Change

That’s either a years supply of fire wood or one monumental nature hotel. I strongly suspect it’s not for nature. It’s strange how things can change. One week a pile of wood is home to nature the next its ashes in a fireplace.

Immediately after my partner died I suddenly started to experience significant isolation. Largely cut adrift from society. Your life becomes intertwined with that of your partner and your own sphere of social contacts gradually drops accordingly. Rupture that partnership and you rupture your social life. On most days my only opportunity to socialise was at the school gates. The daily school run became a source of much comfort. I could talk to other parents and son would interact with the other kids. Being a small school really helped him.

Fast forward a couple of years and the school run experience has completely changed. Bigger school. No gate anymore. The parents who do turn up stay in the car and wait for their son or daughter to find them. No one gets out of the car. Very isolating.

Then you see the kids leave school. Mainly groups of kids. Twos, threes or more. Occasionally you see one walking by themselves. Son always walks by himself. Suddenly it feels a very very dispiriting experience. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The Huddle

Now that’s how you do a huddle.

HU DD LE

Spelling has never been one of my specialities. So not a lot of help to a dyslexic son trying to memorise 15 words in the hope of getting at least 10 correct to avoid a school punishment. Now that’s a way to spend a Sunday. The approach Son has gone for is to break the words up into little words and the try to do a memory photograph of each little word in order.

Alliteration – ALL IT ERA TI ON

Advertisement – AD VER TI SEM ENT

Exaggeration – EX AG GE RAT I ON

It’s not the way I would try but his brain is wired up differently to mine. It delivered 11 out of 15 correct spellings last week. Which is fantastic. What’s frustrating is that it’s such a waste of energy. He can’t read or write any of the ones he got right just 7 days ago. Its achieving nothing. In a couple of weeks he is unlikely to remember any of these spellings. It’s not specifically tailored to help him read or to improve his writing or develop his knowledge or add to his independence or boost his confidence. It’s just about ticking a Government tick box. It’s the Government mantra. Even this week the PMs Dad callee the public illiterate as they probably even couldn’t spell Pinocchio.

GO VE RN ME NT

It’s times like this I really miss my partner. Maybe she would come up with a better solution. A way out of this educational quagmire. She certainly would be lifting all our spirits. She was brilliant at that. Making the world seem so much brighter than it should be. More hopeful. Making sure everyone is feels secure and warm inside. That’s what love is.

LO VE

It’s a new world now and you just have to make the best of it. Face up to the challenges which come your way. Learn to appreciate the small things in life again. Don’t be afraid to smile again.

SM I LE

Like watching the massed ranks of birds coming for their morning breakfast. How the larger birds wait until the little birds have had first crack. Must be some particularly fearsome little chaps..

Thankfully the Birds are happy to get stuck into another failed bread making venture. The humans in the house certainly wouldn’t risk it.

UN DE RB AK ED

Or smiling at the thought of that Amazon Delivery Mans face as he stood at the door waiting for us to answer. Looking at the pair of my underpants – frozen solid discarded on the path. Yes the dog still has a thing about socks and pants.

Or laughing at what the Delivery Man has brought us. A parcel containing a plate and cutlery set. Thinking this is much smaller and lighter than expected. Only to discover that bargain kitchen set was in fact a Kids Kitchen Dishes Playset. Thankfully we are not entertaining anytime soon. Dad is definitely a

MU PP ET.

Or even the sight of a really happy dog ripping apart a newly delivered election pamphlet from the Conservative Party. I’m sure it was full of lots of truthful facts and had absolutely stunning photos of our esteemed leader. To be fair our PM permanently looks well chewed.

BO RIS JO HN SON IS A LY ING TW AT

Knife edge

Another day and yes more rain. It’s been that wet for weeks we have new streams starting to form. More rain it will get bigger. A couple of dry days and it will be gone. It’s survival is on a knife edge.

Yesterday two things happened which got me thinking.

