Who do you look like.

The daily feeding frenzy. Only after the smaller (angrier) birds leave. These guys look aggressive but they don’t mess with the small birds. Looks can be deceiving.

Do you ever play this game. Trying to work out which famous person someone looks like. It was my sanity tool when I attended really boring meetings or those meetings where you suddenly got the urge to through your mug of coffee over that annoying colleague who just won’t shut up. It saved my career on many occasions. I remember one particularly gruesome meeting with an official from the government. One of those characters who is in the front of the queue to take praise for the teams efforts but then is first to point the finger when something goes wrong. During one of his me,me,me speeches I suddenly had this insane urge to impale his hand with my sharpened pencil. I quickly played the lookalike game. Unbelievably he was the spitting image of Gargamel from the Smurfs. My urge to inflict physical harm was suddenly replaced with fits of hysterics. Gargamel was not best pleased with me.

I still do it today. Our regular postman looks like one of the TV survival experts. One of the village dog walkers looks like Elvis (could it really be). Another dog walker looks so like the new Captain Marvel. The neighbours car mechanic is Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. And the assistant in the local shop is clearly one of the Osmonds.

Apparently I did look like Harry Potters Dad or was it the Troll – I can’t remember. When I was at Uni one girl said I looked like William Shatner. I never did find out if that was the early Captain Kirk version (cool) or the later slightly rounded version (not so cool). Worryingly I suspect it was probably not Kirk. Before I became a parent I would go on golf trips with work. On the trips everyone was given cool playing names. Names like Wing Commander, Squadron Leader, Wamm Bamm and The Terminator. My not so cool name was T J Hooker….

For our son it is so much better. He looks so like his mum. He’s got my eyelashes and that’s it – the lucky sod.

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I’m so pleased so many of you enjoyed yesterday’s post from Katie and Evee. You can find their wonderful site here, plus you can find my guest piece there as well.

Take care and remember to look out for lookalikes.

Grieving during quarantine

As much as I like writing (well my version of writing), my favourite part of blogging is getting to read other blogs. They can make you laugh, cry, think and fill you with renewed hope. One of my favourite blogs is by Katie and Evee. It really captured me as like my son, grief often hits when we are far too young. They talk about it so beautifully. It’s grief with hope, loss with the desire to live again.

I’m really excited as today Katie and Evee are here on my blog. They have also rather recklessly allowed me to write on their wonderful blog today as well.

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Grieving During Quarantine

Hello, our names are Katie and Evee. Gary has kindly shared his platform with us today to write a little about our experience with grief during quarantine. 

~

Sometimes, during big events where the whole world is grieving such as the time we find ourselves in today, our own personal grief can feel small, detached and forgotten.

Evee: We lost our Mum 18 months ago, on the 9th of September 2018. We still feel it every day, but recently, the want for our Mum during such chaos, is deafening. For example, when I was at university trying to work out how to get home before lockdown, everyone had parents on the phone to call for comfort, or to pick them up. I felt the loss of my mum then.

Katie: Over the past 18 months I have been learning what grief is and how I can fit it into my everyday life, and our blog has been a great means of doing so. When life shifts, as it tends to do, I try to bend with it. I try to shape my grief to fit the big hole where Mum used to be. Before quarantine, I was working on allocating time to fit grief into my fast-paced life; 05:45 start, the commute, work, the commute home, cooking, exercise, writing for the blog, sleeping, and amidst that, trying to maintain friendships and socialising and trying to find time for me. Each of these parts were like spinning plates.

With this global transition, I now work from home. I think I speak for the whole nation when I say that this is a hard adjustment. We are all confined to the house, yet working towards the constant harsh deadlines. This, alongside the anxiety, fear, and sadness that the whole world is feeling right now has been intense and hard to escape. For me, something has had to give in the last couple of weeks and a couple of my spinning plates have fallen down – grief being one of them. 

Getting to grips with my new quarantine routine, I have not been able to dedicate any time to reflect on my grief or to sit quietly with my thoughts at all. But grief doesn’t stop just because our lives seemingly have, and as Evee mentioned, we both miss our Mum more than ever right now. 

