Patchy

Sometimes nothing is better than spending a few minutes kicking fallen leaves randomly around the garden. It’s good to go back to childhood feelings again. Autumn is often a great time for that.

Today’s visit by our son’s health worker has been cancelled. She will try again in a few weeks. It is what it is. At least we are due to get some help, many are not so fortunate. We just have to accept that what support we do get is likely to be very patchy over the coming months. Yep, we will be travelling these roads for a long while to come.

If anything we have just started the journey. Son is still wracked with anxiety and fears. He is most definitely house and garden bound. No sign of progress as yet. Actually no sign if progress in ages. We are not talking a few days here. We are already 7 months into his isolation. We will be adding many more months to that. Realistically his anxieties have become intertwined with the wider pandemic situation. How can he improve, his anxieties ease when the country is still in pandemic mode. If he ventured out he would just end up seeing people wearing masks and frequently looking nervous. It feels like manning the battlements until things start to pick up again.

That’s where kicking fallen leaves comes in. It’s so important that Hawklad still enjoys life. Enjoys his childhood. We find ways to fill our small world with fun. Yes kicking leaves ticks all those boxes. AND it’s fun for his old Pop as well.

Magical sky

Looking at a big sky opens up so many possibilities. It can fill your heart with wonder. It can fuel dreams and adventures. Bring back forgotten memories. It can also calm the internal raging storm.

It can also stop you taking a large sledgehammer to the telephone…

I received a letter from the bank informing me that my local branch was closing. I apparently had two options. Start using a branch which is 15 miles further away or set up an online banking option. I opted for the latter as the setup process was fully online and could be completed in just a few moments.

Did have a third option…. switch to another bank.

So I started the process from the comfort of my sofa. Rather than being complete in just a few moments the process was clearly going to be more akin to spending a few hours in the company of the Spanish Inquisition. Three hours later the trial was still ongoing. New passwords, passcodes, PIN numbers, memorable words and identifying questions seemingly required for each screen. The process was clearly not complicated enough so suddenly the iPhone was required to join in with the tablet. Verification codes started flying between the two. I’ve got a degree in computing and the process was still pigging beyond me.

Then at last the final screen. Confirm your new online banking arrangements….. then the sting in the tail.

You will need to go into your branch in person to sign a form before the process can be completed. You can now however view your account balance online.

Very kind of them to allow me to view my bank balance (or lack of it) online. Who needs the other stuff like transfer money, make payments, control direct debits. That’s all minor stuff when it comes to online banking.

Then followed a most enjoyable one hour spent in a call queue listening to a recorded message telling me that I was a valued customer but unfortunately the bank was experiencing high call volumes. Finally a person. Unfortunately a person in a different country who didn’t understand the fine twangs of the Yorkshire accent and also clearly had no idea what it was to live in a country dealing with lockdowns.

So I eventually found myself outside. Trying to calm the internal rage and work out how to pay a visit to the new bank branch. But then the sky caught my attention. Thoughts quickly moved to happier things. Yes the sky is magical.

Lopsided

I sometimes worry that you think I’m a little drunk some days. The photos might look a little slanted. In my defence I have been tea total for years and struggling to get straight photos is down to living in the hills. Or maybe it’s because I tend to just be one second away from tripping over.

One of the highlights of the week these days is taking the car for a little run out. It doesn’t like sitting doing nothing. It seizes up and battery has a habit of going flat. Sounds a bit like me….. So once a week I take it for a 5 minute drive. Just along a few of our narrow country lanes. Most of them like this one are not wider enough for two cars. No motorways here.

Hawklad won’t currently come with me. Doesn’t feel comfortable enough. No point pushing that. He said that he will try to come with me starting in November. He stays at home hence it’s only a 5 minute trip. When I get back it’s time for full decontamination to keep him happy.

I thought I would take a photo of this one particular stretch of lane. It’s a favourite of mine. I would frequently run down here on my longer pre pandemic runs. Why is it a favourite?

It’s relatively flat. No ups and downs. Here that is such a lovely feeling. But even here I can’t get a truly level picture. But I will settle for this. At least I’m not falling over. Yet.

All gone

Where have all the leaves gone! I tell you where, in our front lawn.

