Posts Tagged ‘Andrew’


the party was in full swing

adults talking to adults

under the influence of alcohol

i am a token attraction at the start

a talking point to stare at for five minutes

now i am forgotten, unimportant

left to wander in a room

full of slobbering giants

consuming vast amounts of food and drink

outside i can breather fresh air

clear of the smell of stale tobacco

i wander to the woods my parents warned me about

don’t go there, the bogey man lives there

down one grassy slope

up the other side through so many trees

and back down the other side

ending up at the side of the road

transfixed by an endless stream of

man made mechanical tin boxes

flash by whoosh, whoosh, whoosh

the wind against my bare legs

the only reminder that i am alive

one car stops and strangers get out

eyeing me up and down

talking to each other in hushed tones

then my dad gets out, smiling, eyes twinkling

they had noticed me missing

they had been worried about me

they had come looking for me

i do matter to them after all

 


Ogden Water is a local nature reserve surrounding a reservoir local to Queensbury where I live. It is a lovely place to go for a run or walk and is very popular with people who visit it all year round. There is a path around the reservoir where you can take a leisurely stroll with children and dogs, or you can go for a nice run safe in the knowledge that there are no cars trying to kill you! Alternatively you can head up into the woods and run the trails that take you through them. This gives you the opportunity to try running off road in a reasonably safe environment without going too far too soon and getting yourself into trouble.

However as I have recently found out Ogden Water is also the venue for a New Year’s day fell race, the Giants Tooth, where competitors race up to the Giants Tooth from the carpark up the trails through the woods and on the surrounding path back to the carpark. The race is around 3 miles and is run at a fast pace.

On Monday 7th I decided to do a recce of the route. I printed off a map I found on the internet of the approximate route and familiarised myself with it. The trial up to the Giants Tooth is easy to navigate and whilst steeper than I realised should not present too much of a challenge for anyone who has been running. On trails it is not too dangerous either although care must be taken when ascending the first climb as there are some wooden sleepers that act as steps but in wet and muddy conditions can be dangerous is a foot is misplaced on them.

Once at the Giants Tooth most of the climbing has been done and you are treated to some stunning views over Thornton Moor, Queensbury and Halifax. If you are racing though you will not have time to savour the views as you will be too busy trying to get your best time! However this was the point where the familiar became unfamiliar and not for the first time I took a wrong turn and whilst not lost I struggled.

I tried to remember the route from the map and decided that out of the three paths in front of me I would take the one that took me furthest away from the woods assuming that this would be the route as the other paths may make the total distance too short for the race. So off I went running through water and mud as is the norm at this time of the year, following a vague trail through the marsh reeds.

Soon I came across a stile, not uncommon and climbed over it and looked for the next trail path. I soon spotted this and began a descent down a step and at times tricky path but one that was by no means unrunnable until I got near the bottom and the path disappeared. This was worrying as I needed to cross a stream at the bottom and begin an ascent back to the woods. I looked around for a stile but could see nothing. Not wanting to damage what looked like a newly erected barbed wire fence I looked for the safest descent to the stream and carefully began to negotiate a steep embankment where I had to create my own path as there was not one visible.

This was where the familiar became unfamiliar for me. I thought I knew Ogden Water and I thought I had walked and run most of the trails around it. However this was a new part of it for me and all of a sudden I felt very isolated from the outside world, hidden in the vee of a valley away from all other life. I was stood at the bottom of a small valley surrounded by nothing but marsh reeds, water and mud. I knew there would be others walking Ogden Water and the moors but there was nothing to indicate any sign of life.

This made me realise how dangerous running off road can be sometimes. You may think you know an area intimately and then decide to take a new path out of curiosity and find yourself in a place that is at once unfamiliar, dangerous and exciting. What is dangerous for me is that I never take my mobile phone with me on a run so if anything was to happen I would be stuck on the moors on my own with no way of telling anyone. If I had broken my ankle on Monday I may very well still be on the moors lying at the bottom of a valley.

Today was not to be that day and I continued my run which was now reduced to a crawl, up a steep embankment looking for anything that might resemble a path. I scrambled up the rest of the embankment and eventually found something resembling a path which led to a stile and back to the safety of the woods.

