Almost ready

The apples are almost ready.

It will soon be apple crumble time. Now what to go for with it – Custard or Ice Cream?

There is always something to be thankful for. Even in 2020.

I heard someone on the radio say that to him 2020 was the worst period he had ever known. We are all different. We will have our own very unique years to forget. Suffering years. To me 2020 has been an odd year. Yes some new battles. Mainly filled with old battles. More isolation but not that much more than previous years. BUT crucially some wonderful things have also happened.

Eventually when I look back at my life 2016 will take some beating as my worst year. But even then that oversimplifies things. The first 6 months were not bad at all. Then the 6 weeks from hell. Lost my mum and then my partner. Came crashing into the competing worlds of grief, depression and single parenting. Those 6 weeks changed everything for ever. The despair associated with those 42 days and the following weeks just mark 2016 as a bad one. But you easily forget the good stuff that happened before and after. For example November 2016 witnessed the arrival of this well behaved and sensible four legged chap.

Yes it’s easy to forget that good stuff happens all around us, even in the darkest years.

Two things

Two strange things have happened over the last few days. And NO it’s not that I have found sleep….

The two things are that clearly we have moved back into winter and I have switched to the new WP editor. I’m hoping both are short term changes.

Not sure the cover to my waterproof exercise bike cover is Yorkshire weather resistant

It’s winter. Very cold, very wet and exceedingly stormy. In fact the storm force wind has managed to shift the exercise bike a few feet since last night. I struggle to do that on a good day. It’s been that wet I’ve spent most of the morning trying to stop the rain from flooding out the Utility Room. Too bad even to exercise outside, so it was an indoor session. Problem with those are trying to find enough space and the PETS. The sight of me on my back trying to lift up weights is too much for a dog and cat. Suddenly it’s play time for the not so little hooligans. What chance do I have I’d focusing on posture and technique when I have various well chewed soft toys dropped on my face.

Using the new WP editor feels a little like having a soggy, well chewed pet toy repeatedly checked at you. It kinda works but only on its terms. It does like randomly reformatting posts, messing up links, deleting posts and generally messing up my blog. The deleting of my posts may well be seen as a wonderful feature amongst many. It’s basically as well behaved as our pets, which is not behaved at all…..

Unbelievably this little white flower continues to survive the buffeting. Clearly it was designed to cope with ‘its raining cats and dogs’ weather. I suspect it’s not designed to cope with mad pets although it might be able to design a more user friendly WP editor.

Pond

A brief moment of colour before the next band of rain arrives. And yes it’s still two jumper (sweater) weather.

As a child my Dad created a reasonably large pond in the garden. He filled it with little goldfish. It was a haven for wildlife. A protected haven. It had its very own guard dog. Our large family dog called Mick. Mick was lovely but he had issues. He took his guarding the ‘family and the garden’ role very seriously. He bit a postman. He then bit a policeman. It’s amazing how quickly some people learn to understand the meaning of a garden gate sign. Do not enter – Dog who will bite strangers beyond this gate……So he was not a chap to be messed with. And the garden pond fell under his care. Fish, small creatures and small birds were most welcome. He would even let the small birds drink from his water bowl. Unfortunately the same privileges were not granted to larger creatures and large birds. So strangely they quickly learnt that Darwin might have a point and they had better quickly adapt. Adapt meaning give that particular garden a wide berth. A policy which was also observed by the postal and police services.

That garden pond is a long time ago. Since then I have never had a pond. That is until last week. Bad weather interrupted a garden tidy up session. So the wheelbarrow contained a few pulled up weeds. However the rain has transformed the scene. The weeds are doing rather well in the slightly damp conditions. I’m calling that a pond. Just lacking some goldfish and a guard dog called Mick.

Lollies and homeschooling

Somebody waiting to share my ice lolly.

This weekend the weather is going to be mad. For a start it’s dry (which is mad for Yorkshire). But the temperature. Midday today it was 21C (70F). Midday tomorrow is due to be 2C (35F). On the Yorkshire temperature scale that’s going from a string vest to two jumpers.

This week it was a 4 day school session. Definitely into a pattern now. Some subjects working well using an iPad and online resources. Some lessons not working well. But what have we learnt this week from the school at home project.

