Windy with a hint of muppets.

Please remind me not to try and take a closeup photo during a wind storm. It’s not easy. It’s been a typical Yorkshire May Day. Two jumpers (sweaters), woolly hat and retrieving garden furniture from the farmers field.

A fantastic blogger did a wonderful tribute to me by doing a post on her site, in my writing style. It’s funny reading about yourself in someone else’s words, finding out what I had done. Thank you Chelsea, you do me so much better than I do.

Chelsea’s post is so apt and spookily close to the mark. Outside eating with a hint of muppetry was definitely yesterday’s theme. We had decided to mark the start of the week off with a barbecue. Unfortunately the old bbq crumbled over the Yorkshire winter. My first attempt at building a replacement one didn’t go to well and rather scarily was built next to the oil tank. So when yesterday came…

Dad why don’t we just move the George Foreman grill outside like we said we would.”

No let’s have fun and build a fire on the lawn. A proper barbecue.

Not sure that’s a great idea. It’s a bit grey and very, very windy…”

Yes it was blowing a storm but surely man can overcome the elements. So yes we built a rather fine temporary fire structure at a much safer distance from the oil tank. I was quite impressed. It was loaded with what we had in terms of coal and wood.

How are you going to light it.”

Matches…. This is where the plan encountered its first problem. Yes we did find three matchboxes. A remnant from fireworks night. Unfortunately the boxes where full of used matches. Don’t you just hate that. I managed to salvage one complete unused match and one snapped one. So here goes. Problem two – the wind. Instantly both matches were been blown out. Problem three – living in a house with oil heating and an electric oven. We don’t need to light a fire so the house is bereft of spark generating options.

Ok Bear Grylls what are you going to do now. Time for the George Foreman yet.”

Spiriting up my inner Bear I located my camping flint and tried to create fire. Thirty minutes later – nothing.

Dad I will fetch the George Foreman. I’m starving.”

Too late, it started to rain. So eventually it was an indoor George Foreman feast. Today’s heartwarming life lesson

Once a Muppet, always a Muppet.

Boris Award

We have not awarded a Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson Award for a few months. Remember we set this up to honour the fine body of self deluded, incompetent numpties in our society. Well one chap in the UK is so overdue this award it’s about time he got what he so richly deserves. I give you our much loved Health Secretary – Matt Hancock. This incompetent buffoon is apparently in charge of the NHS.

Photo sourced from Wired

Where do we start with Mr Hancock. He has enough material to write several books. Let’s hope one of those books relates to his trial and imprisonment.

