The Black Hole…

I could look at these flowers all day. Stunning yellows with one sneaky violet crashing the daffodil party.

The school bus was late. Very late. Our son went into meltdown. Panic attacks over detentions, expulsions and all the associated ever increasing butterfly effects. All today’s carefully constructed plans are in tatters. It’s part and parcel of being a child with autism. We now have a plan for this type of eventuality. A hand written plan we keep safely by the front door. When I say plan it’s actually an old food shopping list. The plan Z list was pulled from the wall.

Tell me 5 things you can see.

Tell me 4 things you can hear.

Tell me 3 things you can touch.

Tell me 2 things you can smell.

Smile once and breathe.

Plan now says Dad get the car keys and drives you to school.

Thankfully today Plan Z worked. Distraction and switching to another orderly plan. It’s funny as a shopping list it was poor (I remember it missed off non essential stuff like bread, milk, pet food…. but as a go to plan in times of crisis – it has been a winner. It’s so flexible the actual words on the paper are irrelevant. It adds credibility to any plan I come up with in an emergency. Because that plan must be good as it’s the plan on that piece of paper – it’s Plan Z. As we reached the school gates order was starting to be restored in his soul. He made me smile with some of his responses.

“I can see bird poo on your car. I think it must have been a big bird.”

“I can see a couple of blue flowers in the Daffodil patch. Maybe they are mutations. Definitely beautiful mutations. Flowers are very welcoming.”

“Dad I can still see that cake you made yesterday. It was so funny how you got it to collapse in the middle. After all these years and still it messes up. The cake was so like a black hole. It was both a thing of wonder and a piece of terror. It’s a special talent Dad.”

As the great Terry Pratchett once said “Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom“.

So yes my sneaky practice run for this Sunday’s GREAT BLOGGERS BAKE-OFF didn’t go so well.

Hopefully you will join in the fun on the 24th.

Embrace the stain….

Picking up from this mornings post. Spiez is just a perfect place. The building at the front of the picture is the hotel we would stay at. The mountain dominating at the back is the Niederhorn. Before our son was born I was practicing for a mountain race. As part of the training I managed to run up this beautiful mountain. I remember lying at the top ignoring the stunning view – just thinking do I run back down or call for a helicopter evacuation…

I recount this story as it came to me again this afternoon. Setting a goal, achieving it then rather than basking in the success you immediately worry about the next step or challenge.

This feels a bit like fighting the system for our son. So many peaks to climb. You climb one but you then immediately have to face a new climb. It can be soul destroying.

We have potentially found a specialist who will assess our son’s dyslexia. But now I need to find the money to pay for it (the leaking washing machine will have to survive another year before it’s replaced). AND I somehow need to find a way of getting the education system to adopt the recommendations of the assessment. I was speaking to another parent who has been trying unsuccessfully for two years to get her school to adopt the same specialists recommendations. Why do we make it so difficult for our kids…

You then see the news which is dominated by talk of Brexit. Our so called Prime Minister is trying to bribe another party with up to a billion pounds of further funding if they will vote for her shambles of a plan. And yet they can’t find the money to adequately fund our schools or mental health support services. She takes great delight in telling the rest of us that money doesn’t grow on a tree. Clearly our Leader values her own career and legacy higher than the kids of our country…… Sadly she is not the only world leader like that.

Then my mind drifts back to that mountain. The Niederhorn. I didn’t ‘get into the chopper’ in an Austrian accent but decided to run down. It was an interesting decent. As some breathless pillock had collapsed at the top into a fresh pile of some unknown and clearly legendary bird droppings. Running while trying to prevent passerby’s getting a good view of the your oddly coloured rear is just embarrassing. Rather than embracing the stain I just tried to run as quickly as possible while keeping my bum always pointing away from people. I can hear my dad saying ‘son as quick as you run you won’t increase the separation between your shorts and that stain’. Maybe that’s a really good analogy for state of our governments overall strategy……

Happy Days – Spiez

Looking out at the rain and the trees bending in the wind. It’s all just a bit too grey. Sometimes you soul needs more. For us that was a holiday in Switzerland. We probably couldn’t afford it but was it worth it – you bet.

