Gnomeless

Maybe it’s my dear parents influence but I’ve always liked a garden gnome. But for years we had a problem. My partner hated them. Which is unusual as she was the kindest soul going. Never a bad word about anyone. All except gnomes. She had serious issues with them. When I suggested the garden would benefit from at least one of these sweet little chaps the response was razor sharp

If I find one in the garden then it’s getting smashed with a hammer….

Even when I suggested that a gnome would significantly raise the IQ in the garden when I was gardening alone, the response was similarly brutal

The garden gnome will get it then your next…..

What I will now tell you will probably get a really pissed off spirit coming my way. I might have ignored my partner just a tad. A few gnomes did get sneaked into the garden. To ensure their life expectancy was measured in days rather than seconds they needed to go into deep cover. Very deep cover. The compost heap, under bushes, hid behind plant pots. Unbelievably a few survived the inevitable apocalypse.

One such hardy soul is still with us. Now he is enjoying life in the open. He has long forgotten the long years buried under the hedge. He’s a gnome from my favourite footy team. He’s over 20 years old and is still to see his team win anything. What was I thinking of when as a toddler when I picked Newcastle United as my team. I could have picked a team which won things. No I picked the team which is in a permanent state of chaos, a never ending winless soap story. No wonder the poor gnome looks so washed out. I went through a stage of telling the gnome the teams results. Unfortunately as that usually entailed breaking the bad news of another defeat I changed to just letting him know of good team news. As a result I haven’t spoken to the gnome in years…….

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…”

Air Display

We had an unexpected visitor.

A spectacular predator.

For a few minutes we had one of nature’s great air displays. Then it was off.

That was so lucky. Would have been so easy to miss this.

That brings to mind a slightly unsettling thought. How many of us would be missed if suddenly we were gone. Kinda like Marvels Infinity Wars. It’s an even more pertinent thought these strange days. So many of us are undertaking social distancing or full on isolation. Social links have been severed. If something goes wrong, if we are struggling, if we suddenly were gone – WHO would realise. Would the world even blink. Maybe not. That includes my own little family. Phone calls, visits, invites are rare at the best of times. Even rarer now. Would the world blink for us – no it probably wouldn’t. That’s a sobering thought. It’s a sobering thought for many of us.

But I guess that’s life. So we just have to deal with it. Keep our hearts open to others and just keep living. I’m lucky as I stumbled across the blogging universe.

The majestic raptor fly past is a great reminder of why living is so worth it.

Torquay

My neighbours bird bath. Over the years it has become increasingly hard to fill. Thankfully the Yorkshire weather usually takes care of that.

Yesterday was a decently fun day. Any day with Pizza helps. We played football in the garden. Son fired a million questions at me. Including the following belter.

Name 10 best things about Torquay”

We had been watching John Cleese in old episodes of Fawlty Towers. It’s set there.

“Son your going to annoyingly tell me that you know 10 such facts”

Actually 17 facts Dad”

I whispered a silent bugger under my breathe.

We then tried to watch the new Joker movie. I was watching it thinking the acting is brilliant but I’m not enjoying this in the slightest bit. Then son broke my thought pattern.

Dad I’m really not in the mood for this. I enjoy a good bit of Joker but this isn’t a Joker movie. It’s a movie about how a country fails to deal with mental health and how people look down on others who are different. I don’t like the way the film is doing it. Let’s watch it another day.”

So ten minutes later we had the new Shaun The Sheep movie on. That there is a movie.

But I understand what our son was talking about. Not the right time or mood for this Joker movie. There is too much going on in the world. It is also Mother’s Day in the UK. That’s one of THOSE days…. I must admit the social distancing has severely restricted our visits to the shops. That means less chance to walk past all the cards, flowers and potential gifts. Dealing with it for just one day is better than having it rammed down our throats for weeks on end.

I must admit this one has been less painful than the other ones we have endured. We have wished our lost mums a happy day. In my partners case we have kissed the ashes. Then so far we have gotten on with the job of making the most of today. My heart does go out to many mums today. Because of the restrictions and other factors outside of their control, they may not see kids and grandchildren today (or for many days to come). I really hope a way is found for a connection to be made. A text, a video call, a card, a cute photo, a virtual hug or a telephone call saying ‘I LOVE YOU’.

