Little things

A beautiful little thing from warmer months.

Unfortunately many little things are not so enjoyable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s spell out Monday

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

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

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

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

Language

Presented

Sherlock

Through

Evidence

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

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

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

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

Obelisk

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

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

I think my translation is pretty accurate.

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry to swear but BLOODY HELL.

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

Respite from the deluge

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

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

Tableaux – a moment of frozen action on stage

Accumulation – adding another performer arch time a movement is repeated

Exaggeration – when you perform something in a heightened style

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

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

Correct spellings …..

Really …..

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

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

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

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

The Poorly Car Run

There is a run I do all too frequently. It’s a lovely run. It’s particularly lovely as it’s flat. But it’s a few miles away from my usual haunts. The run starts and ends at the garage. You see it’s a run which happens when my car is poorly. Today it was the tyres. So off the car went to the garage. So off I went on my Poorly Car Run. Nothing was than sitting in a garage waiting area reading about cars I can’t afford.

The run closely follows one of our larger and most beautiful rivers. The Ouse. As it’s a river that regularly floods you can see the river depth marker. Today it is quite high but thankfully below flooding levels. It did flood a few weeks ago and in the woods you can see the remnants of those high waters.

If I wasn’t about to be hammered financially by the Garage this run would be a truly stunning experience.

The run crosses the flood plains. Today it’s dry but when it floods here can be under 3ft of water. Cold Dark Yorkshire water.

It’s sad that it takes a Poorly Car to bring me here.

So the car has been returned. Monopoly money has been handed over to the Garage. It was a shorts run so my legs got well and truly muddy. Can’t imagine what a dry run feels like. So it was back to work but this muppet had forgotten a change of clothing. Work, autumn, shorts and dirty legs is not a great combo. Luckily it was a solo office stint today.

Few hours later it’s back to the latest school soap story. Another subject test sat without any reading help, no reading pen and no additional time. Even the questions are worded in such a way to make it harder for kids with Aspergers. Set up to fail. Set up to justify the schools assessment of low attainment. I really need another run to release the anger. Anger at the School. Anger at the Council. Anger at me. Anger at the Government. Above all anger at those who will flock in their millions to vote for this Government. A Government for the few.

Maybe tomorrow I will return to the Poorly Car Run. But hopefully it will be the ‘Nothing to do with the car, here out of choice to heal my soul Run’.

When diplomacy fails.

A largely stress free week for our son. It’s strange how these always coincide with times away from school. How can we have got education so badly wrong for so many kids. So many great teachers yet so many unhappy and unfulfilled children.

Our son likes lists. It reflects how is mind works. They are honest, raw and unfiltered.

Dad I have a top ten list of what I am looking forward to and not looking forward to with this school term

  • Being treated like I’m not allowed to understand stuff. I’m low attainment so I am supposed to act like it. Kids who get lower marks than me, who don’t answer as many questions are in classes above me.
  • Having to put my hand up for help. I have an invisible disability which school doesn’t want to see. So I don’t get any help. No help at all.
  • Never getting a chance to shine.
  • Having to do tests which are made to make me fail.
  • Completely pointless homework. It’s just testing your handwriting.
  • Too much noise. Too many people.
  • Being in a class with so many kids who don’t want to be there so they are naughty. Because I’m in the bottom class I’m supposed to be naughty.
  • Having to wear a uniform which is so uncomfortable and feels awful.
  • It’s never fun. Just rules and avoiding being given negatives.
  • At least it’s not an 8, 9 or 10 week school term.

So in a few hours it starts again. I will repeatedly bang my head on an unmoving brick wall as school and the local council won’t shift. They make me sound like that annoying parent who just will not see the clear logic of the situation. How dare I question the system.

All I can do is keep being there for our son. But maybe there is something else. Let’s really be that annoying pushy parent. Clearly working WITH school and the authorities doesn’t work. What has it produced. A kid stuck in bottom class getting absolutely no extra help at all.

Autism – nothing

Dyspraxia – nothing

Even the little bit of help he received with Dyslexia has been removed

Diplomacy has failed. Working with the authorities has failed. Maybe it’s time to fight them.

