Who do you look like.

The daily feeding frenzy. Only after the smaller (angrier) birds leave. These guys look aggressive but they don’t mess with the small birds. Looks can be deceiving.

Do you ever play this game. Trying to work out which famous person someone looks like. It was my sanity tool when I attended really boring meetings or those meetings where you suddenly got the urge to through your mug of coffee over that annoying colleague who just won’t shut up. It saved my career on many occasions. I remember one particularly gruesome meeting with an official from the government. One of those characters who is in the front of the queue to take praise for the teams efforts but then is first to point the finger when something goes wrong. During one of his me,me,me speeches I suddenly had this insane urge to impale his hand with my sharpened pencil. I quickly played the lookalike game. Unbelievably he was the spitting image of Gargamel from the Smurfs. My urge to inflict physical harm was suddenly replaced with fits of hysterics. Gargamel was not best pleased with me.

I still do it today. Our regular postman looks like one of the TV survival experts. One of the village dog walkers looks like Elvis (could it really be). Another dog walker looks so like the new Captain Marvel. The neighbours car mechanic is Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. And the assistant in the local shop is clearly one of the Osmonds.

Apparently I did look like Harry Potters Dad or was it the Troll – I can’t remember. When I was at Uni one girl said I looked like William Shatner. I never did find out if that was the early Captain Kirk version (cool) or the later slightly rounded version (not so cool). Worryingly I suspect it was probably not Kirk. Before I became a parent I would go on golf trips with work. On the trips everyone was given cool playing names. Names like Wing Commander, Squadron Leader, Wamm Bamm and The Terminator. My not so cool name was T J Hooker….

For our son it is so much better. He looks so like his mum. He’s got my eyelashes and that’s it – the lucky sod.

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I’m so pleased so many of you enjoyed yesterday’s post from Katie and Evee. You can find their wonderful site here, plus you can find my guest piece there as well.

Take care and remember to look out for lookalikes.

Grieving during quarantine

As much as I like writing (well my version of writing), my favourite part of blogging is getting to read other blogs. They can make you laugh, cry, think and fill you with renewed hope. One of my favourite blogs is by Katie and Evee. It really captured me as like my son, grief often hits when we are far too young. They talk about it so beautifully. It’s grief with hope, loss with the desire to live again.

I’m really excited as today Katie and Evee are here on my blog. They have also rather recklessly allowed me to write on their wonderful blog today as well.

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Grieving During Quarantine

Hello, our names are Katie and Evee. Gary has kindly shared his platform with us today to write a little about our experience with grief during quarantine. 

~

Sometimes, during big events where the whole world is grieving such as the time we find ourselves in today, our own personal grief can feel small, detached and forgotten.

Evee: We lost our Mum 18 months ago, on the 9th of September 2018. We still feel it every day, but recently, the want for our Mum during such chaos, is deafening. For example, when I was at university trying to work out how to get home before lockdown, everyone had parents on the phone to call for comfort, or to pick them up. I felt the loss of my mum then.

Katie: Over the past 18 months I have been learning what grief is and how I can fit it into my everyday life, and our blog has been a great means of doing so. When life shifts, as it tends to do, I try to bend with it. I try to shape my grief to fit the big hole where Mum used to be. Before quarantine, I was working on allocating time to fit grief into my fast-paced life; 05:45 start, the commute, work, the commute home, cooking, exercise, writing for the blog, sleeping, and amidst that, trying to maintain friendships and socialising and trying to find time for me. Each of these parts were like spinning plates.

With this global transition, I now work from home. I think I speak for the whole nation when I say that this is a hard adjustment. We are all confined to the house, yet working towards the constant harsh deadlines. This, alongside the anxiety, fear, and sadness that the whole world is feeling right now has been intense and hard to escape. For me, something has had to give in the last couple of weeks and a couple of my spinning plates have fallen down – grief being one of them. 

Getting to grips with my new quarantine routine, I have not been able to dedicate any time to reflect on my grief or to sit quietly with my thoughts at all. But grief doesn’t stop just because our lives seemingly have, and as Evee mentioned, we both miss our Mum more than ever right now. 

Evee: On the other hand, I have a lot more time than Katie, because all of my exams and most of my assignments have been cancelled. I haven’t been able to do work because it feels like the minute I do, I get an email saying that the module that I’m working on has been abandoned. This week, the only thing I have been able to count on, is my home exercise routine. 

The gym used to be a huge part of my life; it would often be a place where I think about Mum and process everything. I enjoy the feeling of my body being spent, and of stretching my aching muscles out. For some reason, while my body is active, my mind can chug away slowly and think about everything that is happening in the world, and its impact on my small world. 

