Author: bethvonblack

A disabled yet glamorous and elegant fashion and lifestyle blogger afflicted with an unusual love of the gothic and macabre.

I’m an asshole, but I can’t help it.

I can still remember an interview I had with a tutor at the London College of Fashion – I was 21 and applying to be on their Makeup Artistry degree. The tutor asked me a question, to which I did not know the answer, so I replied ‘you’re the tutor, you tell me’ and suffice to say, I didn’t get an offer of a place on the degree after that interview.

You see, I’ve bumbled along my entire life, ruffling feathers. Something I’ve said will be taken the wrong way, misinterpreted or will be perceived as just plain rude. But the thing is, I don’t mean for that to happen. I’m not wired the same way as the majority of people – I have Autism Spectrum Disorder. Part of the condition means that I lack the ‘filter’ that non-Autistic (Neuro-typicals) people have – tact, diplomacy or whatever you like to call it – I lack. It is a part of what makes me, me.

Apparently, that makes me an asshole. But, at the age of 31 I am so so tired of having to talk my way out of situations that I find myself in, because my brain doesn’t connect the dots in the same way as the majority. I am sick and tired of having to apologise for saying something offensive – most of the time, I don’t mean to offend people, most of the time I don’t understand how people can find certain things offensive.

I am a big, fat asshole and I’m no longer sorry. I cannot help the fact that I have Autism and I am not going to apologise for my brashness, for my rudeness, for my belligerence (as a music teacher once said I was) I am wired differently. I say things how I see things and I’m incredibly matter of fact about things – I always have been that way.

So here I am, saying SORRY NOT SORRY for being tactless, undiplomatic or rude. If you know me, you know that I love fiercely, am passionate and I care deeply about the people closest to me. I want to look after people, take care of people and I am not a bad person. Yes, I put my foot in it all too often, but isn’t it time YOU made some room for us Neuro-divergents (people with Autism) who are just being themselves. Stop being so offended by something someone says and understand that the things we say come from a place of innocence and naivety not malice.

I do however, want to say thank you to the people closest to me, who over the years have experienced my lack of filter and have stayed put. They didn’t ‘unfriend me’ for something I said once, and they haven’t disowned me because I hate children (yes, I hate children) and they love me regardless. That is what I’m most thankful for that is what empowers me to keep being me.

Maybe, just maybe….the world would be a better place if we just let people be without trying to change them to fit into the Neurotypical World. Oh well, a girl can hope.

Signing off, Big Fat Asshole xx

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Low Budget, Low Faff Wedding

I honestly couldn’t be more content. I’m engaged to a man I adore, we live in our own Victorian house that we’re currently renovating and things couldn’t be better – well, we’re technically poor as I am unable to work, but we’re not in any debt (aside from our Mortgage, which doesn’t reeeeally count) and we’re living inside our means without going without and we want to keep it that way!

With all that in mind, I’ve started delving into the world of wedding planning.

I should caveat that statement with a statement about my hatred (bit strong) for weddings in general. You see, being Autistic, I find socialising incredibly stressful – so you can imagine how weddings can cause adverse reactions in someone who struggles with social situations; I’m also a goth and naturally find that anything frilly, faffy, puffy and white sends shivers down my spine. I just don’t understand the “pinterest wedding” trend of this modern world we live in. Even most of the Rock N’Roll Bride weddings are too weddingy for my dark, dark tastes. (I won’t be wearing any shade of pale, when we get married!)

Oddness aside, it occurred to me recently that I don’t actually think I want to elope – I kinda want my parents to be there when I get married. Originally, I wanted it to be just the two of us and a couple of random witnesses, but the more I think about it, the more I want my parents in the picture – you only have one set of parents and they won’t be around forever, so I know I’d regret not having my folks present when I finally marry the man I love.

So that now leads us down the road of an intimate wedding with parents and siblings. The thought of saying vows in front of parents and siblings fills me with a feeling of impending doom. To say I’m nervous about saying vows in front of more than 2 people would be an understatement. Urgh. Anyway…

Having looked for around ten minutes online at various wedding websites and venue websites, I can say that I do NOT want to spend more than a few hundred pounds on a wedding venue. It is not that important to me to have the ‘fairy tale’ wedding in a big fancy stately home – I’m lower middle class, not a member of the aristocracy – I’d feel like a massive tit swanning around in a stately home that I’d rented (TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS to rent the Dairy at Waddesdon Manor, for example!!!!) for a day. No Siree!

