Hobbs consultancy and neurodiversity (B2)

Interview Hobbs consultancy


Thanks. So I could start with why there is a need to get all employers thinking about employing people with autism.

Roxanne Hobbs (Head of Hobbs consultancy):

Yeah, I’m just thinking about how I want to answer that question because I believe many different aspects should be considered. I think there’s a massive underemployment rate amongst autistic people. The underemployment rate is significant; this needs to be corrected, and they need help finding more meaningful employment. I’m not going to be able to quote the number for you, but I know it’s too high. It should be a human right for people to have access to employment where they can make a difference. I also think autistic people have got so much to offer. I think they can be fabulous, and they can have such a lot to bring in and offer to the workplace. I would love to see the workplace benefit from those experiences and those skills.


As a consultancy, you look at enabling employers to employ neurodiverse individuals. What kind of organizations do you get coming to? What factors do you look at when improving the working environment for Autistic employees?

Roxanne Hobbs:

What kind of organizations? So, people don’t tend to come to us with that specific question about improving the environment for autistic people because of the nature of our business. We get people coming to us who want to improve their diversity and inclusion as an organization. They come in with that high-level objective, and then within that, we might be talking about gender, we might be talking about race, and then we start talking about neurodiversity as well. I think many of the organizations I work with are quite creative organizations. So, they might be do things such as branding or advertising or architectural firms. I actually think a lot of the time these companies have more neurodiversity than they realize within their building anyway. And I’m going to feed into a stereotype here. But if you think about an architectural company then Dyslexic people, the stereotype is that typically they good at that kind of creativity and spatial awareness.

And so it would make sense to me that within an architect’s practice, they might over-index on Dyslexia. And I think part of the process is it’s not just about getting people through the door, is it about creating an environment where those people can thrive, but also where they can feel able to disclose that they’re Dyslexic, that there’s no stigma or shame associated with it, and they can be seen for the strength that they bring to the table as well. 


How do organizations kind of typically respond when you start talking about neurodiversity?

Roxanne Hobbs:

You know what? This has been so fascinating for me. So, I started talking about neurodiversity and organizations in 2018 we did the Diverse Minds conference. That’s when we first started talking about it. And I was astonished at how it was embraced with open arms. Actually, I’d been speaking about gender for five years, at least before then. And I’d met a lot of cynicism, a lot of microaggressions against me. Somebody literally said, oh, you’re going to start burning your bra now, Roxs and those kinds of comments. And it felt like a constant push to persuade people that gender diversity was good for business. I haven’t experienced that same cynicism when speaking about neurodiversity. And I think it’s because if it’s explained well to people and especially the concept of the Spiky profile, that someone who is neurodivergent will typically; that they’ll be things they excel in and things they struggle with. I think leaders can see quite quickly the potential benefits that such individuals can bring to organisations.

So, I think people get the business advantage of embracing neurodiversity quicker than they understand the business advantages of gender diversity in the workplace. That being said, there is the danger, isn’t there, that we’re just talking about a certain type of neurodiversity. We’re talking about, God, I hate this language. I don’t really want to use it, but we’re talking about the individuals that are going to be able to perform at a very high level within an organization. Obviously, you know as well as I do that autism is a very complex condition, and you’ve got an enormous amount of variety in there, and you’ve got some people that really would struggle in the workplace on that spectrum. And I am worried that that kind of business case argument excludes a lot of autistic people. So, there is a downside to that. In summary, the business case is understood a lot more readily than it is with other diversity metrics. But there’s the danger that that doesn’t include all neurodivergent people or autistic people even.


I am interested in hearing more about how your organisation have gone towards more employment for neurodiversity for example you mentioned the neurodiversity conference what did that involve?

Roxanne Hobbs:

So we’ve done two, one in 2018 and one in 2019. And then we’re going to do one in 2020, and then the Pandemic happened. The 2018 one was all about celebrating neurodiversity in the advertising industry. And what we did was invite people who identified as neurodiverse, whatever language you prefer to use to share their stories. So, I had an autistic CEO, for example. We had a dyslexic female founder, and they spoke, they stood up and shared their story of their struggle, but also of their strengths, their so-called superpowers that they brought in, and how they had almost learned to see their neuro divergence as a critical part of their success, not something that held them back. And it really was for me, the underlying theme of that event was about challenging stereotypes, and I think it had real meaning for me on a personal level as well. My son had been diagnosed with autism a couple of years before, and I had definitely been guilty of having stereotypes in my head about what that meant for him and his long-term career. And so, it was incredibly healing for me to see an autistic CEO who was thriving in his job just to see what was possible.

