Red

Definitely red, definitely a blueberry plant. It’s quite a few years old. I bought it from a local garden centre about 13 years ago. It was heavily discounted and looking very damaged. Clearly it was close to being binned. I kinda felt sorry for it. Since then it’s been a plant that keeps on giving.

It’s nice to have those things that give you so much in life. I tend to find that the best of these often come from quite unusual routes. Not the way I would naturally imagine they would come from. That kind of makes them even more special.

This blueberry came into my world at about the same time as Hawklad. Both were about 1ft tall. Thirteen years later the plant has trebled in size – Hawklad is now double its size. Well at least I’m still taller than one of them….

This morning I was thinking about some of the other changes the plant has seen. Yes the obvious one with the loss of a key team member. Aspergers. Much less visitors. Much less hair on my top. Too much hair on top of Hawklad. A mad dog. The Apple Tree is more unkempt. A mole and badger have become nighttime visitors. Some nutter starting doing yoga next to the poor plant. Far too frequent storms battering it these days. The nutter sitting outside talking to the plant but now with a decaf coffee – just not the same. People walking their dogs in the farm field but now wearing masks. Hawklad talking about 4 generations of Xbox’s now. Four different cars. Three different lawnmowers. A sandpit replaced with a football goal. A garden shed replaced with a weed patch.

Yet the blueberry plant is still here. Still giving. Not bad for something that was close to getting rejected and binned.

Definitely red, definitely special.

Changes

Definitely it’s a time of change. The season of change. Yesterday was T-shirt and shorts. Today is wet, windy and chilly. 50F probably means the T-shirt season has gone and it’s time for woolly jumpers. Ice Cream replaced with Hot Chocolate.

It’s that time of year.

Four years ago I would have been sat at home looking at the ‘Sincere Condolences’ cards on the mantelpiece. It was a couple of days after my partners funeral. Life was looking bleak. But as the years pass this time of year has increasingly felt like a time of personal change. The end of a period which marked the passing of my partner and mum. A time of sadness moving to thoughts of preparing for winter and all that entails. Thoughts of loss replaced by thoughts of short days and long nights. This year is complicated with our ongoing lockdown which is likely to stretch through the entire cold months. So yes this period of change feels different . Definite change but what? In previous years the next few months brought challenges but also things to look forward to. Concerts, Football Matches, Firework displays, Halloween parties, family meet-ups and meals, Christmas Markets, crisp winter walks and runs. This year these are all none starters. Could that tip the balance of the change. Only time will tell but the change is not yet set in stone. It can still be a positive period but it will need much work.

D

2020 the year music stopped

2020 has been some year. Is it really only August. Time seems to have so slowed down. Many things have just stopped. Live Music most definitely.

Looking back to the start of the year it all seemed a bit different. We were looking forward to a fantastic concert year. I had worked my socks off and secured a whole list of discounted tickets. It was on paper a great year of gigs and some top bands.

*********

The Who

Whitesnake

Foreigner

Europe

Aerosmith

Wayward Sons

Ozzy

Saxon

Deep Purple

Blue Oyster Cult

Hollywood Vampires

Killing Joke

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On paper that’s how it will remain for this year. All cancelled some pushed into 2021. So yes something potentially to look forward to. BUT…….

Has the concert zone closed for us. It was always a delicate balance for Hawklad. His enjoyment of the music, the spectacle, a chance to see the bands he loves to listen to. Balanced against his social anxieties. His fears of strangers and crowds. The positives just outweighing the negatives. As a result he could get himself to concerts. Yes it would need his hoody pulled up until the lights went out. But he was ok doing that as he felt that rock crowds were easy going and accepting of all kinds of looks. This was confirmed on our first concert trip. Dad wore the most embarrassing T-shirt he could find. Hawklad was reassured to see that I didn’t get one single strange look and was never asked to leave.

But now it’s a different world. Hawklad definitely sees it differently. Heightened fears and anxieties. The ‘is it ok to attend concerts’ calculation he would perform has got a different answer now. The negatives outweigh the positives. I know the medical advice is that this new world view could become a semi permanent switch in his Aspergers. A dynamic which won’t automatically switch off when the pandemic finally goes. It may take years. May never switch back. We just don’t know.

So maybe that’s it for our concerts. If so then it’s kinda fitting that three of the last bands he got to see just happened to be his favourites. Alter Bridge, Kiss and Alice Cooper.

So let’s enjoy the memories. It might be the year Live Music stopped for us but it doesn’t mean that music has stopped. Most certainly not.

Night

I was brought up in a busy Yorkshire seaside town. Then I’ve done a bit of an English City Tour. Lived in Newcastle, Coventry, Portsmouth, London, Birmingham then York. Places with lots of noise, people and action. You get acclimatised to it. Becomes the norm.

Then we moved to a village in the countryside.

