Airports…

I’ve just been reading through a twitter thread from It’s Not Shrodinger’s Autism in relation to her experience with travelling recently.

Until reading her post today, I was not aware of The Hidden Disabilities scheme. The scheme serves to recognise and promote the fact that, as the name suggests, not all disabilities are visible. Providing a free lanyard and allowing staff to recognise and offer additional support or patience with people who have difficulties. The scheme also operates through some supermarkets and other such places. As yet, it does not appear to be internationally recognised, but may be persuasive and the more people use it, the larger the scheme will gain recognition.

Having recently flown from Manchester airport to Geneva early on a Saturday morning, I can state that on this occasion, as someone who used to fly weekly from Manchester that I have never encountered crowds like it, in any airport anywhere. I used to fly a lot from Gatwick, Southampton, Geneva, Manchester and I’ve flown from some of the busiest terminals in the world.

We were only away for a period of three days so travelling could be simplified by use of only carry-on luggage (which we were offered to stow in the hold at no extra cost) an option which we took on the return flight. Security were excellent, despite stopping, taking swabs and ‘wanding’ me. I explained metalwork in my body and was processed with courtesy and professionalism.

However it was impossible to get a drink or something to eat without monolithic queues. Fast food outlets (I fail to recall due to the stress of the experience but I think that it was Burger King) had tills down and faulty self-service screens. In the end, my partner and I managed to settle on a bland sandwich and I had a glass of wine which was far more expensive than any glass I had whilst in Switzerland (the bar staff serving had the gall to tell me to “Smile, you’re on holiday” to be given the response that I that I paid for a bottle and got a glass and couldn’t wait to get a bargain at Swiss prices*)

Anyway, I digress. The lanyard scheme allows use of something called the Sunshine Room, which in Terminal One, Manchester Airport is located behind the fast food outlets. These areas are quiet zones, with reduced lighting and an escape from the pandemonium of the airport terminal. If only I had known about them. Personally, I do consider myself high-functioning, I currently live alone and generally manage to maintain myself and my small flat. However in the throng of crowds I struggle. I really could have used the solace of a quiet area for just a few minutes.

I won’t go into details of our holiday, at least at this point as it would be going off at a tangent which even I would be alarmed at.

We arrived back at Manchester Airport on Monday at around 23:30, having retrieved bags, gone through passport control and all of the usual rigmarole. Having spent suitable time in consideration of transport back to Bradford from the airport, the earliest (and quickest) and fastest option was National Express at about 03.20. A four hour wait in Manchester Airport Arrival lounge. Whereupon there was one shop open. Yes, one! It’s not like airports operate on a 24 hour basis is it! Oh, yes… An utter farce, absolutely nothing to do, for hours on end. The options for food and drink in the arrivals lounge is poor at best, but at least keep them open for pity’s sake. Here there wasn’t a quiet area. People lingering around plug sockets trying to power phones and generally one of the more miserable environments to spend time in.

In summary, I really must look into the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme as I felt that having a few minutes of quiet time would have made the experience more enjoyable.

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In contrast Geneva airport:

Welcoming, helpful. The nearest to a stressful experience was my partner showing me a watch which costs more than I would consider spending on a house, several watches, several mountain bikes and an Aston Martin. Thankfully, she was only looking and the staff joked that there was a defibrillator nearby.

*If you’ve not been to Switzerland, I can state, having lived there, that it is not known for bargains. 

Overwhelmed

(This blog was drafted on Monday morning)

I seem to have been bogged down in application forms and interviews for the last two weeks. I was offered a job working as a support worker for students with autism, but despite me having applied for a role in Manchester, I was offered one almost a 100 miles away on a zero-hour contract. Needless to say, I have declined the offer.

If this blog seems a little erratic, that’s probably down to the fact that I couldn’t sleep last night so I’ve been online all night completing more applications and now I have the cat sleeping deeply on my lap and I’m not wanting to move her. So, espresso and lack of sleep can be my justification.

