Seven months

I was checking my diary. It’s now officially 7 months since our own little family lockdown started. Seven months, that’s a long time. Yes there have been some bleak and lonely periods. But we are still here. Still grinding onwards. That gives me hope.

With our son’s anxieties, with a pandemic showing no signs of ebbing, with increasingly random government – we just have no idea how long this family isolation will go on for. Possibly for many months to come.

Yet we have already survived 7 months. We have made some new memories. Still had fun times. Technology allowed friendships to flourish

We have more than just survived 7 months, did manage to live a bit as well. We can certainly cope with a few more months of this.

Busy lines of communication

Another email from school. Another confirmed case. This time sadly a pupil in our son’s year group. The pupil had been in a class with a member of staff who had previously tested positive this week .

The headteacher had sought advice from the authorities but was told that they were unable to help until after 9am on Monday. As its currently impossible to work out which other students may have had close contact with the new positive case it has been decided to go against government advice and keep the whole year group off school until further notice. From Monday all pupils in the year (including Hawklad) will switch to online classes.

This is at the same time as research is now indicating that the fastest rising age group for new infections in the UK is the 10-19 group. This is also at the time that the government is sticking to its line that schools are perfectly safe in the UK and contact tracers have been told not to trace school based infections.

It really is time for the government to act. Yes schools do need to reopen but with appropriate safeguards and changes. The UK has some of the largest class sizes in Europe. Add that to cramped classrooms and it’s asking for trouble. We should have done two things before the schools reopened. Seek to secure additional classroom space by allowing schools to utilise additional accommodation options in the local area. Exactly the same way as the country quickly put in place the recent Nightingale Hospitals. The second key change should have been to give parents a viable online schooling option – if families are able and willing, let them be schooled at home. Together both approaches would have created much needed space in our classrooms. Space means enhanced social distancing, which means a reduced risk of virus spread.

Surely it’s time for an urgent rethink here.

Revolution

I was asked about if our son was any closer returning to school. This is his fourth week at home since the school returned full time. Well two things from today really paint the picture.

First an email from school advising that the school had now had its second confirmed case. This time a member of staff. Apparently the confirmed cases so far are not considered to be linked. A small number of individuals have been asked to isolate for 14 days and the school remains fully open.

The second was a conversation with our son. His words need no more elaboration.

“Dad I go into meltdown if the bedroom window is open. In fact I can’t even touch the window handle to close it. I just can’t go back. Can’t go back for some time to come.”

And there is our answer in a nutshell. At present government ministers are telling parents to ensure there kids go to school as it’s perfectly safe and is in fact our civic duty. To not do now apparently makes you a bad parent, someone who is not acting responsibly. Must get those words on a T-shirt.

I will continue to act irresponsibly and avoid doing my civic duty. Our son will return to school when he is ready to do so, when it is safe and when he is comfortable doing that. Until then – Viva La Revolution…..

L

Reviews

I want to start this by apologising. With being largely house and garden bound, I don’t get out much. Haven’t got out much since March. So I don’t get to that many different places. That’s why you tend to get the same views in my photos, over and over and over again. One day they will change. Thankfully the changing skies try to help out a little.

Isn’t it nice when you look at reviews for something you are looking to buy and they all agree. It gives you a level of confidence about whether to spend your money or not. But when are we that lucky. Normally it’s five camps of reviews

  • The greatest thing since sliced bread, unbelievable quality,
  • It’s useless, the wrong size, wrong colour, doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do and falls to bits with days,
  • It’s ok but I’m not really sure,
  • Clearly reviewing the completely wrong item,
  • It’s a present for someone so it’s not been used yet……

How can people see the same thing in so many different ways. You end up being even more confused than before.

I’m looking to get a language app. Hopefully one which both of us can use. So covering German and French. I have an old one which is great for learning German words but is rubbish at actually developing my conversational skills. So I’m looking for one that can actually start to make me fluent. Son needs one to help with his homeschooling. So he can learn French. Improve his vocabulary and spoken work. In an ideal world it would be dyslexic friendly as well. So not much to ask for then…..

Rosetta Stone was mentioned by a few people. Yes it’s expensive but it covers both languages and is supposed to be quite dyslexic friendly. So let’s see the reviews. Well it’s either brilliant or useless. Fantastic for building conversational skills or maybe it’s only good for learning individual words. Worth every penny or a complete waste of money. The reviews were no help at all. I guess it depends on the person and what they need. So I’m none the wiser.

So you have to be careful with reviews. Certainly school reviews.

