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Two daily visitors waiting patiently for breakfast. I must clean the gutters….

After yesterday’s unplanned washing of my mobile, I found myself outside in the cold early morning air. Doing a great workout supplied by a very kind friend and listening to music on my super clean phone. Crystal clear sound. In fact it’s never sounded so good. Maybe I should try my body out in a quick machine wash cycle. If only I could fit the car in our old washing machine.

I was a bad parent last night and I’m not talking about letting son watch Deadpool 2 again. School emailed all the parents to say that they had not been picking up all the students who had been submitting inferior work or worse submitting work late. So to rectify that the only thing they could do would be to send out an email each night at 11.30 to warm parents about any issues which may have occurred with their kids online work for that day. I can imagine many parents sending letters of approval in or even asking for a tougher stance from school. I took a slightly different stance on my short reply.

Please don’t bother.

This morning followed up with a much longer reply basically talking about how tough it is for many kids at present and how about school using the resources they were putting into this sanction into doing something positive – something fun for the kids. Maybe even allowing some social interaction with friends. I’m not hopeful but at least it will get me another black mark in the awkward parent log.

Anyway school might not do fun but that doesn’t mean that we can’t. It’s so important we all find ways of still living. So in between online lessons we have squeezed in some activities. Bouncing on the trampoline, Jenga, air hockey and jelly making. Then after the school day had finished we made some cakes. Played football and attempted to build the largest possible Lego tower. Unfortunately due to the wind, curious pets and my eagerness to build higher before a stable base was formed – it didn’t get much higher than 5ft. It clearly had the same design fault as Trumps Mexican Wall. Oops that’s going to bring on my fan mail from Texas again.

Over Easter we will definitely revisit the Lego tower. It might even stand up long enough to take a photo. The point is that actually fun day is not enough. It really is so tough for kids to enjoy their childhood in 2020. So much anxiety and so little space to dream. So fun day is now fun EVERY day. Maybe just like my mobile phone, we can find ways (maybe unusual) to improve things in life. WE can do this.

Toy Story

Lovely midday weather here in Yorkshire.

It’s funny how you can overthink even the simplest of tasks. We try to make Saturday evening the official movie night of the week. A regular thing for son to look forward to. Popcorn, cola and a great movie. We save up new movies for the full Saturday experience. If we don’t have a new movie then the next best thing is a blockbuster. For days I had been working on a list of potential movies for this Saturday. Scores of candidates slowly whittled down to three favourites.

The Martian

Terminator – Dark Fate

Rocketman

So Saturday night arrived. I proudly gave son the list of three movies.

Ok Dad, let’s watch Toy Story.”

And with that it was Woody and co. A top top movie. Perfect escapism for today’s anxious world. But how much energy did I waste on picking an unused movie list. But I guess the point is that it successfully distracted me for a few days. While watching the movie I played my usual game of trying to pick which character I was most like. Toy Story was easy, clearly I am Rex. Although this morning I am a bit more Mr Potato Head.

We often forget how stressful the current situation is for kids. Confined to base, seeing parents stressed, unremittingly bad news on social media, kept apart from friends. In our sons case the confined to base and kept apart from friends is not really an issue. But his Aspergers requires routine and controllability. These have gone out of the window over the last few weeks. Adjusting to different daily routines. Food on the set weekly schedule (which has been in place for years) becoming unavailable. A completely unpredictable world. The fear of illness and worse ramped up by a spreading pandemic. He’s so young, had to deal with so much already and he’s facing this.

He asked what my best guess was for when things might begin to settle down a bit. Sadly I couldn’t say anytime soon. When he asked about schools opening and I couldn’t see anything happening and sticking before September.

“Dad is that September 2020 or September 2021”

I wouldn’t like to bet my shirt on that. We just don’t know who long the current restrictions will be in place for. When they do come off, how long before they need to be reintroduced. But we just have to deal with that. I’ve got to focus on the one overriding aim. Give son the best childhood possible. So we make the best of the new normal. Strengthen the new routines. AND above all try to have as much fun as possible. So Toy Story is perfect. It’s fun. Thank you Woody and co.

Hotel Window

Another cold start. I’m calling it an official three jumper day.

One of those cold starts that as hard as you work out, or regardless of how many warm layers you put on – your still cold.

The first week of schools version of homeschooling has now finished. Some subjects did embrace the opportunity. These offered the child a chance to be creative and to see where their learning interest would take them. Sadly that was not much of the week. Most of the lessons reflected the normal parrot learning teaching approach. What is the point of getting someone with dyslexia to translate page after page of French (without any context or help). What is the point of setting an online spelling test where the spoken words are so rare that I had to look every one up in a dictionary to see if they actually existed.

