Breathe

And breathe…. count to 10 and breathe again.

More and more countries go into lockdown. We are surrounded by lands where schools have been closed. Meanwhile here in England our leaders give interviews only to carefully selected media supporters. Even the Chief Medical Officer gives an interview to a right wing newspaper. On the off chance you just might want to find out what our top medical person has to say on the crisis then you have to pay for it. Apparently we might force anyone over seventy into isolation in a few weeks. We might close bars and cinemas down – maybe in a few weeks. We will definitely keep schools open – if teachers go off sick then we will just cram more kids into the available classes. Sticking to the strategy of trying to get as many of the fit and young infected so they develop immunity. All sounds a bit X-Files to me. Seems to be based on the assumptions that infection has no long term side effects and any acquired immunity will be for the long term. Both assumptions are scientifically unproven as yet. Increasing numbers of experts appear to not share the same opinion as our key experts advising the government. Plus this is our Government we are talking about – they couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery. Has anyone seen Boris Johnson over the last few days? I really hope he’s as stressed out as my kid is over the virus….. If it’s sending many of the adults into panic what is it doing to our children.

It’s an odd feeling. Do I trust our countries leaders and it’s experts OR do I rather trust other countries approaches. That excludes the overall US approach – I’m not sure waiting for it to one day just disappear really cuts the mustard as an approach.

So I am wrestling with one decision. Do I let son go to school. I have a duty of care to look after him. Do I think he is safe, secure and well cared for in the educational environment. I’m still wrestling with that one. I think many parents round here are facing the same call. Yes full on school closures have a knock on effect on childcare and staffing in our essential services. Especially as our Government has deliberately cut those services to the bone. We now only have a quarter of the critical care beds that Germany has. But on the other hand how many kids and teachers have underlying medical conditions. Are we not placing them at risk. So it’s not an easy decision. But I need to focus on my son. What’s in his best interest. We also need to keep moving forward.

I need to go shopping tomorrow for a few things. Should be an interesting experience. One of the things I need is a Chocolate Almond Drink. It’s about the only nice dairy substitute drink I have found. It’s expensive but it is always on offer for 3 for £3. Well last week it was caught up in the panic buy restrictions. Now I can only buy 2 in one shop. Suddenly it’s become expensive. What’s bizarre is no bugger else buys it. I strongly suspected that for a while as they don’t put many of these drinks out and often they looked like they hadn’t been touched since I was last there. Being a sad person I have for the last three weeks put a little pencil mark on the next available drink – it’s still been there on my next visit. So clearly they are worried that as the only buyer of that item I may panic buy and deprive myself of buying it next time. It’s all a bit bizarre. But that’s 2020 for you.

With that I will now try to focus on other things on this blog. Yes I may have to mention the pesky virus but I will try not to that much. Over the next few weeks blogging is probably going to become more important for many. A rare connection in our dislocated world. Maybe trying to create a bit of normality in this maelstrom is what is currently needed. What is certainly needed is that we show how much we love our family and those we care most for. That we try just that little harder to be considerate and look out for others in our community. Trying extra hard to be nice and kind. And yes don’t forget to find the time to care for ourselves as well. Finding that time to smile and breathe. We might not be able to agree on what the best approach is to dealing with the virus but being just a little kinder will certainly make us all feel just that bit better about our world. Thats not going to happen fighting over that last pack of 50 toilet rolls.

Take care my friends. x

Yellow

Suddenly colour is returning to Yorkshire. Well one colour. Most definitely yellow. It is such a welcome sight after so many grey months. Takes your mind off other matters.

Need to be open and honest with son.

Dad whats the number of people with the virus now”

Officially its 750 but now they say up to 10000 may have it”

OMG I thought the experts said our approach was working well. How can they have got the figure so wrong”

“It’s down to testing. For some reason we only tested those with symptoms who had visited high risk countries. They didn’t seem to test if you had been abroad. Clearly they missed a lot of proper cases.”

“That sounds so stupid.”

“Yes it’s not great is it”

“Dad why hasn’t Boris closed the schools down yet”

“Apparently it’s on the basis of expert advice.”

Many other countries and regions have closed them down, won’t that be on expert advice as well”

“Apparently Boris and his experts think that school closures and banning public events is not based on the correct expert advice.”

