Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 43: Tuesday 30th May 2017: Monsters Raving

Tuesday 30th May 2017
Day 43

Why. Why, why, why.

After you've seen your would-be Home Secretary get crucified, with that stupid LBC interview being played over and over again of her forgetting her numbers, wouldn't you at least check the things before you went on air?

Seriously, wouldn't you have half a clue?

My father sums it up when he comes in from playing football, I ask him if he's OK, and he launches into "Hmm, well, I'm not sure, let me just-I will be able to tell you in a moment, at the moment I cannot quite lay my hands on that answer-"

And, of course, the Corbynistas start sending Emma Barnett, the journalist who found herself with a guy who had so little clue about his own policy I'd be better off asking one of the cashiers at Waitrose about skydiving, a whole bunch of abuse for having the nerve to do her job, because how dare anyone criticise Lord Jesus of Corbyn? The best tweet has to be this one:

It's tough to choose, but I think the ***BREAKING NEWS*** bit is my favourite. I don't know whether to hope these guys genuinely saw it as some sort of Watergate or not.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out how to get out there campaigning, and with a lot of messaging one of my friends, we manage to figure out a way. That's a problem with having AS that another 20-year-old campaigner probably wouldn't face-the dyspraxia leaves my spatial awareness off but my anxiety means that I have to prepare for things in advance. I can't just hop on a bus.

Of course, then we have the battle of the polls in the evening, and if I was a pollster, I'd really be thinking about junking the whole thing in after the last two years, because the latest genius result has one showing a hung parliament and another having the Tories winning a 100-seat majority, at least. I'm starting to wonder if some people just get annoyed permanently snatching the phone up to hear someone chirp "Can I just ask who you're voting for?" and so shove out any old name just to get them to leave them alone. Personally, I'd be tempted to tell them the Monster Raving Loony Party and dare them to question the choice.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 42: 29th May 2017: Battle For Number Ten

Monday 29th May 2017

Day 42

May Vs Corbyn: Battle For Number 10.

I have vague memories of the Cameron and Miliband showdowns that happened-or rather, I remember laughing at the story of Miliband's spin doctor trying to start a fight with Cameron's after the 7-way debate over Cameron not engaging Miliband enough, after Sturgeon basically stamped all over Miliband's head and kicked him right into an open goal.

Tonight, because we have lives, my parents and I have prepared for the show adequately-by hoisting in the popcorn. My mother and I manage to get through an entire packet of Butterkist toffee popcorn as we watch Corbyn and May face the barrage of questions (my mother eventually realises we've finished the bag we only opened tonight, is horrified, and promptly blames me for opening it.)

In all honesty, nothing really stands out in the night. There isn't any standout line or moment or outburst. We're even denied the possibility of a meme-we no longer have Ed Miliband to declare "Am I tuff enuss?" or fall off the stage. Corbyn can't even be entertainingly pathetic.

Corbyn, as someone points out, is used to these types of events-remember, he's been a conviction politician all his life-so handles the audience well, but he falls over a bit with Paxman. Then again, anyone would, because Paxman's gone all Girl, Interrupted.

He makes good points-he brings up Corbyn's comments on the Falklands War, which I was unaware of, which, for someone as dedicated to finding every negative thing a Labour leader has ever said as me, is pretty impressive-but he decides to make them through shouting. At one point, he almost leaps up off the chair, and he keeps looking as though he might just decide to leap forward, fasten his teeth into Corbyn's neck, and throw him on the floor by his throat before leaping upright and bellowing for more kill.

Paxman is not at his best.

He's calmer with May, but not much. Someone seems to have told him to calm down during the break because now he's making an exaggerated effort to lower his voice in the same way you overslow your words and pronounce every syllable carefully when you're trying to persuade a bouncer you're not drunk. It doesn't really come across as any more reassuring, because you're left instead with the impression that you're dealing with someone who's on a knife edge and on the one hand could carry through to the end of the night and on the other, could, in the next few moments, feasibly be rolling on the floor, frothing at the mouth and chewing Theresa May's scarf.

Either way, as everyone else points out, not much really changes. Corbyn and May both survive unscathed. No one really gets any killer shots in. Paxman appearing one step off from giving us his interpretation of the protagonist in Silver Linings Playbook is really the highlight of the night. I'd offer him some Butterkist popcorn but, thanks to Mum and I, there isn't any.

Monday, 29 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 41:28th May 2017: Splendid Afros

Sunday 28th May 2017

Day 41

I am honestly bewildered as to why Diane Abbott keeps being put on TV.

In all honesty, I would say it is an act of cruelty. Both to her and the viewers.

Before the Diane supporters-they do exist, they do exist-leap down my throat, it has nothing to do with her race or her gender. If Diane Abbott was white, blonde, and said the things she says, I would despise her views just as much. (As a matter of interest, when I watched Three Girls last week, all I could notice was how much the patronizing-blonde, white-social worker reminded me of Diane Abbott. In the way she pronounced each word veee-erry slowly and carefully, as if you might be just a bit too thick to understand otherwise.)

