Bit battered

Poor thing has been a bit battered in the recent bad weather. Well I still think it deserves a moment to shine.

I was having a chat with our son last night about how life has changed recently. It’s only really now that some of the implications are starting to feed through. I will only focus on one small part of the conversation as this post could have ended up as long as the extended Directors Cut version of War and Peace.

Son struggles with social settings. It’s a well established element of Aspergers. He will actively pull away from crowds and groups. One of the only exceptions to that has been Rock Concerts. He still feels uncomfortable there but for a variety of reasons he can cope. He can put his hood over his head and no one will notice. He likes the fact that rock crowds seem very welcoming of any person, any look, any characteristic. With the noise no one is likely to talk to him. When the lights go out, no one can see him. You are just one hidden person in a sea of people. Plus he really loves the music.

So far he has seen Iron Maiden, Hollywood Vampires (with Johnny Depp), Alice Cooper, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thunder, Shinedown, Status Quo, The Darkness, The Damned, The Stranglers and Status Quo. He’s also seen his favourite band – Alter Bridge.

Before the pandemic kicked in he was hoping to see more. The likes of Whitesnake, Foreigner, Europe, Ozzy, Aerosmith and The Who. But the pandemic changed the world. Most of these have been postponed or cancelled.

When concerts restart what will they look like. Will the days of standing shoulder to shoulder return. Will people have to wear masks. What number of fans will be allowed in. How close will you be able to get to the band. Will you need to be vaccinated before you attend. Will certain fans be excluded (age, health factors). Will all the fans want to return. Will it just be open air concerts. Will it be the new idea of drive in concerts. Will some bands just give up. Who knows.

The pandemic also changed son’s life. It has sent his social and health fears into overdrive. Changed the balance and how he sees the world. Things which were acceptable have been tipped into the no go area. Those changes might be temporary or they could be permanent. Only time will tell. But certainly his concert days are at best on long term hold. That’s the thing about Aspergers, changes in external factors can have a huge internal impact. Lasting impacts.

Regardless of any more virus related developments, I just can’t see son wanting to go to a concert this year, probably next as well. Maybe that fragile corridor that allowed him to venture into a concert crowd has been broken on a much more permanent basis. We just have to wait and see. Maybe going forward our own music festivals are the way forward. Buy a concert dvd and hold the event in our living room or garden. We can still put the T-shirts on, have the snacks, drinks and a burger. We can even turn the lights out and crank up the speakers. Best thing – no masks required. No queues for toilets as well….

That doesn’t help the concert industry. I just hope they and the bands find a way through this mess.

So maybe that’s no concerts for Dad as well for sometime. But it is what it is. I’ve been so lucky to see so much music over the years. So as I move into a barren concert period let’s pause and see what my memory is like. Lets see how many of the artists I have seen over the years, I can actually remember. The good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve set myself 10 minutes (so I might miss a few). Here goes….

Whitesnake x4, Motörhead, Deep Purple x3, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Dio, Rory Gallagher, Tin Machine (David Bowie), Scorpions, UFO, Meatloaf x3, Blackfoot, Mountain, Alaska, Saxon, Magnum, The Firm, Eric Clapton, Tom Jones, Ronan Keating (x2) my partner to blame for that…. Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper x3, Gary Moore, Deacon Blue, The Kinks, Kirsty MacColl, Pink Floyd, Nils Lofgren, Killswitch Engage, Birdland, Bernie Torme, Roy Harper, Suzy Quatro, Paul Rodgers, Chris Rea, Marillion, Runrig, Asia, Al Stewart, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, Terence Trent D’arby, Simple Minds, Lou Reed, Bonnie Riatt, Chrissie Hynde, Jackson Brown, Little Steven, Bryan Adams, Squeeze, Tina Turner, Extreme, Was Not Was, Lyle Lovett, plus those with son.

Ten minutes up….

Lost Friends

And another rose photo…. I have to say out garden is blessed with weeds and roses. Each year they appear and they always feel like the return of friends.

Last night I had another weird dream. This time it took me back to my university days. It started off by showing that my career path had been influenced by a slip of a pen. I had applied to do a degree in Economics but had been put on a Home Economics course. A degree in cooking for the worlds worst chef, OK.… But the main part of the dream was centred around friendships. All my college friends were on the course but no one recognised me. As hard as I tried, nothing. I was just blanked by them. Most unsettling.

