Swan

It was good to see the swan observing social distancing at the local lake today. If only some of the humans could get their head round the concept. Our village thankfully has. Apart from the postman, the occasional food delivery driver and a handful of dog walkers – that’s it. All the cars are parked up and are not being used. Virtually no through traffic. We don’t have a shop, cafe or pub. The village hall and church are temporarily closed. Basically it’s like a ghost town. It seems to oscillate between beautifully peaceful and slightly unnerving.

It’s the new normal.

Work is definitely shutdown until at least mid June now. No sign of schools reopening anytime before September. The countrywide lockdown isn’t being relaxed any time soon. No long runs. Apart from the very occasional trip to a shop for essentials, that’s it for physical social interaction. Maybe for months. It’s not happened yet but I can see this ramping up a grief attack soon. Especially as my partners birthday is looming. But it is what it is. Another thing for my constantly racing two cell brain to deal with.

We were watching Toy Story 2 last night when a thought popped into my head. Apart from the obvious one – oh man I look increasingly like Mr Potato Head. Wouldn’t it be great if toys did come alive. How much fun would that be. Suddenly a whole new self contained social circle. And yes we have a Buzz Lightyear so maybe he could teach us to fly.

I feel bad now Dad. Not played with a number of my toys in years. They have been shelved. Woody was mortified when he was shelved. Maybe we should dedicate the online Drama lesson to playing with old toys.”

He’s been so turned off from the subject that playing with old toys would certainly have more learning value.

Dad Ive been thinking about Toy Stories meaning. Basically it’s that you need to keep old toys come what may. Yes always play with them, even when your old. But never, ever give them away – even to a needy cause. It’s a bit of a grim message really.”

And with that he was off to find his old In The Night Garden Toys. But unusually for him, he did not fully think this through. His Dad fell in love with that old BBC kids show. His Dad can still answer any question thrown at him about Igglegpigle, Makka Pakka and the gang. And rather than looking for the shelved toys in the old toy baskets he just needs to look at his Dads bedroom table. No shelved toy sadness here. The In The Night Garden gang are very happy each night. Much loved by someone who really should know better.

Photo from the BBC.

Torquay

My neighbours bird bath. Over the years it has become increasingly hard to fill. Thankfully the Yorkshire weather usually takes care of that.

Yesterday was a decently fun day. Any day with Pizza helps. We played football in the garden. Son fired a million questions at me. Including the following belter.

Name 10 best things about Torquay”

We had been watching John Cleese in old episodes of Fawlty Towers. It’s set there.

“Son your going to annoyingly tell me that you know 10 such facts”

Actually 17 facts Dad”

I whispered a silent bugger under my breathe.

We then tried to watch the new Joker movie. I was watching it thinking the acting is brilliant but I’m not enjoying this in the slightest bit. Then son broke my thought pattern.

Dad I’m really not in the mood for this. I enjoy a good bit of Joker but this isn’t a Joker movie. It’s a movie about how a country fails to deal with mental health and how people look down on others who are different. I don’t like the way the film is doing it. Let’s watch it another day.”

So ten minutes later we had the new Shaun The Sheep movie on. That there is a movie.

But I understand what our son was talking about. Not the right time or mood for this Joker movie. There is too much going on in the world. It is also Mother’s Day in the UK. That’s one of THOSE days…. I must admit the social distancing has severely restricted our visits to the shops. That means less chance to walk past all the cards, flowers and potential gifts. Dealing with it for just one day is better than having it rammed down our throats for weeks on end.

I must admit this one has been less painful than the other ones we have endured. We have wished our lost mums a happy day. In my partners case we have kissed the ashes. Then so far we have gotten on with the job of making the most of today. My heart does go out to many mums today. Because of the restrictions and other factors outside of their control, they may not see kids and grandchildren today (or for many days to come). I really hope a way is found for a connection to be made. A text, a video call, a card, a cute photo, a virtual hug or a telephone call saying ‘I LOVE YOU’.

Stay safe and to all mums out there. Sending you a big hug. Thank you for being super heroes.

Pizza Saturday

A new day. Let’s not allow any crap from yesterday mess up today. The cynical side of me is shouting – today probably has enough new crap to keep me occupied. But today is a new page and let’s see what it brings. Pigging lots of fun I hope.

