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Two daily visitors waiting patiently for breakfast. I must clean the gutters….

After yesterday’s unplanned washing of my mobile, I found myself outside in the cold early morning air. Doing a great workout supplied by a very kind friend and listening to music on my super clean phone. Crystal clear sound. In fact it’s never sounded so good. Maybe I should try my body out in a quick machine wash cycle. If only I could fit the car in our old washing machine.

I was a bad parent last night and I’m not talking about letting son watch Deadpool 2 again. School emailed all the parents to say that they had not been picking up all the students who had been submitting inferior work or worse submitting work late. So to rectify that the only thing they could do would be to send out an email each night at 11.30 to warm parents about any issues which may have occurred with their kids online work for that day. I can imagine many parents sending letters of approval in or even asking for a tougher stance from school. I took a slightly different stance on my short reply.

Please don’t bother.

This morning followed up with a much longer reply basically talking about how tough it is for many kids at present and how about school using the resources they were putting into this sanction into doing something positive – something fun for the kids. Maybe even allowing some social interaction with friends. I’m not hopeful but at least it will get me another black mark in the awkward parent log.

Anyway school might not do fun but that doesn’t mean that we can’t. It’s so important we all find ways of still living. So in between online lessons we have squeezed in some activities. Bouncing on the trampoline, Jenga, air hockey and jelly making. Then after the school day had finished we made some cakes. Played football and attempted to build the largest possible Lego tower. Unfortunately due to the wind, curious pets and my eagerness to build higher before a stable base was formed – it didn’t get much higher than 5ft. It clearly had the same design fault as Trumps Mexican Wall. Oops that’s going to bring on my fan mail from Texas again.

Over Easter we will definitely revisit the Lego tower. It might even stand up long enough to take a photo. The point is that actually fun day is not enough. It really is so tough for kids to enjoy their childhood in 2020. So much anxiety and so little space to dream. So fun day is now fun EVERY day. Maybe just like my mobile phone, we can find ways (maybe unusual) to improve things in life. WE can do this.

More accidental Daffodils

The Daffodils are still going strong. That sounds like an excuse for some more photos.

Purely by accident we have a few different types.

A lot of things happen by accident.

Today we tried to find the little pots of paint so that we can decorate some hard boiled easter eggs. Last year we had great fun although I was a little offended when I presented my wonderful recreation of a Darth Vader egg.

Dad is that Peppa Pig”

Still worse was to follow when I accidentally forgot to boil the eggs before we painted them. A few days later it took me three egg messes before I realised my mistake. Oops.

Stacked cup racks are such a great space saver. I bought a really cheap set a few weeks back. It was the day after Valentines Day and the shop was selling off the unused gift items. One item caught my eye. A four cup stack reduced from £10 to £2. The only potential issue. Each cup had one huge letter emblazoned on them. The four cups stacked together spelt

L

O

V

E

That sort of talk is not going to fly in our kitchen. But a bargain is a bargain. Thankfully the same cups arranged differently can also spell VOLE. Unfortunately four cups stacked together is a four times bigger disaster waiting to happen in our house. This morning while cleaning I accidentally sent them all flying towards our stone floor at terminal velocity. I did manage to catch one. So we now have a cup stack of one which spells.

Oops, Oops, Oops…

That cup accident was quickly followed by son knocking over a full glass of chocolate milk onto the beige sofa. It’s a interesting pattern as it’s just next to the tomato ketchup stain from last year (that was mine).

Dad let’s sit down before we have any more accidents.”

Great advice which I followed. Unfortunately I sat down on my reading glasses – what possessed me to leave them on the chair. So in the absence of Hermione Granger and her glasses repair spell, I will just have to tape them up until the Opticians reopen again in a few months.

Fast forward to this afternoon. Unbelievably I found the paint pots and small brushes. So we were eggcellently placed next week for Easter egg production. However a few hours later I had no idea where I had put the paints. The house was ransacked then suddenly that sinking feeling. Oops. Surely I didn’t accidentally put the paint straight into the bin. Normally not a disaster however today was bin collection day and they have just been. Oops.

Stay safe everyone, especially if you come any where near me.

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.

Home schooled breadq

Today was the Day 1 of the countries homeschooling project for many. Son’s school is trying to run a full days lessons online. At the usual start time of the lesson he needs to log into the school system. He records his attendance by a simple text message. Then he follows the instructions the teacher has provided. Any work completed is then loaded onto the school system for the teacher to review.

