Sad Playlist

It’s been yet another wet, muddy and stormy day. This photo was taken during one of the slightly drier spells.

Grim dog walk.

Exceedingly grim run.

I wasn’t planning on running today but I just needed to get out of the house. I felt the house walls closing in on me. For times like this I often find a run is the most reliable way of clearing my head. It certainly worked. Not sure it worked for the skin. Came back looking like a Prune.

When I say running works I should add And listening to music on my MP3 player as well. I have a playlist for this type run. The music is either quite deep or somber. I blame my mum for this. If she was feeling down she would always listen to music. Always sad songs. As soon as you went through the front door you could tell if mum was trying to cheer herself up. Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Runrig, Sinatra, Roger Whittaker or Andy Williams would be blasting out. She always said that sad songs cheered her up. I always thought it was very bizarre yet all these years later and I’m doing the same. So here goes. Here are some of the songs which have made the list. And no Roger Whittaker and Durham Town is not included.

Alter Bridge – Godspeed

Disturbed – Sound of Silence

Shinedown – Get Up

Five Finger Death Punch – Gone Away

Runrig – Somewhere

Avenged Sevenfold – So far away

Johnny Cash – Hurt

Anathema – One Last Goodbye

Leonard Cohen – You want it darker

Queen – Who wants to live forever

Neal Morse – He died at home

Pink Floyd – Coming Back to Life

Just in case Mum is expecting it, here’s one just for mum. This is certainly not on the playlist.

Roger Whittaker – Durham Town

And here’s one for my partner. This could make the playlist.

Madness – It must be love

Grief and muddy puddles

A brief respite before the next storm arrives. Grey, cold and very muddy. Soon to be grey, cold, very muddy, very wet and stormy. It’s been one of those winters. Constantly just trying to avoid deep muddy puddles. Today I failed. My old running shoes have hardly any tread left on them. As I tried to sidestep a large puddle my foot slipped and I ended up standing in 4 inches of dirty water. Lovely. I really should buy a good pair of trail shoes but money is a little tight. Expenditure is prioritised. They will have to wait their turn.

If you we’re like me then you tried not to think about death and grief. I knew it would strike at some stage (that’s life) but best not think about it too much. I could understand the emotions as I had experienced losing my Dad when I was quite young. But I was shielded from much of the fallout. I really didn’t have the faintest idea about the practicalities. Years passed and I avoided thinking about death again. Then my mum died. This time no shield. Suddenly I was grieving again but this time I was also dealing with practicalities. So when my partner then died 6 weeks later. I was doubling up on the emotions and doubling up on the practicalities.

That is what’s tough about losing someone so close to you. At your lowest emotional point you are saddled with practicalities. You can’t think but you are trying to organise

  • Registering the death
  • Informing people
  • Organising a funeral
  • Sorting out your job
  • Sorting out your partners job. Returning work assets and documents.
  • Trying to work out finances
  • Trying to find the will and wade your way through probate
  • Dealing with Government Departments, Banks, Utility Companies
  • Trying to change the deeds to the house
  • Going through personal items and enduring countless trips to charity shops
  • Trying to change car ownership so I can sell her car
  • Sorting out what to do with the ashes

Your not even warned that the ashes come back in a glorified giant sweet jar. I wasn’t expecting an Egyptian Sarcophagus but I certainly wasn’t expecting a sweet jar shaped thing.

Like grief the practicalities tend to stick with you. As we were not married probate was brutal and took 15 months to finally bottom out. I didn’t expect that. I never considered that my career would have to be ditched quickly as it became incompatible with the now number one priority – single parenting. Suddenly two steady incomes dropped to one zero based hours contract income. Where did that practicality come from. I should have realised really. The sudden loss of someone your intrinsically linked with is going to send seismic waves through the very foundations of your life. Stuff will fall down. Things will change. Seismic waves – guess whose been trying to help son with Wave Theory for school.

