Autumn

Autumn is upon us. Everywhere you look the signs are clear.

The hedgerows are brimming with fruit. Intricate cobwebs everywhere.

Most of the swallows have now departed starting their six week trek to Africa.

Yellows, browns and reds are starting to dominate the foliage. Trees letting go as sad leaves fall to the ground. Soon the fruit in the hedgerows will be gone.

It was the time of year my partner loved the best. She loved the colours and the reflective atmosphere. A time she could walk quietly and just think. Now I walk the same paths. Today I was struck by one thought. My partner would have been looking at these same autumnal sights. Countless generations will have been looking at these sights. As much as you think the world has stopped because of your personal tragedy it never does. Life continues. The never ending cycle of life. The empty branches show the fleeting nature of life. Leaves fall but they will be reborn again. So should you – in your own time. When the time is right – it’s time to live again. It’s time to find a new way of blooming.

For me I’m still in the existing stage. I don’t tend to have personal dreams anymore. For years we had shared dreams. When my partner left us those dreams died. Now my dreams are my sons dreams. I exist because of my son. I live life through my son.

At some stage I will transition into the next stage. When I start to live for me. When I start to dream again. It’s strange how Autumn which is a time of life coming to the end of its cycle has sparked these thoughts. But maybe a better way to look at Autumn is that it’s a time of letting go before you start again. Rebirth. Yes that works better for me. It’s a time just before you live again.

Food purgatory

My diet is bad. Very bad. My Dad would call it minging. It’s been awful for years. Too much of the bad stuff. Too little of the good stuff. I drink that much coffee that the fluid in my body is no longer water, it’s pure caffeine. That’s probably why I don’t look like George Clooney. Oh hang on George does coffee – that doesn’t work does it. Anyway I’ve not looked like Clooney, suffered from IBS and had a nervous tummy since my college days. The last couple of years haven’t helped it at all.

I knew something had to be done but I kept putting it off. Then I read some great posts on healthy eating and food detox cleanses. This was one of them

Riddle from the Middle

Well finally the penny has dropped. This is Day 8 of my food purgatory. No junk food, no sweets, no chocolate, no crisps, no chips, no popcorn, no peanut butter, no spicy stuff, no dairy, no gluten, no soya, no artificial or processed rubbish. NO COFFEE….. It’s been steamed veg, boiled rice, organic protein, herbal tea and tanker loads of water with a slice of lemon. And as much exercise as time and the body will permit.

Food wise it’s not been too bad. Not been that hungry – although I have been found gnawing on chair legs a few times. But coffee that’s been tough. Especially on the morning. Badly needed an alternative to shift me out of the non functioning zombie state. Luckily I’ve stumbled across one. A squeezed lemon with a ton of fresh ground ginger. Granted it’s an acquired taste. But it doesn’t half shock the system. I understand a similar recipe was used by NASA as fuel for the Apollo Saturn V rocket.

So it’s been a self imposed purgatory. NOW Son has come out in support however his is not quite so self imposed. Last Week when he returned from school he had been eating us out of house and home. Well on Friday I checked his online school lunch account to see if it needed topping up. Bizarrely it had hardly been used that week.

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Son what have you been eating at school lunch. You have hardly spent any money this week.

Not much really Dad.

Why haven’t you been hungry?

No been starving. On Monday in the class before lunch the teacher kept us back because of the behaviour of some of the other kids. When we got to the kitchen they had sold out of flapjacks and sandwiches the other food wasn’t good for me. Tuesday was fine and got my usual. Wednesday and Thursday we where on the other side of the site. So when we got to the kitchen the queue was massive and it was taking ages so I grabbed a bottle of water as all the good food had gone. On Friday by the time we got to the end of the queue it was almost time for lessons to start so I grabbed a flapjack and went to class. Your not allowed to eat in class so I had that on the bus coming home.

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So school got another angry phone call and another formal complaint. The problem is that schools in the UK have been forced to cut back on school lunch expenditure. Plus the pressure to deliver the set national curriculum has forced many schools to drastically cut the school lunch breaktime. It’s the only way they can meet the demands of government. Feeding kids is not up there on the priorities. In all the surveys and questions we have had to complete for school inspections Lunch has never once been mentioned. It’s all about the national curriculum. How can a kid learn when he’s hungry. Let’s not beat about the bush most of the reasons for these problems is down to those in charge of our countries education. Basically the government picks numpties with Victorian values to run education. I’ve previously mentioned the Minister who viewed kids being off after a bereavement as AN EXTENDED HOLIDAY.

The school argues that they are following government policy, that the budgets have been slashed and that some food is always available. Problem is that when you are an Autistic kid the range of acceptable food can be limited. If it’s the wrong colour, wrong texture or mixed up with other food then it never going to be consumed.

