Sitting down

I must have run past this monument well into a three figure number. Lots of times. I wonder when will be the next run here? 2021? 2022? or later.

Without running I’ve switched to more CrossFit and Yoga. I can definitely see a few more muscles but I’m not sure how far I could run now. It’s been many many months since I last put on my running shoes. My joints would definitely need a good oiling before I tried.

Today’s yoga was definitely interesting. 10 minutes of doing what appeared to be a simple task. Standing up from a cross legged position without using my hands. The standing up bit was ok, it was the getting down bit which was the challenge. How hard can it possibly be to go from standing up to sitting on the floor with my hands behind my back. Humpty Dumpty comes to mind. Give me running any day please. I can do that. But I guess over the coming months I will get the chance to improve. Not sure my bottom can cope with the bruises for that length of time.

We had two deliveries and the postman this morning. It’s unsettling for me to see each person arrive at the door fully masked up. Imagine what it does to someone fighting fears about germs and bugs. It really did spook Hawklad. Should really say spooked him even more. My job over the week is to rig up a post box outside to stop letters coming through the front door. Another thing that increasingly bothers Hawklad. As these anxieties continue to grow he becomes more clingy with me. His health professional has told me that his fears are so ingrained that they may not start to ease until this pandemic is under control and the vaccine has been rolled out and proven to be effective.

A clear time frame is starting to emerge on our lockdown. This is going well into 2021, maybe longer. That has huge implications for school, my work and our quality of life. Quality of life in the sense that our world will be the house and garden for the foreseeable future.

Running is not happening so I had better start to learn new skills. Skills like not collapsing in a heap when I try to get onto the floor without using my hands.

Another week.

So that’s the first week of the next instalment of our school at home project. The first was when the whole school was doing online education. This time most of the school is back but our son is still trying to home school via online education.

So how has it gone?

I think the best word to use is Patchy. Actually two words – Very Patchy.

A few teachers are making sure that Hawklad is keeping up. They try to share as many class notes as possible. Provide structured work and will mark it. Then you get some teachers who send a few summary notes, not much but at least it gives us a feel for what our son should be looking at. Then some teachers are just dumping the whole terms class assignments across (without instructions). So for one subject that was a single 70 page document filled with questions. No idea how much and when the work is submitted. No idea the format. Poor Hawklad is convinced that he needs to complete all the booklet right now. So much stress for him. Then you get some subjects where we get absolutely nothing. And I mean nothing. In terms of pastoral care again it is nothing.

So definitely very patchy. Speaking to school I suspect that will be the case going forward. Fingers crossed that those teachers trying to support Hawklad will continue to do so. It’s good to have a few subjects where Hawklad feels like he is on top of things. Keeping up with his classmates.

At present we are working on getting through to the end of October and have another think about things. It’s a milestone to work to but it is highly likely that it won’t represent the end of the project. Hawklad is just starting on a very long road of help and counselling. Any progress is likely to be hard fought and slow. The School at a Home project will be a long one, well past the next 7 weeks.

Much patience is required and never losing sight that his wellbeing always comes first. Schooling comes behind that.

The third sequel

The third sequel already. The Trilogy done in one day. Eat your heart out Peter Jackson.

So this is the third instalment in the ‘what has changed over the 6 months of pandemic isolation’ saga. This time it’s what has changed for me. I guess this one is called The Return of the Kermit the Frog King. So what has changed then for me.