When the gym became a breeding ground for the pandemic, I began to create workouts at home. I have created a hard work out for myself to do during the day. I find this gives me a sense of normality, and enables me to have that time to myself and for me to think about Mum. Like what she would say and what she would do in this situation. My one hour outside I use mainly for cycling or walking.

I also spend a lot of time cleaning, tidying and making this house cosy and homely for my little family. It is things like this that make me feel like I am helping out, and easing the pressure off of my sister and Uncle.

It is in these moments where I can clear my head and remember happier times, and think of who I have, and what I can do to get through this period. And that also involves a lot of blog writing! 

Writing has always been a big part of my life, but particularly now, I find it indulgent and wonderful to log onto our online community, talk and feel less alone.

Katie: Thankfully, the clocks went forward recently which gifted us with an extra of sunshine in the evening. I use this extra hour of daylight to take my walk and I’m truly grateful for it. Evee pointed me to the direction of a nearby, beautiful church. It has become a wonderful addition to my newroutine. I go there to stop. Sit, think and reflect. It is an hour dedicated to being still and quiet. I close my eyes and reflect upon life and our Mum. I use this time to ground myself during such pandemonium.

~

This is a challenging time for us all. We constantly receive intrusive breaking news notifications on our phones. Our head is clustered full of worries, anxieties, and fear. It feels like at any moment our spinning plates will fall. Dedicate time to yourself. Dedicate time to reflection. Dedicate time to processing. In a little while, you’ll be able to pick these plates back up.

Stay safe, sane and smiling, friend.

Today we leave you with a song from one of our favourite and happiest artists; Newton Faulkner. 

 

My best-laid plans are washed away

No time to make ’em all again

Sometimes life gets in the way

We’ve got to keep on breathing

Look how far we’ve come

Look what we’ve made

Started from nothing, building

Brick by Brick – Newton Faulkner

 

Katie & Evee x

Random Tree

A random Yorkshire tree. When it snows, a random Yorkshire Tree positioned at the end of our sledging run. So a random Yorkshire tree with a very hard trunk which I have collided with on more than one occasion. It’s like a Rome. All the sledging runs seem to abruptly end at this tree.

So this morning’s fight with WordPress was a bit of a score draw. On the plus side it went remarkably smoothly and very quickly. On the downside my attempted fix – didn’t pigging work. So the app is still possessed. My comments on many sites just disappear. One explanation is that I’ve upset one of the Spam filters. I might have used a naughty word on a comment (or two ). See kiddies swearing is not big or clever. Anyway until it’s resolved I will keep trying to comment on your sites – a few comments are still sneaking through. Enjoy the peace and waffle free time while it lasts.

So the school version of homeschooling has ended for another week. It’s now the two week Easter break. A break which will probably look very like the last few weeks. Normally we look forward to these two weeks but this time it feels like just the same as the last few weeks. No real change except the school iPad can remain switched off.

But as everyday is FUN DAY let’s try to make the most of them.

It’s good to see school is getting into the celebratory mood. The kids have been set homework and have been given plenty of revision to complete over the holiday. After Easter it’s straight into online exams and YES the delights of spelling tests. Deep joy.

But we are not going to let school put a dampener on life over the next couple of weeks. So at lunchtime we reverted back to one of sons favourite games. Bouncing on a trampoline while holding a bucket filled with water. It’s amazing how even Son’s bucket of water ends up over his Dad. Maybe that’s why the game is so much fun. Then it was back to online lessons and trying to explain to a bewildered son the finer details of love poetry. You might have seen my sledgehammer writing style in Thursdays Terrible Poetry submissions. Me advising on poetry is like asking a pheasant to operate a pedestrian crossing. Some lessons are about personal growth and development. However this one was just about survival.

After the last lesson of the day the Easter break started with a dog walk. A walk to our sons self imposed world boundary. And a look over to a distant random tree. A tree beyond our little world. Let’s hope that when we get snow again, once again all our sledge runs will be able to meet this tree again.

Oh WordPress

Oh no WordPress (our very own friendly Terminator Skynet) is messing about again. I’ve found out that many of the comments I’ve made on other sites have disappeared into the ether. Plus a few are struggling to comment on my site. SORRY.

So I am going to have to do a complete reinstall of the app and reset all the settings. This may take minutes or a millennia. See you on the other side.

