Obelisk

The Obelisk at Castle Howard. It is over 300 years old and is 24m tall. It has the following inscription

VIRTUTIS ET FORTUNAE
JOHANNIS MARLBURIAE DUCIS
PATRIAE ET EUROPAEQUE DEFENSORIS
HOC SAXUM
ADMIRATIONI AC FAME SACRUM
CAROLUS COMES CARLIOL POSUIT
ANNO DOMINI
MDCCXIV

I think my translation is pretty accurate.

Virtually everyday is wet here. If you have the misfortune to come here you will need three jumpers, extra thick wooly socks and two umbrellas. I could have been built somewhere warm and dry like Rome but no. For some reason they built me in a place that only the Saxons could love.

Its other claim to fame is that when I do my long run I perform a u-turn here and head home. It was very kind of Sir John Vanbrugh in 1714 to think of my recreational needs. Clearly a very clever man. Although he was a tad over optimistic that my little legs would get me to one of his other creations – Blenheim Palace. Not sure even my car could make it there.

But to be fair to the great architect he’s not the only one who can struggle with the powers forward planning.

While my partner was here we disagreed on which secondary school to send our son to. I favoured his current school as at least he would know some kids there. My partner favoured either another secondary school or even a special school. In the end my partner died a year before the decision had to be finally made. So he went to the school I had favoured. With hindsight that was a monumentally poor decision. Talk about a school getting a kids education so badly wrong. The only redeeming feature about my decision is that according to the health professionals the other secondary school option is not much better.

So now we are caught in the classic parent catch 22 position. Does he stay in this failing school where at least he knows some kids. Does he move to the other school which potentially is not much better and would mean a huge upheaval for any kid – especially one with Aspergers. We could look at a special school option but even the health professionals agree that he just wouldn’t suit that educational approach. We can’t afford to sell the house and move to another catchment area. Moving also means having to probably reapply for an Education and Health Care Plan which given the government cutbacks would prove extremely difficult. AND YET I just can’t find a practical way of educating from home.

Sorry to swear but BLOODY HELL.

So I look at the Obelisk and think that’s it’s good but maybe the architect could have included say a comfy seat, a water dispenser, some energy drinks and maybe a supply of oxygen. I look at our sons schooling and think what changes can deliver the best fit in a few years time. I suspect the Obelisk is the easiest to change.

Sometimes

“Sometimes only one person is missing and the whole world seems depopulated” – Alphonse de Lamartine

Maybe it’s your partner. Maybe it’s your child. Maybe it’s a parent. Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a pet.

It does seem that way some days. Maybe it’s on a walk. MAYBE ITS STANDING BY A LONELY POND. Maybe it’s listening to a particular song. Maybe it’s during a movie. Maybe it’s when your in bed. Maybe it’s when your at the school gates surrounded by couples. Maybe it’s when your shopping. Maybe it’s just when you return to a home with no lights on.

But with bereavement it will happen. One gone make the world seems empty. So what do you do about it? Sadly no one right answer to that. Every person is different. Every grief journey is different. With me those lonely times still hit and still hurt. I try many things.

Sometimes I just let it hit me. Confused and helpless.

Sometimes I try to distract myself. Just hope I eventually forget that feeling.

Sometimes I just let it hit me but it’s kinda reassuring. Not ever loving would be so dreadful. Grief is another word for love.

Sometimes writing helps.

Sometimes reading blogs helps.

Sometimes I need to find solitude. Sometimes I need to be in a crowd.

Sometimes it’s reading an old favourite book.

Sometimes it’s looking at old photos.

Sometimes it’s playing a game.

Sometimes I go for a run.

Often it’s trying just that bit harder to be that better parent. Trying to make life just that bit more fun.

Then you get sometimes when the best thing is to carry on but just to do it louder. Much LOUDER. So this morning I am ironing but let’s just crank up that Iron Maiden cd just a little louder.

Thirty Minutes

About a month a go I visited the Moorlands Nature Reserve. It’s a small but ever so beautiful piece of nature on the edge of the city. After years of driving past it and thinking ‘must go there’ – I finally found the time. Really pleased I made myself stop the car and go for it.

Well another work visit to the City. Work completed sooner than expected. So a spare 30 minutes before I head for the school run. No better use of that time than another walk round the Reserve.

The colours have so changed in just one month.

Countless studies have shown the positive impact nature can have on a persons wellbeing and stress levels. I’m no statistician but I confirm that even just 30 minutes is just so uplifting.

