Foreseeable

Looking back from the edge of the micro world. Our little village increasingly isolated. Sadly we can’t take this walk now. Son started to freak out about having to touch so many farm gates – just in case. So we are restricted to hands stay firmly in our pockets walks for the foreseeable future. How long is foreseeable these strange days….

After yesterday’s accident mayhem we approached April 1st with some trepidation. What enhanced carnage would April Fools Day bring. As life is clearly so foreseeable the answer was rather surprisingly – NOTHING. No accidents. No backfiring pranks. Zip all went wrong. My family tradition was that April Fools Day ends at midday. No accidents by lunch to distract from today’s aim.

We decided to make today a fun day. No talk of the bad stuff happening in the world. No depressing talk. No news. A day of respite amongst the mayhem. I keep saying this but if it’s bloody tough for grizzly old farts like me, what the hell is it it like for our kids. The adults are not that good at living like this, kids most certainly are not designed to live like this. So that’s why today was going to be a rebalancing day. That was the plan but not everything is foreseeable…

Today’s first lesson was Religious Studies. Given the current stress and anxieties kids are facing why don’t we pick a fun or light topic. Well the teacher picked a belter.

Look at four different countries and see what their approach is to DEATH. What are the funerals like….

Well that’s a real laugh a minute project. What next, how about History looking at the Black Death, Geography looking at the spread of pandemics, Science taking a closer look at the Ebola mortality rates.

So we have postponed the fun day for the foreseeable future. As that is clearly not very long we shall be having it tomorrow. Once we rearranged the fun day and put April Fools Day to bed for another year we could get back to normality for the rest of the day – household madness.

Have you ever pressed the start button on the washing machine and as soon as it starts spinning you notice something going round which does not look like an item of clothing. As the machine slowly turned and a rouge object kept appearing, my mind whirled – what is it. Then the penny dropped. It’s my mobile. Oh bugger. An hour later it emerged looking sparkly clean but a little soggy. In a further moment of madness I decided to put it in the pocket of one of the washed jeans and tumble dry it. Maybe that will dry it out. Please children – don’t try this at home. Only really tired parents are allowed to do such stupid things. Unbelievably the super clean phone came out dry. And it still works although I may wait a day or so before I try to charge it up.

So in our foreseeable world tomorrow is fun day and today has been ‘wow my ancient iPhone is sparkly clean day’. Who needs April Fools Day for the foreseeable future.

Swan

It was good to see the swan observing social distancing at the local lake today. If only some of the humans could get their head round the concept. Our village thankfully has. Apart from the postman, the occasional food delivery driver and a handful of dog walkers – that’s it. All the cars are parked up and are not being used. Virtually no through traffic. We don’t have a shop, cafe or pub. The village hall and church are temporarily closed. Basically it’s like a ghost town. It seems to oscillate between beautifully peaceful and slightly unnerving.

It’s the new normal.

Work is definitely shutdown until at least mid June now. No sign of schools reopening anytime before September. The countrywide lockdown isn’t being relaxed any time soon. No long runs. Apart from the very occasional trip to a shop for essentials, that’s it for physical social interaction. Maybe for months. It’s not happened yet but I can see this ramping up a grief attack soon. Especially as my partners birthday is looming. But it is what it is. Another thing for my constantly racing two cell brain to deal with.

We were watching Toy Story 2 last night when a thought popped into my head. Apart from the obvious one – oh man I look increasingly like Mr Potato Head. Wouldn’t it be great if toys did come alive. How much fun would that be. Suddenly a whole new self contained social circle. And yes we have a Buzz Lightyear so maybe he could teach us to fly.

I feel bad now Dad. Not played with a number of my toys in years. They have been shelved. Woody was mortified when he was shelved. Maybe we should dedicate the online Drama lesson to playing with old toys.”

He’s been so turned off from the subject that playing with old toys would certainly have more learning value.

Dad Ive been thinking about Toy Stories meaning. Basically it’s that you need to keep old toys come what may. Yes always play with them, even when your old. But never, ever give them away – even to a needy cause. It’s a bit of a grim message really.”

And with that he was off to find his old In The Night Garden Toys. But unusually for him, he did not fully think this through. His Dad fell in love with that old BBC kids show. His Dad can still answer any question thrown at him about Igglegpigle, Makka Pakka and the gang. And rather than looking for the shelved toys in the old toy baskets he just needs to look at his Dads bedroom table. No shelved toy sadness here. The In The Night Garden gang are very happy each night. Much loved by someone who really should know better.

