Bleak

It’s another bleak old day. Definitely a two jumper day. July 4th was the day when many places like pubs reopened in the England. Well in some parts, rather briefly. A local attraction here opened at 10am and closed a couple of hours later due to the bad weather and high winds. Definitely a two jumper (sweater) day.

Definitely a day for no house work. Disney Plus movies, warm drinks and giving son the attention he needs.

This photograph reminded me of old times. Pre parenting days. When I went through tough periods. When I went through challenging times. Times when I seemed to stumble and constantly lose my way. I would need to reset my inner self. Take a breather. Back then I would book a climbing or walking trip. A weekend in the wilderness. The bleaker the better. That’s what I needed to do my personal reset. Yes I would be tired on my late Sunday drive back but normally I was in a much better mind set. Ready to rumble again.

Fast forward to 2020. Those climbing and walking trips are no more. Single parenting means no timeouts. No weekend long resets. Just keep going. Any internal resets have to be done on the hoof. So with some uplifting words from a friend swirling around my mind, I find myself outside. Sat on the garden fence with a hot drink. Taking a few minutes to breathe. Imagining walking through the bleak landscapes and starting a reset. Yes definitely time to go again.

Open your eyes

Looking through a few flower photos and guess what I found. Another appearance from our friendly garden visitor. This unexpected find brought a much needed smile.

The unexpected hospital visit was tough. It was physically and mentally tough for our son. Hospitals are not pleasant places at the best of times but during a pandemic. Just awful.

It was a routine procedure but it made me face some demons. Waiting for news in the building where my mother died and where I found out my partner would be dead within days. Too many traumatic memories flooded back. Sat by myself in a waiting room. Yes it’s ok to cry.

Those memories and the clear unpredictability of the future made me realise what is so important to me. The things I need to cherish and make the most of. No more trying to email when talking to our son. It’s such a bad habit, you miss out on so much and son can see the lack of focus. Quality time MEANS quality time. It took something so unpleasant to clear my mind and refocus my priorities. Your never to old to open your eyes.

Timing

I drafted this just a few minutes before Wednesday deteriorated so rapidly. I guess it’s kinda apt now.

Sometimes your just in the right place at the right time. 20 seconds later and I would have missed the winged visitor.

It was the case with my partner. I was in the right place at the right time. She gave me the most wonderful times. Now I carry on with our Son. Trying to burn as brightly as she did. Hopefully making a few people smile along the way. That’s my excuse for the terrible jokes.

The timing of that winged visitor got me thinking. Yes I know that’s dangerous. 20 seconds later and I would have missed it. So if I had not answered that annoying telemarketing phone call then I would probably have never seen the winged visitor. So something annoying led to something quite wonderful. We (I) often forget that. It’s easy to think that ‘Bad stuff leads to more bad stuff’. Well it doesn’t always. Sometimes the bad stuff presents new opportunities.

Looking back I very nearly never took the job that led directly to me meeting my partner. I was due to take a better paid position somewhere else. At the last minute the organisation I was due to move to changed management structure. My job offer was rescinded. Next day I applied for the job that would change my life. A bad thing leading to something beautiful.

Now I’m not going to argue that the loss of my partner led to something beautiful. It was truly awful and will remain that way. But it certainly did change me into a better person and a much more complete parent. It forced me to ditch a career and opened up more quality time with our son. I certainly live a simpler more sustainable lifestyle now. I find it much easier these days to be thankful. So yes a truly awful event did lead to positive life changes.

I guess it’s all about accepting that bad stuff happens and not assuming that bad necessarily follows bad.

Another day

Another hot one. One more day then proper weather sweeps back in.

Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s overthinking. Maybe it’s these crazy times. Maybe it’s lack of sleep. Maybe it’s feeling just a little bit alone in this fight. Maybe it’s just one of those days. But today has been on off day. A down day. A misfiring day. A depressed day. I get these days. Not as many as I used to but it doesn’t really help when they strike. These days it definitely feels like good weeks and bad days. So it’s a bit of a surprise when the bad days sneak up on you. All the more frustrating because there is not a definite cause. No warning. Just wake up feeling this way.

