School Dracula

This is the Hospitium a 14th century listed building in York’s Museum Gardens. These days it’s a venue for conferences, weddings and special events. Many years ago it was a support building for the Abbey.

St Mary’s Abbey was founded in 1088. The surviving ruins date back from about 1270. York is such a good place for kids to actually touch history.

Over Christmas our son spent a few hours here trying to imagine what life was like before it fell into ruin. Recreating the sounds, the people, the buildings, the life. Big scale creative play. I must admit I was lost in the world of dreams to. Mine was a world of ghosts, ghouls and vampires. I had almost forgotten how much fun you can have when you release your imagination.

This was the visit when the first seeds of home schooling started to be scattered. Last term had been grisly. No real sign of development. No evidence of school making any effort to provide an effective and supportive teaching environment. Most importantly a really unhappy and anxious child.

Our son loves subjects like history but not the way school deliver it. He likes the History Teacher, she is really nice. But being in the bottom set and given his encyclopaedic knowledge – he’s not learning anything. Plus regardless of which class you are in the teaching is so traditional. Text book after text book. Very dry and not very dyslexic friendly. Unfortunately it’s the set teaching approach dictated by the government.

Between my thoughts of ghosts and ghouls I also pondered with so much real life history so close to hand, why not bring the classroom here. Bring the lessons alive. That’s when the thought pinged, if school won’t teach here, why don’t I.

We will see.

The trip was completed with the required extra portions of ice cream. That night my imagination had clearly not been put back in its box yet. A dream about Dracula. But not the bloodthirsty vampire. This one was about a reformed Prince of Darkness. He had sold his Transylvanian castle and bought York’s Museum Gardens. He wanted to turn the gardens into the finest history school in the world. All the teachers were ghosts and ghouls. And Dracula was selling the ice creams and he didn’t skimp on the portions. Now that’s a school.

Countries gone mad

“Dad if we won the lottery could we buy a deserted island and live there?

It’s kinda sad that an 11 year old thinks that way. But I fully understand why and YES I would jump at the chance. I remember a time when I loved my country. Those days have sadly gone. Like many folk from Yorkshire we would happily declare independence. York becoming a capital city sounds cool. The national dish could be the Yorkshire Pudding. Our national sports would be cricket and being grumpy. The national animal would be the Ferret. Instead of having a nuclear deterrent we could threaten people with our rhubarb sticks.

You might think this is daft but trust me this is off the scale sensibility compared to the stupidity of modern Britain. Nothing sums up the state of the union better than just one single news story. Given all the potentially catastrophic events circulating around us (and there are many) – the attention of the media and a good proportion of the population has been on …… the horror of a bakery introducing a vegan sausage roll across its 900 stores. The likes of Piers Morgan (one of the not funny loonies and self pronounced TV Star) went into meltdown saying things like “Nobody was waiting for a vegan bloody sausage you PC ravaged clowns”. The news story is everywhere, you just can’t get away from it. I use the term news story very loosely.

I waited with anticipation for our son to return. He would cheer me up, bring much needed sensibility to my world. Unfortunately not this time.

“Dad the school want me to either write left handed or type left handed until my right hand gets better, that includes trying to do exams with my weak hand. I told them that I struggle to coordinate my left hand and that’s the reason I can’t tie knots. Told them that the Doctor was trying to help me with it but the teacher said I just had to do it”

“Dad did you complain about the behaviour in our bottom class”

Yes….

Well they did something”

Please let it be something positive

They moved a really well behaved girl up a set because she was struggling with the behaviour in our class and they moved a really naughty boy in to replace her. It was a lot worse today”

Only thing left is to go and buy a lottery ticket. That remote island is calling. Anybody fancy joining us.

Two years

Time seems to speed up as you get older. I can’t believe that it’s coming up to two years since the world changed for us. The dreaded late night phone call, that conversation with my son, the funeral …. all are still so vivid and seem like yesterday.

In that time somethings have changed:

  • New School
  • Anxiety levels
  • Career
  • Living in a country which seems to have completely lost the plot and becoming alien to me
  • Loss of free time
  • Increased disorganisation
  • Increased mood swings
  • Rapidly decreasing social circle
  • New crazy dog (probably my only good parenting decision)
  • Increased money worries (definitely not helped by my one good parenting decision)
  • Rapidly thinning hair (largely due to my one good parenting decision)

And yet somethings have not changed:

  • Still can’t cook
  • Still burn myself on the iron
  • Still don’t understand Pokemon
  • Still haven’t found my ‘how to be a good parent user manual’
  • Still shaking my head at our strange world
  • Still fighting to get Dyslexia support
  • Aspergers
  • Feeling blessed to have a son
  • Hope
  • Love for my son
  • Love for my lost partner

I could witter on for hours about all this. But all I really need to say is we still love you and will always do.