And I think from what I’m told, it had the same impact on all of our neurodiverse people in the audience. So, they were like, this doesn’t need to hold me back. I don’t need to buy into these limiting stereotypes that exist in our culture. That was the first one and then the second one. I felt it was really important to be upfront about some of the challenges that people might face because I feel like maybe we just presented the shiny side of it of all the benefits that it brings. And obviously there’s very real challenges that some of these individuals would have on a day-to-day basis in an organization. So, the second one was much more focused on the kind of support that people could get, like coaching in organizations. It was that neurodivergent design e.g., designing buildings and cabins that were neurodiversity friendly. It was about art created by neurodiverse people. It was, really looking at more practical support and barrier removal for people. And the idea was that our third event was going to be about neurodivergent leadership, but the pandemic has impacted our schedule.


Okay, so I’m assuming a divergent friendly building focuses on having the right kind of lighting, sound proofing offices, that kind of thing?

Roxanne Hobbs:

Yeah, absolutely. That I’ve just been judging the neurodiversity Awards for genius within. And there’s a really interesting entry by Balfour Beatty. it might be worth speaking to them because this is a little bit second hand, but my understanding is that they have a lot of their workforce in those kinds of temporary huts that people work in. And they worked with one of the autism charities and the designer to really create that temporary work accommodation. So like you said really thinking about the sound, the lighting, just other things within it as well. And it’s a really neat little case study of what can be done.


There are costs involved. However I suppose it also helps people who aren’t neurodiverse to actually work well. Some of the adjustments, for example, might be useful just generally.

Roxanne Hobbs:

Yeah. I think when you think about inclusive design, there’s a thought that one person’s challenges. Let’s say you take an autistic person’s challenges with a specific work environment. That person’s challenges are all of our micro challenges. So, if you solve for that person, you’re actually making it easier for everybody because you’re addressing all of our micro challenges. So even though I don’t have an autism diagnosis, I still find echoey buildings really irritating and I still get distracted by lights. And so, a building that reduces that noise, would be a better workspace for me as well. So, as you solve for that, you solve for everyone’s micro challenges, it’s a really nice design thought. You tend to find that these solutions are good for everybody.


So that’s the building side of things what about neurodiverse adjustments in general for example, how much requirement is it for companies to do diversity training?

Head Hobbs consultancy:

There’s no governmental requirement at all. There’s nothing that they have to do. There’s nothing. The companies that I work with have decided that diversity is the future of business and they want to educate their employees and create behavioural shifts in their organization to welcome that. So, it’s completely been kicked off by a CEO or an HR director or head of HR who’s like, actually, this makes business sense for us. Let’s invest in it. And when I say invest, obviously financially, but time and resource and energy as well. So yeah, it comes from good people in the organization thinking about the possibility.


However, the lack of government pressure may mean that some of the companies don’t really think about diversifying their work force.

Head Hobbs consultancy:

The vast majority of companies, probably.


However, I have had conversations with people and they tell me they feel there is pressure to diversify. Where does the pressure come from?

Head Hobbs consultancy: 

Don’t get me wrong, they are under pressure too. But that pressure isn’t coming through a legal framework from the government. They don’t have to do any kind of diversity training or work. The pressure is coming from other parts of industry. So, say you work in advertising and say Coca Cola is looking for a new advertising agency. Coca Cola will be in their brief for the agencies to respond to. They’ll be saying to the agencies, what are you doing about the diversity, equity and inclusion in your company? What’s your plan? What’s your strategy? So potential future clients are putting the pressure on. Also, people who work at the company will be putting pressure on, especially the millennials and next generation coming through. They’ll be saying, what’s going on? Why is there a bunch of white men at the top? We need to be doing something about this. And they’re demonstrating that with their feet as well. So, they will leave companies or just join companies that have really clear diversity strategies in place. So, they are under pressure. But it’s not coming from any kind of legal framework. It’s coming from clients, suppliers, talent, people within the organization as well.


So people have taken the diversity inclusion training. Have you had people feedback to you about improvements from their staff or anything like this?

