Independent

Here’s an independent soul. A pain to catch in Pokemon Go this morning. Definitely independent.

When I managed public sector procurements and groups. Independent meant INDEPENDENT. If I broke those rules I would be sacked and if serious enough prosecuted. I knew a few people who ended up in prison for not being independent in public office.

The BBC has a management body that basically runs the company. Determines its approach to news. Is supposed to ensure it’s impartiality. For years that largely worked. That’s why BBC News was so valued internationally.

This week the Government appointed a new member to the BBC Board. A person who has worked for the ruling Conservative Party at a high level. He also happens to be the brother of the current Government Minister for Schools. Remember him, he was the one who said kids taking time off for bereavement were having ‘extended holidays’. He joins on the Independent BBC Board the Government appointed chairman of the BBC who has previously donated £400000 to the Conservative Party. He also joins another appointee who was a Conservative Party Counsellor.

Then on top of that the Government tried to put a very controversial Newspaper Friend in charge of the countries independent Media Regulator. That failed but there is always a way. The person put in charge was less controversial but is the wife of the former editor and political commentator of the biggest Conservative backing newspaper.

Independence……

A much missed quality these days here.

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.

Pokemon

Somebody is fascinated with looking into our garden. I wonder what the view is like?

2016. I keep coming back to that year. A lot of things happened then. It set the agenda for the following years. But I want to focus on one seemingly innocuous thing from that year.

We were visiting my mum in hospital on a daily basis. There was quite a bit of waiting around. That’s tough for an 8 year old. An 8 year old Aspie with ADHD. He needed distractions. My mobile phone and the games became that distraction. They would work for a few minutes before he grew restless. Then it happened.

I downloaded Pokemon Go. I had no idea what it was but it sounded cool. He loved Pokémon so what could go wrong. That was early July 2016. He was hooked. Suddenly he could happily wait. He could be distracted for hours. It helped keep him sane through the next few weeks of hell.

Four years later he is still playing the game. It is still working it’s magic. A stress buster. A challenge. An interest. A way of feeling part of a community. A sense of achievement. An easy way to keep beating his Dad.

Thank you Pokemon Go.

Mobile blues

Mobile phones are not designed for me. I have a regular habit of putting them in the washing machine, dropping them on stone floors and squeezing them into pockets alongside keys, which are not great for delicate screens. The current phone has done well to last for so long. But there comes a point on no return.

One too many bounces off an unforgiving surface.

Now only parts of the phone work. As Monty Python would say – It is an ex parrot. It can still make calls but has a habit of switching off after a few seconds. Not great when you are trying to wait in a call queue.

Well Dad you will just have to buy a replacement.”

I will add it to the ‘need to replace when money becomes available’ list. May well be not at the top.

But Dad it’s an essential item. Think of the calls you will miss.”

I don’t get that many calls these days. We have a normal phone. I know it’s hard to believe but I can remember a time before mobiles. It was great fun. I remember setting off for a meeting and driving 4 hours to Northumberland. Only to find that the meeting had been cancelled just after I had left. No way to contact me. So I had a chip butty in Morpeth and then set off back. Best work day ever. No work, chips and listening to music. Now they would have just contacted me within minutes on my mobile

Dad what on Earth is a chip butty.

Hawklad you have never lived. It’s a sandwich filled with chips (fries). It’s the food of champions.

Ok. But your phone is an essential item.”

It’s not.

It is Dad. Think of work.”

They can use the house phone and send emails to the laptop.

How will you know if I’ve missed the school bus.”

Well you won’t be on the school bus for quite a while. Actually you probably won’t be at school for a quite a while.

What about taking photos.”

I can just use the camera. The camera hardly gets used these days.

What about the music you listen to.”

I can go back to my old MP3 player.

Think of the times you use the calendar on your phone.”

Ok Hawklad I smell a rat. Why are you so keen on a new phone. Is it to do with games….

Well funny you should bring that up DAD. It’s more than a game. We need a phone to play Pokemon Go. Even the Doctor said that this app was good for me. So it’s like an essential medical prescription…”

******And with that I am on the lookout for a replacement phone. I will compromise. Definitely a previously enjoyed one. But definitely it’s jumped to the head of the buying list – that’s Doctors orders******

Creaky world tour 9

It’s time for another bit of virtual sightseeing. Last year I started my very own world tour. Let’s see how far I can get powered only by

  • My falling to bits exercise bike
  • My falling to bits running shoes
  • Pokemon Go….

