Lost in the snow

I found this old photo just randomly lying in the bottom of a box of all junk. I don’t know why I kept it. I’m thankful now as it reminds me of a long forgotten memory. I can’t remember which mountain it was. Not sure even which country it is in. Anyway it’s from over 20 years ago. I had been solo climbing . Not a difficult climb but it took a few hours of hard work. Definitely needed ropes and was very definitely vertical. Best described as a 200ft cliff. At the top of the climb it immediately opened up onto the summit top. A large and very gentle dome. As I scrambled over the edge I saw a figure stood in the distance. No idea why but I took a photo. He turned and watched me slowly walk towards him. I must have been a sight. Full winter climbing gear, ropes, ice axes. Completely sodden with all the wet snow. Steam rising off me. I had some blood dripping onto the snow from an encounter with a particularly sharp rock. I felt bad about staining the snow.

Next followed one of those conversations that just stay with you.

********

“Hello, it looks like you have had fun”

It was hard work but fun. It’s very, very steep.

“Your bleeding”

It’s ok, looks worse than it is.

“I’m lost, I’m trying to work out which way it is back down”

Where are you trying to get to.

“I want to get back to my car. Is the way down your way?”

No, no, no, no, no. Most definitely not that way.

“Oh I wonder which way it is then.”

At a guess with the position of the sun, the time and the atmospheric conditions. It’s that way behind you.

“Wow you good, how can you tell from that”.

I really can’t but I can clearly see your footprints in the snow. I’m guessing you just need to follow them all the way down.

*********

And a few seconds later he was off retracing his footprints. Now I could go on about the risks of winter hillwalking when your clearly not properly prepared. But actually how often do we all find ourselves in that position. Rapidly out of our depths, lost, confused, unprepared and probably very tired. Not forgetting how close we are to potentially walking off the cliff edge. I certainly feel that way quite often.

Yes I’m glad I kept that photo.

Where did that go

Where did that go? Where did the summer holidays go. For so many families, where did that lockdown go? That’s 7 weeks of summer and exactly 6 months of lockdown.

We leave the summer holidays like we found them. Grey.

Many leave the lockdown as we found it. Well actually that’s sadly not strictly true here in the UK. The daily rise in pandemic and the rate of spread (R number) is actually higher now than when it forced us all into lockdown. I guess the confusion is the same. Some times it’s safe to meet in groups then at other times it’s considered most unsafe. Sometimes masks are required, sometimes they are not. Get tested but please don’t get tested. It’s safe to meet work colleagues but most unsafe to meet friends and family. There are those in high risk groups but you don’t need to worry about that. You must observe 2m social distancing but it’s ok if you don’t especially in pubs and at Horse Racing events. Don’t worry about the details it will be fine.

But for some families and households, the lockdown is most certainly not over. The Government seems to be demonising those in that position. We are being unpatriotic. Not doing our civic duty. Letting others down. As a result support is being pulled, threats made, blamed for the problems of the country and fines starting to be issued. I can assure the so called Government that it’s not out of choice. We are dealing with the reality of life. And that life is messy, complicated, unpredictable and frustrating. We have to deal with the details.

That part of life has not changed during the summer holidays and lockdown.

End of August

The end of August. Still no clearer on the road ahead. Apart from the fact that my knees may develop frostbite if I keep wearing my shorts.

Not having a clear road ahead at the end of August is not a new experience.

August 2019 – trying to get my head around Hawklads granny’s rapidly deteriorating health. Maybe days until I’m asked to make a call on ceasing treatment. What to do. School refusing to move Hawklad up sets and no sign of additional support. What to do.

August 2018 – Almost time to switch schools. New teachers, bigger school, less flexibility, no guarantee of support. The only message – he will be in the bottom set. What to do.

August 2017 – Struggling to get any support for Hawklad. What to do. School is trying but they are so small they don’t have the resources to cope. Much needed services have been cut. My finances are a mess. I’m a mess. What to do.

August 2016 – Partner in a hospice, just waiting now. Effectively I am a single parent now. What will I do. My job that won’t fit my new life. In fact what is my new life. What happened to the old life. What will I do.

So it’s August and here we go again. Is it true homeschooling or my attempt to mirror classroom schooling until he can return. Support at best is sketchy. The pandemic has not only messed up schooling it’s doing its best to mess up my job as well. Will the job be here in a few months? What will I do.

All a bit perplexing but that is August for me. Should be used to it by now. And that is a source of comfort. September will arrive and life keeps moving. The road ahead might still be confusing but it is heading somewhere.

Really

There was a time when you could put some faith in the UK Government doing the right thing and providing a modicum of truth…….

