Breathe

And breathe…. count to 10 and breathe again.

More and more countries go into lockdown. We are surrounded by lands where schools have been closed. Meanwhile here in England our leaders give interviews only to carefully selected media supporters. Even the Chief Medical Officer gives an interview to a right wing newspaper. On the off chance you just might want to find out what our top medical person has to say on the crisis then you have to pay for it. Apparently we might force anyone over seventy into isolation in a few weeks. We might close bars and cinemas down – maybe in a few weeks. We will definitely keep schools open – if teachers go off sick then we will just cram more kids into the available classes. Sticking to the strategy of trying to get as many of the fit and young infected so they develop immunity. All sounds a bit X-Files to me. Seems to be based on the assumptions that infection has no long term side effects and any acquired immunity will be for the long term. Both assumptions are scientifically unproven as yet. Increasing numbers of experts appear to not share the same opinion as our key experts advising the government. Plus this is our Government we are talking about – they couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery. Has anyone seen Boris Johnson over the last few days? I really hope he’s as stressed out as my kid is over the virus….. If it’s sending many of the adults into panic what is it doing to our children.

It’s an odd feeling. Do I trust our countries leaders and it’s experts OR do I rather trust other countries approaches. That excludes the overall US approach – I’m not sure waiting for it to one day just disappear really cuts the mustard as an approach.

So I am wrestling with one decision. Do I let son go to school. I have a duty of care to look after him. Do I think he is safe, secure and well cared for in the educational environment. I’m still wrestling with that one. I think many parents round here are facing the same call. Yes full on school closures have a knock on effect on childcare and staffing in our essential services. Especially as our Government has deliberately cut those services to the bone. We now only have a quarter of the critical care beds that Germany has. But on the other hand how many kids and teachers have underlying medical conditions. Are we not placing them at risk. So it’s not an easy decision. But I need to focus on my son. What’s in his best interest. We also need to keep moving forward.

I need to go shopping tomorrow for a few things. Should be an interesting experience. One of the things I need is a Chocolate Almond Drink. It’s about the only nice dairy substitute drink I have found. It’s expensive but it is always on offer for 3 for £3. Well last week it was caught up in the panic buy restrictions. Now I can only buy 2 in one shop. Suddenly it’s become expensive. What’s bizarre is no bugger else buys it. I strongly suspected that for a while as they don’t put many of these drinks out and often they looked like they hadn’t been touched since I was last there. Being a sad person I have for the last three weeks put a little pencil mark on the next available drink – it’s still been there on my next visit. So clearly they are worried that as the only buyer of that item I may panic buy and deprive myself of buying it next time. It’s all a bit bizarre. But that’s 2020 for you.

With that I will now try to focus on other things on this blog. Yes I may have to mention the pesky virus but I will try not to that much. Over the next few weeks blogging is probably going to become more important for many. A rare connection in our dislocated world. Maybe trying to create a bit of normality in this maelstrom is what is currently needed. What is certainly needed is that we show how much we love our family and those we care most for. That we try just that little harder to be considerate and look out for others in our community. Trying extra hard to be nice and kind. And yes don’t forget to find the time to care for ourselves as well. Finding that time to smile and breathe. We might not be able to agree on what the best approach is to dealing with the virus but being just a little kinder will certainly make us all feel just that bit better about our world. Thats not going to happen fighting over that last pack of 50 toilet rolls.

Take care my friends. x

Don’t mess with the Squirrel

Let’s get the rant quickly out of the way. The UK’s School Minister has opened his mouth again. Remember him. The chap who wants to test kids from the age of 4. The chap who described kids taking time off for bereavement as – an extended holiday. The chap who introduced changes to the teaching of English which severely disadvantaged dyslexic kids – against the advice of health professionals and dyslexia groups. The chap who on several interviews refused to answer any of the questions he was expecting kids to answer. Well now he has told schools and parents what to do in terms of the Coronavirus. Even if the school gets a suspected case then parents should send their kids to school as normal. Schools should remain open. This contrasted with the Chief Medical Officer who yesterday was talking about the potential of closing schools for two months if the virus started to spread in the UK. Well the Schools Minister can take a running jump. He is the last person I would trust my child’s wellbeing with. If it comes to this decision then I will make the call not this over promoted pompous twat. Rant over….

I’ve just been bullied by a squirrel…..

I went out to feed the wildlife in the garden. The usual collection of birds and a squirrel waited not so patiently to be fed. I had a couple of uneaten pancakes to add to the usual menu. As I kneeled down to tear the pancakes up into little pieces the squirrel moved in. He grabbed both pancakes out of my grasp. He wasn’t waiting or sharing these goodies. I did try to have words with the bushy tailed one. But clearly somebody wasn’t listening today. At least somebody likes my pancakes.

