It’s hard to believe now but there was a time when I wasn’t a muppet parent. A time when I was just a MUPPET. I don’t know why but I remembered back to that time this week. A time in a different century. A very different life.
The memory that had suddenly reappeared was a climbing trip to Scotland with two college friends. We found ourselves one evening encamped in a tent in Torridon. Safe inside away from the evening massed swarms of blood sucking vampire midges. We weren’t going to endure the previous nights exposed skin blood letting again. No evening pub meal this night. The tent gourmet evening meal was Pringle Crisps, Jam Sandwiches, Chocolate and a local firebrand Malt. We were highly tuned athletes…..
I can vividly remember one part of the nights festivities. The subject had bizarrely moved onto where we felt truly at home. I think I said something like that I was still looking for home. One friend aptly said that his home was either in a coffee or chocolate factory, yes that was definitely him…. My second friends answer was also so apt for her. She talked about a place where she moved to as a teenager when her Dad took a new lecturing position. She talked about having few friends and living for the weekends when her family would head into the mountains. A small cabin by a lake. A rowing boat, fishing, climbing and skiing in the winter. She felt alive for the first time in her life in that place. That was always going to be her home.
Her home was The Cabin, That Lake, The Swiss Alps.
If I could speak to those climbing buddies right now, I would definitely change my home answer. NOW Switzerland also feels like home to me. Ashes are scattered there. So many memories. And yes, when I’m there, in The Alps, I feel truly ALIVE as well.
Captain Chaos has his friends back. Every summer they return to the field behind our house. Yes summer…….
It’s the same ritual. This off the Cap plays it cool. Even when the cows lean over the garden fence. He ignores them. Plays it hard to get get. But after a couple of days it all changes. Suddenly he stops being coy. Then it’s time to get close and personal with his buddies.
Ok in weather terms, summer hasn’t arrived. But in terms of a mad dog, it’s definitely summer.
Another gloriously chilly day here. The perfect weather to play.
It’s official, school play time is getting shorter. A deliberate government policy. A recent report from the UCL Institute of Education confirmed that is the case in the UK. They found weekly break times had reduced since 1995 by 45 minutes for the younger children and by 65 minutes for secondary pupils. It also found a growing percentage of schools offered lunch breaks of less than 35 minutes.
Since that report was published the situation has got markedly worse.
I unfortunately listened to one of the government numpties in charge of our schools. He talked about the need to improvise discipline. Talked about children suffering during the pandemic as their grades might go down. It was apparently time to increase the school day, cut holidays. Allow the pupils to catch up with government targets.
Not once did I hear the numpty say the words health, wellbeing and happiness.
That’s no surprise. Schools are now strictly controlled. Teaching programmes, timetables, how pupils learn are set by the government. It’s all about grades. Grades in subjects that the government thinks appropriate. We here constant talk of a return to good old Victorian Values. But it goes further. As the end of school bell rings children are increasingly channeled into structured out of hours school clubs. Forced into completing hour after hour of set homework.
This eats into that precious free time. Time to socialise, to play, to free think, to dream. Time which is the child’s. Maybe that’s why child mental health issues and depression are becoming an epidemic. An epidemic without a vaccine.
Before the COVID pandemic kicked in I remember one particular school year. Hawklad has two really good friends in classes next to his. When I was at school I would get plenty of time to play each day with my friends, friends in different classes. Well that’s all change now. In that entire school year Hawklad never once spent time with his friends in school. Even at weekends organised school sport events made meet-ups problematic. The only time he met up with them was during the holidays. That’s a minimum gap of 7 weeks. 7 week blocks without seeing friends.
Remember the phrase. ‘Childhood should be your happiest time’. Is that still the case? Sadly not for too many.
It’s been too long. Far too long since Hawklad got to do his favourite ever activity. Handling birds of prey.
He’s done this a few times. Sadly not enough. Hawklad is someone who struggles with social encounters. He finds it difficult to build up trust in others. It takes time and patience. But he can and does. He forms really close bonds with those he develops trust with. Real lasting friendships.
It’s so different with Birds of Prey. Instantly establishing a bond. Complete confidence and trust. Even getting to stroke the chest of one raptor who the falconer said that it had taken him months of effort to build up the same level of trust.
That’s why in an ideal world Hawklad will get to fulfil his dream of having his own falconry and rescue centre. And we all know dreams can come true. There is always hope.
Don’t you just love WordPress. It’s a bit like Prunes. You know they are good for you. So many benefits but a monumental pain in the backside….
Blogging is really so good for me but WordPress is a monumental pain in the ….. It just feels like wading through treacle.
Will it just once allow me to format the post as I want it to look.
Will it just once have a truly user friendly editor.
Will it just once not keep trying mess up my photos so I have to constantly keep on reloading them.
Will it stop showing me that my blog looks fine when some users can’t see the photos or only see messed up formatting.
Will it stop messing up a post when I dare to try and include a music or video link.
Will it stop changing all my text into micro font if I accidentally delete a bit WP doesn’t want me to do.
Will it stop randomly deleting people from my following list and then not bothering to tell me.
Will it stop randomly deleting comments I post.
Will it stop randomly deciding to freeze the iPad app. In fact will it stop freezing my iPad – it’s the only app that has ever done that for me.
Will the help desk stop blaming Apple for the working of its App.
I like blogging. It helped me cope with loss. It helped me become a better parent. A better person. Made some great friends through it. Kept me connected with people during this period of isolation. So I guess I will keep taking my Prunes. The benefits are so worth it.
It’s like waiting for a bus. You wait ages and two come along at the same time. No posts about grief and then two arrive together.
It’s now four years since I lost my partner. Four years into the grief journey.
