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.

Bee

Slightly unnerving BEEing (being) eyeballed by this woolly friend. Couldn’t work out if it was admiring my silky garden football skills or was waiting for a Rich Tea biscuit. I lived in footballing worship hope until a biscuit was handed over and the woolly one then walked off.

Not always but occasionally life balances itself out. This morning I finished my last bit of paid work before the company basically shuts down for a couple of months (maybe longer). So no money coming in. As I closed the work laptop the phone rang. It was the garage, they still can’t get the parts needed for my cars poorly braking system. They will keep trying but the repair work won’t happen much before May. That’s a bit of a result. Won’t BEE (be) using the car much at all and that’s one hefty bill kicked into the long grass.

Talking about long grass. Last year someone gave me a wild bee hotel. The poor souls are struggling here so I thought I would do my bit. A quiet corner in the garden has been allowed to go wild. To be factually correct that should have been described as – I have let a part of the badly overgrown garden to go even wilder than the rest of the mess…

Anyway in the wild corner I have carefully located the bee hotel. Still no little takers after many months. I remember my Dad telling me that the first bee you see in spring is probably looking for a new home. He was a stubborn Yorkshireman so I never dared to question his apicultural knowledge. So our first bee of the season arrived.

A bee clearly fixated on trying to squeeze under the back door and get into our house. I tried showing the bee the currently vacant and palatial hotel. As hard as I pointed at the hotel’s front door, the bee just ignored me. Even a little honey failed to entice the bee. UnBEElievable (Unbelievable)

My question to you. What is the bee phrase for ‘Sorry pal your not coming in here. This thing I’m pointing at is your free of charge new house. I will even feed you each day.”

Energy

Well this friend likes my baking.

These days nothing goes to waste. Always find grateful recipients of any food we can’t finish. But there is a limit.

Today has been a bit unusual. Normally the body is willing but the mind refuses to leave my sleepless bed. Today was the complete reverse. My body felt like it was just a heavy sack of spuds. However the mind was sharp. Those three brain cells of mine were purring. Screamed through the workload which freed up an hour for exercise. Here is where the problems started. The bag of spuds just didn’t want to play. I dragged my body through the session but only just. The school run became a real effort. Trying to keep up with son proved impossible. I just wanted to collapse in a chair.

Now it was time for the three brain cells to follow my bodies lead and shutdown. Basically I had nothing. Unfortunately this coincided with Pancake Tuesday. An utter and unmitigated baking disaster. A simple pancake was beyond me. The sticky mess produced was deemed even too bad for the wildlife. So for the first time in ages food went into the bin. I finally just slumped into a chair. Then it dawned on me. I had not eaten in over 24 hours. I’m on the 16:8 diet. Can only eat in one 8 hour spell. I had simple forgotten about an 8 hour food window. What a prize pillock.

Thankfully heaps of junk food has restored my energy levels. The body is now beginning to function. Unfortunately the three brain cells are now a spent force. So the status quo has been restored. Back to being a brisk walking zombie. But it just goes to show if you start to overthink life it’s so easy to take your eye off the basics. It’s also another important warning. We are down to one parent and hence we are walking a tightrope. That’s why it’s so important that in all my efforts to be a good mum and dad, that I remember to care for myself as well.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be time for a little bit of Switzerland.

In all our trips to this wonderful country we would usually spend our time in the mountains and the lakes. But as soon as son joined our trips we would need to find time to visit Tierparks – Zoos. Every so often it would be to the large zoo in Zurich. But his favourite animal place was Bern. A city with a wonderful little zoo and a bear park.

Bern is such a beautiful city.

Bern is the de facto capital of Switzerland. The country doesn’t have an official capital but Bern is classed as its federal city.

It’s strange in all the visits we made to Bern it was always sunny.

The Zytglogge (Clock Tower) is over 400 hundred years old. Every hour a wonderful mechanical music show entertains the crowds.

The old part of the city which dates back to the 12th century is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Cathedral of St Vincent towers over the city.

The thing that strikes you about Bern is that even on a work day it seems such a quiet city. It’s also such a friendly place. The first time we came looking for the zoo we didn’t have a clue where to go. At the train station we asked a passerby what was the best way to the zoo. He happily provided us with a city map and then walked us to the correct tram stop. That’s not going to happen in London…..

The river Aare sweeps through Bern and the hilly ground often offers wonderful views across its many bridges.

The city is famed for its Bears. Thankfully the city has invested in improving the Bear Park.

Walking round the city, even a beautiful one like Bern is in the end – very thirsty work.