  • In his time in government he has voted against giving health care workers a pay rise. They have basically enjoyed a pay freeze. As a result the pay of groups like Nurses have seen real terms wage cuts of 20% over the last 10 years. Last year he finally got round to awarding them a modest pay award unfortunately he won’t commit to awarding any further increases. His reasoning (you will notice a catalog of self delusion with Matt) that nurses have received very significant pay awards over the last few years).
  • Matt has said he would see about giving nurses another pay rise sometime in the future. However for their brave sacrifices he will give them a special badge. He is also quiet happy to see overseas medical staff who are working so brilliantly in the NHS, having to face increased registration costs due to Brexit……
  • Matt picked a fight with professional footballers. He thought that during the pandemic that they should take a pay cut and donate to charity. He failed to recognise that many do actually give a lot to charities. He also failed to call for many of the much richer backers of his own party to accept a pay cut. Interestingly when asked if Matt would take a pay cut he replied No as he was working very hard.
  • He might be in charge of the NHS but he has spoken previously about the need to sell parts of it off. He has also accepted thousands from a pressure group who wants to privatise the NHS.
  • In March 2020 most of the country looked on in horror as the government allowed one of the biggest sporting events to continue without any virus restrictions. Even though these types of events had already been banned across Europe. So why was Matt so keen for the Cheltenham Horse Racing Festival to go ahead. Why was it a good idea (apparently backed by scientific advice) to allow 180000 people to group together during a pandemic. Who can tell. It’s fascinating to note that Matt has strong links with the Horse Racing Industry and has received political donations from them. Sadly links are being established with the festival and the spread of the virus.
  • When Matt was questioned about the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Kit for front line health workers he got a bit annoyed. He was being questioned by an MP who is working as an A&E Doctor during the pandemic. Matt told her to watch her tone….
  • Key health workers are having to reuse PPE, use bin liners and basically take risks. Those working in other care settings are doing far worse. Yet Matt proudly boasts that he is sourcing enough kit and actually nurses should start looking after the kit better. Then he made a big announcement that 100,000 items of kit had been sourced from abroad and was arriving in hours. Hours turned into days. When the kit arrived it had to be sent back as it was not fit for purpose. Strangely Matt has glossed over that.
  • Matt told an interview in March that he had been working really hard with the supermarkets to ensure food supplies during the pandemic. That was interesting as that appeared to be news to the supermarkets themselves. The message seemed to be we have not heard anything directly from the government as yet.
  • He likes to brag about meeting his personal target of the country testing 100000 people a day for the virus. What he’s less happy to talk about is the number he uses to meet his target includes missed tests, tests which have failed to be processed, tests mailed out to people (so still in the post and not yet been carried out) and tests which have failed (so need to be repeated). The actual number of daily tests performed are well below his own target.
  • He’s been talking about imposing virus checks at UK airports since March. Finally those checks are starting but not at every airport. Even at airports which will begin screening arrivals, it’s not at every terminal. Not even every plane….
  • Dear old Matt has now claimed that he put in place a protective ring around our Care Homes as soon as this crisis hit. That’s really interesting as the perceived view is rather different. Basically Care Homes have been left with no guidance, no protective kit, no testing, no tracing and no support. Care staff with little medical training and no kit have been trying to treat residents struck down with the virus. People have been dying in their thousands in Care Homes with no help from Matt. Until recently they didn’t even count deaths occurring in the care setting. Currently the estimated coronavirus deaths in UK Care Homes stand at over 11000 (likely to be much higher). That’s some protective ring Matt….

Trust me I could go on and on about Matt…..So Mr Hancock you richly deserve this award. Unfortunately your country and in particular the elderly in our care homes deserve way better than you.

Get my head round

The sun is shining. It’s still cold but we will settle for this.

So it’s almost official. School has emailed parents to say that looking at the latest government guidance – which apparently isn’t much – only some Primary pupils and those sitting final exams next year will get any direct teaching over the next few months. The earliest Son will be back in school is going to be September. So it’s time to get our heads round this.

Looking at the government’s plan for the economy – doesn’t take long as it’s basically wrote on the back of the PMs hand – probably means the company I work for won’t be operating anytime before September. That’s being extremely optimistic and requires an awful lot of good fortune. Being realistic there is a high probability it will not survive. So it’s time to get our heads round this.

It’s also time to get my head round the likelihood that I won’t be seeing my brother and sisters much in 2020. If things improve then maybe visits at Christmas might be a possibility. Realistically meet ups are not happening anytime this side of September. Already one Government official has said Summer family holidays and meet ups are cancelled, as these are unsafe – but apparently getting on a packed bus and going to work is completely safe.

AND WE HAVE TO GET OUR HEADS ROUND TWO EVEN MORE PRESSING MATTERS.

  • How are we going to celebrate my partners birthday in just over a weeks time. We had been planning on doing a camp fire party. Unfortunately the fire pit didn’t survive the Yorkshire winter. Yesterday I tried to pick it up to clean and the metal just crumbled, leaving me holding just two wooden handles. At least they can be used as fire wood. The other idea was to have my partners favourite meal – Chinese. Unfortunately the local takeaways are still closed and the local supermarket is completely sold out of Chinese food – apart from crispy seaweed. Which brought the response “well the gerbils will eat well then….”. I did offer to cook Chinese from scratch, but that brought the response “I’d rather suck on a gooseberry….”. So we are in plan F territory.
  • Dad I am so missing not going on my trampoline.” A couple of months back our garden pigeons decided to nest right next to the big bouncy thing (thats not my tummy before you say anything….). When I say right next to, I mean within 10 centimetres (not using inches will really upset Boris). Well the pigeons and chicks are showing no sign of moving, so I have two options. One is to dismantle and then rebuild somewhere else. Problem is that it’s in the only flat part of the garden and it’s like trying to assemble a Super Tanker. The instructions helpfully explained that you will need three reasonably fit adults to assemble. They failed to mention at least one of those adults must be an expert in structural engineering and the other two will need to have the strength of The Hulk. The other option is to try and drag the complete trampoline. We tried yesterday and after 30 minutes had shifted it 1 cm (up yours Boris). So we are also on Plan F here as well.

