Dancing in the Grey – Life with my Asperger’s – E16

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Dancing in the Grey – Life with my Asperger’s

© Rory Matier 2015

Note …

This chapter comprises three episodes.

Please Note this book was written in 2015.

The views within these chapters are mine and may not necessarily resonate with others on the spectrum – however bear in mind the quote by Dr. Stephen Shore .. “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

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Chapter 10 – Ep 16

Part 3

‘One Is Glad To Be Of Service’

No Mans Land

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Looking back to that period of time which was 1994, my cynical views really started to display themselves. I was beginning to not really trust people, and saw the conspiracy factor in almost everything. I was unemployed, and wondering what to do next, l still loved retail, but was quite unsure what path l needed to travel down to meet with new challenge and excitement. This was not London, so whilst opportunities were present, they were not overflowing in riches. I found that l had become drunk in the pleasures of London’s cities’ delights that Peterborough was not able to award me.

I had thought of returning, yet l have always tried where possible to move forwards rather than going back over used grounds. Plus l had a girlfriend, and felt sure that she would prefer to stay in Lincolnshire. So decided that l must make the best of what this county had to offer. But still was confused as to what l should be looking at.

I was still recovering from the knee damage so had to await the clearance from the Doctors concerning that and so used that time as best as l could to rifle through advertisements in the local papers.

I do clearly remember thinking at that time that l was not feeling right, yes l had some stress at the time and that could explain quite a bit, but there was something else, a nagging that l had in the back of my mind, that l was changing again, a bit like a personality shifting, l did not feel comfortable in my skin. I knew that l had to take that time to identify with yet again a ‘new me’.

My girlfriend and l decided to move out of Peterborough and move away from Cambridgeshire into her parents’ territory of Lincolnshire, and rented a property in Market Deeping. For the first time in a long time, l was moving away from the bustles of city life, and moving into the rural atmosphere of the countryside.

Seeking Clarity

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Losing ones’ self is not a pleasant experience it has to be said, of course this is not to be confused with discovering and rediscovery of your identity, many people do this at one point if not several all the way through their lives But l think it is relatively safe to say that during this limbo period of unemployment, l did in fact become disorientated with who l was with quite some clarity. My girlfriend wanted me to stay in retail, l didn’t know what it was l actually wanted and this caused me quite a bit of inner turmoil.

During this spate of unemployed restlessness I held down a few jobs that were neither here nor there, but despite the mundanity of the roles, a trait that did not specifically bother me, it was more to the point that for the first time in my life l was going against the philosophy l had worked with all my life. ‘Only do what you love and enjoy!’

Through my girlfriends’ Mother l was able to secure some seasonal work with her company, which was a ‘coupon sorting house’. Promotions designed and created by manufacturers and advertised within magazines and newspapers displaying certain retailers’ marketing that product at discount prices. The customers would cut out the coupon and trade them into their local shop – a practice which is still in use today and a big money making industry. Okay, it was not brilliant, it was not glamorous and most assuredly not for everyone. But l did try to find a positive and they were present. One of the great things for my mind was actually the tedium of the counting and sorting, it has always soothed and relaxed me when involved in this type of work, and the second thing was if l sat there on my high backed stool alongside the other counters [15 to a table] l became too distracted, so l bought myself a tape recorder and listened to audio books and switched off to the narrator reading the book to me. With that method l managed 12 books during my five weeks there!

Another short lived job was working in a car factory where upon l had to stick coloured pins into some kind of object that was part of the vehicle! It required me to work the night shift, which is all well and good as l was an insomniac, however the problems began in earnest when after working the nightly hours, l then did not sleep during the day because l was working with the gerbil breeding hobby, meaning that l would finish at six in the morning, starting again in 12 hours, but the feeding of the animals took about five hours, and my tiredness waned off and then suddenly l was wide awake again!  However, l was not as young working there as l had been many years before, and even we insomniacs need to sleep! Wish l had remembered that!

What made matters worse and unbeknownst to me was these colourful pins that l had to insert into the component of the engine were in fact lubricated with some oil! But you know what? Well, they never seemed that supple to me, so l stored them in my mouth on the conveyor belt, so as the units swung around to my position, l could use my saliva to ply them a bit further and insert them quicker.

