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.

Sad Playlist

It’s been yet another wet, muddy and stormy day. This photo was taken during one of the slightly drier spells.

Grim dog walk.

Exceedingly grim run.

I wasn’t planning on running today but I just needed to get out of the house. I felt the house walls closing in on me. For times like this I often find a run is the most reliable way of clearing my head. It certainly worked. Not sure it worked for the skin. Came back looking like a Prune.

When I say running works I should add And listening to music on my MP3 player as well. I have a playlist for this type run. The music is either quite deep or somber. I blame my mum for this. If she was feeling down she would always listen to music. Always sad songs. As soon as you went through the front door you could tell if mum was trying to cheer herself up. Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Runrig, Sinatra, Roger Whittaker or Andy Williams would be blasting out. She always said that sad songs cheered her up. I always thought it was very bizarre yet all these years later and I’m doing the same. So here goes. Here are some of the songs which have made the list. And no Roger Whittaker and Durham Town is not included.

Alter Bridge – Godspeed

Disturbed – Sound of Silence

Shinedown – Get Up

Five Finger Death Punch – Gone Away

Runrig – Somewhere

Avenged Sevenfold – So far away

Johnny Cash – Hurt

Anathema – One Last Goodbye

Leonard Cohen – You want it darker

Queen – Who wants to live forever

Neal Morse – He died at home

Pink Floyd – Coming Back to Life

Just in case Mum is expecting it, here’s one just for mum. This is certainly not on the playlist.

Roger Whittaker – Durham Town

And here’s one for my partner. This could make the playlist.

Madness – It must be love

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.

Christmas Diaries 1

It’s been a grey moody day. It never once looked like clearing. At least it didn’t rain for a change.

The zero based hours contract gave me me three hours work today. For the next couple of weeks any work demands will be minimal. Not great for the bank account but it allows me to now focus on our son. So with a couple of days before the school breaks up – Christmas is about to start in earnest. So an early warning. You may get a few Christmas Parent Diary entries coming your way. Hopefully most will focus on the happy side of life. It almost certainly will feature a few cooking disasters. In fact let’s sort the first diary entry out right now.

So after the work dried up it and the grey run was completed it was time for a bit of baking. Time to make a stunning gluten free stollen cake. A few chaotic shopping trips had stocked up the larder with all the ingredients. This time it’s going to be baking heaven. Hang on a minute where’s the marzipan. As I love the stuff I bought 4 slabs worth. But where are they. Absolutely no sign. Don’t you just hate it when that happens. No problem I will just pop to the local store. Don’t stock it but they did have infeasible amounts of glazed cherries. So off to the supermarket. How can a supermarket run out of marzipan. How can the only other store reasonably close by also have none in stock. I gave up so let’s just make a Christmas cake. Three hours later I’m looking at a baking abomination. Crispy on the outside, undercooked on the inside and a ginormous sinkhole at its centre. The birds will eat well tomorrow.

So ends the first Christmas diary entry. But let’s do the diary preface now.

Christmas can be lovely and fun but wow can it hurt. It’s one of those times which naturally draws you to what you have lost. I was reading a blog which talked about this in such a haunting way.

All aboard! The holiday struggle-bus is pulling into the station, and I’ve got a ticket to ride.

That bus hit me yesterday. I was simply wrapping our sons presents up. Instantly I’m taken back a few years. Christmas music on. A couple of glasses of wine. My partner a ninja master at unwinding the cellotape and securing the edges of the wrapping paper. Unbelievably I was an expert at finding the best way to wrap the presents up. The perfect production line. So effective and so loving.

Now I sit on the floor with a tea and whatever is on the radio. To be honest I’m not listening. The presents are still being wrapped well but the cellotape has won the battle royal. It’s wrapped around my fingers, on my clothes, stuck to furniture and yet refusing to go anywhere near the wrapping paper. Love and happiness replaced with frustration and sadness. It’s never going to be like it was. That love is not going to be replaced. Those shared dreams are binned. It’s a truly sickening feeling.

It’s so easy to forget that this can be such a tough time for so many you are bereaved. For so many in pain. For so many without anything. For so many who are lonely. My heart goes out to you. You have a soulmate here.

Yes over the next few weeks this blog might get a bit silly. I really hope it does because it shows that I’m doing my only important job. Trying to make Christmas as fun as possible for our son. But underlying it will be someone still grieving what has been lost. My hope is that some of that Christmas magic which hopefully is enveloping our son will rub off on me. Showing that you can grieve but it’s still possible to have fun. If it works for me I really prey it’s rubs off on you as well.

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.

You don’t look like

Another cold and beautiful morning. Doesn’t look like the expected wet and windy weather forecast.