A day when

  • The mojo has gone on holiday.
  • Life feels hard and unremittingly uphill.
  • Just feeling yucky.
  • Everything is an effort.
  • The daily workout was completed but never got out of 1st gear.
  • You just want to sit and slouch.
  • That smile is an effort.
  • Routine things become annoying.
  • Those various body injuries just hurt that little bit more.
  • An old photo which made you smile yesterday today brings a tear.
  • That inner demon is just a bit stronger today. The negative voice is just that bit louder.
  • Definitely a little snappy and quick tempered.

Basically low and deflated. It will pass but until it does then it’s no fun. I was going to swear but I won’t. Let’s get through the day and see what tomorrow brings. If it’s the same feeling then maybe a bit of shock therapy is required. I think I will ask son to fill a huge bucket with cold water then fill it with ice cubes and whatever else he fancies. Then he can dump it over me. It worked last time I was like this, maybe it will work again. Only one way to find out….

Wembley

The Yorkshire version of Wembley Stadium. Can you spot the pet trying to once again sneak into the photo.

Even comes with a discerning crowd.

If Aspergers Parenting was a football game, well today feels like we have had a key player sent off….

I always naively assumed that if and when son got an official diagnosis then a support package would be out in place to help with his life chances. How silly of me. I didn’t count on year after year, having to fight the system. Trying to prize just the hints of support from a system which has been hammered into the ground by a Government which only looks after itself and it’s friends. To summarise

  • A school system repeatedly fails kids who do not fit into the factory production line which is the UK school system. Two options, either fight for a place in one of the few special schools or accept your child being bracketed as ‘low attainment’ and consigned to the bottom set. The school will then forget about the child and then pat itself on the back if the child gets just one certificate.
  • Letter after letter, call after call trying to find a clinician who is prepared to look at your child’s case.
  • Passed from specialist to specialist who don’t have the time or resources to add your child onto their case load.
  • Service after service cut by a Government which believes that only the rich should be able to buy access to essential healthcare. A Government that sees Mental Health as no more than an excuse to avoid work. Let’s not forget they described a child taking time off from school after a bereavement as an extended holiday.
  • When you do finally get access to a service you then join the growing waiting list. Finally when your child is seen it’s virtually always by someone new, with no understanding of the back story.
  • Finally your child starts to get older and the few services he has had access to are withdrawn as he is now above the age threshold. You see the Government likes to think that after 13, services are pointless and far too expensive. Adults have to sort themselves out.

We have had three brilliant exceptions to this.

  • A Clinical Psychologist who worked with out son consistently for three years. She even delayed her retirement to ensure son’s diagnosis was officially approved.
  • An Occupational Therapy service that worked with him every few months to help with things like coordination. A service which was cut when he reached 13.
  • A wonderful Nurse Counsellor who worked with our son for 3 years helping with his anxieties and joining the fight for additional help.

We entered June 2020 with just the Nurse Counsellor left from his entire care package. And now the player is sent off.

The Nurse phoned today to let us know that she had been reassigned. She is great and some other kids are really going to really benefit from her time. We are eternally grateful for everything she has done. She is going to desperately try to find another clinician to take over from her. I know she will really try. We may get a replacement. The Nurse was the only clinician he really has connected with. Those connections are rare for him. Making a new connection is going to be tough and most certainly not guaranteed. As the Nurse said it feels like we have lost the progress made over the last few years.

Today feels like one of those tough parenting days. As a friend wrote recently we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and start again. We most certainly do. But it feels like it’s a much depleted team taking on the struggle. Forgive me I’ve not used a Lord of the Rings metaphor for a while. It feels like the heavens have opened. The hordes are massed outside the walls and I’m stood alone on the Battlements of Helms Deep. Just me protecting our son now. Doesn’t feel like Gandalf is riding over the horizon in the morning. I’m going to have to just find a way of doing this myself.

