Friday, February 7, 2020

The Spiral Of The Righteous


I think the world seems a darker place today with the death of the marvellously dimpled Kirk Douglas ( or Smirk Douglas as he was known in our house). I don’t know much about him but as far as my knowledge goes, he was a great actor who came from nothing and has left this planet a better place than it would have been without him in it.

And it’s a constant source of annoyance to me that he wasn’t in Trapeze, because I am convinced he was!

Within minutes of his death reaching social media the – I can’t quite think for a name for them – had also appeared on social media alleging that he was an abuser of women, a rapist and that we should really think hard before we celebrate his life or mourn his passing.

I’m not really sure what to make of that but the past truly is a different country. I don’t think the Beatles checked the birth certificates of the legions of female fans who lined up outside the Cavern club.


There are – I can’t quite think what to call them – on social media who seem to regard themselves as bastions of our morality. Their opinions in a perfect world is always right, of course nobody agrees with rape and nobody agrees with the abusive of either gender and saying that the past is another country does not condone it, but there is a  sense of a time gone passed, where life was different and that fact has to be acknowledged. The guardians of morality like to ‘call out’ people and ‘shut them down’ which can be perceived to some, including myself,  as on line bullying, I believe there was an incident recently in crime fiction world where a mispronounced name was translated to abject racism.

I even see it in my own little sphere of existence. Being a vegetarian for 40 plus years, living a mostly vegan life but not fanatically so. I am in danger of being pilloried by those that have lifted the vegan banner more recently, but seem to be more about bashing people over the head with the message rather than being healthy, and being engaging about their diet.

So bearing all that in mind the subject of this blog is Tony (not his real name). Tony works in a small cafe that is part of an institute for the end stage care of the terminally ill. As well as a fundraising venture, the tables in the cafe are populated by those who either work in the facility or those visiting relatives who are close to death. The cafe is run by a full time paid member of staff  ‘assisted’ by Tony and I use the word ‘assisted’ in its loosest possible sense.

It’s obvious within 5 minutes of meeting  Tony  that he is well on the spectrum. His boss is very patient with him and he tries very hard. Is he employable in the big outside world? Possibly. And therein lies the problem. I don’t see him as disabled but I do see him who is non neurotypical. He is at the far end of a spectrum we are all on. He is a ‘type’ of person.

 It’s difficult to describe a conversation with Tony but he will ask 2 or 3 times what the order is and each time he repeats. He will  add the phrase ‘I’m  just making sure’, and even at that it often will still be wrong. The patrons of the cafe just swap the egg roll for the sausage roll, they quietly go and get their own milk for the coffee.  They  often have to walk up to the cake stand and point at the carrot cake because Tony is not quite sure what cake they mean and ‘likes to make sure’. ‘

'How many forks would you like?’

‘Just the one.’

‘One fork?’


 ‘I’m just making sure.’

Then he will stand rather formally beside the table. A few seconds will pass and he will say ‘ Do you want a napkin?’


‘I’m just making sure. So that’s one fork and one napkin?’
He will then bring you a knife. 'Is that what you wanted?'

Tony knows me now and we can chat. He likes Comicon, he likes Marvel films. I told him I preferred  Captain Scarlet he told me there weren’t very many models of Captain Scarlet at Comicon but he was sure he had seen one.


Then he and Alan  had a good chat about the Avengers Endgame movie ( I don’t know what that is) Tony came out with facts and figures about that movie that would have impressed Speilberg’s accountant.

I have been in there when the other volunteers were on duty and Tony is left alone in the corner seat looking at his phone as nobody engages with him. Probably because it’s not easy.


So are we being patronising by making a point of talking to him? Are we being discriminatory by treating him differently? Is the cafe being exploitative? I’m sure he’s employed under some kind of disability scheme. No doubt those circling on the spiral of righteousness will keep me right.

Today Tony gave me a napkin, then he did his standing back thing and addressed me  formally as is his way.

This is how the conversation went.

Tony; I was helping out at a charity with the children so I like my napkins.

Caro; So what were you doing with the children?

Tony; My mother attends a knitting class or an exercise class. I can’t tell the difference between them.

The lady sitting in the opposite chair gave a knowing smile as this was classic Tony. Further investigation proved that Tony was  showing the kids how to do the coffees and teas at some charity that his mother was also involved in, and his speciality was the napkins.

I suppose there’s a political correctness aspect to all this  and our behaviour  may fall short. I can see how some might be offended at neurotypical people being amused at the world view of the non neurotypical, and they may have a valid point. The bigger picture however is that Tony is in employment, he’s fully engaged and is picking up lifeskills and communication skills that his brain finds very difficult to figure out. Tony is by no means stupid. In fact, I  suspect he’s very clever but his verbal communication difficulties can mean that everyday life is a challenge.

I think I am getting old.

And if I want to think that Kirk Douglas was in Trapeze, then I will!



  1. All I remember about Trapeze was Gina Lollobrigida. At least I think she was in it.

  2. No person of the make gender or identifying as the male gender has ever forgotten Gina Lollobrigida in a film !

  3. I used to think her name was Gina Lollopalouza.

    Now THAT should put me on some troll's list. Frankly, I don't care. What I do care about is telling you again how much I love you (and Alan) for being the folk that you are. We can't ignore the world, only try our best to live within it guided by the golden rule... rather than the golden toilet.

  4. What a great post, Caro. You worry whether you are doing the right thing. The people who refuse to engage with Tony, but then make fun of him behind his back probably never have the least twinge fo guilt. Stan may actually have forgotten La Lollobrigida. Ask him if Candace Bergen was in the film. He’ll know the answer to that.

  5. Very thought provoking, Caro. I don't see how anyone could object to your thoughts here. But what do I know?

  6. Engage with Tony, no matter what he says. He needs the socialization with other people. I hope he is paid equal wages with other people.

    I liked Kirk Douglas. He helped to break the Hollywood blacklist and let Dalton Trumbo write in his own name. And who else could have been Spartacus?