But there she is, plonked on the Andrew Marr sofa, when she comes out with her gem. So I wake up, roll over, grab my iPod and check Twitter, only to see that about fifty accounts seem to have changed their names to "I had a splendid Afro" and then my father comes into the room and has to sit on my bed for ten minutes before he can stop laughing and regain coherent speech.

My throat's stinging and raw, but the day's lightened just by Abbott. If I didn't know better, I'd swear she was fictional. Honestly, what gets into someone's head? How, in the name of all that is red, blue and diggery-do, does someone think "I think this question about terrorism's the right time to bring up my former Afro!"

Of course, by Diane's logic, my political opinions should have changed every time I've dyed my hair blue over the last year. Would blue make them more Tory? Did an Afro make Diane more left-wing? What's the colour for going centre-ground? Would getting auburn streaks suddenly leave me dancing on a picket line, wearing a Jeremy Corbyn backpack, and bellowing "I'M TINA, I'M THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE" while singing Kumbaya and getting arrested, a la this idiot last week?

If she had a competent boss, I'd hold out hope she'd be going, but then it's Jeremy Corbyn, so that's out the window. Of course, her boss has taken the wise view of dissing the IFS in the morning, and then praising them for their saying the Tories' haven't costed their manifesto in the afternoon, before veering back to sprinkling salt all over their opinions when it's pointed out that they said Labour haven't costed their manifesto either.

Doesn't seem to change his hairstyle with his opinions, though. Maybe Diane should be his stylist. Next week, when he changes his mind again on whether or not he met with the IRA, he'll turn up with a black emo fringe, lightning bolts shaved into his temples and a leather jacket, shrieking "Rock on" before getting arrested, which would actually be a step up from Corbyn's usual antics.

Also, he would at least look better than Ed Miliband in a leather jacket, as it is almost a physical impossibility not to. Ed Miliband and leather jackets just don't go-there's something hideously, cosmically wrong in the equation that sends you cringing back from the idea, holding up your hands to ward off the forces of evil. It's about the same level as the thought of buying condoms for your father. Except possibly a little worse.



Sunday, 28 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 40:27th May 2017: Threat Of A Storm

Saturday 27th May 2017

Day 40

Today, two-thirds of our household has decided to fall ill with the summer flu. My father, who last night was like a child on Christmas morning over our new decking-it has lights-is today lying on the couch, staring at the cricket, whilst being, uncharacteristically, ill. The summer flu still hasn't shifted for me, so I spend the day reading and writing, and feeling tired. It's an odd feeling, being homeschooled. Next year, I'll have A-levels, so there'll be a more definite path to my work, and my novel will be finished, so I'll be able to feel like I'm actually doing something practical towards getting my work published, but one of the few downsides of homeschooling is that you can never entirely shake the feeling you're just wasting time. Though maybe that's just one of the products of a kind of rat-race society-the feeling that you need to be doing something productive all the time.

It's a quiet day, until it comes out that the flu might not have shifted, but the polls have-in the right direction. The Tories are back up, which is a vindication for everyone who was telling me yesterday that I was worrying for no reason.

On a brighter note, we finally get to watch the full Jeremy Corbyn interview. The thing's a car crash. It probably isn't a good idea to deny you've met the IRA when there's photographs of you with the IRA.
On a much, much brighter note, the baby has finally been allowed home from hospital, and she's smiling and taking a bottle again. It's too early to tell what the long-term effects on her will be, but there don't seem to be any, so far. And she's here and healthier and happy, which is what she needs.

It's a quieter day, though-hot and humid, but with the threat of a storm all the time, which kind of suits things somehow.

Friday, 26 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 39: 26th May 2017: Car Crash


Friday 26th May 2017

Day 39

Today is spent doing a lot of messaging, and a lot of back and forths between journalists. I'm actually not too worried about the poll that comes out late on Thursday night, because I've managed to get hold of some video footage that a Labour politician probably wouldn't want getting out there. Meanwhile, one prominent Labour figure takes to Twitter to congratulate his wife on a prestigious new job. I wonder what his many followers would make of it if they knew what I knew-that the two of them haven't seen each other in a month, he takes off his wedding ring whenever he can, and they now have to holiday separately with the kids. Still, it's a lesson. Yeah, people can try to look happy from the outside, try to make their kids switch on a happy face. It's all an act. And it's an act more often than you'd like to think.

Corbyn, meanwhile, in all his infinite wisdom, has chosen today, of all days, to try to blame Britain's foreign policy for terror attacks. Let's face it, this would never be the best idea but the week a major terror attack has taken place probably slides it several notches down the list from "stupid" to "lack of brain activity indicates irreversible damage and therefore time to pull the plug."

But, joy of joys, he gets the Andrew Neil treatment, and every excruciating moment is recorded on our Sky box. I don't come in until halfway through, and find my father sitting, watching the interview, creased in silent laughter.

