Are They Autistic?, Autism

Are They Autistic? – The Bookworm (Batman)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). Welcome to another instalment of Are They Autistic? – the series where I look at characters from various forms of media and analyse whether I think they’re on the spectrum or not. It doesn’t matter if they’ve never been confirmed to have Autism; as long as they show similar traits, I’ll be talking about them. Please remember these are only my personal opinions. If you think somebody you know has the condition, it’s always best to consult a professional. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this piece.

***

Today we’ll be analysing a character you’ve probably never heard of before. Even if you’re a die-hard Batman fan, chances are you don’t remember this villain. He only made one notable TV appearance and a handful of cameos across other Batman media. That appearance was in the 1960s Batman series (starring Adam West), and his name was the Bookworm.

Played by Roddy McDowall, what stood out to me about Bookworm was the way his mind functioned. There have been more entertaining villains than him on the show – like my personal favourite: Frank Gorshin’s the Riddler. However, this character struck me as someone abnormally obsessed with his interests. He doesn’t just love books; they’re practically his whole life. They inspire everything he says and does. He can even quote lines from a particular piece and tell you exactly which chapter and passage they’re from – he has that strong of a memory.

In a way, it’s similar to me. When I see or hear something I enjoy, I make a mental note of it. I can then playback the memory of it with almost pinpoint accuracy. My earliest recollection of doing this was during primary school. There was a story I heard so often I could retell it, word for word, without even needing the book. I can’t do it now, but other memories have stuck with me for years – if you’ve read Into My Autistic Mind you know what I mean.

For the longest time, I assumed Bookworm’s obsessive memory was evidence that he was Autistic. However, now I’m not so sure. There are similarities between myself and Bookworm – evilness not being one of them – but does that mean he has Autism? That’s what we’re here to find out. So let’s review his two-parter: “The Bookworm Turns” / “While Gotham City Burns” (1966).

***

The story begins with the opening of a new bridge in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson (Batman and Robin) are watching the event on TV, when Dick suddenly notices someone in the crowd: a man wearing large, goggle-like spectacles; a brown leather coat, and a hat with a lamp attached – the Bookworm. Soon after, the villain orders his minions to “begin Chapter One“, and Police Commissioner Gordon is seemingly shot dead off the bridge. Horrified, Bruce and Dick immediately jump into action as Batman and Robin. 

Driving to the police station, however, everyone is relieved to discover that Commissioner Gordon is alive. He wasn’t even at the ceremony. Hilariously, one of his officers had fined him for over-parking, and he was late. Or so it seemed. It turns out, not only was there a fake commissioner at the bridge, the parking officer was an imposter too. It was all so Bookworm could lure Batman to the police station and plant a bomb in the Batmobile. Additionally, the commissioner’s parking ticket reads “A.S. Scarlett, Badge #1887” – a reference to “A Study In Scarlett” (the first Sherlock Holmes novel) published in 1887.

In these first few scenes, Bookworm’s obsessions are on full display. Like most Batman villains, his crimes and antics are based around his gimmick; in this case, books. He describes part of his plan as “Plot A“, the bomb he uses is disguised as a book, and even his henchmen have literary-based names: Pressman, Printer’s Devil, Typesetter and Lydia Limpet. However, there’s more to him than his theming – as we soon learn.

Batman is alerted to the bomb in the Batmobile and ejects it before detonation. He and Robin investigate the crime scene, only finding the charred remains of the book and its title: For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Earnest Hemmingway. At this point, Batman reveals another side of their foe’s mentality. 

You see (much like the Riddler) Bookworm leaves clues for Batman and Robin, to see if they can work out his next move. While this might seem foolish, it actually ties into a philosophy several Batman villains have. It’s not enough to defeat the caped crusader. They want to out-wit him too. Batman is one of the most renowned detectives on the planet. So if they come up with a scheme not even he can deduce, it’ll prove once and for all they’re his intellectual superior. Besides that, if he does work it out, it’s still a chance to lure him into a trap. I’ll admit, sometimes I like to show off in this way too. I love giving people conundrums to see if they can work out the answers to things I’ve cleverly learned. It’s a little shameless, but I accept it.

After concluding Bookworm’s plan might be to blow up a bridge – since that’s the plot of For Whom the Bell Tolls – Batman and Robin race off to their next location. We then transition to what might be the most memorable scene of the story for me. It’s here we learn the extent of Bookworm’s knowledge and the price he has to pay for it. 

In the villain’s hideout, Bookworm marvels at his collection of books. He loves the ideas they contain, the wisdom they provide; how each one is perfectly structured to relay a mountain of knowledge from the great minds who wrote them. He’s spent a lifetime memorising their plots and using them as his greatest weapon. Unfortunately, it’s also his greatest curse. When Lydia asks Bookworm why he doesn’t write a best-seller of his own, he suddenly becomes furious. The sad truth is, he can’t come up with anything original. He’s so engrossed in the works of others that he’d just be copying their ideas. That’s why his schemes are plot-based. He couldn’t make a plan of his own if he wanted to. 

Hearing this for the first time, I couldn’t help drawing comparisons with myself. Being an inspiring writer, I know the challenge of coming up with original ideas. Inevitably, you start looking at other people’s work for inspiration. But sometimes you take so much you end up plagiarising. It happened so often when I was asked to write an original story, only to copy characters and plots from elsewhere. It certainly shakes your confidence somewhat, knowing you might only be good at retelling stories.

To quickly summarise the next several scenes. Bookworm manages to calm himself by reading an entire book (The Secret of Success: Self Control) in a matter of seconds. Batman and Robin arrive at their next location, but discover Bookworm has already “blown up” a bridge; he’s projected the enlarged image of one on the side of a building. The Dynamic Duo climb higher to get a better view of their surroundings – meeting Jerry Lewis along the way – before encountering Bookworm’s henchmen. After defeating them in a fight, they receive information from Lydia Limpet. However, Batman is curious about something. Robin is left to guard her, but she tricks him into opening a book filled with knockout gas: The History of the English Language – a book that would put anyone to sleep. Bookworm’s henchmen tie Robin to the clapper of a bell just as it’s about to strike midnight. Fortunately, Batman realises he’s been misled. Along with Police Chief O’Hara, they reach the clock tower (Big Benjamin) and use some elaborate science to save Robin. Our heroes then regroup in the Batcave.