The rest of the run was on familiar trail paths and my pace picked up immediately, at some points surprisingly so according to Strava! And at the end I had done around 3 miles and felt a sense of accomplishment having discovered another part of Ogden Water. I completed the run in around 42 minutes which isn’t a great time for 3 miles but considering the descent and ascent of the valley I felt reasonably happy with it. If I go a different route I should be able to knock at least 5 minutes off that time.,

I’m sure that Ogden Water has no more surprises for me but you never know! Next time I do a recce of the Giants Tooth I will take a slightly different route that doesn’t go as far off the usual track and also have someone with me who knows the route. That should help me improve my time!

 


Here’s a blog article  about my running journey up to the Queensbury Running Club Awards night 2015

Last Friday 27th, November 2015 was Queensbury Running Club (QRC) very first award night and in some ways a welcome reminder of just how far QRC have come in such a short space of time. QRC have been around for some time now but it was a small club of dedicated runners who had been running for many years who were at a high level of ability for club runners and as a result people such as myself never gave running or QRC a second thought because we simply didn’t believe we could run or attain any worthwhile standard.

So QRC continued for many years with this dedicated and hardcore bunch of runners turning up week in and week out for training and races. But all that changed last year when they decided to create a Beginners Club and see what happened. As far as I remember the Beginners Club was to run for 10 weeks and the aim was just to get people interested and see if anyone wanted to join the club.

However such was the amount of interest in joining the Beginners Club that it carried on for months afterwards and was only dissolved when it was decided to just have one club QRC that catered for all runners of all abilities. The membership of the club has gone from 18 to around 107 and continues to grow. All of this in around 18 months.

I joined the Beginners Club on the second week and was the first male to join. There I was one lonely male surrounded by 30 females! I soon learnt my place! And there I was lumbering around the roads and trails that lie around me and just having fun. I weighed 19st 10lbs then and I didn’t want to get any heavier. I couldn’t afford a new wardrobe! I ran through the spring, summer and early part of autumn and then stopped because I didn’t want to run in the wind and rain.

This was a big mistake as I learnt to my cost. Come spring 2015 and with new reasons to lose weight and improve my fitness I returned to QRC and I hardly knew anyone. There was a few familiar faces but most people were strangers to me although by now some more males had joined so I didn’t feel quite as outnumbered as before!

But something had changed at QRC during my time away. It wasn’t just a club anymore it was a family with a special family feeling surrounding it. Within a few weeks I was back going off at a pace that would frighten Usain Bolt only to be out of breath and shattered within ½ mile! However this time I stuck at it and steadily I began to improve. I can still remember the times I ran my first mile, my first Old Guy Road, my first 5k and discovered I could run uphill non stop.

What a difference this made to me physically and mentally. My confidence began to build, the weight dropped off (I’m down to 15st 7lbs now) and most important for me my running ability just went up and up and up. I entered races and ran parkruns and saw improvements week after week after week. I was proud to wear the vest of QRC and represent my club and my home village.

And then September 2015 I got my first and hopefully last major injury the dreaded pulled Achilles tendon. At first I tried to run it off and carried on even running a race the Kirkstall 7 with it and finishing in 1hr 12 minutes. Not bad when you consider that I felt like stopping after 2 ½ miles but then remembered who I was representing and soldiered on. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea looking back but I’m proud to run for QRC and I wasn’t going to quit just yet.

But the next day I could hardly walk so I knew it was time to take some time away from running and rest and recuperate my Achilles or it would never get better and I may never run again. So I rested it but it didn’t get better. Some mornings it was so sore I could barely walk down the stairs, trips to the local supermarket where made in pain and walking to and from places had to be planned because they took so long. In the end I made the decision to go and have physio knowing that if that didn’t work nothing would.

At first the physio was more painful than walking, one time I went I couldn’t bear for it to be touched but my physio identified that I had a muscle imbalance in my ankles and gave me some exercises to do. My left ankle was considerably stronger than my right one and this was causing me all sorts of problems. I started doing my exercises and slowly the strength in my legs began to return. I went down the gym to maintain a level of fitness and looked at other ways I could improve my fitness.

In the meantime I stayed on touch with my fellow runners from QRC. I went and supported them at races cheering and taking photos. I went and volunteered at parkruns and this helped me keep in touch with the running community in general too. This helped me maintain the feeling that I was part of a family, a family that understands how painful and crushing having an injury can be but are there to help you through the dark days of injury and give you very good advice as many of them have been injured too and gone through what you are going through.