Late last night (430am) I finally gained some control over my two brain cell super computer. My mind wandered to the stuff which social distancing is stopping which we could run virtually.

A virtual darts league

A virtual computer gaming league ( would be even more fun if it was just for those whose middle name is something like ‘Games Nube’ or ‘Apart from the old Atari tennis game I’m generally Crap’)

Virtual Cooking schools and bake offs (we did a brilliant one last year)

Virtual Gardening Clubs or in my case a Virtual Mass Plant Murderer Club

Virtual Exercise or Yoga Gyms

Virtual Book a major event. Say Wrestlemania, LiveAid, Woodstock, The Great Exhibition

Virtual Coffee Meet-ups

Virtual let’s recreate the cinema experience and watch the same film then review it night out

Virtual Homeschooling school gate meet-ups

Virtual bad hair days

Virtual fashion disasters as we can do whatever we like in our homes. Really go for it

Virtual design with Lego or whatever you have in the house challenges (come up with a theme and see what people and the kids make)

Virtual let’s write a song together gigs

Virtual let’s make pizza lunches.

On the subject of making pizza. Well that’s what we have just done.

Yes it’s not to Pizza Express standards. But we don’t care because we had fun… and yes I know the work surface needs a good clean…… Our pizza session also introduced a new concept to me. Ethical Cooking Balance.

Son looked at my attempt. A pizza which was completely dairy, gluten, meat free. Then back to his. A normal ham, full on dairy pizza.

“Dad I think your pizza looks a bit sad. It needs something. Maybe some proper cheese and ham”

“Well son it won’t be ethical then would it”

Well think about it. I will take some of my existing topping and put that on yours. You then put some of your ethical topping on mine. We have not used any less ethical products and not used any more unethical stuff. The quantities are exactly the same as before. But now my pizza is slightly more ethical and yours is slightly less ethical, but will taste infinitely better. So we still have balance”

I tried but couldn’t really argue with that. So that’s what happened. And yes he was right – it did taste so much better….

Friday I guess

Some random daffodils blooming next to our front window. These always make me smile as they just seemed to appear one year. I can’t remember planting them. Having said that, this is me…..

My mobile phone rang this morning. I could hear it somewhere really close but I just couldn’t find it before it rang off. A few minutes later I found me phone when I sat down. It was in my back pocket.

This morning it took me one hour to work out that it was Friday.

Sometimes there are no answers.

A few months back I was asked if I had found a magic bullet, a cure for it.

Sometimes there are no answers.

No it wasn’t the W.H.O. approaching me as a world expert on the search for a vaccine for the pesky virus. No don’t worry, I am still the same old dim witted goofball. No it was a parent from my sons last school. She had recently lost someone close and was really low with grief. She was desperate for the pain to go away.

Sometimes there are no answers.

Unfortunately I’ve not found a magic bullet, no cure or no vaccine that works with bereavement. It still hits me. It still hurts me. The days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. I’m still waiting to gain acquired immunity. The route cause remains and will always remain. But I do believe that I have started to understand myself better. I am also slowly finding things that help with the symptoms. That’s something to cling on to. Sadly the things which help me, may not work for others. There is also no guarantee that what works today, will work tomorrow for me. I guess that’s the case not only for bereavement but for many other areas of life.

So what works for me (sometimes…)

  • Exercise, weights and running
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Nature
  • Walking
  • Climbing (I haven’t been able to climb in 4 years but just reading about it helps)
  • AND above all focusing on making our son happy.

Today was one of those days when virtually everything on the list did not work. All I could do was throw myself into keeping son happy. That distracted me. It got me through the day. It numbed the symptoms but didn’t cure the route cause. Now it’s 2am and those dark soul symptoms are bubbling away again. Probably going to be a long sleepless night. Will watch some rubbish TV and will again ponder over the home finances spreadsheet. Don’t know why – it’s not going to look any better when I’m tired.

It’s a brand new day. A fresh start. The old problems and hurt will still be there. But maybe, just maybe it will be symptom free day and it will be a good one.

Stay safe my friends.

Music

Above the church it looks like that an RAF pilot was bored and decided to try and do a signature in the sky. Hope he was smiling when he did it.

