Category Archives: Rants

Autism and why Santa has ruined Christmas for me forever!


I’M APPALLED!  The song ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ will never be the same again for me, the very epitome of Christmas has been ruined forever and shed huge doubt on one of the greatest, most generous and caring of men to have ever existed.

What am I talking about?  Well, have you ever listened to what the song is actually saying?  Any decent headteacher or boss would be seriously alarmed if such practices were taking place in their establishment and would probably be liable for a lawsuit, but Santa seems to be perfectly ok with it?

You know how the song goes:-

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows
Their beautiful ‘goody two shoes’ image hides a sinister secret
So far, so good. Lovely reindeer with beautiful names who pull Santa’s sleigh every year to help him deliver millions of presents globally (no mean feat I might add and much here to be admired!).  However, listen to the lyrics as they continue and we see a much more seedy side of life at the North Pole.
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games
BLATANT BULLYING!  Just because Rudolph is different from the other reindeer he gets called names, laughed at and isn’t allowed to join in with the games the other reindeer play.  How could Santa possibly tolerate such despicable behaviour from his beloved reindeer?  It really does beggar belief.
No wonder poor Rudolph looks so sad
And the sorry state of affairs doesn’t end there!
Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
“Rudolph, with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You’ll go down in history”
One minute the other reindeer are behaving in such a disgusting way that any tribunal would be awarding Rudolph huge damages and the next they’re sucking up to him because meteorological conditions are making delivering the presents one year impossible, so, suddenly they need his ‘difference’ in order to get the job done.  They were lucky he was such a nice guy and became the ‘bigger person’ to save the day.
(We we won’t even bother to go into the infringement of various ‘Elf and Safety issues here with regard to flying in such inclement weather, although I’m sure the ‘Elf and Safety Executive would have a lot to say about Santa’s recklessness and the risk to life of the reindeer in his charge, which are, of course, his sole responsibility)
Santa flagrantly ignored ALL ‘Elf and Safety guidelines
How shallow of them!  “You’ll go down in history!”.  All of a sudden he’s their best mate and everyone’s hero!
Now, Rudolph may not be autistic, but how many autistic people suffer from the same bullying and isolation because they’re different?  I’m here to tell you, it’s a lot!
But, how often do autistic people have the talent and unique ability to solve problems that the rest of us can’t…HUH??  Just have a think about all of the miraculous gadgets and systems that these amazing people have created that make our lives so much better?
Without Bill Gates there would be no Windows and anyone who remembers the days of MS-DOS will know that Windows transformed everyone’s lives.  Without Steve Jobs there would be no Apple, no iPhones, no iPads, no nothing Apple!  And without Sir Isaac Newton we might still be scratching our heads about why things always fall down, not up?
Hands up if you would be lost without your iPhone?
Some of the most creative and forward thinking people have transformed our lives, and if you look at the list, a lot of them are autistic!
Now, we can’t turn the clock back and prevent poor Rudolph from being bullied so mercilessly, but we can learn a lesson from his experiences.  Just because someone doesn’t conform to the generally held idea of ‘normal’ doesn’t mean they don’t have a huge amount to offer the world and the people around them.  We never know when we’re going to need their unique abilities and really they should be grateful that Rudolph didn’t tell them all of to ‘shove it’ when he was suddenly put at the top of the list!
Don’t bother looking for any deep meaning to this picture, it just made me laugh!
So, the next time you listen to ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’, let it remind you that we need difference, in fact, we would all be in a sorry state if it weren’t for the people in our world who add something a bit alternative, life would be extremely boring as well!
I hold Santa accountable for not intervening and stopping the bullying that Rudolph suffered for so long and hope that he learnt a good life lesson about protecting the vulnerable..and may we all learn the same.

Autism: But, they don’t LOOK Autistic!

This is a picture of Bear. He’s a Chorkie (half Yorkshire Terrier, half Chihuahua):

Here is a picture of his brother, Cody. They have the same parents and are from the same litter. He’s also a Chorkie:-

Spot the difference?

Another puzzle!

Which of my girls in this picture are the twins?  If you know us, then you’re a step ahead. Those who don’t, I would love to hear what you thought before you scroll down any further!

Which ones are the twins?

THIS IS MIRIE (left, stripy top) and LORIE (right), MY BEAUTIFUL 

Did you get it right?  We have great fun getting people to guess which two of the children are the twins. People very rarely guess correctly so if you got it, well done!

So why am I bringing this up?