  • I went for a run in the rain and the mud. It was actually great fun. Had the forest and hills to myself. For a few minutes I felt connected to nature again. So good for the soul and it helped lift the veil which has shrouded me for days. After a couple of miles I encountered a steep downward muddy bank. Combination of my rubbish well worn trail shoes and trying to run to fast – quickly I slipped. Who needs a toboggan when you have a butt like mine. I slid at an alarming rate for about 30 yards. Somehow missed some alarmingly large boulders.
  • While trying to give the dog another bath. He is just a mud magnet at the moment. I slipped on the wet bathroom floor. Went down with a violent bang. Really cracked my head, my back and my knee. Luckily apart from some bruises no damage. But for a few seconds I was crumpled up on the floor pretty sure I must have broken something.

Both of these incidents could have ended up oh so differently. Fine margins.

So many of us live survive on fine margins. Operating without a safety net. Knife edge budgets. Parents or carers with no support and no cover. People trying to balance multiple jobs while maintaining a family life. People needing care but with insufficient support. People becoming increasingly isolated from society with wafer thin social connections. People battling odds stacked against them.

Life is always about fine margins. Many people will understand this.

My parenting support net was ruptured three years ago. Suddenly it was parenting and caring on a knife edge. No one else there for our son. I’ve got the ball and I just can’t drop it. I have to be there for him. But what happens if one day I don’t miss that large boulder or the bathroom floor is less forgiving. Forgive the language but the answer is – we are screwed.

But in the great scheme of things – we are lucky. So far we have managed. Yes money is very tight but we are stable. Far too many good people have fallen on the wrong side of the knife edge.

One worrying trend paints this picture. In Britain the use of Food Banks has gone from a few thousand food parcels issued in 2010 to millions of emergency hand outs in 2019. But here’s the rub. The Government has washed its hands of the problem.

Our Home Secretary said “You can’t blame the Government for poverty”

The vile Michael Gove helpfully pointed out that families who survive on handouts from Food Banks only have themselves to blame because they were “unable to manage their finances”.

Both of these characters will earn a minimum £142,000 a year. £142k was an amount our Prime Minister said that he struggled to live on. On top of that modest BASIC income they will top it up further. In the case of the Home Secretary she was also working as a strategic advisor to a Communications Company. Her poverty wage for that job was paid at £1000 per hour. They don’t have the first clue about the real world and what it’s like to be on a knife edge.

So yes we are fortunate as a family. But we are so aware that many are in a far worse place. Its all about fine margins. One unforeseen incident and suddenly we lurch to the wrong side of the edge. That is such a sobering thought.

Another day

Another day in Yorkshire and another day of rain.

Another day of rain and another very muddy dog.

Another very muddy dog and another very messy house.

Another very messy house and another need to clean.

Another need to clean and another news bulletin on the radio.

Another news bulletin and another interview with a government spokesperson.

Another interview from a government spokesperson and another bunch of lies.

Another bunch of lies and another radio turned off.

Another radio turned off and a another realisation that the clock is ticking..

Another realisation that the clock is ticking and another urgent search for the right colour school football sock.

Another search for a football sock and another school bag not meeting school requirements.

Another school bag not meeting requirements and another day in school.

Another day in school and another day without support.

Another day without support and another set of exams.

Another set of exams and another setup to fail.

Another setup to fail and another shed load of young anxiety.

Another shed load of young anxiety and another failure of school to support.

Another failure of school to support and another mother lode of parent stress.

Another mother lode of parent stress and another phone call to school.

Another phone call to school and another wall punched.

Another wall punched and another ice pack applied.

Another ice pack applied and another attempt to soothe the school anxiety.

Another attempt to soothe the school anxiety and another set of school homework to be done.

Another set of school homework and another list of misspellings to write out three times.

Another set of misspellings to write out and another wave of young anxiety.

Another wave of young anxiety and another search for something that will help.

Another search for something that might work and another frustrated parent.

Another frustrated parent and another attempt to bring some smiles.

Another attempt to bring some smiles and another viewing of The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Another viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy and another bedtime.

Another bedtime and another living room to myself.

Another living room to myself and another forlorn wish to turn back time.

Another forlorn wish to turn back time and another realisation that ‘it is what it is’.

Another realisation that ‘it is what it is’ and another day gone.

Another day tomorrow……

Foot bath

The sun so tantalisingly close but no cigar. That’s as close as it came to beach weather here in Yorkshire today. When I say beach weather that is in terms of Walruses.

