Random Tree

A random Yorkshire tree. When it snows, a random Yorkshire Tree positioned at the end of our sledging run. So a random Yorkshire tree with a very hard trunk which I have collided with on more than one occasion. It’s like a Rome. All the sledging runs seem to abruptly end at this tree.

So this morning’s fight with WordPress was a bit of a score draw. On the plus side it went remarkably smoothly and very quickly. On the downside my attempted fix – didn’t pigging work. So the app is still possessed. My comments on many sites just disappear. One explanation is that I’ve upset one of the Spam filters. I might have used a naughty word on a comment (or two ). See kiddies swearing is not big or clever. Anyway until it’s resolved I will keep trying to comment on your sites – a few comments are still sneaking through. Enjoy the peace and waffle free time while it lasts.

So the school version of homeschooling has ended for another week. It’s now the two week Easter break. A break which will probably look very like the last few weeks. Normally we look forward to these two weeks but this time it feels like just the same as the last few weeks. No real change except the school iPad can remain switched off.

But as everyday is FUN DAY let’s try to make the most of them.

It’s good to see school is getting into the celebratory mood. The kids have been set homework and have been given plenty of revision to complete over the holiday. After Easter it’s straight into online exams and YES the delights of spelling tests. Deep joy.

But we are not going to let school put a dampener on life over the next couple of weeks. So at lunchtime we reverted back to one of sons favourite games. Bouncing on a trampoline while holding a bucket filled with water. It’s amazing how even Son’s bucket of water ends up over his Dad. Maybe that’s why the game is so much fun. Then it was back to online lessons and trying to explain to a bewildered son the finer details of love poetry. You might have seen my sledgehammer writing style in Thursdays Terrible Poetry submissions. Me advising on poetry is like asking a pheasant to operate a pedestrian crossing. Some lessons are about personal growth and development. However this one was just about survival.

After the last lesson of the day the Easter break started with a dog walk. A walk to our sons self imposed world boundary. And a look over to a distant random tree. A tree beyond our little world. Let’s hope that when we get snow again, once again all our sledge runs will be able to meet this tree again.

The Wall

Some people like to build walls. Some people have walls thrust upon them. Some walls are known by millions. This is the world famous Hadrians Wall dating back to Roman times.

It was the creative spark for the Wall in Game of Thrones. Other walls are much less famous. Sometimes the walls are virtual. This is our wall.

Ok it’s more of a fence but it does have a few stone sections. It’s not famous. Actually only son and I think of it as a wall. But to us its an important one. It’s very like Hadrians Wall and the one in Game of Thrones. To us it marks the boundary between our world and the dangers that lay beyond.

We would frequently come this way on dog walks and then stop here. That was far enough for our son. The only exception would be if it snowed. The field beyond then became our very own snow slope. A rare excursion through the Wall. But this was the boundary wall. He felt safe this side. This side of the gate was his world. The other side lay the unpredictable, noisy and scary outside world. His Wall

Now 2020 has brought its very own version of the barbarian hordes. We have been instructed to self distance and stay at home. One daily walk is permitted so the dog is brought to this gate. But no further. To go any further just seems wrong to me. To do so seems like it’s flouting the regulations. Entering into a strange, alien world with an unseen threat. My Wall.

So for very different reasons, yes this is our WALL.

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.

Crazy

It’s all gone a bit crazy. Even the sheep I encountered on the one permitted walk out of the house .. It’s a scene of peace in front of the lens. Behind the lens I am being stalked by a pack of hungry sheep waiting for a biscuit.

Dad you have done some crazy things but that one is up there”

No it wasn’t my sanest moment. I lost a challenge and my punishment was to bounce for five minutes on the trampoline. In a moment of madness I made myself a cup of tea to drink while bouncing. Yes I didn’t really think that through. Unfortunately I didn’t come to my senses until after the first bounce had deposited the said contents of the cup onto my T-shirt. Clearly the tea is not the only thing that I have lost.

Dad what on earth are you doing”

I had made a mistake on a post that I was writing for a couple of friends.

“Son where is the rubber (eraser), I’ve messed up and need to change something”

Dad your using your IPad”

Yes I know”

Tell me Dad your not going thinking about using a rubber on the screen.”

Staggeringly I was in a moment of utter craziness. I guess it’s a combination of a complete lack of sleep, trying to help with French homework and the general oddness which has descended on to us all. It really is an odd feeling. Like we are living in an episode of the X-Files merged with Monty Python and Bear Grylls.

