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This is the first hill I ever walked up. Walked up it more than any other hill. Roseberry Topping is not a big hill. It’s only 266 ft tall. It sits on the northern edge of North Yorkshire and is a part of the Cleveland Hills. At the top look south and you see beautiful moors. Look north you see an urban sprawl and industry. Those with good eyesight can see where I was born and the sea.

For such a small hill it so loved. Alan Hinkes the first Britain to climb all 14 highest world mountains talks so fondly of this little piece of rock.

“I saw K2 and thought: that is the mountain to do; it’s nearly as impressive as Roseberry Topping”

Here we often refer it as the Yorkshire Matterhorn. Our version of the Swiss Matterhorn.

Our version is certainly not as big. Not as snowy. Not as steep. Not as scary. Not as famous. But it’s certainly way more Yorkshire.

My mum when she was young apparently scrawled her initials in a rock near the top. Many did that. I’ve still not found her carving but I do look every time I visit the hill.

As a teenager it would always feel a little claustrophobic where we lived. A small grey town. On one side the cold dark North Sea. On the other side one of Europe’s biggest chemical and steel works. It often seemed that the rest of the world was blocked off from me. But get on my bike and ride 2 hours through the industry. Suddenly I was at the base of our Matterhorn. 30 minutes later I was on its top and I could breathe. I was finally in a different world. I could experience what it was like to be in The Alps. To be an adventurer. I could think clearly on the top. I could calm the internal storms. I could visualise a better life.

All these years later and I still love this little hill. My hill. I so want to be there right now. I need to be there. 2020 will probably be the first year since I was a wee bairn that I won’t have stood on Roseberry Topping. That’s a sad thought. But it’s patiently waiting for me. Waiting for me to return.

Family History

I was checking my phone for a photo for the blog and I came across this one. Yes Hawklad has been playing Pokémon Go again. Either that or my last selfie was a bit of a shocker.

I am listening to a cheery Pearl Jam cd and thinking about family history. For a lesson today he is trying to list some of his family tree. It’s easy with my partner as we can go back at least 300 years. Lots of documented history. Long line of Quaker and Liberal Political tradition. An MP. With mine it’s more patchy. Yes we can go back to someone born in 1805 but there are lots of blanks. Someone who refereed a big national football semifinal. Someone who walked on the Jarrow Poverty March. A female relative who went to be an exotic dancer in London at the turn of the last century. Someone who was gassed in World War One and survived. An uncle of mine who was a pilot during the Korean War. My Dad who fell in love with Iceland while serving during World War Two. But that’s about it. So many gaps.

So as Hawklad thinks about being partly English, Welsh, Scottish and German (maybe even more diverse), I have a new project. Time to try and fill in some of these family gaps. I owe that to my son.

It’s so important that we keep our own history alive because it forms a narrative to how we are.

Tomatoes

Sometimes it’s the little things….

I’ve just started my fifth year on my grief journey. A journey I would must definitely would rather had not started but now I’m on it, well I might as well make the best of it. And that’s what I am trying to do. For several years it was a nightmare. Just awful. But over time things have slowly moved on. Now it’s definitely good weeks and bad days.

I still get so many reminders of the process I am going through. Many of those are repeated experiences but every so often I still find new reminders.

I was checking the garden for things I could harvest for tonight’s meal and I came across these small tomatoes. Then a thought struck me. There was a time when this was not something I would do. Yes I would grow the tomato plants but that was it. My partner loved tomatoes. She would go out every day I see what could be picked and eaten right there and then. Those days have gone and now the ripe fruit sits and waits for me. That thought made me sad. But life has to go on. Hawklad would like a few fresh tomatoes on his plate. He currently doesn’t feel comfortable touching items outside so it’s down to me. Life goes on. Pick some tomatoes, think of my partner then it’s time to get on with living. Time to focus on the here and now. Find happiness in the world around me. It is most definitely there.

Odd sandwiches

The one thing that you get used to as an Aspergers parent is routine. Lots of routine. That’s tough for parents like me as I am not really a routine person. I’m a bit more impromptu. Bit more going with the flow, see what happens person. Maybe some would call it winging it. Which is most odd. On most of the old Aspergers tests I would score very highly yet on one I was way down. Routine.

