Best thing

Some days life needs lots of words and some days it just needs a few.

I was going to reflect on how difficult the school bus journey can be for so many kids. I will leave that for another day. I picked our son up from school the other day and he came up with this gem.

“Dad that’s some sky. It’s a sky show. That’s why life is the best thing”.

Cheap

Hard to believe that 10 minutes later it was absolutely chucking it down. Maybe we have already had our summer sun for 2020.

So the week ends with two wins

  • School has confirmed that punishments like negatives will only be issued for poor behaviour or standards. They will not be for poor test scores. Son will still sit the spelling test but most of the stress he was under has been removed. Yes he still does the test but now he doesn’t have to worry about being punished if he struggles.
  • The NHS has agreed to another block of physio to try and help with his fine motor skills. He now has a new named Physio. Hopefully she will last longer than the last two. One lasted a session the other didn’t even last long enough for a session.

We take the rare wins and continue the fight.

Unfortunately our old electric kettle gave up the fight. Yes we must live in the posh end of Yorkshire as we have electricity on tap. But the kettle has brewed its last cup. As John Cleese would say ‘it’s shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain, joined the bleeding choir invisible, it’s an ex kettle’. So off I went to buy a new one. The nearest supermarket had sold out of all kettles. Clearly it’s the gift of choice this Christmas. So I ventured into the main electrical retailer for our nearest city. In the UK it’s the one that sounds like a spicy dish.

I have never seen so many kettles. You can buy virtually any colour to match your kitchen. Strangely I didn’t see the The RATHER CAT PAWED SLIGHTLY FADED MARIGOLD colour. You can get clear ones so that you can enjoy watching water boil. Ones which look like Darth Vader. Ones which play music while you wait for a hot drink. WIFI enabled ones that you can control from your living room. Voice controlled ones (bet it’s like everything else – it can recognise 300 languages yet it can’t understand the Yorkshire accent). Even a kettle that you can set the temperature of the water it produces (erm isn’t that just the boiled level – maybe it goes to nuclear temperatures – that would allow the Pot Noodle to be ready in seconds).

One problem. How much…. I am not paying the neck end of £50 to £100 for a kettle. Certainly not paying £180 for something called a Smeg…Suddenly I was pounced on by the salesman trying to sell me the latest expensive model. The look of distain on his face when I said.

Have you got the basic model in stock.

“You mean the £5 one”

That’s the one.

“It’s very basic sir”

Does it boil water

“Well yes”

Well that meets the spec then.

“Most people are upgrading their kettle options these days.”

***Why am I starting to panic. Embarrassed about not buying what everybody else is buying. Then I did a Trump and Boris. Sadly I told a fib.***

Its just for our caravan which we only use a few times a year.

***why did I just say that. I haven’t been in a caravan since well into the last century***

“Oh I understand sir, it’s perfect for that”

***and off he went to find the basic kettle safe in the knowledge that he wasn’t selling it to a cheap skate or God forbid – a poor person***

Boris Award.

A while back we started the Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson Award for services to numpties and overall nastiness.

We haven’t awarded a Boris in a while. Almost too many candidates to consider but today’s winner just went that little extra mile. Meet Sally Anne Heart the Conservative candidate for Hastings & Rye.

Sally has some interesting views. But just one needs special attention.

Sally believes that Disabled People and People with Learning Disabilities should be paid less money because ‘they Don’t Understand Money’.

Shame on any person from the constituency who votes for this candidate. Shame on Boris Johnson for allowing these views to come from his party. And shame on the media for completely ignoring this.

You don’t look like

Another cold and beautiful morning. Doesn’t look like the expected wet and windy weather forecast.

Robyn on her brilliant blog was taking about someone who played Death Metal music during a gym session and yet looked so UnDeathMetally. I remember a few years back going into a HMV record store and trying to buy a Hardcore German Death Metal CD. The young guy at the counter looked at me then looked at the cd and said “this might be a bit heavy for you”. I managed to stop him before he directed me to either the Country Music or Dire Straits sections. Clearly I didn’t look like a head banger. I should have warn my Motörhead Tour T-shirt.

I remember another time at work when a particularly gruesome Salesman barged into the office and asked to speak to the Chief Accountant. When he was pointed in my direction he walked up to me and announced “you don’t look like a Chief Accountant” and laughed. In an unusually sharp response I came back with “you don’t look like a person with an appointment” and proceeded to ignore him until he sheepishly left.