Swan

It was good to see the swan observing social distancing at the local lake today. If only some of the humans could get their head round the concept. Our village thankfully has. Apart from the postman, the occasional food delivery driver and a handful of dog walkers – that’s it. All the cars are parked up and are not being used. Virtually no through traffic. We don’t have a shop, cafe or pub. The village hall and church are temporarily closed. Basically it’s like a ghost town. It seems to oscillate between beautifully peaceful and slightly unnerving.

It’s the new normal.

Work is definitely shutdown until at least mid June now. No sign of schools reopening anytime before September. The countrywide lockdown isn’t being relaxed any time soon. No long runs. Apart from the very occasional trip to a shop for essentials, that’s it for physical social interaction. Maybe for months. It’s not happened yet but I can see this ramping up a grief attack soon. Especially as my partners birthday is looming. But it is what it is. Another thing for my constantly racing two cell brain to deal with.

We were watching Toy Story 2 last night when a thought popped into my head. Apart from the obvious one – oh man I look increasingly like Mr Potato Head. Wouldn’t it be great if toys did come alive. How much fun would that be. Suddenly a whole new self contained social circle. And yes we have a Buzz Lightyear so maybe he could teach us to fly.

I feel bad now Dad. Not played with a number of my toys in years. They have been shelved. Woody was mortified when he was shelved. Maybe we should dedicate the online Drama lesson to playing with old toys.”

He’s been so turned off from the subject that playing with old toys would certainly have more learning value.

Dad Ive been thinking about Toy Stories meaning. Basically it’s that you need to keep old toys come what may. Yes always play with them, even when your old. But never, ever give them away – even to a needy cause. It’s a bit of a grim message really.”

And with that he was off to find his old In The Night Garden Toys. But unusually for him, he did not fully think this through. His Dad fell in love with that old BBC kids show. His Dad can still answer any question thrown at him about Igglegpigle, Makka Pakka and the gang. And rather than looking for the shelved toys in the old toy baskets he just needs to look at his Dads bedroom table. No shelved toy sadness here. The In The Night Garden gang are very happy each night. Much loved by someone who really should know better.

Photo from the BBC.

Crazy

It’s all gone a bit crazy. Even the sheep I encountered on the one permitted walk out of the house .. It’s a scene of peace in front of the lens. Behind the lens I am being stalked by a pack of hungry sheep waiting for a biscuit.

Dad you have done some crazy things but that one is up there”

No it wasn’t my sanest moment. I lost a challenge and my punishment was to bounce for five minutes on the trampoline. In a moment of madness I made myself a cup of tea to drink while bouncing. Yes I didn’t really think that through. Unfortunately I didn’t come to my senses until after the first bounce had deposited the said contents of the cup onto my T-shirt. Clearly the tea is not the only thing that I have lost.

Dad what on earth are you doing”

I had made a mistake on a post that I was writing for a couple of friends.

“Son where is the rubber (eraser), I’ve messed up and need to change something”

Dad your using your IPad”

Yes I know”

Tell me Dad your not going thinking about using a rubber on the screen.”

Staggeringly I was in a moment of utter craziness. I guess it’s a combination of a complete lack of sleep, trying to help with French homework and the general oddness which has descended on to us all. It really is an odd feeling. Like we are living in an episode of the X-Files merged with Monty Python and Bear Grylls.

But at least we can still smile about it. If anything the craziness helps fill the day. So let’s have one more piece of craziness.

Rory (A Guy Called Bloke) has come up with a new music challenge.

you are to create a playlist of 15 songs based upon a weekly theme.  All titles must be relevant to the theme itself – not the artists just the song titles. This week the theme is CRAZY TIMES…

So here goes (going to try and just include songs from my music collection).

  1. Crazy Train – Ozzy
  2. Psychotic Break – Jerry Cantrell
  3. Madhouse – Anthrax
  4. Stone Cold Crazy – Queen
  5. Am I Going Insane – Black Sabbath
  6. Eyes of the Insane – Slayer
  7. Inmates (Were all Crazy) – Alice Cooper
  8. Crazy – Nazareth
  9. Crazy Horses – The Osmonds yes that’s my only Osmonds song
  10. Shine on you crazy diamond – Pink Floyd
  11. Crazy – Aerosmith
  12. Moon Crazy – Blue Oyster Cult
  13. Crazy World – Scorpions
  14. You’re Crazy – Guns n Roses
  15. Psycho – Metal Church

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so does anyone fancy a little virtual trip to a wonderful country called Switzerland.

Yes I might be currently over 1000km away in another part of Europe. But my heart is there.

So as my world rapidly shrinks for the next few months, I think it’s time to remember the beauty of The Alps.

