Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so does anyone fancy a little virtual trip to a wonderful country called Switzerland.

Yes I might be currently over 1000km away in another part of Europe. But my heart is there.

So as my world rapidly shrinks for the next few months, I think it’s time to remember the beauty of The Alps.

The wonderful and friendly people. The brilliant culture.

The clock work precision of daily life. Even its wildlife get in on the act.

The stunning clear blue Lakes.

The history.

The beautiful Swiss villages and towns.

The always colourful alpine meadows.

The crisp mountain air.

The fun

And above all the peace.

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

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday. The world has gone completely bonkers. This morning I so need my few moments of peace in beautiful Switzerland and I invite you to join me.

What I’m about to say might get my British Nationality revoked but here goes. I’m not sure I love my country anymore. I certainly love Yorkshire and the North East. I could see myself being happy in the Scottish Highlands. But increasingly my natural home feels like Switzerland. Not sure about the practicalities but maybe one day.

Today I would certainly settle for just another week there. It’s been four years now. So this morning it’s the next best thing – a virtual visit.

Remembering what it was like to walk in The Alps.

Remembering the colours.

Breathing in the sweet, fresh mountain air.

Listening to the calming soundscapes.

Be safe out there my friends and remember. It’s still a beautiful world.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so I’m in need of my weekly fix of Switzerland.

A country which is so special to me and our son. We spent many happy holidays in this beautiful country. My partners beloved dad worked with a injured soldiers charity out in Switzerland after the war. He fell in love with the country. That formed a long family bond with Switzerland. In my partners absence we will keep that candle burning bright.

I still remember that first time flying into Geneva and getting that initial glimpse of The Alps.

That first sight of a stunning alpine valley.

That first afternoon walking outside the hotel, hand in hand with my partner and getting my first sight of the mountain which dominates beautiful Spiez.

Those trips on the lake boats.

That first sight of The Matterhorn.

Watching the world go by on the trains while son repeatedly asked his mum to tell him the fairy story involving The Eiger, The Monch and the Jungfrau.

Watching the sun set over The Alps while son played with his animals on the hotel balcony.

Those trips to the heights of The Alps and pointing out each famous mountain to an excited son.

Circumstances mean that we currently can’t be there, but our hearts most definitely are.

Sausage Roll

Castle Howard is only a few minutes drive from our house. The photo is Castle Howard not our house. Sadly we don’t go that often now as it’s so expensive. Which is a shame as it’s truly stunning stately home.

Work came to a premature end at 10am this morning. That’s the deal with zero based contracts. Yes they are flexible and can fit round being a single parent but absolutely no guarantee of work. So a deep blue sky beckoned a first run in ages. The plan was to drive home and just run from the bungalow. But without really thinking I pulled over at the next village when I saw an enticing path sign. I thought ‘well lets see where this takes me’. The answer was stunning run which skirted the edge of the Castle Howard estate. All for free.

My trail shoes don’t have much tread left on them so I was taking a bit of a risk running down a steep muddy bank. I lost….. A sudden grip failure resulted in a crunching fall followed by several rolls down the steep slope. All sides completed covered in mud. After a few minutes the mud began to dry in the sun. I now know what it feels like to be a sausage in a sausage roll…..

After the painful and slightly embarrassing slog the run flattened out. The reward was glorious views of Castle Howard and the Estate. I had the trail to myself which gave me time to think. Probably too much time. It’s at times like this that my mind wanders to what has been lost. At least with running I do have a release valve. Just run quicker. It works but wow I’m knackered when I finish.

It was a wonderful run around a stunning track. My partner would have loved it. She would be definitely walking rather than running. I was sad that she never got to see these views. I will just have to look for the both of us. I really hope that works for her.

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.

Bird Of Prey

Today’s run was turning into a nightmare. Wasn’t planning to go but another power cut prematurely ended work for the day. Thirty minutes later I was trying to run uphill into strong headwind. Already my mojo was rapidly ebbing away. A glance to the heavens (maybe for inspiration) stopped me in my tracks. A stunning predator was circling almost immediately above me.

Given how badly my running was going I’m surprised it wasn’t a vulture.

For a wonderful few minutes it was man against beast. A perfectly designed flying acrobat versus a muppet with his mobile phone camera. Only ever going to be one winner. So the photos are a little lacking in sharpness.

My running struggles were long forgotten.

Five minutes later my new feathered friend was off.

Now on my own the quick realisation that standing still in this icy gale force wind was not great for exposed legs. What possessed me to wear shorts. I was absolutely frozen . The prospect of a warm shower contributed to a rapid return run. My mojo was definitely healed by the encounter. We are so fortunate to have birds of prey hunt in the farmers field behind the house. It’s such a thrill for our Son. To get glimpses of these spectacular birds and not have to leave the safety of his garden.

Our Son has always loved animals. Of all his toys the birds of prey were always amongst his favourites and centre stage in his games. He developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things to do with falconry. When he was a little older he got the chance to handle some of his most loved birds.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen kids with Aspergers bond with birds of prey.