As ever the weird dream put an end to my nighttime sleep hopes. So it was time to drink tea and think. A quick search on the internet found recent pictures of some of my old college friends. I just about recognised them. Would they remember my face which is perfect for radio – probably the same I guess. But here’s the key thing. These were really close friends. Yet when was the last time we met up in person. Our careers and life’s moved us apart. I’m not sure it was even this century. But it doesn’t stop there

  • I haven’t seen my schools friends since I first left my childhood home to go to University.
  • One really close school friend I did keep in contact with. We would meet up every few months. But again our life’s drifted further apart and the last time I heard she was living in Israel. That must be over 20 years ago.
  • My climbing friends still keep in touch via letters. Yes letters – how old fashioned does that sound…But we haven’t been climbing together in 6 years.
  • I still keep in regular text contact with a good friend who I went to football matches with. But I’ve stopped going to games now due to circumstances, so we don’t meet up in person.
  • Work and parenting friendships have come and gone.
  • Friends in the village have dwindled. Some have moved away, some have sadly left this world.

So in terms of actual physical friend meet-ups it’s down to one chap I normally work with. He occasionally drags me for a game of golf. There are so many stories right theremy golf career is about as good as my cooking career. But due to the pandemic I have not seen him since the start of March.

Life and my choices have sent me down this path. Living in a rural area, bereavement, single parenting and autism in the house have all contributed. But it is was it is. A huge element of personal choice comes into the mix as well.

Yes this is sad but I am so lucky. The gaps left here have created space for blogging friendships. I’m doing the best job in the world – parenting. Job is the wrong word, it’s more a privilege. I have a great life. But I do so worry for others. Feeling alone can be such a dark place. Alone and yet claustrophobic. No one to reach out to. No one to interact or grow with. Some choose that option freely. But many are forced into it by circumstance. Illness, age, special needs parenting, single parenting, location, social factors, fears and yes a pandemic. It’s so easy and unfortunately very convenient to forget about those who drop off the grid. Last night was a timely reminder for me.

Take care my friends.

Not my berries

Wild strawberries get everywhere. Now they have found a way into the large tub which contains the old blueberry bush. This raises one of the great life mysteries. Wild strawberries are cropping up all over the garden. Even on the stone drive. Yet I find it impossible to grow them when and where I want them to. Nothing ever happens with my strawberry seeds. Most frustrating….

So officially no work until September at the earliest now. I guess it gives me more time to tend my strawberries. But we are SO fortunate compared to many others. We have beautiful memories. We have a nice (if slightly chaotic) garden with a lovely view. We are relatively secluded. Son can feel safe here. We can scrape by and pay the bills. We can still have fun and enjoy life. Yes another 3 months of this self contained world can at times seem a claustrophobic thought. But that thought is there only if I let it exist. In reality I’m losing a few brief encounters, some knee jarring runs and an occasional trip out. Counter to that – Son is gaining a feeling of security. For that security I can more than cope with a few inconveniences. Everyday we still have the ability to create memories and live out our dreams. Maybe not my frequent night dreams featuring talking cows and dinosaurs. But you know what I mean.

So let’s be thankful for what we have. Let’s use what we have. Let’s remember to live.

Let’s take the time to watch the wild berries grow…

The other thing about the wild strawberries is that they don’t last long. The are stripped bare by our frequent garden visitors. That’s fine with me. I guess they were the ones who brought the seeds here in the first place. So they grew them, so why not let them enjoy the rewards. And the answer to the great life mystery. I should leave the gardening to the experts. The wildlife. Having said that – they don’t seem very willing to cut the lawn.

An old trip out

This is from a couple of years back. A two hour car drive to the west side of Northern England. The Lake District. A place that sometimes feels just a little bit Alpine.

We stopped off at Castlerigg Stone Circle. One of the countries finest historic sites set amongst the countries highest mountains. It’s was erected in the Neolithic period. Sometime around 3000BC. Yes even before I was born. It’s one of those special places. Yes it’s popular picnic site now but it still has an atmosphere. It just feels different. Many years ago after a days climbing, I spent the night here. Just sat on the ground in the middle of the circle. I’m not sure why. Maybe waiting for a ghost or something. Didn’t see anything but when I walked away after sunrise, I had never felt so calm and relaxed. It’s that type of place. I could so imagine a great fantasy author coming here for inspiration.

What struck me about the second photo is the look on my two faithful companions. New visitors had just arrived at the site. The four legged one, I suspect was eagerly checking them out for food or toys. The young boy was definitely not so eager. Once the site started to fill up a little then it was most definitely time to go. Crowds and Aspergers are not great bedfellows. That’s why the time to visit places is such a delicate scheduling task. The choices tend to be

  • Go when the weather is bad,
  • Go just before they are closing,
  • Arrive super early. Try to get round before the masses start to arrive.