So the Government are instructing parents to send their kids back to school after the summer holidays. The clear message is that it is perfectly safe. No need to worry. In fact no need for schools to observe most of the current pandemic and social distancing regulations. Those things just complicate the return process. Parents who fail to comply will be fined.

On the other hand….

A number of areas are reporting spikes in Corona Virus cases particularly amongst the younger age groups. The Director of Public Health from Liverpool issued the following warning – “this is a really dangerous moment for case numbers and we need people not to let their guard down.”

When the Prime Minister’s Chief Advisor broke lockdown rules he was defended by our so called leader. Johnson said the following “he behaved responsibly and with integrity and followed the instincts of every father.”

I will happily see you in court Boris….

Questions

A hospital visit is now an even more unpleasant experience. Masks at all times except when you were in a separate room with no other people. One temperature check. All staff with masks and gloves on at all times. The place filled with clearly very panicky people keeping their distance. The children’s ward only allowing one parent in with a child.

But here’s a thought for you.

We faced far more detailed pandemic questioning from the Boiler Repair team (over 20 questions) than we did when we had to access two separate Hospitals and a Surgical Theatre (one question) ….. I guess that’s what happens when people are confused, scared and left without clear trustworthy guidance from the Government.

Get my head round

The sun is shining. It’s still cold but we will settle for this.

So it’s almost official. School has emailed parents to say that looking at the latest government guidance – which apparently isn’t much – only some Primary pupils and those sitting final exams next year will get any direct teaching over the next few months. The earliest Son will be back in school is going to be September. So it’s time to get our heads round this.

Looking at the government’s plan for the economy – doesn’t take long as it’s basically wrote on the back of the PMs hand – probably means the company I work for won’t be operating anytime before September. That’s being extremely optimistic and requires an awful lot of good fortune. Being realistic there is a high probability it will not survive. So it’s time to get our heads round this.

It’s also time to get my head round the likelihood that I won’t be seeing my brother and sisters much in 2020. If things improve then maybe visits at Christmas might be a possibility. Realistically meet ups are not happening anytime this side of September. Already one Government official has said Summer family holidays and meet ups are cancelled, as these are unsafe – but apparently getting on a packed bus and going to work is completely safe.

AND WE HAVE TO GET OUR HEADS ROUND TWO EVEN MORE PRESSING MATTERS.

  • How are we going to celebrate my partners birthday in just over a weeks time. We had been planning on doing a camp fire party. Unfortunately the fire pit didn’t survive the Yorkshire winter. Yesterday I tried to pick it up to clean and the metal just crumbled, leaving me holding just two wooden handles. At least they can be used as fire wood. The other idea was to have my partners favourite meal – Chinese. Unfortunately the local takeaways are still closed and the local supermarket is completely sold out of Chinese food – apart from crispy seaweed. Which brought the response “well the gerbils will eat well then….”. I did offer to cook Chinese from scratch, but that brought the response “I’d rather suck on a gooseberry….”. So we are in plan F territory.
  • Dad I am so missing not going on my trampoline.” A couple of months back our garden pigeons decided to nest right next to the big bouncy thing (thats not my tummy before you say anything….). When I say right next to, I mean within 10 centimetres (not using inches will really upset Boris). Well the pigeons and chicks are showing no sign of moving, so I have two options. One is to dismantle and then rebuild somewhere else. Problem is that it’s in the only flat part of the garden and it’s like trying to assemble a Super Tanker. The instructions helpfully explained that you will need three reasonably fit adults to assemble. They failed to mention at least one of those adults must be an expert in structural engineering and the other two will need to have the strength of The Hulk. The other option is to try and drag the complete trampoline. We tried yesterday and after 30 minutes had shifted it 1 cm (up yours Boris). So we are also on Plan F here as well.

But at least the sun is shining.

Frustrating

So frustrating. Quite a bit of the sky is blue yet the black clouds keep rolling over the top of us. Keeping the Sun hidden. That’s as close as we have been to a glimpse of the big yellow thing. Which happens to be an awful lot closer than we have had to anything resembling competent government recently…..