But apart from these two moments ‘not looking like something’ has not been applied to me much in my life. Well apart from this year. It feels like it’s been open season on me. The following have all been said to my face over the last 12 months

You don’t look like a vegetarian

– You don’t look like someone with depression

– You don’t look like that photo on your driving license

– You don’t look like your passport photo

– You don’t look like a boxer … the physio said this as apparently I had a muscle injury normally associated with boxing

You don’t look like your best pleased

– You don’t look like a single dad … said to me by someone in the village

You don’t look like someone who plays Pokemon Go

– You don’t look like an XL … No but is it a crime to like wearing baggy tops for training

It’s not just me. It’s a team issue this year

Your Son doesn’t look like he has Autism …. said by a teacher

You don’t look like a boy with your hood up you have girls eyelashes … this was immediately preceded by the longest and hardest Paddington Bear Stare by our son.

Your dog doesn’t look like he’s partly Cocker Spaniel

– Your dog doesn’t look like he’s partly German Spitz

– Your dog doesn’t look like he’s calmed down

– Your cat doesn’t look like he gets much exercise

These were all said very innocently and are rather mostly amusing. Some you scratch your head and think what on earth is a single parent supposed to look like. Some are worrying – too many still assume that if someone tells a joke then they couldn’t possibly be depressed. Then there are the ones which are breathtaking. An educational professional demonstrating such staggering ignorance of Autism. It makes you realise what a long way we have to go as a society.

Election Fever

Feels more like Frank Herberts Dune than Yorkshire today.

We are a week away from our countries latest election. I don’t know why we bother having a vote as the media are all screaming at the public to vote for Boris Johnson. A pack of media hounds trying to rip to shreds the Opposition Leaders. Yet the hardest scrutiny Johnson has faced seems to have been how he makes a cream scone.

Strangely no mention of the lies, the alleged affairs, the islamophobia, extreme policies or his contempt for ordinary people. Yes very like a strange Frank Herbert world.

A knock at the door this afternoon. A man dressed as if he’s just been shooting pheasants (or maybe peasants).

Can I count on your support for the Conservative Party Candidate and Boris Johnson. Let’s get Brexit Done.

So exactly what does let get Brexit Done mean.

When Boris is elected PM he will get Brexit done by the end of January.

So will he sign off on the full text of a EU trade deal by January then.

Erm that’s the details. He will get Brexit done January 2020.

But the boring details are the important bits of Brexit. So will they be completed by January.

No but Boris will sort them so we can spend on the NHS, Police and make tax cuts. It’s all about getting Brexit Done.

So he’s not getting Brexit Done then. He’s just agreeing to go and we worry about all the important stuff later.

But he’s getting Brexit done. After January we won’t talk about it again and we can have more 50000 new nurses and large tax cuts.

But as an MP and London Mayor he has either voted for or agreed to budget cuts for those areas. The only thing he’s supported is tax cuts. So why the change of heart. Plus the 50000 seems to be mainly made up of existing nurses. Keep current nurses doesn’t make them new nurses.

*** shooting man now giving me that am I talking to a traitor – look. ***

The budgets cuts are the fault of The Labour Party and the EU. When Boris gets Brexit Done .. erm … Britain will be great again.

But Labour has not been in power since 2007. How can it be there fault.

Corbyn has personally stopped Brexit. He’s a traitor to the people who voted to leave.

Are you not forgetting your own Conservative MPs and a Former Conservative PM who agreed that the Johnson deal is a disaster and really just an excuse to crash out of Europe without a deal.

*** shooting man now very red in the face ***

Clearly your a remoaner. Boris will get Brexit Done for the good British people who voted to leave.

Can I ask about why the Conservatives are in favour of bringing back fox hunting when in your terms the vast majority of the public are in favour of a complete ban. And why the Conservatives have said so little to say about climate change. Why Boris Johnson was the only party leader who refused to debate climate change on the live broadcast.

*** but shooting man was gone. Walking briskly to the next house. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that as he walked across my lawn he trod on one of Captain Chaos’s finest and freshest dog turds. I bet that doesn’t feature on any of the media’s election coverage.

A little bit of France

A largely sleepless night. Too much time to think. World seeming particularly cold this morning. In need of a lift. For some reason the run didn’t work today. Just a freezing slog. A slow 30 minutes and then the motivation battery completely drained. So back home even colder and still in need of a lift.

But then salvation. Old photographs. Memories. Great Memories.

Back to 2001 which finds us in the Loire.

Chateau de Chenonceau was built over the River Cher in 1576. It’s French Renaissance Architecture at at finest. The chateau has a fine collection of masterpieces, tapestries and renaissance furniture. The long Grand Gallery stretches over the bridge and across the river. It’s a stunning place. Inside and outside.

