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.

Torquay

My neighbours bird bath. Over the years it has become increasingly hard to fill. Thankfully the Yorkshire weather usually takes care of that.

Yesterday was a decently fun day. Any day with Pizza helps. We played football in the garden. Son fired a million questions at me. Including the following belter.

Name 10 best things about Torquay”

We had been watching John Cleese in old episodes of Fawlty Towers. It’s set there.

“Son your going to annoyingly tell me that you know 10 such facts”

Actually 17 facts Dad”

I whispered a silent bugger under my breathe.

We then tried to watch the new Joker movie. I was watching it thinking the acting is brilliant but I’m not enjoying this in the slightest bit. Then son broke my thought pattern.

Dad I’m really not in the mood for this. I enjoy a good bit of Joker but this isn’t a Joker movie. It’s a movie about how a country fails to deal with mental health and how people look down on others who are different. I don’t like the way the film is doing it. Let’s watch it another day.”

So ten minutes later we had the new Shaun The Sheep movie on. That there is a movie.

But I understand what our son was talking about. Not the right time or mood for this Joker movie. There is too much going on in the world. It is also Mother’s Day in the UK. That’s one of THOSE days…. I must admit the social distancing has severely restricted our visits to the shops. That means less chance to walk past all the cards, flowers and potential gifts. Dealing with it for just one day is better than having it rammed down our throats for weeks on end.

I must admit this one has been less painful than the other ones we have endured. We have wished our lost mums a happy day. In my partners case we have kissed the ashes. Then so far we have gotten on with the job of making the most of today. My heart does go out to many mums today. Because of the restrictions and other factors outside of their control, they may not see kids and grandchildren today (or for many days to come). I really hope a way is found for a connection to be made. A text, a video call, a card, a cute photo, a virtual hug or a telephone call saying ‘I LOVE YOU’.

Stay safe and to all mums out there. Sending you a big hug. Thank you for being super heroes.

Friday I guess

Some random daffodils blooming next to our front window. These always make me smile as they just seemed to appear one year. I can’t remember planting them. Having said that, this is me…..

My mobile phone rang this morning. I could hear it somewhere really close but I just couldn’t find it before it rang off. A few minutes later I found me phone when I sat down. It was in my back pocket.

This morning it took me one hour to work out that it was Friday.

Sometimes there are no answers.

A few months back I was asked if I had found a magic bullet, a cure for it.

Sometimes there are no answers.

No it wasn’t the W.H.O. approaching me as a world expert on the search for a vaccine for the pesky virus. No don’t worry, I am still the same old dim witted goofball. No it was a parent from my sons last school. She had recently lost someone close and was really low with grief. She was desperate for the pain to go away.

Sometimes there are no answers.

Unfortunately I’ve not found a magic bullet, no cure or no vaccine that works with bereavement. It still hits me. It still hurts me. The days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. I’m still waiting to gain acquired immunity. The route cause remains and will always remain. But I do believe that I have started to understand myself better. I am also slowly finding things that help with the symptoms. That’s something to cling on to. Sadly the things which help me, may not work for others. There is also no guarantee that what works today, will work tomorrow for me. I guess that’s the case not only for bereavement but for many other areas of life.

So what works for me (sometimes…)

  • Exercise, weights and running
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Nature
  • Walking
  • Climbing (I haven’t been able to climb in 4 years but just reading about it helps)
  • AND above all focusing on making our son happy.

Today was one of those days when virtually everything on the list did not work. All I could do was throw myself into keeping son happy. That distracted me. It got me through the day. It numbed the symptoms but didn’t cure the route cause. Now it’s 2am and those dark soul symptoms are bubbling away again. Probably going to be a long sleepless night. Will watch some rubbish TV and will again ponder over the home finances spreadsheet. Don’t know why – it’s not going to look any better when I’m tired.

It’s a brand new day. A fresh start. The old problems and hurt will still be there. But maybe, just maybe it will be symptom free day and it will be a good one.

Stay safe my friends.

Tree

This is a tree we can see from our garden. The walk across the farmers field takes you right beside it. When we first moved here it was so much bigger. Almost symmetrical. Unfortunately countless storms and a couple of lightning strikes have taken their toll. I guess that’s the price you pay for being a big isolated tree on an exposed hill top.

So it finally happened. All the countries schools will close on Friday. A skeleton childcare service will be provided for essential workers and vulnerable kids. Our school is planning to try and run lessons online. It’s an indefinite closure with much talk of this extending into the summer. It will be an interesting trial with homeschooling in mind. Let’s see what works. Let’s see what the optimum learning time is. Let’s see if I can cope. As a single parent, the work shutdown will allow me to fully focus on son and his learning.