So here we are in 2020 and I’m still dealing with grief. Still dealing with practicalities. I have managed to kinda stabilise the new post death financial world. But things are tight. Very tight. Again something I would never have immediately associated with losing someone close to you. But it is what it is. You prioritise the essential stuff. Unfortunately brand shiny mud loving trail shoes are not essential. So I guess it won’t be the last muddy puddle I end up standing in.

I guess I can forgive myself for not seeing that particular connection. Grief and muddy puddles.

Odd sizes

Running. Running. Keep on running to try and get closer to the hot air balloon. As hard as I tried this was as close as I got. In the photo it looks so small. Odd sizing.

Only two hours work today. Really could do with a few more hours. But that’s the price you pay for having to work to a zero based contract. What I miss out in terms of money is balanced by the flexibility it affords me. I’m lucky it’s run by good honest people. On the way back home I called into the supermarket. The shop has over the last few days introduced a new car parking layout. After two minutes of unsuccessfully trying to park I realised the problem. Unless you are driving the smallest two seater then your car is going to be too big for the parking bays. Clearly the shop only wants to attract those with car boots the size of glove compartments. Odd sizing.

Is it so difficult for running shoe manufacturers to actually use a shoe sizing standard which applies to all trainers. Each manufacturer seems to have a slightly different definition of what size 9 is. That’s UK 9 or EU 43 or US 9.5. Yet depending on which brand I go for sometimes I need to buy a 9. Then again sometimes it has to be 9.5. Then again 8.5 has been the best fit. That’s even before we go down the line of feet width. According to some manufacturers I’m wide, some think I’m standard and one company think I’m narrow. This is all fine as you can try them on in the shop. But what happens if you need to buy them online because they are so much cheaper. It’s a nightmare. My new trainers came today. With New Balance I’m either a 9 or 9.5. So I played safe and went 9.5(wide). And guess what they are too pigging small. So they have to be sent back. Deep breath. Along with Son’s new coat. Which was too small even though I went two year sizes up – so he could grow into it. Ha ha. Very odd sizing.

Yesterday was the school bag apocalypse day. Every two weeks we have one day which requires separate kits for Drama, indoor PE and outdoor Games. The day also involves Design Technology with its own wheelbarrow full of items. On top of this he needs to bring the bucketload of daily required school gear including books and iPad. And then as Monty Python would say ‘just one more wafer thin mint’ – room needs to be found for his lunch (as school can’t guarantee that he will be given food). Poor kid was sent in with two extra large rucksacks packed to busting. Too busting for his plastic lunch box. So with trepidation the food is sent in a food bag. Asking for trouble.

Dad I look like I’m carrying a parachute and a paraglider.

No wonder when he comes home we have rucksack chaos resulting in sports kit being scattered over a 15 mile radius. Even accounting for lost items you can still see the forces building inside the bags like an overheating pressure cooker. The seams fighting not to burst like The Hulks pants. And at the bottom of the last bag is his uneaten packed lunch. Due to the Black Hole type conditions at the bottom of the bag the packed lunched has been compressed into a fraction of its original size.

“I take it you didn’t have your packed lunch.”

No after PE it was missing in action.

Did you get a school lunch then.”

No by the time I had got everything back into the bag the queue was too long for lunch. So I just gave it a miss.

You must be starving. What do you want to eat now”

Super size bowl of cornflakes with a mega packet of crisps. The biggest banana in the house washed down with a pint of orange juice. Then the biggest bar of Cadbury’s chocolate as second helpings.

****

That’s an odd sizing order I can finally sign up to.

