I am not a widow

Bereavement is one of the most intense and horrible experiences a person will ever go through. It’s sharp prickles and thorns grab hold of you. It scars you. So how can you ever forget it’s happened.

I had stopped off at the local store for food for tonight. Son is easy – just look for any food that starts with an S and ends with ausages…. Then fill the plate with tomatoes, carrots and bell peppers. I will look longingly at the cakes then eventually go for soup. Oh look they have some giant jacket potatoes I can get them for my partner. Where’s the cheese to go with them. No prizes for spotting the deliberate mistake.

It wasn’t until I was focusing on finding a mild cheddar that the brain finally kicked into gear. Oh bugger. For a few glorious seconds I was not bereaved. Not a widow. Then that sinking feeling. That awful feeling in my tummy. Completely disoriented trying to process two completely different places which are three years apart within a few seconds. Maybe this is what Time Travel will feel like.

Not a widow.

According to the UK Government I’m actually not a widow. Officially you can only be a widow if you are married in a manner recognised by our beloved rulers. We were a couple for 20 years. Now approaching 23 years…. The plan was always to get married but we had plenty of time to sort that out. Then we became a family. Then Aspergers entered our life’s. Again marriage was put on the back burner as we had something far more important to focus on. Then time ran out.

So since we were not married I’m not supposed to call myself a widow. The Government is not stupid. It’s a money thing. Death benefits are aimed at easing some of the initial financial pressures which will hit when a partner dies. These benefits need to be restricted so we have a very selective definition. If you are not defined as being officially married then it’s zero help for you. Your not a widow. It’s not the denial of benefits which annoys me it’s that somehow that unmarried bereavement is officially seen as less important. Not an issue. I remember talking to a man whose male partner had died. For years they were unable to get married because of the law. That has now changed. The irony was that it was done by a Conservative PM who needed help from the opposition as many of his own party voted against the change. Five of the current Government voted against same sex marriage. This wonderful couple never got married after the law changed in 2013. The man said

All I wanted to do was call myself a widow and get on with grieving. But according to the Government I am not a widow.

We agreed an appropriate response. Bugger off. We don’t care what others may think because in our eyes we are widows.

So I may briefly forget that all this bad stuff has happened. But sadly it has. So yesterday, today, tomorrow and going forward I AM A WIDOW. Interestingly my spell checker is desperate to change widow to window. So to keep it happy I AM A WINDOW. Now that opens up a whole new philosophical blog and probably makes a great Prog Rock Album Title. On that thought it’s time to draw the blinds down and go to bed.

I know that I will miss her tonight.

Village life

We knew a really nice couple in the village who we became good friends with. But life happens. Our own lives and troubles took over and we slowly drifted apart. To the extent that we hardly ever saw each other. Now it’s mostly a quick wave on dog walks. But it’s reassuring to have someone in the village who I know. Over the last few years the people I could talk to has reduced rapidly. The village is lovely but the isolation is often suffocating.

Today the isolation feels like it’s gone off the scale.

A sign has appeared outside our old friends house. House Sold by Private Sale. My heart sunk when I saw that. Even though our friendship has cooled the thought of them leaving still hurts. More isolated than ever. Now the village is entirely filled with nameless people who smile and occasionally say hello. They are friendly but are not friends. Our lives don’t cross. They haven’t a clue who I am. I’m just that bloke who goes for a run, takes the dog for a walk and appears to be a single parent. He’s probably separated from his wife.

With no pub, or shop or natural village focal point that is unlikely to change. During winter with the poor weather and dark nights you can go weeks without seeing another villager. The house lights are the only indication that it’s not a ghost village. It’s more isolation I could do without. The feeling of being trapped. The isolation is perfect for our son currently. He doesn’t want to leave the house with memories of his mum. Who can blame him. He can control his interaction with the outside world. The house is good for him.

Even if that wasn’t the case – we just can’t afford to move.

Trapped.

Isolation is increasingly a theme for so many in today’s fractured society. I feel it’s icy cold grip. More than ever. It’s another battle I need to take on. At the moment the battles just seem to keep coming.

Bubble burst

Dad why are you smiling.

I’m playing that mind training game. My brain age has been assessed as 28.

I take that it’s 28 months and not years then Dad.

Consider my brief basking bubble has been officially burst.

I was listening to a chap on the radio basking in the news that Brexit has moved a step closer. In his bubble this is wonderful. The new deal our great PM has negotiated is brilliant. Billions been taken away from Europe and will be given to our NHS and schools. Taxes will come down. Businesses will boom. Wages will rise on the back of all these wonderful new trade deals. For our country and our kids I really hope his bubble is not burst. I really do.