Photo from the BBC.

Time

TIME is a funny thing. Walked past here on Friday and hardly any of the white flowers had emerged. 72 hours later after a yucky cold, dark and damp weekend – any hey presto it’s a sea of white.

I remember someone very clever saying that TIME operates at different rates for different people. Thinking about it – that clever person might have been Dr Who. When I was a kid I loved Dr Who. I so wanted to be a Timelord. As a prize for winning a football tournament school arranged a trip to the last day of a Dr Who exhibition. I was super excited. On the way our bus broke down. It took them hours to fix it. Finally we arrived at the exhibition only to find it had closed 5 minutes earlier. How on earth can you miss an exhibition about a time travellerjust doesn’t seem right.

TIME definitely operates at different rates for some of our son’s school teachers. Quite a few of the online classes require the student to read an article or a section of a text book. The amount of reading has definitely increased over the last few school days. The number of follow up tasks has also increased. Strangely the TIME allowed has stayed the same. Exactly where does this approach leave the dyslexic student. I know teachers are super busy but maybe one of them might have asked son how he is coping with reading the course material. They seem much quicker to spot his spelling mistakes. Much better use of TIME.

TIME is also hard to define. School have now rolled out a national learning app primarily aimed at those students who struggle with English comprehension and grammar. Interestingly an app with a rating of 1 out 5 from users (lucky to get 1 by all accounts). Son has been set a weekly app study time of 50 minutes. The teacher will be checking that each student has achieved the weekly minimum study time. Punishments for underachieving. What they don’t mention is that the app uses a lot of videos and narratives. Unfortunately these do not count against the learning time but need to be completed before you can get to the student work areas. When it crashes (and it crashes more times than me on a diet) all learning time is lost and you need to start at the beginning of the section again. So far son has been on the app for just under 3 hours. He’s watched endless boring videos and robotic narratives. He’s still to learn anything new. AND he’s only clocked 20 minutes actual study time.

Dad what is the point of this. I’m bored out of my mind. As you would say, it’s a pile of pants. It’s a complete waste of my time, your time, the teachers time and a waste of bandwidth.”

I fed this back to school with a few of my own rather barbed comments. The school’s response was well we have sent a teacher to be trained in its use, that’s valuable school TIME so we need to keep using it.

Clearly I was wasting my TIME arguing.

Toy Story

Lovely midday weather here in Yorkshire.

It’s funny how you can overthink even the simplest of tasks. We try to make Saturday evening the official movie night of the week. A regular thing for son to look forward to. Popcorn, cola and a great movie. We save up new movies for the full Saturday experience. If we don’t have a new movie then the next best thing is a blockbuster. For days I had been working on a list of potential movies for this Saturday. Scores of candidates slowly whittled down to three favourites.

The Martian

Terminator – Dark Fate

Rocketman

So Saturday night arrived. I proudly gave son the list of three movies.

Ok Dad, let’s watch Toy Story.”

And with that it was Woody and co. A top top movie. Perfect escapism for today’s anxious world. But how much energy did I waste on picking an unused movie list. But I guess the point is that it successfully distracted me for a few days. While watching the movie I played my usual game of trying to pick which character I was most like. Toy Story was easy, clearly I am Rex. Although this morning I am a bit more Mr Potato Head.

We often forget how stressful the current situation is for kids. Confined to base, seeing parents stressed, unremittingly bad news on social media, kept apart from friends. In our sons case the confined to base and kept apart from friends is not really an issue. But his Aspergers requires routine and controllability. These have gone out of the window over the last few weeks. Adjusting to different daily routines. Food on the set weekly schedule (which has been in place for years) becoming unavailable. A completely unpredictable world. The fear of illness and worse ramped up by a spreading pandemic. He’s so young, had to deal with so much already and he’s facing this.

He asked what my best guess was for when things might begin to settle down a bit. Sadly I couldn’t say anytime soon. When he asked about schools opening and I couldn’t see anything happening and sticking before September.

“Dad is that September 2020 or September 2021”

I wouldn’t like to bet my shirt on that. We just don’t know who long the current restrictions will be in place for. When they do come off, how long before they need to be reintroduced. But we just have to deal with that. I’ve got to focus on the one overriding aim. Give son the best childhood possible. So we make the best of the new normal. Strengthen the new routines. AND above all try to have as much fun as possible. So Toy Story is perfect. It’s fun. Thank you Woody and co.

Bed protest

Another cold start. Press ups on the grass are definitely cold on the hands.