I just love the beautiful carvings which are dotted around the reserve. The old 14th century acorn quote is brilliant. We can make a difference. Seemingly small and modest things can grow into something impressive given time and patience.

I really need to make a date to come and look at that quote every single month. Yes seemingly small changes in my lifestyle can have a significant impact. The garden can be made into our own little nature reserve. I can make a difference. Son can achieve his dreams. I can do this. He can do this. We can do this.

Village life

We knew a really nice couple in the village who we became good friends with. But life happens. Our own lives and troubles took over and we slowly drifted apart. To the extent that we hardly ever saw each other. Now it’s mostly a quick wave on dog walks. But it’s reassuring to have someone in the village who I know. Over the last few years the people I could talk to has reduced rapidly. The village is lovely but the isolation is often suffocating.

Today the isolation feels like it’s gone off the scale.

A sign has appeared outside our old friends house. House Sold by Private Sale. My heart sunk when I saw that. Even though our friendship has cooled the thought of them leaving still hurts. More isolated than ever. Now the village is entirely filled with nameless people who smile and occasionally say hello. They are friendly but are not friends. Our lives don’t cross. They haven’t a clue who I am. I’m just that bloke who goes for a run, takes the dog for a walk and appears to be a single parent. He’s probably separated from his wife.

With no pub, or shop or natural village focal point that is unlikely to change. During winter with the poor weather and dark nights you can go weeks without seeing another villager. The house lights are the only indication that it’s not a ghost village. It’s more isolation I could do without. The feeling of being trapped. The isolation is perfect for our son currently. He doesn’t want to leave the house with memories of his mum. Who can blame him. He can control his interaction with the outside world. The house is good for him.

Even if that wasn’t the case – we just can’t afford to move.

Trapped.

Isolation is increasingly a theme for so many in today’s fractured society. I feel it’s icy cold grip. More than ever. It’s another battle I need to take on. At the moment the battles just seem to keep coming.

Bubble burst

Dad why are you smiling.

I’m playing that mind training game. My brain age has been assessed as 28.

I take that it’s 28 months and not years then Dad.

Consider my brief basking bubble has been officially burst.

I was listening to a chap on the radio basking in the news that Brexit has moved a step closer. In his bubble this is wonderful. The new deal our great PM has negotiated is brilliant. Billions been taken away from Europe and will be given to our NHS and schools. Taxes will come down. Businesses will boom. Wages will rise on the back of all these wonderful new trade deals. For our country and our kids I really hope his bubble is not burst. I really do.

I wish I was in this Brexit bubble – but I’m sadly not. This brilliant deal is based on two dubious principles.

  • A Customs Union Border in the Irish Sea splitting the UK in two with Northern Ireland effectively staying under EU trade rules. Bizarrely our PM said last year that this idea would be a disaster and no Government could ever sign up to it. Equally bizarrely our Foreign Secretary has said the arrangement will be a great deal for Northern Ireland. Staying in the Customs Union is a special deal. Ok so why is this special deal not been given to Scotland, Wales and England. Oh yes I forgot that would mean staying in the EU.
  • All the important negotiations on trade and relations with the EU will be done after we officially leave. Basically we would have 14 months from leaving to sort this out. So basically we leave without known on what basis we are going. But here’s the rub. Here’s why many on the Right love this idea. It gives the Government the right to leave with no deal. Just have to wait 14 months then thy can blame the EU. That’s the crash and burn strategy many on the Right have always wanted.

The bottom line is this new Brexit Deal is a BAD DEAL which was rejected last year. Rejected even by the team pushing it now. It’s a Great Deal for the Rich and a BAD DEAL for the rest of us. Again I hope I’m wrong but deep down I do fear for the future. No I don’t think the Country will go bankrupt. Life will continue. But it will be worse. We are not in a strong bargaining position for the new trade deals. Any deal with Trump will mean opening up our NHS to his big business friends. To compete the Government wants Britain (now Northern Ireland remains effectively in the EU) to move to an economy which is based on low wages and zero regulations. Where the drive is for tax cuts and profits for the Rich. Our wages are going to fall and our worker rights are going to be eroded with no safety net of public sector support.

