Scratches and baking

Can’t really claim this one. I cut the grass for one of my elderly neighbours. Yes it’s a beauty but wow has it left some scratches on my arm over the years.

I guess this bush proves the theory that some successes have to be earned. Or maybe it’s just – don’t wear T-shirt’s and shorts when your gardening near anything with thorns. It’s all about on the edge gardening.

Why don’t we apply this theory to baking. Dangerous baking.

Soon it’s going to be this years Bloggers Bake-off (July 18/19th). Last years was so much fun. So many wonderful creations and some interesting ones. Guess which pile mine fell in to. I played it safe and just went for a chocolate kinda cake. And it almost went horribly wrong.

Well this year let’s up the anti. Let’s wear our horrible baker badge with honour. No more hiding. Let’s be bad and proud. So this year I need your help. Here’s the plan.

I want to try and bake the hardest thing possible. Yes something I can get the ingredients for (or substitute them). But I want an epic challenge. No practices. No safety net. One attempt on the day. Photograph what ever abomination is created. What could possibly go wrong.

So I am looking for suggestions. What nightmare baking creation can I have a go at. Hopefully something which is so beyond my abilities that it threatens the space-time continuum.

So hope you will join in the fun.

Battered Rose

This rose bush was here when we first moved in. So it’s at least 18 years old. Given the state of it even then, I suspect it’s been here much, much longer. The changes it has seen over those years. Some good, some bad, some happy, some sad. It’s in a really annoying place. Right next to the front door. Constant pruning required to stop your arms and legs getting lacerated just trying to get into your own home. I dread to think how many times it’s been smashed and broken by washing machine and furniture deliveries. It’s regularly attacked by the local wildlife and pets. So yes it’s had a challenging life.

Yes it’s a tad battered. The roses are never perfect these days. Always a little worn at the edges. The foliage is getting a little thin in places. But it’s still here. Just like we are. I can’t speak for you but in my case I am so like this bush. A bit old. The body has taken one too many hits. Definitely battered and a little frayed round the edges. You could even argue that I’m starting to take root. But currently I am still here. Still trying to live. I will give thanks for that.

Fashion expert

A mass of red from a plant that my big sister bought for us as a house warming present many years ago. Still so colourful, still so stylish. Unfortunately other things in the house are not ageing so well….

We have a school week holiday coming up. A week to give the kids and teachers a break. Let’s not forget parents, grandparents, guardians, support staff as well. We might be homeschooling but it feels like a break is much needed. A week without schooling to allow kids to be kids….

We call the week before a half term the T minus clock. T minus days before the school breaks up. Can we survive the T minus clock without holiday homework. Well….

It’s T minus 3 days to go and it’s not going well so far. So far Son has Art, English and Science holiday homework. Large projects. So much for kids having a break.

I clearly need a break or at the very least a fashion consultant.

“Dad are you seriously going to wear that“.

I thought it was a fine shorts and Jumper (sweater) combo.

“You hair is sticking up and you haven’t shaved today”

I’m calling it the Indiana Jones look.

Maybe for Indiana Jones 6 when he’s about 110.”

Clearly Dr Jones has aged well then….

The jumper is a bit big for you.”

It was a Christmas present and I never got round to changing it.

And I’m probably taller than you now.”

Something strangely emasculating about when your son has edged passed you, when he is barely 13.

How can I put this politelyErm …. You look like a hobbit from Lord of the Rings”

Any cheap fashion experts out there?

Update: School are clearly joining in the fun. The class have been asked to watch a fantasy movie for the next lesson. And why movie are we watching. The Hobbit. The Shame never ends.

Rose

First garden rose of the year. Ok strictly speaking it’s the neighbours rose. It’s sneaked through a hole in the fence which I should have fixed by now. But I will take this.

Dad what are you doing?”

I was trying to build a DIY fire pit. The last one had disintegrated in the lovely Yorkshire winter weather. Trying to harness my inner Bear Grylls, I was in the zone.

Are the sides supposed to be so uneven. Is it a square, a circle, triangle or pentagon?”

Ok it had some symmetrical issues….. it started off as a square.

