A ‘Two Imposters’ Sort Of Day

I left you positively hungering for news. Here you go.

(You must excuse the many photos; I am mildly stymied by the paucity of permitted subject matter.)

Mum’s Dahlias earned a creditable third in a large class.

mums dahlias

My Christmas… thing… also made it to third, but against weaker competition.

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My bottle bag came second, which puzzled me. I thought the judge would either love it to leopardskin-bits or abhor it utterly. For what it’s worth, it was an absolutely functional bag, although I had stitched it together a tad too tightly, so insertion of bottle was disturbingly akin to reverse midwifery; the bra straps were Actual Working Handles, after a fashion. (Pun alert! Do I need to highlight puns? I’m not sure who I’m writing to anymore. I am bad at deliberate puns, btw. Mine are mostly accidental. I am capable, like Edmund Bertram, of blundering on the borders of a repartee for half an hour together without striking it out.)

bottle bag

My jelly – batch number bloody seven, remember: the comically puny result of untold hours of work, and shocking amounts of wasted fruit – stormed in at first place. Small, but mighty. *crows immodestly*

jelly 1st

My faith in the intrinsic justice of the universe was naturally instantly restored, although honesty compels me to add that, when I finally examined the jar for myself, I thought it a tiny tad over-set.

Everything else I entered came no-where; with the sole exception of the brownies – which tasted simply bloody divine – I thought deservedly so, as they met stiff competition. A 1st, 2nd and 3rd was, although satisfactory, nowhere near putting me in amongst the silverware. I had failed, damnit.

However! Harry had cruised to victory in both of his classes.

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I was too excited to take a close-up of the hedgehog avec certificate – also, most of his bristles had fallen brittle victims to a day of small-fingered inquisitiveness by pick-up time.

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We didn’t mind. Because (the movie of this post would feature a suspense-crescendo on the score just around… here), unbeknownst to me, there was a trophy for most points scored in the children’s section.

So! Last, littlest, but not, to my mind, least, Harry intrepidly beetled up to be presented with his silverware from *ta-dah* The Princess Royal, HRH Princess Anne.

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Harry & PA

I’m not sure Presentation quite covers it, because what he ACTUALLY did was reach out very promptly on arrival and make a determined effort to pluck it neatly from her mildly startled hands – but the ensuing hilarity was entirely good natured.

Harry & Princess Anne

I briefly debated telling her that we HAD considered encouraging Harry to attempt a badger wearing a gas mask instead of a hedgehog, but discretion triumphed. And I’m fairly sure she’d’ve felt unauthorised to find it funny in public, although the midst of an Agricultural Society gathering was surely the place, if any. (If none of this makes sense to you… never mind. Rural joke. Pass on by.)

I have dutifully stumped up the £16 to have the blingy thing engraved. It’s never been won twice, I note, so we will give it another bash next year, although the 2015 dignitary is almost certain to be less exalted and hence have a tough gig; it’s taken the secretary over 20 years of trying in order to bag a Royal. I am quietly thrilled to bits that Harry won THIS year, naturally.

All in all: a good day. I like those.

Notes from a Crowded Kitchen

A word in your ear: try not to be Spectrummy over Preserves. You know, if you possibly can. By Wednesday morning, with a busy day of baking ahead, I had gone through six batches of fruit-simmering-and-straining-and-boiling, and still had nothing I didn’t think would embarrass me. So, having stripped the hedgerows within 100 yards of my house, I was forced to walk – uphill! – an entire 5 minutes to Blackberry Eldorado. When I got there, given that the weather was perfect, the view was magnificent, and I was clearly going to be spending the remainder of the day like a demented Bumblebee with too many flowers to visit, I decided it was worth the time. And worth the walk. The uphill walk. (Note to self: go to the bloody gym.)

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The inevitable thorn-woundings to my hands made the prospect of the lemon-squeezings scheduled later in the day more exciting (but I got off with less skin marmalisation than during batch 6, when I was collecting a pitiful few blackberries from my garden hedge at 10pm, clutching a million-watt torch and an earwig-collecting tub under one arm and ineffectually fending off menacing snaggle-toothed tentacle-fronds with the other). I collected half a kilo of blackberries, and returned to the house, with a To-Do list in the 20-somethings.

By 11am I had lemon drizzle cake, pate sucree for treacle tart, and chocolate brownies on the go. Simultaneously. Which went as well as spreading your attention load too thinly usually does.

