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Two daily visitors waiting patiently for breakfast. I must clean the gutters….

After yesterday’s unplanned washing of my mobile, I found myself outside in the cold early morning air. Doing a great workout supplied by a very kind friend and listening to music on my super clean phone. Crystal clear sound. In fact it’s never sounded so good. Maybe I should try my body out in a quick machine wash cycle. If only I could fit the car in our old washing machine.

I was a bad parent last night and I’m not talking about letting son watch Deadpool 2 again. School emailed all the parents to say that they had not been picking up all the students who had been submitting inferior work or worse submitting work late. So to rectify that the only thing they could do would be to send out an email each night at 11.30 to warm parents about any issues which may have occurred with their kids online work for that day. I can imagine many parents sending letters of approval in or even asking for a tougher stance from school. I took a slightly different stance on my short reply.

Please don’t bother.

This morning followed up with a much longer reply basically talking about how tough it is for many kids at present and how about school using the resources they were putting into this sanction into doing something positive – something fun for the kids. Maybe even allowing some social interaction with friends. I’m not hopeful but at least it will get me another black mark in the awkward parent log.

Anyway school might not do fun but that doesn’t mean that we can’t. It’s so important we all find ways of still living. So in between online lessons we have squeezed in some activities. Bouncing on the trampoline, Jenga, air hockey and jelly making. Then after the school day had finished we made some cakes. Played football and attempted to build the largest possible Lego tower. Unfortunately due to the wind, curious pets and my eagerness to build higher before a stable base was formed – it didn’t get much higher than 5ft. It clearly had the same design fault as Trumps Mexican Wall. Oops that’s going to bring on my fan mail from Texas again.

Over Easter we will definitely revisit the Lego tower. It might even stand up long enough to take a photo. The point is that actually fun day is not enough. It really is so tough for kids to enjoy their childhood in 2020. So much anxiety and so little space to dream. So fun day is now fun EVERY day. Maybe just like my mobile phone, we can find ways (maybe unusual) to improve things in life. WE can do this.

Toy Story

Lovely midday weather here in Yorkshire.

It’s funny how you can overthink even the simplest of tasks. We try to make Saturday evening the official movie night of the week. A regular thing for son to look forward to. Popcorn, cola and a great movie. We save up new movies for the full Saturday experience. If we don’t have a new movie then the next best thing is a blockbuster. For days I had been working on a list of potential movies for this Saturday. Scores of candidates slowly whittled down to three favourites.

The Martian

Terminator – Dark Fate

Rocketman

So Saturday night arrived. I proudly gave son the list of three movies.

Ok Dad, let’s watch Toy Story.”

And with that it was Woody and co. A top top movie. Perfect escapism for today’s anxious world. But how much energy did I waste on picking an unused movie list. But I guess the point is that it successfully distracted me for a few days. While watching the movie I played my usual game of trying to pick which character I was most like. Toy Story was easy, clearly I am Rex. Although this morning I am a bit more Mr Potato Head.

We often forget how stressful the current situation is for kids. Confined to base, seeing parents stressed, unremittingly bad news on social media, kept apart from friends. In our sons case the confined to base and kept apart from friends is not really an issue. But his Aspergers requires routine and controllability. These have gone out of the window over the last few weeks. Adjusting to different daily routines. Food on the set weekly schedule (which has been in place for years) becoming unavailable. A completely unpredictable world. The fear of illness and worse ramped up by a spreading pandemic. He’s so young, had to deal with so much already and he’s facing this.

He asked what my best guess was for when things might begin to settle down a bit. Sadly I couldn’t say anytime soon. When he asked about schools opening and I couldn’t see anything happening and sticking before September.

“Dad is that September 2020 or September 2021”

I wouldn’t like to bet my shirt on that. We just don’t know who long the current restrictions will be in place for. When they do come off, how long before they need to be reintroduced. But we just have to deal with that. I’ve got to focus on the one overriding aim. Give son the best childhood possible. So we make the best of the new normal. Strengthen the new routines. AND above all try to have as much fun as possible. So Toy Story is perfect. It’s fun. Thank you Woody and co.