Oh, well it isn’t a square now. And the height is all over the place. It’s like looking at The Alps.”

Yes that was an unexpected design feature.

It’s not the most sheltered spot. Not sure lighting a fire will be easy there.”

Didn’t think about that….

Don’t you think it’s a little close to the oil tank.”

Oops I forgot about that great big green tank with OIL and FLAMMABLE written in big letters down its side.

Dad I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t we forget about the fire pit. When we need a BBQ then why don’t we just run an electric extension cable outside. Then we can just rig the George Foreman Grill to work outside. Job done and you don’t need to spend days trying to light the fire….”

That sounds like a better plan.

Leave it

When we first moved into our home, my sister bought us two plants as house warming presents. 18 years later they are still going strong. The red one doesn’t flower for long but it’s just springing into life.

It’s quite amazing that after 18 years both plants are still going strong. I don’t have a great track record with plants. I remember my partner for a joke buying me a plant which was described as – the worlds most resilient….will survive anywhere. Clearly they missed off the words – apart from one house in Yorkshire. It was dead within months. But these two have survived. They arrived, I bunged them in large plant pots and left them. Since then they have occasionally been watered and that’s it.

Sometimes the secret is clearly to leave things to sort themselves out. Not always, but definitely occasionally.

I was listening to a politician last night talk about how schools should immediately reopen. According to him schools didn’t need to worry about things like hygiene or social distancing. Kids have been going to cramped classes for generations. Yes kids can catch our current nemesis but its an acceptable risk. Apparently teachers are paid to teach so they should ignore any concerns about things like social distancing and PPE. The economy is paramount. In one notable concession apparently government officials and assessors should avoid schools because of the risk of catching the virus. When asked about kids and parents fears the response was – tough, the economy is more important and if they refuse to attend then they should be forced to. It’s up to the government and the PM if a child attends school.

Really. I will see you in court then.

Schools do need to reopen when it is safe for kids, parents (guardians) and staff. Now is the time to make school a better place to learn and work in. Surely the days of treating schools like archaic education factories must be finally over. Yes schools have been this bad for years and years. That doesn’t make it right. We burned witches for years and years – does that make that practice right…..

And as for the idea that school visits by inspectors are too risky yet it’s ok for the kids and teachers…..

Let’s start making positive changes to schools and then we can start a process of gradually reopening schools. Fully involve teachers, pupils and parents in the process. That way we can build confidence in the system. Some families will be able to go back quickly. Others (like our son) will take longer. Some bloke in London telling people what to do would be just so wrong. My Son will only go back when HE IS ready.

Ever shrinking world

A photograph from our garden. Just five paces from the door. Part of Son’s world.

Our Son really struggles with health related anxieties. I remember the first pamphlet his Doctor handed to us about Aspergers all those years ago – second bullet point – may encounter obsessive fears over health and hygiene. For our Son they were real, life altering fears. Then in quick succession he lost his mum and both grannies. The fears became even more scary and real to him.

In the early party of his Aspergers life he was under the care of a wonderful Clinical Psychologist. She slowly helped but then she retired (and was never replaced due to the decisions backed by many of those in our current Government). His care became a real hotchpotch which achieved very little. Then we were so lucky. Son’s case landed on the desk of a young nurse health counsellor. Since then she has been the only constant through his care. Now because of Government cut backs, she is the only specialist help he gets. Although not an Autism expert she has patiently worked with him and delivered real benefits.

His fears became manageable.

Due to our Governments continued running down of the NHS, her workload has become ridiculous. She just can’t spend the time she needs to with him. But she does what she can. She still cares.

Then 2020 hit. Is it really only 4 months old…….

His fears have gone off the chart. Can you blame him. The worlds gone potty. Everything is up in the air and showing no sign of settling down. Because of the new clinical rules his wonderful health counsellor is not allowed to see him until after the crisis has eased. Being realistic that’s not going to be until the back end of the year at the earliest. So he’s started burning his bridges.

