Change

That’s either a years supply of fire wood or one monumental nature hotel. I strongly suspect it’s not for nature. It’s strange how things can change. One week a pile of wood is home to nature the next its ashes in a fireplace.

Immediately after my partner died I suddenly started to experience significant isolation. Largely cut adrift from society. Your life becomes intertwined with that of your partner and your own sphere of social contacts gradually drops accordingly. Rupture that partnership and you rupture your social life. On most days my only opportunity to socialise was at the school gates. The daily school run became a source of much comfort. I could talk to other parents and son would interact with the other kids. Being a small school really helped him.

Fast forward a couple of years and the school run experience has completely changed. Bigger school. No gate anymore. The parents who do turn up stay in the car and wait for their son or daughter to find them. No one gets out of the car. Very isolating.

Then you see the kids leave school. Mainly groups of kids. Twos, threes or more. Occasionally you see one walking by themselves. Son always walks by himself. Suddenly it feels a very very dispiriting experience. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Election Fever

Feels more like Frank Herberts Dune than Yorkshire today.

We are a week away from our countries latest election. I don’t know why we bother having a vote as the media are all screaming at the public to vote for Boris Johnson. A pack of media hounds trying to rip to shreds the Opposition Leaders. Yet the hardest scrutiny Johnson has faced seems to have been how he makes a cream scone.

Strangely no mention of the lies, the alleged affairs, the islamophobia, extreme policies or his contempt for ordinary people. Yes very like a strange Frank Herbert world.

A knock at the door this afternoon. A man dressed as if he’s just been shooting pheasants (or maybe peasants).

Can I count on your support for the Conservative Party Candidate and Boris Johnson. Let’s get Brexit Done.

So exactly what does let get Brexit Done mean.

When Boris is elected PM he will get Brexit done by the end of January.

So will he sign off on the full text of a EU trade deal by January then.

Erm that’s the details. He will get Brexit done January 2020.

But the boring details are the important bits of Brexit. So will they be completed by January.

No but Boris will sort them so we can spend on the NHS, Police and make tax cuts. It’s all about getting Brexit Done.

So he’s not getting Brexit Done then. He’s just agreeing to go and we worry about all the important stuff later.

But he’s getting Brexit done. After January we won’t talk about it again and we can have more 50000 new nurses and large tax cuts.

But as an MP and London Mayor he has either voted for or agreed to budget cuts for those areas. The only thing he’s supported is tax cuts. So why the change of heart. Plus the 50000 seems to be mainly made up of existing nurses. Keep current nurses doesn’t make them new nurses.

*** shooting man now giving me that am I talking to a traitor – look. ***

The budgets cuts are the fault of The Labour Party and the EU. When Boris gets Brexit Done .. erm … Britain will be great again.

But Labour has not been in power since 2007. How can it be there fault.

Corbyn has personally stopped Brexit. He’s a traitor to the people who voted to leave.

Are you not forgetting your own Conservative MPs and a Former Conservative PM who agreed that the Johnson deal is a disaster and really just an excuse to crash out of Europe without a deal.

*** shooting man now very red in the face ***

Clearly your a remoaner. Boris will get Brexit Done for the good British people who voted to leave.

Can I ask about why the Conservatives are in favour of bringing back fox hunting when in your terms the vast majority of the public are in favour of a complete ban. And why the Conservatives have said so little to say about climate change. Why Boris Johnson was the only party leader who refused to debate climate change on the live broadcast.

*** but shooting man was gone. Walking briskly to the next house. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that as he walked across my lawn he trod on one of Captain Chaos’s finest and freshest dog turds. I bet that doesn’t feature on any of the media’s election coverage.

Try harder

I must try harder to catch a few Pokémon. During the week Son likes to see his trainer account topped up with a few catches. I’ve had a fairly shocking catch rate recently. Maybe it’s the Captain Chaos effect.

Our Son struggles with his handwriting. According to several of the teachers at his school he just needs to try harder to get to the handwriting level of some of the other kids. Its one of the reasons he has been labelled low attainment.

Well that’s very helpful, thank you. Just remind me again since you are constantly picking fault with his efforts with a pen – exactly what help do you provide to try and improve things. Yes now what’s the phrase I’m looking for here. Diddly squat.

Yes his handwriting is not what you would call neat.

