Chaos Theory

Guard duty…

Scrap the guard duty, is that a biscuit I can smell….

I think we all have that sixth sense. Mine kicked in during the early hours. Son had just popped his head round the bedroom door.

Are you awake Dad?”

At the time I was reading about chaos theory. Got to explain my cooking disasters somehow.

I’ve got a question in my head and I can’t sleep.”

Sixth sense fully kicked in. My mind better get up to speed quickly.

It’s to do with the Royal Family and the rules surrounding the line of Succession.”

Relief as I feared a bird and the bees type question.

I’m guessing my question won’t be adequately covered in the Succession to the Crown Act”

Must admit in all my many years, I still haven’t got round to reading that real page turner.

I bet the Act doesn’t reflect the progress made in genetics, physics and quantum theory.”

No, I think that is a safe bet. Already my mind is braced for impact. A wander into his world is truly joyous but often feels like my mind isn’t quite able to take it all in. Maybe a bit like a modern and much safer version of a Psychedelic Trip.

Ok the rules on succession are quite straightforward and a lot fairer now. But what happens if we spiced it up a bit. What happens if through the advancement in genetics we managed to bring back a former King or Queen. Or maybe we develop time travel and can bring forward a previous monarch. A King or Queen who didn’t lose the throne in battle. Say Henry V or Queen Victoria. So the question is…. Would they still have a claim to the throne. Maybe it would lead to a civil war between those supporting the current monarch and those supporting Henry V or Victoria. Victoria won’t be best pleased with the current state of her empire. Henry V will be distinctly horrified at the current leadership of the country.”

And with that mind altering nugget he went back to sleep on it. Suddenly chaos theory seems so clear now.

Moonbathing

Under the right cloud conditions, a Full Moon can end up looking like the Sun. Especially to my old iPhone camera.

I had yet another weird dream. A weird dream which was so weird that it caught our Sons imagination when I told him about it. The Sun was going through a profound and long lasting quiet phase. It just was just not heating our planet up enough. The world was entering a new ice age. So the scientists decided to reflect giant lasers off the moon to warm things up. The Moon became the new Sun. As a result people would sunbath during the night, moonbathing. Full Moons became huge public holidays and communities held giant night street parties. Beaches and parks only started to fill up at midnight. Our world was forced to shift.

I guess that odd dream had a message that applies today. When things happen sometimes we have to change and adapt. The old way of doing things just stop working and we have to develop our own New Normal….

Dad have we got any graph paper. I need it for science.”

Strangely our massive school stationary cupboard doesn’t seem to have any stocks of graph paper to hand. Music is coming up soon, what on earth will that require.

Music Sheets

Flutes

Drum kits

Violins

Grand Piano

But we have learned to make do. To improvise. The days of just popping into the shops to stock up have gone. It’s one shop every few weeks and you just work with what you have. That’s the new normal. As is…

Dad this weekend since we can’t go anywhere shall we do something in the garden. Shall we turn it into the beach again. Maybe we can camp out on the lawn and imagine we are in the mountains of Scotland. Having our very own moonbathing party.”

That’s a great idea. That would be good for the both of us. The danger currently is that we are just not going anywhere. We don’t even manage to walk through the front gate anymore. Our world has contracted. Days merge into each other. Time passes us by. Even in these strange times, that is such a waste.

Reading between the lines many UK pupils will not be returning to school until September. An attempt will be made to get some younger kids back into Primary School during June. Those older children with key exams next year may get a few weeks of direct teaching time during July. That’s it. So it looks like we won’t have to face the ‘does he return to school’ question for several months. Not going to school has become the new normal. March through August will be completely without classroom teaching. That’s a long time. Such a long time especially when the only part of the world you experience is your garden. But that’s how it is, the world has shifted. So it’s time for us to adapt. Make the best of what we have. Like we had to a few years back. When loss destroyed our wonderful world. We had to adapt to becoming a one parent family.

We did it once, so I’m sure we will do it again. To find ways of stretching our horizons without leaving the garden. Maybe we call that moonbathing.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday – I think….

It’s May – I think….

But it definitely feels like it’s time for a trip back down memory lane to a visit to stunning Switzerland.

That building below The Matterhorn has always been a place of my dreams. Since I came across it, I have always thought that would be my dream location for my home. Maybe one day.

May 1st is a public holiday in some parts of Switzerland. On this memory journey we had headed off on the 1st to a Canton which celebrates the holiday. It’s a day for celebrating worker rights. In the town we visited all the shops had closed for the day. We watched a workers march. A very Swiss march. As they walked they picked up any litter and a few started weeding flower beds. After the march the celebrations continued with a super friendly music festival. While watching the music I sampled my first ever roesti (potato cake). What had I been missing all those years.