The pate sucree was terribly overdone, and I put entirely too much lemon in the treacle, with the natural end result of Brown Lemony Stodge, of a solidity to fell armies at the knee, wielded correctly. Quelle horreur, etc.

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The Chocolate Brownies tasted fab, (I used Betty’s suggested recipe, thank you!) but I overdid them very slightly – and had lined the correct-flat-dimensions-but-far-too-deep cake tin thoughtlessly, so I half-destroyed them lifting them out. The Lemon drizzle went well to begin with; I took it out of the oven at exactly the right moment, and crowed gleefully that This One Looked A Winner. I turned my attention to other things for 30 minutes – at which point I remembered I had completely forgotten to actually drizzle the bloody thing with lemon juice. Gah! I attempted to belatedly drown the thing, but it was stubborn, and having none of it.

Home-made Christmas decorations: I had bought some small glass bottles, and tinkered about with A) glass paint, B) printing little Bethlehem maps & camels for a sand-with-stuff-in bottle, and C) shoving sugar crystals around a fir tree sprig. I sieved some of the cleaner-looking sand from Harry’s playpit, both for the map bottle, and to weight the tin down. Ivy branches – which I successfully used as an entire Christmas Tree substitute at home last year

tree

- provided Green Stuff.

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I lectured myself firmly, around about teatime, to be relaxed, non-finickety and, above all, rapid constructing the Pew End. Harry and I spent several tense minutes measuring it: I had a dark suspicion that, when they stated 18 inches, they MEANT 18 inches; not 19, which mine seemed to want to end up at. I was reasonably pleased with it in the end, although the only close-up I have is before I’d finished being finickety and shifting it all about, which was… well, it was dark by then.

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Darkness is evidently when my Inner Preserve Monster comes out to play. I boiled up the mighty 500ml of liquid that had emerged, sulkily, over the course of the day from an entire kilo of berries (500g of blackberries and 500g of assorted strawberries, raspberries and blueberries) with some jam sugar and stood over it like a neurotic hawk. Tutored somewhat by the many, many things that had gone wrong previously (7th batch, remember), I managed to withdraw it from the heat and insert it into a jar – a bloody small jar, with not much left over – around 11pm.

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I had drawn a cow the previous evening. I should say, in truth, copied a cow. I simply trawled the net until I found a painting I liked the look of:

Hereford 12x12 811

and then tried to reproduce it in pencil.

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You will be happy to hear that this attempt at abject cheating was doomed to failure, as it turned out I had read the schedule a little too literally, and had not understood that this was a children’s class. This saved me from mild embarrassment, as the other entries were all from budding Michaelangelos.

I interpreted ‘animal’ photograph loosely.

monkey

Harry had, unenthusiastically to begin with, then with increased gusto, set about decorating a cupcake after tea. I over-ruled all the skittery ideas he had (I am THAT type of parent. You may judge me) and instructed him exactly what to make, and how to go about it. I then pretty much stood back while he got on with it. Nothing caught on fire during this activity, which was reassuring, despite him wielding the garlic press with wild abandon.

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So! By midnight, I had assembled:

  • 1 overdone, stodgy treacle tart
  • 5 delicious but cosmetically impaired chocolate brownies
  • 1 lemon drizzle, effectively, sans the drizzle.
  • 1 sock puppet giraffe
  • 1 hedgehog cupcake: fragile, and a bugger to transport
  • 1 bottle bag, ditto
  • 1 Christmas Decoration, ditto
  • 1 pew end flower arrangement, ditto
  • 1 13 inch runner bean
  • 1 jar of egg plum jam
  • 1 jar of chutney
  • 1 jar of lemon & lime marmalade
  • 1 jar – small – of berry jelly
  • 1 bottle (small) of raspberry and vanilla vodka
  • 1 drawing, cribbed, of a cow
  • 1 photograph of a monkey

In addition to this, I collected 5 white dahlias, a rose, and a pot plant from my parents at sparrowfart the following morning, before returning home, loading up the car, and driving – carefully – down the road, and – worriedly – across a field. Staging this bloody lot took some time, which was mildly stressful, as I had a major SEN meeting at school scheduled for 11.15.

And… the standard. Has improved. It appears this is the show to enter, these days, if you want the prestige. I was a little taken aback at the sheer size of some of the classes, blithely assuming it would be me, three of my friends, and a handful of the local WI, contributing entries.

My preserves were lost in what seemed like a monstrous assembly of jars.

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I shuffled my tart surreptitiously into the midst of lovely-looking pastries, safe in the knowledge that only the names of the winners are revealed, and that my contributing link to the item in question was thus altogether undiscoverable if only I could bribe John to stay schtum.

