Obelisk

The Obelisk at Castle Howard. It is over 300 years old and is 24m tall. It has the following inscription

VIRTUTIS ET FORTUNAE
JOHANNIS MARLBURIAE DUCIS
PATRIAE ET EUROPAEQUE DEFENSORIS
HOC SAXUM
ADMIRATIONI AC FAME SACRUM
CAROLUS COMES CARLIOL POSUIT
ANNO DOMINI
MDCCXIV

I think my translation is pretty accurate.

Virtually everyday is wet here. If you have the misfortune to come here you will need three jumpers, extra thick wooly socks and two umbrellas. I could have been built somewhere warm and dry like Rome but no. For some reason they built me in a place that only the Saxons could love.

Its other claim to fame is that when I do my long run I perform a u-turn here and head home. It was very kind of Sir John Vanbrugh in 1714 to think of my recreational needs. Clearly a very clever man. Although he was a tad over optimistic that my little legs would get me to one of his other creations – Blenheim Palace. Not sure even my car could make it there.

But to be fair to the great architect he’s not the only one who can struggle with the powers forward planning.

While my partner was here we disagreed on which secondary school to send our son to. I favoured his current school as at least he would know some kids there. My partner favoured either another secondary school or even a special school. In the end my partner died a year before the decision had to be finally made. So he went to the school I had favoured. With hindsight that was a monumentally poor decision. Talk about a school getting a kids education so badly wrong. The only redeeming feature about my decision is that according to the health professionals the other secondary school option is not much better.

So now we are caught in the classic parent catch 22 position. Does he stay in this failing school where at least he knows some kids. Does he move to the other school which potentially is not much better and would mean a huge upheaval for any kid – especially one with Aspergers. We could look at a special school option but even the health professionals agree that he just wouldn’t suit that educational approach. We can’t afford to sell the house and move to another catchment area. Moving also means having to probably reapply for an Education and Health Care Plan which given the government cutbacks would prove extremely difficult. AND YET I just can’t find a practical way of educating from home.

Sorry to swear but BLOODY HELL.

So I look at the Obelisk and think that’s it’s good but maybe the architect could have included say a comfy seat, a water dispenser, some energy drinks and maybe a supply of oxygen. I look at our sons schooling and think what changes can deliver the best fit in a few years time. I suspect the Obelisk is the easiest to change.

I am not a widow

Bereavement is one of the most intense and horrible experiences a person will ever go through. It’s sharp prickles and thorns grab hold of you. It scars you. So how can you ever forget it’s happened.

I had stopped off at the local store for food for tonight. Son is easy – just look for any food that starts with an S and ends with ausages…. Then fill the plate with tomatoes, carrots and bell peppers. I will look longingly at the cakes then eventually go for soup. Oh look they have some giant jacket potatoes I can get them for my partner. Where’s the cheese to go with them. No prizes for spotting the deliberate mistake.

It wasn’t until I was focusing on finding a mild cheddar that the brain finally kicked into gear. Oh bugger. For a few glorious seconds I was not bereaved. Not a widow. Then that sinking feeling. That awful feeling in my tummy. Completely disoriented trying to process two completely different places which are three years apart within a few seconds. Maybe this is what Time Travel will feel like.

Not a widow.

According to the UK Government I’m actually not a widow. Officially you can only be a widow if you are married in a manner recognised by our beloved rulers. We were a couple for 20 years. Now approaching 23 years…. The plan was always to get married but we had plenty of time to sort that out. Then we became a family. Then Aspergers entered our life’s. Again marriage was put on the back burner as we had something far more important to focus on. Then time ran out.

