School's out: a summer camp in Wisconsin. Photo: Flickr/Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
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I enjoyed working for the adult summer camp, but I drew the line at the shooting range

Suzanne Moore’s weekly column, Telling Tales. 

Americans like to send their children away to summer camps. They do the same to adults with learning difficulties. So it was that I found myself among a group of people with, shall we say, very mixed abilities. I had answered an ad in the Village Voice and had been asked about my experience of working with such people. I’m not sure the guys who hired me had any.

One of my favourites was Snapz, a woman from New Jersey in her fifties who spent the entire two weeks simply yawning and scratching.

“How’s it going, Snapz ?” I would regularly enquire.

“OK, honey. It’s just that I need a vacation.”

“This is your vacation,” I had to keep telling her.

And then there was Marty, who was as jittery as hell. Now we would describe him as “on the spectrum”. Marty had a job as a messenger because he had memorised the streets of Manhattan. He paced them all, clutching  his tin. On his tin and on his lapel were handwritten labels. One said: “MUGGERS I WILL FITE U”. And another: “THIS IS ALL MY MONY NO STEELING”. His specific anxiety was that weathermen on TV did not forecast the weather but controlled it.

So, with Snapz and Marty and the gang, I embarked on some entirely unsuitable activities for heavily medicated people – wine tasting; camping, with bears breaking into our supplies – but I drew the line at shooting after a stabbing incident at a barbecue.

I loved Marty and came to rely on him. If you gave him a date from any time in the 20th century, he could tell you what day of the week it was. We used to call such people “idiot savants”. I don’t know if there is a politically correct term for it; only William Hague has the same ability with dates.

In a national park in Virginia, Marty’s anxiety got the better of him. He didn’t like the darkening skies and was rocking back and forth.

“Give me a dime. I need to call the weathermen.”

“Marty, there are no phones.”

He insisted, “I need to call the weathermen, now.”

All I could think to do was find the rangers’ office and ask if he could use the phone. Marty was sporting a special new sign: “I CAN KIL U”.

We did not go down well at the rangers’ office. He went ape-shit because of the unforecast storm and he punched through the window. Armed rangers arrived.

“It’s only a window,” I cried.

“You do realise, ma’am, that this is a national park and that is a federal offence,” one of them barked, cuffing Marty.

“I am English,” I said. “I demand to speak to the ambassador.”

One sheriff looked at another and said, “She is even crazier than him. Just get them out of here.”

When I dropped Marty off with his elderly parents, he told them the vacation had been great. Except for the weather. 

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 29 October 2014 issue of the New Statesman, British jihadis fighting with Isis

Steve Garry
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism