Mud is good for the complexion

Today was dark and moody but thankfully the storm has gone. Gone but left us with a mini lake for my wayward football shots to target. I can confirm that is is particularly muddy and toe-curlingly cold. It’s amazing how I’ve got the entire farmers field to land in and the ball lands unerringly into the centre of the lake. Twice…..

The sliding contest was unsurprisingly a one sided contest. Son on his sledge managed a respectable mud slide of about 10 paces. My butt powered slide proved somewhat less aerodynamic. Basically it immediately sank in the mud and formed what can best be described as a sink hole. The impact somehow pulling my running leggings towards my knees. Poor kid will be traumatised for years with that sight. I guess the one redeeming feature is that since mud is good for complexion my backside should be just dandy for a few weeks….

So I took the forfeit. The 5 jelly bean roulette. As we have lost the taste chart I can’t be 100% certain on the delights which passed my lips. I definitely recognised rotten egg, booger and soap. One definitely tasted of burnt sausage. The last one was off the scale, too horrid to describe. Son seems to think it might be earthworm flavour. Well that was not his first comment on the potential flavour.

“If it’s as bad as you describe then it’s likely to be your own home made curry flavour.”

Yes that was a bad cooking disaster. As a meal shortcut I used some readymade curry paste. Unfortunately I didn’t read the bit about only using one or table teaspoons depending on taste. I used the whole jar. That was definitely weapons grade cooking. And on the subject of weapons grade food. Stand by your shelters. Lockup the kids and pets. Ensure all windows are closed. I’m about to try and bake a carrot cake. You have been warned.

Sliding

So far Storm Dennis has been ok with us. So many have had it far worse than ourselves. Last time I looked there was over 560 flood warnings. Many houses are already underwater. So so sad and it’s happening more frequently.

Sometimes having a messy, pet wrecked garden helps. It’s makes it less obvious when a storm strikes. So as I surveyed the increased mess zone something caught my eye. Unbelievably during yesterday’s weather hammering two daffodils had decided to flower.

The photo is slightly out of focus as they are being blown all over the place in the gales. But it’s such a lift to see them. Let’s hope they survive Dennis.

This week is a school break. Son is adamant that he does not want to leave the house and our garden all week. Can’t blame him at all. He is so uncertain in the big bad world at present. The bridges he builds between his and the other world are looking particularly rickety and creaky. They are so fragile that he doesn’t fancy crossing them that often this week. Actually feels a bit like a game of Fortnite. An ever approaching storm cloud encircling out little world. If you play Fortnite I’m the wally who always gets killed within the first five seconds. My job is to make you look good.

My job is also to make sure our little world is as safe and as fun filled as is humanly possible. As hard as it may seem to some people in the media – kids with autism still like to have fun, do things they like and be happy. One of the reasons why the world feels like a scary game of Fortnite to so many good souls is that too many narrow minded reptiles in the media create the storm that others have to survive in.

Anyway let’s move on to have fun.

Today the grass is an absolute squelch fest. Your shoes immediately sink into inches of mud and water. So maybe it’s the perfect conditions for mud sliding. Let’s see if it’s possible to slide from our back door to the farmers fence. That’s about 15 paces and just slightly downhill. It’s a battle between man and boy. Between my huge backside and Son’s snow sledge. The loser has to take their chances with 5 potentially bad tasting jelly beans. Surely this time I have found a use for my donut fuelled butt.

So we operate in a small world for the next 8 days. I may struggle for new photos for the blog but let’s see what we can find. May need to delve into my dusty photo albums. Don’t worry no muddy butt photos are planned.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday. A very wet and windy Sunday here in Yorkshire. So let’s go on a trip to beautiful Switzerland.

This time let’s return to a place we visited so many times. Schloss Spiez. Spiez Castle.

Work on the castle started in 933 by the King of Burgundy. The tower was added in the 12th century. Over the years it has been transformed from castle to a gloriously romantic residence.

