Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Ducks... Thats All...

There is really no good reason for showing you this, but I thought it was just wonderful, it made me smile, and thats really all that is needed some days..... Enjoy..

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Sunday Morning Rant (While Listening to the Blues)

It is Sunday morning in the middle of May, early, it's raining and its a bit chilly. How terribly British that is. Normally I would have the radio on now to go with my cup of tea but I really don't want to turn it on because it means listening to the news. Usually this doesn't bother me, but I've had enough of it this week. So here I am, huddled in front of the computer early Sunday morning with a nasty wind picking up outside and listening to a Murphy's Saloon Blues Podcast, which is putting me in a better frame of mind.

The reason the radio is no good this morning is because it is not only the news that is banging on about MPs fiddling their expenses, it seems to be finding it's way into almost any live programme and everybody has got something to say about it. I'm going say my bit on the subject, and I should point out at the offset that if I were to fiddle my expenses it would be called benefit fraud.

So you can tell, whatever I say is coming from a position somewhere near the bottom of the pile, there has been no place in our lives for luxuries like holidays and cars for a few years now, our personal financial downturn, recession and credit crunch predates the current world wide problem, if any one had bothered to look down and ask I could have told them what was coming.

If I am to believe what I keep hearing, everybody is now short of money, feeling the pinch loosing their jobs and their homes and can no longer afford to run their cars. Everybody? I don't believe that, what everybody has done is jump on the bandwagon. Who in Britain has ever been willing to say exactly how much money they have coming in? Times are bad are they? Well I see a lot of comfortable two car families around here and this is by no means way a well heeled area. Sure, shops have closed down, not surprisingly they are the shops that never appeared to do much business anyway, anybody still missing Woolworth for its range of goods or is it just nostalgia for Pick'n'Mix?

As a nation I don't think we've ever been that willing to disclose our income and we all know that an 'Englishman's home is his castle' and some still surrounded by moats apparently, apologies to the rest of the UK, but you know what I am getting at. I feel awkward writing about this, I'm no expert, obviously, and I am coming from an obviously biased position, ie. it can't really get much worse for us, we hit the bottom a few years ago, we've become accustomed to living hand to mouth. It hasn't done us any harm, in fact it has made us stronger. A good old fashioned socialist upbringing probably helped as well, life was a lot harder and more impoverished when I was a kid!

So a bunch of well educated middle class social climbers who've got themselves elected into the ruling class are fiddling their expenses, big surprise, what do you expect, they've been doing it for years, power corrupts, I thought we all new that. I note that this little round of indiscretions dates back to some rule tweaking in the eighties, remind me, who was in power then, oh yes, no surprises there then.

The sun has started to shine, that's a surprise.

How is it we know all the grisly details of MP's expense claims? Why, the press and the media of course, who else but the two bodies so well known for never having putting together a spurious expenses claim in their collective lives! Ok, I know they are not all bad, there are good members of parliament and there are good journalists and wouldn't it be nice if they could get together and put a bit of balance back into government and the reporting of it. Too much to hope for I guess, too many vested interests and too many axes to grind I suppose but it is certain that some other crisis or atrocity will occur sometime over the next couple of weeks and all this will take a back seat, remember swine flu?

That's it, got that off my chest, now I can get on with banging on about the weather, slugs and the appalling provision for adults with autism, all far more important subjects than a few journalists feathering their nests by reporting on a few politicians feathering there nests....ah, Muddy Waters...

Monday, 11 May 2009

Dealing With The Whole Damned Weekend!

While I'm still in a photographic frame of mind, I'm including a couple of pictures I took of Sarah with my telephone over the weekend, She had the sun in her eyes so I jokingly suggested she put on a hat, her dads gardening cap was on the table, so she put it on!

This was one of the quieter moments, she has been more than a little cheesed off with me for going down to Cardiff, almost two weeks ago now, to see her sister and go to a Bob Dylan gig. Although she is autistic she is very sociable and a big crowd at a gig wouldn't bother her in the least, but what would bother her is having to stand in roughly the same place for longer than 15 minutes, she would wander off to look for a seat, I needn't go into all the problems that would cause, you can imagine it.

As an aside, if anyone knows how you can get tickets for the seated part of the Cardiff International Arena (only a small part is seated for any Dylan gig I've been to there, but seated throughout for The Mighty Boosh, and when I got my degree! Hannah dead jealous 'cause I walked across that stage once.) please let me know, I've phoned for tickets within seconds of them becoming available only to be told all seated tickets are gone.

Sarah would love to go to an event like that, she loves being in the cinema or the theatre, and she loves music but it's really tricky if the seating is in doubt and a lot of money wasted if we have to leave! So anyway, that's why she didn't get to see Bob Dylan which she really does want to do, and is understandably a bit miffed about it. So all the old behaviors which we try to contain come spilling out and it can all get a bit explosive.

This weekend we have had the usual non cooperation, but this time there was no real talking her out of it, so a moody trip to the supermarket and a lot of moaning about waiting for buses. a lot of aggravation about food and what time we eat it, which escalated to screaming and stamping feet and lame attempts at self harm, just for effect. Tempted to say 'and that was just me', but to be honest if it had gone on for much longer it may well have been me, Then yesterday evening her period started and she calmed down. P.M.T. and autism are not a good mix.