This all worked well enough until the time came, that sleep deprivation started to kick in and to boot the oil they used conflicted with my own body functions! The result was that l started to hallucinate. The things l saw would have made dope heads truly envious l can tell you! Literally, flying elephants and cartoon characters like Aladdin on his magic carpet were soon swimming out of the engines! Management soon had discussions with me and decided that night shift and mouth storage was not the way for me to progress – the job ended soon afterwards!

In 1995, l attended an interview in Peterborough for an NVQ retail trainer. The role involved training school leavers to function within the retail sector of the industry. A relatively easy task l thought, until l saw my recruits and learned of their overall reluctance to want or wish to work anywhere let alone in selected shopping complexes. It would be unfair for me to say that they were completely disinterested, but l would not be too far removed to think that they would have preferred to have been elsewhere!

I stayed in that position for around a year or so, on a part time basis of some twenty four hours a week, which tied in well with normal ‘insomnia sleeping routines’ as well as allowing me time to attend my animal responsibilities.

The job itself was enjoyable, but could be somewhat disinteresting at times due to both trainee and new employer issues, due to an error of the unthinkable l lost my job there as a result of some unusual office behaviour and a sneaky vixen!

Keep it in your pants!

My old addiction of sexual gratification was rearing its head again, my ex wife was not in favour of my ‘special interest’ as much as previous partners had been and so l found myself celibate at times when l wanted to be active. Stress, a constant in my life in those days was continually grinding me down. Sex had always been a great stress reliever for me, and so to not be ‘getting any’ seriously made my stress achieve new heights. I did not believe in adultery, having seen and witnessed first hand what it did to my parents, and so this was not an option.

I knew even then that my wife and l shouldn’t have ever got married, but we all make mistakes, sometimes very grave ones, she probably thinks the same way as l do all these years, but if she has any sense, she would n’t be thinking about me at all!

Where l worked with the NVQ, was a gorgeous secretary to the General Manager there, she was very flirtatious and back then, l could respond to that. She was an extremely attractive woman and as l have been known and prone at times to day dream – one day l completely and utterly forgot where l was!!

Stupidly these desires got the better of me one day alone in my office, and l proceeded to work myself into a fever manually. Little did l know that she was standing behind me watching the whole affair and when l had finished she tapped me on the shoulder and enquired as to whether ‘we’ could perhaps come to a mutual understanding and share our lust together?

To say l was not instantly interested would be a downright lie, for l was – however – adultery is not my thing and so reluctantly l declined. She appeared slightly miffed but said nothing and accepted my decision. She attempted to dissuade my decision on a few occasions after this and still l declined in a polite way, each time her disappointment or anger seemed to increase until one day l was called into the General Manager’s office and was told that ‘sexual harassment’ was unacceptable. When l enquired with who, l was told that l had indecently exposed myself to the ‘secretary’ and was promptly fired.

At home, when the enquiries were made as to why my position was no longer available, l simply said ‘budget cuts’. I did wonder in the weeks that followed what would have happened if l had just said ‘yes’ to the offer, however, l found myself unemployed again!

Oops probably doesn’t cover it – but l only had myself to blame!

Ongoing Labour of Love 1994 – 2010

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The main special interest at the time had originally started out as a simple hobby, and that had been the gerbil breeding. From the days of spotting a pair of gerbils at my girlfriends and vaguely remembering a nasty piece of work that was once my Sisters’ pet! What had started out as a pair quickly developed into thirty pairs and from that point l then developed an interest in other species such as fancy rats and fancy mice. There have been many a time when a simple hobby, could suddenly find itself enveloped in my passions and when that happens, it transcends into a special interest. Other times in my life a main focus of attention has had the financial opportunities recognised, and the inner entrepreneur in me comes into life again!

What had started out as a relatively small affair of supplying small numbers of gerbils to the local pet stores and one of the then ‘pet superstores’ ‘Pet City located in Peterborough in 1994, became a much larger concern by 1995! Not long after losing my position as an NVQ retail trainer, l naturally spent more time consumed with the hobby.

There was no way of knowing back then, that the time consumption would amount to nearly twenty years of my life, or that during those years l would become totally engrossed in the passion and to the degree that l did. Of everything that occurred during those times l came to regret nothing when it came to the business itself. It became a way of life, a life that l breathed, slept, shit and ate every day with! It would test my skills and my determination, it would sharpen my focus and yes, it would steal my marriage from me. It would become my giant bubble, my sanctuary, my safe haven, but also my savoir.

