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.

Onomatopoeia

That jolly yellow thing in the sky is still here. Any longer and it might qualify for the Yorkshire Cricket Team. I understand it’s called The Sun. A simple name yet so confusing for kids like our Son. Is it a Sun or is it a Son.

So on to this weeks spelling test. Ok campers your simple words this week are

Alliteration, Onomatopoeia, Simile, Metaphor, Slang, Rhetorically, Personification, Emotive, Language, Imagery, Verb, Adjective, Adverb.

See I predicted it was only a matter of time before the poor kids had to try and spell complex dinosaur names. The Onomatopoeia was always my favourite flying dinosaur…..

I think school probably thinks that the spellings are getting too easy so they have now added a twist. Previously the teacher would say the actual word to be spelt and the kids tried to write it down. This week the teacher won’t say the word. Instead she will read out a definition and the kids have to decide which word it describes – then spell it. Easy with Onomatopoeia as it will be the only dinosaur….. if only.

So the kids will have to work out which of the above words fits with what the teacher definitions are and then try to spell it. From definitions like these

This is a word that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes

This is when something is said to be something else

A describing word. Sometimes there are three together to make it more effective

A word describing how something is done

This is the repetition of letter sound at the start of a word

What chance has a dyslexic kid got when he struggles to spell and as a result has never really understood the technicalities of the English Language. But what do I know. A simple parent compared to the might and intellectual magnificence of the current government education regime. As our PM’s Dad publicly stated when he stood in for his Son in an interview.

Spelling “Pinocchio? That requires a degree of literacy, which I think the great British public doesn’t necessarily have.”

Its hard being a PM so he only handpicks a few interviews these days. Better to send his Dad. But the message is clear. The great unwashed didn’t go to Eton and Oxford. They are basically illiterate. They need to be force fed things like spelling.

I am one of the great unwashed. An illiterate who went to a poor sinkhole Comprehensive School and only to the clearly unworthy Warwick University. Maybe we are illiterate for a reason. The dreadful state of our crumbling education system. An education system that lets down so many kids. Which discriminates against those who don’t fit the mould. Money allows you to buy a better education. The money which the PMs Dad easily forked out to send his Son to Eton. But in the real world the majority struggle on. Dealing with an education system which has been systematically screwed by those with a view of the world so like that of PM and his Dad.

I might not be able to spell Pinocchio but at least I know my pterodactyls from my Onomatopoeias.

Big Sky

Twenty years ago we came to look at our current home for the first time and we both immediately fell in love with it. Yes it was a bit small being a two bedroom bungalow. It needed a lot of work doing to it. Apart from a really small village store it was a long way from any other facilities. The garden was badly overgrown. It would have been so easy to drive onto the next house we were looking at. But then we saw the view from the back garden. That was it. We were sold. I remember saying – that’s a big sky.

It’s still a big sky.

Little did we know how important such an isolated garden would prove when we became parents. Apart from the occasional walker and farmer you don’t see any sign of human life. These days when a human is spotted son will scamper into the house until the all clear is given. I’m not sure he would ever surface if he lived in a busy city.

Today was a work from home day. In fact this is going to be a work from home week. So it’s one of those weeks which could go two ways. Bask in the splendid isolation or feel the intense loneliness. Well after a few hours today it was heading towards the latter. When that happens the house starts to feel very cold and very claustrophobic. So a few minutes later I had donned about 15 layers and was sat outside with the laptop. Sat under the big sky. Today it was particularly quiet. No walkers, no farmers, no farm animals. Just the occasional bird. Yes still lonely but now realising how extremely privileged I am to be sat under this big sky.

Then something struck me. Before the world changed we would always be sitting in the garden. Sat with a glass of wine relaxing talking about becoming parents. Then when son arrived we would sit and watch him play with his toy dinosaurs on the grass. The garden would become Jurassic World. Then after a few hours the big bad daddy ranger would have to locate all the dinosaurs. It’s amazing how camouflaged a raptor can be in a Yorkshire garden. Then the bad stuff happened. Yes I would go outside to play in the garden with our son. I would train and do exercises in the garden. But I didn’t /sit in the garden anymore. This was probably the first time I had sat in the garden since my partner had left us. I guess it just didn’t seem right. It was always our garden not my garden. Almost as if it had become fenced off. Today without thinking just maybe that fence has come down. If it’s sunny again tomorrow I will probably work outside again.