In all the times we visited here we never once went inside the castle. Son is not keen on confined spaces. But you can walk around the outside and the gardens for free.

Son loved coming here from the hotel. It was only a 5 minute walk. It was always quiet. He always has had to stand next to his knight pal Adrian Von Bubenberg.

The Castle Church is stunning. So peaceful inside.

If you time the trip well you can sample the local wine from castles vineyards.

The castle offers stunning views across Lake Thun and the surrounding mountains.

The castle dominates the marina area of Spiez.

And on a hot day the gardener puts the water sprinkler on for the kids to play in. One of Sons favourite places ever.

Raining

Is it safe to venture out yet? Certainly not. Absolutely chucking it down with flying branches. At least Storm Dennis is saving me a pruning job on the old apple tree. Strangely the day we took Son to see the above panda was equally wet. At the end of the day we were frozen, huddled over hot chocolates at Edinburgh Castle and thinking what possessed us to come to Scotland in the middle of winter. Oh hang on it was August, the height of summer. I guess that’s the price you pay for living in the UK.

Yes bad weather curtails the outdoor activities but it’s a great excuse to dig out the indoor games. Connect 4, mini Air Hockey, Top Trumps, Guess Who and Jenga. So much simple fun. Going to try Monopoly (when I can find it). The last time we tried it Son struggled with it. He couldn’t get his head round the money element and he didn’t like having to get his community chest cards read out for him. I wish I could find a few of my old games. Haunted House, Mouse Trap and the Bermuda Triangle. Now I’ve started. I loved my old horse racing board game – Totopoly. Then there was that art and painting game which should never have worked but it did – Masterpiece. Our Cluedo was a bit pointless as we had lost many of the cards. Colonel Mustard ended up being a serial killer – he was about the only character card we had left. Kerplunk was fun until you lost the marbles. As many people point out – I have most certainly lost my marbles. Yahtzee was impossible as we didn’t have any rules. Must have another look in the attic tomorrow.

What are your favourite games?

So as Son watches YouTube videos I’m catching up on my blog. Got to thank Jess (Beyond the front cover) for the Sunshine Blogger tag. It’s greatly appreciated. As you’ve taken the time to set some questions let’s answer them.

1 – What is your greatest achievement to date?

Son and not burning the house down while baking.

2 – Name one thing that is guaranteed to annoy you?

Boris Johnson and Newcastle United.

3 – What made you decide to start your blog, and does that reason still stand for why you continue?

It kinda just happened. Not sure what I was thinking about in the months after the world changed. I had started reading blogs I think to try and reconnect with the world. Then one night I randomly set my own one up.

4 – If you could visit one place in the world then where would you go, and why?

Switzerland because it’s so special to my partner. Everest Base Camp.

5 – If you could only read books from one genre then which one would you pick?

1. Fantasy 2. Climbing 3. Horror

6 – What was the last thing that happened to make you smile?

Watching an old ScoobyDoo episode.

7 – If you could live a day as a character from a book then who would that character be, and why?

Sherlock Holmes. Just the coolest character ever. Very complex.

8 – Which season is your favourite?

If we got proper snow then winter. Problem is that all our seasons tend to be similar. Wet and windy. See the Brit is off talking about the weather again.

9 – What is the best piece of advice that you have been given?

When learning to ride a bike – don’t try to go backwards

During cricket coaching – imagine your bat is a stick of Rhubard

10 – Which subject at school was your favourite, and which did you hate?

None hated school. Biology was the least bad one.

11 – If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life then what would you pick?

Cheese and onion crisps.

When words fail

Tomorrow the next storm arrives with the threat of 36 hours of torrential rain with damaging winds. But on the bright side at least the ground is dry and not already saturated!!!!!!! Yes it just too wet.

The British are famed for talking about the weather. It’s always too cold, too hot, too wet, too windy, too foggy, too icy, too stormy…. Well at least you won’t find me always talking about the weather.

SORRY. But I’m British. I don’t have any problems talking about the weather.

