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21 Nov 2007

I find I'm dyslexic after 17 years of education

A discovery I made a little earlier whilst at university. I had heard of some people receiving free computers to help them with their studies. But alas these people were dyslexic. I love computers, and I really need a new one. How can I wangle myself a free computer? Although I haven't found it particularly hard this year, I have had trouble with the way it is taught. It just doesn't seem to match me. It just seems that these some subjects are inherently hard. And in fact, I always seem to be running out of time in exams. In a way, I had been having trouble with my work. Isn’t this service designed for the mentally handicapped, disabled or with learning difficulties? People really in the shit?

But then again, perhaps they give out help to anyone who is having just basic problems with studies. Might as well check it out. I might even be exaggerating on the test a little.

I find the place I need to be to get my free computer. Hidden at the bottom of the open access computer building I find a whole area I hadn't seen before. Looking at the walls this must be a support place for the mentally handicapped and disabled. Billboards advertise support for all manner of ills. Wheelchair advertisements, support groups, charities, religious groups.

All of a sudden I feel cold feet.

I wasn't planning on pretending to be disabled for the sake of a £800 computer. The thought of this is momentarily forgotten as I notice a message on the wall `If you are blind or partially sighted, we may be able to provide assistance during lectures. Contact us for advice and support on the following number…`

Shit. I'm called in.

Well, no backing out now. You wanna lie? Well here you are, you're in and now you better lie good. Start limping and do it good because this is for real.

Fortunately the woman in the office is very amicable. Very amicable indeed. No. Not amicable. A saint. A true saint. The sort of person you see on TV receiving the Mother Teresa Heart of Gold Award for being a kind and selfless person. This isn't helping my conscience.

I feel dirty.

The student support woman explains what help is available for people with learning difficulties. Involuntarily, and as soon as she mentions the phrase `Learning Difficulties` my mind immediately wanders to the Goonies and that horribly disfigured character. Dropped on his head as a child this hunchback of notra-dame, but fully grown... growth of a man is completely dependant on his mother for support. He scares small children with a face like a fried breakfast. He knows not right from wrong. He can do no wrong and he has done nothing wrong. Yet he is treated as a freak.

This will be the hopelessly inflicted from whom I will be stealing from.

I feel ill.

Never-the-less an `appointment` is made…


My god, a qualified doctor is going to examine me. You've played some ruses in your time sister but this takes the biscuit. Desperate measures are required. Perhaps I should bash myself with a breakfast frying pan to echo it's nutritional contents to my face?

After having time to sleep on it I look up some details on dyslexia. I don't do much looking but perhaps this is not what is as first appears. I'll read more when I get time later, it’s time to go.

I can't back out. I decide to attend my appointment. Besides, I feel cocky. Nothing to lose. I don't know these people. Could be interesting. Let's have some fun.

Waiting for the examiner to arrive I begin to consider my actions. Will I lie? Will I exaggerate? What if I say I was dropped on my head as a teenager? – would damage at a later age be plausible?

Let's just take it as it comes.

I am not a con-man. As a child it was a thrill to eat penny-sweets without paying for them. I still feel guilty about that. That was the limit of my criminal ways.

There comes a time when a man is given the chance to serve for his sins. Now is my time. I conduct the test with honesty.

Indeed I pass the spelling test with flying colours.

Somehow the examiner seems non-judgemental.

This test it seems, is in fact one test of many interesting and some unusual tests. The term `Learning Difficulties` I infer, must be a general heading for a series of problems of which Dyslexia and spelling is but one. The tests continue.

By the end of testing I am very much intrigued. Some of these tests are really very basic. I ask the examiner and my world begins to change.

"Yes" he says. Some of these tests you will find easy. People with dyslexia are often talented in different ways to the majority.

I had been tricked! Instead of failing the tests to get a free computer, some of them I needed to do well at!

Crafty psychology types indeed.