Time to work under the big sky again.

Terrible Poetry

It’s time for of hopefully terrible poetry in the form of Chelsea Owens weekly competition. This week the rules are.

  1. The Topic is The Bleak Midwinter. Yes, I know some of you are not experiencing cold weather and do not feel bleak. Maybe come stare out my window for inspiration…
  2. Try for a Length of a standard 3-75.5 words.
  3. Rhyming is wholly up to you.
  4. Make it terrible. I want your poem to force travel agencies to contact your therapist to make appointments for themselves after reading it.
  5. Keep things PG or cleaner. It’s about the bleak midwinter, for heaven’s sake.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (January 17, 2020) to submit a poem to Chelsea.

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

Boy it’s bleeding bleak

Low chance of me doing a streak

Every day it rains

An everybody complains

Keep hoping for some snow

More chance of seeing Marilyn Monroe

In every lane and field

Dreaded mud congealed

Wind so strong

It blows over King Kong

No chance of seeing the sun

This is no bloody fun

Every day is exactly the same

Redonculous Boris that’s whose to blame

Vanish

A wall which needs to be crossed, damp moss and a spare pair of trainers with hardly any tread left. That my friends is a recipe for disaster. Today’s woodland trail run was blocked by a tree felling operation. Either that or Yorkshire is clearly the location for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 25. The deafening roar of multiple chainsaws close by. For what ever reason the trail was taped off. So two options. Turn back or cross the wall. An attractive downhill path swung the decision in favour of the green wall. Twenty seconds later I’m lying face first in a muddy puddle. Forty minutes later I am stood semi naked in front of the washing machine trying to work out how much Vanish I need to add for caked mud clothes. Two hours later a fully clothed Neanderthal is now surveying the wonderful job Vanish had done to my running kit. My once blue leggings are now a mottled light blue psychedelic design. The dark blue leggings colouring had now jumped ship and transformed my once white running top. But the muds gone. That Vanish is good stuff.

For that time when the runner has gone thud

And his clothes are covered in filthy mud

When soap and water won’t do the job

And that runner doesn’t want to look a slob

In need of rescue after that mossy wall

Which hero are you going to call?

With just 5 scoops your colours will banish

But that mud will be gone thanks to VANISH.

I was lost for an idea for the returning Chelsea Owens Terrible Poetry contest. But thanks to chainsaw wielding lunatics and a mossy wall a terrible poem was born.

If you fancy a go then this weeks rules are

  1. Let’s start off with a fun Topic: commercial jingles. Pick a product and *wow* us with an awful little diddy.
  2. Most commercials have a short runtime, so keep theLength fairly short as well.
  3. Do you need to Rhyme? No, but catchy tales bring in more sales.
  4. Look, chum: just Make it terrible. Make your audience sit up, take notice, and frantically push the Mute button until the horror passes.
  5. This needs to be appropriate for General Audiences. Write accordingly.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (January 10, 2020) to submit a poem to Chelsea’s site.

One final irony. Vanish normally comes in bright pink containers. I went on Amazon to see if I could find a cheap pair of running leggings. One pair stood out. Unbelievably cheap. And the colour. Bright Pink. Yorkshire you have been warned…..

Green and pleasant land.

Welcome to Britain. A green and pleasant land.

A country where this man has just won a massive majority. A man who continues to cover up his repeated cockups which has led to a British Citizen bring help in Iran since 2016. Now his focus is on trade deals and turning the country into a trumped up lap dog. Sadly the poor British Citizen can’t offer a trade deal so she is stuffed.

Where this man from our Government claims that he has more common sense than those who died in the Grenfell Tower Disaster. He has made millions from his hedge fund company on the back of Brexit.

Where this man has been our Schools Minister since 2014. The man responsible for the current state of our schools. The man responsible for the introduction of testing for 4 year old kids. And the man who said kids taking time of for bereavement was like an extended holiday.

And a country where this man has just been awarded a knighthood. A man who introduced sweeping and brutal benefit reforms which has led to unprecedented levels of misery and is probably responsible for the deaths of hundreds who lost benefits.