  • With Hawklads increasingly pronounced Social and Health related anxieties the last six months have seen a ramping up of the parenting pressures. Fewer breaks, more challenges and yes less support. In the UK small amount of support that has survived the Conservative Funding Cutbacks largely stops when kids hit the teenage years.
  • Have become a home educator. A school facilitator. A Classroom Supplies specialist. Much smirking…. After 6 months I’m still winging it.
  • I’m sleeping less. Much less. Just can’t seem to reset the insomnia cycle.
  • Certainly more isolated in terms of actually meeting people outside our little bubble. In 6 months I’ve seen family members twice, one work colleague (and good friend) maybe three times, neighbours a handful of times, the local shop workers maybe a couple of times a month, the dentist once, one visit from the boilerman, a few health workers and doctors. That’s about it. Oh actually forgot one person. The Postman, the only person I see regularly. I count his fairly frequent waves as my most regular physical contact. Luckily I have lovely online friends.
  • With not meeting too many people I’ve started noticing human life more. I notice dog walkers in the fields, cyclists, passing cars, voices from the street, even planes in the sky. A reminder that a bigger world still exists out there.
  • My conversation skills have never come easy to me. I have to work on and practice them. That’s just not happened for months. Even on most phone calls I can feel myself becoming increasingly wooden.
  • My largely unseen dress sense is becoming increasingly avant-garde.
  • I have lost 6lbs but you wouldn’t notice it. Having to resort to consuming far too much Soya (Soy) which isn’t great for my tummy. No I’m not pregnant.
  • I’ve stopped running and walking and road cycling. Must admit it’s not doing my old contact sport injuries any good. Bits are starting to seize up. So I’m trying to find my inner Yoga. Or as I call it Controlled Falling Over.
  • Work has dried up. This was supposed to be a really busy year. Lots of new jobs and major events. In practice that all was cancelled. Remains cancelled. Some plans have been put in place but really I’m not going to get much work until 2021.
  • I’m more able to fill my day without leaving our little household world. No need to visit shops daily, coffee shops, cinema, visit family or friends. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it comes easier to me now.
  • I do tend to overthink things now. Can have days when I do sober too much time internalising stuff. With me that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s such a short stroll to self doubt and negativity.

Yes things have changed for me. They will continue to change as our personal lockdown is not going to end anytime soon. Potentially months more, maybe much longer. With us being an Aspergers Family that was kind of in place before the pandemic. Maybe many of these changes were already happening before the March lockdown. They have just become more pronounced. Maybe these are longer term changes. Maybe it’s much more than a three episode trilogy. Maybe it’s a permanent feature.

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.

What could have been

Sometimes you get those moments when you just sigh. Sigh and think – what could have been. Now I could go down many routes with that thought. But today while watching a sunset flicker into life my mind was in schooling mode.

A fruitless day with school and the education authorities. Does look like support will be minimal going forward. The message is that if you can’t start back at school next week then it’s the parents responsibility to keep your child in line with classroom progress until they return. Suddenly the parent becomes curriculum specialist and teacher. I guess the hope is your child returns to school quick enough that they don’t fall too far behind. But what happens if it’s not a quick return.

We have a medical letter informing school that because of his severe anxieties and fears our son cannot currently return to school. No timescale has been set. Son has mentioned the end of October as a goal. The start of the next term. If that was the case then it’s 7 weeks of trying to keep up with the classroom teaching. But that’s just a finger in the air date. We have no idea when he will be in a position to return to the cramped classrooms. The first goal is to try and get him into a less anxious place. Then it’s to see if he can start venturing out into the wider world. Then we move into trying to get son more comfortable being inside with other people. Only then when he is more comfortable with life, can we consider a return to school. I’m not sure our PM or Education Secretary actual realise that to truly learn you need to be in a good place. Content, relaxed and comfortable. Actually they probably do realise this but they just don’t care. In their eyes it’s all about set teaching approaches, targets and discipline. Anxieties about a pandemic are brushed aside – schools are perfectly safe – no risk at all – force them back into cramped out of date classrooms – trust us or we force you back. Not ideal learning environments, a nightmare for those suffering from anxieties and fears.

But it didn’t have to be like this. Speaking with the school there was another way. School has introduced a very good homeschooling online system. It worked during the lockdown. The plan was from September that most pupils would only spend 50% of their time in school. Apart from those with exams, pupils would spend part of the week at home doing remote learning. That would allow school to further spread pupils out and create enhanced social distancing. Great plan but the government has dictated that all pupils must return full time. So the online schooling system has been turned off. So a potential route to help those pupils who are unable or uncomfortable about returning is not available. A method of helping a number of pupils to keep up, to learn and to avoid them being disadvantaged has been ended by the Government.

That’s a lot of school weeks that we have to navigate and try to stay in touch with his classmates. It’s going to be a real challenge. And it just won’t be our family in this position. Much sighing. Might as well enjoy the sunset.

Scary creatures

A good blogging friend was taking about finding a big spider in her garden. That friend is on a different continent. A place where you get spiders that are big, scary, poisonous and they even jump at you.

Did I ever tell you that I am not great with spiders.

So the prospect of scary spiders brings shivers down my spine. A movie comes to mind – Arachnophobia. Give me Jaws and Sharks anytime. Sharks need our love especially as Trump has decided to bully them as well now.

Scary spiders. No, no, no.