I wish I was in this Brexit bubble – but I’m sadly not. This brilliant deal is based on two dubious principles.

  • A Customs Union Border in the Irish Sea splitting the UK in two with Northern Ireland effectively staying under EU trade rules. Bizarrely our PM said last year that this idea would be a disaster and no Government could ever sign up to it. Equally bizarrely our Foreign Secretary has said the arrangement will be a great deal for Northern Ireland. Staying in the Customs Union is a special deal. Ok so why is this special deal not been given to Scotland, Wales and England. Oh yes I forgot that would mean staying in the EU.
  • All the important negotiations on trade and relations with the EU will be done after we officially leave. Basically we would have 14 months from leaving to sort this out. So basically we leave without known on what basis we are going. But here’s the rub. Here’s why many on the Right love this idea. It gives the Government the right to leave with no deal. Just have to wait 14 months then thy can blame the EU. That’s the crash and burn strategy many on the Right have always wanted.

The bottom line is this new Brexit Deal is a BAD DEAL which was rejected last year. Rejected even by the team pushing it now. It’s a Great Deal for the Rich and a BAD DEAL for the rest of us. Again I hope I’m wrong but deep down I do fear for the future. No I don’t think the Country will go bankrupt. Life will continue. But it will be worse. We are not in a strong bargaining position for the new trade deals. Any deal with Trump will mean opening up our NHS to his big business friends. To compete the Government wants Britain (now Northern Ireland remains effectively in the EU) to move to an economy which is based on low wages and zero regulations. Where the drive is for tax cuts and profits for the Rich. Our wages are going to fall and our worker rights are going to be eroded with no safety net of public sector support.

But apparently I’m missing the point of Brexit. One of the biggest supporters of Brexit has said ‘Brexit was never just about the money’. That’s easy for you to say when your not exactly short of a penny or two. But ok point taken. Let’s look at travel rights. Britain’s will lose the right to travel freely in 26 countries and will not benefit from free or discounted medical cover in those countries. That’s not so good. One of the first actions of Brexit will be to scrap EU regulations on Food Standards, Environment Protection, Freedom of Speech, Workers Rights, Maximum weekly working hours, Maternity and Paternity Rules. The rules designed to protect us. Thats not good either. But hang on let’s not forget we get a different coloured passport with no mention of Europe on the front. Unfortunately last time I heard the new passports will be largely produced in the EU. But let’s celebrate having a blue passport, so much nicer than that red one.

For my sons sake I really hope I’m wrong. I really do. But at the moment I’m clinging to the hope that this new deal is rejected. Yes in an ideal world I would like to stay in the EU. The EU is certainly not perfect but it’s a whole lot better than the current alternative. But if we do go then WE still have time to do Brexit right. Just agreeing to keep Freedom of Movement would make a huge difference. And yes in our little bubbles we can still have our Blue Passports.

Silverback

Must cut my grass…..

One of those days where you line up a full day of work and then son wakes up with a temperature…. One too many coughs and he’s off sick. One too many sneezes and he’s contaminated me. Deep joy.

Still a day off from school will delay yet another bust up with the teachers. Maybe get my stress levels down to just below meltdown level.

In one subject last year he had a great teacher who seemed to get dyslexia. At the Parent Evenings she would tell us that in her opinion our son was as good as anyone in the subject in the school. She would say ok he struggles to write the knowledge down on paper – but we can find ways round that to suit him. It was refreshing to hear a teacher say that the key thing is the actual subject matter not the written English – that’s got its own subject anyway.

Unfortunately that teacher left. The replacement teacher seems to follow the school line. Neat handwriting and spelling come first, subject matter second. So now son is seen as low attainment in the subject. This terms homework project requires many pages of handwritten essay work. Points will be given for the quality of the presentation and points lost for things like spelling mistakes. So kids with dyslexia who struggle to write are being set up to fail. The school must know what a huge disadvantage this places on some kids. Oh I forgot – those kids are low attainment so it just proves the point. That’s modern education in England.

So once again I go through the finances to see if I can find a way to homeschool. Once again I fail. It’s at times like this that I feel so frustrated as a parent. It’s like constantly wading through treacle. Every step forward is such an effort. I’m so knackered – lord only knows what our son feels like. Everything seems to be stacked up against us. But sadly I bet if you asked virtually every parent and child dealing with a learning disability then they will say the same thing. It’s a never ending slog. And like all these wonderful parents and kids – we fight on. We love a quote which is maybe from Einstein, but if it isn’t, then it’s still a belter.

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid”

Or the other belter which comes from Spongebob.

“Patrick, you’re a genius!”

