Cat Stew

Sometimes wonderful views take your breath away. This was taken on our last holiday. While my partner and son slept I would sneak out for an early morning run. The run would take me along a path which ran along the edge of Lake Thun. It was just stunning.

Sometimes it’s other things that take your breath away.

Last night I had made a stew. I left my steaming plate of food on the kitchen table while I delivered our son his stew and 2 tons of tomato ketchup. Crash. On my return to the kitchen I had an out of body experience. We have a very accident prone boy cat. Yes you have guessed it. He was lying in my stew. Waiter there appears to be a cat in my food. He was covered in gravy and vegetables completely oblivious to the world. He seemed most puzzled when I pushed him onto the floor. He was even more puzzled and slightly terrified as the dog decided to feast on the four legged plate. My option b meal, a cuppa soup was far less appetising.

I’m still finding bits of stew strewn around the house.

Usually the dog won’t have anything to do with the boy cat. His bestie is the girl cat. However today it’s a different story. Now he’s discovered the boy cats talent as a mobile dinner plate. He is hopefully following him around trying to be friends. Let’s hope the boy cat has learnt his lesson as tonight it’s a curry.

Like a Swiss Train

Dad if the bus was like a Swiss Train then I might be happier about getting it everyday”

My son if it was like a Swiss Train and served the same chocolate I would live on the bus. To someone who has been brought up on the infamous UK train network the concept of clean, comfortable and sometimes opulent carriages is rather alien. That’s before we even think about precision punctuality and a nice food service.

I remember waiting for a train in Switzerland one morning when the station announcer informed us that an avalanche had blocked the track (the announcement was in 4 different languages). In the U.K. that would mean the track would be shut for about 9 months. Or if our Prime Minister is sorting it out maybe never. A few minutes later the station master started speaking to all the people waiting on the platform. In perfect English he informed me that the specialist team was on site and he genuinely seemed horrified that the train would be late. After a couple of minutes it was announced that the avalanche had been cleared and they were deeply sorry that the train would be 10 minutes late. Ten Minutes……

Son survived today’s bus trip but it wasn’t a bundle of laughs. Although he did appreciate Dads attempt at a slushy drink when he came home. The dog enjoyed chasing the ice around the kitchen when someone forgot to put a lid on the blender. Silly dad.

When budgets are tight it is difficult for councils to run a school bus service. We actually should be thankful that we have one. But the school bus run is often so difficult for many kids, especially those spectrum kids. I’m not sure I like that phrase for some reason, may not use that again.

So many factors contribute to the difficult school journey:

  • Different drivers everyday. Our son would really appreciate just one familiar face and it spooks him when a new driver appears,
  • Frequently dirty bus interiors. Let’s be polite and say they tend to be not that clean. Again to someone who hates touching potentially dirty surfaces this is not conducive to a relaxing trip,
  • Poor behaviour. I think the term bear pit comes to mind. To someone who finds social settings challenging this type of behaviour is really distressing,
  • Different sized buses used daily. Because of his Aspergers he likes routine. Not knowing what type of bus will turn up can and does disorientate him. It is a big issue if the bus randomly changes from minibus, to medium size bus, to large super coach,
  • Because the bus size changes and the large number of kids using the bus, seating position is random. On an ideal day he can have a window seat by himself just behind the driver. However when smaller buses turn up, seating is restricted so he is often forced to sit next to someone who he probably does not know. This is an absolute nightmare for an Aspergers kid.
  • The buses have such a tight timetable. On arriving at school the kids only have a few minutes to get to the first class. If you are late you get an automatic negative. After the final lesson the kids only have 10 minutes to get on the bus before it leaves. Added to this it is a big school site and also due to its age it’s a bit of a maze. That’s a lot to cope with especially for someone who can go into meltdown when he needs to rush and who struggles with the concept of time. He also takes a lot longer to pack his bags and put things like coats on. It’s a recipe for anxiety and stress.

I haven’t got an answer. I have contacted the school and council. Our Health Service has repeatedly raised similar concerns in connection with many of its patients. Nothing changes. My last offer was that I would be more than happy to volunteer to work with the authorities in designing the next tender process for school services. I suspect I know the two word answer to that, something like **** off. In an ideal world we could get the Swiss Public Transport experts to run the school bus. That would be problem solved and wow the chocolate…..

Blessed

A couple of days ago we had a sad face type of day. Old photographs bringing back memories. Sad memories. But it doesn’t have to be like that all the time. Especially when the photograph entails Switzerland.

