Shopping

I ventured into a Supermarket today. What was I thinking about. Son wisely stayed in the car and watched Red Dwarf episodes. When I went shopping with my partner it seemed to insulate me from the madness occurring around us. Now as a single shopper I seem to absorb everything. It’s a truly bizarre experience.

First of all why do some supermarkets insist that they will only permit you to use one of the trolleys only if you first feed it a one pound coin. Could I find a one pound coin. Could I buggery. After 10 fruitless minutes ransacking the car I had to go into the supermarket to see if they would change a £10 note. “I’m sorry we are not allowed to give change”. So I bought the cheapest packet of sweets I could find. I fed the trolley it’s coin and off we went – in circles. Why is it of the 100 trolleys available I picked the one with the jammed wheel. So I tried again. This time the trolley went in a reasonably straight line but as I entered the shop the little blighter started squeaking. When I say squeaking I mean SQUEAKING. We are talking a 10000 opera singing mice squeaking through the Motorhead sound system. Too late to change as my first items are loaded.

I was going to get a melon but I watched as a chap proceeded to pick up every melon, squeeze them and then appear to smell them. Eventually he found one which he could love. Unfortunately I suddenly did not fancy a previously sniffed melon.

A little kid picking his nose ferociously within inches of the deli counter rather changed my view on lunch options.

Unbelievably I then watched as a woman started checking out every single cucumber. She was seriously squeezing each one. Some even got tapped on the counter. Strangely I crossed off Cucumber from the shopping list as I have a strict no purchase policy for all previously violated vegetables.

As I was trying to find just one tin of soup which was dairy free I heard a chap ask a Shop Assistant where the teabags could be found. The helpful advice the chap got was – well it’s not in this aisle it will be next to the coffee. When the chap asked where the coffee was he was told. It used to be in aisle 3 but they moved it. I’m sure you will find it if you keep going round the shop.

Then an old lady asked if I could pass her a tin of peaches down. I’m one 1/2 inch above average height. Why in God’s name do shops insist on having shelves where even an average height person has to go on tip toes to reach the stuff we are trying to buy. The poor woman who can’t be 5ft has got no chance shopping. Maybe the shop could hire stilts along with the trolley.

The aisle with the tomato ketchup and other sauces was cordoned off. Clearly a jar of something red had been dropped. However it must have been dropped with some force as most of the aisle resembled a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That’s going to take some cleaning.

I then went past the discounted section. Not sure what produce was discounted as what appeared to be a team bus of local holligans where at least 3 deep around the area. That is going to be stripped bare.

The pet section had a deal on cat food. Everything seemed to be buy one get one free. Yet nothing for the dogs. Isn’t that discrimination. Plus how can gerbil bedding be so bloody expensive. It would be cheaper to buy them a proper duvet with matching cover. Or maybe just buy them a tree and let the Gerbils do the rest.

You make it through the pet section then you find the way blocked at the cereal aisle. An impromptu meeting of what appeared to be the bridge club had helpfully completely filled the walkway. Oh for a Battering Ram.

Special mention to the poor mum who had successfully navigated the supermarket carefully packing her trolley with the weekly essentials. Only to find out her toddler had been having a great game of putting any item in his reach back onto the shelves – definitely not in the correct position.

Then we come to the dress sense. Ok on the sartorial scale I’m near the bottom. But come on. One chap in a fine pinstripe suit with bright yellow training shoes. The lady in what can be best described as a ballerina costume. The young kid (maybe 8) with the f**k you T-shirt. Or maybe the chap walking around in what appeared to be a string vest which was probably last washed 10 years ago. Or perhaps the big chap walking around in Tour de France Lycra which was clearly on the point of exploding under the extreme pressure it was subject to. Wow what an old fart I’m becoming. To balance things out I was looking spectacular in my luminous green running shoes set against a blue and green relaxed fit T-shirt. My exploding lycra issue was tastefully hidden under matching black and white running shorts. I think the term your trying to think of is numpty.

The freezer section lives up to its name. The freezers are working that well that the surrounding air has been chilled to somewhere close to East Antarctic Plateau temperatures. You could see the colour literally being sucked out of the shoppers trying to reach the ice lolly section. To my cost I discovered how little insulation running shorts and Lycra provide. I will never look at frozen Brussels Sprouts in the same way again.

Then it’s time to pay. When I say time I mean that in the loosest sense. A long queue at every open till. Then they start to open another till. The start to the Monaco Grand Prix has nothing on the ensuing trolley carnage. I was expecting Kirk Douglas and Chariot to make an appearance. And then when we do get to a cash till. Of the 16 available why do I always pick the one where the poor cashier has the plague. 5 minutes of coughing and sneezing and blowing her nose. Deep Joy.

That’s why I am hermit….