“Yeah, I get called that a lot.”

“What? A genius?”

“No, Patrick.”

Talking about genius. Then there is our sons Dad. I’ve been struggling with a Rhomboid injury. I had the bright idea of strapping it up with kinesiology tape. First of all – what a stupid place to put a muscle group. When you don’t have a partner – how in all that is holly am I supposed to get my hands back there… Then having dislocated my shoulders just enough to get my hands next to the Rhomboid I somehow need to attach this super sticky tape neatly across my shoulder blades. With a physio it’s a piece of cake. In my case think disaster. So several strips went on in the wrong place, creased or just badly twisted. But here’s the final insult. Now these useless attempts need to come off. Where in the instructions does it say in big letters – whatever you do if you have a back as hairy as a Silverback Gorilla on no account buy this tape. And if you are stupid enough to apply it to hair then change your name to Mr Stupid from Stupidville.

That’s me and my postal address.

Magic Tree

And still it rains.

My phone is old but at least it’s just about waterproof.

Unlike my old battered raincoat which is anything but waterproof.

Our helpful government likes to point out to the great unwashed – there is no magic money tree. Well there is but it’s only available to the few. So like many households the number of items which are beyond their useful life is growing each day. Yet as we don’t have access to a money tree we just have to make do. Our list is not unusual.

  • Washing Machine – can’t select a cycle you get what the machine gives you. Plus it has a door which doesn’t shut properly so it needs to be kicked until it locks.
    Oven – has two settings no heat or nuclear fusion.
    Car – needs 4 new tyres which at least will triple the value of the car.
    Back Door – has so many leaks it’s been renamed WikiLeaks.
    Hairdryer – only blows cold.
    Shower – produces about as much water as the smallest water pistol.
    Dvd Player – only plays discs if they have been properly cleaned by Mary Poppins. Every disk seems to go into mad picture breakdown on the merest speck of dust.
    Boiler – was installed prior to the introduction of video recorders and home computers.
    Light switches -No lights in one room so it’s a great place to play hide and seek.
    Microwave Oven – has more rust than my first ever car (mk1 Ford Escort).
    Conservatory Door – doesn’t shut anymore unless you are called The Hulk.
    Laptop – in a permanent state of update and has as much processing power as a stick of rhubarb.
    Camera – has never been the same since it was accidentally dropped into a pan of boiling bake beans. Now everyone ends up looking like Donald Trump.
    Chimney – to narrow to safely light a fire. What were the builders thinking of. How the fiddle sticks did Santa get down that.
    Tumble Dryer – as much drying effect as one of my sneezes.
    Curtains – all shredded by cats.
    Furniture – all shredded by cats.
    House – all shredded by the cats.
    Freezer – the 3 plastic draws have disintegrated so all the food is just wedged in. When you open the door it’s an explosion of food items.
    Dish Washer – is no more, it is an ex dishwasher.

Every week the list of disrepair gets longer. But you just get on with it. Make the best of things. See the funny side to it. And above all remember that as bad as you think things are THERE are so many people out there with no home and no possessions. Which is appalling when you think of the wealth the few control. Just think what good that magic tree could do in the right hands.

Choices

Life is full of choices.

This morning it was pouring down but the forecast was for sun. What to wear on the run. I opted for full rain gear. 10 minutes into the run it’s blazing sunshine. Ended up more drenched than I would have been if I had started in just a T-shirt in the rain.

The Government could have saved Thomas Cook from going under. They decided not to. Apparently they were worried about not getting the £200m back. So 22000 people world wide have lost their jobs. Countless thousands are stranded. Holidays, honeymoons, once in a life time adventures have been ruined. Lots of hard up people are losing money on the bookings they have made.

Last night in the rain storm water came in through the back door. Do I find money to replace the old back door or find the money to replace the misfiring washing machine.

A few years back the Government didn’t win enough seats in the election. It had a choice to make. It decided to find over £1billion to bribe another party to back it so they could keep their jobs in government. Wonder when we will get that money back.

A few months ago I was faced with a decision. Keep son in school or homeschool. I opted for keeping him in school on the grounds that I couldn’t afford to home school (single working parent) and hope school will improve the support to our son. Few weeks into the term of any school support has in fact stopped. Probably a bad call.

The Government had a choice to make on Brexit. It’s decided to go for a no deal crash out. An approach which will make many in the cabinet and it’s friends significant money from hedge-fund investments. It’s also will have to spend over £6billion on Brexit planning. I wonder when we will see that money back.

So in life we all have choices to make. The big difference is that the vast majority of us may get decisions wrong but they will have been taken with the best of intentions. That doesn’t apply to Government. Ultimately they are looking after themselves….