Now set into the daily school at home routine. That’s a better way to describe it. It’s not true homeschoolingits schools version of remote learning.

  • 6:30am – start daily exercise (weights, or army fitness, or exercise bike or running round the little garden)
  • 7:30am – try to get as many home cleaning tasks done
  • 8:00am – Son gets up and has breakfast
  • 8:30am – log onto school system and check school messages
  • 8:40am – register for first lesson and complete tasks
  • 9:55am – load completed tasks
  • 10:15am – register for second lesson and complete tasks
  • 11:25am – load completed tasks
  • 11:35am – register for third lesson and complete tasks
  • 12:45pm – load completed tasks
  • 12:50pm – take dog for one walk of the day
  • 1:00pm – outside for talk with son
  • 1:40pm – serve lunch
  • 1:55pm – register for final lesson and complete tasks
  • 3:10pm – load completed tasks and log off
  • 3.20pm – start to breathe and play football

Dad I’m thinking about going Lennon and Yoko tomorrow. Might stay in bed and do the complete school day from there.”

“What are you protesting about then?”

I’m working on that. Maybe the excessive use of red pen at school. Maybe the shortages of baked beans.”

Maybe I can ask one of the important people making daily contact with me. I’ve never had so many Chief Executives and Business Leaders speaking to me. It’s a daily stream of emails wishing me well and informing me of their evolving plans. Our most senior doctors and scientist are giving me helpful advice. Even the PM and the Government are sending me text messages.

It’s suddenly great to be valued and important. I wonder how long this will last. Will it last as long as Son’s bed protest.

Motivation

Not sure it’s the slightly unhinged world but here the daffodils are looking extra special this year. Much needed colour. Much needed motivation to keep believing in our world.

“Come on Dad, your doing the PE lesson with me.”

So 20 minutes later we are doing a fitness workout. I do slag the school off quite a bit but sometimes it does do things well. The online PE lessons was really good. It started with a daily workout from YouTube. The Body Coach TV (PE with Joe Wicks). The person doing it was great and made the session so much fun for kids. Son warmed to him straight away. Which is no mean feat.

My second workout of the day was definitely very different from the first. Standard weights and short burn military fitness exercises at 7am. Pretending to be Spider-Man and bouncing like a bunny rabbit at 11am. The latter was way more fun. So maybe, just maybe tomorrow at 7am you might see a grown man pretending to be a rabbit. That’s my excuse if I get wheeled away in a straight jacket.

But you need balance in life. If you get good then often the not so good arrives to bring life back into order. The Food Technology online lesson was grisly. Son attempted the task which was so tough for him given the difficulties he has with handwriting, spelling and drawing. But he tried and that’s all we can ask. A bit later the response came back. One or two good efforts but some are very poor presentations. Well that’s done his confidence a world of good.

So we have balance. Motivated and demotivated. Looking forward to the next lesson and dreading the next lesson. One has 1.5 Million subscribers (plus two more from our house) and the other has a kid desperate to drop the subject.

I’m sure even this guy was motivated to move just a bit during the fitness workout.

I should really tell this guys story as well. Completely ignored him when I waffled on about his gnome buddy. His name is Gene. Can you work out why? Gene is a relative baby. He’s about 7 years old. He was a Christmas present from my brother. He was supposed to be fireplace ornament. Unfortunately my partner hated it. As did our dear departed psychotic girl cat. So he was banished to the garden to save him from the sledgehammer and the apex predator. On his bottom a sign says – Not for external use. Yet after 7 years of grizzly Yorkshire weather he is still shinny and looking like new. So he clearly likes dancing in the Yorkshire rain.

Take care my friends and try to smile.

Hold off for a week

Looks like Spring. The daffodils are out in force, blue sky and the sun is beating down on the Yorkshire soil. A frozen Yorkshire soil. One problem with this Spring. It’s absolutely freezing and apparently it’s going to get colder. I will hold off getting my shorts out for another week or so.

Yes some things are best left for a week or so.

School is most vexing. Increasing signs that schools version of homeschooling is in fact just the same old, same old. Rebranded but essentially the same teaching approach. It might work for some kids but it’s not working for our son. Yes a couple of subjects have tried to think out of the box, change things up. But the majority have not. It’s such a wasted opportunity.

Most kids are working remotely with no physical contact with their friends. So why not let them use the schools online system for to exchange messages during the homeschool day. No no no. All chats are monitored to ensure they are restricted to school work. Woe betied any kid who is even a minute late to log onto the system at the start of a lesson. Stick to the required task and don’t deviate…..

