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….

Friday I guess

Some random daffodils blooming next to our front window. These always make me smile as they just seemed to appear one year. I can’t remember planting them. Having said that, this is me…..

My mobile phone rang this morning. I could hear it somewhere really close but I just couldn’t find it before it rang off. A few minutes later I found me phone when I sat down. It was in my back pocket.

This morning it took me one hour to work out that it was Friday.

Sometimes there are no answers.

A few months back I was asked if I had found a magic bullet, a cure for it.

Sometimes there are no answers.

No it wasn’t the W.H.O. approaching me as a world expert on the search for a vaccine for the pesky virus. No don’t worry, I am still the same old dim witted goofball. No it was a parent from my sons last school. She had recently lost someone close and was really low with grief. She was desperate for the pain to go away.

Sometimes there are no answers.

Unfortunately I’ve not found a magic bullet, no cure or no vaccine that works with bereavement. It still hits me. It still hurts me. The days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. I’m still waiting to gain acquired immunity. The route cause remains and will always remain. But I do believe that I have started to understand myself better. I am also slowly finding things that help with the symptoms. That’s something to cling on to. Sadly the things which help me, may not work for others. There is also no guarantee that what works today, will work tomorrow for me. I guess that’s the case not only for bereavement but for many other areas of life.

So what works for me (sometimes…)

  • Exercise, weights and running
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Nature
  • Walking
  • Climbing (I haven’t been able to climb in 4 years but just reading about it helps)
  • AND above all focusing on making our son happy.

Today was one of those days when virtually everything on the list did not work. All I could do was throw myself into keeping son happy. That distracted me. It got me through the day. It numbed the symptoms but didn’t cure the route cause. Now it’s 2am and those dark soul symptoms are bubbling away again. Probably going to be a long sleepless night. Will watch some rubbish TV and will again ponder over the home finances spreadsheet. Don’t know why – it’s not going to look any better when I’m tired.

It’s a brand new day. A fresh start. The old problems and hurt will still be there. But maybe, just maybe it will be symptom free day and it will be a good one.

Stay safe my friends.

Prophecy

Colour slowly returning to the garden. Sadly just in time for the next weather blasting. Just so predictable….

A few years back our son had a wonderful medical expert who did an awful lot for him. Just before retirement I remember the experts prophecy. To paraphrase

Our country’s support for kids like yours is nothing short of a disgrace. Sadly if you think that the support he gets now is patchy and insufficient, well just wait a few years. It’s likely to get very much worse. Maybe when he is 12, most definitely when he is a teenager, the minimal support will dry up. He will get reassessed by clinicians who have no practical experience of your son. They will deem him above the clinical threshold and will turn off the support. Clinical threshold should be renamed budgetary threshold. It’s not a reflection of the clinical position. He will still have severe clinical need for intervention. The support will be removed because as a society we don’t support teenagers and adults on the spectrum. We expect them to fend for themselves. If they don’t fulfil their potential then tough. I’ve seen this happen to virtually every kid I have worked with. If they achieve anything in life it’s just down to themselves and their parents. On top of this the school system just assigns them to the bin. It stinks….

Sadly the prophecy is coming true….

Just before Christmas he was reassessed for one of the support services he receives. The assessment was done by someone who had never met our son. The outcome – the service was withdrawn as he no longer met the clinical requirement.

Today we had a therapy session at the local hospital. It’s a service he has had since he was 7. It’s made some great progress over the years. It’s taken time and many sessions. At the last session his worker agreed on a programme to help with his handwriting, keyboard skills, and areas such as shoelaces/school ties. The programme after that would look at trying to help with coordination specifically aimed at swimming and bike riding. He has significant problems in each of these areas. Well guess what. At today’s session his worker was joined by a senior member of the team. A reassessment was made of his case. After a few practical exercises we were informed that he was now above the support threshold. He was now discharged from the service. They would write to school and give them some suggestions on his future schooling. We were handed a couple of information sheets on handwriting and shoelace tying. We can ask his Paediatrician to review this decision. We are on the waiting list to see a Paediatrician – currently our last appointment was over two years ago.

So we are now down to one service support now. But that is so underfunded. His worker is wonderful but because of workloads she struggles to see him now. Last year we got invites to a couple of group sessions. His last one to one session was back in 2018. Clearly it’s only a matter of time before that last helping hand is removed.

