Pond

A brief moment of colour before the next band of rain arrives. And yes it’s still two jumper (sweater) weather.

As a child my Dad created a reasonably large pond in the garden. He filled it with little goldfish. It was a haven for wildlife. A protected haven. It had its very own guard dog. Our large family dog called Mick. Mick was lovely but he had issues. He took his guarding the ‘family and the garden’ role very seriously. He bit a postman. He then bit a policeman. It’s amazing how quickly some people learn to understand the meaning of a garden gate sign. Do not enter – Dog who will bite strangers beyond this gate……So he was not a chap to be messed with. And the garden pond fell under his care. Fish, small creatures and small birds were most welcome. He would even let the small birds drink from his water bowl. Unfortunately the same privileges were not granted to larger creatures and large birds. So strangely they quickly learnt that Darwin might have a point and they had better quickly adapt. Adapt meaning give that particular garden a wide berth. A policy which was also observed by the postal and police services.

That garden pond is a long time ago. Since then I have never had a pond. That is until last week. Bad weather interrupted a garden tidy up session. So the wheelbarrow contained a few pulled up weeds. However the rain has transformed the scene. The weeds are doing rather well in the slightly damp conditions. I’m calling that a pond. Just lacking some goldfish and a guard dog called Mick.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be time for our weekly virtual visit to beautiful Switzerland.

This week let’s find the usual alpine landscapes mixed with a few animal ones as well. All from wonderful Switzerland.

As a toddler son loved animals. He still does… One day he would love to have a falconry or zoo. I so hope he does.

Every visit to Switzerland gave him an opportunity to get close to animals.

AND as we always arrived on a Saturday a trip to his favourite shop in the world on the Sunday. A shop in Interlaken with a huge range of Schleich toy animals.

He would get to buy 4 new ones. He was always careful to pick toys which he couldn’t get hold off in tour Yorkshire shops. Then the new members of the team would then get a 7 day guided tour of Switzerland.

A guided tour which would take in at least one zoo.

Happy days and definitely hungry work….

Not my berries

Wild strawberries get everywhere. Now they have found a way into the large tub which contains the old blueberry bush. This raises one of the great life mysteries. Wild strawberries are cropping up all over the garden. Even on the stone drive. Yet I find it impossible to grow them when and where I want them to. Nothing ever happens with my strawberry seeds. Most frustrating….

So officially no work until September at the earliest now. I guess it gives me more time to tend my strawberries. But we are SO fortunate compared to many others. We have beautiful memories. We have a nice (if slightly chaotic) garden with a lovely view. We are relatively secluded. Son can feel safe here. We can scrape by and pay the bills. We can still have fun and enjoy life. Yes another 3 months of this self contained world can at times seem a claustrophobic thought. But that thought is there only if I let it exist. In reality I’m losing a few brief encounters, some knee jarring runs and an occasional trip out. Counter to that – Son is gaining a feeling of security. For that security I can more than cope with a few inconveniences. Everyday we still have the ability to create memories and live out our dreams. Maybe not my frequent night dreams featuring talking cows and dinosaurs. But you know what I mean.

So let’s be thankful for what we have. Let’s use what we have. Let’s remember to live.

Let’s take the time to watch the wild berries grow…

The other thing about the wild strawberries is that they don’t last long. The are stripped bare by our frequent garden visitors. That’s fine with me. I guess they were the ones who brought the seeds here in the first place. So they grew them, so why not let them enjoy the rewards. And the answer to the great life mystery. I should leave the gardening to the experts. The wildlife. Having said that – they don’t seem very willing to cut the lawn.

Herd Immunity

Ok social distancing may have gone out of the window in my country but really. In the farmers field as well. Boris Johnson wants to go for the herd immunity approach. Well here it clearly is in operation.

Spain have deemed it’s not safe to open schools up until September. On Monday Boris Johnson is trying to force some English schools to open. According to him – it’s safe. According to an increasing number of the scientists who advise him – it is not.

Over the last three days Spain has has 3 Covid related deaths. The UK has had over a 1000 covid deaths in the same period. Let’s put that further into perspective. The UK total covid deaths yesterday was more than the combined numbers across most of Europe. Adding together the covid related deaths in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland and Poland and the number is still much lower than here in the UK. This is a virus which has not yet been contained. Yet our Government tells a different story.

Johnson is not fit to lead. He is not my PM. I will ignore him and we will chart our own course. This is one household where schools are most certainly NOT reopening in June….

Many other people are now completely ignoring this shambolic government. People are making their own rules up.

  • When to go out and when to stay in.
  • If they use a face mask (if ever) and what type of mask to use.
  • How close to stand next to someone.
  • To self isolate or not. What symptoms to look for and what symptoms to ignore.
  • When to go to work and when not to.
  • When to stockpile and when not to.
  • Whether they limit travel or are free to travel as far as they like.
  • To use the incomplete contract tracing system or not.
  • Using public transport or not.
  • To go to a packed beach or not.
  • And yes to send kids back to school or not.