A pack-up is not really easy most days as his big school bag is filled to busting with essential books, equipment and sports kit. Most days he’s already walking around school with a full bag on his shoulders and hands full with books he can’t fit into the bag. I have started filling up one side pocket with chocolate bars and snacks so at least he’s got something to snack on. A supersized school bag is on order which will hopefully be big enough to fit in a pack-up box.

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So this is a house of food purgatory for a variety of reasons. Hopefully it will make me healthier. Hopefully son’s purgatory has ended. It might even make both of us better prepared for the potential food shortages if our PM gets his way and we crash out of the EU in six weeks. As Monty Python say – always look on the bright side of life.

Creaky World Tour 4

Currently not allowed to run due to knackered body (but starting to ignore medical advice just a little) so was in desperate need of a new fitness hobby to stop me going stir crazy. Came up with the idea of seeing how far I would get around the world powered only by my stationary exercise bike and walking with Pokemon Go….plus just an occasional run.

The creaky world tour left us in Lille (France). We started out in North Yorkshire.

So on this leg of the expedition we have managed

Bike – 475km

Pokemon Go – 35km

Run (don’t tell the Dr) – 15km

So where do these numbers take us?

To the beautiful city of Strasbourg. Located on the eastern border of France close to Germany. It is the formal seat of the European Parliament. The city is dominated by the imposing gothic Cathedral.

Photo from Wikipedia

Back in 2015 we visited Strasbourg. Unfortunately some wazzock forgot to bring his camera and his mobile was as flat as a pancake. So no photos and lots of housepoints lost. On that trip I became addicted to Flammekuche. A very thin pastry tart topped with creme fraiche, onions and other toppings. Bacon is popular.

The BBC kids comedy series Horrible Histories did a bizarre sketch about Strasbourg. It’s based on the real incident of sporadic mass dancing, called the Dance Plague which took place here in 1518.

Horrible Histories YouTube clip.

So its goodbye to France and where next?

The tree of hope

Three years ago I was trying to get my head round organising my partners funeral. At the same time I was trying to empty my mums house and wrap up her loose ends. My head was completely spinning. I was in full zombie grief mode.

One family personal trauma doesn’t stop the world from spinning. It carries on regardless. So I was immediately faced with continuing the application for our sons Education Health Care Plan. Sat bewildered at my partners desk trying to find on my own the words for the final application form. The words came so easy when it was two minds. Now the one failed me. Then the black pen stopped working. Couldn’t find another and the form had to be completed in black on the pain of ……

So I set off to the shops to buy a pen. But quickly I was lost in a sea of grief and unanswered questions. An hour later I found myself at a random garden centre. Clearly a good choice for stocking up on pens. I wandered around aimlessly looking at plant after plant. The cctv must have been focusing on me as I was clearly not acting like your ordinary shopper. Then I came across a sad looking tree. Actually more like a snapped twig. The label said ‘discounted Pear Tree due to damage’. I felt sorry for this broken life form pushed to a dark corner of the store. Now no more that an afterthought. It felt like me.

So I went in looking for pens and came out with Groot (Marvel Universe).

Over the next three years Groot has grown and is now about 5 feet tall. Looks surprisingly healthy. AND this year for the first time it’s produced pears. Just FOUR pears. But it’s not the fruit crop which is important here. It’s something completely different. It’s HOPE. When personal tragedy strikes your whole world is turned upside down. It will never be the same again. You move from creating memories together to replaying memories in isolation. But you can’t live your life in those memories. Life has to go on. In my case life did go on. Yes I miss her dearly. Yes sadness always feels just round the corner. Yes I’ve become increasingly isolated from society. But life has gone on. Sons Education Health Care Plan was approved. I’ve changed careers. Progress has been made with Dyslexia. The house no longer feels like a funeral parlour largely down to the addition of a barking mad dog. I’ve increased the range of foods I can destroy. And Groot is thriving. That gives me hope.

Beach Football – Swiss Style

It’s Sunday so it’s time for a bit of Switzerland

Spiez is like many Swiss towns and villages – nestled between beautiful lakes and imposing mountains. In summer the weather is often glorious with blue skies and hot weather. Although places like Spiez definitely have a seaside feel the word you don’t naturally associate with this great country is beaches.

So when we heard someone in the hotel mention the upcoming Beach Football Tournament we kinda of laughed. But how wrong we were.

Switzerland has a well stablished and successful beach soccer league. The finals weekend was being played 200 yards from the hotel. Within a couple of days a grass field had been transformed into a beech with stadium.

Beach soccer is a great sport to watch especially with a cold beer. Our son loved the experience. He loved watching the games, he loved kicking a ball on the sand, he loved the music, he loved the fanpark and he really loved his free hat. He still wears it today.

