You don’t look like

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

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

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

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

You don’t look like a vegetarian

– You don’t look like someone with depression

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

– You don’t look like your passport photo

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

You don’t look like your best pleased

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

You don’t look like someone who plays Pokemon Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Huddle

Now that’s how you do a huddle.

HU DD LE

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

Alliteration – ALL IT ERA TI ON

Advertisement – AD VER TI SEM ENT

Exaggeration – EX AG GE RAT I ON

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

GO VE RN ME NT

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

LO VE

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

SM I LE

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

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

UN DE RB AK ED

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

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

MU PP ET.

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

BO RIS JO HN SON IS A LY ING TW AT

Knife edge

Another day and yes more rain. It’s been that wet for weeks we have new streams starting to form. More rain it will get bigger. A couple of dry days and it will be gone. It’s survival is on a knife edge.

Yesterday two things happened which got me thinking.

  • I went for a run in the rain and the mud. It was actually great fun. Had the forest and hills to myself. For a few minutes I felt connected to nature again. So good for the soul and it helped lift the veil which has shrouded me for days. After a couple of miles I encountered a steep downward muddy bank. Combination of my rubbish well worn trail shoes and trying to run to fast – quickly I slipped. Who needs a toboggan when you have a butt like mine. I slid at an alarming rate for about 30 yards. Somehow missed some alarmingly large boulders.
  • While trying to give the dog another bath. He is just a mud magnet at the moment. I slipped on the wet bathroom floor. Went down with a violent bang. Really cracked my head, my back and my knee. Luckily apart from some bruises no damage. But for a few seconds I was crumpled up on the floor pretty sure I must have broken something.

Both of these incidents could have ended up oh so differently. Fine margins.

So many of us live survive on fine margins. Operating without a safety net. Knife edge budgets. Parents or carers with no support and no cover. People trying to balance multiple jobs while maintaining a family life. People needing care but with insufficient support. People becoming increasingly isolated from society with wafer thin social connections. People battling odds stacked against them.

Life is always about fine margins. Many people will understand this.

My parenting support net was ruptured three years ago. Suddenly it was parenting and caring on a knife edge. No one else there for our son. I’ve got the ball and I just can’t drop it. I have to be there for him. But what happens if one day I don’t miss that large boulder or the bathroom floor is less forgiving. Forgive the language but the answer is – we are screwed.

But in the great scheme of things – we are lucky. So far we have managed. Yes money is very tight but we are stable. Far too many good people have fallen on the wrong side of the knife edge.

One worrying trend paints this picture. In Britain the use of Food Banks has gone from a few thousand food parcels issued in 2010 to millions of emergency hand outs in 2019. But here’s the rub. The Government has washed its hands of the problem.

Our Home Secretary said “You can’t blame the Government for poverty”

The vile Michael Gove helpfully pointed out that families who survive on handouts from Food Banks only have themselves to blame because they were “unable to manage their finances”.

Both of these characters will earn a minimum £142,000 a year. £142k was an amount our Prime Minister said that he struggled to live on. On top of that modest BASIC income they will top it up further. In the case of the Home Secretary she was also working as a strategic advisor to a Communications Company. Her poverty wage for that job was paid at £1000 per hour. They don’t have the first clue about the real world and what it’s like to be on a knife edge.

So yes we are fortunate as a family. But we are so aware that many are in a far worse place. Its all about fine margins. One unforeseen incident and suddenly we lurch to the wrong side of the edge. That is such a sobering thought.

Feel it

Autumn is coming I can feel it.

That anniversary is coming I can feel it.

Coming up to three years on the grief train.

The world flies past the window with no slowing down.

Unclear where I am heading or the purpose of the journey .

Captive Passenger on this locomotive with absolutely no sign of a conductor.

Who would have thought that after 3 years I would still feel so completely confused . Don’t get me wrong I am so lucky. I have a purpose to focus on. Give son the best childhood he can possibly have under the circumstances. Be there for him when he needs me for as long as that may be. My life is completely focused on our son.

And yet.