Sod’s law

Don’t you just hate Sods Law (Murphy’s Law). Son has been desperate for some snow to have a sledging session. This season has been a complete right off so far. He’s just had a week off from school where it has basically been storm force winds or torrential rain. Not a sniff of the white stuff. So guess what. On the first morning back at school we wake to this.

And by the time he got back from school the snow has been replaced with rain and high winds again. All the white stuff has gone. He is so so sad. It’s not as if school was in any way enriching. It started with any kids arriving late still receiving negatives – no allowance for the awful roads and paths. Welcome back kids to this happy establishment. First day back and homework is being handed out like confetti at a wedding. Long lunch queues and over running lessons meant no hot food for his class. AND THEN we come to Drama.

The school is clearly desperate to produce the next Laurence Olivier. It’s chosen route. Spelling Tests.

So here goes my friends, your first spelling test of the term. Enjoy.

Grendel

Marking the moment

Proxemics

Thought track

Status

Narration

Levels

Themes

And I’ve saved the best till last

Beowulf

Heorot

Uniferth

King Hrothgar

Dane folklore spellings – what a top idea. So school has started off again being exactly the same grim, oppressive institution. It’s never going to change under this Government and it’s Victorian approach to education. I’ve again given him the option to be homeschooled and again he has reluctantly declined. He still wants to see if he gets moved up in any of his classes. But I must admit another school snow day may just push him over the edge. And I really couldn’t blame him.

How wrong I was

Not our garden, this is from a neighbours garden. Very jealous especially of the lawn which when cut always resembles a bowling green. So unlike our used rugby pitch.

Another stormy and very wet day. That’s the third weekend in a row for us. The weather is doing nothing for our souls. Nor is the imminent return to school. His anxieties levels are starting to peak now. Soon he’s back into that alien environment. The hope is that he will return and he’s been moved up in at least one subject. Just move him up in History and it would boost his confidence so much. I fear that’s a pipe dream. I would also be staggered if the support system has suddenly improved. How can it. It’s the same teaching team, with the same school education strategies and with schools struggling for resources. But on the bright side we have been told to celebrate as soon we will have a new blue UK passport. A passport made in France….

Maybe he will decide to abandon the failed school project. Can’t blame him and I would fully support that. It would be so worth it to lift this cloak of anxiety which often suffocates him. It’s not as if the school approach is delivering results. In most subjects he’s bored and starting to stagnate. I have asked school for the latest benchmark data on his reading, writing and performance. Again I’m not holding my breath. I’m still waiting for school to do any meaningful assessment work on his reading or writing. I suspect it will be spelling tests and nothing else. The Physiotherapist contacted school to say that he was clearly struggling with handwriting and asked what concerns the school had about his handwriting. The response back was that no teacher had raised any concerns. Really….

At his last school they worked with the heath service to monitor his reading age every quarter. He left that school with a reading age three years below the expected level for his age. His current school has so far refused to do another benchmarking assessment. The argument is that he’s doing so well and a benchmark would not change his teaching programme. Read that as they cost money and all kids get the same set teaching approach. Well if you don’t have benchmark information how can you say he’s doing so well. We don’t know if he’s catching up or if the age gap is widening.

It’s funny looking back at this parenting gig. I always realised it would be frustrating and tiring. But I always assumed the school system would largely take care of his education. How wrong I was.

Terrible Poetry Contest

Photo from Inside Croydon

It’s Thursday so it must be Terrible Poetry time thanks to Chelsea Owen. This weeks challenge is set out by Chelsea.

“I normally encourage entrants to follow basic rules; today, however, I’ve decided we need to bring back a type of poem that’s terrible for a reason other than cliché composition. I speak of the Little Willie poems.

Here are the specifics, copied from the last time we tried these:

  1. The Topic is to write a Little Willie poem. The name comes from a way of writing poetry that was popular in the early 1900s.
    From A Treasury of Laughter*:
    “Every paper began to print ‘ruthless rhymes,’ and every contributor tried to invent a catastrophe more gory in event and more nonchalant in effect than its predecessor. The favorite ‘hero’ was Willie, and although other characters sometimes crept into the quatrains, the terse lines became known as ‘Little Willies.’”
    I included three of the tamest examples at the end of this post.
  2. The Length is about four lines, a quatrain. Some were written as limericks or a double quatrain; but most were short, clever, and darkly humorous.
  3. Rhyming is imperative. These poems usually follow an A/A/B/B pattern.
  4. As I said, this week the poems are terrible because of their message. I expect darker tones, questionable humor, and stretches into creative venues writers never knew they had. If you’re sensitive, stay away. If you’re twisted, come on in.
  5. One might be tempted to up the Rating, but this is the sort of clever writing that makes readers uncomfortable but stays in the PG range.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (February 21) to submit a poem.”