Interviews are always a challenge for most people. Now, I am aware that some people on the spectrum struggle with meeting new people; this is something that I trained myself out of many years ago. I worked in environments which require interaction with a constant influx of new people and we can learn to deal with an awful lot. I’m reasonably OK with new people, but my personal struggle comes in communicating on a deeper level; I can’t read people easily and when I do, I frequently reach the wrong conclusion. I have taken the attitude that, in interviews, I tend to tell people that I am on the spectrum and explain that I may just be more specific in conversation and that whilst it might appear that I’m making eye contact I won’t be and if my eyes wonder slightly it’s not me being rude. (I try to look at a person’s nose or eyebrows, which gives the impression of making eye contact.)

So in all, it has been a stressful few weeks and I’m still waiting on surgery to remove the pins from my ankle, which will allow me to get back on the bike and running again, both of which help me to feel ‘normal and healthy’. My surgical appointment is booked for the 23rd of September and hopefully recovery won’t take more than a few days.

Watching the mountain bike racing on Redbull TV reminds me how much I’m missing it and that I was supposed to be racing in Switzerland this coming weekend. As I’m not able to ride, let alone race, we have decided to simply take a couple of days to get away, enjoy being in the mountains and relax; I’ve not had a holiday since 2016 and then I ran a marathon up the Jungfrau (great fun but not particularly relaxing). So, cat sitting services have been found and myself and my girlfriend are very much looking forward to a few days away. **

** Wednesday morning edit prior to publishing. 

I was expecting and promised the return of money from family which was going to pay for spending money to go on holiday. Said money has not been returned and I’m simply not able to get a reply from my brother (who is lousy with answering the damn phone anyway). I’m in two minds as to whether I cancel the trip, we really can’t go to Switzerland without money, I remember how expensive a bag of groceries or a sandwich is and I haven’t lived or visited in three years. 

As I cope with interaction with others and daily functioning by use of creating plans, routines and structure, I find myself currently wanting to tear my skin off, whilst trying to type whilst stimming with my head and feet.

Things I can’t control

People with autism need and form patterns, plans and routines. I’ve always tried to plan everything to a high degree of detail. I meal plan, I plan my working day, I plan my training and relaxation time. Basically, I’m a logistic dream or nightmare, depending upon ones perspective.

I’m currently waiting on my girlfriend to arrive back in the U.K. from Sweden. She’s had a fun trip, visiting a friend and I’m very much looking forward to spending the weekend together; and, yes I do have meals planned.

However, the fly in the ointment takes the form of Norwegian Air deciding to change her return flight and no one thought to notify her of this change. Not the website she booked through or the Airline themselves. The flight was moved forward, by a matter of five hours. I’ve spoken to the website and been informed that the next direct flight to Manchester is at 07:00 tomorrow! Or she can get a flight tonight and have a nine hour layover in Heathrow airport.

I now can’t get hold of her to find out more information. I hate not being able to do anything more than I have done and feel utterly useless. I write this as a means of trying to avoid the alternative, which is simply to have a meltdown.

Transport

It’s not really a secret that I detest public transport; when I lived in London most recently, I choose to drive almost everywhere. I caught half a dozen trains during the three years I lived in Switzerland and then, only until I managed to get a car.  I cannot stand the smell that bus emissions give off, it makes me want to claw my own skin off.

I currently don’t have my own car, this leads to some things not being as easy as with one. I can’t often get to races, which leads to my not racing as much as I would like (although I am still out with injury, awaiting surgery at the moment). Also, I don’t get to see my friends, who, by and large are mainly in the South of England, whilst I live in West Yorkshire.

This leads me on to the subject of trains, I took my girlfriend to Manchester Airport on Sunday as she was flying to visit a friend in Sweden. The trains were, unexpectedly far more crowded than I had anticipated. Stuck in a metal tube with hundreds of other sweaty and noisy people, all of which have luggage was not a pleasant journey. Arrival at the airport was actually reasonably straight forward as was helping her check in and after a nice meal, I escorted her to Security and wished her an enjoyable trip.

Now to make my return journey from Manchester to Bradford, which was almost £30 for a single off-peak ticket. The ticket machine would only let me travel on a specific route, via Halifax, which in train times is a little like travelling via the moon. One train cancelled, three changes and being boxed into my seat by sheer force of numbers. The noise and smells of public transport combined with the stresses of having to determine a very convoluted route and cancelled trains all adding to the stress factor. At one point, I was so confused I asked a guard ‘How do I get to Bradford International?’ (which doesn’t exist). I arrived home in the end, just an hour and a half later than planned. Next time, I think that I’ll hire a car.