Not impressed

Not impressed

Always a greeting

For a few days, I have to take part in civil duties. That means I will be away each day. Our son continues to be cared for and watched over by my wife and his Aunt, but I’ll not pretend the absence of myself or my wife for such long periods of time is not easy for him to come to terms with. He lets us know in many ways how much he is ‘not impressed’

We will get through it and he will get through it, and keeping him active is even more important during this time.

He’s not alone in being affected by this as we realise that Lady Bronte has grown accustomed to our routines now as well. Almost anticipating what we will do when and being ready to join in. Always with an ear on the door or the car engine when one of us is out, desperate for that little sign or sound that we are returning.

We don’t leave her alone or caged, even for a short time, and she comes with us everywhere. When we did recently all have to go out, we took advantage of a lovely ‘pet-sitter’ who lives nearby and who took her walking and swimming for the time we were away. socialising with other dogs too, she had a ball.

In the next two to three weeks we are hoping she will be joined by a new feline sister. A 14 year old cat that we are adopting into the family. We have always had cats around the house and Lady Bronte was fabulous with our last cat, who has sadly passed away now and we don’t want to leave it too long before she is reintroduced to one. Before Lady Bronte, we had a golden Labrador (Jasper) who also had a very good relationship both with our son and with the cats we had then.

Our son also learns so much by having animals around. It helps greatly with his understanding relationships as he does bond with the cats and dogs far more easily than people. One of the autistic symptoms relates to his inability to strike relationships and is not too comfortable in other peoples company. With our cats and dogs, he is so much more at ease, and holds many conversations with them, seemingly as if he gets an answer back.

It is important as well, as he sees the need to care for them, exercising them, feeding them, ensuring they have fresh water throughout the day, sensing when they are unwell or want to play. We go shopping at the supermarket and our son takes responsibility for reminding me to buy food and choosing something for them.

During this period I’m away for much of the day, Lady Bronte will play an important role – unbeknown to her – in ensuring our son remains focused on these things until I get home.

Animals are well documented as a form of assistance for many illnesses, disabilities and age and the relationship that is struck up, particularly with those with autism, can been very rewarding. Dogs and Horses in particular seem to have an ability to calm the anxieties of those with autism.

One eye on Winter!

One eye on Winter!

A potted garden for winter

In order to have something for our son to look out of the window onto is all important. Those sensory aspects of colour, smell, sound, and touch are something we try to provide all through the year.

As summer is now giving way to autumn, many flowers are seeing their last days and will be pruned back in readiness of their dormant weeks until they begin to bud again next year. Some, on the other hand are beginning to show new growth as they thrive on the colder weather that autumn and winter bring.

In our sons potted garden, we set out last year to pot up a combination of Cyclamen, and early spring flowering bulbs that will give colour from as early as October and run through in waves of different flowers in the same pot until April/May next year.

The Cyclamen have started with the green foliage and will soon develop crimson petals as the flowers come through. When it snows, the contrast between the crimson and the white of the snow is stunning. We have replicated this ‘potted’ garden idea in the garden as well and the naturalising capability of these plants will expand year after year. The crimson will be followed by yellow from dwarf daffodils, white snowdrops, and the purple fritillaries. As these colours begin to fade, the scent of the herb garden is coming into it’s own and many spring bulbs planted out in the garden.

It’s not just about the joy of gardening, which in itself is a means of therapy for myself, but also the way in which we can use these sensory aspects at times when our sons mind terrors need calming. One technique we use is to sit calmly and bring our discussion to ‘what three colours can you see?’ … it sounds simple, but in those few moments where focus is on looking for and identifying three colours, one after the other, helps to stop the random thoughts and fears of his mind and brings a single focus. Even for a few minutes, this act of bringing his mind under control eases the level of anxiety and fear. We build on this with identifying three sounds, the sound of water tricking in the pond, the sound of birdsong around the feeders, the sound of wind through the leaves and grasses, and when the herbs come through, scent is also used.

The garden is a wonderful healing place that takes a little time to develop, but the rewards are significant and endless.

Challenges …

Challenges …

Calming friends, inside and out …

How wonderful it would be if I could say to our son ‘I have to go out each day to complete Jury services for a couple of weeks’ … It seems simple enough and clear enough. Ok, understanding what happens when you are a member of a Jury may need some explaining, but the essence of being involved in something for a couple of weeks is, one would think, straightforward.

Sadly this is not the case – even as I write this article, I have to break off and rush to his aid as he collapses with yet another seizure – strangely, it’s not the seizures that are the main worry. Over thirty years, we have learned that they happen and what to do to ensure his safety until he recovers again. That can take minutes or days, depending on the seizure. The Autism is our biggest concern when changes happen such as being called for Jury service.

Our son needs, strict routine and consistency in all aspects of his life. It was said to us that when his maternal grandmother and grandfather passed away, this sent him into a depression that he will unlikely come out of, as he can’t process death and understanding of it is way beyond him. We continue to try to explain and have many books and specialists who are guiding us on how to explain it, but sadly our son’s learning disabilities prevent him from understanding comparisons, which most guides and advice use. To this end, we try and expose him to as much and a varied an experience as we can, so we can recall in picture form to try and enable understanding.

