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.

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.

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.

So poor

I came from a northern working class background. A council house with an outside toilet and a dark coal bunker. Luckily the house had a big garden so Dad could grow loads of vegetables and fruit. It wasn’t until 1980 when the Council renovated the house and we got the luxury of central heating and an inside loo. We had to move out into a caravan for a few months so the house could be gutted and the roof replaced. It was bizarre looking at you house without a roof on. I will always remember sitting in the caravan playing with some lego when the little TV brought news of Lennon being shot.

The phrase my parents would always use was scrimp and scrape. They did an amazing job and Dad was always happy to talk about the hard lifestyle. Is it bad but these days that memory always reminds me of Monty Python doing the sketch about the Four Yorkshireman competing for who had the toughest childhood. We were so poor we lived in a box. Or in my case We were so poor we didn’t have a roof.


https://youtu.be/IeXMKygwSco

All those years later and I’m carrying on the tradition of scrimp and scraping. The return to school has brought significant additional costs to an already tight financial position. But as a good buddy said today – we make do. It does mean that you take some calculated risks. Son has an old raincoat which still just about fits him. It’s really well battered. It needs changing but I was hoping to put that off for a few months more.

Well today the calculated risk backfired. He went to pull on the old coat and the sleeve ripped apart at the seems.

Dad it’s not just Bruce Banner who can do that.

So he’s gone off today without a coat and yes it’s pouring down. Absolutely chucking it down. I feel really awful about it. Poor kid is going to be like a drowned rat. Anyway I’ve gone out and bought him a new one. Well at least he can now carry on the tradition. When he’s older he can do his own Monty Python sketch.

We were so poor I had a raincoat with only one sleeve. We couldn’t afford two sleeves.

Demon Hummus

Dad what on Earth is that.

I’m trying to make home made Hummus.

Are you sure it should be that colour.

No that was not what I was expecting.

Dad it looks like something from the X-Files.

I’d moved from trying it with some carrots to which bin it should go in. It might even need a Priest and an Exorcism before it’s safe to do that. Wonderful. Yet another culinary masterpiece.

Dad let’s take the pup to the woods. If we go now should have the place to ourselves.

So leaving the alien hummus to mutate into something with teeth we set off. The signs of autumn are now all around us. Less than 900 miles away the first winter snow has come to Italy. So that’s another summer ticked off. It also means the 30 year old boiler is being fired up for the first time in months. That process is always done on a wing and a prayer. Apparently when it goes to boiler heaven it’s going to cost a fortune. Not just the boiler but the pipes, a good part of the central heating and the oil tank will need to be changed. We couldn’t afford that when we had two incomes never mind when it’s become one (on less hours and at a much lower pay rate). I remember being told by one mum that I should just hire childcare or put son in a club so I could work full time again. Not the first idea about single parenting and Autism but to be fair her hummus will be considerably better than mine.

This might have been a good place to go on about some of the practicalities of when you go from two to one parents but not when it is so close to THE ANNIVERSARY. Anyway the old boiler has fired up. Which is a bonus. THEN….

Dad did I tell you school has changed the PE Polo Shirt from white to black. You can use the old ones for a couple of weeks then if you don’t have the new colour you will get negatives.

With the great news of yet another visit to the school uniform shop still fresh I decided to try the demon hummus. The taste sensation was somewhere between wallpaper paste and a skunks bottom. But on the bright side I might have found a home made recipe for wood putty. That might come in useful this winter.

Switzerland and the Zoos

It’s Sunday and it’s time for another dose of Switzerland. With reflection maybe this should have been moved either to Monday or Friday.

When your an Aspergers parent(s) you get used to repetition and routine. Holidays are often no different. When we were fortunate to go to Switzerland we afforded ourselves a couple of days to explore but we had to factor in certain routines.

  • Sunday would be a boat trip to Interlaken. Here son would go into a gift shop which sold the full range of Schleich Toy Animals. Son would browse the range while his mum looked at all the amazing Swiss Cuckoo Clocks. Strangely we left with a couple of new animals but sadly no clock.

  • Monday would be a train trip to Zurich and a visit to it’s large Zoo
  • Friday was the last day of the holiday and we would have a visit to the small local zoo in Bern.

Before we get onto some zoo animals I have had a few people ask me to publish a photo of my Clooney like looks. For the ones who have asked HERE I AM swimming…

The two zoos are so different. The one in Bern is small and always seems very quiet. So so relaxing for someone with Aspergers.

Bern Zoo doesn’t have a huge range of animals but the animals facilities are modern. You get the real impression that the animals are really well looked after here.

Very unusually part of the zoo can be accessed without having to pay. What a brilliant idea.

It also has the most wonderful little adventure park for kids. It’s one of the few which our son was comfortable playing on.

Zurich Zoo is so much larger. It has over 4000 animals.

This zoo seems to focus on trying to give the animals the closest natural habit possible. The animals are being moved from cages to spaces. The elephants have a huge new indoor shelter and a purpose developed habitat outside.

It has a massive indoor tropical rain forest where you can walk about and also climb into the trees. The animals are free to roam in the trees and undergrowth. Maybe it’s coming from Yorkshire but I came out looking like I had just run several marathons.

Zoos can often leave you cold. Feeling sorry for the animals. You don’t get that feeling at these two zoos. This is how zoos should be.

