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Two daily visitors waiting patiently for breakfast. I must clean the gutters….

After yesterday’s unplanned washing of my mobile, I found myself outside in the cold early morning air. Doing a great workout supplied by a very kind friend and listening to music on my super clean phone. Crystal clear sound. In fact it’s never sounded so good. Maybe I should try my body out in a quick machine wash cycle. If only I could fit the car in our old washing machine.

I was a bad parent last night and I’m not talking about letting son watch Deadpool 2 again. School emailed all the parents to say that they had not been picking up all the students who had been submitting inferior work or worse submitting work late. So to rectify that the only thing they could do would be to send out an email each night at 11.30 to warm parents about any issues which may have occurred with their kids online work for that day. I can imagine many parents sending letters of approval in or even asking for a tougher stance from school. I took a slightly different stance on my short reply.

Please don’t bother.

This morning followed up with a much longer reply basically talking about how tough it is for many kids at present and how about school using the resources they were putting into this sanction into doing something positive – something fun for the kids. Maybe even allowing some social interaction with friends. I’m not hopeful but at least it will get me another black mark in the awkward parent log.

Anyway school might not do fun but that doesn’t mean that we can’t. It’s so important we all find ways of still living. So in between online lessons we have squeezed in some activities. Bouncing on the trampoline, Jenga, air hockey and jelly making. Then after the school day had finished we made some cakes. Played football and attempted to build the largest possible Lego tower. Unfortunately due to the wind, curious pets and my eagerness to build higher before a stable base was formed – it didn’t get much higher than 5ft. It clearly had the same design fault as Trumps Mexican Wall. Oops that’s going to bring on my fan mail from Texas again.

Over Easter we will definitely revisit the Lego tower. It might even stand up long enough to take a photo. The point is that actually fun day is not enough. It really is so tough for kids to enjoy their childhood in 2020. So much anxiety and so little space to dream. So fun day is now fun EVERY day. Maybe just like my mobile phone, we can find ways (maybe unusual) to improve things in life. WE can do this.

Foreseeable

Looking back from the edge of the micro world. Our little village increasingly isolated. Sadly we can’t take this walk now. Son started to freak out about having to touch so many farm gates – just in case. So we are restricted to hands stay firmly in our pockets walks for the foreseeable future. How long is foreseeable these strange days….

After yesterday’s accident mayhem we approached April 1st with some trepidation. What enhanced carnage would April Fools Day bring. As life is clearly so foreseeable the answer was rather surprisingly – NOTHING. No accidents. No backfiring pranks. Zip all went wrong. My family tradition was that April Fools Day ends at midday. No accidents by lunch to distract from today’s aim.

We decided to make today a fun day. No talk of the bad stuff happening in the world. No depressing talk. No news. A day of respite amongst the mayhem. I keep saying this but if it’s bloody tough for grizzly old farts like me, what the hell is it it like for our kids. The adults are not that good at living like this, kids most certainly are not designed to live like this. So that’s why today was going to be a rebalancing day. That was the plan but not everything is foreseeable…

Today’s first lesson was Religious Studies. Given the current stress and anxieties kids are facing why don’t we pick a fun or light topic. Well the teacher picked a belter.

Look at four different countries and see what their approach is to DEATH. What are the funerals like….

Well that’s a real laugh a minute project. What next, how about History looking at the Black Death, Geography looking at the spread of pandemics, Science taking a closer look at the Ebola mortality rates.

So we have postponed the fun day for the foreseeable future. As that is clearly not very long we shall be having it tomorrow. Once we rearranged the fun day and put April Fools Day to bed for another year we could get back to normality for the rest of the day – household madness.

Have you ever pressed the start button on the washing machine and as soon as it starts spinning you notice something going round which does not look like an item of clothing. As the machine slowly turned and a rouge object kept appearing, my mind whirled – what is it. Then the penny dropped. It’s my mobile. Oh bugger. An hour later it emerged looking sparkly clean but a little soggy. In a further moment of madness I decided to put it in the pocket of one of the washed jeans and tumble dry it. Maybe that will dry it out. Please children – don’t try this at home. Only really tired parents are allowed to do such stupid things. Unbelievably the super clean phone came out dry. And it still works although I may wait a day or so before I try to charge it up.

So in our foreseeable world tomorrow is fun day and today has been ‘wow my ancient iPhone is sparkly clean day’. Who needs April Fools Day for the foreseeable future.

The Wall

Some people like to build walls. Some people have walls thrust upon them. Some walls are known by millions. This is the world famous Hadrians Wall dating back to Roman times.

It was the creative spark for the Wall in Game of Thrones. Other walls are much less famous. Sometimes the walls are virtual. This is our wall.

