Tag Archives: Non-fiction

Mrs G’s book

I promise. I will not keep going on about the G family and how they influenced me. Not for all that much longer, anyway. But an influence is an influence and cannot be ignored.

It’ll get sadder now. Many years after my year of lodging with them, I was shocked to to be told that Mrs G was terminally ill. And that she’d not been wanting to tell me, because it was precisely the same illness that Mother-of-witch died of five years before. And she knew that, and I bet she knew that she was at least as much of a mother figure as she was friend. To lose two mothers to the same illness could be seen as carelessness.

Towards the end you go a bit crazy. I know I did. Mrs G clearly sensed it, and knew what to do.

A couple of days later a parcel arrived for me. It was a book. One of hers. Not one that I particularly wanted, but one of hers and so very well chosen. It was old and worn. It was Swedish Embroidery, by Eivor Fisher.

Eivor Fisher, Swedish Embroidery

I had been surrounded by embroidery for most of my life, and with it being mainly mid-20th century in style, it was precisely what I’d been surrounded by. Mother-of-witch and all her friends embroidered such things. In short, a little boring. For me.

But to Mrs G it was obviously fresh and exciting, being part of a much earlier craze for things Scandi (same as Sarah Lund’s jumpers) that young people well versed in arty ways liked back then.

What really made her gift special, however, was the card that accompanied the book, explaining why and what. Before they were married, Mr G had to attend classes in the evening for his architect course, which he didn’t care for. I suppose he’d rather have gone out with his girlfriend.

His girlfriend was so nice (well, we already knew) that she enrolled in embroidery classes at the same Art College, so that they could go for drinks afterwards. I find that very romantic.

So, there was the reason for the book. She wanted to leave a little bit of herself for me to keep. It’s amazing how knowing the background to something can change how you look at it.

This was precisely the book I needed. I won’t be embroidering anything from it, the way Mrs G hoped. But I don’t need to.

The brain talk

Blame My Brain. Yes, I will, if it turns out I made inadequate notes that don’t help me blog ten days after The Talk. That’s Nicola Morgan’s excellent talk on young brains, Monday last week, at the Royal Terrace Hotel.

As she pointed out, this is all about explaining why young people are the way they are. It’s no excuse. But it does help, realising why teenagers are so peculiar, and how they still manage to grow into quite normal adults after a while. For the purposes of the talk, Nicola reckoned a teenager is anyone between the ages of eight and thirty. Seems fair. We all know stroppy pre-teens and some of us have children who are still teenagers in their twenties.

Generalising is unfair, but can still be helpful. It’s worth working out if someone has ADHD/OCD or is just suffering from adolescence. The latter is something even rats and monkeys go through, although it is over a lot sooner for them.

There is peer pressure stress. They don’t care about their parents’s opinions the way they do their peers. And they get told off all the time. This is not good.

Neurons – grey matter – grow/multiply when girls are about ten and boys eleven. (I think it might have been 150 billion of the little things, but I could easily be wrong on the number of zeroes.) And then between ages 13 to 15 they start losing the neurons again, but that’s not as bad as it sounds. They use them, thereby strengthening connections. It’s a use it or lose it situation. And you really can’t be good at everything. Really.

The third stage is where you suddenly find you can’t do things you were previously able to do. You need more sleep than both before or after. Your emotions go haywire, and you take more risks, especially in the company of peers.

(I believe it is around here that we have the explanation as to why the young Seana merely grunted at her sisters, and how despite this they get on these days. It’s pure chemistry. Nothing – much, anyway – to do with what you’re told or taught.)

Depression for teenagers is easy to understand, while their prefrontal cortex is developing (this comes last, unfortunately). Part of the risk-taking is to use drugs, while at the same time the young brain is less able to cope with the effects of drugs.

Adults need to model good behaviour. We should remember, too, how we feel when we are criticised. We need to be their prefrontal cortex for them.

And something I’d never even thought of, is being younger than the rest. Nicola said she was among the younger ones in her school year. That can easily put you out of step with your peers when they have started accumulating neurons, or shedding them again. The little witch started school a year early, and classmates were between 12 and 18 months older. Maybe I was never as weird as I thought. Just not on the same neuron levels as the others.

For anyone who now needs a copy of Blame My Brain, the happy situation is that before Christmas (=now) Nicola will personally sell copies of all her books and sign them and post them to you. And do it cheaper than the shops.

I’m afraid I was so taken with the cakes and the tea last week, that I forgot to look at the copies of Blame My Brain they had for sale. Post-tea I only thought of my train and whether I’d get lost on the way to the station. But I am sure the book is as interesting as Nicola’s other non-fiction books. Last orders 16th December! (And since I’m not sure I’ve given you a terribly useful summary of the talk, I’d say getting a copy of the books is A Totally Good Thing.


Do you remember the weird girl who used to sit two rows ahead of you in the classroom at school? Or that other girl who was really boring, and who wanted to be your friend but didn’t get the message that you didn’t feel the same way? Not to mention the odd woman who lives across the road from you?

National Non-Fiction Day

For National Non-Fiction Day (that’s today) I have been reading a book about those girls. I would have read it regardless of the day, because the moment I saw the title I knew it was going to be good. I actually went on the Jessica Kingsley website to look for another book, but Aspergirls trumped everything else, so I asked for that instead.

Isn’t it a brilliant title? Or rather, isn’t it a great word play to describe females with Asperger Syndrome? Rudy Simone is an Aspergirl and she’s the one who wrote this lifeline for other Aspergirls. Anyone above the age of about ten would find this the most useful book imaginable. If you have Asperger Syndrome you need to hear that you’re not alone. Someone else has felt just as you do. Another girl has done what you do.

If you aren’t an Aspie, you still need this book. When you’ve read it you will be an expert (well, nearly) on Aspergirls and your understanding of the weirdo at school will make you regret you didn’t befriend her a little, and in future you will be really good at seeing that someone is about to have an Aspie meltdown and maybe you can even help. Not help her melt down, help her survive the ordeal. It may be a party to you, but to her it’s the worst thing imaginable. And she needs to get out NOW.

National Non-Fiction Day

This cute logo for Non-Fiction Day might seem inappropriate, but remember that for some Aspergirls he is the only friend she has. Sometimes by choice. Sometimes not.


If you think the cover of Aspergirls looks a bit dreamy, don’t let it deter you. The inside is pure dynamite, and I have rarely read so much sense on Aspergirls as in this book. It takes one to write about them. I may have said this before: Specialists’ books are all very well, but what people really, really need are the ‘case histories’ told from the inside.

And so far, this is the best I’ve seen. Aspergirls is a mix between Rudy’s own experience and that of other Aspergirls, as well as pure advice, both to other Aspies as well as to Neurotypicals.

There are chapters on most things in life from early schooldays to marriage and having your own children. As for the two-page list of female Asperger Syndrome traits, it’s pure gold. You may even discover you’re an Aspergirl yourself. There’s an explanation to all your little quirks. And if not, you’ll develop an understanding for why your neighbour always…