Childhood

So many pupils from our son’s year group are isolating. I’m also hearing that other pupils are being asked to isolate in other year groups as well. Many teachers are off. It’s all a bit of a mess really. Many schools are like this in the UK. They don’t feel like environments conducive to learning at present.

These are stressful times for many. I’m not sure the Government understands this. Or chooses to ignore this. Bland statements that ‘schools are the best place for children’ are recited everyday. It might be in terms of the Economy but….

Some children need to be in school. Some need to be at home. They definitely need to have the chance to have a childhood. A good childhood. It’s often too easily forgotten how much stress and anxiety they are under. Unable to see friends. Unable to do some of the stuff they love. Living in a stress filled world with so much confusion. Told to wear masks in buses and shops, yet told not wear them in classrooms. Frequent enforced teacher switches. Many sadly forced to isolate or deal with the actual virus. Living in a small world with few holidays and adventures. Watching never ending grim news reports. How much stress are many of our children under. We have to do something about this. To me that’s more important than the short term needs of the economy.

Our son is racked with anxiety. Too much to allow him to venture through the front gate. A significant part of his precious childhood is being spent in isolation. That’s hard to take as a parent. All I can do is to keep him feeling safe, try to shutout the bad stuff from the world and to try to find ways to help him still enjoy his childhood. He’s had a tough one already. Loss of his mum, coming to terms with Aspergers and now a Pandemic. That’s why I’ve got to work all the more harder. There’s still a childhood to be enjoyed.

Ghosts

I was listening to the new David Gilmour song and one line really hit me.

Yes, I have ghosts, not all of them dead.

For me that is so true….. Often the ones which are not dead are the hardest ones to deal with. They can appear at any time. They fill my head with negative thoughts. Once there they can haunt me for days. Missed opportunities. Past mistakes. Errors. Broken promises. Heartaches. Dead ends. Let downs. Sad memories. Inhibitions. Self inflicted hurt. Bleak times. They can hold me back, stop progress, bring on self doubt and herald the return of depression.

Those thoughts still live within me. They aren’t dead. Ready to reappear when I drop my guard. When I am low. When I am tired. When I’m facing a leap of faith. They all relate to past events but the memory still lives on within me. They try to shape my present day mood and choices.

Maybe it’s time to deal with them. Exorcise them. End the hold they have over me. Life is too short to waste. Its time to fill my soul with positive thoughts and memories. Ghosts should be dead.

#worldmentalhealthday

Every single day should be WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY.

Since I was a teenager I have suffered from Depression and Anxiety. For years I hid this. Embarrassed for feeling this way. Too often hiding behind a smiling mask when I was crying inside. Now I realise it’s not something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make me a bad person. It just makes me human.

Finding just one person who understands makes such a huge difference. Just one person who will listen. They don’t need to have any answers, you just need to feel like you are not alone in these struggles. Talking about how I really do feel has been such a huge stride forward.

Mental Health is a priority. Something I need to focus on every single day. I can find the time to exercise, so I can find the time to be kind to myself. I hope you can as well.

Unpredictable

Today the weather can’t make its mind up. Every few minutes it just keeps changing. So unpredictable. I remember my Dad telling me an expression about unpredictable life. Unfortunately it’s not an expression that translates very well into the modern politically correct world. So here’s one I’ve just made up. The weather today is about as predictable as a ferret which has been let loose in a sweet shop.

Thinking about it – I could do with a sugar rush right now. Better not….

What is pretty predictable is that our little family lockdown is going to extend into 2021. I just can’t see our son making sufficient progress to even consider venturing into busy environments any time soon. We are in this for the long haul. On top of this we is the wider pandemic situation. We are seemingly entering a lengthy period of stricter social distancing rules.

We just have to be realistic. The initial aim has to be just getting son to venture out a few times to remote and quiet outside locations. If we can achieve that over the next 3 months then we are doing well.

So my mindset is now focused around the continuing physical isolation which the rest of this year will bring. But that’s a step forward. Uncertainly and just not knowing is worse for me. At least now I can start to get my head round the situation. Start to draw up plans to get keep our spirits up. Normally the dark months are punctuated with special events and family meet-ups. Not this time. So what do we do?