Evee: On the other hand, I have a lot more time than Katie, because all of my exams and most of my assignments have been cancelled. I haven’t been able to do work because it feels like the minute I do, I get an email saying that the module that I’m working on has been abandoned. This week, the only thing I have been able to count on, is my home exercise routine. 

The gym used to be a huge part of my life; it would often be a place where I think about Mum and process everything. I enjoy the feeling of my body being spent, and of stretching my aching muscles out. For some reason, while my body is active, my mind can chug away slowly and think about everything that is happening in the world, and its impact on my small world. 

When the gym became a breeding ground for the pandemic, I began to create workouts at home. I have created a hard work out for myself to do during the day. I find this gives me a sense of normality, and enables me to have that time to myself and for me to think about Mum. Like what she would say and what she would do in this situation. My one hour outside I use mainly for cycling or walking.

I also spend a lot of time cleaning, tidying and making this house cosy and homely for my little family. It is things like this that make me feel like I am helping out, and easing the pressure off of my sister and Uncle.

It is in these moments where I can clear my head and remember happier times, and think of who I have, and what I can do to get through this period. And that also involves a lot of blog writing! 

Writing has always been a big part of my life, but particularly now, I find it indulgent and wonderful to log onto our online community, talk and feel less alone.

Katie: Thankfully, the clocks went forward recently which gifted us with an extra of sunshine in the evening. I use this extra hour of daylight to take my walk and I’m truly grateful for it. Evee pointed me to the direction of a nearby, beautiful church. It has become a wonderful addition to my newroutine. I go there to stop. Sit, think and reflect. It is an hour dedicated to being still and quiet. I close my eyes and reflect upon life and our Mum. I use this time to ground myself during such pandemonium.

~

This is a challenging time for us all. We constantly receive intrusive breaking news notifications on our phones. Our head is clustered full of worries, anxieties, and fear. It feels like at any moment our spinning plates will fall. Dedicate time to yourself. Dedicate time to reflection. Dedicate time to processing. In a little while, you’ll be able to pick these plates back up.

Stay safe, sane and smiling, friend.

Today we leave you with a song from one of our favourite and happiest artists; Newton Faulkner. 

 

My best-laid plans are washed away

No time to make ’em all again

Sometimes life gets in the way

We’ve got to keep on breathing

Look how far we’ve come

Look what we’ve made

Started from nothing, building

Brick by Brick – Newton Faulkner

 

Katie & Evee x

Random Tree

A random Yorkshire tree. When it snows, a random Yorkshire Tree positioned at the end of our sledging run. So a random Yorkshire tree with a very hard trunk which I have collided with on more than one occasion. It’s like a Rome. All the sledging runs seem to abruptly end at this tree.

So this morning’s fight with WordPress was a bit of a score draw. On the plus side it went remarkably smoothly and very quickly. On the downside my attempted fix – didn’t pigging work. So the app is still possessed. My comments on many sites just disappear. One explanation is that I’ve upset one of the Spam filters. I might have used a naughty word on a comment (or two ). See kiddies swearing is not big or clever. Anyway until it’s resolved I will keep trying to comment on your sites – a few comments are still sneaking through. Enjoy the peace and waffle free time while it lasts.

So the school version of homeschooling has ended for another week. It’s now the two week Easter break. A break which will probably look very like the last few weeks. Normally we look forward to these two weeks but this time it feels like just the same as the last few weeks. No real change except the school iPad can remain switched off.

But as everyday is FUN DAY let’s try to make the most of them.

It’s good to see school is getting into the celebratory mood. The kids have been set homework and have been given plenty of revision to complete over the holiday. After Easter it’s straight into online exams and YES the delights of spelling tests. Deep joy.

But we are not going to let school put a dampener on life over the next couple of weeks. So at lunchtime we reverted back to one of sons favourite games. Bouncing on a trampoline while holding a bucket filled with water. It’s amazing how even Son’s bucket of water ends up over his Dad. Maybe that’s why the game is so much fun. Then it was back to online lessons and trying to explain to a bewildered son the finer details of love poetry. You might have seen my sledgehammer writing style in Thursdays Terrible Poetry submissions. Me advising on poetry is like asking a pheasant to operate a pedestrian crossing. Some lessons are about personal growth and development. However this one was just about survival.