The examiner only explained a little. Things start to change. Later I would learn that Dyslexia isn't a disease. In fact Dyslexia is not a disability. Dyslexia is a side effect to a type of intelligence. By being intelligent, that is, talented at associating data, here there is a compromise on memory. And there is much more to memory than spelling!

Instead of wangling a free computer on the sly, I ended up with MUCH more than I bargained for. I learnt that I am, in the words of my former self, `a spacko`.


I have learnt, without he aide of any sod, that I associate widely. And in the process of being so open minded, the cost of this talent is that I lose address to sequence and order. Especially with numbers. This can be annoying, and it has cost me many opportunities, job interviews and careers. But I am proud, because I am different. In fact, it is a hallmark of all that is interesting and cool about myself. Interesting people don't pass examines at school or win spelling tests. Interesting people are creative by associating the data that enters their` everyday experience. This is talent, this is the urge to be creative. This is the kind of thing that makes us human.

I think it's amazing that I've gone through so many years of education and not one person spotted this. It wasn't spotted at first school, middle school, upper school or college. It wasn't even spotted at University. Only when I'm just getting to the finish line do I find out why I despise education so much!

So what now? What now to do with this new knowledge? For one, I am going to find out as much as I can about the gypsies. Perhaps I can find something about that oast that I haven't investigated. Something that feels odd and unusual. Where this feels strange, that is the area to pursue to make new discoveries. Here this is clear because of the contrast to where I grew up but what of my other side of the family? Can I learn anything there too?

16 Nov 2007

Secret history Part.1

keywords: ancestry, family roots, family tree, genealogy, genes, gypsie, gypsy, romani, romanichal, travel, traveller

Turns out I have a secret family history, hidden from me for all my life. It was totally shocking when I realized. It's funny when you think I started writing this blog with absolutely no knowledge of this at all.

It happened when I was using stumbleupon to find new sites. I was reading an article about the history of the Romani people when I suddenly relised that I act a heck of a lot like a gypsy. Here I am traveling across the world about to buy and live in a caravan, out of choice rather than necessity. Not only this but my attitudes to Intellectual Property (Peer to Peer networks) echo gypsy sharing morals and I am able to adapt to cultures like a chameleon, even feeling respect and identifying with religions across the board without animosity. I have a propensity for music and I am highly skilled with my hands. Here I am reading about magic tricks and NLP.
Then I remembered back and picked up some coinsidences from family situations. I remember my father showing some disdain for traveling communities - `They are not real gypsies. The real gypsies are a highly good and moral people`. I remember a family air loom of a Gypsy Varda caravan.

Can I ask you to look inside yourself and ask `Do I have prejudice here?` I add that the only thing I ever stole was a chocolate bar in a newsagent following a very long que -and I got guilty about that! Also our family is quite rich, I'm educated and successful. I don't think this is so rare. I think there are many people around the world in all sorts of cultures and economies who have some Romani genes and this has influenced the world in subtle ways.

So now it seems I have some ancestral base in... North West India?!? I don't look even remotely Indian!


I don't intend to reveal this intentity in the current racist cultural climate. I think my family were wise to hide.

Anyway, I felt compelled to write this. It's unfinished; only the beginning of a draft. But I hope I still connect with you.

Sitting on a rock I looked out over the vista.

Breath taking. A thousand miles of hills and valleys. I guess this is what I've supposed to have come for.

In the distance I can hear the others running around and generally being loud. It's been a a nice aspect of this trip. Community.

This trip hasn't been the adventure I had planned. For whatever reason, it hadn't quenched my thirst for adventure.

One of the popular bunch comes over to me. `Ah, here you are. The guys are going to the waterfall later. Just thought I'd let you know`. Nice of her to let me know. Why am I always out of the loop? In fact, why do I never feel seem to have what they seem to? Why don't I have that sense of community?

I'd come two thousand miles looking for adventure. Why had I not found it? Was I looking for something else?


That's the memory that I am reminded of as I look out the top of this tree. That's the memory I recall as I look

over the field, the field of my relatives gathering, drinking wine and playing rounders.

