Not finishing

Every few weeks this rose blooms and every three months we get a large envelope

One thing life doesn’t prepare you for is dealing with the admin side of bereavement. It’s a seemingly never ending slog. Trying to wade through treacle. Form after form. Call after call. Ever decreasing life circles of bank, utility firms and lawyers. Eventually you end up losing the will to live. Which is rather ironic when you think about it. But finally you just about get there. Most of the stuff is sorted. Yes there are a few loose ends but they can either wait or just be left dangling there.

One of those dangling things here is the regular large envelope. An envelope still addressed to my partner.

When she was much younger, my partners parents bought her a life time membership to a national heritage trust. The type of thing which gives you free access to many sites across the country. If you can afford the one-off lump sum they are a great idea. Unfortunately not a great idea if you die young. No argument here as the condition is crystal clear

Rights and benefits shall cease on death and no refund shall be made….

So I really should have phoned up and started the process of cancelling the membership. I can’t transfer it to our Son. But then a thought. Ok Son won’t be able to use it to get into any places for free. But every three months they send out a magazine all about history and nature. Every year they send out a members handbook listing many of the countries best sites and a comprehensive list of what’s on for the year. That’s something. Son will get some some benefit from his mum’s membership. So we are leaving this one dangling. Once the large envelope makes it out of the week long garage quarantine then son will get a free history magazine. Curtesy of his mum and his grandparents. Which is so nice.

Yes not finishing a job is sometimes the best strategy.

Dream

I don’t know why but last night I had a dream about a trip we had a couple of years back to Lindisfarne. A place called Holy Island. You have to drive across a long causeway running out into the North Sea. After a few minutes you arrive at the small island. You can only drive onto the island at low tide. The monastery was founded on the island in 634 by Saint Aiden. It became the base for christian evangelicalism in the north of the country. In 793 it was raided by the vikings and that raid is often seen as the start of the Viking age.

Son absolutely loved this place because of the history. He also liked the thought of walking somewhere his mum had been. We had a lovely holiday here before we became a family of 3.

Don’t know why I dreamt about Lindisfarne. In the dream we were stranded by the tide. Couldn’t get off the island and everywhere was locked up. And the vikings were coming….. Not sure if my car security is Viking raider proof. It will almost certainly invalidate the car insurance.

Bizarre dream.

I keep reading that so many people are having weird dreams at present. I’m certainly on that list. Not going to try and explain it. All I can say is that I do like a good dream but not the endless sleepless hours which seem to follow mine these days. But I am so lucky. A warm bed. Hot drinks on tap. A safe home. Books to read. Old photos to look at. And I am not alone. Tired yes but I can work round that. I’m ok as long I’m not asked about Quantum Theory or French Verb Conjunctions…..

Epic walls

It’s not quite the Wall from Game of Throne’s. It’s hardly Hadrians Wall, the stuff of history. But it’s our barrier. Our symbolic wall. Marking the edge of our current world.

Yes it’s got nettles growing against it. Even on our side. Ok it was too cold for the Game of Thrones Wall to have nettles but Hadrians Wall has some stinging beauties lurking next to it these days as well…And that’s a World Heritage Site.

“Dad our world is pretty small but it does seem to have its fair share of weeds and nettles.”

Well not that many.

Dad it took us three days to find my football when it went into hedge. The language I learnt when you had to retrieve the ball from the bush. Apparently you got stung a quite few times .”

Yes quite a few times. It’s not big or clever to use bad language. But in my defence we back onto farmland. It’s a haven for weeds. Our fence does feel like a not so big wall trying to keep out the marauders.

“That feeling we got when we visited Hadrians Wall last year. I can remember the date. 15th August. When we imagined what it must have been like for those Roman centurions stood on the wall. Hadrian came to Britain and ordered that the Wall was to built in 122AD. It took 6 years to build and stretched from sea to sea. It was 80 miles long.”

Its definitely an epic wall.

“Our farm fence is not 80 miles long. Maybe 20 paces long. It certainly doesn’t keep out the weeds. But at least it keeps the world out. So it does it’s job.”

