an album with an alluring cover picture of Patti – at the same studio complex as Bruce. The intermediary was Jimmy Iovine, multi-tasking (or multi-tracking) as engineer on Bruce’s album and producer of Patti’s record. With Bruce’s approval, Patti penned changes to the lyrics. Bruce performed Because the Night in concert with his set of words, but had not released his version as a record. I learned from Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story, a biography by Dave Marsh, that a legendary track, The Promise, intended for the Darkness album, had also been omitted, and wondered when I might get to hear the song.

Our family had a seventh successive Summer holiday at Goodrington in 1980. Some members wanted a change, but the only problem I could see (or feel) was some hard potatoes, served at dinner in the hotel restaurant. Walking through the reception of the Goodrington Lodge one evening, I overheard John White on the telephone, complaining to the supplier that the potatoes would not go soft when boiled, which meant residents were not eating them. John had raised this with a delivery man, who said the hotelier was going soft in the head.

The Labour Plotters and the Appalling Treatment of a Mentally Ill Man

It is day 21 of my suspension from the Labour Party. I am one of thousands of supporters of Jeremy Corbyn suspended by a right wing clique at party HQ, who are continuing the work of the PLP plotters trying to bring down a leader overwhelmingly elected a year ago. The treatment of myself, and thousands of other loyal Labour Party members, by cynical careerists is sickening.

Here is an email I sent to the party today.

Hello

I write to complain about the appalling way I have been treated by the Labour Party, from which I have now been suspended for 21 days without evidence. I have been a loyal party member for 32 years, but am now alienated by arbitrary suspension, and this is severely affecting my already precarious mental health.

I have today spoken at length on the telephone with Jack from Compliance. I began by explaining that, further to several previous emails (see below for some of these) and telephone calls, I wished answers to a series of points. This is a summary of what happened today.

1 I said I spoke to Compliance 5 days ago, at which point I was told that my challenge to the supposed evidence – Retweeting messages I did not Retweet – would be looked at soon, and the suspension lifted if they agreed with me. When I asked for an update, Jack said “it is impossible to give a timescale for this process”.

2 As I have Asperger Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, long-term mental health conditions, I feel I should be entitled to expect reasonable adjustments, in accordance with the Equality Act, in the way that the Labour Party deals with my appeal against suspension. This view is supported by the Equality Advisory Support Service, with whom I have discussed the situation. Jack said he was unable to comment, but had noted my point, and would pass it to somebody dealing with my appeal.

3 I have not received a response to my email of August 27, asking about a subject access request in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1988. It is an offence under the Act for an organisation such as the Labour Party to process a person’s data in a way which causes distress. I therefore intended to file a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office. Jack said he was unable to comment, but had noted my point, and would pass it to somebody dealing with my appeal.

4 I had previously been told by Compliance that suspension appeals would not be heard until after the leadership election. This was not true, as Ronnie Draper was given a personal hearing on September 9, and his suspension was lifted that day. As I had been suspended a day before Ronnie Draper, and immediately launched an appeal, it was reasonable to expect that I should have been given an appeal hearing by now. Jack said this was not the case, but he needed to get advice from a colleague. Jack then said “nobody in Compliance will be able to speak on individual cases, including Mr Draper’s case”.

5 Pamela Fitzgerald had her suspension lifted on September 9, without needing an appeal hearing. I suggested this could be followed by my suspension being lifted without the need for a hearing. Jack said he would not comment on this.

6 I noticed on Twitter yesterday that one member of the party remains suspended but have been told they can vote in the leadership election. First Jack said this was not true. I pressed, saying that there had been quite a bit of material about this on Twitter, including some of the correspondence between the member and the party. I felt this set a precedent for other suspended members, including myself, being allowed to vote. Jack said “there is no such thing as a precedent”, which I remarked did not sound factually correct. Jack said he needed to get advice from a colleague. Then Jack said that, regardless of the truth or otherwise of the particular situation I had mentioned, he could not comment.

In summary, I felt that in view of my loyal party membership, the lack of evidence for the suspension, the number of times I had contacted the party about the matter, and my mental health, it was reasonable to expect a guarantee that the matter would be resolved in the next few days, a timescale that would enable me to vote in the leadership election.

Jack now said “Just because you have phoned and spoken to me, you cannot jump the queue.”  I reminded Jack of the points I had just made, and pointed out it was unreasonable for him to make his suggestion.