Head Hobbs consultancy:

Absolutely. One of the most wonderful outcomes of doing neurodiversity workshops and organizations is it starts a conversation about neurodiversity, and then people start to come forward and say, hey, I’m autistic, I’m dyslexic. I’ve never felt safe to disclose that before. I’ve got loads of examples of organizations where that’s happened after we’ve been in. And then those people are then getting the support that they need, but they’re also contributing to that cultural shift where it’s all right to have to ask for help sometimes it’s all right not to be a perfect human being, whatever that is, because none of us are. So, yeah, I definitely see that kind of systemic change happening. And some organizations I’ve gone into, and then I don’t see them for two years. And then I hear that they’ve done a neurodiversity panel that they had a partnership with Ambitious about Autism, that they developed all of these kinds of strategies after we’ve gone in. And we’ve always done the awareness piece and introduced the topic, and then action has been taken off of the back of that to instigate real change. It’s great.


Do you think there is anything more we can be doing to encourage diversity in organisations?

Roxanne Hobbs:

It’s a really good question. Yeah. I don’t know where I stand on that. When we think about diversity, I say that we’re in the third paradigm at the moment. So, at the beginning, it was all about the legal frameworks, actually. So, it was all about people getting sued for sexual discrimination in the 70s. And because there was so much legal stuff around diversity, one of the unintentional outcomes of that was people were quite scared about hiring for diversity, then we went from the phase of it all being about the moral and social responsibility, which was effective. But there’s a lot of people that if you say you should do this, you ought to do this, they just switch off and stop treating me like a child and telling me what to do. I think where we are now is characterized by the business case and by business case, I don’t necessarily mean commercials and profitability, although that its part of it for most companies. But I think for some people, the business case is recruiting and retaining the best talent, coming up with the best solutions, being an exciting and culturally interesting place to work.

And I think once we’ve entered that third paradigm that’s been the most effective. So, yes, I think probably it needs to be accompanied by some logistical stuff on a government level. Like an example would be, I’m not talking about neurodiversity here, but an example on gender level would be if the government could make paternity leave as easy to take up as maternity leave. That would create a huge shift in terms of gender balance in organizations, because at the moment, it’s expensive for dads to take the extended leave. So, I think there are frameworks that the government can put in place like that, and I think they’re working on. and actually, these might already exist, like design standards about making things accessible for all in terms of information communication and technology (ICT) systems and so on. So that kind of, again, the framework can exist there. But I see a lot of success in the paradigm that we’re in, which is about focusing on the business case.


What kind of industries do you work with that employ neurodiverse people?

Roxanne Hobbs:

Yeah. It’s hard not to stereotype when you answer that question, but I see tech industries over indexing on autism, and ADHD to an extent. Veterinary industry, I work with that. Obviously, you have to be really good at science to become a vet that attracts certain types. I also work a lot in the advertising industry. The creative industries, they seem to over index. Well, they over index in all neurodiversity, actually. But Dyslexia, in the creative agencies, particularly in Dyslexia, there are industries that I think over index because of the nature of the work that gets put out of them. But you’ve got to be careful of the stereotyping, haven’t you? Because I think autistic people, for example, can be super creative, really creative. I’ve seen amazing creative work of autistic people, and so it would be a mistake just to think, oh, it’s just the Dyslexics that are great in terms of creativity.


Any other comments on helping the neurodiverse into employment?

Roxanne Hobbs:

How to get more neurodiverse people into work? Yeah, I think it’s really complex, and I think it’s not just about getting them in. It’s about there being an environment there which they can thrive and succeed in, because I’ve seen that happen where, I don’t know, say you’ve got an apprentice scheme and you’ve got an autistic person coming through that kind of scheme, and then they’ve gone into an environment which hasn’t been suitable for them. So, for me, it’s about the diversity, but then about the inclusion once they’re there as well. And that happens to be a two-pronged approach. And I think there’s a lot of neurodiversity in plain sight in the workplace that those people are there already. But there are also people that have been systemically excluded from the workplace because of their neurodiversity. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve got anything more. It’s complex, it’s hard, but I think we can raise awareness. Can’t we? People can understand their own stereotypes. I talk a lot in our unconscious bias training about stereotypes and helping people understand that if there are spelling mistakes on a CV, that doesn’t mean someone’s lazy. It might mean that they’re dyslexic. Or if you’ve got someone in an interview who keeps looking around the room and not getting eye contact with you, that doesn’t mean that they’re not interested.

It might mean that they’re autistic and just struggle to maintain eye contact. And so, trying to educate people on things the way it might show up in the recruitment process. So, they’re questioning themselves and not falling into those assumptions. I don’t think there’s like one thing that we need to do. I just think there’s lots of little tweaks and hacks to our current processes that need to happen to support more people in, but also to make them feel included once they’re there.


Do you instruct people in terms of how to maybe change their recruitment process so they don’t filter out neurodiverse candidates, for example?

