Thoughts and dreams

In years gone by if I needed to think. Be with my thoughts. I would go for a run. Maybe go climbing. Those things worked best for me. But then parenting and then single parenting curtailed the climbing option. It was then running. Fell running to collect and process my thoughts. Often I would start a run then become lost in my thoughts. Only the alarm on my watch would bring me back to reality. I would be miles into the hills and it would be a mad sprint to get back home for the return of the school bus.

Then the pandemic happened. We went into our family lockdown. So far 16 months of a lockdown. I lost running. But I didn’t lose my need to think. So I discovered the joys of leaning against our back garden fence. Thinking while looking over the fields and scanning the distant horizon from a little hill top home.

It worked.

So this morning I was leaning on the fence. Thinking. Looking at a distant beautiful tree. Dreaming.

But then I was joined. Someone decided to invade my space and block my view.

I’m can’t really see the tree now. I’m having to stroke and feed this one. I’m telling this cow my dreams. She seems udderly fascinated. Or maybe she’s herd then all before. Definitely deja moo

Road

Yes it’s another one of those massive, multi lane Yorkshire motorways.

We are a couple of weeks into the start of trying to help Hawklad build bridges back towards the wider world again. It started with us taking the mad dog for a walk at night. Nighttime as it would be quiet with no other people out and about. Small steps in breaking out of walls that surround our little house and garden. The isolation which started 15 months ago.

We quickly realised that actually it’s always pretty quiet here, not just at night. So we started going for the walk a little earlier. Now nearer 7pm. Guess what. We still hardly see another soul. Currently that’s perfect for Hawklad. Very rarely we see a farmer or another dog walker. When that happens Hawklad immediately turns on his heels and heads quickly home in the opposite direction.

The other thing is that Hawklad doesn’t like to walk on the path. Just doesn’t feel comfortable doing that. So we walk on the road. Our massive and very busy road….

Well you can see just how big our road is. Just how busy it really is can be gauged on one fact. We have been walking every night straight down the middle of the road. Not once have we encountered a vehicle. The road is ours….

That’s such a cool feel. Such a cool feel for both of us. I can concentrate fully on talking and in the quiet bits, on dreaming.

Direction

A sudden change of direction.

School has just emailed all parents. They have been instructed to make some changes to its COVID school rules. As of next week the wearing of masks will not be enforced in classrooms even though many of them classrooms are small and have poor ventilation. The wearing of masks in other communal areas such as corridors and toilets will remain compulsory for staff but not for students. At present the school understands that all other COVID rules will be reviewed nationally and potentially removed in June.

In other news the Government’s own scientific advisory panel has said and I quote

Lateral flow test positivity increased in schools……this highlights the importance of maintaining current mitigation measures in schools, such as testing and mask wearing, in the current months….

Rain

Britain is getting back to NORMAL. That’s what our so called Prime Minister tells us under his still to be combed hair. It was also confirmed by our postman. Apparently this week, three kind souls have either sneezed or coughed over the postie without bothering to cover their mouths – never mind them not wearing masks. With a shrug of the shoulders the postman sadly left with the comment ‘back to normal then’…..

Here’s the thing. Was the old normal that good…..

Surely we should be aiming for something better than just going back to the old normal.

It’s not as if the last year has just been a little blip in the world. We have gone through something which is of historic significance. It has changed so many things. So many have suffered. So much has been lost. Surely with something this significant there should be changes. Some enforced by life but surely some changes should be driven by us. Driven by us to make the world and our life’s BETTER. Not just being happy with the old normal.

Catch up

Can you believe it. 14 months of school at home. Just over half of that time has happened with most of his classmates back at school. Trying to maintain a remote link with his class was always going to be difficult. It can never be perfect. Especially when the Government’s attitude has been to try and force all children back into classrooms as soon as possible. Schools instructed to make it more difficult for children to work remotely. Schools and parents threatened with legal action if pupils are not back in the class. Our school wanted to offer a remote learning option. Wanted to change the school week with most pupils spending part of the school week, remote learning. Wanted to tailor education and create a better school working environment. Unfortunately that was not allowed so the remote learning option had to be largely turned off. That makes things much harder…..

