Golden times

Unlikely to get too many trips out to enjoy the wonderful autumnal colours this year. But at least I will spend more time looking at very our own mini displays. Too often these are not fully appreciated.

It is often the little things in life that we miss. Don’t fully appreciate. Take them for granted.

Before 2016 at this time of year we would drive as a family through the tree lined country roads to the local arboretum. A walk round the thousands of autumnal trees ending with a hot chocolate at the cafe. It’s not until these moments are gone that you realise how golden those times were.

After 2016 I would drive son to very the same arboretum. Trying to control a mad dog while son kicked around in the fallen leaves. Ending in the cafe now so he and the dog can enjoy a bacon butty. I would saviour a freshly ground full on caffeine burst. Golden days not possible this year.

So maybe those annoying fallen leaves in the front garden will actually come in useful. Let’s go and have a thrash about in them. Followed by a home made butty and yes a hot chocolate. Yes different times, but still golden times.

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.

Day 123

I clearly have too much time on my hands because I’ve been counting

It’s Day 123 of our lockdown…

Normally I do a weekly post – what have we found out this week from schooling at home’. But this week in honour of the 123 day milestone let’s do a special ‘what have we done withoutpost….

  • That’s 123 days without the school bus or ironing a school shirt,
  • That’s 123 days without missing the school bus,
  • That’s 123 days without a school bag,
  • That’s 123 days of not forgetting to pack a really important school item,
  • That’s 123 days without the carefully packed ingredients for food technology deciding to empty themselves over the other contents of the bag,
  • That’s 123 days without the school bag zipper becoming stuck,
  • That’s 123 days without having to patch up school trousers,
  • That’s also 123 days of not using his new trousers – bet they won’t fit now…
  • That’s 123 days without losing items of sports kit in the school changing rooms (but strangely they still find a way of going missing),
  • That’s 123 days without son combing his hair (ok that’s an exaggeration but it certainly looks like it most days….),
  • That’s 123 days of son not meeting another person except me,
  • That’s 123 days of me not going into the work unit,
  • That’s 123 days of not emptying the work unit bin or checking for out of date milk in the work fridge. As I’m the only one who does – I just dread to think what alien life maybe germinating in there,
  • That’s 123 days without a run (not counting the garden runs as they are more akin to a game of twister than actual running),
  • That’s 123 days of my mountain bike being sat unloved in the garage,
  • That’s 123 days without a trip to the ice cream parlour or a food takeaway,
  • That’s 123 days of not popping into a coffee or cake shop,
  • That’s 123 days without an excursion,
  • That’s 123 days without a trip to the zoo,
  • That’s 123 days of not going out then worrying constantly if I did remember to lock the front door,
  • That’s 123 days of living in shorts, sarongs, running leggings and tracksuit joggers (don’t panic they are getting washed) – I might have fibbed on one of those..
  • That’s 123 days without having to buy a car parking ticket,
  • That’s 123 days of not feeding the car petrol,
  • That’s 123 days without using a cash machine,
  • That’s 123 days of desperately not searching for my car keys and wallet,
  • That’s 123 days in which our entire world comprised only of the house and garden.

But even after 123 days, if I look hard enough I can still find something new to photograph. That’s shows how lucky we really are. Even after 123 days of lockdown.

Bagman

What’s that behind you. It’s that pesky grief sneaking up on you again.

Lost in a world of spreadsheets and work while listening to the radio. It’s a rock station so plenty of Aerosmith , Foo Fighters and Pink Floyd. Playing a game of which bands I’ve seen and which I might still see. Then an innocuous advert. NEXT sale starts at 7am.

Nothing wrong with that surely.

Suddenly taken back to a now closed off world. In the immediate aftermath of the funeral I took bag after bag of NEXT clothes to the charity shop. NEXT was her favourite shop. It’s just not right that I’m here and she is not. Tears. A few minutes later the mood has changed. More memories.

My partners ears would always prick up if she heard the two words NEXT and SALE. The alarm would be set 6am. For the big New Years sale it would be set for 5am.

Come on bag man get up.

That was my role. Trudge down to the store. Try to look vaguely interested. Then don’t get in the way and hold the potential purchase items. Occasionally chipping in with a helpful thats nice. Then the bagman carries the laden bags home. For the next couple of hours while our partner tries on the truck load of clothes I replenish all the lost calories with coffee and biscuits. Then bagman sets off back to NEXT again to take back the unwanted items. On the return visit I would briefly look at the Men’s section. A few muttered are you sure these are sales prices and its off to the coffee shop to reflect on the joy which is knowing that’s the sales are finished for 6 months. Not sure how she put up with me….

