Dumbo meets Braveheart

Everyday more red bursts through to bring life to Yorkshire In Autumn. No creative license required here. Last night son asked to watched the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart. He quietly watched the movie in one sitting. When it had finished he had one of those looks. The Paddington Hard Stare.

Where do I start. I gave up making a note of the historical inaccuracies when I got past 30. I think they were averaging one a minute. I hope people don’t think it happened like that. As a piece of pure make believe it was ok. As an accurate record of real history I’d rather trust the new Dumbo movie”

I have to say the new Dumbo is great. But it’s one of the THOSE movies which would have been much easier to watch if it had come out before our world changed. Movies with the death of a mum are still very raw. For both of us.

Dumbo also touched on the idea that sometimes we are not prepared for what may face us a parent and as a human. Don’t want to give any real spoilers away so I can’t say too much about the movie.

I wasn’t prepared in the slightest way for being a single parent. For being a widow. For having that awful conversation with your son. For picking up the pieces of a life which had been based purely on three of us. But to be fair as a couple we were not prepared for the loss of one of us. Our lifestyle was based on two parents. Financially it only worked with two of us. After we became a family our careers only continued to work because we could share the load. We only continued to have a bit of a social life because the other partner was there.

So when you suddenly take one partner away …. it all comes tumbling down. Three years later we are still trying to rebuild our life’s. Watching another autumn and another set of red leaves makes you appreciate life goes on – even after a death.

The view opens up

One of my Running trail runs is tough. It’s a muddy slog through increasingly thick woods. It’s a slow claggy run climbing through undergrowth that sees only glimpses of the sun. It’s very claustrophobic. Your on your own. A little voice keeps telling you to just stop. Why am I doing this. One step forward, two back.

But with patience and effort the going becomes easier. The ground levels out. The cover starts to thin and the distant view begins to reveal itself.

Then your out. The openness is initially disorientating but it’s been so worth the struggle.

Then a reluctance. A moment of doubt. Need to turn your back on the openness and head back into the dark. The way is back through the woods.

This trail run reminds me of our life these days. I head into the working week with trepidation. Too much to do and not enough time. Self doubt is king. Often so little direction and so much frustration. It feels like you are against the world. Battling uphill through mud. Our Son heads into 5 days of mainstream school. So little help. Fighting on his own. Not sure why he is doing this. It’s an alien world. You just have to keep plodding on but then Friday comes. Our hopes and spirits build. Then you arrive at the weekend. For two sweet days life improves. The week’s slog and struggles are forgotten. But so quickly it’s late Sunday and you face the trepidation of the upcoming week and the return to the darkness.

So we move on. The week calls and maybe so does the woodland trail. That’s our life cycle.

Where are the cobwebs

Autumn is definitely here. The flowers have gone. Many of the trees are bare. The leaves that remain have increasingly turned vivid red. My partner loved this time. She would find any excuse to spend time outside. Just looking at the colours. Today looking at the reds in the garden I have purpose. These eyes are looking for her as well. I try to spend an extra minute. Spending as much time as she would.

Before the world changed my partner would be fixated on the colours but I would have other things on my mind. Cobwebs. I love Autumn for the intricate and beautiful cobwebs which begin to take over our world. The young spiders have had all summer to grow. It’s also a time when spiders are out looking for mates. AND the weather and the dampness are perfect for adding to the cobwebs drama.

The weather is perfect but for some reason the cobwebs are largely missing. Still no abundant arachnid display. Maybe next week. Then we can be both happy. But at least this weekend we did get one cobweb. Hopefully it’s the start of Autumn becoming complete.

Night time visitor

For over a year we have had a nighttime visitor. Brief glimpses. Garden dug up. A few signs. Then last night FINALLY you revealed yourself in all your glory.

Kind enough to stay long enough for the mobile phone to adjust to the darkness.

Even a stroll close up to see what the strange humans were doing. The Government is trying to cull your kind. But you are most welcome here.

That’s what it is

Hindsight and regret is so easy to fall back into. We all do it. Especially when you suffer bereavement. I do it. I could fill a War and Peace size book with all the missed opportunities.