It has improved a bit over the years. That improvement is down to – strangely – unrecognised hard work by our Son. But we have to recognise for all the hard work it is fundamentally down to a recognised medical condition. A medical condition which has been repeatedly documented by his health professionals and communicated to school. To quote the last health letter sent to school

His poor handwriting is specifically associated with the Developmental Disorders Aspergers, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. Conventional teaching approaches to handwriting are unlikely to deliver any positive improvements. Focus should be on specific Dyslexia investigations, Fine Motor Skill development, trialling of writing aids and the use of technology.

In effect his handwriting difficulties come from two interrelated factors

  • Visual and Cognitive Letter Perception – he struggles to recognise letter forms. Letters can be reversed and letters can be mixed up (an ‘a’ maybe mixed up with an ‘e’, ‘y’ mixed up with a ‘g’).
  • Poor Fine Motor Skills. He struggles to hold a pen (often held with too much muscle force). He then finds it difficult to coordinate and control the required hand movements (his movements are not smooth).

As I’ve said improvements have been made. We did manage to secure some ongoing Physio Therapy to work on the motor skills. Due to Government cutbacks they are not as frequent as the health service would like them to be. But they have helped. At home repetitively bouncing various size bouncy balls has made a huge difference. From not being able to catch to becoming really adept at it. But he still struggles to write, struggles to tie knots and has to be helped to open things like screw bottle tops. At home we have tried various pen types and grips. We have trialled things like colour overlays and special rulers. But these have had little impact in our sons specific case. But I’m no specialist so who knows if I’m doing it correctly.

In terms of the visual and cognitive perception area unfortunately the health service is not allowed to provide any detailed dyslexia assessments. This has been defined by the Government as an educational area. And in our area the educational services have decided not to provide a specific dyslexia service. So kids like our son are left basically to fend for themselves. Branded as low attainment.

So the hard work will continue. I will try harder to catch some Pokemon. Not hopeful as I’m not that good with computer games (I struggle with fine motor skills as well). In terms of our Sons handwriting I am sure that he will continue to try hard. However just saying he must try harder completely misses the point. Just constantly pointing out the kids who write neater and saying that’s the level you should be at achieves only one thing – erodes personal confidence even more.

One final thought. Associating poor handwriting with low attainment is an interesting concept. Having worked in education, health and policing I can honestly say that the individuals often with the most illegible and scruffy handwriting are the HEADTEACHERS, DOCTORS and DETECTIVES. So if poor handwriting is a sign of low attainment – we are in trouble.

The Huddle

Now that’s how you do a huddle.

HU DD LE

Spelling has never been one of my specialities. So not a lot of help to a dyslexic son trying to memorise 15 words in the hope of getting at least 10 correct to avoid a school punishment. Now that’s a way to spend a Sunday. The approach Son has gone for is to break the words up into little words and the try to do a memory photograph of each little word in order.

Alliteration – ALL IT ERA TI ON

Advertisement – AD VER TI SEM ENT

Exaggeration – EX AG GE RAT I ON

It’s not the way I would try but his brain is wired up differently to mine. It delivered 11 out of 15 correct spellings last week. Which is fantastic. What’s frustrating is that it’s such a waste of energy. He can’t read or write any of the ones he got right just 7 days ago. Its achieving nothing. In a couple of weeks he is unlikely to remember any of these spellings. It’s not specifically tailored to help him read or to improve his writing or develop his knowledge or add to his independence or boost his confidence. It’s just about ticking a Government tick box. It’s the Government mantra. Even this week the PMs Dad callee the public illiterate as they probably even couldn’t spell Pinocchio.

GO VE RN ME NT

It’s times like this I really miss my partner. Maybe she would come up with a better solution. A way out of this educational quagmire. She certainly would be lifting all our spirits. She was brilliant at that. Making the world seem so much brighter than it should be. More hopeful. Making sure everyone is feels secure and warm inside. That’s what love is.

LO VE

It’s a new world now and you just have to make the best of it. Face up to the challenges which come your way. Learn to appreciate the small things in life again. Don’t be afraid to smile again.

SM I LE

Like watching the massed ranks of birds coming for their morning breakfast. How the larger birds wait until the little birds have had first crack. Must be some particularly fearsome little chaps..

Thankfully the Birds are happy to get stuck into another failed bread making venture. The humans in the house certainly wouldn’t risk it.