What’s in a look?

Well I’d like to talk about one of my pet peeves!

Those of you with children on the spectrum, or if you are on the spectrum yourself, will relate to this and I’m well aware of how upsetting it can be.

It’s THAT moment when someone learns about yours, or your childrens’, ASD.

It’s THAT moment when they look you or your child up and down and come out with immortal words: “Oh, they/you don’t look autistic!”

It’s that moment when you feel your blood boil and at the same instance have that sinking feeling of “When will people get it?”.

Even if the commenters mean it in a good way, it’s really annoying.

You can’t ‘see’ autism; it’s to do with brain wiring so there’s very rarely anything to ‘see’, but that doesn’t mean that the challenges aren’t immense and often life-changing.

It’s the same with mental health challenges; you can’t ‘see’ them but that doesn’t mean that they’re not causing the person a huge amount of distress.

People can’t ‘see’ that Bear and Cody are brothers from the same litter.

People can’t ‘see’ that Lorie and Mirie are twins.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that they are.

The front people put on can hide myriad challenges

Please stop judging on looks alone.

Things aren’t always as they seem and every single person deserves understanding and tolerance, whether they have hidden challenges or not.

Everyone deserves a second chance, and everyone deserves respect. Maybe if our world was more accepting and understanding of people’s differences we would all get along a lot better. Everyone has a story you know nothing about.

So here’s what I’m asking of you…

When my children tell you that they are autistic, please don’t respond with the words “You don’t look autistic”.

It’s taken a lot of courage to tell you in the first place, so don’t invalidate them by disputing the truth.

And for everyone else out there, I won’t stop banging on about understanding, acceptance and tolerance whilst I still have the ability to breathe!  I’m on your side!

New driving fines, and Bungee Jumping?

Is it just me or was the traffic in Coventry moving a little slower and more carefully this morning?  Maybe it was my imagination but there did seem to be a lot fewer ‘D***H***S’ around this morning.

Anyway, I didn’t meet one this morning, not a single one, all the way through Coventry to Pippa’s school near the Ricoh Arena and back.  As I was driving I was listening to my favourite morning radio guys, Ollie and Simon on Touch FM, they were discussing the new fines and whether they would make the roads safer, but all that aside for a moment, I have to say their maths is appalling! Come on guys, I listened with dismay as Simon calculated that 150% of £250 would be around £600!  150% of £250 is £375 guys, time for you both to have a calculator on standby at all times, may help you with the kids quiz as well.

These guys are going to hate me but I know a really good maths tutor!

Of course, I’m pulling your legs lads, but on a more serious note, will the new laws on using a mobile phone whilst driving and now the speeding limit fines actually help?  Simon was arguing that being on your phone doesn’t impact your speed, I have to disagree Simon!  If you’re distracted on your phone, how well can you focus on anything else, including your speed?  I listened to a few people being interviewed and I’ve done a bit of research online, mixed opinions out there it seems.  If you’re a boring git like me and you adhere to the speed limit anyway (I know they’re there for a reason) and I don’t use my mobile phone whilst I’m driving because I know that’s dangerous.  I’m guessing the people who are most pissed off are those that do both and think there’s no great fuss to be had?

So, do either of these things really matter?  I’ve heard one person today claiming that if they want to risk their life it’s their business, so that’s ok?  Errrrrrr……have these people not noticed the other cars on the road, the pedestrians, joggers, children?  If you drive like a dick you’re endangering a lot more than your own life and why do these people care so little about their life?  The media are constantly telling us about cars that have mounted the pavement and killed innocent people quietly going about their own business, very often caused by high-speed in a built up area or lack of attention being paid to their driving because they were distracted.

Many motorway crashes could be avoided if people drove properly, when my kids go out in their cars I’m not worried about their driving, they’re all very good drivers, I worry about the other idiots on the road that can cause disaster at any moment, no matter how sensible they may be.

Risking your own life is your business , please be my guest if Bungee Jumping off a cliff is your thing or base jumping from high buildings (or whatever may turn you on), but, if your antics may affect someone else (and every time you get into your car you’re in charge of a lethal weapon) do the right thing.  Respect other people’s right to live their life however they want to and don’t risk killing someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, wife, husband etc… You are not God, and your driving isn’t as amazing as you think, anything can happen at any moment that can cause you to take action and if you don’t, someone may well be killed.

Do I feel passionately about this?  Yes, I bloody well do!  In all my years of driving I’ve had countless near misses and very rarely of my own making, I respect other people and their right to be safe on the roads, I drive accordingly.

