Is winning best

At last sun. Just a couple of hours but even that feels like a win. Certainly lifts the soul.

Dad are you trying. That’s 9 – nil to me”

Mini Air Hockey is a tricky sport. Requiring a unique combination of hand eye coordination, reflexes, ability to bend your back for more than 10 seconds and unchecked brutality.

“Just look at my fingers. That’s missing skin. Yep I’m trying. Your just too quick for me.”

Son worries that I let him win. That’s such a difficult area for parents. Do we play hard or do we let our children win. I remember reading a story about a former giant international rugby player. He was playing touch rugby in his garden with his kids. As a feel for how seriously he was taking this game ask his garden shed. Apparently in an attempt to win the ball off his young son he crashed into the wooden structure. The poor shed was basically demolished. The Dads take on that. They have to learn to compete. When I play I always play to win. Kids need to learn this.

But on the other side I was watching a video of the great Mohammed Ali. He was boxing with a small child. Ali was repeatedly knocked down and finally the kid scored a dramatic K.O. The kid walked away with the biggest smile and feeling like a champion.

For what it’s worth I was in the Ali camp. I wanted to see my kid smile and feel like a winner. Yes the occasional defeat was important to learn about life and that failure will happen. As you get older failure comes regularly so why not grant a few years of success to the young. Son has been through so much in his short life. Seen so much sadness. He’s earned the right to feel good sometimes. But what do I know – I’m still trying to learn this parenting gig.

But time moves on. With a cruel flick of life’s switch, happily letting your young ones win becomes increasingly hard. Suddenly you can’t buy a win. The cold reality sets in. Your kid is better at stuff now than you. Maybe he should go easy on his Dad. He is quicker, thinks faster, has better reactions and has higher skill levels. What happened to Dad being a computer game legend. Now Dad is a Noob. Oh the shame.

Yes there are complications. A kid with Aspergers and Dyspraxia will struggle in some areas. It’s so important I factor those things in. Confidence levels are so brittle. It sends daggers through a parents heart to hear you kid say things like ‘I’m just stupid’, I’m useless’, ‘I’m so rubbish‘, ‘ hate being different’. So yes allowances are still made. He loves Jenga but struggles with his fine motor skills. He hasn’t noticed yet that I play just using my left hand. Connect 4 is another favourite but he struggles to see diagonal patterns. Yes I will tend to ignore the obvious connections.

So what’s your take on winning or losing?

Am I getting this so wrong?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of my approach. Dads are strange sensitive souls. We still need to feel like kings sometimes. Yes to show off a bit. Those area are becoming increasingly difficult to find these days. That’s why bench pressing weights and the ability to stomach increasingly disgusting tasting jelly beans are so important. That’s all I’ve got left. Long may I rule over those two talents.

I speak proper

These little beauties seemingly flower earlier every year. When we first moved here the snowdrops flowered mid February. These guys flowered mid March and the Daffodils arrived during April. I guess my Dad would have said something like ‘blimey I’ve only just planted me Goosegogs‘. Goosegogs is Yorkshire for Gooseberries.

Once a week we have school bagmageddon. Poor bairn (kid) is packed off lugging (carrying) two bursting at the seams bags. I wish someone would invent a Dr Who Tardis like school bag. Small on the outside yet massive on the inside. For bagmageddon he needs to take with him

  • Packed lunch as he rarely gets the chance to eat a school meal,
  • A drink as he rarely get the time to get a drink at school,
  • School iPad,
  • Mobile phone in case he misses the bus,
  • Pencil case for coloured crayons and felt tip pens,
  • Art brush,
  • Calculator,
  • Reading pen just in case he needs to use it,
  • French dictionary,
  • Book for reading – no dispensation for dyslexics so it can’t be a picture book,
  • Pen case including black pens, blue pens, green pens, red pens, HB pencil, ruler, protractor, rubber (eraser), pencil sharpener, highlighter pen and compass,
  • School planner,
  • Drama kit – plain black T-shirt, plain black tracksuit bottoms,
  • School homework books which are required for that day,
  • Bus pass,
  • Outdoor sports kit – football boots, white school sports top, blue school rugby shirt, blue football socks, school shorts or blue leggings, gum shield, shin guards,
  • Indoor sports kit (in case outdoor sports is not happening) so training shoes and white socks.
  • Could be even worse – if he played team sport for the school he might need to carry a hockey stick or cricket bat as well. When I was at school the teachers would call any boy with his own cricket bat – posh (rich) and then they would talk about learning to play cricket with a stick o’ Rhubarb.