It is ironic in some ways that my business would become the object of my ex wife’s hatred for it was her who introduced me to it. What was simply a pair of pets to her with an additional bit of pocket money to be earned fast became a viable and profitable business venture for me. Who was further more able to predict that from one pair of Mongolian Gerbils would grow into a massive exotic animal brokerage, certainly not she or l. But as they say, sometimes you have to be there, at the right time and place, for me, l was.

What started as a simple breeding concept of one species soon developed into a huge operation of research into colour variations or mutations as some organisations might class them as. Within three years of working with the genetics of the gerbil, fancy rats and mice, l had expanded to Syrian hamsters, dwarf hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits. I was breeding with seven of the eight basic small household pets; the only species missing was the Chinchilla.

By 1999, my observation of so very few colour variations in the UK public buying market of Mongolian Gerbils as a species in 1994 had disappeared. In those five years l had managed to build my breeding collection up to 2000 pairs, and was producing some 7000 animals a year which produced an average of forty different colours and marked species. I was known as one of the largest fancy gerbil breeders in the UK, with only a few competitors below my operation. None of which worked with the sheer numbers or colours that l did.

In 1997 l had acquired a contract with not only the Peterborough Pet City store, but in addition supplying 33 stores nation wide with a host of small mammals and not just the gerbils. It was a huge operation that in truth was not as glamorous as it may read. It was horribly expensive to transport small mammals under EU regulations, and that alone pushed many of the previous suppliers out of business, which in turn created a chain reaction for the likes of suppliers like me. So many stores simply wanted stock all the time, it mattered not how large a supplier you may have been, you can not produce animals out of thin air!

Pet City dissolved and became Pet’s at Home, who were governed by strict protocols of who could supply and who could not, and independent suppliers were not part of that administration, so l found that if l wanted to continue with my business l had to supply direct to a wholesaler. It was believed that if Independents such as myself supplied like this, there would be a better system of control. In theory this seemed like a sound idea, in practicality it was a big shambles and in many ways no different to the previous system.

Payments from the pet supermarkets had always been slow, and accountants made the prices ridiculous, always undercutting and demanding lower prices. Like any industry this brought problems. It introduced the instant breeder, people who were in it for a quick buck, and sod the husbandry of the animals they kept. It also meant that animals younger than a required six to eight weeks of age began to be supplied and with this introduced early deaths because of the stress. This in turn awarded all suppliers with a bad name, irrelevant to how each supplier’s operation may have been controlled.

It was bad enough waiting on payments every month which sometimes stretched to two months and worse three! With the damaging costs incurred of the transporting all over the UK, not mentioning using the correct boxes which were also very expensive, the last thing needed is a buyer demanding the same quality but at a much lower cost. Any businessman will tell you, sure it can be done, but ultimately two things fail, the product and then the customer!

I adored the breeding of the small mammal market, l kept a clean premise, with excellent husbandry, but l was unwilling to let animals go at too young an age, it simply was not right! So by the year 2000, l jacked in supplying direct to the wholesaler, and started to supply my competitors.

Believe it not, the small animal market industry is a very cut throat business. Many people who visit pet stores these days see fewer numbers in the sales areas, the way it should be, but at the time l started in the business the quantity of as an example gerbils per 24″ long glass tank was anywhere between fifteen to twenty five, in comparison to seeing perhaps two to four in a large show case today.

In 2000, l started to develop an interest for exotic small rodents. I was running perhaps 2500 pairs of gerbils, 1000 pairs of rats, and maybe 1000 trios of mice as my basic lines. In addition to those: 500 breeding female Syrian hamsters and 400 pairs of dwarf hamsters, ten colonies of guinea pigs comprising of perhaps thirty sows, 400 rabbits and three colonies of chipmunks to say it was a big set up was an under statement!

I worked nearly 19 hours a day, seven days a week, and as much as l adored what l did, as much passion as l had for what l was doing, it brought in so very little as an income, not because as a business it was not worthy, but only because administrators wanted to make a higher profit for their bigger business’s, and so prices were demanded to be lower and after several years l found l could not oblige them. This was why l started to supply a bigger competitor to me, in order to survive.

However even that came to an end by 2001, my competitor like many others had become greedy, and so by the end of that year, l sold off all my small mammal breeding groups with the exception of the gerbils who had been my original passion. I continued to breed these and produced a further ten to twelve new colours and marked species, and kept the joy alive for my own pleasure, luckily at that time l could supply into private hands and at an excellent cost, so my profit margins started to increase again.