We didn’t get to see the league final as we had to leave on the Saturday. BUT…

On Friday night we got to see a beech soccer International. Switzerland v Germany. A brave soul paraglided off the local mountain and onto the pitch. Then it was the national anthems.

Then the teams showed amazing skills while kicking lumps out of each other. It really is a fabulous sport. Sadly I don’t think Yorkshire has the weather for it to catch on here. But if you get the chance do check out the sport.

But definitely if your looking for a seaside or beach holiday don’t automatically discount Switzerland. It really is an amazing country.

Brexit and Christmas

The parliamentary term is less than 3 days old and already the world has discovered what whose of us who have worked with Boris Johnson have always known: he is cowardly, weak, vindictive and without morals. Behold your Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen.

Going well for our so called Prime Minister – those are the words from an MP from his own party….

Now putting my cards on the table I voted against Brexit and still think it’s a bad idea which runs the risk of making things much worse for the weakest in our country. The only real winners will be the the millionaire hedge fund investors who helped fund the leave campaign. But if we are having Brexit then we need to do it properly and make the very best of it for all of our communities.

I had an appointment with the Dentist today. The Dentist said that I needed some treatment but she was full until October. But the work would be completed before the end of October just in case they start to struggle getting dental supplies due to Brexit.

One of my university friends is a civil servant who works within one of the Government Departments. He was saying that they are working on the basis of significant risks of fuel shortages, fresh food supply disruption, medical rationing, veterinary drug shortages within a month of Brexit. He reassuringly described the current Government approach as swinging between headless chickens and an ostrich burying its head in the sand. The current thinking seems to be if we are lucky it will be fine but there is more of a chance that it will be somewhere between bad and appalling but we can blame Europe for that.

So better keep all those fingers crossed then.

Another friend of mine works in the car production sector. His plant works on a Just in Time basis so needs a constant supply of parts. He was saying that the supply is likely to be severely disrupted as soon as Brexit starts. Apparently the Government has only just realised this and has added this to its risk plans – with just weeks to go. I remember hearing a Minister sound surprised that companies might be so dependent on the free movement of goods.

So this week our Prime Minister closed down parliament with the excuse that he wanted to develop some really radical policies. Maybe he should put down his fine claret glass and concentrate on a few other matters first. If it has to be a no deal Brexit why not give yourself some more time to do it properly rather than winging it.

The other week we went for a walk. Too engrossed in a chat about Monty Python we missed out path and ended up on the wrong side of the forest so we couldn’t get back to our village. The Forest was too dense to just walk through it. So we had two options. Walk the 20 minutes back down the path or take the only short cut through the forest. Only problem is that the short cut is a deep beck with unknown underfoot conditions either side (due to thick undergrowth). Yes we could wing it and rely on good fortune but in life that doesn’t often work out well. So we walked back down the path and 40 minutes later we were back home. Safe and dry. Yes the unplanned shortcut might have worked but it wasn’t worth the risk.

My old pop had a saying. Nowt worse than doin a job half cocked.

Dad I’ve started the planning process for Christmas.

Last year I put out son in charge of Christmas. What we do, what we eat, where we go, what decorations to have and when to do it. It was our my attempt to deal with the fallout from son hearing that chat about Santa. Him planning everything worked out quite well last year. The feeling of control alienated a lot of the Santa let down.

I’ve set myself until the end of September to have the Christmas timetable mapped out then I can sort out the details.

His first call looks like it is to move the traditional Christmas lunch to Boxing Day. Christmas Day lunch will now be pizza based – more time for fun less work. The traditional trip to the zoo on New Years Day will happen again. This year he wants some external lights on the house but wants to think about the environmental impact. He wants a couple of additional day visits. He’s deciding between Edinburgh, Northumberland, Lake District and Stonehenge.

The interesting point is that son is giving himself twice the length of planning time for Christmas than the PM is giving the country for his no deal Brexit. I know which one is going to be better organised.

Homeless

Pets have really worked with our son. They provide so much fun and relaxation to him. Since he lost his mum they brought noise and life into the house again. That’s before we even consider the help they have provided with his Aspergers. Best parenting decision ever to bring them into our house. Not such a great financial decision but fiddle sticks to that.

One day we will get a sensible pet. It certainly isn’t the walking dinner plate which is our boy cat. It most certainly isn’t the mad pup currently outside trying to play hide and seek with the butterflies. The hope was that the three gerbils would bring some much needed sanity to the house. Team Gerbils maybe a super hero team ready to assemble but they are also a unrivalled demolition team.

The first house they had was plastic and lasted minutes. The second house was compacted straw and met a similar fate. We upped the anti for the third house with a construction of wood and wire. It has lasted longer however last night Team Gerbils got to work.

To be fair to them they did stack what was left of the house neatly to one side.

Dad we need to get them a new house don’t want them to get angry. You wouldn’t like them when they are angry.

