Marvel at Scotland

Back to last week. See you don’t need the multiverse to do a spot of time travel.

“Dad tomorrow can we go to Scotland. Don’t mind where just can it be really quiet. Somewhere different. Maybe even exciting.”

Two herbal teas later the solution popped into my head. Visit a place where we can MARVEL at who grand Scotland is.

Quiet means arriving early. As we were heading 180 miles north then we set off just after 5am.

Heading to the stunning coastal village of St Abbs. Part of the Marvel Universe……

The second highest grossing movie of all time, End Game used St Abbs as New Asgard. Hulk and Rocket came here to find Thor. Hawklad didn’t think he would be stood outside Thor’s house…..

I didn’t cause an international incident by taking my shirt off and pretending to be one of the Avengers. Maybe next time. Actually if people think that Thor looked out of shape when he was in New Asgard, wait to they get a look at my version of a shirtless Avenger. Let’s just say the 6 pack is well and truly hidden these days.

As we wandered around St Abbs a thought struck me. The place feels remote almost cut off from modern life. Operating at its own pace with the Sea dominating life. Could somewhere like this be a place which would suit Hawklad. Then the realisation, it might actually suit me. I was brought up by the Sea until I left to go to University. It feels very familiar, very safe. Would a return suit my mindset. Would it blow away the life cobwebs. Would it fix the problem that the world now seems to spin at a different speed to me. Is it a great place to forget the past.

Maybe Thor had a point moving to somewhere as wonderful as St Abbs. A perfect place for his New Asgard

Avengers

A day outside in the – wait for it – warm Yorkshire sunshine……

An afternoon of outdoor table tennis. An afternoon of losing my pride. It’s never been my sport. One of the few sports I can’t pick up.

Dad Table Tennis is a MARVELlous sport. You do know the sport should be played like a game of chess. Carefully moving your opening around the table until an opening appears. That’s the idea. Your approach Dad is basically the Avengers Strategy. HULK SMASH…”

No need to mess about with the delicate strategy. Why waste time when with one massive swing of the bat you can immediately move to the ENDGAME

But Dad you are supposed to play with VISION.

Ok I’m out now, you win the pun war. Pick up your crisp packet. If you do then you can be scaAVENGERS hero.

I never THORt of that one Dad. Best keep the envIRON MANaged. I wonder if anyone else would understand these puns other THAN US.”

*********

Lets not forget the stereotype. Asperger Kids don’t have a sense of humour and can’t have fun ……….

The Big Screen

Sometimes sitting in the garden feels like the biggest ever BIG SCREEN.

Dad I’ve really got use to our home based movie nights. I was thinking that I’m not sure I ever want to go to the cinema again. Too many people. Too much stress.”

Going to the cinema has always been a bit of a lottery with our Son. We need to carefully manage the process. Arrive before the queues start to form. Carefully select a movie time which will be quiet. Sit on the very front row as this is likely to be empty and you won’t get anyone in front of you. Then keep you fingers crossed that no one sits close to us. Wait till everyone else has left before we depart. So many stress points for both our son and parents. We’ve had to leave movies within minutes (or even before they have started). Slowly the number of movies he would endure the cinema stress would reduce rapidly. Before the virus took hold it was down to just Marvel movies. So no I am not surprised that he’s backing away from cinemas. Sadly I think he won’t be the only one.

It’s not helped that our cinema options are limited. The only cinema he would go to in the end was a large muliplex in the city. It ran early morning showings which where usually empty. Unfortunately they have redesigned the cinema. Bigger, armchair like seats have been installed. Bigger seats means less seats. Less seats means fewer chances to find space. Which means the screenings feel so much busier. For someone with Aspergers that is a major issue. So are the cinema trips over? Well if they are then I have so many memories from them

  • Taking mum to see the Horse Whisperer. She hadn’t been to a cinema in many many decades. She was a little taken aback (and very relieved) that PATHE News wasn’t shown before the movie and she was amazed that people didn’t wait for the credits to finish – as a child she had to wait for the national anthem.
  • Taking son to see one of the Smurf movies and realising we were the only people watching it. Having your very own giant big screen is such a cool feeling.
  • My first date with my partner was to see The Phantom Menace. Unbelievably our relationship survived that experience.
  • Going to our local cinema in the nearest market town. It always looked such a small cinema from the outside. Unbelievably it was actually way smaller. We watched Black Panther with a couple of his old school friends and it felt like we took up half the seats. A screen probably smaller than most peoples TV and with just a handful of rickety old seats. That was the main screen, lord knows how small the second screen is.
  • I was brought up in a seaside town where the cinema was on the beach. During a high tide the gents toilets would flood.