  • The deterioration came so quickly that we never had that last proper conversation. The last goodbye. I guess the last chat was about sorting out her laptop for when she came out after the tests.
  • We never got to New Zealand.
  • We didn’t have that family Santa trip to Lapland.
  • We never got to Chile.
  • We never got round to trying for a second child.
  • The trip to Tibet and Nepal eluded us.
  • I never did get round to putting those shelves up which she really wanted.
  • Looking at the Northern Lights together remained unfulfilled.
  • I never got round to getting the clip of our sons first steps off the broken camera and on to the video so my partner could see them.

Plenty of time to do these. So no rush. WRONG.

But as that line goes. That’s what it is. Until someone invents time travel I just can’t change the past. Maybe occasionally in dreams but when you wake up it’s back to the reality. But this misses the big issue. Yes stuff got missed. I occasionally unintentionally messed up (maybe more than occasionally). We didn’t complete our bucket list. BUT just wait a picking moment. Look at the stuff we did.

  • Switzerland lots of times.
  • That first romantic trip to the Lakes.
  • The two mad cats and a savage Hamster.
  • The three trips to Disneyland Paris.
  • Buying our first house.
  • Those trips to France.
  • All those walks on the North Yorkshire Moors.
  • That trip to the Newcastle match when you almost got run over by the Juventus Team Bus and the Police Horse ate my Mars Bar.
  • That winter we got snowed in with 18 inches of snow. Days of snow fun.
  • The trips to the Peak District.
  • That stay in one of Britain’s most haunted buildings.
  • Skinny Dipping in the freezing sea at Anglesey.
  • That week in the Scottish Highlands and that cottage next to the grave yard.
  • That walk up Snowdon.
  • That mad evening at a Blues Brothers New Years Eve Dance.
  • The trip to the French Grand Prix
  • That week in the Gypsy Cottage In Northumberland.
  • The concerts. Even Ronan Keating – twice.
  • Getting to see some of the Olympics events.
  • Producing our beautiful son. The single most perfect we both ever did.

Too many great memories to mention here. That’s the stuff I should be focusing on. The memories which should be on permanent replay. You know what – we had a hell of a ride. That’s what it is. Thank you.

Yorkshire Chilli

After years of trying to grow just one chilli in the subtropical climate which is Yorkshire we get to this. In about 10 years this is as good as it gets. Two huge Guinness Book of Record Largest Chilli winners. But after all the years of failure I will take these mini wins.

The one thing you learn with bereavement is that every persons grief journey is different. Regardless of what the textbooks tell you ITS UP TO YOU to find your own route through the minefields you find yourself stuck in the middle of. Some can do it within months. Others it takes longer, sometimes much longer.

I was listening to a bereaved man on the radio. He had starting dating again within a couple of months of the funeral. He was remarried within 6 months. In his words he had ‘grieved for about 6 weeks then it was time to start again”. When asked if he still grieved he said ‘No I have moved on’. That was his way through and out of the minefields.

One of the saddest and most beautiful things I have ever heard was an elderly chap who had lost his wife. Every wedding anniversary he took his wife’s ashes out to the same restaurant. He would sit and have his meal alone with the ashes. Nobody knows what he would say but he frequently cried. He’s been doing that for over 20 years. Maybe that’s someone who has chosen not to leave the minefield.

I’ve been in the grief minefield for 3 years now. But that’s only part of the story. No real time to grieve as I had to step up to being a single parent. I needed (still need) to give our son the best possible childhood he could possibly have under these circumstances. In my brain parenting became more important than grieving. My way out of the minefield frequently became muddled and lost . What happened was often parenting driven rather than grief oriented. For example.

Three years of virtually no social contact happened not because of grief rather because of having a young kid with Aspergers.

In those three years my not so great social skills have become extremely limited.

Last week I had a lunchtime coffee with four of the mums from our sons school. I’ve done that a couple of times over the last 3 years. It’s only for 30 minutes or so. In my case it’s now Peppermint Tea rather than Coffee. It’s about my only non-son social life these days, certainly since the world changed. Talk about wooden. I end up just listening. Luckily the mums are really nice and I think they understand. It’s a start. A little dip of the toe back into the big bad world. It’s a mini win. At least I’m not still in the middle of the minefield.

So like the chilli in Yorkshire. I will take the little wins. I think it shows that I probably want to make my way out of the minefield eventually but I have to admit – I’m not entirely certain about that….