Late last night I was watching the Queen biopic and my mind wandered again. Sometimes my mind wanders that far I’m surprised it makes it way back before breakfast. Actually maybe it doesn’t – that would explain things….

Anyway I was watching Queen and thinking about concerts. In all the years we were a couple, we only went to four concerts together. She somehow managed to convince me to see Ronan Keating TWICE. Don’t tell anyone that as I might get kicked out of the Mongolian Heavy Metal Grunting Club. I managed to convince her to go and see Meatloaf (the deal was I drove and she could drunk wine). The last concert was Tom Jones – I resisted the urge to throw my underpants at him…

I guess like most couples our rock and roll lifestyle went out of the window when we became a family. That was it. No more concerts together.

PLEASE don’t take this the wrong way. This is not a sad post. I’m smiling while I’m writing this. There was a very good reason why we didn’t see many concerts together. We had completely different musical tastes. Her cds have not been touched in the last three years. Why? I could say it’s because it just wouldn’t be right. Listening to the music would make me sad. Actually the real reason is that I’d rather listen to a chainsaw grind on for hours than endure any of her cds. I will never get rid of them, but they are never, ever going to be played by me. They have become a thankfully silent reminder of our differences. The differences that made us work as a couple.

I can only think of one other possible use for them. If you haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead then this will make no sense. If we ever have to fight off a zombie attack with only our record collection, then her music is fired first….

I guess the point of this post is to say that

just as it’s ok to cry when you are bereaved, it’s absolutely fine to smile as well. It’s your bereavement, you do whatever you need to do with it.

Dreams pesky dreams

If I was a flower I wonder what dreams I would have.

Before my partner died I would have the occasional dream that I could remember, but not that often. My sleep would be disrupted but usually by our son. Plus back then, when there are two of you can take turns on the sleepless shifts.

Then after my partner died sleep became increasingly disrupted. Son has always had an interesting sleep pattern. Whatever we have tried has never managed to change that. Eventually the health professionals just called it – it is how it is for him, it works for him, so just run with it. Basically his mind and body are too active for sleep anything south of midnight. He will usually fall asleep between midnight and 1am. Then he will sleep until 6am until his mind and body kick into active mode again. When he was younger he would constantly wake during that time, so one of us would need to be with him to get him back to sleep. But as he’s got older he more often than not sleeps through. A couple of times a week he will still wake and I get the night visits. Checking I’m still here, wanting an answer to a question or wanting to tell me a fact.

Dad Harold (that’s Harold II) was not the last english Saxon king. William beat Harold on the 14 October 1066 but wasn’t officially crowned until the 25 December. In theory Edgar Atheling (Edgar II) was king. He had the strongest blood claim to the throne. Night Dad.

But as our son’s sleep has stabilised my dream pattern has increasingly disrupted mine. It takes an age for me to get to sleep then all to quickly a vivid dream wakes me and then that’s usually it for the night – no more sleep.

The dreams have also changed. I have had three distinct dream stages. Each stage has its own unique dream type – each night its the same sort of dream.

The reliving fond memories stage. This was the nicest, yet saddest stage. The dreams would relive completely accurately lovely memories. Maybe a holiday trip, a birthday, an early date with my partner, finding out when we we’re going to be a family….

The bizarre memory stage. Then suddenly the dreams changed. They still were based on fond memories but always morphed in some bizarre way. A dream about a lovely family trip to a petting zoo, but in the dream the cute little animals were replaced by dinosaurs – we still petted them. A dream about sledging with son on one of our few proper snow days. But in the dream the white snow had become pink.

The current dream stage. The weird/unsettling dreams. No more dreams based on real life memories. Just unsettling made up dreams. Last night for example my partner (who was pregnant) and I had gone shopping in this made up out of town shopping complex. We had gone into a huge furnishing store. We found some items we needed and I went looking for a shopping trolley. Couldn’t find any trolleys inside, so I looked out in the car park. Still no trolleys. So I walked across to the next store which was a supermarket (ASDA). They had trolleys but they needed a coin to release them. None of my coins would work. I then couldn’t find our car to get more coins. So I ran down a short slip road to the next group of shops. Here the trolleys were all vandalised. I ran down another slip road to the another shop which was a huge DIY store. They had trolleys but they wouldn’t push correctly. It took all my strength to move them a few inches. Finally I found an electronics shop which had trolleys that worked. But now as hard as I tried I just couldn’t find my way back to the first store with my partner who would be getting increasingly annoyed with me. I was now completely lost and in full panic mode. Then I woke up. Now I was completely unsettled and that was it for sleep. Too tired to read or blog. So all I could manage was to watch crappy TV and listen for the clock to tick round until son woke up.

