As good as it’s got

It’s been a funny old summer. Most odd. For some reason the only thing growing here has been weeds and the lawn. Actually it was a spectacular year for nettles.

In terms of garden produce this is about as good as it’s got.

Is this it. Is this as good as it gets.

My hopes and dreams would definitely say NO, so much more to come. The tired mind and body today might give a different answer. Sometimes I feel stuck. Caught in an endless loop. Two steps forward then two steps back. No clear route to my dreams. Lots of effort and then a few weeks later I’m still stood in the same place.

But then I drag my body to the back fence and I look at a particular tree. A tree that had come to represent so much in my life. A tree that is battered and bruised. Storm after storm. A couple of direct lightning strikes to boot. Once accidentally hit by a farm tractor.

Definitely a lob sided tree, stood alone on an exposed hill.

Yet it’s still here. It still stands proud. Every day I can see it in the distance.

One day maybe the rainbow will land on that tree. It certainly deserves that.

So yes I might be tired and frustrated today but that tree has reminded me to keep going. Change might not come today, but tomorrow is not set in stone. It could just happen. Hopes and Dreams most definitely still in play.

Is this it. Is this as good as it gets. LETS SEE ABOUT THAT.

Monday Mornings are a pain

The farm fields are now ploughed. The Autumn School Term has started. So the early alarm calls have heralded even less sleep. Another week of school at home. I had forgotten the frustrations. Hawklad hanging around for stuff to do. The time lost searching for files and waiting for teachers to respond to queries. Trying to find the right colour pen and then one that actually works. Trying to filter out areas that might spike Hawklad’s anxieties. Then watching the online system and Microsoft Teams crash.

Oh how have we missed this….

I needed to de-stress. So it’s time for MINDFULNESS. Somedays it’s works, other days not so. Today’s free mediation video was different. Lie down on the floor. Relax the body. Clear the mind. Slow the breathing down. So far so good. But then the slightly intimidating Hannibal Lector voice tells me to focus on my right foot – how does it feel. Then my right leg. Then my left leg. How is my abdomen feeling. Then my tummy. What are they feeling, what is the sensation. Then my back, my chest, my shoulders, my arms, my hands. Finally my mouth, my nose, my ears my eyes and the top of my head. I should be calm and relaxed now. Well that’s what Hannibal said….

Well to me not so. I remembered stubbing my toe, my toe hurts. I remembered my knee I had overstretched during that morning weight training session. I felt my IBS playing up, I noticed by tummy feeling bloated. My back was definitely stiff. My left shoulder which has been dislocated several times was sore. I could feel the finger I had burnt cooking, I could feel the paper cut on my thumb. I found an annoying bit of food between my teeth. My ear was itchy. AND my left buttock had gone to sleep on the hard floor. Basically my body hurts, pointing that out Hannibal, how is that supposed to relax me. Seriously.

Yes Mondays are painful.

The River

A Yorkshire River. A bit of an odd Yorkshire River. It’s not in flood……

In winter the River is often several feet above the top of the sand banks. But in summer the banks provide a perfect place for Swift’s to nest.

As we walked along the river edge my thoughts drifted back to when Hawklad had just started school. It was the start of the Aspergers journey. it was before any expert help came our way. Two parents trying to get their head’s round our family life. We kinda knew he was on the spectrum but what did we know. Expert guidance was still 2 years away. It was such a confusing time. But one of my clearest recollections of that time was Hawklads’s reaction to people.

Hawklad struggled with meeting people. He wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone apart from his mum, dad and grannies. His hood was always over his head and pulled down over his eyes. He would freeze or have meltdowns if an outsider was too near. If he was in a room with others then he frequently would be found in a corner, facing the wall. Outside he would hide behind trees until the coast was clear.

Slowly over the following years things started to change. With so much hard work he became better able deal with people. Not comfortable but he found a way. He developed a slightly wider network of friends. Really close friendships formed.

Today we are walking along The River. We are avoiding people. We came off the path because Hawklad was struggling. The hood was over his head again. We headed in another direction as soon as an outsider came into view. If he couldn’t avoid them then he hid behind me. Down by The River he could hide away. He had the place to himself and he could tell his Dad all about the migrational pattern of Swift’s. It felt isolated but safe to him. Away from others. He’s comfortable with me and his best friends. Others just no way.

It feels like I have been here before.

Anyone for croquet

Hawklad was feeling anxious. Really anxious. This time next week will be tough for him. It will be a tough call. Classroom or Home….

Sometimes it can feel very isolating just the two of us kinda cut off from the real world. Maybe there is a danger we take root.