Honestly, I would LOVE an intimate church wedding. Don’t get me wrong, I am a staunch Atheist and so is my Fiancé but to me, churches are the most beautiful pieces of architectural history and I would love to have a civil ceremony in a Church; they suit my gothic sensibilities to a tee. My other half has vetoed the idea, sadly. (Also, I don’t even think atheists would be allowed to get married in a church???)

So, where is left? I like the idea of a woodland wedding, but would really like to wear heels when I get married, not wellies. My straightened hair also has a shitfit if I spend more than half an hour outdoors… What is a girl to do!?

If you can come up with some ideas of a low budget venue in the UK (preferably England) then I would LOVE to hear your ideas. Please do get in touch if you can help!

 

 

 

 

Disability and Travel

Me and travel have a complicated relationship; I’ve even go so far as describing it as a love/hate relationship.

You see, I’ve always loved to travel. When I was a kid, we drove to Cornwall for two weeks every summer. As I got older, we went further afield after my long suffering Mum forced my Dad to go on a ‘proper holiday’ and during my GCSEs we flew to Greece for the first time. I was hooked. My mum and I will often just jump in the car and drive and see where it takes us. We love freedom and finding new, beautiful places.

Like most families, we had our favourite holiday destinations; Portmellon in Cornwall, near Mevagissey – where I spent every year of my childhood from nappies to GCSEs. Once my Dad had gotten over his fear of trying something new (we think he is also on the Autism spectrum, but denies there is anything wrong with him!) he threw himself into every Greek holiday we had after that – he learned basic Greek very quickly and we made friends with the locals in Petra on the island of Lesvos – it became a regular occurrence.

I haven’t been back to Lesvos since I was in my early twenties, but I definitely have the travel bug now. In recent years I’ve been to France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. We came back from Morocco (my first foray into out-of-Europe travel) on Saturday and we are now looking at our next adventure  even further afield – south east Asia.

This all sounds rather wonderful, until you consider that I am unlike most people and travelling is not easy when you have several invisible disabilities. I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III (Now called Hypermobile EDS) when I was 19 so for years now I’ve had to make certain concessions as a keen traveller. Now, with my most recent diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, do I have to consider MANY things before we even book our flights.

How much walking is involved?

This is the question that rules my life. Because of my EDS, I cannot walk very far at all without being in pain. I have painful feet, ankles, legs and back. I also tire very very quickly and if I push myself too far on the first day of my travels, the rest of the holiday can easily be ruined. I wish I could just ‘book it, pack it and fuck off’ as Peter Kay so eloquently put it during one of his stand up routines, but sadly, I cannot – we have to research the fuck out of where we’re going, we have to make sure there are either taxis, horse drawn carriages or tuk-tuks – hell, I’d ride a donkey if I had to, just to see some of the world.

How hot/cold/wet does it get?

Another irritatingly complex issue I have, is with the weather. Again, we have a love hate relationship due to a condition I have called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – this is basically my body failing to cope with certain movements like going from sitting to standing and my blood pressure drops so much I feel dizzy, faint and I lose my vision for a few seconds. Heat is my biggest enemy.

So, not only do I have to consider how hot it gets, but also how wet – because if you’ve ever had the misfortune to have arthritis or any other type of joint injury or pain, you’ll know that wet, damp weather is torture on the body. I absolutely love travelling around Europe, but the dampness is often a problem, so I have to go armed with heat packs a plenty.

Do I have enough earplugs?

I have struggled to sleep when there is background noise for many years now and it seems to be getting tougher and tougher. I cannot sleep in noisy environments so booking a cheap stay at a hostel and sharing a room with other travellers is a no-go. I can’t even sleep with my Fiance unless I have at least one earplug in – just someone breathing next to me is enough to bring on an autistic meltdown.

Where shall we prioritise?

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is degenerative. That means, it’s getting worse as I age. That also means that we have now had to start planning which destinations we want to put on the top of the list and which destinations we can afford to hold off on. We really REALLY want to travel to Peru to see Machu Picchu but the sheer size of it and the fact that it is an incredibly physically demanding place means that we’re going to have to do it sooner rather than later. The older I get, the harder it is going to get to travel around the places like this. I’ve looked into holidays for disabled travellers and there is a company out there that will literally carry you up the mountain to Machu Picchu in your wheelchair. Sadly, we’re a couple on one salary (of a Primary teacher!) so we cannot afford to book a package holiday like that – we have to do it ourselves somehow. And we will, we just have to figure out the logistics.

