Return

This is the first hill I ever walked up. Walked up it more than any other hill. Roseberry Topping is not a big hill. It’s only 266 ft tall. It sits on the northern edge of North Yorkshire and is a part of the Cleveland Hills. At the top look south and you see beautiful moors. Look north you see an urban sprawl and industry. Those with good eyesight can see where I was born and the sea.

For such a small hill it so loved. Alan Hinkes the first Britain to climb all 14 highest world mountains talks so fondly of this little piece of rock.

“I saw K2 and thought: that is the mountain to do; it’s nearly as impressive as Roseberry Topping”

Here we often refer it as the Yorkshire Matterhorn. Our version of the Swiss Matterhorn.

Our version is certainly not as big. Not as snowy. Not as steep. Not as scary. Not as famous. But it’s certainly way more Yorkshire.

My mum when she was young apparently scrawled her initials in a rock near the top. Many did that. I’ve still not found her carving but I do look every time I visit the hill.

As a teenager it would always feel a little claustrophobic where we lived. A small grey town. On one side the cold dark North Sea. On the other side one of Europe’s biggest chemical and steel works. It often seemed that the rest of the world was blocked off from me. But get on my bike and ride 2 hours through the industry. Suddenly I was at the base of our Matterhorn. 30 minutes later I was on its top and I could breathe. I was finally in a different world. I could experience what it was like to be in The Alps. To be an adventurer. I could think clearly on the top. I could calm the internal storms. I could visualise a better life.

All these years later and I still love this little hill. My hill. I so want to be there right now. I need to be there. 2020 will probably be the first year since I was a wee bairn that I won’t have stood on Roseberry Topping. That’s a sad thought. But it’s patiently waiting for me. Waiting for me to return.

The boys have lost things

This is the kind of house that just seems to encourage losing things. Lots of things. Which is remarkable when you consider it’s smallish bungalow. Including the garage and the loft, we only have 8 locations for stuff to mysteriously disappear. But it does. All the time.

The house is the home just to boys these days. That includes the pets. So we can definitely say that THE BOYS HAVE LOST THINGS.

Already today we couldn’t find

  • Hawklads FIFA 20 games disk,
  • The new pack of Weetabix,
  • My bank card to pay for something online,
  • My car key,
  • One of my socks – followed instantly by shouting at the dog,
  • A black pen. Can find loads of other colours but not a black pen which Hawklad needs to do a little homework,
  • My new pack of tea,
  • The laptop – how can you lose a laptop….
  • A pair of scissors,
  • My fitness band,
  • The WiFi passkey,
  • The new pack of batteries I bought on Thursday,
  • My mobile,
  • The book I’ve been trying to read for a couple of months now, frustratingly I only have 4 pages to go. It went missing while I was reading in bed. It has been lost for weeks. Ransacked the bedroom today, still no sign. It’s a rubbish crime story but I just want to find out who did it…..

That’s a typical day here. Boys will be boys….

But at least we found time to talk today. We ended up talking about our lockdown and the stuff that we miss. The things we have lost in our own little worlds. For me it was being around people.

Running in the countryside and walking in the mountains.

Going to see my team get beat. Spending time with the friend I meet up with.

We both agreed on missing concerts.

We also both agreed on missing going to Switzerland.

Hawklad talked about not going to zoos and falconries as much. Not being able to have a takeout or pop in for a real ice cream. Not being able to meet up with some of his friends. Missing out on not visiting the seaside.

Not going to wrestling shows.

And not being able to visit historical sites.

There was more but you get the point. Lockdown does have an impact on all our worlds. It means making sacrifices. But we do that all the time. The worry is that too many kids are losing out of key parts of their childhood. It’s about making the best of what we do have. Still trying to make memories. Remembering to keep living.

Line them up

Well the nurse counsellor did arrive. At the height of the storm. Due to working restrictions she was not allowed in the house. So it was plan b. Move my car next to the counsellor’s car. Windows down and you have a mobile meeting facility. The session went well. The counsellor seems really good. It’s a start. Start of a long road. But a start it is.

He will now get appointments every two weeks now. Let’s hope progress can be made. The counsellor is also going to write to the school to confirm that he is under health care at present and is not medically cleared to return. Hawklad has come to the conclusion that he just can’t go back to school at present. Even with professional help now, this could take many months before school might become a possibility for him. Until he can feel be reasonably comfortable being around people and ok to touch surfaces then school is but a pipe dream. Will he ever go back – just don’t know.