I should point out at this stage that Batman’s original series was more family-friendly than its later interpretations. The lighthearted tone could even be described as “campy” at times. For example, Batman employs a pick-up service for the sole purpose of collecting discarded parachutes – which he uses in Bat-U-turns. When he and Robin climb the side of the building, he reminds his sidekick to keep “both hands on the bat-rope“. And, just before they fight Bookworm’s henchmen, he insists the minions remove their glasses first – he would never hit a man with glasses. 

Speaking of which, I always loved the fight scenes on this show. Not only did they capture the spirit of the comics with their onomatopoeia (words on screen), but something about them felt strangely realistic to me. You could tell they were all choreographed. However, the action felt so spontaneous it was like the actors were improvising as they went. The directors must’ve been very skilled to make everything look seamless.

Anyway, back onto Bookworm, I was surprised to find little else to analyse about him. At least, in regards to him potentially being Autistic. He didn’t have any social or communication problems, and none of his quirks seemed ritualistic, i.e. when your mind is conditioned to make you do something a certain elaborate way. The only exception I could find was in the latter half of the story. Let me explain.

First, Bookworm enters Wayne Manor pretending to be a book salesman. He uses another knockout book (The Congressional Record March 1919) on Alfred Pennyworth and Harriet Cooper – the butler and Dick’s aunt respectively – allowing him to steal a rare text from Bruce’s collection. However, that’s not enough. He then places a giant cookbook (The Delight of Cooking) in the middle of a street, luring in Batman and Robin. It’s here Batman reveals another of Bookworm’s mindsets: his over-plotting. Either the robbery or the enlarged book would’ve gotten their attention. However, Bookworm insists on creating as big a scene as possible – much like he did with the faked assassination and “blown up” bridge.

The reason I bring all this up is that, once again, I feel Bookworm’s actions relate to me in some way. When I write, I often go overboard with what I’m describing. Sometimes I mention things that perhaps don’t need mentioning or I explain them in extensive detail. It’s hard to remember that quantity doesn’t always equal quality. But I’m so used to seeing it from other people that I’m conditioned to think that it is. Bookworm is the same. He believes the stages of his plan should be big and bold because it’s how he’s seen them in his books. It doesn’t matter if there’s a better solution or if they don’t tie into his main plot.

To finish off the story: Bookworm traps Batman and Robin inside the large cookbook, where another deathtrap awaits. He also steals the Batmobile, hoping to use its gadgets for a grand heist. Fortunately, Batman and Robin escape (thanks to some more elaborate science) and apprehend Bookworm and his henchmen. Later on, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are in Commissioner Gordan’s office, with Bruce donating money to the prison library. Bookworm is brought in just before he’s incarcerated and quotes: “They who lose today may win tomorrow.” He believes he’s quoting a poet. However, Bruce points out it’s actually from a book. He even tells Bookworm the part and the chapter. The episode ends with Bookworm wondering if Bruce Wayne is as obnoxious as Batman.

And that’s Bookworm’s two-part story. A typical set of episodes, encompassing everything the series was known for; lighthearted action, campy moral lessons, and a guest villain putting in their best performance. Roddy McDowall did a fine job.

However, I’m sure many of you are still wondering. Do I think Bookworm is Autistic? Well, as much as I’d like to think so, the argument for it isn’t very strong. Keep in mind, these episodes were written in the 60s. It was a different time back then, and Autism was nowhere near as well-known as it is now. It’d be nice to think the writer (Rik Vollaerts) had some knowledge of the condition. However, if he did, it’s not well-presented. There’s no social awkwardness in Bookworm, no learning difficulties or specific quirks. And although there are similarities between myself and him, there could be other explanations for it. For example, Bookworm’s extensive knowledge could be because he has a photographic memory. You also don’t need Autism to be abnormally obsessed with something. I had high hopes for this character when I first saw him. However, given the lack of decisive evidence, I’ve had to conclude that Bookworm isn’t Autistic. Maybe it’s still possible he is, but I can’t say for sure.

That’s all I have for this instalment. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope to bring you more in the future. Before I finish up, though, I have a special request. I’ve been writing this blog for more than five years now, and its viewership has grown immensely throughout 2020. To show my appreciation for this, I want to try something I’ve never done before: take audience requests. At the moment, I have a couple more characters lined up for this series. However, I’d like to hear your ideas too. If there’s a particular character you’ve seen or read about, and you’d like me to review whether they’re on the spectrum or not, leave me a comment about them down below. I’ll do my research and try to bring you an instalment on them in the future. Again, I’m not looking for any characters who’s Autism has already been confirmed. But instead, those you think may have it because of certain traits. I look forward to hearing your recommendations. Until then, stay tuned.

If you like my content be sure to check out my second blog site Autistic Blogger Creates (https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/blog-2/) and it’s latest posts.

Experimenting with Scriptwriting – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/09/03/experimenting-with-scriptwriting-the-nutcracker/

The Nutcracker Panto Script Extract – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/09/03/the-nutcracker-panto-script-extract/

(Image courtesy of: https://comicvine.gamespot.com/batman-326-minerva-mayhem-and-millionaires/4070-13966/)

General, Updates

Autistic Blogger Creates now available!

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). It’s taken longer than I expected, but my second blog (Autistic Blogger Creates) now has content and is available to view. Links to all the posts I’ve made so far are below. I hope you enjoy them.

Home Page – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/blog/

Welcome Page – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/05/welcome-to-autistic-blogger-creates/

My First Attempt at Something Professional – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/05/my-first-attempt-at-something-professional-inspector-alan-merriweather/

My First True Passion Project – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/my-first-true-passion-project-the-little-peasant-girl/

The Little Peasant Girl Extract 1 – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/29/the-little-peasant-girl-extract-1-3/

The Little Peasant Girl Extract 2 – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/29/the-little-peasant-girl-extract-2-3/

The Little Peasant Girl Extract 3 – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/29/the-little-peasant-girl-extract-3-3/

Autism, Experiences, Preview, Schools

Autism Book (Preview)