Photo from Trip Adviser

  • Went to see the Blues Brothers at that cinema and someone let off a stink bomb. Only the very hardy got to see the end of that one. Luckily a head cold and a blocked up nose gave me a distinct advantage.
  • Went to see BMX Bandits there as well. It was absolutely heaving. Unbelievably two kids sneaked in bikes and started riding them around during the film. A week later a famous Oscar winning movie was on and no one turned up. Summed up the town really.
  • My first trip to a cinema was to see Digby The Biggest Dog in the World. Yes I am that old.
  • Before I met my partner I remember going to see JFK with a long time girlfriend. Foolishly it was the midnight screening. I fell asleep after the first few minutes and woke as the credits started to role. Strangely I was able to fill in the missing 3 hour gap and actually felt that I had not missed anything.
  • My partners mum wanted to go to the cinema as she hadn’t been in years. She was a devout Quaker so we looked at various religious film options which the local specialist cinema would offer. One film looked very promising. It was a 2 hour documentary about monks living on a remote site. The monks had taken a vow of silence so the movie only featured background sounds, no talking and no music. After seeing the various options her mum opted for the cartoon, Chicken Run and loved it.
  • I took son to see Captain Marvel. Unfortunately his muppet Dad took him into screen 3 rather than screen 2. As soon as the movie started it was clear that the movie running here was Dumbo. Unfortunately Dumbo in 3D. We didn’t have any 3D glasses so we had to rather embarrassingly trudge out.

So just maybe our cinema days are over for the foreseeable future. That’s kinda sad but if that makes our Son happier then that’s fantastic. There is something reassuringly nice about watching a movie premiere wearing your old comfy jogging pants with a big bowl of popcorn on your lap. Also in full control of the movie options, so we can decide to switch films at any stage. So here’s to the days of the home based cinematic experience. Time to create some new memories.

This day

I’ve been struggling to find anything interesting to photograph today. Then I had a thought. Let’s look back on this day in previous years. So a quick scan was made of my mobile phone photos and this is what I found.

This was our part of the world one year ago today. Another almost sunny day in Yorkshire. That’s 2 in a year. Wow.

In 2018 normal service has been resumed. It’s dark and rainy Yorkshire.

In 2017 it was a friends meet-up.

Can’t find a photo from 2016 but it would have been a Saturday. A time just months before the world changed for us. Saturday would have seen us get up early and visit my partners mum. After a coffee I would head off and shop for my mum. We would see her on Sunday. We would then stop off at a petting zoo. We would follow the exact same route through the little zoo. Waiting for quiet gaps to appear at each of the animals. Then we headed for home stocked up with sandwiches, cake and ice cream. In 2016 this would most likely have been a nice day.

So we find ourselves in 2020 and the world has changed for most of us. But just in case we revisit today in a few years time, we had better make it a nice one. So hopefully by the time you read this we will have built a ginormous Lego tower. The picnic in the garden was not disrupted by ants. I remembered to hard boil the eggs before they are decorated for this years Easter Egg tradition. This year we are going for Marvel Super Heroes. We both will have planted some peas (and they haven’t been immediately dug up). I will have found some frozen chips and our Heinz Tomato Ketchup supply can last one more hammering. Disney Plus will have been working and not constantly buffering so we could watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2. And that we had many more random laughs along the way.

While the lockdown is on I might revisit this idea. You never know what I might find and what thoughts it might unleash.

Ratings

It’s December. Its still sunny and its that time of year when you watch those movies you wouldn’t dream of watching during the rest of the year. It was like that before the world changed. It’s like that after the world changed.

But one teeny weeny request.

Please filmmakers and TV schedulers can we try not to do Christmas movies that at some stage involves death. Death of a parent, death of a lover, death of a pet, death of a main character. Last year we watched festive movies which without warning introduced the mum dying (3x), the dad dying (x1), grandparent dying (x1) and the family pet dying (x2). Really it’s CHRISTMAS. I know it’s hard to believe but many of us out here in viewing land will be going through grief. But it doesn’t stop there. I remember our son saying this during one particularly happy start to a film.