I realise that as son becomes increasingly independent (that has to be the goal) then I will need to start finding my own life again. My own self purpose. Will need the pesky grief train to stop at a new destination. But here is the conundrum. I’m driving the train, I’m the passenger, I’m the conductor. It’s down to me. I have to want that new destination to arrive and then I need to open the train door – and then decide to leave the train.

I’m using up valuable air. I owe it to the world to start living again. Eventually.

To be or not to be

A beautiful delicate flower. Unfortunately it has decided to grow directly on the mad dogs preferred route to his watering zone. Given the unruly speed the four legged wrecking ball hurtles down this path it’s not the ideal environment for delicate beauty. Will it survive. Will it be crushed to a pulp. Who knows.

The new school year is looming. Will we start. Will we home educate. With all the emotions swirling around the house currently it’s not the easiest time to focus on crucial matters. But it’s decision time.

As our health service points out – The school system is failing our son. No additional support is provided in terms of his Aspergers. In terms of Dyslexia it’s the bare minimum. The assumption is that he can’t read, never will read and he will be shown how to use a reading pen for the final exams. Set low exam expectations and anything achieved is a bonus. Let’s be clear that’s not all the teachers. Some do see the potential. Unfortunately his biggest supporter has left this summer. It will be illuminating to see if the school move him up to higher sets this year. His effort, his behaviour, his results clearly highlight the correct answer. A number of teachers have also recommended that course of action. But kids with dyslexia are often just bottom classed.

Yet the evidence suggest that the school system is wrong. The Doctors continually state that it is far too early to give up on the reading. The work they do demonstrate much promise. A kid who has been written off now can read the subtitles which appear on movies. He can read text messages. Today he read a 2 line subtitle and only got one word wrong – minority. He’s achieved that progress without school help.

He needs a tailored approach to development. But to be fair the schools hands are tied by government policy and cutbacks. Tailored education does not happen unless you can afford to go private. Private like the entire Government has enjoyed. Home Education currently allows the parent to tailor the approach. You can develop an approach that best suits the individual. Unfortunately the government is keen to stop this as well.

The major obstacle to home education is having one parent. It’s trying to home educate and trying to bring in sufficient income at the same time. I just can’t make the numbers stack up. I just can’t find enough hours in the day (& night).

The bottom line is that I currently just can’t home educate and balance the books. Home education is the right option but it’s also currently an impractical one. So much frustration. If we still had two parents then it would be doable. It just feels like our son is being penalised again for something outside his control. That makes me angry. Very angry. What’s the line – you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Hopefully I don’t turn green. That anger fuels the desire to find a way. Our son deserves that. He deserves at the very least a parent who tries.

So in two weeks our son will return to school. Hopefully to a much improved education. But if it continues to fail then we will just have to find a way.

Shopping

I ventured into a Supermarket today. What was I thinking about. Son wisely stayed in the car and watched Red Dwarf episodes. When I went shopping with my partner it seemed to insulate me from the madness occurring around us. Now as a single shopper I seem to absorb everything. It’s a truly bizarre experience.

First of all why do some supermarkets insist that they will only permit you to use one of the trolleys only if you first feed it a one pound coin. Could I find a one pound coin. Could I buggery. After 10 fruitless minutes ransacking the car I had to go into the supermarket to see if they would change a £10 note. “I’m sorry we are not allowed to give change”. So I bought the cheapest packet of sweets I could find. I fed the trolley it’s coin and off we went – in circles. Why is it of the 100 trolleys available I picked the one with the jammed wheel. So I tried again. This time the trolley went in a reasonably straight line but as I entered the shop the little blighter started squeaking. When I say squeaking I mean SQUEAKING. We are talking a 10000 opera singing mice squeaking through the Motorhead sound system. Too late to change as my first items are loaded.

I was going to get a melon but I watched as a chap proceeded to pick up every melon, squeeze them and then appear to smell them. Eventually he found one which he could love. Unfortunately I suddenly did not fancy a previously sniffed melon.

A little kid picking his nose ferociously within inches of the deli counter rather changed my view on lunch options.