What makes our advice better then”

Probably need to ask an expert about that. We seem to be saying that if schools are closed it’s pointless as the kids will mix in large numbers anyway. We also seem to be saying that if we stop people going to things like football and concerts then they will just go to smaller events. And they argue that smaller events are potentially worse sources of infection. Football has been stopped for a month now but that was not the government, they were happy for the matches to go ahead. It was the Football Authorities who stopped the games.”

“That sounds a bit dodgy. Surely Dad the point is to reduce the number of people you mix with. Schools, football, trains, buses and concerts are some of our biggest mixing areas.”

I bet they will eventually have to change their minds on some of these. But it is daft.”

I think a big part of it is that the last few governments have really cut back on the NHS and made child care more expensive. They don’t have enough doctors and nurses. If schools close then a lot of parents will not be able to go to work as they will need to look after their children. The NHS can’t cope with that now. I’ve also heard several in the government mention that shutting schools will hurt the economy.”

“So it’s about money then really”

“Probably is but they won’t say that. Easier to just tell people it’s expert advice.”

So how are they trying to control the virus if they don’t close things down.”

“It seems to be something called the herd. The Chief Doctor talked about needing at least 60% of the population to recover from the virus for the country to start to develop immunity from further outbreaks”

That’s the plan. Wow. So we are trying to get something like 40 to 50 million infected here. Going to be an awful lot of not very healthy or old people caught up in that. That’s not a good plan. Sounds like they have decided not to do anything. Rather have people keep making money than keep them safe.”

Totally agree. Surely locking stuff down for a couple of weeks will help dampen the virus down. At least push it into the summer months.

I’d rather take my chances in France or Germany. At least they are trying to still contain it.”

“Dad what’s the new rule about school and being ill. If I cough does that get me a week home isolation.”

Basically those are the new rules

“Well Dad. COUGH. COUGH. That should do it. Wake me about 11am on Monday.”

Well next week I will probably get the chance to check out more yellows. My zero hours contract is living up to it’s zero in the coming days. Next week I might get a couple of hours work at most. So the new sports car and beach apartment in Monte Carlo will have to wait a few more days. But it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. It really doesn’t. More important things in life. As a much wiser blogger than me put it – it’s time to breathe….

Update

Two hours later news broke that the government has reluctantly banned large public events. Not on health grounds but to relieve pressure on emergency services. I guess the real reason was the events were getting cancelled by the organisers anyway and the government didn’t want to be seen to be dithering.

Prophecy

Colour slowly returning to the garden. Sadly just in time for the next weather blasting. Just so predictable….

A few years back our son had a wonderful medical expert who did an awful lot for him. Just before retirement I remember the experts prophecy. To paraphrase

Our country’s support for kids like yours is nothing short of a disgrace. Sadly if you think that the support he gets now is patchy and insufficient, well just wait a few years. It’s likely to get very much worse. Maybe when he is 12, most definitely when he is a teenager, the minimal support will dry up. He will get reassessed by clinicians who have no practical experience of your son. They will deem him above the clinical threshold and will turn off the support. Clinical threshold should be renamed budgetary threshold. It’s not a reflection of the clinical position. He will still have severe clinical need for intervention. The support will be removed because as a society we don’t support teenagers and adults on the spectrum. We expect them to fend for themselves. If they don’t fulfil their potential then tough. I’ve seen this happen to virtually every kid I have worked with. If they achieve anything in life it’s just down to themselves and their parents. On top of this the school system just assigns them to the bin. It stinks….

Sadly the prophecy is coming true….

Just before Christmas he was reassessed for one of the support services he receives. The assessment was done by someone who had never met our son. The outcome – the service was withdrawn as he no longer met the clinical requirement.

Today we had a therapy session at the local hospital. It’s a service he has had since he was 7. It’s made some great progress over the years. It’s taken time and many sessions. At the last session his worker agreed on a programme to help with his handwriting, keyboard skills, and areas such as shoelaces/school ties. The programme after that would look at trying to help with coordination specifically aimed at swimming and bike riding. He has significant problems in each of these areas. Well guess what. At today’s session his worker was joined by a senior member of the team. A reassessment was made of his case. After a few practical exercises we were informed that he was now above the support threshold. He was now discharged from the service. They would write to school and give them some suggestions on his future schooling. We were handed a couple of information sheets on handwriting and shoelace tying. We can ask his Paediatrician to review this decision. We are on the waiting list to see a Paediatrician – currently our last appointment was over two years ago.