I remember someone asking me about son’s last school. I think I said ‘it’s very nice just a bit rubbish. Disorganised but it’s heart is in the right place’. Bit harsh but I thought it was fair.

Well I looked up the reviews for my son’s current school and it seems to get mostly really high approval ratings. As a parent that would certainly encourage me to send my child there. But then you drill down further. Yes lots of very positive reviews from parents. Comments like

  • Great school,
  • Very good on discipline,
  • Learning focused,
  • Gets results,
  • Responsive,
  • Good teachers,
  • Child enjoys school,
  • Great headteacher.

Still looking great and then you look at the small number of negative reviews. Something then strikes you. All those comments come from parents with something in common. Every single negative review was from parents with children who had special educational needs. Aspergers, Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Oral and Written Language disorders. Suddenly the comments changed. Now the language was

  • Useless if your child has an Education and Health plan,
  • No support,
  • Teachers don’t care,
  • Unresponsive,
  • Too quick to write kids off who need support,
  • Might as well teach at home,
  • Had to take our child out from this school,
  • Child is stuck in the bottom set and the school is seemingly happy to keep him there,
  • Child is so unhappy.

Sadly this is replicated in too many schools across the UK. It shows the overall school system priorities. Demonstrates the values of the Government. As a country we let down too many with additional educational needs. It shouldn’t be like this.

Sometimes reviews don’t lie.

Black and white

Black and white. Don’t worry this is not a post about my so called football team.

There is so many grey areas in my life. So much appears to be unclear, uncertain, ambiguous. But there is black and white. No ambiguity about being a widow. Well actually that’s not strictly truein the eyes of the government I am not actually defined as a widow – well like on everything else, they can stuff off.

Another black and white issue in my life is being a single parent. No getting around that. Currently it’s me and no one else. I am the parent, the legal guardian, the teacher, the school liaison officer, the cook, the chef (OMG), the snack maker, the cleaner, the money earner, the making ends meeter, the worker, the gardener, the shopper, the clothes mender, the thing finder, the voice of reason (ha,ha,ha), the trip planner, the censor, the nurse, the pharmacist, the shoulder to cry on, the person to shout at, the present buyer, the diplomat, the planner (wow), the fixer, the Aspergers expert (🙀🤯), the dyslexia specialist, the Xbox fixer, the person who punches the WiFi router, the telephone receptionist, the purse keeper (the Accountant is really the last person who should be trusted with this), the entertainment organiser, the dishwasher, the relationship counsellor, the tidy upper, the you got enough layers on voice, the worrier, the hairdresser and the kick them out of bed bad guy.

I hear people frequently talk about single parents as like a curse of society – Enjoying the easy life – Sponging off the state – Non stop trips clothes shopping, coffee shops, gyms and nights out. I’m sorry they have no idea. It’s hard work, never ending, full time commitment. It’s incredibly isolating. It grinds you down.

BUT ultimately it’s one of the most rewarding thing you can ever do. It’s so worth the sacrifices.

A path

The farm cows are good at making paths. They are pretty straight as well. Wonder if they fancy making me a path as well….

What type of path do I want. I could set my sights really low. Ask the cows to do a path in another direction across that field. Ideally on the usual dog walking route across the overgrown and perpetually damp grass. Maybe I could set my sights a bit higher. A nice short paved path across our lawn to the Apple tree. But I could go really high and ask the clever cows to chart me a life path for the next few years. It would be nice to have a sense of direction for a change.

A nice thought but actually the signposts are already there. Signposts showing the way forward. Just have to keep reminding myself to open my eyes and look for them.

Over the last few weeks I have been looking at what jobs are available for me. Need a job that fits round Hawklad and his needs. So ideally one which is largely home based with minimal travel requirements. With the current and likely homeschooling requirements I need one which is part time with quite a lot of flexibility. Actually a zero hours based contract makes sense. A job which I can do already as I don’t have the time or probably the energy to retrain. One which pays enough to at least cover the bills.

So I’m not asking for much.

As hard as I’ve looked no suitable job popped onto my laptop screen. Actually nothing even remotely suitable appeared. Then I opened my eyes and the penny dropped. I ditched my professional career as it didn’t fit around my new life. Then I was lucky in that I found one which did. The new job just about ticked all the boxes. That’s my current job. Even one of the owners kids are friends with Hawklad. They went to his school. That makes things so much easier.