It really feels like that the health service has now dumped our son since he’s a teenager. I guess they argue that it’s an educational problem now. Unfortunately the school system has washed its hands of our son already. Like so many kids the school’s write them off. Label them low attainment. If they get the odd exam certificate in the end then school has achieved its goal. Ticked it’s box on the Government’s school assessment.

So here we are in the brave new world. We are fending for ourselves. Our only support – a few pages of photocopied guidance from a textbook. How can we have got this so wrong. How many thousands and thousands of autistic teenagers and adults are in the position. Some of the statistics on autistic suicide rates, unemployment, depression and poverty are appalling. But society doesn’t care. Our leaders don’t care. That’s a truly sickening thought.

Sausage Roll

Castle Howard is only a few minutes drive from our house. The photo is Castle Howard not our house. Sadly we don’t go that often now as it’s so expensive. Which is a shame as it’s truly stunning stately home.

Work came to a premature end at 10am this morning. That’s the deal with zero based contracts. Yes they are flexible and can fit round being a single parent but absolutely no guarantee of work. So a deep blue sky beckoned a first run in ages. The plan was to drive home and just run from the bungalow. But without really thinking I pulled over at the next village when I saw an enticing path sign. I thought ‘well lets see where this takes me’. The answer was stunning run which skirted the edge of the Castle Howard estate. All for free.

My trail shoes don’t have much tread left on them so I was taking a bit of a risk running down a steep muddy bank. I lost….. A sudden grip failure resulted in a crunching fall followed by several rolls down the steep slope. All sides completed covered in mud. After a few minutes the mud began to dry in the sun. I now know what it feels like to be a sausage in a sausage roll…..

After the painful and slightly embarrassing slog the run flattened out. The reward was glorious views of Castle Howard and the Estate. I had the trail to myself which gave me time to think. Probably too much time. It’s at times like this that my mind wanders to what has been lost. At least with running I do have a release valve. Just run quicker. It works but wow I’m knackered when I finish.

It was a wonderful run around a stunning track. My partner would have loved it. She would be definitely walking rather than running. I was sad that she never got to see these views. I will just have to look for the both of us. I really hope that works for her.

The road

The road often seems so long and never ending. Somedays it is, especially when your trying to run along it straight into the teeth of a biting north wind. Absolute purgatory. But then other days the road is short and manageable. Even in my rubbish car it only takes a couple of minutes to drive it. It’s good to remind myself this every so often.

In those dreadful early days of being a widow and a single parent the journey in front of me looked so daunting. So beyond me. A road with seemingly no end. I would shake my head and just think – I can’t do this. Yet I still set off down that road. I didn’t want to but I was faced with no choice. I was a parent to a young kid who has just lost his mum. He’s was also trying to get his head round not being able to read and that new word – Aspergers. I owed it to him to at least try. Nobody else would. It was down to me.

He only gets one childhood and it better be as brilliant as is humanly possible.

So I started down that road. I had no idea where the road led to. I was so confused. As a result I was hoping to find a ready made parenting plan – an easy to navigate road map. As hard as I tried I just couldn’t find a map which I could use. I searched everywhere. So many books and articles were scoured over for that magic road map. But in the end it was a futile search. No one is going to do this for me. No easy shortcuts had been forged by others. It was down to me and I needed to own it.

Fast forward to 2020 and I’m still here. Still a widow. Still a single parent. Still slightly confused. Still travelling that road. Still haven’t come across a map. But there is a difference. That road doesn’t quite feel so daunting. It doesn’t feel quite so long now. That’s progress in my book.

Laughter

Most runs around here end up with one last slog up this winding hill. A number of cycle clubs use it for races. The British Universities use the hill for their national road race championship. The 25% twisting ascent is a real leg sapper.

But on the bright side it’s a rapid, helter skelter of a descent. On one cycle decent I lost control and ended up in the farmers field. Still not as bad as one cyclist you apparently was rescued after being found face first, stuck in the roadside hedge. You could only see his legs sticking out. That would have cracked me up. As Monty Python would sing – Always look on the bright side….

Over the last couple of years I’ve learned the importance of laughter. It really has been a life saver some days. Really dark thoughts have been broken by a random laugh. A few weeks after my partner and my mums funerals I was as low as I have ever been. But a random chance encounter with Python’s Holy Grail movie lifted my spirts. It was bizarrely the scene where Eric Idle was collecting the dead bodies on the cart and John Cleese tries to get rid of a ‘not’ dead old man. It just touched a nerve and I laughed a lot. It just seemed to brake the spell.