Today I feel able to correct this….

Switzerland is such a special place. My beloved partner loved it. So did her parents. From childhood she would spend such happy holidays in the Bernese Oberland. The stunning higher part of the Bern canton. Staying in Spiez a beautiful small town on the banks of Lake Thun. Awesome views to the Alps. The summit of the Eiger is visible in the distance and always the last peak to be illuminated by the setting sun. Early mornings would bring on equally stunning landscapes. My partner would sit and just soak up this view. Today this image reminds me of how special Switzerland is and how blessed I was to spend time with my partner. So blessed. Bring on SMILING FACE. 😊

Sad Face

Working from home does have so many advantages. Fundamentally it gives me the scope to flex work around our son. The days of my career coming first have long since gone. Trust me the career first option is the wrong choice.

But home working is not without issue. The biggest one I find is the isolation. I just don’t meet people face to face anymore. This week I have had only one face to face conversation with someone not in our little family group. That’s why blogging is such a blessing for me.

Isolation. It’s bizarre that like our son I often dream of shutting out this strange world on our own deserted island. Yet isolation in ones own house doesn’t tick the same boxes. It frequently draws you into prolonged periods of sadness. Without our son in the house, it seems so empty, so many echoes of the past.

Today my thoughts kept drifting back to holidays with my partner. One image on repeat loop. An image which is on my screensaver. Sorry it’s Switzerland again. I always seem to be blogging about that beautiful country. It was just so special to my partner. The view is looking across the edge of Lake Thun to Spiez Castle (Schloss) with beneath it the hotel we stayed at adjacent to the water. Many days this photograph brings so many happy memories. However today I just keep thinking that I won’t be able to share this view again with my partner. Sad face 😔.

Walls

Looking at some photographs I had found from our last holiday. Always brings back those bittersweet memories.

“Dad I love Switzerland. I love the fact that many of the houses in the mountains don’t have walls. It makes the world so much more beautiful. Silly people forget that as high as you build a wall you can always build a ladder just a bit taller.”

He is so true. Walls can be climbed, tunnelled under, knocked down or just walked round. They however do have a habit of ruining a view. Some notable visual exceptions to that – Great Wall of China, Hadrians Wall. I wonder if the Romans realised when they built it that as a defensive wall it was a little bit rubbish but as a tourist attraction it was a winner. Maybe we could sell it. I wonder if anyone is looking for a slightly used big wall. Might be a winner if you don’t mind picking a few weeds out of it and it probably comes with a few resident sheep as well.

“Dad what really annoys me is that we build little wildlife sanctuaries then wall the animals inside. People don’t realise that we have to create connections between all the sanctuary’s to allow the animals to roam. If we did that then Wildlife would start to flourish again”

Again can’t argue with this. Does feel like the humans continue to sprawl out and nature is increasingly contracted. It’s lucky if it’s granted a few areas of protection.

“Dad better idea for walls. Let’s squeeze humans into a few small human sanctuaries then wall us in. Nature can have all the rest of our planet”

Only problem is that I just can’t imagine how I would cope with being confined in such close proximity to some of our politicians. Boris Johnson – please no, just no. Yes walls do have some major drawbacks.

Different takes on the world.

Came across a photograph taken probably 5 years ago. Oh how the world seemed so different then. Every Sunday in Switzerland we had the same ritual. We would take the first boat across Lake Thun to Interlaken. We would immediately head for this hotel and drink hot chocolate outside – regardless of the weather.

I also vividly recall sitting here when one morning my son’s different take on the world (to myself) became clear. I noticed sports cars driving past. I remember saying something like

“that’s a Ferrari and that’s a Porsche and wow that’s a Maserati.” Don’t get many of those in Yorkshire.

I remember turning to my partner who said without raising a glance “that’s nice” as she continued to scan the food menu.

Looking at our son he was excitedly flapping his hands. Not at the cars but at a bird flying above us.

“It’s a vulture.” Don’t get any of those in Yorkshire.

Now that my son has educated me. I realise which view is more stunning. Which view should be treasured. Now I would say “Wow that’s a stunning big bird, son what is it and I wish those noisy dirty cars would sod off”.

Trauffer

A lot of Autistic people find change and unplanned things really unsettling. At our son’s last school they realised this. They were really good at establishing a routine then sticking to it. Unfortunately his current school are the opposite. Change change change followed by unplanned events. Today I had to go and pick up him up – he was really upset after a series of unplanned activities.