No matter how much we plan and prepare for this time when I am on Jury service, we know he won’t easily handle it. I will telephone as frequent as I can, I will be home each night (at least I hope so) and it will only be a two week period (again, I hope so) but he will slip into a very quiet and dark place as all he will see, is that I am leaving, just like his grandparents, just like his cousin who now lives abroad and it will take a while at the end of it to bring him round.

We did speak to the courts and my plea to be excused was disregarded as they say, my wife is here and we have other family members who can come in to support her. For me, this is another example of where people just don’t understand the effect on the mental wellbeing of others. I know the civic duty I am obliged to deliver (now the second time) but,  I’ll get in, get it done and get out again and hopefully pick up the pieces at home quickly and smoothly.

To aid this, we have been creating various aspects and environments to help my wife and our son remain distracted from my absence, not least of all ‘Lady Bronte’ our Parson Terrier who has developed great affection for our son and our garden with its ever increasing wildlife to attract his attention. We have placed some pots on the decking outside the living room window where our son like to sit and the butterflies visit with great frequency and our son and Lady Bronte watch from the dry warmth of indoors as they flutter around.

 

The frogs hop in

The frogs hop in

Hop into the garden

After the success of creating our Butterfly Garden, I was excited to find today that we have an abundance of frogs that have set up home with us too.

Slug eaters – they need to eat more – each night we walk Lady Bronte around the garden, she was attracted to movement deep in the Lavender walk borders. Needing to investigate, I went in search of what may have caught her attention and found them, at least eight of them all hoping over each other for protection as I uncovered their hideaway.

I have put in a small pond, but I have not seen any of these around it, but there is plenty of damp, shaded areas which they seem to love.

Our son is fascinated by them and I’m delighted they have arrived again – each year for five years now – and so our attempt at attracting wildlife is proving quite successful. Together, we have installed ‘frog homes’ that we can now check on and hopefully, we can take photographs together, look to identify them and watch them grow.

Bumble-Bees

Bumble-Bees

Bumble Bees

As we walk our various themed garden areas, we spend time along our Butterfly Garden border. Though fast coming to the end of the butterfly season, they are still attracted to the buddleia we have growing here and joining in the enjoyment of the sunshine is also a number of bumble-bees and wasps.

Very quick on the eye, they do keep us entertained for several minutes, watching them dart from one flower to another.

This garden has surprised us by the number of visitors we have attracted this year and probably does not need too much, other than a little tidying up, doing to it during the winter season. At this point, the evergreen holly and low box hedge will reappear as the summer flowers die back, but allowing us to continue to enjoy this are of the garden.

The Butterfly garden border

A little structural work to insert an archway across the gravel pathway, separating the Butterfly garden from the Rose garden, via this Rose walk and renew the pebble pond at the end of the path, will be all we need to do.

August is a good month for colour in this garden, with Salvia, Verbena, Roses, Buddleia, Weigela, Nepeta and Crocosmia all in beautiful flower and with frequent deadheading and pruning, we are looking at prolonging the season as long as we can and from early flowering Daffodils, this garden offers year round interest and opportunities for photographs through the year.

As well as bees and wasps, this is a haven for birds. We have feeders to the end of the border, but these flowers attract the insects that the birds, particularly small ones such as blue tits, wrens, sparrows (when they turn up) nuthatch and others, love to feed on in addition to the seed we put out.

So our son can make the most of this area, I’m putting a bench adjacent to this border and the rose garden and overlooking the pebble pond so we can sit a while and watch, listen and smell the sights and sounds while taking in the various scents … oh and sharing a flask of coffee!

New adoption

New adoption

Miss Moneypenny

Miss Moneypenny! This lady is fourteen years old and is awaiting a Thyroidectomy operation in the coming week or two, but when she has recovered, she will be living her remaining years with us. Our latest adoption from the RSPCA.

Since we were married, we have always had at least one cat with us, usually two or three and of course a dog.

Miss Moneypenny will be joining Lady Bronte with us soon and both will help our son understand responsibility, caring and also both give and receive the love that for some reason, animals just know how to give.

 

Our feelgood garden

Our feelgood garden

A new visitor …

You probably already know that I love our garden and that our son takes great comfort from being within it. One of the areas we have been trying to develop is our Butterfly Garden, an area developed with plants and flowers that attract butterfly’s in the hope that when we sit and spend time there, we may get visited by a passing butterfly that may actually settle on us and so delighting our son’s experience in the garden.

Constructing this area over two or three years, the best we had was a lone small cabbage white, and off he flew. This year however we saw a lone red admiral arrive too. Today, as the sun shone, I was able to count at least 15 red admiral butterflies in the garden at any one time and which spent all day with us and amongst the plants. including the other varieties, we must have had a consistent two dozen or more throughout today.