Yes it really does. It allows a space for an Aspergers mind to flourish. A place to breathe and feel safe. So yes it’s an epic wall. A wall to be so thankful for.

Chaos Theory

Guard duty…

Scrap the guard duty, is that a biscuit I can smell….

I think we all have that sixth sense. Mine kicked in during the early hours. Son had just popped his head round the bedroom door.

Are you awake Dad?”

At the time I was reading about chaos theory. Got to explain my cooking disasters somehow.

I’ve got a question in my head and I can’t sleep.”

Sixth sense fully kicked in. My mind better get up to speed quickly.

It’s to do with the Royal Family and the rules surrounding the line of Succession.”

Relief as I feared a bird and the bees type question.

I’m guessing my question won’t be adequately covered in the Succession to the Crown Act”

Must admit in all my many years, I still haven’t got round to reading that real page turner.

I bet the Act doesn’t reflect the progress made in genetics, physics and quantum theory.”

No, I think that is a safe bet. Already my mind is braced for impact. A wander into his world is truly joyous but often feels like my mind isn’t quite able to take it all in. Maybe a bit like a modern and much safer version of a Psychedelic Trip.

Ok the rules on succession are quite straightforward and a lot fairer now. But what happens if we spiced it up a bit. What happens if through the advancement in genetics we managed to bring back a former King or Queen. Or maybe we develop time travel and can bring forward a previous monarch. A King or Queen who didn’t lose the throne in battle. Say Henry V or Queen Victoria. So the question is…. Would they still have a claim to the throne. Maybe it would lead to a civil war between those supporting the current monarch and those supporting Henry V or Victoria. Victoria won’t be best pleased with the current state of her empire. Henry V will be distinctly horrified at the current leadership of the country.”

And with that mind altering nugget he went back to sleep on it. Suddenly chaos theory seems so clear now.

The need for travel

Last night we were watching the new Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Yes we really do like to stretch our cultural boundaries. A couple of times during the movie I found myself thinking – wish I could visit that location. I’ve been doing that quite often recently. Can’t really blame the pesky virus completely for that. I was having those thoughts before the lockdown. Our Son’s world is naturally contracting. So mine is as well. The last time we spent more than one night away from our home was back in 2015. Sporadic day trips and the daily run partially helped fill my mind with some connection to the wider world.

So after Son had gone to bed I went in search of photos. Photos which would remind me of trips and holidays. Soon I was back in Northumberland with my partner. A week in a gypsy cottage.

Walking alongside Hadrians Wall and in the footsteps of Roman soldiers, almost 2000 years ago. Touching and drinking in ancient history.

Enjoying the open spaces. Hardly meeting another soul. Feeling that cold northern wind and walking on the soft moorland. Feeling no limits and letting the map decide the route.

Places like Northumberland have a unique atmosphere. A bleakness. An almost somber beauty.

And then a reminder of why I am so thankful for life.

A trip to a castle

I was looking for batteries. Why are batteries so pesky. You spend most of the year cursing who many batteries you find on shelves, pockets and cupboards. But when you actually need them, the little blighters hide. When you do find them you can guarantee that they are the wrong size. Anyway I was looking for batteries with absolutely no success then ….

An old and forgotten box of old photos. It’s times like this that I am so happy that I had a habit of taking too many pics. This box was from a holiday we had way before our son was born. We arranged a last minute week long trip to Northumberland in the North of England. For those who don’t know England that well – find the most northerly English city (Newcastle). The bit above this city and all the way to the Scottish border is Northumberland. It’s a beautiful and often desolate place. With few large towns, rolling hills, moors and some of the countries finest castles.

For the week we rented an old Gypsy Cottage. The weather was so Northumberland like. Very windy, cold and often exceedingly damp. Today’s photographic memory trip was a day trip we had during that lovely week. A trip to Dunstanburgh Castle.

It’s a stunning castle ruins set right on the windswept North Sea coast. To get to it you park up in a small fishing village and walk along the beach. The walk started wet and basically added increasing amounts of water to the mix. The photos brought the memories flooding back. Wow we got wet.