But apparently I’m missing the point of Brexit. One of the biggest supporters of Brexit has said ‘Brexit was never just about the money’. That’s easy for you to say when your not exactly short of a penny or two. But ok point taken. Let’s look at travel rights. Britain’s will lose the right to travel freely in 26 countries and will not benefit from free or discounted medical cover in those countries. That’s not so good. One of the first actions of Brexit will be to scrap EU regulations on Food Standards, Environment Protection, Freedom of Speech, Workers Rights, Maximum weekly working hours, Maternity and Paternity Rules. The rules designed to protect us. Thats not good either. But hang on let’s not forget we get a different coloured passport with no mention of Europe on the front. Unfortunately last time I heard the new passports will be largely produced in the EU. But let’s celebrate having a blue passport, so much nicer than that red one.

For my sons sake I really hope I’m wrong. I really do. But at the moment I’m clinging to the hope that this new deal is rejected. Yes in an ideal world I would like to stay in the EU. The EU is certainly not perfect but it’s a whole lot better than the current alternative. But if we do go then WE still have time to do Brexit right. Just agreeing to keep Freedom of Movement would make a huge difference. And yes in our little bubbles we can still have our Blue Passports.

Change

When grief comes calling your life changes. It changes almost everything. Your concept of time. Your priorities. Your dreams. You hobbies, Your finances. Your sleep. Your diet. Your confidence. Your mood. Your lifestyle. Your social life. Even the food you have in the fridge. It’s complete upheaval and your life will never be the same.

Almost everything. Grief doesn’t change three key things.

The world – it just keeps spinning, the world continues without blinking an eyelid at your personal tragedy.

BUT

Grief doesn’t change your love. Your special person may have left this world but you still love them dearly. More than ever

Grief doesn’t change your memories. They will be your special gift forever.

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.

Moody

Moody skies. In the distance a Buzzard is being chased off by two Crows. That sort of distance shot is way beyond my old mobile.

I keep saying it but grief is really pesky. It likes to sneak up on you. Even after more than two years it still does. Of all the sneak attacks one always hits the hardest. It’s when you momentarily forget what has happened. You only need to forget for a few moments and then wham – grief slaps you in the face.

The same thing has happened time and time again to me. I’m driving towards our house. I look up and see no car sitting on the drive. I immediately think that I’ve beaten my partner home today. That means I can ….. Then it hits you. She’s gone. It’s the most soul destroying feeling. Absolute desolation. The shock literally takes your breath away. You then have to enter a house which is so full of memories. It really does take quite a while to get yourself back on an even keel.

It happened again today. No car on the drive. Beaten her home. I can get the housework done before she’s back. Maybe even get a mushroom stroganoff on the go. Her favourite. Then it hit me. Bugger… Even with a mad dog the house seemed really cold and colourless. So empty. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

But it is. Got to make the best of things. Just have to accept that grief is the new reality. But I can keep going. I try to see grief as sitting by the seashore. Sometimes the tide comes in. Often the waves are tiny and you hardly notice them. But every so often the tide comes in with force and the waves crash over you. It’s a full on storm. But I tell myself to breath and eventually the tide has to retreat. It really has to. And I do realise that I am so fortunate. I have a purpose to drive me on. Give our son the best childhood possible.

But still I could try and hire those two birds in the photograph. Maybe they can keep watch for grief and then chase it off when it comes hunting. That really would be something to crow about.

Changes is good just not that early

Today started off in the usual manner. Early morning exercise session listening to rock on the radio. Things going fine apart from the usual creaking body. Put me down for the a full body transplant, I’ve used this one up.

Then things started to change.

I hate doing the plank but apparently it’s good for me. This morning it became even more a form of modern day torture. Two cats decided to sit on my arched back while a dog attempted to lick my face off. Apparently this was one of the Spanish Inquisitions favourite tortures. But I survived.

Then almost immediately the radio signal disappeared. The sound of silence. So I quickly grabbed the first cd I could find. Black Sabbath Vol 4 and tried to complete the session.

Vol 4 is a fine album and features a rarity for Sabbath, a slow reflective song. CHANGES. This song finished off my exercises for the day. Normally at the end of a routine it’s an immediate mad sprint for the warmth of the shower. But not today. I just sat on the cold floor. Lost in thoughts.

A line from Changes had shaken me.

And I can still hear her last goodbyes

I can’t. As hard as I try I can’t remember hearing my partners last goodbye to me – blank. I can vividly remember her peacefully sleeping at the hospice as if it was yesterday. I can remember talking to her gently and holding her hand but as hard as I try I can’t remember her last goodbye. I can remember driving her to the hospital with our son but the conversations are gone. Why would I remember them at the time as she was only going in for a couple of tests and would be out by the weekend. I just can’t remember that last goodbye. That haunts me. Probably will always haunt me.