Welcome to Normaltown.

5 Mar 2017

"I'm off to the shops, will you put the washing in the tumble dryer when it stops?" My partner, high- functioning Asperger, working from home today, is fixated by the diagrams on the screen. He won't notice I have gone, the washing will still be wet on my return.

I wave at my neighbour Anne, examining her pristine lawn. She tends to it every day, weather permitting. Every leaf picked up, each scrap of rubbish, tea bag, down to the recycling bin. When I moved here, I found her going through my dustbins. Nonetheless, I have come to be very fond of her. She was a nurse, and a very good one, or so I am told. I catch her sometimes, looking into my kitchen through her binoculars.

On the other side is reclusive Laura. Never worked, and keeps demanding yet more surgery on an arm broken years ago. Anne says she has Munchhausen Syndrome, I am inclined to agree.

A quick chat with The Nudist. He is very hale and hearty, in amazing shape for a man nearing 80. I gave him the nickname because he wears the bare minimum to preserve decency, whatever the weather. Off on his regular 15 mile hike, fuelled by a breakfast of 3 cups of tea and 2 large raw carrots.

Waitrose is a rugby scrum. The weather forecast mentioned possible snow on northern high ground. We are on low ground in the Midlands, but panic buying has set in. I need cereal bars, and squeeze in alongside the row of women, all glumly scrutinising the sugar content.

Shopping done, I join the shortest queue, spot Mad Marion near the front, and join a longer queue. It will be quicker.

Marion is dressed like a bee keeper, the opposite of The Nudist. In the hottest weather heavy garments reach the ground, head encased in a big hat held in place with a scarf tied under the chin. She never unloads her trolley until the customer before has gone. Never packs her goods until she has paid.

Walking home I am joined by Dirty Keith. We exchange gossip. He looks like a vagrant, but that is only partly true. Banished from the home by his long suffering wife, he sneaks in at night and sleeps in the cellar. Every few months he has a bath when the house is empty. After one such pampering, he went to the British Legion, one place where he is not barred. He scrubs up well, because the Elvis impersonator propositioned him in the crudest terms. Not fancying a Hunk-a-Hunk of Burning Love, Keith declined and decided bathing was too dangerous.

I get home, stepping over dogs strewn everywhere. Empty the washing machine into the dryer. I prepared my lunch earlier. I check the calories, make adjustments, it's 20 calories over my limit. It's hot indoors, I remove my jeans and jumper. Still decent with pyjamas worn underneath. I go to fetch the Man With Two Brains. It is a relief to be back in my own home. I tell you,it's a madhouse out there.


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