Bird Of Prey

Today’s run was turning into a nightmare. Wasn’t planning to go but another power cut prematurely ended work for the day. Thirty minutes later I was trying to run uphill into strong headwind. Already my mojo was rapidly ebbing away. A glance to the heavens (maybe for inspiration) stopped me in my tracks. A stunning predator was circling almost immediately above me.

Given how badly my running was going I’m surprised it wasn’t a vulture.

For a wonderful few minutes it was man against beast. A perfectly designed flying acrobat versus a muppet with his mobile phone camera. Only ever going to be one winner. So the photos are a little lacking in sharpness.

My running struggles were long forgotten.

Five minutes later my new feathered friend was off.

Now on my own the quick realisation that standing still in this icy gale force wind was not great for exposed legs. What possessed me to wear shorts. I was absolutely frozen . The prospect of a warm shower contributed to a rapid return run. My mojo was definitely healed by the encounter. We are so fortunate to have birds of prey hunt in the farmers field behind the house. It’s such a thrill for our Son. To get glimpses of these spectacular birds and not have to leave the safety of his garden.

Our Son has always loved animals. Of all his toys the birds of prey were always amongst his favourites and centre stage in his games. He developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things to do with falconry. When he was a little older he got the chance to handle some of his most loved birds.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen kids with Aspergers bond with birds of prey.

From about the age of five Son started to struggle at school. Suddenly he was withdrawing from group activities, becoming more insular and ill at ease with society. He would avoid physical interaction and all eye contact. So utterly unsure of himself and lacking in confidence outside of the safety of his home. Yet here was the same kid who was at ease and completely relaxed in the presence of these mighty hunters. Happily handling them. Intense, unblinking eye contact with Peregrines and Hawks. Face to face no more than a few inches between them. Complete confidence. Utter love.

Birds of Prey are truly majestic creatures who have another wonderful trait. They don’t harbour any misguided notions of prejudice.

Say goodbye

This month we have already said goodbye to a couple of legends. The brilliant drummer Neil The Professor Peart and the wonderfully funny Terry Jones. In honour of Terry let’s all shout “He’s not the messiah, he’s just a very naughty boy”.

It’s so sad when we lose people we have grown to look up to and respect. But that’s the cycle of life. It’s inevitable that we have to say goodbye to people we admire, care for and love. Some burn bright and leave us far too soon. If anything the last few years have taught me it is that yes we shed tears but it’s so important to try and hold onto those precious memories.

Britain’s favourite mammal are in trouble. Big trouble. From 36 million in the 1950s to less than 1 million now. The last twenty years alone has seen a 50% drop in numbers.

Photo from the RSPCA

I remember hedgehogs being a common site. Every night we would see at least one hedgehog scurrying across the lawn. Things have changed. I can’t remember the last time I saw one in the wild. At least two or three years.

So it was time for local action. Today an hour was spent in the garden trying to make it more hedgehog friendly.

  • To try an link habitats some hedgehog highways have been built into the garden fences. 13cm wide fence holes needed to be made to allow the hedgehogs to move between gardens but this would have been equally attractive to Captain Chaos. Luckily work had some old piping which was about the right size. So hedgehog tunnels are now in place. Hopefully good for hedgehogs but not good for dogs.
  • The compost heap has been made open air. One is the sides has been removed.
  • A log pile has been built in one corner of the garden.
  • The log pile is now in a corner which will become the wild corner. I will let the grass grow and when it becomes warmer a wild flowers will be planted.
  • The random hedgehog dome house which has sat in the garage for years is now under a hedge near the compost heap and a hedgehog tunnel.
  • Each night a bowl of cat food and water will be put out. Important to remember to change and clean it every night. A bit of cat food will mean less for our big boy cat. This is good as he really needs to go on a diet.

It’s sad to say goodbye. Some goodbyes are inevitable and outside of our control. But some aren’t. Still time to save old friends like our hedgehogs.

Just turn round

Sometimes it’s worth taking the time to turn round and see what’s behind you.

A few years back I was driving back home late at night. As a I was feeling tired I pulled over on a country lane and looked south at the beautiful starlight view. Feeling happy with myself I got back into the car. The next day the local news was full of videos of that nights stunning Northern Lights show. If I had just turned round I just might have seen one of the natural worlds greatest sights. Its a big deal here as we rarely get to see them. I still haven’t seen them. Just turn round…

Today I spent two hours ransacking the work base for one box. Not a sign of it. Then I turned round. Yep suddenly it was right in front of me. If only I had turned round sooner. With the box in hand I set off back home. If I had turned round as I left the office I would have seen my wallet and house keys on the desk. I then would have not got virtually back home before I realised that I had to turn round and go back to work.