Life can often bring much isolation. With the new life motto – ‘Social Distancing’, more are going to have deal with the challenges that it brings. Each one of us has to find our own way of dealing with this. Don’t laugh but walking past this old tree and just giving it a friendly pat can help me. The tree has survived longer and more intense isolation than I ever will. It’s only right that I show solidarity with a fellow survivor.

I went for a walk today and almost didn’t see another soul. Plenty of sheep and crows but so few people. Hardly any cars as well. It just seemed kinda normal. I guess after three years I am getting use to the isolation. Just about. Had to make a few work calls today but that’s going to be it for many weeks now. As people increasingly keep their distance the reality is that the only person I will be physically talking to over the next couple of months will our son. Maybe an occasional telephone call with a sister. That’s why blogging will be so important for me.

I’m someone who has to continually work on my conversation skills these days. Without it I become a gibbering, shy wreck. That’s why I have recently become a crap Dr Doolittle. I am increasingly talking to animals. Not just the mad pets. The birds and squirrels waiting to be fed in the garden. The frog who comes for a warm when the tumble dryer is on. The bee trying to break into the house. The farmers sheep, cows and a grumpy bull. I’m a crap Doolittle as I talk to the poor animals but I still can’t understand what they say back. Probably a good job as I can imagine the responses.

“Will you just sod off”

“Boring, boring”

“Do you mind if I hump your leg”

So on the walk I crouched down to have a chat with a sheep. The local sheep are happy to listen to my waffles as long as I bring some biscuits with me. So I was asking this particular sheep if she ever got bored just walking in the same field and did she like these biscuits . Nearly jumped out of my skin when behind me a booming voice replied.

“If they keep producing the wool for my jumpers I will happily let them eat biscuits. This one likes Digestives, the others are partial to those biscuits .”

I had not heard the farmer sneak up on me. Another day and another …. Oh the shame. But at least I know that I need to bring two types of biscuits on the walks now. All this took place under the a much battered, yet resilient tree.

Valentines Day Boycott

Went for a run today. My body didn’t feel like one but I needed to get out of the house. It’s been a week largely home based working on mind numbingly boring spreadsheets. To keep me sane the radio has been blasting out. Problem is that increasingly the airwaves are filled with adverts. The dreaded Valentines Day ones. Apparently it’s next Friday. Would never have guessed that one. You know the adverts

  • Your special one deserves the best so buy them this special…..
  • What better way to spend Valentines Day than to have that special candle lit meal….
  • Looking for that gift that shows how much your loved one means to you….

I really understand Valentines Day. To many people it’s a great romantic day. Before the world changed I would have lapped up those adverts. But now it’s a very different world for me. Now it’s cheap commercial marketing. You can only be in true love if you spend lots of money. Sometimes I think advertisers forget about the real world. True love doesn’t rest on money. It’s also a world which isn’t perfect. People are lonely. People are grieving. People are abused. People are in relationships where love has died. Some people are loners. So to many Valentines Day is a nightmare. An unwanted reminder of life. It is to me. Every advert reminds me of a life now gone. It’s like a dagger through my heart. So eventually one too many adverts forced me to hit the trail. As ever a run often delivers a lightbulb moment. Let’s turn this into a little game.

When I get back I will become the Valentines Day Advert Referee. Every time I hear a company doing an overtly romantic advert then I will give them a red card. The red card comes with an automatic one month ban. I will boycott that company for a month. The first red card was awarded to a local Flower Shop chain. Unlikely that I would use them but anyway they are on the banned list. Suddenly I’m not the one hiding behind the chair. I’m in charge. The banned list started to fill up. Rather annoyingly my local supermarket made the list. That’s me shopping at the next towns rival shop. Then M&S became a repeat offender. Clearly a one month ban was not a sufficient deterrent. For the second offence it’s a three month boycott. Twenty minutes later they offended again. Now it became a 6 month shopping boycott. I warned the radio the fourth advert would bring a lifetime boycott of the shop. Clearly that threat worked. The annoying M&S special meal for two advert stopped.

Suddenly it was time to do the school run. Again more Valentine adverts on the radio. More boycotts handed out. Tempted to increase the punishments as many kids are likely to be listening now. Many kids suffer Valentines blues as well. Then the red line was crossed. Another M&S advert. That’s it. It’s a lifetime shopping ban. That’s a new shop needed for the school uniform and shirts then.