You want to risk your own life?  FINE!  But don’t risk other peoples lives…

HS2: A Catastrophic White Elephant That’s Trampling All Over Us (And You)

It’s happening…..

Apparently.  The ‘wonderful’ ‘much-needed’ and extremely expensive ‘White Elephant’ known as HS f*****g 2 in The Mad Shanks Residence has been given Royal Assent!

Why, is a question no-one in their correct, sane mind can seem to answer.


Fast or not… we don’t need it! And business people don’t need it either.

Our much-loved and incredible NHS is under so much pressure that it’s at breaking point, waiting times for operations are to increase and the wonderful people who work for the NHS are becoming disillusioned at having to do more with less and less money.

But, £50b+ for a train that goes from one station (nowhere near anywhere) to another, is, apparently, a great way to spend money that should be funding our future generations by overhauling our antiquated education system and keeping the entire nation healthy.


That’s just laughable.

Why am I ranting on about HS2 again?  Because we have yet another meeting looming with them which will no doubt result in the same old song from HS2 about there being nothing they can do and us reiterating, once again, that we’re caught between a rock and hard place and their house survey and valuation has been absolutely useless in moving us any further forward!

Oh yes, and according to them, the noise during construction and operation will be little more than we already experience!

Now if you’ve not been to the middle of the countryside you won’t know the silence we’re fortunate enough to be surrounded by.

We live in the middle of nowhere and can, literally, hear a pin drop outside our house at any time!  The heavy plant machinery and the high speed train that will follow, are again, apparently, silent! Incredible eh?

So much time wasted by so many people trying to fight HS2

We’re not the only people suffering with a monster that we never asked for but that we ‘just have to put up with’ according to the powers that be.

Expensive trips to London having already paid for the ‘privilege’ of petitioning the Government were a complete waste of time and money, time and money I can ill-afford.

The equivalent of weeks and months of my life have been spent researching, fighting and writing lengthy letters and petitions against something that I, and everyone else in our situation, has never asked for, but the onus is on us to present our cases.

To say that I’m pissed off would be putting it very lightly. Seven years of my life have been eaten up, both mentally and physically, by a beast that has had a huge effect on my family’s already fragile, mental health.

Do we have any course for redress?  Can we claim any compensation for distress caused?  Can we get any compensation for our lives being turned upside down by years of construction and then a sodding train running right past our door?

Any compensation for the fact that we’ve lived in absolute peace for 30 years and now that peace (the reason we moved here) will be gone forever?  NO, nothing, not until the train is operational in 20 years time so they can assess the impact it’s had on us.  Absolute bollocks!

Ah!….I’m so sorry…..I forgot one critically important thing!!!!  How could I be so dumb?!

I’m forgetting that HS2 is actually a giant ‘gravy train’ for back slapping businessmen and bureaucrats to make shed loads of money from.

The little people like us don’t mean a thing when there are such huge amounts of money to be made, it makes sense now!

Why on earth do I have any expectations that we would be treated like human beings with the right to live the peaceful life we’ve paid a fortune for over the years? Why would we expect people on whom HS2 will have no impact (everyone I’ve met involved in the project to date) to understand the distress and life changing impact it’s having?

Now I’m not anti-progress or anti-business. Not at all. But the journey time from Birmingham to London will be shortened by a whopping 10 whole minutes. The other end isn’t even going to link to Heathrow or the Channel Tunnel as per the original plans. As well as ruining miles of beautiful landscapes including protected wildlife, it’s set to use an ENORMOUS amount of electricity and is horribly environmentally unfriendly.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s only affordable for the super-rich anyway? Us normal folk won’t be hopping on it to travel to London any more quickly. This means it just won’t free up any capacity on normal trains.

There are better ways of improving the rail service. I’m not a rail expert so I don’t profess to know what they are. But the knowledge is out there.

If you want to see EVEN MORE reasons why this is a catastrophe for our country (and not just the Shanks household!) have a look here:

Useless rant over.  HS2 are impervious to everything, the train will go ahead regardless and folks like us will just have to subserviently bow our heads and keep quiet…..or will we?


Why women’s attitude to men needs to change

For many men, depression and emasculation are synergistic. Understanding this is critical to recovery. What I have learned in my journey is that feelings of weakness about my masculinity can lead to depression, while at the same time, depression can lead to feelings of emasculation.” Quote from an article by Mike Veny, leading Mental Health Speaker from the USA  Read Mikes article here


Mike Veny, top USA mental health speaker

Why do men feel emasculated?

