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Sun, Jul 21st - 8:51AM

Summer time in Glasgow 1970

"Get out there, the sun is splitting the trees" my mammy would say, it's an old Glasgow saying. I was nine years old living in the East End of Glasgow. Our school summer holidays were so different from the kids today. These pampered children who have play schemes, play dates and a collection of activities to keep them away from computers and hopefully engage them in positive social interaction.

 

 

 

Back in the day we made do with a three legged dog to play with and a creepy old man who was the park keeper to hide from, our scope to learn interaction was right there on the streets.

 

 

 

Looking back, I have no idea why every park in Glasgow I went to in the East of the city seemed to have a dirty old man in a brick hut who liked to show you his wrinkled penis. The council hired them as 'park keepers' and their hut was always directly opposite the swing park....for perfect viewing I suspect.

 

 

 

We kids all taught each other, no matter what injury you sustained falling off swings "don't go near the parky hut" as he liked to rub parts of your body that clearly weren't injured. Times were different in 1970.

 

 

 

On the hottest days, we wandered our city armed with a bottle of diluted orange juice, some bread and margarine wrapped in a loaf wrapper, packed into a string bag. The bag always contained old remnants of papery onion skins, as it was your mammy's vegetable carrier. Us kids would be a raggle taggle bunch who would set out on adventure to find another green park in Glasgow on the other side of the city. Glasgow has more parklands than any other European city, a legacy of Victorian times, where poor people never had much food but many pretty flowers to look at.

 

 

 

We never told our parents where we were going, we had no mobile phones nor bus money we just heard there was a good park on the south side of the city and we were going!

 

 

 

Without street knowledge or maps we would set off on foot. We knew basically that the river Clyde would need to be crossed and we would head south to Queen Park over past the Gorbals.

 

 

 

The walk would full of excitement as we anticipated new shops to look in, new dogs to play with on the route (back then dogs walked about without owners) and new people to meet on the way. What would this magical park have? Would there be different swings? Would it have a big slide chute? Would the parky be a pervert? We didn't know!

 

 

 

The sun would beat down and we burned slowly as we didn't know what factor 30 sun cream was back then. We had Calamine lotion for the after effects, we Glasgow people didn't do prevention, we did cure! Popping the blisters later was a past time for us.

 

 

 

Walking down strange main streets we would see children in prams, mums walking with shopping bags, men outside betting shops, pubs that spewed drunks and all the while our eyes were fixed on the ground for a dropped penny or a lucky find of loose fruit near a shop front.

 

 

 

We didn't see it as stealing if an orange was rolling on the ground!

 

 

 

Sometimes we would look in people's dustbins on the way and pick out stuff, like a discarded/broken toys or clothing. Yes, we were recycling and up scaling way before the middle classes found it interesting. I once found a great pair of ladies burgundy patent leather shoes in the bins outside a big smart house in Kings Park and carried them home in the string bag, my mammy wore them proudly for years afterwards.

 

 

 

The tall tenements passed, the street names were read out loud so we could retrace our journey, we stopped women and asked them directions and plodded onwards. Nobody thought a bunch of nine year olds walking themselves through streets was a bad thing, they pointed the way and waved us on. We patted strange dogs, ran our fingers along metal railings, splashed through burst water mains on the road and asked a nice Italian man if we could use his cafe toilets and on the way out watched people eating their lunches. Glasgow had the best Italian cafes outside Italy. The shops often had colourful displays of giant knickerbocker Glorys made of plastic outside on the pavement...making every child yearn for one as they walked past. It looked the height of ice cream sophistication.

 

 

 

I can still recall jealousy of watching a wee boy standing outside the cafe with a big ice cream in the baking street, the envy overwhelmed me, who gets a whole big ice cream to themselves? "One day I was going to buy a huge big tub of ice cream" I told the gang and they all agreed that they would too. We would buy a whole big tub and eat it with a spoon near a swimming pool that we owned and it probably would have a dolphin in it.

 

 

 

Yes, we all thought that was amazing and ran off to a grassy patch where we slugged on the diluted orange juice and headed on towards the River Clyde. The sun beat on our heads.

 

 

 

We crossed dangerous railway lines, we marched through high stretches of tall grassy fields, ran through grave yards, spoke to drunk men in the street and watched buses rattle past us on busy main roads.

 

 

 

We came upon a small burn with a rope swing and all took turns of being a commando, we waded through dirty water in our sandals and squidged towards Queen's park.

 

 

 

When we finally arrived two hours later we were amazed to find it had a pond! This was like America to us.....it had a POND!

 

 

 

Of course we threw ourselves in, with no thought to the filthy algae or worry about getting dried afterwards, the sun would dry us!

