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….

The third sequel

The third sequel already. The Trilogy done in one day. Eat your heart out Peter Jackson.

So this is the third instalment in the ‘what has changed over the 6 months of pandemic isolation’ saga. This time it’s what has changed for me. I guess this one is called The Return of the Kermit the Frog King. So what has changed then for me.

  • With Hawklads increasingly pronounced Social and Health related anxieties the last six months have seen a ramping up of the parenting pressures. Fewer breaks, more challenges and yes less support. In the UK small amount of support that has survived the Conservative Funding Cutbacks largely stops when kids hit the teenage years.
  • Have become a home educator. A school facilitator. A Classroom Supplies specialist. Much smirking…. After 6 months I’m still winging it.
  • I’m sleeping less. Much less. Just can’t seem to reset the insomnia cycle.
  • Certainly more isolated in terms of actually meeting people outside our little bubble. In 6 months I’ve seen family members twice, one work colleague (and good friend) maybe three times, neighbours a handful of times, the local shop workers maybe a couple of times a month, the dentist once, one visit from the boilerman, a few health workers and doctors. That’s about it. Oh actually forgot one person. The Postman, the only person I see regularly. I count his fairly frequent waves as my most regular physical contact. Luckily I have lovely online friends.
  • With not meeting too many people I’ve started noticing human life more. I notice dog walkers in the fields, cyclists, passing cars, voices from the street, even planes in the sky. A reminder that a bigger world still exists out there.
  • My conversation skills have never come easy to me. I have to work on and practice them. That’s just not happened for months. Even on most phone calls I can feel myself becoming increasingly wooden.
  • My largely unseen dress sense is becoming increasingly avant-garde.
  • I have lost 6lbs but you wouldn’t notice it. Having to resort to consuming far too much Soya (Soy) which isn’t great for my tummy. No I’m not pregnant.
  • I’ve stopped running and walking and road cycling. Must admit it’s not doing my old contact sport injuries any good. Bits are starting to seize up. So I’m trying to find my inner Yoga. Or as I call it Controlled Falling Over.
  • Work has dried up. This was supposed to be a really busy year. Lots of new jobs and major events. In practice that all was cancelled. Remains cancelled. Some plans have been put in place but really I’m not going to get much work until 2021.
  • I’m more able to fill my day without leaving our little household world. No need to visit shops daily, coffee shops, cinema, visit family or friends. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it comes easier to me now.
  • I do tend to overthink things now. Can have days when I do sober too much time internalising stuff. With me that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s such a short stroll to self doubt and negativity.

Yes things have changed for me. They will continue to change as our personal lockdown is not going to end anytime soon. Potentially months more, maybe much longer. With us being an Aspergers Family that was kind of in place before the pandemic. Maybe many of these changes were already happening before the March lockdown. They have just become more pronounced. Maybe these are longer term changes. Maybe it’s much more than a three episode trilogy. Maybe it’s a permanent feature.

Where did that go

Where did that go? Where did the summer holidays go. For so many families, where did that lockdown go? That’s 7 weeks of summer and exactly 6 months of lockdown.

We leave the summer holidays like we found them. Grey.

Many leave the lockdown as we found it. Well actually that’s sadly not strictly true here in the UK. The daily rise in pandemic and the rate of spread (R number) is actually higher now than when it forced us all into lockdown. I guess the confusion is the same. Some times it’s safe to meet in groups then at other times it’s considered most unsafe. Sometimes masks are required, sometimes they are not. Get tested but please don’t get tested. It’s safe to meet work colleagues but most unsafe to meet friends and family. There are those in high risk groups but you don’t need to worry about that. You must observe 2m social distancing but it’s ok if you don’t especially in pubs and at Horse Racing events. Don’t worry about the details it will be fine.

But for some families and households, the lockdown is most certainly not over. The Government seems to be demonising those in that position. We are being unpatriotic. Not doing our civic duty. Letting others down. As a result support is being pulled, threats made, blamed for the problems of the country and fines starting to be issued. I can assure the so called Government that it’s not out of choice. We are dealing with the reality of life. And that life is messy, complicated, unpredictable and frustrating. We have to deal with the details.

That part of life has not changed during the summer holidays and lockdown.

Line them up

Well the nurse counsellor did arrive. At the height of the storm. Due to working restrictions she was not allowed in the house. So it was plan b. Move my car next to the counsellor’s car. Windows down and you have a mobile meeting facility. The session went well. The counsellor seems really good. It’s a start. Start of a long road. But a start it is.

He will now get appointments every two weeks now. Let’s hope progress can be made. The counsellor is also going to write to the school to confirm that he is under health care at present and is not medically cleared to return. Hawklad has come to the conclusion that he just can’t go back to school at present. Even with professional help now, this could take many months before school might become a possibility for him. Until he can feel be reasonably comfortable being around people and ok to touch surfaces then school is but a pipe dream. Will he ever go back – just don’t know.