As part of my blog’s 5th Anniversary, I’m going to look back on some of my oldest creative writing pieces. However, to start with, I’d like to share something I’m currently working on. Below is a preview of my Autism Book.
Several years ago, I got in contact with a media group through Ambitious about Autism. They were interested in hearing Autistic people’s life stories, told in unique and creative ways. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity for me. So, after exchanging several emails with them, I wrote a story loosely based on my life. It was about a boy named Jason, who goes from primary school to adulthood while discovering he has Autism. The aim was to show how it affected different stages of his life and how he ultimately embraces his condition. The ending would’ve revealed that I, the author, was Jason.
I wanted this story to be easy to read for any age group, particularly younger children. I remember how hard it was to read longer books unaided when I was a boy. If this was something my younger self could enjoy and learn from, then anyone could. With that I mind, I decided to write each page with only 1-3 sentences – an illustration would help emphasise what I was saying. I also wanted to avoid using complex words. But I still included a few of them to challenge the reader. The reading level would go up as Jason got older in the story. I enjoyed writing this way because my pieces tend to be long and detailed. It was challenging to break away from this and write with a particular audience in mind. However, I didn’t want my writing to seem too simplistic. So I also included descriptive text, explaining what I wanted the illustrations to show and represent.
When I finished the piece, I was delighted with the results. For once, I’d completed something of my own in a reasonable amount of time. The story was easy to follow. The messages were well-presented. And the additional notes helped express my vision.
As it turned out, though, my vision was a little too ambitious. The piece ended up being over 70 pages long with the structure I had. Plus, I was sure some parts were still too complicated for younger readers. Furthermore, since the group I contacted wasn’t a publishing company, they didn’t have the resources to turn my story into a fully-illustrated book – as I’d hoped. They said they were still interested, but I’d have to scale it back to fit their criterion. Since I didn’t want to lose any my additional efforts, I decided it was best to turn them down and find another outlet.
So now I have this fully-written story, with accompanying notes, that needs fine-tuning. I can’t show you the whole thing here since I have plans for it. But I hope you’ll enjoy the preview. Also, be on the lookout for more unseen pieces like this one over the coming weeks/months. Until then, stay tuned.

***

The Autism Book: Jason’s Story

This is Jason.

[Jason (a boy of primary school age) stands on his own, wearing causal clothes, smiling.]1

This is Jason’s mum, dad, his twin sister and his dog.

[Jason and his family (mum, dad, sister and dog) standing together, wearing casual clothes, smiling. Jason is wearing different clothes than in the first picture so as to not stand out.]2

And this is Jason’s classroom at school.

[A female teacher (Mrs Swane) sits in a classroom, reading an “Ugly Duckling” storybook. There are at least 20 students sitting on the floor listening, all dressed in the same school uniform. Among them is Jason, though he’s not easy to spot. In another part of the room stands the teaching assistant (Sue) who’s supervising.]3

Jason is just like all the other boys and girls his age. He works hard in lessons, he plays in the playground, and he has friends who invite him to birthday parties.

[Three separate images. [Left] Jason sitting at his desk with other students, doing maths problems. The look on his face shows he’s trying hard to concentrate. Sue is nearby looking at his work. [Centre] Jason playing football with two/three other boys in the playground. [Right] Jason being handed a birthday invitation by one of the female students.]4

But there is something different about Jason. Can you see what it is? Of course you can’t. It’s not something your eyes can spy.

[The exact same ‘classroom’ picture that was shown before. This time, however, there is an arrow pointing to Jason – this is the first time we’re properly focusing on him as an individual.]5

You see, Jason can see and hear things. Things that other children can’t.

[Jason sits at one of several desks in the school library. There’s an open space in the centre of the room. Behind the desks are shelves of books. Some of the shelves have labels that read things like ‘History’, ‘Science’ and ‘Fiction’. A few other students sit at the desks with open books or pencils and paper. Jason has a book in front of him too, but he’s looking towards the open space in the room. His hand cupped behind his ear.]6

Sometimes Jason hears rock music playing in the library.

[The exact same picture, only now there’s a rock band in the open space, singing and playing instruments. There’s a faint-blue aura surrounding them, which seems to be coming from Jason’s line of sight – this is to emphasise the band is something projected from Jason’s mind.]7

Sometimes Jason sees robots fighting zombies.

[In the school playground, Jason watches in awe as robots and zombies are charging towards each other. Again, there is a faint-blue aura surrounding them which comes from Jason. Other students are skipping, playing football, or running around playing chase.]8

Sometimes Jason sees his favourite TV characters playing dodgeball during assembly.

[In a large school hall, a male teacher points to words on a whiteboard (“DIVERSITY, EQUALITY, ACCEPTANCE“, etc.) in front of rows and rows of focused students. Jason (in the back row) has his head turned behind him, watching familiar-looking TV characters throw red balls at each other. The blue aura is present again.]9

Nobody else can see or hear these things because they’re not Jason. They don’t have his eyes, ears or brain. This is Jason’s special secret. His own special super power.

[Jason sits smiling at his desk, between two other students. One has an alien sitting next to them, while the other has a ghost hovering above their head (both are surrounded by Jason’s aura). The students are busy focusing on their papers and neither creature is taken notice of.]10

Jason loves seeing and hearing these things. They make him feel like a spy or a superhero.

[Jason sitting at his desk, looking up at two thought bubbles. In the left one he’s dressed as a secret agent, wearing goggles that let him see invisible monsters. In the right one, he’s dressed as Superman flying through the clouds (only there’s a ‘J’ symbol on his chest rather than an ‘S’).]11

Sometimes, however, Jason’s powers cause him…problems.

[This is almost a panned-out shot of the last picture; Jason sits in the same position, looking up. However, the thought bubbles are gone. He’s at his desk on one side of the classroom while everyone else is on the other. The students are sitting on the floor with their heads turned to him. Mrs Swane holds a book titled “Shakespeare” and Sue is standing nearby. They’re all looking at Jason either confused or concerned. Jason is so lost in thought he’s not realised everyone has moved. The picture and text are shown across a double-page for extra impact.]12/13