  • Geography was to research and answer a series of questions on Russia for 90 minutes. He quite enjoyed that,
  • Maths was to use an online teaching system. Complete one module. Unfortunately due to the numbers of kids nationwide trying to use the system – it broke,
  • French was to read a handout then try to write a few paragraphs in the remaining time. Didn’t really work for him.
  • Art was to try and replicate 4 photos in various styles. So he tried a few sketches then photographed them and sent that to the teacher.

It kinda worked. It did provide structure but I’m not sure some of the teaching methods really suit our son. But that’s modern teaching in this country. Let’s see what the next few days turn out like. I’m puzzled how some of the subjects will be run. Online PE and Drama could be interesting. Surely they will squeeze in a few of our favourite spelling tests. Food Technology mentioned cooking at home. Maybe even learning from your mum or dad.

“Say that again. Learn cooking and baking from your dad.”

He gave me a withering look.

Sorry dad I’m going to have to say a bad word. Oh CRAP.”

He knows me far too well. A couple of hours later.

Dad, I thought you had planned to put seeds on top of the bread”

“I thought I had put seeds on but clearly I accidentally put grated cheese on instead. It’s now cheesy bread.”

Its vegan cheese isn’t it.”

“Yes I believe it is as that’s the only grated stuff in the fridge.”

Well it’s grated cardboard topped bread then. I do learn from you. How not to cook…”

Torquay

My neighbours bird bath. Over the years it has become increasingly hard to fill. Thankfully the Yorkshire weather usually takes care of that.

Yesterday was a decently fun day. Any day with Pizza helps. We played football in the garden. Son fired a million questions at me. Including the following belter.

Name 10 best things about Torquay”

We had been watching John Cleese in old episodes of Fawlty Towers. It’s set there.

“Son your going to annoyingly tell me that you know 10 such facts”

Actually 17 facts Dad”

I whispered a silent bugger under my breathe.

We then tried to watch the new Joker movie. I was watching it thinking the acting is brilliant but I’m not enjoying this in the slightest bit. Then son broke my thought pattern.

Dad I’m really not in the mood for this. I enjoy a good bit of Joker but this isn’t a Joker movie. It’s a movie about how a country fails to deal with mental health and how people look down on others who are different. I don’t like the way the film is doing it. Let’s watch it another day.”

So ten minutes later we had the new Shaun The Sheep movie on. That there is a movie.

But I understand what our son was talking about. Not the right time or mood for this Joker movie. There is too much going on in the world. It is also Mother’s Day in the UK. That’s one of THOSE days…. I must admit the social distancing has severely restricted our visits to the shops. That means less chance to walk past all the cards, flowers and potential gifts. Dealing with it for just one day is better than having it rammed down our throats for weeks on end.

I must admit this one has been less painful than the other ones we have endured. We have wished our lost mums a happy day. In my partners case we have kissed the ashes. Then so far we have gotten on with the job of making the most of today. My heart does go out to many mums today. Because of the restrictions and other factors outside of their control, they may not see kids and grandchildren today (or for many days to come). I really hope a way is found for a connection to be made. A text, a video call, a card, a cute photo, a virtual hug or a telephone call saying ‘I LOVE YOU’.

Stay safe and to all mums out there. Sending you a big hug. Thank you for being super heroes.

Pizza Saturday

A new day. Let’s not allow any crap from yesterday mess up today. The cynical side of me is shouting – today probably has enough new crap to keep me occupied. But today is a new page and let’s see what it brings. Pigging lots of fun I hope.

Late last night (430am) I finally gained some control over my two brain cell super computer. My mind wandered to the stuff which social distancing is stopping which we could run virtually.

A virtual darts league

A virtual computer gaming league ( would be even more fun if it was just for those whose middle name is something like ‘Games Nube’ or ‘Apart from the old Atari tennis game I’m generally Crap’)

Virtual Cooking schools and bake offs (we did a brilliant one last year)

Virtual Gardening Clubs or in my case a Virtual Mass Plant Murderer Club

Virtual Exercise or Yoga Gyms

Virtual Book a major event. Say Wrestlemania, LiveAid, Woodstock, The Great Exhibition

Virtual Coffee Meet-ups

Virtual let’s recreate the cinema experience and watch the same film then review it night out

Virtual Homeschooling school gate meet-ups

Virtual bad hair days

Virtual fashion disasters as we can do whatever we like in our homes. Really go for it

Virtual design with Lego or whatever you have in the house challenges (come up with a theme and see what people and the kids make)

Virtual let’s write a song together gigs

Virtual let’s make pizza lunches.