I was saddened to see the other species disappear from my business, the guinea pigs were adorable and l loved the noise they made when they saw me. I had so many different rabbit breeds, but they were very costly to maintain, and because l was based on a farm, sometimes myxomatosis would strike and this caused me so much upset and stress. A dreadful man made disease to reduce numbers with the brush or warren rabbits and used by maintenance crews who built motorways deliberately to make construction run smoother.

A certain number of rat and mouse breeders were kept on board to keep my reptile keeper clients happy so that they could continue to feed their own collections. Syrian hamsters were lovely although they could be nasty little aggressors with the hands that fed them, but also wet tail could be a real problem if it struck, so they were one species l was glad to see go. Dwarf hamsters were cute, but again could be a bit aggressive, so they too were easy to shift out. I kept the chipmunk colonies as they were always a good seller. But at this point in the market, exotics were on the rise, so the breeding groups l had started to establish two years prior were starting to pay off especially in private hands and specialist pet shops.

The key to any business of this nature was to have diversification, and l had certainly done that. Keeping the gerbils was a sound move as they were the biggest profit for me by far and were able to support the financial development of the exotics. By 2003, l was running a hundred and twenty assorted breeding groups of exotic rodents and insectivores not including the chipmunks. The rodents ranged from Egyptian spiny mice to giant African pouched rats, from prairie dogs to African pygmy hedgehogs, my listings were really quite exciting.

2003 was fast in terms of operational size and specialisation, and my reputation under the banner Piediper’s Ark was expanding, as was my client base, which now was not just private keepers and specialist shops but also small zoos and privately run game park collections. Towards the very end of that year l took on board my personal collection a pair of raccoons and a pair of coatimundi’s, which l kept under my Dangerous Wild Animal Licence.

By 2004, my gerbils that had once filled me with so much joy were being wound down, l had stopped the selling of surplus rodents to the reptile keepers and even my small exotic breeding groups were decreasing. In that year l added medium to large species to my collection again, added more raccoons, more coatis, meerkats, brush tailed porcupines, crested porcupines, brush tail possums and Virginia opossums to name just a few. And that year continued to travel even faster still; private collections were no longer after the smaller species, but demands were placed on the medium to large and larger species. However, the species l was sourcing out for sale were not all kept within my collection, but were being sourced from other collections from all over the UK. Unwittingly l had stepped into the diversification of exotic brokerage, which brought in much healthier profits. Supply and demand was the way forwards, it was that simple!

And so in March 2005, l made the decision to completely stop the keeping of any exotic species and concentrate my business purely on the securing of species from collections in private hands to sell onto other collections. By June of that year, l no longer had any animals under my name apart from my beautiful dogs. It was quite a sad day when l closed my doors, l have to admit, l had been breeding Mongolian Gerbils since 1994, and here l was eleven years later saying goodbye to them to embark on a new career of broker!

My life has always been about a series of journeys, and the exotic mammal brokerage was no exception. I would never have known that by 2006, l was about to embark on a crusade for a species that l personally would never have kept.

Primates are truly wondrous animals, but they are not my beloved porcupine species or even dogs. Like wise l would never have guessed that l would become so utterly passionate about the political side to the industry l was involved in. I say this because in truth, l have not a care in the world for the plights we see occur to human beings, but if someone is cruel to animals, well you have just invited my righteousness into your life, like it or not! And finally l would never have even considered the possibility that between 2005 to 2010 my business would be responsible for the handling and brokering of nearly 3000 assorted exotic species of animal.

In 2005 when l launched my brokerage business, l was known under a different business name: Piediper’s Ark which had covered me superbly well for my commercial supply, but l did not think it was suitable for the new business concept. I had a very good client base; in addition l had a very good contact base not just in the UK but also in Europe, and was developing contacts further afield on an International basis. In 2004 l had started in my spare time to build an Internet site which was a huge affair at 600 pages on dial up at the time, which was a mammoth task in itself!

I have never been one to undertake anything lightly, research is key to success and understanding in my eyes, but also knowing what a market wants, not just in commodity, but price and service, variety, traceability and more importantly responsibility and accountability.

