Monday, October 5, 2009

Four Conferences And A Wedding

Now is the time of year when the leaves begin to fall and people start migrating to towns beginning with 'B' for conferences. Life at the Maison Des Girrafes has been especially hectic as both Mrs Crox and I have been off to conferences more or less solidly for it seems like weeks. This interval of fervid freneticism is rapidly coming up to reaching the top of the close, but before it does, I felt that I would, with your permission, or even notwithstanding inasmuch as which, without it, give you a communique.

It all started when Mrs Crox, who edits an online magazine for a charity, started her annual trawl round the political conferences. Usually she goes to just one, maybe two, but this year is the last before a general election, so she felt she needed to do all three major parties. The lot. The works. So, on Sunday 20 September, she hoofed it down to Bournemouth where the Liberal Democrats, a party with its feet firmly planted in mid-air, and yet staunchly - perhaps, desperately - convinced of its own relevance - held its shindig.

Mrs Crox returned on Wednesday 23 September, and a matter of mere hours later, I stepped into Caroline, my eVolvo 850CD (1996 model, 122,000 miles on the clock, two owners, one less careful than the other) who cruised the 260 miles to Bristol with her usual effortless ease, transporting me as if on a pink fluffy cloud to the 69th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. It's too late to blog about this now - I tweeted it instead - and was fair tickled, though, to be co-presenter of a poster.

On Saturday 26 September I cruised back home again. Sunday was hardly restful, being filled with preparations by Mrs Crox for the infinite portent that is the Labour Party Conference in Brighton - the annual bash of what is, remarkably, still the party of government, though, it is to be hoped, not for much longer. Given that this party prides itself on being 'progressive', everyone addresses everyone else as 'comrade', and you have to be a trade union member just to be able to cover it - as if the past twenty years never happened. Mrs Crox found this not to her taste, although, she says, the fringe events were very interesting.

On Saturday 3 October Caroline transported me and the younger Croxii to a family wedding in Hampshire, wher we hooked up with Mrs Crox. We returned next day, whence Mrs Crox prepared herself for the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, a city that does not begin with 'B', though the star turn definitely does. Mrs Crox is there as I write, and finds it more to her taste than Labour. The delegates do, at least, seem to be having more fun. Mrs Crox gets back to Cromer on Thursday.

Now then - where does that leave me? For most of this period I have been constrained to work entirely from home. Which is fine. I like working entirely from home. However, I do have the sense that if I did it for weeks on end without making footfall at the London orifice of Your Favourite Journal Of Record Beginning With N, I'd go completely barmy. Or barmier than I am already, at any rate. What makes it all much harder is that I am, in effect, a single parent - and that's a whole different ballgame. This experience makes me wonder how real single parents cope. Perhaps they don't.

Thereby hangs a tale. Doing a full-time job while simultaneously managing the relentless parade of school runs, lunchboxes, the unstoppable rain of directives from two different schools, feeding and cleaning out pets, keeping up with the laundry and household chores, requires an iron-hard determination and a formidable degree of focus. And so I am up at 6 and rarely get to bed before midnight, and when one is an Age of Middle-and-a-Bit, the fatigue hits you with all the effect of a rotten watermelon struck by a seven pound hammer. And at this time of year, it's dark, yea, even at both ends. Tiredness and darkness piques my inherent depression, and, Ladies and Gentlemen, brings out the aspartame asparagus aspergic in me.

And so, the other day, while chained to the kitchen sink, I was listening to a radio emission on undiagnosed autism spectroscopic disorder in adults. It's not a matter of some people having it and some not. Like sexuality, it's a spectrum - and also highly heritable. Crox Minor has a diagnosis of Asperger's, and as Mrs Crox frequently tells me with that indulgent clucking of spouses inured to the habitus of marriage, I have many aspergic traits. I get obsessed with certain things to the exclusion of all else. I rarely allow others to say their piece without butting in. I loathe loud parties and crowds of people, wondering - well, wondering what the point of such brouhaha really is. And it's possibly not unconected that I am arguably the most senior and longest serving member of the staff of aforesaid Journal of Record who has no managerial responsibility whatsoever. Aspergic tendencies go with tact and diplomacy as handily as the Tour De France can be won by a halibut.

But I digress.

The aformentioned radiometric emission noted that Simon Baron Cohen, the well-known neuropsychologist, had devised a questionnaire, available online, to assess one's own aspergic tendencies. I found the test and took it. Given that I have some experience of Asperger's, and so knew where some of the questions were leading, I did my best to be ruthlessly honest, while at the same time answering the questions as quickly as possible. My score was 36.

