Spark an Interest

York Minster is one of Europe’s finest Cathedrals.

The central tower is 235ft (72m) tall. It’s Northern Europe’s biggest Gothic Cathedral.

The first religious building was built on this site in 637AD. Work started on the current Gothic structure in 1230 and was completed in 1472. The Minster has 128 stained glass windows which apparently have 2000000 individual glass pieces. It’s a busy place of worship with over 1600 services each year.

Thankfully York has not succumbed to the plague of high rise buildings. So The Minster still dominates the city view from all directions. I remember having a chat with an American work colleague who on visiting the city for the first time told me

“That’s a lovely church but it would have been better if they had built it on a hill”

Unfortunately the nearest hill is about 15 miles away. Strangely our little bungalow is on that very hill. We struggle to fill our little church so I’m pretty sure a Cathedral would be bit of over kill.

It’s absolutely stunning inside but we never make it that far. Son loves to walk round it and think. Then he looks to the skies for a glimpse of the nesting Peregrine Falcons. Finally we always end at a statue of a Roman Emperor. In 306AD Constantious died in York. The soldiers in York immediately proclaimed Constantine the Emperor. So for a brief moment in time York was the centre of the Roman Empire. Son loves to drink up this history.

Surely when you have such history on your doorstep why not use. York has the largest Train Museum in the World showcasing engineering and invention at its finest. What better way to spark an interest. To learn. To grow. But apparently this is not the case. It would seem writing out spelling mistakes 3 times is the way to go. Regardless of the subject – Science, History, Maths, Design Technology, Drama – let’s just get the spelling right. I bet that will spark an interest!!!!

Little things

A beautiful little thing from warmer months.

Unfortunately many little things are not so enjoyable.

Little things are sent to test us. The one day when it had to be a full day at the work base would also have to be the day the office heating failed. The heating failure had to be on the coldest day of the year so far. In the morning the thermometer was resolutely stuck at -2C. In the afternoon the thermometer reached the heady heights of 1C. Sat huddled over the computer with a coat stretched like a tent over me and the screen. Inside the makeshift tent hoping that the hot tea and the heat from the CPU would fend of frost bite. Lovely

Little things are sent to test us. Maybe it’s the frostbite but as soon as I got into the car a warning light came on. Car Key Battery Low – Change Battery. Not a problem as we have a vast collection of various types of batteries at home. Guess what. Having ransacked the house I found 11 different types of battery but unbelievably not one which would fit the key. So let’s hope the key has enough juice left to allow me to get to the shop in the morning.

Little things are sent to test us. Like WordPress being most vexing. For the last 6 months the WP Ipad app has been hopeless. Well not sure what has happened but it is now firing on at least 3 cylinders. Best it’s been for a while. Not saying much but at least it’s partly working. Unfortunately we come to the Yang. Now my WP email updates are a disaster. They arrive as normal but it’s impossible to do anything with them. That leaves trying to read and comment using the app – that is the cylinder which is misfiring. How can it be so difficult to leave a comment or just like something. Just so frustrating.

Little things are sent to try us. Spelling Tests for a Dyslexic. If son doesn’t sit the test then he will be given zero marks and this will rule out any chance of him moving up sets this year. But if he does sit the test he will be given no help and no marking adjustments – setup to fail. As son has decided to try the test he has been practising the words. After much frustration (from both child and parent) Son announced.

This is not happening. I’ve got a photograph in my head of all the words and will just see what happens on Thursday. I can find better things to spend my time on. I can name every English Monarch since 827. Their main achievements, notable events, claim to the throne and how they died. I know it been no use at this school but it’s fascinating. So I’m going to do the same with the French Monarchy. Much better use of my time.

And off he went on his quest. If a child has a passion then that passion should be given every opportunity to flourish. Our bureaucratic education system has forgotten this. Thankfully kids and many parents have not. That’s why there is always hope. Hope in little things.