My father, it should be noted, is apolitical. He doesn't vote, takes pride in the fact, and doesn't plan to vote in this election, either. A lot of his friends, even if they vote, aren't party political, don't have any strong allegiance-we live in a Labour area, but most people, quite simply, aren't that interested in politics.

Every one of them tonight has the same reaction. "That was a bloody car crash."

It's a toss-up between which part is most excruciating, the moment when Corbyn denies he ever met the IRA when almost immediately journalists have produced proof he met nine different IRA killers, or the moment he can't bring himself to say he'd support his own party's policy on Trident, or the moment when he ends the interview by leaning forward, widening his eyes in the manner of an over-eager guidance counsellor and saying "And, Andrew, that is your choice" in a manner that seems to be attempting to resemble someone tossing out John Lennon-style witticisms, but comes across more like an armed robber trying to sound threatening as he holds what you both know to be a water gun to your head.

But more interesting is my parents' friends' reaction-and that of my own friends. The majority of them aren't hugely interested in politics-most vote, but they're not interested in the ins and outs of policy. They don't think much about politics, except when election time rolls around, which is perfectly fine. But their reactions to Corbyn are nearly all the same-he's useless. What's striking is that at this point in the last election, that was their reaction to Miliband, too, back when the polls were saying he had a strong chance of forming the next government. And, like with Miliband, but more vehemently this time, the issue focused on seems to be leader, rather than party.

People can bleat on about how everyone should focus on the policies. But it's the people putting them across that are looked at, that are noticed.

On a lighter note, should Corbyn ever actually win, my parents and I are genuinely thinking of moving abroad. (Not a joke-we actually are looking into it.) I message one of my journalist contacts this. He responds-after reassuring me, from his many more years of experience of elections, that the poll gap will widen again-"Ha! Can I come too?"

And he used to be a Labour supporter.

The Election Diaries: 18th May 2017-25th May 2017: The Break

Thursday 18th May 2017-Thursday 25th May 2017

Day 31-Day 38

I have a break for a few days-we go away on a CentreParcs break, where we've gone since I was little, and it's easier to have a break from politics for a few days.

There's also good news when it comes to the baby-she's making a rapid recovery. The fact she's less than two months old makes it more impressive-when her mum gives her her bottle, she grabs and holds it herself, like she's trying to show us how much better she is. We're only seeing photos, but she looks bigger, stronger. It's a lovely sight.

I also get contacted by a VICE journalist, wanting to do a feature on young Tory supporters and the way we interact on social media. So I answer some of the interview questions over Twitter DMs while eating a pancake breakfast and in between spending hours in the pool. It's cool to talk about things like the Maylennials and young Tories, because young Tories often find themselves in a position where those supporting the left like to try to shout us down. It perplexes me that those on the left can claim to be such advocates of free speech, when they can't seem to stand it when anyone says anything that counters what they believe. David Cameron said it pretty well: "Where I think Conservatives tend to feel Labour are misguided and wrong, there are some people in the Labour Party who just think the Tories are awful and evil, which is ridiculous and wrong."

I miss a lot of the furore over the Dementia Tax thing, because we're driving home, and I'm also ill. It's summer flu, something I've picked up in the pool, and the second we get home, I get into bed, shivering. The weather seems to match how I'm feeling-one moment it's sunny, the next foggy.

I'm curled up on the couch when I start to read on Twitter about an explosion at the Manchester Arena. I've been to Manchester a lot-it's nearby, and it's where I go for my sessions with the Writing Squad. In fact, Manchester Arena was the venue I went to for one of my first concerts, seeing Paramore with one of my best friends. My parents waited for us at the bottom of the same steps that later on Monday night we'd watch teenagers stream down, screaming their heads off.

I don't need to recap everything that's happened, because we all know it. But what strikes me is just the growing sense of apprehension from the moment I first read the tweets about sirens going past, about people saying there's been an explosion; from the moment that people start saying it could have been balloons, it could have been a speaker, it could have been anything innocuous, there's just a horrible, building sense of something awful happening. My mother tries over and over again to say it could be something small, harmless, just panic. It's finally put paid to when my friend messages me, telling me her friend's at the concert. She's alive, but she was in there. It's serious, is all we can tell from her messages, and it's a night of sitting with my TV on in my bedroom, listening for the news.

By the time they say it's a terror attack, I don't blink, because everyone had grabbed that conclusion eons ago. When I do blink is when they say how many are dead.

There's been lots of talk ever since the attack about how personal it feels, and for my friends and I, I suppose, there's more reason for it to feel that way, as it does for a lot of people in the North West. It feels personal to me because it's nearby, people I know were there, it's a place I've been. Most of my friends have been there at some point-it was a common venue for concerts when we were at school. It's somewhere we've chased each other up and down, where I hovered over Paramore merchandise, where my friend and I wandered out of the wrong exit.

But it's personal because those kids who died could have been any kids. Not just in the North, or in Manchester, or even in the UK. They could have been any kids, and so now, when any kid steps out the door, there's that niggling feeling that the world's a little bit less safe for them.