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer yesterday said that schools were perfectly safe. Apparently children are more at risk from road accidents than from catching the virus. I can’t think of many more insensitive ways of making a point – that’s going to really hurt those families who have lost loved ones on the road. I’m also not entirely reassured by her words. I remember a few other of her words over the last few months

  • The Government response to the pandemic has been exemplary……
  • The UK pandemic approach had been very successful……
  • Large Public Gatherings and Sporting events are perfectly safe, no need to stop attending them. That was at a time Europe had banned those and a few days later we did the same. She even encouraged people to attend the countries largest horse racing event just a couple of days before the country went into lockdown – the infection spread from that event has been scary.
  • People should be more adult when they discussed PPE shortages. It wasn’t such a big issue for healthcare and care workers…..
  • The UK didn’t need to test, test, test for the virus as we were a First World Country.

We all want to get schools open. But it has to be done correctly. Just grouping kids into giant year group bubbles then squeezing them back into cramped classrooms with at least 30 other people isn’t good enough. Asking kids to wear masks on buses, sometimes in corridors and not in classrooms is just a mess. Not exploiting online education to ease some of the space issues is a massive mistake. Only offering testing after the virus has been encountered just repeats the mistakes we have repeatedly made as a country. We’ve had months to get this school return right.

I really feel for those parents and children who are returning to schools. For some it is a easy decision and the return can’t come quick enough. For others it is not easy. For those with underlying health conditions it is a calculated risk. For us that decision has probably been kicked into touch for a while longer.

Don’t you just love 2020.

School

The rain had cleared for a few moments. But some things are still unclear.

Hawklad is still to decide if he will go back to school on the 14th September. With all his anxieties any return will be so very tough for him. Maybe too tough. But ultimately it’s his call. I’ve let school know about the issues but they don’t seem to be proposing any accommodations for him. But I guess there are a few weeks to go.

The other thing I have raised is what happens if he is not able to return. Still registered with school but unable to attend classes. How would he keep up with the course work. Unfortunately the really good school online education system will be switched off. Switched off to encourage parents to send kids into school. The initial dialogue with the authorities seem to be – well if he doesn’t go back then tough – that’s your call. Your responsibility to arrange education until he returns to the classroom. Thats the approach being set by the government. Online school tuition will only be switched back on if the school is forced to close again.

So many things to think about. But one clear message from the Government. Send your kid into school or you won’t be getting any help from the system. In fact schools will be expected to fine parents for keeping kids off. Could be a stormy few months.

Summer

I do like summer, especially a Yorkshire summer. Those deep blue skies. Wall to wall sunshine. Baking temperatures. Never lets us down.

“Dad it’s like being in The Mediterranean

Not sure how we survive the heat. Can’t believe our house doesn’t have air conditioning. Surely that would be more useful than damp proofing.

Have I ever been sunbathing Dad.”

A long time ago.

I can’t remember doing it.”

You did Hawklad. It was a couple of years ago. A rare hot day. You said that you wanted to try sunbathing.

Oh I remember. We put a couple of towels down on the lawn”

That’s right. We brought the iPad out and found some beach noises to play.

Yes it was just seagulls and whales

We then took some sand out from the sandpit and put it round the towels.

I went and found some of my old seashells and scattered them over the sand. Then we built a small sandcastle”

You brought out a few seaside animal toys like sharks. We put our shorts on.

The shades went on and we went toplessssssss”

That’s right Hawklad. You then laid down on the towel and then before I had a chance to get down on my towel you shouted. I’M BORED WITH THIS NOW CAN WE GO AND WATCH A MOVIE. That was it. You sunbathed for about 5 seconds.

That long. Dad maybe you should get out there now. Top up your suntan.”

***********

The question is did Dad brave the summer weather and go topless?

Night

I was brought up in a busy Yorkshire seaside town. Then I’ve done a bit of an English City Tour. Lived in Newcastle, Coventry, Portsmouth, London, Birmingham then York. Places with lots of noise, people and action. You get acclimatised to it. Becomes the norm.

Then we moved to a village in the countryside.

It all suddenly changed. The very first thing that struck me was how dark the night was. In a city you get street lights, car headlights, light shining out of window after window, late night shops, restaurants, advertising billboards …… its night but it’s never dark.

But in our village it’s all different. This is the view looking one way down the village street after the sun has set. It’s so dark.

The other way facing East is even darker.

No street lighting here. Hardly any cars on a night. The nearest shop is in another village 5 miles away and that shuts at 5pm. There’s a pub in another village 3 miles in the other direction. Another village a few miles away has a coffee and cake shop – that only opens a few hours a week. That’s it.

