Sunday, April 20, 2014


ATTITUDE - APTITUDE - ALTITUDE; choosing a flight path in life.

Targeting, goal-setting and 'success' are very much part of the 21st 
Century social philosophy. In particular areas of our lives, most of us 
have a desire to do well - we want to 'succeed'.
What this really means differs with each different person, but it is a 
common drive.  The North American version emphasises being a 'winner' 
and the usual measuring device involves dollars, and the material goods 
that money can buy.  Other communities have their own versions of 
'social success'.
Irrespective of a person's goals or philosophies there are common 
elements that heighten a person's ability to achieve. 
When I first visited an international airport I was stunned to see how 
steeply the international passenger jets climb when they first leave the 
ground. After gaining maximum speed on the runway, it seems that the 
pilots immediately put them into maximum climb under full throttle.  I 
later learned that these planes burn a huge percentage of their fuel in 
the first few minutes of flight, climbing as rapidly as possible to gain 
as much altitude as possible, so that they can then level out and cruise 
at their chosen altitude - 'cruising' at high altitude apparently being 
an economic way to travel vast distances, particularly with a lightened 
payload now that the bulk of their fuel has been burned. 
Later, when I had the chance to take the controls of a small four seater 
plane my pilot coach explained that when my nose - or rather the nose of 
the plane - was pointed up, I was gaining altitude. He then further 
explained that to gain altitude I, or the plane, had to have a positive 
attitude, and that this was an absolute requirement on leaving the 
runway. Altitude must be gained immediately as a safety requirement, so 
that if something went wrong I had more thinking and praying time before 
reconnecting with terra (very) firma. 
And so I learned that when flying small planes, attitude has a big 
impact on altitude; when a plane is flying at a constant level, the 
pilot could say that he is maintaining a neutral attitude, (which could 
be described as 'just cruising') and the nose of the plane is pointing 
level, neither up nor down.  However when the plane is gaining height, 
the nose of the plane is up, and the plane is said to have a positive 
attitude and is climbing.  When the nose is down and the plane is 
descending, it has a negative attitude, and may be coming in to land. 
Typically a pilot would be very careful to avoid a negative attitude 
unless a welcoming airport was in near proximity. 
So in my first flying lesson I learned that the 'attitude' of the plane 
is chosen by the pilot as a deliberate mechanism to achieve the desired 
outcome in terms of the plane's altitude.  If he wants to increase 
altitude, to fly at a higher level for some reason, he adopts a positive 
attitude, applies appropriate throttle, and hopefully climbs to higher 
However, to achieve higher altitude the engine must be worked harder and 
more fuel will be burnt.  Small planes have small motors, and small fuel 
tanks and so have a correspondingly small aptitude in terms of how high 
and how far they can fly.  In general terms the bigger the plane the 
bigger the motors, the bigger the fuel tanks, and the bigger the flying 
range - and the higher the altitude at which they can fly. 
However, before flying each pilot is required to submit a flight plan, 
an outline of where and how he is going to fly.  He is required to plan 
his flight, then to fly his plan. This flight plan however will be 
specifically limited by the capacity - the aptitude - of the plane he is 
flying.  It will include information about the weight to be carried, the 
distance to be flown, the amount of fuel carried and the altitude he 
proposes to fly at.  Each pilot is required to understand the aptitude 
of the plane he is flying, and to plan his flight according to, or at 
least within the limits of, the aptitude of the plane. 
I never did get my pilot's licence, because being colour blind I 
couldn't tell the difference between the wind-sock (bright orange) and 
the grass of the landing strip.  However I did get a very valuable 
lesson in terms of attitude, aptitude and altitude, and individual 
flight-plans when dealing with a wide range of ventures in my life.
Training and qualifications, career plans, relationships, notions of 
personal 'success', sports involvement and other areas of life can all 
be likened to flying.  How high do we want to go in terms of our 
performance? What costs might this have in terms of losing ground-level 
perspective?  How quickly do we want to achieve our desired level? How 
much fuel are we prepared to burn to achieve this, and once there, how 
long is that flight before we take a break and consider another leg in 
our life journey? 
Attitude, aptitude and altitude - but the most important of these is 
attitude.  Where your flight-plan represents your intention, your attitude 
is the factor that will create your actual outcome - and this is simply a
personal decision.