That’s on top of the mandatory school uniform. Chuffing Eck (********* hell). It’s a logistical nightmare for the parent but that pales into insignificance compared to the poor kids trying to cope with all this. Yes the kids can pay for a locker but the lockers are not conveniently located so it’s almost impossible for them to get to them and back in the 10 minutes max between lessons. Hence the two expedition rucksacks. No wonder he is jiggered (very tired) when he gets home. Sometimes I expect to get a call to say he is rigweltered (stranded on his back) on the hoose on wheels (bus).

How times change when I went to school it was one small haversack. A haversack carefully painted with your favourite bands. Mine was emblazoned with Whitesnake, Bad Company, Black Sabbath and Saxon. The paint was the heaviest part of the bag. It had to be painted on thick as the poor bag would often be wanged aboot (thrown about). Inside was your butty (sandwich), some chuddies (chewing gum), footy top, shorts and Gola football shoes. Kids would take it in turns to bring in a Casey (football). Nowt (Nothing) else. The teacher handed out pencils for the school day. Then she took them back in when we headed back yam (home). Being the twonk (idiot) I was I frequently had to get Dad to recover my bag from the top of a tree after an all too successful wanging session. The bag also acted as an invaluable cushion to sit on when you got a croggy (getting a lift on the handlebars of a bike).

Basically it’s a different world now. But surely flowers blooming earlier is not great bit of man made progress. Sending kids into school with a mule train of kit is equally not a sign that the school system is progressing well. It’s also not great that we are slowly losing many of our local dialects.

Sithee (goodbye) until tomorrow.

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.

Just like that Tree

A couple of photos of a favourite tree of mine. And Captain Chaos – saves an extra special cock of the leg for this one.

It’s sits on the edge of a forest. It’s in a field all by itself. Is it part of the forest or does that 50 yards of separation make it a loner – in its own forest of 1 tree. I guess it once was part of the main forest but over years the trees around it have died or been felled.

There’s a photograph from our sons old nursery which comes to mind. I can’t share it as it has other kids on it and I don’t think it’s right to show it without their agreement. It was taken when our son had just turned four. He was a kid which every other kid wanted to play with. Up to that stage no real indication of Aspergers. In fact I really didn’t know what Aspergers was. The photo has all the nursery kids and nursery staff stood in a group. The Nursery Team photo. All huddled together except one small boy. Our son was stood by himself about 2 yards in front of everyone. Giving the camera a real Paddington Stare. They tried to get him into the group but he just kept saying ‘NO I’m fine here’. Unusual for him as he was normally the one hiding at the back with a hood over his head as soon as a camera was produced.

Was he part of the group or was he becoming a loner.

Maybe he thought he was the leader. Maybe he thought it was his moment to shine. Maybe he just took a dislike to the photographer. We will never know.

A note was shoved through our letter box yesterday. The Village Committee are holding a village Christmas party at the little Village Hall. Children can come so WE could go. But I’m not sure I feel part of the village these days. The friends we had have all left now or passed away. The few I still know are elderly Residents and they will either be off to spend time with family over Christmas or are not interested in socialising anymore. So if we did go WE wouldn’t know anyone there. Part of me is saying WE should go as it’s a chance to meet new people. But WE won’t in the end. Son is adamant that he would rather do a spelling test than go to that party. A large part of me shares his view. Stood in a cold village hall with people who either have no idea who I am or with people who I share nothing in common with. They live in a different world. A world of dinner parties, bridge Clubs, Conservative Party Socials and going pheasant shooting at the weekend. You see the problem is that although I am living within yards of these good people – I am not really part of them. I once was but those close to me have either left or died. Slowly isolating me from the village. Just like that TREE. Hopefully the dog doesn’t cock his leg on me.

Northern Lights Express

General Elections in the middle of December are unlikely to be conducive to establishing that festive feeling. So we arrive at Friday the 13th are still no thoughts of Santa. So action was needed. Time for a train journey

A train journey with a difference. The Northern Lights Express on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is an historic 18 mile line that runs across some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain. It’s a not for profit charity with its daily operations carried out by volunteers. It has a fleet of historic steam and diesel locomotives. It is special to our son as his Grandad helped establish the Trust which eventually reopened the line in 1973.

So on this night. The entire outside of the train was decked in lighting. Inside decorations and mulled wine. Son tried to convince the nice volunteer to let him try the wine. But she resolutely stuck to her guns

“Sorry your just a few years to young. Maybe your Dads old enough to buy one”

His reply made me crawl under the table.