We spend so much time and energy planning our travels. We have to. I am limited physically and mentally. I find ordinary life incredibly tough, so add the complexity of foreign travel and you can imagine how hard it can be.

Which airport/airline is best for Special Assistance?

We have only recently realised that there is something called Special Assistance. Basically, the airport or the airline have people on hand to help disabled travellers get around the airport and on and off the planes. I booked my first airport assistance when we were flying from Gatwick to Germany and after quite a wait, I was transported via Wheelchair from Departures to the gate. As you probably know, it can be quite some distance to whichever boarding gate your flight is leaving from, so being able to save some energy was a real help.

I have to say,  we flew to Morocco from London Luton and the special assistance service was absolutely fantastic. We somehow managed to arrive rather short on time so the guy rushed us through security via the Priority Boarding lanes and I was also escorted onto the plane via a lift that meant I didn’t have to tackle any stairs at all. I couldn’t fault the service at London Luton aiport. Thank you!

Marrakech Airport also, took me by surprise. As soon as we got off the plane, there was a gentleman and a wheelchair waiting for me. He transported me through the airport, through security (there was apparently a 45 minute wait for able bodied passengers) and he even took us to the Bureau De Change (you can’t take currency into Marrakech, you have to exchange it when you’re there) and then out to the taxi rank. The service when flying back from Marrakech airport was also fantastic – I was transported straight to departures, through security and the only waiting we had to do was for the gate to open! I was so so surprised by the hands on attitude to disabled travellers at Marrakech airport. It is strange to say this, but we had a far far better experience being disabled in Morocco than we have visiting some places in England! Thank you Marrakech ❤

Can we afford it?

I can imagine a lot of our friends/acquaintances wonder how we manage to travel abroad at least once a year and have a mortgage on just one salary – the answer is; living frugally!
Honestly, it’s as simple as that. We don’t smoke, we buy a bottle of wine maybe twice a month and we eat a mainly vegetarian diet (I eat meat when we eat out – usually using Tesco vouchers – thank you Mum!) and we are big savers. We don’t live a hugely expensive life – we don’t have Sky (we’ve only just bought a telly with money given to us for Christmas) and we are lucky enough to be on a friend’s Netflix account (massive massive thank you to Andreas, you beaut!) so we can afford to pay our mortgage, bills AND save for our holidays abroad. We rarely go out socially and we also brew our own beer – or rather, my other half does (I’m wheat intolerant, of course – not to mention lactose intolerant too but that’s another blog!)

So you can see, if you make the necessary sacrifices, you can do more. You can choose to attend the same festival year in year out (not my thing, but if that’s what you like, I couldn’t care less!) or you could travel further and see more of the world.

We have travelled by car, ferry, bus, train, airplane and horse and carriage – we will see the world by any means necessary. That is how important travelling is to us as a couple, and how important it is to me, as someone with disabilities. I will not let my illnesses define me, or stop me from living my life. If I can do it, you can too!

We’re engaged! (aka Fuck You Disney!)

My partner Carl and I have been together for nearly four years. He is my first long term boyfriend (my last relationship lasted just a year!) and we bought a house together in October last year. I guess it was only natural that being a woman, I’d be the one dropping hints about marriage.

We had discussed marriage quite early on in the relationship and agreed that it was something we’d both like to do at some point in the future, but Carl had said that he believes marriage is a religious institution so wasn’t too fussed about it either way.

Unfortunately for me, and most women my age, I’d grown up watching all the Disney ‘happily ever after’ fairy tales where the Prince rescues the Damsel in Distress and they get married and live happily ever after.

It dawned on me very recently, that I’m in a relationship with a man who wasn’t surrounded by the fairy tale romance ideal that is thrown down the throats of us ladies. He’s a man – he doesn’t watch chick flicks obsessively like I do. He doesn’t live vicariously through the Sex and the City crew or the Gilmore Girls like I do.

The ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ idiom is one that is true, at least for me. It was this realisation that made me stop and think ‘no, fuck you Disney, I’m doing this my way’ – So I decided to fuck every fairy tale and chick flick I’d grown up with and decided to move my relationship on myself. I asked Carl to marry me one night as we were sat on the sofa. I instigated ring shopping by saving my favourites to my Etsy account and asking Carl his opinion. When I found the ‘one’ I showed it to him and he gave me his card to buy it.