On this Hawklad is completely different to me. He needs his routine, his order, his plans. He needs to have that safety net and he needs to follow them. It’s reflected in so many things. If we are driving somewhere then we need to follow the usual route, even if that means a much longer journey. He likes to wear the same types of clothing – if he grows out of them then we need to replace with almost exact copies. He has a TV and movie schedule which he sets way in advance. We will often watch the same movie over and over again. School lessons have to follow the timetable without variation. We need to buy the same types of pens and pencils. He likes to go out in the garden and talk at the same times. He doesn’t like me to do things like change my hairstyle or try new clothes. It’s funny I’ve been wanting to shave my hair off for years but that’s just not allowed.

Break the routine and he is immediately hit with waves of self doubt and fear. Over the years we have tried to work on this. Slowly trying to introduce change. Occasionally trying to introduce unplanned but definitely fun routine changes. But it’s never really worked. Routine is just a key part of who Hawklad is.

Another area of much needed repetition is food. He has the same seven day food menu. The same foods on the same days, year after year. Trying new foods is just not something he does really. Normally ends in failure.

Dad what on Earth is that.”

It’s a sandwich.

Yes I can see the bread but it’s what is between that which is the worry.”

That will be cheese and onion crisps. It’s going to be one of the great gourmet experiences. A crisp butty. A crisp sandwich.

Really. That is just wrong on so many levels.”

It’s fantastic. Go on try it. It’s a family tradition. Your Little Nan would always be treating herself with one. But her crisp butty would be made with Ready Salted crisps.

Just No Dad.”

Ok. But if it’s not a crisp butty then what about a chip butty. A sandwich made from fried chips (fries) with heaps of tomato ketchup. Another true taste sensation.

Erm NO. You can keep that as well.”

Ok Hawklad what about a fish finger sandwich. Fantastic.

Not happening. That’s a tradition which is not passing down the gene line anymore. It ends with you.”

The boys have lost things

This is the kind of house that just seems to encourage losing things. Lots of things. Which is remarkable when you consider it’s smallish bungalow. Including the garage and the loft, we only have 8 locations for stuff to mysteriously disappear. But it does. All the time.

The house is the home just to boys these days. That includes the pets. So we can definitely say that THE BOYS HAVE LOST THINGS.

Already today we couldn’t find

  • Hawklads FIFA 20 games disk,
  • The new pack of Weetabix,
  • My bank card to pay for something online,
  • My car key,
  • One of my socks – followed instantly by shouting at the dog,
  • A black pen. Can find loads of other colours but not a black pen which Hawklad needs to do a little homework,
  • My new pack of tea,
  • The laptop – how can you lose a laptop….
  • A pair of scissors,
  • My fitness band,
  • The WiFi passkey,
  • The new pack of batteries I bought on Thursday,
  • My mobile,
  • The book I’ve been trying to read for a couple of months now, frustratingly I only have 4 pages to go. It went missing while I was reading in bed. It has been lost for weeks. Ransacked the bedroom today, still no sign. It’s a rubbish crime story but I just want to find out who did it…..

That’s a typical day here. Boys will be boys….

But at least we found time to talk today. We ended up talking about our lockdown and the stuff that we miss. The things we have lost in our own little worlds. For me it was being around people.

Running in the countryside and walking in the mountains.

Going to see my team get beat. Spending time with the friend I meet up with.

We both agreed on missing concerts.

We also both agreed on missing going to Switzerland.

Hawklad talked about not going to zoos and falconries as much. Not being able to have a takeout or pop in for a real ice cream. Not being able to meet up with some of his friends. Missing out on not visiting the seaside.

Not going to wrestling shows.

And not being able to visit historical sites.

There was more but you get the point. Lockdown does have an impact on all our worlds. It means making sacrifices. But we do that all the time. The worry is that too many kids are losing out of key parts of their childhood. It’s about making the best of what we do have. Still trying to make memories. Remembering to keep living.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it’s must be time for our weekly trip to beautiful Switzerland. A country which we haven’t been able to visit in a few years but which still holds a special place in our hearts.

Someone asked why we love this country so much. Well the first thing is that is has so many links to our Hawklad. His mum’s family have had links to the country for nearly 80 years now. That’s so important to our son.

Another reason is how the Swiss villages just look so perfect in the alpine landscape.

Another reason is the country’s beautiful lakes. They have a magical quality.

Another reason is those walks through the wooded mountain valleys. They are simply breathtaking.

We hardly get much snow these days where we live. The excitement of coming to land where the snow is always there. Even in summer.

The mountains are nothing short of epic.

Finally its not a bad place for an 8 year old to have breakfast.

