The tree of hope

Three years ago I was trying to get my head round organising my partners funeral. At the same time I was trying to empty my mums house and wrap up her loose ends. My head was completely spinning. I was in full zombie grief mode.

One family personal trauma doesn’t stop the world from spinning. It carries on regardless. So I was immediately faced with continuing the application for our sons Education Health Care Plan. Sat bewildered at my partners desk trying to find on my own the words for the final application form. The words came so easy when it was two minds. Now the one failed me. Then the black pen stopped working. Couldn’t find another and the form had to be completed in black on the pain of ……

So I set off to the shops to buy a pen. But quickly I was lost in a sea of grief and unanswered questions. An hour later I found myself at a random garden centre. Clearly a good choice for stocking up on pens. I wandered around aimlessly looking at plant after plant. The cctv must have been focusing on me as I was clearly not acting like your ordinary shopper. Then I came across a sad looking tree. Actually more like a snapped twig. The label said ‘discounted Pear Tree due to damage’. I felt sorry for this broken life form pushed to a dark corner of the store. Now no more that an afterthought. It felt like me.

So I went in looking for pens and came out with Groot (Marvel Universe).

Over the next three years Groot has grown and is now about 5 feet tall. Looks surprisingly healthy. AND this year for the first time it’s produced pears. Just FOUR pears. But it’s not the fruit crop which is important here. It’s something completely different. It’s HOPE. When personal tragedy strikes your whole world is turned upside down. It will never be the same again. You move from creating memories together to replaying memories in isolation. But you can’t live your life in those memories. Life has to go on. In my case life did go on. Yes I miss her dearly. Yes sadness always feels just round the corner. Yes I’ve become increasingly isolated from society. But life has gone on. Sons Education Health Care Plan was approved. I’ve changed careers. Progress has been made with Dyslexia. The house no longer feels like a funeral parlour largely down to the addition of a barking mad dog. I’ve increased the range of foods I can destroy. And Groot is thriving. That gives me hope.

Homeless

Pets have really worked with our son. They provide so much fun and relaxation to him. Since he lost his mum they brought noise and life into the house again. That’s before we even consider the help they have provided with his Aspergers. Best parenting decision ever to bring them into our house. Not such a great financial decision but fiddle sticks to that.

One day we will get a sensible pet. It certainly isn’t the walking dinner plate which is our boy cat. It most certainly isn’t the mad pup currently outside trying to play hide and seek with the butterflies. The hope was that the three gerbils would bring some much needed sanity to the house. Team Gerbils maybe a super hero team ready to assemble but they are also a unrivalled demolition team.

The first house they had was plastic and lasted minutes. The second house was compacted straw and met a similar fate. We upped the anti for the third house with a construction of wood and wire. It has lasted longer however last night Team Gerbils got to work.

To be fair to them they did stack what was left of the house neatly to one side.

Dad we need to get them a new house don’t want them to get angry. You wouldn’t like them when they are angry.

So it’s wooden house version 2.

Notice that in the time it took me to get my mobile to take a photo Team Gerbils have got stuck into the roof.

If this house fails then it’s a phone call to Tony Stark and it’s time for Ironman Armour.

Live

Yesterday was suitably grim but another day dawns and we move on. Life needs to be lived. As son puts it

Even you Dad are allowed to have some fun.

I’ve scheduled that in my diary for an afternoon in March 2024. The same can’t be said of our dog. His diary is overbooked with the joys of life. We could all learn from that approach.

Not sure his cuddly toy cat is enjoying life so much at this precise moment. It’s a sign of affection – honest.

A public service announcement has started on the radio which comes from our so called Government. It is telling people and businesses to prepare for Brexit on the 31st October. That’s a laugh as our Monty Python Gumby Leaders couldn’t even prepare a cup of tea. I suspect prepare means stockpile water, food and medicines. Our dog has started stockpiling toys.

So faced with a mountain of work, a misfiring laptop and more helpful advice from the Government I did the only sensible thing. Go for a run. Yes I know I’m not supposed to run for another few months but bugger it. A few minutes later I’m running over the autumnal fields. Coming in the other direction was a group of ramblers. Must have been about 20 of them. I wasn’t planning on saying hello to each one of them so I opted for one shouted hello. Unfortunately at the very moment I slipped and shouted s**t. After that faux pas I ended up saying sorry and hello twenty times.

A bit later I came to a fence. Do I climb it or do I be a pillock and jump it. Mr Pillock it is then. Amazingly the body cleared the fence unfortunately the shorts didn’t. Ripped asunder. Suddenly the run became very air conditioned. Better head back down the back lane – bound to be empty. Can you imagine how thrilled I was to reintroduce myself to the party of 20 ramblers coming in the other direction. It was chilly so they wouldn’t have seen much. Wouldn’t have seen much at the best of times really. Anyway I ran past them with a running gait best described as a duck waddle.

So life continues. We move on. Somedays we will be sad but we owe it to those not here to live.

Energy

The poor Apple Tree has been stripped bare at its base.

If your not going to give me a bone then I’m going to eat the tree.

