Bleak

It’s another bleak old day. Definitely a two jumper day. July 4th was the day when many places like pubs reopened in the England. Well in some parts, rather briefly. A local attraction here opened at 10am and closed a couple of hours later due to the bad weather and high winds. Definitely a two jumper (sweater) day.

Definitely a day for no house work. Disney Plus movies, warm drinks and giving son the attention he needs.

This photograph reminded me of old times. Pre parenting days. When I went through tough periods. When I went through challenging times. Times when I seemed to stumble and constantly lose my way. I would need to reset my inner self. Take a breather. Back then I would book a climbing or walking trip. A weekend in the wilderness. The bleaker the better. That’s what I needed to do my personal reset. Yes I would be tired on my late Sunday drive back but normally I was in a much better mind set. Ready to rumble again.

Fast forward to 2020. Those climbing and walking trips are no more. Single parenting means no timeouts. No weekend long resets. Just keep going. Any internal resets have to be done on the hoof. So with some uplifting words from a friend swirling around my mind, I find myself outside. Sat on the garden fence with a hot drink. Taking a few minutes to breathe. Imagining walking through the bleak landscapes and starting a reset. Yes definitely time to go again.

Hedge

A completely random photograph of our hedge…..

A hedge which has many roles. Too many to list but I guess the main ones are

  • Photosynthesis,
  • Making more hedges,
  • Survival,
  • Home for wildlife,
  • Boundary marker,
  • Barrier to try and keep a dog this side of it,
  • A Barrier to try and keep a football this side of it,
  • Boost to Son’s feeling of security,
  • Something to look at,
  • A home of long lost toys, balls and garden gnomes,
  • And now something to photograph.

Our brush with hospital this week reinforced one issue. Many people including single parents often have few backup options. Plan B’s are rare. I was sat trying to get my head round what would I do if son had to stay overnight on the ward. I wouldn’t leave him (wasn’t allowed to leave him alone). So how was I going to

  • Bring in a change of clothes,
  • Fetch stuff to entertain him (his iPad and a charger),
  • Bring some food and drink which son would actually consider having,
  • Fetch my phone charger,
  • Feed the pets, let the dog out into the garden,
  • Put a new parking ticket on the car,
  • Bring my reading glasses,
  • Check that I had locked the back door……

Yes in normal times I would have a couple of family options. But these are not normal times. They are either unavailable or would take many hours to arrive. No other immediate options. Thankfully son was allowed to go home at 11pm. But it’s a stark reminder that many of us operate with the most fragile foundations. I was lucky as at least an option existed, even though it was far from practical. Too many people have zero options. That’s a sobering thought.

Open your eyes

Looking through a few flower photos and guess what I found. Another appearance from our friendly garden visitor. This unexpected find brought a much needed smile.

The unexpected hospital visit was tough. It was physically and mentally tough for our son. Hospitals are not pleasant places at the best of times but during a pandemic. Just awful.

It was a routine procedure but it made me face some demons. Waiting for news in the building where my mother died and where I found out my partner would be dead within days. Too many traumatic memories flooded back. Sat by myself in a waiting room. Yes it’s ok to cry.

Those memories and the clear unpredictability of the future made me realise what is so important to me. The things I need to cherish and make the most of. No more trying to email when talking to our son. It’s such a bad habit, you miss out on so much and son can see the lack of focus. Quality time MEANS quality time. It took something so unpleasant to clear my mind and refocus my priorities. Your never to old to open your eyes.

Sign of the times.

Looking across the farmers fields makes life look so simple. So straightforward. Sadly that’s not the case…..

It was like the toughest questioning from an old school Doctor.

  • Is anyone in the household self isolating?
  • Is anyone in the household classed as high medical risk?
  • Have you or anyone in your house had Co-vid 19?
  • Is anyone in the house currently diagnosed with Co-vid 19?
  • Has anyone in the house got a high temperature?
  • A loss of smell or taste?
  • A sore throat?
  • A persistent cough?
  • Flu like symptoms?
  • Hay Fever like symptoms?
  • Is anyone in the household awaiting the results of a Co-vid test?
  • I know it’s a shambles but has anyone in the household been contacted by the national track and trace system?
  • Has anyone in the household travelled outside of the country over the last 14 days?
  • Has anyone in the household had contact with someone who has travelled outside of the country over the last 14 days?
  • Does anyone in the household visit high risk virus areas such as hospitals, care homes or meat processing plants?

