The build-up to Christmas is a time of severe disruption to the lives of some people, writes Jennifer Harvey.

Fed up with the run-up to Christmas? So is Charlie. He is autistic. Every morning Charlie gets up and walks exactly 10 steps to the kitchen. He goes to the bread bin, puts two slices of bread in the toaster and reaches into the top left-hand cupboard for his Marmite.

One morning his Marmite is missing. Staff have requisitioned this cupboard for the Christmas “extras”: one Christmas pudding, one Christmas cake, three boxes of mince pies and a tin of chocolate biscuits.

Charlie doesn’t know that his Marmite has been moved to the bottom right-hand cupboard. He throws the contents of the top left-hand cupboard on the floor and eats no breakfast.

On Mondays Charlie goes to his work placement at the garden centre. On arrival he always walks through the lawn mower and garden tools section to the plants. One day there are no lawnmowers. Instead there is an eight-foot tall inflatable snowman, a life-size singing Santa and 19 artificial Christmas trees. There are shelves full of baubles, tinsel, fairy lights and angels.

Charlie picks up a large silver tree, which has on it exactly 20 pink shiny baubles, and spears it into the snowman, which deflates with a bang, knocking over the Santa and the trees and sending the angels flying.

On Tuesdays he always goes to the supermarket. He goes to the first aisle for six bananas, six apples, six tomatoes, a lettuce, a cucumber, six carrots and 12 potatoes.

He goes to the second aisle for two packs of cheese, one Cheddar and one Cheshire, milk in a big plastic bottle with a green top, one pack of bacon and one pack of honey roasted ham.
He goes to the third aisle for four tins of baked beans, two tins of tomatoes, one bag of pasta shaped like shells and two tins of tuna fish.

He goes to the fourth aisle for one packet of digestive biscuits and one packet of custard creams. But instead of the biscuits the fourth aisle contains hundreds of boxes of Christmas crackers, selection boxes, gift-boxed speciality teas with miniature marmalades and baskets of spices and sauces.

Charlie throws nine Harry Potter selection boxes on the floor and stamps on them. Bah humbug.

Jennifer Harvey is a day services co-ordinator working with people with learning difficulties

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