Ashes to Ashes Part 2

A bright, warm autumnal morning back in 2016. I was driving back from The Crematorium with my Partners Ashes secured with the seatbelt to the passenger seat. A never ending torture drive. That might well have been my lowest point. That morning I had seemingly been ok until the Ashes were handed to me. Handed to me in what can only be described as a container that resembled something you would see traditional old sweets sold in. A Sweet Jar. Then the weight, it was surprisingly heavy. It wasn’t until back in the car that the reality hit home. Less than a month ago she sat in that car seat, now it was her ashes. It became such a painful memory that I had to sell that car within weeks.

Now in 2022 she is in two containers. An undertaker divided the ashes into two. One secured, wrapped with the necessary paperwork to go abroad. One in a matching unsecured container. The Sweet Jar now gone, replaced by cylinder containers like you get Malt Whiskey presented in. For 6 years they have sat on a sideboard, waiting. Now unexpectedly we are sorting a small portion out for a family member.

It was a surprisingly easy call to say YES to the family member but I can’t begin to tell you just how much I fretted over the DOING part of the process. Odd as it’s not the first time I’ve dealt with ashes. I scattered my mums ashes over her family grave. A potential emotional meltdown saved by the presence of a cute squirrel simultaneously digging away on the very next grave. Mum would have loved the humour in that. Rather than buckets of tears, SMILES.

This time around this felt a million miles from smiles. I was really uneasy and unnerved. What was the appropriate way to do this. Do I say prayers. Do I explain to the ashes what I’m doing. Do I wear gloves and a mask. What do I use to do this. I felt clueless and lost. Prayers and I talked her through what I was doing. I could almost here her voice telling me off for doing this all wrong. I carefully unscrewed the lid off one of the containers. What can only be described as a ‘ring-pull’ was next. I had a crazy thought, what happens if it goes pop like one of those party poppers, ashes going everywhere. I wasn’t smiling, I was panicking. No pop, no disaster this time.

Then the next issue. This bit might be gross. How do I get some of the ashes out. In the end I opted for an old spoon. A spoon my partner used to stir her tea with. It’s been unused in 6 years. And here’s the thing. I can’t just put it in the sink and wash the spoon now. That can’t be right. So it’s going to sit next to the ashes until called upon again.

I can’t spill a single grain. Not one. I have never been more careful. What on Earth happens if I get this bit wrong. Unbelievably my nerve held and my inner muppet stayed hidden. Well almost hidden….

I searched the house and every draw for a container or small bag to put the ashes in. All I could find was a food freezer bag. Too big and surely inappropriate. I can’t put my partner in a bag with the following instructions emblazoned across the front.

Consume within one month of freezing.

Once defrosted consume within one day.

Just NO. Here was the next best option. Please don’t be too hard on me. The only other clear, small plastic bags I could find were a few unopened mini lego sets that came in the Star Wars Advent Calendar. Yes I carefully opened two, removed the lego and used them. A Stormtrooper and a droid now without bag. So one bag inside of the other, ashes inside. Sealed tight with cello tape. I’m shaking me head at the thought.

Carefully wrapped up, the ashes headed on a journey. Several hundred miles. By POST. Yes I put a stamp on and posted them . Was that wrong. What is the protocol. I did check if it was legal. I had fears that they would be impounded. But in the UK you can post up to 50g of human or animal ashes. Thankfully they arrived safely and within 24 hours.

So after 6 years, the process has started. It might take some time to complete but in a strange way it feels reassuring that a very small start has been made. Next time I will be better prepared. HOPEFULLY……

Chair

Chair with a view.

Look behind and it’s not too bad as well.

Maybe a good place to spread some ashes one day. Back a few years I remember standing here. Standing here in the rain. An overcast thinking walk had suddenly turned wet. A sky not dissimilar to this one.

What was I thinking back then.

Why me. Why take Hawklad’s mum and leave me. She would have been the better single parent. Sometimes I still do. After loss, how many other utterly confused souls have had similar thoughts. Many I guess. But in the end, all we can do is walk those paths allocated to us, do the best we can. The rest will sort itself out in the end.