Yes laughter breaks the spell. It’s distracts me. In computing terms it seems to reboot my system. The problem is that often when you need that reboot the most. At your lowest ebb. The hardest thing to do is laugh. The mindset is that your not allowed to enjoy a bit of life. Laughing is just not acceptable. Almost as if it makes you a bad person. Really. For me the two of the nest things I’ve learnt about grief

  • It’s really ok to cry AND
  • It’s really ok to laugh as well.

The news is unremittingly grim at present. Nothing like a pandemic to bring out the worst in our leaders, our media and sections of the population. Today the media was full of misinformation and photographs of empty supermarket shelves. Panic buying has started. So with some trepidation I ventured into the supermarket for a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread. What a pleasant surprise to find a well stocked shop. Then one last gift. With a sense of humour the store was running a promotion on Corona Beer. Clearly with shoppers loading up with the stuff that it was selling really well. Certainly better than in some parts of the world. It’s a shame that I’m on the wagon and that I never liked the stuff anyway. But it did get me thinking – maybe the World Health Organisation should continue naming viruses after products. Especially if it leads to heavy discounts. Maybe the next pandemic could be called the Cadbury’s Cream Egg Virus. I look forward to that discount….

Always look on the bright side of life….

Unwanted anniversary

The way forward is sometimes difficult under foot.

Another storm is heading our way. Storm Jorge. The world news is grim and unremittingly depressing. Definitely no solace at school. Son scored 14 out of 15 in his Drama spelling test. The one he got wrong was Unferth. Unferth is a warrior who opposes Beowulf. It’s not a word he’s likely to use much in life. I am so pleased with son. I wouldn’t have got 14 and I’m not dyslexic. Yet the teacher told him to try a bit harder as a few of the kids had got all the spellings correct. Deep sigh.

Today has been tough for me. The above factors don’t help but they are not the main cause of my struggles. No it’s a grief thing again. Son’s birthday is fast approaching. Since she left us this is just one of those times. Her organisational skills would go into overdrive as his birthday approached. She would be so excited. Her love would shine through.

Then the world changed. (That was going to be the original name of my blog site but I messed up the setupBereavedDad was a cockup).

So today I was trying to sort out his birthday and I felt so wrong. She should be here enjoying this time as well. I’m not often bitter but today I was. What is making this birthday so raw is that he is turning into a teenager. My partner has missed so much of his childhood and never got the opportunity to see him grow into a teenager. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

But unfortunately feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to help. It’s not going to bring her back. It’s certainly isn’t going to deliver any presents. It’s not going to yield a happy birthday for our son. It’s not going to make him smile AND his smiles are the only currency I should deal in now. So give myself a proverbial massive kick up the butt. Turn the news off. Play some loud music and fully commit to birthday mode. That’s what my partner would do and by jiminy – that’s what I am going to do.

So yes the way forward is sometimes difficult under foot but you still need to follow it.

Late nights

Over the school break we were seeing what we could find with our very old telescope. With a bit of patience we got a photo of a distant power station. Took a steady hand and many out of focus disasters. I guess a lot of patience.

When I’m tired my brain has a habit of going into neutral. That’s fine if your sitting or lying down but try to do anything else and your asking for trouble. Last night at around 4am I was watching Black Panther. I decided my body needed a hot drink. So I make a fine cup of Yorkshire Tea. (That’s the tea which has got the new Chancellor of the Exchequer personal seal of approval).

The photo is from Chancellors own twitter feed.

Anyway my late night Yorkshire Tea was made. Unfortunately as I sat down to watch the movie again I realised that I hadn’t brought my cup with me. I was holding the kettle instead.

A couple of weeks back it was even more painful. I was watching a late night movie and I went for a midway toilet pit stop. On my way to the bathroom I completely missed the open door and walked into a wall.

It’s been even worse that that. About a month ago I was struggling with a leg muscle strain. During yet another late night movie the muscle started playing up. So I decided to apply some Ralgex (Heat Rub). A fine idea but in my zombie state I must have forgot to immediately wash my hands. Unfortunately I rubbed my eye and then with spectacular bad timing I decided to go for a wee. Within a few minutes my eye and my undercarriage were basically on fire. Now that woke me up.