The animals in Switzerland were so good for our son I will certainly revisit this again on this blog.

And finally if one image from all the zoo trips always brings a smile – it’s the one below. First of all I didn’t realise Giant Tortoises could move so quick. It certainly surprised our 6 year old.

Mum what are they doing?

“Ask your Dad”

Dad

No idea son. Maybe it’s some form of wrestling….

Did it work

We were in the hunt for a distraction. Why? A grisly return to school providing a harsh reminder of how badly the system lets down kids who do not fit the expected mould. The anniversary of losing my soulmate and our sons beloved mum steaming toward us. So distraction needed.

After much searching we found the only option we could find which was affordable and which was just about in the required timeframe.

Off we went to see a Rugby Union match. England playing Italy.

Normally these internationals are played hundreds of miles away in London, are heavily oversubscribed and are far too expensive. But they decided to play this last warmup game before the World Cup in North. The game was just a few days from the anniversary. It had the added advantage that some of the tickets were heavily discounted as the seats were high up in the stadium amongst the clouds.

So it ticked a lot of boxes. Just two problems. It was a night game and our son is not too confident outside in the dark. The other problem is it was going to be a 50000 crowd – that’s a lot for a kid with Aspergers.

The night actually went quite well. The outside stadium entertainment and fan park was too much for son. Just a sea of humanity. Too many people moving in all directions. No pattern. So we quickly got to the seats. Once he was sat down and the world started to become ordered again he began to enjoy the experience. Interestingly he quickly switched allegiances to the Italian Team. He put it down to a combination of them playing in blue and “coming from York we were part of the Roman Empire”. Have to say it’s gone downhill for us since the Romans left. We did play the Monty Python game of what have the Romans ever done for us game. Lots.

The walk back to the car had to be handled carefully as a busy city at night can be so daunting. At least the walk across the bridge made him forget the anxieties.

So today our spirits have been lifted by the distraction. I think we are in a better place to face the anniversary. And I’ve got my first Christmas idea for our son – an Italian Rugby Shirt.

Distraction

We are fast approaching the anniversary of losing our Son’s mum and my soulmate. Over the next 3 years we have managed to turn things like birthdays and holidays into celebrations. Yes some tears but more smiles. However this is the one anniversary which remains persistently grim. We’ve tried cards, flowers, local trips to her favourite places, eating her favourite food, looking at photos, letting off a balloon with a message on. Nothing has worked for us in shifting a day of tears and loss into one of celebratory hope.

Call me cynical but I guessed that the anniversary would also coincide with a car crash of a school return. Sadly right. So let’s try something else. A big distraction. Take our minds off the anniversary. So this year we tried to find something like a really loud concert or something similar to do on the dreaded day. But no luck – we couldn’t find anything on the day. We found something on the day before but we just couldn’t afford it. A similar story on other adjacent days…..

So the next best option is tonight. Yes it’s not perfect timing (bit early) but it’s the closest thing to the day that we can afford. The crowd might prove a problem with our son but he wants to give it a go. Fingers crossed that it works out for our son and it gives us a bit of distraction to that rapidly approaching day.

Call from school

At lunchtime the phone rang. Oh pants it school. What’s happened now? Bizarrely at the other end was a very official sounding Son

Who am I speaking to”

Son, it’s me.

Can you confirm that I am speaking to Mr XXXX XXXXXXXX”

Yes son, it’s me.

Can you confirm that that is you.”

Yes this is your useless Dad.

I am going to ask you a question to confirm this. What did I have for breakfast”

Son you would be brilliant working in a call centre. You had 2 slices of toast, a waffle, raspberries and blueberries. Washed down with an orange juice.

What colour plate did I use”

White and blue. (In the background I could hear the school teacher saying – come on lad it’s your dad)

What colour cup”

Red

Ok Dad the whole school has to spend an extra hour in school tonight to help set up the classes. Unbelievable. I am going to speak to my lawyer about this outrage. Bus will be late. Goodbye”

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The battle recommences.

So the hope of a new schooling approach didn’t last very long. Basically 6 hours. Son’s been kept down in the bottom set while a number of other kids got moved up. Some of the kids went up in all subjects, others went up in one or two subjects. No explanation from school just the Form Tutor handing out paper timetables with the sets on. His last Form Tutor (who has unfortunately left) confirmed his test and class performance merited moving up sets – at the very least in his three best subjects. We have kids with lower grades in higher sets than our son. Sadly the assumption has to be that he’s been kept down due to his dyslexia. The galling thing is that in today’s bottom set lessons he received again absolutely no help with his reading. So he’s marked down for dyslexia but then doesn’t receive any assistance. Setup to fail.

If that wasn’t enough his new Form Tutor and most of his new subject teachers appear to be the strictest in the school. So much for making learning fun. Plus the teachers he really connected with have either left or have been removed from his teaching programme.

If we are looking for an upside the best it gets is

Well Dad at least I didn’t get a negative on the first day”

Nothing like positive reinforcement to encourage a bit of educational development….

Deep sigh.

Across all the lands how many other kids are being subjected to this crap. Too many. I heard a news item about another school where a 11 year old girl who had been excluded from class because her trousers did not quite cover her ankles.

Really.

After all these years how can we still get education so very wrong. Probably the same reason that with all the gifted and genuinely dedicated people we have in this country we end up being led by someone as awful as Boris Johnson.