Jack said he had spoken to me at length, but Compliance did not have time to look at my case at the moment. I said that it would save time on future phone calls and emails if somebody in Compliance would spend a few minutes looking at the supposed evidence, and lift the suspension. Jack said he could not guarantee any progress with my appeal ahead of the leadership ballot closing.

By this point I was getting so anxious that I told Jack I was having trouble getting the words out.

Jack said he understood and sympathised with my position, but “my hands are tied, and I can only tell you what I have already said, because that is what I have been told to do”.

I asked Jack if he could pass the call to somebody else, who had the authority to do something more specific, given the circumstance I had outlined. Jack said he had been told not to pass the call on, and that he now had to terminate the call. Jack then became the third person from Compliance to put the phone down on me.

I again ask, please can somebody deal with this promptly and fairly?

Thank you

Andrew Godsell

 

 

Asperger’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I have Asperger’s Syndrome combined with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. These conditions have been formally diagnosed by mental health professionals in the last few years, but I had known for many years that I probably have Asperger’s and OCD. I have long intended to write a piece about my condition, but have found the prospect daunting. I find it difficult to talk, and write, about these things.

A lot of people who know me well do not seem to realise that I have Asperger’s and OCD. I do not know to what extent this is due to a lack of common knowledge about the conditions, and the clues as to who has them. It may be a result of my having the conditions at a relatively low level. Alternatively it could be due to my not openly speaking about them. Actually I am able to write about the conditions in the sense that they are central to my book Fifteen Minutes of Fame, the satirical autobiography of an obscure writer. I have had several books published, with limited success. Perhaps the obsessions that spur me to write also undermine my ability to actually promote books when they are published.

My Twitter profile announces that I have Asperger’s and OCD, and I have about 900 followers, some of whom share my interest in mental health issues. On the other hand, how many people regularly check the profile detail of people they follow and re-tweet? Actually I do such a thing – it is part of the obsession. Also I will often become obsessed about a particular news story, read and post loads of tweets about it for a day or two, before moving on to the next obsession.

As I write this, various ideas are popping into my head. I am sometimes asked what my conditions feel like. The OCD involves a lot of regular routines, which leave me feeling uneasy if they are not followed. There is also a lot of worrying, intrusive thoughts, and a strange belief in doing deals with fate to make things better. The main point about Asperger’s is a difficulty with social interaction. I often avoid doing things so as to reduce worry about being in a difficult social situation, and then regret that I missed out on something enjoyable. I have spells of depression, which can last for days or weeks, which reinforce the avoidance. Apparently worry about Asperger’s and OCD leads to depression.

There are lots of overlaps between Asperger’s and OCD. I had a quick look around the Internet recently to see if there is a term for people having both conditions, but I did not find anything that straightforward. Perhaps I should just call it “my condition” in so far as it relates to me. Everybody experiences things differently.

There are some positives in having Asperger’s. Such people usually have the ability to master a particular subject that interests them. The woman who assessed me for Asperger’s said that the most interesting part of the process is when people tell her about their “special interests”. I outlined some of my special interests, including football statistics. I also said “I like to write lists about things that interest me. One day I plan to write a list of my favourite lists”. The assessor lady burst into (supportive) laughter, saying this was the funniest response she had heard yet.

I often deal with a worry or obsession by finding another obsession to replace it. Having planned in the last few days to focus on this piece, I have found myself spending too much time on Twitter. There has been lots to debate, and share, on Twitter, including the calls for David Cameron to resign as Prime Minister, but the mental energy I devote to this is excessive. My tweeting about the links between the Panama Papers and tax avoidance by Tories, among other things, has led to a rapid growth in the number of followers I have on Twitter. I have reached a (relatively modest) personal record with one message, asking David Cameron if he is guilty of tax avoidance, getting 11 retweets, and 26 likes. I feel positive when people interact with me on Twitter. The responses are often fast, and give a short feeling of positivity. They are certainly faster than writing a book, and the process of publishing it, only for a small sprinkling of people (more like hundreds than thousands) to read it.

It was not until a few years ago that I realised that people with Asperger’s Syndrome have difficulty reading people, and body language. This has long been a problem for me. Until recently, unless somebody verbally told me there were not interested in what I was saying to them, I would assume what I had to say was of interest. I have got better at reading body language, but it is still an issue. When I am feeling confident, I have a lot to say for myself. When I am feeling stressed, I often try to counter this, using humour, and end up having too much to say for myself. This can cause confusion, and misunderstanding in the workplace – I have worked in offices for a series of private and public sector organisations. At work I am good at the technical elements of a job, but struggle in my interaction with colleagues.

