Mud is good for the complexion

Today was dark and moody but thankfully the storm has gone. Gone but left us with a mini lake for my wayward football shots to target. I can confirm that is is particularly muddy and toe-curlingly cold. It’s amazing how I’ve got the entire farmers field to land in and the ball lands unerringly into the centre of the lake. Twice…..

The sliding contest was unsurprisingly a one sided contest. Son on his sledge managed a respectable mud slide of about 10 paces. My butt powered slide proved somewhat less aerodynamic. Basically it immediately sank in the mud and formed what can best be described as a sink hole. The impact somehow pulling my running leggings towards my knees. Poor kid will be traumatised for years with that sight. I guess the one redeeming feature is that since mud is good for complexion my backside should be just dandy for a few weeks….

So I took the forfeit. The 5 jelly bean roulette. As we have lost the taste chart I can’t be 100% certain on the delights which passed my lips. I definitely recognised rotten egg, booger and soap. One definitely tasted of burnt sausage. The last one was off the scale, too horrid to describe. Son seems to think it might be earthworm flavour. Well that was not his first comment on the potential flavour.

“If it’s as bad as you describe then it’s likely to be your own home made curry flavour.”

Yes that was a bad cooking disaster. As a meal shortcut I used some readymade curry paste. Unfortunately I didn’t read the bit about only using one or table teaspoons depending on taste. I used the whole jar. That was definitely weapons grade cooking. And on the subject of weapons grade food. Stand by your shelters. Lockup the kids and pets. Ensure all windows are closed. I’m about to try and bake a carrot cake. You have been warned.

Raining

Is it safe to venture out yet? Certainly not. Absolutely chucking it down with flying branches. At least Storm Dennis is saving me a pruning job on the old apple tree. Strangely the day we took Son to see the above panda was equally wet. At the end of the day we were frozen, huddled over hot chocolates at Edinburgh Castle and thinking what possessed us to come to Scotland in the middle of winter. Oh hang on it was August, the height of summer. I guess that’s the price you pay for living in the UK.

Yes bad weather curtails the outdoor activities but it’s a great excuse to dig out the indoor games. Connect 4, mini Air Hockey, Top Trumps, Guess Who and Jenga. So much simple fun. Going to try Monopoly (when I can find it). The last time we tried it Son struggled with it. He couldn’t get his head round the money element and he didn’t like having to get his community chest cards read out for him. I wish I could find a few of my old games. Haunted House, Mouse Trap and the Bermuda Triangle. Now I’ve started. I loved my old horse racing board game – Totopoly. Then there was that art and painting game which should never have worked but it did – Masterpiece. Our Cluedo was a bit pointless as we had lost many of the cards. Colonel Mustard ended up being a serial killer – he was about the only character card we had left. Kerplunk was fun until you lost the marbles. As many people point out – I have most certainly lost my marbles. Yahtzee was impossible as we didn’t have any rules. Must have another look in the attic tomorrow.

What are your favourite games?

So as Son watches YouTube videos I’m catching up on my blog. Got to thank Jess (Beyond the front cover) for the Sunshine Blogger tag. It’s greatly appreciated. As you’ve taken the time to set some questions let’s answer them.

1 – What is your greatest achievement to date?

Son and not burning the house down while baking.

2 – Name one thing that is guaranteed to annoy you?

Boris Johnson and Newcastle United.

3 – What made you decide to start your blog, and does that reason still stand for why you continue?

It kinda just happened. Not sure what I was thinking about in the months after the world changed. I had started reading blogs I think to try and reconnect with the world. Then one night I randomly set my own one up.

4 – If you could visit one place in the world then where would you go, and why?

Switzerland because it’s so special to my partner. Everest Base Camp.

5 – If you could only read books from one genre then which one would you pick?

1. Fantasy 2. Climbing 3. Horror

6 – What was the last thing that happened to make you smile?

Watching an old ScoobyDoo episode.

7 – If you could live a day as a character from a book then who would that character be, and why?

Sherlock Holmes. Just the coolest character ever. Very complex.

8 – Which season is your favourite?

If we got proper snow then winter. Problem is that all our seasons tend to be similar. Wet and windy. See the Brit is off talking about the weather again.

9 – What is the best piece of advice that you have been given?

