It has started

I love the Autumn colours. The hot chocolate. The coming prospect of winter sports on the telly. An excuse to snuggle into warm, thick jumpers (sweaters). The dark skies filled with stars.

Some things I don’t like so much.

The dark days. The sense of isolation. The sense of foreboding. The rain. The mind numbingly cold wind. The rain seeping through the back door.

AND the leaves. Thousands of fallen leaves. For some reason our garden is seemingly the final destination for all the trees in the area. Today I looked at the neighbouring gardens, at most a couple of lonely leaves – all missing their buddies. Well I can tell them where they are. In my garden….

So it has started. Going to get a lot worse, well in our garden anyway…..

L

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.

Grouse

Most definitely not like this today. The strange yellow thing in the sky has most definitely gone on holiday. Hopefully not a long one.

Currently I am looking out of window into the rainy garden and thinking. I’m guessing this home at school project has many months to run. As a single parent it’s trying to get my head round the logistics of that. At present there is not much work and what work there is can be done at home. Shopping can be done through a combination of home delivery and very quick trips to the small local store. But what happens if I need to make a longer trip out. Hawklad is not comfortable at all being left alone.

The options are limited at the best of times and these are not the best of times.

Normally our options would be one of two sisters (but one-off those is 2 hours drive away, and both don’t drive) and a couple of local parents who have known Hawklad since the age of 5 (they are busy so are not often available). Unfortunately under the new Government Lockdown rules all four options are now banned. Breaking those would leave us open to heavy fines. The Government has even encouraged people to contact the police if neighbours flout the rules. The irony here is not lost, flouting rules if you are a member of the government or the dad of the PM is said to be entirely reasonable. Under the new rules our only option would be for a grandparent to stand in. Unfortunately ours have all left this world. But here’s another irony, those grandparents would fall into high risk groups. Those who should be shielding. Are grandparents seen as expendable….

The other irony is that those who would be an option before they were banned fall into much lower risk groups. They can’t babysit for us but I could go to work with them and sit alongside them in an office – that’s apparently fine. We could even put on green camouflage and go grouse hunting together without any punishment. Maybe that’s the childcare answer, we set up a grouse hunting lodge in the garden. The first ever vegetarian one….

Tomatoes

Sometimes it’s the little things….

I’ve just started my fifth year on my grief journey. A journey I would must definitely would rather had not started but now I’m on it, well I might as well make the best of it. And that’s what I am trying to do. For several years it was a nightmare. Just awful. But over time things have slowly moved on. Now it’s definitely good weeks and bad days.

I still get so many reminders of the process I am going through. Many of those are repeated experiences but every so often I still find new reminders.

I was checking the garden for things I could harvest for tonight’s meal and I came across these small tomatoes. Then a thought struck me. There was a time when this was not something I would do. Yes I would grow the tomato plants but that was it. My partner loved tomatoes. She would go out every day I see what could be picked and eaten right there and then. Those days have gone and now the ripe fruit sits and waits for me. That thought made me sad. But life has to go on. Hawklad would like a few fresh tomatoes on his plate. He currently doesn’t feel comfortable touching items outside so it’s down to me. Life goes on. Pick some tomatoes, think of my partner then it’s time to get on with living. Time to focus on the here and now. Find happiness in the world around me. It is most definitely there.

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.

Cobwebs

Sorry this post is a day late. Think MONDAY….

Someone has been very busy. Boris is happily sat admiring all the hard work. Poor Boris the spider. Having a name which is now associated with our so called leader. Boris is a part timer, a serial liar, heartless, out of his depth, out of step with the world, a relic of a bygone era, addicted to his privileged lifestyle, not interested in the future of the species, has been repeatedly sacked, likes to hear his own voice and is basically a reptile at heart. Qualities not found thankfully in our little garden Boris.

So the start of the next phase of the school at home project got off to a predictable start. Looking at a blank screen. Waiting for something from school to allow Hawklad to try and do some work. Two hours of a blank screen. As we don’t even know what subjects are being taught today, there is nothing we can do. So all we can do is – I will send another email into school and Hawklad can play on Minecraft. You never know that game maybe part of the curriculum.

Cobwebs is an apt description for today. The first school day. An early start for Hawklad and even earlier start for me. Back to the delights of early morning workouts. Those early mornings when I just can’t seem to shake those cobwebs from my brain. It’s times like this that I really miss caffeine.

A few times this morning I found myself just repeating the same exercise. Over and over again for several minutes. The brain stuck in a tired loop or maybe it had just switched off and I was in autopilot mode.