It wasn’t until we were lying in bed one night and he turns to me and says ‘give me back the ring, I want to do it properly when we’re in Marrakech’ – and he did. He got down on one knee, with the ring, on top of the terrace and asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes! But, I didn’t NEED him to get down on one knee and propose. I was happy being the instigator in the proposal, but he obviously felt like he wanted to propose to me too and that was lovely.

We’ve had a very egalitarian relationship from the beginning – we both cook, we both clean, we both make financial decisions, we discuss everything together. It seemed that we also managed to have an egalitarian engagement too!

I’m not saying, by any means, that ‘romance is dead’ or that I forced my partner into agreeing to marry me. By telling our story, I’m trying to diffuse the myth that a relationship (or marriage) is all about a man getting down on one knee. It doesn’t have to be that way – FUCK DISNEY, FUCK THE CHICK FLICKS. Also, fuck the ‘leap year’ idea that a woman can only propose to her man during a leap year – how the fuck does that make any difference!? Honestly!

There is no shame in a woman asking a man to marry her. Let’s break down the patriarchal dictatorship that rules our lives and say no to being the damsel in distress. I am not a princess locked in a tower, waiting for a knight in shining armour to save me. I’m a woman, who deeply loves her partner and wants to be legally married to him, to be his wife. Why does the man have to do the asking? In my world, he doesn’t.

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(Photos taken on the roof terrace of Riad Assouel in old town Marrakech, Morocco)

DIY Victorian Stair Makeover

One of the first things I thought when I viewed the house for the first time was ‘urgh, who paints everything white?’ and my second thought was ‘How the fuck am I going to undo all this!?’

A couple of months after we moved in, I did some research online and found a chemical paint stripper that would be strong enough to remove the paint from the stairs (Yes… there is white paint from floor to ceiling!!) I settled on Langlow’s Strip Away Pro. It had brilliant reviews online for its efficacy,  I decided to give it a go. A word of warning though – it is designed to be used by ‘professionals’ and as such, is only available to buy on Ebay and Amazon. It is incredibly strong stuff and burns through latex gloves – I double glove with Marigolds AND latex gloves underneath and still have to replace them after a few uses. Langlow paint stripper BURNS the skin, so protective clothing, gloves and facemasks are definitely necessary. It’s also important to adequately ventilate the area before, during and after use as it also burns the lungs if not properly ventilated during use.

So, I have my stripper, some wire wool, a scraper, protective wear, some cloths and a bucket of water and get to it. I started on a floorboard nearest the bedroom as we have a yoga mat in the hallway (it’s incredibly echoey when everything is painted and there are no carpets!) so I could hide it if it didn’t look good or work out. Luckily, the paint came off incredibly easy with the scraper. Sadly, the previous owner hadn’t done the best job (to put it lightly!) on painting or varnishing the entire hallway upstairs and down. The whole lot needs to come off, then be sanded down. What a job!

I have to say, I am loving every minute of it! Yes, it stinks, yes it’s hard work physically (I’m wearing my wrist splints more and more since I started the stair makeover) but the instant gratification of the paint coming away is indescribable! Renovating a house is an incredibly slow, laborious thing if, like me, you have no money. I’m doing the stripping myself as my Fiancé works full time and I am really enjoying having something to fill my time with.

Here are some pictures of the stair makeover so far…

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I quickly found out that to strip the paint (mainly gloss, with 2 layers of Victorian varnish) from the skirtings was not a job for a chemical paint stripper. I googled how to strip paint from skirting boards and architraves and decided the best course of action would be to purchase a Heat Gun.

I practically ran down to my nearest Screwfix and bought their cheapest (yet most highly rated!) 2000w, 240v heat gun by Energer. I already had everything I needed so the next day after watching several You Tube videos, decided to give it ago.

It’s definitely all about trial and error and I learned quickly the best techniques for stripping the skirtings. I’m really enjoying the process of stripping, but I honestly can’t wait to hire a sander and get them ready for my next step (staining them as dark as possible!)

Here’s what the skirting boards look like.

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I ran out of chemical stripper so am waiting for a delivery of the next 5 litre can. I’m working with the heat gun on the skirting boards while I’m waiting to finish the stairs.