I look back with fondness at those memory dreams. Even those bizarre Dino type memory dreams. Yes they could be sad but they where a wonderful gateway into the past. But these current dreams I really hate. No sweet memories here just my brain finding new ways to unsettle my soul. Sleep is now something I desperately need, yet I struggle to do it. It is also becoming something which brings me nothing but stress. I hate being stuck in this ever decreasing sleepless circle.

Laughter

Most runs around here end up with one last slog up this winding hill. A number of cycle clubs use it for races. The British Universities use the hill for their national road race championship. The 25% twisting ascent is a real leg sapper.

But on the bright side it’s a rapid, helter skelter of a descent. On one cycle decent I lost control and ended up in the farmers field. Still not as bad as one cyclist you apparently was rescued after being found face first, stuck in the roadside hedge. You could only see his legs sticking out. That would have cracked me up. As Monty Python would sing – Always look on the bright side….

Over the last couple of years I’ve learned the importance of laughter. It really has been a life saver some days. Really dark thoughts have been broken by a random laugh. A few weeks after my partner and my mums funerals I was as low as I have ever been. But a random chance encounter with Python’s Holy Grail movie lifted my spirts. It was bizarrely the scene where Eric Idle was collecting the dead bodies on the cart and John Cleese tries to get rid of a ‘not’ dead old man. It just touched a nerve and I laughed a lot. It just seemed to brake the spell.

Yes laughter breaks the spell. It’s distracts me. In computing terms it seems to reboot my system. The problem is that often when you need that reboot the most. At your lowest ebb. The hardest thing to do is laugh. The mindset is that your not allowed to enjoy a bit of life. Laughing is just not acceptable. Almost as if it makes you a bad person. Really. For me the two of the nest things I’ve learnt about grief

  • It’s really ok to cry AND
  • It’s really ok to laugh as well.

The news is unremittingly grim at present. Nothing like a pandemic to bring out the worst in our leaders, our media and sections of the population. Today the media was full of misinformation and photographs of empty supermarket shelves. Panic buying has started. So with some trepidation I ventured into the supermarket for a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread. What a pleasant surprise to find a well stocked shop. Then one last gift. With a sense of humour the store was running a promotion on Corona Beer. Clearly with shoppers loading up with the stuff that it was selling really well. Certainly better than in some parts of the world. It’s a shame that I’m on the wagon and that I never liked the stuff anyway. But it did get me thinking – maybe the World Health Organisation should continue naming viruses after products. Especially if it leads to heavy discounts. Maybe the next pandemic could be called the Cadbury’s Cream Egg Virus. I look forward to that discount….

Always look on the bright side of life….

Unwanted anniversary

The way forward is sometimes difficult under foot.

Another storm is heading our way. Storm Jorge. The world news is grim and unremittingly depressing. Definitely no solace at school. Son scored 14 out of 15 in his Drama spelling test. The one he got wrong was Unferth. Unferth is a warrior who opposes Beowulf. It’s not a word he’s likely to use much in life. I am so pleased with son. I wouldn’t have got 14 and I’m not dyslexic. Yet the teacher told him to try a bit harder as a few of the kids had got all the spellings correct. Deep sigh.

Today has been tough for me. The above factors don’t help but they are not the main cause of my struggles. No it’s a grief thing again. Son’s birthday is fast approaching. Since she left us this is just one of those times. Her organisational skills would go into overdrive as his birthday approached. She would be so excited. Her love would shine through.

Then the world changed. (That was going to be the original name of my blog site but I messed up the setupBereavedDad was a cockup).