Hadrians Wall

This is the final instalment of our unscripted and unplanned day trip. So far we have ventured to Kielder Forest and Kielder Water. So where next. After a series of left and right turns we are driving along a road when.

Dad stop. That most be Hadrians Wall. Ok it could be a farm wall. But it looks Roman to me.

It was the famous Roman Wall and ten minutes later we were trying to find a parking place at a Roman Fort.

Dad this is really busy. Too busy.

Luckily after buying tickets (while son hid in the car) I was able to find an alternate way onto the site avoiding the crowds. Hopefully the sheep in the neighbouring field didn’t mind us trespassing too much. It would have been such a shame for our son to miss this piece of ancient history.

Housesteads Roman Fort was built around 124AD to help defend Hadrians Wall. The wall was 73 miles long and stretched across Northern England from the Tyne to Solway Firth. It marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire.

When it was constructed the wall was up to 20ft tall.

Housesteads is the most complete Roman fort in Britain. It stands on a stunning Northumberland escarpment. Can’t think of a more stunning location for a history lesson.

I wonder what the Romans would have made of me. Aspergers wasn’t even a word back then.

Before I could say anything he smiled and said.

Maybe they would have just said he’s on whatever Nero is on.

Back to the Fort tour. Son had obviously banked a considerable amount of information about this Fort from somewhere. No need for a guidebook.

As son was lost in a dream I wandered around the Fort silently with him. Trying to imagine what the site would have been like almost 2000 years ago. Good job the Romans installed steam underfloor heating. Would need it in summer never mind winter. Then another thought. All those years later and we are still trying to build walls. Put up barriers to try and protect our way of life. Have we learned nothing in all those years. Actually our PM is increasingly Nero like. A few other countries have their very own modern day Nero’s.

George RR Martin has revealed that Hadrians Wall provided the inspiration for Game of Thrones. The imagery of the book and it’s Wall are strong and echo that of a Hadrians Wall all those years ago. Romans stood on a huge wall marking the very edge of their civilisation. That view to the unconquerable northern lands must have been truly frightening.

Dad it’s funny when you think about it. The Romans would probably now be standing in the opposite direction, looking South and thinking the same frightening thing. A strange, scary land.

Yes England seems to have gone completely barking mad. Looking into England is a very scary prospect.

And with that we head back home. The road trip has been a great success. Especially as I only thought we would be having a random visit to somewhere local in Yorkshire.

Dad I’ve decided we need to have more road trips to make sure I visit the 12 new places. One needs to be to Scotland. Sorry Dad that might mean we are setting off before we go to bed.

Swiss Sunday and relax

It’s Swiss Sunday again. A time to breathe and relax.

Often we would arrive in Switzerland on a Saturday. Completely stressed out with families, work, money, life. But on that train heading towards Spiez the holiday has started. Two Swiss Beers and it’s time to forget the world for a few days. You can feel the stress levels ebbing away as the mountain scenery passes by.

Sunday was the day of Total Relaxation. No busy shops. No frustrations. No anger. Just the peaceful sound of water lapping on the shore. Cow bells in the distance. The occasional ring of church bells. A time to just stroll and take in the views.

Then a leisurely trip to Interlaken. This really is the correct pace for life.

The train could get you there within 10 minutes. But what’s the hurry. Sit on the boat and just relax for 90 minutes.

Interlaken has a wonderful little Japanese Garden. The Garden of Friendship. Another chance for peace and tranquility.

In a world where stress levels are so high. We need places like Switzerland on a Sunday. Now breathe.

Kielder Water

The last post left the unscripted day trip deep in Kielder Forest.

Right Dad it’s time to have a closer look at one of Northern Europe’s largest man made Lakes. Rutland is larger but Kielder holds more water. Don’t worry I’m not expecting you to go swimming. The water will be too cold.

That’s a good job as a I can’t swim and I don’t fancy a bout of frostbite. I later checked those facts. Apparently Kielder holds 44 billion gallons of water. That’s an awful lot of trips to the toilet. It tends to be full at all times. It has a number of natural springs feeding it plus let’s not forget the weather.

With the autumnal like wind whipping across the lake and the breaking waves – it did feel like a seaside walk.

I’m guessing it is just under York Minster deep. That’s about 235ft. I’m going to say about 70 metres as Boris Johnson will hate that. He hates everything from Europe or that is what he wants people to think. Some people will fall for that.

Ok can’t miss a bit of of annoying our Buffoon of a Leader – so Kielder holds 200 billion litres.

Wouldn’t it be great if Kielder had its very own Loch Ness Monster. Ok it’s a manmade lake built in 1982. But the monster could have migrated here. What do you think Dad.

How about a Megalodon.

No legs or wings so it’s not migrating in a hurry. I’m seeing either a Spinosaurus or a very large otter.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the monster otter concept as suddenly a large military plane swept low over us and across the lake. My ancient mobile didn’t do it justice.

