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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

Kick the wall type of day

Spending time near water can be so relaxing. Today felt like I needed to be submerged right in the middle of this river. Stood on the banks probably wouldn’t bring my BP down much below 5000. Yesterday was a kick the wall type of day. Even today my BP is probably 250 points higher than my IQ.

You plan to work from home but that’s the day BT decides to turn off the broadband. You then decide to drive to work but then find out that’s the day the Council decides to close ALL THE roads leading to it. Aargh…

You drive to the supermarket to find it was as empty as my wallet. When I say empty it had plenty of items as long as they were not on my shopping list. Shopping for someone with Aspergers often revolves round a small range of food items. If the food is not quite right then he won’t touch it. Today the only pasta, soup, pizza and sausages he likes were frustratingly missing. The upcoming weeks menu for our son has suddenly become even less varied (if that is possible).

Then we come to my menu. You try to go healthy. You try to go environmentally friendly. The key phrase is ‘you try’. In my case that is meat free, dairy free, gluten free, soya free. In a supermarket of 32 aisles my shopping area constitutes no more than one quarter of one aisle. At best it’s a very limited range of products. Today most of that small portion of an aisle was empty. When I asked the ‘shoppers champion’ (title on badge) helpfully said

“It’s becoming really popular so we run out normally in the middle of the week”

Well order more stock and why not give just a bit more of your shop to this really popular range…. While I’m at it let’s vent some more. If I am eating healthier (as the government wants me to) and I’m buying more environmentally friendly items. Why am I being penalised for it. Why are these products so bloody expensive. How can they justify charging £2.50 for a small loaf of gluten free bread. Why are all the ‘healthy and socially good’ products three times the price of the bad ones….. Aargh….

You rush back home so you are in plenty of time for an afternoon delivery only to find a note pushed through the letter box. Unfortunately you were not in when we called at 9.45am. You will need to collect the item from you local delivery depot. When is 9.45am an afternoon delivery AND how is a 25 mile trip to the LOCAL PIGGING Depot defined as local. Aargh…

You then venture into the utility room to put on a wash when your faced with a waste spillage even BP and Exxon would be proud of. Why has the big fat boy cat suddenly decided to use his litter tray sideways rather rather long ways. He’s a big fella and using the tray sideways means he now misses by over 1ft. Aargh…

Then you get a phone call from the bank. One of my cheques bounced. Why. Apparently the other bank wanted .00 adding to the total I had wrote on the cheque. It was a round number so why do I need that. Aargh…

Then we come to the main event. Already my blood is boiling.

I was getting sons Games Kit ready for the next day. Like most school things you have a prescriptive list of items. Any variations from the list gets the child an automatic negative. Only one light blue football sock could be found….

Son wasn’t sure if he brought it home or had left it at school. We ransacked the house to no avail. With every passing minute son is getting more upset and my BP has gone to Green Rage Hulk levels. Not angry at son angry with life in general. Then a great idea we have 40 minutes to get to the nearest sport shop. Some frantic driving and we get there just in time. The shop has an extensive football range. Every colour sock going EXCEPT Light blue… Normal blue would be a school negative (as it’s not the official colours). Ask the shop assistant. “Yes we have some light blue behind the counter”. At last we catch a break….

“We only have two in stock and I’m afraid they might be a bit small for him”. If it’s tight don’t worry. “Both are 5-6 Year Old size”. Bloody hell… Aargh.

So that was that. Son was sent into school with some royal blue footy socks and a note pleading our case. But the damage was done. I spent most of the night and early morning trying to calm our sons anxiety meltdown. A meltdown caused by one missing light blue sock. It sounds trivia but it isn’t. On that night it was the single worst worry one particular kid with Aspergers could have. Caused by petty school rules.

So yesterday was officially a kick the wall type of day. To the outsider it’s all mundane stuff. No internet. A few road closures. No expensive hippy food. A missed delivery. A cat missing the target. A cheque which needs amending. AND a light blue sock. But to me it was a massive pain in the bootocks….

STICKMAN

The mad dog demonstrating the almost perfect combover. Maybe next time he will model the perfect beehive. Again I’m only jealous.

One of the things our country is rightly proud of is the NHS. Mainly free healthcare not dependent on the ability to pay. Once it was completely free paid for by taxes. It’s had some rough times. None tougher than now. A bodged reorganisation based on political dogma designed to open the service to extensive privatisation. Conservative austerity pushing services and staff to breaking point. Perfect for our leaders. It’s fits with the message that they are trying to push. ‘Clearly the service is failing, it’s not fit for purpose The only two things that can save it now are further privatisation and a move to an American insurance based system’. That’s what you will get if you vote in Britain for Johnson and Farage.

