Polar express

A beautiful train line in the distance. Even beautiful at night…

Last night we had a chat about Christmas. This year will be a slightly different one. No family visits and wider family meals. No friend visits. No 50000 spectator football match. No concert. No special trips out. No nice country walks. No carol singers. No Father Christmas riding through the village on a tractor collecting for charity and then handing out sweets to the kids. Basically just us, the pets, the house, the garden and one visit from the jolly big fella dressed in red.

It’s still Christmas. Still a time to make memories. Still a time to live. So we make the best of it. Never forgetting those we love the most.

Last year we thought that we had started a new tradition. A trip out on a Christmas Train. A wonderful night trip on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. A beautiful illuminated stream train with even some magical creatures in the passing fields.

So we had planned to do the same this year……

Well it’s not happening. So it’s time for plan b. We have decided that on the same day as last year we will head out on our own polar express. I have some really cheap solar powered Christmas lights. The car will adorned with these. A Christmas music cd will be loaded up on the car stereo. Christmas snacks will find their way into the car. Silly hats and reindeer jumpers will be donned. And off we go on our own polar express. A slow drive around a little used country lane route.

That’s a start. What else can we come up with. What new memories can be born. Always remembering to carry those we love in our hearts as memories are made.

Cramming

This was a year ago. It must have been taken on one of my really long running routes. As it was the last week of term, I would be trying to cram in as many long runs as possible before the 6 week school holidays started. If only I had crammed in a few super long runs before the pandemic kicked in during March this year. Actually thinking about it, I wish I had crammed in a few other things as well those long 4 months ago

  • Real ice cream
  • Slush puppies
  • Hill walking
  • Climbing
  • Trips to the beach
  • Trips to Switzerland
  • Trips to see my football team play – on seconds thoughts, who wants to see them get beat again….
  • Trips to Castles and Roman sites
  • Rock concerts
  • Visits to my sisters and brother
  • Trips to see some special friends
  • A few mountain biking sessions
  • A trip to the running shoe shop
  • A trip to a coffee and cake shop
  • A trip to the hot donut shop
  • A trip to the paper shop to stock up on paper, pens, PENCILS, paint, crayons and other school stationary cupboard requirements
  • Trip to the garage, my car has been broken since March now
  • A trip to the chip shop
  • Clothes shopping for the next year of Hawklad’s growth
  • Bathroom paper (toilet roll), face mask and soap shopping
  • A trip to the toy shop for Christmas gifts
  • Garden furniture shopping – the Yorkshire winters are not kind on outside chairs
  • Second hand book store

Thinking about books, the one place I am so glad I never crammed in was a trip to the Library. My books would now be 4 months overdue – that would be some hefty fine.

Christmas Naughty List

Unbelievably Santa did not give Captain Chaos coal for Christmas. How did he not make the naughty list.

He got more presents than I did. Even the neighbour whose prized lawn he’s dug up sent him his own card. Unbelievable. Actually it’s not that hard to understand. He brings such joy, fun and life to the house. Humans really don’t deserve dogs as friends. We need to learn from their unconditional love.

No visitors, no phone calls. Splendid festive isolation. Perfect for our son. The dad from a few years back would have balked at that. That’s before Aspergers entered our family. Now isolation is the new rock and roll. Thats where a Captain Chaos comes in. He fills the gap created by the isolation. He more than fills that gap.

Dad I thought you had bought yourself a present. Are you not going to open it.

Maybe a bit later.

Looking at that puzzled look on your face you have lost it haven’t you.

Yep put it in a safe place so I wouldn’t lose it. And I can’t remember where now… Don’t you just hate that.

*************

Anyway the missing present is not missed. Too busy trying to duck and weave to avoid a flying well chewed Christmas Cuddly Robin. This is actually the quiet before the storm. Captain Chaos has still got to open his odd looking present. A 3ft long squeaking cuddly snake. Really wish my missing present was a set of ear muffs and maybe a safety helmet. Think I’m going to need them.

So which view

Looks wonderful yet a couple of yours later stood 30 yards down the path and it’s looking not so hot. Two different views.

School argues that son is doing really well. His behaviour is excellent. He works really hard. His grades are good. Often best in the class. He has plenty of friends thanks to the actions of the teachers. Last year one teacher told us that in her subject he should really be in the top set. No additional help required. Yet when I ask why other kids are moved up but never our son the response is so different. Oh he’s low attainment, the bottom class is right for him. Other kids are better at reading. So which is the real view then.