But he survived. The parent got through it as well. So that’s something.

Whether it was my lack of sleep, the unremittingly grim news or a week of homeschooling but last night I couldn’t get a thought out of my mind. Maybe, just maybe this is our world now. No more holidays. No more new lands. No more Switzerland. Certainly the financial shock of the next few months will take me a number of years to repair the bank balance. Generally travel may become more difficult over the next few years. Aspergers and the fear of social interactions is certainly not going away any time soon. So maybe that’s it with travel.

That’s sad but actually there is more to life than travel. So much to see and visit close by if it comes to that. Anyway we have not had a holiday since 2015 so we are used to it anyway. Doing virtual tours is a fun, safe, environmentally friendly and is so much cheaper. Then a thought crossed my mind. It was inspired by Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) while we watched Fawlty Towers. Basil was getting seriously cheesed off with a guest who was disappointed with the view from the bedroom window.

“Well may I ask what you expected to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically

Actually could we scale the virtual tours up a notch. Why don’t I pick a window with a chair next to it. Then why don’t I stick a poster or large photo over the window glass. Suddenly my view of say the trampoline could be transformed into whatever I fancy. I’ve seen other people do this in the past. So tomorrow I am going poster hunting. Got a couple of belting posters of The Alps to find.. But in the meantime I’m hoping my bedroom window will look something like this.

Bed protest

Another cold start. Press ups on the grass are definitely cold on the hands.

Now set into the daily school at home routine. That’s a better way to describe it. It’s not true homeschoolingits schools version of remote learning.

  • 6:30am – start daily exercise (weights, or army fitness, or exercise bike or running round the little garden)
  • 7:30am – try to get as many home cleaning tasks done
  • 8:00am – Son gets up and has breakfast
  • 8:30am – log onto school system and check school messages
  • 8:40am – register for first lesson and complete tasks
  • 9:55am – load completed tasks
  • 10:15am – register for second lesson and complete tasks
  • 11:25am – load completed tasks
  • 11:35am – register for third lesson and complete tasks
  • 12:45pm – load completed tasks
  • 12:50pm – take dog for one walk of the day
  • 1:00pm – outside for talk with son
  • 1:40pm – serve lunch
  • 1:55pm – register for final lesson and complete tasks
  • 3:10pm – load completed tasks and log off
  • 3.20pm – start to breathe and play football

Dad I’m thinking about going Lennon and Yoko tomorrow. Might stay in bed and do the complete school day from there.”

“What are you protesting about then?”

I’m working on that. Maybe the excessive use of red pen at school. Maybe the shortages of baked beans.”

Maybe I can ask one of the important people making daily contact with me. I’ve never had so many Chief Executives and Business Leaders speaking to me. It’s a daily stream of emails wishing me well and informing me of their evolving plans. Our most senior doctors and scientist are giving me helpful advice. Even the PM and the Government are sending me text messages.

It’s suddenly great to be valued and important. I wonder how long this will last. Will it last as long as Son’s bed protest.

Motivation

Not sure it’s the slightly unhinged world but here the daffodils are looking extra special this year. Much needed colour. Much needed motivation to keep believing in our world.

“Come on Dad, your doing the PE lesson with me.”

So 20 minutes later we are doing a fitness workout. I do slag the school off quite a bit but sometimes it does do things well. The online PE lessons was really good. It started with a daily workout from YouTube. The Body Coach TV (PE with Joe Wicks). The person doing it was great and made the session so much fun for kids. Son warmed to him straight away. Which is no mean feat.

My second workout of the day was definitely very different from the first. Standard weights and short burn military fitness exercises at 7am. Pretending to be Spider-Man and bouncing like a bunny rabbit at 11am. The latter was way more fun. So maybe, just maybe tomorrow at 7am you might see a grown man pretending to be a rabbit. That’s my excuse if I get wheeled away in a straight jacket.

But you need balance in life. If you get good then often the not so good arrives to bring life back into order. The Food Technology online lesson was grisly. Son attempted the task which was so tough for him given the difficulties he has with handwriting, spelling and drawing. But he tried and that’s all we can ask. A bit later the response came back. One or two good efforts but some are very poor presentations. Well that’s done his confidence a world of good.

So we have balance. Motivated and demotivated. Looking forward to the next lesson and dreading the next lesson. One has 1.5 Million subscribers (plus two more from our house) and the other has a kid desperate to drop the subject.

