Sitting down

I must have run past this monument well into a three figure number. Lots of times. I wonder when will be the next run here? 2021? 2022? or later.

Without running I’ve switched to more CrossFit and Yoga. I can definitely see a few more muscles but I’m not sure how far I could run now. It’s been many many months since I last put on my running shoes. My joints would definitely need a good oiling before I tried.

Today’s yoga was definitely interesting. 10 minutes of doing what appeared to be a simple task. Standing up from a cross legged position without using my hands. The standing up bit was ok, it was the getting down bit which was the challenge. How hard can it possibly be to go from standing up to sitting on the floor with my hands behind my back. Humpty Dumpty comes to mind. Give me running any day please. I can do that. But I guess over the coming months I will get the chance to improve. Not sure my bottom can cope with the bruises for that length of time.

We had two deliveries and the postman this morning. It’s unsettling for me to see each person arrive at the door fully masked up. Imagine what it does to someone fighting fears about germs and bugs. It really did spook Hawklad. Should really say spooked him even more. My job over the week is to rig up a post box outside to stop letters coming through the front door. Another thing that increasingly bothers Hawklad. As these anxieties continue to grow he becomes more clingy with me. His health professional has told me that his fears are so ingrained that they may not start to ease until this pandemic is under control and the vaccine has been rolled out and proven to be effective.

A clear time frame is starting to emerge on our lockdown. This is going well into 2021, maybe longer. That has huge implications for school, my work and our quality of life. Quality of life in the sense that our world will be the house and garden for the foreseeable future.

Running is not happening so I had better start to learn new skills. Skills like not collapsing in a heap when I try to get onto the floor without using my hands.

Grouse

Most definitely not like this today. The strange yellow thing in the sky has most definitely gone on holiday. Hopefully not a long one.

Currently I am looking out of window into the rainy garden and thinking. I’m guessing this home at school project has many months to run. As a single parent it’s trying to get my head round the logistics of that. At present there is not much work and what work there is can be done at home. Shopping can be done through a combination of home delivery and very quick trips to the small local store. But what happens if I need to make a longer trip out. Hawklad is not comfortable at all being left alone.

The options are limited at the best of times and these are not the best of times.

Normally our options would be one of two sisters (but one-off those is 2 hours drive away, and both don’t drive) and a couple of local parents who have known Hawklad since the age of 5 (they are busy so are not often available). Unfortunately under the new Government Lockdown rules all four options are now banned. Breaking those would leave us open to heavy fines. The Government has even encouraged people to contact the police if neighbours flout the rules. The irony here is not lost, flouting rules if you are a member of the government or the dad of the PM is said to be entirely reasonable. Under the new rules our only option would be for a grandparent to stand in. Unfortunately ours have all left this world. But here’s another irony, those grandparents would fall into high risk groups. Those who should be shielding. Are grandparents seen as expendable….

The other irony is that those who would be an option before they were banned fall into much lower risk groups. They can’t babysit for us but I could go to work with them and sit alongside them in an office – that’s apparently fine. We could even put on green camouflage and go grouse hunting together without any punishment. Maybe that’s the childcare answer, we set up a grouse hunting lodge in the garden. The first ever vegetarian one….

Where did that go

Where did that go? Where did the summer holidays go. For so many families, where did that lockdown go? That’s 7 weeks of summer and exactly 6 months of lockdown.

We leave the summer holidays like we found them. Grey.

Many leave the lockdown as we found it. Well actually that’s sadly not strictly true here in the UK. The daily rise in pandemic and the rate of spread (R number) is actually higher now than when it forced us all into lockdown. I guess the confusion is the same. Some times it’s safe to meet in groups then at other times it’s considered most unsafe. Sometimes masks are required, sometimes they are not. Get tested but please don’t get tested. It’s safe to meet work colleagues but most unsafe to meet friends and family. There are those in high risk groups but you don’t need to worry about that. You must observe 2m social distancing but it’s ok if you don’t especially in pubs and at Horse Racing events. Don’t worry about the details it will be fine.

But for some families and households, the lockdown is most certainly not over. The Government seems to be demonising those in that position. We are being unpatriotic. Not doing our civic duty. Letting others down. As a result support is being pulled, threats made, blamed for the problems of the country and fines starting to be issued. I can assure the so called Government that it’s not out of choice. We are dealing with the reality of life. And that life is messy, complicated, unpredictable and frustrating. We have to deal with the details.

That part of life has not changed during the summer holidays and lockdown.

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…….

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…..

Life snapshot

The Aspergers life can be racked with anxieties and obsessive behaviours. Additionally Aspergers can frequently coexist with OCD. Add the death of a mum and both grannies. Then on top of that you add a pandemic. Something has to give with that kind of pressure building up. That’s what our son is dealing with and it is so very tough for him. What does that mean in practice. Well here is a snapshot of life and the impact it has on him.