So today I was trying to sort out his birthday and I felt so wrong. She should be here enjoying this time as well. I’m not often bitter but today I was. What is making this birthday so raw is that he is turning into a teenager. My partner has missed so much of his childhood and never got the opportunity to see him grow into a teenager. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

But unfortunately feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to help. It’s not going to bring her back. It’s certainly isn’t going to deliver any presents. It’s not going to yield a happy birthday for our son. It’s not going to make him smile AND his smiles are the only currency I should deal in now. So give myself a proverbial massive kick up the butt. Turn the news off. Play some loud music and fully commit to birthday mode. That’s what my partner would do and by jiminy – that’s what I am going to do.

So yes the way forward is sometimes difficult under foot but you still need to follow it.

Hanging on

After all the bad weather. The floods. The driving rain. The damaging winds. After three storms. Conditions which have proved too much for the early daffodils. The snowdrops are still hanging on. They are truly wonderful little delicate flowers.

Hanging on applies to the humans as well.

Son’s anxiety levels are definitely spiking now. He is returning to the outside world after 10 days of safety within the confines of his house and garden. Days of not needing to build rickety bridges between his world and the world of others. It’s been wonderful to see a kid enjoying being a kid again. Seemingly without a care in the world. But soon school will open the gates to its hostile environment again. As hard as I try the smiles are harder won and often just a little too forced now. Today he is hanging on.

His Dad is just hanging on as well. Son’s anxieties are sending shock waves through my system. A system which is operating on too little sleep. A system which is facing its very own localised storm. A Grief Storm. These storms don’t last as long as they once did. But they still can have an intensity which still takes my breath away. Sucking the life force out of me. They often sweep in without warning. Turning seemingly light into dark. It takes me back to my climbing days. Happily climbing looking into a dry sunny cliff face, blissfully unaware of the raging blizzard which is screaming towards my back. Within seconds I am are grimly hanging onto the rocks trying not to be swept into the oblivion beneath me.

I strongly suspect this Grief Storm was germinated in my fears as a single parent and the growing prospect of homeschooling.

  • Is it the right decision?
  • Am I taking on too much?
  • What happens if my work levels and our income are adversely effected by factors outside my control. My role is heavily dependent on community and sporting based events. These are likely to be curtailed if a certain virus takes hold in the UK. That would make our financial position even more precarious.
  • Are we giving up on school too soon?
  • How will I find the time to do those things which currently help get me through the day. Homeschooling is likely to make activities like running a bit of a rarity.
  • And on and on

Wrestling with these factors on my own. Thoughts then increasingly turn to the gaping hole left by my partner. Suddenly it’s a full on a Grief Storm. So I end up just hanging on. But at least I am still hanging on and that’s a start.

Graveyard visit

This is the local church and graveyard. The current church structure dates back to the 12th century but it’s likely that an early Saxon structure stood here before that. Inside there are parts of the church still in remarkably good condition from the 12th and 13th century.

The weather worn graveyard has a definite ancient feel to it. So many long forgotten graves. These places have a habit of making you think about your own life.

We still have my partners ashes in the house. We just haven’t found the right time to start the process. We did spilt them. Some for England and some for Switzerland. We’ve thought about many sites. We sort of have a draft plan in place. It struck me today that we have never once considered this graveyard. Really don’t know why.

The other thing that struck me was that I hadn’t been to my mums grave in nearly two years. It’s mums old family grave about 60 miles from here. What makes it worse is that I scattered the ashes by myself. I’m the only one who has been there since then. Really must address that this year. Sadly I think I said the exact same thing last year. Life always seems to get in the way. So many demands. But those demands take over. My Dad was cremated in 1987. His ashes were scattered. I can’t even remember exactly where. I’ve never went to that place. Never been in 32 years. So now I need to ask my brother and sisters. Just hope one of them can remember.

So many things to do. Even so, surely I should be able to find the time to pay one visit. To remember those who shaped and moulded our live’s. I came across a quote from David Eagleman which sets this whole thing in context;

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

For those of us who are not the likes of Shakespeare then this process is inevitable and extremely sobering. But that’s life. We need to make the best of it. So for the last three years I have spent a little time each and every day remembering. Last night it was 15 minutes. Remembering names which I’m not yet ready to send into the third stage. So each night names are called out and good memories recalled. I guess it’s my version of a graveyard visit.