Road Closed Monday

I love this part of the run. It’s such a lovely view and ITS NOW DOWNHILL for 10 minutes. At my age that’s almost as good as life gets…..

I needed that downhill section. My spirit was flagging. Mainly because of politics again. The once impartial BBC announced proudly over the radio airwaves that Boris Johnson is a family man and he’s backed it up by promising a new 60 youth centres. Unfortunately the BBC failed to mention for some reason that since 2010 the Conservative Government has effectively closed 763 youth centres. Funny that wasn’t mentioned. I must sort out my MP3 player so I don’t need to listen to these falsehoods anymore.

Twenty minutes later I was having a lovely chat with a helpful Road Worker.

“You can’t come down here the road is closed”

But I’m not in a car I’m on foot

The road is still closed”

I can see the Road Closed Sign but I don’t see any signage saying the Path is closed.

“Well it is”

Looks open to me

Well I say it isn’t.”

Does the highways order cover the pathway.

I bloody don’t know. I’m telling you the path is closed. You need to go back.”

You haven’t even put up any advanced closure signs.

Don’t get clever with me. Your going back the same way you came.”

As much as I’m enjoying chatting to you I am getting cold and very bored now. Your closure doesn’t include the path and it certainly doesn’t include the field. So see yah…

** at this stage I jumped over the fence into the farmers field and ran past the purple faced road worker. He seemed to be giving me some friendly hand gestures.**

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

You get pivotal moments in time. In Middle Earth it would be the Battle of Helms Deep. In Sherlock Holmes it would be the Reichenbach Falls. In Marvel it would be End Game. In our house it’s when a certain Dad tries to bake an Apple Crumble. Years of trying and years of disastrous failure. Now it’s that pivotal moment in time again.

Dad did you make this Apple Crumble ?

Yes

All by yourself. Your not pretending you cooked it but actually it’s my aunties baking.

No all my own doing.

Unbelievably Dad this is actually nice. Never thought I ever would say this but can I have seconds.

So in the scheme of things for an old fart useless muppet life doesn’t get any better than running downhill and baking an edible apple crumble. It really doesn’t.

Let’s spell out Monday

An entire weekend without seeing any evidence of other humans. No post. No phone calls. No dog walkers. Villagers hidden away in warm dry houses. On the walks not even one passing car or stray rambler. Helps when many of the roads are closed with overrunning roadworks or floods. Great fun in the pouring rain trying to play tennis on the pavement. Very cramped in an area probably not big enough for table tennis.

Sadly the relaxing weekend goes to quickly and dreaded school looms. A temporary change in school bus routes means more strange faces and much larger buses are running. No guarantee when the bus turns up. An absolute nightmare for a kid with Autism. If only that was the only thing.

Another heated discussion with school and the authorities. Both reassuring us that measures have been put in place which ensure compliance with government requirements and allows all kids a fair chance of performing well. Yeh right. Keep the Government happy – Sod the kids in effect…. Clearly certain parties need to lookup the definitions of all and fair. So this weekend our son’s homework basically is all about writing out three times all his spelling mistakes and unclear handwriting attempts. That’s going to expand his mind and boost his confidence!!

Then to cap it off he has to revise for an English Test. The test is an old school Spelling one. Learn 20 words.

Language

Presented

Sherlock

Through

Evidence

It’s the same spelling test for all in the class. No extra time or help for any child. Again maybe it just me and my cabin fever. If it is please just delete this post. But how is this fair. On what planet is this supposed to have any positive impact on any child with dyslexia and autism. Designed to fail AGAIN. For all the required words our son can give definitions for and provide alternative examples of how to use the word correctly in spoken English. But this is not important apparently. Not what school and the government wants. The focus is on getting all kids to just spell by learning parrot fashion a list of predefined words. If you can’t do this then you are low attainment. A failure. A faulty item.