The world that should be these kids' world doesn't feel safe for them, and that's personal.




Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 30: 17th May 2017: For Richer, For Poorer

Day 30

17th May 2017

Here's a radical idea for you: people who earn money are not evil.

My parents grew up on council estates. They come from working-class backgrounds, my dad lived in a one-bedroom council flat as one of seven children residing at the address, he went to one of the worst comprehensives in the country at the time, and they both eventually worked themselves up to earning money and being able to buy a home of their own.

It is not evil to then object to constantly being asked to provide for those who are not working.

Obviously, some are not working because they are unable to. That's a given. But others can and should be working, and instead, are shamelessly taking away from those who are genuinely unable to work by giving all those who use the welfare system a bad name.

But the truth is, that there seems to be an unreasonable amount of fury directed against those who are wealthy or even simply middle-class, even when they have worked to get there themselves. Obviously, there are some who are simply financially secure due to inherited wealth, but others, like my parents, who come from working-class backgrounds themselves, are vilified simply for working hard and pulling themselves out of poverty by the skin of their teeth.

There seems to be an inherent assumption that anyone who earns money, whether they've dragged themselves there or not, is somehow morally degenerate for the huge crime of objecting to being taxed more and more. Currently, the richest in the country, as is only right, are taxed the highest amounts-but Labour's currently proposing to take that to bizarre amounts (one insane figure proposed was 67%.)

Labour's taxes have always seemed anti-aspirational at the best of times, but this is something else. As one of my Labour-voting friends put it, "Where's the incentive for people to do well? There is none. You're just going to get punished more and more. You'd have an easier time not working at all, and so who can blame those who go for that option?"

Of course, when you enter into debates on Twitter about this-as I made the mistake of doing yesterday, thereby attracting some of the most pathetic people I've ever come across-you get great arguments like "Well, no one should have more than they need." By that argument, everyone should be living in a two-bedroom flat, outfitted in grey uniform issued by the government, and be handed out a nourishing tablet three times a day to substitute for food. It would make Stalinist Russia look like a never-ending party, is what I'm saying.

The oddest thing of all about this is, those same people who argue that "No one should have more than they need" are the same people who leap to the defence of the minority of people using the welfare state, who are spending their money on cigarettes or alcohol or a big-screen TV, by using the argument: "Oh, so just because they're poor doesn't mean they should be able to enjoy things?" Apparently, the "No-one should have more than they need" idea only applies when it's convenient for them.

I'm not pretending inequality doesn't cause problems, but some of the hatred generated by some people against the wealthy is, frankly, born out of bitterness. It's the politics of envy taken to the nth degree. To an extent, it's understandable; people who feel hard-done-by need a common enemy, someone they can blame for their troubles. No one likes to blame themselves, and if you convince yourself you're a victim, there's something empowering in that. It prevents you having to look too closely at yourself, and soothes the envy you feel of anyone who does better.

 But at the end of the day, for some people-not all, but some-that's what it is: envy. Not a burning social justice. Not a desire to help. Envy. We need to know the difference.



The Election Diaries: Day 29: 16th May 2017: Maylennials

Tuesday 16th May 2017

Day 28

Today, I wake up to find the baby's gone back a step.

"Her heartbeat's too fast" Mum tells me when I wake up. "They need to do some tests again."

It's an odd day, because while I get a lot done, it seems too quiet at the same time. Perhaps it's to do with the fact that my feelings seem to be going up and down a lot.

One thing I do do a lot of is messaging journalists, which is sometimes what's necessary to get a story out there, but today is more along the lines of "Can you believe so-and-so is this much of a tosser?" Today, a lot of it centres around the wife of a very prominent Labour figure who has used her "story" of going from a state comp to Cambridge in talks for the Speakers For Schools organization, while conveniently avoiding the fact she went to a private school in between. Which means the organization just might have to be tipped off. What a shame.

More of it centres around the Maylennials, which isn't showing any signs of going away-in fact, now it's the subject of an article in the Telegraph. While the whole thing might be light-hearted, it is showing something that's matching up with anecdotal evidence-young people are swinging more and more towards the Tories, in this election, at least. A bizarre amount of my friends, without prompting, who have voted Labour in the past, have announced that they just can't this time. Corbyn's name usually comes up pretty quickly-but so does May's. Maybe it's the fact the British seem to be fans of tough women, but a surprising number of my friends bring her up entirely of their own volition. "She's the best person to be in charge" says my best friend, who previously believed that Labour is the only party for the student. "I mean, can you imagine Corbyn? She seems to get things done."

The fact that a recent study suggested this generation will buck the trend of being more left-wing than the previous one-becoming more right-wing-isn't surprising. What's surprising is that Labour show every sign of taking young people's votes for granted. As usual, I get the impression that Labour seem to think they're entitled to our votes, rather than that they should actually look at why they're losing them.



Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 28: 15th May 2017: Not All...