Crazy

It’s all gone a bit crazy. Even the sheep I encountered on the one permitted walk out of the house .. It’s a scene of peace in front of the lens. Behind the lens I am being stalked by a pack of hungry sheep waiting for a biscuit.

Dad you have done some crazy things but that one is up there”

No it wasn’t my sanest moment. I lost a challenge and my punishment was to bounce for five minutes on the trampoline. In a moment of madness I made myself a cup of tea to drink while bouncing. Yes I didn’t really think that through. Unfortunately I didn’t come to my senses until after the first bounce had deposited the said contents of the cup onto my T-shirt. Clearly the tea is not the only thing that I have lost.

Dad what on earth are you doing”

I had made a mistake on a post that I was writing for a couple of friends.

“Son where is the rubber (eraser), I’ve messed up and need to change something”

Dad your using your IPad”

Yes I know”

Tell me Dad your not going thinking about using a rubber on the screen.”

Staggeringly I was in a moment of utter craziness. I guess it’s a combination of a complete lack of sleep, trying to help with French homework and the general oddness which has descended on to us all. It really is an odd feeling. Like we are living in an episode of the X-Files merged with Monty Python and Bear Grylls.

But at least we can still smile about it. If anything the craziness helps fill the day. So let’s have one more piece of craziness.

Rory (A Guy Called Bloke) has come up with a new music challenge.

you are to create a playlist of 15 songs based upon a weekly theme.  All titles must be relevant to the theme itself – not the artists just the song titles. This week the theme is CRAZY TIMES…

So here goes (going to try and just include songs from my music collection).

  1. Crazy Train – Ozzy
  2. Psychotic Break – Jerry Cantrell
  3. Madhouse – Anthrax
  4. Stone Cold Crazy – Queen
  5. Am I Going Insane – Black Sabbath
  6. Eyes of the Insane – Slayer
  7. Inmates (Were all Crazy) – Alice Cooper
  8. Crazy – Nazareth
  9. Crazy Horses – The Osmonds yes that’s my only Osmonds song
  10. Shine on you crazy diamond – Pink Floyd
  11. Crazy – Aerosmith
  12. Moon Crazy – Blue Oyster Cult
  13. Crazy World – Scorpions
  14. You’re Crazy – Guns n Roses
  15. Psycho – Metal Church

Pizza Saturday

A new day. Let’s not allow any crap from yesterday mess up today. The cynical side of me is shouting – today probably has enough new crap to keep me occupied. But today is a new page and let’s see what it brings. Pigging lots of fun I hope.

Late last night (430am) I finally gained some control over my two brain cell super computer. My mind wandered to the stuff which social distancing is stopping which we could run virtually.

A virtual darts league

A virtual computer gaming league ( would be even more fun if it was just for those whose middle name is something like ‘Games Nube’ or ‘Apart from the old Atari tennis game I’m generally Crap’)

Virtual Cooking schools and bake offs (we did a brilliant one last year)

Virtual Gardening Clubs or in my case a Virtual Mass Plant Murderer Club

Virtual Exercise or Yoga Gyms

Virtual Book a major event. Say Wrestlemania, LiveAid, Woodstock, The Great Exhibition

Virtual Coffee Meet-ups

Virtual let’s recreate the cinema experience and watch the same film then review it night out

Virtual Homeschooling school gate meet-ups

Virtual bad hair days

Virtual fashion disasters as we can do whatever we like in our homes. Really go for it

Virtual design with Lego or whatever you have in the house challenges (come up with a theme and see what people and the kids make)

Virtual let’s write a song together gigs

Virtual let’s make pizza lunches.

On the subject of making pizza. Well that’s what we have just done.