Silverback

Must cut my grass…..

One of those days where you line up a full day of work and then son wakes up with a temperature…. One too many coughs and he’s off sick. One too many sneezes and he’s contaminated me. Deep joy.

Still a day off from school will delay yet another bust up with the teachers. Maybe get my stress levels down to just below meltdown level.

In one subject last year he had a great teacher who seemed to get dyslexia. At the Parent Evenings she would tell us that in her opinion our son was as good as anyone in the subject in the school. She would say ok he struggles to write the knowledge down on paper – but we can find ways round that to suit him. It was refreshing to hear a teacher say that the key thing is the actual subject matter not the written English – that’s got its own subject anyway.

Unfortunately that teacher left. The replacement teacher seems to follow the school line. Neat handwriting and spelling come first, subject matter second. So now son is seen as low attainment in the subject. This terms homework project requires many pages of handwritten essay work. Points will be given for the quality of the presentation and points lost for things like spelling mistakes. So kids with dyslexia who struggle to write are being set up to fail. The school must know what a huge disadvantage this places on some kids. Oh I forgot – those kids are low attainment so it just proves the point. That’s modern education in England.

So once again I go through the finances to see if I can find a way to homeschool. Once again I fail. It’s at times like this that I feel so frustrated as a parent. It’s like constantly wading through treacle. Every step forward is such an effort. I’m so knackered – lord only knows what our son feels like. Everything seems to be stacked up against us. But sadly I bet if you asked virtually every parent and child dealing with a learning disability then they will say the same thing. It’s a never ending slog. And like all these wonderful parents and kids – we fight on. We love a quote which is maybe from Einstein, but if it isn’t, then it’s still a belter.

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid”

Or the other belter which comes from Spongebob.

“Patrick, you’re a genius!”

“Yeah, I get called that a lot.”

“What? A genius?”

“No, Patrick.”

Talking about genius. Then there is our sons Dad. I’ve been struggling with a Rhomboid injury. I had the bright idea of strapping it up with kinesiology tape. First of all – what a stupid place to put a muscle group. When you don’t have a partner – how in all that is holly am I supposed to get my hands back there… Then having dislocated my shoulders just enough to get my hands next to the Rhomboid I somehow need to attach this super sticky tape neatly across my shoulder blades. With a physio it’s a piece of cake. In my case think disaster. So several strips went on in the wrong place, creased or just badly twisted. But here’s the final insult. Now these useless attempts need to come off. Where in the instructions does it say in big letters – whatever you do if you have a back as hairy as a Silverback Gorilla on no account buy this tape. And if you are stupid enough to apply it to hair then change your name to Mr Stupid from Stupidville.

That’s me and my postal address.

The Golden Ticket

It’s amazing what you come across on a daily basis. You get good discoveries that just make you go ‘wow’. The ones you can look at for ages and get a sense of wonder.

Then you get other discoveries which make you go ‘wow’ for entirely different reasons.

Today I came across a headline in one of our so called better newspaper – The Times.

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Pupils lose out as £400m schools funding diverted to special needs

Children have been losing out because millions of pounds earmarked for their education has been siphoned off to pay for special needs education, an investigation by The Times has found.

A surge in pupils categorised as having special needs has led schools to lay off staff, increase class sizes and cut back on subjects as councils raid mainstream education budgets to fund support for them.

One headteacher said that the funding reforms introduced in 2014 created a new education, health and care plans that were seen by some parents as golden tickets”

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Don’t try to read the article as you have to pay Murdock for the pleasure. No free news here. Where do we start with this article from the Rupert Murdock stable.

