Before JM started being sent curates to train, she used to take me to many services and events, presumably as a companion and assistant, as I had many little errands to run, such as fetching chairs from the church room and getting things from the car, fetching and carrying etc.
JM never actually prepared or told me when she started getting curates that she would stop taking me along for assistance, usually I would go and help her at the old people’s home, but she turned up with her curate and did not even explain to me that she would not be taking me to help, which caused a problem for me, more so that she maligned me to the curates, gave her opinionated opinion, which did not include me being autistic but did include how she ‘rescued’ me, she never told them or anyone else in the Benefice about her step-daughter and how I was the spitting image of her step-daughter etc.
Anyway, before she started getting curates, she used to take me to the fete or meet me there, and the fete became part of my life, in a smaller way than the show, but nonetheless, part of life. I first went to the fete with JM when I was at college.
Because I became friends with people in the village and people who worked at the fete, I became a helper in a small way, mainly helping with the tea stall, as well as accompanying JM round the fete.
In the early days, I was so ingrained in my background, where ‘respectable people’ would shun my family and say we were a shame, I was sure that no-one who spoke to JM would want me around, so I would feel unsure of myself and would move off while JM spoke to them.
JM took this as me being hostile, and when I tried to explain that I felt I was out of place, she said I was being an ‘inverted snob’, when actually, I did not know what that was and was simply acting on what I had learned from experience, in this wealthy district, most of the people were very comfortable and would not have liked my family, so I just thought I didn’t belong.
Although I grew more comfortable with a lot of these people, and some were very nice to me, it is true that a majority did not understand what was wrong with me, and how could they? In the early days I didn’t even understand, and even to this day, the puzzle of autism and other disorders is still being worked on.
Although now those people shun me because of the terrible reputation the Diocese and JM both gave me to cover up their wrongs.
And it is true that they would believe clergy and Diocesan staff over me, of course.
Anyway, let’s go back to those lovely sunny summer fete days.
I remember the trail of coins for charity, the village school dance display, the stalls and the bouncy castle, the book stall that was my favourite! And the tea stall, where I waited on tables, did cups of tea, cleared tables, washed up, it was great fun! 🙂
FM would usually join us for the fete too, with his camera and he would either sulk or be smiling, depending on if there had been a row with me or JM or her Mother or whoever. In public and church he was always smooth and smiling and talking in a gentle voice, so different from his violent shouting and slamming about in the house when he was angry.
I remember taking JM’s hat off her head one day, and FM was there, all dressed up in his sports jacket, and he said ‘The Vicar must have some decorum!’
But I did not know what decorum was, so I thought it was JM’s hat.
Long live those sunny summer days that are all gone!
There were often garden parties and BBQs in the benefice, various people, including my friends and the youth group would have BBQs, and so I got invites.
As with everything, I was usually nervous and limited in communication, but I loved to be there and have fun.
If my friends were doing the BBQ, then I would often help. I remember how exhausted I got, helping at a BBQ and swim party and how I realised then that interaction made me tired. It was another piece of the big jigsaw, each little realization adding up to more understanding of my condition.
And there were several village and benefice BBQs every year, two of which involved a walk to get to the BBQ, and a big meet up.
One of those was organized by a family in one of the villages, and the other was a benefice thing, where the villages all walked and met up at a farm in the middle and had a service followed by a BBQ, I used to help set up for the service, putting hay bales out, and I also recall doing some form of reading or prayer for that service, and also sidesman’s duties.
In case I hadn’t mentioned it, JM would get me to do the occasional reading or prayer if she had a slot that no-one else had taken or if she was left short of a reader at the last minute, just as she would get me to do sidesmans duties if she was short-staffed.
I have loads of photo’s of one of the benefice BBQs, but I daren’t put them on here because of Identity. There are some of me handing out service sheets, some of me chatting to one of the Readers, some of me with my (then) friends and JM. Mainly these were taken by FM, who had been angrily and obviously ignoring me for months and that day decided to break his silence by offering me a glass of wine at the BBQ.
JM always said ignore FM if he is sulking, because he sulked with her and her parents and everyone, and he would stop when he realised no-one cared.
FM was always prolifically photographing church events.
I will stop there because things like Carol Singing and other Winter things cannot be imagined after such summery events and that will make another post.