Hawklad loves to go to the zoo and handle spiders. The bigger and more deadly the better. The last trip I just about heard him say as he handled a Tarantula- ‘Isn’t she lovely….’. It was difficult to hear him as I was stood 30 yards back, hiding behind a wall. That’s great parenting……

Fortunately for me I live in Yorkshire. The land that time forgot. We don’t really do scary animals. Those cows can look at you in a funny way. Ferrets can nip a bit (especially if they are in your trouser pockets). Don’t get in the way of a squirrel and his nuts. Those Scarborough Seagulls are hooligans when you have a bag of chips. Get on the wrong side of stick of rhubarb and it can very awkward.

But we don’t really do scary spiders or insects. A few small and timid spiders. This is as big as it gets. A Daddy-Long-Legs. The most delicate creatures going. We end up desperately trying not to hurt or damage them. Even I can get up close to them. That’s the kind of spider and insect I like. Friendly and most definitely not one that is going to eat me.

2020 the year music stopped

2020 has been some year. Is it really only August. Time seems to have so slowed down. Many things have just stopped. Live Music most definitely.

Looking back to the start of the year it all seemed a bit different. We were looking forward to a fantastic concert year. I had worked my socks off and secured a whole list of discounted tickets. It was on paper a great year of gigs and some top bands.

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The Who

Whitesnake

Foreigner

Europe

Aerosmith

Wayward Sons

Ozzy

Saxon

Deep Purple

Blue Oyster Cult

Hollywood Vampires

Killing Joke

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On paper that’s how it will remain for this year. All cancelled some pushed into 2021. So yes something potentially to look forward to. BUT…….

Has the concert zone closed for us. It was always a delicate balance for Hawklad. His enjoyment of the music, the spectacle, a chance to see the bands he loves to listen to. Balanced against his social anxieties. His fears of strangers and crowds. The positives just outweighing the negatives. As a result he could get himself to concerts. Yes it would need his hoody pulled up until the lights went out. But he was ok doing that as he felt that rock crowds were easy going and accepting of all kinds of looks. This was confirmed on our first concert trip. Dad wore the most embarrassing T-shirt he could find. Hawklad was reassured to see that I didn’t get one single strange look and was never asked to leave.

But now it’s a different world. Hawklad definitely sees it differently. Heightened fears and anxieties. The ‘is it ok to attend concerts’ calculation he would perform has got a different answer now. The negatives outweigh the positives. I know the medical advice is that this new world view could become a semi permanent switch in his Aspergers. A dynamic which won’t automatically switch off when the pandemic finally goes. It may take years. May never switch back. We just don’t know.

So maybe that’s it for our concerts. If so then it’s kinda fitting that three of the last bands he got to see just happened to be his favourites. Alter Bridge, Kiss and Alice Cooper.

So let’s enjoy the memories. It might be the year Live Music stopped for us but it doesn’t mean that music has stopped. Most certainly not.

Barrier

The Great Garden Barrier. One side our garden, the other side a farm. One side of the barrier finds weeds and wild plants, the other side finds weeds and wild plants. Which is which? Hard to tell sometimes. It’s like being on the Great Wall in Game of Thrones – thinking which side are we supposed to be protecting.

“Dad are you going to weed that.”

No I most certainly am not. The farmer, his cows and sheep can sort that out. I’m just fighting a losing battle trying to keep the mayhem from breaking through the barrier.

It’s great for the wildlife.”

It is. I dread to think what lives in there. There’s enough vegetation to hide the Gruffalo.

Just about enough to even hide you Dad.”

Not sure about that. Probably need something like an Amazonian Jungle to provide enough cover for me.

That would scare the local wildlife.”

It would. Frightens the pants off me each time I look in the mirror. What’s the phrase – a face that has sunk a thousand battleships…..

Yes Dad I can see you in a Greek Poseidon Sea Battle. You could be the Kraken. Feared around the world. A bit like your dress sense these days.”

Yes there’s not enough pink and lime green in Greek Methodological Battles I find.

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Actually probably too much pink and lime green in my world currently. It must be a phase I’m going through. Started when I was 12. Might grow out of it one day. Actually probably explains the lack of hugs I get. Or maybe it’s the face perfect for the radio. Or could just be the fact that I basically grumpy.

Maybe the bright clothes colours are like my war paint. Getting me ready for the daily battles. Maybe we all have our own version of war paint. Or maybe it’s just me.