Revision is supposed to start for the upcoming school year exams this week. No idea how they will work for Hawklad. But the individual subjects are now issuing revision guides. Indicating which pieces of school work have to be revisited and revised. In a couple of subjects there are no surprises – we have covered those areas, undertaken the work required. But then there are other subjects. Areas that the class have undertaken that Hawklad was not aware of. In a couple of subjects clearly large tracts of class work, entire areas have not been shared. Is it ok to call it revision when he’s visiting an area for the very first time.

It’s such a mixed bag. Yes a couple of subjects have exceeded expectations, Hawklad has done the entire teaching requirements. A couple have been kind of as expected, covered most areas but with gaps. And some subjects have gone so much worse than expected, with Hawklad being so far behind his classmates.

Surely in the modern world, with everything that technology has to offer in terms of keeping connected, surely my country should be so much better at remote learning. So much better at EDUCATION.

Early

On our trip out the other day it was interesting to see the change in the pace of life. Suddenly shop car parks are full again. All the outside tables are taken at pubs and cafes. The public buses are busy again. People are gathering in groups again. Masks being worn outside are much more of a rarity. Social distancing…. what social distancing.

Don’t get me wrong I’m as eager as anyone to see things open up again. I won’t say return to normal as that thought annoys me – was the old normal that good and why didn’t we seize the opportunity to build a better normal. Yes our vaccination programme being delivered by the brilliant NHS is going really well. But I’m anxious. Hearing the Government announce that the battle is almost won, just beggars belief. It’s not won until all countries get on top of this dreadful virus. It’s not won when we are still getting deaths each day. Still at 2000 new cases a day. In younger age groups the infections rates are rising. Even after a period of lockdown rates are still stubbornly high. Outbreaks of mutations including the really worrying Indian variant are rising. The vaccines are not 100 effective, we are not sure just how long they will stay effective across the population and the younger groups have not been vaccinated at all. The Young can get severe CovidI was reading that as many as 12% of children catching the virus are needing to be hospitalised or are suffering from Long Covid. That doesn’t sound like a war won.

But we start the process of relaxing the rules. Foreign holidays allowed soon. Large Crowds returning to sporting and cultural events without social distancing. The requirement to wear masks in schools in communal areas such as corridors is to be removed. Rules surrounding isolation after contact with a positive case to be dropped in favour of fairly regular resting. The message is clear from the top hence I’m not surprised that the majority of people are ditching the masks.

Yes I’m anxious. At the very least masks and social distancing should stay while the reopening goes ahead, until mutations and case numbers fall to really low levels. Until vaccination is a world wide reality. This all feels like a bit of a punt to me. I just hope luck is with us this time.

Play

Another gloriously chilly day here. The perfect weather to play.

It’s official, school play time is getting shorter. A deliberate government policy. A recent report from the UCL Institute of Education confirmed that is the case in the UK. They found weekly break times had reduced since 1995 by 45 minutes for the younger children and by 65 minutes for secondary pupils. It also found a growing percentage of schools offered lunch breaks of less than 35 minutes.

Since that report was published the situation has got markedly worse.

I unfortunately listened to one of the government numpties in charge of our schools. He talked about the need to improvise discipline. Talked about children suffering during the pandemic as their grades might go down. It was apparently time to increase the school day, cut holidays. Allow the pupils to catch up with government targets.

Not once did I hear the numpty say the words health, wellbeing and happiness.

That’s no surprise. Schools are now strictly controlled. Teaching programmes, timetables, how pupils learn are set by the government. It’s all about grades. Grades in subjects that the government thinks appropriate. We here constant talk of a return to good old Victorian Values. But it goes further. As the end of school bell rings children are increasingly channeled into structured out of hours school clubs. Forced into completing hour after hour of set homework.

This eats into that precious free time. Time to socialise, to play, to free think, to dream. Time which is the child’s. Maybe that’s why child mental health issues and depression are becoming an epidemic. An epidemic without a vaccine.

