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.

Say goodbye

This month we have already said goodbye to a couple of legends. The brilliant drummer Neil The Professor Peart and the wonderfully funny Terry Jones. In honour of Terry let’s all shout “He’s not the messiah, he’s just a very naughty boy”.

It’s so sad when we lose people we have grown to look up to and respect. But that’s the cycle of life. It’s inevitable that we have to say goodbye to people we admire, care for and love. Some burn bright and leave us far too soon. If anything the last few years have taught me it is that yes we shed tears but it’s so important to try and hold onto those precious memories.

Britain’s favourite mammal are in trouble. Big trouble. From 36 million in the 1950s to less than 1 million now. The last twenty years alone has seen a 50% drop in numbers.

Photo from the RSPCA

I remember hedgehogs being a common site. Every night we would see at least one hedgehog scurrying across the lawn. Things have changed. I can’t remember the last time I saw one in the wild. At least two or three years.

So it was time for local action. Today an hour was spent in the garden trying to make it more hedgehog friendly.

  • To try an link habitats some hedgehog highways have been built into the garden fences. 13cm wide fence holes needed to be made to allow the hedgehogs to move between gardens but this would have been equally attractive to Captain Chaos. Luckily work had some old piping which was about the right size. So hedgehog tunnels are now in place. Hopefully good for hedgehogs but not good for dogs.
  • The compost heap has been made open air. One is the sides has been removed.
  • A log pile has been built in one corner of the garden.
  • The log pile is now in a corner which will become the wild corner. I will let the grass grow and when it becomes warmer a wild flowers will be planted.
  • The random hedgehog dome house which has sat in the garage for years is now under a hedge near the compost heap and a hedgehog tunnel.
  • Each night a bowl of cat food and water will be put out. Important to remember to change and clean it every night. A bit of cat food will mean less for our big boy cat. This is good as he really needs to go on a diet.

It’s sad to say goodbye. Some goodbyes are inevitable and outside of our control. But some aren’t. Still time to save old friends like our hedgehogs.

It’s such a hard life

Time for some random words.

Subservient Tudor Expect Discipline Chaperone Accused Suspicious Breadwinner Complicated Stereotypical Shakespeare Elizabethan

A few beauties from this weeks school spelling test. Is this really a level playing field for kids with dyslexia. I remember joking that in a few months he will have to learn the spellings of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs like Micropachycephalosaurus. Well the way these spellings are going I’m not ruling it out now.

A bit of a test day today for me. Trying to work from home completing jobs usual done at the work base. Reassuringly it went well. So well that I managed to complete about an hour ahead of schedule. With an empty work list I managed to go for a run. A chilly and very windy run. It was also quite a ‘hurty’ one. I was convinced that my knee and foot were playing up. At the end the real reason became apparent. Thankfully not my body. The shoe soles had worn completely through. Might as well have just run in my socks. Captain Chaos was in raptures. Two old trainers and a pair of running socks to chew and bury. After a frantic hour of digging and re-digging the poor chap was tired out. He needed a few quiet moments with his teddy.

It’s such a hard life….

Maybe I don’t need to replace my running shoes. If and when homeschooling kicks off my opportunities to go out running will be severely curtailed. May need to think about looking out for a second hand treadmill. When Son caught me looking at eBay he added to the shopping list. So on top of a treadmill apparently we need a second hand cinema sized TV, a slush puppy machine and a chef. Maybe we could find a chef who specialises in funny coloured iced drinks. With that thought swirling in my head it was time to take The Cap for his walk. Luckily I do have an old pair of trainers which still have some tread. But strangely I couldn’t find them in the shoe rack. Oh hang on. Worryingly I found the sole-less running shoes next to the dog basket. So exactly which shoes did he bury then. Bugger. Yes in a hole in the garden are my one usable pair of trainers.

It’s such a hard life….

Three

2020 currently is very three orientated. My football team got beat three nil at home. They had to use up all three substitutes before half time because of injuries. Then quickly found out that three substitutes was not enough as another player had to go off due to injury as well.

I got three bills in the post today.

I phoned up for a Doctors appointment and was told I had to wait three weeks for the first available slot.

Currently I am missing 3 running socks. Paddington Bear Stare towards Captain Chaos. So for my next run I can choose between a red running sock or a blue running sock or a white running sock. I think the red and blue combo with be best.

