Swiss Sunday

Last week we left our Swiss Sunday trip travelling up the Funicular to the top of of the Niesen.

The Niesen is called Switzerland’s Pyramid.

If I remember correctly I promised you some stunning mountain top views. Well here goes.

It overlooks the beautiful Lake Thun.

With one of the Worlds most imposing mountain ranges, The Alps dominating in the opposite direction. Including breathtaking views of The Eiger.

Bizarrely the literal translation of Niesen is sneeze.

It’s also a favourite visiting spot for some very brave individuals.

On top our son had a blast of a time. So many dreams. And the first snow he had been able to touch in over a year.

Swiss Sunday

It’s time for another slice of that wonderful country – Switzerland.

One mountain in particular towers over Spiez. Where our hotel base was. Beautiful Niesen. Son calls it the pyramid mountain.

It’s the northern edge of a spectacular mountain ridge and is 7749ft high (2362m). A short train journey takes you to the base of the mountain. As son was still quite young we were restricted on walking distances. Plus it was often a few steps of walking then more time to dream.

So we got off the train at Frutigen and walked along the lovely Kander River. Eventually arriving at the Mulenen and the Niesenbahn.

An old Funicular will carry you to the top. In places it is scarily steep. For the mad ones amongst us – once a year – you can enter the mountains stair run. A stairway follows the route of the Funicular to the top. Comprising of 11674 steps. It is the Worlds Longest Stairway. Really unfortunately the day we went up was one of the stairways closed days – that’s a shame….

As the Funicular moves above the tree line the views open out.

Next week we will continue the story on the summit. It is truly one of the great views. As good as I’ve had the privilege of seeing.

Thirty Minutes

About a month a go I visited the Moorlands Nature Reserve. It’s a small but ever so beautiful piece of nature on the edge of the city. After years of driving past it and thinking ‘must go there’ – I finally found the time. Really pleased I made myself stop the car and go for it.

Well another work visit to the City. Work completed sooner than expected. So a spare 30 minutes before I head for the school run. No better use of that time than another walk round the Reserve.

The colours have so changed in just one month.

Countless studies have shown the positive impact nature can have on a persons wellbeing and stress levels. I’m no statistician but I confirm that even just 30 minutes is just so uplifting.

I just love the beautiful carvings which are dotted around the reserve. The old 14th century acorn quote is brilliant. We can make a difference. Seemingly small and modest things can grow into something impressive given time and patience.

I really need to make a date to come and look at that quote every single month. Yes seemingly small changes in my lifestyle can have a significant impact. The garden can be made into our own little nature reserve. I can make a difference. Son can achieve his dreams. I can do this. He can do this. We can do this.

Dream Bar

The Yorkshire fields are rapidly becoming boating lakes. Very tempting for a young mad dog. Not so tempting for the owner faced with cleaning the mud laden hound. Then faced with cleaning the mud strewn house.

Son had finally gone to bed and I started on some late night work. I wasn’t hopeful as I was already fighting the urge to sleep. But needs must. I think Apple or Microsoft should take account of tiredness in the design of apps. How many people fall asleep while using things like spreadsheets. Maybe special biometric sensors on the keys or touch screens that detect oncoming snooze episodes. This should then trigger either the playing of 100db Mongolian Heavy Metal or sharp electric shocks. I probably needed both last night.

So yes I fell asleep at the keyboard. This brought the onset of a recurring dream coming back for another outing in my mind cinema. A dream I have had for probably 20 years now. It’s always the same. A great hill walk with friends ending up in a Bar. But this is no ordinary Bar. This one is carved into the base of a gigantic cliff face. No greenery just an environment of stones and cliff faces. Inside you get a traditional UK pub. Roaring fire. Dart Board. Landlord polishing his pint glasses. A chalk board listing today’s special food. It always ends as we get our gleaming glasses of Black Sheep Bitter. Again I woke last night with a jump with that same unnerving feeling. That dream is so real. Too real not to be a real memory. I just can’t recall where that Bar is. So as one side of my mind tries to find the errors on the ever so boring spreadsheet the other side churns through places I’ve visited trying to locate this elusive Cliff Face Bar.

The dream has become so engrained that this imaginary Bar is on my bucket list of places to visit. Just need to find it. I keep hoping that one day I will come across a photo of a place just like this. A dream that comes true. It could happen surely. Look at this Swiss Hotel (thanks To Trip Advisor for the photo)

Sadly this stunning place is not the dream location. But it gives hope. The same hope that one day all our dreams do start to come true. Those so missed special ones return into our life’s. But until that time let’s keep those dreams alive. Let’s make new dreams. Let’s live.