Once I had provided a satisfactory answer to the bombardment of medical questions, the next question was

So what appears to be wrong with the boiler? Are you sure that the oil tank is not empty!

Sign of the times really….

Running wild

Remember those times before 2020. No masks or enforced social distancing. It seems an awful long time ago. So much enforced change. A world which has shrunk for virtually all of us.

After my partner died the world did shrink for me. No more holidays, no long distance work journeys, less visits to family and friends. No climbing expeditions. Things like trips to the gym even stopped. One thing that kept going was running. Son would go to school and my new found work flexibility would allow a couple of long runs every week. I got to see and breathe the local countryside. Run through the hills, valleys and woods. Every so often a little longer trip to the coast. The delights of a beach run. These became such an important part of my coping strategy. A way to manage my mental health and stay fit.

These runs have now stopped. The last run was in early March. Still there but out of reach. Out of reach until September when the secondary schools potentially go back. Maybe Son will opt for homeschooling and the runs cease permanently. But life goes on. It has to. So the runs have had to be replaced with exercise bike sessions – I have developed a pathological hatred of the piece of rock called the bike seat. Replaced with extra weights exercise in the garden. More CrossFit workouts. And yes with garden runs. A small garden doesn’t lend itself to a great variety of routes. Basically I can keep going round in circles clockwise and anti-clockwise. Constantly going round in circles. I measured it out, the longest straight line run possible is a massive 15 paces. Round and round again.

“Dad school have set a running challenge this week. They want the class to run and cycle. Using the Strava running app they want us all to work together to get to ferry in Dover and head off into Europe. Parents are encouraged to join in. Come on Dad. Get your running kit on.”

It’s a bit like my blogs creaky world tour but recorded using Strava. So I downloaded the app and dragged my tired body outside. I had already done my morning weights exercise routine. And off I went. Round and round the garden. Clocking up km after km. Bored out of my mind. Son did a bit of running himself before he went inside to start his next online class.

Eventually the knees said that’s enough. They can only take so much constant turning. And I went inside to send school the running results. The thing about Strava (and other running apps) is that you get a route diagram. A map of your run. They should look something like this…..

Well mine was a masterpiece. It’s my finest work of art I have ever produced….

The final ironic element to the story. A couple of hours later…

Oh Dad. Just had an email from school. You had better sit down…. Apparently a few parents have complained about privacy and the schools online Strava Running Club. So they have had to delete the club and cancel the running challenge.

Oh well at least I got a work of art out of it.

Boris Award

We have not awarded a Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson Award for a few months. Remember we set this up to honour the fine body of self deluded, incompetent numpties in our society. Well one chap in the UK is so overdue this award it’s about time he got what he so richly deserves. I give you our much loved Health Secretary – Matt Hancock. This incompetent buffoon is apparently in charge of the NHS.

Photo sourced from Wired

Where do we start with Mr Hancock. He has enough material to write several books. Let’s hope one of those books relates to his trial and imprisonment.