Playing with dolls as a child, acting as stand-in mum as a teenager, or earning pocket-money as a baby-sitter is great training, but unrealistic preparation for the rigours of parenting.  Most of us want to get it right and spend lots of time fantasising about having our own children - but if we are at all normal, our fantasies are dominated by the loving, cuddling enjoyment time, when we have the most lovable, cutest bundle of love ever invented cradled in our arms. If only that's how it was .....

To test out your own (and partner's) personal readiness here are a few small practical tests;
MESS TEST  1. Smear ice-cream into the carpet, peanut butter on the couch and milk onto the cushions.  Drop half-chewed lollies between the couch cushions, and fish fingers under the sideboard.  Leave for three months, then laugh lovingly as you clean it all up.         
 2.  Find a thoroughly rotten egg, wrap it up in a face-flannel and place it gently in your washing machine amongst your own delicate smalls.  Then forget about it and ask your partner to hang the washing out.
TOY TEST  Buy a variety of good and broken toys from an expensive garage sale.  Take turns with your partner to randomly spread them around the house when he/she is sleeping.
CAR TEST  Purchase an infants car seat, lock it securely into the front passenger seat then drive to a distant destination - taking turns at driving or being passenger sitting in the back seat.
SUPERMARKET TEST  Steal a small goat and take it to the supermarket when you are doing your weekly shop.  Without using rope or shackles or stun-gun keep it with you at all times, and be happily responsible for any costs incurred.
FEEDING TEST  Take a two-litre plastic milk bottle and part fill it with tomato sauce. Swing this from a ceiling hook using a bungy cord, and (without putting it in a head-lock) feed it mashed vegetables with a teaspoon - reciting 'One for the cat...' and pretending to be the Rescue Helicopter on a mission.
SLEEP TEST 1. Record in your own grizzliest voice,
                        "Maaa-um, my bed's wet ...
                        "I want a drink of water ....
                        "There's a mouse in my wall ...
                        "I got a itchy ......
                        "There's a aeroplane flying round my bed ...
                 Set these to play every fifteen minutes for three nights, during the working week.
    2. Spread toasted breadcrumbs through your bed before bedtime.
    3.  Find a small hyperactive dog, tuck it tightly in a bed and sing until it goes to sleep.  This won't work, so after half-an-hour pick it up and dance around your darkened home (remembering that tonight was your partner's turn to spread the toys around) for one hour, singing, humming and cooing.  When this fails too, gently throw the dog into the car seat, tie a 'dummy' (pacifier) into its snout and drive around the block ten times.  Use this time to mentally prepare for your 9 a.m. sales meeting later the same morning.

(With thanks and apologies to Bits and Pieces)

April 2014

COME HERE - WAIT THERE Confusing Parental Instructions.

I sometimes wonder, just how slow off the mark I can be.  For several years now I have been writing, lecturing, teaching about the language we use when talking with our children, and how so often the words we use mean nothing at all to the children.  When we tell them, for instance, to 'hurry up' the words do not depict any useful message to the child - so they don't understand, can't cooperate, and therefore get into trouble for being naughty.  "Hurry up" is an old mining term, and does not mean 'move faster', and nor does it have a clear pictorial message as would the word 'run' - if we bothered to use that instead.

The letter reprinted below, written by an excited new client, really woke me up to the fact that we have a long way to go yet.  I will be including the instructions "Come here", and "wait there" in my seminars from now on - and welcome such contributions from any parents, teachers, or diesel thinkers (dyslexics) themselves.