Britain a green and pleasant land.

*** the photos of these lovely human beings are from The Guardian, Inside Croydon, Yorkshire Post, Change.org

Red School Sky

Red sky at night ready for the school fight.

So the dreaded hour is fast approaching. School opening its gates again. Feel so sorry, sad and angry for the kids like our Son having to face up to the nightmare which is modern schooling. I use the term modern in its loosest sense.

Increasingly my thoughts are turning to homeschooling. When to flick the switch. How to make it happen. Trying to stress tests the plans which are swirling around in my pea soup of a brain. Which options are best. What fits best with our circumstances. The aim being to have a workable plan in place by the end of February. As ever Son is the voice of reason. In fact as it’s his future he is driving the process. It has to be that way. He really isn’t happy but he’s giving the new term a go.

Dad going to give it a real go. Want to either see me moved up in the subjects I’m good at or want to be helped in the ones I struggle a bit in. Just one subject move would be cool.

“It’s not the subjects you struggle in. It’s the way the teachers judge you in those subjects. It’s never about the stuff you know. You have never had one comment about that. Remember what that teacher said last year – Don’t let anyone tell you your not clever. You are. The problems are not yours. It’s ours. We need to find better ways of getting the stuff in your head out into the wider world.

Ok Dad. Well let’s see what happens. What’s the plan if it goes pear shape this week at school?

Send you up chimneys to earn some money to pay for my rock and roll lifestyle”

Are you joking?

“Sorry, yes son I am pulling your leg. At least you can fit up a chimney.”

Your bottom would me a fine chimney sweeping tool. Not much would get past that.

“Let’s hope that school goes really well and your super happy. Let’s cross the over bridges if they happen. Most bridges are good ones.”

Which bridges. If I remember correctly we drive over 5 on the way to school.

And the voice of reason brings his Dad back into the real world again. So many options to consider.

  • Online tutor v Local tutor.
    How much will I teach. I can certainly do Computing, Mathematics, Science.
    Subjects like Geography and History maybe we just let him run with it. As last years Class Teacher said ‘you probably know the subject better than me already“. Just concentrate on how to access his ideas. Find the best way to express them.
    How to tailor some of the tuition around times that I need to go into the work base.
    Restructuring work to fit round the new world. Luckily I can probably do this. Just maybe will have to put off buying that sports car for say the next 100 years.
    When we move into the 15 and 16 age range how to handle examinations. Some of the colleges have courses for qualifications he could opt for. Would that work for him. Or do we go the tutor or online tuition routes.
    Languages – how far do we go down the online packages route such as Rosetta.
    Ways to ensure that he can socialise when he wants and needs to.
    And on and on

So much to consider. Maybe just maybe school might step up to the plate and this is never needed. That is probably a pipe dream so it’s time to sort this out. It will be a reassuring feeling when a plan is in place. When we have an idea what his education week and plan will look like. To our Son that level of practicality is an essential part of the transition process. It will help him at school knowing that he has a Plan b.

If anyone reading this has ever homeschooled then it would be great to hear from you. Either as a comment or email. What did your ‘learning week’ look like. What approach did you take. I’m sure this wont be the last you hear of this. I think the more we can talk about homeschooling the better. In many places it’s still frowned upon or it’s seen as a bit of a dark art. Maybe people should frown upon the mainstream school system instead.

I will leave you with one final thought.

Dad Santa can get down chimneys so there is always hope for you. There is always hope.

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.

The river

Plenty of water flowing under the bridge. The water seemingly never ending.

In the run up to Christmas I was worried that it would bring sadness and hurt. Anniversaries and big holidays do that. As it happened yes one or two wobbles but son seemed to enjoy himself. That’s the only thing that matters these days. So it’s late on Boxing Day and soon Christmas will have gone. Job done. I survived.

But the flow of grief never stops. It’s ebbs and flows. The calm often masks the arrival of a raging flood.

Unknowingly my attention for weeks has been focused on the goal. The goal of giving our son the best Christmas possible. A real focus. A real direction. Caught up in the growing excitement of a child looking forward to time off from school and still hooked on most things festive. That rubs off on the parent.