For son part of the strategy means spending money. Much money…. Going to try and get him the latest Xbox. His current one is well battered now. That will keep him occupied and he enjoys playing his football game. The hope is that I can encourage him to try a few new games rather than just FIFA football. The rest of the approach for him will revolve around just trying to do fun stuff. It’s still his childhood, he still has to enjoy it.

What do I do? I guess I get an old Xbox to play on…. Keep the fitness up. Certainly more reading. Get stuck into improving my spoken German (maybe buy a learning app that can double up as a homeschooling aid). The garden is long overdue a real makeover. Let’s see if I can dust down the 35 year old telescope and get out a bit more on those rare clear winter nights. Going to learn how to play the keyboard

I’ve told the story before of our son asking for a keyboard for Christmas. I did well and got a decent electronic one for next to nothing on a Black Friday sale. Unfortunately when it came to Christmas it transpired that the required keyboard was not supposed to be musical but one for his tablet. So it’s basically sat gathering dust….

Until now.

That’s a start. It’s something to work and build on. I’m no use to our son if I spiral downwards, so it’s time to GET UP and make sure I do more than just existing.

WE can do this.

Insignificant

It’s a big sky. Its easy to feel very small and insignificant stood under it.

There are so many times when parenting is the best gig on the planet. Then there are other times…

I was trying to convince our son that he had washed his hands enough. He had been at the soap and water for nearly five minutes. Everything I said didn’t seem to have any impact. Finally he decided that was enough. He asked if the towel was clean and had it been washed that day. I assured him that was the case. He left the bathroom and I looked at his hands. His very red and sore skin. That’s what happens when you wash as often as he does. We are using skin friendly soap. I water it down further. But his hands are still red. I encourage him to use his skin care lotion. But his hands are still sore.

These are the times I feel inadequate as a parent. Missing the support of another person. Someone to share the load. Definitely running out of things to try. Actually ran out of things to try. His health professionals try to help but they see this intrinsically linked to the pandemic. Get the pandemic under control and we can start to bring his hand washing under control – hopefully. But that doesn’t make me feel any better as a parent. Feels like I had one job and I dropped the ball on it.

So I’m stood under that big sky. Feeling insignificant. Time to breathe. Reset and go again. Yes significant but definitely not beaten yet.

Return

This is the first hill I ever walked up. Walked up it more than any other hill. Roseberry Topping is not a big hill. It’s only 266 ft tall. It sits on the northern edge of North Yorkshire and is a part of the Cleveland Hills. At the top look south and you see beautiful moors. Look north you see an urban sprawl and industry. Those with good eyesight can see where I was born and the sea.

For such a small hill it so loved. Alan Hinkes the first Britain to climb all 14 highest world mountains talks so fondly of this little piece of rock.

“I saw K2 and thought: that is the mountain to do; it’s nearly as impressive as Roseberry Topping”

Here we often refer it as the Yorkshire Matterhorn. Our version of the Swiss Matterhorn.

Our version is certainly not as big. Not as snowy. Not as steep. Not as scary. Not as famous. But it’s certainly way more Yorkshire.

My mum when she was young apparently scrawled her initials in a rock near the top. Many did that. I’ve still not found her carving but I do look every time I visit the hill.

As a teenager it would always feel a little claustrophobic where we lived. A small grey town. On one side the cold dark North Sea. On the other side one of Europe’s biggest chemical and steel works. It often seemed that the rest of the world was blocked off from me. But get on my bike and ride 2 hours through the industry. Suddenly I was at the base of our Matterhorn. 30 minutes later I was on its top and I could breathe. I was finally in a different world. I could experience what it was like to be in The Alps. To be an adventurer. I could think clearly on the top. I could calm the internal storms. I could visualise a better life.

All these years later and I still love this little hill. My hill. I so want to be there right now. I need to be there. 2020 will probably be the first year since I was a wee bairn that I won’t have stood on Roseberry Topping. That’s a sad thought. But it’s patiently waiting for me. Waiting for me to return.

More weather

It’s definitely a weather day. Lots of it. Just had to retrieve our bin from the neighbours garden. Very clever really as the bin had navigated two gates and had happily settled in the wrong back garden. Definitely weather but it will change again.

It’s very like grief.

Sometimes the storms are damaging. They cause disruption and seem to go on for ever. Wave after wave crashing down, adding yet more pressure, that awful feeling of sinking further and further down. But eventually the storm will subside. The weather will change.

That’s what needs to be held on to. The weather will inevitably change, even in Yorkshire.

