Of all the coffee shops in all the world….

With apologies to Humphrey Bogart…I think he was famous..anyway I digress. It’s a cracking day weather wise today. Warm, mellow sunshine and it’s still only February. Lovely.

Not at my best this morning. Bit away with the fairies. Bit of gloom starting to descend on my forever addled brain. Had arranged to meet a couple of ex work colleagues for coffee. 

So, with the gloom still there, I decided to go out. And I’m glad I did. Nice coffee shop, free wifi and a place to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the main shopping area. My friends turned up and the gloom lifted. My mind started to feel a bit more in the zone, as it were. Couple of coffees later with some decent conversation and I feel much better. So much so, that I’m on my travels to take advantage of this glorious day. Don’t know where I’m going yet, still to decide. 

Got a busy week this week, plenty of things going on, so that temporary fuzziness will be warded off for the time being. Don’t ask me why I had that fuzziness, it’s just that mornings aren’t my best time. 

Catch you later

Allen Brooks

No fake news here folks…

Not one single piece of misinformation, no fakery, no lies, no statistical rubbish. I’m what you might call a wysiwyg. No, that doesn’t mean I’m Welsh, that stands for What You See Is What You Get. 

I like to think my straightforwardness and honesty gets me through most days. All the stuff in the media these days is designed to scare, to worry, to control. I don’t know what is true and what isn’t looking at the BBC News website. Propaganda I think it’s called. Rubbish is what I call it. 

On this here blog, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is what the reader will see. An honest appraisal of everyday life. People seem to like that, so don’t change a winning formula. 

Allen Brooks

Solo Eating….

Sunday afternoon. Thought I would get some fresh air and find a local place to satisfy my hunger. There are plenty of eateries in my local area, and there’s sport on the TV as well, so I’m quite content. 

It’s busy in here. I like eating on my own sometimes so I can watch the world go by. Plenty of lively conversation, clinking of knives and forks and all seems ok with the world. 

Pleasant. Serene. Calm. I like those words. Pretty apt descriptions of this Sunday so far. 

Allen Brooks

Fluffing my lines….

Following on my story of fear of flying, how about doing the main speech and saying Grace “the blessing of the meal” at a function?

I love cricket and have been involved as a scorer and umpire for many, many years. Also, I’m chairman of my local umpires society, so this is the position I found myself in as we were ready to tuck in to some delicious food.

“Now over to Allen to say Grace” said one of my colleagues. Brain freeze. What do I say? Help!! I typed the words to Grace on my phone and I could hear the muffled laughter as I got my phone out and stumbled my way through what should have been a very simple beginning. “Amateur” was very probably the words going round in people’s heads and very definitely in mine. What a beginning. Dreadful. 

The meal was excellent, the company likewise. Then I was on again, this time with a bit more preparedness than before. I tried a few jokes, I tried a few ad libs, wishing that my time was up and I could sit down. I retreated into my shell for the rest of the evening, trying not to make eye contact with people who I’ve known for many years. 

So, we can add public speaking to travelling on airplanes to my list of anxieties. As long as I don’t get a job as a member of cabin crew, having to do the safety demonstration! Imagine the laughs of the passengers as yours truly forgets his lines. 

If only I could play to my strengths…such as they are….

Allen Brooks

Plane Stupid? My fear of flying….

A month ago I went on holiday to the Canary Islands. Now that involved getting on an aircraft, something that I’m quite reluctant to do, but it has to be done. 

It was my first foreign holiday for 8 years and so the apprehension about the fates due to unfold, began a few days before I left for the departure airport. Airports are strange places. Lots of people milling about and in some cases, totally bored of waiting to get on that long metal tube. 

Lots of things worry me about flying. First of all, the safety demonstration. They don’t tell you what could wrong with the plane when you buy the ticket, but the airline waits until you’re strapped in about to thunder down a long, asphalted runway at 150 mph, to tell you what could go wrong.

Now, the roar of the engines are quite something, nothing compared to the roar of my stomach as the plane takes off. Then it’s the ascent. Ok, the ascent only takes a few minutes, but the roller coaster effect seems never ending. I shut my eyes and grip the seat tightly as we climb at 300 mph! 

Once the thing is airborne and cruising, then my fears and alarms recede somewhat. Until turbulence arrives. Now, turbulence doesn’t do any damage to anything, but that doesn’t stop the nerves going as judder follows shake follows judder. Again, it’s only a short time, but it seems like forever. 