The picture is perfect for my mood today.

Trying to be a ray of sunshine but not quiet achieving it. After the stress of the last few days I was aiming to have a nice day. At home sorting out the works payroll run while listening to a fine collection of relaxing music. Not forgetting to fit in a run around a slightly extended lunch break. Well that was the plan.

Unfortunately as I was heading for bed at 1am I noticed son had lost a button on his school jacket. That’s a School negative and would send him into meltdown again. So the half asleep Dad with the sewing abilities of a drunk Penguin spent most of the night basically sewing various fingers onto the front of the said jacket. How difficult can this really be. As a guide it took me 40 minutes and three hot drinks to just thread the needle. At one stage I must have dozed off as I managed to head-but the sewing box. Eventually I made bed at just after 4am with a pretty decent sewing job completed. Unfortunately now I was wide awake and sleep passed me by for another night.

Relaxation and no sleep are not a great combination. Especially when the old CD player annoyingly developed a jump while playing my favourite cds. Thankfully I made it to my run. An almost enjoyable run until my sleep deprivation led me literally down the wrong path. Normally the right one but since the last floods – not a great one. The ground was becoming increasingly squelchy until I came to the large beck. Normally a nice wooden bridge joins both sides of the path. Unfortunately the bridge collapsed months ago and is currently heading towards the North Sea. So two choices do a u-turn which will add another hour to the run or jump the beck. The need to restart work ASAP dictated the mad option. I guess I can just about jump the beck – it’s only about 6 feet. I hit the long jump perfectly and unbelievably sailed clear over the beck. My moment of triumph was short lived. As quick as my considerable momentum tried to take me forward my left foot tried to sink into the mud. Then the dreaded muddy suction sound and a foot reluctant to come out for air. Something had to give. My foot released unfortunately my shoe didn’t. Hoping around on one leg while trying to prize the missing trainer from its muddy grave. Unfortunately gravity always wins and my exposed white sock sunk into the mud. When the trainer was rescued it was full of thick cold mud. Lovely running in that for the final 2 miles. At least my left foot got a free mud bath.

But here’s the rub. To take my mind off the mud drenched foot I replayed memories in my head. Happy memories of my partner. Passing one particular farm field I was taken back about 16 years. A late sunny evening walk. Maybe one too many wines. Then trying to make snow angels in that fields wheat crop. Completely forgot that one. It’s such a treat when you discover keys to long lost memory doors.

The mood darkened a bit on news that son has to revise for two tests on Monday morning AND spelling tests will now happen every week. Deep joy. So yes it’s been a day which could have been really uplifting but never quite managed to shake off the dark clouds. Maybe tomorrow the sun will shine.

Mind wrestling

Yorkshire weather. Good running weather. Why would I want to run in dry warm windless conditions. Well that’s what I tell myself. Maybe I’m like Count Dracula. I would turn to dust in direct sunlight. I wonder what I would do if someone offered me the chance though.

I’m mind wrestling with something at the moment. My partner was an epic traveller. She visited so many countries. It was her extravagance. From her late teens she would save up during the year for one great adventure. Family and her adventures was what she lived for. The adventures only stopped when we became a family. Her dream was that when our son became older we could have adventures together. The two places she always talked about was New Zealand (would have been her first time) and Chile. She always said that we would all love Chile.

Then life happened.

I really want to complete those journeys for her. Our Autism World may preclude that. Circumstances may preclude it. But we will see. I most admit a part of me doesn’t want to do those trips. It’s just not right that it would only be the two of us.

Sorry I digress. Back to my mind wrestling. So many adventures and so many photographs. All sat neatly and well organised in carefully stored albums. Here is the dilemma. Part of me wants to do a retrospective photo journal. Tell her travel story. Her trip to the Soviet Union (gives you an idea of the timeframe) maybe would be a great starting point. YET another part of me recoils at the idea. What if she hates that idea. What if I’m breaking some unwritten bond of trust. It’s like having two competing voices on either shoulder each shouting differing viewpoints on life.

She’s not here anymore. What’s the problem!