  • Am I missing the point here but surely SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) kids are pupils as well. My son is a pupil surely. Not according to this newspaper. Clearly The Times would like to scrap inclusion and go back to the good old days where too many kids where denied the opportunity of mainstream education. The Times journalists have an underlying principle to most of its commentaries. Well if I don’t need that support so why should we be paying for it.
  • This article is likely to cause some parents to start resenting and blaming SEND kids for school problems. It’s pouring fuel on the fire of resentment and bullying. Basically what this article is saying is the those SEND kids are robbing Normal kids. It is deeply irresponsible and distasteful journalism.
  • The article doesn’t mention the 1500 SEND kids who are unable to find a mainstream school that will accept them. But it according to this journalist – that doesn’t matter as they are not pupils.
  • Blaming SEND kids for the £400m short fall in school budgets is lamentable. Clearly according to The Times this countries crisis in class sizes and falling teacher numbers is purely down to SEN kids. Let’s not mention that school budgets have been severely squeezed as a directly consequence of Government funding cuts. Let’s not mention that this Government introduced a new assessment system but refused to fund that change, That’s the very Government this newspaper supports whole heartedly.
  • This country has had a crisis in SEND school funding for years. It is chronically underfunded, it has always been chronically underfunded. Recently it has been subject to further Government cuts. No mention of that then.
  • A surge in pupils categorised as having special needs. It makes it sound as if suddenly parents are inventing SEND symptoms. This country has an estimated 350000 kids with a learning disability. Most experts say this is a fraction of the actual number. So many kids go through education without having a learning disability diagnosed. For too many years we have failed to address this educational crisis. This is going to get worse as a direct consequence of Government Policy as the criteria for SEND diagnosis is becoming stricter – purely to save money and not based on any health grounds. This is at the same time that funding cuts are resulting in longer wait times for an actual diagnosis to take place.
  • Finally ‘a golden ticket’. Really. In our case it’s the reverse of the article. The funding which has been awarded to our son for his learning disabilities is being used to part fund Teaching Assistant support for the whole school. The article also fails to reference that most SEND parents are already paying for additional care and educational support. This so called Golden Ticket only covers a fraction of the true cost of support.

Once again journalism gives us an insight into the deep rooted problems we have in society. The media reflects the current views of our so called Governments. It shows how far we have to go. How difficult this fight is going to be. I will leave the last word to my old Dad. He would call The Times ‘excellent toilet paper’. Thats all its good for.

Numpty Award

The world is increasingly been filled with Charlatans, Liars, Cheats, Self Absorbed Tossers and Unadulterated Numpties. For too long these individuals have gone unrecognised. So I’m going to rectify this by introducing our very own Numpty Award which will be fittingly named after the UK’s most esteemed PM.

The the first Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson Numpty Award goes to this man. Nick Gibb who is the UK’s School Minister.

Today good old Nick made the following comment about today’s brilliant Global Climate Strike.

“We share the passion, as a Government, of young people for tackling climate change, and that is why this Government and this country is committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gases by 2050.

But we don’t think it should be at the expense of a child’s education because what we want is for the next generation to be as well educated as possible to tackle these kinds of problems.”

So Nick shares the passion does he. This is clearly backed up by his Parliamentary voting record on addressing climate change. According to TheyWorkForYou.com on measures to prevent climate change he has “generally voted against” these. His record is 10 votes for, 17 against and 5 absences.

He seems happy with the commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That’s another 30 years of screwing the planet then.

He has voted for the reintroduction of Fox Hunting and backed the culling of badgers.

Let’s not forget that dear old Nick was the Minister who told schools that kids going through bereavement must be in school. He called kids missing school on the grounds of grief as ‘an extended holiday’.

This is a man who is convinced that increased discipline and a return to the 1950s school system is the answer to our educational problems.

This is the chap who refused to separate spelling testing from the assessments for 10 year olds even though Teachers and Dyslexia Associations objected to the fairness of the approach.

This is the man who told schools they must only to use Phonics to teach kids spelling. Another policy which appalled teachers and health professionals. Yes phonics can work for many kids but is completely the wrong approach for some kids, especially those with special needs. Nicks approached moved schools away from explaining what words mean to learning parrot fashion how to spell a set list of words.

This is the man who introduced exams for 4 year olds. FOUR YEAR OLDS. Yes the wonderful baseline testing which is largely rejected by educational professionals and parents.

And let’s not forget that the man behind so much testing for kids 4 and 10 year olds actually got one of his own English questions wrong live on radio. He then refused to answer the maths question thrown at him.

This is the guy who said exams didn’t put pressure on kids. Social media was the cause of the pressure.