The last few stormy days have rapidly accelerated the autumnal transition. Soon the colour will feel like it’s been sucked out of the landscape. Just dark greens and greys. The hope is that blue skies will frequently lift the mood. A close friend likes to remind me that as grey as the sky may appear, a blue sky is still close by, just behind those clouds. Yes there is always hope.

That’s so like bereavement and loss. When it first strikes it will seem so claustrophobic. You feel imprisoned in a world of pain and sadness. No way out. No hope. No dreams. No way new happy memories can form. Everything has gone. That’s it.

Every grief journey is different, unique. But so many travelling those roads will eventually in their own time find a way out of the darkness. Clouds will start to part and blue skies will slowly appear again. Hope and dreams will start to form again. You can start to build again. Start to live again.

Children going hungry

Sometimes photos just don’t fit the message. Fit the mood. Fit the anger. Fit the shame which I feel towards my country and it’s government.

This week over 320 Government MPs stopped a proposal to extend a free school meal scheme to help thousands of our young ones. Just for a few months during these troubled times. Many families are struggling. Over 2 million children in our supposedly rich country are living in poverty. A significant proportion of those are frequently going hungry. Yes our so called government voted against ensuring our children don’t go hungry this Christmas. Let that thought just sink in.

How could they do that…. They trotted out carefully managed soundbites

**********

We want to return to good old British Values (Victorian)

It’s not our responsibility

Why should we nationalise children

It’s up to the parent to take responsibility

Parents would only spend the money on cigarettes and alcohol

Why are you questioning us, our way is right

Poverty doesn’t exist, it’s all a conspiracy

**********

Let’s not forget that this comes from MPs who didn’t have any hang ups about giving themselves a generous pay increase just a few weeks ago. From a PM who complained that he struggled to maintain his lifestyle on his £150000 a year salary. From MPs who are in no financial need, some have net worths of over £120 million. From the likes of one Cabinet Minister who can afford to send 5 children to an £18000 a year per pupil exclusive private school.

Thankfully we still have good people here. A young Premier League footballer who went hungry as a child is leading the fight back. Scores of individuals and businesses are stepping up to try and help. They care. Doctors and Teachers are backing the campaign. Even the Government’s own Children Commissioner calls the fact that children are going hungry as ‘horrific’ and ‘the attitude is like something from an Oliver Twist novel’.

Sadly our Government do not care. They have no morals. This is the same Government that has slashed the overseas aid budget which tries to help those in even deeper poverty around the world. They bring shame on our country. The hope is that one day a reckoning does come and we then find leaders who care.

Mole

My neighbours little tree ready for winter. It’s one of the local mole’s favourite places.

So we don’t feel left out, the Mole has made sure a present was left for us as well…..

Feels like autumn is already passing here. It looks like winter. It most definitely feels like winter. I am trying to get the garden ready for the coming dark months. Hopefully that will be finished this week. Getting ‘me’ ready for the dark months is more of an ongoing process. Needs much work….

Some people think that moles hibernate in the UK. That’s not the case. The underground tunnel structure is far enough down to avoid the frost line here. So they can continue to be active and thrive. The hope is that we(I) can do the same.

Swiss Sunday

We haven’t been able to visit Switzerland since 2015 but it still remains very special to our little Yorkshire family. One day we will return but in the mean time let’s take a virtual trip to this beautiful land.

In these troubled times there are certain thoughts that I cling onto. Thoughts that are so dear to me that they always part the clouds and make the sun shine. One such thought is that Switzerland is there. It’s still there and is most definitely still that beautiful.

Polar express

A beautiful train line in the distance. Even beautiful at night…

Last night we had a chat about Christmas. This year will be a slightly different one. No family visits and wider family meals. No friend visits. No 50000 spectator football match. No concert. No special trips out. No nice country walks. No carol singers. No Father Christmas riding through the village on a tractor collecting for charity and then handing out sweets to the kids. Basically just us, the pets, the house, the garden and one visit from the jolly big fella dressed in red.

It’s still Christmas. Still a time to make memories. Still a time to live. So we make the best of it. Never forgetting those we love the most.

Last year we thought that we had started a new tradition. A trip out on a Christmas Train. A wonderful night trip on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. A beautiful illuminated stream train with even some magical creatures in the passing fields.

