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.

Names on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has been very damp and exceptionally grey. No colour at all. So it called for some colour from a couple of weeks ago. Today this is as colourful as it gets. I can’t think of a name for this at the moment.

As I’ve got older I’ve become more used to dealing with the inevitable life curveballs. But not completely. The dreaded demon curveball still gets through.

Dad if I had been a girl what would you and mum have called me.

I couldn’t remember and that’s a great start to 24th December. My defence is that we found out very early on in the pregnancy that it was boy names only. But I still should remember that. Those fun brainstorming seasons for two unprepared newbie parents in waiting. But nothing. It felt like I had let down our son and lost another important link with my partner. It hurt. It hurt like mad. Yes you can hurt at this time of year. Sadly so many do. Sending everyone of you a hug.

To try and clear my head I went outside to do my odd outside thing. Push a wheelbarrow around the garden a few times. It’s hard work but that’s the point. In the middle of the garden was a stray Santa’s Hat – presumably courtesy of Captain Chaos. So as the effort started to do its job I donned the slightly soggy hat. Wheelbarrowing in the rain. Like to see Gene Kelly’s face if that was the song he was given all those years ago to dance to. Wheelbarrowing in the rain did its job. Mind reset. I have one job and that is to make our son happy. Make him happy this Christmas. Need to get back to my A Game.

“Son when was the last time you had whip cream direct from the canister into the mouth”

Never Dad.

“Well you are now”

So that’s what we did. Soon this was escalated to shaving foam covering my entire face. It kinda suited me. Still no George Clooney but a vast improvement. A look all the more better for the sound of laughter filling the house.

Dad do you fancy a first to hit the crossbar challenge.

Followed a few minutes later with

Dad you do know it’s first to kick the ball onto the goal crossbar not first to repeatedly kick the ball into next doors garden challenge

As I spent a quite a bit of time retrieving the football from next doors garden I got to spend a bit of time noticing how a garden should look like. Very neat and tidy with immaculate lawns. Well almost immaculate. A couple of ugly holes courtesy of an escaping Captain Chaos. That’s compared to our garden which is more akin to a ploughed farmers field courtesy of moles, son and CAPTAIN CHAOS. Maybe 2020 is the year of the NEAT GARDEN. More likely it’s the year of the NEED A NEW GARDEN. So as the ball sailed over the hedge again son shouted.

Dad what would you call me now if I was a girl.

This time the curve ball missed.

Laa Laa Po Dora the Explorer Elsa Tinkerbell”

Really Dad. All those names.

“No son Dads fibbing.

Good I was getting worried. It’s a joke then

“Yes

Maybe you could call me either Daphne Blake or Velma Dinkley

“Jinkies that’s a good idea”

So a day that threatened to be scuppered on a girls name ended with laughs about a girls name. Like many folks I operate on such fine margins. With so little separating happiness and sadness. I really hope this Christmas you find happiness.

Christmas Diaries 2

Still not what you would call postcard Christmas weather yet. This is lunchtime. Having said that how often do we get the crispy white stuff at Christmas anyway in North Yorkshire. In the 17 years we have lived here I can only remember one White Christmas. However I can remember many like the photo above.

When I was a kid I remember one really heavy snow Christmas Day. I remember sinking to my belly and my wellies filling up with crisp snow. Can also remember Dad going out before lunch to join a number of other men trying to clear the footpath. He told me it was so that the kids could get to school. Strange as the school was shut for another week. It was also strange that the cleared path went in the opposite direction to my school. Bizarrely the men stopped when they reached the pub. Can’t think why.

Our son’s school has now broken up for Christmas. So if it does snow I won’t need to worry about clearing a path towards it. One thing I do need to worry about is another little tradition of ours. How to keep the pets off the Christmas Tree.

The cat likes to try and sleep in it’s branches.

He is a very big boy, our biggest cat

That is how his Vet described him. So he doesn’t make the best tree climber. We usually find the tree toppled over with a slightly confused cat underneath it. Then we have the mad dog. Captain Chaos loves a tree. So much so that he likes to try and relocate it to his dog bed. This normally results in the tree toppled over which makes it so much easier for the mutt to pull it. Lord knows what Team Gerbil would do to it.

So my chair has to be relocated next to the tree. So I can sit and basically fight off unwarranted pet tree attention. It’s only a matter of time before the tree is toppled over and I am underneath it. Bet I would get the blame for that. That thought brings a smile. When I was 5 or 6 my family would put a real tree up in the living room. The family comprised mum and dad, my brother, three sisters and a very big dog. A dog who once bit the postman and then bit the local bobby (policeman) who came to ask dad to better control his pet. The tree would be filled to the brim with decorations. Prize of place on the tree would be these little silver paper wrapped chocolates. Either in the shape of Santa or an Elf. From Christmas Day onwards we were allowed to have one chocolate decoration a day. But this particular Christmas someone helped themselves to a decoration early. Three days in a row. Unbelievably I got blamed for it. Then on Christmas day the real culprit was caught in the act. The dog. I’m still waiting for my apology.

***WP is going into awkward mode again. Doing things like switching off comment boxes and stopping me liking other blogger posts. Normal service will be resumed when WP allows me to***