The next step, as I’ve said, will be to hire a belt sander (my dad’s loaning me his hand sander for the fiddly bits) and then I’ll look into the array of wood stains. My plan for the hallways and stairs is to stain the wood as dark as possible – a dark mahogany, hopefully, then matt varnish over the top. I’ve been researching original victorian floors and the plan is to get them looking as authentic as possible, so that means they’re going DARK! No more white paint thank you very much!

Watch this space – I’ll be posting another blog once I’ve finished the stripping process and I’ve hired a sander… that’s the really scary bit! Eeeeeek.

I AM Autistic! (duh!)

On 8th December 2017 I sat down in a psychologist’s office and underwent a series of assessments/tests that are used to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders in adults. I discussed my childhood, my teen years and my struggles in life both as a young person and as an adult. My Mum also filled out some forms about me and also answered some questions from the Psychologist about me as a toddler – it’s easier to diagnose ASD if they have a decent amount of history from around the age of 4, so it was really important that my Mum attended with me. I left the appointment and Christmas and New Year came and went….

Six agonising weeks passed and finally my result appointment was here.

I sat down in my psychologist’s office once again, and nervously grasping at my coffee, I waited with bated breath. She asked me what I was expecting or hoping for and I answered honestly, while looking at my feet, “I’m hoping for an ASD diagnosis”.

A slow pause and she starts reading out parts of her report (that she had yet to finish) and listed how many points I scored for certain questions and how that measured up to a diagnosis…….

It turns out that on the ADOS 2 assessment, I scored 9. The threshold for an ASD diagnosis is 7, so I can say that I am officially diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum and I have Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am not ‘neuro-typical’ – not that that comes as a huge surprise to anyone that knows me, personally!

Part of the report says  “she did not ask for information during the ADOS 2 in a social manner; that is, she did not inquire about nor express interest in the examiner’s thoughts, feelings or experiences, even when presented with a leading statement to investigate further.”  – I feel particularly embarrassed about this part of the report, as it seems so obvious to me looking back. I remember the discussion and kick myself that I didn’t ask her any questions about herself – but then, I also have to remind myself that this isn’t my fault. I am autistic and part of that means that I do not consider other people’s feelings or thoughts instinctively, like neuro-typical people do. It is something I can now understand and accept.

Being diagnosed with Autism wasn’t a surprise to me, but it did take me a week or so to let it sink in – I wasn’t ‘normal’ and after 31 years, it’s a shock. It did though, validate my feelings that I was innately different to the general public – an inkling I’d had since I was a young teen.

However, I now have to navigate the world knowing that my brain isn’t developed in the same way as most people. This means I’m now constantly questioning myself and trying to figure out who I am. Questions like ‘is this my autism, or is this my personal taste?’ and things like that. How much of what I do and say is down to being autistic? You can see where I’m going with this…. it has opened up a can of worms in a sense.

In contrast, it has also given me a sense of relief. Relief that there is now a clinical, medical reason for why I have found life more difficult, more stressful and less enjoyable than most people. I’ve struggled socially since I can remember and now I know why; it wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t keep friendships going through school. It wasn’t my fault that I was in my early 20s before I had a boyfriend and lost my virginity. Social skills don’t come naturally to me and now I understand why. I understand why I’ve struggled with Social Anxiety Syndrome since my teens; it turns out that Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and ASD are often seen together – anxiety disorders are also co-morbid conditions often found alongside EDS and ASD – and I have all 3!!!

So that explains it. I’m autistic. I am autistic. And that’s okay. I guess that also makes me somewhat of a genius in a way… I’ll get onto that in another blog post!

Ta ta for now xx

 

 

 

Adult Autism (ASD) Assessment

On 8th December 2017 I attended a private practice in my hometown, for an adult autism assessment and I thought I’d share with you how it went and what happened.

Firstly, I shall briefly explain how to get an NHS assessment if you think you may be on the Autistic Spectrum. The first port of call is your General Practitioner (GP). I spoke to my GP about my concerns and he asked me to go home, write down the things about myself that make me think I may be autistic, give it to him and he will then decide if what I’ve written warrants a referral for a diagnostic assessment.

Unfortunately for me and others in my area, our NHS autism clinic has closed, so referrals are now being sent to a local private clinic instead and they take on NHS patients through a GP referral. I’m not sure if that’s a nationwide issue (I’d guess that it may well be) so always ask your GP first – I had to signpost my GP to a referral service myself and find one that would take NHS referrals.

