Index to autobiography

My Schooldays Childhood
Court Jester to Warwick University University
A time of transition A time of transition
My new life My new life
My life as a carer, and a very special day! My life as a carer
Coventry Council of Disabled People and its role in my life Campaigning
Beyond my mothers departure my mothers departure
Beyond diagnosis Beyond Diagnosis
Study and the NAS Study and the NAS
Seven times Seven 7 times 7

Pictures of me

Pictures of me

Where I grew up

Where I grew up (pix)

Growing up with Asperger's syndrome, by Larry Arnold part II

Court Jester to Warwick University

 a cartoon caricature of me when I was at uniIt is best skirted round how I got to University, you need a lot higher qualifications to get in now, than I had then, but I was none the less considered to be academically gifted and intelligent, even challenging in my ideas.

Freshers Year - I spent my first term at University living at home, and so did not socialise at all, beyond attending lectures and seminars, however for my second term I moved into Halls. I was at this time particularly people avoidant in my spare time. I took extraordinary lengths to avoid meeting anyone in the corridor, or to enter via the fire exit. It was such a strange place and so many people. I am sure those who were on the same floor may remember with amusement the way I kept myself to myself I did not even meet the guy in the next room until after I had left that particular Hall.

I did not cook for myself either but ate a monotonous diet at the refectory. In the evenings I would often go out to the small town up the road and drink in the pub there. Never speaking to anyone of course. beyond ordering my drinks. I did not know how to initiate conversations so I just avoided them. It was not like school at all where I had been with the same class or group of kids for so long that I was able to relate to them.

Photograph of me in an attitude of prayer with beerglassAspie obsessions ? - Well I still had my obsessional interests, buses had passed over to architecture, as I said, I would have liked to have been an architect, but in the years between it had been the organ music of Bach. I had to hear every single piece he had ever written and collected them on tape off records I got out from the local record library. I hope the performing rights society is not reading this, if they are I no longer have the tapes, but I have the memory of the music in my head. All of it.

So bored with that I set about studying Gothic Architecture and the Gothic revival of the 18th and 19th Centuries. I mention that elsewhere on my site with reference to William Morris, but I digress. If you obsess about something you do it in a big way. I went so far as to order rare first editions from the libraries to read, and even confronted myself with an original treatise in Latin. Didn't get far with it but nice pictures though by Wenceslaus Hollar. Today I have a fine book of reproductions of those illustrations. Getting to the University was handy because it gave me access to more books on the subject and best of all the complete works of William Morris.

I was undoubtedly a bit of an oddity at the University, but there were quite a few oddities then, so I would not have stood out that much in my first year. I had appalling dress sense though. I was a sort of proto punk before punk became fashionable except that I had hair down to my shoulders.

Pied Piper - At about this time, I first taught myself to play the penny whistle and then the flute as I also enjoyed folk music. One of the legacies from my father, who had been a folk singer in his earlier days and co- founded the first folk club in Coventry.

a photograph of me performing at a folk clubI have an affinity with trees and I never slept much. I would go out and about in the various woodlands around the University at night, and play my flute like the pagan god pan, listening to the echoes which were particular to those locations and totally losing myself in the sound. I could make myself virtually invisible in the woods I knew so well. The university being close to where I was brought up. Other students never found who it was, out there, look as they might. They did not have my ability to travel through the woods in total darkness have since seen that other people on the Autism spectrum have felt an affinity to Elfin kind, well that is the nearest I came to it. Totally wild and free, you cannot beat it.

a photograph of me taken from the Guardian NewspaperSo striking must my appearance have been that the following year, when I participated in a student demonstration (against the then Labour education minister Shirley Williams I recall) A photographer saw fit to take a picture of me and put it on the back page of the Guardian Newspaper entitled "a musical face in the crowd"

I needed some transport to get me around and so I brought a scooter, and then another, and another. Yes you've guessed it my next obsession. I learnt how to put them together and everything about them the complete history of Lambretta and Vespa.

My extraordinary rise to prominence - Were it not for certain events in 1975 I would have remained more or less in obscurity at University in my self made world, except for the fact that there was a mass occupation of the University Senate House. I was not uninterested in Politics as I was actually studying politics (as well as the works of William Morris, and Lambretta scooters)

I neglected to say that my other hobby was photography, and that I wanted to record this event for posterity.

Shall I just say that my peculiarities eventually brought me into contact with the rest of humanity and got me noticed. My scooters certainly were. To some people I actually became interesting. It was when I had enough of the way the student politics were run and launched my own manifesto, that everybody got to hear of me. I am dyslexic and the bad spelling on my manifesto and the unique way in which I put my arguments made it stand out.

Then of course came the crunch. I had to get up and speak in public at the hustings. I did not know it at the time but I a scan of an article by me in the students paperwas a star in the making, my unique style of delivery, was actually funny. People laughed. They listened and they laughed. And I did not mind them laughing. I then began to be parodied and caricatured in the students newspaper. Everything I did or said was reported on.

I was adopted by the anarchist students, as you could not get any more anarchic than I was, which actually bought me into contact with other students, a lot of them with way out ideas, who were very able to accept me as one of them, and so began an actual social life for the first time.

Newspaper Columnist - Following on that I was invited to write a column for the students paper.

I didn't have the faintest Idea what to write, so I wrote bizarre parodies. Lots of stream of consciousness prose and non sequiturs, alluding to the particularly strange mental landscape I inhabited. And wonder of wonders, they laughed, and asked for more. It was the time of Monty Python and the raw outpourings of my divergent mind actually caught the mood of the times.

I learnt a great deal in that short time about journalism and the production of newspapers as it was a truly co-operative effort. Everyone had a go at typing or laying out the text. You could always tell my layouts because being dyspraxic they were so crooked.

Down to Earth - In retrospect those were some of the best times of my life, for although I did not pass my degree. There were no accommodations available in the examination process, and my lack of mathematical skills did for me in the other joint honours subject which was economics. I fitted in, in a society without convention.

I even had women who were interested in me!

Came the final year, and I failed my resits and finals in Economics, and it had to end. I had to buy a suit and cut my hair and go looking for a job. Well the next phase of my life was a return to my former isolation. The real world as it were.




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Copyright 1999 - 2011 Laurence Arnold

This page created Monday May 17th 1999
Revised Friday August 6th 1999
Latest revision Monday January 17th 2011

Midi Acknowledgement - Screaming Shawms, Internet Renaissance Band