"Yesterday I realised my eleven year old son does not really understand the words "come here" and "hurry up" and thanks to you, I now understand why and how this is so.
 I went for a walk with him and asked him "
What does come here mean?" He looked a bit confused and said ..."I'm in trouble?"
 I said "
Why would you be in trouble?" and he said "I don't know".
 I let him walk ahead of me and then he stopped, I said to him "
If I said come here what do you think I mean?"
I could see him thinking hard and he said "
Walk towards you?"
 I said "
Yes, what if I said come here like this (I did some come here hand gestures) would that make more sense to you?"
He said "
Yes that makes more sense".
Then I said  "
What if I said Come and stand right next to me, does that make any more sense?
He quickly walked over to me and stood next to me and said "
That makes much more sense".

 I was sooooo excited. I have made many mistakes with my son and now I am just beginning to really understand. You see every morning getting ready for school we have had so much frustration with him. (I have another son and 2 girls and what works for them does not work for him, so to some extent I understand the frustration that teachers must feel with him).

Usually I am in the kitchen making lunches and when I want him ( maybe to bring his lunch box, maybe to check that he is still getting ready for school or whatever) I used to always call out to him (he would usually be in the lounge or his room), and I would say "
R, come here". I would repeat it a few times, then my partner too would call "come here!" When he finally comes to us we are annoyed and frustrated that he didn't come the first time.
He usually says "
what?" And that is how it has been for years, because it never occurred to me that he didn't really understand those words.
This morning we were getting ready for school and I was in the kitchen and I said to my partner "
Listen to this.... R, I want you here in the kitchen now." We waited and he said "coming!" and he was in the kitchen ready and willing to do whatever it is that I asked of him.

I cannot describe how excited I am to know that there are ways that I can really help him.

Sorry this is so long I just felt a need to share with you the progress we are already making.

Laughton King
April 2014

Monday, October 28, 2013


“TELL SOMEONE WHO CARES” conference. Keynote Presentation



Over many years of working with children and their families it has become apparent to me that children are born into this world with a really suspect double legacy.  These can be seen to be the product of both 'nature' and 'nurture' - and this is the topic I wish to address today.
The first of these legacies is the simple fact that in order to be born, you have to have parents.  This, I think, is a most un-fortunate, and often even insidious situation.  I am convinced that life would be so much easier, so less complicated if at least a child could start this journey without having to have parents.
Typically parents have been around, have experienced life for at least a few years - and typically have experienced enough, just enough, to get their perspective of the world really screwed up.
Unfortunately, much of the time, they haven't been around long enough to sort themselves out again, and still manage to get their knickers in a knot over an infinite array of insignificant issues.
This great accumulation of knicker-knotting issues makes its impact as a range of unmet expectations.
- and this is where the second part of the double legacy comes in.
The first suspect legacy is that as children we have parents.  The second is that, by dint of 'nature' colluding with 'nurture' children are born WITH AN INNATE NEED TO PLEASE THEIR PARENTS.
Most unfortunate! Unfortunate in that the two legacies collude dangerously to the peril of the child.
The child is unwittingly inclined to constantly attempt to please the parent, whilst the parent is dominated by an insane compulsion to constantly MOVE THE GOALPOSTS.
We could summarise this as a statement from the parents to the children;
And so right from the beginning of life a normal child is caught up in an ever-progressive, insidious and sanity-threatening battle to please the unpleaseable.  An endless, thankless, but compulsive battle where one constantly strives to perform, and the other constantly with-holds approval - which goes on and on, until both have finally departed.
But what does this look like in real life? - if we were watching this play out in real life what would we see?
Imagine this.  The baby infant is lying in his cot.  Mother approaches and peers down at the baby, dangling 'dinner' as she leans over.  Baby smells FOOD, and smiles in greedy anticipation.
Mother sees the smile, is delighted, picks the baby up and says "C'mon, give me another smile."
Baby is confused and thinks 'Hang on, I've already given you a smile, is one not enough, you want more?  Is your name Olivia Twist?'
Baby likes his own little joke, and so laughs.
Mother is ecstatic - so what does she do? - she demands more.  One is not enough, we want more.
Baby has already sensed a trap here, and says "Well, ummmm...."
To which mother responds  "Oh look, he said 'mum' - now say 'dad'".
Baby is very confused by this new demand and says "Duh???"
And predictably mum responds "He said Dad - now say your sister's name - Wendy".
Baby has now had enough of this silly game, burps, and goes to sleep.