Ever since I was a teenager, many years ago, I have been fascinated by politics. I have been a member of the Labour Party for 32 years. Sometimes I have been very active, other times I have withdrawn. I have stood for local council elections several times, but not been elected. Once I thought I had a decent chance of victory, but things ended badly, with political passions, clashes of ego, and party managers who did not seem to know how to manage me. The outcome was demoralisation and withdrawal. Going out door-knocking, and talking to the general public, used to feel very daunting, but I managed a few years ago to start doing this regularly – even frequently. I generally got a good response from the public.

I am a bit of a perfectionist. If I get something 95 per cent right, the wrong 5 per cent often feels more important. Sending the simplest of emails can be a struggle, as I search for exactly the right wording. I like to think I am good at grammar, spelling, and punctuation. I can also be a bit pedantic about such things as the incorrect use of apostrophes.

I take comfort, and even find inspiration, from the achievements of people with similar conditions to my own. Bruce Springsteen and David Beckham have both spoken about their having OCD. Back in the past, Samuel Pepys and Jean-Jacques Rousseau displayed symptoms of what we now know to be OCD. People believed to have Asperger’s Syndrome include George Orwell, in the past, and Bob Dylan in the never ending present. In the course of writing this piece, Internet research has informed me that Lionel Messi was diagnosed with Asperger’s as a child – a piece of knowledge that somehow eluded me when I wrote a profile of Messi four years ago.

I wish I could speak confidently to more people about my condition. I often find the condition tough, but there are advantages. I like to be different, although I generally tell people this is due to my being eccentric. In a way we are all different, and all struggle with some things, but some people are more different than others. There is also the theory that people who are not on the Autistic / Asperger’s spectrum suffer from something called Neurotypical Syndrome. People from the Autistic spectrum have displayed brilliant humour in their satirical definitions of Neurotypical Syndrome – including a suggestion that it features “preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity” while “there is no known cure”. Think I will leave this Blog post now, before it becomes something I work upon for far too long. Also I wonder how many people will read this. I may return to the subject.

 

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

New edition of my book of stories Fifteen Minutes of Fame has just been published

On one level it is an ironic comedy about my rather obscure writing career. The other level is a rumination on the way in which I have struggled for most of my life with OCD and Asperger’s. These have made the writing of the book a struggle, while effective promotion has been even harder. Perhaps blogging about the subject will help. Here goes!

I intend to post lots from the book here – starting with the note about the author

Andrew Godsell was born during 1964, in Hampshire. His family owned land in the neighbouring county of Wiltshire – four hundred years earlier. After education at a nondescript comprehensive school and a sixth form college, Andrew did not go to university. He became something in the City, working for a series of banks, while launching a writing career. Following this Andrew has worked as a civil servant and local government officer – he is currently with the National Health Service.
Andrew’s debut book, A History of the Conservative Party, is a critical analysis of its subject. The World Cup provides a massive history of the world’s leading football competition. Europe United: A History of the European Cup / Champions League is another comprehensive football chronicle. Legends of British History profiles famous events and personalities. Planet Football features biographical sketches of some of the world’s greatest players. The Life and Diaries of Samuel Pepys is a study of the amazing diarist. Andrew’s writings on diverse subjects have appeared in magazines, an educational textbook, and on several websites. Moving from fact to fiction, a contribution to textual accuracy led to an acknowledgement of Mr A Godsell in the Penguin Classics edition of Dracula by Bram Stoker.
Political activism has included participation in several General Elections, and even more local Elections, leading to a controversy with a Conservative Member of Parliament. In the world of very amateur football, Andrew played with more enthusiasm than technical ability for both Arab Banking Corporation and Deportivo Finance, before retiring from active involvement in the game. He was interviewed by the BBC at the 1990 World Cup finals, and ITV at the 2006 finals, but the film probably ended up on the cutting-room floor. Andrew’s efforts have won table tennis and disco dancing competitions. He was publicity co-ordinator of Brooce Fans for Fair Ticketing, a campaign against ticket touting which attracted media attention. Following this Andrew featured in the book Twenty Nights to Rock: Touring with the Boss by Bill Tangen, an American sports writer, and fellow Bruce Springsteen fan. Andrew’s supposed failings in domestic tasks have been discussed with amusement on ITV’s This Morning programme, and he has starred on the BBC’s Weakest Link.

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