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.

School

So it’s about to start again. SCHOOL. The anxieties are building. The sleepless nights. The upset stomach. The worries. And that’s just me.

For our son it’s worse. Far worse. He is already stressed out. Anxious about the return to that alien world. An institution which could not have been designed in a more anti-autistic way if they had honestly tried. A system which is designed for kids with dyslexia to automatically fail. An underfunded service which is not fit for purpose.

So he will get on the bus at 8am tomorrow with hope. Hope that school has changed. It now positively promotes uniqueness and individuality. Kids with specific learning obstacles are giving tailored support to help them fly. In fact all kids are given a tailored education not just the privileged few. The 1950s school infrastructure has been replaced with modern, bright and welcoming learning facilities. The strict rule structure has been relaxed. Kids are allowed to be kids for at least part of the day. Good dedicated professionals are supported and properly rewarded.

But in reality we understand what our son will face again tomorrow. A broken system where the bonkers government sees stricter rules for kids as the answer to everything. Stricter rules for kids and teachers yet wants less rules for those trying to make a profit out of our kids education. Yes an education but not the one we want for our kids.

The summer holidays were great but the fight for many parents starts again.

Why

School is back on Thursday. Deep Joy. So we have completed the dreaded school bag and uniform audit. Pigging hell. I blame it on this Pokemon.

Please tell me why

  • The school bag seems to have developed zipillitis. Every single zip has either jammed half open or have decided to become stunt lemmings and dropped off onto the floor,
  • We don’t have any black or blue pens but we helpfully have a shipping container full of yellow and red ones. Particularly helpful as only teachers are allowed to use red and yellow ink seems to be as fashionable as German Sausages at 10 Downing Street drinks party these days,
  • Why is every single pencil snapped at the same time as our 38 pencil sharpeners have eloped with coloured crayons,
  • Why is the only useable pencil case PINK with Peppa Pig on it,
  • All the rulers and set squares and protractors are missing or appear to have been sat on by an African Elephant,
  • Why has the French Dictionary (which we had to buy even though its never likely to be used) clearly gone for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea and decided not to dry itself properly,
  • Every single eraser has got as much rubber left on them as I have hair left on my scalp,
  • Why has the never need batteries calculator run out of power. Who thought it would be a good idea to use light as an energy source in Yorkshire,
  • No black socks at all – all buried in the garden by helpful dog,
  • His school blazer has developed more holes in the sleeves than my empty bank account,
  • Blue shirts now so badly worn that he might as well just wear a see through bag,
  • All Trousers 3 inches too short with more patches than on my 30 year bike tyres,
  • The school tie which was blue but now seems to be more Tomato Ketchup colour,
  • Finally the all important school shoes. Still just about black but unfortunately with two holes in the soles so large that they must have got in the way of an Alaskan Oil Drilling operation.

Don’t you just love school……

Caffeine

Without any sleep last night I managed to serve breakfast, set off the washing and get the works payroll sorted. Then in the dog walk managed to spot more signs of the end of summer AND just about successfully focused the camera. All made possible by Coffee.

What would have happened if Caffeine had not been brewed for the first time. I dread to think.

Currently on a 3 year streak of no more than 4 hours sleep with probably half of that time operating on no more than 2 hours. That is certainly not out of choice. It’s also not really sustainable but I’ve been saying that since 2016.

Every morning my internal operating system boots into safe mode. The body drags me to the coffee machine and somehow a very dark evil smelling brew starts to enter my system. As the caffeine feeds into my bloodstream Safe mode moves to Zord the Zombie mode. Now some basic tasks can be undertaken. Not necessarily in the right order and almost certainly not to any level of competency – but we are at least off and running. All thanks to Coffee.

I did try to stop being so reliant on the caffeine fixes. It really isn’t healthy for you. So the coffee stopped. Withdrawal headaches were not pleasant but they passed. However most days I failed to get out of safe mode. Not much use for anything. Even the most basic tasks proved beyond me – that’s assuming I remembered to do the task in the first place. The coffee fast reached its lowest ebb one morning as I was fumbling around with a Tie for 5 minutes without being able to get the knot right before realising that the my work shirt was still on the table and I clearly had decided to go to work in the buff with my only attire being a red kipper tie. As a single parent, the single breadwinner that situation just can’t fly. So I restarted my daily fixes. The compromise was that no more than 4 cups a day could be the proper stuff. Anything else had to be decaf. That now works for me as long as I ensure that the first brew is NUCLEAR grade.