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I was expecting my interpretation of ‘decorated bottle bag’ to be a little out of left field, and so it proved.

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Ditto the Christmas Decoration.

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Monkey was clearly outclassed by many, although I felt he was an improvement on some.

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My runner bean – far left – had immediate, and expected, inferiority issues.

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My sole ambition with the pew end had been to appear broadly within my depth alongside the competition. Mine is far left, at the top. I was aching to whip a tape measure out on a couple of ‘em, as mine was 17.5 inches precisely, but… no, Ann. No.

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The children’s entries were fabulous, although I thought his giraffe stood a fairish chance

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cupcakes

And… I am fed up with uploading photos.

I will leave you, pro tem, to wonder how we got on.

Try not to let the edge of your chair dig in too much.

*insert customary foot-shufflings over prolonged absence here*

Blogging. Difficult to perform with a reluctant-to-be-named-in-print husband. Not rendered any easier by a child (Seven. SEVEN, FFS!)

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who, not merely content with acquiring reading skills, is also pathologically inquisitive (a result of Aspergers-meets-genetics perfect storm) and was recently heard to enquire ‘what’s a blog?’

He has also taken to reading my Facebook posts, and, like his father, having OPINIONS on them.

So. When Subj. to be trodden around carefully include, for everyone’s sanity, family, work, politics, and religion, all I am left with is cake. Lovely caaaaaaaake.

I thought I would share with you my determined attempts this week, to get in amongst the silverware at our tiny local agricultural society show on Thursday. I have shared this event with you before, notably 2011, the year I cruised to exultant victory, winning the Novice Victoria Sponge class. (NB: Novice: never won 1st before.) That year, I received a certificate, £5 prize money, and the Society’s congratulations. This year… THIS year… they have instituted a perpetual trophy for the class, as well as importing Princess Anne from the Cotswolds in order to distribute the silverware.

I could cope with missing out on either the silverware OR the royal handshake, but I am, frankly, cheesed-off at missing out on both.

No trophy for Ann this year! But…

No.

There is another.

Presented to the competitor gaining the most points in all sections.

Schedule

It’s ON. I have entered 14 of the 28 adult classes, costing me a mighty £7. I fought desperately with my conscience about the possibility of ravaging my parents’ garden – who are away, and thence can do nooothing to stop me wielding the secateurs indiscriminately – and thereby entering a further 3 flower classes too, but I have restrained myself. I have still entered the classes, mind you, but on my mother’s behalf. She steps off the red-eye from New York at 7am Thursday morning, so I expect she’ll thank me for sorting the paperwork out for her, ready for her to gallop cheerfully outside and start slicing stems and cleaning vases.

I have stepped outside my comfort zone in terms of scope and scheduling here. Plus I have a slightly buggered, recently-out-of-serious-spasm back, which isn’t helping. I am always short of time; I am chaotic, ludicrously distractible, and generally over-committed. I am also taking part in classes I would not normally attempt. There is only one cake class – lemon drizzle – and further classes for chocolate brownies and treacle tart. Lemon drizzle is not a speciality of mine, although I have turned out many edible ones. Treacle tart I stand a chance with… providing my pastry goes ok. Brownies… well. I just don’t make ‘em. I don’t know why: I’m always quite keen to get outside them; but the point here is that I lack experience and confidence making them. If you have a killer recipe, don’t keep the links to yourself; my confidence levels are already running low following a recent attempt to make gluten-free ones ahead of a visit from May. Unhappily, I had left it a bit late, and, upon realising that I had 40 minutes before needing to leave to meet her train, fully 15 of which would be required for baking, I moved up into a mental gear entirely unsuitable for reading internet recipes printed off in – I kid you not – 2 point font; as a result, I omitted the 5oz of butter.

We went to Waitrose on the way home.

I have already potted up chutney, jam and marmalade. I am on my 4th batch… and 7th boiling… of jelly, with nothing so far I can enter. The hedgerows by my house have been thoroughly denuded for Project Jelly: in vain. The Preserving Mojo: I have it not. I feel this to be a significant lack in a farmer’s spouse. But I DO have a tiny bottle of raspberry and vanilla vodka left over from Christmas: a happy oversight, as I siphoned up all the rest of it.

Flower arranging is something I have come to late in life, and I Faff For Bloody Hours Over It. I am currently allocated, on high days and holidays, the tiiiiny windows opposite the altar in our local church. In order to progress down the aisle to a Visible Opportunity, I must wait for one of the current window incumbents to die… whereupon, we will all move down one.