When learning to ride a bike – don’t try to go backwards

During cricket coaching – imagine your bat is a stick of Rhubard

10 – Which subject at school was your favourite, and which did you hate?

None hated school. Biology was the least bad one.

11 – If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life then what would you pick?

Cheese and onion crisps.

When words fail

Tomorrow the next storm arrives with the threat of 36 hours of torrential rain with damaging winds. But on the bright side at least the ground is dry and not already saturated!!!!!!! Yes it just too wet.

The British are famed for talking about the weather. It’s always too cold, too hot, too wet, too windy, too foggy, too icy, too stormy…. Well at least you won’t find me always talking about the weather.

SORRY. But I’m British. I don’t have any problems talking about the weather.

School has now broken up for a week. It’s been a rough couple of months with incessant home work and exams. A week at home will do our Son the world of good. We have put the keys away and let’s see if we can do 10 days without using the car. Definitely good for the environment and a test of how well I am adjusting to this self contained lifestyle. It’s ironic that my partner really desired that isolated lifestyle yet I’m the one who is finally living it. She would love the peace and quiet reflection. That was founded in her religious beliefs. She came from a very strong Quaker family. Sadly I’ve been to far too many Quaker funerals over the last few years.

It’s strange I find it very difficult to talk or write about religion. I guess that partly comes from my Dad. He would drill into me the following words

Whatever you do there are three things you never talk about if you want to avoid an argument. Politics, Football and Religion….

Well before you ask – for me that is

Left of Centre (Labour), Newcastle United and Church of England.

On the first two we have a bit of a pattern. Labour has only won 3 out of the last 11 elections and Newcastle haven’t won a trophy since 1969. Picked the wrong side…..

So I can happily talk politics and footy but religion still makes me clam up. Sometimes rather embarrassingly. Several years ago I was invited by a fellow Newcastle Season Ticket holder to go to his daughters christening. It was happening a couple of hours before a match at a Roman Catholic Church. Perfect timing. It was a lovely service but then the congregation was asked to take Holy Communion. When I was asked I declined. I came out in a cold sweat and struggled to say I’m not catholic. In the end I blurted out ‘I’m the other side’. Understandable this produced a strange look. Poor chap probably thought I was a devil worshiper….

Even that brief last paragraph has unnerved me. So I tend to keep my religion and my views on it strictly to myself. Which is bizarre given my propensity to waffle – especially about the weather.

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.”

Challenge The Storm

We survived the storm…… The wind and rain finally eased late last night. The electricity was fully restored late afternoon. But has gone off a few times since. One outside light has been snapped off. Our old wind gauge was destroyed. A few items have gone missing. I guess currently being blown around the Jet Stream. We were very lucky in the end. A number of villages are still under water. Houses are still without power. That’s so tough. Many of the places flooded have only just recovered from the last flooding a few months ago.

Today was still windy, damp and cold. Although we did get a couple of hours of blue skies. The run was restricted to roads and lanes. The fields and tracks are either submerged or mud baths. Even sticking to the roads didn’t save the socks and shoes from getting drenched. Now the skies have darkened. The winds picking up again and it’s periodically chucking it down.

After a quick shower and change it was back to a couple of hours more work. Foolishly I left the radio on. Some folk really get up my nose these days. First was the person who was annoyed that people kept going on about a storm. “Well it was just a bit windy. I was fine. Wish people would stop calling it a storm.” Tell that to the people of Hebden Bridge who where 3 foot underwater.

Then we had the commentator talking about a certain world leader. ‘Look at his baffling and often obnoxious behaviour. Clearly he is very clever. You don’t get a bank account like his without being intelligent. Yet he is without any empathy, does not have a sense of humour and has no social awareness. To me the reason is clear, he has Aspergers. It’s the only explanation.’

F##@##g unbelievable.

I’ve noticed a real worrying trend recently. A growing number of self proclaimed experts who are making spurious associations with Aspergers. Every rouge action, every piece of evil behaviour, every unpleasant and mean individual is blamed on Aspergers.

F##@##g unbelievable.

This discriminatory rubbish is too often based on no evidence. It takes its basis from the narrow minded unfounded views of biased media groups, lazy stereotyping in movies and skewed urban myths. The worry is how many actually buy into this dross. Too many. Let’s not forget that only a couple of months ago Greta Thunberg was attacked by the right wing press for looking, acting and sounding demonic. It just shows how far we have to travel as a society. How hard society makes life for people on the spectrum.