Stuck in autopilot mode is probably a good description of the school system. Repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again, no variation, almost forgetting what you are trying to achieve. At least our garden Boris doesn’t do that. He is definitely a most able teacher about life.

Pain

There is a physical pain associated with parenting that is off the chart. Excluding childbirth which thankfully I will never have to experience. Standing bare foot on a piece of lego. A weaponised toy. In the garden there is something that comes close to lego. It’s this lovely little thing. A tree which overlooks our garden and likes to drop these little bombs onto the lawn. Accidentally pick one up – agony. Kneel on one – agony. Get one attached to the top of your training shoe – beyond agony. Horse Chestnuts hurt….

Dad I keep hearing that as you get older your body starts to hurt. Is that true. You should know as you are so very old…..”

Yes eventually the body does hurt. Playing contact sport or falling off cliffs doesn’t help. You can do stuff about the pain – mostly. But you do get to a stage when you realise that I’ve used this body up, so can I have a new one.

So when did your body start hurting?”

Everyone is different. At school one of my friends had a Chopper Bike. It had upright handles and a gear stick brilliantly placed right in front of your undercarriage. Chris had a big crash and encountered the pointy gear stick at a frightening rate of knots. His hurting most definitely started when he was 10. It ended his choir signing days. I think my body pain started after I was 30. Playing contact sport on a Saturday and not being able to move on Sunday.

Is that when Dad decided he wasn’t young anymore?”

Yes it was. I suddenly released that being a goalkeeper hurt. I stopped bouncing off the floor so well. There is a brilliant comic from Scotland called Billy Connelly. He says that you know that you are not young anymore when your can’t bend over without making a noise, usually a groan.

I can confirm that. I groaned 193 times during today’s yoga workout.

And it rains

And still it rains.

And rains.

And rains.

And rains…

It’s refusing to stop. At least I won’t need to water the tomatoes until say 2023. There is a joke here about it always rains on a bank holiday weekend. Guess what this weekend is….

Dad sometimes having social and virus phobias is a good thing. Little chance of me asking to go to the beach or a fun park today. It saves you getting drenched.”

That’s true Hawklad. Always something to be thankful for.

Apart from supporting your football team. Wow that’s grim.”

We all can’t support teams that win anything. Newcastle United’s job is to give all the other teams a good laugh. At least we have a good shirt. Can’t go wrong with black and white stripes.

The shirt never changes Dad. It’s boring. You look like a walking barcode.”

It does change. Sometimes it’s black and white stripes. Then sometimes it’s white and black stripes.

You do pick your teams. What happened when you started supporting that German Team”

They got relegated.

Then you followed that Swiss Team, what happened.”

Erm they got relegated.

Bit of a pattern developing here Dad. Oh do you remember you owe me a forfeit for losing the last challenge.”

How could I forget.

Wasn’t it to sit outside in the pouring rain with no shirt on”.

I believe it was to sit outside when it was warm.

Dad WHAT was it.”

To sit outside in the pouring rain with no shirt on.

Now would be an ideal time. But as I am kind I will grant you something. You can wear your barcode footy shirt.”

I’d rather not. Given how rubbish my team is, that shirt will just disintegrate in the rain.

**********

So yes I sat outside in the pouring rain. With a cup of tea and yes my football shirt. The tea was warming, my shirt didn’t fall to bits and I thought about some happy things. Yes definitely always something to be thankful for.

Perfect timing

A brief respite between storms. It’s summer you know.

As the rain from the storm kicks in the tumble dryer decides to go on strike. Perfectly timed as I have a load of bedding and clothes to dry – perfect timing. Suppose I could just go outside and throw them in the air and see what the jet stream will do to them. Central Europe – If you see some line green cycle shorts flying through the air, can I have them back please….

Then a few moments later I went outside to put the plastic garden chairs in a safe place – only to see one of the chairs flying tumbling over the fence and heading into the farmer’s field. Perfect timing. At least I know why we will be one chair down. Again Central Europe can you look out for a slightly dog chewed item of furniture heading at some rate in your general direction.

Don’t you love perfect timing.

The nurse counsellor garden appointment to see Hawklad has been rebooked for this week. To start the process of examining his anxieties which are effecting his life and preventing him from going into the wider world. The last visit was a perfect summers days but the nurse had to cancel at the last minute due to illness.

Well that’s the plan.

Looking at the weather forecast the garden appointment is scheduled to happen during Storm Francis. Expecting torrential rain and 70mph winds. Lovely garden weather – especially as we are perched on a hill with hardly any protection from the elements. The nurse is also not allowed to come into the house due to a current working restrictions. So I’ve got no idea what will happen.

Perfect timing.

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.

*************

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.