When I started the tour I was restricted to Yorkshire now that has become the garden. So let’s see where we left off last time. We had just visited beautiful Timisoara in Romania. Now the journey continues. We still had many kilometres unused and we have added another 200km this week. So where have we got to….

We have arrived in the capital of Moldova, Chisinau. Let’s start with some random facts about this city.

  • A population of about 730000,
  • The official language is Moldovan,
  • During the Soviet Union the city was called Kishinyov,
  • It’s called the White Stone Town due to many of its buildings being built from Limestone.

So let’s take a look at some of the city sights.

Cathedrals

Milestii Mici

Officially the biggest wine cellar in the world

Dendrarium Park

Valea Morilor

Eternal Flame

Stefan cel Mare Park

So thank you Chisinau. Now where next on the world tour.

********* all City photos from TripAdvisor. ************

The science

Apparently I have to walk or run 50km next week so this chap evolves. Dads do have their uses when it comes to Pokémon Go. That’s probably as far as my usefulness goes. But at least I do recognise my limitations. Sadly sone people have boundless ambition and see no limit to their abilities. That is terrifying.

We foolishly watched the news.

Dad can I ask a silly question. Shouldn’t the science panel advising the Government be made up of scientists.”

Yes you would hope that a panel of scientists is in fact a group of science experts. For months the UK Government has kept going on about how it’s policy on the virus is determined by this secretive science elite. As they are scientists (and clearly they know more than we do) then we should trust Government policy. Ok that sounds like a plan.

He’s not a scientist. He’s that awful man who tells the PM what to do. How come he is on the science panel.”

After months of having to sign up to a science led approach we suddenly find out that the secretive science panel is compromised of some scientists but has key members who are political appointees. Cummings, the key PM adviser is a lead member. This is a man who believes in Eugenics – that is selective breeding and human intervention to improve the human gene pool. This is also a man who apparently thought that high levels of virus deaths was ok as most would be elderly. He’s not alone on the science panel. He has buddies. He is joined by a data specialist who came up with the Government’s online election campaign. He also has some very worrying views on the uses of private data. These two characters drive the science panel while some scientists on the panel can attend but are not allowed to ask questions. These have to be submitted in writing prior to meetings so they can be filtered. Suddenly it’s so much harder to have faith in our science led approach.

But what do I know. I’m only good for evolving pokemon.

Try harder

I must try harder to catch a few Pokémon. During the week Son likes to see his trainer account topped up with a few catches. I’ve had a fairly shocking catch rate recently. Maybe it’s the Captain Chaos effect.

Our Son struggles with his handwriting. According to several of the teachers at his school he just needs to try harder to get to the handwriting level of some of the other kids. Its one of the reasons he has been labelled low attainment.

Well that’s very helpful, thank you. Just remind me again since you are constantly picking fault with his efforts with a pen – exactly what help do you provide to try and improve things. Yes now what’s the phrase I’m looking for here. Diddly squat.

Yes his handwriting is not what you would call neat.

It has improved a bit over the years. That improvement is down to – strangely – unrecognised hard work by our Son. But we have to recognise for all the hard work it is fundamentally down to a recognised medical condition. A medical condition which has been repeatedly documented by his health professionals and communicated to school. To quote the last health letter sent to school

His poor handwriting is specifically associated with the Developmental Disorders Aspergers, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. Conventional teaching approaches to handwriting are unlikely to deliver any positive improvements. Focus should be on specific Dyslexia investigations, Fine Motor Skill development, trialling of writing aids and the use of technology.

In effect his handwriting difficulties come from two interrelated factors

  • Visual and Cognitive Letter Perception – he struggles to recognise letter forms. Letters can be reversed and letters can be mixed up (an ‘a’ maybe mixed up with an ‘e’, ‘y’ mixed up with a ‘g’).
  • Poor Fine Motor Skills. He struggles to hold a pen (often held with too much muscle force). He then finds it difficult to coordinate and control the required hand movements (his movements are not smooth).