So he needed a distraction. Something different. It was time to go hunting in the garage. What can I find. Imagine a place like the shop that Harry Potter got his wand from. Dark, cramped, filled to the brim with things that haven’t seen the light of day in years. Maybe decades. Some objects beyond rational comprehension.

As I rummaged deeper into the recesses my plight became more perilous. I stretched, bent and shakily balanced over box after box. Deeper I went into the precarious jungle of old toys and objects. Then I saw a very large old wooden box. It might as well have been an old precious wand. That will do nicely.

An old garden croquet set that came from his grannies house several years ago.

Yes it was fun. Definitely different. Some of the rules might have been loosely applied or invented. When did croquet become a contact sport. The long grass didn’t help. But the main thing is Hawklad was distracted.

Now was the time to get serious about this martial art called croquet. I got the lawnmower out and carefully cut out a croquet course. Incorporating obstacles. A Mole Hill. An Apple Tree. The Football Goal. Yorkshire Wet Grass.

Captain Chaos was a moving obstacle and introduced his own version of mayhem. Suddenly we have one of Europe’s Finest and Most Challenging Croquet Experiences.

Captain Chaos might be on to something. Croquet with a sock…..Yes Croquet is fun. And fun is needed some days…..

Responsibility 2

That’s a tree that’s seen some living. Too many storms and a couple of lightning strikes have permanently changed its shape. But it’s still standing. Standing on its own.

In the UK child mental health services have been cut to the bone. Rapidly escalating real need while resources are stretched to braking point. Children in need either do no get any support or minimal support has to be constantly fought for. Schools are forced to stick to the Government agenda with restricted budgets. Child Mental Health and Well-being is not seen as part of the school remit by the Government. Teachers are hamstrung with an inflexible curriculum with strict deadlines. Specialist Educational Services are just not available to most children who really need them.

In the UK families are basically on their own. If your child has an educational or mental health need then you can’t rely on help being there when you need it.

Government calls it’s ‘individual responsibility’.

So with 9 days left before Hawklad potentially returns to the classroom he is facing significant stress and anxiety. He has so many life defining challenges and social obstacles to overcome. Unpicking what can be done and assisting with those areas is a highly specialist area. A service which is currently unavailable to him. Any return to the classroom will require significant adjustments in school. It places significant requirements on teachers that they are not trained for and do not have the classroom time to handle. The school is unable to secure any specialist assistance – they are just not there. Apart from his muppet Dad, he is on his own. His Dad is out of his depth. Really out of his depth.

Individual Responsibility. What could possibly go wrong.

A Yorkshire Summer

Almost too wet for the iPhone to cope….. That’s wet……

Later in the day, thankfully we can finally record a few hours of sunshine.

It doesn’t look like it but the fields are drenched. Two miles away a large concert became a mud bath at the weekend. Thankfully tractors came to tow cars out of the field car park. A Yorkshire summer….

As clouds roll in and the once again hidden sun sets, I find myself in the backroom. Putting off work that needs to be done this evening by writing these words. Listening to crackly copy of The Godfather soundtrack on vinyl which kinda sums up my mood. Drinking Chamomile tea to try to sooth a nervous stomach which isn’t very happy. Feeling fatigued after far too little sleep again, yet realising insomnia will win out again tonight. Hawklad is in the living room trying to forget about his rising anxieties. He’s playing games online with a close friend who has COVID. Yes a very Yorkshire summer……

Birds at dawn

Another early start. This time a seriously early one. A perfect insomniac storm. 3am. Hawklad has woken and can’t sleep. I have not been to bed yet and sleep feels a million miles away.

Hawklad wonders if we can see the dawn brake. On the coast.

So a few moments later and after I had sampled the meanest of espressos, we are driving. Driving past badgers, foxes and owls. Before 4am we arrive at RSPB Bempton Cliffs. It’s still pitch black and we have the site to ourselves. It’s such an eerie feeling walking in the complete absence of light and sound. Even to early for the thousands of seabirds perched precariously on the cliffs. No wind and even the sea was strangely becalmed.

In perfect time to watch dawn brake. No thoughts of an Albatross who was apparently out at sea. Who needs one bird when you get to watch all this unfold.

The dark was a challenge to my iPhone camera but it gave it a go.

By 7am a few people had started to arrive, mainly here to take up prime spots and wait. Hoping on catching sight of one particular bird. They had no idea what they had just missed. The deafening sound of seabirds hides the peace that existed just 2 hours ago.

We were back in the car and driving a few minutes later. The site had lost its appeal to Hawklad. Even a handful of strangers proving too much for him. But he had got to see a spectacular show first hand. Just the two of us so without his anxieties. He slept during the ride home.