As a result visits tend to be fleeting. They also sometimes require really early starts. In this case we set off at 5am. That’s not ideal but needs must. One definite advantage. Nothing better as you drive away from a site and passing the traffic queues waiting to get in. Does that thought make me a bad person….

Thinking

During the summer months two things happen. The Sun beats down from cloudless skies….. And we get constant nosey Parker’s…..

Another largely sleepless night. A combination of a touch of tooth ache and another crazy dream. Great time to get a tooth problem as my dentist is just reopening having been closed for months. Reduced capacity and a horrific waiting list – deep joy….

Yes the crazy dream woke me up but it was so funny. Strangely featuring talking cows. I was trying to garden and the cows were helpfully chipping in with gardening tips. I hadn’t realised that cows knew so much about stuff.

While waiting for the early morning rain to stop, I was pondering life. And not just about talking cows and whether it’s a woolly hat exercise routine. I was thinking about thinking. Some of my thinking is good. Other types of thinking is not so good. It’s taken me years but now I can see this. I do have a habit of overthinking. My thinking starts good. I look at a problem or an issue or a memory. The first thoughts are constructive. How to make things better. The happy stuff. The sad stuff. What to do next. How to live the moment. How to make Son happy.

Then the overthinking kicks in. The second, third, fourth thoughts are hardly ever positive. My internal voices start.

  • What a mess.
  • I caused this.
  • I got that wrong.
  • People will be shaking their heads at me.
  • I am rubbish at this.
  • Why did I do or not do that.
  • People will think less of me.
  • I have so many faults.
  • I am going to make these mistakes again.
  • It’s going to go wrong.
  • I am a loser.
  • I look weird.
  • I talk funny.
  • Poole think I’m an oddball.
  • I am such a let down.
  • Completely useless.
  • They will be laughing at me.
  • And on and on.

Suddenly a never ending downward cycle is perpetuated. I’m spending all my energy on negativity. Living in the past. Forgetting about living today.

So yes thinking is good. But I need to stop the second and third thoughts. Stop the over thinking. That’s easier said than done. It’s a life long battle for me. One thing has got me through life. Helped ease the pain when I have fallen. That is to make sure that I never take myself too seriously. I’ve learnt to poke fun at myself. Ok it might not be great for boosting the confidence. But actually it means that I can accept myself better. It’s also a way of switching off the overthinking. Plus if it makes other people occasionally smile then it’s a complete result. In life it’s often easier to poke fun at others. I’m so not keen on that. Hopefully I will only do that when I know the other person likes it or by their self centred actions – they earn the right for a bit of parody. Unfortunately these days there are a lot of deserving targets. Just got to ensure I save the best put downs for me. You see it’s good for me.

Safety

Today’s out of focus wildlife action shot is of someone who lives in our roof. Actually taken yesterday when the sun was shining. Our housemate is about the only member of our household who gets out these days.

This is the seventh week of Son’s own version of the lockdown. A few dog walks in the early weeks but then going through the garden gate became increasingly difficult for him. Even in the security of our car, a simple trip out onto the road becomes an anxiety crisis. When he returns he immediately washes his hands for minutes then has to have a shower and bath. These are genuine fears. Fears that effect his life. The excessive need to wash is not new. He has been shown how to clean his hands like a nurse. He has hand washing drills that set time limits. But sometimes it’s best to let these lapse as the excessive cleaning is often more about ridding his soul of anxieties rather than purely removing germs from his skin. Especially when a virus surrounds him which has so many unknowns.

He won’t be alone in these fears and feelings.

A chap in London with a little NHS badge announcing that the lockdown is being eased or lifted is not the end of the matter. It’s not as if it’s a water tap which we can instantly turn on and off. That’s also assuming that the virus remains under control and doesn’t spike again. Under Control is a rather worrying definition these days. It appears to mean keeping daily infections running into thousands and deaths below 300 a day. That’s just hospital based deaths not including the huge numbers occurring in care homes or in the wider community. For many the easing of restrictions is just the start of a long and painful slog. No sudden street parties for them. It’s about trying to repair bridges between the safety of their homes and the wider world. Picking up sufficient confidence to walk past that front gate. To meet people again. That’s going to be so tough with no guarantee of success.

So for the foreseeable future, our little starling will be the only one venturing out.

Facts

Last night was one of those yucky sleepless nights. So very tired yet all I could muster was probably 40 minutes sleep. Annoyingly those 40 minutes came right at the end of the night and was brought to an all to abrupt ending with the morning homeschooling alarm.

During those zombie like hours I started writing a list of things to do this week. After getting stuck on item 1 for far too long, the list morphed into a more fruitful

What have I learned about myself during the last few weeks of this rather odd period in our history.