So this morning the Government has said that their message is crystal clear, the problem is that some people just can’t understand it…. So they have helpfully clarified some stuff. The new Stay Alert message means you must stay at home and also that you must not stay at home. You can only see one person a day from a different household. So if you have two parents then you can only see one of them. Yet people can go to work and meet work colleagues (as many as you like) as long as you follow the new workplace rules – rules which have not been written yet. People should wear masks, but only if they really want to. Don’t need to worry about things like if the masks meet minimum standards, an old sock will do – anyway that’s what many of our nurses and care workers have had to resort to using as the Government couldn’t be bothered to buy enough protective kit. It’s completely safe to go out but don’t try to use public transport as this may or may not be safe. We have the same rules across the UK and you can drive anywhere you want to. BUT not to Scotland or Wales as they might be using the same rules but differently. It will soon be completely safe to send under 10’s back to school but they won’t be able to play together as that would be completely unsafe. We have the most open and honest government in the world but we won’t be releasing the scientific advice we have been using and we will only answer questions that we think are appropriate. The Government has issued detailed rules, bizarrely many of these are still being written (that’s a minor technicality) and don’t get so hung up on the safety details. Just use good old British common sense and basically wing this …..

So yes the sun has refused to shine so far but there is always hope it will. Unfortunately with Boris there is absolutely no hope of competent government ever appearing. Sadly we are not the only country like this. I just hope you get more of the sun than we do…..

Ants

The little Apple tree is springing into life. This is the time of year when you can gauge what type of crop it will produce in 5 months. This apple tree does have different yields. Sometimes too much fruit. Sometimes hardly any fruit. This year looks like an ok year.

Sometimes you can get a feel for what a day is going to be like by just looking at the first few minutes.

Dragging myself back into the house after the early morning workout. Desperate for that first warming brew of the day. A particularly zombiefied version of exercise today. Very tired today. So nothing better than entering the kitchen to find ants. Lots of ants. Reaching for the ant poison is not an option with pets. Especially with our big boy cat who is the cat version of Ozzy Osbourne. Any substance is getting sampled. So out comes the one part lemon, one part water spray. Apparently ants don’t like lemon. If that doesn’t work then it’s time for the pepper and the inevitable sneezing cat. A few years back ants was no issue. We had a lovely but psychotic girl cat. The ultimate apex predator. Only creatures with a death wish came in the house. But now it’s up to me to sort this issue out.

So by the time schools version of homeschooling started – I was already feeling like it was way past my bedtime.

Then within minutes the first school crisis. Son has failed to submit a project in time. To be fair to him he was not in the lesson when it was given out to the class. That’s not a valid excuse for school as the child or parent should check the school emails and online files for assigned tasks. We did eventually find the relevant document hidden away in a random class file. To be fair to us – it was like searching for a needle in a haystack – when your not aware that a needle has gone missing. The teacher has granted a couple of days extension but that means son will have little free time this week. At least it gives me another excuse not to start any DIY projects. Not that I need much excuse these days.

The rest of the school day passed in a groggy haze. Trying to explain the vagaries of the English Language and working out why so many marks have been deducted for spelling mistakes. Trying to fathom out why a subject is seemingly asking questions about a completely unrelated area. And finally trying to understand what precisely is the teacher wanting the class to do. I think there is still a lot of merit in putting the questions at the end of a document. The teacher referred to 9 questions in the text but after much searching, we could only find 5.

So it’s back to the kitchen and THE ANTS. Clearly our ants are immune to lemons. So now I must resort to using up my dwindling supply of salt and pepper as weapons of ant destruction. Failing that then it’s testing various other kitchen supplies as ant repellents. Curry Powder, Chilli flakes and Turmeric. Let’s hope ants are not fans of spicy cuisine.

Return or not

WARNING: This is a covid related post… it may contain grotesque examples of confusion.

This friendly bird is a frequent visitor who keeps returning for a daily meal. A visitor who doesn’t bother with social distancing rules but is far too fast for my poor mobile to get a truly in focus picture. On the subject of RETURNING.

The school return question is starting to be vexing again. When the schools closed down a few weeks back the advice was that they would be closed indefinitely. Exams in June and July cancelled. They would certainly remain closed until the virus was under control and the country had implemented systems to keep track infection rates. A return was not going to happen until it was safe to do so.

Let’s set the context in the UK.

  • Each day a 1000 people are dying in hospitals as a result of the virus and the numbers are continue to rise. The UK is likely to have the highest mortality rate in Europe,
  • That horrendous number does not include the many deaths occurring in care homes and in household settings. Up to half of all deaths could be occurring in care homes,
  • Medical staff, care workers, teachers, bus drivers, people who have attempted to self isolate are continuing to die,
  • 5 under the age of 20 have died,
  • Each day something like 40 people die from this virus who have no underlying health issues,
  • The official ‘those at most risk’ list has clearly missed off many thousands of vulnerable patients,
  • Currently the UK can only perform 18000 virus tests per day. That’s not even enough to cover the urgent requirements of our front line staff,
  • Unless your the daughter of a government cabinet minister you are unlikely to be tested if you are self isolating at home,
  • We are still to introduce a virus contact service or app,
  • Even based on the country’s inadequate testing regime we officially have 84000 cases recorded.