We are constantly hearing news that more and more men are taking their own lives as did my own husband, but why?  I believe there are many reasons but the issue is so much more complex than merely the fact that men are less likely to seek help when it comes to their mental health.  So, what’s the reality?  Are more men struggling with their mental health, is the media picking up on more stories so we are more aware or are the pressures of modern society playing a part?  I’m convinced that all of these are factors but I don’t believe it makes up the whole picture.

I’ve been conducting my own little case studies over the last 10 years or so, watching with great interest how my daughters boyfriends fare in their very modern relationships.  I’ve observed a number of challenges that both women and men are having in the struggle to evolve very quickly into, modern men and women.  Whilst the scientific community battle out the finer points of what our lineage may be, the general consensus seems to be that, as a species, we are at least 100,000 years old, that’s a whole lot of evolving we’ve done!  The speed with which we are now expected to keep up is simply unreasonable.  Herein lies the core of the problem I believe.

Women were treated as the weaker sex for a reason

Nowadays we find it abhorrent to learn of the way women have been treated historically, but whilst there have been some unspeakable atrocities, there were actually some excellent reasons why women were treated as the weaker sex.  Putting abuse to one side (that’s still very much a reality in the 21st century), our ancestors lived by the sword, and prior to that, by the club!  The truth of the matter is that women are not, generally, as physically strong as men, therefore, in a society where everything had to be done by hand with little or no tools, it made total common sense that the women would take on the gentler tasks and men would chase after Antelope.  It was merely a case of survival, nothing to do with political correctness, and it was because of this that we evolved in the way we did.


We’ve come so far, let’s not go backwards now!

Where women are stronger

We can’t actually know how cavemen treated the women of the tribe but there are a lot of primitive tribes that still exist in remote areas where the women are in charge!  Therefore, it’s not beyond the realms of imagination to assume that cavemen treated the women with respect for the essential role they played within their society.  The men were stronger and probably ran faster, didn’t have the debilitating role of child-bearing and were far better equipped for running through the undergrowth as they had tougher skin.  For this reason, men today, still have more tunnel vision than women in order to be able to focus more effectively on their prey, and women’s peripheral scope is much wider than a mans, all the better for spotting the Sabre Tooth Tiger lurking on the outskirts of the camp!  Evolution has played a huge role in many other aspects involving the different sexes, far too complex to go into here, but, let’s accept and know that we are different and in many critical ways, women are indeed stronger than men!


Isn’t teamwork better?

 Are women better or worse than men?

Well…that’s about the most stupid question that could ever be asked!  I was talking to my son Osborn a few days ago and he was pondering the fact that men and women are so different that we could almost be different species, I wholeheartedly agreed with him!  Women scream for equality but actually, equality doesn’t mean justice!


Women should shouting out for justice, men and women are not equal in all areas, we actually carry very different strengths and society would work much better if we all accepted that it would be much more effective if we played to our strengths.  Am I suggesting that women get back in the kitchen?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  What I am suggesting is what I’ve been banging on about for years, EVERY person should be playing to their strengths, and I’m talking about men, women, neurodivergent people, people with physical challenges etc…EVERYONE!

It’s not about better or worse!

When it comes to talking about people, the words better or worse should never enter into the conversation, no person on this planet is better or worse than anyone else, it’s about our differences and playing to our own individual strengths.  The word ‘disabled’ is bandied around constantly, disabled actually means ‘to render useless’, and yet, I’ve never met a ‘useless’ disabled person, differently abled, yes, not disabled.  The same principle should apply to the sexes, we are differently abled and instead of trying to compete with men, we should be working side by side, as a team, utilising our greatest strengths to get the job done better.  Justice, not equality.  And, of course, those wishing to pursue ‘non gender typical’ jobs must be at liberty to do so, and more than that, welcomed into their sphere of work wholeheartedly.  If they’re pursuing their dream job, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re be bloody good at it!



 Where does this leave us?