School has now broken up for a week. It’s been a rough couple of months with incessant home work and exams. A week at home will do our Son the world of good. We have put the keys away and let’s see if we can do 10 days without using the car. Definitely good for the environment and a test of how well I am adjusting to this self contained lifestyle. It’s ironic that my partner really desired that isolated lifestyle yet I’m the one who is finally living it. She would love the peace and quiet reflection. That was founded in her religious beliefs. She came from a very strong Quaker family. Sadly I’ve been to far too many Quaker funerals over the last few years.

It’s strange I find it very difficult to talk or write about religion. I guess that partly comes from my Dad. He would drill into me the following words

Whatever you do there are three things you never talk about if you want to avoid an argument. Politics, Football and Religion….

Well before you ask – for me that is

Left of Centre (Labour), Newcastle United and Church of England.

On the first two we have a bit of a pattern. Labour has only won 3 out of the last 11 elections and Newcastle haven’t won a trophy since 1969. Picked the wrong side…..

So I can happily talk politics and footy but religion still makes me clam up. Sometimes rather embarrassingly. Several years ago I was invited by a fellow Newcastle Season Ticket holder to go to his daughters christening. It was happening a couple of hours before a match at a Roman Catholic Church. Perfect timing. It was a lovely service but then the congregation was asked to take Holy Communion. When I was asked I declined. I came out in a cold sweat and struggled to say I’m not catholic. In the end I blurted out ‘I’m the other side’. Understandable this produced a strange look. Poor chap probably thought I was a devil worshiper….

Even that brief last paragraph has unnerved me. So I tend to keep my religion and my views on it strictly to myself. Which is bizarre given my propensity to waffle – especially about the weather.

White elephant

The zero hours contract yielded 5 hours work today. Another 50000000 hours and I might just keep the bank manager from sending me snotty letters. Just enough time left for a quick run. The light was stunning. It’s the quiet before the next storm hits.

“Is it true that we are getting another storm.”

“Yes Son it’s due to hit at the weekend. But this time maybe just a little less wind but much more rain.”

Great. I bet they have given it a really silly name.”

“Storm Dennis.”

“Your joking aren’t you.”

No Son it’s officially called Dennis.”

Probably named after Dennis The Menice. Would have been better if they had called it Storm Menice.”

Given we seem to be getting them every 6 days now maybe they should call it ANOTHER STORM.”

Son gave the car radio a quizzical look when the news reporter mentioned that Boris Johnson is still committed to building a bridge between Scotland and Ireland.

How much is that going to cost”

“I think it was a minimum £20 billion but given our track record of overspends that probably means about £80 billion”

Dad what a stupid idea. How many operations, or school books or trees could that pay for. How many months will it be closed for high winds.”

It’s a staggering idea. A 45km bridge over a seriously mad and volatile sea area. Supported by a series of giant towers having to be spaced at least a kilometre apart to accommodate the busy shipping routes. It would also have to cross the location of the country’s largest military dump. In 1945 over a million tons of munitions and submarines were dumped in a 300m deep sea trench.

“Its ok Son it’s unlikely to be built. When he was Mayor of London Boris committed to another big bridge idea. He was going to build a pedestrian bridge over the Thames. It ended up as a shambles and nothing happened. So if he can’t build a bridge between London and London he’s going to struggle to build one from Scotland to Ireland”.

Talking about building Dad. When are you going to get round to putting my shelf back up in my bedroom.”

The project is currently in the planning stages.”

If you mean by planning that it’s been propped against the wardrobe them then planning stage has lasted almost two years.”

I will try to do it tomorrow.”

Yeh right. Two massive white elephants. The Irish Sea Bridge and my Lego Shelf.”

Bird Of Prey

Today’s run was turning into a nightmare. Wasn’t planning to go but another power cut prematurely ended work for the day. Thirty minutes later I was trying to run uphill into strong headwind. Already my mojo was rapidly ebbing away. A glance to the heavens (maybe for inspiration) stopped me in my tracks. A stunning predator was circling almost immediately above me.