It was a wonderful day. We had the place to ourselves. Hours spent walking along the coast, scrambling over history and even time for sand castle building. Finally we got back to the fishing village and looked round the local fish smoking business. It would have been rude not to sample the produce and chips. Then it was back to the cottage to a roaring fire and an attempt to dry out. Happy Days.

Castle

Sheriff Hutton Castle is over 850 years old and was built during the reign of King Stephen. Later Richard III acquired the castle through marriage. He made the castle one of the two sites for his Council of the North. The Council was his method of running the North after he became King of England. It has since fallen into ruin. It’s recently been sold for just over £1Million. It is our local castle.

Seven years ago we nearly bought a house which backed onto this castle. The castle was only 30 paces from the garden. An epic garden view. It was at a time when we we’re going to try for a second child. So we needed a house with an extra bedroom. This house ticked so many boxes. To me being so close to a castle seemed so exciting. However in the end we didn’t buy the house and sadly my partners health soon ruled out another member of our family. Every time I pass the castle my mind wanders off to what might have been.

There where a few reasons why we didn’t move here. One of the main reasons was our son. At that time a carefree, gregarious toddler had quickly transitioned into the world of Aspergers. Suddenly his world was populated with doctors, psychologists and other health professionals. It must have been so scary and disorientating for him. The one place he felt safe was our little bungalow on the hill. The bungalow was all things to him.

His Panic Room

His Safety Zone

His Dream World

An Exclusion Zone for the many who looked at him differently because of one word

His Play Zone

His World

It was the only place he felt comfortable and relaxed. From our experience Aspergers seemed to loosen and destroy all of our sons life foundations. Life became precarious and the slightest disturbance could bring everything crashing down. His little bungalow was one of the few things which was still secure and stable. The last thing he needed was for that to be torn down as well. So we decided to stay.

We are still here in that little bungalow on the hill. It’s still such a safety net for our son. A place he feels secure and at ease in. It still excludes those who discriminate. The garden fences mark the boundaries to his world. His ramparts. In a way it is his very own modern castle.

How wrong I was

Not our garden, this is from a neighbours garden. Very jealous especially of the lawn which when cut always resembles a bowling green. So unlike our used rugby pitch.

Another stormy and very wet day. That’s the third weekend in a row for us. The weather is doing nothing for our souls. Nor is the imminent return to school. His anxieties levels are starting to peak now. Soon he’s back into that alien environment. The hope is that he will return and he’s been moved up in at least one subject. Just move him up in History and it would boost his confidence so much. I fear that’s a pipe dream. I would also be staggered if the support system has suddenly improved. How can it. It’s the same teaching team, with the same school education strategies and with schools struggling for resources. But on the bright side we have been told to celebrate as soon we will have a new blue UK passport. A passport made in France….

Maybe he will decide to abandon the failed school project. Can’t blame him and I would fully support that. It would be so worth it to lift this cloak of anxiety which often suffocates him. It’s not as if the school approach is delivering results. In most subjects he’s bored and starting to stagnate. I have asked school for the latest benchmark data on his reading, writing and performance. Again I’m not holding my breath. I’m still waiting for school to do any meaningful assessment work on his reading or writing. I suspect it will be spelling tests and nothing else. The Physiotherapist contacted school to say that he was clearly struggling with handwriting and asked what concerns the school had about his handwriting. The response back was that no teacher had raised any concerns. Really….

At his last school they worked with the heath service to monitor his reading age every quarter. He left that school with a reading age three years below the expected level for his age. His current school has so far refused to do another benchmarking assessment. The argument is that he’s doing so well and a benchmark would not change his teaching programme. Read that as they cost money and all kids get the same set teaching approach. Well if you don’t have benchmark information how can you say he’s doing so well. We don’t know if he’s catching up or if the age gap is widening.

It’s funny looking back at this parenting gig. I always realised it would be frustrating and tiring. But I always assumed the school system would largely take care of his education. How wrong I was.

Kings, Queens and Telly Tubbies

4am When the world hopefully sleeps.

The bedroom door bursts open.

Sorry Dad can’t wait to ask. If you had to be related to a king or queen which one would you most want it to be and which would you be most embarrassed to be associated with.