Monday 15th May 2017

Day 28

MyHuffington Post article has been published, focusing on how my Asperger Syndrome means I interpret the election, and why I'm so interested in it. This actually only attracts positive comments, which on the Internet is as rare as the sea doing a Moses by itself.

In the meantime, I do get slightly irritated about the amount of Labour supporters online who seem to think that we disabled voters are some kind of stick to beat the Conservatives with. I see one article actually stating that one woman has spoken for "all disabled people."

No. She hasn't. Because the disabled are not some homogeneous group that can all be shoved easily under the same umbrella and labelled as "Tory-hating" to satisfy the worldview and prejudices of the Left. We are actual human beings, with differing views and opinions. You wouldn't say someone "speaks for all women"-it would be downright offensive, as though merely being a woman makes a personality trait or political opinion universal.

We are not some stick to beat the Tories with. I understand the Left are desperate at the moment, suffering from a failing leader, and with virtually nothing to campaign on-but we're not here to come to your aide and claw you a few extra votes. We're actual human beings with differing voices and opinions, and our political views can not simply be tied up in neat little identical bows for you because of the simple fact we happen to be disabled. The fact that Labour seem to see us as one-especially since they're the charming party who had Ed Miliband stating he planned to weaponize the NHS-is astonishingly patronizing. We are not some little nodding dogs who will pant happily as Labour give us ruffles of the hair and expect us to eat out of their hands.

On the positive side, the baby is much better today. She has taken another bottle, even held it herself, and has been moved from the high dependency unit. This is positive, but she's not out of the woods yet. They don't yet know what long-term damage the infection may have caused, or if it may resurge at any time. All we can do is wait, but each day at a time is better than nothing at all.

The Election Diaries: Day 27: 14th May 2017: Corbynite Kool-Aid

Day 26

Sunday 14th May 2017

Early last week, I stayed up writing an article for the Huffington Post that should be up this week. I have a weird habit when it comes to writing-I'll go to bed early and tell myself to get some sleep so I can get up early to write, and then I'll fail to sleep, and then eventually, I'll decide that I might as well get the writing done now, so that's less for me to do tomorrow. (Which, incidentally, is how I'm writing this entry.)

Of course, that means I tend to sleep later as a result, and with campaigning coming up, that isn't ideal. On the plus side, I've got photos of David Cameron from earlier in the week kissing a baby to look at.

I've always liked David Cameron-quite a few people I know have met him, and inform me that I'm not wrong to like him, even those who are staunch Labour supporters. One anecdote that has always recurred is Cameron's genuine fondness for babies and children, which would endear him to me anyway. (Ed Miliband, on the other hand, once tried to put his arm around my cousin's shoulders-mistakenly thinking she was one of a crowd of teens trying to get a selfie with him-as she tried to edge past him on her way home from school, only for her to lift his arm up and off and step away with a loud "Do you mind?!")

It's Sunday and the summer's coming in through the full-length window doors that run the length of our kitchen, while I sit at the breakfast bar. I'm not usually up early enough on a Sunday to watch the Marr show, but I quickly learn from Twitter that if Emily Thornberry wanted to humiliate Michael Fallon, she should probably have chosen a better issue to target him on than meeting Assad before we knew he was a dictator, when Jeremy Corbyn did exactly the same thing.

It's also a pretty bizarre move, given that Thornberry so vehemently opposed us supporting intervention against Assad when he bombed his own people. I can only assume that when reminded of Labour's misdemeanours, she immediately has a sip of the Corbynite Kool-Aid juice, and tries to crumple them up into a mental box until she can't grasp them anymore-the same way Ed Miliband does when you mention his brother and Diane Abbott does with numbers.

Still. Labour messes up again. What d'ya know?

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 26: 13th May 2017: Irrational

Day 26

Saturday 13th May 2017

The baby has low blood pressure again, is the news I'm woken up with, which makes me crash down for a few hours, but then the text comes through. "She's had a feed."

It sounds small, but it's a huge step. The baby's been able to take her first feed since she got ill that hasn't been through a tube, and she managed to rip one tube out trying to get to the bottle. We're sent some photos of her being fed, and she's so lovely that I want to just cuddle her better. She's got huge baby eyes that stare out from the camera as though she's surprised to be there.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, because of the baby's condition, I don't think much about politics much today. I also don't think about it, because of another "discussion" I have to have with my parents about therapy.

"Every time you talk to me, I just feel like you're waiting for me to get things wrong" I tell them, while my father sits at the breakfast bar and looks confusedly angry. "Then you've won."

My father shakes his head. "Lydia, how can you think we just want to win?"

That's the strange part of mental illness; you might know something's irrational, but you feel that it's true. And the feeling's stronger than the knowing.

"I don't like crying" I tell them. "And I can't really do it." I've learnt not to cry over the years. It takes a lot to make me now. I'm not sure when that happened. Maybe it should be far harder not to cry.

"People win when you cry."

"We don't want to win" my father repeats.

"Why do you think we want to win?" my mother asks quietly.

I can't answer that.

That's the thing about mental illness. It doesn't let you answer anyone else's questions because it won't even let you understand.