Bridges is a theme I am sure I will come back to over the coming weeks. The world of autism and the big bad world don’t naturally coexist. They are often separate. Links and bridges need to be built. Unfortunately the big bad world is not interested in developing links. It’s been up to our Son to try and build the bridges. That’s allowed him to enter the big bad world. Those links have never been particularly strong. NOW HE HAS BURNED THOSE BRIDGES. The outside world is just too scary and full of dangers. He has bunkered down to his house, his back garden, his world.

The thing is that when things start to improve again. And they eventually will. The big bad world will make no effort to rebuild those bridges again. One lone nurse counsellor will try. I will try. Sadly, I’m not entirely convinced Son will make much of an effort this time. Maybe in the future he will but it will take time. In the meantime his world has shrunk.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so in these challenging times, I think it’s time for a virtual tour of beautiful Switzerland.

One of the best times we to found to visit Switzerland as a family was over Easter.

In my country Easter, like most holidays has become over commercialised. Not in Switzerland. The atmosphere is just perfect.

The weather was frequently glorious for our visits. Snow still falling on the high mountains and yet beautifully warm at lower levels. The morning trains would find people in summer shorts sat next to skiers in full snow gear.

The weather was perfect for sitting outside and just watching the world slowly walk by.

Spring alpine flowers coming to life.

The snow line slowly retreating in the hot sunshine. Deep blue skies.

The yachts and small boats emerging from winter hibernation.

The colours constantly changing.

And after an exhausting day on the piste for a young one….

Nothing better than returning to the hotel to find the owners have left a little Easter gift. Thank you Switzerland for lifting the spirits again.

More accidental Daffodils

The Daffodils are still going strong. That sounds like an excuse for some more photos.

Purely by accident we have a few different types.

A lot of things happen by accident.

Today we tried to find the little pots of paint so that we can decorate some hard boiled easter eggs. Last year we had great fun although I was a little offended when I presented my wonderful recreation of a Darth Vader egg.

Dad is that Peppa Pig”

Still worse was to follow when I accidentally forgot to boil the eggs before we painted them. A few days later it took me three egg messes before I realised my mistake. Oops.

Stacked cup racks are such a great space saver. I bought a really cheap set a few weeks back. It was the day after Valentines Day and the shop was selling off the unused gift items. One item caught my eye. A four cup stack reduced from £10 to £2. The only potential issue. Each cup had one huge letter emblazoned on them. The four cups stacked together spelt

L

O

V

E

That sort of talk is not going to fly in our kitchen. But a bargain is a bargain. Thankfully the same cups arranged differently can also spell VOLE. Unfortunately four cups stacked together is a four times bigger disaster waiting to happen in our house. This morning while cleaning I accidentally sent them all flying towards our stone floor at terminal velocity. I did manage to catch one. So we now have a cup stack of one which spells.

Oops, Oops, Oops…

That cup accident was quickly followed by son knocking over a full glass of chocolate milk onto the beige sofa. It’s a interesting pattern as it’s just next to the tomato ketchup stain from last year (that was mine).

Dad let’s sit down before we have any more accidents.”

Great advice which I followed. Unfortunately I sat down on my reading glasses – what possessed me to leave them on the chair. So in the absence of Hermione Granger and her glasses repair spell, I will just have to tape them up until the Opticians reopen again in a few months.

Fast forward to this afternoon. Unbelievably I found the paint pots and small brushes. So we were eggcellently placed next week for Easter egg production. However a few hours later I had no idea where I had put the paints. The house was ransacked then suddenly that sinking feeling. Oops. Surely I didn’t accidentally put the paint straight into the bin. Normally not a disaster however today was bin collection day and they have just been. Oops.

Stay safe everyone, especially if you come any where near me.

Time

TIME is a funny thing. Walked past here on Friday and hardly any of the white flowers had emerged. 72 hours later after a yucky cold, dark and damp weekend – any hey presto it’s a sea of white.

I remember someone very clever saying that TIME operates at different rates for different people. Thinking about it – that clever person might have been Dr Who. When I was a kid I loved Dr Who. I so wanted to be a Timelord. As a prize for winning a football tournament school arranged a trip to the last day of a Dr Who exhibition. I was super excited. On the way our bus broke down. It took them hours to fix it. Finally we arrived at the exhibition only to find it had closed 5 minutes earlier. How on earth can you miss an exhibition about a time travellerjust doesn’t seem right.