Roxanne Hobbs:

Yeah, we do work with people on the recruitment process. The only pushback I would have is on your word instruct, because what we do is coaching approach, because we think if people work out for themselves, there’s more likely to be sustainable change. So, what we do is get them to map out their recruitment process and then ask questions about it, and then they might start to work out for themselves what might not work.


So how have people changed the recruitment process as a result?

Roxanne Hobbs:

Well, the most common thing that I’m seeing now is when they invite people to interview, asking them, do you have any additional needs for the interview process? And so, what we do at Hobbs Consultancy is if we’re recruiting, we send out the questions for the interview the day before. This is an example of a hack we’ve made. The person can read the questions and not be kind of blindsided in the interview with them. But asking what needs a person has, that becoming a part of your process to ask anybody that’s coming in for an interview, what additional requirements, what reasonable adjustments do they need for that process? And it might be that they need to not travel in rush hour or they need to be in a room without air conditioning, I don’t know. But just normalizing that it’s okay to ask for different things. So that would be an example.


I am personally in favour of getting rid of interviews I don’t think that they suit everyone.

Roxanne Hobbs:

I’ve got a lot of sympathy with that argument. I don’t think informal interviews are very helpful at all.

I completely agree with you. I think informal interviews suit a certain type of person and I’ve seen organizations like Microsoft are doing this really well where they test people’s skills rather than their ability in the interview.


Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

Roxanne Hobbs:

And do I have anything else that I want to say? Not really. I think it’s really important to me because I have a son who’s autistic, and I want to create a workplace that is going to be welcoming to people like him and that appreciates the talents that he’s got. As more and more kids get diagnosed, I think there’s more and more parents who will be feeling the same and want to create that change for the children of the workforce of the future. So, I’m really hopeful that we are on the cusp of creating a massive shift. I’m hopeful.

End note: 

With thanks to Roxanne Hobbs of the Hobbs consultancy for taking the time for this interview.

Sue Wheatcroft interview potentially tricky words/phrases for English learners

Discharge someone-if you discharge someone from hospital you allow them to leave

Diagnosis-to identify someone as having an illness or a condition

Got at-feel that someone is potentially against you

Offended- in this context to have done something for which one can be put in prison

Arson- the criminal act of setting fire to property

Probation-release of prison under condition of good behaviour

Spell-in this context it means a period of time spent somewhere

Segregation- to be segregated is to be kept apart from

Uphill-if something is an uphill struggle it is difficult

Front line staff-someone who executes a task rather than plans it

Paying lip service to-saying you support something but not doing anything to actually help out

lead on-the person is normally ‘led on’ and does something or expects something as someone else has lied to them or makes promises they can’t keep

Sue Wheatcroft-campaigner for change an interview-Level B2

How do you feel that BPD contributed to you ending up in prison?

I truly believe that if I had received adequate treatment from the Community Mental Health Services (CMHS) I would not have gone to prison. It wasn’t the symptoms of BPD, as much how they were managed.

At the age of 14, I had been given a diagnosis of ‘inadequate personality’. This was in 1974, when such terms were the norm. I spent some time in a psychiatric ward and a special school but was then completely discharged as soon as I reached 16. I wasn’t told about my diagnosis and so spent years thinking I was just weird and that I should hide how I felt. I had quite severe attachment issues but was too embarrassed to discuss it with anyone. On one of my rare visits to the GP I became quite tearful and so was treated for depression which, I now know, I didn’t have. I struggled alone most of my life; alternating between over-sensitivity and anger; impulsive behaviour; negative thinking; and feelings of emptiness, until I finally asked for help at the age of 53. That led to my current diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), but also to the stigmatisation associated with it, that prevented me from getting any help.

I offended, partly, because I was desperate, frustrated and angry at the way I had been treated (or not) by the CMHS. Every time I think back to how I was spoken to, by the very people who are employed in a position to help people like me, I go through every emotion: sadness, frustration, anger, hate, suicide… My journey to prison is rather complex and involves domestic abuse, knife crime, arson, and the consequences of severe attachment. It also includes the part played by probation, the police, and a psychiatrist who I thought was treating me but turned out to be working with the police and was a witness against me. It is, perhaps, best saved for another time.

Why are there so many women with BPD in prison?

For those who have to rely on their local CMHS, there is still a huge amount of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding BPD among the front-line staff. We phone the crisis team in tears, begging for help. Invariably, we are asked if we intend to end our lives. If we say yes, they will phone the police. If the answer is no, then we don’t need their help and if anything changes, we are told that all they can do is to phone the police or advise us to phone 111. If we phone again, we are attention-seeking, and ignored.