The bottle bag I have completed,

bottle bag

concurrently with barking gluing instructions to Harry over his sock puppet.

sock puppet copy

(*weeps for loss of two perfectly nice socks*) I was obliged to take over some of Harry’s gluing when A) it became apparent that Proper Superglue was required in places and B) the superglue reacted with either sock or pipe-cleaner – and caught slightly on fire. Which was… unexpected.

I have bought little glass bottles to do Something Festive with, horribly out of season. I have a plan. What I do not have is time.

I am about to Draw A Cow before I go to work at 12. I have drawn cows before, very badly. I am the only member of my family on my Dad’s side who cannot pick up a pencil and do impressive things. Having a 60 minute time window is unlikely to improve on my previous efforts, so I will be broadly content with anything recognisably bovine.

I will take a photo of an animal at some point this week. Whichever cow, sheep, dog or tortoise will agree to stand still long enough gets the gig.

So. Further updates will primarily be pictorial, and hurried. I am typing this in Word, and am about to attempt to not only remember my wordpress login, but also how to work the bloody thing.

I am feeling rusty in many areas, including the vertebrae.

Werewolves Of London, Weirdly, Was His Idea*

Because I can get in my own way in such an accomplished fashion, I have found myself with something of a log-jam concerning All The Promised Posts. Later in the day that I posted last, I was, in a peculiar fashion, bereaved, and I felt I owed my sadness a post. It has, as usual, taken me longer than I would have liked to write, because, Ann.

My earliest memories contain music. I can still hear the click and split-second static buzz of the radio in the kitchen as my mother, every morning, turned on Radio 2. The sound is filed away in my long-term storage, along with my crystal-clear audio-print of her briskly shovelling bucketfuls of anthracite into the museum-piece water boiler at dawn, followed by the rhythmic yet truly calamitous noise of a violently agitated ash grate section. (I do not know I am born, obviously, what with my fancy tank of oil outside and no frost – inside – the single-glazed windows.) Sounds stick with me tenaciously, is the point I’m making, and are intangibly enmeshed in memories involving other senses, and of other sorts. I don’t know the band, or the year, or the song title, but if they played it on Radio 2 from 1978 to 1985, I can sing you the chorus, likely as not, and maybe a couple of verses.

My parents were young city-dwelling teens at the end of the 1950s. Rock & roll was en route: they watched it arrive. My father, an even worse squirrel than I, still has all the extant 45 singles he evidently spent his Saturday-job money on. Later, they were to queue outside overnight for Beatles tickets, with their parents bringing them flasks of hot drinks and, I expect, mild disbelief at their fervour.

But there was only ever one sound for my Dad, after he heard it the first time. A seamless meld of effortless harmony underpinned with either scything acoustic catchiness or ballads of teenage heart-break; the Everly Brothers’ music had such beat, soul and depth that Dad was caught for life. Graham Nash (Hollies, Crosby Stills & Nash) had a similar epiphany “It was like the opening of a giant door in my soul, the striking of a chord… from which I’ve never recovered”.

everly brothers

The Everlys were the soundtrack underpinning my childhood, and I hear so many of their songs suddenly soar and cascade into my mind whenever I am recalling events of my past. Their songs were always playing, you see: a constant curving weft snugly uniting the warp yarns of my life at all its times, places, and emotional stages. From my earliest time of memory, to now. Every car I have driven, every place I have lived, every year of my life: has heard their music. It has shaped me so very much: I will pause in the midst of the most urgent of tasks if I encounter good harmony, wherever and whatever the musical context. I have an ineffable, perpetual pathway to the comfort, the enjoyment and the sheer musical elation they have gifted me for all of my nearly-39 years.

It brings a smile to my face to think that I was, for several years, the youngest member of their international fan club. I was, and remain, an unfashionable soul. This was a long time before Roots Country and Blues became cool again, I might add, but in truth, Don and Phil were ahead of their time, and the period of their chart success was comparatively short. By the mid 1960s the hits had stopped, but their influence continued, to an extent that is so hard to quantify today. So many pleasingly disparate artists have paid tribute to the influence the Everly’s sound had on their own music. Paul McCartney said that ‘When John and I first started to write songs, I was Phil and he was Don’. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones duetted on an entire Everly Brothers tribute album late last year.

I had a particular soft spot for Phil.

