Curiosities of the Mind – Day 5 (cont)

My final topic under the heading “Curiosities of the Mind” is neuro-diversity; a nice word, don’t you think, and one which has become close to my heart. For the last few years, since retirement, I have been helping out at a school for children and young people (aged 5 to 19) diagnosed with ASD. Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Most are at the severe end of the spectrum. To give an idea, the school has about 70 “learners” and over 200 staff.
“Disorder”? I thought we had stopped using that language, with its negative connotations, long ago. It should join “disability” in the bin of history. Neurodiversity, by comparison, is both an accurate description of the syndrome, whilst sounding a great deal more positive, suggesting ambition and opportunity. I read recently of certain organisations, for example Intelligence Agencies and ICT companies, targeting neurodiverse people for recruitment. It’s not difficult to see why then you witness some of the extraordinary skills high-functioning autistic people are able to utilise.
The point is, as I’m sure you know, that their brains are not “disabled”; or even “disordered”. They are simply hardwired differently – and often in remarkable ways. The mind of an autistic person operates on a different plane to that which we normally expect. We can, of cause find this disturbing – and even, perhaps, threatening.
The wonderful people I have met working alongside children with ASD have, it seems to me, a threefold aim: to enable them to recognise, enhance and utilise the unique skills they possess; to prepare them as best as possible to handle the “normal” (though it must appear very strange to them) world around them; and to educate the “normal” world to recognise and understand the very special qualities which autistic people have and can contribute to society. What they don’t (can’t) do is attempt to “cure” them.
I regard it as a privilege to have had the opportunity to work both with the young people and their teachers.

Back to the journey; my final day. I’m only about 10 miles from Marseille Airport but am determined “to end on a high”

Leaving the hotel, I travel S towards Cabries. And the weather? Fantastic – sunny, clear sky and only a light breeze! After a few miles I spot a small lane to the R signposted “Aquaduct de Provence 3k”. Is it worth it? I remember my motto, ‘If in doubt, do“. It’s an absolutely amazing structure, towering 100ft above the valley as it marches southward. I stop to take photos.

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Serendipitously, I discover an even more scenic route. It’s Saturday and cyclists abound. I notice that most are coming towards with few from behind. Is this because I’m going so fast that none of them can catch me up? Dream on!
I cycle down the middle of a quiet, narrow lane past first a Refuge de Cheval and later a Refuge de Chien (which I can hear as well as see) then on, over the Canal de Marseille.
Then, with shocking suddenness – a massive T.G.V station complex which takes me a full 15 minutes to negotiate. Just as suddenly, I’m back on a serenely beautiful lane through rolling hills. These contrast seem to me to be the paradigm of this corner of Provence: Paignol country rubbing shoulders with mighty Marseille. I enjoy a late breakfast.
From here my strategy is to put my map away, keep to the right of the sun (S/SW), and to choose the best available road until I get to the sea.
And it works! Somehow I manage to wind, weave and wend my weary way (not really weary, but it sounds good!) around the NW suburbs of the City down to the Mediterranean at L’Estaque.

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I’m only about 4 miles from the airport, and it’s still early. Have I time to explore? Of course, loads of time! I set off to Carry-le-Rouet and then on around beautiful Chaine de L’Estaque. Was there really loads of time? Well I arrive panting at the check-in desk, bike still fully loaded, at 5.15 for a flight which departs at 5.50!
But that’s a different story.

Distance travelled            63 miles
Elevation gain                      3,722 ft
Moving time                         6:12:23
Average speed                  10.2 mph

For whole trip
Distance travelled        228.3 miles
Elevation gain                   21,550 ft!!
Maximum speed               31.8 mph

That’s it! Once again it’s been a good one. I’ve enjoyed talking.Thanks for listening.
Until next year!

26th May 2015

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