But at least we can still smile about it. If anything the craziness helps fill the day. So let’s have one more piece of craziness.

Rory (A Guy Called Bloke) has come up with a new music challenge.

you are to create a playlist of 15 songs based upon a weekly theme.  All titles must be relevant to the theme itself – not the artists just the song titles. This week the theme is CRAZY TIMES…

So here goes (going to try and just include songs from my music collection).

  1. Crazy Train – Ozzy
  2. Psychotic Break – Jerry Cantrell
  3. Madhouse – Anthrax
  4. Stone Cold Crazy – Queen
  5. Am I Going Insane – Black Sabbath
  6. Eyes of the Insane – Slayer
  7. Inmates (Were all Crazy) – Alice Cooper
  8. Crazy – Nazareth
  9. Crazy Horses – The Osmonds yes that’s my only Osmonds song
  10. Shine on you crazy diamond – Pink Floyd
  11. Crazy – Aerosmith
  12. Moon Crazy – Blue Oyster Cult
  13. Crazy World – Scorpions
  14. You’re Crazy – Guns n Roses
  15. Psycho – Metal Church

Air Display

We had an unexpected visitor.

A spectacular predator.

For a few minutes we had one of nature’s great air displays. Then it was off.

That was so lucky. Would have been so easy to miss this.

That brings to mind a slightly unsettling thought. How many of us would be missed if suddenly we were gone. Kinda like Marvels Infinity Wars. It’s an even more pertinent thought these strange days. So many of us are undertaking social distancing or full on isolation. Social links have been severed. If something goes wrong, if we are struggling, if we suddenly were gone – WHO would realise. Would the world even blink. Maybe not. That includes my own little family. Phone calls, visits, invites are rare at the best of times. Even rarer now. Would the world blink for us – no it probably wouldn’t. That’s a sobering thought. It’s a sobering thought for many of us.

But I guess that’s life. So we just have to deal with it. Keep our hearts open to others and just keep living. I’m lucky as I stumbled across the blogging universe.

The majestic raptor fly past is a great reminder of why living is so worth it.

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….

Tree

This is a tree we can see from our garden. The walk across the farmers field takes you right beside it. When we first moved here it was so much bigger. Almost symmetrical. Unfortunately countless storms and a couple of lightning strikes have taken their toll. I guess that’s the price you pay for being a big isolated tree on an exposed hill top.

So it finally happened. All the countries schools will close on Friday. A skeleton childcare service will be provided for essential workers and vulnerable kids. Our school is planning to try and run lessons online. It’s an indefinite closure with much talk of this extending into the summer. It will be an interesting trial with homeschooling in mind. Let’s see what works. Let’s see what the optimum learning time is. Let’s see if I can cope. As a single parent, the work shutdown will allow me to fully focus on son and his learning.

Life can often bring much isolation. With the new life motto – ‘Social Distancing’, more are going to have deal with the challenges that it brings. Each one of us has to find our own way of dealing with this. Don’t laugh but walking past this old tree and just giving it a friendly pat can help me. The tree has survived longer and more intense isolation than I ever will. It’s only right that I show solidarity with a fellow survivor.

I went for a walk today and almost didn’t see another soul. Plenty of sheep and crows but so few people. Hardly any cars as well. It just seemed kinda normal. I guess after three years I am getting use to the isolation. Just about. Had to make a few work calls today but that’s going to be it for many weeks now. As people increasingly keep their distance the reality is that the only person I will be physically talking to over the next couple of months will our son. Maybe an occasional telephone call with a sister. That’s why blogging will be so important for me.

I’m someone who has to continually work on my conversation skills these days. Without it I become a gibbering, shy wreck. That’s why I have recently become a crap Dr Doolittle. I am increasingly talking to animals. Not just the mad pets. The birds and squirrels waiting to be fed in the garden. The frog who comes for a warm when the tumble dryer is on. The bee trying to break into the house. The farmers sheep, cows and a grumpy bull. I’m a crap Doolittle as I talk to the poor animals but I still can’t understand what they say back. Probably a good job as I can imagine the responses.

“Will you just sod off”

“Boring, boring”

“Do you mind if I hump your leg”

So on the walk I crouched down to have a chat with a sheep. The local sheep are happy to listen to my waffles as long as I bring some biscuits with me. So I was asking this particular sheep if she ever got bored just walking in the same field and did she like these biscuits . Nearly jumped out of my skin when behind me a booming voice replied.