Many people struggle to manage their emotions; to those with BPD this can be a massive understatement. The desperation felt can be unbearable, to the extent that around 70% attempt to take their own life at least once, and 10% succeed. The urge to do this can be immediate and sometimes, the feeling will not go away until they have done something extreme: screaming, self-harming, offending…

The lack of help from the CMHS is detrimental to the health of someone with BPD. However, what is likely to tip them over the edge into extreme behaviour, is the negative attitude towards them. Telling someone to bake a cake when all that person wants to do is to go to sleep and never wake up again, is both insensitive and potentially dangerous. We all understand that resources are short, but there is no excuse for a lack of compassion.

People with BPD do not always see the world as others do. In particular, they struggle to understand if they are liked or being ‘got at’ by others, including family and friends and others they are close to. This sometimes leads to a misunderstanding that is intensified by the person with BPD due to their lack of social skills, or ‘tools’. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) was developed specially to treat those with BPD, and other therapies have been successful in lessening the intensity of symptoms. However, resources are short and, where the treatment is available, it is not unusual to be told that ‘you are not ill enough, so don’t qualify’, or, ‘you are too ill to treat’.

Without treatment and understanding people with BPD feel lost, alone, helpless, neglected and insecure, afraid of being let down or abandoned. Unable to express their true feelings, they can come across as angry and aggressive. They may commit petty crimes but, without a true understanding of their condition, and within a culture of risk aversion, magistrates and judges often give them harsh sentences.

What was your experience of being in prison with BPD?

Most of my time in prison was spent either in Segregation or Healthcare. There was no attempt to try and understood my behaviour and I was seen largely as an attention-seeker. My spells in healthcare were usually after an episode of self-harming or attempting suicide. My stays in segregation, five months in total, were generally as a consequence of my in-cell graffiti. My way of coping was to draw and write on the cell walls. I desperately needed to get my feelings out, and no-one was willing to listen. Segregation wasn’t the answer and 23 hours a day alone in a cell can only exacerbate a mental health condition.

My one shining light in prison was the psychologist. I say ‘the’ psychologist because she was the only one there, although she was helped by three mental health nurses. She was kind to me, which meant more than you can imagine. She wanted to help me but, of course, she didn’t have the time. What she tried to do was to keep me out of segregation and, when this failed, she tried to make sure I was treated adequately. Unfortunately, this failed too, but I was grateful for her occasional appearance. It was more than I ever got in the community. My time in segregation is yet another story!

How much help, if any, is available to women in prison and does it change depending on the location?

Those who have two or more years left to serve on their sentence might be able to be transferred to one of the personality disorder units within the women’s estate. These are part of the Offender Personality Disorder (OPD) Pathway, which is co-commissioned and managed by NHS England and HMPPS, in response to the knowledge that approximately two-thirds of prisoners meet the criteria for at least one type of personality disorder. 

Outside of these units, there is a serious lack of training for prison and health staff in the symptoms of BPD. Those with less than two years left to serve are housed on regular wings and are too often, seen merely as troublemakers.  It is very often the case that an individual with BPD spends a longer time than normal locked in their cell. A common symptom of BPD is a fear of sudden endings, and relocating an individual into another cell, or even prison, without prior knowledge can be immensely traumatic and often results in a period of crisis.

For those lucky enough to be referred to the prison mental health in-reach services (known as In-Reach), there is inevitably a long waiting list and even then, treatments for personality disorders, outside the specific units, are difficult to source. With a lack of resources, the staff face an uphill struggle to cope with the number of prisoners with a personality disorder.  In addition, making a diagnosis whilst in custody can be unreliable because the individual is away from their usual environment. People very often act differently in prison; they may be putting on a brave face and suffering in silence, or they may become anti-social in order to survive.

How does the cost of keeping a woman with BPD in prison, compare to the cost of treating a woman in the community? 

There are no definitive statistics on the prevalence of BPD in the UK, although it is thought to affect between 1 and 2% of the population. The ratio of women to men having the condition is said to be 3:1, and it is, by far, the most common personality disorder among women, both in prison and the community. It is thought that around 20% of women in UK prisons have BPD which, at the time of writing, would be an estimated 650 women. Keeping someone in prison costs around £118 per day. By these figures, the daily cost to the taxpayer, to keep women with BPD in prison, is £76,700.

