Only a few of those who know me intimately know of my absolute, joyful and unabashed love of wind turbines. I find them majestic and calming. I love how they rise out of the countryside, enduring, stoic, reliable, rhythmic…
It’s a niche thing I appreciate, but I’d argue not outside the wider bounds of normal. Almost everyone loves a windmill… I’m into modernism so a love of wind turbines feels like a perfectly natural progression.
I’ve got a bit of a thing for man’s intervention in nature, the contrast of materials, surface texture and movement, from the industrial scale down to the domestic. That’s what I like to take photographs of…
…so imagine my glee to find that wind turbines were the main inspiration behind the garden in the first episode of the new series of The Autistic Gardener, shown Saturday night (Channel 4, I highly recommend you watch it on demand if you missed it).
I’m a huge fan of Alan and I like to think that perhaps I’m a fondly-thought-of acquaintance.
I’ve met him a few times and I would be chuffed to become a friend but life’s circumstances and geography mean it is unlikely…
I would also imagine that there’s a huge queue. He’s a genuinely lovely guy.
And way cool.
Massive kudos to the man, he works tirelessly as an Ambassador for the National Autistic Society and is a wonderful role model: successful, unapologetic, generous, funny, anarchic, intelligent, irreverent and definitely in no need of pity or condescension.
I thought that the programme was fab on many levels beyond my squeaky fan-girling; I much prefer the new format. The first series was great but I felt that the take away for some may have been more “aahh the kids with autism” than “OMFG the epic gardening”. This series appears to have a better balance.
Speaking as an autism acceptance/rights “campaigner”, that might sound weird, but I think that banging the public around the head about stuff sometimes just creates distance. We look on as curious observer without true connection, without being touched. (I’m being picky, the first series was great garden porn too.)
All credit to Betty TV, you’d be hard pushed to negatively critique Saturday night’s episode for the gardening content, it was genuinely watchable and inspiring – I “oooohed” a lot – the false perspective of the wooden posts unveiled at its conclusion was nigh on worthy of a standing ovation.
For me, this credibility served to make the parallel messages about what it’s like to be autistic so much more accessible and compelling…
…listening to the US waitress reel off endless menu options, watching Alan’s face, and then – after he ordered a cup of tea, so very British – hearing how that made him feel was such a simple illustration of the everyday that can trigger overwhelm.
Anyone could easily identify with it, find equivalent situations in their own lives where they could easily change their behaviour to be more accommodating.
Most importantly, how Alan shared his passions, like The Highline in New York for example, will have had so many people saying “yeah, me too!”, my husband for one.
I could easily see all the urban trendies nodding wildly in agreement about how hideous that owl bird bath was and salivating over the sections of concrete chamber rings with sublime yellow handles. And those brass lines, OMG, more “ooooh-ing”, SO 2017.
The only “aaaah-ing” came from my instant affection for Joe and Pinky – the owners of the garden – such a cute, adorable couple. I looked up from my jaded weary reflection in my glass of wine at my grumbly caustic bear of a husband and sincerely wished we were that lovely.
It is much harder to hang onto prejudice and stereotype when we get to know someone as a person: a fellow gardener, lover of straight lines, baked bean connoisseur, dad, husband, neighbour. Turbine freak.
To quote the late Labour MP Jo Cox whose life was also celebrated this weekend:
“We have far more in common than that which divides us”.
As we woke up on Saturday morning, the continued coverage of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and Theresa May’s “robotic” tightly controlled reactions had expanded to speculation that she was autistic – an example of one of the most painfully untrue stereotypes – when in fact autistic people tend to experience overwhelmingly intense levels of empathy, so much so it becomes almost impossible to express externally.
I see this in my daughter all the time.
Hopefully by the evening, Alan had helped some of those commentators understand better that grand emotions like passion and empathy, and the subtle appreciation of things like beauty, nature and aesthetic, are innate and common to all of us humans, autistic and not.
Photo Credit: Ian D. Keating Flickr via Compfight cc