Phil Everly

I’d met him once: waited for his autograph outside a stage door in Newcastle on Tyne, half a lifetime ago. Exchanged a few tongue-tied words, and melted, utterly, at his voice. All I can remember now is that extraordinarily soft, husky voice, and a glance or two from the far side of a very muffling scarf. (It is always winter in Newcastle, even in July.)

Phil-Everly-Los-Angeles-c.-1976

My parents were fortunate enough to meet with Phil and Don’s family last September, at a private family party-cum-gig for the small gathering of fans who had travelled across the world to meet one another, in Nashville. It sounded marvellous – I was writhingly jealous – and Phil’s wife Patti said how very much he wanted to be there too, but he was just too ill to travel. So they agreed next September, they would Do It All Again.

But on 3rd January, Phil – until quite late in his life a smoker – lost his battle with lung disease. I found out, of all places, from Twitter: a sign of my particular times. Duane Eddy, Bono, Joe Elliott, Nancy Sinatra, Paul Simon, Iggy Pop, the Brians May, Adams and Wilson, etc – hordes of ‘em –  all said how terribly sorry they were. By some inexplicable oversight I was overlooked by the world’s media for a quote, so I feel lucky to have this space. Because to the complete nonplussedness of my husband – although notably not to my parents – I was sincerely and miserably grieved. A month later, I still contemplate his loss every day.

I feel a little absurd discussing it, as Phil himself was a complete stranger; my loss is the artist, not the man. Everything meaningful that I possessed of him isn’t fundamentally altered, or gone away from me. I can reach for every song he ever wrote or sang, just as easily as before, and lose myself just as fully. Tonight, on BBC4, I can watch the Reunion Concert again, although it isn’t my favourite show of theirs – this is – and also the documentary that Alan Yentob made about them, years ago – the wonderfully titled Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

But despite all of this, I feel so terribly unhappy that someone so intrinsically special to me no longer walks under the same sun as I, and… well, I suppose I wanted just to say so. And that wherever Phil is, he is undoubtedly making the place sound very much sweeter.

Ignore the visual quality: do have a listen.

*http://rockaeology.com/2011/03/01/warren-zevon-werewolves-of-london.aspx

Apparently I need a title, but I’m tired and going to bed now.

WordPress sent me my “Blogging in 2013!” review earlier today. It appears I managed a mighty three posts last year.

Poor. Very poor. D minus, possibly an E. I feel myself vaguely chastened by it, so Here I Am. Responding better to the stick, not the carrot, as usual. I think I’ve exhausted every narrative technique of blowing away dust, tapping microphones, enquiring about switched-on-ness and ducking the escaping bats on previous occasions, so I’ll confine myself to hello.

How’ve you been?

It’s difficult to know how to keep this space alive. It’s the usual collection of reasons. My anonymity, which I was never particularly scrupulous about, eventually dissolved to the point of cobwebs, so I bit the bullet and shoved the blog link on Facebook a couple of years ago. Reassuringly, no-one cared. Almost no-one I know is even interested in what I put on here, as far as I can tell, but I imagine that might change if they were… mentioned, shall we say.

I am back at work, albeit in a very part-time way. Harry’s situation requires rather more circumspection when discussing than previously, especially considering the aforementioned absence of anonymity. John was never happy featuring here. My own reproductive struggles also seem unsuitable to share if – and there is – a distinct chance they could be related back to Harry via the playground.

Altogether, there seem to be a few too many tulips to render even tiptoeing a viable option.

But I do miss this place. I’ve made lifelong, close friends here.

So. I will attempt a potted history. I will then attempt to update more regularly (I appreciate I have said this before – more than once) even if it’s a pictorial collection of Cake Disasters of the Month.

Harry. What to say about Harry? He is glorious, inimical, comical, affectionate, intrepid. He is himself.

Long-time readers of this blog will remember – because I complained about it a great deal, at length, over years – the pronounced difficulties I experienced while trying to get health professionals to Take Some Notice of Harry’s quirks and motor difficulties.

The motor difficulties eventually got to the point where even the shortest-sighted of them admitted there was An Issue, and when we eventually levered a Physio/OT assessment out of the powers that be, his balance scored on the moderate/severe borderline. He currently has a weekly physio session at school, although budgets and absurd protocols have jointly ensured that that seems likely to cease soon.

The quirks were altogether harder to explain to people. I often felt extremely fortunate to have so very many people in my life for whom giving reassurance felt so nice… for them, and many of whom have had, by a wild stroke of luck, entirely normal children who have had every single one of Harry’s difficulties – worse and for longer – which weren’t actually difficulties at all, apparently.