So here goes with my early morning facts

  1. I’m crap at writing To Do lists,
  2. Late at night I have a habit or writing LIST so that it looks like LUST,
  3. I can’t sleep properly,
  4. My old mobile phone has never worked better since it got machine washed with my clothes,
  5. My phone has a surprisingly good camera however it has the most annoying panorama function. The photo above took hours to do,
  6. I am so lucky to have that view from the garden. But what would I give for either a mountain or the sea in the distance,
  7. I quite enjoy most of this home schooling lark,
  8. Homeschooling and work are never going to be a good fit for me,
  9. Homeschooling and long distance running are never going to be a good fit for me,
  10. Homeschooling and my bank balance are never going to be a good fit for me,
  11. Homeschooling, my bank balance and holidays are never going to be a good for me,
  12. High petrol prices are not an issue when you don’t drive your car for 6 weeks,
  13. I can now make my own pizza bases as long as they are square shaped. Round is beyond me,
  14. I can fill a freezer up real quick when I start saving leftover food,
  15. A dairy and gluten free diet is a pain in the arse when the shops sell out of specialist diet ranges,
  16. I miss football on the telly,
  17. I miss alpine sports on the telly,
  18. I hate the news now. I miss the days of moaning about Brexit,
  19. I’m a barnpot yet I would do a better job of running our country than the clowns currently in charge. Apparently it’s ok for a Prime Minister to miss FIVE emergency meetings and have weekends off during a national emergency,
  20. My Son knows more than I do,
  21. Receiving a parcel from Amazon now feels as dangerous as trying to change a fuel rod in a nuclear reactor,
  22. Not being able to get Sons favourite Soup, Beans, Skinless Sausages and Pasta is one of the most stressful things in the world,
  23. I must be really vexing to live with,
  24. Cheap tea bags taste the same regardless of how many times I reuse them,
  25. Using Yorkshire Slang Words gets me put on the Spam Naughty List,
  26. At some stage I might have to physically talk to someone else than our son. I’m dreading that thought,
  27. You can still get colds if you are isolating from the outside world,
  28. When I’m carefully stood in my designated 2m queuing area why can’t I stop thinking about how long virus particles stay airborne for,
  29. I get so excited when I see an aeroplane now that I must rush to check where it’s flying to,
  30. I haven’t combed my hair in 6 weeks,
  31. Where does all the so called spare time disappear when I’m on lockdown,
  32. The more I learn German the less I can remember of French. It’s as if for every new German word entering my brain, a French one has to pop out to make space,
  33. I will even talk to slugs these days,
  34. Don’t set up a darts challenge with your son then at the last minute realise you don’t have a dartboard or darts,
  35. The Government and Chief Executives of major companies only email me when there is a pandemic going on,
  36. I still hate U2,
  37. I want to live in Switzerland
  38. I’m still a widow. Or as my Predictive Text tries to type – I am still a window,
  39. These days it really doesn’t matter if I put my pants on back to front.

Ever shrinking world

A photograph from our garden. Just five paces from the door. Part of Son’s world.

Our Son really struggles with health related anxieties. I remember the first pamphlet his Doctor handed to us about Aspergers all those years ago – second bullet point – may encounter obsessive fears over health and hygiene. For our Son they were real, life altering fears. Then in quick succession he lost his mum and both grannies. The fears became even more scary and real to him.

In the early party of his Aspergers life he was under the care of a wonderful Clinical Psychologist. She slowly helped but then she retired (and was never replaced due to the decisions backed by many of those in our current Government). His care became a real hotchpotch which achieved very little. Then we were so lucky. Son’s case landed on the desk of a young nurse health counsellor. Since then she has been the only constant through his care. Now because of Government cut backs, she is the only specialist help he gets. Although not an Autism expert she has patiently worked with him and delivered real benefits.

His fears became manageable.

Due to our Governments continued running down of the NHS, her workload has become ridiculous. She just can’t spend the time she needs to with him. But she does what she can. She still cares.

Then 2020 hit. Is it really only 4 months old…….

His fears have gone off the chart. Can you blame him. The worlds gone potty. Everything is up in the air and showing no sign of settling down. Because of the new clinical rules his wonderful health counsellor is not allowed to see him until after the crisis has eased. Being realistic that’s not going to be until the back end of the year at the earliest. So he’s started burning his bridges.

Bridges is a theme I am sure I will come back to over the coming weeks. The world of autism and the big bad world don’t naturally coexist. They are often separate. Links and bridges need to be built. Unfortunately the big bad world is not interested in developing links. It’s been up to our Son to try and build the bridges. That’s allowed him to enter the big bad world. Those links have never been particularly strong. NOW HE HAS BURNED THOSE BRIDGES. The outside world is just too scary and full of dangers. He has bunkered down to his house, his back garden, his world.