The banning game helped distract me today. But the bottom line is the 14th February is a difficult time for many. The last thing we need is week upon week of adverts rubbing salt into the wound. Maybe we need a new rule. Valentines Day adverts can only start on the 13th. At least then we just need to avoid the world for two days. But at the current rate I will be boycotting thousands of shops by next Friday.

Dad are you cheating

Dad I hope your not cheating”

No son of course not”

Dad I saw you. You went outside with some bread and seed. You tried to get the birds in next doors garden to move into ours. You also went over to the tree on the road and you tried to tempt the birds onto our lawn”

Yes I did. I was desperate as it was the RSPB Garden Bird survey this weekend. You can only count birds that land in your garden. This weekend even our normal visitors were refusing to land. Yes I know no shame. I did go and try to tempt birds from next doors garden. Yes I did go underneath the trees to try and tempt birds into our garden. Those beaks and eyes looking down at me in the same disdainful way Hitchcock’s Birds looked upon their soon to be victims.

Eventually a few reluctant souls landed but none of the birds I had tried to tempt.

Came across a great poem from Tina (Pippi’s Poetry) that fitted perfectly with the bird count theme. Thanks Tina for letting me share it.

I’m trying to bee more English
As I take my afternoon tea
It’s the simple things that make life sweet
They are perfect gifts that make life complete.

I’m dreaming of an English landscape
Where daffodils seem to grow wild
And a yard is called a garden
As it was in the beginning–before the world went wild!

I’m imagining a pretty country home
Where sheep graze in distant fields
And bird counting is an annual event
For life is short, and joy it can steal.

So I’m trying to bee more English
As my mind buzzes with daffodil daydreams
And of a land I’ve never been nor seen
But for the views I’ve glimpsed through my t.v. screen.

Tina S.W.
January 26, 2020

The birds that did kindly consent to being in my garden count are regular visitors. They don’t bother flying off when we come out now. I know them better than most of the humans in the village. So far in 2020 I’ve spoken to one person from the village. Whisper it quietly I speak to these feathered characters everyday.

Tina in her wonderful poem spoke of the English landscape and daffodils. Today that landscape was cold, grey and bleak. But bleak is good some days.

It matched my mood. Walking through the village which once seemed so full of familiar faces and friends. Now it seems cold and full of strangers. A world I don’t fit anymore. Yet a few strides and I’m back in our garden. Amongst friends again. My world has shrunk but it’s still a world of beauty.

A welcoming party waiting for today’s food offerings.

Dad are you cheating again. I’m not falling for that one.”

Yes I was. Every year we watch the famous Kitzbuhel Skiing Downhill race on telly. Every year we play the who can spot The Terminator first game. The race crowd is full of famous people but the crowning glory is always Arnold Schwarzenegger. This time we recorded the race. My cheating plan was while Son was having a bath I would fast forward through the recording to try and spot him first. I was busted before I could find him. On the actual viewing I lost the game – yet again. Arnie always where’s a warm hat here. No wonder I couldn’t spot him on my fast forward cheat.

Just goes to show cheating doesn’t work.

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.

The river

Plenty of water flowing under the bridge. The water seemingly never ending.

In the run up to Christmas I was worried that it would bring sadness and hurt. Anniversaries and big holidays do that. As it happened yes one or two wobbles but son seemed to enjoy himself. That’s the only thing that matters these days. So it’s late on Boxing Day and soon Christmas will have gone. Job done. I survived.

But the flow of grief never stops. It’s ebbs and flows. The calm often masks the arrival of a raging flood.

Unknowingly my attention for weeks has been focused on the goal. The goal of giving our son the best Christmas possible. A real focus. A real direction. Caught up in the growing excitement of a child looking forward to time off from school and still hooked on most things festive. That rubs off on the parent.

Now it’s the end of Boxing Day. Heralding the coming end of that special time. The end of the focus. Suddenly it hits me. A new year. A year of more school strife. Son spending so much time in a place, an institution (sadly seems a more apt term to use than school) which goes out of its way to constrain, belittle and make him feel without worth. Hence another year of soul destroying fights with the authorities. Trying to squeeze more work into those hated school hours. Failing to find a way to rebalance the books to allow for home schooling. Adjusting to a world of increasing isolation which currently is the path of our sons Aspergers journey. Sleepless nights and tired days. Living in a country which is becoming increasingly alien to me. All wrapped up in another year without my beloved partner.

Tonight that is a truly haunting feeling. Son is in bed so no distraction from these worries. Suddenly I feel low. Very low. Feeling so unprepared for 2020. For all my fears Christmas provided a much needed boost. Something positive to focus on. Something tangible which I could have an impact on.