Only after I had completed the test did I discover the rubric, which says, in part
In the first major trial using the test, the average score in the control group was 16.4. Eighty percent of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher.
So, there you are. I also know that people with Asperger's are prone to depression: so it could be that the depression against which I have struggled for much of my adult life is really a side-effect of this underlying mental tropism. The rubric goes on to say ...
The test is not a means for making a diagnosis, however, and many who score above 32 and even meet the diagnostic criteria for mild autism or Asperger's report no difficulty functioning in their everyday lives.
And given my current single-parent estate, this must count as an encouraging thought.

Mustn't it?


  1. I will, accordingly, take that test.

    Thanks, Henry.


  2. Speaking of the star turn at the Conservative conference, I trust you will be glued to the Boris & Dave the early years drama doc, which I believe is on the box tonight...

  3. I'm a mere 26.

    I have never been to a party conference either. Sounds like Hell.

  4. Brian - you're even geekier than I am!

  5. tried to comment last night and couldn't...

    Another great post, HG, and I wish you the best of luck juggling single parenthood right now.

    FWIW, and that's not much, I got a solid 16.0

    Which, according to some recent theories, would out me at the schizophrenic/far left side of the curce!

  6. well, I was allowed to take the test but not to see the score from work.....

    Interesting post Henry and I wish you the best with sleeping (when Mrs Gee is back home and you both are parents and can get 'normal' house life). It seems like a hectic month with the travelling for all the family. Happy Caroline is working well!

  7. @Tiddles - thanks mate!

    @chall - that's a thought. What would I have done without Caroline? I hoped she won't b jinxed...

  8. Glad to read that Caroline has been released from the confines of the garage, onto the open road. My own aging Honda Accord, Kiji, recently received a 120K-mile scheduled maintenance, with only a minor repair and a new battery required (batteries are the theme of 2009, for my vehicles).

    I scored a whopping 17 on the aspergic tendencies test. I, too, loathe loud parties and crowds of people, but I attribute this to my introversion and a bit of claustrophobia, rather than to aspergic tendencies. On the rare occasions that I'm depressed, it's invariably due to seasonal affective disorder or exhaustion from overwork and insomnia.

    I never considered myself to be a very warm, personable, or touchy-feely type, and rather saw myself as a serious, reserved, and unfailingly rational scientist. I abandoned my plans of going to medical school. I thought perhaps I had some aspergic tendencies. Turns out I was very, very wrong about this, and it took both volunteer activities with disabled individuals, and teaching and committee work within the medical school, to convince me otherwise.

    I should mention that I found all the Croxii to be utterly charming, regardless of their positions (or not) on the autism spectrum.

  9. @Barn Owl - you're very kind. I'm happy to report that as I write the sun is shining and Mrs Crox is home.

  10. 34 for me. Henry, what's it matter, considering you're employed doing work you love, you're well-loved, and your wife and children are happy?

  11. Oh, incidentally, Caddie the Ur-car has already got some sort of muffler trouble. I don't care; I'm besotted.

  12. Oh. And since you asked (why, o why?):

    Yeah, plenty don't cope. I'll find out in 20-30 years how well I did; the six-year-old child told me casually a few nights ago that being a mother "just doesn't work for you". In the meantime, I stop in on clients, have coffee with friends, use the phone, and spend most Saturday afternoons at shul. I ignore most of what the school says, except to growl at the teachers to scare them away from teaching my child to use calculators before she can do arithmetic on her own. I get philosophical about things I can do nothing about. And when I'm feeling genuinely low, I remember the advice that the nurse-midwife gave me in the hospital about sleep, and about how much bleaker things look when you haven't had enough of it.

    After that, I remember that various sadnesses and miseries are also part of living, and consider that my child is beautiful and healthy & that I've got it pretty good here (and do have friends, which is easy to forget in times like those), and that eventually the mood will pass. And that in the meantime I should remember to talk to the kid, let her talk and rattle on about whatever she's interested in, and listen.

  13. 'I remember the advice that the nurse-midwife gave me in the hospital about sleep, and about how much bleaker things look when you haven't had enough of it'

    You're so right. Sleep is definitely the most important determinant of, well, everything. I salute all single parents, who, I guess, must have to cultivate a remarkable singlemindedness just to get from A to B. And be able to write lists. Lists do help me to get through the day. That and my friends here. I think I'm going off to the loo now for a quiet sob.