The Election Diaries: Day 25: 12th May 2017: Watching And Waiting


Friday 12th May 2017

Day 25

The baby is no better. She's in the high dependency unit, we're told. No visitors, apart from her parents, who are sleeping at the hospital with her. We have to wait. The one thing in her favour is that they caught it early-she's now at the stage where she would usually have started to show the symptoms of the illness, but thanks to her mother's decision to call the doctor on Wednesday, the illness might have been caught before it could wreak too much damage.

She's unconscious, but because of the medication they're giving her. She's in a little incubator, from what I'm told, being pumped full of antibiotics. There's a lovely photo her mother posted on Tuesday of my dad holding her for the first time. Now, we can look at the photo and know that the little baby already had meningitis there. It makes us cry.

Perhaps that's partly why today, when I see one of my friends is being bullied online by some person she tagged when reblogging my Abby Tomlinson posts, thinking she was being helpful, I've just about had it.

 To see someone calling a kid they don't even know "pathetic" and telling her that "nobody has any interest" in her would probably make me intervene at the best of times. The fact it's happening today of all days, when I've got more important things to worry about than some sad piece of work whose one contribution to the world today will probably be whining at a kid on the Internet for having the gall to have tagged them in something, probably makes me a little more direct.

When they respond, whining about how they suffer the immense torture of having to "look at emails", every time my friend tags them, I've finally had it, and when they post the following idiocy, I go through the roof.

I send this back to them.

Here's a prototip, guys: don't tell someone they've "clearly never been abused", when you have no idea whether they have or not, because that's what is known as "stupid", just to graze the surface.

But by the end of the day, we get a glimmer of good news. The baby is slightly better.

"She's not out of the woods yet" Dad warns me.

Even slightly better is an improvement.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Huffington Post Article!

So, in the middle of the Election Diaries, I also just got this article published by the Huffington Post, which explains how my Asperger Syndrome affects how I see the General Election! Give it a read!
As a kid with AS, who suffered from limited empathy and theory of mind as a result, stories were always how I understood the world. I learnt empathy through fictional characters, through taking dilemmas I found in stories and applying them to my real life. (This created some problems when I went through the customary Enid Blyton phase. Most people don’t describe things as “spiffing.”)

So looking at the world through the prism of politics is a similar experience. It’s like watching a cast of characters act out a drama, towards an inevitable ending, following the rise and fall of a dramatic arc. For me, it’s an intriguing experience to look at the twists and turns along the way.

Ever since I was young, I’ve written a near-daily diary, chronicling my life almost as if it’s a novel. I’m a writer: writing and narratives are how I make sense of the world. And that’s even more relevant for me - AS means I have more problems making sense of the world than most people. Even now, when just going through daily life, I find myself narrating the world in my head, noting how I’d write conversations I’m having out as dialogue.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 24: 11th May 2017: The Baby

Thursday 11th May 2017

Day 23

Hell hath no fury like Tumblr.

It appears Abby Tomlinson is less popular on there than I would have assumed. The post's ended up attracting quite a bit of attention. Of course, I suppose whining on about the politician you fancy being subjected to poisonous, personal attacks, and then going on about how seeing the politician you dislike smile "makes you want to vomit" sort of asks for some being called out.

Of course, it also attracts some bullying from one user to another, which means I have to step in, and it gets heated, as one kid who's been picking on others, is thick enough to admit they're not bitter while writing five paragraphs about why they're not bitter. They're in the minority, though; most others seem to be reblogging it. I message a BuzzFeed journalist with the words "You know how the Internet never forgets?"

But in the meantime, I've got far more serious things to worry about than some pathetic little creature who thinks telling my friend no one's interested in her gives them a boost in their sad life.

"What day did you go to lunch with Becca?" Mum asks me, when I first wake up.


"Oh. Right. Right. Good."

"Why?" I get out of bed. "What's wrong?"

Mum sighs and turns to me. "The baby."

The baby is the newest addition to our family. My cousin's beautiful baby girl. One month old. Two months premature. Tinier than the bottle she's fed with. I haven't met her yet, but there are some beautiful pictures of my dad holding her. Her big sister's only three, and after first saying "My daddy" when she first saw the picture of her stepdad holding her sister, she loves her.

"The baby's got meningitis."

I blink.

"She's been rushed into hospital."

I'm not sure if I say anything to this.

"The health visitor might need to check us out. Because your dad was holding her yesterday. She was grizzly all day yesterday, and that's why. When they tried to put her on her back, she started screaming. That's when they took her to the doctor."

I don't actually remember what I say to these things, other than "Will she be all right?" I go and sit on my bed, and hug my knees. What I do remember is that I immediately feel awful. My entire body feels sweaty. The world tilts and lurches.

I haven't held her yet.

The weird thing is, things go on. I go through the day, with my  thoughts just there. It's like I can think about normal, everyday things, while each thought pulls back to my baby cousin at the same time.

