Just be happy

I was hoping to have a trip to see friends this evening. Its been a long while. Going to see a footy game at teatime seemed an ideal opportunity. Son was primed to spend a few hours with his aunts. But with Autism you never get your hopes up too high. Same with being a single parent. Things happen. Your needed elsewhere. Change of plans. So it’s a night of movies on the sofa. Son is in charge of the programme so can’t rule out having to endure Alvin and those pesky Chipmunks. It’s going to be different from the original plan BUT it’s going to be lovely. A blessing.

This brilliant quote comes to mind.

“How beautiful it is to find someone who asks for nothing but your company” – Brigitte Nicole

Clueless

It’s been a clueless type of day.

The company I have been doing some work for asked me if I would phone up the Brexit Helpline to ask some technical questions. Apparently because I talk tosh they thought I might be better placed to understand the helplines answers. I won’t bore you with the whole conversation but basically this was the nub of it.

Can I ask you some technical questions relating to Brexit and my company?

Please do. That’s what we are here for.

If we have staff who need to work in the EU for a short period of time what are the new regulations we must observe?

Don’t know

If we undertake work in the EU but need to employ EU based subcontractors what are the tax implications?

The current tax and excise regime will change on the 31st October. You will need to start planning for the changes now.

Yes I realise that but what will be the new regime.

It’s still being formulated

If we have web based sales to the EU what will be the export tax position?

Don’t know.

And on and on. To all my questions I received three basic replies.

  • We leave the EU on the 31st October and things will change. You will need to plan.
    The Government is still working on the details.
    Don’t know.

Anyway it proves that Brexit is a typo. It should be Breshit….

Absolutely clueless

*******************

I spoke to school again about our son. He’s had zero additional help so far this school year. It’s actually got worse. At least last year the teaching staff got to know him and some of teachers did try to help. We even had a couple of teachers who really got to understand him and they did try to modify the programme for him. For this school year his teaching staff and teaching assistants have all changed. So we are back to square one.

In terms of support for Aspergers the school provides no support. It has established a quiet room which kids can go to. But this is a small, cramped room which is frequently used for teacher meetings and storage. Even our gerbils would be able to design a more autism friendly space than the schools attempt. The only area the School has talked about was maybe giving our son more time to change when doing sports – but this in practice has never happened. That’s it – no other help. It’s not seen as a school problem it’s something the NHS deals with.

In terms of dyslexia school argues that it provide a Teaching Assistant in each lesson to provide support. This is not dedicated support. The TA has to try and support the whole class. Our son’s class also has a profoundly dyslexic child and the TA helps this child during any reading elements of the teaching. Again school argue that our son should put his hand up and ask for help. Unfortunately the TA is frequently already occupied. More fundamentally requiring a dyslexic child to put his or her hand up and ask for help completely misses the point. Most dyslexic kids won’t put their hand up because of the stigma still associated with not been able to read. Putting your hand up is seen as flagging up that you are different. Consequently son never puts his hand up anymore. So school argues that the lack of support is down to our son not requiring it. They can’t seem to get their head round being proactive.

Absolutely clueless

*******************

It’s Autumn so it must be time for home made soup. So the chef places the ingredients in the slow cooker and lets them stew for a few hours. Then it was time for the chef to blend the ingredients in the smoothie maker (it’s a multitasker). Unfortunately the chef forgot to put the lid on . So now the kitchen has gone from a magnolia paint feel to one more a kin to a Ghostbuster ectoplasmic theme.

Absolutely clueless

*******************

To try and calm down after my two earlier conversations I went for a run. Within minutes my running to the beat of Mongolian Heavy Metal came to a halt as the mp3 batteries died. Still it’s a pleasant day for a run. Halfway round I stopped to tie my shoelaces while a rather inquisitive cow peered over a gate. Thirty minutes later I arrived back at the house. Where’s the MP3 player? Pants I must have put it down when I tied my shoelaces. So I had to run back to that gate. Visions of a head banging cow thinking why she had never come across Mongolian music before.

Absolutely clueless

*******************

So whether it’s been Government Officials, Teachers, Parents, Chefs or Runners. It’s been a day for the clueless.

The tree of hope

Three years ago I was trying to get my head round organising my partners funeral. At the same time I was trying to empty my mums house and wrap up her loose ends. My head was completely spinning. I was in full zombie grief mode.

