Chaos Theory

Guard duty…

Scrap the guard duty, is that a biscuit I can smell….

I think we all have that sixth sense. Mine kicked in during the early hours. Son had just popped his head round the bedroom door.

Are you awake Dad?”

At the time I was reading about chaos theory. Got to explain my cooking disasters somehow.

I’ve got a question in my head and I can’t sleep.”

Sixth sense fully kicked in. My mind better get up to speed quickly.

It’s to do with the Royal Family and the rules surrounding the line of Succession.”

Relief as I feared a bird and the bees type question.

I’m guessing my question won’t be adequately covered in the Succession to the Crown Act”

Must admit in all my many years, I still haven’t got round to reading that real page turner.

I bet the Act doesn’t reflect the progress made in genetics, physics and quantum theory.”

No, I think that is a safe bet. Already my mind is braced for impact. A wander into his world is truly joyous but often feels like my mind isn’t quite able to take it all in. Maybe a bit like a modern and much safer version of a Psychedelic Trip.

Ok the rules on succession are quite straightforward and a lot fairer now. But what happens if we spiced it up a bit. What happens if through the advancement in genetics we managed to bring back a former King or Queen. Or maybe we develop time travel and can bring forward a previous monarch. A King or Queen who didn’t lose the throne in battle. Say Henry V or Queen Victoria. So the question is…. Would they still have a claim to the throne. Maybe it would lead to a civil war between those supporting the current monarch and those supporting Henry V or Victoria. Victoria won’t be best pleased with the current state of her empire. Henry V will be distinctly horrified at the current leadership of the country.”

And with that mind altering nugget he went back to sleep on it. Suddenly chaos theory seems so clear now.

Get my head round

The sun is shining. It’s still cold but we will settle for this.

So it’s almost official. School has emailed parents to say that looking at the latest government guidance – which apparently isn’t much – only some Primary pupils and those sitting final exams next year will get any direct teaching over the next few months. The earliest Son will be back in school is going to be September. So it’s time to get our heads round this.

Looking at the government’s plan for the economy – doesn’t take long as it’s basically wrote on the back of the PMs hand – probably means the company I work for won’t be operating anytime before September. That’s being extremely optimistic and requires an awful lot of good fortune. Being realistic there is a high probability it will not survive. So it’s time to get our heads round this.

It’s also time to get my head round the likelihood that I won’t be seeing my brother and sisters much in 2020. If things improve then maybe visits at Christmas might be a possibility. Realistically meet ups are not happening anytime this side of September. Already one Government official has said Summer family holidays and meet ups are cancelled, as these are unsafe – but apparently getting on a packed bus and going to work is completely safe.

AND WE HAVE TO GET OUR HEADS ROUND TWO EVEN MORE PRESSING MATTERS.

  • How are we going to celebrate my partners birthday in just over a weeks time. We had been planning on doing a camp fire party. Unfortunately the fire pit didn’t survive the Yorkshire winter. Yesterday I tried to pick it up to clean and the metal just crumbled, leaving me holding just two wooden handles. At least they can be used as fire wood. The other idea was to have my partners favourite meal – Chinese. Unfortunately the local takeaways are still closed and the local supermarket is completely sold out of Chinese food – apart from crispy seaweed. Which brought the response “well the gerbils will eat well then….”. I did offer to cook Chinese from scratch, but that brought the response “I’d rather suck on a gooseberry….”. So we are in plan F territory.
  • Dad I am so missing not going on my trampoline.” A couple of months back our garden pigeons decided to nest right next to the big bouncy thing (thats not my tummy before you say anything….). When I say right next to, I mean within 10 centimetres (not using inches will really upset Boris). Well the pigeons and chicks are showing no sign of moving, so I have two options. One is to dismantle and then rebuild somewhere else. Problem is that it’s in the only flat part of the garden and it’s like trying to assemble a Super Tanker. The instructions helpfully explained that you will need three reasonably fit adults to assemble. They failed to mention at least one of those adults must be an expert in structural engineering and the other two will need to have the strength of The Hulk. The other option is to try and drag the complete trampoline. We tried yesterday and after 30 minutes had shifted it 1 cm (up yours Boris). So we are also on Plan F here as well.

But at least the sun is shining.

Ticked Off

Meet one of our gardens true characters. This is Rico. Yes named after the truly mad penguin from Madagascar and The Penguins of Madagascar. Rico is a bit of a show off. Our world is better for characters like Rico and wow does it need it at present.