Whatever the baby does delights the parent, who immediately shifts the goal-posts and demands more.
The same occurs when the child eventually crawls across the floor to the couch, draws himself up on two wobbly feet, and takes his first hesitant step - in life. (This is a terrible mistake, there is no going back now!)
The cry goes out "He took his first step!  Now see if you can take two!"  All they want is more.
So the child looks around the room, staggers across to where the car keys lie on the coffee table, scoops them up and makes a bolt for the door.  Get out while you still can!
One is never going to be good enough again.  Once achieved, the goal-posts are shifted, and they want more.
And it persists during the school years too.
Your ten year-old comes running in after school - "Mum, mum, I got 7 out of 10 for my spelling!
"Great, well done, now get your home-work out and we'll see if we can get 8 tomorrow."
..... and on it goes.  How sad, and how disastrous for the child who can never be good enough for his or her parents.

Is this a matter of Power and Control?  It looks like it, but really it is something much more basic - it is a self-perpetuating cycle rationalised as being part of 'good parenting'.
But what is it, what insidious dynamic makes us as parents act in such a menacing manner?  And yes, the answer is that it is all those unmet expectations in our own lives that causes us to want our children to achieve, and have their expectations met - whatever this means.
However, the aspect that I want to focus on here today is the RATIONAL that we use to cover, to disguise our own behaviour here.

To me, this is 'thin edge-of-the-wedge labeling, and the single label that we use to make all this acceptable is  MOTIVATION.
We say that we are 'motivating' the child - motivating him to 'extend', to 'improve', and to 'succeed' in life.  (Remember our unmet expectations?)
This is the label we use to rationalise our behaviour as parents, and it is simultaneously the word that stops us from seeing what is really going on.
But most of us don't really understand the concept of motivation.  If truth be known, motivation is a personal, and internal thing.  It comes from inside a person, and belongs to them - it cannot come from any outside person.
You, as a parent, cannot 'motivate' your child.
Sure you can threaten a child in some way - with some fearful outcome - but what is motivating here is simply their desire to avoid whatever evil painful outcome you have dreamed up.
Similarly you can promise a potential outcome, a reward that perchance the child may be motivated to earn.
"I will give you $5 for every exam score over 60%"
A child from a very poor family may feel very motivated to achieve this small fortune - but a child who already gets $50 pocket-money per week is unlikely to find it motivating at all.
Similarly a child who regularly scores in the 50 - 55% range may be very motivated by this, but the child whose score level is in the low 40's may just dismiss it as being rediculous.
So the first point is that 'motivation' is internal. The second is that 'motivation' has two major elements, the second of which is seldom identified as such.  I will call on my own life experience to clarify these.
The first is the individual's desire to achieve, succeed, and to please the parents.
As a normal, obedient, compliant child I was dominated by this first element through my schooling - for about two years.
I tried, I applied, I sweated and I fretted, I persevered and did everything I could to achieve and please.  But as a bright UNDIAGNOSED DYSLEXIC child, I fell flat on my innocent 6 year-old face.
So, after two years the second major element of 'motivation' cut in.  It finally dawned on me, that despite all my efforts, I was not able to achieve as planned, and that all my efforts amounted to wasted energy.
(This incidentally is the essence of 'depression').
Element two of 'motivation' (what I call 'shadow motivation') cuts in with the realisation that the expectations are unrealistic - the task is not achievable.  It is simply 'self-preservation' based on avoidance of failure.
When 'success' was too difficult, irrespective of my desire and effort, I moved my emphasis to 'avoidance of failure'.
The actual techniques I used in this will be recognised by all of you, but I think it unlikely that you will have seen them as being a product of 'motivation'.