Look at his thinning hair on top. That’s tells you he’s way past 18.

The fairy tale story was told and we board the train.

Look out the window at the magical looking forests while listening to Christmas music. The announcer lets everyone know that the Driver has spotted some magical creatures ahead. The carriage goes over a bump in the track and Son instantly informs the carriage that ‘the trains just hit one the magic creatures’.

Then the creatures appear in the forest.

On the return journey it’s a Christmas Quiz and a Sing Song. That’s the first time this year I’ve tried to sing a bit of Wham. The first part of the journey pulled by a B1 Class Steam Engine built in 1947.

The engine pulling the return trip is called Sybilla and is 54 years old.

The election is forgotten for a while and yes it feels a lot like Christmas now.

Pink

Colour hanging grimly on in Yorkshire. This is an oasis surrounded by unremitting greyness.

Truly dreadful weather day. The wind has been blowing horizontal rain at the back door all day. Currently on the third towel trying to keep the utility room dry. It’s a bit of a losing battle. Let’s hope it’s the only losing battle today. I went to vote straight after the morning’s school run. Let’s leave it as that. Tomorrow will either be a hopeful post or a monumental rant of a post. You have been warned.

I’m writing this as son sits on the sofa watching a documentary on his tablet about Auschwitz. Yesterday he watched a few videos on the plight of the Palestinians. Puts everything into perspective. The fact that the youth of today watch this gives me hope for the future. Let’s hope we leave the next generation with a habitable planet so that they can mould a far better world.

With work for the day completed I set off for a run. Better described as a splash. Wow it was wet. After a few miles my poor hands were frozen so I foolishly put them in my waterproofs pockets for a warm. Rather than finding a haven of warmness they found a hidden pool of cold rain water. Lovely. I’m pleased that I opted for shorts. Not sure I fancied my leggings shrinking. My mind goes back to a mountain marathon during my university days. A six hour night drive to the Highlands of Scotland ready for the 9am race start. Everything was going so well until we arrived and changed for the race. I had forgotten my shorts. 30 minutes to the start time and the nearest sports shop was 20 miles away. The strange looks I was was getting as I walked around the runners saying ‘have you got a spare pair of shorts’. Looking like I would have to sit out the race when my race partner came to the rescue. ‘I can wear my shorts and you can try to use my leggings’. The problem was my partner was called Suzanne and she was somewhat more petite than me. To much laughter on her part I squeezed into the tight leggings. I was the only male competitor running in bright pink. It was also the only competitor that completed the race in with tears. Must admit the constrictor leggings did wonders for my dodgy hamstrings. But since then tight leggings have gone nowhere near my nether regions.

With my wet run completed it was a quick change and off on the school run. As a I arrived a very sodden Son trudged across the car park still in his sports gear. You could see him shaking with cold and the water dripping off his clothes. With the car heating full on he tried to get changed into his dry school uniform.

*****

“You’re drenched why didn’t you get changed out of your wet kit”

I didn’t want to risk it. We only get 5 minutes to change. If we are not out in that time you get a negative from the teacher.

Have any kids been given negatives”

Virtually every week at least one kid gets a negative. It’s unfair especially as it’s the last lesson of the day.

*****

And another telephone call will be made to school. Five minutes. When I played football it would take me at least 10 minutes to get changed. It took five minutes just to prize my constrictor pink leggings off my butt all those years ago. Five minutes sounds tight before you factor in Aspergers and Dyspraxia. Getting changed does not come easy to him. School have been told this on several occasions by me and in writing by the Paediatrician. So much for the school making positive adjustments to make his school life comfortable and enriching.

It’s the frustration felt by far too many children and their parents. Everything has to be fought for. It’s a battle to get a diagnosis in the first place then the real fight starts. Trying to get any positive adjustments and help. As much as the media try to paint a different story … we are not looking for special treatment … we just want our kids (all kids) to get a fair chance in life. Is that too much to ask for.

*** late addition *** it WILL be a monumental rant….

Obelisk

The Obelisk at Castle Howard. It is over 300 years old and is 24m tall. It has the following inscription

VIRTUTIS ET FORTUNAE
JOHANNIS MARLBURIAE DUCIS
PATRIAE ET EUROPAEQUE DEFENSORIS
HOC SAXUM
ADMIRATIONI AC FAME SACRUM
CAROLUS COMES CARLIOL POSUIT
ANNO DOMINI
MDCCXIV

I think my translation is pretty accurate.