The one thing that has always been guaranteed to settle him down was going for a car drive in the country while listening to rock music. So off we set into the country. However the car stereo now decided to play up. No radio reception and refusing to recognise any of my mp3 albums. For 5 minutes it unsuccessfully scanned tracks then suddenly success. Unfortunately the one album it would play was a million miles from rock.

On our last family holiday to Switzerland I had a mad moment and decided to buy some Swiss music. Trauffer and his band just sound like Switzerland. A quirky mix of pop, folk, alpine and yodelling. Trauffer also manages a famous family wooden toy company – I think a lot of the toy cows you see in Swiss shops are his. It just shouldn’t work but just like Toblerone (a chocolate which is designed to spear the top of your mouth every time you try to bite into it) it works brilliantly.

http://youtu.be/XPXiHGq2Ods

For the first few moments our son sat there a mixture of disbelief and horror on his face. But 30 minutes later an amazing thing happened. He was tapping his hands, trying to yodel (badly) and laughing (a lot). Often change and unplanned stuff causes anxiety and distress. But sometimes unplanned stuff can be good and rewarding. AND MOST CERTAINLY yodelling was not in the original plans today.

Moments

Everyday I find a quiet part of the house or garden and just sit and think. I think about the loved ones who are no longer with us. Just 10 minutes of reflection, but it is so important to me. Just trying to remember some of the key moments we shared. Trying to reconnect. They may not be here physically anymore but in my mind they are still here, still part of my life. Today I remembered a trip to Lauterbrunnen. Holding hands with my partner drinking in the alpine air and watching in awe at the spectacular Staubbach Falls

The reflections are uplifting but are tinged with sadness.

Such a happy memory but oh so brief. Little did we know how few opportunities we would get to visit this wonderful alpine setting together. Sometimes life is hard and painful but I am thankful that I have these memories. Thankful that I had that brief moment in time and also thankful that now, a 1000 miles away Lautterbrunnen is there. The falls are still crashing down given other couples the same opportunity to create their own brief moment in time. So today on this day, this somber day I am sad but oh so thankful.

The Gorge

This week been another tough one for my son.

  • Still can’t make any progress on making new friends
  • Struggling with the anxiety of being in the school environment with so many others
  • Struggling with the noise
  • Struggling with tying his tie
  • No real help with reading in lessons

He describes it as feeling like being trapped in a really noisy and scary place, with no obvious way out. That sounds like how he felt when we visited a narrow gorge in Switzerland. It was just too much for him but he made his way out. When I mentioned this to him he immediately came back with ” we managed to make our way through the gorge in 30 minutes, unfortunately I’ve got FIVE years to survive at school.

Tonight’s French homework has not really helped. He has to complete a crossword with French answers. He has never been able to get his head round crosswords, never mind one requiring French answers. At least he can see the funny side. Now he says he is Dyslexic in two languages ….

As I was finishing off this piece I read Autism in our Nest latest post which covers the same isolation at school problems. You often think that you are the only family going through this. That’s so wrong. Many, many families are going through this.

Grindelwald and the start of a journey.

Switzerland is special. It’s certainly special to us. So many good times. Maybe one day we will go back….

The trip we made to Grindelwald when our son was a toddler is such a vivid memory. Stunning weather. I forgot my cap so had to go shopping for another. Came out of the shop with a shirt, two dinosaur toys and a giant watermelon – but forgot the cap. Went back in and this time came out with a cap and another dinosaur. Beautiful cable car trip into the mountains. Chips and a beer at several thousand feet. Time spent happily relaxing on a stunning train station.

The other vivid memory from that trip was it was the first time we witnessed our son suffering with severe anxiety. We had previously noticed a few quirky personality traits but nothing particularly noteworthy. But on this beautiful day, as people approached he started hiding behind us until they walked well past. It was really warm but he walked around with his hood covering much of his face. Sometimes he would hide behind trees until the ‘coast was clear’. The anxiety was so pronounced that we opted against going with the crowds up to the top of the Jungfraujoch and ventured to a much quieter mountain. He loved the train station (photo above) as it felt as if he had the place to himself. He loved the quiet. He loved looking at all the white blocks lined up in a long neat line. He repeatedly lined up his toys in straight lines. He recited with forensic detail the heights of Switzerlands highest peaks. He constantly asked to have the schedule for the rest of the holiday read out to him.

It was the start of our Aspergers journey.