One minor point. Just sitting son next to random kids doesn’t count as establishing real friends.

I had a chat with our sons doctor last week. We discussed how son was increasingly struggling with social interactions. How he tried to avoid them. His Doctor said that it was important that he wasn’t pushed into doing anything he wasn’t comfortable with. Make progress at his own speed and avoid being put in highly stressful situations. He also stressed that he had written to school asking for dyslexia support for son and also stressed that any support should not take place in the classroom (it needed to be undertaking in private). However. School are insisting that as part of English son has to regularly read out sections of text to the wider school audience. It will be good for his dyslexia and his personal confidence. They also argue that it will help him integrate. So which view is right.

I was reading a blog yesterday which talked about grief and Christmas. It talked about this time being the perfect for renewal and celebrating wonderful memories. It’s a wonderful time. Yet the next blog I looked at talked about the desolation of Christmas for the bereaved. How it was a time for trying to forget and just surviving. So which view is right.

An American Doctor was on the TV talking about Autism. He had been working on a cure. He was confident that in the coming years Autism would be completely treatable. A burden on society, parents and individuals would be removed. But many like our son have a different view. It is who he is. It’s his unique personality. He doesn’t want to be cured all he wants is society to be more understanding. So which view do you trust.

My partner was in coma for the last few days of her life. At her bedside I whispered to her that I would stay faithful to her for the rest of my life. Partners for life. It was the right thing to do. Now a few years down the line what happens if I meet someone else. Say yes or no. Two different views.

Some views can be questioned. Some views can be argued with. Some views can be agreed with. Sometimes there are no right or wrong views. Sometimes seemingly genuinely held views are seen by others as dangerous and downright wrong. I will let you make your own mind up. You probably can guess what I think on some of these. At least one of these I really can’t make my mind up on. Maybe I never will.

Christmas Diaries 4 – Shopping

A perfectly tranquil setting which feels like a million miles from civilisation a dit’s madness.

What possesses anyone to venture into a English Supermarket on the 23rd December. As Son sat in the car I donned my finest Indiana Jones costume and ventured into the tunnels of hell to try and secure the prize. This time the prize was not a rare artefact. The goal was milk, bread, cheese, fruit juice, ice cream and carrots.

This wasn’t a shop. This was an ordeal. A form of modern torture. A sometimes moving sea of humanity – usually moving in the wrong direction. Too terrifying for even an a hero like Indiana. Milk, bread and cheese ticked off. The fruit juice and carrot sections stripped bare. Are we prepping for an upcoming apocalyptic winter. No I forgot it’s the few days of Christmas.

Trying to fight my way through the hoards to the freezer section. So many empty sections almost as if they had been previously visited by a plague of locusts. A brave shop assistant trying to bring a box of frozen parsnips to the freezer. As he walks shoppers are rapidly emptying his box. A few seconds later he’s walking back to the store room. Poor chap never stood a chance. He didn’t get within 50 yards of the freezer before he was stripped bare. At the freezer ice cream is at a premium. Must be summer. From the empty sections and desperate shopper faces the luxury little tubs costing a million pounds each are this years must have. Luckily the value vanilla tubs are clearly being shunned in the shopping frenzy today. So I’m now finished. Almost….

Then you get to the mayhem which is the cash tills. At least 10 deep. I opted for the self service as every cashier appeared to be sneezing and coughing. After 20 minutes I’m next in line. Unfortunately a family better placed in The Simpson’s stood in my way. Clearly a bar code reader was beyond them. Just putting the item straight into your bag is not going to work. Covering the bar code up with your hand is not going to work. Scanning an item then rescanning the item isn’t going to work. Then with half of your items still on the conveyor belt just basically giving up is not going to work. They just paid for the few items they had managed to scan and left. Leaving a poor over worked shop assistant to remove the unscanned items so giving the rest of the poor sods stood in line a chance to get on with their life’s.

Finally returning to the car to find it’s now well sandwiched between two cars clearly deciding 6 inches is enough space to open the car door and slide easily into the drivers seat. Have they seen the size of my bum….. Luckily son was in the car and he opened the window. The window proving the only way into my car. I guess Starsky and Hutch entered there red police car with a bit more star quality than me. Finally at the wheel a careful 27 point turn managed to free the car from the parking spot.

Dad did you remember the bananas.

No son. I forgot but thankfully as they are for me then they can wait until normality has returned. I’m guessing sometime in 2025.

Don’t you just love Christmas.