Yes it’s not to Pizza Express standards. But we don’t care because we had fun… and yes I know the work surface needs a good clean…… Our pizza session also introduced a new concept to me. Ethical Cooking Balance.

Son looked at my attempt. A pizza which was completely dairy, gluten, meat free. Then back to his. A normal ham, full on dairy pizza.

“Dad I think your pizza looks a bit sad. It needs something. Maybe some proper cheese and ham”

“Well son it won’t be ethical then would it”

Well think about it. I will take some of my existing topping and put that on yours. You then put some of your ethical topping on mine. We have not used any less ethical products and not used any more unethical stuff. The quantities are exactly the same as before. But now my pizza is slightly more ethical and yours is slightly less ethical, but will taste infinitely better. So we still have balance”

I tried but couldn’t really argue with that. So that’s what happened. And yes he was right – it did taste so much better….

Friday I guess

Some random daffodils blooming next to our front window. These always make me smile as they just seemed to appear one year. I can’t remember planting them. Having said that, this is me…..

My mobile phone rang this morning. I could hear it somewhere really close but I just couldn’t find it before it rang off. A few minutes later I found me phone when I sat down. It was in my back pocket.

This morning it took me one hour to work out that it was Friday.

Sometimes there are no answers.

A few months back I was asked if I had found a magic bullet, a cure for it.

Sometimes there are no answers.

No it wasn’t the W.H.O. approaching me as a world expert on the search for a vaccine for the pesky virus. No don’t worry, I am still the same old dim witted goofball. No it was a parent from my sons last school. She had recently lost someone close and was really low with grief. She was desperate for the pain to go away.

Sometimes there are no answers.

Unfortunately I’ve not found a magic bullet, no cure or no vaccine that works with bereavement. It still hits me. It still hurts me. The days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. I’m still waiting to gain acquired immunity. The route cause remains and will always remain. But I do believe that I have started to understand myself better. I am also slowly finding things that help with the symptoms. That’s something to cling on to. Sadly the things which help me, may not work for others. There is also no guarantee that what works today, will work tomorrow for me. I guess that’s the case not only for bereavement but for many other areas of life.

So what works for me (sometimes…)

  • Exercise, weights and running
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Nature
  • Walking
  • Climbing (I haven’t been able to climb in 4 years but just reading about it helps)
  • AND above all focusing on making our son happy.

Today was one of those days when virtually everything on the list did not work. All I could do was throw myself into keeping son happy. That distracted me. It got me through the day. It numbed the symptoms but didn’t cure the route cause. Now it’s 2am and those dark soul symptoms are bubbling away again. Probably going to be a long sleepless night. Will watch some rubbish TV and will again ponder over the home finances spreadsheet. Don’t know why – it’s not going to look any better when I’m tired.

It’s a brand new day. A fresh start. The old problems and hurt will still be there. But maybe, just maybe it will be symptom free day and it will be a good one.

Stay safe my friends.

The road

The road often seems so long and never ending. Somedays it is, especially when your trying to run along it straight into the teeth of a biting north wind. Absolute purgatory. But then other days the road is short and manageable. Even in my rubbish car it only takes a couple of minutes to drive it. It’s good to remind myself this every so often.

In those dreadful early days of being a widow and a single parent the journey in front of me looked so daunting. So beyond me. A road with seemingly no end. I would shake my head and just think – I can’t do this. Yet I still set off down that road. I didn’t want to but I was faced with no choice. I was a parent to a young kid who has just lost his mum. He’s was also trying to get his head round not being able to read and that new word – Aspergers. I owed it to him to at least try. Nobody else would. It was down to me.

He only gets one childhood and it better be as brilliant as is humanly possible.

So I started down that road. I had no idea where the road led to. I was so confused. As a result I was hoping to find a ready made parenting plan – an easy to navigate road map. As hard as I tried I just couldn’t find a map which I could use. I searched everywhere. So many books and articles were scoured over for that magic road map. But in the end it was a futile search. No one is going to do this for me. No easy shortcuts had been forged by others. It was down to me and I needed to own it.