  • In his time in government he has voted against giving health care workers a pay rise. They have basically enjoyed a pay freeze. As a result the pay of groups like Nurses have seen real terms wage cuts of 20% over the last 10 years. Last year he finally got round to awarding them a modest pay award unfortunately he won’t commit to awarding any further increases. His reasoning (you will notice a catalog of self delusion with Matt) that nurses have received very significant pay awards over the last few years).
  • Matt has said he would see about giving nurses another pay rise sometime in the future. However for their brave sacrifices he will give them a special badge. He is also quiet happy to see overseas medical staff who are working so brilliantly in the NHS, having to face increased registration costs due to Brexit……
  • Matt picked a fight with professional footballers. He thought that during the pandemic that they should take a pay cut and donate to charity. He failed to recognise that many do actually give a lot to charities. He also failed to call for many of the much richer backers of his own party to accept a pay cut. Interestingly when asked if Matt would take a pay cut he replied No as he was working very hard.
  • He might be in charge of the NHS but he has spoken previously about the need to sell parts of it off. He has also accepted thousands from a pressure group who wants to privatise the NHS.
  • In March 2020 most of the country looked on in horror as the government allowed one of the biggest sporting events to continue without any virus restrictions. Even though these types of events had already been banned across Europe. So why was Matt so keen for the Cheltenham Horse Racing Festival to go ahead. Why was it a good idea (apparently backed by scientific advice) to allow 180000 people to group together during a pandemic. Who can tell. It’s fascinating to note that Matt has strong links with the Horse Racing Industry and has received political donations from them. Sadly links are being established with the festival and the spread of the virus.
  • When Matt was questioned about the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Kit for front line health workers he got a bit annoyed. He was being questioned by an MP who is working as an A&E Doctor during the pandemic. Matt told her to watch her tone….
  • Key health workers are having to reuse PPE, use bin liners and basically take risks. Those working in other care settings are doing far worse. Yet Matt proudly boasts that he is sourcing enough kit and actually nurses should start looking after the kit better. Then he made a big announcement that 100,000 items of kit had been sourced from abroad and was arriving in hours. Hours turned into days. When the kit arrived it had to be sent back as it was not fit for purpose. Strangely Matt has glossed over that.
  • Matt told an interview in March that he had been working really hard with the supermarkets to ensure food supplies during the pandemic. That was interesting as that appeared to be news to the supermarkets themselves. The message seemed to be we have not heard anything directly from the government as yet.
  • He likes to brag about meeting his personal target of the country testing 100000 people a day for the virus. What he’s less happy to talk about is the number he uses to meet his target includes missed tests, tests which have failed to be processed, tests mailed out to people (so still in the post and not yet been carried out) and tests which have failed (so need to be repeated). The actual number of daily tests performed are well below his own target.
  • He’s been talking about imposing virus checks at UK airports since March. Finally those checks are starting but not at every airport. Even at airports which will begin screening arrivals, it’s not at every terminal. Not even every plane….
  • Dear old Matt has now claimed that he put in place a protective ring around our Care Homes as soon as this crisis hit. That’s really interesting as the perceived view is rather different. Basically Care Homes have been left with no guidance, no protective kit, no testing, no tracing and no support. Care staff with little medical training and no kit have been trying to treat residents struck down with the virus. People have been dying in their thousands in Care Homes with no help from Matt. Until recently they didn’t even count deaths occurring in the care setting. Currently the estimated coronavirus deaths in UK Care Homes stand at over 11000 (likely to be much higher). That’s some protective ring Matt….

Trust me I could go on and on about Matt…..So Mr Hancock you richly deserve this award. Unfortunately your country and in particular the elderly in our care homes deserve way better than you.

Like new

Two daily visitors waiting patiently for breakfast. I must clean the gutters….

After yesterday’s unplanned washing of my mobile, I found myself outside in the cold early morning air. Doing a great workout supplied by a very kind friend and listening to music on my super clean phone. Crystal clear sound. In fact it’s never sounded so good. Maybe I should try my body out in a quick machine wash cycle. If only I could fit the car in our old washing machine.

I was a bad parent last night and I’m not talking about letting son watch Deadpool 2 again. School emailed all the parents to say that they had not been picking up all the students who had been submitting inferior work or worse submitting work late. So to rectify that the only thing they could do would be to send out an email each night at 11.30 to warm parents about any issues which may have occurred with their kids online work for that day. I can imagine many parents sending letters of approval in or even asking for a tougher stance from school. I took a slightly different stance on my short reply.

Please don’t bother.

This morning followed up with a much longer reply basically talking about how tough it is for many kids at present and how about school using the resources they were putting into this sanction into doing something positive – something fun for the kids. Maybe even allowing some social interaction with friends. I’m not hopeful but at least it will get me another black mark in the awkward parent log.

Anyway school might not do fun but that doesn’t mean that we can’t. It’s so important we all find ways of still living. So in between online lessons we have squeezed in some activities. Bouncing on the trampoline, Jenga, air hockey and jelly making. Then after the school day had finished we made some cakes. Played football and attempted to build the largest possible Lego tower. Unfortunately due to the wind, curious pets and my eagerness to build higher before a stable base was formed – it didn’t get much higher than 5ft. It clearly had the same design fault as Trumps Mexican Wall. Oops that’s going to bring on my fan mail from Texas again.

Over Easter we will definitely revisit the Lego tower. It might even stand up long enough to take a photo. The point is that actually fun day is not enough. It really is so tough for kids to enjoy their childhood in 2020. So much anxiety and so little space to dream. So fun day is now fun EVERY day. Maybe just like my mobile phone, we can find ways (maybe unusual) to improve things in life. WE can do this.