Given how badly my running was going I’m surprised it wasn’t a vulture.

For a wonderful few minutes it was man against beast. A perfectly designed flying acrobat versus a muppet with his mobile phone camera. Only ever going to be one winner. So the photos are a little lacking in sharpness.

My running struggles were long forgotten.

Five minutes later my new feathered friend was off.

Now on my own the quick realisation that standing still in this icy gale force wind was not great for exposed legs. What possessed me to wear shorts. I was absolutely frozen . The prospect of a warm shower contributed to a rapid return run. My mojo was definitely healed by the encounter. We are so fortunate to have birds of prey hunt in the farmers field behind the house. It’s such a thrill for our Son. To get glimpses of these spectacular birds and not have to leave the safety of his garden.

Our Son has always loved animals. Of all his toys the birds of prey were always amongst his favourites and centre stage in his games. He developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things to do with falconry. When he was a little older he got the chance to handle some of his most loved birds.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen kids with Aspergers bond with birds of prey.

From about the age of five Son started to struggle at school. Suddenly he was withdrawing from group activities, becoming more insular and ill at ease with society. He would avoid physical interaction and all eye contact. So utterly unsure of himself and lacking in confidence outside of the safety of his home. Yet here was the same kid who was at ease and completely relaxed in the presence of these mighty hunters. Happily handling them. Intense, unblinking eye contact with Peregrines and Hawks. Face to face no more than a few inches between them. Complete confidence. Utter love.

Birds of Prey are truly majestic creatures who have another wonderful trait. They don’t harbour any misguided notions of prejudice.

Challenge The Storm

We survived the storm…… The wind and rain finally eased late last night. The electricity was fully restored late afternoon. But has gone off a few times since. One outside light has been snapped off. Our old wind gauge was destroyed. A few items have gone missing. I guess currently being blown around the Jet Stream. We were very lucky in the end. A number of villages are still under water. Houses are still without power. That’s so tough. Many of the places flooded have only just recovered from the last flooding a few months ago.

Today was still windy, damp and cold. Although we did get a couple of hours of blue skies. The run was restricted to roads and lanes. The fields and tracks are either submerged or mud baths. Even sticking to the roads didn’t save the socks and shoes from getting drenched. Now the skies have darkened. The winds picking up again and it’s periodically chucking it down.

After a quick shower and change it was back to a couple of hours more work. Foolishly I left the radio on. Some folk really get up my nose these days. First was the person who was annoyed that people kept going on about a storm. “Well it was just a bit windy. I was fine. Wish people would stop calling it a storm.” Tell that to the people of Hebden Bridge who where 3 foot underwater.

Then we had the commentator talking about a certain world leader. ‘Look at his baffling and often obnoxious behaviour. Clearly he is very clever. You don’t get a bank account like his without being intelligent. Yet he is without any empathy, does not have a sense of humour and has no social awareness. To me the reason is clear, he has Aspergers. It’s the only explanation.’

F##@##g unbelievable.

I’ve noticed a real worrying trend recently. A growing number of self proclaimed experts who are making spurious associations with Aspergers. Every rouge action, every piece of evil behaviour, every unpleasant and mean individual is blamed on Aspergers.

F##@##g unbelievable.

This discriminatory rubbish is too often based on no evidence. It takes its basis from the narrow minded unfounded views of biased media groups, lazy stereotyping in movies and skewed urban myths. The worry is how many actually buy into this dross. Too many. Let’s not forget that only a couple of months ago Greta Thunberg was attacked by the right wing press for looking, acting and sounding demonic. It just shows how far we have to travel as a society. How hard society makes life for people on the spectrum.

That’s why we have to keep fighting. Why we have to keep telling our real life stories. Some storms you are best just battening down the hatches. But some man made storms need to be met head on and challenged. We owe it to so many.