It’s been another day of Monty Python Government here. First we had the Scientific Officer confirm that the vast majority of first and second infections in the UK came from air travellers returning from Italy, France and Spain. We then had a senior Government Minister arguing that no possible reason exists to justify introducing screening at UK airports. Ok…. Yesterday we had the Government talking up the plan to reopen many schools in three weeks as it was safe to do so. Today we have Scotland’s Government arguing that the science is clear that it’s far too early to consider opening schools. And then we get the Foreign Secretary arguing that only partial opening of schools is safe. Ok…

We have a Health Minister who is gloating as we apparently reached his target of carrying out 100000 virus tests per day on the 30th April. We will ignore the fact that most other countries are carrying out more tests. We only reached his target because he included 50000 test packs which had been rather conveniently posted out to people on that very day. That’s like me sending out 50000 letters asking for a date and then counting all of them as actual dates. After the deadline we have slipped well below the 100k testing target again but that apparently doesn’t matter now as the target has now been ticked off. I tell you what – I am with many millions of Britain’s who are getting seriously ticked off with a certain Health Minister.

AND while we are on the subject of seriously ticked off. Why can’t I bake. After all the years of practice and yet it is still clearly beyond me. Today I foolishly decided to try my hand at a French Baguette. A gluten and dairy free one. It went into the oven looking like something which wouldn’t be out of place in Parisian Boulangerie. It came out like something Baron Frankenstein had created and then immediately binned. It was basically the same shape as a cow pat. It was also as easy to cut as reinforced steel. I can’t even give that to Rico and pals. Thankfully one person is this house has talent. After he stopped laughing Son said

You know what I can use that for. I will paint it and I can use it as a model.”

So my baguette was transformed into a remote island with snow covered mountain ranges, fast flowing rivers and deep lakes.

I bet if Gordon Ramsey had created this, it would have been called a ****** masterpiece and deserving of international recognition. That seriously ticks me off.

Kinda day

Surely it’s that kinda day.

The alarm rings and I drag the body out of bed and stumble towards my gym kit. Before exercise the important stuff. Feed the pets.

Start with the Gerbils. They will only eat one type of small animal feed and strangely it’s not the cheapest. Trying to change the food and water is always a challenge when you have three little white chaps scurrying up your arm.

Then it’s the big boy cat. He suffers after years of substance abuse. He has had far too many trips to the vets after sampling various harmful items – usually from the farm. Now he’s banned from going out and has to go on a strict diet. He can only eat gluten, grain and dairy free food. Special food which happens to be three times the price of normal cat food. He’s far from impressed and he is surprisingly fleet of foot which he eyes other food opportunities – usually my dinner.

At least the dog has cheap food tastes. He will eat anything. So he dines out on cheaper branded food. Anything works for him. Cat food, our food, vegetables from the garden. His favourites are particularly healthy options

Yorkshire Puddings

Chips and crisps.

Although cheap to feed he does have his very own foible. He can’t and won’t eat food direct from his bowl. He picks up each individual biscuit and carries it to a chair or the sofa. Munches it there and then returns for the next little piece of food. The process repeats for hours. Takes him ages to eat anything and the mess…..

Here’s the key thing. Yes the pets cost money, add workload and create so much mess.

BUT

They bring so much joy to our son. They bring life to the house. Bringing them into our world was the best parenting decision ever.

Ants

The little Apple tree is springing into life. This is the time of year when you can gauge what type of crop it will produce in 5 months. This apple tree does have different yields. Sometimes too much fruit. Sometimes hardly any fruit. This year looks like an ok year.

Sometimes you can get a feel for what a day is going to be like by just looking at the first few minutes.

Dragging myself back into the house after the early morning workout. Desperate for that first warming brew of the day. A particularly zombiefied version of exercise today. Very tired today. So nothing better than entering the kitchen to find ants. Lots of ants. Reaching for the ant poison is not an option with pets. Especially with our big boy cat who is the cat version of Ozzy Osbourne. Any substance is getting sampled. So out comes the one part lemon, one part water spray. Apparently ants don’t like lemon. If that doesn’t work then it’s time for the pepper and the inevitable sneezing cat. A few years back ants was no issue. We had a lovely but psychotic girl cat. The ultimate apex predator. Only creatures with a death wish came in the house. But now it’s up to me to sort this issue out.

So by the time schools version of homeschooling started – I was already feeling like it was way past my bedtime.

Then within minutes the first school crisis. Son has failed to submit a project in time. To be fair to him he was not in the lesson when it was given out to the class. That’s not a valid excuse for school as the child or parent should check the school emails and online files for assigned tasks. We did eventually find the relevant document hidden away in a random class file. To be fair to us – it was like searching for a needle in a haystack – when your not aware that a needle has gone missing. The teacher has granted a couple of days extension but that means son will have little free time this week. At least it gives me another excuse not to start any DIY projects. Not that I need much excuse these days.