Ok it’s more of a fence but it does have a few stone sections. It’s not famous. Actually only son and I think of it as a wall. But to us its an important one. It’s very like Hadrians Wall and the one in Game of Thrones. To us it marks the boundary between our world and the dangers that lay beyond.

We would frequently come this way on dog walks and then stop here. That was far enough for our son. The only exception would be if it snowed. The field beyond then became our very own snow slope. A rare excursion through the Wall. But this was the boundary wall. He felt safe this side. This side of the gate was his world. The other side lay the unpredictable, noisy and scary outside world. His Wall

Now 2020 has brought its very own version of the barbarian hordes. We have been instructed to self distance and stay at home. One daily walk is permitted so the dog is brought to this gate. But no further. To go any further just seems wrong to me. To do so seems like it’s flouting the regulations. Entering into a strange, alien world with an unseen threat. My Wall.

So for very different reasons, yes this is our WALL.

Swan

It was good to see the swan observing social distancing at the local lake today. If only some of the humans could get their head round the concept. Our village thankfully has. Apart from the postman, the occasional food delivery driver and a handful of dog walkers – that’s it. All the cars are parked up and are not being used. Virtually no through traffic. We don’t have a shop, cafe or pub. The village hall and church are temporarily closed. Basically it’s like a ghost town. It seems to oscillate between beautifully peaceful and slightly unnerving.

It’s the new normal.

Work is definitely shutdown until at least mid June now. No sign of schools reopening anytime before September. The countrywide lockdown isn’t being relaxed any time soon. No long runs. Apart from the very occasional trip to a shop for essentials, that’s it for physical social interaction. Maybe for months. It’s not happened yet but I can see this ramping up a grief attack soon. Especially as my partners birthday is looming. But it is what it is. Another thing for my constantly racing two cell brain to deal with.

We were watching Toy Story 2 last night when a thought popped into my head. Apart from the obvious one – oh man I look increasingly like Mr Potato Head. Wouldn’t it be great if toys did come alive. How much fun would that be. Suddenly a whole new self contained social circle. And yes we have a Buzz Lightyear so maybe he could teach us to fly.

I feel bad now Dad. Not played with a number of my toys in years. They have been shelved. Woody was mortified when he was shelved. Maybe we should dedicate the online Drama lesson to playing with old toys.”

He’s been so turned off from the subject that playing with old toys would certainly have more learning value.

Dad Ive been thinking about Toy Stories meaning. Basically it’s that you need to keep old toys come what may. Yes always play with them, even when your old. But never, ever give them away – even to a needy cause. It’s a bit of a grim message really.”

And with that he was off to find his old In The Night Garden Toys. But unusually for him, he did not fully think this through. His Dad fell in love with that old BBC kids show. His Dad can still answer any question thrown at him about Igglegpigle, Makka Pakka and the gang. And rather than looking for the shelved toys in the old toy baskets he just needs to look at his Dads bedroom table. No shelved toy sadness here. The In The Night Garden gang are very happy each night. Much loved by someone who really should know better.

Photo from the BBC.

Time

TIME is a funny thing. Walked past here on Friday and hardly any of the white flowers had emerged. 72 hours later after a yucky cold, dark and damp weekend – any hey presto it’s a sea of white.

I remember someone very clever saying that TIME operates at different rates for different people. Thinking about it – that clever person might have been Dr Who. When I was a kid I loved Dr Who. I so wanted to be a Timelord. As a prize for winning a football tournament school arranged a trip to the last day of a Dr Who exhibition. I was super excited. On the way our bus broke down. It took them hours to fix it. Finally we arrived at the exhibition only to find it had closed 5 minutes earlier. How on earth can you miss an exhibition about a time travellerjust doesn’t seem right.

TIME definitely operates at different rates for some of our son’s school teachers. Quite a few of the online classes require the student to read an article or a section of a text book. The amount of reading has definitely increased over the last few school days. The number of follow up tasks has also increased. Strangely the TIME allowed has stayed the same. Exactly where does this approach leave the dyslexic student. I know teachers are super busy but maybe one of them might have asked son how he is coping with reading the course material. They seem much quicker to spot his spelling mistakes. Much better use of TIME.

TIME is also hard to define. School have now rolled out a national learning app primarily aimed at those students who struggle with English comprehension and grammar. Interestingly an app with a rating of 1 out 5 from users (lucky to get 1 by all accounts). Son has been set a weekly app study time of 50 minutes. The teacher will be checking that each student has achieved the weekly minimum study time. Punishments for underachieving. What they don’t mention is that the app uses a lot of videos and narratives. Unfortunately these do not count against the learning time but need to be completed before you can get to the student work areas. When it crashes (and it crashes more times than me on a diet) all learning time is lost and you need to start at the beginning of the section again. So far son has been on the app for just under 3 hours. He’s watched endless boring videos and robotic narratives. He’s still to learn anything new. AND he’s only clocked 20 minutes actual study time.