The wonderful and friendly people. The brilliant culture.

The clock work precision of daily life. Even its wildlife get in on the act.

The stunning clear blue Lakes.

The history.

The beautiful Swiss villages and towns.

The always colourful alpine meadows.

The crisp mountain air.

The fun

And above all the peace.

Pizza Saturday

A new day. Let’s not allow any crap from yesterday mess up today. The cynical side of me is shouting – today probably has enough new crap to keep me occupied. But today is a new page and let’s see what it brings. Pigging lots of fun I hope.

Late last night (430am) I finally gained some control over my two brain cell super computer. My mind wandered to the stuff which social distancing is stopping which we could run virtually.

A virtual darts league

A virtual computer gaming league ( would be even more fun if it was just for those whose middle name is something like ‘Games Nube’ or ‘Apart from the old Atari tennis game I’m generally Crap’)

Virtual Cooking schools and bake offs (we did a brilliant one last year)

Virtual Gardening Clubs or in my case a Virtual Mass Plant Murderer Club

Virtual Exercise or Yoga Gyms

Virtual Book a major event. Say Wrestlemania, LiveAid, Woodstock, The Great Exhibition

Virtual Coffee Meet-ups

Virtual let’s recreate the cinema experience and watch the same film then review it night out

Virtual Homeschooling school gate meet-ups

Virtual bad hair days

Virtual fashion disasters as we can do whatever we like in our homes. Really go for it

Virtual design with Lego or whatever you have in the house challenges (come up with a theme and see what people and the kids make)

Virtual let’s write a song together gigs

Virtual let’s make pizza lunches.

On the subject of making pizza. Well that’s what we have just done.

Yes it’s not to Pizza Express standards. But we don’t care because we had fun… and yes I know the work surface needs a good clean…… Our pizza session also introduced a new concept to me. Ethical Cooking Balance.

Son looked at my attempt. A pizza which was completely dairy, gluten, meat free. Then back to his. A normal ham, full on dairy pizza.

“Dad I think your pizza looks a bit sad. It needs something. Maybe some proper cheese and ham”

“Well son it won’t be ethical then would it”

Well think about it. I will take some of my existing topping and put that on yours. You then put some of your ethical topping on mine. We have not used any less ethical products and not used any more unethical stuff. The quantities are exactly the same as before. But now my pizza is slightly more ethical and yours is slightly less ethical, but will taste infinitely better. So we still have balance”

I tried but couldn’t really argue with that. So that’s what happened. And yes he was right – it did taste so much better….

Friday I guess

Some random daffodils blooming next to our front window. These always make me smile as they just seemed to appear one year. I can’t remember planting them. Having said that, this is me…..

My mobile phone rang this morning. I could hear it somewhere really close but I just couldn’t find it before it rang off. A few minutes later I found me phone when I sat down. It was in my back pocket.

This morning it took me one hour to work out that it was Friday.

Sometimes there are no answers.

A few months back I was asked if I had found a magic bullet, a cure for it.

Sometimes there are no answers.

No it wasn’t the W.H.O. approaching me as a world expert on the search for a vaccine for the pesky virus. No don’t worry, I am still the same old dim witted goofball. No it was a parent from my sons last school. She had recently lost someone close and was really low with grief. She was desperate for the pain to go away.

Sometimes there are no answers.

Unfortunately I’ve not found a magic bullet, no cure or no vaccine that works with bereavement. It still hits me. It still hurts me. The days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. I’m still waiting to gain acquired immunity. The route cause remains and will always remain. But I do believe that I have started to understand myself better. I am also slowly finding things that help with the symptoms. That’s something to cling on to. Sadly the things which help me, may not work for others. There is also no guarantee that what works today, will work tomorrow for me. I guess that’s the case not only for bereavement but for many other areas of life.

So what works for me (sometimes…)

  • Exercise, weights and running
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Nature
  • Walking
  • Climbing (I haven’t been able to climb in 4 years but just reading about it helps)
  • AND above all focusing on making our son happy.

Today was one of those days when virtually everything on the list did not work. All I could do was throw myself into keeping son happy. That distracted me. It got me through the day. It numbed the symptoms but didn’t cure the route cause. Now it’s 2am and those dark soul symptoms are bubbling away again. Probably going to be a long sleepless night. Will watch some rubbish TV and will again ponder over the home finances spreadsheet. Don’t know why – it’s not going to look any better when I’m tired.

It’s a brand new day. A fresh start. The old problems and hurt will still be there. But maybe, just maybe it will be symptom free day and it will be a good one.

Stay safe my friends.

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.