General

5th Anniversary Announcement

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger) and today is the 5-year-anniversary of my blog. Before I get started, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who continues supporting me. This website has been viewed over 8000 times, by 6000+ people in 96 different countries. It’s inspiring to know I’ve reached so many of you. If you’re a regular reader (like one of my followers) or you stumble across my work by chance, I hope you take something positive from it. You’re honestly the reason I keep doing this.
Anyway, what do I have in store this momentous occasion? Well, it’s not what I was planning. But I think you’ll find it satisfactory. Let me explain. If you remember last year (Publishing History), I set a goal for myself that I’d complete a personal writing project. I wanted to give a preview here on my blog, so you could see the progress I’d made. Well, I knew what I wanted to show. And I was making good progress towards it. Unfortunately, something happened. The pandemic started.
Like a lot of people, I was badly shaken by this world-wide crisis. I took its dangers very seriously and made sure to follow guidelines to keep myself and others safe. Consequently, my focus was divided, and I couldn’t concentrate so much on my writing – especially as I was a key worker. Even when I did have spare time, I’d often use it to relax my mind and not worry so much about deadly diseases. My writing just wasn’t a top priority.
However, I didn’t want my 5-year-milestone to go uncharted. I also didn’t want people to think I was being lazy or making excuses. Because, the truth is, I have made progress with my writing. The children’s book series I’ve been planning for years is slowly taking shape. Plus, I have an unrelated book that’s fully-written – but in its first draft. I intended to rewrite the whole thing for this anniversary. However, I’ve only managed to do the first section. And there are three in all. Thinking about it now, though, I probably would’ve only previewed the first section anyway. I am hoping to publish this book one day, after all.
Then I got to thinking. There are dozens of creative pieces I’ve written over the years, not just the small publications I listed last anniversary. They may be rough and unfinished, but each one represents a different stage in my writing career. If I want to give myself better motivation for the future, I think it’s important to remember how far I’ve come. So that’s what I’m going to do.
For this anniversary, I’ve decided to look back on some of my unreleased pieces. I’ll give a sample of each one, explain my thought process behind writing it, and how it ultimately turned out. I may also talk about any plans for it if I think it still has potential. Since there are quite a few of these, I’m going to release one every fortnight or so. That way, I’ll have time to go over them and give a proper analysis. I’m also planning to make a separate blog for them, so I don’t overcram my main blog with too much non-Autism related content. I’ll post the links here.
With that said, I hope you enjoy this trip to the past with me. Stay tuned.
Are They Autistic?, Autism

Are They Autistic? – Beth (Rose Rivers)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger), and today I’ve decided to start a new segment on my blog called Are They Autistic? – inspired by the Channel 4 documentary, Are You Autistic? (2018). In this series, I’ll be looking at characters from various forms of media and analysing whether I think they’re on the spectrum or not. These can include characters from books, TV shows or movies, and it doesn’t matter if their Autism isn’t confirmed. If they display similar traits, I’ll be talking about them.

Now, there are a couple of reasons why I decided to start this series. The first was variety: I’ve been writing this blog for five years now, and I wanted to give my regular viewers something new to read. More often than not, I write long reviews or segments of ‘Into My Autistic Mind‘. While these are engaging, I feel like I’m not challenging myself enough with them. Also, given that I currently work for Lidl – and everything that’s been happening lately – I probably won’t have the spare time to write longer posts. The second reason is for other people’s benefit. I don’t claim to be an expert on Autism. But I have noticed it’s easy for me to recognise Autistic symptoms; most notably in characters like Twilight Sparkle and Maud Pie from Friendship is Magic. If more people are aware of these traits and know how to handle them, it’ll be better for everyone in the long-run. With that said, I hope you enjoy this new series and find it enlightening.

***

The first character I’m going to look at comes from Jacqueline Wilson’s Rose Rivers (2018). For those of you who don’t know; the story follows a 12-year-old, Victorian-era girl, who lives in Kensington with her high-class family. The book aims to show us not only what life was like for these kinds of children, but why Rose is opposed to it. The story also acts as a sequel to Wilson’s 2016 novel, Clover Moon, which focuses on the lives of destitute children. 

Rose, herself, is an intriguing character. But it was her sister, Beth, who caught my attention. Early on, it’s made abundantly clear she’s challenging to deal with; although she’s ten-years-old, she “still cries a great deal…frequently has tantrums…flings herself on the floor and screams and kicks,” (p.21). On top of that, she has some oddly specific interests: “dolls, sparkly things, counting, rocking,” (p.22) and Rose admits she “[doesn’t] know what she’s like inside,” (p.22).

It’s interesting to analyse a character like Beth because Autism wasn’t well-known in the 19th Century. The term didn’t exist back then, and it was more common to refer to such children as being “backward[s]” (p.21) or “imbecile[s]” (p.91). Some doctors even thought “pour souls like her [were] incapable of improvement” (p.91) and should be “[placed] in an asylum” (p.92). Beth’s parents don’t resort to this, but it’s clear they’re fearful and distant of her; “Papa loves Beth and makes a fuss of her sometimes, but he’s certainly not prepared to look after her. Mama rarely goes near Beth, even when she’s quiet and docile” (p.201). 

Of course, having behavioural problems doesn’t mean someone is on the spectrum. And there can be many explanations for delayed emotional development. So, do I think Beth is Autistic? Yes, I do. And here’s why.

The most notable aspect about Beth is her limited speech. Throughout the story, she only ever speaks by repeating what someone says to her. For example: “‘It’s just me, Rose,’ I said. ‘Rose. Rose, Rose, Rose!’ [repeated Beth]” (p.22). Many people will recognise this as echolalia; a habit some Autistic children use to help them communicate and process information. 

“‘Do you remember – he’s at school now,’ I said. ‘At school now,’ Beth agreed. ‘I wish I could go to school,’ I said. ‘Go to school,’ Beth said, as if she wanted to go too” (p.24). 

Not all Autistic children do this, and their speech does tend to improve over time. However, for those on a higher spectrum, it helps them to understand things when they’re the ones saying them.

The story also addresses a common misconception. Children with Autism do have learning difficulties, but it doesn’t mean they’re stupid. In some cases, they’re even smarter than the average person. Rose discovers this firsthand. She used to think her sister only pretended to read, but one day she found her with Pilgrim’s Progress “muttering passages to herself while pointing along the lines” (p.23). Rose admits she finds this book “very heavy going [and] can never read more than a page or two at a time” (p.24). So Beth can read better than her older sibling. Unfortunately, most people only focus on her disruptive side. The problem, I think, is she’s not given a chance to show how bright she is. We find out she’s not allowed to touch books or ink bottles (p.110) because of previous incidents that saw her banned from the household classroom (p.109). As a result; nobody can see her skills in reading or writing – and she has no other creative outlets. As Rose puts it herself: “It must be so boring to be Beth. No wonder she is attached to her dolls.” (p.110)

There are other hints at Beth’s Autism too. These include; not liking to be touched (p.22), having strange habits like licking her fingers and then her dolls’ fingers (p.25), arranging things in size order (p.25), rocking back and forth (p.85/p.277), getting distracted easily (p.298), and “want[ing] to be in her own world,” (p.277). However, the one passage that convinced me, beyond a doubt, was during her Christmas dinner. 

She whimpered when she was served her vegetables because the carrots and parsnips were heaped on any old how. She likes each item of food to be entirely separate on her plate, and then she eats them in turn” (p.317). 