TIME definitely operates at different rates for some of our son’s school teachers. Quite a few of the online classes require the student to read an article or a section of a text book. The amount of reading has definitely increased over the last few school days. The number of follow up tasks has also increased. Strangely the TIME allowed has stayed the same. Exactly where does this approach leave the dyslexic student. I know teachers are super busy but maybe one of them might have asked son how he is coping with reading the course material. They seem much quicker to spot his spelling mistakes. Much better use of TIME.

TIME is also hard to define. School have now rolled out a national learning app primarily aimed at those students who struggle with English comprehension and grammar. Interestingly an app with a rating of 1 out 5 from users (lucky to get 1 by all accounts). Son has been set a weekly app study time of 50 minutes. The teacher will be checking that each student has achieved the weekly minimum study time. Punishments for underachieving. What they don’t mention is that the app uses a lot of videos and narratives. Unfortunately these do not count against the learning time but need to be completed before you can get to the student work areas. When it crashes (and it crashes more times than me on a diet) all learning time is lost and you need to start at the beginning of the section again. So far son has been on the app for just under 3 hours. He’s watched endless boring videos and robotic narratives. He’s still to learn anything new. AND he’s only clocked 20 minutes actual study time.

Dad what is the point of this. I’m bored out of my mind. As you would say, it’s a pile of pants. It’s a complete waste of my time, your time, the teachers time and a waste of bandwidth.”

I fed this back to school with a few of my own rather barbed comments. The school’s response was well we have sent a teacher to be trained in its use, that’s valuable school TIME so we need to keep using it.

Clearly I was wasting my TIME arguing.

Brakes

A stream about 5 miles from our little bungalow. Near the boundary of my current world.

It’s funny as a kid I always thought that my world was a small place. We didn’t have much money so holidays would tend to be just day trips on the train to places like Whitby and Scarborough. If we we’re lucky a school trip would take us maybe 50 miles in land. Dad had a car but it was only used sparingly – just for getting him to work. I remember watching exotic places on the TV and thinking one day I want to see them. I looked at books about mountains and so wanted to see The Eiger, The Matterhorn, K2 and Everest. I always thought that as I got older I would travel more. My world would grow and the world would shrink.

For a time it did workout that way and yes I did get to see The Eiger and The Matterhorn. I visited parts of Europe. I even got to see South Africa.

Then the world shifted again. Autism. Bereavement. Money concerns.

Now I find my world rapidly shrinking again and the world growing ever larger. Increasingly son sees comfort in his own little world. Our house, garden and the landscapes that immediately surround him. Longer travel is so difficult for him. It has to be mapped out and carefully controlled. That’s before we factor in the limiting factors of travel as a single parent and money constraints. My world is shrinking again. Even work has to operate within these constraints. My world has shrunk. One of the few bridges into the wider world is the occasional concert. These still work for our son.

We are due to travel to see The Who play in a couple of weeks. We will have to travel by car as public transport here is minimal and stops by evening. Regardless of its availability son struggles with buses, trains and planes. These are likely to induce panic attacks. So we travel everywhere on foot or by car.

Two weeks ago the car was in for a service. They found problems with the brakes which needed some parts to be replaced. The garage said I was ok to drive it for a couple of weeks until the garage could fix it. So this Monday was supposed to be the repair day. The garage phoned today to apologise. They we’re going to have to cancel the repair for a few weeks. They just can’t get the parts. The Parts Suppliers are out of stock and are waiting for new items to arrive from China. The garage is a national chain and all the branches are out of these parts. Apparently all the other rival garages in the area are in the same boat. So the repair is on hold. The suppliers are hoping to have new stock arrive soon but that may not be until April. So I’ve been told to try and really limit the car use until the parts turn up. My world shrinks further.

So in a mirror image of my childhood – the car will only be used sparingly. Just for the occasional short distance work trip and the school runs. A long distance concert trip is probably not a practical option.

My world has shrunk again but as ever we will make the best of it. Think our carbon footprint. Think more fun at home. Enjoy what we have on our doorstep.