Yes it was a ridiculously early start. Yes I went more than 24 hours without sleep. But it was worth it for those couple of hours when Hawklad felt that he had the world to himself. I suspect it won’t be the last time we do this. Yes there will be time for trips out to build those social bridges but those come with anxieties. We all need these times and places of sanctuary. Hawklad does. Yes even a worn down parent needs them.

Direction

If you look in the right direction and it looks like Summer in Yorkshire. For those cloud spotters out there, can you see the really chubby bird being chased my two smaller, slightly more streamlined birds…

Turn in the other direction and it’s grey as more weather is about to sweep over us.

Yes Sunday the 15th is cool here. That cool that the car heater was given a much needed whirl.

That’s just over 3 weeks to schools reopening here. Yesterday another trip out. Another attempted step towards bridge building. Yesterday’s trip felt a little more discouraging. Having seen Hawklad’s extreme anxiety at being within just a few paces away from a handful of strangers, 3 weeks does not seem much time at all. He was spooked by people not wearing masks. Spooked by strangers not interested in social distancing. This was outside. A million miles away from an over crowded classroom with no social distancing. In cramped rooms with inadequate ventilation. Places which have always been a breeding ground for germs and bugs. Places which are frequently unpleasant places to sit for hours. Not conducive environments for learning. It was that way when I was at school, it hasn’t changed now my son is there.

As other countries invest millions in installing classroom ventilation my so called Government has decided to trial ventilation in 30 schools in one small city. See how that goes for 6 months or more, then systematically review the results. Only after that can they start to think about better ventilation for schools. So maybe in a couple of years time, maybe some money can be found. Strange how on the eve of a vital Climate Change world summit, the Government approved a giant new oil and gas field within days…

Priorities….

So today we will try to head out again. To a different destination. Try to find another place to visit which is slightly less busy with more space. Try for another step forward. Maybe these steps may need to start heading in a different direction. One not focused to heavily on forcing an imminent return to the classroom.

Change

Another cool and breezy Yorkshire summer’s day. The kinda day that always works better with black and white.

It’s five years to the day that I found out from the Consultant that my partner had weeks to live and was likely never to regain full consciousness again. From that day life changed. Not a gradual, planned change. This was a sudden, seismic explosion. Almost everything seemed to cave in. Nothing would ever be the same again. Those doorways onto my then current life slammed shut and locked forever.

The one single thing that kept me going back in 2016 was Hawklad. I had one job now. Give him the best possible childhood I could possibly manage, on my own. At that stage I was living purely though my sons eyes. Change had to somehow work for him .

Life was now different. Unplanned. Very much unscripted. It felt like that the life that had gone before was a more protected. More manageable. This new world seemed very real, very scary with no protection. But I guess that’s change for you. Often it’s too easy to have a change of heart. Avoid the consequences of change. Stick with the your current hand. But in that bleak 2016 moment, sticking with what I had was not an option. Change was happening and there was nothing I could do to stop it. That’s such an unnerving feeling.

Life has changed for me. There was nothing I could do to stop that. Some of that change was awful. Soul destroying. In the immediate aftermath most things felt that way. But now five years later the change that was forced upon me has largely worked out. And whisper it, much of the change has been positive or was in practice badly needed anyway. And yes in some really important areas things are actually better now than they have ever been.

Change can work with patience.

Kirkham

Kirkham is a former Augustinian Priory that was founded in 1120. It was active until 1539 when it was surrendered as part of the King’s dissolution of the monasteries.

During WWII it was used as a test site for the D-Day Landing preparations. A site so important that it was visited by the King and Winston Churchill.

It’s amazing that there was anything left at all after that.

It’s now been visited by Hawklad. Far less destructive.

Another important step.

A full car park but a large enough site that no one hardly ever came too close. As Hawklad points out, about 30m is the sweet spot. The ideal social distancing. Any closer than that and people start to make him uncomfortable. It doesn’t seem much but that is progress. At least we don’t run for cover at the first sight of others….

A couple of times the 30m gap was broached. Once by a friendly Alsatian, that was acceptable. Once by a woman about my age. This resulted in Hawklad pulling his hoody over his head in Sith Lord style and he gave her the full Paddington stare. When that failed to work he decided to hide behind a large piece of history until she had walked off. I later asked why he didn’t put his mask on. The response was worryingly ‘I really wanted to but no one else was wearing them and I didn’t want to stand out’.

That social pressure is a concern. If he does return to the classroom in September then it will only work if he can take the steps he needs to manage his anxieties. The worst thing would be if he was forced into situations that he is really uncomfortable with. If the class doesn’t wear masks then will he wear his when he needs it.

So yes another step forward but there are so many more still to be taken.