Unbelievably I then watched as a woman started checking out every single cucumber. She was seriously squeezing each one. Some even got tapped on the counter. Strangely I crossed off Cucumber from the shopping list as I have a strict no purchase policy for all previously violated vegetables.

As I was trying to find just one tin of soup which was dairy free I heard a chap ask a Shop Assistant where the teabags could be found. The helpful advice the chap got was – well it’s not in this aisle it will be next to the coffee. When the chap asked where the coffee was he was told. It used to be in aisle 3 but they moved it. I’m sure you will find it if you keep going round the shop.

Then an old lady asked if I could pass her a tin of peaches down. I’m one 1/2 inch above average height. Why in God’s name do shops insist on having shelves where even an average height person has to go on tip toes to reach the stuff we are trying to buy. The poor woman who can’t be 5ft has got no chance shopping. Maybe the shop could hire stilts along with the trolley.

The aisle with the tomato ketchup and other sauces was cordoned off. Clearly a jar of something red had been dropped. However it must have been dropped with some force as most of the aisle resembled a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That’s going to take some cleaning.

I then went past the discounted section. Not sure what produce was discounted as what appeared to be a team bus of local holligans where at least 3 deep around the area. That is going to be stripped bare.

The pet section had a deal on cat food. Everything seemed to be buy one get one free. Yet nothing for the dogs. Isn’t that discrimination. Plus how can gerbil bedding be so bloody expensive. It would be cheaper to buy them a proper duvet with matching cover. Or maybe just buy them a tree and let the Gerbils do the rest.

You make it through the pet section then you find the way blocked at the cereal aisle. An impromptu meeting of what appeared to be the bridge club had helpfully completely filled the walkway. Oh for a Battering Ram.

Special mention to the poor mum who had successfully navigated the supermarket carefully packing her trolley with the weekly essentials. Only to find out her toddler had been having a great game of putting any item in his reach back onto the shelves – definitely not in the correct position.

Then we come to the dress sense. Ok on the sartorial scale I’m near the bottom. But come on. One chap in a fine pinstripe suit with bright yellow training shoes. The lady in what can be best described as a ballerina costume. The young kid (maybe 8) with the f**k you T-shirt. Or maybe the chap walking around in what appeared to be a string vest which was probably last washed 10 years ago. Or perhaps the big chap walking around in Tour de France Lycra which was clearly on the point of exploding under the extreme pressure it was subject to. Wow what an old fart I’m becoming. To balance things out I was looking spectacular in my luminous green running shoes set against a blue and green relaxed fit T-shirt. My exploding lycra issue was tastefully hidden under matching black and white running shorts. I think the term your trying to think of is numpty.

The freezer section lives up to its name. The freezers are working that well that the surrounding air has been chilled to somewhere close to East Antarctic Plateau temperatures. You could see the colour literally being sucked out of the shoppers trying to reach the ice lolly section. To my cost I discovered how little insulation running shorts and Lycra provide. I will never look at frozen Brussels Sprouts in the same way again.

Then it’s time to pay. When I say time I mean that in the loosest sense. A long queue at every open till. Then they start to open another till. The start to the Monaco Grand Prix has nothing on the ensuing trolley carnage. I was expecting Kirk Douglas and Chariot to make an appearance. And then when we do get to a cash till. Of the 16 available why do I always pick the one where the poor cashier has the plague. 5 minutes of coughing and sneezing and blowing her nose. Deep Joy.

That’s why I am hermit….

Zord

Zero sleep last night. Not even looking at old photos from a trip to the Peak District helped at 5am. And as all you biologists will know – zero sleep equates to zombieism. So I’ve been a full on zombie today. All zombies need a cool name, just ask Rob Zombie or Shaun of the Dead. A particularly awesome zombie was Skipper in a brilliant episode of The Penguins of Madagascar. If you want a laugh look up that one.

My first name might be fine in front of a famous Western Actors surname or in front of a great English Strikers surname or as the name of a pet in a certain underwater burger eating cartoon. But as a Zombie it is pretty lame. So we need a rebranding. Hopefully for just one day only I am Zord. Yes I watched PowerRangers.