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer yesterday said that schools were perfectly safe. Apparently children are more at risk from road accidents than from catching the virus. I can’t think of many more insensitive ways of making a point – that’s going to really hurt those families who have lost loved ones on the road. I’m also not entirely reassured by her words. I remember a few other of her words over the last few months

  • The Government response to the pandemic has been exemplary……
  • The UK pandemic approach had been very successful……
  • Large Public Gatherings and Sporting events are perfectly safe, no need to stop attending them. That was at a time Europe had banned those and a few days later we did the same. She even encouraged people to attend the countries largest horse racing event just a couple of days before the country went into lockdown – the infection spread from that event has been scary.
  • People should be more adult when they discussed PPE shortages. It wasn’t such a big issue for healthcare and care workers…..
  • The UK didn’t need to test, test, test for the virus as we were a First World Country.

We all want to get schools open. But it has to be done correctly. Just grouping kids into giant year group bubbles then squeezing them back into cramped classrooms with at least 30 other people isn’t good enough. Asking kids to wear masks on buses, sometimes in corridors and not in classrooms is just a mess. Not exploiting online education to ease some of the space issues is a massive mistake. Only offering testing after the virus has been encountered just repeats the mistakes we have repeatedly made as a country. We’ve had months to get this school return right.

I really feel for those parents and children who are returning to schools. For some it is a easy decision and the return can’t come quick enough. For others it is not easy. For those with underlying health conditions it is a calculated risk. For us that decision has probably been kicked into touch for a while longer.

Don’t you just love 2020.

Red Rose

That’s me expelled from Yorkshire. A red rose……. Historically our greatest rival has been our neighbour Lancashire. We have had bloody civil wars and battled over who should have the English Throne. We are the White Rose County. Lancashire is the Red Rose County. To this day when our teams meet the matches are often called the Roses Game. Even sometimes – The War of the Roses.

I can get away with a red rose. I was born in a Yorkshire town but on the northern edge. The Yorkshire Cricket Team would play in my town once a year. A few years later and the government decided to have a local government reorganisation and suddenly we were kind of just outside my birth county. That’s my excuse anyway.

It really doesn’t matter what colour Rose you are. We are all in this mess together. Work briefly picked up. Glimmers of hope. But that didn’t last long. Most of the work programme has been cancelled again. We help to manage public events and deal with things like cycle races. Trying to stop the roads clogging up and looking after the safety of the competitors/public. Not a great line of work to be in during a pandemic. Most of the remaining events have been waiting for news on the upcoming London Marathon. If they run then we can. Well the London Marathon has now cancelled the public element of the race. It will hold a much smaller professional race with no spectators. Worse news is that next years marathon has already been pushed back months into October 2021. With all the money and resources they have available to them and they can’t run the event safely for well over a year. Crumbs…..

So our work programme is effectively wrecked until well into next year. We might get a few small events but hardly anything. Maybe a few ‘helping to manage drive in vaccination schemes’. But we can’t spend to long fretting over this. It’s really out of our hands. Not much we can do except batten down the hatches and try to weather the storm. Try to look after the pennies. It could be so much worse. So many don’t have a job. Now that is properly tough.

Much less work has many advantages. Yes it focuses the mind on money but look on the bright side. More time to focus on Hawklad. Much reduced carbon footprint – the mad car is hardly getting used, it’s been to the petrol station once since March. And other advantages.

I was sat on the floor in the bathroom cleaning the toilet. I’ve got a rock and roll lifestyle. Listening to some fine Canadian Rock – RUSH. Thinking what a good job I was doing getting the throne glistening white again. Normally toilet cleaning duties are seen as as a real chore. Something to be squeezed in to an overly busy day. Get it done as quick as possible. But today I could take my time. Do a proper job.

Now that’s finished it’s time to fold the bathroom sheets (toilet roll) into nice shapes – just like the hotels do. Now that’s a first…….

Weeds weeds weeds

In this photo the farmers field looks well kept, flat with short grass. In reality it’s like walking over a minefield. No flat bits, huge holes, long grass, thistles and presents from the farm animals. Maybe I should try taking a long distance photo of our garden. It might look semi tidy. Ha Ha Ha

Yes we currently have a well cut lawn – well if you ignore the beautiful mole hills and badger diggings. That’s also conveniently ignoring the rampant moss growing amongst the grass. The other parts of the garden are not good at all. It’s an uncoordinated mix of weeds, flowers, more weeds and vegetables. I was hoping the theory that ‘beauty can be found in the random’ might be true. Always an exception to the rule.

Apparently some vegetables in that mess
A bit of a tidy up has started…

Then looking on in amazement at Erika’s wonderful garden. Now that’s a garden. Looking at Derrick’s stunning garden. Now that’s a garden. Time to convert that amazement into action. Time to ditch the random…

I’m in planning mode. Making plans for a potential future road trip to Switzerland and Lichtenstein. Making plans for a dream trip to another continent. Now making plans for the garden. That’s a plan that I can start to implement NOW. If we are going to be garden bound, might as well make it a nice one. Under orders from Hawklad the plan will need to include a rock pool and a weed section. Well with the Yorkshire rain we won’t need to worry about refilling the pool and weeds – we have plenty of those. That’s a good start.