It is always going to be cheaper and more effective to put money into the community rather than in prison, but there needs to be a concerted effort to ensure that money reaches those with a personality disorder. Too often, it is aimed at those with ‘emotional difficulties’, which includes a range of mental health conditions. Consequently, those with BPD get left behind. Then, of course, there is the human cost. The negative impact on families and on children in particular, of putting women in prison, cannot be overstated.

What can be done to fight the stigma surrounding BPD? How much do BPD treatment services differ across the UK? 

The worst thing someone can hear when they need help is that nothing can be done.  Historically, people with personality disorders have been denied help from statutory services because their condition has been regarded as untreatable.  This belief is slowly changing because there are many people who are trying to fight the stigma. For me, it’s a matter of awareness and training, co-produced with those with lived experience. Frontline workers, delivery services and management should all be aware of why and how a personality disorder is developed, so that the appropriate therapies and services can be carried out with empathy, understanding and kindness.

As with most health services, there is a postcode lottery when it comes to finding effective and high-quality support. Some counties have dedicated personality disorder services, whilst other counties say they do but after delving into what they offer it is found that they are paying lip service. The remaining counties have neither the plans nor the desire to set up a dedicated service.

Do you have any other stories about women in prison with BPD and what they experienced? 

A lady who became one of my best friends in prison, and who I am still in contact with, received a life sentence for the murder of her boyfriend. From what she told me, there had been many signs of difficulties in regulating her emotions, long before that incident. But she didn’t get help, and two lives were ruined. And of course, there was the knock-on effect to their families and friends. She was eventually transferred to a secure hospital for treatment but is now back in prison.

Another woman had similar experiences to me in that she would often end up in segregation. She had severe attachment issues and one day she held a knife to the throat of a woman she believed had been ‘leading her on’. The matter was resolved after a few hours, but a few weeks later, she took her own life.

How have you attempted over the last few years to change the system? 

When I left prison, I set up the Derbyshire BPD Support Groups. The thought of others going through what I had just because they were alone with their condition, made me feel ill and I had to do something. That was four and a half years ago, and we now have members from all over the world taking part in our WhatsApp group and zoom calls. The best thing about it is that people know they are not alone; they are able to connect with others for support and advice.

As a person with lived experience of prison and mental health, I have written several articles and blogs trying to raise awareness of the consequences of not giving people adequate treatment, and the wider impact and expense, of sending women to prison for non-violent crimes. Within the Criminal Justice System, the Voluntary Sector and the NHS, I have been part of various focus groups, and I have presented at forums and conferences.

In my work with the Revolving Doors Agency (RDA), I have co-produced a Best Practice Guide for prisons, and a Pre-Release Skills Project for the women’s estate. I was also on the East Midland’s Prison Partnership Board. I have contributed to various national documents, including Lord Bradley’s Report, Ten Years On, as well as RETHINK’s Thinking Differently, a guide to NHS England’s new Mental Health Framework. These are just a few things I have done as a campaigner and activist, and I have much more to do.

Anything else you’d like to add.

Not all people with BPD will reach crisis point. Some learn to manage their emotions when relatively calm so that they do not reach that stage. It’s important to remember that most people in danger of reaching crisis point are not thinking straight and may not be able to get help for themselves. Yet, people need to be listened to and taken seriously. For those who can afford a private therapist, this can work quite well. It certainly saved me.

I would also like to add that, when talking about coping alone with my condition, I am referring to the lack of knowledge and treatment. I was lucky enough to spend over 36 years with my soulmate, Vicky, who sadly passed away just before Christmas. We struggled together but she supported me in ways that only a loved one can.

Many thanks to Sue Wheatcroft for the interview. If you’d like more information about her/are looking for resources to help you can visit:

Welcome to my website


Why I’ve not been writing blog posts

Hi, all. I’ve been swamped since the start of this year (I’ve also not been well), organizing/filming/editing a series that I hope will be accepted by Amazon. The series is about fitness. Due to this and a lack of space on my laptop, I am looking at doing all my interviews via sending questions to people via email, which is potentially more problematic as it is more forgettable than arranging a face-to-face meeting. However, hopefully I can get some replies back soonish.
Hopefully, I will have a new series of interviews out in the next few months with any luck. I will also update this blog with information about my forthcoming Amazon series. If the series isn’t accepted on Amazon, it will be uploaded onto YouTube and link to it.
To give people a flavour of what the series will include: It will be about fitness at different stages of life, with a few tips on working out and a few insights into some top people in the fitness industry.