Maybe I should ask them all what they think about climate change.

I’m not entirely clear on exactly where, during many of these conversations with family, friends and acquaintance, well-meant reassurance ended and thoughtless belittlement began to pervade. (However, I’ve obviously been able to accurately pinpoint the moment where my irritation was about to swell into incandescent fury just fine, as I’ve managed to avoid thumping anyone to date.) I dislike having my judgement questioned as much as the next parent – and, egotist that I am, probably a little more – so my cognitive bias may well have been extra-biassy on the topic. But that’s fine! as, providentially, I can logically reconcile my own gentle cognitive curves much better than other people’s ludicrous mental encrustations.

Happily for those of a nervous disposition, I can permanently scotch any lingering possibility there may have been of my running naked through Stratford. (I was reasonably confident from an early age that Harry’s Diagnoses would be forthcoming: see here and here.) I eventually shouted loud enough to be heard – by the wrong person, aktually, but the wrong person referred us to the right person. 9 months of bureaucratic sorry-we-have-no-money-at-all-don’t-you-know-the-UK-is-broke? and 2 months of Judicious Action by a Very Clever Psychology Team followed. In October we finally received a lengthy report that nailed him absolutely perfectly. Harry decoded.

As a result of the last round of DSM tinkering, Harry’s diagnosis de jure is High Functioning Autism, but, not withstanding his significant speech issues, Asperger Syndrome is the diagnosis de facto.

Other labels are in the pipeline, although it’s the understanding beneath them I want. All labels get us is the chance of Moar Input. Sensory Processing Disorder has now apparently gone the way of Asperger’s, but as Harry quite evidently has it, I wait with interest to see what they will term it on the assessment paperwork. You can’t have dyspraxia and Autistic Spectrum Disorder – in theory; diagnosing protocol generally dictates that ASD is a pervasive developmental disorder and thus an Official Trump Card, robustly ousting all other difficulties to whatever nail-parings of the Venn diagram they can cling onto – so Harry is having to get used to hearing it termed Gross & Fine Motor Difficulties instead.

Unsurprisingly, given his diagnosis, Harry is quite interested in his diagnosis.

Harry’s assessment finally shed some light on why his needs were so opaque to The Reassurers and the Deniers – and, to some extent, his Parents. Harry’s difficulties with behaviour, mobility, social issues and communication are explained easily enough by ASD; he also has capabilities which some of his peers on the spectrum do not – abilities that seem to contradict an ASD diagnosis if you were to only, for example, skim-read a few websites and come away with a one-Sheldon-Cooper-fits-all idea of Aspergers. *ahem*

Harry orientates to and reads faces well. He likes change and new things! (Except when he…doesn’t.) He is entirely compassionate and sensitive. (Except when he… isn’t.) Superficially, he gives a convincing appearance of understanding the general flow of things (for ‘understanding the flow of things’ I THINK I mean ‘theory of mind’, but tbh, I’m still grappling with the psychology underneath it.) but what we are actually seeing are extraordinarily unusual coping skills (innate, I expect, although I have tried very hard to help him Decode Stuff) coupled to a sharp intelligence. It took a clinical psychologist to ascertain to what extent Harry is frequently utterly nonplussed by Life.

We are fortunate; Harry is fortunate, albeit living within a context of frequent struggle and frustration. He has many of the positive abilities associated with his disorder, and a comparatively very mild helping indeed of the negatives. Everyday life is frequently difficult for him, and consequently for us, but our difficulties are truly minor in the special-needs scheme of things. It taxes our patience and ingenuity as parents, that’s all; finally understanding his likely mental make-up has been enormously useful to us. I really feel fortunate, I don’t just think it.

I was darkly amused to note that immediately following Harry’s diagnosis we were offered enrolment on parenting support classes, because – shocker – children with ASD are occasionally a tad tricky to parent. Ha! Where were they when Harry was 2 years old, and then 3, and still completely voiceless, and OhDearGod Being SO ImfuckingPossible because he just didn’t GET this INEXPLICABLE world full of assaulting sounds and textures and intrinsic confusion?

I wish I could have a conversation with the 30 year-old Me. But don’t we all?