Robyn on her brilliant blog was taking about someone who played Death Metal music during a gym session and yet looked so UnDeathMetally. I remember a few years back going into a HMV record store and trying to buy a Hardcore German Death Metal CD. The young guy at the counter looked at me then looked at the cd and said “this might be a bit heavy for you”. I managed to stop him before he directed me to either the Country Music or Dire Straits sections. Clearly I didn’t look like a head banger. I should have warn my Motörhead Tour T-shirt.

I remember another time at work when a particularly gruesome Salesman barged into the office and asked to speak to the Chief Accountant. When he was pointed in my direction he walked up to me and announced “you don’t look like a Chief Accountant” and laughed. In an unusually sharp response I came back with “you don’t look like a person with an appointment” and proceeded to ignore him until he sheepishly left.

But apart from these two moments ‘not looking like something’ has not been applied to me much in my life. Well apart from this year. It feels like it’s been open season on me. The following have all been said to my face over the last 12 months

You don’t look like a vegetarian

– You don’t look like someone with depression

– You don’t look like that photo on your driving license

– You don’t look like your passport photo

– You don’t look like a boxer … the physio said this as apparently I had a muscle injury normally associated with boxing

You don’t look like your best pleased

– You don’t look like a single dad … said to me by someone in the village

You don’t look like someone who plays Pokemon Go

– You don’t look like an XL … No but is it a crime to like wearing baggy tops for training

It’s not just me. It’s a team issue this year

Your Son doesn’t look like he has Autism …. said by a teacher

You don’t look like a boy with your hood up you have girls eyelashes … this was immediately preceded by the longest and hardest Paddington Bear Stare by our son.

Your dog doesn’t look like he’s partly Cocker Spaniel

– Your dog doesn’t look like he’s partly German Spitz

– Your dog doesn’t look like he’s calmed down

– Your cat doesn’t look like he gets much exercise

These were all said very innocently and are rather mostly amusing. Some you scratch your head and think what on earth is a single parent supposed to look like. Some are worrying – too many still assume that if someone tells a joke then they couldn’t possibly be depressed. Then there are the ones which are breathtaking. An educational professional demonstrating such staggering ignorance of Autism. It makes you realise what a long way we have to go as a society.

STICKMAN

The mad dog demonstrating the almost perfect combover. Maybe next time he will model the perfect beehive. Again I’m only jealous.

One of the things our country is rightly proud of is the NHS. Mainly free healthcare not dependent on the ability to pay. Once it was completely free paid for by taxes. It’s had some rough times. None tougher than now. A bodged reorganisation based on political dogma designed to open the service to extensive privatisation. Conservative austerity pushing services and staff to breaking point. Perfect for our leaders. It’s fits with the message that they are trying to push. ‘Clearly the service is failing, it’s not fit for purpose The only two things that can save it now are further privatisation and a move to an American insurance based system’. That’s what you will get if you vote in Britain for Johnson and Farage.

It’s becoming more difficult to see a Family Doctor. Many surgeries have a one or two week waiting list. Our Surgery operates a ‘phone at breakfast for an appointment that day’ system. It’s basically the same thing. I’ve been trying for a couple of weeks now.

The surgery opens at 8am so I started phoning at 7.55.

The surgery is currently closed please phone later.

Repeated phoning gets the same message. Then the lines open.

You are caller 39 please hold.

That’s progress over the last few days the best it’s started at was caller 49. You learn the system – anything over caller 40 means all the appointments have gone. Unbelievably I got an appointment and one with my Doctor.

Sitting in the waiting room is always an experience. Try to avoid watching the TV screens. In between advertisements for Care Homes the health messages are designed to convince you that that you are inflicted with every ailment and disease going. I once convinced myself that I had rabies. The person facing me is reading a paper with the headline “A million school kids being taught in class sizes of 31 or more”. Blood pressure starts to rise. The two gentleman next to me were exchanging accident details. One had broken his leg when a shopping trolley hit him near the frozen chicken section of the supermarket. The other chap had ricked his back bending over to pick up the TV remote control. A mum having a loud argument on her mobile while her little toddler whacked me repeatedly on the head with the STICKMAN book. “Your funny” shouts the toddler. I must have that sort of face.

Finally the Doctor can see me.

“Your Blood Pressure is Perfect”. REALLY. Clearly been assailed by a Julia Donaldson book is the new mediation – should be offered as a care pathway.

“Have you had any counselling yet. I did put you on the waiting list”

No

“How long have you been waiting”

Three years

*** Doctor now swears and goes into a tirade at the last 10 years of Conservative Governments ****

“I suspect the counselling isn’t going to happen. I’m going to give you some medication to try and help with your sleep. Come back and see me in January. But promise me that you will get a hobby and do it regularly. If you find anything that works then stick at it.”