Burns

It’s hot. That’s Yorkshire hot. Which probably means mild in other parts of the world. My Dad would have called it mafting. It’s that mafting that even the Yorkshire Farm Machinery can’t cope. The photo shows the smouldering wreck of an unfortunate tractor with a badly burnt field. That’s a first on the dog walk.

Our Son does suffer from stress and overpowering fears. When he took one look at the burnt carnage he immediately panicked that our house would soon be engulfed in flames. It’s understandable as the field is less than a mile from us. I tried to calm his fears with words but with no luck. So actions are required. A mad Dad sat down in the blackened field. Look son my bum is getting a little warm but my shorts are not ablaze. Although it did demonstrate a point I should have thought the plan through a bit. Light grey shorts are maybe not that fetching when they have two buttock shaped black marks on the rear.

Although our son’s wild fire fear has been dampened down a little. Sometimes silliness works better than rational argument. It is still there and will be until normal Yorkshire weather returns.

When you have a child who suffers from these inhibiting fears it is vital that you try and keep on top of them. Working in partnership with school and health services is vital. At his last school they were usually on the ball. The teacher would catch me at the end of day or send a quick email to let me know if something had happened. If it was particularly significant school would phone immediately.

Unfortunately at his new school this has completely stopped. I fully understand that it’s a much bigger school and he has different teachers for each subject. But surely they still have a duty of care. I know speaking with the health professionals they say unfortunately most schools in they area are the same now. The close partnership working which was in place a few years ago has dried up. Again and again it comes back to the same reason. Government. As one Doctor said

Under the last Labour Government it was about the patient. Now the patient is a secondary consideration to income generation, competition and profit. Money is now king.

So increasingly it’s just left to parents, families and friends. The days of government for the greater good are over. Its all about self help and what the individual can afford. Must deliver tax cuts. It’s back to Victorian ethics. Days when democracy could be overridden by the powerful and the rich. A time when it was ok to send poor kids up chimneys. When hatred and discrimination was the norm.

Maybe it’s just me and I’m in the minority. Just my irrational fear. But increasingly my country is becoming alien to me. I hate what is becoming. Too many kids do not get the support they badly need. As a generation we have really messed up our priorities. Our leaders happily play fiddles while Rome burns. Or maybe we should now change that to our leaders go to comedy clubs while the Amazon burns.

Hadrians Wall

This is the final instalment of our unscripted and unplanned day trip. So far we have ventured to Kielder Forest and Kielder Water. So where next. After a series of left and right turns we are driving along a road when.

Dad stop. That most be Hadrians Wall. Ok it could be a farm wall. But it looks Roman to me.

It was the famous Roman Wall and ten minutes later we were trying to find a parking place at a Roman Fort.

Dad this is really busy. Too busy.

Luckily after buying tickets (while son hid in the car) I was able to find an alternate way onto the site avoiding the crowds. Hopefully the sheep in the neighbouring field didn’t mind us trespassing too much. It would have been such a shame for our son to miss this piece of ancient history.

Housesteads Roman Fort was built around 124AD to help defend Hadrians Wall. The wall was 73 miles long and stretched across Northern England from the Tyne to Solway Firth. It marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire.

When it was constructed the wall was up to 20ft tall.

Housesteads is the most complete Roman fort in Britain. It stands on a stunning Northumberland escarpment. Can’t think of a more stunning location for a history lesson.

I wonder what the Romans would have made of me. Aspergers wasn’t even a word back then.

Before I could say anything he smiled and said.

Maybe they would have just said he’s on whatever Nero is on.

Back to the Fort tour. Son had obviously banked a considerable amount of information about this Fort from somewhere. No need for a guidebook.

As son was lost in a dream I wandered around the Fort silently with him. Trying to imagine what the site would have been like almost 2000 years ago. Good job the Romans installed steam underfloor heating. Would need it in summer never mind winter. Then another thought. All those years later and we are still trying to build walls. Put up barriers to try and protect our way of life. Have we learned nothing in all those years. Actually our PM is increasingly Nero like. A few other countries have their very own modern day Nero’s.

George RR Martin has revealed that Hadrians Wall provided the inspiration for Game of Thrones. The imagery of the book and it’s Wall are strong and echo that of a Hadrians Wall all those years ago. Romans stood on a huge wall marking the very edge of their civilisation. That view to the unconquerable northern lands must have been truly frightening.