One family personal trauma doesn’t stop the world from spinning. It carries on regardless. So I was immediately faced with continuing the application for our sons Education Health Care Plan. Sat bewildered at my partners desk trying to find on my own the words for the final application form. The words came so easy when it was two minds. Now the one failed me. Then the black pen stopped working. Couldn’t find another and the form had to be completed in black on the pain of ……

So I set off to the shops to buy a pen. But quickly I was lost in a sea of grief and unanswered questions. An hour later I found myself at a random garden centre. Clearly a good choice for stocking up on pens. I wandered around aimlessly looking at plant after plant. The cctv must have been focusing on me as I was clearly not acting like your ordinary shopper. Then I came across a sad looking tree. Actually more like a snapped twig. The label said ‘discounted Pear Tree due to damage’. I felt sorry for this broken life form pushed to a dark corner of the store. Now no more that an afterthought. It felt like me.

So I went in looking for pens and came out with Groot (Marvel Universe).

Over the next three years Groot has grown and is now about 5 feet tall. Looks surprisingly healthy. AND this year for the first time it’s produced pears. Just FOUR pears. But it’s not the fruit crop which is important here. It’s something completely different. It’s HOPE. When personal tragedy strikes your whole world is turned upside down. It will never be the same again. You move from creating memories together to replaying memories in isolation. But you can’t live your life in those memories. Life has to go on. In my case life did go on. Yes I miss her dearly. Yes sadness always feels just round the corner. Yes I’ve become increasingly isolated from society. But life has gone on. Sons Education Health Care Plan was approved. I’ve changed careers. Progress has been made with Dyslexia. The house no longer feels like a funeral parlour largely down to the addition of a barking mad dog. I’ve increased the range of foods I can destroy. And Groot is thriving. That gives me hope.

So poor

I came from a northern working class background. A council house with an outside toilet and a dark coal bunker. Luckily the house had a big garden so Dad could grow loads of vegetables and fruit. It wasn’t until 1980 when the Council renovated the house and we got the luxury of central heating and an inside loo. We had to move out into a caravan for a few months so the house could be gutted and the roof replaced. It was bizarre looking at you house without a roof on. I will always remember sitting in the caravan playing with some lego when the little TV brought news of Lennon being shot.

The phrase my parents would always use was scrimp and scrape. They did an amazing job and Dad was always happy to talk about the hard lifestyle. Is it bad but these days that memory always reminds me of Monty Python doing the sketch about the Four Yorkshireman competing for who had the toughest childhood. We were so poor we lived in a box. Or in my case We were so poor we didn’t have a roof.


https://youtu.be/IeXMKygwSco

All those years later and I’m carrying on the tradition of scrimp and scraping. The return to school has brought significant additional costs to an already tight financial position. But as a good buddy said today – we make do. It does mean that you take some calculated risks. Son has an old raincoat which still just about fits him. It’s really well battered. It needs changing but I was hoping to put that off for a few months more.

Well today the calculated risk backfired. He went to pull on the old coat and the sleeve ripped apart at the seems.

Dad it’s not just Bruce Banner who can do that.

So he’s gone off today without a coat and yes it’s pouring down. Absolutely chucking it down. I feel really awful about it. Poor kid is going to be like a drowned rat. Anyway I’ve gone out and bought him a new one. Well at least he can now carry on the tradition. When he’s older he can do his own Monty Python sketch.

We were so poor I had a raincoat with only one sleeve. We couldn’t afford two sleeves.

Demon Hummus

Dad what on Earth is that.

I’m trying to make home made Hummus.

Are you sure it should be that colour.

No that was not what I was expecting.

Dad it looks like something from the X-Files.

I’d moved from trying it with some carrots to which bin it should go in. It might even need a Priest and an Exorcism before it’s safe to do that. Wonderful. Yet another culinary masterpiece.

Dad let’s take the pup to the woods. If we go now should have the place to ourselves.

So leaving the alien hummus to mutate into something with teeth we set off. The signs of autumn are now all around us. Less than 900 miles away the first winter snow has come to Italy. So that’s another summer ticked off. It also means the 30 year old boiler is being fired up for the first time in months. That process is always done on a wing and a prayer. Apparently when it goes to boiler heaven it’s going to cost a fortune. Not just the boiler but the pipes, a good part of the central heating and the oil tank will need to be changed. We couldn’t afford that when we had two incomes never mind when it’s become one (on less hours and at a much lower pay rate). I remember being told by one mum that I should just hire childcare or put son in a club so I could work full time again. Not the first idea about single parenting and Autism but to be fair her hummus will be considerably better than mine.

This might have been a good place to go on about some of the practicalities of when you go from two to one parents but not when it is so close to THE ANNIVERSARY. Anyway the old boiler has fired up. Which is a bonus. THEN….

Dad did I tell you school has changed the PE Polo Shirt from white to black. You can use the old ones for a couple of weeks then if you don’t have the new colour you will get negatives.