So off I went to find a hardback copy of The STICKMAN. Any volunteers to give me a damn good thrashing…..

Perfect timing

Perfect timing. The walking woolly jumper had been resolutely looking the other way. After a minute of waiting I gave up and took the shot. Just in time for the sheep to turn it’s head and briefly pose for the photo.

Perfect timing. After 4 hours of excruciatingly boring work I needed a run. But some days the mojo is just not there. After a couple of minutes I was on the verge of abandoning. Just outside the village a car was at the side of the road. The car had conked out going through a deep flood. After a few minutes with a push start we managed to get it going again. A quite reasonable run followed and I only remembered that I was going to give up when I was sat back down at the works laptop.

Perfect timing. I made homemade ice cream tonight. For some reason my vanilla recipe came out luminous yellow. The ice cream was served midway through the Monsters Inc movie. Unfortunately we were still sampling it when we got to the scene with the yellow snow cones and the Yeti. The immortal Yeti line rather killed off the taste sensation

“Oh would you look at that. We’re out of snowcones! Let me just go outside and make some more

Homemade Yellow ice cream is now banned.

Perfect timing. I was going to do a post about school. You can guess what it would have been like. Probably done a few of those over the last year or so. But as I started writing it a song came on the radio. Not sure who the band was but the songs basic theme was

Those with depression sit in silence. Feeling they are the only ones. Those who have suffered need to shout. So others know they are not alone. So they know it’s ok to shout to.

So here goes with a change of plan. Imagine I’m shouting to some Nordic Operatic Metal music.

I am a single parent. I’ve experienced a few too many deaths over the last few years. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve become too isolated. My personal confidence is shot. The upshot of this is that I have been to some really dark places in my mind. Scary frightening places. Yes I suffer from DEPRESSION. So if your reading this and you are suffering then please remember that your not alone. If you can then it’s good to talk. Talking or writing really helps. There is absolutely no shame in admitting your struggling. I struggle. Millions struggle. Let’s shout together. We can do this.

Sometimes

“Sometimes only one person is missing and the whole world seems depopulated” – Alphonse de Lamartine

Maybe it’s your partner. Maybe it’s your child. Maybe it’s a parent. Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a pet.

It does seem that way some days. Maybe it’s on a walk. MAYBE ITS STANDING BY A LONELY POND. Maybe it’s listening to a particular song. Maybe it’s during a movie. Maybe it’s when your in bed. Maybe it’s when your at the school gates surrounded by couples. Maybe it’s when your shopping. Maybe it’s just when you return to a home with no lights on.

But with bereavement it will happen. One gone make the world seems empty. So what do you do about it? Sadly no one right answer to that. Every person is different. Every grief journey is different. With me those lonely times still hit and still hurt. I try many things.

Sometimes I just let it hit me. Confused and helpless.

Sometimes I try to distract myself. Just hope I eventually forget that feeling.

Sometimes I just let it hit me but it’s kinda reassuring. Not ever loving would be so dreadful. Grief is another word for love.

Sometimes writing helps.

Sometimes reading blogs helps.

Sometimes I need to find solitude. Sometimes I need to be in a crowd.

Sometimes it’s reading an old favourite book.

Sometimes it’s looking at old photos.

Sometimes it’s playing a game.

Sometimes I go for a run.

Often it’s trying just that bit harder to be that better parent. Trying to make life just that bit more fun.

Then you get sometimes when the best thing is to carry on but just to do it louder. Much LOUDER. So this morning I am ironing but let’s just crank up that Iron Maiden cd just a little louder.

Thirty Minutes

About a month a go I visited the Moorlands Nature Reserve. It’s a small but ever so beautiful piece of nature on the edge of the city. After years of driving past it and thinking ‘must go there’ – I finally found the time. Really pleased I made myself stop the car and go for it.

Well another work visit to the City. Work completed sooner than expected. So a spare 30 minutes before I head for the school run. No better use of that time than another walk round the Reserve.

The colours have so changed in just one month.

Countless studies have shown the positive impact nature can have on a persons wellbeing and stress levels. I’m no statistician but I confirm that even just 30 minutes is just so uplifting.

I just love the beautiful carvings which are dotted around the reserve. The old 14th century acorn quote is brilliant. We can make a difference. Seemingly small and modest things can grow into something impressive given time and patience.

I really need to make a date to come and look at that quote every single month. Yes seemingly small changes in my lifestyle can have a significant impact. The garden can be made into our own little nature reserve. I can make a difference. Son can achieve his dreams. I can do this. He can do this. We can do this.