Embrace the stain….

Picking up from this mornings post. Spiez is just a perfect place. The building at the front of the picture is the hotel we would stay at. The mountain dominating at the back is the Niederhorn. Before our son was born I was practicing for a mountain race. As part of the training I managed to run up this beautiful mountain. I remember lying at the top ignoring the stunning view – just thinking do I run back down or call for a helicopter evacuation…

I recount this story as it came to me again this afternoon. Setting a goal, achieving it then rather than basking in the success you immediately worry about the next step or challenge.

This feels a bit like fighting the system for our son. So many peaks to climb. You climb one but you then immediately have to face a new climb. It can be soul destroying.

We have potentially found a specialist who will assess our son’s dyslexia. But now I need to find the money to pay for it (the leaking washing machine will have to survive another year before it’s replaced). AND I somehow need to find a way of getting the education system to adopt the recommendations of the assessment. I was speaking to another parent who has been trying unsuccessfully for two years to get her school to adopt the same specialists recommendations. Why do we make it so difficult for our kids…

You then see the news which is dominated by talk of Brexit. Our so called Prime Minister is trying to bribe another party with up to a billion pounds of further funding if they will vote for her shambles of a plan. And yet they can’t find the money to adequately fund our schools or mental health support services. She takes great delight in telling the rest of us that money doesn’t grow on a tree. Clearly our Leader values her own career and legacy higher than the kids of our country…… Sadly she is not the only world leader like that.

Then my mind drifts back to that mountain. The Niederhorn. I didn’t ‘get into the chopper’ in an Austrian accent but decided to run down. It was an interesting decent. As some breathless pillock had collapsed at the top into a fresh pile of some unknown and clearly legendary bird droppings. Running while trying to prevent passerby’s getting a good view of the your oddly coloured rear is just embarrassing. Rather than embracing the stain I just tried to run as quickly as possible while keeping my bum always pointing away from people. I can hear my dad saying ‘son as quick as you run you won’t increase the separation between your shorts and that stain’. Maybe that’s a really good analogy for state of our governments overall strategy……

Happy Days – Spiez

Looking out at the rain and the trees bending in the wind. It’s all just a bit too grey. Sometimes you soul needs more. For us that was a holiday in Switzerland. We probably couldn’t afford it but was it worth it – you bet.

We always used the small town of Spiez as our base. A stunning and friendly place sitting by the banks of Lake Thun. A transport fanatics dream. On one side you can take the regular boat service (sometimes an old steamer) to explore the lake from Thun to Interlaken. On the other side a brilliant train station offering precision perfect links to the rest of Switzerland, Germany and Milan.

After a hours of exploring we always ended the day with a walk up through the vineyards to a small hill top with stunning views across the lake to the Alps.

Memories and views like that are worth so much more than money. It’s why my beloved partner indicated that she wanted some of her ashes scattering here. A perfect choice. One day hopefully I will do the same. So our souls can wander here forever…..

Bern

Bern is Switzerland’s de facto capital. It’s the location for the country’s Federal Government – it is really the country’s Federal City. It is built around the River Aare. It is relatively small and extremely beautiful.

Bern’s famous Clock Tower provides an elaborate mechanical show every hour. Medieval figures and bears intricately dance and weave. This Tower provided the inspiration for the young Einstein to start his journey on the way to understanding time, space and light.

We visited Bern so many times. Strangely it never once rained. Coming from Yorkshire that is mind boggling. The city has a wonderful small Zoo and a Bear Park (thankfully now upgraded). With our son’s Aspergers we would precisely follow the same itinerary on each visit.

  • Arrive by Train
  • Zoo
  • Bear Park
  • Sausages and Fries over looking the river
  • Clock Tower
  • Ice cream
  • Back on the Train

One memory sticks and it really sums up Switzerland. On our very first visit we arrived by train and had absolutely no idea how to get to the Zoo. Clearly lost we asked a random person if they had any idea where we would find the Tourist Information. The really friendly Swiss chap asked (in perfect English) was there anywhere in particular we were trying to get to. He went into his bag gave us a pristine timetable and then explained the precise timings. Five minutes later the chap had walked with us to the Bus Stop and waited with us until the Tierpark Bus had arrived. So utterly Swiss….

Train journey

We are on a train heading towards Grindelwald. It is a beautifully warm spring morning. My partner is gazing out of the window smiling. Our son is playing with a couple of toy animals on the table. My coffee tastes stunning. The views are breathtaking.

Then I wake up. It’s been a dream. An almost exact replay of a holiday from 8 years ago. So exact that I have found a photograph from that very train journey.

I fling open the curtains and take in the fine Yorkshire View. FOG. THICK FOG. Not a dream this time…..

Son enters the room and asks what I’m doing. Admiring the view.

He looks out of the window while I go to let the dog out into the garden. On my return our son is laughing.

“It’s a fine view Dad, especially the sight of our pup running about with your pants in his mouth…..”

Give me that train window view back please……

Epic contrast

Thinking of spring reminded me of visiting Switzerland at Easter. Came across this photo. It’s amazing how the wild flowers have started blooming, the green has fully returned and yet you still got plenty of snow in the background.