After the last lesson of the day the Easter break started with a dog walk. A walk to our sons self imposed world boundary. And a look over to a distant random tree. A tree beyond our little world. Let’s hope that when we get snow again, once again all our sledge runs will be able to meet this tree again.

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.

Foreseeable

Looking back from the edge of the micro world. Our little village increasingly isolated. Sadly we can’t take this walk now. Son started to freak out about having to touch so many farm gates – just in case. So we are restricted to hands stay firmly in our pockets walks for the foreseeable future. How long is foreseeable these strange days….

After yesterday’s accident mayhem we approached April 1st with some trepidation. What enhanced carnage would April Fools Day bring. As life is clearly so foreseeable the answer was rather surprisingly – NOTHING. No accidents. No backfiring pranks. Zip all went wrong. My family tradition was that April Fools Day ends at midday. No accidents by lunch to distract from today’s aim.

We decided to make today a fun day. No talk of the bad stuff happening in the world. No depressing talk. No news. A day of respite amongst the mayhem. I keep saying this but if it’s bloody tough for grizzly old farts like me, what the hell is it it like for our kids. The adults are not that good at living like this, kids most certainly are not designed to live like this. So that’s why today was going to be a rebalancing day. That was the plan but not everything is foreseeable…

Today’s first lesson was Religious Studies. Given the current stress and anxieties kids are facing why don’t we pick a fun or light topic. Well the teacher picked a belter.

Look at four different countries and see what their approach is to DEATH. What are the funerals like….

Well that’s a real laugh a minute project. What next, how about History looking at the Black Death, Geography looking at the spread of pandemics, Science taking a closer look at the Ebola mortality rates.

So we have postponed the fun day for the foreseeable future. As that is clearly not very long we shall be having it tomorrow. Once we rearranged the fun day and put April Fools Day to bed for another year we could get back to normality for the rest of the day – household madness.

Have you ever pressed the start button on the washing machine and as soon as it starts spinning you notice something going round which does not look like an item of clothing. As the machine slowly turned and a rouge object kept appearing, my mind whirled – what is it. Then the penny dropped. It’s my mobile. Oh bugger. An hour later it emerged looking sparkly clean but a little soggy. In a further moment of madness I decided to put it in the pocket of one of the washed jeans and tumble dry it. Maybe that will dry it out. Please children – don’t try this at home. Only really tired parents are allowed to do such stupid things. Unbelievably the super clean phone came out dry. And it still works although I may wait a day or so before I try to charge it up.

So in our foreseeable world tomorrow is fun day and today has been ‘wow my ancient iPhone is sparkly clean day’. Who needs April Fools Day for the foreseeable future.

More accidental Daffodils

The Daffodils are still going strong. That sounds like an excuse for some more photos.

Purely by accident we have a few different types.

A lot of things happen by accident.

Today we tried to find the little pots of paint so that we can decorate some hard boiled easter eggs. Last year we had great fun although I was a little offended when I presented my wonderful recreation of a Darth Vader egg.

Dad is that Peppa Pig”

Still worse was to follow when I accidentally forgot to boil the eggs before we painted them. A few days later it took me three egg messes before I realised my mistake. Oops.

Stacked cup racks are such a great space saver. I bought a really cheap set a few weeks back. It was the day after Valentines Day and the shop was selling off the unused gift items. One item caught my eye. A four cup stack reduced from £10 to £2. The only potential issue. Each cup had one huge letter emblazoned on them. The four cups stacked together spelt

L

O

V

E

That sort of talk is not going to fly in our kitchen. But a bargain is a bargain. Thankfully the same cups arranged differently can also spell VOLE. Unfortunately four cups stacked together is a four times bigger disaster waiting to happen in our house. This morning while cleaning I accidentally sent them all flying towards our stone floor at terminal velocity. I did manage to catch one. So we now have a cup stack of one which spells.