That’s why we have to keep fighting. Why we have to keep telling our real life stories. Some storms you are best just battening down the hatches. But some man made storms need to be met head on and challenged. We owe it to so many.

Storm

Nothing like a power cut to disrupt the daily schedule. We are in the first part of a storm battering which is due to last for a few days. A small house on an exposed northern hill is wonderful except in a storm. We get an absolute belting. The back door is exposed to the full force of the elements. It floods during normal wind and rain so when a storm hits…… Time to dig out the ark. We are inside with about seven layers on. Living in the sticks when the power goes so does the heating. We do have a small chimney place but it needs serious repair work to make it safe to use. It’s on the when money appears list. So it’s cold without the central heating. As it’s an electric oven, hot food preparation is fraught with problems. So it’s Pot Noddles and Soup for lunch.

The power is back currently. It’s on and off like a Yorkshire Cricket match. Son is on the internet while he can. All the thermos flasks are filled. Every battery item is on charge. The floor behind the back door has been deflooded. Writing this while listening to the wind scream through. So far powers gone off twice in the time it’s taken to write these two paragraphs.

To someone with Aspergers all this can be an absolute nightmare. The break in routine, the uncertainty and the unpredictability. Sunday is such an important day as it’s the transition to the school week. A day which hopefully smooths the bumps from that unpleasant ride. For that to work then the safe and well tried Sunday ritual needs to be followed. On days like this all that goes out of the window and is currently being blasted towards Norway. Yes Son is on the internet but he’s severely on edge. Pacing the room. Senses on overdrive.

I’ve sent school an email to warn them but deep down I know it won’t be acted upon. That’s modern secondary schooling in this area. His last school (admittedly much smaller) would certainly have at the very least kept an eye on him. Even rescheduled the teaching plan. Not at his current school.

When the power is down it makes you realise who reliant we have become on technology. Yes it’s progress but it’s such a fragile progress. Pull the power and quickly it’s gone. For me I can fall back on my books as my safe option. Unfortunately for someone with dyslexia that safety net is not available. He needs technology to read them. His Dad can try but quickly my lingering cold kicks in and reading out loud becomes a cough fest. We can’t play ball sports outside due to the storm. The trampoline is filled to brimming with every heavy object I can find. Thankfully we still have other old school options. Card games. Top Trumps. Lego and one of the best cheap presents ever. A little battery operated air hockey game which cost less than a bag of chips. Endless fun until the batteries run out or the fingers finally break.

So hopefully the power will now stay on so we can try to have part of Sunday as normal as possible. Hopefully Son’s anxiety levels will recede a little. Sadly I think there is as much chance of that happing as there is of his Dads getting a Michelin Star. Don’t you just love a storm.

2003

2003. A time before parenting. A happy dreaming couple. A time when digital photography was still seen as the work of the devil by many. When a mobile phone was just that – a mobile phone – nothing else. My football team was still playing in the European Champions League.

31st May 2003. As the local paper described it. A once in a lifetime opportunity. The chance to see a 90% solar eclipse. Two problems

  • The peak eclipse would happen dead on sunrise. Best viewed from the East Coast.
  • This is Yorkshire.

Yorkshire does many things well. Cricket, Rhubard, Beer, Ferrets, Terriers, Chocolate, Moody Moors. We also do lots of cloud and rain. We don’t really do sun – bit of a bugger when your looking forward to a solar eclipse.

With a wing and a prayer we set off for the coast at 3am. Arriving at Scarborough an hour later. People looking out across the sea. Just before sunrise it’s hard to tell if the clouds have formed.

The first signs of morning and we wait with baited breath. Will the Sun appear.

As the sunrise time came still no sign of the sun. Maybe too much sea mist.

Then at 4.36am a thin red strip of sun appears. The crowd let’s out a huge cheer. Some hardy folk jump into the sea for a swim.

Unbelievably the infamous Yorkshire weather was playing ball today. Not a cloud in the sky.

As the Sun continued to rise a beautiful red then orange water path virtually led the way to the eclipse. Someone had brought a ghetto blaster and almost hypnotic music drifted across the morning air. The dreaming couple talked about an adventure to a far off land to see a full eclipse one day. One day.