This haunting feeling will pass. It must pass. No one to step in if I shut down. Like most parents I will do what ever it takes for our children. A few tears tonight I suspect but tomorrow let’s make some more laughter for our son. OUR SON as it’s still our son. Yes I’m carrying the baton but he’s still our son. I just can’t drop that baton now. So after January 1st I will find a way to go again. Maybe it will be the year of progress. Maybe I will end up reposting these words next year as nothing has changed. Like the river I’m sure the bouts of sadness and loneliness will keep flowing. Constant stream of perpetual tiredness. But the good times and smiles will also flow. Yes remember that river – it keeps flowing – I keep going.

Christmas Diaries 1

It’s been a grey moody day. It never once looked like clearing. At least it didn’t rain for a change.

The zero based hours contract gave me me three hours work today. For the next couple of weeks any work demands will be minimal. Not great for the bank account but it allows me to now focus on our son. So with a couple of days before the school breaks up – Christmas is about to start in earnest. So an early warning. You may get a few Christmas Parent Diary entries coming your way. Hopefully most will focus on the happy side of life. It almost certainly will feature a few cooking disasters. In fact let’s sort the first diary entry out right now.

So after the work dried up it and the grey run was completed it was time for a bit of baking. Time to make a stunning gluten free stollen cake. A few chaotic shopping trips had stocked up the larder with all the ingredients. This time it’s going to be baking heaven. Hang on a minute where’s the marzipan. As I love the stuff I bought 4 slabs worth. But where are they. Absolutely no sign. Don’t you just hate it when that happens. No problem I will just pop to the local store. Don’t stock it but they did have infeasible amounts of glazed cherries. So off to the supermarket. How can a supermarket run out of marzipan. How can the only other store reasonably close by also have none in stock. I gave up so let’s just make a Christmas cake. Three hours later I’m looking at a baking abomination. Crispy on the outside, undercooked on the inside and a ginormous sinkhole at its centre. The birds will eat well tomorrow.

So ends the first Christmas diary entry. But let’s do the diary preface now.

Christmas can be lovely and fun but wow can it hurt. It’s one of those times which naturally draws you to what you have lost. I was reading a blog which talked about this in such a haunting way.

All aboard! The holiday struggle-bus is pulling into the station, and I’ve got a ticket to ride.

That bus hit me yesterday. I was simply wrapping our sons presents up. Instantly I’m taken back a few years. Christmas music on. A couple of glasses of wine. My partner a ninja master at unwinding the cellotape and securing the edges of the wrapping paper. Unbelievably I was an expert at finding the best way to wrap the presents up. The perfect production line. So effective and so loving.

Now I sit on the floor with a tea and whatever is on the radio. To be honest I’m not listening. The presents are still being wrapped well but the cellotape has won the battle royal. It’s wrapped around my fingers, on my clothes, stuck to furniture and yet refusing to go anywhere near the wrapping paper. Love and happiness replaced with frustration and sadness. It’s never going to be like it was. That love is not going to be replaced. Those shared dreams are binned. It’s a truly sickening feeling.

It’s so easy to forget that this can be such a tough time for so many you are bereaved. For so many in pain. For so many without anything. For so many who are lonely. My heart goes out to you. You have a soulmate here.

Yes over the next few weeks this blog might get a bit silly. I really hope it does because it shows that I’m doing my only important job. Trying to make Christmas as fun as possible for our son. But underlying it will be someone still grieving what has been lost. My hope is that some of that Christmas magic which hopefully is enveloping our son will rub off on me. Showing that you can grieve but it’s still possible to have fun. If it works for me I really prey it’s rubs off on you as well.

Change

That’s either a years supply of fire wood or one monumental nature hotel. I strongly suspect it’s not for nature. It’s strange how things can change. One week a pile of wood is home to nature the next its ashes in a fireplace.

Immediately after my partner died I suddenly started to experience significant isolation. Largely cut adrift from society. Your life becomes intertwined with that of your partner and your own sphere of social contacts gradually drops accordingly. Rupture that partnership and you rupture your social life. On most days my only opportunity to socialise was at the school gates. The daily school run became a source of much comfort. I could talk to other parents and son would interact with the other kids. Being a small school really helped him.

Fast forward a couple of years and the school run experience has completely changed. Bigger school. No gate anymore. The parents who do turn up stay in the car and wait for their son or daughter to find them. No one gets out of the car. Very isolating.

Then you see the kids leave school. Mainly groups of kids. Twos, threes or more. Occasionally you see one walking by themselves. Son always walks by himself. Suddenly it feels a very very dispiriting experience. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.