I'm not going to make a list of the awkward, tense, potentially dangerous, potentially violent and the downright depressing stuff that occurred over the weekend, these things have sort of become the norm after all this time, and we have become pretty adept at getting past it quickly, we have strategies worked out for dealing with each of the more upsetting manifestations of severe autism, and it is fortunate that the worst of these only occur in the home, not when we are out and about. She has had a couple of outbursts at the day centre which were cause for concern but fortunately we have a good rapport with the staff there and some of our strategies were put into place and now she respects the boundaries set up and rarely goes off the rails there. She knows she is safe at home so is a bit more prone to knocking the boundaries about, which is understandable, after all Sarah is the one who is living with the autism in her head all the time, she can't get away from it, we can. We can just bugger off down to Cardiff for a day and spend time with her sister who is doing all the stuff she could have been doing a couple of years ago if it hadn't been for the autism. Sarah knows all this, it is nothing short of miraculous to me that she stays as composed as she does, and the days that she is a joy to be with make up for all the difficult weekends we've ever had, and there have been a few! And I think she is entitled to get thoroughly pissed of with me once in a while, it wouldn't be natural if she didn't. So here's the other picture I took while we were enjoying the humour around the hat keeping the sun out of your eyes.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Some Pictures of the Garden and Another Full Moon.

Ok, now I'm going to behave like London buses, I don't blog for a few days and then 2 or 3 will turn up together. Too bad, that's the way it is. The weather has been nice for a couple of days so I thought I would take a few photos' of the garden. I do it all the time and use them as reference as to how things are coming along year after year, for instance the lilac is a week later than last year, and 2 weeks later than the year before. A small, useless but fascinating fact. Sometimes I think I know where Sarah gets her autism from! So here is a picture of the lilac...Quite nice, but not as good as the tulips, these are pretty special this year considering the abject failure of tulips in our garden until now...
Nice colour I thought, then I found this little Aquilagia not far from flowering. When we lived in The Forest of Dean these grew like weeds everywhere, but here they struggle. This is a good month earlier than last year...
We have a pitiful display of about half a dozen Blue Bells, they struggle up under a tree every year and I have never taken a successful photograph of them, something to do with the blue, so this years photo has been somewhat tweaked, here it is...
The sleeping woman is a planter that fell over some time ago and we forgot about. There is not much else of any interest really, just the normal stuff waiting for it to get a bit warmer. We have got a wonky bird bath that is attracting a lot of attention and I caught this Sparrow in action...
So there you have a few bits of our garden. I mentioned the Full Moon in the title, happened to notice it whilst putting this post together so I shall finish up with a photo of that, tweaked a bit of course, I can't leave anything alone! Next post will be about Sarah because the Full Moon means my life gets a little easier for a couple of weeks since Sarah's moods are linked to the Full Moon...

Monday, 4 May 2009

Cardiff, Shoe Shops, Bob Dylan. What More Could You Want?

Tuesday 28th, in Cardiff with Hannah. (The daughter without autism) We had some lunch with Hannah's mate Cheryl who had come to Cardiff to see Hannah from Swansea for the afternoon. They have been best mates since they found they were the only two Philip Pullman readers at middle school. Bizarrely, nothing bought, but there are a hell of a lot of shoe shops in Cardiff.

Time for Hannah and I to book ourselves into a hotel for the night. We're going to see Bob Dylan at the International Arena and public transport is a bit unreliable after 9.45 pm and we'd probably want something to eat after the gig and that would be leaving it a bit late to be traveling back up to Aberdare for me or down to Bath for Hannah. Staying overnight in Cardiff meant we could spend Wednesday morning looking in more shops and exchanging more gossip. We stayed in a Travelodge, quite reasonable but don't bother with the breakfast, it was a bit hit and miss and you needed a pilots license to work the toaster...but on to the main event...

I'm no music critic, but I am a Bobcat so whatever I say is going to be a bit predictable. I'm also honest, and yes, His Bobness has his bad days. Happily this wasn't one of them. He was laughing, smiling and very animated. Because it was the CIA and there is precious little in the way of seating, most of the audience is on its feet and quite animated as well. I've noticed over the years that you never finish the night where you started it, with all the short people shuffling in front of the tall people and the poor sods trying to get to the bar of wherever leaving a swathe of shuffling people with stretched necks bobbing about in their wake. Yes, there is a pun there, and no it wasn't intentional.

