A time just before parenthood and I was sat in Departure Lounge at Zurich Airport, waiting for a plane back to England. Opposite was a young couple clearly waiting for the same plane. As we chatted they excitedly described their first venture into this wonderful land called Switzerland. I remember them saying that they had found a wonderland. They told a story about being caught out in heavy rain while walking and a local farmer brought them into his house for a warm drink. When the rain didn’t pass he drove them to the nearest train station.
Here’s the irony. Probably during the very same rainstorm, we were walking through beautiful Gstaad and guess what, yes the heavens truly opened. Proper RAIN. We tried to take shelter in the nearest doorway. Quickly the door opened and we were beckoned inside. In Swiss German we were told to ‘come inside before we got soaked’. We were treated to Italian coffee and cake as the storm passed over. Our hosts being truly kind and nice. I remember joking that if this had been England, the door would have been quickly bolted shut with us still outside. The smiling response said it all..
“Probably, but this is Switzerland and it’s just different here…”
It so is…..
And to be fair to Gstaad, every other time we have been there the weather has been perfect. Plus they do a mighty fine watermelon….
Generosity can make you smile, give you a warm feeling. Sometimes it can actually give you the giggles.
Just received an email from our much loved and very cheap (😱😱😱) electricity supplier who never ever make massive profits by charging too much…. They are running a scheme where they ask customers to cut power usage during peak times so that we as a country avoid running out of this piped electrical gold. In return customers receive a discount on the next bill.
Well the email from them did give me the giggles. See GENEROSITY even from the unusual sources is a good thing and it even took a bit of strain off the creaking GENERATORS.
£1 currently gets you 1.13 Euros, or 1.20 US Dollars, or 1.64 Canadian Dollars or 100 Indian Rupees. Living the DREAM today🤣🤣🤣🤣
Back to 2015 and our last family of 3 trip to Alpine Heaven, just before the world changed. A perfect deep blue sky week – almost. One slate grey day, so we heeded across the lake towards the closest mountain for a mini adventure. The Niederhorn is a relatively small mountain (6440ft) which seemed to be just below the cloud line.
A relatively small mountain here but way higher than anything the UK has got to offer. Memories are flooding back now. Chatting with Hawklad about how this mountain must kinda get overlooked sometimes in The Alps. Yet if the mountain packed it’s bags and moved to the UK it would be treasured, held in awe. Hawklad laughing at the thought of the Niederhorn needing to buy a waterproof coat for the weather in its new home.
Coats were definitely needed on this day. So was the hot chocolate and warming soup in the mountain top restaurant. But you know what, it was a fantastic adventure, Switzerland always is….
24 hours after my double shot of Flu and Covid booster vaccines. The arm which enjoyed the Pfizer needle was feeling like it had been repeatedly punched by Tyson Fury. The rest of me was just feeling cold, like I had a cold. Not sure why but every single time I have had the Flu vaccine, the next day I have without fail come down with cold symptoms and it was no different this year.
So feeling COLD and THINKING next to this awesome little lake.
“Dad I’ve come up with a Christmas list idea, how about a Scalextric Set…”
Bang goes my one great big surprise idea….. Pants…..
“You don’t need to get me any Shakespeare stuff Dad, anything to do with School English Literature is not ever making the list now. Definitely not after school sucked the life out of it.”
It’s ok, Shakespeare was not in the Gift running list. The one and only time he did make the GIFT list, it was via the wonderful Horrible Histories BILL movie.
“Dad we haven’t watched the Horrible Histories movie in ages. I learnt more from that movie than school has ever managed to teach me about Shakespeare in years. The movie was fun, school isn’t….”
He’s not wrong there….
Can you remember the last time you had fun with your schools.
“Not happened so far, but to be fair, I’ve only been at school for 11 years.”
And stood by this cold lake, we probably stumble on why education in the UK is in such a mess for so many families.
Wet old day here in Yorkshire, it’s been wet for days now. Unbelievably we are still covered by drought rules and a hosepipe ban. Well there isn’t much need for our hosepipe presently, it’s been pretending to be a sleeping snake in our long grass for months now.
Yes it’s WET, yes it’s NOVEMBER, but there is still a touch of orange if you look hard enough.
A good walk to just switch off.
Hawklad goes through phases where THOUGHTS get stuck. Anxious thoughts, stressful thoughts, negative thoughts, confusing thoughts, possible upsetting thoughts. Thoughts that just won’t go away. They seem to take on more meaning, seemingly acquire more permanence. I remember reading a Psychology Article that labelled these thoughts as Mind Bullies. These thoughts try to bully you into thinking that they are more significant, have more meaning than other thoughts. Not just thoughts that quickly disappear, these try to take over. Try to ruin the day. Try to bring a person down.
Today Hawklad decided to write down the problem thoughts. He wrote down 168 Bully Thoughts in just a few hours…. As he said.