This behaviour convinced me because it’s what I do. I don’t like experimenting with new food or mixing flavours. If something tastes good one way, I prefer not to change it. I also prefer having one food in my mouth at a time, so I can fully enjoy it – hence why I finish all of one before starting the next. I don’t know if any non-Autistic people do this. But given how closely Beth’s eating habits resembled mine, there was no question my mind she had Autism. Furthermore, it wasn’t just Beth who convinced me. It was the people around her. 

One other character worth mentioning here is Nurse Budd; the “trained professional” Mrs Rivers hires to subdue Beth’s behaviour. A professional would, of course, have been less qualified in those days. And going by this Nurse, it’s clear they didn’t always know how best to handle Autistic children. Let me explain. 

First of all, Nurse Budd describes her methods as “training” (rather than teaching). Just the use of this word shows how poorly-viewed disadvantaged children were in those times – lesser beings who needed conditioning to behave. Additionally, Nurse Budd often keeps Beth in her room and limits interactions with her family. Seclusion and loneliness are already two of the biggest problems with Autism, so they shouldn’t be reinforced. Children should be encouraged to grow their social skills, however tricky. Otherwise, they’ll become reclusive.

Now, to be fair, Nurse Budd does show some understanding of Beth’s condition. She knows she can’t cope with sudden change or surprises (p.68), and that she needs a “regular routine” (p.278) to guide her. Sometimes even I was won over by her methods. However, nothing could excuse her more extreme measures. Honestly, it was shocking to see what people deemed appropriate back then. First, she straps Beth to a chair and force-feeds her when she refuses to eat properly (pp.133-4). Then later at Christmas, she insists on her wearing a bib like a baby. Nurse Budd also claims “never [to] smack any of [her] charges” (p.148) – yet she does so when Beth accidentally tears a dress (p.379). She even seems to take advantage of Beth’s echolalia: “Miss Beth, Nurse Budd never smacks, does she? [Nurse asked.] “Never smacks, does she? [Beth replied]” (p148). 

However, Nurse Budd’s worst crime involves her medicine: Godfrey’s Cordial. Although it’s “so safe it’s recommended for little babies” (p.87), she ignores the dosage instructions; giving it to Beth whenever she’s well-behaved or needs quietening down. Consequently, Beth becomes addicted to the substance and will do anything for more. Her improved behaviour is because her mind is in the wrong place – not because she’s learning. The overdose is so severe in fact that another doctor reveals it could’ve been fatal: “It’s a wonder this child is still standing.” (p.413)

Let me make this quite clear. Drugs and medication are NOT a cure for Autism. Autism is not a disease, and it’s not something that needs correcting. What Autistic children need are carers who are patient, know what they like and dislike, and can implement teaching methods which avoid stress or physicality. That’s why it’s fortunate for the Rivers they have Clover Moon. She takes over Beth’s care towards the end of the book; creating a drawing game which not only keeps her calm, but includes everything she likes, and allows Clover to praise her (pp.427-9). It gives us hope that Beth will eventually recover from her addiction and set herself on the right path.

So there you have it. Almost everything about Beth suggests she had Autism at a difficult time. The story paints a clear picture of how badly treated disadvantaged children were, and how far care and understanding of them have improved over the years. Rose Rivers is a delightful read for the main story, but I think it’s worth experiencing for history’s sake even more.

***

And that’s all I have to say. I hope you enjoyed this first instalment in what will hopefully be a long-running series. If you have any questions or recommendations, please leave me a comment – I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, until next time, stay safe and stay tuned.

(Jacqueline Wilson, 2018, Rose Rivers, Double Day, Penguin Random House UK)

General

Next post delayed…

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). I just wanted to let you know that my next post is going to be delayed. I try to make sure I have something new for you all every two months. However, my writing has become rather slow lately. I’m just trying to stay home, keep my mind relaxed and not worry about what’s going on in the world – which is tricky given I currently work for Lidl. Rest assured, I do have my next post lined up. It’s going to be something new and it’s very near completion. I’ll try to post it within the next week or so, but I can’t make any promises. Please be patient and I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait. Stay safe and stay tuned.

Anime Reviews, Reviews

Wolf Children Review

A lot of people ask me why I love anime. Is it their high-quality animation. Their action sequences. The fact they come up with ideas most western studios rarely try? Well, I’d be lying if I said those weren’t contributing factors. But there is another reason. And that’s their art for storytelling. You see, in my opinion, some of the best-told stories aren’t those that focus primarily on fantasy. But rather use fantasy elements to enhance real-world scenarios. Spirited Away, for example, is about a young girl who grows in maturity to save her parents. Setting it in the real world might’ve conveyed this message fine. But there wouldn’t have been anything universally memorable about it. Incorporating the spirit world, with its bizarre and deadly creatures, better presents her fear of the unknown and what she ultimately overcomes. Additionally, the animation provides character designs, facial expressions and overall appeal that isn’t achievable with live-action or CGI – compare Disney’s live-action remakes to their counterparts for instance. Other movies use fantasised realism too; Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbour Totoro, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. And then there’s this story. Out of all the anime I’ve seen, Wolf Children arguably perfects this style the most. How exactly? Let’s start with the plot.

It’s the story of Hana, a college student who falls in love with a mysterious man in her lecture hall. This man, it turns out, is a half-wolf creature, and he’s been living a life of solitude because of what he is. Regardless Hana still cares for him, and it’s not long before they start a family together. But when tragedy strikes, leaving her single, she discovers their children (Yuki and Ame) have inherited their father’s wolf-genes. Now she has to raise them alone while protecting their secret from prying eyes.

As you can tell, the heart of this story comes from family struggles. The movie highlights different stages of the characters’ lives and what they overcome for a safer living. If you’re a parent yourself – or even a growing child – then you can easily relate to these. However, it’s the fantasy aspects which exemplify them to a broader audience. Let me explain.

First of all, I have to praise the movie for setting the right tone early on. It emphasises realism by showing us who these characters are and what lives they lead beforehand. Hana is a university student with a part-time job and an optimistic personality. She also lives alone and is very self-sufficient. Her partner-to-be, meanwhile, seems less fortunate. He mentions just wanting to belong somewhere and works a mediocre job delivering furniture. However, he dreams about the future and proves to have a caring heart despite his distant nature. For any young adults, they can immediately see themselves in these characters. They’re both grounded in reality with nothing about them even hinting at fantasy – save one opening line. And then the man reveals his secret.