We have three gerbils. They are super friendly and also rather fascinating. If I could ask the three chaps (hope they are three of the same sex) one question it would be

Why when I put cardboard and wooden tunnels in your cage do you always put the smaller tube inside a larger one. Even when I put them on opposite ends of the cage why does one end up in the other within a few minutes.

As my gerbil vocabulary is so poor I guess I will never find out the answer to this first burning question of 2020. But I can’t leave this post on such a unresolvable cliffhanger. Apologies for the early contender for the most rubbish link of the year. As I’ve got over my initial New Years Blues and in the absence of an answer from the three rodents maybe it’s time for a few lists of three from 2019.

3 Biggest Fears that came true

  • School giving up on son
  • Boris Johnson becoming PM
  • Governments/The U.N. paying lip service and kicking into the long grass the momentum for change generated by the likes of Greta Thunberg

Best books read

  • Jean Lee – Nights Tooth
  • Stephen King – The Institute
  • Blake Crouch – Recursion

Best 3 movies of 2019

  • Avengers End Game
  • Horrible Histories – The Movie
  • Godzilla

Best 3 concerts

  • Alter Bridge/Shinedown
  • Kiss
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd

Best 3 albums

  • Alter Bridge – Walk the Sky
  • The Hu – The Gereg
  • Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood

Best 3 places visited

  • Kielder Water
  • Housesteads Roman Fort
  • North Yorkshire Moors Railway

3 Most helpful bits of advice from 2019 – kind of

  • Maybe bring your dog back when he’s calmed down a wee bit – dog training school
  • Just needs to work a bit harder to improve his spelling and handwriting – teacher
  • Lager is better for your teeth than lemon water – Dentist

Best 3 things which helped our son

  • Setting a goal for the number of new places to be visited
  • Rock music and concerts
  • Catching balls while bouncing on a trampoline

Craziest 3 things the pets did

  • Muddy paw prints on the ceiling – how is that possible
  • Boy Cat getting the award for being the biggest and heaviest cat on the Vets books
  • Captain Chaos burying one of my running shoes in the garden. Took me weeks to find it.

Christmas Naughty List

Unbelievably Santa did not give Captain Chaos coal for Christmas. How did he not make the naughty list.

He got more presents than I did. Even the neighbour whose prized lawn he’s dug up sent him his own card. Unbelievable. Actually it’s not that hard to understand. He brings such joy, fun and life to the house. Humans really don’t deserve dogs as friends. We need to learn from their unconditional love.

No visitors, no phone calls. Splendid festive isolation. Perfect for our son. The dad from a few years back would have balked at that. That’s before Aspergers entered our family. Now isolation is the new rock and roll. Thats where a Captain Chaos comes in. He fills the gap created by the isolation. He more than fills that gap.

Dad I thought you had bought yourself a present. Are you not going to open it.

Maybe a bit later.

Looking at that puzzled look on your face you have lost it haven’t you.

Yep put it in a safe place so I wouldn’t lose it. And I can’t remember where now… Don’t you just hate that.

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

Anyway the missing present is not missed. Too busy trying to duck and weave to avoid a flying well chewed Christmas Cuddly Robin. This is actually the quiet before the storm. Captain Chaos has still got to open his odd looking present. A 3ft long squeaking cuddly snake. Really wish my missing present was a set of ear muffs and maybe a safety helmet. Think I’m going to need them.

Names on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has been very damp and exceptionally grey. No colour at all. So it called for some colour from a couple of weeks ago. Today this is as colourful as it gets. I can’t think of a name for this at the moment.

As I’ve got older I’ve become more used to dealing with the inevitable life curveballs. But not completely. The dreaded demon curveball still gets through.

Dad if I had been a girl what would you and mum have called me.

I couldn’t remember and that’s a great start to 24th December. My defence is that we found out very early on in the pregnancy that it was boy names only. But I still should remember that. Those fun brainstorming seasons for two unprepared newbie parents in waiting. But nothing. It felt like I had let down our son and lost another important link with my partner. It hurt. It hurt like mad. Yes you can hurt at this time of year. Sadly so many do. Sending everyone of you a hug.

To try and clear my head I went outside to do my odd outside thing. Push a wheelbarrow around the garden a few times. It’s hard work but that’s the point. In the middle of the garden was a stray Santa’s Hat – presumably courtesy of Captain Chaos. So as the effort started to do its job I donned the slightly soggy hat. Wheelbarrowing in the rain. Like to see Gene Kelly’s face if that was the song he was given all those years ago to dance to. Wheelbarrowing in the rain did its job. Mind reset. I have one job and that is to make our son happy. Make him happy this Christmas. Need to get back to my A Game.