Education is filled with really good, dedicated and caring teachers. Yet they are increasingly told how to teach and to focus on a narrowing range of objectives. Objectives not about the interests of the child. It’s all about Satisfying the Government. The agenda is that money should go to fund tax cuts for the rich rather than on unimportant things like school budgets. To make sure this happens Schools need to follow the tried and tested factory model. Increasingly large production runs which help drive down costs. Eliminate natural variations and reduce choice. Children just seen in terms of inputs and outputs. Push them through the system. Those who don’t fit are labelled a problem and discarded as surplus to requirements.

I will tell you where the staggering stupidity and the real problem lies. It’s in those leaders pushing this dogmatic crap and equally on those who choose to vote for them. Shame on you.

So we move on into another uncertain week filled with too much anxiety for someone so young. Let’s hope a few Muppet and Spider-Man movies can briefly lift the mood. Even a bit of no space tennis might help. But surely the countless thousands of children who suffer deserve so much more than this. The really do.

Mind wrestling

Yorkshire weather. Good running weather. Why would I want to run in dry warm windless conditions. Well that’s what I tell myself. Maybe I’m like Count Dracula. I would turn to dust in direct sunlight. I wonder what I would do if someone offered me the chance though.

I’m mind wrestling with something at the moment. My partner was an epic traveller. She visited so many countries. It was her extravagance. From her late teens she would save up during the year for one great adventure. Family and her adventures was what she lived for. The adventures only stopped when we became a family. Her dream was that when our son became older we could have adventures together. The two places she always talked about was New Zealand (would have been her first time) and Chile. She always said that we would all love Chile.

Then life happened.

I really want to complete those journeys for her. Our Autism World may preclude that. Circumstances may preclude it. But we will see. I most admit a part of me doesn’t want to do those trips. It’s just not right that it would only be the two of us.

Sorry I digress. Back to my mind wrestling. So many adventures and so many photographs. All sat neatly and well organised in carefully stored albums. Here is the dilemma. Part of me wants to do a retrospective photo journal. Tell her travel story. Her trip to the Soviet Union (gives you an idea of the timeframe) maybe would be a great starting point. YET another part of me recoils at the idea. What if she hates that idea. What if I’m breaking some unwritten bond of trust. It’s like having two competing voices on either shoulder each shouting differing viewpoints on life.

She’s not here anymore. What’s the problem!

YOU KNOW SHE WOULD SAY NO. I CAN’T BELIEVE YOUR SERIOUSLY THINKING ABOUT THIS!

But this feeling is something I’ve grown used to over these three years. On virtually every major decision I have these doubts. ‘What do I want to do’ balanced against ‘what would she do’. I try to see the world through my eyes and at the same time through her eyes. Problem is that we were two completely different characters. We each had our own unique take on the world. We would frequently disagree on the right answer. Often we would compromise. I’m still trying to compromise now. Yet I can’t replicate her thought process. I never could and I never will. I’m probably getting her point of view completely wrong. But I still do it.

Maybe other people do this. Maybe it’s just me sinking further into cabin fever.

So am I going to publish this travel journal? I don’t know. WE still haven’t decided.

Obelisk

The Obelisk at Castle Howard. It is over 300 years old and is 24m tall. It has the following inscription

VIRTUTIS ET FORTUNAE
JOHANNIS MARLBURIAE DUCIS
PATRIAE ET EUROPAEQUE DEFENSORIS
HOC SAXUM
ADMIRATIONI AC FAME SACRUM
CAROLUS COMES CARLIOL POSUIT
ANNO DOMINI
MDCCXIV

I think my translation is pretty accurate.

Virtually everyday is wet here. If you have the misfortune to come here you will need three jumpers, extra thick wooly socks and two umbrellas. I could have been built somewhere warm and dry like Rome but no. For some reason they built me in a place that only the Saxons could love.

Its other claim to fame is that when I do my long run I perform a u-turn here and head home. It was very kind of Sir John Vanbrugh in 1714 to think of my recreational needs. Clearly a very clever man. Although he was a tad over optimistic that my little legs would get me to one of his other creations – Blenheim Palace. Not sure even my car could make it there.