Oops, Oops, Oops…

That cup accident was quickly followed by son knocking over a full glass of chocolate milk onto the beige sofa. It’s a interesting pattern as it’s just next to the tomato ketchup stain from last year (that was mine).

Dad let’s sit down before we have any more accidents.”

Great advice which I followed. Unfortunately I sat down on my reading glasses – what possessed me to leave them on the chair. So in the absence of Hermione Granger and her glasses repair spell, I will just have to tape them up until the Opticians reopen again in a few months.

Fast forward to this afternoon. Unbelievably I found the paint pots and small brushes. So we were eggcellently placed next week for Easter egg production. However a few hours later I had no idea where I had put the paints. The house was ransacked then suddenly that sinking feeling. Oops. Surely I didn’t accidentally put the paint straight into the bin. Normally not a disaster however today was bin collection day and they have just been. Oops.

Stay safe everyone, especially if you come any where near me.

Swan

It was good to see the swan observing social distancing at the local lake today. If only some of the humans could get their head round the concept. Our village thankfully has. Apart from the postman, the occasional food delivery driver and a handful of dog walkers – that’s it. All the cars are parked up and are not being used. Virtually no through traffic. We don’t have a shop, cafe or pub. The village hall and church are temporarily closed. Basically it’s like a ghost town. It seems to oscillate between beautifully peaceful and slightly unnerving.

It’s the new normal.

Work is definitely shutdown until at least mid June now. No sign of schools reopening anytime before September. The countrywide lockdown isn’t being relaxed any time soon. No long runs. Apart from the very occasional trip to a shop for essentials, that’s it for physical social interaction. Maybe for months. It’s not happened yet but I can see this ramping up a grief attack soon. Especially as my partners birthday is looming. But it is what it is. Another thing for my constantly racing two cell brain to deal with.

We were watching Toy Story 2 last night when a thought popped into my head. Apart from the obvious one – oh man I look increasingly like Mr Potato Head. Wouldn’t it be great if toys did come alive. How much fun would that be. Suddenly a whole new self contained social circle. And yes we have a Buzz Lightyear so maybe he could teach us to fly.

I feel bad now Dad. Not played with a number of my toys in years. They have been shelved. Woody was mortified when he was shelved. Maybe we should dedicate the online Drama lesson to playing with old toys.”

He’s been so turned off from the subject that playing with old toys would certainly have more learning value.

Dad Ive been thinking about Toy Stories meaning. Basically it’s that you need to keep old toys come what may. Yes always play with them, even when your old. But never, ever give them away – even to a needy cause. It’s a bit of a grim message really.”

And with that he was off to find his old In The Night Garden Toys. But unusually for him, he did not fully think this through. His Dad fell in love with that old BBC kids show. His Dad can still answer any question thrown at him about Igglegpigle, Makka Pakka and the gang. And rather than looking for the shelved toys in the old toy baskets he just needs to look at his Dads bedroom table. No shelved toy sadness here. The In The Night Garden gang are very happy each night. Much loved by someone who really should know better.

Photo from the BBC.

Toy Story

Lovely midday weather here in Yorkshire.

It’s funny how you can overthink even the simplest of tasks. We try to make Saturday evening the official movie night of the week. A regular thing for son to look forward to. Popcorn, cola and a great movie. We save up new movies for the full Saturday experience. If we don’t have a new movie then the next best thing is a blockbuster. For days I had been working on a list of potential movies for this Saturday. Scores of candidates slowly whittled down to three favourites.

The Martian

Terminator – Dark Fate

Rocketman

So Saturday night arrived. I proudly gave son the list of three movies.

Ok Dad, let’s watch Toy Story.”

And with that it was Woody and co. A top top movie. Perfect escapism for today’s anxious world. But how much energy did I waste on picking an unused movie list. But I guess the point is that it successfully distracted me for a few days. While watching the movie I played my usual game of trying to pick which character I was most like. Toy Story was easy, clearly I am Rex. Although this morning I am a bit more Mr Potato Head.