Isolation trip

School summer holidays are in full swing and we have mainly been home based. Some splendid isolation. Summer holidays reinforces how much of our social connections are based around school. Without school my son has hardly seen any of his friends or spent any time with other children. Without the daily school drop off and pick up, my contact with the outside world has dried up completely.

So after three weeks of home based isolation we decided to make a break out. Just a small one to start with. We had a day trip to beautiful Northumberland.

DUNSTANBURGH CASTLE

LINDISFARNE

It was my son who pointed out that after our splendid isolation we had decided to go a place which is cut off twice daily by the tides. Let’s visit a splendidly isolated place. At least we got to see some people in the real world, especially in the queue waiting to cross the still flooded causeway.

Uplifting rain

Yesterday was a strange day. Started very warm, dry and still. Finished very wet, cold and stormy.

It was also one of those moods swing days. It started really well with my son in great form. Then one Family movie later it had suddenly swung to tears and dark hearts. Movies which clearly advertise bereavement in the description can be planned for or better still avoided. It’s the ones which suddenly drop these on you without warning which cause the trouble. From a happy family on a trip of a lifetime to suddenly a young family trying to cope with the sudden death of the mum. I can’t remember seeing that bit in the synopsis. It really hit me, lord knows what it did to my young boy. It makes you feel like a completely incompetent parent … why didn’t we opt for the Scooby Doo movie.

But yesterday we had an unlikely saviour, the rain. After two months of completely dry weather the heavens opened. Stood outside in the rain, being almost blown off our feet in the wind. It just felt great. Seeing my son getting drenched to the skin and loving it. Today I just love the uplifting rain.

One foot in front of the other

The school holidays have now kicked in. Amazingly the usual UK rain deluge has not accompanied the kids being off. Never thought I would say this but I can’t remember what rain feels like. It’s been over two months since our last bit of rain.

You get so used to something, you take it for granted and then when it stops you quickly start to forget it. It’s been over two years since my partner died and I’ve got a growing list of things which fall into this category:

– forgotten what it’s like to go out for a meal

– forgotten what it’s like to hold hands

– forgotten what it’s like to have an argument

– forgotten what it’s like to share a bottle of wine with someone

– forgotten what it’s like to plan a holiday together

– forgotten what it’s like to have a tug of war over the duvet

I could go on but you get the point. Well another thing on the list was I had forgotten what it was like to do our local walk which circles our village. We would walk this most Sundays.

Well today I crossed that one from the list today….well sort of. The walk used to take us 40 minutes, well today it took over 2 hours as I managed to get lost.

Winter continues

Tomorrow March arrives yet winter continues here. It’s bleak and very cold.

The weather is matching my mood. Today the world seems a cold, bleak and lonely place. Luckily my son will return from school soon and he will lift my spirits. Even the bleak landscape will start to be transformed. Its amazing what a snowman can do.

Love Story

Great trip to Newcastle today. After the drive back, in the mood for a movie night.

I see one of tonight’s possible movie viewing pleasures is the old and really happy Love Story with Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw.

I will probably give that one a very, very wide berth.

Warning – Snake

It’s taken a year but we’ve started trying to visit places again. We started going on a couple of hill walks.  Very quiet and avoiding crowds.  It might sound bitter but I didn’t want to see happy families – it would just remind us of what we have lost.  I know my son struggled for months when he saw other children being with their mums.  

But time moves on and I’ve got to try and give our son the happiest childhood he can possibly have.  So as soon as he became more comfortable with seeing ‘happy families’, it was time to try and make new good memories.  He has started to enjoy visiting places again, where as I still spend too much time seeing reminders of the past.  But on each new visit I do try to spend more time living in the present.   Trying to keep the retrospective to when I’m alone, not when I’m with my son.  My son is now good at telling me when he wants to talk about his mum.

We ventured to Doncaster Wildlife Park.  It’s one of our favourite places, such a good family day out.  As we were walking towards the Polar Bear zone we stopped dead in our tracks.  In the middle of the path was a snake – a Grass Snake I think.  It was happily consuming a poor frog.  That’s the first wild snake I have ever seen in Britain.  All the years spent walking through the countryside and you end up seeing your first wild snake in a zoo.  We watched it for 10 minutes before it slid off into a grassy bank.
It’s a memory, a new memory, a good memory.