So since we were not married I’m not supposed to call myself a widow. The Government is not stupid. It’s a money thing. Death benefits are aimed at easing some of the initial financial pressures which will hit when a partner dies. These benefits need to be restricted so we have a very selective definition. If you are not defined as being officially married then it’s zero help for you. Your not a widow. It’s not the denial of benefits which annoys me it’s that somehow that unmarried bereavement is officially seen as less important. Not an issue. I remember talking to a man whose male partner had died. For years they were unable to get married because of the law. That has now changed. The irony was that it was done by a Conservative PM who needed help from the opposition as many of his own party voted against the change. Five of the current Government voted against same sex marriage. This wonderful couple never got married after the law changed in 2013. The man said

All I wanted to do was call myself a widow and get on with grieving. But according to the Government I am not a widow.

We agreed an appropriate response. Bugger off. We don’t care what others may think because in our eyes we are widows.

So I may briefly forget that all this bad stuff has happened. But sadly it has. So yesterday, today, tomorrow and going forward I AM A WIDOW. Interestingly my spell checker is desperate to change widow to window. So to keep it happy I AM A WINDOW. Now that opens up a whole new philosophical blog and probably makes a great Prog Rock Album Title. On that thought it’s time to draw the blinds down and go to bed.

I know that I will miss her tonight.

Waterfall

Although England does do an awful lot of water it’s not blessed with that many truly epic waterfalls. But we do have the occasional spectacular one.

High Force in Teasdale.

The Falls are about an hours drive from us. We haven’t been since our world changed. We had planned to go there as part of our school holiday road trip. But as I was packing up the picnic

Dad I’m not sure I’m ready to go there yet.

I can so understand. It had suddenly dawned on our son the importance of the memory associated with High Force. It was 2016. The three of us spent a lovely hour walking around the waterfall then we ended up in the local pub for lunch. Son had sausages and chips. We had soup and fresh bread. Finished off with some highly calorific sweet. It was the last time we went out for a meal as a family.

This had completely slipped my mind. Not the forensic mind of number one son.

“It’s a long drive son.”

It’s a very long drive, probably bad for the environment.

“Its raining and very grey. Probably going to be cold.”

It’s very wet Dad.

“What do you fancy doing then.”

How about having the picnic in front of the television while watching the new Scooby Doo movie.

“That sounds a cracking plan Son.”

So we enjoyed sandwiches, crisps, fruit and cakes watching Return to Zombie Island. Yes a change of plan. But the right change of plan. We will visit High Force one day. But not this wet Friday.

Night time visitor

For over a year we have had a nighttime visitor. Brief glimpses. Garden dug up. A few signs. Then last night FINALLY you revealed yourself in all your glory.

Kind enough to stay long enough for the mobile phone to adjust to the darkness.

Even a stroll close up to see what the strange humans were doing. The Government is trying to cull your kind. But you are most welcome here.

Bubble burst

Dad why are you smiling.

I’m playing that mind training game. My brain age has been assessed as 28.

I take that it’s 28 months and not years then Dad.

Consider my brief basking bubble has been officially burst.

I was listening to a chap on the radio basking in the news that Brexit has moved a step closer. In his bubble this is wonderful. The new deal our great PM has negotiated is brilliant. Billions been taken away from Europe and will be given to our NHS and schools. Taxes will come down. Businesses will boom. Wages will rise on the back of all these wonderful new trade deals. For our country and our kids I really hope his bubble is not burst. I really do.

I wish I was in this Brexit bubble – but I’m sadly not. This brilliant deal is based on two dubious principles.

  • A Customs Union Border in the Irish Sea splitting the UK in two with Northern Ireland effectively staying under EU trade rules. Bizarrely our PM said last year that this idea would be a disaster and no Government could ever sign up to it. Equally bizarrely our Foreign Secretary has said the arrangement will be a great deal for Northern Ireland. Staying in the Customs Union is a special deal. Ok so why is this special deal not been given to Scotland, Wales and England. Oh yes I forgot that would mean staying in the EU.
  • All the important negotiations on trade and relations with the EU will be done after we officially leave. Basically we would have 14 months from leaving to sort this out. So basically we leave without known on what basis we are going. But here’s the rub. Here’s why many on the Right love this idea. It gives the Government the right to leave with no deal. Just have to wait 14 months then thy can blame the EU. That’s the crash and burn strategy many on the Right have always wanted.