Pizza Saturday

A new day. Let’s not allow any crap from yesterday mess up today. The cynical side of me is shouting – today probably has enough new crap to keep me occupied. But today is a new page and let’s see what it brings. Pigging lots of fun I hope.

Late last night (430am) I finally gained some control over my two brain cell super computer. My mind wandered to the stuff which social distancing is stopping which we could run virtually.

A virtual darts league

A virtual computer gaming league ( would be even more fun if it was just for those whose middle name is something like ‘Games Nube’ or ‘Apart from the old Atari tennis game I’m generally Crap’)

Virtual Cooking schools and bake offs (we did a brilliant one last year)

Virtual Gardening Clubs or in my case a Virtual Mass Plant Murderer Club

Virtual Exercise or Yoga Gyms

Virtual Book a major event. Say Wrestlemania, LiveAid, Woodstock, The Great Exhibition

Virtual Coffee Meet-ups

Virtual let’s recreate the cinema experience and watch the same film then review it night out

Virtual Homeschooling school gate meet-ups

Virtual bad hair days

Virtual fashion disasters as we can do whatever we like in our homes. Really go for it

Virtual design with Lego or whatever you have in the house challenges (come up with a theme and see what people and the kids make)

Virtual let’s write a song together gigs

Virtual let’s make pizza lunches.

On the subject of making pizza. Well that’s what we have just done.

Yes it’s not to Pizza Express standards. But we don’t care because we had fun… and yes I know the work surface needs a good clean…… Our pizza session also introduced a new concept to me. Ethical Cooking Balance.

Son looked at my attempt. A pizza which was completely dairy, gluten, meat free. Then back to his. A normal ham, full on dairy pizza.

“Dad I think your pizza looks a bit sad. It needs something. Maybe some proper cheese and ham”

“Well son it won’t be ethical then would it”

Well think about it. I will take some of my existing topping and put that on yours. You then put some of your ethical topping on mine. We have not used any less ethical products and not used any more unethical stuff. The quantities are exactly the same as before. But now my pizza is slightly more ethical and yours is slightly less ethical, but will taste infinitely better. So we still have balance”

I tried but couldn’t really argue with that. So that’s what happened. And yes he was right – it did taste so much better….

Breathe

And breathe…. count to 10 and breathe again.

More and more countries go into lockdown. We are surrounded by lands where schools have been closed. Meanwhile here in England our leaders give interviews only to carefully selected media supporters. Even the Chief Medical Officer gives an interview to a right wing newspaper. On the off chance you just might want to find out what our top medical person has to say on the crisis then you have to pay for it. Apparently we might force anyone over seventy into isolation in a few weeks. We might close bars and cinemas down – maybe in a few weeks. We will definitely keep schools open – if teachers go off sick then we will just cram more kids into the available classes. Sticking to the strategy of trying to get as many of the fit and young infected so they develop immunity. All sounds a bit X-Files to me. Seems to be based on the assumptions that infection has no long term side effects and any acquired immunity will be for the long term. Both assumptions are scientifically unproven as yet. Increasing numbers of experts appear to not share the same opinion as our key experts advising the government. Plus this is our Government we are talking about – they couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery. Has anyone seen Boris Johnson over the last few days? I really hope he’s as stressed out as my kid is over the virus….. If it’s sending many of the adults into panic what is it doing to our children.

It’s an odd feeling. Do I trust our countries leaders and it’s experts OR do I rather trust other countries approaches. That excludes the overall US approach – I’m not sure waiting for it to one day just disappear really cuts the mustard as an approach.

So I am wrestling with one decision. Do I let son go to school. I have a duty of care to look after him. Do I think he is safe, secure and well cared for in the educational environment. I’m still wrestling with that one. I think many parents round here are facing the same call. Yes full on school closures have a knock on effect on childcare and staffing in our essential services. Especially as our Government has deliberately cut those services to the bone. We now only have a quarter of the critical care beds that Germany has. But on the other hand how many kids and teachers have underlying medical conditions. Are we not placing them at risk. So it’s not an easy decision. But I need to focus on my son. What’s in his best interest. We also need to keep moving forward.