  • School are looking at how to enforce social distancing when they reopen. They are doing this without any help or information or resources from the so called Government. The only way they have managed to find a practical way is to split the existing classes up. Maximum Class sizes have to a third of what they are now. This basically means that it only works if many kids are homeschooled for at least part of the week.
  • The secret with about teaching is understand the particular needs of the child. With our Son and a subject like a History, it’s not about getting new information into him. Already he has a staggering encyclopaedia stored. It’s finding ways to get that knowledge out of him.
  • It’s basically impossible to free hand draw a circle and a pentagram on a tablet.
  • Even at home we have a stationary leak. Pens, pencils, erasers, rulers …. are going missing. I can understand losing them at school but at home …. really. Where are they?
  • When did long divisions become so complicated.
  • Son is enjoying having a regular school lunch. He says that his work on an afternoon has improved. He’s less tired. At school because of too many kids trying to use overstretched catering facilities, Son often doesn’t eat or drink. It’s certainly not helped by government pressure to cut break and lunch times.
  • Kryptonite won’t count when you are trying to name inert elements.
  • Son, the IPad and I do not agree on how most words are spelt.
  • One of the great feels is Son completing a lesson with 30 minutes to spare. Son can go outside and I can hover.
  • I am becoming a bit of an expert in Russian geography. Begs the question why I was so rubbish at Geography when I was at school.
  • The French I learned (or thought I learned) is fundamentally different to the French Son is learning now.
  • In all the weeks we have done this thing at home, most subjects have not set additional homework. Yet we are told that the kids are keeping up on the curriculum requirements. So what is the point of setting heaps of daily homework when they are at school

And the last thing we have learnt. Ice lollies during subjects like Drama really do ease the pain.

Kinda day

Surely it’s that kinda day.

The alarm rings and I drag the body out of bed and stumble towards my gym kit. Before exercise the important stuff. Feed the pets.

Start with the Gerbils. They will only eat one type of small animal feed and strangely it’s not the cheapest. Trying to change the food and water is always a challenge when you have three little white chaps scurrying up your arm.

Then it’s the big boy cat. He suffers after years of substance abuse. He has had far too many trips to the vets after sampling various harmful items – usually from the farm. Now he’s banned from going out and has to go on a strict diet. He can only eat gluten, grain and dairy free food. Special food which happens to be three times the price of normal cat food. He’s far from impressed and he is surprisingly fleet of foot which he eyes other food opportunities – usually my dinner.

At least the dog has cheap food tastes. He will eat anything. So he dines out on cheaper branded food. Anything works for him. Cat food, our food, vegetables from the garden. His favourites are particularly healthy options

Yorkshire Puddings

Chips and crisps.

Although cheap to feed he does have his very own foible. He can’t and won’t eat food direct from his bowl. He picks up each individual biscuit and carries it to a chair or the sofa. Munches it there and then returns for the next little piece of food. The process repeats for hours. Takes him ages to eat anything and the mess…..

Here’s the key thing. Yes the pets cost money, add workload and create so much mess.

BUT

They bring so much joy to our son. They bring life to the house. Bringing them into our world was the best parenting decision ever.

Village life

It’s almost time for these biscuit munchers to move to another field. The cows are massing, waiting to hit the field for the summer months. Hopefully the three cow friends of our dog are still here. Dog is wagging his tail at the sight of the herd in the distance.

That’s country life for you right there. That’s as exciting and as racy as it gets here. It’s such a different life pace than living in the city. It took me a couple of years to adjust. Life never stands still in the city. Constant noise, constant movement. Even at night it never stopped. So much light pollution, sirens wailing, so much human nightlife. Yes immediate access to facilities and entertainment but it comes at a price.

Here we get a chip van that comes once a week. A cycle race comes through maybe every couple of months. Once a year a vintage car rally might stop off. That’s it for the days. With the spaces and high hedgerows you hardly ever see signs of human life. That’s such a good thing somedays…. Son and I have our little challenges with forfeits. Basically it gives Son an opportunity to torture his Dad. I remember one challenge where the loser had to run round the garden ten times – naked. The inevitable happened and I found the whole experience most liberating. In a city that sort of behaviour would have got me quickly arrested. Here in the village all it produced was much chuckling from Son and bemused looks from the cows.

At night no street lighting or light pollution. No pub to foster human nightlife. Wander into your garden and it’s pitch black. The only noise is from the wildlife. I’ve told the story from the first night before. Stood outside looking at the stars. Amazed at how many I could see. Then a deeply unsettling feeling. I am not alone. I am being watched. Suddenly countless eyes appear at the fence. I of course took it in my stride. Screamed and ran. The eyes later revealed to be many sheep clearly waiting for biscuits.

But over the years it’s all changed. Now I find cities claustrophobic and unsettling. I’m not sure I could ever go back to living in one again. Certainly Son would struggle. He enjoys his space and the quiet. City life would be too many people in too little space. Too many sensory distractions. I remember my partner saying that we will never return to urban life. We might end up being in this house for the rest of our lives. She was right, sadly far too quickly right.