Actually there was a reason for donning the war paint back all those years ago. I suffered with a stammer. Nerves and panic attacks would induce terrible speech problems. It was making my life a misery. In my mind I needed to go to war with it. It became a daily battle. Don’t you need a bit of war paint for a good battle. See Braveheart….. Bright colours, I worked out would shift the attention from what I sounded like (maybe also what I looked like) to – what on earth is he wearing. Sounds daft but it did help me. The attention was shifted to something I could control. That allowed me to deal with the stuff I struggled to deal with in my own way and in my own time. It allowed me space to find ways to cope with the stammering. Not taking myself so seriously helped. Being careful with the words I used, avoiding those which might cause me to stumble. Always trying to work out exactly what first line I would say in any conversation, making sure I kept it simple – if I got that line right then things would be easier. If I do start stuttering then I make a conscious effort to slow my speech down. Smiling helps. Accepting that sometimes stammering would happen and it was just part of who I was. I didn’t mean I was any less than any other person. Unfortunately all those decades ago stammering was often seen as an indication of low attainment by society. A reason to be bullied by other kids. Sorry those views are just so wrong on all levels. Me and my bright clothes helped me find a way to plough on. And yes the stammer didn’t stop me going to University, the only one from the class. Didn’t stop me doing some living.

So just like the bright clothes, stammering is still with me. A daily battle. But one I can largely stay on top of. I was watching Joe Biden talk to a young kid about stammering. Joe definitely gets what it means. He said don’t let it DEFINE YOU. Couldn’t have said it better.

It certainly doesn’t define me.

Reflection

This is one of those posts that start with a single thought. No real idea of the direction. Yes it starts with me being reflective.

When I’ve been at my lowest points in life, I’ve felt so very alone. Maybe the two go together. It’s such a hard thing to describe. The world closing in on me. Darkness and a lack of hope surrounding me. But worse is the feeling that I am alone. There is no one who understands me. No one who really cares. No one to turn to. No one who will just listen. Even those close to you seaming so distant, so utterly unable or unwilling to understand. The two worst emotions for me – No Hope and Being Alone. Here’s the thing. That wasn’t actually the case, it just felt like it. I had closed my eyes. Stopped looking. Started listening to the negative voice in my head.

But I’ve been so fortunate. Even in those dark times, I’ve managed to eventually find something which has pulled me through. Either a caring hand or a flicker of hope. That’s all it takes sometimes. But don’t believe for one moment that it is easy. Just reading a few words probably ain’t going to do it. Sadly too many don’t find a positive way. Having been in those dark places I can so understand that now. It’s so hard to pull yourself out of the darkness alone. AND it does feel like you are completely alone.

For those in the darkness. I send you my thoughts and love. I just hope you find something. That caring hand. That bit of hope. The will or energy to reach out. You may find that beacon of light already close to you but often it doesn’t come from the obvious sources. But so often IT IS THERE. WE can do this.

The Irony

The old Apple Tree. Definitely enjoying the sun and the rare windless conditions. A good day for a garden meeting.

Well today didn’t go as planned.

Son was primed for his garden meet-up with his new nurse counsellor. These things don’t come easy to him. Often it’s about trying to build a bond. A bridge. Only when that link is formed can any meaningful work be commenced. He had that link with his last person, we can only hope a similar one is formed again.

So yes he was as ready as he could be. The garden was setup…..

Then the call from Nurse Reception. Unfortunately the counsellor had taken ill in the car and had turned back. Headed home. Really sorry and they will rebook the session when the counsellor is back at work.

So hope that she is alright. These things happen. But the irony.

A session to work on Hawklads Health and Pandemic related fears cancelled due to illness.

The irony has not been lost on him. Oh sorry forget, HES not supposed to get things like irony….. A Doctor once said that to him during a consultation. Hawklad fixed him with a Paddington Bear Stare and said “Are you a proper Doctor?”. The Doctor looking a bit flustered and talked about his qualifications. Hawklad them calmly said “ok a Doctor but clearly not a very good one…..”.

So we just have to wait for another appointment. Absolutely no idea when that will be. Probably after schools go back in September? That’s another potential return complication. It’s certainly added a little to his fears, now. When the meeting does happen I’m betting on Hawklad asking for the garden chairs to be further spaced apart. Thats something which won’t happen at school.

We dust ourselves off and we just have to go again. The cancellation may be for the best. Stops anything unpleasant coming into our safe area. Plus it forces me to do something rather than rely on others. Just got to up my game.

Yes another odd Monday.