It's far too soon to say for sure, but I sometimes feel like I'm fated to be thrown into Westminster's political cauldron at critical moments like a latter-day Harry Potter at Hogwarts (if only by coincidence.) This time I ended up in the House of Lords attending the screening of a short film made by the UK Armed Forces One Voice Initiative on David Cameron's last night as Prime Minister.
Typical. I always seem innocently to turn up in the right place and at the right time to become an innocent bystander easily able to see a page of history turn. I was an obscure committee member at the Friends of Glenfinnan Station AGM a few years ago, when the late Charles Kennedy appeared without warning. A man who could have been king, or at least Premier Politician.
I was an unseen independent traveller at a comic convention in Austin, Texas, in 2013; suddenly realizing the 50th anniversary memorial service for John F. Kennedy just happened to be taking place in nearby Dallas right there and then. I hopped on an early morning flight to cover it.
And now here I was sitting in a committee room some hundreds of yards from the flat above the famous door of No 10 where Cameron was spending his last night before being abruptly displaced by Theresa May, former Home Secretary and surprised Pretender to the poisonous throne ("All political lives end in failure," Cameron had said, quoting Enoch Powell. They were right.)
With a touch of hush-hush, my dates had been set several days before - fly down on the 12th of July and back on the 13th. At the time, the contest for the Conservative leadership was supposed to continue until the 9th of September after Cameron announced his resignation on 24th June, the morning after the Brexit vote the night before. But Gove and Crabb went quickly (though not as fast as Boris Johnson did), and after receiving the mother of all shocks via the media, Andrea Leadsom suddenly withdrew, handing the crown of thorns to Theresa, the leading contender, on 11th July, well ahead of the expected time.
So the 12th and 13th swiftly became the crucible for the political cataclysm which castrated Cameron via resignation and claimed for Britain its second female Prime Minister.
And I was there, walking down Whitehall, smelling the scent of change and insurrection foaming in the air, photographing it, remembering it, wondering what to say.
One clear question, in its way.
What will May do for those with autism?
One possible answer lies in the way she blocked the extradition to the U. S. of Gary McKinnon, who has Asperger Syndrome, in 2012. And her statement a day ago, this Wednesday:
As 40% of Autists meet the criteria for two mental health conditions, it's some small relief to know there's now more official awareness of our troubles; but that awareness must change from word to action otherwise it means nothing. In a Britain about to pull the trigger re renegotiating its relationship with Europe and reclaiming its place in the commercial world, harnessing even some of the potential of that hidden half million with autism in the UK might make a critical difference in the turbulent times ahead.
Maybe May will be able to broker the best deal for Britain - all of Britain - in the days and months yet to come. And maybe not.
James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau and The Legend of John Macnab. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.Suggest a correction