Obviously, my GP thought I made a good enough case for myself, because the next thing I know, I get a phonecall from a private clinic asking me if I would like to book my ASD assessment. A few days later I get 3 emails containing self-assessment questionnaires to fill in online. I wrote quite a lot of detail in those, as I am much better at writing about myself than talking about myself in person – clearly!

The 8th December came and my anxiety was going nuts. I had terrible stomach symptoms (my tummy tells me I’m anxious before I realise how I’m feeling) and sleeping was difficult the night before. I get to my appointment and the first thing I notice is how horribly bright and colourful the waiting room was. Hideous bright lights and yellow cushions. The sofa was pretty cool in that it was a button back chesterfield with dark coloured patchwork fabric on it. That bit, I did like!

So, we go upstairs with my Psychologist and I take my Mum in with me – after all, she knows me better than I know myself (and can remember what I was like when I was a toddler) which is apparently very helpful during an adult diagnosis, as ASD symptoms are easier to identify in children. I think the first part of the assessment was the Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADIR) and My Mum told some embarrassing stories about me – like sitting in front of the tv as a baby, listening to classical music – crying!

Once we’d talked about my childhood, my Mum was asked to leave and we then started on the ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) and what I’d call ‘childrens tests’ – things like reading a book out loud, that didn’t have any words in it – so describing the story of pictures (which I found incredibly difficult!) and then I had to make up a story featuring random items from a plastic bag of toys and random things. I passed on that one as I couldn’t find a link to any of the items and couldn’t create a story – I have an absolutely useless imagination!!!

The Psychologist told me that there were two other assessments she could do during my appointment; a personality test and a cognitive test. But, as she’d already learned about me doing a degree, she agreed that I have no cognitive issues and I don’t have a personality disorder, so we skipped both of those tests. We talked a lot about my childhood and my teen years and not much about my life as an adult – although I thought it was pertinent to explain how I have not had a ‘proper job’ since I was made redundant from working part time with my Mum for a charity in 2010 and that I spend most of my time reading, researching and looking for things on ebay (and obsessively buying antiques for our Victorian home!)

The appointment was over before I knew it. The psychologist walked me downstairs and told me I’d get an appointment for the results of the assessment and it should last around an hour.

My results appointment is on 17th January 2018 – so, I have a SIX WEEK WAIT to find out if I’m on the Autistic Spectrum or not. Suffice to say, this will be the most tense 6 weeks. I really wish my appointment was sooner.. I feel like I’m in limbo right now. I’m watching lots of videos on Youtube of people who’ve had adult diagnoses and I just want to know if that may be me.

Of course, I will be writing up the results of my Adult Autism Assessment and am also considering starting a Youtube channel of my own to help raise awareness of ‘being different’ (I hate that term, but I AM different… I just don’t know HOW!)

If you need any information about Autism then have a look at the National Autistic Society website – it’s been a great help to me so far.

xx

 

Am I Autistic?

This is the question I have been pondering for quite some time now. I wouldn’t be surprised if I am found to be on the Autistic Spectrum – not surprised one little bit.

You see, I’ve always been ‘different’ – at school, I marched to the beat of my own drum, was known for being an outspoken and opinionated person and my nicknames were ‘Witchcraft’ and ‘greebo’. From around the age of 13 I found my dark side and fell in love of Black Sabbath, Wicca and purple lipstick. I had an altar and I cast spells. All of this, of course, meant that I was constantly bullied.

However, none of that made any difference to who I am inside. I’m me. I’m different and always will be. I’m 31 now, and apart from having grown into my looks (and lost 3 stone in the process) I’m as weird or as ‘eccentric’ as I was when I was a young teenager. I’m normally found wearing black from head to toe, which I gather isn’t exactly ‘normal’.

I’ve dabbled in the vintage world, and for a good few years I was obsessed with the 1940s and 1950s and even started my own business selling vintage clothing and modelled as a pinup. Then, I got bored of everyone looking the same and I put my vintage wardrobe into boxes in the loft, where it’ll stay until I fancy a change again.

My biggest obsession now is my Victorian home that I share with my incredibly patient and laid back partner. I honestly don’t know how he copes with me and my quirks but 3 years on, we’re still deeply in love. Everything in our home is Victorian, because I like integrity.

Apart from my obsessions, I also struggle to empathise with people. I often put my foot in it and offend people – though with age, I’m definitely learning how to soften it a little. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still doing it, just not as often.