UN DE RB AK ED

Or smiling at the thought of that Amazon Delivery Mans face as he stood at the door waiting for us to answer. Looking at the pair of my underpants – frozen solid discarded on the path. Yes the dog still has a thing about socks and pants.

Or laughing at what the Delivery Man has brought us. A parcel containing a plate and cutlery set. Thinking this is much smaller and lighter than expected. Only to discover that bargain kitchen set was in fact a Kids Kitchen Dishes Playset. Thankfully we are not entertaining anytime soon. Dad is definitely a

MU PP ET.

Or even the sight of a really happy dog ripping apart a newly delivered election pamphlet from the Conservative Party. I’m sure it was full of lots of truthful facts and had absolutely stunning photos of our esteemed leader. To be fair our PM permanently looks well chewed.

BO RIS JO HN SON IS A LY ING TW AT

Time for punishment

After weeks of rain the clouds finally parted and reassuringly the sky is still blue. The sky is blue and the ground is still muddy.

Since it’s a day with a name that ends with DAY – it must be a day for another school moan. Don’t worry it will be the Christmas holidays soon and you will get a break from the rants – hopefully.

Next week our dyslexic son has to sit TWO spelling tests. One for English and one for DRAMA. That’s DRAMA. So to develop any Performing Arts talents he has to learn to spell words like

Melodrama, Exaggeration, Facial Expressions, Placards, Stock Character….

I guess when he wins his first Oscar in his acceptance speech he can thank these Spellings…..

Then we have the English Spelling Test. The weekly spelling test. This week he has 15 words to learn. Including such beauties as

Advertisement, Similarity, Persuade, Exaggeration, Testimonial, Alliteration….

All the class (regardless of individual spelling ability, regardless of dyslexia) have to spell the same words. The expectation is that you will get 100%. All it takes is a bit of effort. Hang on we need to raise the stakes just a bit higher. Anyone not getting at least 10 out of 15 exactly right will get a Negative. Four Negatives get you detention and much shame. It also rules you out of the end of year trip to the Fun Park/Zoo.

For F*#@ Sake.

This new penalty rule was introduced minutes before today’s test. One unfortunate student received his punishment. Our son managed 11 so survived. As he says he had to guess the ending of most words and was largely lucky today. But he’s a nervous wreck. Having seen this weeks words he’s convinced he has no chance. How can this be part of modern teaching. Oh I forgot our Government wants to return to Victorian values. Well they can all bugger off back to Victorian Times and leave us in peace.

On a side not I see our Prime Minister is avoiding being asked difficult questions so he has started sending his Dad to do some of his interviews. I’m not making this up. Well today a member of the public phoned in and basically said Johnson was like Pinocchio. His Dad then said mockingly “the British Public couldn’t even spell Pinocchio if they tried”. Well let’s try – Pinocchio.***** up yours you posh snob.

So what do we do. We have the weekend to think about it. I’ve offered son the day off if school insist on him sitting the test. At the moment he is saying that he will have to sit the test. He doesn’t want to be picked out as different. But that’s the problem with the current approach to handling dyslexia in the classroom. It’s the same as with Aspergers and the classroom. The approach is so fundamentally wrong.

Assume the child is low attainment.

Resist providing proactive support

Deliver one standard teaching programme for all kids – no variations

Put the onus on the child to put a hand up and ask for help – in front of all the other kids

Child doesn’t put the hand up so assume everything is fine

Watch child struggle in tests and class work

Confirm assessment that child is low attainment

One final thought. It’s ok to penalise the kids but what about those leading us. Our School Minister – Remember him he’s the lovely chap who thought kids having time off for bereavement was like “an extended holiday” – was asked a grammar question he was expecting school kids to get right. Guess what the numpty got it wrong. So maybe he should get a negative and be barred with running our schools. That is one punishment I can agree to.

29th November

Apparently the 29th November is much more than Black Friday.

Its is also

  • Flossing Day. Get in between those teeth.
  • Electronic Greetings Day. I have absolutely no words.
  • Buy Nothing Day. Given who slow our internet is and the lack of any money in the bank account this is a day I’m supporting wholeheartedly.
  • Throw out your leftovers Day. If that’s my own cooked leftovers then it could also be Accidentally poison your garden wildlife Day.
  • Customer is wrong Day. Otherwise known in Britain as trying to deal with British Telecom….
  • National Chocolates Day. I’m happy to endorse.
  • National Lemon Creme Pie Day. And another one I’m endorsing
  • National Square Dance Day. And why not let’s endorse this one.
  • International Service Engineer Day. Sorry can’t endorse this one as I’m still waiting a call after two weeks from a British Telecom Service Engineer.
  • International Sinkie Day. A day when you give your Kitchen Sink a day off. As we are having Pizza then this will be observed.

