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.

Million miles

Always two sides to every story..

Dad it’s been nice. On our walks we haven’t seen anyone. No one has been to our door all week. The phone hasn’t rung at all. Your mobile has not rung. Even when we went to the little local shop it was empty.

In the quiet moments of this week I had been fretting over the isolation. The increasing physical loneliness. Failing to adapt to the new world forced on me by bereavement. Yet one persons silent hell is another persons dream land. And when that person is our son then that is all that matters. The single most important thing. He is happiest when he distances himself from this strange alien world. So be it then

So I need to adjust to this new reality. So many others have had to. The wonderful comments I’ve received over the last few days have demonstrated this. It’s also demonstrated the indomitable human spirit. You can do this. I can do this. WE CAN DO THIS.

Friends. Good Friends. Close Friends. They are to be cherished and loved whether they are stood in front of you or if they are sat in front of a screen seemingly a million miles away across an ocean. Thank you for being there.

Let’s leave it with the fine words of Henry Rollins.

Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better

The armchair tour.

One of the hardest things to adjust to over the last three years has been that my world has severely contracted. It’s rare for me to travel more than a few miles. Certainly had no holidays in that time. I end up feeling very cut off and a million miles from anywhere.

Then you get days (like most of us) which are bleak. Sad. Depressing. When my dear mum got those days she would listen to sad music. She said it cheered her up. Although I love sad songs they just don’t cheer me up. Looking at old photos helps a lot. But these often leave me with a feeling – I wish I was there now.

So I started something a little different. My own little armchair world tour. I have a list of carefully selected webcams which I can run through in 10 minutes. Many of the webcams are places I’ve been. Some are wonderful views. Some might just be a street corner which has a poignant memory. Then a few webcams are from places I so want to visit one day.

I really look forward to my daily armchair tour. It’s exciting seeing what the places are looking like currently. What’s the weather like? Is it busy? Has anything changed? As I enjoy it so much I tend to save it up. Keep it just in case I need cheering up or calming down later.

So to give you a feel I’m going to leave you with a few of the webcams. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Spiez Webcam

Kandersteg Webcam

Glen Coe

Schilthorn Webcam

Gornergrat Webcam

Gstaad Webcam

Patagonia Webcam

Cape Town Webcam

Maennlichen webcam

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

Fear

Sometimes the path leads to the light. The direction is clear. Other times the path takes you unerringly into darkness and uncertainty. Into fear.

Over the last few days my spirit and my mojo has dropped alarmingly. Today life is a struggle. I’m tired. I’m making too many mistakes. The smile is a little too forced. Confidence is a rare commodity. I feel old and worn out. The direction seems uncertain. Even the written word seems increasingly wooden. A few paths maybe have run their course. Maybe too many paths are now just covering old ground. Life focuses on don’ts rather than do’s. Where abstinence from the likes of caffeine moves from health enabling to puritanical punishment. Life doesn’t flow it requires back breaking effort.

It’s times like this that LOSS hits home the hardest. You realise what has been lost. That reassuring presence is just not there. The rooms seem empty and echo with sad thoughts. Isolation is all consuming. My bones feel fear. Yes fear.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” – C.S.Lewis

The track in the photograph – eventually it bends to the left and takes you out of the eerie dark. On the other side of the hill the track opens out and runs through a beautiful little moor. Just need to have the courage to keep on going.

So tonight let’s just get through what’s left of this lifeless day. Then in the morning – reset and go again. Find that path. Maybe it’s a new path with old ones closed down. Have the courage to continue down it.