We always used the small town of Spiez as our base. A stunning and friendly place sitting by the banks of Lake Thun. A transport fanatics dream. On one side you can take the regular boat service (sometimes an old steamer) to explore the lake from Thun to Interlaken. On the other side a brilliant train station offering precision perfect links to the rest of Switzerland, Germany and Milan.

After a hours of exploring we always ended the day with a walk up through the vineyards to a small hill top with stunning views across the lake to the Alps.

Memories and views like that are worth so much more than money. It’s why my beloved partner indicated that she wanted some of her ashes scattering here. A perfect choice. One day hopefully I will do the same. So our souls can wander here forever…..

The Duvet Years

Thanks to everyone who suggested new ways of fitting a duvet cover. Yesterday’s Hulk Smash and Hulk Rage look is not good. So we had a second go this morning. Unbelievably the cover was fitted with 5 minutes. Happy Days.

The Duvet looked good on our son’s bed. Even Captain Chaos was excited. This excitement seemed to build and build. Suddenly he was desperate to get up close and personal with it. Urgently sniffing at it and wagging his tail. His excitement would not stop. So he was kicked out of the bedroom. But he just sat barking at the door.

What is wrong.

So again he was let back into the room. He immediately jumped onto the bed and started scratching at the Duvet. On a closer inspection – an unusual bump in the duvet. What alien object is that. So the cover was again removed. The alien object turned out to be a very well chewed blue crocodile. Sorry folks I must have missed the part of the instructions which talked about checking for dog toys before putting the cover on….

So order is restored. The cover is back on and Captain Chaos is reunited with his buddy…

Daffodils and that pesky problem.

It might be cold. It might be windy. It might feel nothing like Spring. But at least the daffodils are out in force.

I couldn’t sleep last night. On a hill the wind tends to howl. And wow did it howl. It’s been like that for days. A number of the local tourist sites are closed on safety grounds.

So today my brain has been running a bit in neutral. Processing a barrage of questions.

“Dad why does Gordon Ramsey swear so much?”

“How is May still Prime Minister?”

“Has the Champions League draw taken place?”

“When can we go to see Captain Marvel?”

“Why do Daffodils have such a short flowering season and why is it in a time period which is notorious for poor weather?”

“Why haven’t they made a new series of Gravity Falls?”

“Why do we focus so much attention on the Battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror. Yet we never talk about the years proceeding the battle. They are just as important.”

“What’s a Gravity wave?”

“How old is Alice Cooper?”

and on and on.

And yet I managed to hold my own. It was that sort of day. Maybe not on top form but ticking off jobs.

  • Cleaned the Gerbil Cage without accidentally releasing the little darlings to cause havoc around the house,
  • Managed to negotiate a cheaper broadband deal,
  • Get the old laptop working again,
  • Completed this weeks work requirements,
  • Change a wiper blade on the car,
  • Repair some knee holes in jeans,
  • Sort out some problems with son’s school iPad,
  • Prepare meals for tonight,
  • Replace a hose in the hoover,
  • Finish the ironing,
  • Clean the bathroom,
  • Get all the outstanding bills pad,
  • Convince the Council to give us a free replacement wheely bin as our old one is held together with 2 rolls of tape.

But then the success came to a grinding halt. Failure in the face of an insurmountable problem. Defeated by a super complex Riemman Hypothesis. My version of Star Treks Kobayashi Maru.

Changing our son’s Duvet Cover.

How difficult can it be. The cover comes off so easy. But when you try to put it back on. Suddenly it’s like trying to play a game of Twister with Ninja Octopus. Gets twisted, Rides up. Goes in the wrong way. Decides to turn inside out. Suddenly the duvet appears to be covered in the worlds stickiest Velcro. It’s just a nightmare. SIXTY PESKY MINUTES later and the only thing I had achieved was to go into full Hulk Rage.

Come on Spring. Please arrive soon. Bring in the warmer weather so I can ditch the duvets and those demonic covers – for a wonderful couple of months. Daffodils remind you that those happy days are coming.

Slice of life and a cake

I bravely ventured out to a store in one of local villages It’s not what you would call very big…

“Do you sell any floor cleaner?”

“No not been asked for that in ages. I thinks we sold the last one to Janice when she bought the Grandfather Clock from a vicarage three years ago. She wanted the room to look nice for when it arrived.”

“Ok” – it’s always a bit of an out of body experience in the shop. No idea who Janice is!