Virtually everyday is wet here. If you have the misfortune to come here you will need three jumpers, extra thick wooly socks and two umbrellas. I could have been built somewhere warm and dry like Rome but no. For some reason they built me in a place that only the Saxons could love.

Its other claim to fame is that when I do my long run I perform a u-turn here and head home. It was very kind of Sir John Vanbrugh in 1714 to think of my recreational needs. Clearly a very clever man. Although he was a tad over optimistic that my little legs would get me to one of his other creations – Blenheim Palace. Not sure even my car could make it there.

But to be fair to the great architect he’s not the only one who can struggle with the powers forward planning.

While my partner was here we disagreed on which secondary school to send our son to. I favoured his current school as at least he would know some kids there. My partner favoured either another secondary school or even a special school. In the end my partner died a year before the decision had to be finally made. So he went to the school I had favoured. With hindsight that was a monumentally poor decision. Talk about a school getting a kids education so badly wrong. The only redeeming feature about my decision is that according to the health professionals the other secondary school option is not much better.

So now we are caught in the classic parent catch 22 position. Does he stay in this failing school where at least he knows some kids. Does he move to the other school which potentially is not much better and would mean a huge upheaval for any kid – especially one with Aspergers. We could look at a special school option but even the health professionals agree that he just wouldn’t suit that educational approach. We can’t afford to sell the house and move to another catchment area. Moving also means having to probably reapply for an Education and Health Care Plan which given the government cutbacks would prove extremely difficult. AND YET I just can’t find a practical way of educating from home.

Sorry to swear but BLOODY HELL.

So I look at the Obelisk and think that’s it’s good but maybe the architect could have included say a comfy seat, a water dispenser, some energy drinks and maybe a supply of oxygen. I look at our sons schooling and think what changes can deliver the best fit in a few years time. I suspect the Obelisk is the easiest to change.

Accidents happen

I bet if I leaned on that hay bale it would end up rolling down the hill and smashing into my car like a guided missile.

During my life one of the truths I have leant repeatedly is – accidents happen. I am accident prone. Always have been. Always will be. Big ones. Small ones. Ones that hurt. Ones that make you laugh. Ones that get you into trouble. Ones that make you embarrassed. Ones that make you cry. Just too many to mention. Some notable ones include

  • Breaking my arm balancing on a stool. Then breaking my other arm within 3 hours of having the pot removed. Same Doctor had to put the new pot on who had taken just taken the old one off.
  • Dropping a toilet roll just bought from the shop and watching it unravel as it rolls down the High Street. The High Street was on a hill and I dropped it at its highest point.
  • Falling out of a window while trying to paint it.
  • The door on a temporary toilet jammed at a festival and it took an hour for me to be released.
  • Trying to hammer a hanging basket onto next doors fence and accidentally pushing most of the fence over.
  • Breaking my finger trying to put up a deck chair.
  • Using a staple gun and stapling my thumb to a piece of wood
  • Breaking my little toe when I accidentally kicked the toilet.
  • As a kid playing cricket on the back field and managing to hit the best stroke (shot) of my life straight through our toilet window. A wonder shot of 100 yards. Unfortunately Dad was on the toilet at the time. Thankfully my ‘a big boy did it and ran away’ excuse worked.
  • Managed to get a pea stuck up my nose. Staggeringly our son did the same thing many years later.
  • Split my leggings a third of the way up a 4 hour cliff climb. The climbers below are still in counselling after all those years.
  • I saved up for a new watch. Within 5 minutes of buying it I had tripped over and smashed the face.
  • I was trying to pull my trousers up after using the cramped toilet on a speeding French TGV. Unfortunately I lost balance and exploded out through the toilet door and into the crowded carriage. Busting my head open as my hands were still desperately trying to pull the trousers up past my knees. The international shame.

So accidents happen. All you can do is try to smile and learn from them. Mostly no ones fault. They just happen.

Our Son asked if he could borrow my Tablet to play the chess app. After a few minutes the mad dog jumped on him and started licking him. In the confusion our Son forgot about the Tablet and must have rolled on it. A few minutes later we had a very bent piece of tech. Quite a bit of the touch screen is knackered and beyond repair. The poor kid was mortified. I’m so pleased I didn’t shout or be in any way angry. I know accidents happen. Thankfully he cheered up eventually. Re-telling the French Train Toilet incident helped. It shows that I didn’t intend to bare my buttocks but all I had done was not anticipate a particularly bumpy track section and a crap door. It’s life and things are sent to test us.