I’m sure even this guy was motivated to move just a bit during the fitness workout.

I should really tell this guys story as well. Completely ignored him when I waffled on about his gnome buddy. His name is Gene. Can you work out why? Gene is a relative baby. He’s about 7 years old. He was a Christmas present from my brother. He was supposed to be fireplace ornament. Unfortunately my partner hated it. As did our dear departed psychotic girl cat. So he was banished to the garden to save him from the sledgehammer and the apex predator. On his bottom a sign says – Not for external use. Yet after 7 years of grizzly Yorkshire weather he is still shinny and looking like new. So he clearly likes dancing in the Yorkshire rain.

Take care my friends and try to smile.

Hold off for a week

Looks like Spring. The daffodils are out in force, blue sky and the sun is beating down on the Yorkshire soil. A frozen Yorkshire soil. One problem with this Spring. It’s absolutely freezing and apparently it’s going to get colder. I will hold off getting my shorts out for another week or so.

Yes some things are best left for a week or so.

School is most vexing. Increasing signs that schools version of homeschooling is in fact just the same old, same old. Rebranded but essentially the same teaching approach. It might work for some kids but it’s not working for our son. Yes a couple of subjects have tried to think out of the box, change things up. But the majority have not. It’s such a wasted opportunity.

Most kids are working remotely with no physical contact with their friends. So why not let them use the schools online system for to exchange messages during the homeschool day. No no no. All chats are monitored to ensure they are restricted to school work. Woe betied any kid who is even a minute late to log onto the system at the start of a lesson. Stick to the required task and don’t deviate…..

But let’s give school a week or so to see if the remote teaching programme evolves.

It’s been interesting to notice how much of the online teaching so far has been based on just reading a piece of text then answering questions. No modification for those kids who struggle to read. No additional help for those with dyslexia. Nowt new there then. I asked school for the reading and writing progress he has made over the last 20 months. All school will say on his writing was that no issues had been raised by teachers but they will look at using a computer for his main exams. Will that come with keyboard skills therapy work to help with the problems he has with typing…. apparently not.

On reading they have done some testing. According to the results he is still well behind the expected reading age. Apparently his reading age has improved only marginally in those 20 months. As a result school consider he’s best placed in the bottom set. No one on one help will be provided, if he needs help with reading then he needs to put his hand up and ask the teacher. He just needs to accept that his reading is poor and additional work on improving it is a bit of a waste of time. That’s interesting as over the last six months his reading has drastically improved (no thanks to school). What could be achieved if school did make an effort.

Well let’s give it a week or so. We need to think about the road going forward. What’s the best for our son. Is it schools version of homeschooling (school gates are likely to be shut for months) or will it be our home version. The following weeks will tell us.

Terrible Poetry

It’s time for this weeks bit of panic poetry in the form of Chelsea Owens weekly Terrible Poetry competition.

Here are the specifics for this week:

  1. Topic: Stockpiling against a worldwide disaster, in limerick form.
  2. Length: A limerick. They’re five lines: AABBA, in anapestic meter.
  3. Rhyming: Yes. In AABBA anapestic meter format.
  4. Make it terrible! Got it? Make it terrible!! The world’s ending, after all!
  5. Rating: PG-13. This is the perfect time to panic …poetically.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (March 20) to submit a poem to Chelsea.

******************************

Shelves stripped bare including the Gluten free

Load your boot with every single last frozen pea

You can keep your 10 year supply of toilet roll

Fill your trolley with all the Chicken casserole

But keep your pigging hands off my Yorkshire Tea

Bee

Slightly unnerving BEEing (being) eyeballed by this woolly friend. Couldn’t work out if it was admiring my silky garden football skills or was waiting for a Rich Tea biscuit. I lived in footballing worship hope until a biscuit was handed over and the woolly one then walked off.

Not always but occasionally life balances itself out. This morning I finished my last bit of paid work before the company basically shuts down for a couple of months (maybe longer). So no money coming in. As I closed the work laptop the phone rang. It was the garage, they still can’t get the parts needed for my cars poorly braking system. They will keep trying but the repair work won’t happen much before May. That’s a bit of a result. Won’t BEE (be) using the car much at all and that’s one hefty bill kicked into the long grass.

Talking about long grass. Last year someone gave me a wild bee hotel. The poor souls are struggling here so I thought I would do my bit. A quiet corner in the garden has been allowed to go wild. To be factually correct that should have been described as – I have let a part of the badly overgrown garden to go even wilder than the rest of the mess…

Anyway in the wild corner I have carefully located the bee hotel. Still no little takers after many months. I remember my Dad telling me that the first bee you see in spring is probably looking for a new home. He was a stubborn Yorkshireman so I never dared to question his apicultural knowledge. So our first bee of the season arrived.