Can we think of any other International Day we can introduce today. Maybe

  • National Don’t Rain in Yorkshire Day. So far so good.
  • International Burn Your Home Made Bread Loaf to a crisp Day. Already celebrated that one here today.
  • National phone up British Telecom and get no answer Day. This is a daily event.
  • International Can’t get your washed clothes dry Day. Yep getting behind this one.
  • International Pour an ice cold bucket of water over your countries most self serving, lying and annoying Politician Day. In this country that’s renamed as National Slap Boris Johnson with a Fish Day.
  • International Pets be nice to other Pets Day. My cat and dog are sponsoring this one.

A very long time

I believe Marygate Landing was built in 1324. In all though years it’s seen many many things. So many passing boats. So many passing souls. And I understand as many as 4 sunny days in 785 years. Another day and another drenching.

So in the end it’s been a complete weekend lockdown. An attempt to soothe the raging anxiety which school and modern life creates in someone so young. Someone with Aspergers and Dyslexia who doesn’t in to the current factory schooling regime. A regime which will only get much worse if the current Government with its elitist dogma wins the election.

Last night we were due at a concert. One of my favourite bands. A chance to see them for the first time. But it wasn’t to be and in the grand scheme of things – it doesn’t really matter. When you experience grief. When you enter the world of parenting. When you become a single parent. It changes you. It changes your outlook on life. It changes your life opportunities.

Ten years ago I would have been really annoyed at the sudden change of plan. Frustrated at missing that concert. Not now. It is what it is. With little support you learn to appreciate even the smallest win. An hour reading. A good movie. A nice walk. A good run. Yes a night out with friends or a days climbing would be wonderful. But it’s probably not going to happen. It’s now over 4 years since either of these occurred. But you get attuned to the new life. Yes one day it would be nice but there are other more attainable wins to build your life around. The main one is blocking the system out so you get to see your son smile and be relaxed.

Yes because of circumstances you make countless plans. You try to create stability and repeatability. But in our world life happens. You might hope for the perfect day. But in reality how many perfect days come your way. Not many. So Plans change. Son was watching a video about Prussia and the famous quote from Helmuth van Moltke (Military Commander) came up

No plan survives first contact with the enemy

Today maybe this can be changed to

No parenting plan survives first contact with the outside world.

You learn to be flexible and pragmatic. A well thought out plan for a concert did not survive first contact with an Aspergers Meltdown. So we lockdown. So when the concert was due to start I asked the question “here’s the popcorn, what movie shall I put on”. Expecting something like Marvel End Game or Paddington and not expecting this response.

I fancy something a bit different. This movie has had great reviews and apparently is historically very interesting.

Oh he’s going for Apollo 13. I like that movie.

Can you see if you can find Victoria and Abdul. It’s about a friendship between Queen Victoria and an Indian Muslim Servant. It supposed to be very good and it shows how racist Victorian Society was.

Ok. Never saw that one coming. After much searching and after paying the £3 online rental we watched the movie. And it was really good. Son enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. It was a win. So the original plan failed but it worked out ok in the end. If we can keep doing that then we will be ok. If I keep remembering that actually I have a lot to be thankful for. Yes life will be a struggle but every so often wins come along. Just need to see them and grab them. Make the most of the many imperfect days. In the end it’s not worth relying on that perfect Yorkshire sunny day to arrive as you might be waiting a very long time.

Terrible Poetry

It’s time for some poetry. Some really bad poetry. Terrible poetry. It’s the weekly challenge run by the wonderful Chelsea Owens. This weeks rules are

Here are the specifics for this week:

  1. Topic: Birth. Childbirth’s a bit high on my mind, or the birthday of this contest, or …go where the prompt takes you.
    For kicks, let’s also do a limerick.
  2. The traditional Length of a limerick is five lines: AABBA, in anapestic meter.
  3. Limericks totally Rhyme. See the line above this one for direction.
  4. Make it terrible! Seriously; that’s the point of the whole contest.
  5. Keep the Rating PG/PG-13ish (or cleaner).