Sadly no photos of that day as I had run out of film for my camera (remember those days?). I’m sure if I had asked the nearest Swiss person in the crowd that they would have quickly found me a new film – it’s that sort of place.

Fortunately I eventually fed the camera and I still have photos from that holiday. Stunning walks through ancients forests set amongst the might Alps.

Leisurely boat trips across the stunning lakes.

The ever changing colours.

Glimpses of some of the worlds most iconic mountains.

The staggering water colours.

Sights and sounds which are so Swiss.

And of a toddler having the best ever time. Thank you Switzerland.

Big Sky

Today our little world is uniformly cool and grey. Feels almost autumnal. I suspect no Sun today. Rewind the clock a few days and it was a very different story. Looking out over the farmers fence and one thing struck me – that’s a big sky.

Living on top of a hill with no surrounding mountains and no tall buildings, nothing blocks out the sky. It does create the impression of a big sky. On days like the one above, it can be so impressive.

It might be grey but it’s now time for some more big sky thinking.

Dad, I have to start a project for school. For last weeks lesson I had to describe my own version of Middle Earth or Narnia. Well today’s lesson we now need to create a 3D version of this. The teacher says that we can use whatever we have in the house to build it. This might be a daft question but since the lesson started 10 minutes ago …. do we have any plasticine or playdoh in”

No…

Do we have enough newspaper and glue to make a papermache model”

No…

Do we have enough green, brown and blue lego to make a mountain landscape, with rivers, waterfalls and massive valleys.”

We do have lego but it would have to be a real multicoloured, mixed up type of landscape.

If I had realised that I would have to actually build this world then I would have definitely lowered by creative threshold. Maybe a small desert island with one tree and a rock. A really small, boring islands set in a randomly coloured lego world”

We tried to create his complicated world with cushions and rugs.

It’s a bit rubbish but at least we had the stuff. Problem is that we can’t leave our creation on the floor as it’s a pet magnet. We will need the world for lessons in the coming weeks and I don’t fancy building this every time we have this lesson.”

So we are moving to Plan C. After we have hopefully finished his other project which needs handing in, then we will be trying to make his world using flour dough. Could be messy.

Random memories

Today’s mobile phone, out of focus, wildlife photo. Another bird flying.

Another night and another bizarre dream. An LP (yes vinyl) was being released and I wanted to make sure I got a copy. So I camped out overnight outside a small record shop. During the increasingly wet and cold night the public telephone (just a few paces away) kept ringing. When I picked it up I could hear my partner at the other end, but she couldn’t hear me. Finally the record store opened and I walked in to find that what was the towns only music shop had been turned into a hairdressers…..

The record store in my dream was one from my past. I lived in a small seaside town which had few record store options. We had a Woolworths which was great for a few compilation records and those bizarre records that had the hit songs on but always performed by not the real artists. We had a Boots the chemist which sold a few records but only those from the likes of Sinatra or Shirley Bassey. Boots never allowed you to return records if they were scratched. Thankfully the town also had a little record store. A small ground floor, with an even more cramped first floor attic. The store was next to the towns Bus Station. Tony’s Records was my Saturday Mecca. I would spend hours pouring over album covers, carefully working out which record to buy.

Got so many memories from Tony’s. That time I bought a Mountain Live double LP. It was reduced due to a few minor scratches. Basically every song was unplayable accept one. Thankfully that one song, Nantucket Sleighride lasted 24 minutes. For those of a certain age in the UK, that song was the theme tune to the Sunday political show – Weekend World. I did get to see Mountain play that song live at my first ever music festival at Knebworth.

I remember Peter Cook and Dudley Moore bringing out the Derek and Clive records. Painfully funny but shocking. That bad you had to be over 18 to buy it. Tony’s wouldn’t sell it to me so I asked my mum. Nine the wiser she strolled into the store. The look my mum must have got when she asked if they had a copy of Ad Nauseum.

I bought my first cd from Tony’s. It was Rory Gallagher. Bizarrely I didn’t actually buy my first CD player for another year. I just couldn’t afford one. I just wanted to have one of those circular works of high magic.

That little shop closed down many years ago, but clearly it’s still going in my dreams

Bush and Time

Every year around August I think about either digging this plant out or really cutting it back. But I always decide not to. Basically too much like hard work. So it stays and has slowly taken over a corner of the garden.

And every April I’m so thankful I left it alone as the mass of yellow is just stunning.

So yes some decisions have unintended wonderful consequences. But not all.