On the subject of making pizza. Well that’s what we have just done.

Yes it’s not to Pizza Express standards. But we don’t care because we had fun… and yes I know the work surface needs a good clean…… Our pizza session also introduced a new concept to me. Ethical Cooking Balance.

Son looked at my attempt. A pizza which was completely dairy, gluten, meat free. Then back to his. A normal ham, full on dairy pizza.

“Dad I think your pizza looks a bit sad. It needs something. Maybe some proper cheese and ham”

“Well son it won’t be ethical then would it”

Well think about it. I will take some of my existing topping and put that on yours. You then put some of your ethical topping on mine. We have not used any less ethical products and not used any more unethical stuff. The quantities are exactly the same as before. But now my pizza is slightly more ethical and yours is slightly less ethical, but will taste infinitely better. So we still have balance”

I tried but couldn’t really argue with that. So that’s what happened. And yes he was right – it did taste so much better….

Masterpiece

A bit of yellow always warms the heart at this time of year.

I remember my Dad would take great pride in the small but perfectly formed patches of daffodils he would carefully foster around the garden. It’s funny how certain images of my childhood house are so etched on my mind. The outside toilet was a delight in winter. The small cupboard under the stairs that scared the pants out of me. The huge coal bunker at the back. Dads spotless greenhouse. The pantry in the kitchen which was the closest we got to a fridge. And the painting over the fireplace.

It was the only painting we had in the house. Lord knows where it came from. My parents would not have spent any money on art. Money was tight for all the families in our working class northern town. A town overlooked on one side by a giant chemical plant and on the other by a giant steel works. I guess like many things Dad would have acquired it at the pub. He would often return with random items. Once including my first pet, Speedy the Tortoise. So I guess he arrived back one night with a painting. It was clearly a very bad copy. Probably done via one of those paint by numbers sets.

Photo from Wikipedia.

So we had the Laughing Cavalier above our coal fire. Even then I realised it wasn’t the original and that it was probably a pretty rubbish copy. But it was our one piece of art, which made it special. Every night as we sat round the open fire and there was our very own art masterpiece. His eyes always following you around the room. That cheeky smile. I grew really fond of him. Even our budgie liked him. One of his favourite perches was on the frame just above his head. I would often dream about this guys back story. Many a dream was played out about his heroic deeds. In those days it was much harder to puncture your imagination. The internet was the stuff of Star Trek science fiction. The towns small library was great for things like fiction, cricket and car maintenance. It even had a goldfish pond in the kiddies section. Yet art history was sadly absent. So the Cavaliers myth continued all through my childhood.

Time marched on and I flew the home nest. My Dad died and Mum moved. The Cavalier was gone. I never found out what happened to him. I never got round to asking my mum. Another one of those unasked questions. Why do we leave it so long – too long.

I hope the cycle of life continued for my cheeky childhood friend. I really hope Dad took him back to the pub and he was handed over to another family for the price of a pint of John Smiths. And today he is sat above another fireplace. Creating dreams for more and more kids.

Energy

Well this friend likes my baking.

These days nothing goes to waste. Always find grateful recipients of any food we can’t finish. But there is a limit.

Today has been a bit unusual. Normally the body is willing but the mind refuses to leave my sleepless bed. Today was the complete reverse. My body felt like it was just a heavy sack of spuds. However the mind was sharp. Those three brain cells of mine were purring. Screamed through the workload which freed up an hour for exercise. Here is where the problems started. The bag of spuds just didn’t want to play. I dragged my body through the session but only just. The school run became a real effort. Trying to keep up with son proved impossible. I just wanted to collapse in a chair.

Now it was time for the three brain cells to follow my bodies lead and shutdown. Basically I had nothing. Unfortunately this coincided with Pancake Tuesday. An utter and unmitigated baking disaster. A simple pancake was beyond me. The sticky mess produced was deemed even too bad for the wildlife. So for the first time in ages food went into the bin. I finally just slumped into a chair. Then it dawned on me. I had not eaten in over 24 hours. I’m on the 16:8 diet. Can only eat in one 8 hour spell. I had simple forgotten about an 8 hour food window. What a prize pillock.