Before I go any further in this, I want to take you on a small detour and explain a little about the power of LABELLING.
The impact of labeling can be life-threatening - and we know it.
You are all familiar with the old adage "Give a dog a bad name......."
But if you think that this only applies to the weak, perhaps a bit of direct personal experience will help.
Let's divide this auditorium full of people into two halves - those of you on the right of the mid-line will use the positive label, and those of you on the left will use a negative label - and if you can prove me wrong in this I want to hear from you!
After this conference, when you get home to your partner, and you're lying in the double bed with the lights out, those of you on the right here, I want you to roll over to your partner and whisper in their waiting ear - "Honey, you are the most amazingly sensitive lover that I could ever imagine" - and see what happens.
Now those of you on the left side of the room, remember that you have the negative aspect to whisper in that ear.......

Suffice to say that people tend to become what you tell them they already are.

But let's go further.
In 1963 two University teachers played some simple mischief on their first-year psychology students.  The students were doing experiments with rats, and the teachers simply said that all the rats from cage A. had been bred to be highly intelligent, and those from cage B. had been bred to be dull.  In fact all the rats were the same.
At the end of the session they were stunned to find that the students with the supposedly 'intelligent' rats achieved high performances in the experiments, while those that were supposedly low intelligence generally performed lower.  And nobody had told the rats!

Labeling had affected the expectations of the observers, and somehow the performance of the rats!
So Rosenthal and Jacobson went on to conduct an experiment that they would probably not get away with these days.  They conducted what later came to be known as the PYGMALION EXPERIMENT.
They took 18 classes of primary-age children and ran a mock test of 'academic potential' - whilst actually just measuring the current achievement of each child to date.
They then randomly ascribed labels of 'high potential' and 'low potential' to the children, and gave this information to the next year's teacher at the beginning of the school year.
At the end of that next school year they reassessed each child, and measured the gains made.  The achievements gains made over that 12 month period were frightenly aligned to the mock 'potential' labels given to the teachers, but not the children!

When we label somebody we stand to dramatically impact both on them, and the perception of others around them.

So lets come back to my experience as an undiagnosed dyslexic child in the NZ 1950's school environment.
But first, another small deviation; just quickly, a few insights into how the dyslexic brain ticks.  (I will go into this more in my workshops).
1. - Most dyslexic people are of at least average intelligence - they are therefore 'seen' to be intelligent, but observed to underperform in class.
2. - Dyslexia involves a difficulty with language - and although I could hear what people said to me, and could even repeat those words back to them, I was not sure what those words meant.
3. - Having trouble with what words meant, I would often use the wrong words, and say things that I did not mean at all.
4. - Not only did I have trouble with spoken words, but I also did not have the capacity to use 'inner dialogue', or 'self-talk' - so couldn't formulate or ask questions, or process information using normal 'thinking'.
5. - Rather than thinking in words inside my head I processed information by thinking in pictures. 


So, although I was seen to be intelligent, I wasn't producing the goods at school - and I earned my first label    LAZY
I gave up on trying to perform and succeed, and now put my energy into avoiding failure.  To do this I memorised information, and copied others work. 
Thus I earned my second label   CHEAT.
I couldn't understand the teacher's instruction - so my third and fourth labels were   NOT LISTENING  and    NOT PAYING ATTENTION.
Without 'inner dialogue' I couldn't formulate questions, nor compare, contrast, extrapolate, nor process information, and this was the source of labels five and six    WILL NOT APPLY HIMSELF   and  NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH.
Because I couldn't find the right words, and often used the wrong words, my subsequent label was   STUPID   and one teacher used to beat me over the head with a maths book whilst proclaiming to the class "King you are stupid!"
My picture-orientated brain got me into constant trouble with instructions like 'No splashing', 'No diving', and 'No running around the pool', and the labels came flying   DISOBEDIENT.    WILLFUL.    BEHAVIOUR PROBLEM.  and NAUGHTY LITTLE BOY.


