The Easter weekend seemed to pose a bit of a problem for John, in that he decided it should be Christmas. “Chrimmas yes ok!” shouted John as I chased him around Nelson’s Croft trying to get him to help me pack his box of tricks to bring home. “No it’s Easter John, you know, chocolate eggs” I puffed as he gave me the slip yet again, diving into the conservatory and chuckling away to himself. He was having none of it “Chrimmas prehen, twee,” he yelled “Dah”. I knew it was not going to make a blind bit of difference to John but I corrected him anyway. “No Christmas tree, no star, no presents, just Easter eggs John. Sorry but that’s the way it is.” He appeared in his doorway eyeing me suspiciously in the way kids do when they think you are telling porky pies. Having decided I was a pathological liar he poked his tongue out, slapped his head and declared finally that it was indeed “Chrimmas”.
And so it was that John spent the whole weekend wondering why the Christmas tree wasn’t up and reminding me by pointing to the corner of the lounge where it should be. “Chrimmas twee now” he demanded every fifteen minutes. Autistic people can repeat the same phrase for hours on end if the message they are trying to get across is important to them. Sometimes they repeat it just because they like how the words sound and how it feels to say it. I find it very difficult as a parent to cope with the constant repetition and whilst I understand completely that he has to do it, it takes a supreme effort not scream. I gave up saying it wasn’t Christmas and therefore I would not be putting up the tree, after I developed a nervous twitch in my right eye due to the stress. John continued to remind me and I spent all of Saturday inadvertently winking at strangers.
Many of you will know that one of John’s favourite activities is watching the “Bridge Up” as he calls it. It is a road bridge over the Alfred lock in Birkenhead and when ships come in from the Mersey it gets raised to let them through and lowered once they are safely in the lock. John’s excitement goes off the scale when this happens, I am sure his whoops and hollers can be heard for miles. There is so much head slapping and crotch grabbing that I fear he will end up in A&E. Every Sunday I phone ‘The Man’ in the hope of some ‘Bridge Up’ activity for John before he goes back to Nelsons Croft. It’s his dad who usually takes him back and therefore gets to enjoy the full spectacle. John also gets to go to ‘Bridge Up’ during the week with his support staff from Nelsons and they love it just as much. There is nothing in the world, for me at least, than to see and hear John having a good time.
So on Sunday morning we had the obligatory but somewhat disappointing egg hunt. It was disappointing because John was clearly wanting Christmas presents, crackers, poppers and a roast turkey. The look on John’s face made me feel like The Grinch. Fortunately when I later phoned ‘The Man’ he confirmed that the bridge would be going up twice and suggested we get there for about 12.00 noon when the first ship should be arriving in the basin. This took John’s attention away from his very lean Christmas and he was fit to burst with excitement as we packed up the car and headed for the Bridge at 11.00 o’clock. John likes to be early so as to make sure he doesn’t miss a thing.
We parked in a little spot by the gates to the lock and wandered over to wait for as long as it took, 3 hours to be exact! To pass the time we sat and had a picnic, as you do, on a piece of waste land full of empty muscle shells and stinking of fish. I played eye spy with myself trying to identify various bits of debris floating in the lock. I think I saw a dolphin and a dead body but none of the passers by seemed to notice so maybe I was mistaken. That’s when I spotted the police car, crawling slowly passed and looking at John and I. He did this several times and then put his blue lights on and swerved to a halt behind my car. Ok so I was probably illegally parked but that didn’t call for blue lights surely. I told John I had to go to see the policeman but he wasn’t listening, he was jumping up and down yelling “Yeee Haaaaa” as the first boat entered into the lock. As I got to the police car I noticed another car had parked next to mine and the policeman was having stern words with the driver as he ‘helped’ him out of his vehicle. The man was waving his left arm about in protest as the Policeman had a firm grip on his right one. I don’t know why I did this, maybe it was the stress of the past three days of Christmas, but I poked the police man in the back to attract his attention. He swung round, clearly not amused at me butting in. “Erm hi” I squeaked “Should I not have parked here? it’s just that…” “You are fine” barked the policeman now struggling to keep a grip on the man. “I have his disabled badge if you want me to pop it in the window” I babbled on pointing at John and failing to read the policemans body language, which was clearly saying “FFS!” I gave him my best smile, reserved for moments such as these and was about to let him know how grateful I was when he interrupted me through gritted teeth “You are fine Madame, really. Enjoy your picnic, now if you don’t mind….” He inclined his head in the direction of the man in his grasp and then nodded in the direction of John. “Oh yes, sorry officer, yes, I do apologise….” On and on I babbled as I went back to John who was waving a cheese sandwich at the men steering the big ship into place.
As we waited for the second ship to arrive in the lock we sang a song. John had chosen Jingle Bells and he jumped up and down as we sang it about 53 times, there’s that law of repetition again. The police man had presumably won the arm wrestling competition with the man and had let him go. He was now moving his police car through the gates nearer to where we were. I waved to him as John and I sang……again…why did I do that!? He got out and stood by his car, talking to his chest. It always looks like that from a distance. John suddenly stopped singing and jumping and dashed off towards the policeman. I followed behind trying to look windswept and interesting and failed miserably. I can’t stand for long and as we had been at the lock for a while my legs were doing strange things. I tried to disguise my wobbly gait as best I could but sadly I looked like Quasimodo as I rolled and staggard towards the by now visibly alarmed police officer.
I think it’s best to say at this point that John and I were at crossed purposes. I thought he was wanting to look at the police car because he loves them. John however needed to go to the toilet, although in my defence he didn’t say so or even sign to say he wanted to go. As there aren’t any public loos around, and as he and his dad regularly stand in this area for hours on end, he was making for some bushes which were situated behind the police car. He obviously knew he would be able to relieve himself without being visible to passers by. Oh if only I had known.
I told John to stand by the police car next to the policeman and I would take his photo. John pointed to what I thought was the car but I now realise was the bushes, so I said “Yes Just stand by the car John”. Turning to the policeman Quasimodo said “You don’t mind if he has a photo taken with you do you?” flashing him my best Quasi smile. “John, come on and stand here” I pointed to the policeman and the car. John pointed at the bushes. I think the policeman smiled although I can’t be certain, John who is a good lad and tries his best to do as he is told jiggled about next to him gurning and pointing. “Keep still John, say cheese there’s a good boy” I commanded.
John desperate to do as I said, did his very best to smile, the policeman could have tried harder in my opinion but I took the photo anyway. John who by now must have been bursting, in a lot of discomfort and realising the bushes were too far away, turned around and weed all over the police cars wheel. You couldn’t make it up.