Ashes to ashes part 1

It’s coming up to six years now. Six years since THAT YEAR. 2016. When EVERYTHING changed. I quickly scattered my mums ashes but we still have Hawklad’s mums ashes in the back room. On a mantelpiece overlooking the garden and fields beyond. There is no rush and to be fair, we have gone through a pandemic. We kinda assumed that at some some stage in the future we would get round to scatter them.

Then out of the blue.

One of her family have asked for a little portion of the ashes to spread. It’s odd I assumed it would be tough to say yes. For Hawklad, for me. Yet it wasn’t. Within seconds we both went – THATS FINE.

That’s progress. Life has moved on for both of us. The next question is where that leads.

But back to the ASHES, just maybe the hard part is still to come. The doing bit. We shall find out in a few hours.

Bluebells

Just a short walk out of the village and there is a magical little wood. Especially magical at this time of year.

A carpet of blue.

It’s good to have those moments of dreams. It’s a release from the challenges of the day.

It’s a great place for Hawklad to spend some time. To dream. To forget his worries for a while at least. Currently these are not easy times for him to navigate. Another week and another source of worries in these unsettled times. News of yet another scary named infectious virus. Already sky high anxieties ramping up even higher. Yes he can get out but he is a million miles from truly returning to society. He can’t touch any surface away from the safety of his house. Probably in all reality real progress needs a settled, safer feeling environment. That’s not these times.

So a few dreamy, care free moments in BLUEBELL WOOD makes all the difference.

Swiss Sunday

It’s just turned Sunday here in the UK and my thoughts are shifting to a country 1000 miles from here. A land of mighty mountains, stunning lakes and peaceful valleys. So many family holidays . So many memories. I might be in the UK but I wish I was in Switzerland.

Reading

Mostly a day to stay inside and dry but always keeping an eye out for those brief gifts.

In the end, no video conference call this week with school. School staffing unavailability led to a late cancellation. Apparently school will organise another teacher – parent day in a months time.

Ok move on, it’s the weekend.

As a kid I remember one thing really clearly from childhood weekends. Virtually every Saturday morning I would walk to the town’s library. The northern coastal town looked old and tired yet the library was a bit of an oasis. On the outside it looked like any other slate grey concrete block. But on the inside it looked brand new. Clean, bright. It even had a little indoor goldfish pond in the middle of the children’s section. I would select a book and sit beside the pond. For a couple of hours it was an escape from the claustrophobic reality. A working town cut off from the world by the sea on one side and polluting industry on all other sides. Hardly anyone went on holidays. It seemed like most adults would venture as far as the local chemical and steel plants to work, then it was back to the town to live. It did feel so claustrophobic. The only two escapes. The freshness of the beach and books in the library.

Fast forward far too many decades and it was like life repeating itself. Now miles from that old existence and a pandemic hit. Suddenly a picturesque village on a hill became isolated. Month after month of enforced isolation and it felt claustrophobic again. In the modern life there was thankfully a few more escape routes. One of which was again a library. This time quite a bit smaller and an awful lot redder than the old town library.

The village library

The converted old telephone box is the village community library. So a bit like when I was a child, excitedly checking out books to read, let’s see what books are in the library today. Sadly no goldfish to share the books with this time, it’s probably going to be with cows in the farmers field.

Spot anything you like ? Pleasingly the books I’ve donated on a few occasions are not there. Hopefully someone in the village is reading them as I write this.

I can’t begin to tell you just how great it felt during the lockdown to be able to walk a few yards to a little red library. To pick a book and have an adventure. Just like that little boy from that northern town, having an adventure in a library.

Weeding

A proper garden…

Sometimes not weeding is the right approach.

Tomorrow is one of those school video meetings. 9 minutes with the schools lead Special Education Teacher. So much to discuss in just NINE minutes. Where’s the support. What are the options if Hawklad can’t sit exams. Scope for one to one tuition. Let’s see what comes of it.