Home is fine. School worries me a little, although I am fundamentally satisfied or he wouldn’t be there still. However, I feel they dropped the ball quite badly last year, although, given that Harry’s ASD is not necessarily obvious, I can’t altogether blame them for mistaking adequate academic progress with No Special Need. Harry’s intelligence means that he has made reasonable strides, but it is all shot through with difficulties. He CAN read, but lacks fluency and hates doing it. Dyslexia is a distinct possibility. Writing is utter purgatory to him, both physically and cognitively. Concentration and sitting still are… not his thing. He’s holding it all together, kind of – but we’ve lost his one-to-one Teaching Assistant now. This, I wanted to fight – when did I not? – but School, Bollock and Drop, etc. We have a new Headteacher now, but the fact remains that funded help is far easier to keep than obtain afresh – think rocking horse shit –  and I’m not optimistic we’ll ever get funded help back for him. There just isn’t any goddamn money. The budgets are broker than a broken thing sat on a broken chair, and Harry just isn’t failing spectacularly enough to qualify under current Austerity Measures.

In any event, we will now await input from the Sensory OT, specialist ASD SALT, and a decent Ed Psych. And then I will fight if I think I can win. The oil tanker steams slowly onwards.

Harry started riding with the Riding for the Disabled Association in June, because it targets his weak core strength beautifully. His balance and co-ordination is always going to be an issue, but he is trotting confidently now – if not yet fluidly – and he had his first canter last month, most successfully – albeit on a horse with no legs. His instructor is a most deserving MBE for her RDA work; she has asked Harry to ride in displays at the Game Fair and Blenheim Horse Trials. This was, you might say, greatly assistive with his overall confidence – although not initially to mine, as I was obliged to man a microphone (I am just visible as a clipboard-clutching background splodge) and explain what benefits riding with the RDA was bringing to Harry.

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We sent him round the ring lugging the charity bucket afterwards, and I was admittedly charmed by how many £20 notes the child managed to extract, particularly from elderly ladies of a horsey persuasion. Plus, despite possessing a baseline of fear or, at best, indifference to almost all animals, he is slowly thawing on the concept of having Pony Friends.

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So. Let’s talk about MEEEEEE!

I’m happy. Apart from being 39 next month and frustrated with my weight, but you may justifiably consider that Situation Normal.

I work – and volunteer – in the local heritage sector, primarily guiding, which suits me. I can rattle on a bit, if you haven’t noticed yet. I still co-Chair our PTA, although I’m intending to hand the baton on after this year.  I’m involved with my local am-dram group. I have 3 hens – at present. (I noted the other day that local poultry keepers always seem to enquire after each other’s flocks with variations on the phrase ‘How many do you have left?’)

I am learning the piano – slowly, badly and accompanied frequently by my screams of vexation at my inability to distinguish a blob on the line from the blob tucked underneath the line. Grade 1 is a shining castle of Proficiency in the far, far distance, although thanks to my mother, I acquired a shiny digital Roland for Christmas, which is an indescribable advantage. I salvaged the lovely burr wood from my former piano, before consigning the remainder to John’s tender mercies.

He took it away and burnt the bugger. The piano tuner had pronounced it a Dead Piano years ago, and he wasn’t wrong; many a time I had threatened to torch it under a blasted oak at midnight. But it DID have a life, and possibly a soul, and I saw it go with mixed feelings. I have kept with great pleasure the pieces of Black Cat cigarette cards I found as washers under the keyboard section, the gold paint as vibrant now as it was in 1917 when they last saw the light of day.

Given that I’ve been in a riding school regularly, I have started learning to ride – again, from scratch. Thanks to a pony-mad youth, I could already manage to stick on for a canter juuuust about adequately, but with the equestrianship and grace normally manifested by a large sack of spuds. My attempts are now being ruthlessly de-constructed back to the very basics, and I am discovering that it is possible to pilot a horse without the assistance of reins, stirrups, or very pointed digs in the ribs, which were my exclusive navigational tools previously. My progress is slow: I am so, so not a natural at subtle balance sports – as John once found out when we went skiing somewhere far beyond my ability, namely, a mountain exhibiting a slope greater than 5 degrees.

What else? Lemme see.

I have these

Photo: I'm not 100% sure of the species, but it looked fairly widow-ish and, crucially, was in MY house. I have, woefully for the arachnid kingdom, declined to continue this state of affairs.

in my garage, and it’s making me Nervous. If you are a botanist and can tell me they are not false widows, then I will fervently bless you.

I did my annual Cake Thing in November. God, I do love cake. The usual people were lovely and very generous and I felt humbled and so rewarded for a few days of work, as I always do.