Soviet cinema: an overview of two films

A break from the usual blog to do something entertainment based. I hope to get a series of interviews done in the next few months on one theme and publish them all together and write something regarding language points.

I got into soviet cinema when I was learning Russian, a fellow student in the Russian class described Soviet cinema as brilliantly weird, and there are several films in this category. In this blog, I am going to discuss two films. I will look at content, camera etc., concerning both movies. I will talk about the films with clips relating to what I discuss.

If you don’t want spoilers you might want to watch the films before reading the commentary. 

The first film is found here:

The second film is found here: 

The first movie is based on a classic of Russian literature which catalogues the transition of the old order dependent on birthright to a new communist society. The film is called the twelve chairs.

In the first clip (watch till the 10 min mark), we can make some observations; the camera on this scene is mainly focused on Bender, the focus on this character is evidence of where the power lies in this scene. Another thing of interest is that we are introduced to the priest figure in this scene who is supposed to be above material things; however we see that he is very interested in the story of the jewels in fact, one of the themes of the 12 chairs appears to be the hypocritical nature of religion embodied in the character of the priest. 

The second clip (watch till the 14 min mark) in this clip as in the clip above at a certain during the discussion with eachother one of the characters will turn to and involve the audience. This is called breaking the fourth wall. Breaking the fourth wall allows your audience to engage with the material slightly differently.

In the third clip at 17.26 we see more digs at religion. Watch the clip to 23mins mark. Also I feel the third clip embodies a rough and ready look which gives the film a ‘timeless’ feel; also if you look at the 18.09 and at 18.48 mark with the dodgy doors, the buildings have a feeling of being unreal, and I feel it gives more of surreal nature the film. More questioning of religion at 22.31 with a focus on the words есть ли бог (is there a god) on a poster in the street. 

From the start of the fourth clip to 1 hr 35 mins, we see the message of communism with its rejection of hierarchy; in this clip, the old ruling classes are seen as not being able to fend for themselves, and the commoner is the hero of the piece.

From the start of the fifth clip to 1 hr 51 mins, I love the use of mixed media and see it enhancing the absurdity of the situation that Bender describes.

From the start of the sixth clip to 2 hrs 20 mins, the screen is spinning this has a disorientating impact on the viewer. It mirrors the disorientation experienced by the priest character as he descends into madness.

The last clip shows how fruitless one of the main characters was in carrying out their mission and thus the futility of greed. The very parts show images related to the twelves chairs; therefore, the film is quite meta and references itself. It also shows people from the film, but the film was set in the 1970s and not in 1920s Russia, where the film starts. The film seems quite moral with the overarching message that it doesn’t pay to be greedy.

The next film Moscow doesn’t believe in tears, this film won the academy award for best foreign-language film in 1981. It is said that Ronald Regan watched this film 8 times to understand Russian culture better.

 “Moscow puts no faith in tears” or “Moscow is unmoved by tears“) is a Russian proverb meaning “don’t complain, solve your problems by yourself”.

The film follows three comrades who have different attitudes to approaching and getting through life. One of the women is a hard-working woman who ends up raising up the ranks; she is tough, and she raises a child on her own. The child is born as the result of a one-night stand, which to some degree, I feel, raises questions of consent. Indeed, Russian feminists flip the script included Moscow doesn’t believe in tears in one of their critics of underlying messages to women from Russian cinema. You can see the meme here:

I think it’s interesting that the film seems to gloss over whether there was appropriate consent. I feel that there is more of a focus on the fact that he disappears and doesn’t provide for child and that the woman has to struggle independently. It feels that there is a focus on the woman not being complete despite her career without a man in her life.

The clip below from the start to 1 hr 6 mins implies that a woman needs a man to make the decisions in her life and that she should acknowledge this fact.

The other characters are women who choose wisely when finding a husband and live happily ever after. A woman who wants the best choice and potentially chooses a man for the wrong reasons ends up in an unhappy relationship. I feel that the other paths are there to illustrate the ‘importance of a good man in one’s life.’

Having said that, I love the character development and seeing the relationship between the three comrades. The film is also interesting as it’s a product of its time and reminds us of attitudes at that point in Russia. It also has great Russian music.


I’ve not posted any interviews in November as I am putting together interviews around a theme and plan to put them all up at once. Instead of the usual interview for December I will have some light entertainment. Happy holidays all…

An interview with a photographer words and phrases

let me shadow him-when you shadow someone in a work context, you learn about what they do.