Before the COVID pandemic kicked in I remember one particular school year. Hawklad has two really good friends in classes next to his. When I was at school I would get plenty of time to play each day with my friends, friends in different classes. Well that’s all change now. In that entire school year Hawklad never once spent time with his friends in school. Even at weekends organised school sport events made meet-ups problematic. The only time he met up with them was during the holidays. That’s a minimum gap of 7 weeks. 7 week blocks without seeing friends.

Remember the phrase. ‘Childhood should be your happiest time’. Is that still the case? Sadly not for too many.

Blinded by the light

Blinded by the light.

Ok which version is better Bruce Springsteen or Manfred Mann…..

The home at school project is rapidly feeling like it’s blinded by something. More lessons with no support or materials provided. More time spent trying to find any educational resources hidden on the confusing school system. Far fewer teachers making contact and trying to explain work requirements. When class materials are sent they are often only arriving at the end of lessons or hours late. Hardly any work feedback being sent back. Very few teachers checking in on Hawklad to see if it’s going ok.

Contacting school occasionally improves things for a lesson or two then things fall back again.

With national lockdowns, local school closures and family lockdowns its been over a year since Hawklads last in school classroom day. Maybe school have decided enough is enough. Falling in line with Government thinking. So with an imminent school return looking most unlikely, the educational future is so unclear. Blinded by something……

Mad

Blueberries just starting to develop.

It’s a mad world. A mad Britain.

So there are growing concerns over the use of the lateral flow rapid Covid tests. The Government has been pushing them in schools, forcing children to take them several times a week. The results available within minutes deemed perfectly robust as a basis of reopening schools. They worked so well that they were made available for free to everyone. I was sent 7 tests this week.

Then we here the the Governments own experts are questioning the accuracy of these quick results. They are potentially too unreliable to use on there own. Should be only used as a guide, a gateway to the more robust tests.

Then on Friday the Government talked about the frustration with testing. It’s keeping too many children and more importantly workers at home. To many false positives. Far too unreliable.

And today the Government announced that it will sanction a large scale indoor test event. A music concert with no social distancing and no masks. That’s 5000 people being used as guinea pigs. Anyone going would have to have a rapid Covid test the same day as the concert. Then the will have to be tested a few days afterwards…..

Can we make our mind up…..

Are we really happy to allow 5000 people to crowd together indoors as a number of troubling mutations are starting to take hold….

Are we happy that the only check is the unreliable test….

Are we happy that potentially clinically vulnerable and unvaccinated people and children are being used as test subjects…..

I remember the Government saying opening up for Christmas was perfectly safe. Just go and look at the death spike that caused. Do we remember just days before the first lockdown and the Government saying that it was safe to hold the countries largest horse racing festival. Studies have shown the large number of unnecessary deaths that lead to…..

Chef…..

Somebody is happy..l

Once a muppet always a muppet.

Thursday night is chip night here. When we moved into this little house on the hill two decades ago we quickly found out the real pace of village life. The ultimate highlight of the week here was the Thursday night visit from the mobile chip van. It parked in the road 50 yards from our house. Rapidly the tradition of Thursday Chip night was set. Eventually we even discovered that the new mad dog was also a chip monster. His favourite food.

A pandemic then happened.

Suddenly Hawklad was not comfortable with getting chips from the van. So we stopped being part of the chip social. But the tradition lived on. Now replaced with oven chips. A vegetarian pie for me and skinless sausages for Hawklad. And yes a small plate of chips for the mad one.

So last night was THURSDAY. Time to dine like royalty. Well that was the plan. If you look back a few months you will see a certain muppet falling fowl of the crime of not labelling freezer items. Guess what happened last night. No pies were available from the store so it was time to root around in the deepest recesses of the chest freezer. Success a fine looking pie. Maybe a mushroom one. Maybe a Quorn one.

Chips and a pie smothered in Tomato Ketchup, salt and vinegar. Result…..

The reality sweet cherry pie is and interesting taste sensation when combined with vinegar and ketchup. Heston Blumenthal eat your heart out….

Luckily the second pie found was a better fit…….