And around 3 weeks ago I got the all clear to resume running. I’m taking it steady and building up my distance and pace slowly. But I’m getting better with every run, I can feel it in my body and mentally I feel a lot stronger too. In fact I went out today in the wind and rain. No more am I a fair weather runner. I’m enjoying running again and taking care of my legs. I need them more than they need me!

And so to the awards night. I was asked if I would take some photos of the night which I felt both honoured and privileged to do. I enjoy taking photos but I’m no professional so the result will be interesting to say the least! But at least QRC and all the runners who attended have something to remember the evening by.

And I won Most Improved Male Runner 2015! I was shocked and surprised at winning this. There are so many very good runners there now that it is hard to single out one individual as being better than another individual. Every week runners of all abilities are putting in better and better performances, coming back from injury and showing they haven’t lost anything that for people to recognise my running journey truly means a lot to me. To vote for me as the most improved male runner is very special and something I will never forget. I’m still in shock now and have to check that it’s my name on the trophy and I haven’t picked up someone else’s trophy by mistake!

But it just goes to show what a great running family QRC are. They understand the frustration of injury and how difficult it can be to maintain belief in yourself that you will get over the injury and comeback, that you are a member of the QRC family and being a member means more than just running to you and that you have achieved far more than you ever thought you could and not only are you a better runner than before but a better person too.

So thank you to all the people at QRC and in the wider running community who have helped me on my running journey and been there for me. Thanks also to all the ones who have put up with my moods, bad jokes and general weirdness from time to time! Without any of you I wouldn’t be the person I am today and my life would be all the poorer for it.

 


from the first light of the flickering filament
to the soiling of that clean white nappy
playing with toys, learning the rules of life
that scary first day with other frightened kids
and the years of listening and learning that follow
to end up cast into a world of love and hate
hunting for jobs to help me build a life
drinking in haunts to help me forget i live
meeting my first and only true love
repopulating the planet with my seed
watching them grow into miniature versions of me
as they repeat the process of life that i have been through
we grow old together and head towards
the unavoidable fate that besets all humanity
leaving behind all that we know and love
these are the memories of life i have accumulated
refuse festering in the dustbin of my mind


the light is our landmark
in the death of darkness
we followed the rhythmic

swell of a tempestuous sea
hungry for wood and flesh
to take to the bottom

the light is our sign
that we are close to home
and the warmth of safety

that we have a chance
of surviving this night
that we live to love

our families once again
the light gives us
hope and courage

to continue on
without the light
we would be
swimming with the devil


my mother and father

would plant vegetables and flowers

in the garden or the allotment

anywhere where earth could be dug

digging through different

shades of mud and clay

planting dull, drab bulbs

that transform into colourful

shapely vegetables too good to eat

tiny seeds left deep underground

turn into flowers creating a paradise

in a corner of nowhere

my mother and father

planted all the colours

seen on earth and beyond

reproducing them perfectly

as nature intended

how i wish i could go back

and watch them dig and plant

all those bulbs and seeds

and learn from their gardening ways

and reproduce nature

as they once did…


you loved the light

how it entered my bedroom

every morning with you

turning on my light

hanging, still, on its own

in the middle of

a pure, white ceiling

momentarily blinding me

i am confused for a second

before i rub the nights

sleep out of my eyes

and blinking see your shape

silhouetted against my bedroom window

holding a curtain in each hand

for me a saint on a cross

opening the gates to heaven

before stepping aside to

allow the first rays of sunlight

to create a rainbow in the

corner of a teary eye

and breathe new life

into her young son

as he takes in the light

of this brand new day


This is an article I have written about my experiences with Mental Health Services and Learning Disabilities in England. The article is going to be used to help healthcare professionals in their training for people on the autistic spectrum. All comments are welcome.

The Autistic Impressionist

Andrew Smith

Sunday, 20 September 2015

I was at a meeting recently with some healthcare professionals from various backgrounds, but all with an interest in autism. The meeting is held every three months at Halifax, West Yorkshire. It is always interesting to hear the views and opinions of the professionals that attend with regards to developments in local and central government policy that affect both the professionals and people on the autistic spectrum.