A bee clearly fixated on trying to squeeze under the back door and get into our house. I tried showing the bee the currently vacant and palatial hotel. As hard as I pointed at the hotel’s front door, the bee just ignored me. Even a little honey failed to entice the bee. UnBEElievable (Unbelievable)

My question to you. What is the bee phrase for ‘Sorry pal your not coming in here. This thing I’m pointing at is your free of charge new house. I will even feed you each day.”

Masterpiece

A bit of yellow always warms the heart at this time of year.

I remember my Dad would take great pride in the small but perfectly formed patches of daffodils he would carefully foster around the garden. It’s funny how certain images of my childhood house are so etched on my mind. The outside toilet was a delight in winter. The small cupboard under the stairs that scared the pants out of me. The huge coal bunker at the back. Dads spotless greenhouse. The pantry in the kitchen which was the closest we got to a fridge. And the painting over the fireplace.

It was the only painting we had in the house. Lord knows where it came from. My parents would not have spent any money on art. Money was tight for all the families in our working class northern town. A town overlooked on one side by a giant chemical plant and on the other by a giant steel works. I guess like many things Dad would have acquired it at the pub. He would often return with random items. Once including my first pet, Speedy the Tortoise. So I guess he arrived back one night with a painting. It was clearly a very bad copy. Probably done via one of those paint by numbers sets.

Photo from Wikipedia.

So we had the Laughing Cavalier above our coal fire. Even then I realised it wasn’t the original and that it was probably a pretty rubbish copy. But it was our one piece of art, which made it special. Every night as we sat round the open fire and there was our very own art masterpiece. His eyes always following you around the room. That cheeky smile. I grew really fond of him. Even our budgie liked him. One of his favourite perches was on the frame just above his head. I would often dream about this guys back story. Many a dream was played out about his heroic deeds. In those days it was much harder to puncture your imagination. The internet was the stuff of Star Trek science fiction. The towns small library was great for things like fiction, cricket and car maintenance. It even had a goldfish pond in the kiddies section. Yet art history was sadly absent. So the Cavaliers myth continued all through my childhood.

Time marched on and I flew the home nest. My Dad died and Mum moved. The Cavalier was gone. I never found out what happened to him. I never got round to asking my mum. Another one of those unasked questions. Why do we leave it so long – too long.

I hope the cycle of life continued for my cheeky childhood friend. I really hope Dad took him back to the pub and he was handed over to another family for the price of a pint of John Smiths. And today he is sat above another fireplace. Creating dreams for more and more kids.

Panic buying

Let’s be safe out there people … it’s madness.

The news is either full of stories about virus doom or virus induced panic buying. I kinda miss the ‘Britain has gone brexit bonkers’ stories now. So with the images of empty shop shelves, I ventured out to the supermarket with a certain amount of trepidation. My extensive survival prep shopping list was a loaf of bread, a pack of Curly Wurlies, a bottle of milk and tea. That will surely tide us through the end of days.

I arrived at 8.40am which normally ensures that I have the shop to myself apart from the three shop assistants. Not this morning. The car park was heaving. Is it the day before Christmas? Inside was not much better. Rammed with shoppers. Not seen a crowd like this since the ‘Everything for a Pound’ Store had a sale.

It was bizarre watching the frantic shopping. Trolleys rammed full. So many seemingly sensible people falling into the panic buying madness. But this was a very Yorkshire panic. People still had time amongst the panic to stop and talk about the weather. In other parts of the country items like toilet paper, hand gel and paracetamol tablets have been stripped as if consumed by a plague of locusts. Here those items were still well stocked. In fact I didn’t see anyone buying them. No the items of panic choice here were different

  • The saver pack of soap bars (4 for a £1)
  • Cadbury’s Chocolate
  • Tins of mushy peas (one chap had a basket filled with just these)
  • Custard powder
  • Cheese
  • Beer, lager and wine.

I have to say that if I was going to panic buy I would rather stock up on £100 worth of beer and chocolate rather than 50 rolls of bog paper.

My hand basket was easily filled with my items until I arrived at the tea section. No Yorkshire Tea. No pigging Yorkshire Tea. Stripped bare. Oh the humanity. I had to buy another brand. Bloody philistines. The virus crisis is so much worse than I ever imagined. Stand by your pitchforks people.