Vanish

A wall which needs to be crossed, damp moss and a spare pair of trainers with hardly any tread left. That my friends is a recipe for disaster. Today’s woodland trail run was blocked by a tree felling operation. Either that or Yorkshire is clearly the location for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 25. The deafening roar of multiple chainsaws close by. For what ever reason the trail was taped off. So two options. Turn back or cross the wall. An attractive downhill path swung the decision in favour of the green wall. Twenty seconds later I’m lying face first in a muddy puddle. Forty minutes later I am stood semi naked in front of the washing machine trying to work out how much Vanish I need to add for caked mud clothes. Two hours later a fully clothed Neanderthal is now surveying the wonderful job Vanish had done to my running kit. My once blue leggings are now a mottled light blue psychedelic design. The dark blue leggings colouring had now jumped ship and transformed my once white running top. But the muds gone. That Vanish is good stuff.

For that time when the runner has gone thud

And his clothes are covered in filthy mud

When soap and water won’t do the job

And that runner doesn’t want to look a slob

In need of rescue after that mossy wall

Which hero are you going to call?

With just 5 scoops your colours will banish

But that mud will be gone thanks to VANISH.

I was lost for an idea for the returning Chelsea Owens Terrible Poetry contest. But thanks to chainsaw wielding lunatics and a mossy wall a terrible poem was born.

If you fancy a go then this weeks rules are

  1. Let’s start off with a fun Topic: commercial jingles. Pick a product and *wow* us with an awful little diddy.
  2. Most commercials have a short runtime, so keep theLength fairly short as well.
  3. Do you need to Rhyme? No, but catchy tales bring in more sales.
  4. Look, chum: just Make it terrible. Make your audience sit up, take notice, and frantically push the Mute button until the horror passes.
  5. This needs to be appropriate for General Audiences. Write accordingly.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (January 10, 2020) to submit a poem to Chelsea’s site.

One final irony. Vanish normally comes in bright pink containers. I went on Amazon to see if I could find a cheap pair of running leggings. One pair stood out. Unbelievably cheap. And the colour. Bright Pink. Yorkshire you have been warned…..

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….

Breaking his body

Running past this monumental feels like a daily privilege. Must admit running anywhere these days is a privilege.

The last two years brought injury after injury. Clearly doing the same thing over and over again was not working. Finally the penny dropped. But it did take the doctor warning me that actually I might have to PERMANENTLY STOP running and working out for common sense to finally take hold. Change was needed. A new exercise approach was put in place. Alternate Home CrossFit days with a day of running or cycling. No same exercise on two consecutive days. Sunday is a gentle exercise bike session and yoga. No pre exercise stretching warmup. If an exercise is causing the body pain stop it for a few days. If the exercise hurts again stop for a few weeks. If it hurts again then ditch the exercise. THATS IT. So far it’s working (touch wood). Four months of uninterrupted, mostly pain free exercise.

Change worked.

Our sons Aspergers journey continues. It’s a journey without a map. Who knows where it may lead. But I do have a gut feeling. The health professionals have talked about the possibility of our son becoming increasingly ill at ease with social interactions. Although from the age of 5 he has always struggled with this 2019 certainly has seen this intensify. Increasingly he just wants to spend his time in the safety of his home realm.

Although he seeks isolation from the outside world he struggles to be on his own. In our one parent, one child, mad pets kinda world that in practice means he struggles to be without me. With the advice from his health experts we have tried to gradually change things up to help with this. But it hasn’t worked. We tried things like him staying on his own at the house while I took the dog for a quick walk. Even though I would tell him the route. Stay in the village. Talk to him on the phone while I walked. The brief periods of solitude would throw him into a nervous meltdown. Any longer than 10 minutes and he would have to come looking for me. The only thing it achieved was to spike his anxiety levels. We decided to abandon the changes.

Whether this is Aspergers or whether it’s to do with losing his mum or both – who knows. But currently as a single parent I have to make the necessary adjustments to work around these constraints. One of which is that when he’s not at school my exercise programme is tied to the house or garden. Hence that rather puzzled look I got on Saturday. A group of walkers giving this rather odd looking chap a puzzled look. Even standing to watch for a few seconds. In the pouring cold rain why is a man in his garden dressed in shirts and a T-shirt jumping on and off an exercise bike to throw a 20lb kettlebell about.