That’s what it is

Hindsight and regret is so easy to fall back into. We all do it. Especially when you suffer bereavement. I do it. I could fill a War and Peace size book with all the missed opportunities.

  • The deterioration came so quickly that we never had that last proper conversation. The last goodbye. I guess the last chat was about sorting out her laptop for when she came out after the tests.
  • We never got to New Zealand.
  • We didn’t have that family Santa trip to Lapland.
  • We never got to Chile.
  • We never got round to trying for a second child.
  • The trip to Tibet and Nepal eluded us.
  • I never did get round to putting those shelves up which she really wanted.
  • Looking at the Northern Lights together remained unfulfilled.
  • I never got round to getting the clip of our sons first steps off the broken camera and on to the video so my partner could see them.

Plenty of time to do these. So no rush. WRONG.

But as that line goes. That’s what it is. Until someone invents time travel I just can’t change the past. Maybe occasionally in dreams but when you wake up it’s back to the reality. But this misses the big issue. Yes stuff got missed. I occasionally unintentionally messed up (maybe more than occasionally). We didn’t complete our bucket list. BUT just wait a picking moment. Look at the stuff we did.

  • Switzerland lots of times.
  • That first romantic trip to the Lakes.
  • The two mad cats and a savage Hamster.
  • The three trips to Disneyland Paris.
  • Buying our first house.
  • Those trips to France.
  • All those walks on the North Yorkshire Moors.
  • That trip to the Newcastle match when you almost got run over by the Juventus Team Bus and the Police Horse ate my Mars Bar.
  • That winter we got snowed in with 18 inches of snow. Days of snow fun.
  • The trips to the Peak District.
  • That stay in one of Britain’s most haunted buildings.
  • Skinny Dipping in the freezing sea at Anglesey.
  • That week in the Scottish Highlands and that cottage next to the grave yard.
  • That walk up Snowdon.
  • That mad evening at a Blues Brothers New Years Eve Dance.
  • The trip to the French Grand Prix
  • That week in the Gypsy Cottage In Northumberland.
  • The concerts. Even Ronan Keating – twice.
  • Getting to see some of the Olympics events.
  • Producing our beautiful son. The single most perfect we both ever did.

Too many great memories to mention here. That’s the stuff I should be focusing on. The memories which should be on permanent replay. You know what – we had a hell of a ride. That’s what it is. Thank you.

Sensory overload

There is a scene from the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie. Sherlock is in the restaurant waiting for Watson and his fiancée. You see him people watching. But quickly the noise and the images overwhelm him and he closes his eyes to shut out the world. Too much for him. Sensory overload.

It’s one of the few times I’ve seen this depicted on screen. It’s a problem for so many in our society. Yet it’s an often overlooked element of autism.

Imagine every time you go shopping, or sit in a classroom, or walk in a busy street or sit on an aeroplane or cross the road …. you get hit with this sensory overload. Too many different noises, too many images, too many smells, just too many sensations. Your brain just can’t process them. It can cause anxiety, confusion, anger, blurred vision, a meltdown or it may just hurt a lot.

Son has suffered with this. I’ve suffered with this.

Sometimes it’s easy to spot those potential sensory vortexes. Places with lots of people in a confined space. Various noise sources. Complex lighting. But often it can be more subtle situations which can produce the dreaded vortex.

  • Bright colours and certain patterns. The wrong type of wallpaper. A vivid unusual designed piece of clothing.
  • Where you try and process a number of facial expressions or different types of body language at the same time. A school corridor.
  • An unusual or striking taste sensation.
  • An unpleasant touch sensation. The wrong type of sock or glove. With me it’s often the feel of cold metal.
  • Trying to listen to a conversation where a number of people are trying to talk at the same time.

Over time you learn which environments will cause the issues and you start to avoid them. That’s potentially one of the reasons some with autism seek isolation and a private lifestyle.

Our son had started to develop his own defence strategies. One of his most effective ones is dreaming. When the environmental factors start to become unpleasant or unsettling he will often dream. Create a world he can fully control. This helps him shut out many of sensory inputs trying to overload him. You will often see him flapping or stimming during this process. He doesn’t completely shut out the entire world. He can keep track of certain inputs. You will see him dreaming but at the same time he is scanning a conversation or a teacher talking. As a kid I would do something similar when the anxiety started to kick in. Suddenly you feel your back in control again. Unfortunately I was not as good at keeping track of what the teacher was saying – my school reports often mentioned I was a day dreamer and needed to try harder.

Unfortunately as a society we are just not geared up to understand these issues. If you don’t conform to the required standards then you are labelled different. A problem. Most schools give little thought to how they design a classroom and no thought to what goes on the walls. But this can have such a huge impact. A psychologist told me this true story.