One of the topics that came up was the diagnosis of autism and Asperger’s Syndrome and which local services a person with high functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome comes under. For myself and many others this was a choice between Learning Disabilities (LD) or Mental Health (MH). This is a topic that is often discussed because it affects nearly everybody who is involved with is on the autistic spectrum.

I recounted the story of when I was visited in my home by LD and MH services as they tried to determine which service I fell under and who would pay for any services I may require. This was of course far more important than anything else that may or may not decide I needed. What seemed to surprise some of the professionals at the meeting was the extraordinary lengths I went to, to ensure my house and myself were clean and well presented. What they didn’t and couldn’t know was how this also took over my life in the lead up to the meeting.

The advice I had been given by some support workers at a local autism charity was to present myself and my home environment in as natural and normal a way as possible for the meeting. This was to ensure that the professionals visiting me got an honest impression of how I lived and coped. This is to ensure that I or anybody else in the same position gets the right amount of support based on their circumstances and not based on false impressions.

However having Asperger’s Syndrome and quite possibly a touch of OCD as well this was something I just could not do. I had to tidy my house and prepare it as if it was a royal visit! And this was my problem. Despite knowing that this would go against all the advice I had been given and create the wrong impression, I still could not bring myself to leave my house as it was. The feeling to tidy up was intensely overwhelming and all consuming.

In the weeks and days leading up to the meeting getting and keeping my house tidy was all that occupied my every waking moment. There was nothing else on my mind, nor anything else I wanted to do. I had always been brought up to believe that you could live in whatever squalor you chose to do, but if you had people coming to visit you your house had to be a palace. And being on the autistic spectrum I took this literally and to extremes.

This was what, on reflection made my behaviour different to that of a neurotypical person. A neurotypical person would know when to stop and would not let the situation take over their lives in the way I did or at the very least have far more control over the situation than I did. In addition they would I believe take the advice of the charity and leave their home as it was.

But I am not neurotypical and I didn’t know when to stop cleaning. In the weeks leading up to the meeting I kept thinking that although things were clean they would get dirty again. But then I thought that unless I cleaned them they would be dirty on the day of the visit wouldn’t they? This cycle of thinking, cleaning and reflecting dominated my life over this period of time.

All these thoughts were going round and round my mind 24/7 in the days and weeks leading up to the meeting and they took over my life and overwhelmed my daily existence. However looking back I believe I needn’t have worried as much as I did. Nobody seemed that bothered by how clean or unclean my house was.

All they were bothered about was me and I hadn’t prepared myself for that either mentally or appearance wise. Again I got the impression that this didn’t really matter too much at the end of the day to anybody there. In the end Mental Health was selected as the service that would have responsibility for me and I had more in-depth meetings with people afterwards.

What I hope this story illustrates is how the desire to put on a false impression for people can takeover and overwhelm a person’s life to such an extent that is their life and the sole reason for existence. They may give the impression of being tidy, clean and in control but in reality they are untidy, dirty and have no control.

But the desire to create the right impression is all that matters to them and they will go to any lengths and endure all forms of mental and physical torture to do so.

What this also illustrates is the constant fear many people on the spectrum live in of being judged by others. This has an effect on an individual’s personality and impacts on their identity as a human being living in a social world they have tremendous difficulty understanding. As a result some people and especially people on the spectrum will do even more to be accepted and judged in a positive way even if this is detrimental to their actual situation and health.

I will add that this is my own personal experience and others on the spectrum may react to the same situation very differently and exhibit very different behavioural traits.

© Andrew Smith 2015


the world changed when i was born

not in a big way

nothing earth shattering happened

no earthquakes to announce my birth

no volcanos erupting to drown my screams

no hurricanes to blow away my mothers pain

but for my mum, my dad, my family

the world changed when i was born

the world changed when you was born

the world changes when every baby is born


heather turns brown

leaves flutter

into pools of mud

 

tears of despair

carried by clouds of hope

flee across skies

 

of blue tinged with grey

as life migrates

a season passing by

 

plays out one last time

every nook and cranny

warmed by dying rays of light

 

insects play one final scene

before lives end

as the sun sets

 

on a barren landscape

that goes to sleep and

awaits the return of life