It’s because I’m a single parent who can’t leave the house who has found a way to keep himself fit while not breaking his body. At least allow me that.

Long term project

Another grey day. Cheating a bit here. This photo was from yesterday. I never got that far today…

This morning the mist was much thicker. This time it was freezing fog. That awful stuff where all the dampness turns to ice as soon as it touches the ground. An invisible layer of sheet ice. Perfect running conditions. Not.

After two hundreds yards I had landed on my backside twice. The second including a beautiful slide into a road gutter. A third attempt ended 50 yards later as I went face first this time. Somehow I did a beautiful front somersault and landed on my feet again. Quickly looking round to see no one had witnessed my MVP sporting moment of 2019. That was it. An abandonment. A wise abandonment as I slipped over a couple of times on my short journey home.

It was so frustrating. With the Christmas School Holiday starting Friday I only had two more running opportunities left. After that the next run will be several days into 2020. But it is what it is. Hopefully a run tomorrow then I will make the best of home based exercises. At least for two weeks I won’t be running around like Bambi on ice. In my case that’s not a pleasant image. Especially as it’s from a time when Bambi has let himself go a bit….

While I was mind numbingly bored on the exercise plan b option. The exercise bike. I started thinking again about bereavement and grief. Looking back I recalled that for ages I was not able to talk about the circumstances surrounding my partners death. Every time it came up I broke down almost immediately. Now when I talk about it I’m almost very matter of fact. Almost devoid of emotion. In an hear a few cry so your over it now. Yet the other emotional triggers still set me off. Anniversaries. Special Days. A movie moment. A song line. Moments alone. Stressful times. An unexpected find.

It’s almost as if I have accepted her actual death but I haven’t accepted that she is no longer here. In reality I am so lucky. I have so many memories and her precious son – our son. I will gratefully run with them. Yes I’m going to fall. Going to fall often. But I need to pick myself up and treasure what is still left. This is a long term project.

Pink

Colour hanging grimly on in Yorkshire. This is an oasis surrounded by unremitting greyness.

Truly dreadful weather day. The wind has been blowing horizontal rain at the back door all day. Currently on the third towel trying to keep the utility room dry. It’s a bit of a losing battle. Let’s hope it’s the only losing battle today. I went to vote straight after the morning’s school run. Let’s leave it as that. Tomorrow will either be a hopeful post or a monumental rant of a post. You have been warned.

I’m writing this as son sits on the sofa watching a documentary on his tablet about Auschwitz. Yesterday he watched a few videos on the plight of the Palestinians. Puts everything into perspective. The fact that the youth of today watch this gives me hope for the future. Let’s hope we leave the next generation with a habitable planet so that they can mould a far better world.

With work for the day completed I set off for a run. Better described as a splash. Wow it was wet. After a few miles my poor hands were frozen so I foolishly put them in my waterproofs pockets for a warm. Rather than finding a haven of warmness they found a hidden pool of cold rain water. Lovely. I’m pleased that I opted for shorts. Not sure I fancied my leggings shrinking. My mind goes back to a mountain marathon during my university days. A six hour night drive to the Highlands of Scotland ready for the 9am race start. Everything was going so well until we arrived and changed for the race. I had forgotten my shorts. 30 minutes to the start time and the nearest sports shop was 20 miles away. The strange looks I was was getting as I walked around the runners saying ‘have you got a spare pair of shorts’. Looking like I would have to sit out the race when my race partner came to the rescue. ‘I can wear my shorts and you can try to use my leggings’. The problem was my partner was called Suzanne and she was somewhat more petite than me. To much laughter on her part I squeezed into the tight leggings. I was the only male competitor running in bright pink. It was also the only competitor that completed the race in with tears. Must admit the constrictor leggings did wonders for my dodgy hamstrings. But since then tight leggings have gone nowhere near my nether regions.

With my wet run completed it was a quick change and off on the school run. As a I arrived a very sodden Son trudged across the car park still in his sports gear. You could see him shaking with cold and the water dripping off his clothes. With the car heating full on he tried to get changed into his dry school uniform.