Christmas Diaries 3 – Frankenstein

It’s the last Saturday before Christmas. Son is sat watching the Simpsons Movie while Baron Frankenstein is in kitchen seeing what creature he can create this time. Yes it’s baking time.

My attempt at a Stollen Cake.

As ever the ingredients used may not be quite as required by the recipe. Amounts are a little random. Going more with my Jedi force skills rather than the trusty weighing machine. Unsurprisingly the dough doesn’t quite look or feel like the perfect one pictured in the cook book. Son ventures into the seen of devastation.

Oh Dad that doesn’t look good. Are you planning to use that to fill the holes in the wall.

No Son but like Frankenstein even though the parts are not as desired we might as well see what happens when I bring it to life. Thirty minutes later the creature has been born.

A bit like the Baker it seems a bit crumbly and loose at the edges. So I’ve not been brave enough to see if it can survive life without its tin. I shall report back.

Music at Christmas

Christmas and Music go together. For some it’s carol singing. For some it’s festive number 1 pop hits. For some it’s relaxing classical music. For others it’s LOUD rock music.

The last week has seen not one but two concerts.

The first required a trip over England highest motorway to the other side of the country. To Manchester. This was to see Sons favourite band Alter Bridge. On this night they were supported by the wonderful Shinedown.

Lots of people but thankfully son coped well but it did require the full hood for the entire night.

Dad did his normal trick of keeping the ticket costs manageable by buying discounted restricted view tickets. It’s interesting that in our restricted view section it was mainly families. All probably dealing with the same financial concerns.

Son really really enjoyed himself.

Then 2 days later we had another concert this time in our local city. We don’t often get decent bands but it nice when we do. This time it was The Darkness.

Such a good night. Very loud and they are so entertaining. Very loud and very funny. They even did a Christmas song. The band wouldn’t start the song until they could see everyone holding hands with the persons next to them. Son was ok as he had me and his uncle. Meanwhile Dad had a liberating few minutes holding an enormous bear sized hairy bikers hand.

I often talk about how tough Dyslexia is. The problems it can cause. But occasionally having a young son with dyslexia is a much needed parenting help….

Christmas Diaries 2

Still not what you would call postcard Christmas weather yet. This is lunchtime. Having said that how often do we get the crispy white stuff at Christmas anyway in North Yorkshire. In the 17 years we have lived here I can only remember one White Christmas. However I can remember many like the photo above.

When I was a kid I remember one really heavy snow Christmas Day. I remember sinking to my belly and my wellies filling up with crisp snow. Can also remember Dad going out before lunch to join a number of other men trying to clear the footpath. He told me it was so that the kids could get to school. Strange as the school was shut for another week. It was also strange that the cleared path went in the opposite direction to my school. Bizarrely the men stopped when they reached the pub. Can’t think why.

Our son’s school has now broken up for Christmas. So if it does snow I won’t need to worry about clearing a path towards it. One thing I do need to worry about is another little tradition of ours. How to keep the pets off the Christmas Tree.

The cat likes to try and sleep in it’s branches.

He is a very big boy, our biggest cat

That is how his Vet described him. So he doesn’t make the best tree climber. We usually find the tree toppled over with a slightly confused cat underneath it. Then we have the mad dog. Captain Chaos loves a tree. So much so that he likes to try and relocate it to his dog bed. This normally results in the tree toppled over which makes it so much easier for the mutt to pull it. Lord knows what Team Gerbil would do to it.

So my chair has to be relocated next to the tree. So I can sit and basically fight off unwarranted pet tree attention. It’s only a matter of time before the tree is toppled over and I am underneath it. Bet I would get the blame for that. That thought brings a smile. When I was 5 or 6 my family would put a real tree up in the living room. The family comprised mum and dad, my brother, three sisters and a very big dog. A dog who once bit the postman and then bit the local bobby (policeman) who came to ask dad to better control his pet. The tree would be filled to the brim with decorations. Prize of place on the tree would be these little silver paper wrapped chocolates. Either in the shape of Santa or an Elf. From Christmas Day onwards we were allowed to have one chocolate decoration a day. But this particular Christmas someone helped themselves to a decoration early. Three days in a row. Unbelievably I got blamed for it. Then on Christmas day the real culprit was caught in the act. The dog. I’m still waiting for my apology.

***WP is going into awkward mode again. Doing things like switching off comment boxes and stopping me liking other blogger posts. Normal service will be resumed when WP allows me to***

Christmas Diaries 1

It’s been a grey moody day. It never once looked like clearing. At least it didn’t rain for a change.