Homeless

Pets have really worked with our son. They provide so much fun and relaxation to him. Since he lost his mum they brought noise and life into the house again. That’s before we even consider the help they have provided with his Aspergers. Best parenting decision ever to bring them into our house. Not such a great financial decision but fiddle sticks to that.

One day we will get a sensible pet. It certainly isn’t the walking dinner plate which is our boy cat. It most certainly isn’t the mad pup currently outside trying to play hide and seek with the butterflies. The hope was that the three gerbils would bring some much needed sanity to the house. Team Gerbils maybe a super hero team ready to assemble but they are also a unrivalled demolition team.

The first house they had was plastic and lasted minutes. The second house was compacted straw and met a similar fate. We upped the anti for the third house with a construction of wood and wire. It has lasted longer however last night Team Gerbils got to work.

To be fair to them they did stack what was left of the house neatly to one side.

Dad we need to get them a new house don’t want them to get angry. You wouldn’t like them when they are angry.

So it’s wooden house version 2.

Notice that in the time it took me to get my mobile to take a photo Team Gerbils have got stuck into the roof.

If this house fails then it’s a phone call to Tony Stark and it’s time for Ironman Armour.

So poor

I came from a northern working class background. A council house with an outside toilet and a dark coal bunker. Luckily the house had a big garden so Dad could grow loads of vegetables and fruit. It wasn’t until 1980 when the Council renovated the house and we got the luxury of central heating and an inside loo. We had to move out into a caravan for a few months so the house could be gutted and the roof replaced. It was bizarre looking at you house without a roof on. I will always remember sitting in the caravan playing with some lego when the little TV brought news of Lennon being shot.

The phrase my parents would always use was scrimp and scrape. They did an amazing job and Dad was always happy to talk about the hard lifestyle. Is it bad but these days that memory always reminds me of Monty Python doing the sketch about the Four Yorkshireman competing for who had the toughest childhood. We were so poor we lived in a box. Or in my case We were so poor we didn’t have a roof.


https://youtu.be/IeXMKygwSco

All those years later and I’m carrying on the tradition of scrimp and scraping. The return to school has brought significant additional costs to an already tight financial position. But as a good buddy said today – we make do. It does mean that you take some calculated risks. Son has an old raincoat which still just about fits him. It’s really well battered. It needs changing but I was hoping to put that off for a few months more.

Well today the calculated risk backfired. He went to pull on the old coat and the sleeve ripped apart at the seems.

Dad it’s not just Bruce Banner who can do that.

So he’s gone off today without a coat and yes it’s pouring down. Absolutely chucking it down. I feel really awful about it. Poor kid is going to be like a drowned rat. Anyway I’ve gone out and bought him a new one. Well at least he can now carry on the tradition. When he’s older he can do his own Monty Python sketch.

We were so poor I had a raincoat with only one sleeve. We couldn’t afford two sleeves.

Demon Hummus

Dad what on Earth is that.

I’m trying to make home made Hummus.

Are you sure it should be that colour.

No that was not what I was expecting.

Dad it looks like something from the X-Files.

I’d moved from trying it with some carrots to which bin it should go in. It might even need a Priest and an Exorcism before it’s safe to do that. Wonderful. Yet another culinary masterpiece.

Dad let’s take the pup to the woods. If we go now should have the place to ourselves.

So leaving the alien hummus to mutate into something with teeth we set off. The signs of autumn are now all around us. Less than 900 miles away the first winter snow has come to Italy. So that’s another summer ticked off. It also means the 30 year old boiler is being fired up for the first time in months. That process is always done on a wing and a prayer. Apparently when it goes to boiler heaven it’s going to cost a fortune. Not just the boiler but the pipes, a good part of the central heating and the oil tank will need to be changed. We couldn’t afford that when we had two incomes never mind when it’s become one (on less hours and at a much lower pay rate). I remember being told by one mum that I should just hire childcare or put son in a club so I could work full time again. Not the first idea about single parenting and Autism but to be fair her hummus will be considerably better than mine.

This might have been a good place to go on about some of the practicalities of when you go from two to one parents but not when it is so close to THE ANNIVERSARY. Anyway the old boiler has fired up. Which is a bonus. THEN….

Dad did I tell you school has changed the PE Polo Shirt from white to black. You can use the old ones for a couple of weeks then if you don’t have the new colour you will get negatives.

With the great news of yet another visit to the school uniform shop still fresh I decided to try the demon hummus. The taste sensation was somewhere between wallpaper paste and a skunks bottom. But on the bright side I might have found a home made recipe for wood putty. That might come in useful this winter.