As much as the chateau brings back great memories one photograph lifted my spirits. It reminds me how truly blessed I was to spend time with this special person. Always in love. That makes me smile.

Try harder

I must try harder to catch a few Pokémon. During the week Son likes to see his trainer account topped up with a few catches. I’ve had a fairly shocking catch rate recently. Maybe it’s the Captain Chaos effect.

Our Son struggles with his handwriting. According to several of the teachers at his school he just needs to try harder to get to the handwriting level of some of the other kids. Its one of the reasons he has been labelled low attainment.

Well that’s very helpful, thank you. Just remind me again since you are constantly picking fault with his efforts with a pen – exactly what help do you provide to try and improve things. Yes now what’s the phrase I’m looking for here. Diddly squat.

Yes his handwriting is not what you would call neat.

It has improved a bit over the years. That improvement is down to – strangely – unrecognised hard work by our Son. But we have to recognise for all the hard work it is fundamentally down to a recognised medical condition. A medical condition which has been repeatedly documented by his health professionals and communicated to school. To quote the last health letter sent to school

His poor handwriting is specifically associated with the Developmental Disorders Aspergers, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. Conventional teaching approaches to handwriting are unlikely to deliver any positive improvements. Focus should be on specific Dyslexia investigations, Fine Motor Skill development, trialling of writing aids and the use of technology.

In effect his handwriting difficulties come from two interrelated factors

  • Visual and Cognitive Letter Perception – he struggles to recognise letter forms. Letters can be reversed and letters can be mixed up (an ‘a’ maybe mixed up with an ‘e’, ‘y’ mixed up with a ‘g’).
  • Poor Fine Motor Skills. He struggles to hold a pen (often held with too much muscle force). He then finds it difficult to coordinate and control the required hand movements (his movements are not smooth).

As I’ve said improvements have been made. We did manage to secure some ongoing Physio Therapy to work on the motor skills. Due to Government cutbacks they are not as frequent as the health service would like them to be. But they have helped. At home repetitively bouncing various size bouncy balls has made a huge difference. From not being able to catch to becoming really adept at it. But he still struggles to write, struggles to tie knots and has to be helped to open things like screw bottle tops. At home we have tried various pen types and grips. We have trialled things like colour overlays and special rulers. But these have had little impact in our sons specific case. But I’m no specialist so who knows if I’m doing it correctly.

In terms of the visual and cognitive perception area unfortunately the health service is not allowed to provide any detailed dyslexia assessments. This has been defined by the Government as an educational area. And in our area the educational services have decided not to provide a specific dyslexia service. So kids like our son are left basically to fend for themselves. Branded as low attainment.

So the hard work will continue. I will try harder to catch some Pokemon. Not hopeful as I’m not that good with computer games (I struggle with fine motor skills as well). In terms of our Sons handwriting I am sure that he will continue to try hard. However just saying he must try harder completely misses the point. Just constantly pointing out the kids who write neater and saying that’s the level you should be at achieves only one thing – erodes personal confidence even more.

One final thought. Associating poor handwriting with low attainment is an interesting concept. Having worked in education, health and policing I can honestly say that the individuals often with the most illegible and scruffy handwriting are the HEADTEACHERS, DOCTORS and DETECTIVES. So if poor handwriting is a sign of low attainment – we are in trouble.

Ratings

It’s December. Its still sunny and its that time of year when you watch those movies you wouldn’t dream of watching during the rest of the year. It was like that before the world changed. It’s like that after the world changed.

But one teeny weeny request.

Please filmmakers and TV schedulers can we try not to do Christmas movies that at some stage involves death. Death of a parent, death of a lover, death of a pet, death of a main character. Last year we watched festive movies which without warning introduced the mum dying (3x), the dad dying (x1), grandparent dying (x1) and the family pet dying (x2). Really it’s CHRISTMAS. I know it’s hard to believe but many of us out here in viewing land will be going through grief. But it doesn’t stop there. I remember our son saying this during one particularly happy start to a film.

Why is it that so many films have a single dad whose either bad tempered, drinking and gambling. And the child who is behaving badly, has no friends and is being bullied. It’s never just a nice dad and child who are doing ok just a bit sad.

So what’s the answer apart from watch Guardians of the Galaxy on loop. Oh hang on that’s got a mum death. Ok apart from watching Big Hero 6 on loop. Oh hang on the robot dies. Ok part from watching Muppets Christmas Carol on loop.