Dad what time is it. Have we got time for one more place. We are on a roll now.

It’s 3pm let’s see what we can find. So back at the car. Is it Left or Right.

East.

Final part of the road trip takes us back in time.

That play

We had set our hearts on a trip out. Son wanted to go for a walk round a quiet lake. I wanted sea air to cleanse my soul. I was born near the sea and it has great healing properties. But the weather was grim. Too grim. So a change of plan.

Plan B. We needed a few smiles this morning so off we set to the cinema to see the new Horrible Histories movie. Maybe not quite as funny as Bill but it was a really good film. Yes it brought many smiles.

As the rain lashed down on the drive back home it was decided to just have an afternoon of movie watching.

Dad let’s watch Bill when we get home.

So it was a TV lunch. Jacket Potatoes and a super funny take on Shakespeare. It’s amazing how a couple of funny films can lift the spirits. Makes you forget your own reality. It’s a most odd feeling these days. That feeling of laughing. So as Bill finished I wondered what comedy classic our son would pick next. Monty Python? Paddington? Ice Age? Spongebob?

I’ve decided Dad. Can you check if you can find XXXXXXXX for free. Always fancied watching it.

So 20 minutes later we are watching another movie. MacBeth staring Michael Fassbender. Yes not the happiest movie. A bit short on laughs. One of those films which is just so bleak that it forces you to put on the thickest jumper you can find. Even the steaming hot coffees fail to warm my bones. It’s gory, it’s dark, the music is brooding, the imagery is stunning. Not quite the family movie I had set my heart on but I suspect William Shakespeare would have loved what his words had become.

It’s strange how something so bleak can help you forget your reality as well. My mum would always say she would play sad songs to cheer herself up. I understand that now.

Swiss Water

It’s Swiss Sunday. Which means it’s Sunday and it’s time to indulge in a bit of Switzerland.

When my partner first took me to Switzerland I’m not sure what I was expecting. Mountains definitely. A beautiful country definitely. Brilliant transport without a doubt. Chocolate. Much Swiss cheese – probably. Yodelling – hopefully. Hardly any water – surely as it’s landlocked.

Now I can confirm it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It has mountains – lots of them. The transport is beyond precise. It is Chocolate Heaven. Swiss Cheese is very nice. Yodelling does happen but Swiss Culture is so varied and puts our culture to shame. It’s still treasured.

But I was hideously wrong on the water assumption.

If water is your thing then Switzerland is perfect. Waterfalls, Lakes, Rivers, Rapids, Streams. All stunning. All with a unique Alpine Colour and Sound.

Lakes and mountains are the perfect combination.

One warning. The alpine water can be on the chilly side. Brace yourself.

Creaky World Tour 3

Currently not allowed to run due to knackered body so was in desperate need of a fitness hobby to stop me going stir crazy. Came up with the idea of seeing how far I would get around the world powered only by my stationary exercise bike and walking with Pokemon Go….

The creaky world tour left us in Rochester.

So on this leg of the expedition we have managed

Bike – 280km

Pokemon Go – 30km

So here we go.

First stop is to a little favourite of mine. Not been here in over 25 years – I hear you scream but you are only 21. We find a way to the Isle of Sheppey after a 28km trip. A small island just off the northern edge of Kent. My sister used to live here. Apparently the first Britain flew an aeroplane here in 1909. A few years later here I got chased into Sheerness by a gang of ducks after they decided they wanted more bread from me. Ended up taking refuge in a pub. To be polite I had to try a pint of the local brew from Shepherd Neame. To my Yorkshire palette it was a shocker.

Now let’s get some distance covered. A hard 90km get us to Dover. First thing that comes to mind now are the 350ft tall White Chalk Cliffs.

Thanks to TripAdvisor for the photo.

The Ferry Port now opens up our world tour. Passport is ready and in a blink of an eye and after another 190km we find our French destination. It’s the city of Lille. It’s a wonderful city. Great history, great art, great markets. It’s a wonderful place to eat as well. It also happens to be the home of a contender to the title of the worlds stinkiest cheese. Maroilles. It’s a tasty one.

On my first overseas holiday with my partner we had to change trains at Lille station. So excited to have left Britain behind us for a week. To completely forget our life’s for a while. Then a booming voice.

“Now Bonny Lad. Wat are yee doin here” – imagine deep Geordie accent – think Brian Johnson from AC/DC.

Unbelievably the guy who sat behind me at Newcastle United matches was randomly stood next to us on this faraway French Platform. He was off to Bordeaux to see his French mum.

Alviiiiiin!

I wonder if the cow is even aware of that strange thing in the sky. Should I warn the cow. Probably not – would just think I’m full of hot air.