 

 

 

We roamed the whole park, speaking to people we didn't know, chatting to mammies on the grass and telling them where we were from and how we got there. They were fine with it, we rarely spoke to men, not because we were scared or anything, there just weren't that many about. It was mostly women in the park with kids....we played on the swings, we met new kids, we formed wee gangs and played rounders with new kids we just met, one who had a baseball and a bat and a few adults helped organise the teams.

 

 

 

We were also pleasantly surprised to find their parkie was a man and a woman who were kind and helpful, not creepy and would wave at us as we circled the park and gave us plastic beakers of water as the sun scorched the landscape. This place was just magical to us.

 

 

 

Finally the sandwiches would be shared on the grass with wet bums and then as the sun was dipping in the west, we would head for home.

 

 

 

It wasn't better times, it was just what it was. Different times....of course kids were abused back then, bad things happened but we knew they didn't happen all the time! I was aware that bad things could happen in your own home, so the bigger world couldn't be as bad could it?

 

 

 

Staggering back with sore legs and chafed feet from wet sandals, we ambled up to our doors -where my own mammy would say "Where were you today? I never saw you once in the street" and I would tell her where I was and she would ask if we all behaved ourselves and not blink twice at the thought of us walking five miles across the city. We kept ourselves occupied. It was back in 1970....where I stayed out all day walking in the sun, meeting new people and would finally go to bed and dream about owning a swimming pool in America and feeding my dolphins.

 

 

 

 

 

So thanks for reading, if you want follow me on twitter @JaneyGodley for updates and daily shenanigans

 

 


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Wed, Jul 10th - 6:46PM

My Life with a man who has Aspergers.

"Who washed the dishes?" my husband asked last week.  I put up my hand and said wearily "I did, what did I do wrong?" he sighed, rolled his eyes and brought me through by the hand to show me that I had stacked the plates facing the right instead of his preferred left. I promptly fixed them as he stared at them closely to check they were done right. He gave me a lecture that I was putting 'the plates wrong, they could fall and break and the knives and forks need to be facing down" He still reminds me daily.

 

 

 

No, am not married to the bloke from Sleeping With The Enemy, though I do say that onstage. I am married to a man who has Aspergers and now has been recently told he may have low spectrum Autism.

 

 

 

I watched him as he stood in the kitchen with me, 33 years of marriage down the line, I recall the sixteen year old boy who put a diamond ring on my finger one month and pretty soon after he tried to commit suicide as he 'felt out of his skin'. Not something the doctors of Glasgow Royal Infirmary understood in 1980. Not something his hard -nosed gangster father who had six other sons could make sense of -understandably.

 

 

 

I try hard not to think of the sleepless nights of the 80s where he ranted, raved and would develop violent rages that left me exhausted and terrified. I try hard to recall the young man who tenderly held his baby daughter moments after she was born and asked a bewildered midwife if he could 'now take the baby home and I could follow when am ready' (he was convinced Ashley would hate the feel of the hospital sheets).

 

 

 

The memories of the social awkwardness when he would ask the strangest questions of people like "Do you like boiled beef?" in the middle of a normal business conversation as that thought had just popped into his head. Or the times when he would deliver a monologue on his favourite Roman Emperors as I am trying to tell him I have a lump in my breast. And then me laughing as he gave me space to explain the lump and the minute my mouth shut he explained Claudius in depth and ignored my concern.

 

 

 

Loud sudden noises, velvet, courgettes, aubergines, lemon flavoured cakes, people being factually incorrect, Princess Diana, public displays of grief for celebrities, reality shows about talentless people, people who don't pick up litter, pets in small apartments, large cutlery, square plates, comedy oversized glasses, clowns, Michael Jackson, speaking to people, comedy where people have to join in and clap or stand up etc, people who cycle through traffic lights, audio libraries that release part 5 of a series of ten and not the previous four books are just some of the THINGS he HATES.

 

 

 

Black pens, lists, opera, poetry, buying five pairs of his favourite shoes, Roman history, audio books, history books, collections of elastic bands, soft fabrics, warm coffee cakes, mint tea, babies, doing anything with numbers, driving, photography, small cutlery, china cups- are just some of the things he loves.

 

 

 

His Aspergers can control his basic emotions, for example when my beloved step mum was dying in a hospital bed, he sat with her for hours and when she finally passed he was distraught as he couldn't feel the same sadness as everyone. We were deep in grief and he announced to the gathered family "I dont feel anything, what is wrong with me?" I ushered him away from the sad group to explain "that's not nice to say to people who do feel stricken" he nodded and walked away bewildered.

 

 

 

His need to walk to the right shop and buy the milk that is cheapest, the exhausting way he associates words I am saying into the line of a song he remembers, his compelling drive to wake up and move everything about in the cupboards as it has 'been bothering him all night' can be so frustrating to live with.

