Well that’s sorted then

I was conscious that this Christmas will be different for us, different for Hawklad.

No end of school term activities and parties.

No Carol singing in the city while drinking hot chocolate.

No Santa Train ride. Ok we are doing our own car version.

No Charity Santa coming through the village on a trailer pulled by a tractor.

No festive walks along the beach and finishing off at a little cafe for his festive ice cream.

No visits to friends.

No family meet-ups.

No trips to the Christmas Market.

No trip to the zoo in New Years Day.

No family Christmas meal.

No Boxing Day walk with picnic.

No festive trip to the cinema to see a blockbuster and then whatever festive film they have showing.

No carol singers coming round the houses on Christmas Eve.

Basically it will be just the two of us and pets. Sticking to the house and garden. Maybe only one trip out to do the Santa Car ride. I was feeling bad about that so I brought it up with Hawklad. I explained the differences to him

……. so it’s going to be really different this year. How do you feel about that Hawklad?

“So no family at all?”

None!

“Absolutely no visitors?”

None!

“No festive trips out?”

It doesn’t look like it.

Dad, can we order in extra pizza over Christmas?”

Yes Son.

“Well that will be just fine then…….”

Wilderness

One of my sister lives about 30 minutes drive in that direction. During 2020 it might as well have been 1000 miles. No chance of seeing her.

Where we live always feels like it’s so cut off from the world. Sometimes it’s so easy to forget that a city is not that far a drive away. It’s one of those rare cities that hasn’t allowed any high rise buildings. It hides easily away on the horizon.

That feeling of being cut off is helped by lack of kinks we have with the outside world. If you don’t want to use the car then it’s two small buses a day. Nothing on a Sunday. The village doesn’t have a pub, or cafe, or school, or shop. Not quite tumbleweed levels but definitely quiet and often feeling most definitely cut off. During a pandemic even the occasional rambler has become a real rarity. The only evidence that an outside world still exists is the fairly regular stream of passing cyclists. The challenge of climbing the steep hill to the village is attractive to those on two wheels. A climb I’ve not undertaken since a few weeks before the world changed for me in 2016.

A lots happened in those years. Thoughts of needing a sportier frame have morphed into ‘that ornament gathering dust is taking up too much space in the increasingly cramped garage’.

But things will change eventually. We won’t seem so cut off again. The bike will again become a means of transport. Trips to the city and my sister will recommence. Life will become connected again. Even for those living in the wilderness……

Firsts

2020 is definitely a year of firsts. Still a few weeks to go but maybe it’s safe to call the result in some areas….

  • First year in decades without a visit to a hairdresser,
  • First year in decades without a visit to see my football team get beat (a moan is good for the soul),
  • First year without caffeine,
  • First year with Tai Chi,
  • First year in decades without buying a parking ticket,
  • First year in decades without standing on a mountain top,
  • First year in decades without mooching around a record or book store,
  • First year of not meeting up with a member of my family,
  • First year of turning up at a family birthday party and suddenly realising that I bought exactly the same present last year,
  • First year without buying fish and chips,
  • First year without walking on a beach,
  • First time lockdown applied to me,
  • First year without a visit to an historical site,
  • First year without accidentally bumping into someone you didn’t want to in the supermarket. Then spending the next 30 minutes trying to shop and avoid that person. Hiding behind a mask is way more easy,
  • First year without visiting a garden shop to buy a plant and then killing that plant off within weeks,
  • First year of not popping into a sweet shop and asking for a quarter of midget gems,
  • First year of not popping into a climbing store and looking at all the new gear (even though I don’t climb anymore),
  • First year of not making a single journey on public transport,
  • First year of not popping into a bakery for a quick top up on a pasty,
  • First year of not going to the cinema,
  • First year in decades without going for a bike ride,
  • First year without getting half way round a bike ride and thinking – why is Yorkshire so pigging hilly,
  • First year were I haven’t bothered checking the wear on my cars tyres as they bar not being used,
  • First year of not physically meeting up with a friend to do something,
  • First year in decades of not venturing into a DIY store (Yeh!!!😀😀😀),
  • First year without going clothes shopping, buying that item which might be fun and then driving back thinking – what have I just done.