A question for you;  what happens when you take an intelligent, deeply sensitive, highly motivated, and confused child, and give them all these labels?
The obvious answer is that you create ANXIETY  and STRESS.  and this doesn't help.
The tummy aches that sent me running to the sick-bay (imaginary, they said), are still with me today as stomach ulcers, but earned me yet another label   AVOIDANCE BEHAVIOUR.
And so as the years went on, so did the labeling, and so also the sadness, the lonliness and the depression - eventually leading to huge anger and intermittent suicidal behaviour.

But there was one spark of hope.
Another common characteristic of Dyslexic people is that we have a heightened spiritual sensitivity - and one day my God said to me,
"Here, hold my hand - together we can achieve anything"
and at that point I dedicated my life to working with other kids in the same predicament.

So, finally, in defence of myself, a long history of being told that I am not good enough, and multiple thousands of other similar children, I want to emphatically state,


I explore these issues in detail in my three books, and will do so in my workshops tomorrow.

Thank you.



Bruce was holding the fort on his own.  With his wife Kathy down south for a
few weeks, he decided to give her little VW Golf a bit of a leg-stretch by
driving the 20 kilometers into town to have lunch with the boys.

He wasn't very familiar with the car but was disappointed in its lack of
power, refusal to rev out, and general sluggishness on the road. It was
surprising that Kathy put up with such poor performance.  He should have
checked her vehicle more regularly but no doubt the boys would have a few
suggestions over lunch as to possible  causes of the poor performance.

They did. Paul thought any check should start with the simple replacement of
the spark-plugs as once these get tired, both performance and fuel-economy
drop right away.  Ian thought the high-tension leads to and from the
distributor should be checked as well because they break down over time,
resulting in the same symptoms.   In his experience the discharge capacitor
was often overlooked in problem-solving exercises of this nature.  He added
knowledgably that the contact-breaker points in the distributor were a
likely weakness but really Bruce should be looking at blocked jets in the
carburettor as the most probable culprit.

Bruce, not being much of a mechanic, was profoundly impressed with such
depth of knowledge.  Obviously this trouble-shooting task was way beyond his
limited capabilities so armed with a list of the boys' suggestions, he
dropped the car into the VW workshop.

On his return at 5 p.m. he found the car and the mechanic waiting for him.
The mechanic returned Bruce's list, thanked him for his helpful hints and
said the list had put them right onto the cause of the lack of performance,
saving valuable time and money.

Bruce hoped that of the five or six possibilities identified by the boys,
the specific culprit had also been the cheapest to fix.

The mechanic started at the bottom of the list.

"Well, for a start, these days very few cars have distributors as this is
old technology and has been replaced by electronic ignition systems, so we
didn't need to check that.  And as there is no distributor there are no
points to check.  This vehicle has no high-tension leads so we saved a whole
lot of time not checking those. Discharge capacitors are virtually history
now-days so we didn't have to go there either.  It's pretty much the same
thing for carburetors too.  I'm picking that your mates who helped you with
this list are all over retirement age and perhaps a bit out of touch with
modern vehicle engineering."

"Got it" said Bruce "So the problem obviously lay in the spark-plugs,

'Well," the mechanic began, "actually we couldn't find any spark-plugs."

"But it must have.  All cars have spark-plugs... don't they?"

"Marvelous motoring technology in this little German beauty" smiled the
mechanic.  "No spark-plugs and it goes like a charm - just as long as some
mechanically-challenged nitwit doesn't go putting petrol in its diesel tank.
It's a bit like a mathematical equation - Petrol into Diesel doesn't go".
Diesel kids, otherwise labelled as Dyslexic, head off to school with their 
perfectly intact pictorial thinking style, but find the school-based 
education system is like petrol in their tank.  Unfortunately, when it doesn't 
work for them, they get the blame, irrespective of whether or not they have
been identified as being dyslexic - or in my books as being Diesels.

Laughton King
October 2013



 "Fridge isn't going".

 "Didn't know it was invited".

 "Nah man, fridge hasn't gone for a couple of days".

 "Yeah, I noticed it was still sulking in its corner".

 "Think I should call a vet - or maybe a counselor?"