Its a hard life being a dog. Constant action. No need for caffeine based stimulants here. Oh for a fraction of that energy. What is the elusive secret of the unlimited energy supply. Is it chicken flavour dry dog food. Is it dog chews. Is it copious amounts of water. Is it getting a solid 6 hours sleep every night. Is it rolling around in any unpleasant object you find. Is it tummy tickles. Is it chasing your own tail repeatedly. Hopefully it’s not something to do with repeatedly sniffing the cats butt.

Today I’m officially zonked out. Really low energy levels. It’s a struggle. But you just have to keep going. Get through until night then hopefully a few hours kip. Parenting is a privilege. It’s the best gig in town. As a single parent I have got to spend more quality time with our son. I so so wish circumstances were different. But thats how it is. One major downside of going solo is that there is no hiding place when you are not firing on all cylinders. There is no plan b. Just got to keep going.

Anyway the dogs got energy in bundles and I haven’t. So you will have to excuse me as I am off to get a handful of dog biscuits and attempt to chase my own …..

Progress

If you think that pesky dog is getting his bed back then he can think again….

Today is a bit of a milestone. After encouraging him for months son has today joined in a Minecraft multiplayer game with some of the other kids at his school. Thankfully it’s some of the really nice kids. He is currently sat wearing his game headset talking some strange language about mods and Ender Dragon Portals. Worryingly it’s a language I understand just about. That’s real progress.

Now I just need to make progress on the dog and cat sharing front. Not going to happen.

Shopping

I ventured into a Supermarket today. What was I thinking about. Son wisely stayed in the car and watched Red Dwarf episodes. When I went shopping with my partner it seemed to insulate me from the madness occurring around us. Now as a single shopper I seem to absorb everything. It’s a truly bizarre experience.

First of all why do some supermarkets insist that they will only permit you to use one of the trolleys only if you first feed it a one pound coin. Could I find a one pound coin. Could I buggery. After 10 fruitless minutes ransacking the car I had to go into the supermarket to see if they would change a £10 note. “I’m sorry we are not allowed to give change”. So I bought the cheapest packet of sweets I could find. I fed the trolley it’s coin and off we went – in circles. Why is it of the 100 trolleys available I picked the one with the jammed wheel. So I tried again. This time the trolley went in a reasonably straight line but as I entered the shop the little blighter started squeaking. When I say squeaking I mean SQUEAKING. We are talking a 10000 opera singing mice squeaking through the Motorhead sound system. Too late to change as my first items are loaded.

I was going to get a melon but I watched as a chap proceeded to pick up every melon, squeeze them and then appear to smell them. Eventually he found one which he could love. Unfortunately I suddenly did not fancy a previously sniffed melon.

A little kid picking his nose ferociously within inches of the deli counter rather changed my view on lunch options.

Unbelievably I then watched as a woman started checking out every single cucumber. She was seriously squeezing each one. Some even got tapped on the counter. Strangely I crossed off Cucumber from the shopping list as I have a strict no purchase policy for all previously violated vegetables.

As I was trying to find just one tin of soup which was dairy free I heard a chap ask a Shop Assistant where the teabags could be found. The helpful advice the chap got was – well it’s not in this aisle it will be next to the coffee. When the chap asked where the coffee was he was told. It used to be in aisle 3 but they moved it. I’m sure you will find it if you keep going round the shop.

Then an old lady asked if I could pass her a tin of peaches down. I’m one 1/2 inch above average height. Why in God’s name do shops insist on having shelves where even an average height person has to go on tip toes to reach the stuff we are trying to buy. The poor woman who can’t be 5ft has got no chance shopping. Maybe the shop could hire stilts along with the trolley.

The aisle with the tomato ketchup and other sauces was cordoned off. Clearly a jar of something red had been dropped. However it must have been dropped with some force as most of the aisle resembled a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That’s going to take some cleaning.

I then went past the discounted section. Not sure what produce was discounted as what appeared to be a team bus of local holligans where at least 3 deep around the area. That is going to be stripped bare.

The pet section had a deal on cat food. Everything seemed to be buy one get one free. Yet nothing for the dogs. Isn’t that discrimination. Plus how can gerbil bedding be so bloody expensive. It would be cheaper to buy them a proper duvet with matching cover. Or maybe just buy them a tree and let the Gerbils do the rest.

You make it through the pet section then you find the way blocked at the cereal aisle. An impromptu meeting of what appeared to be the bridge club had helpfully completely filled the walkway. Oh for a Battering Ram.

Special mention to the poor mum who had successfully navigated the supermarket carefully packing her trolley with the weekly essentials. Only to find out her toddler had been having a great game of putting any item in his reach back onto the shelves – definitely not in the correct position.