17 years later. The Yorkshire weather is certainly not playing ball. I came across these photos looking for my birth certificate. They instantly took me back to that time of dreams and a truly magical partial eclipse.

One more little miracle. A photo involving me. A photo I can sign up to. So to those who have asked for a picture. Ok here it is.. Me back in 2003.

Grief and muddy puddles

A brief respite before the next storm arrives. Grey, cold and very muddy. Soon to be grey, cold, very muddy, very wet and stormy. It’s been one of those winters. Constantly just trying to avoid deep muddy puddles. Today I failed. My old running shoes have hardly any tread left on them. As I tried to sidestep a large puddle my foot slipped and I ended up standing in 4 inches of dirty water. Lovely. I really should buy a good pair of trail shoes but money is a little tight. Expenditure is prioritised. They will have to wait their turn.

If you we’re like me then you tried not to think about death and grief. I knew it would strike at some stage (that’s life) but best not think about it too much. I could understand the emotions as I had experienced losing my Dad when I was quite young. But I was shielded from much of the fallout. I really didn’t have the faintest idea about the practicalities. Years passed and I avoided thinking about death again. Then my mum died. This time no shield. Suddenly I was grieving again but this time I was also dealing with practicalities. So when my partner then died 6 weeks later. I was doubling up on the emotions and doubling up on the practicalities.

That is what’s tough about losing someone so close to you. At your lowest emotional point you are saddled with practicalities. You can’t think but you are trying to organise

  • Registering the death
  • Informing people
  • Organising a funeral
  • Sorting out your job
  • Sorting out your partners job. Returning work assets and documents.
  • Trying to work out finances
  • Trying to find the will and wade your way through probate
  • Dealing with Government Departments, Banks, Utility Companies
  • Trying to change the deeds to the house
  • Going through personal items and enduring countless trips to charity shops
  • Trying to change car ownership so I can sell her car
  • Sorting out what to do with the ashes

Your not even warned that the ashes come back in a glorified giant sweet jar. I wasn’t expecting an Egyptian Sarcophagus but I certainly wasn’t expecting a sweet jar shaped thing.

Like grief the practicalities tend to stick with you. As we were not married probate was brutal and took 15 months to finally bottom out. I didn’t expect that. I never considered that my career would have to be ditched quickly as it became incompatible with the now number one priority – single parenting. Suddenly two steady incomes dropped to one zero based hours contract income. Where did that practicality come from. I should have realised really. The sudden loss of someone your intrinsically linked with is going to send seismic waves through the very foundations of your life. Stuff will fall down. Things will change. Seismic waves – guess whose been trying to help son with Wave Theory for school.

So here we are in 2020 and I’m still dealing with grief. Still dealing with practicalities. I have managed to kinda stabilise the new post death financial world. But things are tight. Very tight. Again something I would never have immediately associated with losing someone close to you. But it is what it is. You prioritise the essential stuff. Unfortunately brand shiny mud loving trail shoes are not essential. So I guess it won’t be the last muddy puddle I end up standing in.

I guess I can forgive myself for not seeing that particular connection. Grief and muddy puddles.

Christmas Diaries 2

Still not what you would call postcard Christmas weather yet. This is lunchtime. Having said that how often do we get the crispy white stuff at Christmas anyway in North Yorkshire. In the 17 years we have lived here I can only remember one White Christmas. However I can remember many like the photo above.

When I was a kid I remember one really heavy snow Christmas Day. I remember sinking to my belly and my wellies filling up with crisp snow. Can also remember Dad going out before lunch to join a number of other men trying to clear the footpath. He told me it was so that the kids could get to school. Strange as the school was shut for another week. It was also strange that the cleared path went in the opposite direction to my school. Bizarrely the men stopped when they reached the pub. Can’t think why.

Our son’s school has now broken up for Christmas. So if it does snow I won’t need to worry about clearing a path towards it. One thing I do need to worry about is another little tradition of ours. How to keep the pets off the Christmas Tree.

The cat likes to try and sleep in it’s branches.

He is a very big boy, our biggest cat

That is how his Vet described him. So he doesn’t make the best tree climber. We usually find the tree toppled over with a slightly confused cat underneath it. Then we have the mad dog. Captain Chaos loves a tree. So much so that he likes to try and relocate it to his dog bed. This normally results in the tree toppled over which makes it so much easier for the mutt to pull it. Lord knows what Team Gerbil would do to it.