So we are now down to one service support now. But that is so underfunded. His worker is wonderful but because of workloads she struggles to see him now. Last year we got invites to a couple of group sessions. His last one to one session was back in 2018. Clearly it’s only a matter of time before that last helping hand is removed.

It really feels like that the health service has now dumped our son since he’s a teenager. I guess they argue that it’s an educational problem now. Unfortunately the school system has washed its hands of our son already. Like so many kids the school’s write them off. Label them low attainment. If they get the odd exam certificate in the end then school has achieved its goal. Ticked it’s box on the Government’s school assessment.

So here we are in the brave new world. We are fending for ourselves. Our only support – a few pages of photocopied guidance from a textbook. How can we have got this so wrong. How many thousands and thousands of autistic teenagers and adults are in the position. Some of the statistics on autistic suicide rates, unemployment, depression and poverty are appalling. But society doesn’t care. Our leaders don’t care. That’s a truly sickening thought.

Don’t mess with the Squirrel

Let’s get the rant quickly out of the way. The UK’s School Minister has opened his mouth again. Remember him. The chap who wants to test kids from the age of 4. The chap who described kids taking time off for bereavement as – an extended holiday. The chap who introduced changes to the teaching of English which severely disadvantaged dyslexic kids – against the advice of health professionals and dyslexia groups. The chap who on several interviews refused to answer any of the questions he was expecting kids to answer. Well now he has told schools and parents what to do in terms of the Coronavirus. Even if the school gets a suspected case then parents should send their kids to school as normal. Schools should remain open. This contrasted with the Chief Medical Officer who yesterday was talking about the potential of closing schools for two months if the virus started to spread in the UK. Well the Schools Minister can take a running jump. He is the last person I would trust my child’s wellbeing with. If it comes to this decision then I will make the call not this over promoted pompous twat. Rant over….

I’ve just been bullied by a squirrel…..

I went out to feed the wildlife in the garden. The usual collection of birds and a squirrel waited not so patiently to be fed. I had a couple of uneaten pancakes to add to the usual menu. As I kneeled down to tear the pancakes up into little pieces the squirrel moved in. He grabbed both pancakes out of my grasp. He wasn’t waiting or sharing these goodies. I did try to have words with the bushy tailed one. But clearly somebody wasn’t listening today. At least somebody likes my pancakes.

Sod’s law

Don’t you just hate Sods Law (Murphy’s Law). Son has been desperate for some snow to have a sledging session. This season has been a complete right off so far. He’s just had a week off from school where it has basically been storm force winds or torrential rain. Not a sniff of the white stuff. So guess what. On the first morning back at school we wake to this.

And by the time he got back from school the snow has been replaced with rain and high winds again. All the white stuff has gone. He is so so sad. It’s not as if school was in any way enriching. It started with any kids arriving late still receiving negatives – no allowance for the awful roads and paths. Welcome back kids to this happy establishment. First day back and homework is being handed out like confetti at a wedding. Long lunch queues and over running lessons meant no hot food for his class. AND THEN we come to Drama.

The school is clearly desperate to produce the next Laurence Olivier. It’s chosen route. Spelling Tests.

So here goes my friends, your first spelling test of the term. Enjoy.

Grendel

Marking the moment

Proxemics

Thought track

Status

Narration

Levels

Themes

And I’ve saved the best till last

Beowulf

Heorot

Uniferth

King Hrothgar

Dane folklore spellings – what a top idea. So school has started off again being exactly the same grim, oppressive institution. It’s never going to change under this Government and it’s Victorian approach to education. I’ve again given him the option to be homeschooled and again he has reluctantly declined. He still wants to see if he gets moved up in any of his classes. But I must admit another school snow day may just push him over the edge. And I really couldn’t blame him.