We lost our collie to a heart attack a couple of months ago, and have a new 8 week old puppy arriving TOMORROW, God help me. There is much cuteness about the puppy (even Harry is looking forward to her coming), much blurriness about my photos,

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much controversy over Her Name, and much trepidation about the Howling At Night and All The Shit. I am exceedingly worried about All The Howling and All The Shit. Send newspaper & earplugs. My spaniel suspects nothing, poor lad.

I have about 2000 plaintive words about my Summer Of Catastrophe already written (see! Stick, not carrot!) (lucky, lucky readers!) but I’ll tuck them away for later.

You know, in case I peak too soon now I’m back. *wry face*

Bavers, by Sir Rat

I am slumped in my armchair, suffering from Viral Plague. Possibly. I am markedly improved on yesterday, which eventually saw me gulping desperately at a bottle of whiskey in search of Blessed Oblivion. I have mucus that you could carve – if the mood took you that way. My armchair is hard back against the wall because that’s where the violence of my sneezes has sent it. (I am probably not ill nearly so much as a peruse of this blog might imply; merely that these are the times that I am confined to the laptop; limp, querulous, running out of people to bleat at…)

I have been watching the Six Nations with a most uncharacteristic lack of interest in burly chaps with Little Shorts, particularly now Wales have just handed us our arse in some fashion. I was at Twickenham for England’s glorious trampling of the All Blacks last December, and, frankly, the boot hurts quite a bit more on this foot.

Earlier this evening, Harry slightly surprised John & I by telling us that the capital of France was Paris, and that the River running through the middle was the Seine. We told him we were impressed with his excellent learning, and how had he known? He replied that the school have a painting that all the classes are doing some project work on. I duly invoked Google, and asked the painting title.

‘Bayvers!’

‘Eh?’

‘Bayvers!’

‘Can you spell it for me?’

*cogitation*

‘B A V E R S’

*Ann Googles: finds Iranian village of Bāvers*

‘Lovey, do you know the artist?’

‘Sir Rat!’

‘Eh?!’

‘Sir Rat! It IS, Mummy!’

‘Ummm. ‘kay.’

*Ann Googles: finds various pugilistic rodents, but instinctively senses a Wrong Turn has been taken*

*stops to put her Harry-speak hat on*

*cogitation*

*Googles again*

‘Lovey, is this it?’

‘Yes! Yes it is!’

Anyhoo! I just thought I’d say Hi. How’ve you been?

Hairy Farmer

As part of the drawn-out and tedious process of disengaging from our current broadband provider, I attempted to register for @gmail and @hotmail accounts earlier today. I attempted to register, natch, hairyfarmer@, because that is ME, dude! Or, rather, US –  if John is standing within earshot of me. He nicknamed himself so first, but I rather feel I’ve made it my own since then.

Imagine my sensations, therefore, when I discovered that some officious busybody had – prepare yourself for something very dreadful – beaten me to it. Registered both already. Done deal. I was offered hairyfarmer0 @hotmail.

The indignity of it. Me! THE hairy farmer, damnit! HOW VERY DARE THEY?!

And then it struck me whom it might possibly be.

A little while ago I became aware (belatedly, as I’ve not seen stats for months: my version of IE refuses to display WordPress stats, and crashes if urged) that there was another.

And how.

I remember vividly that the last time I featured a link that was ohh-so-fundamentally not safe for work, Betty unwittingly opened it on the train, so let me preface the following with a strident warning: this one is slightly more risque than a young lady with a labial piercing.

If frisky, hairy, boisterous gay porn is yo thang, or you simply fancy a trip somewhere different in your head, then google ‘hairy farmer’, ignore the ones that are obviously me, and select the hairy farmer tumblr account that seems like it might be me – until you notice the beards (love ‘em!) the leather mankini-things (love ‘em!) and the genitalia (Hmmm. Is he…? No. Yes. Yes, he is.).  By which time you may plausibly have forgotten all about me, especially if you find the photo with the All. The. Cows.

Happy-looking cows, to be fair.

And there are plenty of photos of people just holding hands, which is adorable. Adorable Cheerful Hairy People! My favourite! And everything altogether seems really quite welcoming, albeit in a highly specialised fashion.

So, if I know about them: Magnus and pals must know about me. Perhaps it might be best if they continue to steer clear of my particular corner of the internet, and I shall promise faithfully to do my best to steer clear of theirs, because I feel I can contribute very little of specific interest to them, unless I send them a photo of John in the shower. Or… we could have a bloggy cultural exchange? Like town-twinning, but with… actually, I have no idea with what – yet – but it would be bloody interesting, I promise.

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