I try to help but I’m no specialist. Am I doing more harm than good, I have no idea. But here’s the problem, there is no access to specialist help for many. School only focus on academic performance, huge waiting lists and insufficient capacity effectively rule out mental health support. Hawklad is not self harming, not violent, not suicidal, so he is viewed as low priority and has little chance of getting specialist help. Limited resources have to focus on others. Then all too soon he will be classed as an adult and then the support completely dries up. So families and friends do their best to help.
I wonder how Shakespeare would describe this scene. I bet he would use lots and lots of vowels…. This set me off thinking about school. What would Bill think about how his plays are taught in some schools these days. Initially he might be a tad chuffed that his words are still being read. Once he had got over that feeling, then what would he really think of how the plays are being used.
When I was at school with the dinosaurs, we would read the Shakespeare plays together as a class and then act out the scenes. I remember doing a rather excellent snotty nosed version of Lucentio. The teachers tried to make the learning fun and interactive. As a kid I shouldn’t have really liked Bill’s plays, but I actually did. School did it’s job.
Fast forward to Hawklad’s schooling and wow it’s changed. Shakespeare is still taught, just so very differently. The fun has gone… Now it’s about parrot learning key quotes. It’s about memorising the metaphors, the juxtapositions, the oxymorons, the alliterations. It’s not about acting the plays out, enjoying them, that’s all replaced by being told what to think about the plays. The work is so very often, repetitive, writing sections of the plays out, word for word. Then writing out the comments the teacher has scrawled next to the text. Then doing the same thing, over and over again. Got to get those words into the child’s head. Got to get the one approved interpretation memorised. They never ask what the pupil thinks about the play, just what the pupil can remember from the set model answer. In too many subjects Hawklad has been marked down for expressing his own opinion. Its not interactive learning, it’s more like brainwashing. Is it me or is schooling going backwards in the UK.
I’m not sure Bill would be that impressed as well……
It’s been a cracking Fungi season. A gift that keeps on giving.
The school half term holiday starts tomorrow evening. The school at home project has completely nosedived this half term. Any support provided is becoming at best very very very patchy, too many of the subjects are dropping completely off the radar. It’s all very vexing and we both quip that it feels like the postman will be bringing a letter from school saying that Hawklad has been sacked. So a week off is needed to lift his spirits, to relax. He is seriously stressed out.
School has made it clear that for pupils like Hawklad, this half term is about work and revising. The school will be checking to see that pupils have put in the hour after hour of work by setting tests as soon as school reopens again.
All work NO play.
I realise other parents might take a different view but this is so wrong to me. Everybody needs a break, especially in these times. Kids need time to relax and have fun. So many are stressed out. Stressed out with school, freaked out by the madness they see unfold all around them. No wonder that UK Child Mental Health Services are being swamped. Latest figures show that over 400000 children per month are being treated for mental health problems.
So here, yes there will be a small bit of work but hopefully bucket loads of relaxation and play. If Hawklad isn’t up to work then stuff school.
The UK School Summer holiday is 6 weeks of much needed rest and recovery. A chance to unwind for Hawklad but it brings one big problem.
Any visits have to be carefully planned and precisely timed. Exposure to those pesky, anxiety spiking crowds have to be minimised. So when he says he wants to go to a particular popular tourist area, over 130 miles drive away, it takes some working out.
Three hours drive on some narrow roads….
Crowds probably start building up just after 9am….
Need time for a decent walk, some sight seeing, a picnic…..
Maybe catch some Osprey hunting just after dawn…..
So Needs Must.
Last Saturday morning we set off for Kielder Water while it was still dark, just after 3am. Arrived just after 6am.
It worked, we had the place to ourselves. Three glorious, relaxing, refreshing hours before the first cars started to stream in. When that happened, we set off home. Hundreds of cars and caravans heading West, one rust bucket heading East. A good trip out without anxiety.
Last week I briefly popped into a supermarket. At one of the checkouts was a mother trying to cope with a boy clearly having a meltdown. Sadly some of the other shoppers were not exactly understanding. Too many were being horrible to the mum, yet they had no idea of the back story. No idea what the child was going through, what the mum was trying to deal with.
I have it easy, some parents definitely don’t. They are doing what they can. Needs must.
As a child living in what felt like a remote, cut adrift Yorkshire seaside town, life felt very restrictive. I knew a world was out there but only via a black and white TV, the town cinema and books. Money was tight in that grey misty town, few had cars, holidays were taken locally. Normally any holidays revolved round a visit to another seaside town a just a few miles up the coast. No one I knew ever got on a plane and went abroad.
How times changed in just a few years ……
But back then I so wanted to escape. To travel. I especially loved the idea of mountains. They looked unreal on the screen or in books, I had never seen a proper mountain, just small hills. I loved the idea that each mountain had its own name, it’s own personality. One mountain in particular stood out, the fearsome EIGER. I dreamt of standing below it and looking up.
Years later, holidays to Switzerland, to The Alps. Who would have thought that my son would end up standing next to that might mountain I had dreamt about when I was his age. Hawklad was capivated by the local fairy tale about 3 the great local mountains. About a Monk (The Monch), an Ogre (The Eiger) and a young girl (The Jungfrau).
Switzerland is that kinda place. A place of adventure, dreams and wonderful memories.