Today was supposed to be a mock exam but nothing came from school. Maybe they aren’t allowed to send it out, maybe it’s coming later. Another one for the 9 minute discussion.

So without a home exam to sort out it was time to do a spot of gardening. Well look at the garden. Surely looking and planning counts as gardening. As I was doing that hands free gardening I managed to find some lost (or dognapped) property. Numerous socks, a slipper, a plastic dog bowl, several balls and bizarrely a pair of my pants…. I can’t remember losing them while weeding.

Thunder

A couple of hours later and this quiet lane would have been a raging, torrential river. Huge thunderstorms. Too dark even for the iPhone to take a photo.

It’s been that kinda day.

Power cuts. No mobile phone signal. Even the satellite tv had no signal. Frustratingly for Hawklad, the school online system was still working. Work to produce revision notes on a topic that Hawklad had no idea that the rest of the class had covered a few months back. Oh the joys of the school at home project. The schooling system here is just not designed to be flexible for individual needs and circumstances.

Then another discovery. A moment of insight into a subject in which absolutely none of Hawklad’s submitted work (week after week since September) has ever been marked. Conveniently difficult to locate on the system, we accidentally discovered answer sheets. Apparently the pupils had to mark and correct their own work . That would explain things then. It will be one of those things where the teacher has explained that to the class but the message hasn’t made it over the internet to Hawklad.

One day we might get this right.

But then a more pressing thought. Why has the herd of cows that was sheltering next to our garden fence, seeking protection from electrical storm, suddenly decided to leg it to safety, seemingly as far away from our house as possible. What do they know. Maybe it’s time to hide under the table. But apparently not.

“Dad what do you expect when you have started singing Schools Out at the top of your voice. A voice that is scarier than my sock draw. Faced with that, no wonder the cows decided to risk lightening strikes to escape that awful fate.”

Definitely been one of those days…..

Swiss Sunday

About 10 years ago I remember talking to a super polite Japanese Guy in who was sat next to us in Geneva Airport. Someone who had seen years and years of life. He told the story about how he had attended an international conference here in Geneva during the sixties. At that stage he hated travel, hated being away from Japan. That all changed on that trip to Switzerland. He fell in love with another country. Since then he had travelled for a holiday here, every single year without fail. He said he would keep coming until his body failed.

I knew why he said that. I understood immediately his sentiments. I still do. I wish I was there right now.

Punishment

A much needed late afternoon walk. Feels like we have the place to ourselves.

Next week the School starts the mock exams for Hawklad’s Year Group. We are still waiting to hear what the arrangements are for Hawklad as he is still not in school. We know when the exams are and the clock is ticking. We are assuming he is sitting them in some form so he has been revising. Like for most of us – he is not enjoying the experience. But he is trying. Many pupils will be trying. I wish certain teachers would realise that.

One particular Teacher approaches revising by setting shed loads of homework. And I mean SHED LOADS. Question after question. But also setting tasks such as getting pupils to write out detailed revision notes and then submit them so that the teacher can make sure sufficient work is being undertaken. If a pupil doesn’t complete all the set homework then punishments will be issued. The Teacher emailed all her class and emphasised that if all the homework was not completed by the end of the weekend to a high standard then Detentions will be issued…..

Hawklad asked me how School would operate a DETENTION if he was issued with one. I gave this much thought since we don’t have a suitable classroom. Best option would be to send him into the back room. The room which has his XBOX which I’m sure will be ON.

Hawklad just doesn’t learn facts by writing out comprehensive neat revision notes. His mind doesn’t work like that. He watches videos and podcasts. He reads books. He thinks about stuff while pacing around the house. He creates images and visual maps in his mind. That’s how things stick for him. That’s certainly not helped by the threat of detentions for doing things that just don’t work for him.

I’ve emailed the teacher to explain this and stressed that revision notes will not be submitted. Maybe I will get a detention as well. Maybe we can play FIFA 21 together while serving our punishment.

Detention might be a good break from the chores of revision.