It’s smiles and tears now.

Spending money on clothes has been replaced with spending money on school.

Dad have you paid for the school reward trip?

Yes I have but like the NEXT sales I’m struggling to get my head round it. All the kids at the school who didn’t get a detention or didn’t pick up too many negatives qualify for a reward. The reward is a trip to a cool destination. As it was a school reward I assumed school would pay for it. NO. Parents have to pay. So the parents of kids who behaved badly don’t have to fork out this wedge of cash. Life was easier when I was the bagman.

Food purgatory

My diet is bad. Very bad. My Dad would call it minging. It’s been awful for years. Too much of the bad stuff. Too little of the good stuff. I drink that much coffee that the fluid in my body is no longer water, it’s pure caffeine. That’s probably why I don’t look like George Clooney. Oh hang on George does coffee – that doesn’t work does it. Anyway I’ve not looked like Clooney, suffered from IBS and had a nervous tummy since my college days. The last couple of years haven’t helped it at all.

I knew something had to be done but I kept putting it off. Then I read some great posts on healthy eating and food detox cleanses. This was one of them

Riddle from the Middle

Well finally the penny has dropped. This is Day 8 of my food purgatory. No junk food, no sweets, no chocolate, no crisps, no chips, no popcorn, no peanut butter, no spicy stuff, no dairy, no gluten, no soya, no artificial or processed rubbish. NO COFFEE….. It’s been steamed veg, boiled rice, organic protein, herbal tea and tanker loads of water with a slice of lemon. And as much exercise as time and the body will permit.

Food wise it’s not been too bad. Not been that hungry – although I have been found gnawing on chair legs a few times. But coffee that’s been tough. Especially on the morning. Badly needed an alternative to shift me out of the non functioning zombie state. Luckily I’ve stumbled across one. A squeezed lemon with a ton of fresh ground ginger. Granted it’s an acquired taste. But it doesn’t half shock the system. I understand a similar recipe was used by NASA as fuel for the Apollo Saturn V rocket.

So it’s been a self imposed purgatory. NOW Son has come out in support however his is not quite so self imposed. Last Week when he returned from school he had been eating us out of house and home. Well on Friday I checked his online school lunch account to see if it needed topping up. Bizarrely it had hardly been used that week.

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Son what have you been eating at school lunch. You have hardly spent any money this week.

Not much really Dad.

Why haven’t you been hungry?

No been starving. On Monday in the class before lunch the teacher kept us back because of the behaviour of some of the other kids. When we got to the kitchen they had sold out of flapjacks and sandwiches the other food wasn’t good for me. Tuesday was fine and got my usual. Wednesday and Thursday we where on the other side of the site. So when we got to the kitchen the queue was massive and it was taking ages so I grabbed a bottle of water as all the good food had gone. On Friday by the time we got to the end of the queue it was almost time for lessons to start so I grabbed a flapjack and went to class. Your not allowed to eat in class so I had that on the bus coming home.

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So school got another angry phone call and another formal complaint. The problem is that schools in the UK have been forced to cut back on school lunch expenditure. Plus the pressure to deliver the set national curriculum has forced many schools to drastically cut the school lunch breaktime. It’s the only way they can meet the demands of government. Feeding kids is not up there on the priorities. In all the surveys and questions we have had to complete for school inspections Lunch has never once been mentioned. It’s all about the national curriculum. How can a kid learn when he’s hungry. Let’s not beat about the bush most of the reasons for these problems is down to those in charge of our countries education. Basically the government picks numpties with Victorian values to run education. I’ve previously mentioned the Minister who viewed kids being off after a bereavement as AN EXTENDED HOLIDAY.

The school argues that they are following government policy, that the budgets have been slashed and that some food is always available. Problem is that when you are an Autistic kid the range of acceptable food can be limited. If it’s the wrong colour, wrong texture or mixed up with other food then it never going to be consumed.

A pack-up is not really easy most days as his big school bag is filled to busting with essential books, equipment and sports kit. Most days he’s already walking around school with a full bag on his shoulders and hands full with books he can’t fit into the bag. I have started filling up one side pocket with chocolate bars and snacks so at least he’s got something to snack on. A supersized school bag is on order which will hopefully be big enough to fit in a pack-up box.

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So this is a house of food purgatory for a variety of reasons. Hopefully it will make me healthier. Hopefully son’s purgatory has ended. It might even make both of us better prepared for the potential food shortages if our PM gets his way and we crash out of the EU in six weeks. As Monty Python say – always look on the bright side of life.

Caffeine

Without any sleep last night I managed to serve breakfast, set off the washing and get the works payroll sorted. Then in the dog walk managed to spot more signs of the end of summer AND just about successfully focused the camera. All made possible by Coffee.