 Karen, new to the flat, to this sort of carry-on, stood bewildered.

 "Nah, I'll talk to it, I've done a counseling paper" - and Matty sidled up to the fridge, rested one hand supportively on the door.
 "Now c'mon Kelvin old chap, you can open up to me. I didn't really mean it when I told you to chill-out. We do love you really - it's just wierd the way you stand there humming in the corner. Makes me think you're up to something".

"Will you guys just cut it out!" Karen's voice was sharp and loud, with an element of panic.

Matty stopped, turned back to the fridge. "Well Kelvin, there you have it, somebody does care about you".

 "Knock it off Matty". Ron could see that Karen wasn't handling their carry-on, their humour. She was a good addition to the flat and he didn't want to frighten her away.

 "Are you guys always like this?" she asked with that same anxious tone still evident.

 "Nah, sometimes we sleep".

 "Or sometimes we drink beer, and get silly", Max added.

 Ron met Karen's eye, flicked his head towards the deck, and walked out of the room into the sunshine, Karen close behind.

 "Will you guys ever grow up?"

 "We work on it from time to time, but personally I think I might have missed my chance". He couldn't help himself, the style just kept on coming. Looking up he saw a cold glaze draw across her face, and he backed off.

 "It's just the way we talk - its our style of humour. It doesn't hurt anybody, it keeps us entertained, and it keeps us sharp. We all do it - its fun."

 "You're just a bunch of wannabe stand-up comics if you ask me." She paused. "I have a brother like that. Younger brother, and he's at it all the time - except when he is with strangers - then he is super shy."

 "All of us are too" agreed Ron. "Until we met at Uni, and started flatting together. It's a real relief to find that there are other people as weird as I am. It can be lonely out there."

 "Yeah, but it's also lonely for me meeting up with you three guys. You're all lovely, sensitive intelligent guys, but you carry on like this. When I can't get a straight answer, or a straight conversation with any of you I feel like an outsider - like you are locking me out."

 "That's 'cause you are a girl" he began, then stopped recognising he was starting to do it again.
 "Look, you don't know any of us very well yet - nor we you. I can only speak for myself, but all my life I have been the odd one out. Different in some way. My mind constantly twists things that it hears. I hear something and get a picture in my brain, but it has several options, and my brain picks up the least likely option and runs with it. Yeah you're right, its what stand-up comics do - well, good stand-up comics. Most just seem to rely on swearing and smut."

"Well for me its too reminiscent of years of pain trapped in an unhappy childhood home, with a brother who wouldn't let up. If he wasn't being smart, he was being silly, stupid, sad or suicidal. He played the class-clown at school until he was kicked out at fourteen and told never to come back."
She paused, then continued. "Our father wasn't that much different. Thought it was really clever to name him Sean. Nothing really wrong with that, until you realise that our surname is Lamb. He calls himself Syd now. Sells cars for one of the second-hand importers. Makes a killing, but can't keep a girlfriend."

"Is that a wee warning I hear?" he checked.

 "No, but you do have to know how tiring it can be".

 Matty and Max briefly appeared at the door.

 "Hey, you guys want anything from the supermarket? We're taking the fridge out for a walk".

 "Hope you've got a long lead" It was Karen this time, but not recognising what she was opening up.

 "Nah, the dog laws don't apply to electric lawn-mowers, toasters or fridges - and anyway Kelvin is in denial, he doesn't think he is a fridge." - and they were gone.

 "See, that's the way it happens. You say one thing, but it can be taken two, or even three ways, and off it goes".

 "But how do you all do that so quickly - and follow what each other is saying? It's almost as if you have rehearsed it".

"It's the pictures the words put in my head. You said 'lead', and I get a picture of an electric lead, which is probably what you meant. But 'lead' can mean several things, and I also get a picture of a dog-lead, and another of a clue, sort-of lead. So my brain comes up with a stupid picture of a fridge on a dog-lead. Warped, but fun. And the other guys brains are doing exactly the same, so the conversation can go anywhere."