Dad it’s funny when you think about it. The Romans would probably now be standing in the opposite direction, looking South and thinking the same frightening thing. A strange, scary land.

Yes England seems to have gone completely barking mad. Looking into England is a very scary prospect.

And with that we head back home. The road trip has been a great success. Especially as I only thought we would be having a random visit to somewhere local in Yorkshire.

Dad I’ve decided we need to have more road trips to make sure I visit the 12 new places. One needs to be to Scotland. Sorry Dad that might mean we are setting off before we go to bed.

Kielder Forest

Finally we got a break in the weather. Yes it is feeling very autumnal but it is so much better than the rubbish we have had over the last few weeks. So we seized the opportunity for a trip. Son is trying to visit 12 new places this year. That is such a big commitment for him. Especially as these are completely unplanned and unscripted visits. To avoid undue anxiety or even a meltdown we usually micro manage and completely script every trip.

So we sat in the car at 6.30am with a healthy packup. Crisps, Coke, Cakes, Waffles, Chocolate, Coffee, IronBrew Lollies.

Ok Dad where are we going

Absolutely no idea son. Looking at the road outside our house. Left or Right?

West

Ok clever clogs, left it is then. We did this for 2 hours until we found ourselves North of Newcastle. Beautiful and very remote Northumberland.

Looking at a Road Sign. It’s decision time. Is it Scotland. Is it a bit of Potter at Alnwick Castle or is it Kielder.

The Potter Castle will just be too busy. Scotland needs to be a longer trip. I’ve always fancied a bit of Kielder. Have we got time to do the Forest and the Lake.

We have as long as the Troll doesn’t eat us on the bridge.

An hour later we were walking through Kielder Forest. It is the largest man made woodland in England with 75% of its 250 square miles covered by Forest. It’s a wonderful place. It is definitely Conifer, Spruce and Pine heaven. It’s also one of those places where the car parks are full yet you never see another human. Feels like you have the place to yourself. Which is brilliant for our son.

Son also had time to launch into a tirade at our so called government. He was not happy that they had turned down an application to reintroduce Lynx into this area. Let’s hope the second application is successful. Not had these creatures in the UK for over 1300 years.

The small minded, money driven losers. They sit in their mansions, driving the earth killing sports cars. Behaving like modern day Feudal Lords. I bet if they do reintroduce them they would find a way of hunting them for sport. Well I think we should let the animals hunt Boris and his Sheriffs of Nottingham’s. That would help the planet. Dad last year they told kids to stop protesting and get back to learning. Well why doesn’t the Government get back to running the country.

I would have said the same but with many more bad words included. Good job one of us has good manners.

Going to split this post up into three parts. It’s a proper lads road trip. The second will feature Kielder Water and a bit of aviation. The third part will go very Roman with a bit of Game of Thrones feel.

Have you seen the path

The path was going well.

The path then went. Not sure where. Maybe this way.

No. Maybe this way.

“Dad have you got any idea where we are supposed to go”

Does it look like it. And with that I tripped over a branch went face first into the undergrowth.

I thought you were a climber. Someone at one with the wild” – much giggling.

I am at one with the wild that’s why I’m currently kissing the ground.

Bear Grylls would now shimmy up a tree to the top and look out over the forest to see the direction we should be heading.”

Not sure the trees will take my weight. Probably end up bending one over and launching myself like a catapult into the North Sea.

Is it a Plane, is it a Bird or is it a flying muppet”

Finally we found a path and made our way home. As we walked up the towards the house.

Dad can I have a cake when I’ve washed my hands”

Bugger. I knew I forgot something. Looking at my watch the cakes had probably been at medium heat for 3 hours.

Some days you just feel lost. Things go wrong. Life is hard. You feel so vulnerable. So fallible. Beyond tired. I’m not alone on that one. It’s human nature. It’s the parenting condition. We all have days/weeks/months like this. What’s the expression

You get good days and bad weeks….

Questions Questions

In life you get so many questions. Good ones, bad ones, taxing, insightful, bizarre, left field, rude and downright stupid. I often find one response covers most of them

A big boy did it and ran away….

Then you get the questions you field which relate to your kid(s). The questions involving Autism , Aspergers, Dyslexia , Dyspraxia, ADHD, Bereavement, behaviour…..The questions from family, friends, parents at the school gate, teachers, health professionals and other children. So many questions and so often not particularly helpful ones. As helpful as losing your car keys in a crop field.