I’m off now to kick the ball into the net a few times. Maybe with a bit more force than usual. Then the fight starts again.

Lost Friends

And another rose photo…. I have to say out garden is blessed with weeds and roses. Each year they appear and they always feel like the return of friends.

Last night I had another weird dream. This time it took me back to my university days. It started off by showing that my career path had been influenced by a slip of a pen. I had applied to do a degree in Economics but had been put on a Home Economics course. A degree in cooking for the worlds worst chef, OK.… But the main part of the dream was centred around friendships. All my college friends were on the course but no one recognised me. As hard as I tried, nothing. I was just blanked by them. Most unsettling.

As ever the weird dream put an end to my nighttime sleep hopes. So it was time to drink tea and think. A quick search on the internet found recent pictures of some of my old college friends. I just about recognised them. Would they remember my face which is perfect for radio – probably the same I guess. But here’s the key thing. These were really close friends. Yet when was the last time we met up in person. Our careers and life’s moved us apart. I’m not sure it was even this century. But it doesn’t stop there

  • I haven’t seen my schools friends since I first left my childhood home to go to University.
  • One really close school friend I did keep in contact with. We would meet up every few months. But again our life’s drifted further apart and the last time I heard she was living in Israel. That must be over 20 years ago.
  • My climbing friends still keep in touch via letters. Yes letters – how old fashioned does that sound…But we haven’t been climbing together in 6 years.
  • I still keep in regular text contact with a good friend who I went to football matches with. But I’ve stopped going to games now due to circumstances, so we don’t meet up in person.
  • Work and parenting friendships have come and gone.
  • Friends in the village have dwindled. Some have moved away, some have sadly left this world.

So in terms of actual physical friend meet-ups it’s down to one chap I normally work with. He occasionally drags me for a game of golf. There are so many stories right theremy golf career is about as good as my cooking career. But due to the pandemic I have not seen him since the start of March.

Life and my choices have sent me down this path. Living in a rural area, bereavement, single parenting and autism in the house have all contributed. But it is was it is. A huge element of personal choice comes into the mix as well.

Yes this is sad but I am so lucky. The gaps left here have created space for blogging friendships. I’m doing the best job in the world – parenting. Job is the wrong word, it’s more a privilege. I have a great life. But I do so worry for others. Feeling alone can be such a dark place. Alone and yet claustrophobic. No one to reach out to. No one to interact or grow with. Some choose that option freely. But many are forced into it by circumstance. Illness, age, special needs parenting, single parenting, location, social factors, fears and yes a pandemic. It’s so easy and unfortunately very convenient to forget about those who drop off the grid. Last night was a timely reminder for me.

Take care my friends.

Where’s the shed

Here once stood the garden shed. But then an ageing Oil Tank had to be changed. The new rule was that flammable items had to be at least 6 feet away. A wooden shed just 3 feet away just didn’t cut the mustard. So it had to come down. I remember the day so well. My partner organised the skip. She took the first swing with the sledgehammer and then left the rest to me. It was a tough fight. Eventually I won the contest on a split points decision. Yes the shed was down but most of it now appeared to be imbedded in me.

We never did get round to putting a new one up. Actually we didn’t need one. The area became a little bit more green. A place to randomly put those potted plants which we have collected over the years. A nice home for a 90 year old wooden bench which has long since served its purpose and has been retired. It’s also a bit of a magnet of our sons footballs….

It so needs a good weeding but actually yellow poppies and wild strawberries are starting to grow here. Well that’s my excuse.

I’m not sure what my partner would make of it. Maybe a bit too chaotic for her. She liked organisation. The new shed was high up on my list of things to do before the world changed. But then she left our little world. Then every weekend her mum would pop over for an hour or so. She loved it. When she came over at the weekend she would often sit and look at it while drinking her coffee. Thinking about life. Watching the birds make use of it.