But at least the sun is shining.

Ticked Off

Meet one of our gardens true characters. This is Rico. Yes named after the truly mad penguin from Madagascar and The Penguins of Madagascar. Rico is a bit of a show off. Our world is better for characters like Rico and wow does it need it at present.

It’s been another day of Monty Python Government here. First we had the Scientific Officer confirm that the vast majority of first and second infections in the UK came from air travellers returning from Italy, France and Spain. We then had a senior Government Minister arguing that no possible reason exists to justify introducing screening at UK airports. Ok…. Yesterday we had the Government talking up the plan to reopen many schools in three weeks as it was safe to do so. Today we have Scotland’s Government arguing that the science is clear that it’s far too early to consider opening schools. And then we get the Foreign Secretary arguing that only partial opening of schools is safe. Ok…

We have a Health Minister who is gloating as we apparently reached his target of carrying out 100000 virus tests per day on the 30th April. We will ignore the fact that most other countries are carrying out more tests. We only reached his target because he included 50000 test packs which had been rather conveniently posted out to people on that very day. That’s like me sending out 50000 letters asking for a date and then counting all of them as actual dates. After the deadline we have slipped well below the 100k testing target again but that apparently doesn’t matter now as the target has now been ticked off. I tell you what – I am with many millions of Britain’s who are getting seriously ticked off with a certain Health Minister.

AND while we are on the subject of seriously ticked off. Why can’t I bake. After all the years of practice and yet it is still clearly beyond me. Today I foolishly decided to try my hand at a French Baguette. A gluten and dairy free one. It went into the oven looking like something which wouldn’t be out of place in Parisian Boulangerie. It came out like something Baron Frankenstein had created and then immediately binned. It was basically the same shape as a cow pat. It was also as easy to cut as reinforced steel. I can’t even give that to Rico and pals. Thankfully one person is this house has talent. After he stopped laughing Son said

You know what I can use that for. I will paint it and I can use it as a model.”

So my baguette was transformed into a remote island with snow covered mountain ranges, fast flowing rivers and deep lakes.

I bet if Gordon Ramsey had created this, it would have been called a ****** masterpiece and deserving of international recognition. That seriously ticks me off.

The need for travel

Last night we were watching the new Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Yes we really do like to stretch our cultural boundaries. A couple of times during the movie I found myself thinking – wish I could visit that location. I’ve been doing that quite often recently. Can’t really blame the pesky virus completely for that. I was having those thoughts before the lockdown. Our Son’s world is naturally contracting. So mine is as well. The last time we spent more than one night away from our home was back in 2015. Sporadic day trips and the daily run partially helped fill my mind with some connection to the wider world.

So after Son had gone to bed I went in search of photos. Photos which would remind me of trips and holidays. Soon I was back in Northumberland with my partner. A week in a gypsy cottage.

Walking alongside Hadrians Wall and in the footsteps of Roman soldiers, almost 2000 years ago. Touching and drinking in ancient history.

Enjoying the open spaces. Hardly meeting another soul. Feeling that cold northern wind and walking on the soft moorland. Feeling no limits and letting the map decide the route.

Places like Northumberland have a unique atmosphere. A bleakness. An almost somber beauty.

And then a reminder of why I am so thankful for life.

2024

I’ve done my Sunday morning exercise session. The poor bike is a bit like me, during every session something either stops working, starts creaking or drops off. So the bike is going into therapy for a day or so. Can’t think of a worse punishment than having my large behind perched on you for that length of time.

So now I’m sat outside. Now that’s a rarity. Sat with my iPad typing these ramblings. This is my view.

Apologies for the legs and yes my trainers are in real need of replacement. Actually forget the trainers, my body is in need of replacement. I’ve used this one up, can I have another one.

During the lockdown I just haven’t found the time to sit outside and relax. Where does the time go. Its not as if I am undertaking any huge Home Makeover projects or painting a landscape masterpiece. I guess it’s a reminder of the investment you need to make when you signup to a parenting gig. The greater the investment, the higher the chance that your parenting will actually prove worthwhile for your kids.