It all suddenly changed. The very first thing that struck me was how dark the night was. In a city you get street lights, car headlights, light shining out of window after window, late night shops, restaurants, advertising billboards …… its night but it’s never dark.

But in our village it’s all different. This is the view looking one way down the village street after the sun has set. It’s so dark.

The other way facing East is even darker.

No street lighting here. Hardly any cars on a night. The nearest shop is in another village 5 miles away and that shuts at 5pm. There’s a pub in another village 3 miles in the other direction. Another village a few miles away has a coffee and cake shop – that only opens a few hours a week. That’s it.

That takes a lot of adjustment for an urban bod like me. The first week I was here I went out to post a letter in the village mail box – after dark. I foolishly went without a torch. It was too dark I couldn’t find it. In fact when I decided to go back for a torch, I couldn’t find our house. Took me ages to stumble upon it. That’s properly dark.

The peace and quiet is wonderful. Not having to continually lock your door is refreshing. So is the feeling that your kids can wander a little more safely. To see the night sky without light pollution is awesome – you can so easily forget just how beautiful it is. But there are prices to pay for that.

No popping out for a loaf of bread or takeaway meal in the evening. It’s a 20 minute drive to the nearest late night shop. By the time you return with takeaway food, it’s cold.

Although you are in the country. In natural space. The night can feel suffocating. Very claustrophobic. No sign of human life, you can so easily feel a million miles from anyone. Especially in winter, you will go days without seeing another person. What was the ALIENS line – no one can hear you scream in space.

Village life has so many positives but you need to be prepared. It can be so tough as well.

BUT ITS WORTH IT….

Not what I expected

Not what I expected. I was sure this was a yellow rose last year!

It’s definitely red.

I was reading an article about the main things that have surprised people about the Pandemic and it’s impact on lifestyles. The author went for 5 things – Boredom of not physically meeting people, missing going to Pubs, Parties and Restaurants, missing playing Golf with friends, how hard mask wearing is and how much she misses going on holiday.

Ok let’s have a stab at this. What are the five things which has surprised me about the Pandemic. What was I not expecting.

  • The impact that just not being able to buy just a few of the useful foodstuffs can have on mine and Hawklads life,
  • How quickly you can settle in to new ways,
  • How much money you save if you avoid going to shops,
  • The way days and weeks can just merge into each other if you take out things like the school run and most shopping trips,
  • Just how difficult it is sometimes balance homeschooling, with work, domestic duties and things like running.

I guess a fundamental difference between me and the author is circumstances. She and her husband both work. They have one kid of a similar age to Hawklad but that child seems to spend a lot of the time with friends and doing group activities like sport. They use babysitters to allow for frequent social activities for her and hubby. So yes the Pandemic will have a major impact on her family’s social life. I can so understand why she would list those five things.

My life is currently different. I am a single parent to a kid with Aspergers. Even before the Pandemic I was partly cut off from society. Enforced isolation due to parental requirements. Many other people are in a similar position due to a range of circumstances. So if anything the Pandemic hasn’t really changed that much in terms of social contact for me. Yes it might have tightened things up a little further. But fundamentally there has been few radical changes. If anything it feels like for a few months some other people life’s have become a little more like my normal routine. Maybe it’s provided a glimpse for some people into what daily life actual feels like for many people out their. A daily life which existed before the pandemic.

I quite like this five unexpected things idea. Might see what if throws up in terms of things like grief and Aspergers.

Dieting

What are they talking about

Dad the government is telling everyone to go on a diet. Boris apparently is going on one, bet that Cummings told him to do that.

Like everything else my money is on our so called Leader delegating his dieting to someone else. He’s far too busy having time off for things like that.

Dad your on a diet….”

☹️☹️☹️☹️☹️☹️

And with those words from Hawklad, I’m on a diet. I’ve been on this temporary fasting diet for a while now but it’s been an effort. I just haven’t been able to get the food alternatives that my body will accept. So I’ve been forced into eating and drinking far too much soya (soy) 🙄…. Basically my body and face balloon up with the stuff. Not helpful when your trying to look like your losing weight. But hopefully I’ve managed to get hold of a few more nicer foods this time. So here goes. Going to combine my partial fasting diet with a significantly healthier food range. It helps as my garden has finally decided to yield some vegetables. Just got to find them amongst the weeds.

But dieting is only part of it. Need to do something with exercise as well. I am working out each day and pushing myself. But I’m missing the long runs. They are just not happening due to circumstances. So I need a challenge. I had this initial idea of trying to build up to run a garden marathon. Others have done this. I’ve managed 50 minutes of running round our small garden. But I was so dizzy and cheesed off after that, the prospect of 4 hours worth of that is just a complete nonstarter. Lets not forget the epic route map from that.

What was I doing on some of those outlying paths….

So here’s Plan B. At the end of August I want to build up to a mega exercise bike marathon. Let’s see how far I can get on the bike in 4 straight hours. But to ensure it’s not just a gentle peddle session, I’m going to dig out the old HR sports watch. 4 hours with the BP somewhere near 150. That sounds like a challenge which I can do in the garden. Watch it rain and watch the bike collapse again….