My research had shown me who my competitors were, what they offered, how they plied their trade and more importantly what they did not supply. My concept was easy, find animals for sale, handle the sellers, and find a buyer for those animals and place a percentage on top for my service. However, l wanted to do so with more panache and style than the market was currently providing, and not make it look so sloppy. For as cut throat as the small rodent business had been, the exotic animal market was steeped in mystery, and at times some of the sales could look down right seedy even if they were not.

Working this trade was made ever more awkward because anti keeping groups were always trying to cease the keeping of exotic animals in private hands and any new sellers were instantly pounced upon and basically given a hard time. So l had to have a strategy that would keep the sellers out of those anti eyes, and if there was any focus to be had it was on my business. And so my operation had to be squeaky clean. To deliver that meant l had to offer something which was not on the market, an impeccable and exclusive service package had to be designed that would stand up to the scrutiny of the groups who opposed this side of the industry.

This was the way forwards, l knew so with a certainty.

Late 2005 and the new business name was applied, TSKA – The Specialist Keeper’s Association, this was received very well. The website started to slim down and l began to mainstream my main target areas. I had no knowledge what so ever with avian, aquatic or reptiles, so l chose to concentrate only on the furry side to things. I introduced a vetting system, covering various species so that all new buyers and visitors to my Internet site could fill in their private details, listing their requests, what they had in their collections already and /or any other questions they may have concerning husbandry or maintenance on species.

I had never found it odd that during all of my years involved with that business, that l worked alone, that l preferred my own company and that l was more at ease without the presence of other people who could complicate and dirty up the system,. My ex wife was not interested in any of it, so she never bothered to enquire as to how my day was, and l never told her. In fact for a good many years prior to the exotic brokerage commencement she and l had hardly spoken.

But l am not a stupid man, and l knew that my total dedication to the ‘business’ had in fact screwed up my marriage, in fact it was crumbling fast, and as they say hindsight is truly a beautiful thing, l should have allowed it to simply vanish beneath the waves, and avoided all the change that was to follow and the heartache that travelled with it. The animals had become an escape from my marital life for me, and in truth, they had become a totally safe haven and sanctuary from life. I could simply be, me, myself and l – which l was always happier with. My ex wife had started to lose interest in me as it was, she failed daily to understand me, and found me too odd and quirky for a normal relationship!

Unbeknownst to me, for many years she had sought out the comfort of other men. I can not blame her in truth, l was never at home as all my attention was in building up my business, l should never have got married it was that simple. Even though in 2005 when l finally packed up my breeding days and declared to her that l would be at home full time now, l knew then that the marriage was beyond repair, we were in truth just pretending to be in love, we were confined to our own routines and cared very little for each other. I stopped caring about her as much as she stopped loving me, it was a mutual feeling. I had become so obsessed with the business that it totally consumed me, l was addicted to the success, and it was not just successful now, but profitably so.

By 2007 l was working with primates, marsupials, insectivores, carnivores, ungulates, Xenarthra and my old favourites the rodent families. I was dealing with private collections, game parks, zoos and specialist shops. I was involved in the political side and with that found roles in both propaganda and spin doctoring, importing and exporting and had just under a thousand clients around the world and to boot had a solid reputation in my industry. But l had also left the matrimonial home and was at the start of my divorce!  It is almost ironic that by 2009, the recession was biting deep into my business and in fact it had bitten so deep into my exclusive genre that by the end of 2010 l had closed the doors down of my business!

By this time in addition, my own political feelings were changing also and l knew that the time for me to say goodbye to this adventure, an addiction and a passionate affair with an obsession had to cease. Whilst l still acknowledged that private keepers have the privilege to own exotic animals, l was not overly happy with the way many administrations and regulative policies had cut into the way things worked. But l was becoming more aware that perhaps not all private keepers kept their collections the way they should in terms of husbandry and the maintenance. That many keepers were now hoarding animals instead of purely enjoying what they did have. That species were becoming too easy to obtain and that practices like mine were seen as too elitist or too fussy in how we sold. My political bearing was now veering off to the left and so many saw this move from me as a sort of process of agreeing with many of the anti keeping groups! They were in some respects correct to think this way.

During my last months of the business, l was proud to have added to my list of accomplishments that l had actively participated in the creating of the Primate Code of Practice for the UK. I had been a staunch crusader for seeing the right husbandry on this beautiful species, and although l sold many primates into private collections over the years, l could say hand on heart that l did so only to devout primate keepers. Those that did keep their animals in the right environments, with excellent space awarded, under the right security. But alas, many primate keepers wanted to keep this species in the house, and l refused point blank to sell to people like this. This never boded well for me or my business, but it was the right thing to do.