********************

So here goes then

Poor little Willie lived in England but was an immigrant

Posh Boris didn’t like Willie so his deportation was imminent

But Willie worked in a Care Home looking after the sick

But Boris didn’t care because he’s such an uncaring slippery dick.

Uphill

It won’t be long until the snowdrops are gone for another year. This year has been a good one for them here. My partner would be so happy. She would be less happy with our Government. All the headlines are proclaiming the new hardline stance on immigration. Basically if you don’t speak English brilliantly then don’t bother trying to work here. Not sure they have thought this one through. Basically anyone from around here speaks Yorkshire so we are buggered.

After a largely sleepless night I could feel the first signs of cabin fever building. It’s been days since I’ve been able to go for a run. So needs must. I told Son that I was going into the garden for 50 minutes. The plan was to just run around the edge of the garden – repeatedly. Round and round. It’s not a big garden so a full circuit only takes a few seconds. But it’s a run. Well it was going ok until the boredom set in. Then the irrational thoughts started. All directed at one thing. The small slope the garden is on. Every few seconds I had to run up this little slope. Yes it’s only about 15 paces of uphill grass – but every few seconds I was going up it. Pathological hatred.

Wasn’t this steep when we moved here surely..

What possessed us to buy a house on a hill..

Why haven’t we levelled the garden..

Why haven’t we put little steps in..

Because we can’t as after a couple of inches of soil you hit hill rock which is basically armour plated and brakes spades.

Fifty minutes later the run ends and the cabin fever has quickly dissipated. My irrational hatred has gone. My partner would say that if we ever won the lottery we would buy a place with parkland. If it was a big lottery win then we would also have a second home in Switzerland. Sadly my partner never got that chance to live out her lottery dream. But she did get the time to enjoy this little house on the hill. The house with the garden and that little slope. It became our source of memories. That’s actually such a cool slope. It was the little sledge sliding run for our Son when he was a toddler. It was the slope where Son played with his dinosaurs. It was where we would sit on a night and watch the sun go down with a glass of wine. So the next time I do the garden run I will remember that.

White elephant

The zero hours contract yielded 5 hours work today. Another 50000000 hours and I might just keep the bank manager from sending me snotty letters. Just enough time left for a quick run. The light was stunning. It’s the quiet before the next storm hits.

“Is it true that we are getting another storm.”

“Yes Son it’s due to hit at the weekend. But this time maybe just a little less wind but much more rain.”

Great. I bet they have given it a really silly name.”

“Storm Dennis.”

“Your joking aren’t you.”

No Son it’s officially called Dennis.”

Probably named after Dennis The Menice. Would have been better if they had called it Storm Menice.”

Given we seem to be getting them every 6 days now maybe they should call it ANOTHER STORM.”

Son gave the car radio a quizzical look when the news reporter mentioned that Boris Johnson is still committed to building a bridge between Scotland and Ireland.

How much is that going to cost”

“I think it was a minimum £20 billion but given our track record of overspends that probably means about £80 billion”

Dad what a stupid idea. How many operations, or school books or trees could that pay for. How many months will it be closed for high winds.”

It’s a staggering idea. A 45km bridge over a seriously mad and volatile sea area. Supported by a series of giant towers having to be spaced at least a kilometre apart to accommodate the busy shipping routes. It would also have to cross the location of the country’s largest military dump. In 1945 over a million tons of munitions and submarines were dumped in a 300m deep sea trench.

“Its ok Son it’s unlikely to be built. When he was Mayor of London Boris committed to another big bridge idea. He was going to build a pedestrian bridge over the Thames. It ended up as a shambles and nothing happened. So if he can’t build a bridge between London and London he’s going to struggle to build one from Scotland to Ireland”.

Talking about building Dad. When are you going to get round to putting my shelf back up in my bedroom.”

The project is currently in the planning stages.”

If you mean by planning that it’s been propped against the wardrobe them then planning stage has lasted almost two years.”

I will try to do it tomorrow.”

Yeh right. Two massive white elephants. The Irish Sea Bridge and my Lego Shelf.”

Old

It’s been one of those days when I just feel old. Lack of sleep doesn’t help. Fighting a cold which I just can’t shake certainly doesn’t help. The weather most certainly doesn’t help – a bitingly cold gale force wind. Work was a slog with everything going wrong and the computer just saying NO. School was definitely very vexing. Now even the school governors have given up responding. I guess I must be on the official naughty list. My run was hard work. Slow, cold and a real effort. At times it seemed like one step forward and two back. Even the view failed to lift my spirits. It just provided an excuse to stop for a minute. The post school garden football was an effort. Not so much Messi or Pele, more like a knackered three legged giraffe trudging about in a vat of thick treacle. So yes today I felt much older than my 339 years. I’ve used this body up can I have another one please.

For sons mathematics exam he did really well given the lack of dyslexia support. He came second in his class. Just over 70% in one paper and high 60s in the second paper. That’s not too shoddy for a kid who could only read some of the words on the question sheets.

