Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be time for our weekly virtual visit to beautiful Switzerland. This week it’s a bit different. I’ve asked son for his favourite Swiss spots. So let’s see where our virtual trip takes us.

First stood on top of the Niesen.

Second is stood on top of the First mountain.

Just sitting on the really cool Swiss trains.

Getting next to the big mountains.

Being the highest he’s been at 10,285ft on top of the Gornergrat.

The best playground ever.

Going to the brilliant zoos.

Playing golf. Switzerland has the best courses.

Looking at the yachts parked up in front of the hotel we stayed at.

Sat on the edge of the wooden walkway outside the hotel looking at the Niesen and waiting for the swan to arrive so we can feed it.

The old branch which is always there on our walk to the playground. One day he wants to be brave enough to walk on it.

A trip on one of the old Swiss lake boats, especially the big steamer.

Any finally with his favourite knight from castle in Spiez.

Random Tree

A random Yorkshire tree. When it snows, a random Yorkshire Tree positioned at the end of our sledging run. So a random Yorkshire tree with a very hard trunk which I have collided with on more than one occasion. It’s like a Rome. All the sledging runs seem to abruptly end at this tree.

So this morning’s fight with WordPress was a bit of a score draw. On the plus side it went remarkably smoothly and very quickly. On the downside my attempted fix – didn’t pigging work. So the app is still possessed. My comments on many sites just disappear. One explanation is that I’ve upset one of the Spam filters. I might have used a naughty word on a comment (or two ). See kiddies swearing is not big or clever. Anyway until it’s resolved I will keep trying to comment on your sites – a few comments are still sneaking through. Enjoy the peace and waffle free time while it lasts.

So the school version of homeschooling has ended for another week. It’s now the two week Easter break. A break which will probably look very like the last few weeks. Normally we look forward to these two weeks but this time it feels like just the same as the last few weeks. No real change except the school iPad can remain switched off.

But as everyday is FUN DAY let’s try to make the most of them.

It’s good to see school is getting into the celebratory mood. The kids have been set homework and have been given plenty of revision to complete over the holiday. After Easter it’s straight into online exams and YES the delights of spelling tests. Deep joy.

But we are not going to let school put a dampener on life over the next couple of weeks. So at lunchtime we reverted back to one of sons favourite games. Bouncing on a trampoline while holding a bucket filled with water. It’s amazing how even Son’s bucket of water ends up over his Dad. Maybe that’s why the game is so much fun. Then it was back to online lessons and trying to explain to a bewildered son the finer details of love poetry. You might have seen my sledgehammer writing style in Thursdays Terrible Poetry submissions. Me advising on poetry is like asking a pheasant to operate a pedestrian crossing. Some lessons are about personal growth and development. However this one was just about survival.

After the last lesson of the day the Easter break started with a dog walk. A walk to our sons self imposed world boundary. And a look over to a distant random tree. A tree beyond our little world. Let’s hope that when we get snow again, once again all our sledge runs will be able to meet this tree again.

Like new

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.

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.

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.

Pizza Saturday

A new day. Let’s not allow any crap from yesterday mess up today. The cynical side of me is shouting – today probably has enough new crap to keep me occupied. But today is a new page and let’s see what it brings. Pigging lots of fun I hope.

Late last night (430am) I finally gained some control over my two brain cell super computer. My mind wandered to the stuff which social distancing is stopping which we could run virtually.

A virtual darts league

A virtual computer gaming league ( would be even more fun if it was just for those whose middle name is something like ‘Games Nube’ or ‘Apart from the old Atari tennis game I’m generally Crap’)

Virtual Cooking schools and bake offs (we did a brilliant one last year)

Virtual Gardening Clubs or in my case a Virtual Mass Plant Murderer Club

Virtual Exercise or Yoga Gyms

Virtual Book a major event. Say Wrestlemania, LiveAid, Woodstock, The Great Exhibition

Virtual Coffee Meet-ups

Virtual let’s recreate the cinema experience and watch the same film then review it night out

Virtual Homeschooling school gate meet-ups

Virtual bad hair days

Virtual fashion disasters as we can do whatever we like in our homes. Really go for it

Virtual design with Lego or whatever you have in the house challenges (come up with a theme and see what people and the kids make)

Virtual let’s write a song together gigs

Virtual let’s make pizza lunches.

