Friday 21 December 2012

Autistic Voices Conference, Brussels and Seasons' Greetings!

Welcome back to Adventures with Autism Works after what has already been a very busy December for me, not just with finishing off the last of my Christmas shopping, but also with talks and seminars as well as performing some exploratory testing.

Earlier this month, I spoke at a very inspiring conference in Manchester, Autistic Voices. Readers of this blog and those who know me well will know that giving talks and seminars on Asperger's Syndrome is not only a big part of my life, but was also a dramatic change in my life from my first such event back in 2002. From that day onward, I found that I had a new purpose in my life. At Autistic Voices, I had the privilege to meet Scott James, who talked about how signing had done for him what public speaking has done for me, after having been written off by so many. But the day he got up on stage and sang, his life changed. Scott has since appeared on Britain's Got Talent performing his single 'Through My Eyes' to raise awareness of autism and raising thousands for a range of charities including Help the Heroes, Cancer Research etc. To listen to Scott's song, see the following video:

It was the first time that Scott, who like me, was born in Stockton-on-Tees, had spoken rather than sung in public, which I was surprised about, as he looked as though he had been doing for as long as I have! Scott gave a very entertaining talk about his favourite music and comedy moments, just the sort of talk that I wish I could sometimes give where I talk about what I find hilarious, such as when Timmy Mallet was on Wacaday or how at one time I had to have therapy for feeling sorry for poor Richard Bucket, sorry 'Bouquet', constantly having to following Hyacinth's instructions in Keeping Up Appearances!

Elsewhere this month, I have also enjoyed a Christmas market's break in Brussels with Dan, one of Autism Works' Software Test Analysts. As some may remember, this time last year, Dan and I went on a similar break to Prague. Something that this break had in common with last year's was a false start. On arrival in Prague last year, Dan found that he had been issued with the wrong currency, Danish Krona instead of Czech Karuna. When flying to Brussels, our flight had to be diverted to Chaleroi (33km south-west of Brussels) due to adverse weather conditions at Brussels North Airport. We were 'marooned' at Chareloi Airfield for over two hours before the weather in Brussels improved and we were flown up in the air and back down again to Brussels, by which time it was almost midnight.

Guild Houses and Nativity in the Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium
Despite such a start, and after getting the hang of Brussels' metro system, we started to find our way around the city seeing the UNESCO Heritage site the Grand Place in the city centre and the Atomium on the outskirts. We also found some time to visit the battlefield at Waterloo where Napoleon was finally defeated by the forces of 7th Coalition led by the Duke of Wellington in 1815. It was somewhere that I had wanted to visit for quite some time in relation to my interest in history, with this being an event that largely changed the course of European history. Incidentally, something I learned from this visit was that, after his defeat, Napoleon escaped to Chaleroi, where we had been inadvertently flown to 48 hours earlier. After returning home from Brussels, I attended a carols service at the Sage, Gateshead, which featured performances from the Sage Chamber Choir, the Philharmonic Voices and the Femme Chorale. The audience was invited to sing along to the traditional carols while, appropriately, Jerusalem was also performed for an early Christmas present that the England cricket team has had this week - a test series win in India!
Lion Mound at Waterloo, Belgium 

Back at the Autistic Voices conference, I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that not only was Scott James born in Stockton-on-Tees, but had also heard of Daisy Chain, and was thrilled to find out that I was taking on Kilimanjaro to raise much-needed funds for the charity, after having completed the Bupa Great North Run in September. Again, like singing changed Scott's life when he found that he had a talent through which he could express himself, for taking on physical challenges have also shown me that I am capable of more than I previously thought, as well as what mindfulness practice has aided. In the new year, I am hoping to organise one or two events with Daisy Chain, such as a quiz night or possibly also a karaoke night, which Scott sounded enthusiastic about, to raise much-needed funds - so watch this space! In the meantime though, to find out more about my Kilimanjaro challenge for Daisy Chain, visit my JustGiving page at

With Very Best Wishes to All for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and Happy Winter Solstice for today!