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (November 22) to submit a poem to Chelsea.

************

My effort is not much about Birth but I did spell out BIRTH down the side though. It might be hard to believe but I did clean this poem up quite a bit….

************

Boris Johnson was asked how many kids he has fathered

It wasn’t a surprise when the posh fart spectacularly dithered

Rich entitled Eton Boy has had fingers in many pies

Trouble is that people are starting to see through his web of lies

He may well have the last laugh by making us all Brexit buggered

************

This is the last piece Terrible Poetry until they start of 2020. Chelsea has far more pressing matters to focus on. Wishing you all the best my friend.

Spark an Interest

York Minster is one of Europe’s finest Cathedrals.

The central tower is 235ft (72m) tall. It’s Northern Europe’s biggest Gothic Cathedral.

The first religious building was built on this site in 637AD. Work started on the current Gothic structure in 1230 and was completed in 1472. The Minster has 128 stained glass windows which apparently have 2000000 individual glass pieces. It’s a busy place of worship with over 1600 services each year.

Thankfully York has not succumbed to the plague of high rise buildings. So The Minster still dominates the city view from all directions. I remember having a chat with an American work colleague who on visiting the city for the first time told me

“That’s a lovely church but it would have been better if they had built it on a hill”

Unfortunately the nearest hill is about 15 miles away. Strangely our little bungalow is on that very hill. We struggle to fill our little church so I’m pretty sure a Cathedral would be bit of over kill.

It’s absolutely stunning inside but we never make it that far. Son loves to walk round it and think. Then he looks to the skies for a glimpse of the nesting Peregrine Falcons. Finally we always end at a statue of a Roman Emperor. In 306AD Constantious died in York. The soldiers in York immediately proclaimed Constantine the Emperor. So for a brief moment in time York was the centre of the Roman Empire. Son loves to drink up this history.

Surely when you have such history on your doorstep why not use. York has the largest Train Museum in the World showcasing engineering and invention at its finest. What better way to spark an interest. To learn. To grow. But apparently this is not the case. It would seem writing out spelling mistakes 3 times is the way to go. Regardless of the subject – Science, History, Maths, Design Technology, Drama – let’s just get the spelling right. I bet that will spark an interest!!!!

Road Closed Monday

I love this part of the run. It’s such a lovely view and ITS NOW DOWNHILL for 10 minutes. At my age that’s almost as good as life gets…..

I needed that downhill section. My spirit was flagging. Mainly because of politics again. The once impartial BBC announced proudly over the radio airwaves that Boris Johnson is a family man and he’s backed it up by promising a new 60 youth centres. Unfortunately the BBC failed to mention for some reason that since 2010 the Conservative Government has effectively closed 763 youth centres. Funny that wasn’t mentioned. I must sort out my MP3 player so I don’t need to listen to these falsehoods anymore.

Twenty minutes later I was having a lovely chat with a helpful Road Worker.

“You can’t come down here the road is closed”

But I’m not in a car I’m on foot

The road is still closed”

I can see the Road Closed Sign but I don’t see any signage saying the Path is closed.

“Well it is”

Looks open to me

Well I say it isn’t.”

Does the highways order cover the pathway.

I bloody don’t know. I’m telling you the path is closed. You need to go back.”

You haven’t even put up any advanced closure signs.

Don’t get clever with me. Your going back the same way you came.”

As much as I’m enjoying chatting to you I am getting cold and very bored now. Your closure doesn’t include the path and it certainly doesn’t include the field. So see yah…

** at this stage I jumped over the fence into the farmers field and ran past the purple faced road worker. He seemed to be giving me some friendly hand gestures.**

*************

You get pivotal moments in time. In Middle Earth it would be the Battle of Helms Deep. In Sherlock Holmes it would be the Reichenbach Falls. In Marvel it would be End Game. In our house it’s when a certain Dad tries to bake an Apple Crumble. Years of trying and years of disastrous failure. Now it’s that pivotal moment in time again.

Dad did you make this Apple Crumble ?

Yes

All by yourself. Your not pretending you cooked it but actually it’s my aunties baking.

No all my own doing.

Unbelievably Dad this is actually nice. Never thought I ever would say this but can I have seconds.

So in the scheme of things for an old fart useless muppet life doesn’t get any better than running downhill and baking an edible apple crumble. It really doesn’t.