But let’s give school a week or so to see if the remote teaching programme evolves.

It’s been interesting to notice how much of the online teaching so far has been based on just reading a piece of text then answering questions. No modification for those kids who struggle to read. No additional help for those with dyslexia. Nowt new there then. I asked school for the reading and writing progress he has made over the last 20 months. All school will say on his writing was that no issues had been raised by teachers but they will look at using a computer for his main exams. Will that come with keyboard skills therapy work to help with the problems he has with typing…. apparently not.

On reading they have done some testing. According to the results he is still well behind the expected reading age. Apparently his reading age has improved only marginally in those 20 months. As a result school consider he’s best placed in the bottom set. No one on one help will be provided, if he needs help with reading then he needs to put his hand up and ask the teacher. He just needs to accept that his reading is poor and additional work on improving it is a bit of a waste of time. That’s interesting as over the last six months his reading has drastically improved (no thanks to school). What could be achieved if school did make an effort.

Well let’s give it a week or so. We need to think about the road going forward. What’s the best for our son. Is it schools version of homeschooling (school gates are likely to be shut for months) or will it be our home version. The following weeks will tell us.

Home schooled breadq

Today was the Day 1 of the countries homeschooling project for many. Son’s school is trying to run a full days lessons online. At the usual start time of the lesson he needs to log into the school system. He records his attendance by a simple text message. Then he follows the instructions the teacher has provided. Any work completed is then loaded onto the school system for the teacher to review.

  • Geography was to research and answer a series of questions on Russia for 90 minutes. He quite enjoyed that,
  • Maths was to use an online teaching system. Complete one module. Unfortunately due to the numbers of kids nationwide trying to use the system – it broke,
  • French was to read a handout then try to write a few paragraphs in the remaining time. Didn’t really work for him.
  • Art was to try and replicate 4 photos in various styles. So he tried a few sketches then photographed them and sent that to the teacher.

It kinda worked. It did provide structure but I’m not sure some of the teaching methods really suit our son. But that’s modern teaching in this country. Let’s see what the next few days turn out like. I’m puzzled how some of the subjects will be run. Online PE and Drama could be interesting. Surely they will squeeze in a few of our favourite spelling tests. Food Technology mentioned cooking at home. Maybe even learning from your mum or dad.

“Say that again. Learn cooking and baking from your dad.”

He gave me a withering look.

Sorry dad I’m going to have to say a bad word. Oh CRAP.”

He knows me far too well. A couple of hours later.

Dad, I thought you had planned to put seeds on top of the bread”

“I thought I had put seeds on but clearly I accidentally put grated cheese on instead. It’s now cheesy bread.”

Its vegan cheese isn’t it.”

“Yes I believe it is as that’s the only grated stuff in the fridge.”

Well it’s grated cardboard topped bread then. I do learn from you. How not to cook…”

Tree

This is a tree we can see from our garden. The walk across the farmers field takes you right beside it. When we first moved here it was so much bigger. Almost symmetrical. Unfortunately countless storms and a couple of lightning strikes have taken their toll. I guess that’s the price you pay for being a big isolated tree on an exposed hill top.

So it finally happened. All the countries schools will close on Friday. A skeleton childcare service will be provided for essential workers and vulnerable kids. Our school is planning to try and run lessons online. It’s an indefinite closure with much talk of this extending into the summer. It will be an interesting trial with homeschooling in mind. Let’s see what works. Let’s see what the optimum learning time is. Let’s see if I can cope. As a single parent, the work shutdown will allow me to fully focus on son and his learning.

Life can often bring much isolation. With the new life motto – ‘Social Distancing’, more are going to have deal with the challenges that it brings. Each one of us has to find our own way of dealing with this. Don’t laugh but walking past this old tree and just giving it a friendly pat can help me. The tree has survived longer and more intense isolation than I ever will. It’s only right that I show solidarity with a fellow survivor.

I went for a walk today and almost didn’t see another soul. Plenty of sheep and crows but so few people. Hardly any cars as well. It just seemed kinda normal. I guess after three years I am getting use to the isolation. Just about. Had to make a few work calls today but that’s going to be it for many weeks now. As people increasingly keep their distance the reality is that the only person I will be physically talking to over the next couple of months will our son. Maybe an occasional telephone call with a sister. That’s why blogging will be so important for me.