Well the answer is a new movie classification system. One which actually tells you what the movie is really about. So for example if a PG movie contains a parent death you could label it PG-PD. Or if a pet dies it could be labelled PG-PED. Or if a loveable main character dies PG-LMCD. So as a parent I would be pre informed of the upcoming sadness. That way I can make an informed decision on if we should find another film.

So Big Hero 6 would be classified in the UK as PG-LMCD. Guardians of the Galaxy would be 12-PD.

But the new movie classification system could go further. Suddenly the movie watcher could be truly enlightened.

-JWTT all the best bits are in the movie trailer (Just Watch The Trailer)

-F movie contains super delicious looking Food (helpful for those trying to stick to a diet)

-A movie contains alcohol drinking (for those trying to give up)

-K movie contains Kissing (this ones for our Son, he doesn’t like kissing)

-ET movie contains Expensive Toys which kids may start wanting

-S movie contains Snakes and Spiders (useful for Ophidiophobia and Arachnophobia)

-L movie is Long so you had better go on the toilet before hand

-I movie is so boring that it’s a cure for Insomnia

-TD movie contains a Transport accident or Disaster (for those travelling tomorrow)

-AC movie contains Alvin and The Chipmunks

-NPCS this ones really important to stop wasting 10 minutes waiting for the Credits to finish at the end of the movie. It’s always a bit awkward being the only ones left in the cinema. No Post Credit Scene.

-W movie contains a Wrestler trying to act (think Hulk Hogan)

-WR movie contains The Rock acting (we like him)

-ANS movie has Action but No Story so you can safely fast forward between the action scenes

-HD movie claims to be true but is Historically Dodgie (think Braveheart)

-Q movie is very Quiet so probably not a good idea to get a mega sized popcorn tub

-U2 movie contains a grotesque playing of a Bono song.

Snowman

An unexpected view today. But it was a good one. For those with really keen eyes you can see York Minster in the distance. The only city building you can see from this here.

A trip to work expecting to be kept busy until the school bell warms up for its last ring of the day. But quickly the full day was over in just over an hour. That’s the problem with zero hours based contracts. It’s not a stable source of income. But needs must. Full time professional employment was consigned to history when the world changed. Full time single parent – part time wage earner. So another Christmas which will need to be carefully controlled. Probably won’t be treating myself to the Italian Sports Car and the Racehorse this year.

So an unplanned dog walk. And that view. For some reason my mind wandered from affordable Christmas present ideas to snow. Many of my friends here have mentioned the snow they are struggling with. This time nine years ago we were in the middle of our own snow event. It was waste deep here. Our little sledging run is just behind this field. Every time it snowed my partner was out with her ruler to measure the depth. That was the only winter when she needed a bigger ruler. Wow it was cold. One day it never got higher than -17C. Was that the coldest I’ve ever been. My Partner would talk about the cold on her adventure to Patagonia. For me it probably was. Oh hang on a minute That night at Uni.

My mind wanders back further to a time before my Partner. Days of studying marked by text books finding a use as beer glass place mats. And that night. A cold dark winters night with fresh snow on the ground. A Hall of Residence Party which is suddenly overtaken with a brilliant plan. Let’s all go outside and make snow angels. A few sensible souls went out fully clothed. The majority didn’t… In the snow much exposed skin…. Of both sexes. For my sins it was trainers and pants – nothing else. So much laughter but it was a tad chilly. Some interesting snow angels and a very large snowman. A snowman who suddenly became one of the sisters as he acquired a bra. Then disaster the Halls Fire Alarm went off. We couldn’t get back inside until the Fire Brigade arrived. Now it was more than a tad cold. The only thing keeping us going was the bottles of Bud. The looks on the Fire Crews faces when they arrived. Still not allowed inside until a sweep has been made of the property. Then another brilliant idea. Form an orderly queue and take turns to warm your bottom on the Fire Trucks hot engine. I suspect we (or to be more precise the female students) made the drivers night.

Maybe one day I will delve back into that year. It got much more bizarre. But now back to reality. Back to my completely sober years. A present idea. Let’s get one of those cheap singing and dancing snowmen. That will bring a few memories back.

Sunset

Over the last month or so sunsets have sadly been at a premium in Yorkshire.

But when they do make an appearance they are often stunning.

As grim and frustrating as a day may have been just one moment can lift the spirits. An unexpected smile, a compliment, someone showing that they care, a loving hug or in this case a brief piece of natural theatre. I really hope everyone finds at least one of those moments today.