I can’t blame people for doing this. I’m doing it. That’s what people do when you give clowns and charlatans the keys to power. My worry is this

Yes many will be cautious and act responsibly. But how many will be reckless and endanger the wider population. From the photos and videos the answer appears to be – far too many.

Get my head round

The sun is shining. It’s still cold but we will settle for this.

So it’s almost official. School has emailed parents to say that looking at the latest government guidance – which apparently isn’t much – only some Primary pupils and those sitting final exams next year will get any direct teaching over the next few months. The earliest Son will be back in school is going to be September. So it’s time to get our heads round this.

Looking at the government’s plan for the economy – doesn’t take long as it’s basically wrote on the back of the PMs hand – probably means the company I work for won’t be operating anytime before September. That’s being extremely optimistic and requires an awful lot of good fortune. Being realistic there is a high probability it will not survive. So it’s time to get our heads round this.

It’s also time to get my head round the likelihood that I won’t be seeing my brother and sisters much in 2020. If things improve then maybe visits at Christmas might be a possibility. Realistically meet ups are not happening anytime this side of September. Already one Government official has said Summer family holidays and meet ups are cancelled, as these are unsafe – but apparently getting on a packed bus and going to work is completely safe.

AND WE HAVE TO GET OUR HEADS ROUND TWO EVEN MORE PRESSING MATTERS.

  • How are we going to celebrate my partners birthday in just over a weeks time. We had been planning on doing a camp fire party. Unfortunately the fire pit didn’t survive the Yorkshire winter. Yesterday I tried to pick it up to clean and the metal just crumbled, leaving me holding just two wooden handles. At least they can be used as fire wood. The other idea was to have my partners favourite meal – Chinese. Unfortunately the local takeaways are still closed and the local supermarket is completely sold out of Chinese food – apart from crispy seaweed. Which brought the response “well the gerbils will eat well then….”. I did offer to cook Chinese from scratch, but that brought the response “I’d rather suck on a gooseberry….”. So we are in plan F territory.
  • Dad I am so missing not going on my trampoline.” A couple of months back our garden pigeons decided to nest right next to the big bouncy thing (thats not my tummy before you say anything….). When I say right next to, I mean within 10 centimetres (not using inches will really upset Boris). Well the pigeons and chicks are showing no sign of moving, so I have two options. One is to dismantle and then rebuild somewhere else. Problem is that it’s in the only flat part of the garden and it’s like trying to assemble a Super Tanker. The instructions helpfully explained that you will need three reasonably fit adults to assemble. They failed to mention at least one of those adults must be an expert in structural engineering and the other two will need to have the strength of The Hulk. The other option is to try and drag the complete trampoline. We tried yesterday and after 30 minutes had shifted it 1 cm (up yours Boris). So we are also on Plan F here as well.

But at least the sun is shining.

Kinda day

Surely it’s that kinda day.

The alarm rings and I drag the body out of bed and stumble towards my gym kit. Before exercise the important stuff. Feed the pets.

Start with the Gerbils. They will only eat one type of small animal feed and strangely it’s not the cheapest. Trying to change the food and water is always a challenge when you have three little white chaps scurrying up your arm.

Then it’s the big boy cat. He suffers after years of substance abuse. He has had far too many trips to the vets after sampling various harmful items – usually from the farm. Now he’s banned from going out and has to go on a strict diet. He can only eat gluten, grain and dairy free food. Special food which happens to be three times the price of normal cat food. He’s far from impressed and he is surprisingly fleet of foot which he eyes other food opportunities – usually my dinner.

At least the dog has cheap food tastes. He will eat anything. So he dines out on cheaper branded food. Anything works for him. Cat food, our food, vegetables from the garden. His favourites are particularly healthy options

Yorkshire Puddings

Chips and crisps.

Although cheap to feed he does have his very own foible. He can’t and won’t eat food direct from his bowl. He picks up each individual biscuit and carries it to a chair or the sofa. Munches it there and then returns for the next little piece of food. The process repeats for hours. Takes him ages to eat anything and the mess…..

Here’s the key thing. Yes the pets cost money, add workload and create so much mess.

BUT

They bring so much joy to our son. They bring life to the house. Bringing them into our world was the best parenting decision ever.

Starsky

This is a housemate. Starsky lives in the roof above the garage. We’ve had a Starsky living in that luxury apartment since 2003. So to be correct this is probably Starsky VI. All those years ago my partner named the new roof occupier and that was it. As soon as something gets a name then they get granted special rights. Eviction was suddenly ruled out.

Each Starsky (or a very very old and resilient Starsky) has common behaviour patterns.

  • Same nest,
  • First to the daily bird food,
  • Eyeballing and squawking at anyone who dares to use the back door,
  • Spending most of the day perched on next doors chimney,
  • Hopping about the lawn and under your feat while trying to cut the grass,
  • Exactly the same bombing run patterns.

From our Sons earliest ventures out into the garden, Starsky has always been there. Every year, every season, every day. Son very much views Starksy as a member of the family. That’s why I put up with the little feathered darling crapping on my car.