I remember a Saturday afternoon visiting my partners bedside in the hospice. When I left the room something inside of me told me to turn round and spend some more time with her. I decided to go and pick my son up from relatives. I often think that I should have turned round as she died just a few hours later. Other times I think I probably made the right call. Son needed me. That’s probably an excusable failure to turn round.

Doncaster Wildlife Park is our zoo of choice. It’s a new park so the animals seem to be given space. It’s normally a good sign that due to the space and quality of the habitat that there is no guarantee that you will see all the animals. Some places (often the older sites) you visit are deeply depressing. Here it often doesn’t feel like a zoo as you walk round it. That’s probably why son likes it so much. Space for the animals, space for the humans.

The Wildlife Park also has a claim to fame. It’s the only place I have ever seen a snake in the wild. It was on a path at the edge of the Park – chomping on an unfortunate frog.

The irony. In my whole life the only snake I’ve seen in the wild was in a zoo which doesn’t have any snakes.

The Wildlife Park has one often overlooked attraction. As the visitors stand and look for the tigers a few people turn round. They look in the opposite direction. Across to the wetlands. It’s a stunning view. Yet so many miss it. What a waste.

Sometimes just turn round.

Three

2020 currently is very three orientated. My football team got beat three nil at home. They had to use up all three substitutes before half time because of injuries. Then quickly found out that three substitutes was not enough as another player had to go off due to injury as well.

I got three bills in the post today.

I phoned up for a Doctors appointment and was told I had to wait three weeks for the first available slot.

Currently I am missing 3 running socks. Paddington Bear Stare towards Captain Chaos. So for my next run I can choose between a red running sock or a blue running sock or a white running sock. I think the red and blue combo with be best.

We have three gerbils. They are super friendly and also rather fascinating. If I could ask the three chaps (hope they are three of the same sex) one question it would be

Why when I put cardboard and wooden tunnels in your cage do you always put the smaller tube inside a larger one. Even when I put them on opposite ends of the cage why does one end up in the other within a few minutes.

As my gerbil vocabulary is so poor I guess I will never find out the answer to this first burning question of 2020. But I can’t leave this post on such a unresolvable cliffhanger. Apologies for the early contender for the most rubbish link of the year. As I’ve got over my initial New Years Blues and in the absence of an answer from the three rodents maybe it’s time for a few lists of three from 2019.

3 Biggest Fears that came true

  • School giving up on son
  • Boris Johnson becoming PM
  • Governments/The U.N. paying lip service and kicking into the long grass the momentum for change generated by the likes of Greta Thunberg

Best books read

  • Jean Lee – Nights Tooth
  • Stephen King – The Institute
  • Blake Crouch – Recursion

Best 3 movies of 2019

  • Avengers End Game
  • Horrible Histories – The Movie
  • Godzilla

Best 3 concerts

  • Alter Bridge/Shinedown
  • Kiss
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd

Best 3 albums

  • Alter Bridge – Walk the Sky
  • The Hu – The Gereg
  • Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood

Best 3 places visited

  • Kielder Water
  • Housesteads Roman Fort
  • North Yorkshire Moors Railway

3 Most helpful bits of advice from 2019 – kind of

  • Maybe bring your dog back when he’s calmed down a wee bit – dog training school
  • Just needs to work a bit harder to improve his spelling and handwriting – teacher
  • Lager is better for your teeth than lemon water – Dentist

Best 3 things which helped our son

  • Setting a goal for the number of new places to be visited
  • Rock music and concerts
  • Catching balls while bouncing on a trampoline

Craziest 3 things the pets did

  • Muddy paw prints on the ceiling – how is that possible
  • Boy Cat getting the award for being the biggest and heaviest cat on the Vets books
  • Captain Chaos burying one of my running shoes in the garden. Took me weeks to find it.

New New Year Tradition

We brought in the New Year by watching End Game.

Dad got to end the decade with the highest grossing movie. Wonder what movie will be watched in 10 years time. Please don’t let it be Avatar 2.