This morning I went to put the bin out onto the side of the road. When I looked down the street I noticed a ‘Sold Sign’ outside a house. It was outside the house of a couple I get on well with. Would often bump into them prior to the pandemic. Will be sad to see them leave. I know very few people in our small village now. The pandemic hasn’t helped but that’s the reality. Before the world changed for me in 2016 it was very much different. We knew many in the village. We would go to all the village events. Would visit people, people would visit us. Even when our son’s Aspergers stopped him going to village stuff, one parent would stay with him and the other could still go.
Then the world changed.
I didn’t want to venture out to these village do’s. I just wanted to build walls around myself. I lost touch with many. That was my bereavement. Not only did it rob me of my partner but it took many of my friends as well. That was partly my fault. The last thing I thought I wanted was company. It also didn’t feel right going out by myself. I had become programmed to being in a couple. Being single was something I had forgotten how to do. Most of my friends were now based on US being a couple. It must have been tough for those friends to adjust. To deal with someone grieving and now single. As a result over time many friends dropped off the radar. Increasing isolation. But at that time it was ok with me. It felt like how things should be. Me hiding behind the walls.
Then I began to change.
As my grief journey progressed suddenly those walls stopped being a useful self defence system. They became confines. Prison walls. Hemming me in. I came to realise just who much I missed company. Just maybe I had been wrong. When I was grieving and avoiding people, maybe that was when I needed company the most.
So now I’m trying to take those walls down. Sadly they go up easier than they come down. The pandemic doesn’t help. Being a single parent to a son with so many social fears certainly is restrictive. Also I’m nervous of social settings. But actually that’s not grief related, that’s going back to who I was when I was younger.
So here I am in 2020. Much further down the grief road now the question is can I bring those walls down.
A good blogging friend was taking about finding a big spider in her garden. That friend is on a different continent. A place where you get spiders that are big, scary, poisonous and they even jump at you.
Did I ever tell you that I am not great with spiders.
So the prospect of scary spiders brings shivers down my spine. A movie comes to mind – Arachnophobia. Give me Jaws and Sharks anytime. Sharks need our love especially as Trump has decided to bully them as well now.
Scary spiders. No, no, no.
Hawklad loves to go to the zoo and handle spiders. The bigger and more deadly the better. The last trip I just about heard him say as he handled a Tarantula- ‘Isn’tshe lovely….’. It was difficult to hear him as I was stood 30 yards back, hiding behind a wall. That’s great parenting……
Fortunately for me I live in Yorkshire. The land that time forgot. We don’t really do scary animals. Those cows can look at you in a funny way. Ferrets can nip a bit (especially if they are in your trouser pockets). Don’t get in the way of a squirrel and his nuts. Those Scarborough Seagulls are hooligans when you have a bag of chips. Get on the wrong side of stick of rhubarb and it can very awkward.
But we don’t really do scary spiders or insects. A few small and timid spiders. This is as big as it gets. A Daddy-Long-Legs. The most delicate creatures going. We end up desperately trying not to hurt or damage them. Even I can get up close to them. That’s the kind of spider and insect I like. Friendly and most definitely not one that is going to eat me.
Beautiful, resilient and a bit of fight about them.
A flower than can melt the heart and then draw blood.
England has even had civil wars over a white and red rose.
I’ve always felt a strong link to roses. That’s not surprising since I come from the White Rose County. Yet the link is stronger than that.
The last present I gave to my partner was a rose. Since then that delicate white rose has been intrinsically linked with my grief journey.
We have another rose which is decades old and has come from my partners childhood home. So it’s a link with Hawklads past. Family members now gone.
I also often look at a rose and see symbols of life. Today I was looking at a rose and it made me think of friendship. Some of the rose buds seem to go on forever. If you are lucky in life you may find one of those friendships that do that, always special, always beautiful, everlasting. Yet you also see rose buds that fail to bloom. How many times have I had thought that I had found a great friendship yet for whatever reason things never seemed to take off. Then you come across those roses which burst into life, producing the most stunning flowers, yet within days they have died back and faded. Just like those friendships which seem like they will be the best ever and yet suddenly they end – wonderful but not ever lasting, so short lived. You just never know with roses and you just never know with friends.
Today it was friends but on another day I will see roses symbolising another part of my life. I’ve done it with grief, parenting and hope. What will the Rose show me tomorrow?
I’ve always felt like the black sheep in the family. The odd one out amongst my siblings. The youngest by a decade. My brother and sisters had partied together and flown the nest while I was still at school. The tallest. The only shy one. The only one with a stammer as a kid. The only one who went to college and university. The only one you got letters after his name (M.U.P.P.E.T). The only one who never got married (huge mistake). The only bereaved one. The only single parent. The only blogger. The only vegetarian. The only one who has given up alcohol. The only one who is gluten free. The only runner. The only climber. The only one learning a second language. The only one who has visited mums grave. The only Asperger Parent. The only Newcastle United supporter. The only one without a middle name. The only one whose first name doesn’t start with a P. The only one how formed a close link with a Quaker family. The only religious one.
I could go on. Hopefully you get the picture.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my brother and sisters. We are close. Close but we don’t see each other much. Mum was always the centre. The gravitational pull that kept the various differing orbits from spinning away. I will see one sister every few months. Another one maybe a couple of times a year. Brother and the other sister maybe once in several years. An occasional phone call or text maintain a link. But since mum left we are slowly spinning apart.
So yes I do feel a little bit like the odd one out. That’s where friends come in. They get me. They make me feel not different. They make me feel whole again. Thank you ❤️
I will leave the final words to my departed partner. We were spending a night in London before we caught the first train to France. Off on our first holiday together. That was back in 2000. We were in a quiet but very full pub in Kings Cross. After a large lager my partner asked about my dieting life choice. In a voice which echoed round the pub. “Are you the only VEGETABLE in your family…”