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.

Kings, Queens and Telly Tubbies

4am When the world hopefully sleeps.

The bedroom door bursts open.

Sorry Dad can’t wait to ask. If you had to be related to a king or queen which one would you most want it to be and which would you be most embarrassed to be associated with.

Erm top of my head probably Queen Victoria and probably not mad King George III. How about you son.

Henry V would be so cool but he only had one child and he was pious so it’s not likely. Many would say King John as one your embarrassed with as he is seen as the most useless one but he was actually not as bad as that. Henry VII probably as his claim to the throne was illegitimate. Night Dad.

I then I had a bizarre dream about being late for a meeting with the Queen. A meeting which was to happen on a train in a random rainy town. And I got lost. At least Son had not asked about my favourite Telly Tubby. Getting lost on the way to meet my favourite Telly Tubby would have been a dream too far.

So at breakfast I decided to continue the historic theme. I convinced son to have a trip to see the beautiful ruins of a local Abbey. He wasn’t convinced but finally we set off. I really should stick to my level. The Telly Tubbies. We arrived to find the site closed until March and that knowing look from son. At least we got a few lovely views from the outside.

I gave our son the option of extending our trip but he just wanted to go home. Too many people about. That’s becoming an increasingly common comment from him. As the months go by he finds it harder to deal with social contacts. He can still cope with rock concerts. It’s because he thinks they are still very inclusive. Doesn’t matter what you sound like, dress like or look like – your just accepted. No condescending looks. It helps that it’s dark and noisy so it’s unlikely anyone will talk to him. He was also ok on our recent train night but that was onboard the train. Luckily no one was sat opposite us. On the platform he struggled. We basically stood inside a coal shed until we could board. He had been ok with the cinema but now if the screen has more than handful of people in then he can’t watch the movie. We were going to see Jumanji but the screen was half full and that was the end of that. At school he’s just not happy. The crowded school bus is becoming impossible for him. You can see the change in him when he’s back home. He’s confident and happy. Outside he’s nervous and wants to hide. As soon as we leave the front door his hood goes up.

I remember a conversation with a really good Child Psychologist who worked for a time with him. She thought that his social difficulties may well become more pronounced as he became a little older. She had worked with a number of kids a bit like our son and they had all found mostly happy life’s. But isolated life’s. One or two friends and some family contacts allowed into the inner sanctum. Pets and animals definitely. But the rest of the world – preferably not.

It’s early and things may change. He will follow his own path. I will be there as long as I’m needed. But it’s his own path and he needs to find the type of world he’s most contented with. A closed abbey with a handful of walkers being too busy is potentially an indication of the direction of travel. If that path takes us inevitably into a more isolated world then so be it. And for those interested my favourite Telly Tubby was Laa Laa.

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.

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.

Switzerland and the Zoos

It’s Sunday and it’s time for another dose of Switzerland. With reflection maybe this should have been moved either to Monday or Friday.

When your an Aspergers parent(s) you get used to repetition and routine. Holidays are often no different. When we were fortunate to go to Switzerland we afforded ourselves a couple of days to explore but we had to factor in certain routines.

  • Sunday would be a boat trip to Interlaken. Here son would go into a gift shop which sold the full range of Schleich Toy Animals. Son would browse the range while his mum looked at all the amazing Swiss Cuckoo Clocks. Strangely we left with a couple of new animals but sadly no clock.

  • Monday would be a train trip to Zurich and a visit to it’s large Zoo
  • Friday was the last day of the holiday and we would have a visit to the small local zoo in Bern.

Before we get onto some zoo animals I have had a few people ask me to publish a photo of my Clooney like looks. For the ones who have asked HERE I AM swimming…

The two zoos are so different. The one in Bern is small and always seems very quiet. So so relaxing for someone with Aspergers.

Bern Zoo doesn’t have a huge range of animals but the animals facilities are modern. You get the real impression that the animals are really well looked after here.

Very unusually part of the zoo can be accessed without having to pay. What a brilliant idea.

It also has the most wonderful little adventure park for kids. It’s one of the few which our son was comfortable playing on.

Zurich Zoo is so much larger. It has over 4000 animals.

This zoo seems to focus on trying to give the animals the closest natural habit possible. The animals are being moved from cages to spaces. The elephants have a huge new indoor shelter and a purpose developed habitat outside.

It has a massive indoor tropical rain forest where you can walk about and also climb into the trees. The animals are free to roam in the trees and undergrowth. Maybe it’s coming from Yorkshire but I came out looking like I had just run several marathons.

Zoos can often leave you cold. Feeling sorry for the animals. You don’t get that feeling at these two zoos. This is how zoos should be.

The animals in Switzerland were so good for our son I will certainly revisit this again on this blog.

And finally if one image from all the zoo trips always brings a smile – it’s the one below. First of all I didn’t realise Giant Tortoises could move so quick. It certainly surprised our 6 year old.

Mum what are they doing?

“Ask your Dad”

Dad

No idea son. Maybe it’s some form of wrestling….