NGOs-non governmental organisations.

downhill trajectory – the situation gets worse.

homeless- in this case its the homeless people on the street who don’t have housing (a roof over their head).

rapport- in this case, develop a relationship where both parties (people communicating) understand each other’s feelings and ideas.

awkward position- in this case, a position which is uncomfortable and can only be maintained for a short period of time.

news gathering team-a team that gathers information to get the news out to the public.

it gives them a sort of dignity-dignity is about being worthy of respect and being treated ethically. I think we should treat everyone with dignity, and it should be reliant on their position within society.

don’t really get traumatised- to be in a state of shock/mental distress due to a disturbing experience.

drop in the ocean- only a very, very small amount.

raise the profile- get more attention in terms of a specific issue.

moved to do something- to cause something to feel an emotion and then to take action.

envisage-to think up something which doesn’t yet exist

mentor-someone who supports someone who has less experience in a certain area.

one of the beneficiaries-someone who benefits from a project.

refugees- people fleeing conflict or persecution.

it is tragic photographic this people-if something is tragic it brings distress or sorrow.

most prestigious photographic gallery-a photographic gallery which inspires respect and admiration. A place that is seen as having a high status in society.

The recruitment process/work (level B2)

I am hoping this is my last reflective blog for a while. I will hopefully be going back to interview people in a month or so. I am looking to temp, so I can have the time to work on blogging and videoing and develop skills that will allow me to pursue a career path with a content development focus.

I have a few more thoughts concerning the recruitment process and the nature of work. The last permanent job I applied for before looking into making temping work viable was a job that had a straightforward application form. As I am sure you’re aware, with most jobs, you have a form that asks you for the exact date that you worked to and from for a specific organisation. There are two problems with asking for to and from dates:

1) does anyone remember the exact day that they started working somewhere!

2) it makes it harder for certain people to get back into the work place;

for example women who’ve taken time out to have children, people with criminal records, anyone with a sketchy work history because they have some kind of neurodiverse condition and/or people with physical health issues.

The form I had to fill out didn’t ask for any job history details; the only questions the potential employer asked were about demonstrating certain skill sets. This approach is excellent as there is then no prejudice on the employer’s part about work gaps or the type of work you’ve done. I’ve heard that some people look down on candidates with a lot of volunteer experience. They wonder why the candidate has never found anyone who wants to pay for their time and effort; volunteering thus devalues the job applicant. However, I’ve also heard that employers love people who volunteer, so I am in two minds about this.

However, with an application form that just relied on the candidate to answer questions relating to the job, the candidate is judged less on their work history and more on what they potentially bring to the role, which is good.

Blog frequency (B1/B2 level)

I will continue this blog but will only blog once a month as I am putting my energy into searching for part-time work. I have a role that ends in August, so I need to concentrate on the job search. A few thoughts re the job search process, I’ve had a few more interviews since the interview/trial day. One of the things that all the recent interviewers have done was to send the questions in advance, which makes sense as a strategy: why bother saving them to the interview the process is nerve-wracking enough, and if you have the appropriate experience, then you have the relevant experience it doesn’t matter when you know what the questions are.

For one of the days, I even got sent the task in advance. Having some knowledge of what you are going to encounter makes a stressful situation less stressful. Here’s hoping more companies start thinking like this.

Rachel is interviewed (the reason why I am not blogging till July) (B1/B2)

I had an interview part way through May, tbh it was more of an informal chat than an interview. I got through the informal chat and am now preparing for a trial day. So there are a few things that were interesting in terms of the recruitment process:

Firstly the job was aimed at neurodiverse people. Employers aren’t that open to taking on people from neurodiverse backgrounds (especially those on the Autistic spectrum). So it’s good to have employers that champion neurodiversity. 

Secondly, it was an informal chat and not an interview, which is good for those on the spectrum. People on the spectrum tend to do poorly at interviews due to the following:

  • nerves-anxiety is a big issue for a lot of Autistic folks
  • our condition makes our work history a bit shaky
  •  some people can have a problem with taking things too literally (not an issue in my case) 
  • problems with knowing what the interviewer is looking for when they ask a particular question. 

Interviews aren’t the best form of recruitment for candidates in general; they are about as much use as tossing a coin. As interviews fail wrt choosing the right candidate, they are a waste of resources. 

Thirdly instead of drilling you at an interview, they have a trial day to assess your suitability which seems fairer.

The trial day is in June, so I am taking June off to ensure that I am as prepared as possible. 

So the final thing: if I get the job, I will still blog, but it will be once a month. See you in July, and I’ll update you then!