From about the age of five Son started to struggle at school. Suddenly he was withdrawing from group activities, becoming more insular and ill at ease with society. He would avoid physical interaction and all eye contact. So utterly unsure of himself and lacking in confidence outside of the safety of his home. Yet here was the same kid who was at ease and completely relaxed in the presence of these mighty hunters. Happily handling them. Intense, unblinking eye contact with Peregrines and Hawks. Face to face no more than a few inches between them. Complete confidence. Utter love.

Birds of Prey are truly majestic creatures who have another wonderful trait. They don’t harbour any misguided notions of prejudice.

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.

Valentines Day Boycott

Went for a run today. My body didn’t feel like one but I needed to get out of the house. It’s been a week largely home based working on mind numbingly boring spreadsheets. To keep me sane the radio has been blasting out. Problem is that increasingly the airwaves are filled with adverts. The dreaded Valentines Day ones. Apparently it’s next Friday. Would never have guessed that one. You know the adverts

  • Your special one deserves the best so buy them this special…..
  • What better way to spend Valentines Day than to have that special candle lit meal….
  • Looking for that gift that shows how much your loved one means to you….

I really understand Valentines Day. To many people it’s a great romantic day. Before the world changed I would have lapped up those adverts. But now it’s a very different world for me. Now it’s cheap commercial marketing. You can only be in true love if you spend lots of money. Sometimes I think advertisers forget about the real world. True love doesn’t rest on money. It’s also a world which isn’t perfect. People are lonely. People are grieving. People are abused. People are in relationships where love has died. Some people are loners. So to many Valentines Day is a nightmare. An unwanted reminder of life. It is to me. Every advert reminds me of a life now gone. It’s like a dagger through my heart. So eventually one too many adverts forced me to hit the trail. As ever a run often delivers a lightbulb moment. Let’s turn this into a little game.

When I get back I will become the Valentines Day Advert Referee. Every time I hear a company doing an overtly romantic advert then I will give them a red card. The red card comes with an automatic one month ban. I will boycott that company for a month. The first red card was awarded to a local Flower Shop chain. Unlikely that I would use them but anyway they are on the banned list. Suddenly I’m not the one hiding behind the chair. I’m in charge. The banned list started to fill up. Rather annoyingly my local supermarket made the list. That’s me shopping at the next towns rival shop. Then M&S became a repeat offender. Clearly a one month ban was not a sufficient deterrent. For the second offence it’s a three month boycott. Twenty minutes later they offended again. Now it became a 6 month shopping boycott. I warned the radio the fourth advert would bring a lifetime boycott of the shop. Clearly that threat worked. The annoying M&S special meal for two advert stopped.

Suddenly it was time to do the school run. Again more Valentine adverts on the radio. More boycotts handed out. Tempted to increase the punishments as many kids are likely to be listening now. Many kids suffer Valentines blues as well. Then the red line was crossed. Another M&S advert. That’s it. It’s a lifetime shopping ban. That’s a new shop needed for the school uniform and shirts then.

The banning game helped distract me today. But the bottom line is the 14th February is a difficult time for many. The last thing we need is week upon week of adverts rubbing salt into the wound. Maybe we need a new rule. Valentines Day adverts can only start on the 13th. At least then we just need to avoid the world for two days. But at the current rate I will be boycotting thousands of shops by next Friday.

Godspeed ….

Sometimes a song catches a mood perfectly. Recently for me that song has been Alter Bridge’s Godspeed.

Godspeed official video

The band wrote the song following the death of a close friend. The words are just perfect for how I feel.

Some of the lines from this song are so on point. And then the days, they ran out. Without you I’ll never be the same. Without you I know I must change. You have lived and you have changed all our lives.

Yes my love your days ran out far too soon. I know that I have to change without you. Life will never be the same. You really did change my life.

Godspeed is about love and it’s about loss. It’s the best song I’ve come across which actually talks about my grief. It’s about sadness, it’s about change but it’s also about wonderful memories and hope. Life goes on. Yes it’s a different life but it’s a life which is still enriched by that bright shining star. Now it’s over to those who are left to shine.

**********

Test me once again
You know I didn’t do anything
Set my life on low
You know I could have had it all
Drifting out of place
With no direction and no escape
Set out all alone
On to a place I don’t belong

Without you I know I must change
Without you I’ll never be the same, no

Farewell, godspeed and goodbye
You have lived and you have changed all our lives

Test me all the way
Surely you know I’m not afraid
Prove now once again
That I will never see the end

Without you I know that I must change
Without you I’ll never be the same

Farewell, godspeed and goodbye
You have lived and you have changed all our lives
Cast away our regrets and all our fears
Just like, like you did when you were here

And then the days, they ran out
And then the days, they ran out

Farewell, godspeed and goodbye
You have lived and you have changed all our lives
Cast away our regrets and all our fears
Just like, like you did when you were here

And then the days, they ran out
And then the days, they ran out

***********