How wrong I was

Not our garden, this is from a neighbours garden. Very jealous especially of the lawn which when cut always resembles a bowling green. So unlike our used rugby pitch.

Another stormy and very wet day. That’s the third weekend in a row for us. The weather is doing nothing for our souls. Nor is the imminent return to school. His anxieties levels are starting to peak now. Soon he’s back into that alien environment. The hope is that he will return and he’s been moved up in at least one subject. Just move him up in History and it would boost his confidence so much. I fear that’s a pipe dream. I would also be staggered if the support system has suddenly improved. How can it. It’s the same teaching team, with the same school education strategies and with schools struggling for resources. But on the bright side we have been told to celebrate as soon we will have a new blue UK passport. A passport made in France….

Maybe he will decide to abandon the failed school project. Can’t blame him and I would fully support that. It would be so worth it to lift this cloak of anxiety which often suffocates him. It’s not as if the school approach is delivering results. In most subjects he’s bored and starting to stagnate. I have asked school for the latest benchmark data on his reading, writing and performance. Again I’m not holding my breath. I’m still waiting for school to do any meaningful assessment work on his reading or writing. I suspect it will be spelling tests and nothing else. The Physiotherapist contacted school to say that he was clearly struggling with handwriting and asked what concerns the school had about his handwriting. The response back was that no teacher had raised any concerns. Really….

At his last school they worked with the heath service to monitor his reading age every quarter. He left that school with a reading age three years below the expected level for his age. His current school has so far refused to do another benchmarking assessment. The argument is that he’s doing so well and a benchmark would not change his teaching programme. Read that as they cost money and all kids get the same set teaching approach. Well if you don’t have benchmark information how can you say he’s doing so well. We don’t know if he’s catching up or if the age gap is widening.

It’s funny looking back at this parenting gig. I always realised it would be frustrating and tiring. But I always assumed the school system would largely take care of his education. How wrong I was.

Uphill

It won’t be long until the snowdrops are gone for another year. This year has been a good one for them here. My partner would be so happy. She would be less happy with our Government. All the headlines are proclaiming the new hardline stance on immigration. Basically if you don’t speak English brilliantly then don’t bother trying to work here. Not sure they have thought this one through. Basically anyone from around here speaks Yorkshire so we are buggered.

After a largely sleepless night I could feel the first signs of cabin fever building. It’s been days since I’ve been able to go for a run. So needs must. I told Son that I was going into the garden for 50 minutes. The plan was to just run around the edge of the garden – repeatedly. Round and round. It’s not a big garden so a full circuit only takes a few seconds. But it’s a run. Well it was going ok until the boredom set in. Then the irrational thoughts started. All directed at one thing. The small slope the garden is on. Every few seconds I had to run up this little slope. Yes it’s only about 15 paces of uphill grass – but every few seconds I was going up it. Pathological hatred.

Wasn’t this steep when we moved here surely..

What possessed us to buy a house on a hill..

Why haven’t we levelled the garden..

Why haven’t we put little steps in..

Because we can’t as after a couple of inches of soil you hit hill rock which is basically armour plated and brakes spades.

Fifty minutes later the run ends and the cabin fever has quickly dissipated. My irrational hatred has gone. My partner would say that if we ever won the lottery we would buy a place with parkland. If it was a big lottery win then we would also have a second home in Switzerland. Sadly my partner never got that chance to live out her lottery dream. But she did get the time to enjoy this little house on the hill. The house with the garden and that little slope. It became our source of memories. That’s actually such a cool slope. It was the little sledge sliding run for our Son when he was a toddler. It was the slope where Son played with his dinosaurs. It was where we would sit on a night and watch the sun go down with a glass of wine. So the next time I do the garden run I will remember that.

White elephant

The zero hours contract yielded 5 hours work today. Another 50000000 hours and I might just keep the bank manager from sending me snotty letters. Just enough time left for a quick run. The light was stunning. It’s the quiet before the next storm hits.

“Is it true that we are getting another storm.”

“Yes Son it’s due to hit at the weekend. But this time maybe just a little less wind but much more rain.”

Great. I bet they have given it a really silly name.”

“Storm Dennis.”

“Your joking aren’t you.”

No Son it’s officially called Dennis.”

Probably named after Dennis The Menice. Would have been better if they had called it Storm Menice.”