That doesn’t strike me as under control.

This week the governments’s appointed scientists and will meet with the Cabinet to consider the lockdown arrangements. The government are keen to reopen the economy as a matter of urgency and revert back to the original herd immunity strategy. Even though growing evidence is developing that people can be become infected more than once. How long any acquired immunity lasts is still uncertain. As part of demonstrating that we are getting back to normal many in the government want schools to reopen ASAP. Certainly well before the ban on mass gatherings are eased. The argument is that kids are at a lower risk of serious complications.

Ok I fully understand the need to start living again. I hope it’s done as quickly as it is safe to do. If decisions are truly based on the best and broadest scientific advice then I think many of us will support that. But then I put my parent’s hat on.

Parents potentially are going to face a decision in the coming weeks. A decision where there is no right or wrong answer. If schools opens early, do I send our kids in. That is a personal decision and not one that I will allow the Government to take for me. Personally this revolves around a number of factors

  • Kids may be at a lower risk of serious complications but that it not NO RISK. Already 5 under the age of 20 have horrifically died,
  • UK schools are not designed for adequate social distancing or effective hygiene. Too many kids, teachers and support staff are crammed into out of date, inadequate facilities,
  • Homeschooling v Schooling – not planning to go there today,
  • The anxiety and stress the return may place on our kids. Some kids may be busting to meet up with friends again and start being a school kid again. But equally many will find the return stressful. With our Son’s Aspergers he struggles with many social and health anxieties. He has a huge issue with the fear of hygiene, illness and death. Co-vid has sent that off the chart. To the extent he struggles to leave the confines of our front gate these days. If we do venture out then it’s a quick walk, keeping at least a field distance between others and not touching any surface. That’s walking a dog in a quiet village, what on earth will it be like when we are talking about a confined building with a 1000 people. The medical support we might be able to tap into to help with this has been cut back by the government. The service is stretched and is currently not able to do face to face counselling until later in the year – currently it’s not deemed safe to do so.

So it’s a personal decision. No right or wrong decision. We all are just trying our best to navigate this mess. For me (with my parent hat on) I can’t see any foreseeable set of circumstances where I would be willing to send him back into school this side of September. But it’s a personal decision. It’s his decision. So when the times comes that the school is open then it’s his call completely. It’s his risk, his stress, his life.

Stay safe people.

Toy Story

Lovely midday weather here in Yorkshire.

It’s funny how you can overthink even the simplest of tasks. We try to make Saturday evening the official movie night of the week. A regular thing for son to look forward to. Popcorn, cola and a great movie. We save up new movies for the full Saturday experience. If we don’t have a new movie then the next best thing is a blockbuster. For days I had been working on a list of potential movies for this Saturday. Scores of candidates slowly whittled down to three favourites.

The Martian

Terminator – Dark Fate

Rocketman

So Saturday night arrived. I proudly gave son the list of three movies.

Ok Dad, let’s watch Toy Story.”

And with that it was Woody and co. A top top movie. Perfect escapism for today’s anxious world. But how much energy did I waste on picking an unused movie list. But I guess the point is that it successfully distracted me for a few days. While watching the movie I played my usual game of trying to pick which character I was most like. Toy Story was easy, clearly I am Rex. Although this morning I am a bit more Mr Potato Head.

We often forget how stressful the current situation is for kids. Confined to base, seeing parents stressed, unremittingly bad news on social media, kept apart from friends. In our sons case the confined to base and kept apart from friends is not really an issue. But his Aspergers requires routine and controllability. These have gone out of the window over the last few weeks. Adjusting to different daily routines. Food on the set weekly schedule (which has been in place for years) becoming unavailable. A completely unpredictable world. The fear of illness and worse ramped up by a spreading pandemic. He’s so young, had to deal with so much already and he’s facing this.

He asked what my best guess was for when things might begin to settle down a bit. Sadly I couldn’t say anytime soon. When he asked about schools opening and I couldn’t see anything happening and sticking before September.

“Dad is that September 2020 or September 2021”

I wouldn’t like to bet my shirt on that. We just don’t know who long the current restrictions will be in place for. When they do come off, how long before they need to be reintroduced. But we just have to deal with that. I’ve got to focus on the one overriding aim. Give son the best childhood possible. So we make the best of the new normal. Strengthen the new routines. AND above all try to have as much fun as possible. So Toy Story is perfect. It’s fun. Thank you Woody and co.