I’m someone who has to continually work on my conversation skills these days. Without it I become a gibbering, shy wreck. That’s why I have recently become a crap Dr Doolittle. I am increasingly talking to animals. Not just the mad pets. The birds and squirrels waiting to be fed in the garden. The frog who comes for a warm when the tumble dryer is on. The bee trying to break into the house. The farmers sheep, cows and a grumpy bull. I’m a crap Doolittle as I talk to the poor animals but I still can’t understand what they say back. Probably a good job as I can imagine the responses.

“Will you just sod off”

“Boring, boring”

“Do you mind if I hump your leg”

So on the walk I crouched down to have a chat with a sheep. The local sheep are happy to listen to my waffles as long as I bring some biscuits with me. So I was asking this particular sheep if she ever got bored just walking in the same field and did she like these biscuits . Nearly jumped out of my skin when behind me a booming voice replied.

“If they keep producing the wool for my jumpers I will happily let them eat biscuits. This one likes Digestives, the others are partial to those biscuits .”

I had not heard the farmer sneak up on me. Another day and another …. Oh the shame. But at least I know that I need to bring two types of biscuits on the walks now. All this took place under the a much battered, yet resilient tree.

Yellow

Suddenly colour is returning to Yorkshire. Well one colour. Most definitely yellow. It is such a welcome sight after so many grey months. Takes your mind off other matters.

Need to be open and honest with son.

Dad whats the number of people with the virus now”

Officially its 750 but now they say up to 10000 may have it”

OMG I thought the experts said our approach was working well. How can they have got the figure so wrong”

“It’s down to testing. For some reason we only tested those with symptoms who had visited high risk countries. They didn’t seem to test if you had been abroad. Clearly they missed a lot of proper cases.”

“That sounds so stupid.”

“Yes it’s not great is it”

“Dad why hasn’t Boris closed the schools down yet”

“Apparently it’s on the basis of expert advice.”

Many other countries and regions have closed them down, won’t that be on expert advice as well”

“Apparently Boris and his experts think that school closures and banning public events is not based on the correct expert advice.”

What makes our advice better then”

Probably need to ask an expert about that. We seem to be saying that if schools are closed it’s pointless as the kids will mix in large numbers anyway. We also seem to be saying that if we stop people going to things like football and concerts then they will just go to smaller events. And they argue that smaller events are potentially worse sources of infection. Football has been stopped for a month now but that was not the government, they were happy for the matches to go ahead. It was the Football Authorities who stopped the games.”

“That sounds a bit dodgy. Surely Dad the point is to reduce the number of people you mix with. Schools, football, trains, buses and concerts are some of our biggest mixing areas.”

I bet they will eventually have to change their minds on some of these. But it is daft.”

I think a big part of it is that the last few governments have really cut back on the NHS and made child care more expensive. They don’t have enough doctors and nurses. If schools close then a lot of parents will not be able to go to work as they will need to look after their children. The NHS can’t cope with that now. I’ve also heard several in the government mention that shutting schools will hurt the economy.”

“So it’s about money then really”

“Probably is but they won’t say that. Easier to just tell people it’s expert advice.”

So how are they trying to control the virus if they don’t close things down.”

“It seems to be something called the herd. The Chief Doctor talked about needing at least 60% of the population to recover from the virus for the country to start to develop immunity from further outbreaks”

That’s the plan. Wow. So we are trying to get something like 40 to 50 million infected here. Going to be an awful lot of not very healthy or old people caught up in that. That’s not a good plan. Sounds like they have decided not to do anything. Rather have people keep making money than keep them safe.”

Totally agree. Surely locking stuff down for a couple of weeks will help dampen the virus down. At least push it into the summer months.

I’d rather take my chances in France or Germany. At least they are trying to still contain it.”

“Dad what’s the new rule about school and being ill. If I cough does that get me a week home isolation.”

Basically those are the new rules

“Well Dad. COUGH. COUGH. That should do it. Wake me about 11am on Monday.”

Well next week I will probably get the chance to check out more yellows. My zero hours contract is living up to it’s zero in the coming days. Next week I might get a couple of hours work at most. So the new sports car and beach apartment in Monte Carlo will have to wait a few more days. But it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. It really doesn’t. More important things in life. As a much wiser blogger than me put it – it’s time to breathe….

Update

Two hours later news broke that the government has reluctantly banned large public events. Not on health grounds but to relieve pressure on emergency services. I guess the real reason was the events were getting cancelled by the organisers anyway and the government didn’t want to be seen to be dithering.