Every ache, every sneeze, every spot, every pain is seen as a potential sign of a serious disease or the C word. Anxieties bring on indigestion and constipation. These are then seen by him as more potential warnings of serious, life threatening health conditions. The natural response was to frequently wash his hands. It was both to cleanse his hands but also an attempt to pour water on the raging anxiety wildfire. Washing to the point of red raw skin. These issues have existed for years but slowly during 2019 slow progress started to happen. The hand washing was just about brought under control. Then the pandemic hit. The progress was instantly lost. Suddenly the months of reassuring talk a out avoiding serious illnesses, the bodies capacity to fight back and the advances in medical science are basically blown out of the water. The problems started to mount up again and escalate to new heights.

  • Hand washing every few minutes. From 15 second washing now to washing for minutes at a time.
  • A reluctance to dry washed hands as towels might be a source of germs.
  • Harmful germs are seen to exist everywhere. Suddenly it’s difficult for him to touch taps, toilet handles and door knobs. Sheets of paper have to be left next to these so he can avoid touching them directly. Even pulling on a shirt may result in the potentially unclean sleeves coming into contact with his hands. Shoes have to be put on without using his hands.
  • iPads and joysticks have to be washed frequently and definitely before he touches them. It’s the same for things like pens.
  • When he strokes his pets he will immediately run to wash his hands.
  • He needs to see evidence that I wash my hands before I touch any of his items.
  • Clothes have to be frequently washed often multiple times a day.
  • Outside he is constantly looking out for flies and flying bugs. If they come too close then he will need to go inside to wash.
  • He has to have his own seat and no one is allowed to touch it. If they do then the seat has to be cleaned.
  • When he goes out the the front door then he consciously tries to avoid walking over any areas that the postman or others might have walked across. When he comes back in them his shoes will need to be completely cleaned. If he ventures through the front gate and into the outside world then on his return he will completely strip, shower and change to new clothes. Those rules apply to me as well.
  • Mouth-washing and gargling is frequently repeated during the day.
  • Any item which hits the ground (inside or out) will need to be deep cleaned.
  • Any new food items have to go into the garage and complete a quarantine period if at least three days.

This is daily life in our little home. I do my best to reassure, reason and modify behaviours. But it feels nothing more than trying to plug a leaking dam at present. One hole maybe plugged but in the meantime another two new holes have appeared. Counselling was there but government cutbacks have taken their toll on services. The pandemic has temporarily suspended specialist help. The result is massive backlogs and no access to help. These are tough times. For him and yes me as well. As a parent you feel helpless, definitely so underprepared for these challenges. But we keep going. We pick ourselves up and go again. Yes we will get there. We will. But it will take time. Realistically maybe well into 2021. In practice timescales don’t matter, we take each day as it comes, fortified by the love of friends.

Questions

A hospital visit is now an even more unpleasant experience. Masks at all times except when you were in a separate room with no other people. One temperature check. All staff with masks and gloves on at all times. The place filled with clearly very panicky people keeping their distance. The children’s ward only allowing one parent in with a child.

But here’s a thought for you.

We faced far more detailed pandemic questioning from the Boiler Repair team (over 20 questions) than we did when we had to access two separate Hospitals and a Surgical Theatre (one question) ….. I guess that’s what happens when people are confused, scared and left without clear trustworthy guidance from the Government.

Bit battered

Poor thing has been a bit battered in the recent bad weather. Well I still think it deserves a moment to shine.

I was having a chat with our son last night about how life has changed recently. It’s only really now that some of the implications are starting to feed through. I will only focus on one small part of the conversation as this post could have ended up as long as the extended Directors Cut version of War and Peace.

Son struggles with social settings. It’s a well established element of Aspergers. He will actively pull away from crowds and groups. One of the only exceptions to that has been Rock Concerts. He still feels uncomfortable there but for a variety of reasons he can cope. He can put his hood over his head and no one will notice. He likes the fact that rock crowds seem very welcoming of any person, any look, any characteristic. With the noise no one is likely to talk to him. When the lights go out, no one can see him. You are just one hidden person in a sea of people. Plus he really loves the music.

So far he has seen Iron Maiden, Hollywood Vampires (with Johnny Depp), Alice Cooper, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thunder, Shinedown, Status Quo, The Darkness, The Damned, The Stranglers and Status Quo. He’s also seen his favourite band – Alter Bridge.

Before the pandemic kicked in he was hoping to see more. The likes of Whitesnake, Foreigner, Europe, Ozzy, Aerosmith and The Who. But the pandemic changed the world. Most of these have been postponed or cancelled.

When concerts restart what will they look like. Will the days of standing shoulder to shoulder return. Will people have to wear masks. What number of fans will be allowed in. How close will you be able to get to the band. Will you need to be vaccinated before you attend. Will certain fans be excluded (age, health factors). Will all the fans want to return. Will it just be open air concerts. Will it be the new idea of drive in concerts. Will some bands just give up. Who knows.

The pandemic also changed son’s life. It has sent his social and health fears into overdrive. Changed the balance and how he sees the world. Things which were acceptable have been tipped into the no go area. Those changes might be temporary or they could be permanent. Only time will tell. But certainly his concert days are at best on long term hold. That’s the thing about Aspergers, changes in external factors can have a huge internal impact. Lasting impacts.