Working hard on harvesting

Apparently we are enjoying the last few days of summer weather. It’s kinda sunny and kinda warm – if you ignore the cold wind. The forecasters are warning that soon the weather will be most definitely very different. Very cold, wet, grim and grey. As a result the farmers around here are desperately trying to get on with stuff. Even working when it’s dark.

It’s also time to start harvesting our own little garden crop. Today it’s a few apples, onions, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes. Some have done better than others……

Can anyone speak carrot. What’s the carrot for ‘you do know this is Yorkshire and you are about to be given a right weather spanking. You don’t have months of sunny growing weather left, you have no more than 3 days. So get a move on….’

Why is it so simple to grow weeds yet those so called easy grow carrots prove so pesky. It’s as if the carrots pop out of the seeds, feel the Yorkshire soil and go ‘YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING’.

So if the carrots play ball then we are moving into a spell of living off stews, soups and apple crumble. I can happily live with that. I’m always thankful for whatever the garden yields. It does have to contend with the muppet gardener and Captain Chaos.

So yes it’s that time of year. The weather starts to break OR in our case, break even more. It starts to get colder and darker. For many it can be a tough change. Heralding a long period of what feels like ever increasing claustrophobic imprisonment. Me included. That’s where friendships, happy things and dreams are so important. They can help soften the sadness, even lift us into a better place. So for me it’s time to increasingly focus on those things. I can’t do anything about the weather but I can do influence the truly important stuff. Soon the autumn colours will become spectacular. The important stuff can lift the soul. Yes the following months can be bleak BUT they can also yield so much beauty and wonderful moments as well

Now it’s time to give those carrots a good talking to.

A time to dream

Life becomes really hard when you stop dreaming. When you stop imagining a wonderful holiday, the perfect job, achieving a goal, publishing that book, being with someone, seeing that better life. Whatever the Dream is, they are precious but they are so easily switched off. I’ve been there. It’s a not a good place to be. After I lost my partner, my dreams did switch off. All I saw was a void. Nothing to look forward to. No reason to hope. Nothing was going to change.

I was lucky in that I did have something to drive me on. I still had to be a parent. Actually a double parent now. In effect my life continued because our son needed me. I lived life through somebody else’s eyes. Unfortunately far too many with dreams switched off don’t have such luck. That’s a dark, scary and lonely place to be.

But dreams are always there. It still can be a wonderful life. It’s all about finding a way of switching them back on again. It took me a long time but now they are back. I can see some wonderful dreams again. Now I have to nurture them. Cherish them. Those dream muscles need to be worked out each day. Make them stronger. Make those dreams more real. Fine tune them for me.

Hopefully one day I can harvest them now.

Running to or from it

A view from one of my old running haunts. A wonderful place. Basically had the tracks to myself. Me, some farm land and nature. I enjoyed the peace.

Isn’t that strange. Looking back I really valued my space. Having some solitude. Yet fast forward to September 2020 and I fear the solitude and isolation becoming a prison. Surrounded by cold, grey walls.

Just can’t make my mind up can I.

But it is a genuine fear of mine. Becoming completely isolated. Cut adrift.

At present I am ok. I’m finding a way through the ever present danger of isolation. I still have dreams of a different life. There are people who care. We can find ways to stay in touch. I have a workable life balance at present. Not great but not too bad. The risk is that I know myself. I know how easily I can lose confidence. How my social skills can desert me. How I can start to overthink. Become too inward looking. That’s the danger zone for me. Then I can easily be sucked into a completely isolated lifestyle. A lifestyle which is not sustainable or healthy for me.

The other worry is that in the modern world it is so easy to be cut adrift. So easy for people to stop calling round. To stop noticing you. Just one unknown face in the crowd. It felt like that for a long time after I lost my partner. People stopped calling. I was just that unseen face in the crowd.

So for me it’s finding a balance. Enjoying more solitude but avoiding complete isolation. I guess it’s like climbing in thick hill fog. You might be relatively close to others, but they can’t see you. You might as well be alone. The solo climbing can be enjoyable but it can also be unnerving. You are never quite sure how close you are to the precipice. How close to falling over the edges do when your alone, no one will be there to stop you.

But the hope is that if it’s like the climbing metaphor. I’ve been caught out in those white out adventures many times. Yes they have been challenging, a little scary at times. But I’ve so far avoided falling off the edge. That represents hope.