So as I said, I'm no critic and there is no way I'm going to start reviewing what I think was one of the best Dylan gigs I've attended, and I have attended a few. In 1965, I was only 14 and had somehow acquired tickets for the Albert Hall, I don't actually remember any of it except the wonder that I was actually seeing Bob Dylan, I went with my best mate Susan who I last saw in 1969 pushing a pram and telling me she had married a telephone engineer and was living in Norbiton. She couldn't look me in the eye. I'd just spent some of the summer in Cornwall at an International Anarchist Camp and was on my way to the Isle of Wight to the festival, headlined by Bob Dylan and the Band. Don't remember much of that either for reasons you can probably guess! My memories of 1965 are pretty blurry anyway, and not helped by the existence of Don't Look Back, so I won't say anymore about that. The whole of 1969 was just weird, not going to say any more about that either.
The next live encounter with Mr Dylan was in 1978 at Earls Court. I was lucky enough to be there all week every day all day because I was part of a small business selling stuff in the arena. There was a sort of carnival set up before you went on to find your seats with stilt walkers and jugglers and the like, and the likes of us trying to make a living selling our wares wherever we could. This was a good gig for us, plenty of people milling about before finding their seats, a very busy interval which lasted about half an hour and not everyone was rushing home, we did well. Of course this meant we were there from mid morning to late evening every day so we heard rehearsals, sound checks and so on. Most days Dylan was was on stage during the afternoon and nobody seemed bothered about who was going in to listen, so naturally we did! I was on cloud 9 most of that week, listen to the Live at Budakan album to get a feel of that week. About a month later it was the Picnic at Blackbushe. I was working at this one as well, so it was more like 3 days for us than just 1 day, but what a day with added Eric Clapton!
Didn't get to see Bob Dylan again till 1997 in Cardiff, went to that one with Bill, who is the worst person in the world to go to a gig with because of a low boredom threshold or short attention span, never been quite sure which. Don't think that one was so good though.
Since then Hannah and I saw him in the CIA in 2002/4/6 and last week, and have always come out feeling better than when we went in. As I said, I am not reviewing or criticising, all I can say is an arena full of people gasping audibly when the lights hit the backdrop at the start of Mr Tambourine Man, the now inevitable cheer at the first blast of harmonica and the also inevitable shout along on the first `How does it feel' line in Like a Rolling Stone can't be wrong and it all adds up to an experience I would gladly have again and again. I've been to loads of gigs over the years, but no matter how big the artist none of them compare to the buzz, for me, as being in the same place as Bob Dylan. This is all purely personal, I'm pretty sure most people will disagree with me, but then you are reading the words of someone who never really got the hang of the Beatles, was never that keen on Bowie and can't stick Morrissey, although artistically I appreciate them and what they do. We enjoyed ourselves, and it looked as if His Bobness enjoyed himself too, what more do you need?

What you need is some food, so we had some sort of curry in Wagamamas with a glass of wine and felt very pleased with ourselves about the whole evening.

Checked out of Traveloge after breakfast and found even more shoe shops, then spent an hour sitting in a window in Starbucks watching the people in Queen Street and picking out other Bobcats still trying to get home, altogether a good 24 hours in a place not at all like home and incredibly good for the soul. I just have to say thanks Bob, you did it again and long may you go on doing it.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

We All Need a Bit Of Respite.

Ok, I know a good week has passed and no blog was forthcoming, no excuses, just didn't get time on computer. We only have the one reliable machine and two of us use it. There are alternatives in the house, but not reliably connected to broadband so we tend to use the one that is connected, as both of us seem to do everything online. Can't help wondering how we got on before the Internet, actually, can't help wondering how we got on before broadband! I get quite nostalgic about the old dial up noises, it became familiar enough for me to join in with it sometimes, and the clicking and whirring and clunking of the old printer. With broadband and a newer printer all you get is a vast array of flashing lights.

So anyway, last weekend was quiet because Sarah was away and didn't get home until 4.30pm after Day Centre on Monday, she seemed happy enough, but I don't think there was enough going on over the weekend to occupy her, and needless to say, she wouldn't tell us what she did, and the care home she went to seem unable to tell us anything either. This is something of a failing on their part, but they don't seem to be able to understand the importance of continuity and communication, but I'm pretty sure if I take it up with them I'll be given the lack of staff story. She went there on Friday afternoon after Day Centre and was there for three nights, we get charged just under £10.00 a night, and then she needs spending money which is usually £10.00 a day. This means her weekend away costs us around £60.00 and from the report of her stay which I received on Friday is to be believed, the only thing they did was go out for a meal. Since she came home with no money I'm hoping it was a bloody good meal! All she has told me about the weekend was that she had spaghetti on toast for dinner on Sunday which she didn't like and they went shopping on Saturday. Doesn't sound to good to me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not really complaining about the service, hell we need it, we are entitled to 28 nights of respite a year. We have used up 9 of this years and will probably only get another 12 before christmas, and they really are very much appreciated. But the cost and the fallout sometimes make me wonder if it is worth the 3 or 4 days of anxiety Sarah goes through prior to her stay, then on her return there's another few days of adjustment. She can put on quite a song and dance before she goes and do a reprise on her return! There is no real pattern to these respite breaks, sometimes they will be Monday to Friday, sometimes Friday to Monday, and they can occur at any time. This is were the problems begin because Sarah like routine and order, and she keeps a calendar in her head. I've been banging on at them for a couple of years now trying to get them to realize that some sort of routine around the dates would be incredibly helpful, but I get nowhere, mainly because the management of the care home changes so frequently there is no continuity. All these thing are beyond my control, which is a bit bothersome, since they seem to be beyond the control of anyone else as well!
Ok, weekly rant over, on to the best bit of the week in following post...