I also don’t like people, generally. I don’t know if this is because I’m a natural introvert, or because I’m autistic, but people annoy me. The herd mentality of most people irritates me and I just want to shake people and say ‘wake the fuck up’ or ‘shut the fuck up’ when you hear them talk about inane things like football or X Factor. I don’t want to talk small talk – I absolutely hate it. It makes me uncomfortable, so I tend to avoid people I know if I see them. It’s not personal, it’s just my own issue I’ve always had.

Facebook has been an interesting journey – especially when you look up people from school to find that they’re all still friends with each other, and most of them married each other too. I think to myself how odd that is – that they all left, went to university (I tried that twice, it wasn’t for me!) and then came back ‘home’ and married their school friends. I find that odd, and frightening. I am only friends with 2-3 people from school and they’re all guys. Most of the girls were complete bitches. I don’t like women very much, men are easier.

A few things about me:

I don’t like authority. I don’t like uniforms. I don’t like being stuck in an office from 9-5 every day and living for the weekend. I don’t like loud music playing in shops. I don’t like busy shopping centres. I like being indoors, I like being quiet. I like the company of animals. I like to read. I like routine. I don’t like busy pubs – I won’t walk in first. I don’t like plans to change, unless they’re being cancelled altogether. I don’t like big groups of people. Festivals are full of sheeple. I like the vikings. I like strong, independent women. I like feminism. I’m a conservative because I like money, but a socialist because I don’t have any. I’m a walking contradiction. I’m confident, but shy. I’m egotistical. I’m a grammar nazi. I’m a super-recogniser. I have watched the same movies over and over and know all their scripts. My best friends are Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, Rory and Lorelai Gilmore and Lagartha Lothbrook. Fictional people are more interesting and relatable.

So, I’ve decided that I want to know, for sure, if all this (and plenty more besides) makes me autistic. There is ADHD in my family and my Dad is incredibly ‘quirky’ himself. I’ll eat my hat if I don’t end up diagnosed with something unusual.

I’ll be writing about my experience of the Autism Diagnostic Assessment as/when it comes around – it’s booked for 8th December, so it won’t be too long. If you’re interested in following my home renovation journey or my autism journey, please hit the ‘follow’ button and you’ll be emailed whenever I publish a blog post ❤

The things no one tells you about being a first time buyer…

In May 2017 my partner and I set about looking for our first home together after 3 years of hard saving and scrimping and some help from a very wonderful Aunt.
We finally moved into our first home on Friday 13th October 2017 – yes, we are aware that we are nuts to choose to move house on Friday 13th but if you knew us as a couple, you probably wouldn’t be surprised!

Here are a few tips we picked up along the way – some obvious (now, in hindsight!) and some not so obvious…

ONE

Know thyself. 

When I say this, I mean know exactly what you want in a property before you set out – it really helps to have a firm idea of what you need vs what you want. We agreed very early on that we would never consider purchasing either a flat or a new build – a period property (Victorian, or Edwardian at a push) was the ONLY option for us and we stuck to that – even when offered to view affordable 1930s properties, we stuck to our guns because we knew in our heart of hearts what was right for us.

TWO

Know the Compromises

We knew we’d never be able to afford a ‘liveable-inable’ house straight off. We viewed some real shit holes to begin with then as we viewed more properties we learned what certain things mean in property listing on sites like Zoopla and Rightmove; such as a ‘manageable, low maintenance garden’ usually means a concreted or paved courtyard that you couldn’t swing a dick round.

There was one thing we were not prepared to compromise on, and that was the garden. We did however, fall in love with a property that had quite a tiny garden but we put an offer in anyway as the house itself was almost perfectly formed. Thankfully, we didn’t get that house – we found a house that was even better with a BIGGER garden in the end – so, perhaps ignore that bit of advice 😉

THREE

Know your limits

If you’re confident at haggling then this will definitely stand you in good stead for the ‘making an offer’ part. Be prepared to hear the ‘big sell’ – things like exaggerating how much interest they’ve had in the house, exaggerating how many offers they’ve had and even being asked after you’ve made an offer, if you can offer more. If you have trouble saying no, then try and get some help from friends or family to give you support while you make your negotiations. Don’t be fooled into thinking the estate agent is working on your behalf – they are not, they are working for the SELLER to sell the house at a price they want (and the estate agents really want to sell houses and get their commission!)