“If they keep producing the wool for my jumpers I will happily let them eat biscuits. This one likes Digestives, the others are partial to those biscuits .”

I had not heard the farmer sneak up on me. Another day and another …. Oh the shame. But at least I know that I need to bring two types of biscuits on the walks now. All this took place under the a much battered, yet resilient tree.

Uranus

And breathe…

You meet some odd people in life. I was reading a great blog about the planet Uranus when it reminded me of an old Physics teacher at school. He kept his lunchbox in the science fume cupboard. He was permanently covered in dust. His grey and permanently creased suit was about 5 sizes too big for him. He could take 6 spaces before his suit would move. He employed a simple marking system. Work was crossed out if wrong. Nothing for a correct answer. If he added any comments they were limited to wrong or so wrong. A really poor answer received an illegible squiggle. His class discipline involved him growling ‘You boy’. He even shouted that at the girls. But his coup de grace to effective teaching was his approach to the solar system. He had issues with two planets. He viewed Pluto as a silly cartoon name for a planet. So he just ignored the planet. He had real issues with Uranus. He viewed it as a vulgar name which ‘snotty kids’ could not be trusted with. Any kid found saying it’s name would get detention. It had to be called the Seventh Planet. No wonder I never became an Astronomer.

I guess many of us will struggle to meet many people (odd or not) over the next few weeks. The new life motto is Social Distancing. I wonder if that gives me licence to go out running and go shopping in just my underpants. Very liberating and almost certainly guaranteed to maximise my Social Distancing.

Social Distancing is something which the WordPress support team have been practicing with me recently. I have been trying to renew my subscription for weeks now. I keep getting a system error when I try to hit the renew button. The support team gave me one fix which didn’t work and now they have gone missing. Well my subs run out in 16 hours with currently no way to renew. If my site does go bang then I promise it will return. Maybe this time I will have it as a tribute. Maybe call it Myanus. As a tribute to the seventh planet or a reminder it’s good to meet characters. People we still remember after all these years. And yes the old Physics Teacher was right, snotty boys cannot be trusted with a word like Uranus.

Brakes

A stream about 5 miles from our little bungalow. Near the boundary of my current world.

It’s funny as a kid I always thought that my world was a small place. We didn’t have much money so holidays would tend to be just day trips on the train to places like Whitby and Scarborough. If we we’re lucky a school trip would take us maybe 50 miles in land. Dad had a car but it was only used sparingly – just for getting him to work. I remember watching exotic places on the TV and thinking one day I want to see them. I looked at books about mountains and so wanted to see The Eiger, The Matterhorn, K2 and Everest. I always thought that as I got older I would travel more. My world would grow and the world would shrink.

For a time it did workout that way and yes I did get to see The Eiger and The Matterhorn. I visited parts of Europe. I even got to see South Africa.

Then the world shifted again. Autism. Bereavement. Money concerns.

Now I find my world rapidly shrinking again and the world growing ever larger. Increasingly son sees comfort in his own little world. Our house, garden and the landscapes that immediately surround him. Longer travel is so difficult for him. It has to be mapped out and carefully controlled. That’s before we factor in the limiting factors of travel as a single parent and money constraints. My world is shrinking again. Even work has to operate within these constraints. My world has shrunk. One of the few bridges into the wider world is the occasional concert. These still work for our son.

We are due to travel to see The Who play in a couple of weeks. We will have to travel by car as public transport here is minimal and stops by evening. Regardless of its availability son struggles with buses, trains and planes. These are likely to induce panic attacks. So we travel everywhere on foot or by car.

Two weeks ago the car was in for a service. They found problems with the brakes which needed some parts to be replaced. The garage said I was ok to drive it for a couple of weeks until the garage could fix it. So this Monday was supposed to be the repair day. The garage phoned today to apologise. They we’re going to have to cancel the repair for a few weeks. They just can’t get the parts. The Parts Suppliers are out of stock and are waiting for new items to arrive from China. The garage is a national chain and all the branches are out of these parts. Apparently all the other rival garages in the area are in the same boat. So the repair is on hold. The suppliers are hoping to have new stock arrive soon but that may not be until April. So I’ve been told to try and really limit the car use until the parts turn up. My world shrinks further.

So in a mirror image of my childhood – the car will only be used sparingly. Just for the occasional short distance work trip and the school runs. A long distance concert trip is probably not a practical option.

My world has shrunk again but as ever we will make the best of it. Think our carbon footprint. Think more fun at home. Enjoy what we have on our doorstep.