Putting off getting married for a few more years so we could focus on Son was done for the right reasons but then time ran out…. Time wasn’t supposed to run out.

Putting off trying for another child …… Time wasn’t supposed to run out.

Putting off going as a family to New Zealand, Canada and Chile ……. Time wasn’t supposed to run out.

Leaving for another month fixing the hand held video camera and transferring those films of our Son’s first steps to video so my partner could properly see them ……… Time wasn’t supposed to run out.

Leaving to next week (and the week after) those really important questions I always wanted to ask my mum …….. Time wasn’t supposed to run out.

I can see a bit of a theme developing here. I’ve probably filled my time with too much unimportant stuff. Spent too much time worrying and overthinking issues – many of those I could actually do nothing about. Not focused on the important stuff. Not appreciated how precious and unpredictable TIME is. I have not seized the moment.

Hopefully I have learnt this lesson but I suspect that won’t apply to chopping down the beautiful bush.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday and the world is barking mad. We are still on lockdown and travel is just possible in our dreams. So let’s dream. It’s time to visit beautiful Switzerland.

I was going through some old photographs and realised that at this time exactly 9 years ago a happy family was enjoying a wonderful Swiss holiday. We had taken the train to one of our favourite places in the world. The beautiful alpine village – Grindelwald. Not a naughty wizard to be seen.

During winter it is one of the country’s most famous winter sports destinations. During the summer it’s a hikers paradise.

Apart from the Harry Potter link it’s well used as a movie setting. The Golden Compass, The Eiger Sanction, Star Wars (the backdrop to Alderaan) and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (James Bond) have filmed here.

What makes this village so special is the views. It is surrounded by some of Europe’s finest mountains. The Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau, Lauteraarhorn, Schreckhorn, Wetterhorn, Lauberhorn, Mannlichen.

It’s the home of one of the most epic backdrops to a crazy golf course on the planet.

It was also home to our Son’s favourite ever train station.

We always struggled to drag him away from it. Thank you Grindelwald for making me smile on this lockdown Sunday.

Stages

One of my first records I purchased was ‘All the worlds a stage’ by the rock legends, Rush. Shakespeare wrote that ‘All the worlds a stage’. Don’t worry I’m not going all thespian on you. But I must admit I fancy my chances these days of doing a mighty fine Richard III stage performance. Why is the Stagecoach Bus always two hours late when I try to catch it. Just watched wrestling on the TV which is staged. So many stages.

Then you get stages in grief. A couple of years ago someone asked me what stage I was at in my bereavement process. I just looked on blankly. All I could think of was two stages. Your life before the death and the life after the death. So I answered – in the second stage and I always will be. I guess that’s not the answer they were looking for.

Last night I was reading an online article about bereavement counselling. It talked about every bereaved person going through the same 6 stage process. I wasn’t convinced. Surely every person’s grief journey is unique. Why force people to follow a predetermined text book bereavement route which doesn’t suit them. So I gave up with the online article and scribbled down my own staged journey so far. It’s my interpretation of MY journey and in no way is it supposed to fit other people. Remember I’m not a Doctor or Psychologist. I moved a potted plant into my bedroom to raise the rooms overall IQ score. The height of my powers these days is to get the cling film wrapper off food without slicing off a finger…. So here goes with my journey.

The SHOCK STAGE. Within a period of 6 weeks I’ve just buried my mum and then my partner. I’m a complete mess. Barely able to function and yet I’m supposed to be a Dad. It’s like living in a prolonged nightmare. Trying to sort out the practicalities and legal side of death, but actually got no idea what I’m doing. Basically doing stuff I’m told to do.

The FRUSTRATION STAGE. The cards, flowers and phone calls have dried up. I’m becoming more aware of the reality of the situation. Trying to get my head round how to be a single parent and at the same time keep some money coming in. I need to find an alternative to my career as it just isn’t doable anymore. The frustration comes from realising that what worked in the past just isn’t going to work now. It’s also so frustrating that the world is still spinning without seemingly even blinking after my partner exited stage left. It feels like I’m fighting this new normality.

The ACCEPTANCE STAGE. Eventually I began to accept the new reality. This is how it is and I just have to deal with it. I came up with a mental picture which I still use today. A door on my former life has locked shut. It’s never going to open again. I can look through the door window and see memories but I can’t touch them. I could stand here forever but this door isn’t opening. So I have a choice. Continue to stand by the door or set off and find other doors which are still open.

The IT’S LOVE STAGE. Linked with the Acceptance Stage. I opened a mental dictionary and found a better definition of grief. It defined grief as another word for LOVE. That sounded so reassuring to me.