With the great news of yet another visit to the school uniform shop still fresh I decided to try the demon hummus. The taste sensation was somewhere between wallpaper paste and a skunks bottom. But on the bright side I might have found a home made recipe for wood putty. That might come in useful this winter.

Did it work

We were in the hunt for a distraction. Why? A grisly return to school providing a harsh reminder of how badly the system lets down kids who do not fit the expected mould. The anniversary of losing my soulmate and our sons beloved mum steaming toward us. So distraction needed.

After much searching we found the only option we could find which was affordable and which was just about in the required timeframe.

Off we went to see a Rugby Union match. England playing Italy.

Normally these internationals are played hundreds of miles away in London, are heavily oversubscribed and are far too expensive. But they decided to play this last warmup game before the World Cup in North. The game was just a few days from the anniversary. It had the added advantage that some of the tickets were heavily discounted as the seats were high up in the stadium amongst the clouds.

So it ticked a lot of boxes. Just two problems. It was a night game and our son is not too confident outside in the dark. The other problem is it was going to be a 50000 crowd – that’s a lot for a kid with Aspergers.

The night actually went quite well. The outside stadium entertainment and fan park was too much for son. Just a sea of humanity. Too many people moving in all directions. No pattern. So we quickly got to the seats. Once he was sat down and the world started to become ordered again he began to enjoy the experience. Interestingly he quickly switched allegiances to the Italian Team. He put it down to a combination of them playing in blue and “coming from York we were part of the Roman Empire”. Have to say it’s gone downhill for us since the Romans left. We did play the Monty Python game of what have the Romans ever done for us game. Lots.

The walk back to the car had to be handled carefully as a busy city at night can be so daunting. At least the walk across the bridge made him forget the anxieties.

So today our spirits have been lifted by the distraction. I think we are in a better place to face the anniversary. And I’ve got my first Christmas idea for our son – an Italian Rugby Shirt.

Call from school

At lunchtime the phone rang. Oh pants it school. What’s happened now? Bizarrely at the other end was a very official sounding Son

Who am I speaking to”

Son, it’s me.

Can you confirm that I am speaking to Mr XXXX XXXXXXXX”

Yes son, it’s me.

Can you confirm that that is you.”

Yes this is your useless Dad.

I am going to ask you a question to confirm this. What did I have for breakfast”

Son you would be brilliant working in a call centre. You had 2 slices of toast, a waffle, raspberries and blueberries. Washed down with an orange juice.

What colour plate did I use”

White and blue. (In the background I could hear the school teacher saying – come on lad it’s your dad)

What colour cup”

Red

Ok Dad the whole school has to spend an extra hour in school tonight to help set up the classes. Unbelievable. I am going to speak to my lawyer about this outrage. Bus will be late. Goodbye”

***********************************

The battle recommences.

So the hope of a new schooling approach didn’t last very long. Basically 6 hours. Son’s been kept down in the bottom set while a number of other kids got moved up. Some of the kids went up in all subjects, others went up in one or two subjects. No explanation from school just the Form Tutor handing out paper timetables with the sets on. His last Form Tutor (who has unfortunately left) confirmed his test and class performance merited moving up sets – at the very least in his three best subjects. We have kids with lower grades in higher sets than our son. Sadly the assumption has to be that he’s been kept down due to his dyslexia. The galling thing is that in today’s bottom set lessons he received again absolutely no help with his reading. So he’s marked down for dyslexia but then doesn’t receive any assistance. Setup to fail.

If that wasn’t enough his new Form Tutor and most of his new subject teachers appear to be the strictest in the school. So much for making learning fun. Plus the teachers he really connected with have either left or have been removed from his teaching programme.

If we are looking for an upside the best it gets is

Well Dad at least I didn’t get a negative on the first day”

Nothing like positive reinforcement to encourage a bit of educational development….

Deep sigh.

Across all the lands how many other kids are being subjected to this crap. Too many. I heard a news item about another school where a 11 year old girl who had been excluded from class because her trousers did not quite cover her ankles.

Really.

After all these years how can we still get education so very wrong. Probably the same reason that with all the gifted and genuinely dedicated people we have in this country we end up being led by someone as awful as Boris Johnson.

School

So it’s about to start again. SCHOOL. The anxieties are building. The sleepless nights. The upset stomach. The worries. And that’s just me.

For our son it’s worse. Far worse. He is already stressed out. Anxious about the return to that alien world. An institution which could not have been designed in a more anti-autistic way if they had honestly tried. A system which is designed for kids with dyslexia to automatically fail. An underfunded service which is not fit for purpose.