A young girl struggled to concentrate in the classroom. She was unable to read at school or in the home. She was written off as low attainment with behavioural issues. Then she was referred to a specialist who asked school to try and teach her in a different location with plain walls. The only room available was a little empty storage room under the stairs. Unbelievably the girl suddenly started to read in the store room.

The problem was that the classroom had a bright patterned wall which overloaded the girls senses. Every room in her home had complex patterned wallpaper. Quickly her parents redecorated the house with one colour paint. Unfortunately her school did not change the classroom so the girl would go to read in the storeroom.

We are seeing progress. For example some stores are starting to run autism friendly shopping slots. We went to one. The shop had turned down the lighting. Switched off the PA and music. Staff wore white shirts. Some of the bright coloured walls were covered over. The store controlled how many people entered the store. It worked and made such a difference.

As a society we have failed too many for far too long. We need to stop being so judgemental about those who don’t fit into the narrow accepted standards. We also need to have a long hard look at how we design our public buildings and homes. Let’s start to make a difference.

Crazy dreams

Dreams and memories are a vital part of life. After my partner died memories became my essential comfort blanket – something which kept me going. Three years later they are just as important to my soul. The occasional forgotten photograph find rekindle long forgotten life snapshots.

Dreams come in three forms for me. Those dreams of a future life, memories and those dreams which come during those all too brief periods of sleep. My future life dreams died when my partner left us. All I see is darkness. My job is to give our son the best possible childhood. After that nothing. It’s something I’ve heard from others in a similar position to me – I live through my son.

After the world changed my night dreams became a weird bizarre place. Reality completely warped. But increasingly the dreams became memory driven. Accurate replays of precious moments. This brought great solace with a few tearful mornings. But recently things have changed. Suddenly the night dreams are actual memory based but morphed in some important and strange way.

A lovely visit family trip to Edinburgh Zoo to see the Pandas. But in the dream the family trip becomes a trip round Jurassic Park world. All the actual incidents but with a dinosaur flavour.

A trip to the Royal Ascot Racing Festival held for one year at York. The Queen riding past us. 2005. Yet in the dreams it’s not Horse Racing. Sometimes it’s Dragster Racing. Sometimes it’s donkey racing. YES I get these strange morphed dreams repeatedly.

A family trip to the beach. It’s cold so it’s double jumpers. Ice cream and hot doughnuts. Yet on the first sandcastle we strike oil. Oil gushes out of the beach.

A romantic meal. Days filled of love and smiles. Yet the fine food is replaced with bugs and slugs and grubs.

A hand in hand walk round York’s Roman Walls. But instead of lovely views of York and it’s stunning Minster we see Paris on side and Nepal on the other side.

A New Years Eve Blues Brothers Themed Night replaced with a WWE wrestling night.

I could go on. So many odd dreams. I’m not a clever man so I’m not going to venture into Descartes territory. I suspect the reasons may not be that fundamental. But the bottom line is that I want my precious original sleep dreams back. Often they are all that remain of a better place. I like a bit of craziness but not here please.

Imagination

It doesn’t have to be big to have a bucket full of atmosphere.

This is Skelton Tower on the North Yorkshire Moors.

It’s almost 200 years old and is a former hunting lodge.

If you time your arrival at the Tower correctly then you can enjoy the passing Steam Train coming down the North Yorkshire Moors railway. Unfortunately this walking muppet has never managed that. Still you still get views of the haunting Newtondale.

The Tower is also a fantastic dreams portal. As long as no other walkers are in sight our son can spend hours here. Lost in another world. Talking animals and mythical creatures. Playing about with time and the laws of science. I must admit I often dream of rebuilding the tower and living here 200 years ago.

It’s really good to dream and stretch your imagination. I wonder how many inventions and leaps in understanding have come from doing this. That’s why it’s so frustrating that as soon as kids get past the age of 11 dreaming is often frowned upon. At school the kids have a predetermined and restrictive curriculum to get through (set by the Government – god help us). Hardly anytime is scheduled for creative thinking. Even in subjects like art the approach seems to be learn about this artist then reproduce one of the artists most famous pieces. More marks for getting close to it. Only occasionally are kids allowed to free draw. When our son tries to reproduce something then it’s a disaster. He just can’t do it. But allow him to draw from his imagination and suddenly he’s away.

Kids are not encouraged to explore logic and push the boundaries of thought. In science son has been told on a number of occasions to just accept the facts. Once he asked why science was seemingly so sure of its laws when we can only see less than 1% of the universe. He got the above response.