The day before that we took the early train to Gringelwald. Found ourselves stood in 3 feet of snow and battling a blizzard. Then a few hours later eating ice cream and playing crazy golf, toping up the tan.

A contrast of epic proportions.

Back to school

Warning this post contains bad language and monumentally pompous stupidity.

In 2018 the Switzerland Glaciers lost 2.5% of their volume. It’s expected that they will have disappeared by 2090 – at the latest.

On Friday thousands of pupils walked out of UK School’s to protest about our Governments inaction on climate change. Good to see the positive response it got from our Leaders.

“It is important to emphasise that disruption increases teachers’ workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for,” a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said. “That time is crucial for young people, precisely so that they can develop into the top scientists, engineers and advocates we need to help tackle this problem.”

Our countries so called Education Secretary “let me be clear, missing class won’t do a thing to help the environment; all they will do is create extra work for teachers.”

The Conservative Leader of the House of Commons “It’s called truancy, not a strike“.

Well if you got your head out of your arses and took meaningful action then the kids wouldn’t need to walk out. If you didn’t pander to the fossil fuel companies, actively promote the disastrous fracking industry and cut renewable energy investment…. then you might be taken seriously. What trust do you expect the next generation to have in you when they see the monumental f*****g screwup you are making of Brexit. The entire political system has abjectly failed its primary roles of protecting the world and securing the futures of the upcoming generations.

This has to stop. The kids get it. Unfortunately our dim witted, self serving leaders don’t. It’s time for the next generation to take over and time for our politicians to go back to school. Maybe then they would see what a gigantic mess they have made of the education system as well.

Blue water

I took the mad dog for his morning constitutional walk. We pass a couple of streams and a small lake. Just very grey. Got me thinking. Even in the summer they are always just grey. No colour.

Suddenly my mind wanders to happier times. European Holidays. The two things that immediately strike you when you visit Switzerland:

  • The staggering beauty of the Alps

AND

  • The beautiful colour of the Lakes. This photo does not do them justice.

Just breathtaking…..

Which mountain?

It’s just over 2 years since we lost her. It doesn’t feel like 2 years. It still just seems like last month..

This photograph was taken on our last family holiday. It’s the view from the hotel. The view brings back so many happy memories. But it’s a sobering thought that the next time I see this view for real it will be on a trip to scatter her ashes. That wasn’t in the script…..

I feel a bit like Dr Strange in the last Avengers movie. Scanning all the possible life outcomes and probably only seeing one which involved ashes within such a short time span. Unfortunately that one came to fruition.

On that last holiday we spoke briefly about if something happened where she wanted to be laid to rest. I never paid too much attention to it. Surely that life option isn’t going to happen for many years – I would make a really crap Dr Strange. But now we have a bit of a problem. Can I remember the preferred sites. Two in the UK are reasonably simple and straightforward. The two in Switzerland ……

One is easy as it’s an instantly recognisable location, we have been to it several times before. The other location is a tad more problematic. She wanted to be scattered at the same location as her beloved Dad. It’s at the top of a mountain I have never been to. Assuming I have remembered the right mountain, Switzerland are not short of one or two. Then I can vaguely remember the instructions. Get the cable car to the top. Start the path down and it’s next to a bench near a small pile of stones. Unfortunately looking at the internet the mountain has at least 8 paths and I’ve counted at least 20 benches. As our son helpfully points out – you will know if you have picked the wrong mountain or wrong bench when that bolt of lightning strikes. No pressure then….

Two years ago this genuinely caused me huge anxiety and anguish. Now I can see the funny side. That’s progress.

Important note. Trying to arrange taking ashes abroad from the U.K. is a nightmare especially if you are planning to fly. You need to arrange a specific flight time with the airline. Then get the undertaker to securely package the ashes and complete the required cover note which has to include the flight details. The airlines I spoke to made the process so difficult. Also straight after the cremation the last thing you want to sort out is air flights. Fortunately the Eurostar train option is so much friendly. They told us to get the ashes securely packaged. Then book as normal when you are ready – just pre warn security when they check your bags. It’s another train journey for my partner then – she loved trains.

Safety Net

Photo taken from the top of The Niesen.

I never really thought about my own mortality. Before I met my partner my attitude to risk was “it will be alright and if something happens to me I’m not too great a loss to society”. After we became a family I started to become more responsible but I still had a reasonable risk threshold. If something happened to me our son would still have his mum and his granny.

This all changed when I lost my mum and then partner within 6 weeks of each other.

The first few days after my partner left us are still a blur. But I remember one incident like it was yesterday. It was my son’s first day back at school and I was driving to register the death. Suddenly a sports car pulled out in front of me. A suicidal overtaking manoeuvre. Luckily I saw him and managed to swerve onto the grass verge and miss him – just. At that speed it would probably have been game over. All I could think about was our Son. One second slower reaction time and he would have been parentless. The whole incident shocked me. Suddenly there was no backstop for our son. No cover if I couldn’t be there for him.

A couple of years later and it’s a new life. With new dreams, new hopes and new feelings. All the climbing and contact sports have been permanently ditched. No more drinking. No more stupid risks to my body. I just can’t take those chances anymore. I’m even more boring than I once was but much more importantly I feel that I am a much better parent now. Yes the world has changed. But hopefully I have adapted to it. The reality of parenting without a safety net…..