The bottom line is this new Brexit Deal is a BAD DEAL which was rejected last year. Rejected even by the team pushing it now. It’s a Great Deal for the Rich and a BAD DEAL for the rest of us. Again I hope I’m wrong but deep down I do fear for the future. No I don’t think the Country will go bankrupt. Life will continue. But it will be worse. We are not in a strong bargaining position for the new trade deals. Any deal with Trump will mean opening up our NHS to his big business friends. To compete the Government wants Britain (now Northern Ireland remains effectively in the EU) to move to an economy which is based on low wages and zero regulations. Where the drive is for tax cuts and profits for the Rich. Our wages are going to fall and our worker rights are going to be eroded with no safety net of public sector support.

But apparently I’m missing the point of Brexit. One of the biggest supporters of Brexit has said ‘Brexit was never just about the money’. That’s easy for you to say when your not exactly short of a penny or two. But ok point taken. Let’s look at travel rights. Britain’s will lose the right to travel freely in 26 countries and will not benefit from free or discounted medical cover in those countries. That’s not so good. One of the first actions of Brexit will be to scrap EU regulations on Food Standards, Environment Protection, Freedom of Speech, Workers Rights, Maximum weekly working hours, Maternity and Paternity Rules. The rules designed to protect us. Thats not good either. But hang on let’s not forget we get a different coloured passport with no mention of Europe on the front. Unfortunately last time I heard the new passports will be largely produced in the EU. But let’s celebrate having a blue passport, so much nicer than that red one.

For my sons sake I really hope I’m wrong. I really do. But at the moment I’m clinging to the hope that this new deal is rejected. Yes in an ideal world I would like to stay in the EU. The EU is certainly not perfect but it’s a whole lot better than the current alternative. But if we do go then WE still have time to do Brexit right. Just agreeing to keep Freedom of Movement would make a huge difference. And yes in our little bubbles we can still have our Blue Passports.

Yorkshire Chilli

After years of trying to grow just one chilli in the subtropical climate which is Yorkshire we get to this. In about 10 years this is as good as it gets. Two huge Guinness Book of Record Largest Chilli winners. But after all the years of failure I will take these mini wins.

The one thing you learn with bereavement is that every persons grief journey is different. Regardless of what the textbooks tell you ITS UP TO YOU to find your own route through the minefields you find yourself stuck in the middle of. Some can do it within months. Others it takes longer, sometimes much longer.

I was listening to a bereaved man on the radio. He had starting dating again within a couple of months of the funeral. He was remarried within 6 months. In his words he had ‘grieved for about 6 weeks then it was time to start again”. When asked if he still grieved he said ‘No I have moved on’. That was his way through and out of the minefields.

One of the saddest and most beautiful things I have ever heard was an elderly chap who had lost his wife. Every wedding anniversary he took his wife’s ashes out to the same restaurant. He would sit and have his meal alone with the ashes. Nobody knows what he would say but he frequently cried. He’s been doing that for over 20 years. Maybe that’s someone who has chosen not to leave the minefield.

I’ve been in the grief minefield for 3 years now. But that’s only part of the story. No real time to grieve as I had to step up to being a single parent. I needed (still need) to give our son the best possible childhood he could possibly have under these circumstances. In my brain parenting became more important than grieving. My way out of the minefield frequently became muddled and lost . What happened was often parenting driven rather than grief oriented. For example.

Three years of virtually no social contact happened not because of grief rather because of having a young kid with Aspergers.

In those three years my not so great social skills have become extremely limited.

Last week I had a lunchtime coffee with four of the mums from our sons school. I’ve done that a couple of times over the last 3 years. It’s only for 30 minutes or so. In my case it’s now Peppermint Tea rather than Coffee. It’s about my only non-son social life these days, certainly since the world changed. Talk about wooden. I end up just listening. Luckily the mums are really nice and I think they understand. It’s a start. A little dip of the toe back into the big bad world. It’s a mini win. At least I’m not still in the middle of the minefield.