Storm

Nothing like a power cut to disrupt the daily schedule. We are in the first part of a storm battering which is due to last for a few days. A small house on an exposed northern hill is wonderful except in a storm. We get an absolute belting. The back door is exposed to the full force of the elements. It floods during normal wind and rain so when a storm hits…… Time to dig out the ark. We are inside with about seven layers on. Living in the sticks when the power goes so does the heating. We do have a small chimney place but it needs serious repair work to make it safe to use. It’s on the when money appears list. So it’s cold without the central heating. As it’s an electric oven, hot food preparation is fraught with problems. So it’s Pot Noddles and Soup for lunch.

The power is back currently. It’s on and off like a Yorkshire Cricket match. Son is on the internet while he can. All the thermos flasks are filled. Every battery item is on charge. The floor behind the back door has been deflooded. Writing this while listening to the wind scream through. So far powers gone off twice in the time it’s taken to write these two paragraphs.

To someone with Aspergers all this can be an absolute nightmare. The break in routine, the uncertainty and the unpredictability. Sunday is such an important day as it’s the transition to the school week. A day which hopefully smooths the bumps from that unpleasant ride. For that to work then the safe and well tried Sunday ritual needs to be followed. On days like this all that goes out of the window and is currently being blasted towards Norway. Yes Son is on the internet but he’s severely on edge. Pacing the room. Senses on overdrive.

I’ve sent school an email to warn them but deep down I know it won’t be acted upon. That’s modern secondary schooling in this area. His last school (admittedly much smaller) would certainly have at the very least kept an eye on him. Even rescheduled the teaching plan. Not at his current school.

When the power is down it makes you realise who reliant we have become on technology. Yes it’s progress but it’s such a fragile progress. Pull the power and quickly it’s gone. For me I can fall back on my books as my safe option. Unfortunately for someone with dyslexia that safety net is not available. He needs technology to read them. His Dad can try but quickly my lingering cold kicks in and reading out loud becomes a cough fest. We can’t play ball sports outside due to the storm. The trampoline is filled to brimming with every heavy object I can find. Thankfully we still have other old school options. Card games. Top Trumps. Lego and one of the best cheap presents ever. A little battery operated air hockey game which cost less than a bag of chips. Endless fun until the batteries run out or the fingers finally break.

So hopefully the power will now stay on so we can try to have part of Sunday as normal as possible. Hopefully Son’s anxiety levels will recede a little. Sadly I think there is as much chance of that happing as there is of his Dads getting a Michelin Star. Don’t you just love a storm.

Graveyard visit

This is the local church and graveyard. The current church structure dates back to the 12th century but it’s likely that an early Saxon structure stood here before that. Inside there are parts of the church still in remarkably good condition from the 12th and 13th century.

The weather worn graveyard has a definite ancient feel to it. So many long forgotten graves. These places have a habit of making you think about your own life.

We still have my partners ashes in the house. We just haven’t found the right time to start the process. We did spilt them. Some for England and some for Switzerland. We’ve thought about many sites. We sort of have a draft plan in place. It struck me today that we have never once considered this graveyard. Really don’t know why.

The other thing that struck me was that I hadn’t been to my mums grave in nearly two years. It’s mums old family grave about 60 miles from here. What makes it worse is that I scattered the ashes by myself. I’m the only one who has been there since then. Really must address that this year. Sadly I think I said the exact same thing last year. Life always seems to get in the way. So many demands. But those demands take over. My Dad was cremated in 1987. His ashes were scattered. I can’t even remember exactly where. I’ve never went to that place. Never been in 32 years. So now I need to ask my brother and sisters. Just hope one of them can remember.

So many things to do. Even so, surely I should be able to find the time to pay one visit. To remember those who shaped and moulded our live’s. I came across a quote from David Eagleman which sets this whole thing in context;

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

For those of us who are not the likes of Shakespeare then this process is inevitable and extremely sobering. But that’s life. We need to make the best of it. So for the last three years I have spent a little time each and every day remembering. Last night it was 15 minutes. Remembering names which I’m not yet ready to send into the third stage. So each night names are called out and good memories recalled. I guess it’s my version of a graveyard visit.