As I’ve said improvements have been made. We did manage to secure some ongoing Physio Therapy to work on the motor skills. Due to Government cutbacks they are not as frequent as the health service would like them to be. But they have helped. At home repetitively bouncing various size bouncy balls has made a huge difference. From not being able to catch to becoming really adept at it. But he still struggles to write, struggles to tie knots and has to be helped to open things like screw bottle tops. At home we have tried various pen types and grips. We have trialled things like colour overlays and special rulers. But these have had little impact in our sons specific case. But I’m no specialist so who knows if I’m doing it correctly.

In terms of the visual and cognitive perception area unfortunately the health service is not allowed to provide any detailed dyslexia assessments. This has been defined by the Government as an educational area. And in our area the educational services have decided not to provide a specific dyslexia service. So kids like our son are left basically to fend for themselves. Branded as low attainment.

So the hard work will continue. I will try harder to catch some Pokemon. Not hopeful as I’m not that good with computer games (I struggle with fine motor skills as well). In terms of our Sons handwriting I am sure that he will continue to try hard. However just saying he must try harder completely misses the point. Just constantly pointing out the kids who write neater and saying that’s the level you should be at achieves only one thing – erodes personal confidence even more.

One final thought. Associating poor handwriting with low attainment is an interesting concept. Having worked in education, health and policing I can honestly say that the individuals often with the most illegible and scruffy handwriting are the HEADTEACHERS, DOCTORS and DETECTIVES. So if poor handwriting is a sign of low attainment – we are in trouble.

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.

Dratini sneaked in ..

I thought I would check my phone to see if I could find a photo for today’s post. But what did I find. Without help (and rather sadly) I can say it’s Dratini with his Pikachu backing band. I honestly can’t remember taking this yesterday. Yet son is claiming no responsibility for this and the other 12 Pokemon related pictures. So clearly it must have been me. I must be going barking mad……

It’s been one of those ‘It feels like the walls are slowly closing in on me’ days. Even the walk failed to lift my spirits. No chance conversations on a day that I could have really used one. But anyway I managed to put my game face on for the return of the school bus. It’s something I’ve learnt to do pretty well. We had a laugh as he ribbed me about the ongoing carnage which is my football team. I was good on the outside, not so good on the inside….

So I was not starting from a position of inner strength when our son out of the blue said

I really wonder if I have depression. I’ve heard that it can be common with people who have Aspergers. I didn’t think it would be me but life does seem tough for me most days”

He is only 12. It was another one of those parenting wasn’t supposed to be like this moments.

Its easy to forget what he’s been through in those few years. School really doesn’t help. At least it’s only 3 weeks until they break up for the summer holidays. That will help. We have started the ‘fill a jar with red and green sweets exercise’ again. Every time our son has a good moment he puts a red sweet in the jar. If he has a bad moment then he puts a green sweet in the jar. It’s a great way of assessing his relative mood. Hopefully as in previous cases we get more good sweets than bad sweets.

I really do worry that my depression is also rubbing off on him. That just would not be acceptable. I’m unlikely to be fixed any time soon so will get my best game face ready. I will redouble my efforts to ensure that he has great fun during this weekend. Let’s get the jar stacked with red sweets. Saturday morning he wants to do some Pokemon Go hunting. That will be more odd looking photos on my mobile. You have been warned for next week blog photos.

I am walking

Well he survived the first day back at school. Currently he is bouncing on the trampoline. I have got no idea where the energy comes from. He trooped in from school. Gave the school day 2 out of 10. Demolished 3 tomatoes, an apple and a slice of cake. Gave me a run down on the newly announced Generation 8 of Pokemon. Apparently this generation is based on Britain – that’s going to the grumpiest bunch of Pokemon ever…. Then he set off for the trampoline.

This is all on the back of 2 hours sleep last night. Just too anxious to sleep.

His Dad is somewhat less energised. Evidenced by this morning. I had a morning meeting. So I left the house with car keys in hand. Ten minutes later I came to my senses. I had walked straight past the car, down the drive, out of the village and heading down the path towards the next village. No idea where I was walking. If it was work then that’s a 10 mile hike…….