So like the chilli in Yorkshire. I will take the little wins. I think it shows that I probably want to make my way out of the minefield eventually but I have to admit – I’m not entirely certain about that….

Trudeau and the Bull

Our local Bull has decided that he hasn’t eyeballed me enough. Now he’s made his way through to the farmers field immediately behind our garden. Now he can eyeball me all day long.

Yesterday evening son was watching a history DVD. Something about the American Civil War. So I took the mad dog out in the garden for his late evening barking session. Village most love him. Anyway as he started barking at the Apple Tree when I noticed the football on the muddy lawn. A thought crossed my mind. I don’t often get the ball to myself. Time for some quality Dad football skills. Two minutes later the ball is in the farmers field. Ops. Not a problem I will just jump over the wooden fence and the small wire fence. Son will never know that I’m a muppet.

Then that sinking feeling. What is that large black lump stood next to the ball. A very large lump which is eyeballing me. The pigging ball has ended up next to Mr Bull. It’s our only ball since the dog chewed the last others. It is also our sons favourite ball which he’s had for years now.

Houston we have a problem.

What do I do.

Take the risk of son losing one of his favourite toys OR get flattened.

Having deeply assessed the problem and developed an in-depth strategy (thinking time lasted about 3 seconds) it was decision time. Seconds later I’ve climbed over the fences and I’m slowly edging towards The Beast. The well thought out plan could be described as ‘winging it’ or a ‘work in progress top level broad brush general overview’ thing. This was evidenced by the clever strategy to calm the beast. I was trying to soothly talk to him by saying ‘he’s a clever pretty polly’. I couldn’t think of a nice name for a bull but really pretty polly. The problem was compounded by the fact that on closer examination the ball was virtually under the bull.

So I continued to edge closer to my doom sticking to the Pretty Polly tactics. Eventually I’m within a couple of feet of The Beast. He’s a very big boy. And he’s seriously eyeballing me. Slowly I bend over and pick up the ball. My brilliant plan had not considered being actually face to face with him. Then the Beast made a strange noise. I’m about to die. Then a gushing water sound. He’s having a pee. I can breathe again. Then a potential mistake. A big mistake. I patted the bull on the head. He’s still eyeballing me but I’m sure the eyes have gone blood red and steam is coming out of the nose. Time to get out of here. Slowly I back away keeping my eyes on him. When the gap is about 6 yards I turned. Suddenly I’m sure I can hear the beast heading towards me. Fast. With a surprisingly rapid sprint for a man of my age I’m at the fences. No time to climb just jump. With one bound I just about clear both fences. SAFETY.

I would like to report that I landed like an Olympic Gymnast. No. I landed like a flying baboon. Face first into the muddy lawn and mole hills. But I’m alive and the ball is safe. Inside I looked in the mirror. A face caked in mud. At that very stage son walked into the bathroom. He took one look at the mud on my face and calmly said.

I’m not going to ask why but you do know having a painted brown face is so uncool and racist Dad.

Yes it is son. In my case it was an accident. Having said that I bet that’s exactly what Justin Trudeau said and it’s not a great defence. Best wash it off before I’m photographed.

First time in 20 years

I’ve lived in or around these parts for 20 years now. In that time I must have used one particular road short cut hundreds of times. It keeps you off the dreaded city outer ring road. On the short cut is a little sign for a nature trail. On virtually every pass I would make a mental note to pay the trail a visit one day.

All those years and so many mental notes.

Well the other week on the way to do the weekly shop I did something radical. I stopped. Time to cash in all those mental notes.

And what a little find.

It probably only takes about 10 minutes to walk round the nature reserve.

But it’s so worth it.

You forget that you are on the edge of a city surrounded by farmland and golf courses.

On this wet day I had the reserve to myself.

Teeming with wildlife and wonderful sculptures.

MOORLANDS Nature Reserve, York. And it’s free.

Imagination

It doesn’t have to be big to have a bucket full of atmosphere.