Given we seem to be getting them every 6 days now maybe they should call it ANOTHER STORM.”

Son gave the car radio a quizzical look when the news reporter mentioned that Boris Johnson is still committed to building a bridge between Scotland and Ireland.

How much is that going to cost”

“I think it was a minimum £20 billion but given our track record of overspends that probably means about £80 billion”

Dad what a stupid idea. How many operations, or school books or trees could that pay for. How many months will it be closed for high winds.”

It’s a staggering idea. A 45km bridge over a seriously mad and volatile sea area. Supported by a series of giant towers having to be spaced at least a kilometre apart to accommodate the busy shipping routes. It would also have to cross the location of the country’s largest military dump. In 1945 over a million tons of munitions and submarines were dumped in a 300m deep sea trench.

“Its ok Son it’s unlikely to be built. When he was Mayor of London Boris committed to another big bridge idea. He was going to build a pedestrian bridge over the Thames. It ended up as a shambles and nothing happened. So if he can’t build a bridge between London and London he’s going to struggle to build one from Scotland to Ireland”.

Talking about building Dad. When are you going to get round to putting my shelf back up in my bedroom.”

The project is currently in the planning stages.”

If you mean by planning that it’s been propped against the wardrobe them then planning stage has lasted almost two years.”

I will try to do it tomorrow.”

Yeh right. Two massive white elephants. The Irish Sea Bridge and my Lego Shelf.”

Old

It’s been one of those days when I just feel old. Lack of sleep doesn’t help. Fighting a cold which I just can’t shake certainly doesn’t help. The weather most certainly doesn’t help – a bitingly cold gale force wind. Work was a slog with everything going wrong and the computer just saying NO. School was definitely very vexing. Now even the school governors have given up responding. I guess I must be on the official naughty list. My run was hard work. Slow, cold and a real effort. At times it seemed like one step forward and two back. Even the view failed to lift my spirits. It just provided an excuse to stop for a minute. The post school garden football was an effort. Not so much Messi or Pele, more like a knackered three legged giraffe trudging about in a vat of thick treacle. So yes today I felt much older than my 339 years. I’ve used this body up can I have another one please.

For sons mathematics exam he did really well given the lack of dyslexia support. He came second in his class. Just over 70% in one paper and high 60s in the second paper. That’s not too shoddy for a kid who could only read some of the words on the question sheets.

As I couldn’t read some of the questions I wonder if I would have got a similar mark if I had sat the maths paper but it was in French. Wouldn’t it save time if you could just combine subject exams so you could sit two at the same time. French & Maths, Science & Art, History & Drama, English & PE, Geography & Cooking.”

I could sign up to that. I would combine my worst subjects and get them out of the way in one exam. So I could do Drama and Cooking in one sitting. Or maybe I combine a really good subject with a bad one – PE could drag up my French score. It’s definitely a winner.

Dad are you sending an email”

“Yes I am. I am emailing the Prime Minister”

“Oh. Your not telling him about my sitting two exam in one go idea!”

No Son. I’m emailing him a question about dyslexia support.”

Do you think he will answer it”

Well let’s see.”

You didn’t have a go at him.”

“No I was very polite”

Well you weren’t very polite playing football. You said some naughty words when you tried to run.”

“I am getting older. Sometimes running hurts. And I didn’t use naughty words. I used my special made up words. Those which might be naughty but no one will ever know. Scully. Jellycup, Fumf.”

SO YES I FEEL OLD TODAY. ITS SUCH A JELLYCUP SCULLY FUMF……

Decency and respect

Dad why are politicians always nasty to each other now. You get more done if you work together or just talk.”

I really can’t argue with that. Maybe that’s why the world is in such a mess. Politics has just become a bear pit. Disrespect, dishonesty, verbal and physical abuse are the norm. Where good people are silenced and vilified.

Wind back the clock a few years and politics seemed to have more decency and politeness. The photograph below was our PM with the two leaders of the opposition parties. You would struggle to get that type of photo with members of the same Party these days.

It’s time for our leaders to start being civil again. A good start would be for everyone of them to stop continually shouting abuse and listen just a bit more. That’s not listening to their own voice but to others.