It’s becoming more difficult to see a Family Doctor. Many surgeries have a one or two week waiting list. Our Surgery operates a ‘phone at breakfast for an appointment that day’ system. It’s basically the same thing. I’ve been trying for a couple of weeks now.

The surgery opens at 8am so I started phoning at 7.55.

The surgery is currently closed please phone later.

Repeated phoning gets the same message. Then the lines open.

You are caller 39 please hold.

That’s progress over the last few days the best it’s started at was caller 49. You learn the system – anything over caller 40 means all the appointments have gone. Unbelievably I got an appointment and one with my Doctor.

Sitting in the waiting room is always an experience. Try to avoid watching the TV screens. In between advertisements for Care Homes the health messages are designed to convince you that that you are inflicted with every ailment and disease going. I once convinced myself that I had rabies. The person facing me is reading a paper with the headline “A million school kids being taught in class sizes of 31 or more”. Blood pressure starts to rise. The two gentleman next to me were exchanging accident details. One had broken his leg when a shopping trolley hit him near the frozen chicken section of the supermarket. The other chap had ricked his back bending over to pick up the TV remote control. A mum having a loud argument on her mobile while her little toddler whacked me repeatedly on the head with the STICKMAN book. “Your funny” shouts the toddler. I must have that sort of face.

Finally the Doctor can see me.

“Your Blood Pressure is Perfect”. REALLY. Clearly been assailed by a Julia Donaldson book is the new mediation – should be offered as a care pathway.

“Have you had any counselling yet. I did put you on the waiting list”

No

“How long have you been waiting”

Three years

*** Doctor now swears and goes into a tirade at the last 10 years of Conservative Governments ****

“I suspect the counselling isn’t going to happen. I’m going to give you some medication to try and help with your sleep. Come back and see me in January. But promise me that you will get a hobby and do it regularly. If you find anything that works then stick at it.”

So off I went to find a hardback copy of The STICKMAN. Any volunteers to give me a damn good thrashing…..

Food purgatory

My diet is bad. Very bad. My Dad would call it minging. It’s been awful for years. Too much of the bad stuff. Too little of the good stuff. I drink that much coffee that the fluid in my body is no longer water, it’s pure caffeine. That’s probably why I don’t look like George Clooney. Oh hang on George does coffee – that doesn’t work does it. Anyway I’ve not looked like Clooney, suffered from IBS and had a nervous tummy since my college days. The last couple of years haven’t helped it at all.

I knew something had to be done but I kept putting it off. Then I read some great posts on healthy eating and food detox cleanses. This was one of them

Riddle from the Middle

Well finally the penny has dropped. This is Day 8 of my food purgatory. No junk food, no sweets, no chocolate, no crisps, no chips, no popcorn, no peanut butter, no spicy stuff, no dairy, no gluten, no soya, no artificial or processed rubbish. NO COFFEE….. It’s been steamed veg, boiled rice, organic protein, herbal tea and tanker loads of water with a slice of lemon. And as much exercise as time and the body will permit.

Food wise it’s not been too bad. Not been that hungry – although I have been found gnawing on chair legs a few times. But coffee that’s been tough. Especially on the morning. Badly needed an alternative to shift me out of the non functioning zombie state. Luckily I’ve stumbled across one. A squeezed lemon with a ton of fresh ground ginger. Granted it’s an acquired taste. But it doesn’t half shock the system. I understand a similar recipe was used by NASA as fuel for the Apollo Saturn V rocket.

So it’s been a self imposed purgatory. NOW Son has come out in support however his is not quite so self imposed. Last Week when he returned from school he had been eating us out of house and home. Well on Friday I checked his online school lunch account to see if it needed topping up. Bizarrely it had hardly been used that week.

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

Son what have you been eating at school lunch. You have hardly spent any money this week.

Not much really Dad.

Why haven’t you been hungry?

No been starving. On Monday in the class before lunch the teacher kept us back because of the behaviour of some of the other kids. When we got to the kitchen they had sold out of flapjacks and sandwiches the other food wasn’t good for me. Tuesday was fine and got my usual. Wednesday and Thursday we where on the other side of the site. So when we got to the kitchen the queue was massive and it was taking ages so I grabbed a bottle of water as all the good food had gone. On Friday by the time we got to the end of the queue it was almost time for lessons to start so I grabbed a flapjack and went to class. Your not allowed to eat in class so I had that on the bus coming home.