So we had planned to do the same this year……

Well it’s not happening. So it’s time for plan b. We have decided that on the same day as last year we will head out on our own polar express. I have some really cheap solar powered Christmas lights. The car will adorned with these. A Christmas music cd will be loaded up on the car stereo. Christmas snacks will find their way into the car. Silly hats and reindeer jumpers will be donned. And off we go on our own polar express. A slow drive around a little used country lane route.

That’s a start. What else can we come up with. What new memories can be born. Always remembering to carry those we love in our hearts as memories are made.

Half term

Well we made it through another 7 weeks of school at home. Thankfully a week free from school now beckons. Oh what bliss. No more trying to explain how to factorise a quadratic equation with a lead coefficient greater than one…… I couldn’t do that when I was a teenager and now, 752 years later I still can’t do it. At least I’m consistent.

I’ve just been reading an old school report from all those years back. Here’s an edited summary.

  • Attendance 100% – which is odd as I can remember at least one day when I attended the morning register and then went back home at break time as my parents were both at work…….
  • Behaviour ‘exemplary’ – pretty easy to get that when you bear in mind that in our class we would eventually compromise one murderer, one attempted murderer, 2 convicted armed robbers, a burglar, someone who blew up the teachers desk (and got expelled) and a kid who set fire to the church hall.
  • School Honours – ‘Elected school prefect’ – which was news to me, I never knew that. Maybe it happened on one of the afternoons I was nicking off.
  • Maths – ‘very capable but seems to lose interest very quickly’. But it’s maths what do you expect (so speaks the accountant).
  • English – ‘can’t spell’ – I did struggle with that. Still do.
  • PE – ‘Really good at team sports. Captain of the Rugby Team’. We didn’t play a Rugby match that year as Tommy R burnt down the rugby posts before the season started and school couldn’t afford a new set. For some reason we never got invited to play at other schools – were we that bad a school….
  • French – ‘Not very good’ – which is worrying as I was the best in the class at French.
  • Drama – ‘struggles to deliver lines’ – what do you expect I had a stammer…..
  • Biology – ‘Needs to work harder’ – I suspected that referred to my refusal to dissect any living creature.
  • Chemistry – ‘Needs to concentrate during practicals’ – that might have been when I forgot to switch on the fume cupboard and the school had to be evacuated when the alarms went off.
  • Art – ‘He does try hard but’ – the words after ‘but’ are difficult to decipher but I guess they could be ‘but he’s crap….’
  • Geography – ‘he has had a decent year’ – that probably referred to me being able to locate the classroom in the school most weeks. A task clearly beyond some of my class colleagues.
  • History – ‘OK’ – that was it, just a one word report for that subject. Wow must have created a real impression on that teacher.
  • Woodwork – ‘Has some issues’ – another kinder way of saying that I had as much practical skills as a drunk pigeon. Much to the consternation of my dad who was a joiner by trade.

So that was me as a kid. The report was actually a pretty fair representation of the adult I would end up being. In the words of one teacher HAS SOME ISSUES…..

Forgotten Memory

It’s another one of those cold damp bleak Yorkshire days. Hawklad is sat in his bedroom trying to get his school work done. Or maybe he is asleep…. I’m sat by a radiator watching the incessant rain rattle against the window. Trying to warm up after my really cold morning garden workout. It feels like this will be long old winter. A long winter on many fronts.

I’m listing to an old Opeth cd. Back in the time when they were still a proper dark metal band. A memory floods black. I went to buy this very cd just before the millennium. A time way before parenting reality found its way to me. From a music shop which would eventually sadly succumb to economic reality. With the gatefold cd in hand I went to pay for it at the till. The clearly just out of school assistant looked at the cd and then gave me a questioning look. He said something like

This is one of my favourite bands but it’s very heavy dude. Might not be your thing. I can show you the section with the more mainstream rock cds”

I stopped him before he got they chance to mention The Moody Blues. I pointed out to him that I had in fact all of Opeth’s records. And while he was probably still in nappies watching the Care Bears I was at gigs watching the likes of Motörhead and Black Sabbath. After that we had a laugh and he admitted that when he saw me walk into the shop he had switched the music he was playing from Iron Maiden to Deacon Blue. I admitted that I had seen Maiden but strangely forget to add that I had also seen Deacon Blue as well…..

A happy, long forgotten memory…. A memory which took my mind off winter for a few precious minutes.