I need to go shopping tomorrow for a few things. Should be an interesting experience. One of the things I need is a Chocolate Almond Drink. It’s about the only nice dairy substitute drink I have found. It’s expensive but it is always on offer for 3 for £3. Well last week it was caught up in the panic buy restrictions. Now I can only buy 2 in one shop. Suddenly it’s become expensive. What’s bizarre is no bugger else buys it. I strongly suspected that for a while as they don’t put many of these drinks out and often they looked like they hadn’t been touched since I was last there. Being a sad person I have for the last three weeks put a little pencil mark on the next available drink – it’s still been there on my next visit. So clearly they are worried that as the only buyer of that item I may panic buy and deprive myself of buying it next time. It’s all a bit bizarre. But that’s 2020 for you.

With that I will now try to focus on other things on this blog. Yes I may have to mention the pesky virus but I will try not to that much. Over the next few weeks blogging is probably going to become more important for many. A rare connection in our dislocated world. Maybe trying to create a bit of normality in this maelstrom is what is currently needed. What is certainly needed is that we show how much we love our family and those we care most for. That we try just that little harder to be considerate and look out for others in our community. Trying extra hard to be nice and kind. And yes don’t forget to find the time to care for ourselves as well. Finding that time to smile and breathe. We might not be able to agree on what the best approach is to dealing with the virus but being just a little kinder will certainly make us all feel just that bit better about our world. Thats not going to happen fighting over that last pack of 50 toilet rolls.

Take care my friends. x

Took its toll

A brief few moments of calm and mellow light before the dark clouds rolled in and it absolutely chucked it down – AGAIN. A photo sometimes doesn’t tell the entire story. It doesn’t show the person behind the camera. Caked in mud and water dripping off his sodden clothing. The lane in the distance looks inviting through the lens. Really! In practice it was stream. Torrents of mud and water making it a runners nightmare. But for these brief moments it did look pretty.

The other thing the photo doesn’t tell you about the lane is the surface condition. It’s a dirt track. Trying to navigate the exposed bedrock, ankle breaking potholes and badly eroded surfaces. I first ran down this path in 2010. The new nursery was close by so I could occasionally squeeze in a quick run before it was time to pick up our Son. Then it was a beautiful lane to run down. The surface was in a wonderful condition. Flat and ever so forgiving. Clearly the decade took its toll.

Sadly it was not the only thing that the decade took its toll on. As my MP3 player had run out of juice, pondering on this helped take my mind of the battering my knees and ankles were taking.

  • The Dreamer has seen his soul darkened,
  • The thick mop of black hair now more resembles a badly worn corridor carpet,
  • The body once fluid is a little more wooden,
  • The knees once strong are a little squeaky and in need of oiling,
  • The reliable feet now most definitely over pronating,
  • My pert bum is definitely more rounded. To the extent that it has developed its own gravitational pull.

But that’s life. I can still smile. I’ve still got my best feature – my long eyelashes. I’m probably stronger and fitter than I was back in 2010. I was drinking far too much in 2010 and now I’m completely tea total. My excellent sartorial taste is still with me – bright pink leggings today. I’m certainly more resilient these days.

So yes the decade has definitely taken its toll on me but that’s not to say that actually I might be a better person for it. Which neatly brings me to saying thank you to Di for tagging me for the Ten Years (2010-2020) challenge.

Play Along Guidelines

Please share a link to the creator of the tag-jesusluvsall.wordpress.com

Share some highlights for you over the past decade and if you want, a few low points

 Tag whoever you wish to.

Ask them some questions

Use any picture appropriate for such a tag.

Going with the last guideline first, I’m also going with Rory’s choice as it works on so many levels!

So here goes then….

Is there any year in the past decade that stands out as the best?

2010. Son was a bundle of joy and energy. This was probably the last year my partner was truly healthy. Best winter in ages. Plenty of snow which hung around for two months. It was properly cold. Didn’t feel like Yorkshire. It was a dry cold. More Alpine. It was snowman central in our garden. The first snowman lasted 10 weeks.

Has your taste in music changed in the past ten years or do you think music in general has changed?

Went into the decade a metal head who liked classical music. Left the decade as a metal head who liked classical music and who plays a little bit of Leonard Cohen.

Are you heavier or lighter than you were ten years ago?

I have much improved muscle mass density with some incremental drift on the biometrics …. in other words heavier….

How many cars have you owned in the past decade?

Two plus my partners car for 2 months until it was sold. I think she would have been smiling down at me as I tried to drive her automatic which was the size of a glove compartment.

Highlights of the decade

  • Son
  • Switzerland
  • Partner

Low points

  • Death
  • Constantly trying to push up hill on support for Son
  • Rupturing Bicep