The movie was paused at midnight so we could see how many fireworks were let off in the distance. Living on a hill we often get a wide range of free displays to view. In the end a few but not as many as usual. Then it was time to go back into the house. As a kid this was a big deal. LETTING IN THE NEW YEAR. The youngest in the house would be thrown out of the house a few minutes before midnight. Thrown at without a coat regardless of the weather. Bit of a bugger when I was always the youngest. My job would be to stand outside and basically freeze my nuts off. Then at midnight I would be allowed back in carrying a piece of coke (coal) and a new coin. I would then have to go round every room in the house wishing happy new year. I always found the tradition thoroughly cold and most definitely bizarre.

A couple of hours before this midnight our son had asked about traditions. When he heard about our old bizarre ritual he decided to start his own.

Dad let’s restart your old family one.

Ok I’ve got some coins but I definitely don’t have any coal. Suppose we can see what stones we can find in the garden. Probably got some black paint somewhere,”

No Dad got a better idea. Much simpler and definitely more tasty.

So a few hours later son welcomed in the new year. Visiting each room carrying one pound coin and a bottle of Coca-cola. A New coke tradition started.

After a couple of hours sleep it was then an early drive to the Zoo. We have done this for the last four January 1sts. One of the first traditions started after his mum died.

Arrive when the zoo opens and try to get round before the crowds start to arrive. Basically we need to be back in the car by no later than midday.

Some traditions never die out. Dad being a plonker.

“Son looking at the map the zoo has a bug zone. Not seen that before.”

Dad the zoo doesn’t have any spiders or bugs.

The map says bug zone. So which bug do you hope they have”

Well I wouldn’t mind seeing a Tarantula. Maybe a Goliath Birdeater. Bullet Ants. A Tarantula Hawk would be cool. Quite excited now.

“It’s just round this corner”

Dad you complete muppet.

“Erm. Not quite what I expected but you don’t see many 4ft ladybirds……”

Names on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has been very damp and exceptionally grey. No colour at all. So it called for some colour from a couple of weeks ago. Today this is as colourful as it gets. I can’t think of a name for this at the moment.

As I’ve got older I’ve become more used to dealing with the inevitable life curveballs. But not completely. The dreaded demon curveball still gets through.

Dad if I had been a girl what would you and mum have called me.

I couldn’t remember and that’s a great start to 24th December. My defence is that we found out very early on in the pregnancy that it was boy names only. But I still should remember that. Those fun brainstorming seasons for two unprepared newbie parents in waiting. But nothing. It felt like I had let down our son and lost another important link with my partner. It hurt. It hurt like mad. Yes you can hurt at this time of year. Sadly so many do. Sending everyone of you a hug.

To try and clear my head I went outside to do my odd outside thing. Push a wheelbarrow around the garden a few times. It’s hard work but that’s the point. In the middle of the garden was a stray Santa’s Hat – presumably courtesy of Captain Chaos. So as the effort started to do its job I donned the slightly soggy hat. Wheelbarrowing in the rain. Like to see Gene Kelly’s face if that was the song he was given all those years ago to dance to. Wheelbarrowing in the rain did its job. Mind reset. I have one job and that is to make our son happy. Make him happy this Christmas. Need to get back to my A Game.

“Son when was the last time you had whip cream direct from the canister into the mouth”

Never Dad.

“Well you are now”

So that’s what we did. Soon this was escalated to shaving foam covering my entire face. It kinda suited me. Still no George Clooney but a vast improvement. A look all the more better for the sound of laughter filling the house.

Dad do you fancy a first to hit the crossbar challenge.

Followed a few minutes later with

Dad you do know it’s first to kick the ball onto the goal crossbar not first to repeatedly kick the ball into next doors garden challenge

As I spent a quite a bit of time retrieving the football from next doors garden I got to spend a bit of time noticing how a garden should look like. Very neat and tidy with immaculate lawns. Well almost immaculate. A couple of ugly holes courtesy of an escaping Captain Chaos. That’s compared to our garden which is more akin to a ploughed farmers field courtesy of moles, son and CAPTAIN CHAOS. Maybe 2020 is the year of the NEAT GARDEN. More likely it’s the year of the NEED A NEW GARDEN. So as the ball sailed over the hedge again son shouted.

Dad what would you call me now if I was a girl.

This time the curve ball missed.

Laa Laa Po Dora the Explorer Elsa Tinkerbell”

Really Dad. All those names.

“No son Dads fibbing.

Good I was getting worried. It’s a joke then

“Yes

Maybe you could call me either Daphne Blake or Velma Dinkley

“Jinkies that’s a good idea”

So a day that threatened to be scuppered on a girls name ended with laughs about a girls name. Like many folks I operate on such fine margins. With so little separating happiness and sadness. I really hope this Christmas you find happiness.