This day

I’ve been struggling to find anything interesting to photograph today. Then I had a thought. Let’s look back on this day in previous years. So a quick scan was made of my mobile phone photos and this is what I found.

This was our part of the world one year ago today. Another almost sunny day in Yorkshire. That’s 2 in a year. Wow.

In 2018 normal service has been resumed. It’s dark and rainy Yorkshire.

In 2017 it was a friends meet-up.

Can’t find a photo from 2016 but it would have been a Saturday. A time just months before the world changed for us. Saturday would have seen us get up early and visit my partners mum. After a coffee I would head off and shop for my mum. We would see her on Sunday. We would then stop off at a petting zoo. We would follow the exact same route through the little zoo. Waiting for quiet gaps to appear at each of the animals. Then we headed for home stocked up with sandwiches, cake and ice cream. In 2016 this would most likely have been a nice day.

So we find ourselves in 2020 and the world has changed for most of us. But just in case we revisit today in a few years time, we had better make it a nice one. So hopefully by the time you read this we will have built a ginormous Lego tower. The picnic in the garden was not disrupted by ants. I remembered to hard boil the eggs before they are decorated for this years Easter Egg tradition. This year we are going for Marvel Super Heroes. We both will have planted some peas (and they haven’t been immediately dug up). I will have found some frozen chips and our Heinz Tomato Ketchup supply can last one more hammering. Disney Plus will have been working and not constantly buffering so we could watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2. And that we had many more random laughs along the way.

While the lockdown is on I might revisit this idea. You never know what I might find and what thoughts it might unleash.

It’s such a hard life

Time for some random words.

Subservient Tudor Expect Discipline Chaperone Accused Suspicious Breadwinner Complicated Stereotypical Shakespeare Elizabethan

A few beauties from this weeks school spelling test. Is this really a level playing field for kids with dyslexia. I remember joking that in a few months he will have to learn the spellings of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs like Micropachycephalosaurus. Well the way these spellings are going I’m not ruling it out now.

A bit of a test day today for me. Trying to work from home completing jobs usual done at the work base. Reassuringly it went well. So well that I managed to complete about an hour ahead of schedule. With an empty work list I managed to go for a run. A chilly and very windy run. It was also quite a ‘hurty’ one. I was convinced that my knee and foot were playing up. At the end the real reason became apparent. Thankfully not my body. The shoe soles had worn completely through. Might as well have just run in my socks. Captain Chaos was in raptures. Two old trainers and a pair of running socks to chew and bury. After a frantic hour of digging and re-digging the poor chap was tired out. He needed a few quiet moments with his teddy.

It’s such a hard life….

Maybe I don’t need to replace my running shoes. If and when homeschooling kicks off my opportunities to go out running will be severely curtailed. May need to think about looking out for a second hand treadmill. When Son caught me looking at eBay he added to the shopping list. So on top of a treadmill apparently we need a second hand cinema sized TV, a slush puppy machine and a chef. Maybe we could find a chef who specialises in funny coloured iced drinks. With that thought swirling in my head it was time to take The Cap for his walk. Luckily I do have an old pair of trainers which still have some tread. But strangely I couldn’t find them in the shoe rack. Oh hang on. Worryingly I found the sole-less running shoes next to the dog basket. So exactly which shoes did he bury then. Bugger. Yes in a hole in the garden are my one usable pair of trainers.

It’s such a hard life….

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.

Christmas Naughty List

Unbelievably Santa did not give Captain Chaos coal for Christmas. How did he not make the naughty list.

He got more presents than I did. Even the neighbour whose prized lawn he’s dug up sent him his own card. Unbelievable. Actually it’s not that hard to understand. He brings such joy, fun and life to the house. Humans really don’t deserve dogs as friends. We need to learn from their unconditional love.

No visitors, no phone calls. Splendid festive isolation. Perfect for our son. The dad from a few years back would have balked at that. That’s before Aspergers entered our family. Now isolation is the new rock and roll. Thats where a Captain Chaos comes in. He fills the gap created by the isolation. He more than fills that gap.

Dad I thought you had bought yourself a present. Are you not going to open it.

Maybe a bit later.

Looking at that puzzled look on your face you have lost it haven’t you.

Yep put it in a safe place so I wouldn’t lose it. And I can’t remember where now… Don’t you just hate that.

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

Anyway the missing present is not missed. Too busy trying to duck and weave to avoid a flying well chewed Christmas Cuddly Robin. This is actually the quiet before the storm. Captain Chaos has still got to open his odd looking present. A 3ft long squeaking cuddly snake. Really wish my missing present was a set of ear muffs and maybe a safety helmet. Think I’m going to need them.