Ok Boris for once I’m going to listen to you. I’m going to lose some weight. Are you?

Flying

Wouldn’t it be great to fly. To just fly. No need for a baggage check in, security and long waits in the Terminal. Just to fly under your own steam, when and wherever. Given the size of my bum during these lockdown days, that would have to me some mighty wingspan to get me airborne. Buttocks like mine are the reason that they invented super sized planes like the 747 with those massive engines.

“Dad have you lost that weight you said you were going to before the summer…”

Yes I did set a goal of shedding some weight.

You actually said it would be 14lbs which is 6.3kg’s. So how are you doing?”

I am probably about 6.3kg’s short of the goal currently…..

“So what’s gone wrong?”

I’m exercising really hard but I’m just not getting any long runs. Without the runs it’s a real struggle to get my heart rate above 100 during the exercise. But the main problem is the food. I’m having to eat Soya and some Gluten products. These just make me blow up as if I’m pregnant.

Are you sure your not pregnant?”

Pretty sure, although we have some of your old baby clothes somewhere – just in case. Those food types just make my abdomen and face puff up. It takes ages for my system to try and process them. When the shop gets a better range of things back in, then things will improve.

Arnold Schwarzenegger became pregnant in that movie. Look how much money he has now. Just saying……Instead of soya and gluten stuff, Dad, why don’t you just eat salads and soups…”

*******

Yes we could all do with some more money but call me a coward, not that way please…. But Hawklad does have a good point. I’ve just switched to the soya and gluten alternatives without really thinking. Salads would be far better for me. I’ve become lazy, stopped making things like soups and stews. So from today my body becomes a temple. A well cared for one. Now I don’t have an excuse, that weight has to come off now. Either that or it’s a remake of the movie Junior….

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.

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.

School at home week something

Still summer…

It’s the end of another school at home week. These weeks are just merging into each other now.

School at home has gone pretty well over those whatever weeks. Son has adjusted well to it. He’s been pretty relaxed but we have a cloud on the horizon. Next week the school is starting to bring in virtual classrooms and live teaching via Microsoft Teams. Son hates the thought of being videoed. He really struggles with it. Plus with the other kids present he will retreat into his shell again. So this new teaching development has filled him with dread. The technology will work. Will it work for all kids. Will it work for those kids with special educational needs. That’s a bridge to cross next week.

The other thing which has stood out is observing the impact a slight change in school routine can have on our son. And it’s not just the virtual classroom idea. Sudden and unscheduled changes in teaching style, teacher, timetables…. All these have a major impact on him. He becomes deeply unsettled and stressed out. This really compromises his performance. I’m not 100% certain schools are aware of the impact these things have on kids on the spectrum.

But back to this week. What has this slightly bewildered parent learnt.

  • Son can walk, eat, drink and use his iPad at the same time with ease. I struggle to walk without crashing into walls.
  • Two words have the immediate effect of sending me into the kitchen to eat junk food and find coffee. French and Drama….
  • How many lessons does a kid need just going on about how to make puff pastry. Surely Food Technology can find another food to look at.
  • Apparently the term for you arm hairs standing on end is Piloerection…
  • When I get the feeling that I am right and the science teacher is wrong on magnetic fields, it’s probably best to fact check my knowledge first……
  • Occasionally giving a kid a little constructive feedback on work might be a good idea. Most teachers do. Unfortunately some teachers give nothing back. That’s something like 13 weeks with nothing. Really…
  • Practicing tennis in the garden is difficult when you can’t find any tennis balls.
  • Practicing tennis in the garden is difficult without balls and it’s chucking it down.
  • Practicing tennis in the garden is difficult without balls, in the rain when you can’t find the tennis racquets.
  • Online French classes seem to drain the iPad battery much quicker than any other subject. This is bizarre as French vocabulary seems to have exactly the same effect on me.
  • It’s rather emasculating when your Son decides to film his own art cartoon project. The words maybe getting the cartoon in focus might be a good idea do sting….
  • When your son has Dyspraxia and Dad has basically got the artistic talent of a Brussels Sprout – trying to free draw a pie chart on the iPad is basically a waste of time.
  • iPad voice recognition works with hundreds of languages but can’t handle anyone speaking with a Yorkshire Twang. For example how difficult can it be for a machine to understand someone saying ‘Royalty’. As hard as Son tried the iPad kept hearing Roll over and when I tried it heard Reality. Remind me not to try it with a word like luck.
  • I can’t remember how to programme the microwave or where I left the TV remote control but somehow I can remember school calculus. How is that possible.
  • The school has done a great job in getting the school at home IT working. But it hasn’t cut down the paper usage. Since the project started in April we have used up a full ream of paper….

So another week down. I get the feeling next week will see the return of the really sarcastic parent….