Sensory overload

There is a scene from the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie. Sherlock is in the restaurant waiting for Watson and his fiancée. You see him people watching. But quickly the noise and the images overwhelm him and he closes his eyes to shut out the world. Too much for him. Sensory overload.

It’s one of the few times I’ve seen this depicted on screen. It’s a problem for so many in our society. Yet it’s an often overlooked element of autism.

Imagine every time you go shopping, or sit in a classroom, or walk in a busy street or sit on an aeroplane or cross the road …. you get hit with this sensory overload. Too many different noises, too many images, too many smells, just too many sensations. Your brain just can’t process them. It can cause anxiety, confusion, anger, blurred vision, a meltdown or it may just hurt a lot.

Son has suffered with this. I’ve suffered with this.

Sometimes it’s easy to spot those potential sensory vortexes. Places with lots of people in a confined space. Various noise sources. Complex lighting. But often it can be more subtle situations which can produce the dreaded vortex.

  • Bright colours and certain patterns. The wrong type of wallpaper. A vivid unusual designed piece of clothing.
  • Where you try and process a number of facial expressions or different types of body language at the same time. A school corridor.
  • An unusual or striking taste sensation.
  • An unpleasant touch sensation. The wrong type of sock or glove. With me it’s often the feel of cold metal.
  • Trying to listen to a conversation where a number of people are trying to talk at the same time.

Over time you learn which environments will cause the issues and you start to avoid them. That’s potentially one of the reasons some with autism seek isolation and a private lifestyle.

Our son had started to develop his own defence strategies. One of his most effective ones is dreaming. When the environmental factors start to become unpleasant or unsettling he will often dream. Create a world he can fully control. This helps him shut out many of sensory inputs trying to overload him. You will often see him flapping or stimming during this process. He doesn’t completely shut out the entire world. He can keep track of certain inputs. You will see him dreaming but at the same time he is scanning a conversation or a teacher talking. As a kid I would do something similar when the anxiety started to kick in. Suddenly you feel your back in control again. Unfortunately I was not as good at keeping track of what the teacher was saying – my school reports often mentioned I was a day dreamer and needed to try harder.

Unfortunately as a society we are just not geared up to understand these issues. If you don’t conform to the required standards then you are labelled different. A problem. Most schools give little thought to how they design a classroom and no thought to what goes on the walls. But this can have such a huge impact. A psychologist told me this true story.

A young girl struggled to concentrate in the classroom. She was unable to read at school or in the home. She was written off as low attainment with behavioural issues. Then she was referred to a specialist who asked school to try and teach her in a different location with plain walls. The only room available was a little empty storage room under the stairs. Unbelievably the girl suddenly started to read in the store room.

The problem was that the classroom had a bright patterned wall which overloaded the girls senses. Every room in her home had complex patterned wallpaper. Quickly her parents redecorated the house with one colour paint. Unfortunately her school did not change the classroom so the girl would go to read in the storeroom.

We are seeing progress. For example some stores are starting to run autism friendly shopping slots. We went to one. The shop had turned down the lighting. Switched off the PA and music. Staff wore white shirts. Some of the bright coloured walls were covered over. The store controlled how many people entered the store. It worked and made such a difference.

As a society we have failed too many for far too long. We need to stop being so judgemental about those who don’t fit into the narrow accepted standards. We also need to have a long hard look at how we design our public buildings and homes. Let’s start to make a difference.

World Mental Health Day

Every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide.

Too many die in silence. We need to continue to change our society. Progress is being made but not enough. A stigma still exists about Mental Health and Suicide. In my country you die of a heart attack but you commit suicide. Commit is associated with crime. That’s just wrong.

It’s time for change. It’s time to make it ok to talk. The more we talk the more acceptable it becomes.

I suffer from depression. It comes in waves. When I was young I hated being me. That’s still with me today. Two big things have stopped me becoming a suicide statistic. HOPE and LOVE. Both give you the strength to keep walking through the dark times. Just a fraction of either is all it takes for many.

So today and everyday let’s try to give that love and that hope to others.

Trudeau and the Bull

Our local Bull has decided that he hasn’t eyeballed me enough. Now he’s made his way through to the farmers field immediately behind our garden. Now he can eyeball me all day long.