So yes I don’t think we will forget 2020 in while.

Changes

Tis the season for cobwebs.

I don’t know what it is but my car is a particular favourite haunt for the spiders round here. As I’m not driving the car much these days I’m pleased it’s found another use.

Today’s high point was a visit to the vets for the dogs annual inoculations and to check him out as he’s been sneezing a bit for weeks. It’s changed a bit since the last visit.

You now can’t just turn up and you can only attend during your allocated time slot. When you arrive you have to stay in the car and phone to let them know that you have here. I was informed another pet was being seen and we were next up. I had to wait until the red light above the front entrance turned to green before we could enter the building. I was met at the entrance by someone dressed like an Astronaut to ensure I had a mask on and that I had used the hand sanitizer. As I ensured high levels of hygiene, Captain Chaos was happily rolling about in the mud and other unmentionable items. Don’t know why I bothered combing him.

Once inside we were ushered into a tape marked area and told to wait for the vet. The Vet also dressed like an Astronaut promptly arrived and stood behind another marked line on the floor. After a few questions the vet carefully stretched over and took the Cap’s lead and led him into the treatment room. From behind the door I listened to the mayhem. Items knocked over as someone went exploring. The telltale growl as the Captain sees the needle. Definitely dog for you have another thing coming if you think that massive sharp thing is coming anywhere near me… Then the Yelp and Crying – he’s not the bravest fella.

A few minutes later the Cap bursts out of the door and he’s officially in ‘out of here’ mode.

As I try to prevent the dog from destroying the front door the vet tells me that he needs some medicine. The expensive medicine is handed over through a new protective screen at the reception. It’s back home to then immediately phone the Vet up to pay the bill – only telephone payments are currently accepted.

At least somethings stayed the same. The poor potted plant in the waiting room was well watered again by the Captain. It’s a tradition…..

A bit later

Moody midday.

So we now are in lockdown officially. I should dig out my tinned foil hat. Must admit I’ve not noticed any real difference so far. The dustbin wagon turned up on time. Next doors gardener has been busy. Not much four wheeled traffic on the roads but plenty of cyclists. The mole and badger have continued to dig up the lawn. Hawklad is doing his school at home work. I’m wandering around being a muppet. So same old same old.

Well when I say nothing has changed well that’s not quite true. Shopping wise it’s a different matter. Many of the nonessential shops have closed. And food shopping has returned to being a pain in the buttocks again. As soon as lockdown is mentioned the availability of gluten free foods and Hawklad’s favourite sausages takes a nose dive. I blame it on Boris.

I also blame it on Boris that I’m clearly an old fart…..

Dad what on earth is that?”

It’s vinyl Son. A record. It’s the first Pink Floyd album…

This produced a bemused look on number one son. A bit later….

Say that again. You didn’t have computers when you started school.”

No. Home computing was not yet a thing. In fact calculators had just come out but my school didn’t believe in them. We were expected to do stuff in our heads or use the dreaded slide rulers.

What on earth is a slide ruler?”

Basically an analog mechanical calculation device that looks like a big ruler. It has scales on and you have to slide the middle bit of the ruler out to read the results off the scale.

Another bemused look. A bit later….

“Can I put the hot water bottle in the microwave to warm it a bit Dad.”

Don’t need to ask. In my day I would have had to fill it with boiling hot water from the kettle.

Another one of those looks. And finally this morning….

Dad it’s a shame that you haven’t got some videos or DVDs which you taped of some TV shows you watched as a kid. I bet there is a load that you can’t buy now on Amazon. That would be fun to watch.

Hawklad when I was a kid even video had not been invented. We didn’t get them until the 80s.

So how did you record stuff?”

We couldn’t. If you missed the show on the TV that was it. You had to just hope that it was repeated in a few months time.

And a really really really big one of those looks. Definitely feeling like an old fart…

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

**********

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.