Fast forward to 2020 and I’m still here. Still a widow. Still a single parent. Still slightly confused. Still travelling that road. Still haven’t come across a map. But there is a difference. That road doesn’t quite feel so daunting. It doesn’t feel quite so long now. That’s progress in my book.

Under stress

It’s March and finally most of the daffodils are just starting to emerge. Let’s hope the weather is kind to them. Sadly the early blooms didn’t last too long. Three storms in as many weeks proved too much for them. They weren’t the only thing that the storms have put under stress.

My sleeping is poor at the best of times. But with the constant wind and rain slamming into the house my sleeping has become even more erratic. It’s not good for the soul, not good for your health as it puts your body under stress. I guess watching late night channels like QVC and DAVE are unlikely to help as well.

The trampoline has a safety net surrounding it. It’s held in place by 20 strong metal clips. An inspection today discovered that 15 had snapped off. Watch out Belgium if another storm hits. I wonder what the post Brexit arrangements are for recovering British trampolines from EU territory. Maybe it’s classed as an act of war.

A trip to the DIY store in the local town became an urgent priority. Surely a multitude of cable ties would do the repair job and head off a European war. The problem was that free parking is nonexistent in the town and certainly not outside the store. But surely at 10am the infamously effective traffic warden would be still in bed or at least not on duty yet. And then sods law kicked in. Yes as I arrived at the store and guess who was stood outside with his parking ticket book poised at the ready. Unbelievable.

So it’s was plan b then. Surely the supermarket would sell DIY stuff.

Don’t be daft….

Yes the supermarket does sell DIY products and the helpful store assistant confirmed that it does normally stock cable ties. Unfortunately they have been removed to make space for Easter Eggs. The store won’t be selling them until after Easter now.

Marvellous.

The supermarket must have something to secure a trampoline. The ever helpful assistant thought for a while. The only thing they had available was a ball of strong wool. So yes I bought the wool. It was only 50p and may help prevent a war. At least until Easter is over or the traffic warden goes on holiday.

In the end I didn’t use too much of the wool up. The trampoline is a fraction more secure. A diplomatic incident is less likely and I have a ball of wool. My mum used to knit a lot until arthritis took hold. She said that it really helped with stress. So just maybe I might try that. So don’t be surprised if you find me in the early sleepless hours watching QVC and knitting. It may be good for me and I do need some new woolen mittens. It might also take my mind off the awful weather outside for a few moments. That’s a luxury those poor daffodils don’t have.

Late nights

Over the school break we were seeing what we could find with our very old telescope. With a bit of patience we got a photo of a distant power station. Took a steady hand and many out of focus disasters. I guess a lot of patience.

When I’m tired my brain has a habit of going into neutral. That’s fine if your sitting or lying down but try to do anything else and your asking for trouble. Last night at around 4am I was watching Black Panther. I decided my body needed a hot drink. So I make a fine cup of Yorkshire Tea. (That’s the tea which has got the new Chancellor of the Exchequer personal seal of approval).

The photo is from Chancellors own twitter feed.

Anyway my late night Yorkshire Tea was made. Unfortunately as I sat down to watch the movie again I realised that I hadn’t brought my cup with me. I was holding the kettle instead.

A couple of weeks back it was even more painful. I was watching a late night movie and I went for a midway toilet pit stop. On my way to the bathroom I completely missed the open door and walked into a wall.

It’s been even worse that that. About a month ago I was struggling with a leg muscle strain. During yet another late night movie the muscle started playing up. So I decided to apply some Ralgex (Heat Rub). A fine idea but in my zombie state I must have forgot to immediately wash my hands. Unfortunately I rubbed my eye and then with spectacular bad timing I decided to go for a wee. Within a few minutes my eye and my undercarriage were basically on fire. Now that woke me up.