YOU KNOW SHE WOULD SAY NO. I CAN’T BELIEVE YOUR SERIOUSLY THINKING ABOUT THIS!

But this feeling is something I’ve grown used to over these three years. On virtually every major decision I have these doubts. ‘What do I want to do’ balanced against ‘what would she do’. I try to see the world through my eyes and at the same time through her eyes. Problem is that we were two completely different characters. We each had our own unique take on the world. We would frequently disagree on the right answer. Often we would compromise. I’m still trying to compromise now. Yet I can’t replicate her thought process. I never could and I never will. I’m probably getting her point of view completely wrong. But I still do it.

Maybe other people do this. Maybe it’s just me sinking further into cabin fever.

So am I going to publish this travel journal? I don’t know. WE still haven’t decided.

I am not a widow

Bereavement is one of the most intense and horrible experiences a person will ever go through. It’s sharp prickles and thorns grab hold of you. It scars you. So how can you ever forget it’s happened.

I had stopped off at the local store for food for tonight. Son is easy – just look for any food that starts with an S and ends with ausages…. Then fill the plate with tomatoes, carrots and bell peppers. I will look longingly at the cakes then eventually go for soup. Oh look they have some giant jacket potatoes I can get them for my partner. Where’s the cheese to go with them. No prizes for spotting the deliberate mistake.

It wasn’t until I was focusing on finding a mild cheddar that the brain finally kicked into gear. Oh bugger. For a few glorious seconds I was not bereaved. Not a widow. Then that sinking feeling. That awful feeling in my tummy. Completely disoriented trying to process two completely different places which are three years apart within a few seconds. Maybe this is what Time Travel will feel like.

Not a widow.

According to the UK Government I’m actually not a widow. Officially you can only be a widow if you are married in a manner recognised by our beloved rulers. We were a couple for 20 years. Now approaching 23 years…. The plan was always to get married but we had plenty of time to sort that out. Then we became a family. Then Aspergers entered our life’s. Again marriage was put on the back burner as we had something far more important to focus on. Then time ran out.

So since we were not married I’m not supposed to call myself a widow. The Government is not stupid. It’s a money thing. Death benefits are aimed at easing some of the initial financial pressures which will hit when a partner dies. These benefits need to be restricted so we have a very selective definition. If you are not defined as being officially married then it’s zero help for you. Your not a widow. It’s not the denial of benefits which annoys me it’s that somehow that unmarried bereavement is officially seen as less important. Not an issue. I remember talking to a man whose male partner had died. For years they were unable to get married because of the law. That has now changed. The irony was that it was done by a Conservative PM who needed help from the opposition as many of his own party voted against the change. Five of the current Government voted against same sex marriage. This wonderful couple never got married after the law changed in 2013. The man said

All I wanted to do was call myself a widow and get on with grieving. But according to the Government I am not a widow.

We agreed an appropriate response. Bugger off. We don’t care what others may think because in our eyes we are widows.

So I may briefly forget that all this bad stuff has happened. But sadly it has. So yesterday, today, tomorrow and going forward I AM A WIDOW. Interestingly my spell checker is desperate to change widow to window. So to keep it happy I AM A WINDOW. Now that opens up a whole new philosophical blog and probably makes a great Prog Rock Album Title. On that thought it’s time to draw the blinds down and go to bed.

I know that I will miss her tonight.

Village life

We knew a really nice couple in the village who we became good friends with. But life happens. Our own lives and troubles took over and we slowly drifted apart. To the extent that we hardly ever saw each other. Now it’s mostly a quick wave on dog walks. But it’s reassuring to have someone in the village who I know. Over the last few years the people I could talk to has reduced rapidly. The village is lovely but the isolation is often suffocating.

Today the isolation feels like it’s gone off the scale.

A sign has appeared outside our old friends house. House Sold by Private Sale. My heart sunk when I saw that. Even though our friendship has cooled the thought of them leaving still hurts. More isolated than ever. Now the village is entirely filled with nameless people who smile and occasionally say hello. They are friendly but are not friends. Our lives don’t cross. They haven’t a clue who I am. I’m just that bloke who goes for a run, takes the dog for a walk and appears to be a single parent. He’s probably separated from his wife.