Kind of funny to watch these gatherings. Looking back it has to amuse me. My mother fussing like a clucking mother hen. This was her domain now and as much as she stressed around, I relised that really, she enjoyed it. I used to hate traveling in the car to such functions. Now I look out of this tree as a fully grown adult, I begin not just to find this cute, but I start to actually appreciate such things.

Strange how attitudes change. Do attitudes change? -or does the entire world change to match those attitudes?

Money. I want to travel. No, in fact it is more than that. There is something out there I have to do. Some kind of pilgrimage! But where? Where am I supposed to go?

The money problem. I could go on a major traveling bender round the world but do I really want to do that alone? It wouldn't come cheap. Probably a years wages, possibly a lot more if I was to borrow to do it.

No. I won't travel. Not yet. Every middle class kid wants to go on a round the world part these days. This is not what it's about. I'm looking for something. I know the value of money and I won't be friverlous with MY money like them. I won't travel. Not until I know what this thing is about. There will be time or this later. All good things come to those who wait.


The story of the girl in the jungle. Lost by her parents in , she is found by a tribe of tree people. Or was it Apes? Well, jungle people. Native, stereotypical, me-Tarzan-you-Jane-let's-sit-around and each other's body parts, untouched Tree People. That will do. That's the real view people would prefer to recall. Really this is to massively simplify the situation and possibly worse. But it makes for a better story.

As she grew up this girl is raised completely cut off from the world into which she was born. Her parents, meanwhile, think she is dead.

It is only 10 or 20ish years down the line that this girl wanders into a local village from the jungle. I don't know why she would do this, but in any event, she doesn't speak.

Does she retain an echo of where she is from, even though she has no conscious memory of it?


Now I am looking out my port cabin window. A circular, small window about 12" in diameter it's just enough to give a connection to the outside earthly nature. The smallest antidote to living next to diesel engines and heavy lifting gear is amplified larger than life.

From the texture of the water I can tell we are traveling fast. Not fast for a plane, not fast for a car, but fast for a boat. Brisk cycling speed.

I have been working and living on boats now for nearly a year. It's certainly unexpected. I started on a whim. I’d never sailed before. In fact, I'd never been to sea before. How so quickly did it seem like home? Was I a Viking or some such in a former life?

Remember how I posted that I have hearing as sensitive as a dogs. How I am able to hear a dog’s whistles, bat echo location and underwater positioning equipment. It's a rare thing. When you find an undiscovered thing like this out about yourself, it's amazing. But it makes you wonder more than that. How can I get all the way into my 20's without noticing such a thing? How can anyone get past childhood without noticing such a thing? What other discoveries are there to be made about one's self?

Just imagine what untold discoveries you have to discover!


Before getting carried away, let’s exercise caution.

I remember a tale of a politician looking into her ancestry. She was proud of her Celtic ancestry. It was part of her identity. To confirm her convictions and to learn more about herself she took part on TV with a test to that indicates genetic markers to areas of the country. With this confirmation she could be sure of her suspicions and be proudly with conviction

`I have Celtic blood in me`.

But when the test came back it turned out she had no Celtic genes. `You are… English`. Seeing the disappointment on her face the scientist added

`I suspect a little German roots before this, if that helps?`

So be careful. Given a romantic incentive, the mind can draw conclusions and then look for evidence to support those assumptions. An illusion.

Update:: Asked my grandma. She said no. Well there you go!

I had all these things supporting the idea:

- Nomad nickname - saracen bicycle choice? - music tastes rhythm over melody - wanderlust - desire top live in a campervan - identification with people along migration route - tendency to come up with creative and sometimes controversial plans noting security? - grandfather worked the land - my name is a gypsy name as is my girlfriends - varda model airloom - religious flexibility/compassion picking up aspects of each - business thought over employment - secretive over knowledge, yet sharing to a community I trust - door to door salesman talent - attitude to property and modern equivalent in p2p online networks - warrior caste interest? - I can do the Asian squat - realise price of travel

Have you ever discovered something about yourself that shocked you?