On the subject of making pizza. Well that’s what we have just done.

Yes it’s not to Pizza Express standards. But we don’t care because we had fun… and yes I know the work surface needs a good clean…… Our pizza session also introduced a new concept to me. Ethical Cooking Balance.

Son looked at my attempt. A pizza which was completely dairy, gluten, meat free. Then back to his. A normal ham, full on dairy pizza.

“Dad I think your pizza looks a bit sad. It needs something. Maybe some proper cheese and ham”

“Well son it won’t be ethical then would it”

Well think about it. I will take some of my existing topping and put that on yours. You then put some of your ethical topping on mine. We have not used any less ethical products and not used any more unethical stuff. The quantities are exactly the same as before. But now my pizza is slightly more ethical and yours is slightly less ethical, but will taste infinitely better. So we still have balance”

I tried but couldn’t really argue with that. So that’s what happened. And yes he was right – it did taste so much better….

Masterpiece

A bit of yellow always warms the heart at this time of year.

I remember my Dad would take great pride in the small but perfectly formed patches of daffodils he would carefully foster around the garden. It’s funny how certain images of my childhood house are so etched on my mind. The outside toilet was a delight in winter. The small cupboard under the stairs that scared the pants out of me. The huge coal bunker at the back. Dads spotless greenhouse. The pantry in the kitchen which was the closest we got to a fridge. And the painting over the fireplace.

It was the only painting we had in the house. Lord knows where it came from. My parents would not have spent any money on art. Money was tight for all the families in our working class northern town. A town overlooked on one side by a giant chemical plant and on the other by a giant steel works. I guess like many things Dad would have acquired it at the pub. He would often return with random items. Once including my first pet, Speedy the Tortoise. So I guess he arrived back one night with a painting. It was clearly a very bad copy. Probably done via one of those paint by numbers sets.

Photo from Wikipedia.

So we had the Laughing Cavalier above our coal fire. Even then I realised it wasn’t the original and that it was probably a pretty rubbish copy. But it was our one piece of art, which made it special. Every night as we sat round the open fire and there was our very own art masterpiece. His eyes always following you around the room. That cheeky smile. I grew really fond of him. Even our budgie liked him. One of his favourite perches was on the frame just above his head. I would often dream about this guys back story. Many a dream was played out about his heroic deeds. In those days it was much harder to puncture your imagination. The internet was the stuff of Star Trek science fiction. The towns small library was great for things like fiction, cricket and car maintenance. It even had a goldfish pond in the kiddies section. Yet art history was sadly absent. So the Cavaliers myth continued all through my childhood.

Time marched on and I flew the home nest. My Dad died and Mum moved. The Cavalier was gone. I never found out what happened to him. I never got round to asking my mum. Another one of those unasked questions. Why do we leave it so long – too long.

I hope the cycle of life continued for my cheeky childhood friend. I really hope Dad took him back to the pub and he was handed over to another family for the price of a pint of John Smiths. And today he is sat above another fireplace. Creating dreams for more and more kids.

Terrible Poetry

It’s time for a bit of terrible poetry thanks to the wonderful Chelsea Owens and her weekly competition. This week the game is a foot with the following modus operandi…

  1. The Topic is the cute (or ‘cute’) things that kids say. I’ll admit I’m more inspired by the parenthetical version after our dinner conversations lately. What is it with young children (perhaps just with boys) and potty humor? Do they really think meals are the best place to discuss vomit?
  2. We’re talking kids here, so the Length may be quite short (barely learning to talk) or quite long (talks your ear off about Minecraft).
    …Don’t make the judge suffer too much.
  3. Rhyming is optional, or entirely concerned with the word ‘fart.’
  4. It’s likely to not need much help in this department, but try to make it terrible. Make my young children giggle and start chanting lines from your poem whilst pointing at a brother in an insulting way.
  5. Kids sometimes say words they ought not to, but let’s keep the Rating an optimistic G.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (the 13th!) to submit a poem to Chelsea.