But this sunny morning I’ve found the time to sit for a few minutes. The main reason is that I’ve just seen the weather forecast. It’s back to proper Yorkshire weather this week. The next scheduled settled sunny spell is not forecast until sometime in 2024. So I had better make the most of that bright yellow thing in the sky while it’s still here.

Looking at the view and the sun slightly hidden by early morning thin mist, reminds me of the ending to last nights movie. The last Star Wars movie. I won’t give away the ending or the key story moments. Mainly because I am waiting for our Son to explain them to me. I found switching off the brain and ignoring the inevitable questions, actually turned the movie into a really fun adventure yarn. Visually and sound wise it was stunning. However the repeated interjections from my resident film critic suggested a few too many issues with the storyline. The general message seemed to be – I’ve not seen so many plot holes since we watched the Alvin and The Chipmunks Road Chip Movie.

And with that the clouds have moved in. So like the current Star Wars story arc, our summer is FINISHED…

Village life

It’s almost time for these biscuit munchers to move to another field. The cows are massing, waiting to hit the field for the summer months. Hopefully the three cow friends of our dog are still here. Dog is wagging his tail at the sight of the herd in the distance.

That’s country life for you right there. That’s as exciting and as racy as it gets here. It’s such a different life pace than living in the city. It took me a couple of years to adjust. Life never stands still in the city. Constant noise, constant movement. Even at night it never stopped. So much light pollution, sirens wailing, so much human nightlife. Yes immediate access to facilities and entertainment but it comes at a price.

Here we get a chip van that comes once a week. A cycle race comes through maybe every couple of months. Once a year a vintage car rally might stop off. That’s it for the days. With the spaces and high hedgerows you hardly ever see signs of human life. That’s such a good thing somedays…. Son and I have our little challenges with forfeits. Basically it gives Son an opportunity to torture his Dad. I remember one challenge where the loser had to run round the garden ten times – naked. The inevitable happened and I found the whole experience most liberating. In a city that sort of behaviour would have got me quickly arrested. Here in the village all it produced was much chuckling from Son and bemused looks from the cows.

At night no street lighting or light pollution. No pub to foster human nightlife. Wander into your garden and it’s pitch black. The only noise is from the wildlife. I’ve told the story from the first night before. Stood outside looking at the stars. Amazed at how many I could see. Then a deeply unsettling feeling. I am not alone. I am being watched. Suddenly countless eyes appear at the fence. I of course took it in my stride. Screamed and ran. The eyes later revealed to be many sheep clearly waiting for biscuits.

But over the years it’s all changed. Now I find cities claustrophobic and unsettling. I’m not sure I could ever go back to living in one again. Certainly Son would struggle. He enjoys his space and the quiet. City life would be too many people in too little space. Too many sensory distractions. I remember my partner saying that we will never return to urban life. We might end up being in this house for the rest of our lives. She was right, sadly far too quickly right.

Week whatever of school at home

Ive been thinking about what I will do if my job doesn’t survive the shutdown. The longer this goes on then the little company I work for will struggle. What’s hurting it is not the lockdown but it’s the lack of a national plan. What’s going to happen whenever things are safe to reopen. Currently the Government is clueless. Lots of words but a complete lack of willingness to think things through. Wearing a little NHS badge, slagging off the money footballers make and a smug smile DOES NOT COUNT AS EFFECTIVE PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT. So like many people we just don’t know if it’s May, August, November or 2021 when the company might start operating again. We don’t know what the regulations will be when we open. We don’t know what changes we will need to make. My head is telling me that I will stay furloughed until the end of June and then the reality will hit the company and it will have to fold.

So if our company is killed off by Government incompetence (not the virus) then what do I do next. Because of our Son it will need to be a largely home based, part time role. So what can I do? Well how about this as a niche market. The first Yorkshire home based wildlife photographer with a hint of Muppetry. I won’t be using any expensive photographic kit, just my very old iPhone. I can see a hit TV series to rival the excitement of Bear Grylls. Today’s action shot is an out of focus bird. That’s enough bird excitement for one day now. So it’s time to get back to homeschooling.