The rest of the school day passed in a groggy haze. Trying to explain the vagaries of the English Language and working out why so many marks have been deducted for spelling mistakes. Trying to fathom out why a subject is seemingly asking questions about a completely unrelated area. And finally trying to understand what precisely is the teacher wanting the class to do. I think there is still a lot of merit in putting the questions at the end of a document. The teacher referred to 9 questions in the text but after much searching, we could only find 5.

So it’s back to the kitchen and THE ANTS. Clearly our ants are immune to lemons. So now I must resort to using up my dwindling supply of salt and pepper as weapons of ant destruction. Failing that then it’s testing various other kitchen supplies as ant repellents. Curry Powder, Chilli flakes and Turmeric. Let’s hope ants are not fans of spicy cuisine.

Village life

It’s almost time for these biscuit munchers to move to another field. The cows are massing, waiting to hit the field for the summer months. Hopefully the three cow friends of our dog are still here. Dog is wagging his tail at the sight of the herd in the distance.

That’s country life for you right there. That’s as exciting and as racy as it gets here. It’s such a different life pace than living in the city. It took me a couple of years to adjust. Life never stands still in the city. Constant noise, constant movement. Even at night it never stopped. So much light pollution, sirens wailing, so much human nightlife. Yes immediate access to facilities and entertainment but it comes at a price.

Here we get a chip van that comes once a week. A cycle race comes through maybe every couple of months. Once a year a vintage car rally might stop off. That’s it for the days. With the spaces and high hedgerows you hardly ever see signs of human life. That’s such a good thing somedays…. Son and I have our little challenges with forfeits. Basically it gives Son an opportunity to torture his Dad. I remember one challenge where the loser had to run round the garden ten times – naked. The inevitable happened and I found the whole experience most liberating. In a city that sort of behaviour would have got me quickly arrested. Here in the village all it produced was much chuckling from Son and bemused looks from the cows.

At night no street lighting or light pollution. No pub to foster human nightlife. Wander into your garden and it’s pitch black. The only noise is from the wildlife. I’ve told the story from the first night before. Stood outside looking at the stars. Amazed at how many I could see. Then a deeply unsettling feeling. I am not alone. I am being watched. Suddenly countless eyes appear at the fence. I of course took it in my stride. Screamed and ran. The eyes later revealed to be many sheep clearly waiting for biscuits.

But over the years it’s all changed. Now I find cities claustrophobic and unsettling. I’m not sure I could ever go back to living in one again. Certainly Son would struggle. He enjoys his space and the quiet. City life would be too many people in too little space. Too many sensory distractions. I remember my partner saying that we will never return to urban life. We might end up being in this house for the rest of our lives. She was right, sadly far too quickly right.

Hide

These are strange times. Time for drastic action.

Stand by the panic rooms people, it might be time to HIDE – I’ve been baking again.

I had a go at baking some cheese scones last night. Mutant ones. Dairy, Gluten and Egg Free. No baking powder. Luckily I have stumbled on a reasonable plant based cheese. Applewood.

Previous attempts with other vegan cheeses have produced a taste sensation somewhere between soggy paper and wallpaper paste. Even though I was armed with a decent cheese, I was still not taking any chances. Time to through some flavours in with reckless abandon. Chilli, Cayenne, Turmeric and Sugar.

The end results well….. It clearly didn’t matter how long those mutant scones stayed in the oven, they were coming out like an anemic ghost. Remarkably the taste was actually not too bad at all. I will class that as a result. OK, Son was far from impressed

“It looks like something from the XFILES and I dread to think what Gordon Ramsey would call it. I’m now off to use some mouthwash.”

So a few teething issues with the recipe. But I am not deterred. Setbacks make you stronger. So I’m going to return to scones but this time no holding back on the ingredients. I’m thinking Worcester Sauce, ginger, curry, Tabasco……

You have been warned.

Starsky

This is a housemate. Starsky lives in the roof above the garage. We’ve had a Starsky living in that luxury apartment since 2003. So to be correct this is probably Starsky VI. All those years ago my partner named the new roof occupier and that was it. As soon as something gets a name then they get granted special rights. Eviction was suddenly ruled out.

Each Starsky (or a very very old and resilient Starsky) has common behaviour patterns.

  • Same nest,
  • First to the daily bird food,
  • Eyeballing and squawking at anyone who dares to use the back door,
  • Spending most of the day perched on next doors chimney,
  • Hopping about the lawn and under your feat while trying to cut the grass,
  • Exactly the same bombing run patterns.

From our Sons earliest ventures out into the garden, Starsky has always been there. Every year, every season, every day. Son very much views Starksy as a member of the family. That’s why I put up with the little feathered darling crapping on my car.

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.

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.