Going back to the start of this article, I believe all of the above is relevant in terms of the confusion men are experiencing these days.  Their traditional roles as hunter, bread-winner, alpha protector have been turned on their heads, my observations over the years have shown me that guys these days have absolutely no idea what or who they are supposed to be.  I’ve entered into long conversations with many men on the subject, who all confirm what I already suspected, they don’t know what their role is anymore.  All of them have experienced women growling at them when they’ve opened a door for them, but isn’t this just a societal nicety whether carried out by either sex?  However, the upshot of this rejection is that men no longer dare to act in a chivalrous way, but they can’t win, women then accuse them of behaving like ‘cavemen’!  Thinking back over the years I wonder when the ridicule of men by women actually became the norm?  We’ve gone way beyond wanting equality, or justice, we now want it all, and so many women now view men as walking sperm banks and little more.  We have one planet to share, it doesn’t take an enormous amount of common sense to accept that we need to work together, in harmony, in order to achieve the best reality for every person who lives on our precious, but fragile, lump of rock.

We all need a sense of purpose

Everyone needs a sense of purpose, it’s in our make-up as human beings.  The media and society have insidiously sent out a message to the male of our species that he is redundant, no longer necessary…after all, we have sperm banks.  50% of our population shouldn’t be experiencing a feeling that the ever-growing reality is that they no longer have a role to play, women can do it all by themselves!  Or can we?  And is it any wonder that so many men are experiencing a sense of uselessness?  Some men now try to assert their status in very negative ways, others just hide away and may become one of the suicide statistics that are so readily available in the media.

From my own very personal point of view I’ve never felt inferior to anyone, is it that I have a good self-esteem?  No, I don’t have a great self-esteem and it’s nothing to do with self-esteem, confidence or anything else, it’s just that I’ve never focused on whether a person is male or female, black or white, Christian or Muslim.  Their gender, ethnicity etc…matters not one jot, I’m interested in the person, nothing else.  I think of we all focused less on the minutiae of each human being and reached out to each person as an individual the world would be a much better place.  Discuss please?!

Do read Mike’s article for a man’s perspective.

My TED talk is here on much the same subject:-


Apple Mac’s, Cats and Baths!

I think we all know that most Apple products don’t mix with water very well?  I certainly did, hence why in the 3 years I’ve had my Mac, it’s only been into the bathroom (very cautiously) 3 times!  On the third occasion THE disaster struck………yes, that one, the one I had nightmares about, the one that would end my world as I knew it!

I had started to run a bath and turned it off as 2 of my beautiful children had started talking to me about totally different subjects.  Only having 2 of them talking to me at same time was nothing I couldn’t handle, the cacophony is usually much worse, this was a walk in the park!


These items should never be introduced to a bath full of water!

Having said that, it distracted me, after a few seconds I looked around the upstairs hallway looking for my Mac and iPhone that I knew were together……nothing.  The penny dropped and I rushed into the bathroom just in time to see Tabby, one of our……..errrrrrr!!!!……..beautiful cats, jump onto the cabinet next to the bath, right on top of my phone and laptop!  It might have been my involuntary scream that frightened her and caused her to launch herself off but before I could mutter ‘shit’ under my breath, she pushed herself off the laptop as I watched, in agonising slow motion, both devices float into 2 inches of warm bath water!

Did I panic?  Well, I guess that’s one word for it?!  Having just watched my entire life being destroyed, I don’t think panic is really the appropriate word……my world stopped turning….

As fast as I could I dragged both items from the water and grabbed the towel, screaming at the kids to Google what to do if your Mac and iPhone fall into the bath.  We followed what instructions we could find but to no avail, the Mac was well and truly ‘Dodo’d’……  Miraculously, the phone still works, one point in favour of Apple for managing to create a phone that can survive more than the most obsessively cautious individuals ownership.  No points for me for thinking everything I did was backed up to the Cloud only to discover that I’ve lost everything on the Mac.  Manuscripts, proposals, photos, my media stuff….everything……GONE!

My life is now in hands of Todd at Spaghetti Agency who has the power and the contacts to (hopefully) download the contents of my hard drive so I can get most of it back, that’s if the hard drive isn’t fried!

So, here I sit with my new Mac (courtesy of interest free credit and no deposit!) trying to piece my virtual life back together, except that these days my virtual life and my real life have become so inextricably linked that they are now ‘as one’, life as I knew it 3 days ago have come to an end, I am now re-building it.

The most traumatic events in life include bereavement, divorce, changing jobs etc…..they need to add the death of a computer to that list, I am definitely in mourning!

Please take this as sage advice, I took my laptop into the bathroom to watch a talk someone had recommended to me, I thought I was being super productive by watching it in the bath….killing 2 birds with one stone so to speak.  Talk about backfire, the 20 minutes I would have saved have become entire days of trying to retrieve stuff, setting up my new computer and crying……..