The thing is that when things start to improve again. And they eventually will. The big bad world will make no effort to rebuild those bridges again. One lone nurse counsellor will try. I will try. Sadly, I’m not entirely convinced Son will make much of an effort this time. Maybe in the future he will but it will take time. In the meantime his world has shrunk.

Big Sky

Twenty years ago we came to look at our current home for the first time and we both immediately fell in love with it. Yes it was a bit small being a two bedroom bungalow. It needed a lot of work doing to it. Apart from a really small village store it was a long way from any other facilities. The garden was badly overgrown. It would have been so easy to drive onto the next house we were looking at. But then we saw the view from the back garden. That was it. We were sold. I remember saying – that’s a big sky.

It’s still a big sky.

Little did we know how important such an isolated garden would prove when we became parents. Apart from the occasional walker and farmer you don’t see any sign of human life. These days when a human is spotted son will scamper into the house until the all clear is given. I’m not sure he would ever surface if he lived in a busy city.

Today was a work from home day. In fact this is going to be a work from home week. So it’s one of those weeks which could go two ways. Bask in the splendid isolation or feel the intense loneliness. Well after a few hours today it was heading towards the latter. When that happens the house starts to feel very cold and very claustrophobic. So a few minutes later I had donned about 15 layers and was sat outside with the laptop. Sat under the big sky. Today it was particularly quiet. No walkers, no farmers, no farm animals. Just the occasional bird. Yes still lonely but now realising how extremely privileged I am to be sat under this big sky.

Then something struck me. Before the world changed we would always be sitting in the garden. Sat with a glass of wine relaxing talking about becoming parents. Then when son arrived we would sit and watch him play with his toy dinosaurs on the grass. The garden would become Jurassic World. Then after a few hours the big bad daddy ranger would have to locate all the dinosaurs. It’s amazing how camouflaged a raptor can be in a Yorkshire garden. Then the bad stuff happened. Yes I would go outside to play in the garden with our son. I would train and do exercises in the garden. But I didn’t /sit in the garden anymore. This was probably the first time I had sat in the garden since my partner had left us. I guess it just didn’t seem right. It was always our garden not my garden. Almost as if it had become fenced off. Today without thinking just maybe that fence has come down. If it’s sunny again tomorrow I will probably work outside again.

Time to work under the big sky again.

Pesky New Year

A late evening walk. Not easy for our son. Full of anxieties. But he only had 36 hours to meet his goal for the year. Twelve new places visited in 2019. We had two more to tick off. Too many crowds at the places we ventured to over the last few weeks. So a walk in a desolate dark wood became the next best option.

New Years Eve brought a walk down a little used path. A path that took us to a couple fishing lakes. Thankfully few anglers today so we could have our space. Son counted this as his 12th new place visited. His goal achieved. Not an easy goal for him because of his social anxieties.

*******

Dad I’m going to set a target of 15 new places for 2020. Surely we can find 15 deserted areas. Maybe one or two places will be allowed to have a few people there. Are you going for any New Year goals?

Just my usual trying to end up looking like George Clooney.

Who is George Clooney? Is he cool?

He was Batman.

That’s cool enough. Don’t expect any help from me getting you into the Bat Suit.

No I suspect I would need scaffolding and a construction team for that.

*******

2020 goals……

The only thing I’m specifically aiming for apart from looking like a George came from a blog I was reading this week. It mentioned changing things up. So I’m going to do some writing which takes me out of my comfort zone. Not sure what yet. Maybe I will write a professional looking post. That will be a first. Any volunteers for the ghostwriter for that one.

2020 goals……

Apart from that writing one I can’t think of any new ones that will stick. This year it feels like just dusting myself down and going again. I do tend to struggle with Day 365 of the year.

New Years Eve. I hate it. I’m sorry I just can’t buy into the fondly saying goodbye to the current year. Let’s look at all the highlights. Then welcome in the new year. It’s a new beginning. Is it really. You wake up January 1st to find that your slate has not been wiped clean. Sorry that’s just me. I’m so pleased for the people who can see the New Year so positively. I just can’t.

This year we add the end of the decade. Pictures of people ten years ago and now. For us it would be a family of 3 and now a family of 2. Not going down that road tonight.

So for those who enjoy New Year then I wish you a really happy time. Hope it’s great for you. For anyone who feels like me – I send you all my hugs and we will hopefully reconvene on the other side of this pesky midnight.