Why is it that so many films have a single dad whose either bad tempered, drinking and gambling. And the child who is behaving badly, has no friends and is being bullied. It’s never just a nice dad and child who are doing ok just a bit sad.

So what’s the answer apart from watch Guardians of the Galaxy on loop. Oh hang on that’s got a mum death. Ok apart from watching Big Hero 6 on loop. Oh hang on the robot dies. Ok part from watching Muppets Christmas Carol on loop.

Well the answer is a new movie classification system. One which actually tells you what the movie is really about. So for example if a PG movie contains a parent death you could label it PG-PD. Or if a pet dies it could be labelled PG-PED. Or if a loveable main character dies PG-LMCD. So as a parent I would be pre informed of the upcoming sadness. That way I can make an informed decision on if we should find another film.

So Big Hero 6 would be classified in the UK as PG-LMCD. Guardians of the Galaxy would be 12-PD.

But the new movie classification system could go further. Suddenly the movie watcher could be truly enlightened.

-JWTT all the best bits are in the movie trailer (Just Watch The Trailer)

-F movie contains super delicious looking Food (helpful for those trying to stick to a diet)

-A movie contains alcohol drinking (for those trying to give up)

-K movie contains Kissing (this ones for our Son, he doesn’t like kissing)

-ET movie contains Expensive Toys which kids may start wanting

-S movie contains Snakes and Spiders (useful for Ophidiophobia and Arachnophobia)

-L movie is Long so you had better go on the toilet before hand

-I movie is so boring that it’s a cure for Insomnia

-TD movie contains a Transport accident or Disaster (for those travelling tomorrow)

-AC movie contains Alvin and The Chipmunks

-NPCS this ones really important to stop wasting 10 minutes waiting for the Credits to finish at the end of the movie. It’s always a bit awkward being the only ones left in the cinema. No Post Credit Scene.

-W movie contains a Wrestler trying to act (think Hulk Hogan)

-WR movie contains The Rock acting (we like him)

-ANS movie has Action but No Story so you can safely fast forward between the action scenes

-HD movie claims to be true but is Historically Dodgie (think Braveheart)

-Q movie is very Quiet so probably not a good idea to get a mega sized popcorn tub

-U2 movie contains a grotesque playing of a Bono song.

Is Phonics the wrong path

Our much beloved School Minister (and first holder of our Boris Numpty Award), Nick Gibb declared “the debate is over”. He was referring to his decision which meant the all kids in English schools would have to learn reading by phonics. Kids are taught to break words up into parts and then learn individual sound parts. Previously kids were taught with a mix of phonics and the old approach of memorising the whole world.

Interestingly our School Minister who is an expert in all things education has no practical experience of teaching. He is an accountant. Which makes me equally qualified to set school policy….

Yes phonics does work for some kids but not for others. For example many kids with dyslexia or kids on the spectrum struggle to decode words and then struggle to produce the right sounds for each individual part. I’ve tried phonics and I struggle with it. It’s a disaster with son. We could be trying to use phonics for the next 100 years and it will still not help our son to read.

We all must have done this. Set out for a nice walk. In the case of the photos across the stunning North Yorkshire Moors. Then you come to a crossroads. Paths going in all directions. You look vaguely at the map. Try to look like a professional. Fold up the map carefully. Then go Eeny, meeny, miny, moe and randomly guess the right path. In my case it is usually unerringly wrong. After several miles you get that sinking feeling – wrong path.

Actually wrong path is not the best description. It will be the right path for many. It will take them to their desired location. But for some (like me) we could go down this path for years and it will never ever get us to our desired location. So what I need to do is get off this path and find a path which works for me. That is the sensible thing to do. As a I am not that sensible I won’t retrace my steps back to the crossroads. I will try to break trail in a different direction in the hope that I will find the path for me.

Now according to our Schools Minister all kids should go down the same reading path. Unfortunately doing that will guarantee that some kids never do arrive at their destination. Endlessly walking down this path, getting lost, getting disillusioned. That’s what happened to us. We blindly went down the phonics path and basically got no where.

But then we stopped and said stuff you Nick Gibb. And we broke a new trail.