I think saying stupid or silly things is a release for me. It’s a way of relieving pressure. Diffusing the dark thoughts that can crowd my mind. However that Monty Python in me is often misinterpreted.

He’s a happy soul.

Not a care in the world.

OR

He’s got over things now.

He’s moved on.

That is so far from the truth. Everyday is a struggle. You just have to learn to coexist with Depression and Grief.

I would love to release my inner demons through beautiful paintings or dark soulful poetry. Unfortunately that’s just not me. It doesn’t work for me and the end result is a pile of pants. All it does is bring out my inner Alvin and The Chipmunks. Not sure that would be a box office winner – Alvin and The Grief Trip.

Sorry there I go again.

The point I’m trying to make if Alvin would just let me is that how you appear on the surface is often very different to how you actually feel inside. It doesn’t help that often people don’t want to hear how you really are feeling. They will ask – how are you? They desperately want you to say – fine. And guess what – when you get asked that question your almost preprogrammed to say – I’m ok.

Maybe we should have a deal. From now on let’s all REALLY ask how someone is. When they say fine or ok how about we follow up with – are you really sure. Or I’m here for you I know how tough it can be.

The other part of the deal is when someone takes the time to really ask how you are then be honest. Instead of saying just dandy it is ok to say like shit or not good or I’m struggling. Or if your feeling really brave just say I could really do with a hug.

We all struggle sometimes. Wouldn’t it be a better world if we could all just be a bit more open about that. What do you say Alvin.

Coordination

Beauty in the sky masked evil intentions. Twenty seconds later a successful bombing run covered my car bonnet. Not so beautiful. The one hand giveth; the other hand taketh away.

Basically I have knackered my body up. Medical advice was to rest the right side for a couple of months. No running. If you play football in the garden – don’t use your right foot to kick. That’s a bit of a problem. During my sporting career the left leg has been a bit of a spectator. It is used for standing on and just getting in the way. Nothing else. So since a toddler I have been completely right footed.

So this garden football season was approached with trepidation. The first attempts confirmed the fears. Absolutely useless. Even the frequent cow audience clearly most unimpressed with my attempted kicks.

But a couple of months later and….

With one hand giveth.

The left leg is like a magicians wand. Better than the right foot ever was. Complete ball control, pinpoint passes, power, curling shots into the top corner of our small net. It just shows that with practice what you can achieve.

But with the other hand taketh.

Now the right side is a little less painful I’ve started using it again and just maybe I could be a natural two footed footballer. Guess what. The right foot is now completely useless. Can’t use it. All my hard work has basically switched me from being completely right footed to completely left footed.

Maybe my brain can only cope with one usable leg.

Son struggles to tie shoe laces. He also can’t use a knife and fork at the same time. He just can’t coordinate two limbs simultaneously. It’s a bit like riding a bike. Son can peddle but not at the same time as steering or braking. If he turns a corner he can’t peddle. He did manage to learn to swim but it doesn’t come naturally. It’s either using his legs or using his arms – not both at the same time.

He has been diagnosed with Dyspraxia which often goes hand in hand with Autism. The bottom line is coordination does not come naturally. We have been doing some exercises to work on this. Jumping on a trampoline and catching at the same time has been our single most fun exercise. We have seen some improvements for example he has developed good catching skills. But things like shoe laces are probably going to be life long issues. We realise this. The main reason we do coordination exercises is to help with his Dyslexia, other improvements are bonuses.

Maybe you just have to accept and work with how your body is setup uniquely for you. Make the best of it. We all can’t be brilliantly coordinated like birds. To fly, aim and poo at the same time. That’s beyond me.

That’s how it is

Just seems such a waste. Such a beautiful flower and yet it’s in our garden so it only has an audience of two. But that’s how it is.

He is so caring. When his class had the last day in the old school one of the girls cried her eyes out. The only one to go across to her and ask if she was alright was our son. Yet because he is on the spectrum he must be unfeeling and cold…..

He brain is far more powerful than his Old Pops yet somehow I went university and he is seen as being low attainment.

He has a love for scientific enquiry yet that counts for nothing as he can’t accurately hand draw a plant cell structure or spell correctly common science words.

He can create awesome self contained worlds with detailed mythologies, politics and cultures. Yet because he can’t construct a grammatically correct postcard he is written off.

He can forensically debate historical details yet because people assume that he will never read a textbook he is not encouraged to foster that subject love.

The education system has written off his reading as something which won’t develop yet he can read and send texts without help. He is told to just get used to using a reading pen yet today while watching the Justice League he read the sub titles almost perfectly.

He is not part of the in-group of kids who live and breathe football. Yet he can talk for hours about football stats. Relive the sports greatest moments. Can talk for hours about the minutiae of Team setups and tactics.

He can be so relaxed, so astute and so naturally funny. Yet only I see this. It does seem such a waste. But that’s how it is.