So it’s wooden house version 2.

Notice that in the time it took me to get my mobile to take a photo Team Gerbils have got stuck into the roof.

If this house fails then it’s a phone call to Tony Stark and it’s time for Ironman Armour.

Live

Yesterday was suitably grim but another day dawns and we move on. Life needs to be lived. As son puts it

Even you Dad are allowed to have some fun.

I’ve scheduled that in my diary for an afternoon in March 2024. The same can’t be said of our dog. His diary is overbooked with the joys of life. We could all learn from that approach.

Not sure his cuddly toy cat is enjoying life so much at this precise moment. It’s a sign of affection – honest.

A public service announcement has started on the radio which comes from our so called Government. It is telling people and businesses to prepare for Brexit on the 31st October. That’s a laugh as our Monty Python Gumby Leaders couldn’t even prepare a cup of tea. I suspect prepare means stockpile water, food and medicines. Our dog has started stockpiling toys.

So faced with a mountain of work, a misfiring laptop and more helpful advice from the Government I did the only sensible thing. Go for a run. Yes I know I’m not supposed to run for another few months but bugger it. A few minutes later I’m running over the autumnal fields. Coming in the other direction was a group of ramblers. Must have been about 20 of them. I wasn’t planning on saying hello to each one of them so I opted for one shouted hello. Unfortunately at the very moment I slipped and shouted s**t. After that faux pas I ended up saying sorry and hello twenty times.

A bit later I came to a fence. Do I climb it or do I be a pillock and jump it. Mr Pillock it is then. Amazingly the body cleared the fence unfortunately the shorts didn’t. Ripped asunder. Suddenly the run became very air conditioned. Better head back down the back lane – bound to be empty. Can you imagine how thrilled I was to reintroduce myself to the party of 20 ramblers coming in the other direction. It was chilly so they wouldn’t have seen much. Wouldn’t have seen much at the best of times really. Anyway I ran past them with a running gait best described as a duck waddle.

So life continues. We move on. Somedays we will be sad but we owe it to those not here to live.

Dark Day

“Death ends a life not a relationship” – Mitch Albom

“If there ever comes a day where we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I will stay there forever.” – A A Milne

It’s been a dark day for many people today. A dark day here. No more words today let some photographs say the rest.

School inspection

Ok troops stand by your bed at 6am for a kit and bed inspection from the Sergeant Major. If you fail you will do 100 press-ups and your on peeling spud duty for a week. Dad had those when he was in the army. He’s one of the troops in the photo above – enjoying the winter weather in Iceland. Apparently inspections are good for discipline and builds character….

Dad can you help me with my school bag and kit. I’m really worried I don’t have the right stuff.

Don’t worry son I filled your bag up with school supplies last week.

Do I have a 4b pencil.

Not sure but you have pencils.

If you don’t have a 4b pencil you get a negative.

Son it will be ok you have pencils.

No Dad you get a negative for not having the right pencil. Do we have colouring pencils covering all of the colours of the rainbow.

You have a load of pencils in the Peppa Pig pencil case. (I really must change that). It’s at the bottom of your school bag. It has lots of different colours.

No you need to ensure you have all the colours covered or it’s another negative.

It will be ok Son you do have enough coloured pencils for art and the teachers won’t know anyway.

Dad on Thursday the Form Tutor is doing a full school bag inspection. He’s going to check that we have every item on the school list. Every time he finds a mistake he will give you a negative.

******My jaw hits the flaw and I am stunned. It was later confirmed that school bag inspections are taking place with punishments for breaches of rules. I am speechless.*******

So after 30 minutes work we managed to rustled up a kit list that would hopefully pass the Drill Sergeant role call.

Dad we will need to move the coloured pencils to the main pencil case as the tutor has said that he will only check one case. And all the essential items have to be in there.

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Maybe it’s just me but I find this completely staggering. I’ve got a kid with Aspergers seriously spooked over the type of pencil he has in his school bag. How can that be right. Whatever happened to the idea of building a warm and welcoming learning environment. I thought the days of negative reinforcement had been assigned to the bin. A few months ago we went to a zoo where the keeper in charge of the Sea Lions talked about how an approach based on punishments never works. The animals will only respond to positive reinforcement. So an approach not ok for Sea Lions is perfectly acceptable for our children.

Why can’t school turn this round and award house points for the neatest bag. Or give every kid with the full school kit a flapjack. School could have prizes for the sharpest pencil tip, the funniest sharpener and the most original pencil case design.

To be fair to school they are following an approach favoured by our so called government. But I’m sorry the approach is fundamentally wrong. If I could sort the finances out he would be pulled from school immediately and taught at home. School and more importantly the so called government have a duty of care to kids which they are failing. This years battle with school is going to get very messy indeed.