But to be fair to the great architect he’s not the only one who can struggle with the powers forward planning.

While my partner was here we disagreed on which secondary school to send our son to. I favoured his current school as at least he would know some kids there. My partner favoured either another secondary school or even a special school. In the end my partner died a year before the decision had to be finally made. So he went to the school I had favoured. With hindsight that was a monumentally poor decision. Talk about a school getting a kids education so badly wrong. The only redeeming feature about my decision is that according to the health professionals the other secondary school option is not much better.

So now we are caught in the classic parent catch 22 position. Does he stay in this failing school where at least he knows some kids. Does he move to the other school which potentially is not much better and would mean a huge upheaval for any kid – especially one with Aspergers. We could look at a special school option but even the health professionals agree that he just wouldn’t suit that educational approach. We can’t afford to sell the house and move to another catchment area. Moving also means having to probably reapply for an Education and Health Care Plan which given the government cutbacks would prove extremely difficult. AND YET I just can’t find a practical way of educating from home.

Sorry to swear but BLOODY HELL.

So I look at the Obelisk and think that’s it’s good but maybe the architect could have included say a comfy seat, a water dispenser, some energy drinks and maybe a supply of oxygen. I look at our sons schooling and think what changes can deliver the best fit in a few years time. I suspect the Obelisk is the easiest to change.

Perfect timing

Perfect timing. The walking woolly jumper had been resolutely looking the other way. After a minute of waiting I gave up and took the shot. Just in time for the sheep to turn it’s head and briefly pose for the photo.

Perfect timing. After 4 hours of excruciatingly boring work I needed a run. But some days the mojo is just not there. After a couple of minutes I was on the verge of abandoning. Just outside the village a car was at the side of the road. The car had conked out going through a deep flood. After a few minutes with a push start we managed to get it going again. A quite reasonable run followed and I only remembered that I was going to give up when I was sat back down at the works laptop.

Perfect timing. I made homemade ice cream tonight. For some reason my vanilla recipe came out luminous yellow. The ice cream was served midway through the Monsters Inc movie. Unfortunately we were still sampling it when we got to the scene with the yellow snow cones and the Yeti. The immortal Yeti line rather killed off the taste sensation

“Oh would you look at that. We’re out of snowcones! Let me just go outside and make some more

Homemade Yellow ice cream is now banned.

Perfect timing. I was going to do a post about school. You can guess what it would have been like. Probably done a few of those over the last year or so. But as I started writing it a song came on the radio. Not sure who the band was but the songs basic theme was

Those with depression sit in silence. Feeling they are the only ones. Those who have suffered need to shout. So others know they are not alone. So they know it’s ok to shout to.

So here goes with a change of plan. Imagine I’m shouting to some Nordic Operatic Metal music.

I am a single parent. I’ve experienced a few too many deaths over the last few years. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve become too isolated. My personal confidence is shot. The upshot of this is that I have been to some really dark places in my mind. Scary frightening places. Yes I suffer from DEPRESSION. So if your reading this and you are suffering then please remember that your not alone. If you can then it’s good to talk. Talking or writing really helps. There is absolutely no shame in admitting your struggling. I struggle. Millions struggle. Let’s shout together. We can do this.

Sometimes

“Sometimes only one person is missing and the whole world seems depopulated” – Alphonse de Lamartine

Maybe it’s your partner. Maybe it’s your child. Maybe it’s a parent. Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a pet.

It does seem that way some days. Maybe it’s on a walk. MAYBE ITS STANDING BY A LONELY POND. Maybe it’s listening to a particular song. Maybe it’s during a movie. Maybe it’s when your in bed. Maybe it’s when your at the school gates surrounded by couples. Maybe it’s when your shopping. Maybe it’s just when you return to a home with no lights on.

But with bereavement it will happen. One gone make the world seems empty. So what do you do about it? Sadly no one right answer to that. Every person is different. Every grief journey is different. With me those lonely times still hit and still hurt. I try many things.