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

So school got another angry phone call and another formal complaint. The problem is that schools in the UK have been forced to cut back on school lunch expenditure. Plus the pressure to deliver the set national curriculum has forced many schools to drastically cut the school lunch breaktime. It’s the only way they can meet the demands of government. Feeding kids is not up there on the priorities. In all the surveys and questions we have had to complete for school inspections Lunch has never once been mentioned. It’s all about the national curriculum. How can a kid learn when he’s hungry. Let’s not beat about the bush most of the reasons for these problems is down to those in charge of our countries education. Basically the government picks numpties with Victorian values to run education. I’ve previously mentioned the Minister who viewed kids being off after a bereavement as AN EXTENDED HOLIDAY.

The school argues that they are following government policy, that the budgets have been slashed and that some food is always available. Problem is that when you are an Autistic kid the range of acceptable food can be limited. If it’s the wrong colour, wrong texture or mixed up with other food then it never going to be consumed.

A pack-up is not really easy most days as his big school bag is filled to busting with essential books, equipment and sports kit. Most days he’s already walking around school with a full bag on his shoulders and hands full with books he can’t fit into the bag. I have started filling up one side pocket with chocolate bars and snacks so at least he’s got something to snack on. A supersized school bag is on order which will hopefully be big enough to fit in a pack-up box.

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

So this is a house of food purgatory for a variety of reasons. Hopefully it will make me healthier. Hopefully son’s purgatory has ended. It might even make both of us better prepared for the potential food shortages if our PM gets his way and we crash out of the EU in six weeks. As Monty Python say – always look on the bright side of life.

Anxiety

Anxiety is far too often an unwelcome visitor to our house. I have suffered from it since childhood. It got so much worse after the world changed. Never ending road. Virtual all the worries now focused on our son. Not sure I am that bothered about myself these days….

This morning I woke to that unwelcome guest again. So many voices in my head. All saying the same thing … son is due a anxiety meltdown. Unfortunately that was the truth.

Anxiety and Depression are real inhibiting factors for so many in our society. Research clearly indicates that the risk of suffering from these awful conditions are increased for those living in the world of autism. At least a two fold increase is often reported. Yet from personal experience this was never identified in any of the briefings or guides we received during our journey. It is just not addressed appropriately by society. This can and does have catastrophic results. In our case it took several years of pushy parenting before our son started to get some help.

It’s so difficult to unpick the anxiety for our son. Is it Aspergers related, is it Dyslexia related, is it bereavement related, is it human life anxiety, is it all four….

With our son we have a frequently returning swirling mix of worries and demons. They recede then they blast back. On really bad days they all materialise at the same time. He has many repeating spectres.

  • Dyslexia and it’s unwanted consequences.
  • Friendships and social interaction.
  • Not understanding this strange, alien world.
  • Fear of death (his, mine, his pets, his remaining family, the people he cares for).
  • Related to the fear of death is his fear of illness. Everything is catchable. Everything can be a risk. Every sneeze, every ache, every speck of dirt is a potential harbinger of a health disaster.
  • School. Homework, rules, punishments, no support, cold and scary environments.
  • Feeling different, feeling inferior, fearing the finger pointing, fearing being laughed at.
  • Running out of money, going broke, losing everything.
  • The climate, wrecking the natural world, world politics, Brexit. World is going wrong.
  • Being alone.
  • Having to fit into large social groupings.
  • Fear of being long term depressed.

This is someone so young.

Today it is the return to school and fear of illness. The anxiety vortex is building strength. The bag of tricks we try only helps take the edge off but doesn’t fix today. All we can do is just be busy. Constant activity. Try to stop the mind thinking. These apply to both of us. My world is full of anxiety today as well….

Skipping but not as you know it

It does sleep sometimes….

It was raining so I had to bring my 50 minute training routine inside. Every few minutes our son comes to check on me. I think he is just checking that I still have a pulse.

He stood looking really puzzled at me.

“Dad what on Earth are you doing”

Rather breathlessly I told him I was skipping.

“What like the boxers do!”

That’s right son, it’s a great exercise.

Haven’t you forgotten something Dad?”

Like what?

“The skipping rope!”

Technically yes. The problem is that I can’t skip. I have tried for years and my record is about 6 seconds before I garrotted myself. So I have decided to just imagine that I have a rope. Suddenly skipping is so easy and I can get most of the benefits of the exercise without looking like a complete pillock…

No just a partial pillock”

That is very fair.

But Dad it’s like me and falconry. I’m not yet allowed to be a falconer and hold birds of prey. But I imagine that I do. It’s good practice.”

And with that I was allowed to go back to my version of skipping. We all need to release our imagination every so often. It can help us in so many ways. Even allows an uncoordinated pillock like me to skip….