Additionally l had wanted to see regulations in place to legalise operations like mine, so that it would aid not just primate sellers, but regulations for all Internet sales covering all animals, in my time of business this never came to see fruition. I have seen recently calls from the government and all opposing bodies to the sales of animals that measures be actioned to ensure that the correct sales procedures are adhered to. So something l had crusaded for years, and was slated for by private keepers is finally possibly going to see the light of day. It is needed in the UK, there was and is and always has been a huge black market on certain species, with too much availability of species to buyers and keepers alike. There is too much over breeding especially on the likes of reptiles and insufficient protocol.

I myself, had often been accused of smuggling species into the UK, and it was never true, it was more of a case of DEFRA not understanding how all of their paperwork actually worked! There was simply too much legislation, and not all of it was effective.

The anti keeping organisations themselves had my name and brand name on their hit lists for a short while, as l was being seen as a bad boy purely for trying to make the industry more visible, the pro keepers did not want all the legislative restrictions or impositions and this made the politics very hard to maintain and sustain with integrity. Additionally our industry did not have many professionals in it defending, whilst our opposition had huge finances, support groups and strength. They had belief, dedication and commitment from their followers in comparison to our small band who were struggling to make the keepers believe this was the way forwards.

However, slowly l was also starting to turn against my own industry in places, and yes l was starting to understand why the anti organisations were going to win their battles.

In 2010, l had closed my doors to the industry; now it was time to look at new pastures. I had enough on my personal plate to deal with as was. I had something called Aspergers to deal with, was recovering from a breakdown and also my last relationship had ended badly and with a traumatic climax, the days from being a small gerbil keeper to a large scale commercial breeder to an exotic livestock broker had finally ended.  A new journey awaited me, my two dogs and a forty foot metal box! Now the time had come to rebuild and re-identify.

I read somewhere once that many ‘Aspies’ as they age, unless they are in high powered well paid jobs to begin with, settle for much less, they work more of a demeaning role in society, their intelligence levels going unchecked, and that they do so with a deliberation, and younger Aspies can not understand why?

The answers are l think many fold, mostly and this is my personal opinion, but of the few ‘Aspies’ l know they tend to agree – we want, desire a much quieter life, away from the hustle bustle of society, away from the grey, more importantly away from the throng of nypicals, for me it is much easier than having to don a series of masks to cope continuously. I have not specifically lost my earlier years of motivation or ambition, but now knowing my limits and boundaries l tend to look for less demanding jobs, l have always sought out to work with a subject that either deeply interests or fascinates me, perhaps l have been lucky l have always managed to self indulge.

This is all well and good, except ….. And a big EXCEPT at that, is that still we manage to stumble into very grey areas, but we try to adapt to the environment and manage our tempers and live with the discomforts. It is not that we are looking to become martyrs, we are after all built for the mundane, the tedium, the boring jobs in this world, we can glean relish and fascination from the routinal structures of everyday life, and we can do so in a perfectly capable robotic fashion.

Many of us can live without the huge materialistic expectations that nypicals demand and can not imagine living without. We can live without the big brother conspiracy factor, we can live without all the propaganda that the nypical neither cares not nor understands just how much they are being brainwashed with.

After the relationship ended during the final days of my business, l found that l had to move premises, which l did. However, because l had two dogs in tow, many landlords would not accept them. They would take me, but not them, and under no circumstances was l prepared to let them go, l found that this restricted my opportunities in terms of rental availability. I was nearing the time when l had to vacate my current residency, and l started to panic. My parents would have taken me in, but again it was without my two girls, and again, l was not prepared to let my friends go.

And so, in the very hot Spring season of 2009 l visited a private landlord who owned stables, and behind that he had two caravans. I had no true experience of caravans, but time was running out and l agreed to rent the larger of the two, a forty foot metal box. The winning factor was that l was allowed to have my two dogs with me, one inside and the other in a good sized dog kennel outside. It was ideal in many respects, because the outside pen was an old log shed with a large wired enclosure attached.