 She wasn't convinced; "Only fun if you are part of the action though".

 "So what's stopping you?"

 " I don't get those pictures. Well, not the deviant ones you get".

 "Well that just proves that you're a woman. The pictorial thinking thing is predominantly a male domain, and women have less pictorial processing potential than blokes. See, there is some value in doing Psychology 101. Women are the language predominant ones, the talky talky stuff, lots of words. Apparently they have eight separate brain sites for language, and that gives you linear, straight-line thinking. Us blokes, especially ones like your bro, who is probably dyslexic like me, are wired for pictures, but not so much for words. It makes us parallel, or divergent thinkers, which is why we are such great problem-solvers - and possibly a pain in the bottomless pit".

 'Thank goodness for a moment of almost serious conversation' she thought.

"C'mon, lets go and see if the fridge wanted to go for that walk".

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


George was a watcher.  It hadn’t always been this way – at one stage he was an observer, sharp, astute, honed to perceive, he never missed a cue.

But for now he was a watcher, standing on the corner, his peripheral vision seeing everything, but judging nothing.  From his allocated position he could see the traffic – the vehicles, the townspeople, the children (the real people), the birds, and even the clouds – as it passed him by.  A bit like life, really, constantly passing him by.

He had been something once - or so they thought.  He had climbed his way through life, got to the very top, and found himself alone, as if, when you get to the highest places there is nobody home.

They thought he was a hero, motivated to persevere, to achieve, to go it alone and succeed, against all odds.  And it was the odds that really put him there in the first place.

They had joined in and celebrated his achievements, but only after he had paid the price.  Nobody was there to give him a hand up when he needed it most, to take the slack and share the load, or catch him when he fell.

Ironically it was those ‘odds’ that kicked him off, got him going.  Yes we are all born different – but some more different than others and the taunting quickly grew to be more than he could handle.  Some buckle under the pressure of teasing and ridicule, and others become more resilient, eventually finding their style, their pathway through life.

Now, standing on the corner, watching, he had all the time in the world to contemplate, to re-view.

People seldom even noticed him standing there anymore, it had been so long, he had almost become part of the scenery.  So he had the chance now to stand, silent, still, and just watch.

What did he think?  Did he think? Those were the questions he had never been able to answer. Even as a child “think” meant nothing to him.  What it might mean had always eluded him.

Class teachers at school had berated him.  “What do you think boy?  Do you think boy?  Aren’t you a little odd boy?” – and from this came the names and the taunting of the other children  “Hey Odds!  Do you think Odds?”

He was fully aware that had he hardened up at the time he would never be standing here now, stony-faced, unmoving.  Yes, he knew he was different, mainly because he wasn’t the same, because he couldn’t BE the same – but that was as far as he could go. He wasn’t like the other kids, and didn’t want to be like the other kids, but what the difference was, was beyond his understanding.

Early in his years he found himself driven by their teasing – driven into the loneliness, the peacefulness of the bush.  Here ‘alone’ was different from ‘lonely’.  Here he wasn’t different, he just ‘was’ and the acceptance of the bush allowed him to accept himself.

In the bush he had found the hills, and in the hills he had found the mountains.  And in the mountains he found elevation, and in the elevation he found perspective. 

For too long he had been looked down on, and felt beaten up.  Where the rigors of school-work and the drudgery of home-work had taken the life out of living, the altitude of the mountains, the clear, thin air, allowed him to breathe and to be.

Finally alone, he could go beyond, he could push back the barriers, he could conquer mountains.

And when he slipped and fell they never saw that it was them that had driven him to it.  In the safety of his sudden death they turned him into a hero.  They had driven him into the mountains, then carved him from that same stone.  They said he loved to be there, he lived for the mountains, that they were his challenge.  They never understood just how steep a sanctuary can be.

First he was their scape-goat, now their hero, ‘local boy made good’. Locked into this marble statue, forever watching, he had conquered the mountains, but never his dys-lexia.

(Dedicated to all Dys-lexics and Diesels – whatever their outcome.)