But occasionally the late nights can yield moments of clarity. This happened last night towards the end of Black Panther. I had been spending so much time worrying about the future. All the pitfalls of homeschooling. Everything that could go wrong. How I was missing my partner and her advice. Then it struck me. The one thing I had missed was the opportunities. Homeschooling allows you freedom to design your own days. That puts US in charge. That is such an exciting and liberating prospect. And I missed it.

It’s so easy to focus on the negatives. There is an awful lot to be worried about in life. Yet it still can be a wonderful life. If you let it and have patience. So I need to find a balance. If I’m going to think about the negatives then I owe it to myself to think about the positives as well.

Big Sky

Twenty years ago we came to look at our current home for the first time and we both immediately fell in love with it. Yes it was a bit small being a two bedroom bungalow. It needed a lot of work doing to it. Apart from a really small village store it was a long way from any other facilities. The garden was badly overgrown. It would have been so easy to drive onto the next house we were looking at. But then we saw the view from the back garden. That was it. We were sold. I remember saying – that’s a big sky.

It’s still a big sky.

Little did we know how important such an isolated garden would prove when we became parents. Apart from the occasional walker and farmer you don’t see any sign of human life. These days when a human is spotted son will scamper into the house until the all clear is given. I’m not sure he would ever surface if he lived in a busy city.

Today was a work from home day. In fact this is going to be a work from home week. So it’s one of those weeks which could go two ways. Bask in the splendid isolation or feel the intense loneliness. Well after a few hours today it was heading towards the latter. When that happens the house starts to feel very cold and very claustrophobic. So a few minutes later I had donned about 15 layers and was sat outside with the laptop. Sat under the big sky. Today it was particularly quiet. No walkers, no farmers, no farm animals. Just the occasional bird. Yes still lonely but now realising how extremely privileged I am to be sat under this big sky.

Then something struck me. Before the world changed we would always be sitting in the garden. Sat with a glass of wine relaxing talking about becoming parents. Then when son arrived we would sit and watch him play with his toy dinosaurs on the grass. The garden would become Jurassic World. Then after a few hours the big bad daddy ranger would have to locate all the dinosaurs. It’s amazing how camouflaged a raptor can be in a Yorkshire garden. Then the bad stuff happened. Yes I would go outside to play in the garden with our son. I would train and do exercises in the garden. But I didn’t /sit in the garden anymore. This was probably the first time I had sat in the garden since my partner had left us. I guess it just didn’t seem right. It was always our garden not my garden. Almost as if it had become fenced off. Today without thinking just maybe that fence has come down. If it’s sunny again tomorrow I will probably work outside again.

Time to work under the big sky again.

Sad Playlist

It’s been yet another wet, muddy and stormy day. This photo was taken during one of the slightly drier spells.

Grim dog walk.

Exceedingly grim run.

I wasn’t planning on running today but I just needed to get out of the house. I felt the house walls closing in on me. For times like this I often find a run is the most reliable way of clearing my head. It certainly worked. Not sure it worked for the skin. Came back looking like a Prune.

When I say running works I should add And listening to music on my MP3 player as well. I have a playlist for this type run. The music is either quite deep or somber. I blame my mum for this. If she was feeling down she would always listen to music. Always sad songs. As soon as you went through the front door you could tell if mum was trying to cheer herself up. Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Runrig, Sinatra, Roger Whittaker or Andy Williams would be blasting out. She always said that sad songs cheered her up. I always thought it was very bizarre yet all these years later and I’m doing the same. So here goes. Here are some of the songs which have made the list. And no Roger Whittaker and Durham Town is not included.

Alter Bridge – Godspeed

Disturbed – Sound of Silence

Shinedown – Get Up

Five Finger Death Punch – Gone Away

Runrig – Somewhere

Avenged Sevenfold – So far away

Johnny Cash – Hurt

Anathema – One Last Goodbye

Leonard Cohen – You want it darker

Queen – Who wants to live forever

Neal Morse – He died at home

Pink Floyd – Coming Back to Life

Just in case Mum is expecting it, here’s one just for mum. This is certainly not on the playlist.

Roger Whittaker – Durham Town

And here’s one for my partner. This could make the playlist.

Madness – It must be love