So here goes with the philosophy of our very own wise one. So many to go for yet so few will rhyme…

‘Apart from his girl like eye lashes, thankfully no sign of dad in me’

‘Of all the festive colours, my muppet Dad bought a black Christmas Tree’

On a packed French TGV ‘why does the food smell of wee’

To someone from Ireland ‘apart from the rain, wind and cold is it like Hawaii’

Shouting ‘he’s got rabies’ to a poor bearded man on a train

To a mum in the playground ‘my dad fancies someone called Shania Twain’

‘Dad it’s rude to say fart you need to call it a bottom burp’

‘My Dad is a muppet, funny but such a twerp’

‘I can’t eat that carrot, it looks like a willy’

‘That looks like sick’ the day school served chilli

To his nursery teacher ‘my dad let’s me watch Frankenstein’

‘My teacher broke a cup and said a funny word, what does FUCK mean’

**** important note ‘my dad let’s me watch Frankenstein’ actually means ‘my dad let’s me watch Scooby Doo which featured Frankenstein’.

Pot of gold

As a kid I remember my parents telling me about the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The catch was that you had to run real fast as the Leprechauns would only wait long enough to down one Guinness. I didn’t fancy my chances today. Looks like the rainbow is at least three farm fields away. That includes the field with the giant, bad tempered bull and a large stream with the missing bridge (didn’t survive the last flood). Maybe next time.

Yes I know the Apple Tree needs a good trim. In my defence the last time I tried the tree fought back. I lost and ended up in the Accident Unit with an eye ball cut. Since then our only set of ladders has fallen apart. Replacement ones have to get in line with the other essential purchases. It’s going to be a long wait. With the pesky virus likely to significantly curtail my zero based hours contract, things are going to get tighter for a few months. A pot of gold in the garden would be nice. Knowing our luck it will end up on top of the Apple Tree and we won’t be able to reach it. Who needs money anyway. No guarantee that it buys you happiness. Look at the poor Leprechauns. An eternity just protecting a pot of gold. As good as a pint of Guinness is – surely there is more to life than that.

It was such a disappointment when I found out the science of rainbows. That’s another childhood belief which turns out to be a fairy tale. A large list of shattered dreams.

  • Rainbow Pot of Gold,
  • Easter Bunny,
  • Father Christmas,
  • Fairy rings,
  • Dragons,
  • Lightning was an angry dragon,
  • Tooth fairy,
  • Magic,
  • Man in the moon.

As I grew older more and more childhood beliefs went bust. The magic and awe in life slowly ebbing away. But to quote the XFILES – I Want to Believe. So I grimly hold onto the few which are still left. Ignoring the clear science because I Want to Believe. So in my eyes the Loch Ness Monster is still a possibility. Maybe a dino living in a deep loch cavern. My head wants to myth bust yet the heart still dreams of a Scottish Dragon.

The loss of magic and awe is a bummer. It’s a bummer for our son as well. I remember that dreaded Santa chat with the floods of tears. My tears as well. I remember the sadness of life unpicking childhood beliefs. I can see the same pain in our son. With his Aspergers traits he latches strongly onto these myths. They bring much needed warmth and magic to this cold, unforgiving alien world. I’ve told him that it’s always his choice what he believes or doesn’t believe in. Christmas now is not seen in terms of the magic of Santa but in the magic of Christmas. Some will say it’s bad parenting not to immediately disprove these fables. My take is life can be unremittingly grim, a little bit of hope, a sprinkle of magic can lift the heart. It’s good to dream. It’s lifts the heart and feeds the imagination. And just maybe brings a pot of gold.