The zero based hours contract gave me me three hours work today. For the next couple of weeks any work demands will be minimal. Not great for the bank account but it allows me to now focus on our son. So with a couple of days before the school breaks up – Christmas is about to start in earnest. So an early warning. You may get a few Christmas Parent Diary entries coming your way. Hopefully most will focus on the happy side of life. It almost certainly will feature a few cooking disasters. In fact let’s sort the first diary entry out right now.

So after the work dried up it and the grey run was completed it was time for a bit of baking. Time to make a stunning gluten free stollen cake. A few chaotic shopping trips had stocked up the larder with all the ingredients. This time it’s going to be baking heaven. Hang on a minute where’s the marzipan. As I love the stuff I bought 4 slabs worth. But where are they. Absolutely no sign. Don’t you just hate it when that happens. No problem I will just pop to the local store. Don’t stock it but they did have infeasible amounts of glazed cherries. So off to the supermarket. How can a supermarket run out of marzipan. How can the only other store reasonably close by also have none in stock. I gave up so let’s just make a Christmas cake. Three hours later I’m looking at a baking abomination. Crispy on the outside, undercooked on the inside and a ginormous sinkhole at its centre. The birds will eat well tomorrow.

So ends the first Christmas diary entry. But let’s do the diary preface now.

Christmas can be lovely and fun but wow can it hurt. It’s one of those times which naturally draws you to what you have lost. I was reading a blog which talked about this in such a haunting way.

All aboard! The holiday struggle-bus is pulling into the station, and I’ve got a ticket to ride.

That bus hit me yesterday. I was simply wrapping our sons presents up. Instantly I’m taken back a few years. Christmas music on. A couple of glasses of wine. My partner a ninja master at unwinding the cellotape and securing the edges of the wrapping paper. Unbelievably I was an expert at finding the best way to wrap the presents up. The perfect production line. So effective and so loving.

Now I sit on the floor with a tea and whatever is on the radio. To be honest I’m not listening. The presents are still being wrapped well but the cellotape has won the battle royal. It’s wrapped around my fingers, on my clothes, stuck to furniture and yet refusing to go anywhere near the wrapping paper. Love and happiness replaced with frustration and sadness. It’s never going to be like it was. That love is not going to be replaced. Those shared dreams are binned. It’s a truly sickening feeling.

It’s so easy to forget that this can be such a tough time for so many you are bereaved. For so many in pain. For so many without anything. For so many who are lonely. My heart goes out to you. You have a soulmate here.

Yes over the next few weeks this blog might get a bit silly. I really hope it does because it shows that I’m doing my only important job. Trying to make Christmas as fun as possible for our son. But underlying it will be someone still grieving what has been lost. My hope is that some of that Christmas magic which hopefully is enveloping our son will rub off on me. Showing that you can grieve but it’s still possible to have fun. If it works for me I really prey it’s rubs off on you as well.

Northern Lights Express

General Elections in the middle of December are unlikely to be conducive to establishing that festive feeling. So we arrive at Friday the 13th are still no thoughts of Santa. So action was needed. Time for a train journey

A train journey with a difference. The Northern Lights Express on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is an historic 18 mile line that runs across some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain. It’s a not for profit charity with its daily operations carried out by volunteers. It has a fleet of historic steam and diesel locomotives. It is special to our son as his Grandad helped establish the Trust which eventually reopened the line in 1973.

So on this night. The entire outside of the train was decked in lighting. Inside decorations and mulled wine. Son tried to convince the nice volunteer to let him try the wine. But she resolutely stuck to her guns

“Sorry your just a few years to young. Maybe your Dads old enough to buy one”

His reply made me crawl under the table.

Look at his thinning hair on top. That’s tells you he’s way past 18.

The fairy tale story was told and we board the train.

Look out the window at the magical looking forests while listening to Christmas music. The announcer lets everyone know that the Driver has spotted some magical creatures ahead. The carriage goes over a bump in the track and Son instantly informs the carriage that ‘the trains just hit one the magic creatures’.

Then the creatures appear in the forest.

On the return journey it’s a Christmas Quiz and a Sing Song. That’s the first time this year I’ve tried to sing a bit of Wham. The first part of the journey pulled by a B1 Class Steam Engine built in 1947.

The engine pulling the return trip is called Sybilla and is 54 years old.

The election is forgotten for a while and yes it feels a lot like Christmas now.