It’s also a good check on my life in general as well. My life has become far too cluttered. Too messy. Trying to fight on too many fronts at the same time. Not sure of what my priorities are. Just like the garden, it’s become overgrown and confusing. I then don’t seem to achieve enough. Lose sight of the path ahead. So yes a garden plan is good, a new life plan would be really good. That way I can really focus on what is special to me.

Snappy

Lockdown did have some advantages. One being – No Aeroplanes. Something about seeing a sky without any evidence of man made birds which are polluting the atmosphere. Now the number of vapour trails are slowly rising but clearly not back to the crowded skies of pre pandemic times. Which is still a bit of a win for the planet. Got to be pleased about that.

I did something that I’m not pleased about. Not at all. I snapped at Hawklad. Not a massive snap, but still a snap. Some post arrived and I quickly put the offending letters into the designated quarantine area. I quickly washed my hands then headed out to cut the grass.

Dad have you washed your hands.”

Which towel did you use.”

Which soap did you use.”

Then…

I don’t think you washed your hands for long enough. Can you wash them again.”

Maybe I was tired. Maybe it’s because I had gone 16 hours without food. Maybe I just wanted to get the grass cut before it rained. Maybe I was annoyed at myself for not washing my hands for long enough in the first place. Maybe it’s being seemingly stuck in Groundhog Day. For whatever reason, I snapped. Slammed the front door shut, did that teenage sigh, let out a little mild expletive, stomped to the bathroom and purposely washed in the noisiest fashion possible. Not massive stuff but unusual for me. We’ve all been there. Even Super Hero Parents are human…….

I quickly apologised and went outside to cool down. Easily done in today’s Yorkshire weather. All I could think about was school. What happens if he does decide to go back on the 11th September. His hyper hygiene mode will meet a school system which is basically winging it. Maybe they could make Hawklad into the Hygiene Monitor. Wow he would sort out the teachers and pupils. Definitely the iron fist of authority. But in all seriousness, the teachers and other kids will just not have the time or inclination to get anywhere near the hygiene levels that he’s got used to at home. The levels he needs for his own well-being. I can see some of the less patient teachers issuing so many negatives to him. But that was me just a few moments ago.

So more food for thought. As is the fact that in the broken cloudy skies, I can see three vapour trails. That’s the most in months…..

Cramming

This was a year ago. It must have been taken on one of my really long running routes. As it was the last week of term, I would be trying to cram in as many long runs as possible before the 6 week school holidays started. If only I had crammed in a few super long runs before the pandemic kicked in during March this year. Actually thinking about it, I wish I had crammed in a few other things as well those long 4 months ago

  • Real ice cream
  • Slush puppies
  • Hill walking
  • Climbing
  • Trips to the beach
  • Trips to Switzerland
  • Trips to see my football team play – on seconds thoughts, who wants to see them get beat again….
  • Trips to Castles and Roman sites
  • Rock concerts
  • Visits to my sisters and brother
  • Trips to see some special friends
  • A few mountain biking sessions
  • A trip to the running shoe shop
  • A trip to a coffee and cake shop
  • A trip to the hot donut shop
  • A trip to the paper shop to stock up on paper, pens, PENCILS, paint, crayons and other school stationary cupboard requirements
  • Trip to the garage, my car has been broken since March now
  • A trip to the chip shop
  • Clothes shopping for the next year of Hawklad’s growth
  • Bathroom paper (toilet roll), face mask and soap shopping
  • A trip to the toy shop for Christmas gifts
  • Garden furniture shopping – the Yorkshire winters are not kind on outside chairs
  • Second hand book store

Thinking about books, the one place I am so glad I never crammed in was a trip to the Library. My books would now be 4 months overdue – that would be some hefty fine.

Midday

Still summer is glorious. Had been hoping to get outside, have a chat and be creative with a pencil, but the weather is just not playing ball. This is midday…..

The school at home project has allowed this Dad to see some practical evidence of the progress and issues which son has with his learning process. The level of insight that is just not provided to parents from schools. Maybe in class sizes approaching 30 this type of insight is just not collected.

After these 3 months I have a better grasp on the dyslexia position. The feedback from school has been limited to

  • He has reading problems,
  • He is doing quite well in spelling tests.

That’s it…. Nothing else in just under two years.

So what insight has the last 3 months provided.