Now it’s the end of Boxing Day. Heralding the coming end of that special time. The end of the focus. Suddenly it hits me. A new year. A year of more school strife. Son spending so much time in a place, an institution (sadly seems a more apt term to use than school) which goes out of its way to constrain, belittle and make him feel without worth. Hence another year of soul destroying fights with the authorities. Trying to squeeze more work into those hated school hours. Failing to find a way to rebalance the books to allow for home schooling. Adjusting to a world of increasing isolation which currently is the path of our sons Aspergers journey. Sleepless nights and tired days. Living in a country which is becoming increasingly alien to me. All wrapped up in another year without my beloved partner.

Tonight that is a truly haunting feeling. Son is in bed so no distraction from these worries. Suddenly I feel low. Very low. Feeling so unprepared for 2020. For all my fears Christmas provided a much needed boost. Something positive to focus on. Something tangible which I could have an impact on.

This haunting feeling will pass. It must pass. No one to step in if I shut down. Like most parents I will do what ever it takes for our children. A few tears tonight I suspect but tomorrow let’s make some more laughter for our son. OUR SON as it’s still our son. Yes I’m carrying the baton but he’s still our son. I just can’t drop that baton now. So after January 1st I will find a way to go again. Maybe it will be the year of progress. Maybe I will end up reposting these words next year as nothing has changed. Like the river I’m sure the bouts of sadness and loneliness will keep flowing. Constant stream of perpetual tiredness. But the good times and smiles will also flow. Yes remember that river – it keeps flowing – I keep going.

Need the full picture AGAIN

It’s difficult to work if you only have part of the picture. This is so true of dyslexia. A few days back we explored how difficult it is for a child with dyslexia to answer school questions without help. A help which is often absent.

Our son is dyslexic. He has found a way of reading up to half the words he is is presented with. The missing words are either filled in with educated guesses or just missed out completely. He faced the following test question without any help or any additional time.

Tissue is a structure made of many cells performing a similar function and different tissues do different jobs. Which tissue carries the fluid containing nutrients, oxygen and waste products?

Without help son read this question something like the following.

Tissue is a s……….. made of many cells p………… a s………. function and different tissue do different jobs. Which tissue c……… the fluid c…………….. n……….., oxygen and water products?

The letters in bold he guessed. When you guess you naturally gets some words wrong. Without help he was unable to read enough words to allow him to answer the question.

This is such an issue. You need to have understood enough words to allow you to make proper sense of the sentence. The more missing words. The more guessed words. The more words read incorrectly. The greater the likelihood that you will answer the wrong question or just be unable to answer at all. Our son is really good at maths as long as it’s just numbers and symbols. Add text and his performance starts to level off. He’s not getting the maths wrong. He’s getting the English wrong.

Another complication is that he frequently reads characters reversed.

He then has to make sense of the reversed character pattern. Sometimes he can process the character correctly. This takes time. Other times it throws his reading completely. When you think of letters like b and d. A reversal here is hidden but can have a huge impact. Is the word bad or is it dad or is it dab or is it bab.

The above example of reversed characters includes numbers. Number dyslexia is often forgotten. Son has less difficulty dealing with numbers. But it’s not plain sailing. Numbers can be read reversed. Numbers can be misread. He struggles to read numbers which contain a decimal point.

And there is one final surprising factor he has to deal with. We stumbled across this issue by chance. But it’s been confirmed by the health professionals. His mind switches between processing characters from left to right and then right to left. We haven’t been able to workout why his braindoes that or when the switches occur. But when he switches to right to left processing his brain must then try to reverse the image so it fits in with the English language. We had hoped educational professionals would examine this and see what impact this is having on his dyslexia. Maybe it’s the reason for it.. We are still waiting.

This is our sons dyslexia story. Every case of dyslexia is unique. It’s causes are not well understood and thousands of factors can impact on it. Surely it’s time our educational systems got up to speed with dyslexia. It needs commitment from government. Sadly in England this has not been forthcoming. In fact in many ways under the last 10 years of Conservative Rule the plight of dyslexic children in mainstream schools has got significantly worse. It’s time the Schools Minister got off his backside and did something about it. Maybe there is still time for him to see the bigger picture.