As I couldn’t read some of the questions I wonder if I would have got a similar mark if I had sat the maths paper but it was in French. Wouldn’t it save time if you could just combine subject exams so you could sit two at the same time. French & Maths, Science & Art, History & Drama, English & PE, Geography & Cooking.”

I could sign up to that. I would combine my worst subjects and get them out of the way in one exam. So I could do Drama and Cooking in one sitting. Or maybe I combine a really good subject with a bad one – PE could drag up my French score. It’s definitely a winner.

Dad are you sending an email”

“Yes I am. I am emailing the Prime Minister”

“Oh. Your not telling him about my sitting two exam in one go idea!”

No Son. I’m emailing him a question about dyslexia support.”

Do you think he will answer it”

Well let’s see.”

You didn’t have a go at him.”

“No I was very polite”

Well you weren’t very polite playing football. You said some naughty words when you tried to run.”

“I am getting older. Sometimes running hurts. And I didn’t use naughty words. I used my special made up words. Those which might be naughty but no one will ever know. Scully. Jellycup, Fumf.”

SO YES I FEEL OLD TODAY. ITS SUCH A JELLYCUP SCULLY FUMF……

Decency and respect

Dad why are politicians always nasty to each other now. You get more done if you work together or just talk.”

I really can’t argue with that. Maybe that’s why the world is in such a mess. Politics has just become a bear pit. Disrespect, dishonesty, verbal and physical abuse are the norm. Where good people are silenced and vilified.

Wind back the clock a few years and politics seemed to have more decency and politeness. The photograph below was our PM with the two leaders of the opposition parties. You would struggle to get that type of photo with members of the same Party these days.

It’s time for our leaders to start being civil again. A good start would be for everyone of them to stop continually shouting abuse and listen just a bit more. That’s not listening to their own voice but to others.

Yellow

On one church wall it’s a thin carpet of yellow. The colour helps life the spirits on this rather somber day. Somber for some of my country but for others it’s a day of celebration.

By the time you will have read this post my country will have left The European Union. A decision which has spilt this country apart. A decision which has turned our country into a less tolerant, increasingly inward looking nation. Looking at the antics of some of our so called politicians over the last few weeks has not been a pleasant experience. They have brought further shame onto the UK.

So sorry friends you didn’t deserve this. They don’t speak for all of us.

Lo siento amigos, no te merecías esto. No hablan por todos nosotros.

Mi dispiace, amici, che non te lo meriti. Non parlano per tutti noi.

Désolé mes amis, vous ne méritiez pas cela. Ils ne parlent pas pour nous tous.

Mar sin tá cairde brón orm nár thuill tú é seo. Ní labhraíonn siad dúinn uile.

Tut mir leid, Freunde, das hast du nicht verdient. Sie sprechen nicht für uns alle.

Desculpe amigos que você não merecia isso. Eles não falam por todos nós.

Dus sorry vrienden, je hebt dit niet verdiend. Ze spreken niet voor ons allemaal.

Så ledsen vänner att du inte förtjänade detta. De talar inte för oss alla.

Žal prijatelji, da si tega niste zaslužili. Ne govorijo za vse nas.

Prepáč priatelia, ktorých si si nezaslúžil. Nehovoria za nás všetkých.

Îmi pare rău prieteni că nu ai meritat asta. Nu vorbesc pentru noi toți.

Tak przepraszam przyjaciele, że nie zasłużyliście na to. Nie mówią za nas wszystkich.

Allura sorry ħbieb li ma ħaqqniex dan. Ma jitkellmux għalina lkoll.

Taigi, gaila draugų, tu to nenusipelnei. Jie nekalba už mus visus.

Žēl draugus, ka jūs to neesat pelnījis. Viņi nerunā mūsu visu vārdā.

Sajnálom barátaim, hogy nem érdemelted meg ezt. Mindannyiunkért nem beszélnek.

Lypámai fíloi pou den áxizan aftó. Den miláne gia ólous mas.

Joten anteeksi ystäviä et ansainnut tätä. He eivät puhu meidän kaikkien puolesta.

Nii et sõbrad, te ei väärinud seda. Nad ei räägi meie kõigi eest.

Promiňte, přátelé, tohle jste si nezasloužili. Nemluví za nás všechny.

Tolkova sŭzhalyavam priyateli, che ne ste zasluzhili tova. Te ne govoryat za vsichki nas.

I didn’t vote for this but it is what it is. So now we have to carry on, make the best of it. Hoping it works out for us and it works out for our European friends. In my heart I am still European. I still want a European Passport. Try explaining Brexit to young people . I try to explain it to our Son. “This is so wrong Dad, I am European”. My head is telling me that the next generation will reverse the decision and we will come back to Europe.

Goodbye but not farewell.