“Son when was the last time you had whip cream direct from the canister into the mouth”

Never Dad.

“Well you are now”

So that’s what we did. Soon this was escalated to shaving foam covering my entire face. It kinda suited me. Still no George Clooney but a vast improvement. A look all the more better for the sound of laughter filling the house.

Dad do you fancy a first to hit the crossbar challenge.

Followed a few minutes later with

Dad you do know it’s first to kick the ball onto the goal crossbar not first to repeatedly kick the ball into next doors garden challenge

As I spent a quite a bit of time retrieving the football from next doors garden I got to spend a bit of time noticing how a garden should look like. Very neat and tidy with immaculate lawns. Well almost immaculate. A couple of ugly holes courtesy of an escaping Captain Chaos. That’s compared to our garden which is more akin to a ploughed farmers field courtesy of moles, son and CAPTAIN CHAOS. Maybe 2020 is the year of the NEAT GARDEN. More likely it’s the year of the NEED A NEW GARDEN. So as the ball sailed over the hedge again son shouted.

Dad what would you call me now if I was a girl.

This time the curve ball missed.

Laa Laa Po Dora the Explorer Elsa Tinkerbell”

Really Dad. All those names.

“No son Dads fibbing.

Good I was getting worried. It’s a joke then

“Yes

Maybe you could call me either Daphne Blake or Velma Dinkley

“Jinkies that’s a good idea”

So a day that threatened to be scuppered on a girls name ended with laughs about a girls name. Like many folks I operate on such fine margins. With so little separating happiness and sadness. I really hope this Christmas you find happiness.

Christmas Diaries 2

Still not what you would call postcard Christmas weather yet. This is lunchtime. Having said that how often do we get the crispy white stuff at Christmas anyway in North Yorkshire. In the 17 years we have lived here I can only remember one White Christmas. However I can remember many like the photo above.

When I was a kid I remember one really heavy snow Christmas Day. I remember sinking to my belly and my wellies filling up with crisp snow. Can also remember Dad going out before lunch to join a number of other men trying to clear the footpath. He told me it was so that the kids could get to school. Strange as the school was shut for another week. It was also strange that the cleared path went in the opposite direction to my school. Bizarrely the men stopped when they reached the pub. Can’t think why.

Our son’s school has now broken up for Christmas. So if it does snow I won’t need to worry about clearing a path towards it. One thing I do need to worry about is another little tradition of ours. How to keep the pets off the Christmas Tree.

The cat likes to try and sleep in it’s branches.

He is a very big boy, our biggest cat

That is how his Vet described him. So he doesn’t make the best tree climber. We usually find the tree toppled over with a slightly confused cat underneath it. Then we have the mad dog. Captain Chaos loves a tree. So much so that he likes to try and relocate it to his dog bed. This normally results in the tree toppled over which makes it so much easier for the mutt to pull it. Lord knows what Team Gerbil would do to it.

So my chair has to be relocated next to the tree. So I can sit and basically fight off unwarranted pet tree attention. It’s only a matter of time before the tree is toppled over and I am underneath it. Bet I would get the blame for that. That thought brings a smile. When I was 5 or 6 my family would put a real tree up in the living room. The family comprised mum and dad, my brother, three sisters and a very big dog. A dog who once bit the postman and then bit the local bobby (policeman) who came to ask dad to better control his pet. The tree would be filled to the brim with decorations. Prize of place on the tree would be these little silver paper wrapped chocolates. Either in the shape of Santa or an Elf. From Christmas Day onwards we were allowed to have one chocolate decoration a day. But this particular Christmas someone helped themselves to a decoration early. Three days in a row. Unbelievably I got blamed for it. Then on Christmas day the real culprit was caught in the act. The dog. I’m still waiting for my apology.

***WP is going into awkward mode again. Doing things like switching off comment boxes and stopping me liking other blogger posts. Normal service will be resumed when WP allows me to***

You don’t look like

Another cold and beautiful morning. Doesn’t look like the expected wet and windy weather forecast.

Robyn on her brilliant blog was taking about someone who played Death Metal music during a gym session and yet looked so UnDeathMetally. I remember a few years back going into a HMV record store and trying to buy a Hardcore German Death Metal CD. The young guy at the counter looked at me then looked at the cd and said “this might be a bit heavy for you”. I managed to stop him before he directed me to either the Country Music or Dire Straits sections. Clearly I didn’t look like a head banger. I should have warn my Motörhead Tour T-shirt.