  • We started learning some of the most common words the traditional way. Son would memorise the whole word.
  • We started playing around with various learning to read games on the internet.
  • Using trial and error son would try to use app’s like YouTube, Google Search or games like FIFA by himself.
  • Son would watch TV shows with the subtitles on. Movies like the Avengers were perfect. He knew them virtually off by heart. So he could focus on the subtitles and start to make links.
  • He would relentlessly work on his coordination. He would read a grid of letters while clapping his hands. He would bounce a ball while trying to learn and read words.
  • We would jointly read books. Normally Mr Men books. They were just the right length and fun. He would join in when he wanted to. I would never correct a mistake. He would process that himself.

The new trail has started to work. We haven’t reached our son’s destination but it feels like we are heading in the right direction at last. Enough for son to call himself now – a reader.

So I hope our Schools Minister finds his own path. Preferably takes him a million miles away from this countries classrooms. Then we can get back to trusting parents, teachers and kids to pick the education path which best suits them.

News but not as you know i

Let’s try and lift the spirits from the last domestic post. Lonely does not want to meet the current news.

How often do you wake up. Make a cup of coffee. Then think I wonder what’s on the news. Then two minutes later you think – why did I bother. We live in a time of thoroughly dispiriting news. You also get the impression that the news has been carefully selected and filtered for you. If that wasn’t bad enough then often the news is the news. FAKE NEWS.

Well today we tried something different. No checking of the mainstream news. But what could we do instead. Let’s source our own news. That way we can live in whatever land or time or event or world we want to. Son got the first go.

Wrestling News.

  • Apparently a family has won the world thumb wrestling championship.
  • A good wrestler might go heel.
  • A bad guy wrestler might shave of his beard and go good.
  • Lots of wrestlers are going on a wrestling cruise.
  • Will the Demon fight another Demon at Summerslam.
  • A wrestler has a bad injury. But wait it’s a story line so they will be better for the next big Pay Per View event. It’s a miracle.
  • Another wrestler has a new hairstyle.

I can live with this. Absolutely no feeling of despair. Life is so much easier when it’s all a storyline.

Then we tried another type of News. Pokemon.

  • Pesky Team Rocket have apparently taken over lots of Poke Stops.
  • Apparently you can catch a shiny Koffing.
  • Lots of details about a Pokemon Go Community Day.
  • It’s your last chance to get an Armoured MewTwo. You have been warned.
  • Soon there is going to be a Sleep Snorlax Event.

Give me one good reason why this news world is not the one you should wake up to everyday.

Then I tried one. News on Captain Scarlet. Unbelievably nothing on the worlds greatest hero. What is the world coming to. So son tried another. Marvel

  • Endgame is the highest ever grossing movie beating Avatar. Is it me or was Avatar the most overrated pile of CGI pants.
  • Apparently Valkyrie’s real superpower is going to be revealed.
  • Black Widow is going to sort out Taskmaster. I thought she was dead…
  • Thor is coming back but this time Thor is a female. Cool.
  • The worlds funniest and greatest ever villain Loki is getting his own TV show. My toes are curling up with excitement already.

It’s a world of super intergalactic villains and with our planet repeatedly being almost vapourised by aliens. Yet every time larger than life heroes come to our rescue. Unbelievably that world sounds safer and less crazy than our own world.

One last news visit, let’s go Gerbil News. Expecting nothing but got a brief glimpse into a parallel universe.

  • Hungry gerbil rescued by Army Police in Derby.
  • Woman caught hiding 24 Gerbils up her skirt on a flight from China.
  • Gerbils replace rats as the main cause of the Black Death.
  • Richard Gere and the Gerbil. Don’t look this up but please tell me it’s not true.
  • Barnsley stages Olympics for Gerbils. 7 years ago but why wasn’t this subject to wall to wall TV coverage.
  • After the Mastermind Gerbil scandal we look at other game show fiascos.

So today we have completely avoided the fake news and feel so relaxed. I’m sure when we look again the world will be still messed up. It will still be burning. The rich getting richer and the poor still getting dumped on. Men with strange hairstyles and large egos will still be trying to take us back to the feudal times. But if we look just a little harder then the mist clears and the real world reveals itself. Tell me it’s not a better place.

Storm Bunker

We had a large thunder storm pass over this afternoon. The cat was taking no chances. After the first bang he made his way to his storm bunker.

Unbelievably the early morning cinema screening was very full. The cinema was mobbed. Not seen crowds like that since the ‘Everything for a Pound’ Store had a sale. It’s not a statistical significant sample population but from the early morning hordes I guess that The Avengers movie is going to pull in some astronomical numbers.