I’m writing this at about the time her mum would have been visiting. I’m sat in the chair she would be sat in. Yes I do think the little green area works. Maybe that new garden shed can wait for a few more years. Sorry my love…..

Needs work

Another moody Yorkshire summer afternoon. Everyday it’s such a blessing to wake to this view. No wonder my partner fell in love with this house within seconds. And as ever she was on the right side of the conversation. The ‘needs work’ line was a little weak. Actually it still needs work but that view is still here. Tell me what’s more important.

Looking back my line about ‘needs work’ was more about avoiding change. Sticking with what we had. Avoiding that leap of faith. That’s been a theme of my life story so far. I always think my past climbing hobby is a perfect reflection of life. Many goals set but never attempted. It was easier to avoid them, find excuses. Too much caution climbing routes. Using fear and self doubt as an excuse to avoid those more challenging climbs. Backing away from leaps of faith. Yes I had fun but what could have been.

Now the life safety net has been removed. Single parenting and being without that person who held my hand on those big steps. Life has changed but so am I. It’s a slow process but it’s happening. Now is the time to face some of those fears which have held me back. Time to start ditching those constraints that have grounded me. Time to re-evaluate myself. Only by doing that can I be that parent our son truly deserves. Yes the one who protects him but the one who also encourages him to truly flourish. To be that person who he truly wants to be. To live his life.

Swiss Sunday

Now that’s a view from a train station. It’s Sunday so it’s time for our weekly virtual trip to stunning Switzerland.

Some wonderful news. Switzerland is now open again to most of the world. Hopefully soon the good people from the US will be able to get there as well.

We have not been back to this Alpine Heaven since the summer of 2015. It seems like an absolute lifetime. So much has happened.

Yes we have so many obstacles to overcome but one day WE will return.

Switzerland is just part of us now. Feels more like Home than England. That feeling gets stronger each day.

We still have my partners ashes to spread here. The view across Lake Thun with the snow covered mountains in the background is one of the places she wants to become a part of. Her Home. Our Home.

So yes these virtual trips feel like a return to what should be our home. One day just maybe that will happen.

Good to see someone maintains a balanced diet when he visits his future home…..

Rain…

Rain, rain, rain.

Chucking it down.

Raining cats and dogs.

Hammering it down.

Siling down.

Bucketing down.

Teeming.

Nice weather for ducks.

I think we are moving from weather for ducks to weather for fish. It’s a good job we are on top of a little hill. Any lower down and we might be considering a life raft.

“Dad what are you doing?”

Listening to the rain.

Why?”

Because it’s almost hypnotic. It’s kinda nice.

The only reason I would listen to the rain is to workout when it’s stopped…. Dad Ive got a little question….”

He does have a point with listening to the rain. That last line is his favourite saying. He is always asking questions. Dozens and dozens every hour. When he says a little question he really means one question followed quickly by a bombardment of another 30 questions. Random questions to me but completely linked to his way of thinking. Often it seems like the same question but in fact each question is subtly different. Questions followed by a chance to demonstrate his Dads rather sketchy knowledge in these areas. Then a chance for son to instruct his Dad. This happens always in the garden, every day. If it’s raining then on go the coats.

Today it was three hours of football and fantasy world related questions. Looking at player stats, team records, form, tactics and formations. Intertwined with questions about characters, storylines, plot arcs and new worlds. Yesterday it was 4 hours of questions about politics and history.

Over time the daily fact and knowledge bombardment can tire my mind. Lack of sleep doesn’t help. Two parents allowed some time to share the questioning. A time to rest the mind. But it is what it is. Constantly walking about and hot drinks keep me going. But here’s the key thing to remember. It’s an absolute privilege to be granted this time with our son. To be welcomed into his world. A beautiful world which is more pure than ours. It’s what life is all about. So yes it can sometimes feel like it’s wearing me down BUT I wouldn’t swap it for the world.