So let’s look at some of the questions we have encountered. I suspect this could end up rivalling War and Peace so I’m going to spilt this up into more easily digestible parts. So part one is the Autism and Aspergers questions. Here goes for some bizarre questioning….

“Do you want us to have him eat his food by himself now he is Autistic?” – A Teacher

As he is on the spectrum would you agree to the council being approached so they could assess the risk of self harm” – A Teacher

I realise that his performance and behaviour is really good but have you considered a Special School as he had Aspergers” – A Teacher

Are you sure he has Autism as he seems very normal and is not violent in anyway” – A Teaching Assistant

We have another child who is autistic would it be ok if we sit them together as it will be good for them. They can become friends then.” – A Teaching Assistant

“I recognise that he is very shy and doesn’t like speaking in front of others. But would it be ok if he gives a chat to to the class about being autistic. He can tell them what it’s like to be different. It will be great for his self esteem” – A Supply Teacher

He seems very talkative for someone with Aspergers” – A Doctor

He seems like he cares and shows emotions. That is so unusual for someone with Autism” – A Doctor

He’s very likely to have self harm and suicidal tendencies as he grows up” – A Doctor

Why are you bothering fighting for a diagnosis when we can’t do much for him. The diagnosis will just be a piece of paper.” A Doctor

Shall I get a nurse to take him outside so we can talk about him without hurting his feelings” – A Doctor

Is he gifted in music as many people with Aspergers are.” – A Nurse

Have you seen the film Rainman. That’s all about autism.” – A Nurse

Unfortunately you come across Professionals who are clearly living in a different age or are just so underprepared to deal with kids on the spectrum. Not acceptable but it happens.

“My Son is having a party and I want to be inclusive so is it ok if I invite your son.” – A Parent

Did he get it from the Vaccinations” – sadly more than one Parent

Does this mean that he’s not allowed to fly” – A Parent

It’s not so bad, they can be very happy and harmless really” – A Parent

Are you going to ask School to not move him up this summer and keep him with the younger kids. Won’t he be happier with them” – A Parent

Are you sure he is Autistic he is nothing like The Rainman” – A Parent

At what age will he start to grow out of it” – A Parent

Have you tried those drugs which cure it” – A Parent

Will he ever be able to look after himself” – A Parent

Because he’s autistic he won’t ever want friends will he” – A Parent

Is that why he’s rubbish at sport” – A classmate

Can I catch it off him” – A classmate

I will finish off with one that made us laugh.

Do you have to use an inhaler, my brother does and he’s like him because he has asthma” – A classmate

Parallel Universe

I set my decrepit laptop off on a relatively simple task. But again it went on a go slow. So I foolishly turned on the tv while I waited. A quick bit of channel hopping ended up with me in a parallel small screen universe.

The programme I stumbled on appeared to be about parents talking about modern day life. It’s certainly a different life to mine:

  • One Dad complained that he had been forced to cut back on his golf due to his kids. He now only played golf Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Really. I haven’t played golf in 7 years.
    A couple talked about having to make economies as the second child was just starting private school. They had been forced to cut the number of overseas holidays down to 4 per year. How many holidays did they have before they cut back.
    Another couple talked about parenting being a lot easier than they expected. They did then mention a small fact. They paid for a full time, live-in nanny.
    Another couple admitted that they had accidentally left their new born baby alone three times in various pubs and restaurants – only realising when they got home. They said it was just like accidentally leaving a bag on a bus. Unbelievably our last Prime Minister did this once – and we trusted him with the nuclear codes….
    One mum argued that parents should stop moaning about lifestyle choices. Apparently parents should just pay for babysitting. She would often have 3 or 4 nights out a week as babysitters were so cheap. That’s good to know.
    Another couple complained that they had been forced to buy a new family car – the families third car on the drive. Apparently baby seats or a pushchair would not fit into either of their two sports cars. Not sure 3 cars would fit on my drive….
    Then a Dad talked about how he had stopped his son from playing football and rugby because it was getting his new car muddy. Thank god that Dad has never been in our house. We don’t have much money but my goodness we got inside mud a plenty to show him.

Thankfully for my sanity my laptop found a couple more horse power and completed its task. So I quickly turned the TV off. I must admit that I did not particularly enjoy that brief visit to the parallel parenting universe. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway I’m off to buy a massive Hummer vehicle as I can’t fit all our son’s old Peppa Pig videos in our one car.