So he will get on the bus at 8am tomorrow with hope. Hope that school has changed. It now positively promotes uniqueness and individuality. Kids with specific learning obstacles are giving tailored support to help them fly. In fact all kids are given a tailored education not just the privileged few. The 1950s school infrastructure has been replaced with modern, bright and welcoming learning facilities. The strict rule structure has been relaxed. Kids are allowed to be kids for at least part of the day. Good dedicated professionals are supported and properly rewarded.

But in reality we understand what our son will face again tomorrow. A broken system where the bonkers government sees stricter rules for kids as the answer to everything. Stricter rules for kids and teachers yet wants less rules for those trying to make a profit out of our kids education. Yes an education but not the one we want for our kids.

The summer holidays were great but the fight for many parents starts again.

Why

School is back on Thursday. Deep Joy. So we have completed the dreaded school bag and uniform audit. Pigging hell. I blame it on this Pokemon.

Please tell me why

  • The school bag seems to have developed zipillitis. Every single zip has either jammed half open or have decided to become stunt lemmings and dropped off onto the floor,
  • We don’t have any black or blue pens but we helpfully have a shipping container full of yellow and red ones. Particularly helpful as only teachers are allowed to use red and yellow ink seems to be as fashionable as German Sausages at 10 Downing Street drinks party these days,
  • Why is every single pencil snapped at the same time as our 38 pencil sharpeners have eloped with coloured crayons,
  • Why is the only useable pencil case PINK with Peppa Pig on it,
  • All the rulers and set squares and protractors are missing or appear to have been sat on by an African Elephant,
  • Why has the French Dictionary (which we had to buy even though its never likely to be used) clearly gone for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea and decided not to dry itself properly,
  • Every single eraser has got as much rubber left on them as I have hair left on my scalp,
  • Why has the never need batteries calculator run out of power. Who thought it would be a good idea to use light as an energy source in Yorkshire,
  • No black socks at all – all buried in the garden by helpful dog,
  • His school blazer has developed more holes in the sleeves than my empty bank account,
  • Blue shirts now so badly worn that he might as well just wear a see through bag,
  • All Trousers 3 inches too short with more patches than on my 30 year bike tyres,
  • The school tie which was blue but now seems to be more Tomato Ketchup colour,
  • Finally the all important school shoes. Still just about black but unfortunately with two holes in the soles so large that they must have got in the way of an Alaskan Oil Drilling operation.

Don’t you just love school……

Sunday lunch

We do the same dog walk everyday with our son. We do it that often that I’ve got names for many of the straw bales. This one is Eric.

Routines and repetition form a key part of our lives these days. Some things have to be done at the right times and in exactly the same way. Anything else yields anxiety and stress. In a couple of days school starts again and all these anxieties are going to magnify again. But at least we can now smile at them thanks to the brilliant TV series Red Dwarf. Every time one of us is anxiety stricken we have to both put on our finest Kryten accent and shout

Grind those worry balls like you’ve never ground them before”

Before the world changed son loved to go to see his Little Nan every Sunday. He would sit with her and watch something like Ivanhoe. I dread to think how many times we have seen that movie. His Nan would read him a Mr Men book. He would also have an expertly cooked Sunday Lunch.

It’s a changed world now. But some things are constant.

We have the Ivanhoe dvd. We have the Mr Men books. Unfortunately I just can’t read the stories as well as they used to be read. My accents all sound the same like some really rubbish rejected extra from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The Sunday Lunch cooking baton has also passed to me. Every Sunday I prepared Yorkshire Puddings, peas, carrots, sweet corn, potatoes, sausages and gravy. The food has to be plated so that each item is separate and don’t mix. I’ve had countless arguments with other parents and school over this. The ‘well just tell him to eat it, he will eat it when he’s hungry‘ line is just not helpful at all. It shows a complete lack of understanding. Maybe I should invite those parents over for one of my special baking disasters. Then they can just eat it that abomination when they are hungry….

The Sunday lunch is not exactly difficult to make but remember my cooking skills are military grade. Over the 3 years I’ve almost become competent in this particular art. HOWEVER Part of the Little Nan Sunday Feast was a sensational pudding usually Apple Crumble. Sadly this is still beyond me. Every so often I try but the results are as my Dad would say – a tad manky.

I have tried bought apple crumble but these have not been to our sons liking. So the search for the holy apple crumble grail continues. Until it’s found Plan B is Rice Pudding. Even I can do one of those – sort of. Don’t tell anyone but son hasn’t worked out that he quite likes tinned rice. Tinned rice is now part of the routine.