Thankfully heaps of junk food has restored my energy levels. The body is now beginning to function. Unfortunately the three brain cells are now a spent force. So the status quo has been restored. Back to being a brisk walking zombie. But it just goes to show if you start to overthink life it’s so easy to take your eye off the basics. It’s also another important warning. We are down to one parent and hence we are walking a tightrope. That’s why it’s so important that in all my efforts to be a good mum and dad, that I remember to care for myself as well.

Hanging on

After all the bad weather. The floods. The driving rain. The damaging winds. After three storms. Conditions which have proved too much for the early daffodils. The snowdrops are still hanging on. They are truly wonderful little delicate flowers.

Hanging on applies to the humans as well.

Son’s anxiety levels are definitely spiking now. He is returning to the outside world after 10 days of safety within the confines of his house and garden. Days of not needing to build rickety bridges between his world and the world of others. It’s been wonderful to see a kid enjoying being a kid again. Seemingly without a care in the world. But soon school will open the gates to its hostile environment again. As hard as I try the smiles are harder won and often just a little too forced now. Today he is hanging on.

His Dad is just hanging on as well. Son’s anxieties are sending shock waves through my system. A system which is operating on too little sleep. A system which is facing its very own localised storm. A Grief Storm. These storms don’t last as long as they once did. But they still can have an intensity which still takes my breath away. Sucking the life force out of me. They often sweep in without warning. Turning seemingly light into dark. It takes me back to my climbing days. Happily climbing looking into a dry sunny cliff face, blissfully unaware of the raging blizzard which is screaming towards my back. Within seconds I am are grimly hanging onto the rocks trying not to be swept into the oblivion beneath me.

I strongly suspect this Grief Storm was germinated in my fears as a single parent and the growing prospect of homeschooling.

  • Is it the right decision?
  • Am I taking on too much?
  • What happens if my work levels and our income are adversely effected by factors outside my control. My role is heavily dependent on community and sporting based events. These are likely to be curtailed if a certain virus takes hold in the UK. That would make our financial position even more precarious.
  • Are we giving up on school too soon?
  • How will I find the time to do those things which currently help get me through the day. Homeschooling is likely to make activities like running a bit of a rarity.
  • And on and on

Wrestling with these factors on my own. Thoughts then increasingly turn to the gaping hole left by my partner. Suddenly it’s a full on a Grief Storm. So I end up just hanging on. But at least I am still hanging on and that’s a start.

White elephant

The zero hours contract yielded 5 hours work today. Another 50000000 hours and I might just keep the bank manager from sending me snotty letters. Just enough time left for a quick run. The light was stunning. It’s the quiet before the next storm hits.

“Is it true that we are getting another storm.”

“Yes Son it’s due to hit at the weekend. But this time maybe just a little less wind but much more rain.”

Great. I bet they have given it a really silly name.”

“Storm Dennis.”

“Your joking aren’t you.”

No Son it’s officially called Dennis.”

Probably named after Dennis The Menice. Would have been better if they had called it Storm Menice.”

Given we seem to be getting them every 6 days now maybe they should call it ANOTHER STORM.”

Son gave the car radio a quizzical look when the news reporter mentioned that Boris Johnson is still committed to building a bridge between Scotland and Ireland.

How much is that going to cost”

“I think it was a minimum £20 billion but given our track record of overspends that probably means about £80 billion”

Dad what a stupid idea. How many operations, or school books or trees could that pay for. How many months will it be closed for high winds.”

It’s a staggering idea. A 45km bridge over a seriously mad and volatile sea area. Supported by a series of giant towers having to be spaced at least a kilometre apart to accommodate the busy shipping routes. It would also have to cross the location of the country’s largest military dump. In 1945 over a million tons of munitions and submarines were dumped in a 300m deep sea trench.

“Its ok Son it’s unlikely to be built. When he was Mayor of London Boris committed to another big bridge idea. He was going to build a pedestrian bridge over the Thames. It ended up as a shambles and nothing happened. So if he can’t build a bridge between London and London he’s going to struggle to build one from Scotland to Ireland”.

Talking about building Dad. When are you going to get round to putting my shelf back up in my bedroom.”

The project is currently in the planning stages.”

If you mean by planning that it’s been propped against the wardrobe them then planning stage has lasted almost two years.”

I will try to do it tomorrow.”

Yeh right. Two massive white elephants. The Irish Sea Bridge and my Lego Shelf.”