So I present to you Nick Gibb the first holder of the Numpty Award. Who can deny this monumental bellend his moment of glory.

Food purgatory

My diet is bad. Very bad. My Dad would call it minging. It’s been awful for years. Too much of the bad stuff. Too little of the good stuff. I drink that much coffee that the fluid in my body is no longer water, it’s pure caffeine. That’s probably why I don’t look like George Clooney. Oh hang on George does coffee – that doesn’t work does it. Anyway I’ve not looked like Clooney, suffered from IBS and had a nervous tummy since my college days. The last couple of years haven’t helped it at all.

I knew something had to be done but I kept putting it off. Then I read some great posts on healthy eating and food detox cleanses. This was one of them

Riddle from the Middle

Well finally the penny has dropped. This is Day 8 of my food purgatory. No junk food, no sweets, no chocolate, no crisps, no chips, no popcorn, no peanut butter, no spicy stuff, no dairy, no gluten, no soya, no artificial or processed rubbish. NO COFFEE….. It’s been steamed veg, boiled rice, organic protein, herbal tea and tanker loads of water with a slice of lemon. And as much exercise as time and the body will permit.

Food wise it’s not been too bad. Not been that hungry – although I have been found gnawing on chair legs a few times. But coffee that’s been tough. Especially on the morning. Badly needed an alternative to shift me out of the non functioning zombie state. Luckily I’ve stumbled across one. A squeezed lemon with a ton of fresh ground ginger. Granted it’s an acquired taste. But it doesn’t half shock the system. I understand a similar recipe was used by NASA as fuel for the Apollo Saturn V rocket.

So it’s been a self imposed purgatory. NOW Son has come out in support however his is not quite so self imposed. Last Week when he returned from school he had been eating us out of house and home. Well on Friday I checked his online school lunch account to see if it needed topping up. Bizarrely it had hardly been used that week.

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Son what have you been eating at school lunch. You have hardly spent any money this week.

Not much really Dad.

Why haven’t you been hungry?

No been starving. On Monday in the class before lunch the teacher kept us back because of the behaviour of some of the other kids. When we got to the kitchen they had sold out of flapjacks and sandwiches the other food wasn’t good for me. Tuesday was fine and got my usual. Wednesday and Thursday we where on the other side of the site. So when we got to the kitchen the queue was massive and it was taking ages so I grabbed a bottle of water as all the good food had gone. On Friday by the time we got to the end of the queue it was almost time for lessons to start so I grabbed a flapjack and went to class. Your not allowed to eat in class so I had that on the bus coming home.

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So school got another angry phone call and another formal complaint. The problem is that schools in the UK have been forced to cut back on school lunch expenditure. Plus the pressure to deliver the set national curriculum has forced many schools to drastically cut the school lunch breaktime. It’s the only way they can meet the demands of government. Feeding kids is not up there on the priorities. In all the surveys and questions we have had to complete for school inspections Lunch has never once been mentioned. It’s all about the national curriculum. How can a kid learn when he’s hungry. Let’s not beat about the bush most of the reasons for these problems is down to those in charge of our countries education. Basically the government picks numpties with Victorian values to run education. I’ve previously mentioned the Minister who viewed kids being off after a bereavement as AN EXTENDED HOLIDAY.

The school argues that they are following government policy, that the budgets have been slashed and that some food is always available. Problem is that when you are an Autistic kid the range of acceptable food can be limited. If it’s the wrong colour, wrong texture or mixed up with other food then it never going to be consumed.

A pack-up is not really easy most days as his big school bag is filled to busting with essential books, equipment and sports kit. Most days he’s already walking around school with a full bag on his shoulders and hands full with books he can’t fit into the bag. I have started filling up one side pocket with chocolate bars and snacks so at least he’s got something to snack on. A supersized school bag is on order which will hopefully be big enough to fit in a pack-up box.

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So this is a house of food purgatory for a variety of reasons. Hopefully it will make me healthier. Hopefully son’s purgatory has ended. It might even make both of us better prepared for the potential food shortages if our PM gets his way and we crash out of the EU in six weeks. As Monty Python say – always look on the bright side of life.