In maths the class had some questions to work out. Son found a quick way to get to the answer. It worked for every question but was told he was doing it wrong as it wasn’t the approach set out in the textbook.

In our area we are so lucky in terms of history. On our doorstep we can touch the Neolithic. The Stone Age. The Bronze Age. Roman History. Viking History. Medieval Times. The industrial Revolution. Victorian Times. World Wars. So much history to live and breathe. Yet do the schools make use of this. Not really. In his 5 years at Primary School he went to two historical sites. Currently at his present school he has spent one hour at a local archeological dig. What a waste. Won’t the kids learn more about history if they can actually live it. Apparently not – the only source of learning is from predetermined textbooks.

Imagination is the key to so much. It should be one of the key facets of modern education. When I was a kid the brilliant Carl Sagan ignited my passion for astronomy and thinking. I will leave you with his take on imagination.

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere. CARL SAGAN

Commitment

This photo is from a couple of days ago. It was reasonable weather.

Over the last couple of days the weather here has been a little more damp. The Photograph below from The Guardian sums up today’s dampness. Welcome to Yorkshire – the worlds best cyclist competing at the UCI World Championships and enjoying the welcoming Yorkie weather. As my Dad would have said that will put hair on their chests. Bet the poor riders didn’t expect to be riding through lakes. Amazingly the race was completed. Thats commitment for you.

Parenting is about commitment. Even I realised that before our son was born. The bizarre assumption we made was that at some stage the kid(s) would fly the nest and we would go back to something like our old life’s. Maybe after school, after college, after university, maybe a bit later. But at some stage it was happening. At some stage parenting becomes more part time and the stuff we had to park can be resurrected. In my case socialising with friends, climbing, playing sport, career, astronomy….

“WE” would get our life’s back – yes I never envisaged one tragedy…..

But maybe the full time parenting commitment may last longer. I remember our sons lead health professional telling us

It is possible that your son will be largely independent at some stage. However on the current evidence this might be the least likely outcome. You need to prepare yourselves that he may find it very difficult to live independently at any stage.”

As a family we are so fortunate. Son is making great progress in many areas. So many families don’t get this level of progress. But there are clear areas where progress is not being made. We have to be realistic that progress may never be made. Support may be needed life long. That’s a sobering thought and raises so many knock on considerations.

Those parts of my life I assumed would restart at some stage may in fact not happen. I don’t like admitting it but this thought makes me sad. But that’s life. I now realise bad things happen and you have to deal with them. You never know son might one day take up something like climbing. I suspect not in the case of climbing. He is a natural risk assessor. He might make sufficient progress to become fully independent. We just have to see what happens.

I know I’m not the only one who is in this position. I was reading a similar thing from a blogger I really respect just the other day. Parenting sometimes doesn’t work out the way you have imagined. Parts of your world are lost. Dreams become unattainable. Although parenting is the best gig in the world it is so hard to explain to others how part of you can still feels so sad.

I now know that this is parenting. Its about sacrifices. It’s about commitment.

Worth it

The rain clouds finally moved on and the sun shined briefly today.

If you open your eyes it’s amazing what gifts this beautiful world of ours will bestow on you.

The news in many countries is usually grim these days. In the U.K. we find our country run by the most extreme and dangerous government this country has seen in centuries. Your either completely agree with them or you are branded a traitor. An enemy of the people. We have become a country were a PM is hailed by his supporters like a conquering roman emperor after he was found guilty of breaking the law by our highest court in the land. A country where the PM is openly stoking the fires of intolerance and hatred. Where intimidation is commonplace. Brexit has broken the country. Was it really worth it.

So parents have to bring up their children in this toxic environment. A world made toxic by the adults. As a generation we have monumentally failed. We continue to find new ways of making things worse. Our leaders play a daily game of who can be the biggest cheating lying dork. Who can bring down their democracy first. Who can burn the planet fastest.

But hope has not been vanquished. The decent law abiding amongst us greatly outnumber the deluded. The next generation have not been blinded by the madness and greed. The educational system may try to clip their wings but it’s the job of parents to keep those dreams burning bright. The young like Greta are the future. The planet is still staggeringly beautiful. Just a short walk can yield such wonders.

So tomorrow Johnson will continue to try and push our country nearer the precipice. But take a quick walk and look at what is around you. Take a good look at the faces of the young. See their dreams. That’s the important stuff. That’s what should be guiding our direction. Not the poisonous Brexit agenda – whether we should leave or remain. Regardless of what happens we are going to have to get the country working again. Bringing the artificial divisions together again. A time to marginalise the extremists, build bridges (not walls) and reclaim our wonderful planet again. The kids deserve that.