That takes a lot of adjustment for an urban bod like me. The first week I was here I went out to post a letter in the village mail box – after dark. I foolishly went without a torch. It was too dark I couldn’t find it. In fact when I decided to go back for a torch, I couldn’t find our house. Took me ages to stumble upon it. That’s properly dark.

The peace and quiet is wonderful. Not having to continually lock your door is refreshing. So is the feeling that your kids can wander a little more safely. To see the night sky without light pollution is awesome – you can so easily forget just how beautiful it is. But there are prices to pay for that.

No popping out for a loaf of bread or takeaway meal in the evening. It’s a 20 minute drive to the nearest late night shop. By the time you return with takeaway food, it’s cold.

Although you are in the country. In natural space. The night can feel suffocating. Very claustrophobic. No sign of human life, you can so easily feel a million miles from anyone. Especially in winter, you will go days without seeing another person. What was the ALIENS line – no one can hear you scream in space.

Village life has so many positives but you need to be prepared. It can be so tough as well.

BUT ITS WORTH IT….

Castles

There’s an old expression here which says

‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’.

It was actually enshrined in common lawn 1628 and basically means ‘a persons home is their refuge’. Over the years it has often been cited by the right wing as justification for the principle ‘I can do whatever I like in my own castle, that includes stuff like smacking kids, shutting down public rights of way, hunting animals, mistreating people and using whatever weapons I like to defend it’.

I’m against all those activities but the law does have its advantages. I can take on the right wing interpretation and use it to say – STUFF YOU BORIS – inside my castle your stupidity, oversized ego and corrupt government can’t touch me – I’m just going to ignore ‘YA GREAT BIG PUDDING’.

In my castle I also can get away with wearing lime green compression socks and pink shirts. It’s my right…. Nowt the law can do about it.

And the other thing about a ‘home is a castle’ is that some castles are bigger than others. Much bigger…. Some are even big enough to be used as Harry Potters school in the movies.

But there is another positive element to the castle home idea. Because of circumstances many people need those castle walls. The feeling of safety which comes from pulling up the drawbridge and being inside your own space. That certainly applies to my Hawklad with his Aspergers.

So here’s to everyone’s very own castles, whatever size and shape they may be.

Not what I expected

Not what I expected. I was sure this was a yellow rose last year!

It’s definitely red.

I was reading an article about the main things that have surprised people about the Pandemic and it’s impact on lifestyles. The author went for 5 things – Boredom of not physically meeting people, missing going to Pubs, Parties and Restaurants, missing playing Golf with friends, how hard mask wearing is and how much she misses going on holiday.

Ok let’s have a stab at this. What are the five things which has surprised me about the Pandemic. What was I not expecting.

  • The impact that just not being able to buy just a few of the useful foodstuffs can have on mine and Hawklads life,
  • How quickly you can settle in to new ways,
  • How much money you save if you avoid going to shops,
  • The way days and weeks can just merge into each other if you take out things like the school run and most shopping trips,
  • Just how difficult it is sometimes balance homeschooling, with work, domestic duties and things like running.

I guess a fundamental difference between me and the author is circumstances. She and her husband both work. They have one kid of a similar age to Hawklad but that child seems to spend a lot of the time with friends and doing group activities like sport. They use babysitters to allow for frequent social activities for her and hubby. So yes the Pandemic will have a major impact on her family’s social life. I can so understand why she would list those five things.

My life is currently different. I am a single parent to a kid with Aspergers. Even before the Pandemic I was partly cut off from society. Enforced isolation due to parental requirements. Many other people are in a similar position due to a range of circumstances. So if anything the Pandemic hasn’t really changed that much in terms of social contact for me. Yes it might have tightened things up a little further. But fundamentally there has been few radical changes. If anything it feels like for a few months some other people life’s have become a little more like my normal routine. Maybe it’s provided a glimpse for some people into what daily life actual feels like for many people out their. A daily life which existed before the pandemic.

I quite like this five unexpected things idea. Might see what if throws up in terms of things like grief and Aspergers.

Sunday Sunday

After the briefest of heatwaves Yorkshire has gone back into winter.

This was midday.

Grey, windy, wet and chilly. You know it’s a great August Summers Day when at 6pm you have the lights and heating full on. Yes the woolies (sweaters) we’re back on as well. The string vests banished until Mr Sun decides to come back…..

But even on a slate grey day you have the potential to find something to lift the heart. To brighten and enrich the day. That happened to me. Feeling kinda grey on a grey day. Bit down, bit frustrated, a little hemmed in and a tad lonely. But then a beautiful life gift and the world seems a better place again. Definitely smiling again. Suddenly I’m more fun as a Dad to Hawklad.

Yes it’s still grey outside but even there ….. I can now spot other colours apart from grey. They were always there just I hadn’t opened my eyes to them.