 

 

 

Imagine living with a man who had done so many hurtful things that are seared into your memory, yet you can't recriminate as the majority of them are due to a syndrome he lives with? There is no marriage guidance for a man who doesn't understand  what he did wrong and his only answer is "leave me then, am damaged".

 

 

 

This is the man who demanded we all sit in a darkened hotel room at Disney Land Orlando and not turn the TV on as he wanted to sleep and me and his ten year old daughter weren't to move? I can still recall the tantrum he took when we walked into the sunshine and left him behind. I still recall the tears of confusion as he tried to explain why he behaved like that when we returned. Our daughter will have her own tale to tell and I can't speak for her here. She loves her dad.

 

 

 

I love this man and yet when I see other women sit round dinner tables at events I attend to do comedy or go to a night out, I feel a deep pang of jealousy. My husband will never dress in a dinner suit and pour me wine and chat idly to the guy on his left, neither did he see me collect any of the comedy awards that I won, as he can't cope with those events.

 

 

 

He sat in the car near a beach in Troon on the day his daughter graduated university as he was worried he would embarrass her in front of her peers. He listened to his favourite Roman book as she walked off the stage. I watched other proud parents hug each other and I felt alone, yet relieved he wasn't in a situation that would stress him.

 

 

 

My husband in his younger days was very sociable, he ran a bar and used to regularly take customers on European bus runs and host events in the pub. Having spoken to his psychologist it turns out he was 'role playing' the part. Is he 'role playing' being my husband? Is he 'pretending' to be a father?

 

 

 

I don't believe he is. I believe that his role playing was his 'coping mechanism'.

 

 

 

He faked to the world that he was regular member of society and inside waited for the world to catch him being the fake he always felt.

 

 

 

It is no surprise his mental health suffered, and explains his few suicide attempts and his struggle to make sense of a world where he doesn't feel he can fit in.

 

 

 

The upside's are he is completely accepting of every race, creed, colour and sexuality. He doesn't think lateral he thinks literal, and doesn't understand why anyone would discriminate against people for no good reason.

 

 

 

He was a feminist back in the early 80s when men in the East End of Glasgow where worse than radio sport commentators of today. He takes people as he finds them and doesn't have a single Daily Mail bone in his body as that attitude doesn't make any sense to him.

 

 

 

He is also great when I need someone to run my comedy past, as he can immediately tell me if he doesn't understand the joke or what am trying to say, and makes me reword stories so they make more sense.

 

 

 

When asked to describe his Aspergers he said "Every day I fight with emotions and feelings I can't control, I suppose it's like being homosexual and trying to pretend am straight to the world, or I feel like my skin doesn't feel right and my brain wants to take me into a place I can't get out of. Sometimes there are so many things to cover up in one day, my dyslexia, my depression, my inability to make eye contact, my disdain of other people, my obvious disinterest when someone talks to me and I don't want them near me anymore...it's hard to hide all that inside....and the knowledge of all the things I did to you".

 

 

 

He just sounds like a grumpy old man, but he isn't he can be hilarious and loves that I joke about his syndrome on stage. He can be funny with people he trusts and they are very few, he can be a constant font of information as he retains screeds of facts and figures. His advice on relationships to my girlfriends is utterly genius "he doesn't call you because he doesn't like you enough, get over him now and find a man that isn't indifferent to your needs". (they prefer his advice over mine every time).

 

 

 

The array of nieces and nephews love their uncle and as they got older understood he was 'a bit different' but always found him loving and helpful.

 

 

 

Last year we had booked a Disney on Ice for our wee niece Abigail, I got ill and couldn't take her. Husband stepped in and sat through a giant arena of screaming kids and Disney caterwauling. She was over the moon and explained later "Uncle loved it and sung along with every song" he told us later it was utter hell, the seats were velvet and he faked the whole evening to keep her happy. That's one of the many reasons I love him.

 

 

 

Our daughter is very proud of her dad and her mates come to him for support and advice and even stay over when we are both out of the country on tour, as they enjoy his company and like to hang out with him.

 

 

 

If you are ever in need of someone to face a dilemma with my husband is the most practical, helpful and rational person you could find. He cuts through all emotion and sorts the problems.

 

 

 

When asked what he is happiest about, he often says "that my daughter can read, write and is educated"

 

 

 

I once asked him if he was relieved that Ashley doesn't have Aspergers and he replied "That's a stupid thing to say, she doesn't have it, why would you ask that stupid question, as if you would consider your kid being any other way than the way she is" and that is a brilliant Aspergers answer.

 

 

 

So thanks for reading, if you want follow me on twitter @JaneyGodley for updates and daily shenanigans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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