So my chair has to be relocated next to the tree. So I can sit and basically fight off unwarranted pet tree attention. It’s only a matter of time before the tree is toppled over and I am underneath it. Bet I would get the blame for that. That thought brings a smile. When I was 5 or 6 my family would put a real tree up in the living room. The family comprised mum and dad, my brother, three sisters and a very big dog. A dog who once bit the postman and then bit the local bobby (policeman) who came to ask dad to better control his pet. The tree would be filled to the brim with decorations. Prize of place on the tree would be these little silver paper wrapped chocolates. Either in the shape of Santa or an Elf. From Christmas Day onwards we were allowed to have one chocolate decoration a day. But this particular Christmas someone helped themselves to a decoration early. Three days in a row. Unbelievably I got blamed for it. Then on Christmas day the real culprit was caught in the act. The dog. I’m still waiting for my apology.

***WP is going into awkward mode again. Doing things like switching off comment boxes and stopping me liking other blogger posts. Normal service will be resumed when WP allows me to***

Pink

Colour hanging grimly on in Yorkshire. This is an oasis surrounded by unremitting greyness.

Truly dreadful weather day. The wind has been blowing horizontal rain at the back door all day. Currently on the third towel trying to keep the utility room dry. It’s a bit of a losing battle. Let’s hope it’s the only losing battle today. I went to vote straight after the morning’s school run. Let’s leave it as that. Tomorrow will either be a hopeful post or a monumental rant of a post. You have been warned.

I’m writing this as son sits on the sofa watching a documentary on his tablet about Auschwitz. Yesterday he watched a few videos on the plight of the Palestinians. Puts everything into perspective. The fact that the youth of today watch this gives me hope for the future. Let’s hope we leave the next generation with a habitable planet so that they can mould a far better world.

With work for the day completed I set off for a run. Better described as a splash. Wow it was wet. After a few miles my poor hands were frozen so I foolishly put them in my waterproofs pockets for a warm. Rather than finding a haven of warmness they found a hidden pool of cold rain water. Lovely. I’m pleased that I opted for shorts. Not sure I fancied my leggings shrinking. My mind goes back to a mountain marathon during my university days. A six hour night drive to the Highlands of Scotland ready for the 9am race start. Everything was going so well until we arrived and changed for the race. I had forgotten my shorts. 30 minutes to the start time and the nearest sports shop was 20 miles away. The strange looks I was was getting as I walked around the runners saying ‘have you got a spare pair of shorts’. Looking like I would have to sit out the race when my race partner came to the rescue. ‘I can wear my shorts and you can try to use my leggings’. The problem was my partner was called Suzanne and she was somewhat more petite than me. To much laughter on her part I squeezed into the tight leggings. I was the only male competitor running in bright pink. It was also the only competitor that completed the race in with tears. Must admit the constrictor leggings did wonders for my dodgy hamstrings. But since then tight leggings have gone nowhere near my nether regions.

With my wet run completed it was a quick change and off on the school run. As a I arrived a very sodden Son trudged across the car park still in his sports gear. You could see him shaking with cold and the water dripping off his clothes. With the car heating full on he tried to get changed into his dry school uniform.

*****

“You’re drenched why didn’t you get changed out of your wet kit”

I didn’t want to risk it. We only get 5 minutes to change. If we are not out in that time you get a negative from the teacher.

Have any kids been given negatives”

Virtually every week at least one kid gets a negative. It’s unfair especially as it’s the last lesson of the day.

*****

And another telephone call will be made to school. Five minutes. When I played football it would take me at least 10 minutes to get changed. It took five minutes just to prize my constrictor pink leggings off my butt all those years ago. Five minutes sounds tight before you factor in Aspergers and Dyspraxia. Getting changed does not come easy to him. School have been told this on several occasions by me and in writing by the Paediatrician. So much for the school making positive adjustments to make his school life comfortable and enriching.

It’s the frustration felt by far too many children and their parents. Everything has to be fought for. It’s a battle to get a diagnosis in the first place then the real fight starts. Trying to get any positive adjustments and help. As much as the media try to paint a different story … we are not looking for special treatment … we just want our kids (all kids) to get a fair chance in life. Is that too much to ask for.

*** late addition *** it WILL be a monumental rant….