Dad what is the point of this. I’m bored out of my mind. As you would say, it’s a pile of pants. It’s a complete waste of my time, your time, the teachers time and a waste of bandwidth.”

I fed this back to school with a few of my own rather barbed comments. The school’s response was well we have sent a teacher to be trained in its use, that’s valuable school TIME so we need to keep using it.

Clearly I was wasting my TIME arguing.

Toy Story

Lovely midday weather here in Yorkshire.

It’s funny how you can overthink even the simplest of tasks. We try to make Saturday evening the official movie night of the week. A regular thing for son to look forward to. Popcorn, cola and a great movie. We save up new movies for the full Saturday experience. If we don’t have a new movie then the next best thing is a blockbuster. For days I had been working on a list of potential movies for this Saturday. Scores of candidates slowly whittled down to three favourites.

The Martian

Terminator – Dark Fate

Rocketman

So Saturday night arrived. I proudly gave son the list of three movies.

Ok Dad, let’s watch Toy Story.”

And with that it was Woody and co. A top top movie. Perfect escapism for today’s anxious world. But how much energy did I waste on picking an unused movie list. But I guess the point is that it successfully distracted me for a few days. While watching the movie I played my usual game of trying to pick which character I was most like. Toy Story was easy, clearly I am Rex. Although this morning I am a bit more Mr Potato Head.

We often forget how stressful the current situation is for kids. Confined to base, seeing parents stressed, unremittingly bad news on social media, kept apart from friends. In our sons case the confined to base and kept apart from friends is not really an issue. But his Aspergers requires routine and controllability. These have gone out of the window over the last few weeks. Adjusting to different daily routines. Food on the set weekly schedule (which has been in place for years) becoming unavailable. A completely unpredictable world. The fear of illness and worse ramped up by a spreading pandemic. He’s so young, had to deal with so much already and he’s facing this.

He asked what my best guess was for when things might begin to settle down a bit. Sadly I couldn’t say anytime soon. When he asked about schools opening and I couldn’t see anything happening and sticking before September.

“Dad is that September 2020 or September 2021”

I wouldn’t like to bet my shirt on that. We just don’t know who long the current restrictions will be in place for. When they do come off, how long before they need to be reintroduced. But we just have to deal with that. I’ve got to focus on the one overriding aim. Give son the best childhood possible. So we make the best of the new normal. Strengthen the new routines. AND above all try to have as much fun as possible. So Toy Story is perfect. It’s fun. Thank you Woody and co.

Hotel Window

Another cold start. I’m calling it an official three jumper day.

One of those cold starts that as hard as you work out, or regardless of how many warm layers you put on – your still cold.

The first week of schools version of homeschooling has now finished. Some subjects did embrace the opportunity. These offered the child a chance to be creative and to see where their learning interest would take them. Sadly that was not much of the week. Most of the lessons reflected the normal parrot learning teaching approach. What is the point of getting someone with dyslexia to translate page after page of French (without any context or help). What is the point of setting an online spelling test where the spoken words are so rare that I had to look every one up in a dictionary to see if they actually existed.

But he survived. The parent got through it as well. So that’s something.

Whether it was my lack of sleep, the unremittingly grim news or a week of homeschooling but last night I couldn’t get a thought out of my mind. Maybe, just maybe this is our world now. No more holidays. No more new lands. No more Switzerland. Certainly the financial shock of the next few months will take me a number of years to repair the bank balance. Generally travel may become more difficult over the next few years. Aspergers and the fear of social interactions is certainly not going away any time soon. So maybe that’s it with travel.

That’s sad but actually there is more to life than travel. So much to see and visit close by if it comes to that. Anyway we have not had a holiday since 2015 so we are used to it anyway. Doing virtual tours is a fun, safe, environmentally friendly and is so much cheaper. Then a thought crossed my mind. It was inspired by Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) while we watched Fawlty Towers. Basil was getting seriously cheesed off with a guest who was disappointed with the view from the bedroom window.

“Well may I ask what you expected to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically

Actually could we scale the virtual tours up a notch. Why don’t I pick a window with a chair next to it. Then why don’t I stick a poster or large photo over the window glass. Suddenly my view of say the trampoline could be transformed into whatever I fancy. I’ve seen other people do this in the past. So tomorrow I am going poster hunting. Got a couple of belting posters of The Alps to find.. But in the meantime I’m hoping my bedroom window will look something like this.

Art

If I’m going to suffer this, then you can as well DAD.”

We had arrived at one of those lessons – ART.