It has to be said, that upon first inspection l was not overly impressed with it as a structure, but the chap l was with said ‘beggars can not be choosers!’, and sadly he was right. I do remember thinking how warm it would be in the winters? It is very deceptive looking at a metal box in the early summer months. But the undeniable fact was l had nowhere else to go. The area around the private property was remarkably beautiful, very quiet and ideal for what l needed plenty of walks, and time to think. There was no Internet connection to speak of which was daunting as it meant for a while l would almost be completely cut off, but it also snagged any thoughts l had of trying to relight the business. It was also horribly expensive for what it was!

However l often do not have high expectations of the places l stay in, providing there is a roof over my head, it is dry and secure, that is what l look at, and that criteria was met. On that warm day in early spring, l had not realised that l had just stumbled into a charcoal grey war zone!

Logs, dogs, stables and me 2009 – 2012

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From 2009 to 2012 l took on board a position that whilst l thoroughly enjoyed brought with it some serious problems, in many cases it was the role of a subservient human being. It was not something l deliberately sought out, however sometimes these things simply have a way of finding me, these days however l am very wary of people taking the piss out of my trusting nature, so much so, that l hardly lend a hand anymore to anyone.

What started out as an innocent bit of extra help to ‘assist’, became a routinal and structured [albeit at times ‘loosely] established work pattern. I am not adverse working, l happen to love working as it goes, it fires my imagination up, what l am adverse to is quite simply ‘being underpaid! I don’t care if it is picking up poo from a field of horses or if requested filtering out sewage, as long as l am paid fairly for my efforts l don’t give a damn. However what transpired was that l was worked, but not paid fairly at all, but sadly l had become trapped by the position in many ways as l also lived where l worked, and l was over charged for that, so was really quite stuck.

When my family and friends complained, l would answer back [and to a certain extent it was true] that it was helping me on my road to both recovery and rediscovery. I worked with horses in the main, and because it was animal’s l could tolerate more than most.

Seven days a week, sometimes as little as three hours a day, but at other times as much as eight if extra non ‘horse’ jobs were thrown in, and that is where it became insulting. Demossing an oversized car driveway with a tooth pick, mowing huge lawns, fetching logs in a wheelbarrow for the family during the harsh winter months, to make them warm and snuggly when l was freezing my arse off inside the igloo!  This may not sound as bad as it was to the reader, however think of your worst unhappy nightmare and then double it!

I was receiving benefit for my breakdown with the stress, not housing benefit just one straight forwards payment every month, which had to go many different ways. Three quarters went instantly to my rent, and the remaining was to cover electric, food, dog food, and sadly it did not always stretch that far. My dogs always ate well, but sometimes l did not, so as tobacco was cheaper l smoked more.

I will not go into all the messy details but for £20 per week l was expected to perform the workload of someone who would have earned closer to £75.  There were times when l never even received even this; in its place was a fiver, a pouch of tobacco or a bag of dog food. And yet if l was to argue the odds, l was reminded that there were not many places that would allow renting with two dogs attached. They always used my dogs against me as a weapon, and that was the least of the torment they used against me, but l will discuss this later.

Looking at drawing a positive from each negative, l can say that l learned more about horses and ponies and that l now know how long l can truly go before boredom kicks in on repetition because of my gift of switching off and detaching and of course l did manage to come to terms with my Aspergers. I also learned that as a man l could truly sink to new levels of a gritty form of determination in order to survive. Thankfully, by autumn of 2012, l was able to escape the hell.

What next for 2015?

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In truth it is an excellent question, l have done so much during my years in both employed and self employed careers and positions, held down many worthwhile addictions and hobbies, that l have come to almost a standstill in life and seek a new direction. I had thought about maybe doing something in the Autism field, l am half way through a diploma on Awareness and think l will utilise my passion for Aspergers and combine it with a new venture. I love writing, but can not see myself as an full time author and as such writing for a living. However, as is atypical to me, something will spark a concept and l will fly with that l guess. If l am truly lucky, a passion will become obsessive and a new business will be born!

I read a book by John Elder Robison called, ‘Look Me in the Eye’, a fascinating read by a fellow Aspergian who in comparison to me is remarkably talented with ‘machinery and electronics’, something that fills me with dread at the best of times. He mentions something along the lines of doors number one and two in terms of life decisions in many respects, and that he took door number one when younger but could easily have taken door two, and like him, l too took door one, sadly however as my life has progressed l have somehow managed to enter door number two .. It is now time to get back into door number one and start utilizing my talents again, so my thanks to John Elder for this valuable piece of information and perspective.

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Chapter 11 – Ep 17 – Soon

Dancing in the Grey Directory

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