FOUR

Know your budget – and stick to it.

When we agreed on our budget, we decided on what we could afford to offer and we stuck to it. We stuck to our guns so that we didn’t break into our ‘renovation fund’ that we had running alongside our deposit fund. We sat down and agreed on the mortgage we could afford – we did not go for a huge mortgage, we saved for a bigger deposit instead. We agreed that being mortgaged up to the hilt is not for us and we want to have a good quality of life while we pay off our mortgage; so we worked out how much per month we could live comfortably on while paying the mortgage.

FIVE

Know your geography or at least learn it! 

We moved to a relatively new town – I’d been a frequent visitor to the town for years but have never really paid any attention to anything other than its shopping centre. We learned very very quickly from many many viewings which areas to avoid! There were around 6 areas of the town and we very quickly shaved 3 areas off the list simply by viewing houses in the area. The best piece of advice I can give you is ‘buy a not so great house in a great area, not the other way round’ because after all, LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. It’s a cliché  but it’s true.

SIX

NEVER Scrimp on a survey

I spent months reading and researching Victorian properties and quickly learned a few important differences between new builds and period properties. I phoned up innumerable surveyors and asked how they measure for damp – old houses are usually damp and I found a wonderful gentleman called Peter Ward (look him up on Youtube) who knows everything about period properties – from his site I learned that a decent surveyor won’t use damp meters. They will know that victorian properties need to breathe and will point out things that a not-so-knowledgeable surveyor may not notice. I can personally recommend 1st Associated surveyors – we had a full survey done and the report was over 100 pages in length and was incredibly detailed. Even our estate agent was impressed with it – it helped us to re-submit a lower offer taking into account the structural issues with the house that we wouldn’t have known about without the survey. It wasn’t cheap, but it was absolutely worth every penny (or pound!)

SEVEN

KNOW YOUR PROPERTY

LIME EVERY TIME

The most frustrating thing I found when viewing properties was how much damage people have inadvertently caused when ‘modernising’ period properties. Seemingly simple things like re-pointing brickwork with cement mortar instead of lime mortar can severely impact the level of damp in a house. Cement mortar creates a barrier that means that moisture in the house cannot escape the way it was designed to – through the bricks and mortar.

Another death to period properties is double glazing windows (and in lots of privately rent homes, we noticed very few extractor fans were in use) and no ventilation – and hence, damp and mould.

PERIOD PROPERTIES NEED TO BREATHE – That is the difference between new builds and period properties.

Also look out for modern plastered walls – always try to replaster period houses using lime based plaster, not gypsum plaster, so that the house can BREATHE.

A Final Word

For us, the biggest hurdle when buying a house, was the deposit. It took us years and years of living separately and saving. We lived within our means (and continue to do so) and saved as much as we could get away with, without leaving ourselves ridiculously poor. We went without – I didn’t fritter my money on clothes or shoes and when we did buy things, we bought things ‘for the house’ – like furniture (thank you to my Mum and Dad for allowing us the use of their loft as storage for the past 3 years!)

The hard save is worth it – that pair of shoes or latest games console, is not.

Your deposit is what gives you freedom – freedom to choose a decent mortgage, a decent property and gives you freedom to own more of your house from the outset. In my opinion, there is no point putting down a 5% deposit and paying a huge mortgage for 35 years and living hand to mouth. Live within your means. Good Luck!!!

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Buy to Let – a scourge on our society.

The last blog I wrote was about a dream house we’d found and put a sealed bid on. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we were unsuccessful in bidding on this house, as we were trounced quite heavily by an investor with deep pockets. The dream house has now been sold to a Buy-To-Let owner and will be ‘tarted up’ and put on the rental market.

My personal feelings towards people who use housing as a way of propping up their pension is quite a strong opinion. As a woman in her early thirties, I know how hard the average Joe has to work to pay extortionate rents. I know first hand how unsettling it is living in a private rented house or flat, when any minute an eviction notice can be shoved through the door. In fact, my partner has recently been evicted from his flat due to the owner selling up – that’s happened to him twice in less than two years.

This country is in the middle of a housing crisis. There are more and more buy-to-let owners out there, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down – even with the increase in fees for BTL owners. You see on property programmes men and women in their early sixties with property ‘portfolios’ and it disgusts me. I firmly believe that there should be a cap on the number of properties one is allowed to own. There are simply too many rental properties and not enough houses to buy at affordable prices.