Yesterday evening son was watching a history DVD. Something about the American Civil War. So I took the mad dog out in the garden for his late evening barking session. Village most love him. Anyway as he started barking at the Apple Tree when I noticed the football on the muddy lawn. A thought crossed my mind. I don’t often get the ball to myself. Time for some quality Dad football skills. Two minutes later the ball is in the farmers field. Ops. Not a problem I will just jump over the wooden fence and the small wire fence. Son will never know that I’m a muppet.

Then that sinking feeling. What is that large black lump stood next to the ball. A very large lump which is eyeballing me. The pigging ball has ended up next to Mr Bull. It’s our only ball since the dog chewed the last others. It is also our sons favourite ball which he’s had for years now.

Houston we have a problem.

What do I do.

Take the risk of son losing one of his favourite toys OR get flattened.

Having deeply assessed the problem and developed an in-depth strategy (thinking time lasted about 3 seconds) it was decision time. Seconds later I’ve climbed over the fences and I’m slowly edging towards The Beast. The well thought out plan could be described as ‘winging it’ or a ‘work in progress top level broad brush general overview’ thing. This was evidenced by the clever strategy to calm the beast. I was trying to soothly talk to him by saying ‘he’s a clever pretty polly’. I couldn’t think of a nice name for a bull but really pretty polly. The problem was compounded by the fact that on closer examination the ball was virtually under the bull.

So I continued to edge closer to my doom sticking to the Pretty Polly tactics. Eventually I’m within a couple of feet of The Beast. He’s a very big boy. And he’s seriously eyeballing me. Slowly I bend over and pick up the ball. My brilliant plan had not considered being actually face to face with him. Then the Beast made a strange noise. I’m about to die. Then a gushing water sound. He’s having a pee. I can breathe again. Then a potential mistake. A big mistake. I patted the bull on the head. He’s still eyeballing me but I’m sure the eyes have gone blood red and steam is coming out of the nose. Time to get out of here. Slowly I back away keeping my eyes on him. When the gap is about 6 yards I turned. Suddenly I’m sure I can hear the beast heading towards me. Fast. With a surprisingly rapid sprint for a man of my age I’m at the fences. No time to climb just jump. With one bound I just about clear both fences. SAFETY.

I would like to report that I landed like an Olympic Gymnast. No. I landed like a flying baboon. Face first into the muddy lawn and mole hills. But I’m alive and the ball is safe. Inside I looked in the mirror. A face caked in mud. At that very stage son walked into the bathroom. He took one look at the mud on my face and calmly said.

I’m not going to ask why but you do know having a painted brown face is so uncool and racist Dad.

Yes it is son. In my case it was an accident. Having said that I bet that’s exactly what Justin Trudeau said and it’s not a great defence. Best wash it off before I’m photographed.

Unsettling

It’s been a seriously grey day. Heavy rain due within a few hours. When it’s like this you can’t see where the road ends up. You end of questioning your judgement. On your own it can be deeply unsettling.

Unsettling is a term I’ve become used to over the last 3 years. When my partner left this world it was a massive shock to my system (understatement of the year). For years I had got used to that wise voice guiding me through the world. The wise guide on life, on parenting, on everything. Suddenly life was uncertain. Now I was map reading on my own. Trying to navigate life and Aspergers felt like walking an increasingly thin tight rope without a safety net. Initially my approach was trying to make decisions that I thought my partner would make. Never going to work. We were different people with different takes on life. It was down to me to own this. Take responsibility. But it’s easier said that done.

Three years later it’s still easier said that done. Grief tries to rob you of your confidence and self esteem at a time when you are your lowest ebb. You have probably just lost your guiding light. Everything is stacked against you.

So again this weekend another crisis of confidence. Been many of these. Am I handling the school situation correctly. Should I be more forceful? An I being to pushy? Am I getting this badly wrong like most things. How can I be trusted with this when I can’t sort my own life out. Basically I’m out of my depth here. It’s a deeply unsettling feeling which sadly is not restricted to me. Too many live with this. In my case this leads to an initial overthinking of the situation, then the mind keeps focusing on the negatives (the possible ways I could mess this up), next comes the crisis of confidence which leads to a spell of depression. Well at least I’m predictable.

But the bottom line is that it IS DOWN TO ME. No one else is here. So I might think that I’m the wrong person to do this but I am the ONLY person available to do this. So it’s time to just try to keep moving forward. Move forward even though the path has disappeared. Hoping that one day the fog will clear. Then is the time to judge who bad my judgement has been.