Of course, there’s the airline selling you food and drink, duty free perfumes and cigarettes and lottery scratch cards. Flying is a bloody lottery I can tell you. But I had some books, a newspaper and a crossword puzzle book to keep my mind occupied and to stop focussing on the possible fears. 

And that’s what they are. Fears. Irrational ones. Flying is the safest form of transportation, statistically. Safer than crossing the road, driving a car or riding a bike. But that doesn’t stop the brain sending you into a frenzy. You just want to get off. But I paid for this holiday and I’m going to get to my destination, whatever. 

I’m reassured by the fact that millions of journeys are undertaken every year without mishap. And I love the clipped tones and calmness of the pilots. That is one job I wouldn’t do. I don’t know how they keep so calm and focussed on flying a several thousand tonnes machine with cargo and 240 people on board. Amazing skill.

But then it’s time to come into land. The plane descends, through the thick cloud which exacerbates the turbulence. And then you see the runway. At a thousand miles an hour. The pilot obviously had a pressing engagement this particular lunchtime. Down it came. BANG! BANG! Jolted forward in my seat and the plane still careering down the runway at a fair old speed. 

But down it came and I was safe. The only trouble was, when I reached my hotel room, I drifted into a light sleep where I was dreaming of getting on and off the plane. My balance was shot to bits, but I was on terra ferma and the only place I was going to fall was off the bed, on the floor. 

With my history of anxiety and depression, it was a big undertaking to get on and off planes. That’s sixteen journeys I’ve done, with four hours to and from my destination the longest I’ve spent in a metal tube with wings. So I can overcome anxiety, until something comes along to give me more anxiety, like seeing my doctor or doing a presentation in front of 20 people. Up in the air or feet on the ground, it don’t matter; anxiety still rules my life. 

Come fly with me? Not often!

Allen Brooks

Fairytale Endings….

I’d thought I’d share with you that I love sport. I love watching the underdogs in any sport beat the favourites, the certainties. I love hearing stories of the exciting tussles to get to the top.

Today is no different. It’s the fifth round of the English F.A. Cup, the world’s oldest and best knockout sports competition on the planet..in my humble opinion. The stories today are simply extraordinary, but if you thought it was only one giant killer, there was another. 

Lincoln City, a non league club, have beaten Championship sides Brighton and Ipswich and today Premiership Burnley were the next to fall to the mighty Imps from Lincolnshire. Let me put into context. No non league club has ever made it to the quarter finals of the F.A. Cup. History men indeed and I just love the scenes at the end as the final whistle went. Truly remarkable and inspirational.

Not to be outdone, League One side Millwall have beaten Premiership Bournemouth, Watford and now current English champions, Leicester City in another amazing run to the quarter finals. And the galacticos of Manchester City have been held to a 0-0 draw by Championship Huddersfield. 

Why do the English love an underdog? Why do we love the spirit and joie de vivre these teams produce when faced with the prospect of playing the best? It’s just an English thing. We don’t like winners, we like the losers, or the Davids of this world against the Goliaths.

Inspirational for us all. Proof that we can all achieve something, when we put our minds to it. Life is designed to get us down, but it’s how we fight back that counts. Lincoln City, Millwall and Huddersfield prove that anything is possible. 

Allen Brooks

So what is Autism?

Before I got diagnosed, I didn’t have a clue about what it meant. But my family pushed me to get a clearer picture. I went to a local psychologist to take part in three sessions to establish whether I was on the spectrum or not.

The process involved delving back into my childhood, producing bittersweet memories of my adulthood, intertwined with ideas of how I react in social situations, eye contact, and personal ways that I behave in front of others. 

I’m very unconfident. I don’t have a lot of belief in myself, and I’m wary of large groups of people, especially people I don’t know. All these factors were added together to give me a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Apparently I’m at the milder end of things, with a score of 8 out of 22. 

What does that mean for me? Not a lot really. My manner, characteristics or general demeanour won’t change at all. What it does mean is that it’s classed as a disability under the Disability Act (UK) 2010. I have to declare this when applying for jobs and any future employer has to make “reasonable adjustments” to make my working life better.

44 years down the line, and I have ASD. If someone said to me at 30, I would be diagnosed with ASD, I would have laughed. But then again, I didn’t think I would have depression and anxiety in my thirties. ASD is an underlying cause of the problems that beset me from the age of 35 onwards. I have to live with this now ad infinitum. I know now what causes my down days, my anxious spells and my occasional periods of isolation from the good folks on the outside. 

I have a better knowledge now of what it’s all about. But my life won’t change at all. Still the same old Allen!

Peace and love 

Allen Brooks