I have to say; this scene is very well-executed. Not only do we feel the characters’ emotional turmoil, but it’s something every real couple has to go through. At this point, we know the man has been hiding something. He wants to tell Hana the truth but is terrified of losing her. And why shouldn’t he be? In real life, this could be someone revealing they have a disability or criminal record: something that might discourage their partner from wanting to see them again. Yet they have to, or they’ll eventually learn the hard way. The man wants to avoid this, but Hana goes to extreme lengths to prove her devotion. After which, he stops distancing himself. And when he reveals his wolf-form, she is scared at first – naturally so. But it’s the aftermath that counts. Hana doesn’t care what her partner is. All that matters is ‘who’ he is: the same loving, kind-hearted man who would do anything for her. And it’s this love that sees her through the shock, allowing her to start a new life with him. Their relationship might seem forced or cliched at times, but it’s a beautiful story of true love and acceptance.

And that’s only the first 10mins!

Fantasised realism continues when its just Hana and her kids. No longer is she a self-sufficient college student, but a full-time mom on the verge of collapse. We do see the joys Yuki and Ame bring to her life, but it’s clear she struggles to raise them – especially as they keep switching between humans and wolves. If that wasn’t enough, Hana endures many terrible hardships; her neighbours are aggressive, social workers suspect her of neglect, her landlord threatens to evict her. And that’s on top of everything she’s given up: her job, education and her health. But the worst part is, she has no one to turn to for help. She can’t even take her children to a doctor in case they find out their secret. It starts to feel like the whole world is watching, and her kids are in constant danger. She couldn’t bear losing them like she lost her partner.

For anyone who’s never had kids, these scenes are real eye-openers. They reveal how stressful being a single parent is, with all the work and anxiety involved. Plus, the fantasy elements only magnify Hana’s problems. If her kids’ secret didn’t force her into hiding, there’d be more help available to a young mother. As it is, she’s seemingly on her own with no way out of her worrying predicament.

However, the movie’s goal isn’t to discourage its audience. Instead, it wants to show how these hardships can be overcome with the right mindset and determination. And that’s what Hana displays.

Realising the tough situation she’s in, Hana makes a bold decision to move her family to the countryside. There she fixes an old worn-down house (by herself) making it into a proper home. She then goes about learning new skills, like farming and job searching, while teaching Yuki and Ame about responsibilities. Additionally, she has to deal with them growing up and wanting to go out into the world. Namely: attending school. Hana is reluctant, at first, because her kids have never been around large groups of people. Also, there’s no guarantee they’ll control themselves – sometimes they turn into wolves when they get too emotional. These fears are common in parents with disadvantaged children. Should they send them to a public school and risk unsettlement? Would a special needs school be better? Or home-schooling? What would be the safest option? In the end, Hana allows her kids to attend public school since it’s what Yuki wanted. Plus, like any mother, she wants them to have the same opportunities as everyone else. But I digress.

Everything we see is a testament to Hana’s resilience. Her problems never go away quickly, but it’s her strong will that sees her through them. Keeping a level head lets her make the right choices for her kids – even if they’re harder to deal with than average. If you’re a single parent yourself, you can take inspiration from Hana’s story. No matter what challenges you face, if she can manage much worse, you know you can too. It’s all about finding the right balance.

Speaking of balance, I admire how this movie balances darker and light-hearted moments. There are too many to list here, but each one presents itself in a memorable way. For example, there’s the scene where Hana discovers her partner is dead. It begins with nothing but her and the sound of rain. As she looks for him, the rainfall intensifies. And when she finally sees him, there’s suddenly dead silence – broken only by her anguished screams. Alternatively, there’s a scene where she plays in the snow with her kids. There’s no dialogue or sound effects. It’s just them, some beautiful animation and an uplifting soundtrack. Sometimes that’s all you need. The movie does have moments of expositional dialogue, but there are also moments of silence. And sometimes the animation does all the talking: like when Hana learns she’s pregnant, or when she’s torn between a hospital and a vet, and especially during the forest scenes. For the latter, they use camera angles, lighting, water, shadows, and other details to show the grand scale of it. I don’t often mention the animation in my reviews. But in this case, it’s an essential supporting aspect.

Another essential aspect is the characters Hana encounters. There’s her partner (of course), who continues to influence the family long after his death. Her new neighbours, who help her settle into the countryside. Mr Nirasaki, who can be strict but well-meaning. And a boy called Souhei, who unintentionally discovers the family’s secret – leading to a scene that brings the movie full-circle.

And then you have the wolf children themselves: Yuki and Ame. From the moment they’re born, until their early teens, we see just how much they grow and develop as individuals. Interestingly, enough, the story highlights how specific influences affect a person’s mentality, setting them on a new path from when they were younger. Let me elaborate.

First of all, there’s Yuki; the older of the two siblings (who also narrates the story). In the beginning, she’s a lot more confident than her brother. She’s loud, boisterous and takes pride in her abilities as a wolf. Nothing about her is graceful or ladylike. But then, later on, she’s exposed to things like going to school and making friends, and she discovers the joys of being a human girl. After that, she gives up her wolf habits – like parts of her childhood – and aims to be the best human she can be.

As for Ame, he takes the opposite route. Initially, he’s quite timid and frail; often crying at everything and not liking change. He’s also ashamed of being part-wolf because of how society views them – particularly in children’s books. Following a near-death experience, though, he sees how strong he can be and resolves to better himself. Unfortunately, this means dropping out of school and fully embracing his inner wolf.

Now, to be fair, Ame does have a noble cause. He wants to protect nature and its balance with his newfound skills. However, it’s still a cause for concern. Hana thinks her son is choosing a dangerous lifestyle, and that he’s too young in human years. Metaphorically, this could represent parents who worry their child will fall into a life of crime or worse. It’s also worth noting that, before this, Hana wanted her children to have the choice of being wolves if they desired. Now she’s more objectional. Ame’s decision also puts him into conflict with his sister, since they don’t agree on what they are, and it leads to violence between them. A teenager’s life is complicated enough. But for Yuki and Ame to go through this unique identity crisis – as well as their changes in mentality – it adds a whole other layer to their characters. Once again, fantasy succeeds in translating a universal subject to us.