I remember another time at work when a particularly gruesome Salesman barged into the office and asked to speak to the Chief Accountant. When he was pointed in my direction he walked up to me and announced “you don’t look like a Chief Accountant” and laughed. In an unusually sharp response I came back with “you don’t look like a person with an appointment” and proceeded to ignore him until he sheepishly left.

But apart from these two moments ‘not looking like something’ has not been applied to me much in my life. Well apart from this year. It feels like it’s been open season on me. The following have all been said to my face over the last 12 months

You don’t look like a vegetarian

– You don’t look like someone with depression

– You don’t look like that photo on your driving license

– You don’t look like your passport photo

– You don’t look like a boxer … the physio said this as apparently I had a muscle injury normally associated with boxing

You don’t look like your best pleased

– You don’t look like a single dad … said to me by someone in the village

You don’t look like someone who plays Pokemon Go

– You don’t look like an XL … No but is it a crime to like wearing baggy tops for training

It’s not just me. It’s a team issue this year

Your Son doesn’t look like he has Autism …. said by a teacher

You don’t look like a boy with your hood up you have girls eyelashes … this was immediately preceded by the longest and hardest Paddington Bear Stare by our son.

Your dog doesn’t look like he’s partly Cocker Spaniel

– Your dog doesn’t look like he’s partly German Spitz

– Your dog doesn’t look like he’s calmed down

– Your cat doesn’t look like he gets much exercise

These were all said very innocently and are rather mostly amusing. Some you scratch your head and think what on earth is a single parent supposed to look like. Some are worrying – too many still assume that if someone tells a joke then they couldn’t possibly be depressed. Then there are the ones which are breathtaking. An educational professional demonstrating such staggering ignorance of Autism. It makes you realise what a long way we have to go as a society.

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.

The Huddle

Now that’s how you do a huddle.

HU DD LE

Spelling has never been one of my specialities. So not a lot of help to a dyslexic son trying to memorise 15 words in the hope of getting at least 10 correct to avoid a school punishment. Now that’s a way to spend a Sunday. The approach Son has gone for is to break the words up into little words and the try to do a memory photograph of each little word in order.

Alliteration – ALL IT ERA TI ON

Advertisement – AD VER TI SEM ENT

Exaggeration – EX AG GE RAT I ON

It’s not the way I would try but his brain is wired up differently to mine. It delivered 11 out of 15 correct spellings last week. Which is fantastic. What’s frustrating is that it’s such a waste of energy. He can’t read or write any of the ones he got right just 7 days ago. Its achieving nothing. In a couple of weeks he is unlikely to remember any of these spellings. It’s not specifically tailored to help him read or to improve his writing or develop his knowledge or add to his independence or boost his confidence. It’s just about ticking a Government tick box. It’s the Government mantra. Even this week the PMs Dad callee the public illiterate as they probably even couldn’t spell Pinocchio.

GO VE RN ME NT

It’s times like this I really miss my partner. Maybe she would come up with a better solution. A way out of this educational quagmire. She certainly would be lifting all our spirits. She was brilliant at that. Making the world seem so much brighter than it should be. More hopeful. Making sure everyone is feels secure and warm inside. That’s what love is.

LO VE

It’s a new world now and you just have to make the best of it. Face up to the challenges which come your way. Learn to appreciate the small things in life again. Don’t be afraid to smile again.

SM I LE

Like watching the massed ranks of birds coming for their morning breakfast. How the larger birds wait until the little birds have had first crack. Must be some particularly fearsome little chaps..

Thankfully the Birds are happy to get stuck into another failed bread making venture. The humans in the house certainly wouldn’t risk it.

UN DE RB AK ED

Or smiling at the thought of that Amazon Delivery Mans face as he stood at the door waiting for us to answer. Looking at the pair of my underpants – frozen solid discarded on the path. Yes the dog still has a thing about socks and pants.

Or laughing at what the Delivery Man has brought us. A parcel containing a plate and cutlery set. Thinking this is much smaller and lighter than expected. Only to discover that bargain kitchen set was in fact a Kids Kitchen Dishes Playset. Thankfully we are not entertaining anytime soon. Dad is definitely a

MU PP ET.

Or even the sight of a really happy dog ripping apart a newly delivered election pamphlet from the Conservative Party. I’m sure it was full of lots of truthful facts and had absolutely stunning photos of our esteemed leader. To be fair our PM permanently looks well chewed.

BO RIS JO HN SON IS A LY ING TW AT