Would you like to try our new cake it’s a Lavender Sponge”

“It looks lovely but no thanks. I’m on a gluten free diet.”

“Oh that’s nice. Those clever scientists come up with some great inventions these days. Did you know that Bill has switched to contacts.”

“No I didn’t” – no idea who Bill is!

“So can I give you a bit of our Lavender cake?”

“No thanks I’m on a Gluten Free diet and I can’t have wheat.”

“That’s nice. Mary has become a vegetarian and she lives next to the farm. I wonder how that works?

“Oh” – Who the bloody hell is Mary!!!

“Did you see our Prime Ministers face yesterday. I voted for her at the last election. She seemed like such a nice person who would get things done. Last night she looked like she was chewing a wasp. She is a mean spirited, selfish idiot. If she had any decency she would have resigned by now.”

“I certainly didn’t vote for May but I completely agree with you. She is a complete embarrassment.”

“Did you vote to leave?”

“No I voted to stay. I asked my son what he wanted and I let him decide for us. It effects his future the most.”

“I voted for Brexit. It’s not that I wanted to leave Europe I just wanted to make a protest. Didn’t think that we would win”

Deep deep sigh – bite bottom lip before I say something.

“I can wrap the slice of cake up for you, freshly made this morning. That must be the same diet as that really famous Male Tennis Player is on, he was on the tv last week, oh what’s his name”

“Novak Djokovic I got the idea from an article I read a few months back.”

“No that’s not him”

“Andy Murray”

“No”

“Roger Federer”

“No”

“Rafael Nadal

“No, oh it will come to me.

“Do you sell anything like cleaning wipes?”

“No but we do have a special offer on. You get a free bag of bird seed when you buy the local paper”

Bizarrely I came out of the shop with some bird seed, a paper, piece of Lavender cake and a sensation which is probably similar to a frontal lobotomy.

Blue Croc

Captain Chaos with his beloved blue crocodile. That poor croc needs years of therapy.

***********************

When a parent dies it is so tough it is difficult to explain the feeling. That’s a so called adult speaking. Imagine what it’s like for a young kid.

I lost my dad when I was 21. He had been ill for years. I got the feeling during the last period of his life that he was trying to keep going just to see me graduate. Sadly he missed out by a few months. It was a numbing experience but the pain was mitigated a bit as I had been expecting it to happen for ages. I was sort of prepared. My mum died a couple of years back. It was a complete shock. But a five years earlier she had suffered a massive stroke. Doctors told us to prepare for the worst. Yet in a month she was back in her house – still able to live independently. In some respects it felt like the years after the stroke were a real bonus. She got to spend time with her grandson.

But for our son we have no mitigating factors. He had just been to his beloved grannies funeral and a week later his mum goes into hospital for some routine tests. His mum deteriorated rapidly and completely unexpectedly. He was visiting his mum in the hospice two weeks later. For someone so young that’s devastating.

We still get tears but now he can talk about his mum. He can laugh at the good memories. But the anxieties caused by that period of death are still impacting his daily life. He is so worried about becoming ill and also about losing others close to him. Today is common. We have had anxiety about catching illnesses. Worries about dying. On top of that every time I sneeze or cough he runs to make sure I’m ok. We try to find ways to ease the anxieties but it is still so tough for him…..

***********************

Son comes back from school to be greeted by Captain Chaos and a well chewed croc. That’s one thing that works.

An introvert?

Building a snowman here while lots of people walked past looking at me as if I was crazy. Five yards to the right is a high street full of shoppers and tourists.

I know I tell a few tales that might suggest that I am an extrovert. I really don’t think that’s the case. After the all too many retreats into my protective shell I often here something like “I thought you were an extrovert”.

Extroverts don’t tend to

  • Have a nervous stutter when talking to strangers
  • Frequently wait for the coast to be clear before you leave the house
  • Turn in the opposite direction when you see someone who might talk to you
  • Avoid social and family gatherings
  • If I do go to a social event, be the awkward one stood in the corner behind the potted plant

So why the drastically opposite personalities. For the first time I thought about it during yesterday’s sleepless night.

Is because I am an Ambivert. A bit of an introvert and a bit of an extrovert.

Is because I am an extrovert permanently stuck in an introverts shell.