Stay safe and to all mums out there. Sending you a big hug. Thank you for being super heroes.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so does anyone fancy a little virtual trip to a wonderful country called Switzerland.

Yes I might be currently over 1000km away in another part of Europe. But my heart is there.

So as my world rapidly shrinks for the next few months, I think it’s time to remember the beauty of The Alps.

The wonderful and friendly people. The brilliant culture.

The clock work precision of daily life. Even its wildlife get in on the act.

The stunning clear blue Lakes.

The history.

The beautiful Swiss villages and towns.

The always colourful alpine meadows.

The crisp mountain air.

The fun

And above all the peace.

Pizza Saturday

A new day. Let’s not allow any crap from yesterday mess up today. The cynical side of me is shouting – today probably has enough new crap to keep me occupied. But today is a new page and let’s see what it brings. Pigging lots of fun I hope.

Late last night (430am) I finally gained some control over my two brain cell super computer. My mind wandered to the stuff which social distancing is stopping which we could run virtually.

A virtual darts league

A virtual computer gaming league ( would be even more fun if it was just for those whose middle name is something like ‘Games Nube’ or ‘Apart from the old Atari tennis game I’m generally Crap’)

Virtual Cooking schools and bake offs (we did a brilliant one last year)

Virtual Gardening Clubs or in my case a Virtual Mass Plant Murderer Club

Virtual Exercise or Yoga Gyms

Virtual Book a major event. Say Wrestlemania, LiveAid, Woodstock, The Great Exhibition

Virtual Coffee Meet-ups

Virtual let’s recreate the cinema experience and watch the same film then review it night out

Virtual Homeschooling school gate meet-ups

Virtual bad hair days

Virtual fashion disasters as we can do whatever we like in our homes. Really go for it

Virtual design with Lego or whatever you have in the house challenges (come up with a theme and see what people and the kids make)

Virtual let’s write a song together gigs

Virtual let’s make pizza lunches.

On the subject of making pizza. Well that’s what we have just done.

Yes it’s not to Pizza Express standards. But we don’t care because we had fun… and yes I know the work surface needs a good clean…… Our pizza session also introduced a new concept to me. Ethical Cooking Balance.

Son looked at my attempt. A pizza which was completely dairy, gluten, meat free. Then back to his. A normal ham, full on dairy pizza.

“Dad I think your pizza looks a bit sad. It needs something. Maybe some proper cheese and ham”

“Well son it won’t be ethical then would it”

Well think about it. I will take some of my existing topping and put that on yours. You then put some of your ethical topping on mine. We have not used any less ethical products and not used any more unethical stuff. The quantities are exactly the same as before. But now my pizza is slightly more ethical and yours is slightly less ethical, but will taste infinitely better. So we still have balance”

I tried but couldn’t really argue with that. So that’s what happened. And yes he was right – it did taste so much better….

Friday I guess

Some random daffodils blooming next to our front window. These always make me smile as they just seemed to appear one year. I can’t remember planting them. Having said that, this is me…..

My mobile phone rang this morning. I could hear it somewhere really close but I just couldn’t find it before it rang off. A few minutes later I found me phone when I sat down. It was in my back pocket.

This morning it took me one hour to work out that it was Friday.

Sometimes there are no answers.

A few months back I was asked if I had found a magic bullet, a cure for it.

Sometimes there are no answers.

No it wasn’t the W.H.O. approaching me as a world expert on the search for a vaccine for the pesky virus. No don’t worry, I am still the same old dim witted goofball. No it was a parent from my sons last school. She had recently lost someone close and was really low with grief. She was desperate for the pain to go away.

Sometimes there are no answers.

Unfortunately I’ve not found a magic bullet, no cure or no vaccine that works with bereavement. It still hits me. It still hurts me. The days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. I’m still waiting to gain acquired immunity. The route cause remains and will always remain. But I do believe that I have started to understand myself better. I am also slowly finding things that help with the symptoms. That’s something to cling on to. Sadly the things which help me, may not work for others. There is also no guarantee that what works today, will work tomorrow for me. I guess that’s the case not only for bereavement but for many other areas of life.