In conclusion, Wolf Children is a heartfelt story of love, sacrifice and determination. The plot does have some forced cliches, like teen romance and fitting in, but they’re honestly nit-picks at best. The narrative more than makes up for them with emotionally engaging characters, beautiful animation, a story anyone can relate to, and fantasy elements which broaden their impact. As for recommendations, this is something for the whole family to watch. Grown-ups can understand their kids’ mentality through Yuki’s narration, while children can appreciate their parents’ struggles through Hana’s perspective. It’s one of those stories that brings everyone closer together.

That’s all I have to say for ‘Wolf Children‘. I look forward to reviewing another anime movie in the future. So until then, stay tuned.

*

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment – I’ll be happy to answer them. And, until next time, stay tuned.

(Image courtesy of: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-wolf-children-20130927-story.html)

Autism, Experiences, General, Into my Autistic Mind

Into My Autistic Mind: Early Autism Years

By the time I release this post, it will be the New Year. And with a new year comes changes. An old WWE promo with Mankind is going through my head. I’m sure there will be plenty of changes for me this coming year. I really hope I get to make some advancements with my writing. But today I want to talk about a time in my life when things really started to change for me. A time when I started school and my Autism really started to affect me. Now I’m thinking of an Equestria Girls special where the human characters become ponies. I just corrected a spelling error there. Although my iPad doesn’t recognise it. Now I’m typing with both hands instead of just Intel – ‘one‘, not ‘Intel‘, auto-correct! I watched Channel 4‘s adaption of The Tiger Who Came to Tea earlier. I think they unintentionally made the tiger quite scary. Anyway, I don’t remember much of what happened between the time we moved to our new house in Welling, Kent and school. I somewhat remember going upstairs to explore and see if there was anybody up there. I do remember I was terrified of being on my own. I’d always get scared at night and had trouble sleeping in my own room. I didn’t even like being downstairs on my own when everyone else was upstairs or vice-versa. I remember when my sister and I started nursery at Hook Land Primary School I was very shy. Every day they would select one of the children to welcome the parents inside to pick up their kids, and I could barely look at them without being embarrassed. There was a boy like that in an after-school club I volunteered for later in later in my life. Nursery was the only time my sister and I were ever in the same classroom. There was never another point in primary or secondary school where we shared a class or even a homeroom. I think schools prefer to keep twins and siblings separate. But there was another pair of twins in our primary school who were almost always in the same classes. Anyway, now I’m thinking of the opening to Jimmy Neutron (the movie) and The Fairly Odd Parents. I still remember the name of my nursery teacher: Mrs Swane. And I think her classroom assistant was called Miss Doettey – or something like that. I also remember there was a girl in our class who was constantly disruptive. I think her name was Michele or Rachel, and she was always getting into trouble for doing things like crawling under tables. I don’t think I ever remember her talking. I do, however, remember she had to leave our class for some reason and she kissed everyone goodbye. It was the most behaved I’d ever seen her. Now that I think about it, I wonder if she might’ve been Autistic too. There are other things I vividly recall; like some of the songs we sang, the games we played, the stories we heard, the activities we did, the Christmas tree we decorated. There was always a bigger one put up in the school hall, which every student helped decorate. And in the rare times it was snowing outside in the field or playground, they would actually stop class to let us go out and play in it. Anyway, I think it was when I moved into reception that my Autism started to gravely effect my behaviour. The teachers must’ve known I had it because this was the earliest time I remember having TA support. I’d have several teaching assistants over the years, but the one who stayed with me consistently was a lady called Sue – I don’t know if I ever leaned her surname. Sorry for the pause – I’m recalling the end of Disney Pixar’s Cars when they’re watching car parodies of older Pixar films. Specifically, the one on Monsters Inc. called Monster Trucks Inc. There was also Toy Cars Story. My earliest memories of reception was working on a project based around our field trip to a farm. I wanted to use certain pens for my drawing, but the felt-tips were only for the teacher to use. I think I was so worked-up about it that I wasted all my time complaining and just didn’t draw at all. But it gets worse. Apparently, I was so easily distracted back then I’d sometimes notice a pigeon outside and try to go out after it. In later years, I spat, scratched, was very spiteful, and one time I punched another boy some many times he started bleeding. I set the fire alarm off once – though it wasn’t completely intentional. I’d pee outside behind some bushes – where no one could see me – because I was afraid of going into the boys’ toilets. And then there’s my worst primary school memory. Every now and again the teachers would put on a video for the infants in the school hallway. We’d already watched the whole thing once – I think I might have been an episode of Thundercats – but for some reason they put it on again. And then they stopped it halfway through and I wasn’t happy. In fact, I got so angry that I got up from the floor, ran down the hallway screaming, through some double-doors to the centre of the school, almost ran into some people and then ran back. I’d made such a scene that my parents were called, and I had to be collected from school and taken home. As you can tell, I was a little nightmare. Hang on, I’m thinking of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Bambi. And Arthur Christmas. Looking back on it now, I am rather ashamed of how I acted. My Autism just magnified my emotions and made it difficult to read certain situations. There were even cases where my Autism resulted in me getting in trouble at swimming and gym lessons. I will say, though, my teachers had a very good method for teaching me about my bad behaviour; I wasn’t just sent to the head teacher all of the time. If I misbehaved too much in class, they’d write my name on the board. If it got written up there three times then I wouldn’t be allowed to play on my computer at home – which was my favourite thing to do. You might think doing something like this is a little extreme or humiliating. After all – hang on, I’m remembering Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer: The Movie. After all, writing a child’s name up for the whole class to see how naughty they are might be considered singling them out. But to be honest, I didn’t take much notice of what others thought. All I was worried about was making sure I didn’t get three names up there and lose my chance to do what I loved. True, I did lie to my mum somethings about how many names I got. And maybe there were one or two loopholes I found – I couldn’t use the computer, but I still had my Game Boy. However, this method did help me immensely with improving my behaviour over the years. I think later on in the juniors, I might’ve stopped getting names on the board because I was improving so well. I’m thinking of Disney’s The Little Mermaid II – a direct-to-video sequel they released. I also remember one year the Year 6s took on the teachers in a football match. Now I’m thinking of episodes of Mona the Vampire. Anyway, I think if you want to help a young child with Autism improve in school, a method like the one I was given really helps them to think about their actions. Plus, I had mostly the same teaching assistants help me through my many years of primary school. If they have something familiar to latch onto and see them through the major changes in their lives they’ll feel more confident in moving forward. I think what triggered some of my early Autistic outbursts was that everything around me was changing so much. And there were many things I couldn’t wrap my head around. Simple things like having one-to-one support can make all the difference. I wouldn’t say all of my problems were immediately solved. There were still others I had to deal with like bullying, playing and working by myself, and continued bad behaviour. But I would’ve been a lot worse off if it wasn’t for what my teachers did for me. I’m only just realising how much I’ve written at this point. I’ve been very focused on what I’m saying without many thoughts interrupting. Although, saying that I’m now thinking of Disney’s Hercules. I’m almost at 1500 words now. So I’ll continue talking about my later primary school years in a later post. Until then I hope you have a wonderful New Year. Wow – exactly 1500 words!