We often forget how stressful the current situation is for kids. Confined to base, seeing parents stressed, unremittingly bad news on social media, kept apart from friends. In our sons case the confined to base and kept apart from friends is not really an issue. But his Aspergers requires routine and controllability. These have gone out of the window over the last few weeks. Adjusting to different daily routines. Food on the set weekly schedule (which has been in place for years) becoming unavailable. A completely unpredictable world. The fear of illness and worse ramped up by a spreading pandemic. He’s so young, had to deal with so much already and he’s facing this.

He asked what my best guess was for when things might begin to settle down a bit. Sadly I couldn’t say anytime soon. When he asked about schools opening and I couldn’t see anything happening and sticking before September.

“Dad is that September 2020 or September 2021”

I wouldn’t like to bet my shirt on that. We just don’t know who long the current restrictions will be in place for. When they do come off, how long before they need to be reintroduced. But we just have to deal with that. I’ve got to focus on the one overriding aim. Give son the best childhood possible. So we make the best of the new normal. Strengthen the new routines. AND above all try to have as much fun as possible. So Toy Story is perfect. It’s fun. Thank you Woody and co.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be time for our weekly virtual trip to beautiful Switzerland. Yesterday I was thinking about window views. The sort of view you would happily sit by your bedroom window, gaze out at the beauty and just smile. Sometimes the real window view is that good. The above photo is from the hotel room we stayed at on our last visit.

Well for this weeks virtual holiday let’s play fantasy window view. I’m going to pick a different dream window view for each day.

Sunday. Let’s start the week off with a view across beautiful Lake Thun.

Monday. Let’s have a window filled with an alpine meadow.

Tuesday. Let’s have the sound of water filling the room as well. A window filled with an alpine river.

Wednesday. Let’s enjoy one of the worlds greatest mountains. The Eiger

Thursday. Let’s have a window looking across a beautiful Swiss valley.

Friday. Let’s move the window to beautiful Lake Riffelsee and it’s always present reflection of The Matterhorn.

Saturday. Let’s finish the week with a view of a stunning waterfall.

See you next week my friends. Stay safe.

Hotel Window

Another cold start. I’m calling it an official three jumper day.

One of those cold starts that as hard as you work out, or regardless of how many warm layers you put on – your still cold.

The first week of schools version of homeschooling has now finished. Some subjects did embrace the opportunity. These offered the child a chance to be creative and to see where their learning interest would take them. Sadly that was not much of the week. Most of the lessons reflected the normal parrot learning teaching approach. What is the point of getting someone with dyslexia to translate page after page of French (without any context or help). What is the point of setting an online spelling test where the spoken words are so rare that I had to look every one up in a dictionary to see if they actually existed.

But he survived. The parent got through it as well. So that’s something.

Whether it was my lack of sleep, the unremittingly grim news or a week of homeschooling but last night I couldn’t get a thought out of my mind. Maybe, just maybe this is our world now. No more holidays. No more new lands. No more Switzerland. Certainly the financial shock of the next few months will take me a number of years to repair the bank balance. Generally travel may become more difficult over the next few years. Aspergers and the fear of social interactions is certainly not going away any time soon. So maybe that’s it with travel.

That’s sad but actually there is more to life than travel. So much to see and visit close by if it comes to that. Anyway we have not had a holiday since 2015 so we are used to it anyway. Doing virtual tours is a fun, safe, environmentally friendly and is so much cheaper. Then a thought crossed my mind. It was inspired by Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) while we watched Fawlty Towers. Basil was getting seriously cheesed off with a guest who was disappointed with the view from the bedroom window.

“Well may I ask what you expected to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically

Actually could we scale the virtual tours up a notch. Why don’t I pick a window with a chair next to it. Then why don’t I stick a poster or large photo over the window glass. Suddenly my view of say the trampoline could be transformed into whatever I fancy. I’ve seen other people do this in the past. So tomorrow I am going poster hunting. Got a couple of belting posters of The Alps to find.. But in the meantime I’m hoping my bedroom window will look something like this.