Then we come to the dress sense. Ok on the sartorial scale I’m near the bottom. But come on. One chap in a fine pinstripe suit with bright yellow training shoes. The lady in what can be best described as a ballerina costume. The young kid (maybe 8) with the f**k you T-shirt. Or maybe the chap walking around in what appeared to be a string vest which was probably last washed 10 years ago. Or perhaps the big chap walking around in Tour de France Lycra which was clearly on the point of exploding under the extreme pressure it was subject to. Wow what an old fart I’m becoming. To balance things out I was looking spectacular in my luminous green running shoes set against a blue and green relaxed fit T-shirt. My exploding lycra issue was tastefully hidden under matching black and white running shorts. I think the term your trying to think of is numpty.

The freezer section lives up to its name. The freezers are working that well that the surrounding air has been chilled to somewhere close to East Antarctic Plateau temperatures. You could see the colour literally being sucked out of the shoppers trying to reach the ice lolly section. To my cost I discovered how little insulation running shorts and Lycra provide. I will never look at frozen Brussels Sprouts in the same way again.

Then it’s time to pay. When I say time I mean that in the loosest sense. A long queue at every open till. Then they start to open another till. The start to the Monaco Grand Prix has nothing on the ensuing trolley carnage. I was expecting Kirk Douglas and Chariot to make an appearance. And then when we do get to a cash till. Of the 16 available why do I always pick the one where the poor cashier has the plague. 5 minutes of coughing and sneezing and blowing her nose. Deep Joy.

That’s why I am hermit….

Murren

Switzerland does spectacularly beautiful mountain villages probably none more so than Murren. It sits at 5374ft above sea level with stunning views of some of the worlds finest mountains.

We ventured here a few times. The photos are taken from an Easter visit when an early heat wave cleared out the village snow. For some reason it’s the only place in Switzerland we came across a fully grown St Bernard. Now that was a big fella.

It is one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist destinations. The village has just over 400 residents so you might expect limited facilities. It has 10 hotels with 2000 hotel beds, 11 restaurants and 2 bars. It is also home to The Inferno, the worlds longest Amateur Downhill Ski Race. Unbelievably it’s about 5 times the length of an Olympic Downhill. That must be some tight buttocks at the end of that.

It’s a car free place – that’s right no double parking here. The village cannot be reached by public road. You can only get here by mountain train or cable car.

Next Sunday lets hopefully enjoy a glorious walk down from Murren to Lauterbrunnen or maybe we will head upwards towards a bit of James Bond…

Don’t look

If I don’t look will it go away…

Today in the post we got a Car Tax Reminder. Also the final notice for the House Insurance. That adds to the pile of bills on the desk. If I don’t look at the bills will they go away…

The side panel on the car is coming loose. If I drive over 30mph it starts to knock. The car is covered in a layer of mud – it should have a beautiful complexion when it’s cleaned. The inside of the car resembles a skip. If I don’t look at the car…

Son badly needs a haircut. It’s a combination of Shaggy and Cousin It. His school clothes are a little small for him now. Its the great end of school year parent dilemma – pay for new ones or battle on with the old. If I don’t look at his hair and his school uniform…

The chimney pot has a plant growing out of the top of it. When I say plant it’s big enough to be a sapling. No idea how I will get onto the roof to deal with it. If I don’t look at the roof…

On the desk I have another report to complete for our son. 32 pages. 52 different questions. Health and Education evidence required. If I don’t look at the report…

The garden looks like a jungle. A really unkempt one. The grass is that long the dog now disappears when he goes out for his morning constitutional. At least it hides the fresh mole hills. Nettles have taken over the borders. The weeds under the trampoline are now touching the mat. Could make the next bouncing session interesting. If I don’t look at the garden…

The washing is piling up. I always wanted to climb Everest. Well at this rate I might get the opportunity. Ok I probably imagined a slightly less wiffy Everest and one with not so many sock avalanches. If I don’t look at the washing…

The house is a battleground. Most of the curtains have been shredded by the cat(s). When I say curtains I could say sofa, beds, chairs, wallpaper, carpets, cushions. Most of the wood in the house has been chewed by the dog. Given the amount of wood in the house it kinda makes a dog heaven and a house which is becoming increasingly structurally unsound. Thats before we factor in the agents of doom – the Gerbils. If I don’t look at the house…

If I don’t look will that mad dog stop looking at me…

What is it

Million’s of years of evolution, survival of the fittest and we get to this. I’m not sure how I would describe this. Hairy, messy, scruffy, bizarre, bouffant, lazy, crazy wig, fur ball explosion.

Clearly he is taking his guard dog duties seriously. Like a coiled spring primed to leap into action.

But even when he is comatosed he makes you smile. Makes you forget how crap life is some days. And another key point. I can guarantee that when he does return to our world then his eyes will open and that tail will go into hyper action. Unconditional love – maybe just for his toy crocodile but it’s still love. But given that seriously geared up tail no wonder Muttley could fly.

So you return with the physio’s words ringing in your ear

I’m not so saying never again but just don’t expect to be running anytime soon.

That’s feels like another kick in the nether regions. Yet within a few seconds a hairy bundle of smelly dogness has managed to banish those thoughts. When you look around you can find stuff that makes you smile and makes you feel alive again. Keep looking and you just might find that Hulk Buster Suit.

Thank goodness for pets….