YES I have an ideal job already. Ok – It’s not ideal in 2020 as its public event based. Public Events and a Pandemic are not particularly that compatible. So the work has had to be largely mothballed until life starts to return to normal. Probably a new normal. So that’s no work for me until that new normal emerges. Hopefully that will start to happen after we get through the winter. Yes that’s no money for a few months but we can batten down the hatches and get through on savings. The worry is that too many in a similar position but are not that fortunate with savings. We are even more fortunate as the lack of work means I can focus a bit more on the homeschooling needs.

So I’ve seen the signpost to a path. Get through the next few months and then hopefully restart the ideal job. My job. I did that all by myself and didn’t need the cows to show me the way. But I still wouldn’t mind that paved path to the Apple tree though. That grass does get a bit muddy.

Questions

This is a little tree which is close to our house. It sits at the side of the farmers field which backs onto our garden. It’s close by as a couple of my garden football shots have nearly hit it….. In the years that we have lived here it has never grown. It just seems to lean over a little further each year. I know how it feels…..

So many questions today. So many school work queries.

Dad what are your thoughts on Gladstone‘s and Disraeli‘s political reforming achievements. They didn’t go far enough and do you think their colonial record negated what good they did do?”

“Dad what do you know about DNA structure and it’s impact on identical and fraternal twins?”

“Dad how would you write the mass of the earth in standard notation?”

“Dad in Animal Farm what does the character Moses represent and his relationship to Soviet history?”

Dad have you ever studied John Agard’s poem FLAGS. Is it about the dangers of patriotism?”

Dad I can’t get my head round French Verb Conjugation. Can you explain it to me?

As any self respecting parent would do I looked suitably vacant and thought wishfully back to the questions about which was my favourite Tellytubby. I was good at those questions.

Say that again.

It’s double take time. Only a few weeks ago the government was basically forcing schools to cut back on online schooling options. Encouraging the use of fines to force as many pupils back into school classrooms.

But today….

The Government has now used emergency powers to compel schools to provide online education. Pupils forced to be at home should get the same education as those in the classroom.

Well I wait to see what impact that has. Will our school switch back on the system that the government told them to turn off……

Spikey

Meet one of the worlds great predators. I guess these are our equivalent of the shark. The Yorkshire Spikey Shark. Hanging from the tree or hiding in the undergrowth, waiting to pounce. Pain beyond pain.

I fell off a garden ladder again yesterday. Cut my thigh, back and bit of under skin bleeding in the knee. But my forearm – oh wow the pain – landing on one of these spikey chaps was the worst part. Still hurts today. Could have been much worse. My large backside wasn’t that far away from landing with much force onto Mr Spikey.

It was just one of those accidents. Was trying to be careful but the ground just gave way. Probably thanks to Mr Mole and his tunnels. The bit I struggle with is that I’m doing these things on my own. Hawklad’s fears mean that I can’t expect him to help out. So no one to point out the risks I’ve missed. The better ways of doing things. And no one to hold the steps as I go up. Actually no one to send up the ladder rather than me !!!!! I guess it means that my life is about trying to turn two person jobs into single person projects. Not ideal but needs must. Often having to do tasks that are way beyond my skill mix. Things I shouldn’t be really trusted with.

So as I stood in the house trying to apply antiseptic to my cuts, while trying to figure out how to get a plaster on my back cut….. Hawklad appeared and gave me one of those looks…..

Dad I take it you have been gardening again. You know it’s bad for you.”

Why don’t you just pay for a professional to do it properly and safely.”

But there’s the other side of being single. Time spent with Hawklad is time I can’t work. So choices have to be made. Paying for gardening comes way down the list of priorities. So this won’t be my last garden accident. But that’s life.

J

Insignificant

It’s a big sky. Its easy to feel very small and insignificant stood under it.

There are so many times when parenting is the best gig on the planet. Then there are other times…

I was trying to convince our son that he had washed his hands enough. He had been at the soap and water for nearly five minutes. Everything I said didn’t seem to have any impact. Finally he decided that was enough. He asked if the towel was clean and had it been washed that day. I assured him that was the case. He left the bathroom and I looked at his hands. His very red and sore skin. That’s what happens when you wash as often as he does. We are using skin friendly soap. I water it down further. But his hands are still red. I encourage him to use his skin care lotion. But his hands are still sore.

These are the times I feel inadequate as a parent. Missing the support of another person. Someone to share the load. Definitely running out of things to try. Actually ran out of things to try. His health professionals try to help but they see this intrinsically linked to the pandemic. Get the pandemic under control and we can start to bring his hand washing under control – hopefully. But that doesn’t make me feel any better as a parent. Feels like I had one job and I dropped the ball on it.

So I’m stood under that big sky. Feeling insignificant. Time to breathe. Reset and go again. Yes significant but definitely not beaten yet.