Is it because I don’t really fit into this world and occasionally I feel the need to do some grand action to confirm that I do fit.

Autism.

Is it a pressure release for my building anxiety levels.

Is it because I want to be extroverted and when I do find a group of friends I feel confident with I then act out my dreams.

Is it one or two too many sherbets during my younger days.

Is it because I am basically daft.

Is it because I too frequently switch off my brain.

Who knows. I do know that my extroverted moments are becoming very rare these days. Especially since the world changed. But at least I can look back at some interesting memories. Some reasonably funny, many extremely embarrassing. Most importantly no animals or other people were hurt in the making of these moments.

Cold

Today we have an outbreak of manbola. Streaming cold, coughing, sneezing, sore throat …. just didn’t want to get out of bed. I have to admit I am a …….

The dog walk must have been some sight. Gloves, 2 T-shirt’s, Fleece, Jumper, body warmer, waterproof and woolly hat. And that was just the dog.

It’s one of the big downsides of being a single parent. Whatever the relative severity of the manbola – you don’t have the option to not get out of bed or just sit in a chair with a hot water bottle. No one to share the workload. So you just have to get on with your jobs while croaking out conversations with our son. Powered by hot ginger drinks and tea. It’s days like this you want to drop your caffeine ban.

It also gives you plenty of worries. It emphasises that many single parents (and a number of parenting couples) often operate without having an option b in place. If something serious happens to a parent(s) what happens to the kids. It’s a sobering thought.

I am an amateur at these things. So many parents have had much worse situations to deal with for so many more years. I have so so much respect and admiration to you heroes. So we battle on. In the scheme of things manbola isn’t that bad really.

AND one definite plus of manbola is that you just can’t smell the cat litter when you change it….

Ashes

This is another photo from Whitby. For some reason the WP app for the IPad refused to accept it yesterday. Maybe it’s my not new iPad but the app is becoming almost unusable. Anyway today the photo seems to work and it will get its moment.

My partners ashes are still in the house. We have a sort of make shift shrine in a room overlooking the garden. Now she has been joined by 3 energetic gerbils. She would like that. At some stage we will start to scatter the ashes but not yet. It just hasn’t felt like the right time (for both of us). My mums ashes have been scattered in a cemetery (with the help of a squirrel – see earlier post…)

I asked our Son about if he was ready to start the process.

“Not yet Dad. Dad do ashes go off”

Don’t think so. They urn doesn’t have a use by date on (don’t think badly of me, but I did check). But an urgent google check confirmed no safety time pressures. But it did reveal some additional factors to consider.

  • The Vatican has issued guidance that Catholic remains should be buried in cemeteries rather than scattered or kept at home. However this clearly doesn’t apply to Quakers.
  • Ashes containing bones don’t decompose so they shouldn’t be scattered around plants.
  • UK Law is fairly easy going when it comes to scattering ashes. Nothing specifically exists to prevent scattering. You only need to secure the landowners permission.
  • In Germany cremated MUST be buried in a cemetery. Switzerland are quite relaxed as long as it’s not for profit. France does open up a few scattering options.
  • In the U.K. it is legal to scatter ashes in water or the sea. The only restriction being that you need to get the permission of the water stretches owner. In the US you need to scatter ashes at least 3 nautical miles out (and inform the EPA)
  • Currently you can take ashes out of the U.K.. The Tunnel and Eurostar are the most relaxed. However Brexit may change all this.
  • In the U.K. it is ok to bury a pet in your garden if you own the property, it has domestic use and (if I’m reading the legal stuff correctly) the pets have not been declared as Hazardous Waste.

So for the for the time being I suspect my partner won’t be going too far. So I can give her the daily updates about our son. As my partner was so very organised I strongly suspect that if roles had been reversed then I would have been out of the door within months not years.

I hope this all doesn’t sound a bit too matter of fact or flippant. This post could so easily have been extremely dark. I vividly remember driving my partners ashes back from the crematorium. It’s burnt into my sole. I was fine until I got back into the car. I put the urn on the front seat and quietly said “time to go home my love”. Suddenly the Dam broke. I completed collapsed into a deluge of tears and despair. Didn’t stop for hours. My lowest ever point.

Deep down I am worried. I am not sure the brittle foundations that my new self is built on are strong enough to cope with another one of those final car journeys to scatter the ashes.