This is Skelton Tower on the North Yorkshire Moors.

It’s almost 200 years old and is a former hunting lodge.

If you time your arrival at the Tower correctly then you can enjoy the passing Steam Train coming down the North Yorkshire Moors railway. Unfortunately this walking muppet has never managed that. Still you still get views of the haunting Newtondale.

The Tower is also a fantastic dreams portal. As long as no other walkers are in sight our son can spend hours here. Lost in another world. Talking animals and mythical creatures. Playing about with time and the laws of science. I must admit I often dream of rebuilding the tower and living here 200 years ago.

It’s really good to dream and stretch your imagination. I wonder how many inventions and leaps in understanding have come from doing this. That’s why it’s so frustrating that as soon as kids get past the age of 11 dreaming is often frowned upon. At school the kids have a predetermined and restrictive curriculum to get through (set by the Government – god help us). Hardly anytime is scheduled for creative thinking. Even in subjects like art the approach seems to be learn about this artist then reproduce one of the artists most famous pieces. More marks for getting close to it. Only occasionally are kids allowed to free draw. When our son tries to reproduce something then it’s a disaster. He just can’t do it. But allow him to draw from his imagination and suddenly he’s away.

Kids are not encouraged to explore logic and push the boundaries of thought. In science son has been told on a number of occasions to just accept the facts. Once he asked why science was seemingly so sure of its laws when we can only see less than 1% of the universe. He got the above response.

In maths the class had some questions to work out. Son found a quick way to get to the answer. It worked for every question but was told he was doing it wrong as it wasn’t the approach set out in the textbook.

In our area we are so lucky in terms of history. On our doorstep we can touch the Neolithic. The Stone Age. The Bronze Age. Roman History. Viking History. Medieval Times. The industrial Revolution. Victorian Times. World Wars. So much history to live and breathe. Yet do the schools make use of this. Not really. In his 5 years at Primary School he went to two historical sites. Currently at his present school he has spent one hour at a local archeological dig. What a waste. Won’t the kids learn more about history if they can actually live it. Apparently not – the only source of learning is from predetermined textbooks.

Imagination is the key to so much. It should be one of the key facets of modern education. When I was a kid the brilliant Carl Sagan ignited my passion for astronomy and thinking. I will leave you with his take on imagination.

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere. CARL SAGAN

Worth it

The rain clouds finally moved on and the sun shined briefly today.

If you open your eyes it’s amazing what gifts this beautiful world of ours will bestow on you.

The news in many countries is usually grim these days. In the U.K. we find our country run by the most extreme and dangerous government this country has seen in centuries. Your either completely agree with them or you are branded a traitor. An enemy of the people. We have become a country were a PM is hailed by his supporters like a conquering roman emperor after he was found guilty of breaking the law by our highest court in the land. A country where the PM is openly stoking the fires of intolerance and hatred. Where intimidation is commonplace. Brexit has broken the country. Was it really worth it.

So parents have to bring up their children in this toxic environment. A world made toxic by the adults. As a generation we have monumentally failed. We continue to find new ways of making things worse. Our leaders play a daily game of who can be the biggest cheating lying dork. Who can bring down their democracy first. Who can burn the planet fastest.

But hope has not been vanquished. The decent law abiding amongst us greatly outnumber the deluded. The next generation have not been blinded by the madness and greed. The educational system may try to clip their wings but it’s the job of parents to keep those dreams burning bright. The young like Greta are the future. The planet is still staggeringly beautiful. Just a short walk can yield such wonders.

So tomorrow Johnson will continue to try and push our country nearer the precipice. But take a quick walk and look at what is around you. Take a good look at the faces of the young. See their dreams. That’s the important stuff. That’s what should be guiding our direction. Not the poisonous Brexit agenda – whether we should leave or remain. Regardless of what happens we are going to have to get the country working again. Bringing the artificial divisions together again. A time to marginalise the extremists, build bridges (not walls) and reclaim our wonderful planet again. The kids deserve that.