Safety Net

Photo taken from the top of The Niesen.

I never really thought about my own mortality. Before I met my partner my attitude to risk was “it will be alright and if something happens to me I’m not too great a loss to society”. After we became a family I started to become more responsible but I still had a reasonable risk threshold. If something happened to me our son would still have his mum and his granny.

This all changed when I lost my mum and then partner within 6 weeks of each other.

The first few days after my partner left us are still a blur. But I remember one incident like it was yesterday. It was my son’s first day back at school and I was driving to register the death. Suddenly a sports car pulled out in front of me. A suicidal overtaking manoeuvre. Luckily I saw him and managed to swerve onto the grass verge and miss him – just. At that speed it would probably have been game over. All I could think about was our Son. One second slower reaction time and he would have been parentless. The whole incident shocked me. Suddenly there was no backstop for our son. No cover if I couldn’t be there for him.

A couple of years later and it’s a new life. With new dreams, new hopes and new feelings. All the climbing and contact sports have been permanently ditched. No more drinking. No more stupid risks to my body. I just can’t take those chances anymore. I’m even more boring than I once was but much more importantly I feel that I am a much better parent now. Yes the world has changed. But hopefully I have adapted to it. The reality of parenting without a safety net…..

Bird of Prey

Thankfully we made it to the end of the week. Some random animal photos helped. But it’s the weekend and at least for a few hours our son is in a happy place. While he is happy then I am happy.

A few weeks ago we talked about his second favourite animal in the world. Let’s meet his favourite now.

The Peregrine Falcon.

Since an early age he has just loved the Peregrine. Luckily he has had the opportunity on a couple of occasions to handle this just stunning bird of prey. In the U.K. one of our main nature presenters is Chris Packham. He has Aspergers and is brilliant. A tireless campaigner for good. Chris has openly talked about his life with Aspergers. As a child he developed a special bond with a Kestrel. His fascination and bond with the Kestrel mirrors that of our son with the Peregrine.

I now hand over to our son for fact time (his words now)

  • The Peregrine is the fastest animal on the planet. Likely to be the fastest creature ever to live on earth. Potentially the fastest creature in the Universe. In its dive (the stoop) it can reach over 215mph
  • They have special baffles in the nose to stop them blacking out during dives
  • Sometimes called Duck Hawks
  • Favourite diet is pigeons, starlings, doves,
  • It’s nest site is called an eyrie
  • Wingspan is 3ft
  • It flies high, uses its super eyesight to see prey below. folds its wings like a jet fighter and nose dives towards its prey. It will then strike its prey with great force.
  • They can be kleptoparasites. Steal pray off other birds.
  • Lifespan up to 15 years
  • They have larger eyes than humans and can see prey over 300m away

Testing times

Our son’s school tests kids every couple of months (most schools do the same). Speaking with some of the other parents – most of the kids are getting stressed out over them. Maybe I’m old fashioned but these kids aren’t even teenagers yet.

My frustration is not only with the amount of testing, it’s with what is being tested. We currently focus on such a limited range of skills and are so inflexible on how the tests are operated. Not all kids are suited to the current testing environment.

I was talking to one parent whose child has really struggled to reach the set expected performance levels. However this child is brilliant. I’ve seen her paintings and cartoon sketches. Unfortunately we don’t have a test environment which allows her to demonstrate this brilliance. No government targets for painting.

Our son astounds me with his knowledge and understanding of history. He is scheduled to do a school test which is about the Battle of Hastings. He has a forensic knowledge in the area. Last night he spent two minutes explaining details of Bishop Odo who took part in the battle. The night before he explained in detail what William did after victory including how he persecuted the north. So if we could design a test environment so he could just talk for 30 minutes about the battle and then verbally answer detailed questions – then he could demonstrate his brilliance.

Problem is the test is to write a one page essay on the battle. Without help then he has no chance. Even with help he won’t be able to shine. This can’t be right. No government targets for developing autistic kids with dyslexia.


I always thought I was pretty good on history. I tried to show this off to our son.

“William the Conqueror brought his army to the field in October 1066”

My so called knowledge was shot down in one line…

“Dad it was the 14th and he was not at that stage William the Conqueror. He was called William Duke of Normanby or sometimes William the Bastard because his mum was unmarried. The Conqueror was first referred to in around 1120, sorry I can’t be more precise”.


I was listening to ‘Tommy’ while ironing when for some reason I tried to remember the music my dad liked. This suddenly developed into the realisation that I know so little about my mum and dad. This just kept nagging at me. So I have decided so start a little journal and when I remember stuff (or find out new details) it will be recorded. This will give our son a really important source of information about his grandparents.

On the first few pages we have

Favourite Music

Dad – Kathy Kirby I think.

Mum – Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Freddie Mercury, Runrig

Favourite Tipple

Dad – Beer. Later in life when he was ill he used to say that the doctors said it was ok for him to drink a couple of cans of Hemeling Lager – that must have been an interesting prescription.

Mum – Snowballs

Favourite Movies

Dad – Can’t ever remember him watching the TV (except for England games). Can only ever remember him twiddling with his radio to pick up overseas radio stations.

Mum – Sinatra, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, James Stewart. Can even remember her quite enjoying the occasional Van Damme, Bruce Willis or Chuck Norris movie.

Random Stuff

Dad – He once called a Status Quo song ‘just a load of racket and they will never last’ that was many years ago.

Dad – Remember he would often take me to the mouth of the River Tees where it meets the North Sea. There was a small lighthouse on the South Gare. One day he just walked up to it and knocked on the door. Two minutes later we were in the lighthouse and I got to sound the horn.

Dad – Didn’t have a favourite football team but would support which ever team was playing Middlesbrough (he hated them – never worked out why)

Dad – I vividly remember him watching an England game which resulted in the team not qualifying for the World Cup. Over the 90 minutes his face turned purple and I heard my first (second, third, fourth ….) swear word.

Dad – Died when I was young so never got to see his grandson.

Dad – When I was really young we had a pet dog. Lovely dog but he decided to bite the postman. When the policeman came round to investigate the dog bit him as well. Dad had a real go at the policeman telling him he was trespassing in our garden. Somehow he got the dog off without even a warning.

Dad – On a family day trip to the seaside we bought fish & chips and decided to eat them on the train coming back. Unfortunately when Dad decided to shake the tomato ketchup bottle up, he didn’t count on the lid not being actually on the bottle. Most of train carriage and train conductor ended up covered in the red stuff.

Mum – She had a really bad stroke, the doctors told us to expect the worst. Three days later the first thing she said was “I wish that noisy bugger in the next bed would just sod off”. Back in her house 3 weeks later.

Mum – Always wanted a pet Tiger.

Mum – She would babysit our son’s pet hamster. The hamster was rabid and clearly psychotic – my hands still carry the scars. But mum could happily stroke and handle the psychotic one without even slightest sign of a nibble.

Mum – Got to spend quality years with her grandson.

Mum – When I was young she took me to visit my sister living in Africa. I remember us buying a load of sweets to suck on as we took off (apparently to stop your ears popping). Unfortunately after two abortive takeoffs the sweets were all gone by the time we actually took off.

Mum – Watched the Bruce Willis film ‘The Sixth sense’, she sussed the ending out after 5 minutes and turned it off.

Mum – could never remember family names that well. So everyone was just called “Pidge”.