So I will make the best of a broken tablet until I can save up for a new one (or a refurbished one). Sorry in advance if you get some strange spellings on my posts of from my comments – the on screen keyboard is now possessed and rather random. Very apt that it’s Halloween. When the new one comes I will make sure that before either of us use it that it’s enclosed in a protective case. Because accidents can and will happen.

That’s what it is

Hindsight and regret is so easy to fall back into. We all do it. Especially when you suffer bereavement. I do it. I could fill a War and Peace size book with all the missed opportunities.

  • The deterioration came so quickly that we never had that last proper conversation. The last goodbye. I guess the last chat was about sorting out her laptop for when she came out after the tests.
  • We never got to New Zealand.
  • We didn’t have that family Santa trip to Lapland.
  • We never got to Chile.
  • We never got round to trying for a second child.
  • The trip to Tibet and Nepal eluded us.
  • I never did get round to putting those shelves up which she really wanted.
  • Looking at the Northern Lights together remained unfulfilled.
  • I never got round to getting the clip of our sons first steps off the broken camera and on to the video so my partner could see them.

Plenty of time to do these. So no rush. WRONG.

But as that line goes. That’s what it is. Until someone invents time travel I just can’t change the past. Maybe occasionally in dreams but when you wake up it’s back to the reality. But this misses the big issue. Yes stuff got missed. I occasionally unintentionally messed up (maybe more than occasionally). We didn’t complete our bucket list. BUT just wait a picking moment. Look at the stuff we did.

  • Switzerland lots of times.
  • That first romantic trip to the Lakes.
  • The two mad cats and a savage Hamster.
  • The three trips to Disneyland Paris.
  • Buying our first house.
  • Those trips to France.
  • All those walks on the North Yorkshire Moors.
  • That trip to the Newcastle match when you almost got run over by the Juventus Team Bus and the Police Horse ate my Mars Bar.
  • That winter we got snowed in with 18 inches of snow. Days of snow fun.
  • The trips to the Peak District.
  • That stay in one of Britain’s most haunted buildings.
  • Skinny Dipping in the freezing sea at Anglesey.
  • That week in the Scottish Highlands and that cottage next to the grave yard.
  • That walk up Snowdon.
  • That mad evening at a Blues Brothers New Years Eve Dance.
  • The trip to the French Grand Prix
  • That week in the Gypsy Cottage In Northumberland.
  • The concerts. Even Ronan Keating – twice.
  • Getting to see some of the Olympics events.
  • Producing our beautiful son. The single most perfect we both ever did.

Too many great memories to mention here. That’s the stuff I should be focusing on. The memories which should be on permanent replay. You know what – we had a hell of a ride. That’s what it is. Thank you.

So poor

I came from a northern working class background. A council house with an outside toilet and a dark coal bunker. Luckily the house had a big garden so Dad could grow loads of vegetables and fruit. It wasn’t until 1980 when the Council renovated the house and we got the luxury of central heating and an inside loo. We had to move out into a caravan for a few months so the house could be gutted and the roof replaced. It was bizarre looking at you house without a roof on. I will always remember sitting in the caravan playing with some lego when the little TV brought news of Lennon being shot.

The phrase my parents would always use was scrimp and scrape. They did an amazing job and Dad was always happy to talk about the hard lifestyle. Is it bad but these days that memory always reminds me of Monty Python doing the sketch about the Four Yorkshireman competing for who had the toughest childhood. We were so poor we lived in a box. Or in my case We were so poor we didn’t have a roof.


https://youtu.be/IeXMKygwSco

All those years later and I’m carrying on the tradition of scrimp and scraping. The return to school has brought significant additional costs to an already tight financial position. But as a good buddy said today – we make do. It does mean that you take some calculated risks. Son has an old raincoat which still just about fits him. It’s really well battered. It needs changing but I was hoping to put that off for a few months more.

Well today the calculated risk backfired. He went to pull on the old coat and the sleeve ripped apart at the seems.

Dad it’s not just Bruce Banner who can do that.

So he’s gone off today without a coat and yes it’s pouring down. Absolutely chucking it down. I feel really awful about it. Poor kid is going to be like a drowned rat. Anyway I’ve gone out and bought him a new one. Well at least he can now carry on the tradition. When he’s older he can do his own Monty Python sketch.

We were so poor I had a raincoat with only one sleeve. We couldn’t afford two sleeves.