Erm top of my head probably Queen Victoria and probably not mad King George III. How about you son.

Henry V would be so cool but he only had one child and he was pious so it’s not likely. Many would say King John as one your embarrassed with as he is seen as the most useless one but he was actually not as bad as that. Henry VII probably as his claim to the throne was illegitimate. Night Dad.

I then I had a bizarre dream about being late for a meeting with the Queen. A meeting which was to happen on a train in a random rainy town. And I got lost. At least Son had not asked about my favourite Telly Tubby. Getting lost on the way to meet my favourite Telly Tubby would have been a dream too far.

So at breakfast I decided to continue the historic theme. I convinced son to have a trip to see the beautiful ruins of a local Abbey. He wasn’t convinced but finally we set off. I really should stick to my level. The Telly Tubbies. We arrived to find the site closed until March and that knowing look from son. At least we got a few lovely views from the outside.

I gave our son the option of extending our trip but he just wanted to go home. Too many people about. That’s becoming an increasingly common comment from him. As the months go by he finds it harder to deal with social contacts. He can still cope with rock concerts. It’s because he thinks they are still very inclusive. Doesn’t matter what you sound like, dress like or look like – your just accepted. No condescending looks. It helps that it’s dark and noisy so it’s unlikely anyone will talk to him. He was also ok on our recent train night but that was onboard the train. Luckily no one was sat opposite us. On the platform he struggled. We basically stood inside a coal shed until we could board. He had been ok with the cinema but now if the screen has more than handful of people in then he can’t watch the movie. We were going to see Jumanji but the screen was half full and that was the end of that. At school he’s just not happy. The crowded school bus is becoming impossible for him. You can see the change in him when he’s back home. He’s confident and happy. Outside he’s nervous and wants to hide. As soon as we leave the front door his hood goes up.

I remember a conversation with a really good Child Psychologist who worked for a time with him. She thought that his social difficulties may well become more pronounced as he became a little older. She had worked with a number of kids a bit like our son and they had all found mostly happy life’s. But isolated life’s. One or two friends and some family contacts allowed into the inner sanctum. Pets and animals definitely. But the rest of the world – preferably not.

It’s early and things may change. He will follow his own path. I will be there as long as I’m needed. But it’s his own path and he needs to find the type of world he’s most contented with. A closed abbey with a handful of walkers being too busy is potentially an indication of the direction of travel. If that path takes us inevitably into a more isolated world then so be it. And for those interested my favourite Telly Tubby was Laa Laa.

Spark an Interest

York Minster is one of Europe’s finest Cathedrals.

The central tower is 235ft (72m) tall. It’s Northern Europe’s biggest Gothic Cathedral.

The first religious building was built on this site in 637AD. Work started on the current Gothic structure in 1230 and was completed in 1472. The Minster has 128 stained glass windows which apparently have 2000000 individual glass pieces. It’s a busy place of worship with over 1600 services each year.

Thankfully York has not succumbed to the plague of high rise buildings. So The Minster still dominates the city view from all directions. I remember having a chat with an American work colleague who on visiting the city for the first time told me

“That’s a lovely church but it would have been better if they had built it on a hill”

Unfortunately the nearest hill is about 15 miles away. Strangely our little bungalow is on that very hill. We struggle to fill our little church so I’m pretty sure a Cathedral would be bit of over kill.

It’s absolutely stunning inside but we never make it that far. Son loves to walk round it and think. Then he looks to the skies for a glimpse of the nesting Peregrine Falcons. Finally we always end at a statue of a Roman Emperor. In 306AD Constantious died in York. The soldiers in York immediately proclaimed Constantine the Emperor. So for a brief moment in time York was the centre of the Roman Empire. Son loves to drink up this history.

Surely when you have such history on your doorstep why not use. York has the largest Train Museum in the World showcasing engineering and invention at its finest. What better way to spark an interest. To learn. To grow. But apparently this is not the case. It would seem writing out spelling mistakes 3 times is the way to go. Regardless of the subject – Science, History, Maths, Design Technology, Drama – let’s just get the spelling right. I bet that will spark an interest!!!!