But occasionally the late nights can yield moments of clarity. This happened last night towards the end of Black Panther. I had been spending so much time worrying about the future. All the pitfalls of homeschooling. Everything that could go wrong. How I was missing my partner and her advice. Then it struck me. The one thing I had missed was the opportunities. Homeschooling allows you freedom to design your own days. That puts US in charge. That is such an exciting and liberating prospect. And I missed it.

It’s so easy to focus on the negatives. There is an awful lot to be worried about in life. Yet it still can be a wonderful life. If you let it and have patience. So I need to find a balance. If I’m going to think about the negatives then I owe it to myself to think about the positives as well.

Sod’s law

Don’t you just hate Sods Law (Murphy’s Law). Son has been desperate for some snow to have a sledging session. This season has been a complete right off so far. He’s just had a week off from school where it has basically been storm force winds or torrential rain. Not a sniff of the white stuff. So guess what. On the first morning back at school we wake to this.

And by the time he got back from school the snow has been replaced with rain and high winds again. All the white stuff has gone. He is so so sad. It’s not as if school was in any way enriching. It started with any kids arriving late still receiving negatives – no allowance for the awful roads and paths. Welcome back kids to this happy establishment. First day back and homework is being handed out like confetti at a wedding. Long lunch queues and over running lessons meant no hot food for his class. AND THEN we come to Drama.

The school is clearly desperate to produce the next Laurence Olivier. It’s chosen route. Spelling Tests.

So here goes my friends, your first spelling test of the term. Enjoy.

Grendel

Marking the moment

Proxemics

Thought track

Status

Narration

Levels

Themes

And I’ve saved the best till last

Beowulf

Heorot

Uniferth

King Hrothgar

Dane folklore spellings – what a top idea. So school has started off again being exactly the same grim, oppressive institution. It’s never going to change under this Government and it’s Victorian approach to education. I’ve again given him the option to be homeschooled and again he has reluctantly declined. He still wants to see if he gets moved up in any of his classes. But I must admit another school snow day may just push him over the edge. And I really couldn’t blame him.

Hanging on

After all the bad weather. The floods. The driving rain. The damaging winds. After three storms. Conditions which have proved too much for the early daffodils. The snowdrops are still hanging on. They are truly wonderful little delicate flowers.

Hanging on applies to the humans as well.

Son’s anxiety levels are definitely spiking now. He is returning to the outside world after 10 days of safety within the confines of his house and garden. Days of not needing to build rickety bridges between his world and the world of others. It’s been wonderful to see a kid enjoying being a kid again. Seemingly without a care in the world. But soon school will open the gates to its hostile environment again. As hard as I try the smiles are harder won and often just a little too forced now. Today he is hanging on.

His Dad is just hanging on as well. Son’s anxieties are sending shock waves through my system. A system which is operating on too little sleep. A system which is facing its very own localised storm. A Grief Storm. These storms don’t last as long as they once did. But they still can have an intensity which still takes my breath away. Sucking the life force out of me. They often sweep in without warning. Turning seemingly light into dark. It takes me back to my climbing days. Happily climbing looking into a dry sunny cliff face, blissfully unaware of the raging blizzard which is screaming towards my back. Within seconds I am are grimly hanging onto the rocks trying not to be swept into the oblivion beneath me.

I strongly suspect this Grief Storm was germinated in my fears as a single parent and the growing prospect of homeschooling.

  • Is it the right decision?
  • Am I taking on too much?
  • What happens if my work levels and our income are adversely effected by factors outside my control. My role is heavily dependent on community and sporting based events. These are likely to be curtailed if a certain virus takes hold in the UK. That would make our financial position even more precarious.
  • Are we giving up on school too soon?
  • How will I find the time to do those things which currently help get me through the day. Homeschooling is likely to make activities like running a bit of a rarity.
  • And on and on

Wrestling with these factors on my own. Thoughts then increasingly turn to the gaping hole left by my partner. Suddenly it’s a full on a Grief Storm. So I end up just hanging on. But at least I am still hanging on and that’s a start.