Experiences, General, Into my Autistic Mind

Into My Autistic Mind at Christmas (2)

It’s that time of year again. Christmas Day is tomorrow. I don’t know why I’m thinking of Jimmy Neutron right now. But, yes, it’s Christmas time and I’ve got a busy day of festivities. I just needed added a comma there. I know I shouldn’t be working Christmas Eve or Christmas Day – especially as I’ve just come off an almost 9-hour shift at work. I’m thinking of the old Mr Men and Little Miss books me and my sister used to read. For the last few sentences I’ve been thinking of My Little Pony and the Christmas specials they’ve aired. Although in Friendship is Magic they actually celebrate a holiday called Hearth’s Warming. Hasbro released a Christmas album several years ago and I’ve listened to the whole thing twice this December. I’m being reminded of a Family Feud blooper from years ago. “During what month of pregnancy does a women begin to look pregnant?” “September.” But, back onto Christmas: I’ve got a busy day tomorrow. I’ll be seeing my dad, step-mum and sister for dinner. Then there’s my girlfriend. Yes, I have a girlfriend now – it’s a long story. I’ll be seeing her at her relatives’ house. Then we’ll go back to my dad and step-mum’s, if it hasn’t gotten too late. I just corrected some spelling mistakes there. Now, I’m thinking of the movie Elf. How can you not think of that movie this time of year? Ever since it was released it became an instant classic. I’m thinking of other Christmas movies and specials, too. There’s Arthur Christmas – I just had to look up on my phone how to spell Arthur. Saying that name makes me think of the classic CBBC show that was based on a successful book series. Anyway, other Christmas specials include The Muppets’ Christmas Carol – which I’ve just watched a CinemaSins video on. Sorry for the pause there. Now I’ve remembered one I always used to watch: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: the Movie. It’s the one with Eric Idle and Whoopie Goldberg. I’m trying my best not to repeat myself from Into My Autistic Mind at Christmas (1). I should say, the reason I’m doing this one is because I had planned on posting a review on New Year’s Day. But now it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to finish it in time. My perfectionism is causing me problems as usual. I think I might write another Into My Autistic Mind on New Years Day. There’s been something I’ve been meaning to continue for some time. I’m also hoping to finish something on the Autism book I’ve been working on. I did promise to give a preview of it in June after all. I’m just trying to keep my mind focused on Christmas. I’m looking at a TV guide next to me right now. I never usually buy a TV guide. But I wanted to know what was on at this time of year. Today things like Kung Fu Panda 3, EastEnders, Not Going Out, The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Toy Story 3, Small Soldiers and The Tiger Who Came to Tea have been on. Yes, they’ve made a TV adaption of Judith Kerr’s famous book. I just failed miserably in trying to remember her name. I haven’t seen any of these specials today because I’ve been at work. I was watching WWE RAW, when my manager called me. He asked me to start two hours earlier than I was supposed to. It was a bit short notice. But money is money. Plus, I got half an hour taken off at the end. It’s given me the time to right this before I go to bed. I’m trying to finish this before midnight. Don’t want Santa to see me awake do I (wink, wink)? Saying that reminded me of a Simpsons’ episode when Chief Wiggum did something similar. It’s also reminded me of an episode of Friendship is Magic when Trixie does soemThey’re – holy coyote, what it that typo/auto-correct I’ve just been given? Anyway, Trixie does the wink thing, too. Other cartoons are going through my head now, but I’m going to pause for a sec. There now. I wanted to have a sip of my tea. Also, the fan in my kitchen has finally stopped. It turns on whenever you flip the light switch and then whirs for about half an hour after you’ve switched it off. It can be annoying when your trying to get to sleep. Then again, I live next to a motorway. I’ve gotten used to the noise it makes noise all night. You learn to ignore it. I had planned on writing this yesterday, but I was at Bluewater shopping centre doing some last pre-Christmas shopping. I also called my mum and saw some friends who I haven’t seen in months. Everyone in my family is unusually busy around Christmas and Boxing Day. So everyone who I’m not seeing tomorrow I’ll see on the 28th. I’ve just started humming some Christmas songs. Specifically, those from The Muppets’ Christmas Carol: It Feels Like Christmas, Marley and Marley, and Love is Gone. The latter actually has a sad story behind it. At some point, they decided to cut this song from the movie and later releases didn’t contain it. Even when they trying restoring to movie, the scene with the song hadn’t been rendered over the years, so they were unable to include it. Or so I’ve heard. It’s a shame, too. Because I remember seeing it on video and it was a beautiful song. The reprise by Scrooge is still at he end of the film though. I’ve just spent the last 10-15mins trying to make those sentences about Love is Gone sound right. That’s my perfection setting in. These ought to be my unfiltered thoughts, I know. I’m thinking of a scene with the ringmaster from Dumbo now. And that’s making me think of circuses – like the one in Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather series. One second. I’ve just finished my tea and taken care of some business. I’ll tell you what love is NOT gone though. Mine. As I said, I have a girlfriend now. And I’ll be spending my day with her tomorrow. I still need to wrap her present. I hope she likes it. I’ve actually spent a lot on her this Christmas. More than anyone else in my family, in fact. But I do think she’s nice. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing on New Year’s Eve. But it will be rather tricky. You see, not only am I working on New Years Day – one second, I’m thinking if Disney’s Sword in the Stone. Also, I can hear somebody watching Elf in an apartment near mine. Anyway, I’m not only working on New Years Day, but I’m starting at 5am! At least the store itself doesn’t open until 10am. Actually, I’m not sure it is Elf they’re watching. They were earlier. Don’t they know you’re supposed to be asleep when Santa Claus comes (wink)? I should probably end this soon. I want to get to bed before midnight. Maybe I’ll have this posted before Christmas Day is over. But even if I don’t, I still hope you all have a very festive season and never forget that the best gift of all are your friends and family. Love and cherish them with all of your heart, and be good to those less fortunate than you. Happy Christmas!