*****

“You’re drenched why didn’t you get changed out of your wet kit”

I didn’t want to risk it. We only get 5 minutes to change. If we are not out in that time you get a negative from the teacher.

Have any kids been given negatives”

Virtually every week at least one kid gets a negative. It’s unfair especially as it’s the last lesson of the day.

*****

And another telephone call will be made to school. Five minutes. When I played football it would take me at least 10 minutes to get changed. It took five minutes just to prize my constrictor pink leggings off my butt all those years ago. Five minutes sounds tight before you factor in Aspergers and Dyspraxia. Getting changed does not come easy to him. School have been told this on several occasions by me and in writing by the Paediatrician. So much for the school making positive adjustments to make his school life comfortable and enriching.

It’s the frustration felt by far too many children and their parents. Everything has to be fought for. It’s a battle to get a diagnosis in the first place then the real fight starts. Trying to get any positive adjustments and help. As much as the media try to paint a different story … we are not looking for special treatment … we just want our kids (all kids) to get a fair chance in life. Is that too much to ask for.

*** late addition *** it WILL be a monumental rant….

Splendid

Running is such a release for me. It was such a shock when I was advised to stop due to injury. As I’m no spring chicken I feared that was it. But luckily a period of recuperation and a completely changed exercise regime has got me pounding the trails again. Some days you think WHY…..

Drenched, cold and running into a 20mph wind. Unfortunately I’m not what you would call aerodynamic. Today I felt like a tub of lard. An unfit Tub of lard would probably have gone quicker into that wind than me. At least nobody witnessed my struggles. These winter months it feels like I have the place to myself. Splendid isolation it might be but oh for the occasional running partner.

Splendid isolation is a phrase our son likes. I think he’s decided that he would love to have a circle of friends while getting as far away as possible from everyone else. I think most of us probably feel that way these days.

As a parent you desperately want your kids to be happy. Seeing the world through my eyes I often see happiness in terms of him spending time with a range of friends. Yet in reality this doesn’t happen. Over the last 16 months he’s been invited to one birthday party and probably had no more than 5 or 6 meet-ups (if that). The friends he made at his last school have slowly drifted into new friendship circles. The way his new school has put him in a class with none of his old friends has not helped. When I spoke to the school they argued that as he was basically low attainment they didn’t have any option open to them. Read low attainment as being dyslexic and being on the spectrum. And NO school – sitting a random kid next to him in a class does not count as a friend. Last year he did start to make a couple of friends in his class but both kids were moved up into a higher class in the summer. Out of school there are no kids his age in the village. Hardly any kids at all and certainly no communal play facilities for miles. But that’s through my eyes.

Through his eyes it’s Splendid Isolation. He will find the right people to be friends with in his own time and in his own way. Until then he’s more than happy with his Old Pop and doing things on his own. It’s important that we recognise that everyone is different. And difference is a good thing. To me being so isolated is a significant cause of anxiety – but not to our son. To me running is a brilliant releases – but to our son running is monumentally boring and should be restricted to no more than the occasional 5 yard burst. He does have a point.

A little bit of France

A largely sleepless night. Too much time to think. World seeming particularly cold this morning. In need of a lift. For some reason the run didn’t work today. Just a freezing slog. A slow 30 minutes and then the motivation battery completely drained. So back home even colder and still in need of a lift.

But then salvation. Old photographs. Memories. Great Memories.

Back to 2001 which finds us in the Loire.

Chateau de Chenonceau was built over the River Cher in 1576. It’s French Renaissance Architecture at at finest. The chateau has a fine collection of masterpieces, tapestries and renaissance furniture. The long Grand Gallery stretches over the bridge and across the river. It’s a stunning place. Inside and outside.

As much as the chateau brings back great memories one photograph lifted my spirits. It reminds me how truly blessed I was to spend time with this special person. Always in love. That makes me smile.