Sometimes I just let it hit me. Confused and helpless.

Sometimes I try to distract myself. Just hope I eventually forget that feeling.

Sometimes I just let it hit me but it’s kinda reassuring. Not ever loving would be so dreadful. Grief is another word for love.

Sometimes writing helps.

Sometimes reading blogs helps.

Sometimes I need to find solitude. Sometimes I need to be in a crowd.

Sometimes it’s reading an old favourite book.

Sometimes it’s looking at old photos.

Sometimes it’s playing a game.

Sometimes I go for a run.

Often it’s trying just that bit harder to be that better parent. Trying to make life just that bit more fun.

Then you get sometimes when the best thing is to carry on but just to do it louder. Much LOUDER. So this morning I am ironing but let’s just crank up that Iron Maiden cd just a little louder.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it’s time for a bit of beautiful Switzerland.

Our family Aspergers holidays often heavily featured reassuring repetition. Sunday mornings would see a trip across Lake Thun to Interlaken. A walk round the beautiful town. Maybe even a game of crazy golf. Switzerland loves its crazy golf. Then the first hot chocolate of the trip while sat outside watching the Paragliders fly off the local mountain top.. Finally a trip to a wonderful Swiss gift shop. Clocks, Calendars and Schleich toy animals.

Only once did we vary the Sunday routine with a trip to Lenk. A stunning village set in a wide valley with picture postcard views of The Alps. Walking heaven and beautiful waterfalls.

How did we negotiate the change in routine. The promise of the finest ice cream on the planet with the added clause that on Monday he could buy three Schleich Toys.

Was it too soon to start him on wine….

Lenk is such a peaceful place to visit especially on a Sunday morning. Your not shopping, your not watching paragliding, your probably not playing crazy golf. Your chilling out, going for a walk, skiing in the winter, going to church, or sitting having drinks and tasty ice cream. What else do you need on Sunday.

Respite from the deluge

Torrential rain for the last 24 hours. But so in need of a run to clear my head. Head to the woods for a bet of shelter. Unbelievably the rain stopped to give a brief respite from the deluge.

Sadly no respite from the school madness. Not even in Drama. DRAMA!! The subject assessment tests reflect Government policy on teaching and testing. Students are required to write the Drama Term and it’s meaning. Correct spellings must be learnt.

Tableaux – a moment of frozen action on stage

Accumulation – adding another performer arch time a movement is repeated

Exaggeration – when you perform something in a heightened style

Melodrama – a sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events designed to appeal to the emotions

And on and on…. I won’t bore you with the full list.

Correct spellings …..

Really …..

For goodness sake this is Drama. This is on top of negatives which are dished out if you forget to bring in a completely black T-shirt and Track Suit bottoms for the lesson. On top of negatives for not learning lines. On top of forcing kids into groups of strangers and expecting them to interact freely. On top of negatives if kids are found laughing and having fun. Forcing kids to go on stage and perform in front of large numbers of kids, support staff and teachers – even when it leads to extreme anxiety. Isn’t it supposed to be fun and enjoyable. Obviously not according to those in charge. Some kids are set up to fail. Some kids are clearly deserving of having their confidence ground into the dirt. Just feels like there is no respite from the deluge.

Dad when I get the first opportunity to drop Drama I will go into the Guinness Book of Records for the quickest ever exit from a subject.

I can’t blame him at all. But it’s such a potential waste. Sadly it’s not just Drama and it’s not just our son. How many kids are turned off subjects which they could eventually excel in because of inflexible and insensitive teaching practices. Education should be about finding the gifts, talents and special interests in every single child. Encouraging kids to reach for the stars. Unfortunately education has been skewed by politicians who just don’t understand.

It’s time to kick this generation of self centred politicians out of the education world. It’s time to let good teachers teach. Its time to let every child have a chance and above all else it’s time to let kids enjoy being kids again.