Pointing

One of the advantages of exercising first thing in the morning is once I’ve finished I get a chance to enjoy the view. It always amazes me how damp our ground can get when we have had no rain for days.

Clearly it’s very easy to feel damp. The weather can cause such sudden changes. It like life and the soul.

I was putting together a post for tomorrow. A Swiss Sunday post. Looking through some photos. Then I came across one. Looks like one of those family photos. I’ve cropped this one down severely. The photo is my partner sitting next to our son on a bench.

How had I missed this photo for so many years. It’s from 2015 and our last trip to Switzerland. The last day of the trip. My partner was not very well and on a lot of medication. We didn’t know how ill she was. The doctors didn’t. Exactly one year later she was in a hospice and she was gone a few days later.

Finding this photo shook me in two ways.

Firstly this might be our very last family photo. The last photo of Hawklad with his mum. Don’t think there was another photo with my partner in. I had never thought about that . Never thought about the last photo. Well this is probably it.

Then there is one more thing about this photo. A completely forgotten memory. It’s what my partner is pointing at. I think she knew what was on the horizon. That afternoon we randomly seemed to get onto the subject of where she would like her ashes scattered. She is pointing at one of the places . A rocky outcrop overlooking a beautiful lake. It wasn’t a serious conversation. Our son helpfully suggesting some interesting places to consider. I didn’t take it seriously. We surely had many years to go. Finding this photo has really shaken me. As I say I had forgotten about the photo. I didn’t know she was actually pointing at where she wanted her ashes scattering.

I really don’t know what to say.

One thing is that it’s a beautiful location.

I wasn’t sure about posting this at all. But what did convince me was one thought. You just don’t know what is around the corner. Don’t assume you have time. If you have dreams to live, don’t wait, try to do them now.

Lost Stories

That’s a leaf that clearly has a story to tell.

We all have so many stories to tell. Wonderful stories. Stories that tell us about life. Characters. Events. Even reveal things about ourselves.

It’s sad when those stories are lost. When the are lost they are lost forever.

I’ve lost so many people in my life. Friends, grandparents , parents, even my partner. All had stories to tell. One of my biggest regrets is that the importance of stories didn’t sink in until far too late. Not until they had left this world. So many stories went with them. All I can do now is just shake my head at the thought of how little I really know about those loved ones. Can I even remember how their voices sounded!

Now I look back and wonder what could have been. If only I had found more time to listen. To ask more questions. To write some words down. Maybe even record them. How treasured would it be to listen to some of those lost voices again, to listen to them tell their stories. Even just to hear those voice again talking about routine stuff. Just before my partner went into the hospital for the final time she left me a voice mail. Seemingly nothing important, can’t even remember what it was about. Why didn’t I save that. Why didn’t I save that last voicemail from my mum asking for some items from the local shop.

These are real regrets. Please don’t make the same mistakes I made. Some mistakes can’t be fixed.

Fifth year

So here I go again. Starting another grief year. This will be the fifth one. Grief is not something that suddenly stops. It changes, it evolves but it doesn’t leave you. It becomes part of you. It’s part of me. It will always be part of me.

I remember back in 2016 thinking Life had made a terrible mistake. The roles should have been reversed. It should have been me that went first and my partner became the single parent. I must admit I had the same thought a few hours ago. Why her and not me. For whatever reason it just happened that way and I’ve had to get on with it. But it doesn’t stop me thinking that especially on the anniversary. These days I realise that I will never know the answer. It just happened that way. The key is make sure I’m the best parent I can be for our son. My partner would have done exactly the same thing. Being that parent will not happen if I am constantly inward looking. So let’s put that question back in its bid for another year. Let’s get on with the fifth year of grief by focusing on the here and now. Yes it’s the fifth grief year but more importantly it’s the fifth year of being a single parent. That’s got to continue to be my focus.

L

Friday memories

This is a photograph that I always keep coming back to. Especially today. It’s a photo that can take me in two different directions. Sadness or Happiness. Currently it’s in the direction of happiness.

A meal and a drink outside while gazing upon one the worlds most epic mountains, The Eiger. Then a walk from Kleine Scheidegg down to Lauterbrunnen. Snow on the tops but wonderfully warm. Walking down listening to our son talk about Dr Who and monsters. A two hour walk was just not long enough for him, he only scratched the surface of his Time Lord memory banks. Listing to my partner laugh at our sons numerous monster jokes.

Yes a beautiful day. All flooding back thanks to a treasured old photograph.