It’s week whatever of the enforced school at home project. Apparently it’s Friday. Only know as the school timetable is telling us that it’s Day 5. It’s been another mixed bag. Some subjects working well and some not so well. Some teachers are really embracing new ways of delivering the subject. One request – can we provide health warnings for parents trying to do some of the PE exercises – our bodies don’t naturally bend like those of our kids. A number of teachers are finding ways to build confidence and reward effort. Others sadly are still focusing less on the positive and more on wielding a giant stick. Consequently a clear pattern is developing on which subjects Son enjoys and which fill him with dread.

I have noticed a couple of clear strands underpinning our particular schooled at home process.

  • Where he does his work makes a huge impact on its outcome. Some subjects like History he actually thinks better by pacing about the house. He finds reading easier when he’s lying on the sofa rather than sitting up. Science works better for him when he’s outside in the garden, while Maths works best when he’s sat in the Lounge. Setting, room layout, wall patterns, temperature, space, background noise can have such a huge impact on concentration and mental wellbeing. It’s about what works best for each child and each subject.
  • He is benefiting from asking more questions. He feels constrained in school. Teachers have such big classes that they struggle to field the questions from the class. At home he can freely ask his Dad or look it up on the internet. In the classroom he is reluctant to ask any question which relates to not being able to read. At home he will ask for help.

These points are all pushing the virtues homeschooling offers in terms of flexibility and security. Virtues which have been sadly lacking in the current UK school system. As a household we need to find a sustainable way of maintaining those virtues. Sadly I suspect that can never be within the confines of our current school classroom setup.

Stay safe and happy my friends.

A trip to a castle

I was looking for batteries. Why are batteries so pesky. You spend most of the year cursing who many batteries you find on shelves, pockets and cupboards. But when you actually need them, the little blighters hide. When you do find them you can guarantee that they are the wrong size. Anyway I was looking for batteries with absolutely no success then ….

An old and forgotten box of old photos. It’s times like this that I am so happy that I had a habit of taking too many pics. This box was from a holiday we had way before our son was born. We arranged a last minute week long trip to Northumberland in the North of England. For those who don’t know England that well – find the most northerly English city (Newcastle). The bit above this city and all the way to the Scottish border is Northumberland. It’s a beautiful and often desolate place. With few large towns, rolling hills, moors and some of the countries finest castles.

For the week we rented an old Gypsy Cottage. The weather was so Northumberland like. Very windy, cold and often exceedingly damp. Today’s photographic memory trip was a day trip we had during that lovely week. A trip to Dunstanburgh Castle.

It’s a stunning castle ruins set right on the windswept North Sea coast. To get to it you park up in a small fishing village and walk along the beach. The walk started wet and basically added increasing amounts of water to the mix. The photos brought the memories flooding back. Wow we got wet.

It was a wonderful day. We had the place to ourselves. Hours spent walking along the coast, scrambling over history and even time for sand castle building. Finally we got back to the fishing village and looked round the local fish smoking business. It would have been rude not to sample the produce and chips. Then it was back to the cottage to a roaring fire and an attempt to dry out. Happy Days.

Regardless of the weather.

It’s definitely been Social Distancing Sods Law.

It’s been a yucky winter. Storm after storm. Zero snow. Rain, rain, rain. The ground became a constant mud fest. Cold and so very grey. And don’t start me off with the constant high winds. Just not conducive to venturing out. It’s was that bad that we have not been to the coast in well over 6 months. Running became an absolute weather ordeal. Then social distancing becomes a new national obsession. We go into lockdown and guess what. The rain stops (almost completely and the ground has completely dried out). The wind dies down. The Sun decides to make a return. Perfect beach walking weather. Beautiful running conditions. Sods Law.

Unbelievably a local weather station has recoded ZERO rain in 3 weeks. This is Yorkshire, what on earth is happening. One day we even had to get the sun cream out…..

Yes no trips out and no longer runs. No social interaction. Almost complete isolation. But we are so lucky. We have a garden to help practice social distancing. Our own little world to enjoy this settled spell.

But let’s not forget that social distancing is not new here. It’s not new in many autism households. Its not new in many disabled households. It’s not new in households who have been cut adrift from society. Its not new for many single parents. It’s not new for far too many you are living alone. It’s something which happens with or without a virus. Week in week out. Year after year. Regardless of the weather. Nothing to do with Sods Law. It’s just normal life for many in our society. What is unusual is that for a brief spell, everyone gets to try it.