So what works for me (sometimes…)

  • Exercise, weights and running
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Nature
  • Walking
  • Climbing (I haven’t been able to climb in 4 years but just reading about it helps)
  • AND above all focusing on making our son happy.

Today was one of those days when virtually everything on the list did not work. All I could do was throw myself into keeping son happy. That distracted me. It got me through the day. It numbed the symptoms but didn’t cure the route cause. Now it’s 2am and those dark soul symptoms are bubbling away again. Probably going to be a long sleepless night. Will watch some rubbish TV and will again ponder over the home finances spreadsheet. Don’t know why – it’s not going to look any better when I’m tired.

It’s a brand new day. A fresh start. The old problems and hurt will still be there. But maybe, just maybe it will be symptom free day and it will be a good one.

Stay safe my friends.

Old man

It’s amazing what you find as you wait for your pet to do his stuff… A few years ago I would missed this.

So today I put all my work gear and laptop into the attic for safe keeping. Not going to need it for many weeks now. Watch me forget where I’ve put it now.

My big sis phoned today as she was bored and there was nothing on the telly. Unusually son answered the phone. I suspect he wanted to intercept any potential messages telling me that the school closure policy was off.

Hi Auntie P, I will just go and find the old man”.

THE OLD MAN!!!!!

Yes I can do more press-ups and sit-ups than ever before. I desperately need some new weights as the ones which have lasted me since I was a teenager are now just not heavy enough. My long distance running times are as good they were in my early 20s. I can still remember phone numbers, even ones from decades ago. And that’s all I’ve got.

Son is not wrong with the Old Man wise crack. The other side of the equation is a rapidly growing list of age progression signs.

  • I can’t bend over without swearing or making some grunting noise,
  • My knees are better at clicking than my fingers,
  • I spend the whole time moaning at the TV,
  • My brain has lost the ability to compute the word SPRINT. Snails are quicker than me over 100 yards,
  • Increasing numbers of world leaders are clearly younger than me,
  • When I get the local paper the first section I look at is the death notices,
  • If I wanted to catch up with old friends then a seance is often more useful than Facebook,
  • I can grow hair brilliantly all over my body apart from where I need it the most,
  • My jet black hair is now black with white stripes. I’m a pigging walking barcode,
  • When I was a kid my mum would have that piece of string attached to my mittens and then run it through my coat, so I didn’t drop them. Now I need that for everything. Each day it’s a nightmare hunt for keys, glasses, wallet, pants, shoes, remote control, screwdrivers, pens….. basically everything.
  • I watch a movie staring George Clooney and I spend the entire film trying to remember his name,
  • I just need to look at a bar of chocolate to put weight on,
  • I am increasingly talking like my mum and dad did when I was young. Poor son is getting bombarded with epic lines like ‘well can you remember where you had it last’, ‘it was never like that in my day’, ‘would you like this in brown’, ‘these chocolate bars were much bigger when I was a kid’, ‘they don’t make things like they use to’.
  • Most nights I’m waking up earlier than when I used to roll in as a young hell raiser,
  • Suddenly cardigans seem like a cool fashion statement,
  • I’ve got a Masters Degree in Computing yet I have to get my son to show me how my mobile phone works,
  • Getting through the night without having to go to the toilet a million times is clearly beyond me,
  • When I was younger, every time I fell over (which was often) people would burst into laughter. Now they run over and check that I’m all right.

Have I missed any? (Most probably) So yes I’m getting older. We all are but at least we can grow old disgracefully together.

Terrible Poetry

It’s time for this weeks bit of panic poetry in the form of Chelsea Owens weekly Terrible Poetry competition.

Here are the specifics for this week:

  1. Topic: Stockpiling against a worldwide disaster, in limerick form.
  2. Length: A limerick. They’re five lines: AABBA, in anapestic meter.
  3. Rhyming: Yes. In AABBA anapestic meter format.
  4. Make it terrible! Got it? Make it terrible!! The world’s ending, after all!
  5. Rating: PG-13. This is the perfect time to panic …poetically.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (March 20) to submit a poem to Chelsea.

******************************

Shelves stripped bare including the Gluten free

Load your boot with every single last frozen pea

You can keep your 10 year supply of toilet roll

Fill your trolley with all the Chicken casserole

But keep your pigging hands off my Yorkshire Tea

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.