Regardless of any more virus related developments, I just can’t see son wanting to go to a concert this year, probably next as well. Maybe that fragile corridor that allowed him to venture into a concert crowd has been broken on a much more permanent basis. We just have to wait and see. Maybe going forward our own music festivals are the way forward. Buy a concert dvd and hold the event in our living room or garden. We can still put the T-shirts on, have the snacks, drinks and a burger. We can even turn the lights out and crank up the speakers. Best thing – no masks required. No queues for toilets as well….

That doesn’t help the concert industry. I just hope they and the bands find a way through this mess.

So maybe that’s no concerts for Dad as well for sometime. But it is what it is. I’ve been so lucky to see so much music over the years. So as I move into a barren concert period let’s pause and see what my memory is like. Lets see how many of the artists I have seen over the years, I can actually remember. The good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve set myself 10 minutes (so I might miss a few). Here goes….

Whitesnake x4, Motörhead, Deep Purple x3, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Dio, Rory Gallagher, Tin Machine (David Bowie), Scorpions, UFO, Meatloaf x3, Blackfoot, Mountain, Alaska, Saxon, Magnum, The Firm, Eric Clapton, Tom Jones, Ronan Keating (x2) my partner to blame for that…. Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper x3, Gary Moore, Deacon Blue, The Kinks, Kirsty MacColl, Pink Floyd, Nils Lofgren, Killswitch Engage, Birdland, Bernie Torme, Roy Harper, Suzy Quatro, Paul Rodgers, Chris Rea, Marillion, Runrig, Asia, Al Stewart, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, Terence Trent D’arby, Simple Minds, Lou Reed, Bonnie Riatt, Chrissie Hynde, Jackson Brown, Little Steven, Bryan Adams, Squeeze, Tina Turner, Extreme, Was Not Was, Lyle Lovett, plus those with son.

Ten minutes up….

Sign of the times.

Looking across the farmers fields makes life look so simple. So straightforward. Sadly that’s not the case…..

It was like the toughest questioning from an old school Doctor.

  • Is anyone in the household self isolating?
  • Is anyone in the household classed as high medical risk?
  • Have you or anyone in your house had Co-vid 19?
  • Is anyone in the house currently diagnosed with Co-vid 19?
  • Has anyone in the house got a high temperature?
  • A loss of smell or taste?
  • A sore throat?
  • A persistent cough?
  • Flu like symptoms?
  • Hay Fever like symptoms?
  • Is anyone in the household awaiting the results of a Co-vid test?
  • I know it’s a shambles but has anyone in the household been contacted by the national track and trace system?
  • Has anyone in the household travelled outside of the country over the last 14 days?
  • Has anyone in the household had contact with someone who has travelled outside of the country over the last 14 days?
  • Does anyone in the household visit high risk virus areas such as hospitals, care homes or meat processing plants?

Once I had provided a satisfactory answer to the bombardment of medical questions, the next question was

So what appears to be wrong with the boiler? Are you sure that the oil tank is not empty!

Sign of the times really….

Fragmented

Good to see the local motorway is busy…. It’s still too busy for our son. I got special dispensation to step 10 yards out of the front gate to take this photo. Life on the edge.

It really does feel a bit like that at present. On one hand we have what apparently counts as our Government rapidly relaxing restrictions and on the other hand kids like our son….

His social and health phobias are in a pandemic fuelled maelstrom. Every few minutes he feels the need to wash his hands. To repeatedly rinse his mouth out. The fear of germs and hidden dangers becoming a real nightmare for him. He struggles to touch items like taps and handles. Even putting potentially unclean shoes on is a challenge these days. Deliveries have to go into garage quarantine for at least 4 days. Clothes need changing every few hours. And then another spanner in the works. The old house boiler completely failed. So a service call out is required. It’s now way beyond a temporary Dad patch up. That means an additional new threat to sons safe area. A house visitor! After much discussion we agreed a plan. The service engineer would come into the house only via the back door. The engineer must wear a mask at all times. I will keep 2m away from the engineer at all times. When the work is finished we will effectively lock down half of the house. We won’t venture into the areas the engineer visited for three days. Not ideal but it’s a plan. Son’s stress levels will rise but hopefully not too far. The damage to his safe area minimised.

Yet individuals like our son are expected to just re-enter the world by July 4th. The date our part time PM is declaring as the day he defeated the virus. The date he can heroically restart England. It’s perfectly fine to open overcrowded public schools in September. A few more hand sanitisers in the corridors and relaxing the rules further to allow for even larger class sizes to cope with increased teacher sickness is now the best way to deal with a pathogen. We are told ‘everything is now fine’ by the very leaders who have been proven to be wrong on virtually every single major decision they have made over the last 6 months. The very leaders who now widely seen as charlatans and pathological liars. People see this. Our son sees this. This just adds fuel to his anxieties. It’s making a bad situation even worse.

So when England reopens on the 4th July a small bungalow in Yorkshire will not. It stays on lockdown until son is able to face the world again. Who knows how long that will take. Much patience is required. We won’t be the only family facing this prospect. Again my country further fragments. I’m not entirely sure it’s ever really going to come back together again.