That night, we have an interior designer coming to the house, to go over designs for the bedrooms, since we only moved in a few months ago. I'm not speaking to my father (falling out over laptop wire lead. Cliched), but halfway through the meeting, I wander upstairs and find my dad sitting on the computer, reading the symptoms of meningitis over and over again.

"Strep B" he says, without looking at me. "And septicaemia. It's pretty much as bad as it could get."

"Is she seriously ill?" I ask him.


"Is she going to die?" I ask him, which is the question everyone wants to know, but people aren't asking.

"She might" he says. He doesn't pause as he says it. He keeps reading the symptoms, biting his lip.

"She didn't even have any of the symptoms" he says quietly.

There isn't much I can say to that.  So I go to my room and sit on my bed.

I suppose I believe in God-I just don't believe, much, in organized religion. So I don't go to church, or really, read the Bible. I like to pray in my own way. But I suppose I haven't prayed much for a few weeks. Maybe I was feeling disillusioned. Maybe I just felt like people didn't care enough.

But I do pray now, kind of. I don't reckon God ignores people to punish them, but even if He or She or They did, I don't think They'd ignore a baby, to punish me for not praying enough. Either way, it can't hurt to pray for the baby. So I do.

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 23: 10th May 2015: I Start Tumblr Wars

Wednesday 10th May 2017

Day 23

I wasn't originally part of the "Milifandom" when that all kicked off during the 2015 election, and today, I'm quite glad of that. Because news has broken about the Maylennials, a similar, if slightly more mature fandom, based-pretty evidently-around Theresa May.

But today, Abby Tomlinson-the same person who kicked off royally about the media "bullying" Ed Miliband-has posted this.

As I've said before, I'm not fond of Miliband. But I'm also not that fond of hypocrisy, especially when it comes from people on the left, who predominantly seem to justify it to themselves with the rationale that Tories are just evil, and so they can insult them all they like-because of course, it makes them feel a little bit better, but they never like to pay attention to that part.

And it may start a bit of a Tumblr war.
Maylennials aren't impressed. 

And nor are some of the Milifandom.

I don't know how I've managed to cause a war between two political fandoms without really being a member of either but somehow, I have. And it's rather interesting to watch.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 22: 9th May 2017: Panic Attack Brunches

Tuesday 9th May 2017

Today manages to be three things; brunch, a panic attack and my cousin's birthday.

It's also the day I get an email about campaigning, which is a relief. Of course, for me, that presents a minor problem.

One of the many wonderful side effects of AS is the other problems it can decide to present as a result, such as dyspraxia. In my case, I've been granted that gift as well, meaning I suffer from poor spatial awareness, and am just as likely to step on a train when I mean to step on a bus.

Despite the poor spatial awareness, I somehow manage to navigate my way from my father's car to brunch with my best friend, during which I manage to catch up on things that aren't politics, though it inevitably comes up.

The last election was the first one in which my friends and I were aware of politics-our discussions during the 2010 election mainly amounted to who was better looking, Nick Clegg or David Cameron. (I fell into a minority choosing Cameron.) But in 2015, we were all a lot more engaged, mainly because it was the only thing that was on the TV every night. Some of us could vote, some couldn't-I voted Tory-but there was a pretty even split of opinion between Labour and the Tories then.

One thing that's striking now is that a lot of the kids my age I knew who refused to vote Labour did so primarily because of Ed Miliband. As one kid put it, "He's a comedy act, not a Prime Minister." I personally think that gives Miliband too much credit. But it just shows that if you don't have a leader that looks Prime Ministerial, you lose respect, even amongst the people who should be your core vote. (Goes without saying that if Miliband  kicked the chance of them voting Labour into the long grass, Corbyn's booted it far out into the ocean.)

It's a good day but when I get home, once again my chest is tight and I'm anxious and struggling for breath. Panic attacks can often follow a day or meal out when you have AS/social anxiety-even if nothing went wrong. It's one of the oddest and most aggravating things to have to explain to other people, especially when you can't explain it to yourself.

But the only thing to do when you're in the midst of a panic attack is what gets you through it, and with me that's going upstairs, climbing into bed, and waiting for it to stop or to fall asleep. By the end of it, nothing feels real anymore.


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 21: 8th May 2015: I Know Something You Don't Know


Monday 8th May 2017

Day 21

It's quite aggravating sometimes, to know something everyone else doesn't.

Almost as aggravating as trying to make everyone else know it.

It's not as easy as you'd think to get a story out there, especially when sometimes, you're relying on a hook or going off what others think would be best to do. It can result in bouncing between journalists like a pinball. If you believe in the story, you go on with it. Or rather, if you believe it's something people needs to know.

Ever since I was tiny, I've been told I was stubborn, though. ("Like a mule" my mother once said, not entirely meaning it as a compliment.) And one good part of having AS means you have to decide from when you're toddling what feels right to you, and what doesn't.

It means that sometimes, when it seems like a story won't get out there and you're not going to be paid for it, and it's old anyway, but you feel it's downright important, you sink your teeth in and get on with it.