With no pub, or shop or natural village focal point that is unlikely to change. During winter with the poor weather and dark nights you can go weeks without seeing another villager. The house lights are the only indication that it’s not a ghost village. It’s more isolation I could do without. The feeling of being trapped. The isolation is perfect for our son currently. He doesn’t want to leave the house with memories of his mum. Who can blame him. He can control his interaction with the outside world. The house is good for him.

Even if that wasn’t the case – we just can’t afford to move.

Trapped.

Isolation is increasingly a theme for so many in today’s fractured society. I feel it’s icy cold grip. More than ever. It’s another battle I need to take on. At the moment the battles just seem to keep coming.

Dream Bar

The Yorkshire fields are rapidly becoming boating lakes. Very tempting for a young mad dog. Not so tempting for the owner faced with cleaning the mud laden hound. Then faced with cleaning the mud strewn house.

Son had finally gone to bed and I started on some late night work. I wasn’t hopeful as I was already fighting the urge to sleep. But needs must. I think Apple or Microsoft should take account of tiredness in the design of apps. How many people fall asleep while using things like spreadsheets. Maybe special biometric sensors on the keys or touch screens that detect oncoming snooze episodes. This should then trigger either the playing of 100db Mongolian Heavy Metal or sharp electric shocks. I probably needed both last night.

So yes I fell asleep at the keyboard. This brought the onset of a recurring dream coming back for another outing in my mind cinema. A dream I have had for probably 20 years now. It’s always the same. A great hill walk with friends ending up in a Bar. But this is no ordinary Bar. This one is carved into the base of a gigantic cliff face. No greenery just an environment of stones and cliff faces. Inside you get a traditional UK pub. Roaring fire. Dart Board. Landlord polishing his pint glasses. A chalk board listing today’s special food. It always ends as we get our gleaming glasses of Black Sheep Bitter. Again I woke last night with a jump with that same unnerving feeling. That dream is so real. Too real not to be a real memory. I just can’t recall where that Bar is. So as one side of my mind tries to find the errors on the ever so boring spreadsheet the other side churns through places I’ve visited trying to locate this elusive Cliff Face Bar.

The dream has become so engrained that this imaginary Bar is on my bucket list of places to visit. Just need to find it. I keep hoping that one day I will come across a photo of a place just like this. A dream that comes true. It could happen surely. Look at this Swiss Hotel (thanks To Trip Advisor for the photo)

Sadly this stunning place is not the dream location. But it gives hope. The same hope that one day all our dreams do start to come true. Those so missed special ones return into our life’s. But until that time let’s keep those dreams alive. Let’s make new dreams. Let’s live.

Come on it’s Friday

So like the weather we crash into the weekend. This photo was taken minutes before the heavy rain rushed in. It’s time to batten down the hatches for 24 hours.

For 10 brief minutes a delightful dry run in sublime autumnal colours. What followed was a long and protracted slog through a mud bath and driving rain. One step forward and two back. Seriously doubting if I could make the climbs which had been done countless times before. Soul destroying. No fun anymore just hard labour. Frigid isolation in this hostile environment. Doubting my sanity. What am I doing here.

It’s been a perfect microcosm of this week.

A week which has rapidly gone downhill. A long hard slog giving my soul a good kicking. Leaving my mojo and my confidence in tatters. Almost complete social isolation. Never ending pain from dental work. Failure to find solutions to home, school and work problems. Error strewn days. The house is filled with echoes of the past. Even blogging has been harder than usual. The words seem to be failing me. Three draft posts on Aspergers and one on Dyslexia deleted. Just not good enough. Not sure I trust myself enough to venture there. But then life interrupts my meltdown.

We have crashed into Friday. It’s also the start of the half term week holidays. It’s Halloween week. Remember the number one priority. The only one that matters in the end.

Give son the best childhood possible.

So it’s time to put my game face on. Work can wait until son has gone to bed. Halloween gives endless scope for creative fun. My problems will be pushed into the background by boundless youthful energy released by the school gates closing. I’m sure they will be back but just not this week. That’s not allowed.

Only one possible song to leave you with. Mr Alice Cooper and Schools Out.

Schools Out – Live