This day

I’ve been struggling to find anything interesting to photograph today. Then I had a thought. Let’s look back on this day in previous years. So a quick scan was made of my mobile phone photos and this is what I found.

This was our part of the world one year ago today. Another almost sunny day in Yorkshire. That’s 2 in a year. Wow.

In 2018 normal service has been resumed. It’s dark and rainy Yorkshire.

In 2017 it was a friends meet-up.

Can’t find a photo from 2016 but it would have been a Saturday. A time just months before the world changed for us. Saturday would have seen us get up early and visit my partners mum. After a coffee I would head off and shop for my mum. We would see her on Sunday. We would then stop off at a petting zoo. We would follow the exact same route through the little zoo. Waiting for quiet gaps to appear at each of the animals. Then we headed for home stocked up with sandwiches, cake and ice cream. In 2016 this would most likely have been a nice day.

So we find ourselves in 2020 and the world has changed for most of us. But just in case we revisit today in a few years time, we had better make it a nice one. So hopefully by the time you read this we will have built a ginormous Lego tower. The picnic in the garden was not disrupted by ants. I remembered to hard boil the eggs before they are decorated for this years Easter Egg tradition. This year we are going for Marvel Super Heroes. We both will have planted some peas (and they haven’t been immediately dug up). I will have found some frozen chips and our Heinz Tomato Ketchup supply can last one more hammering. Disney Plus will have been working and not constantly buffering so we could watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2. And that we had many more random laughs along the way.

While the lockdown is on I might revisit this idea. You never know what I might find and what thoughts it might unleash.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be time for our weekly virtual visit to beautiful Switzerland. This week it’s a bit different. I’ve asked son for his favourite Swiss spots. So let’s see where our virtual trip takes us.

First stood on top of the Niesen.

Second is stood on top of the First mountain.

Just sitting on the really cool Swiss trains.

Getting next to the big mountains.

Being the highest he’s been at 10,285ft on top of the Gornergrat.

The best playground ever.

Going to the brilliant zoos.

Playing golf. Switzerland has the best courses.

Looking at the yachts parked up in front of the hotel we stayed at.

Sat on the edge of the wooden walkway outside the hotel looking at the Niesen and waiting for the swan to arrive so we can feed it.

The old branch which is always there on our walk to the playground. One day he wants to be brave enough to walk on it.

A trip on one of the old Swiss lake boats, especially the big steamer.

Any finally with his favourite knight from castle in Spiez.

Tree

This is a tree we can see from our garden. The walk across the farmers field takes you right beside it. When we first moved here it was so much bigger. Almost symmetrical. Unfortunately countless storms and a couple of lightning strikes have taken their toll. I guess that’s the price you pay for being a big isolated tree on an exposed hill top.

So it finally happened. All the countries schools will close on Friday. A skeleton childcare service will be provided for essential workers and vulnerable kids. Our school is planning to try and run lessons online. It’s an indefinite closure with much talk of this extending into the summer. It will be an interesting trial with homeschooling in mind. Let’s see what works. Let’s see what the optimum learning time is. Let’s see if I can cope. As a single parent, the work shutdown will allow me to fully focus on son and his learning.

Life can often bring much isolation. With the new life motto – ‘Social Distancing’, more are going to have deal with the challenges that it brings. Each one of us has to find our own way of dealing with this. Don’t laugh but walking past this old tree and just giving it a friendly pat can help me. The tree has survived longer and more intense isolation than I ever will. It’s only right that I show solidarity with a fellow survivor.

I went for a walk today and almost didn’t see another soul. Plenty of sheep and crows but so few people. Hardly any cars as well. It just seemed kinda normal. I guess after three years I am getting use to the isolation. Just about. Had to make a few work calls today but that’s going to be it for many weeks now. As people increasingly keep their distance the reality is that the only person I will be physically talking to over the next couple of months will our son. Maybe an occasional telephone call with a sister. That’s why blogging will be so important for me.

I’m someone who has to continually work on my conversation skills these days. Without it I become a gibbering, shy wreck. That’s why I have recently become a crap Dr Doolittle. I am increasingly talking to animals. Not just the mad pets. The birds and squirrels waiting to be fed in the garden. The frog who comes for a warm when the tumble dryer is on. The bee trying to break into the house. The farmers sheep, cows and a grumpy bull. I’m a crap Doolittle as I talk to the poor animals but I still can’t understand what they say back. Probably a good job as I can imagine the responses.

“Will you just sod off”

“Boring, boring”

“Do you mind if I hump your leg”

So on the walk I crouched down to have a chat with a sheep. The local sheep are happy to listen to my waffles as long as I bring some biscuits with me. So I was asking this particular sheep if she ever got bored just walking in the same field and did she like these biscuits . Nearly jumped out of my skin when behind me a booming voice replied.

“If they keep producing the wool for my jumpers I will happily let them eat biscuits. This one likes Digestives, the others are partial to those biscuits .”

I had not heard the farmer sneak up on me. Another day and another …. Oh the shame. But at least I know that I need to bring two types of biscuits on the walks now. All this took place under the a much battered, yet resilient tree.