I know something you don't know, but I want you to know.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 20: 7th May 2017: Grass Roots Dinners

Sunday 7th May 2017

Day 20

Joy. Ed Miliband-he of the two-kitchens, EdStone, I-met-a-man-called-Gareth fame-has been caught cocking up a PR stunt again, which always brightens my day.

I have never particularly liked Ed Miliband, and could write a happy and lengthy post about my dislike of him, for many glorious reasons-including the occasion his own then five-year-old son Daniel remarked loudly "The only time you want me to look over there is because of the cameras" before hiding his face, when Miliband tried to have him snapped for a photo opportunity.

Something about Miliband's always grated if I'm honest. Something about the utter sanctimony of the man-you can just tell every time he speaks, he's patting himself on the back about being so morally self-righteous, whilst happily ignoring the children's lungs being burnt out with sarin gas in Syria-just makes me wonder what would have happened if someone had just picked up that bloody bacon sandwich and slapped him round the face with it.

On this occasion, after posting a picture of himself mowing a constituent's lawn-because he's so in touch, yo-he's been roundly humiliated after the constituent gave an interview stating he didn't mow the lawn, he couldn't start the mower, the entire thing was a PR stunt, and that she wouldn't be voting Labour anyway.

Oh, and that it would have been fine if it was his brother, because she likes him more.

That might be my favourite part of the article. If David Miliband read it, over in the US, I bet he laughed and laughed, slapping his knee until it was bruised. If I was David Miliband, I'd have phoned my treacherous little brother up and when he answered, simply greet him with a manic cackling that carried on for ages, and hopefully took out one of his eardrums at the same time. As it is, my parents are alerted to the fact I'm awake by my own cackling.

After an afternoon of trying to swap tips with some journalists and also planning out the next scene of the novel, I go to dinner with my parents. Right in the middle of my pasta, we're discussing Miliband-Minor, not Major-and the fact Peter Mandelson-he of Prince Of Darkness fame, decidedly cooler than I-met-a-man-called-Gareth fame-said that one of Miliband's chief failings was that he was simply completely unable to see things from someone else's point of view.

"Well" my mother said. "You're exactly the same. He's probably an Aspie, like you."

I nearly exploded. "Did you just suggest we Aspies take Ed Miliband under our umbrella of inclusion?"

My mother shrugged, as if she'd suggested something normal. "You might have to."

I pointed my fork, heavy with pasta, at her in warning. "If you just seriously suggested I'm like Ed Miliband, we may no longer have any relationship."

That state of affairs would probably still be better than the Miliband family's Christmas dinners.






Monday, 8 May 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 19: 6th May 2017: Skins And Dissociation

Saturday 6th May 2017

Day 19

Not much happens today, strangely. I'm in an odd mood, one of the times where I feel pretty disconnected from what's going on around me. It's weird, because while everything's going well, I'm in one of my frames of mind where I'm dissociating from the things around me. It feels a bit like being in a liminal space, but with less of the quirky feeling of being all alone in the world and more of a panic-attack feeling. My dreams feel so real that they make me feel sick in the daytime when I replay them. I spend the night curled up in my room, watching Skins and messaging my friends. Dissociation leaves me drained and tired and cranky, and I just want to sleep, but I can't for hours. When I do sleep, it's for my dreams to become even more vivid.

The Election Diaries: Day 18: 5th May 2017: Local Election Results


Friday 5th May 2017

Day 18

I wake up to a landslide. At least, that's what we're being told it foretells.

Labour have lost-well, where haven't they lost? That would be the easier question.

The Tories have won a Mayor in the West Midlands.

The West Midlands.

In Teeside.


Labour have lost Glasgow.


These losses do not a government make.

The first thing I do on Friday morning when I wake up is reach for my iPod and the first thing I see is the list of disasters for Labour. The Tories have even nabbed two council seats in Sedgefield, Blair's old seat, as though just sliding the knife into Labour, twisting it a little, and then yanking it out again, just for fun. The only good spot for Labour is Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham nabbing the Mayoralties, two such foregone conclusions that Professor sodding Trelawney could have leapt to them without much effort.

In short, the Conservatives are now 800 council seats ahead of Labour, and opposition parties always do worse in general elections than they do in local elections.

More amusing than this was watching the frequent, varied and imaginative attempts of the Corbynites to insist that this was completely as they had planned and they were on track to turn British politics on its' head on 8th June.

They apparently hadn't learnt from earlier mistakes, because one of their first ports of call was Diane Abbott, whose career, honestly, I would have thought they'd be humane enough to put out of its' misery after Tuesday's disaster. Then they have Emily Thornberry, who's taking a break from hating White Van Man to patronize us plebs. Then it was John McDonnell who delivered his rehearsed lines through gritted teeth while presumably fantasizing about all us Tories having our knees cracked with a baton, as he once charmingly wished on those who disagreed with the IRA.

These are the people who wish to be in government in five weeks' time. And Corbyn is somehow more useless than all of them.

Except Abbott. That's one area no one can defeat her in.