Unfortunately Zord is a bit cranky. Zord has decided he doesn’t like August. Too many memories. Bad memories. Sad memories. The slightest thing can bring a tear. Yes zombies have an emotional dimension to them. Yet again movies like World War Z are so quick to stereotype.

Zord is a bit accident prone. Smashed a cup and broken the scissors. He’s burnt toast, crumpets and baked beans today. He even managed to set fire to a dish cloth. Zombies clearly don’t get to use an oven much. Must admit the microwave is beyond Zord as well. He initially just took the lid of the tin of beans then put the tin straight into the microwave. I think Zord fancied being the Lord of Lightening just once.

Zord has a tendency to fall asleep. That sleep where the eyes shut, the head then falls backwards and you are immediately woken by that awful head snapping sensation. So far Zord has tried that while watching TV, while trying to type up a report, while trying to sign a cheque and while on the toilet. Silly Zord.

Zord can also be a bit snappy. Unforgivably Zord has snapped a couple of times at our son. Bad Zord. But he does realise that being snappy is not a good trait so he is trying to control the snappiness. Zord finds coffee and chocolate helps. I’ve not had the heart to tell Zord that he is one of the few vegan zombies.

Let’s see what lasts longer with Zord – zombieism or veganism. Trying to be a vegan is bloody expensive. Sorry bloody and vegan shouldn’t be in the same sentence. Forgive me I am a tired parent zombie.

Monday Monday Monday

Monday finishes off with a visit from Santa. It’s about the only event the village has. Raising money for charity. Raising smiles with children. Sorry for the poor photo.

However we never get a dull day.

Nice dog walk completed. Return of the strange yellow thing. Coffee made. Laptop opened. Work commenced. PHONE RINGS.

As Captain Jack Sparrow would say – “Bugger”

So ten minutes after opening the laptop I’m on the way to meet our son at the hospital. Accident at school and a hurt hand. Few x-rays and it’s a visit to the fracture clinic tomorrow.

Back home for some needed TLC for our son. Work day has turned into a marathon movie day. Can we get through the complete Pirates of the Caribbean series in one day. It’s odd watching the movies having now seen Johnny Depp live – playing guitar.

Lord knows when I’m going to get some work done. Maybe a few all night sessions. But in the scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. Now back to Captain Jack and the third movie.

Uplifting rain

Yesterday was a strange day. Started very warm, dry and still. Finished very wet, cold and stormy.

It was also one of those moods swing days. It started really well with my son in great form. Then one Family movie later it had suddenly swung to tears and dark hearts. Movies which clearly advertise bereavement in the description can be planned for or better still avoided. It’s the ones which suddenly drop these on you without warning which cause the trouble. From a happy family on a trip of a lifetime to suddenly a young family trying to cope with the sudden death of the mum. I can’t remember seeing that bit in the synopsis. It really hit me, lord knows what it did to my young boy. It makes you feel like a completely incompetent parent … why didn’t we opt for the Scooby Doo movie.

But yesterday we had an unlikely saviour, the rain. After two months of completely dry weather the heavens opened. Stood outside in the rain, being almost blown off our feet in the wind. It just felt great. Seeing my son getting drenched to the skin and loving it. Today I just love the uplifting rain.

More Hair Disasters

In the long line of parenting skills I’m sadly lacking, hairdressing is near the top. This week witnessed another hair disaster. My son spoke the dreaded words a few days ago. “Can you help me sort out a fancy dress costume…..”. All went surprisingly well until it came to the hair.

A change of hair colour was required.

A can of temporary hair dye was purchased, and carefully applied. Bingo it’s the right colour, job done.

Unfortunately I missed the small print on the can, in particular the lines “apply sparingly” and “apply in short bursts, with only a few seconds application required to successfully dye hair”.

Maybe using the whole can up in one application was a bit overkill…

Well a few days later, multiple hair washes have failed to remove the temporary hair colour from my son. The hair spray also does a really good job of permanently changing the colour of pillows and bed sheets.

I’m betting that the temporary hair colour will outlast the first garden flowers of the year.