Son really struggles with drawing. His fine motor skills are just not conducive to it. Unfortunately his Dad is also rather deficient in this area as well. I am to Art as Donald Trump is to Veganism. I remember one art teacher quietly whispering in my ear when she took one look at my attempt at a landscape scene.

Can I suggest that goes in the bin. I wouldn’t take it home as your parents might be of a nervous disposition.

But son is right. If he suffers then I need to suffer as well.

One hour later we compared masterpieces. His attempt was not too bad. Son cast his critical eye over my work.

Erm Dad what exactly is it?”

That’s a tree”

Are you sure. I would never have guessed that.”

Look son it’s obvious. These are branches.”

“Are you sure it’s not upside down. What on earth is that?”

That is a bird and that is a nest”

Oh a bird. I thought it was a car. Look Dad I am bad at art but I have an excuse. I have Dyspraxia. What on earth is your excuse to be so awful at this. Clearly you talents lie elsewhere. “

The search continues…….

Bed protest

Another cold start. Press ups on the grass are definitely cold on the hands.

Now set into the daily school at home routine. That’s a better way to describe it. It’s not true homeschoolingits schools version of remote learning.

  • 6:30am – start daily exercise (weights, or army fitness, or exercise bike or running round the little garden)
  • 7:30am – try to get as many home cleaning tasks done
  • 8:00am – Son gets up and has breakfast
  • 8:30am – log onto school system and check school messages
  • 8:40am – register for first lesson and complete tasks
  • 9:55am – load completed tasks
  • 10:15am – register for second lesson and complete tasks
  • 11:25am – load completed tasks
  • 11:35am – register for third lesson and complete tasks
  • 12:45pm – load completed tasks
  • 12:50pm – take dog for one walk of the day
  • 1:00pm – outside for talk with son
  • 1:40pm – serve lunch
  • 1:55pm – register for final lesson and complete tasks
  • 3:10pm – load completed tasks and log off
  • 3.20pm – start to breathe and play football

Dad I’m thinking about going Lennon and Yoko tomorrow. Might stay in bed and do the complete school day from there.”

“What are you protesting about then?”

I’m working on that. Maybe the excessive use of red pen at school. Maybe the shortages of baked beans.”

Maybe I can ask one of the important people making daily contact with me. I’ve never had so many Chief Executives and Business Leaders speaking to me. It’s a daily stream of emails wishing me well and informing me of their evolving plans. Our most senior doctors and scientist are giving me helpful advice. Even the PM and the Government are sending me text messages.

It’s suddenly great to be valued and important. I wonder how long this will last. Will it last as long as Son’s bed protest.

Motivation

Not sure it’s the slightly unhinged world but here the daffodils are looking extra special this year. Much needed colour. Much needed motivation to keep believing in our world.

“Come on Dad, your doing the PE lesson with me.”

So 20 minutes later we are doing a fitness workout. I do slag the school off quite a bit but sometimes it does do things well. The online PE lessons was really good. It started with a daily workout from YouTube. The Body Coach TV (PE with Joe Wicks). The person doing it was great and made the session so much fun for kids. Son warmed to him straight away. Which is no mean feat.

My second workout of the day was definitely very different from the first. Standard weights and short burn military fitness exercises at 7am. Pretending to be Spider-Man and bouncing like a bunny rabbit at 11am. The latter was way more fun. So maybe, just maybe tomorrow at 7am you might see a grown man pretending to be a rabbit. That’s my excuse if I get wheeled away in a straight jacket.

But you need balance in life. If you get good then often the not so good arrives to bring life back into order. The Food Technology online lesson was grisly. Son attempted the task which was so tough for him given the difficulties he has with handwriting, spelling and drawing. But he tried and that’s all we can ask. A bit later the response came back. One or two good efforts but some are very poor presentations. Well that’s done his confidence a world of good.

So we have balance. Motivated and demotivated. Looking forward to the next lesson and dreading the next lesson. One has 1.5 Million subscribers (plus two more from our house) and the other has a kid desperate to drop the subject.

I’m sure even this guy was motivated to move just a bit during the fitness workout.

I should really tell this guys story as well. Completely ignored him when I waffled on about his gnome buddy. His name is Gene. Can you work out why? Gene is a relative baby. He’s about 7 years old. He was a Christmas present from my brother. He was supposed to be fireplace ornament. Unfortunately my partner hated it. As did our dear departed psychotic girl cat. So he was banished to the garden to save him from the sledgehammer and the apex predator. On his bottom a sign says – Not for external use. Yet after 7 years of grizzly Yorkshire weather he is still shinny and looking like new. So he clearly likes dancing in the Yorkshire rain.

Take care my friends and try to smile.