And yes it is an astonishing movie.

Yes the crowds unsettled our son but we took our customary place on the front row so no one could be in front of him or to the left of him. It’s so close to the big screen that I come away feeling like I’ve been chewing on magic mushrooms but it works for him.

For 3 hours we both lost ourselves in the Marvel Universe. All our problems and anxieties forgotten. Heroic deeds fill your heart. With even a bit of free grief counselling thrown in by Captain America. But sadly it doesn’t last. You eventually find yourself back in the same place with the same issues.

In fact it feels like we have regressed. Fifteen months ago we eventually secured some anxiety counselling for our son. I say ‘we’ as the fight to get some help started while my partner was still very much with us. It seemed to really benefit him. Progress was starting to be made. But now due to cutbacks that support has dried up. The anxieties are building and it feels like the system has cast him adrift again. We have been lucky really – far too many families get zero help – all they get is patronising comments from politicians who have no interest beyond their off shore bank accounts and rich friends.

So as the thunder rumbles on we try to fight demons. Health anxieties, fear of death, school anxieties, friend anxieties, social anxieties, reading anxieties, fear of being left alone anxieties…..

I’m no psychologist. I’m no health professional. I’m no education specialist. I’m not a grief counsellor. I’m just a parent trying to figure out this increasingly bizarre world with no one to help guide me. Doing the best I can. Deep down this scares me as what chance do I have when I can’t even come close to fixing myself. Queue worried face. 😱

Pleased to report the immediate threat to life and property must have passed as the cat has made his way back to his favourite chair again. That’s one less worry to deal with.

Bath time

Some pets are clean and tidy. Some pets are not. Some pets are dogs…

Captain Chaos won’t pass up the opportunity to roll in any unsavoury object. Mud, cat poo, soil, bird poo, grass, sheep poo, hay, cow poo…. You get the picture. You get the musty aroma.

Cometh the smell, cometh the bath. The dog bath doesn’t last long. Most of the water ends up on the floor, the walls, the windows, the ceiling, on me. Then you do your best to dry him then it’s release the mad one and he’s fully into his even madder 10 minutes of madness. Followed by you have guessed it, some more rolling about…..

It’s the early hours. We need a bit of a lift so in 4 hours son will get up and off we go to see an early morning (and hopefully relatively empty) screening of The Avengers – End Game. A screening starting at 6.30am – how mad is that. Thanos will still be in his pyjamas.

Captain Dumbo

Friday was a teacher training day so it’s a long weekend.

“Can you check if the cinema is empty. If it is can we go to see Captain Marvel”

For some reason the 12.15 showing only had 3 seats occupied. So off we went. Unusually for us we arrived early. Plenty of time to buy popcorn and a coffee for me. We took our seats in Screen 1. We sat on the front row – Son finds that less stressful.

We sat and waited. The adverts didn’t come on. Eventually 20 minutes late the pointless adverts about BMWs and Breakfast Cereals commenced. Then the movie trailers, Bizarrely nothing about the upcoming Avengers movie. Finally the lights go out – it’s show time. Bring on some Stan Lee magic.

Hang on a minute why is the film in double vision…

Hang on a minute why is that a Disney logo not Marvel…

The blurred film starts..

Dad this is Dumbo”.

It was. Wrong film. We would have sat and watched the film but it was the 3D version. Looking round the other people in the cinema had glasses on. That’s forward planning….

We quickly did the walk of shame out of the screen. Passing those smirking faces – ‘look at those twits – you can’t watch 3D without special specs”. The cinema has about 12 Screens. All the screens have double doors. One to take you to the right side and one to take you to the left side of the seating area. All except Screens 1 and 2. They only have one door. I saw the sign for Screen 1 and just assumed the right door took us to our side of the screen. Wrong that was the door for Screen 2.

Is it just me. Can’t we just have a routine day. Am I just completely incompetent. Good job that you don’t need to pass a test to become a parent.

So new tickets bought for the next showing in 1 hour. A quick Burger King. New pop corn purchased – didn’t have the heart to go and retrieve the ones we left with Dumbo. And finally we sit in the right screen and watched Captain Marvel.

I suspect I’ve blown my chances of making the Avengers Team although I could make a case for taking the lead role in Dumbo 2.