  • His reading has developed. I would estimate that he can read unaided about 50% of words. If he takes his time he can try to sound some of the missing words out, eventually arriving at a word he’s heard of before. The other words at school he’s been guessing or just ignoring. At home he’s happy to ask for help with words. Even allowing me to read out particularly difficult sections,
  • His dyslexia is more pronounced when he’s doing handwriting.
  • He finds it easier to type out answers. It’s a long process as his typing is not quick. He also struggles to see when the predictive text function selects the wrong word.
  • With certain word patterns it doesn’t matter how many times he sees the word, it’s like he is seeing the word for the first time.
  • When he gets tired the dyslexia flares up with greater force. Regular breaks really help. The optimum time appears to be 20 minute work blocks with short breaks.
  • Number dyslexia is still a problem. 6’s and 9’s are easily switched, especially when a decimal point is introduced into the number.

I’m not a trained teacher but I have a valuable quality which many teachers don’t get in UK schools. Quality time. Time to focus on one pupil. That is something which is not permitted under the current government led approach. An approach based on schools operating like automated production lines. That must be another vote for homeschooling…..

Excuse

This was the last few hours of the heatwave before the stormy weather arrived.

There’s a new expression taking hold in England. The matter is now closed. Unfortunately it carries no weight unless you are a member of the Government. It works like this. It comes to light that a member of the government or a sponsor has been caught doing bad stuff. Recently that’s things like criminal negligence, collusion with a foreign power, breaking the law, ignoring lockdown rules, profiteering from the pandemic or brexit, harassment, breaking procurement regulations, waiving or ignoring planning rules for personal gain and misconduct. The type of stuff that if me and you did this then we would be thrown to the wolves.

But that doesn’t apply to members of the elite.

But here’s where the phrase comes into use. So a member of the government is caught with his or her trousers down. After days of denying anything happened they issue a brief statement saying nothing bad happened and anyway it was someone else’s fault. This is then followed by the PM saying The Matter is Now Closed and I have full confidence in the rogue bandit. Now since the PM likes to see himself as a part time Emperor, well that’s it. No need for further investigation or questions. The PM has done that kinda stuff while sipping on another expensive champagne. He is court, jury and judge. You can trust the emperor as he had an exclusive private education and he had been bred to lead us. This approach is proving such jolly good fun that it’s really taking hold. The mainstream media buy it, prosecuting authorities are increasing deferring to it, as are an increasing number of the public.

So when I was a kid and I got hauled off to the head teachers office for snapping a pencil or swearing in cricket – if only I had access to the the matter is now closed defence.

If only my ‘a big boy did it and ran away‘ excuse had proved so effective……

Service

Maybe I can call our little part of the world a Rose Garden. Makes a change from Jungle or Weedville.

Well so far we have survived the boiler service. The chap turned up and to be fair to him, he did use a mask and gloves. He did confirm that it wasn’t me being a muppet. It had fuel. It was turned ON. He explained that it was the oldest boiler he had seen in ages. Possibly over 40 years old. It’s poor motor had finally died. Unbelievably he found a replacement motor in the van that just about fitted. So with a hefty bill winging my way he departed. Apparently after all those years it is still working at 90% efficiency. Wish I was that good at 40.

The thought of an outsider entering the house sent son into an anxiety meltdown. Unplanned visitors is not easy at the best of times for someone with Aspergers. But during a pandemic…..

To try and keep a lid on his anxiety we agreed a decontamination protocol. Thankfully this was carried out to the letter.

  • The service person wore masks and gloves,
  • He only entered the house via the back door,
  • He only ventured into one room,
  • After he finished I quickly disinfected the room and the door he used,
  • That room and that side of the house was then closed off for 3 days,
  • As was the path which the serviceman walked across,
  • I than had a shower and completely changed clothes.

It might seem OTT but to our son this was the bare minimum which was acceptable to him. His way of protecting his safe place. He will be much less stressed out when that part of the house comes out of lockdown. Later we had a chat about all things pandemic and his anxieties. Clearly we won’t be dropping our local procedures for a considerable time. Putting aside the merits of homeschooling debate, I just can’t see how he cope function in a public environment any time soon. Certainly not in a crowded school at the start of September. Thankfully the concerts we were due to see have been cancelled. (The Who, Whitesnake, Foreigner, Europe, Aerosmith, Hollywood Vampires). We are down to just two in October now. Deep Purple and Ozzy. But I just can’t see them happening as well.

So maybe we start to adopt a mindset that actually our enforced house and garden lockdown will last into 2021. Will need to think about that. What additional things do we have to put in place to ensure that we both can continue to enjoy life for all those months. Maybe that industrial sized ice cream and slush puppy machine is not such a far fetched idea……