The IT’S OK TO GRIEVE STAGE. Up to now I would hide my grief. As if it’s something unhealthy, something deeply embarrassing to others. People might ask how I was doing but they appeared to rapidly change the subject if the answer I provided was not – I’m fine…..But suddenly as grief was another way of saying LOVE, suddenly it became ok to grieve. Yes it could still be so painful but it’s something I shouldn’t be hiding. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It really is OK to be sad.

The IT’S OK TO LAUGH STAGE. Up to now I felt bad about smiling and laughing. It was just not right. I would focus entirely on making our Son happy but shunned doing it for myself. It took well over a year but the penny finally dropped. Yes it’s ok to be sad AND YES it’s just as OK to be HAPPY.

The IT’S OK TO LIVE AGAIN STAGE. After the funeral all my dreams died. When I looked at life I saw it entirely through our sons eyes. When I tried to see it through my eyes all I saw was blackness. Absolutely no future. However over time it became OK to live again. Remarkably I can still be happy. I can find new doors that will open and create new memories. Life can still be at times sad and painful BUT IT CAN also be fun. Just starting to dream again.

That’s the stage I am at now. Embracing the happiness as much as I respect the sadness. Maybe, just maybe tipping the life balance in favour of fun. Yes it still can be a wonderful life.

Tree

Last night I had one of those dreams. That type of dream that leaves me breathless and unnerved for hours. Unable to sleep until after 3am then startled back into sleeplessness forty minutes later. All because I blogged briefly about throwing my knickers at Tom Jones.

I was walking across farmers fields. I was in agony as I was walking barefoot and the ground was rock hard with frost. With every step I seemed to tread on another sharp thorn. On my MP3 player was one song on repeat. Green Green Grass of Home. I was heading towards one tree. A tree on top of a small hill. The only tree on that hill. The closer I got the ground became more painful. Then the heavens opened and it started to rain increasingly hard. So hard my skin started to sting. Then I arrived at the small tree. A hangman’s noose swaying slowly in the wind.

That was clearly enough for me as I suddenly bailed out of that fun little dream.

Green Green Grass of Home was one of my mums favourite songs. You would often walk through her front door and hear Tom beautifully signing this song. The song written by Curly Putman was one of her favourite sad songs. It’s all about a man facing his last night on death row.

In the shade of that old oak tree
As they lay me neath the green, green grass of home.

What’s the lesson from this nightmare.

Is it

I really should stop blogging as it gives me nightmares.

Or

Next time I do have to throw my knickers at Tom.

Masterpiece

A bit of yellow always warms the heart at this time of year.

I remember my Dad would take great pride in the small but perfectly formed patches of daffodils he would carefully foster around the garden. It’s funny how certain images of my childhood house are so etched on my mind. The outside toilet was a delight in winter. The small cupboard under the stairs that scared the pants out of me. The huge coal bunker at the back. Dads spotless greenhouse. The pantry in the kitchen which was the closest we got to a fridge. And the painting over the fireplace.

It was the only painting we had in the house. Lord knows where it came from. My parents would not have spent any money on art. Money was tight for all the families in our working class northern town. A town overlooked on one side by a giant chemical plant and on the other by a giant steel works. I guess like many things Dad would have acquired it at the pub. He would often return with random items. Once including my first pet, Speedy the Tortoise. So I guess he arrived back one night with a painting. It was clearly a very bad copy. Probably done via one of those paint by numbers sets.

Photo from Wikipedia.

So we had the Laughing Cavalier above our coal fire. Even then I realised it wasn’t the original and that it was probably a pretty rubbish copy. But it was our one piece of art, which made it special. Every night as we sat round the open fire and there was our very own art masterpiece. His eyes always following you around the room. That cheeky smile. I grew really fond of him. Even our budgie liked him. One of his favourite perches was on the frame just above his head. I would often dream about this guys back story. Many a dream was played out about his heroic deeds. In those days it was much harder to puncture your imagination. The internet was the stuff of Star Trek science fiction. The towns small library was great for things like fiction, cricket and car maintenance. It even had a goldfish pond in the kiddies section. Yet art history was sadly absent. So the Cavaliers myth continued all through my childhood.

Time marched on and I flew the home nest. My Dad died and Mum moved. The Cavalier was gone. I never found out what happened to him. I never got round to asking my mum. Another one of those unasked questions. Why do we leave it so long – too long.

I hope the cycle of life continued for my cheeky childhood friend. I really hope Dad took him back to the pub and he was handed over to another family for the price of a pint of John Smiths. And today he is sat above another fireplace. Creating dreams for more and more kids.