What would have happened if Caffeine had not been brewed for the first time. I dread to think.

Currently on a 3 year streak of no more than 4 hours sleep with probably half of that time operating on no more than 2 hours. That is certainly not out of choice. It’s also not really sustainable but I’ve been saying that since 2016.

Every morning my internal operating system boots into safe mode. The body drags me to the coffee machine and somehow a very dark evil smelling brew starts to enter my system. As the caffeine feeds into my bloodstream Safe mode moves to Zord the Zombie mode. Now some basic tasks can be undertaken. Not necessarily in the right order and almost certainly not to any level of competency – but we are at least off and running. All thanks to Coffee.

I did try to stop being so reliant on the caffeine fixes. It really isn’t healthy for you. So the coffee stopped. Withdrawal headaches were not pleasant but they passed. However most days I failed to get out of safe mode. Not much use for anything. Even the most basic tasks proved beyond me – that’s assuming I remembered to do the task in the first place. The coffee fast reached its lowest ebb one morning as I was fumbling around with a Tie for 5 minutes without being able to get the knot right before realising that the my work shirt was still on the table and I clearly had decided to go to work in the buff with my only attire being a red kipper tie. As a single parent, the single breadwinner that situation just can’t fly. So I restarted my daily fixes. The compromise was that no more than 4 cups a day could be the proper stuff. Anything else had to be decaf. That now works for me as long as I ensure that the first brew is NUCLEAR grade.

Exploding kettle

You know it’s going to be a long day when you wake up as a zombie. You stumble into the kitchen. You switch on the kettle. Then you get a bright flash and a deafening bang. The kettle joins the long line of broken appliances. A nice cup of cold water doesn’t quite cure zombieism as well as a dark brooding cup of coffee sludge. So we struggle on in a permanent haze.

Simple work tasks suddenly became modern day Rubik cube tortures.

Attaching a new belt to the hoover – a five minute job usually turned out to be as difficult as splitting an atom.

Trying to organise a few appointments for our son – might as well have been trying to schedule the next Guns and Roses World Tour.

Trying to activate my new Bank Card over the phone was equivalent of trying to authenticate nuclear launch codes.

A simple freeze wrap food parcel took on the same properties as Adamantium. My lunch wasn’t going to get consumed today.

Unbelievably the sun made an appearance for two hours this afternoon. Just enough time to take the dog for a reasonably dry walk and cut the the grass. Only just enough time. Sat looking at a unresponsive lawnmower for thirty minutes. The last ten of those minutes involved a carefully selected fault finding approach involving a hammer and my boot. Eventually the penny dropped and I realised that it would actually help if I inserted the 36v battery into the cordless mower. As I get older I become more like Daddy Pig from Peppa Pig. Luckily I just about finished the lawn before the weather closed in. The next rain event has now arrived. Looking at the forecast the next lawn cutting window is probably well into 2020.

So today was a bit of a write off. Strangely microwaved coffee doesn’t seem to taste so good. Boiling water on the oven just takes too long – sorry mum and dad. So tomorrow will start with another cup of cold water. Then it’s an urgent trip to the shops for a non exploding kettle.

Early morning coffee

Dad what time did you just say we have to leave the house for work on Sunday

6.20am.

“That’s so early it’s almost back into 2018”

Sorry we need to drive 40 miles so we can get to a briefing starting at 7.45.

“Dad I may have to join you in having a coffee that morning”

Yes I suspect my current Decaf diet will be scrapped at 6am Sunday. Son’s comments about Coffee made me smile. A couple of years back I came across some research that seemed to suggest that Coffee was starting to be used with some kids with ADHD.

Dopamine levels in the brain need to be within a very narrow parameter range for the brain to operate at optimum levels. A body of research exists that seems to support the theory that with ADHD Dopamine levels are too low and outside the optimal parameters. Stimulants like caffeine raise Dopamine levels. The argument is that stimulants can then be used to raise Dopamine levels in people with ADHD to optimal levels. This will have a positive impact on concentration and attention levels. So a cup of coffee might be a good idea for kids with ADHD (like our son)????

But too much caffeine may cause things like stomach trouble, raised heartbeat, sleep problems, irritability……. It’s an addictive psychoactive stimulant drug.

Then you factor in Autism. Little research exists on the effects of caffeine here. Does it help. Does it hinder.

When I spoke to the health professionals the advice ranged from ‘worth a go’ to ‘its a bad idea’.

I’m no medic so I will continue to play it safe. So early on Sunday double standards will be adopted. I will have a strong coffee whereas our Son will have a glass of orange juice.