We have had the small white, the red admiral, the peacock and this little chap who I am given to believe is the ‘comma’ – if it is, it is a real success as they don’t normally travel as far north as where we are.

My job now is to make sure our garden remains an attraction to the butterfly and that they return each year. I need to create more plants and drinking stations for them and an area within this garden to sit where we can just rest awhile and wait for them to land on us – and of course take a photograph or two (ok, maybe more)

I love it when a plan comes together 🙂

Nobody knows …

Nobody knows …

Come, sit a while …

“I understand” … “It will be fine” … “That won’t be a problem” … etc, etc, etc …. all good intended and positive comments that we are assured by those who interact with us. Then we get, “your leaving so soon” … “But he’s enjoying himself” … “you can’t just go” … and so on!

The reality is, ‘nobody knows’ what it’s like living with someone with a disability unless you actually do. The additional care and attention required is enormous and though living as normal a life as possible is always the aim, it simply can’t be that simple.

We are reminded of this as we are attending a family event, it’s great that we are all included, but from the start we face, no parking facilities, so a lengthy wheelchair walk to get to the venue. Then, there was no provision for wheelchair and grab-bag storage. Disabled toilets are provided, but only just large enough to get a wheelchair and user in – no assistant space unless the door is left open.

The event is split across two floors, one has steps to it, no ramp! Then there is the flashing lights, the loud music, even a choice less menu, all leads to the event, becoming a nightmare.

Leaving early raises comments of ‘disrespectful’ … ‘you have to stop until the end’ etc

The upsetting part of all this, is that it is family. Family who we would just love would say ‘don’t worry, this is how we will provide for it’ and that they understand we need to leave early, but appreciate our making the effort to attend for part of it. But that doesn’t come ….

The world, even amongst family, is becoming less and less inclusive and sadly less tolerant to those who need a little extra support and understanding. It makes me sad, but also makes my blood boil when you see friends and family step away, losing contact and increasingly distance themselves from us because we can’t fit into their world the way they want us to.

We learn to depend upon ourselves and create a world appropriate for us and our needs, but at times this smaller world knocks your confidence and you can understand how easily those with additional needs become isolated, and become an increasing ‘burden’ to society as simple provisions are not made.

 

How is success measured?

How is success measured?

Build it, and they will come …

I remember when I was working, this was a favourite question, I asked it of my teams and it’s one that I was always asked myself. “What will success look like”? “What does good look like”? but importantly something many forgot to ask was ‘how will success be measured?’ … in other words, how will you know that the success you have a vision for is the right one and delivers what you hope?

I had thought, and hoped, that my business days were behind me, and yet, I still find there are traits of it with me every day. Not least of all in the garden.

I have a vision for the garden – well in truth, my vision requires a garden of at least two acres, but as I have nothing like that, my vision needs to be a little more, well, quite a lot more, down to earth, dealing with the plot we do have – that sees, primarily our son, not only being able to access the garden, but also ‘wanting’ to access it and my first measure of that success will be the number of times he asks to go out into it each day, and then, how many photographs he wants to take on those visits.

My next vision is to create a garden that also attracts wildlife, from birds to bees, from butterflies to dragonflies, frogs, newts, and if at all possible hedgehogs. My measure of that success will be the number of different species and variety of those species that I can count and photograph each year. As an aside, will be the measure of how many I can correctly identify – and that’s going to take quite a bit of study!

I also want to create a garden that offers colour and cut flower opportunities throughout the year. Holly and mistletoe at Christmas, wreaths for the front door, and bouquets of flowers throughout the year bringing outdoors indoors with the seasons. A project to photograph our bouquets each week will be a measure of that success. Though optimism is high, certainty is not there right now, but I’ll not give up before I even start.

And so what, if I succeed or not? I hear you asking! Well, if I can achieve what I set out to accomplish, our son will have a smile on his face and enjoyment in what he sees, touches and smells for as long as he can, We will have done our little bit to help save species and the planet and the sight of these wildlife visiting the garden is so uplifting for our owns spirits and to have home grown flowers adorning the house in bouquets in every room is such a delight.

And so what? ….. That’s what, and it makes us smile 🙂

 

 

Walking with wheels and windmills

Walking with wheels and windmills

Wheels and Windmills

There is something very restful about walking amongst windmills. Not the new wind turbines, here to save the world – though they too have their own type of charm – but those that were used for grain, propelled by the breeze turning their sales.

Sadly, some don’t turn now, but are restored as heritage features, giving an indication of how we used to live.

Windmills have featured in Lytham’s history for hundreds of years. In 1805 Richard Cookson sought and obtained a lease from the Squire for a plot of land on which to build a ‘windy milne’. Later, in 1860, when the prestigious houses in the area were being built the residents looked upon the Windmill as an “industrial nuisance”! On the 2nd January 1919, a tremendous gale turned the sales despite the powerful brake and sparks ignited the woodwork. The Windmill was quickly ravaged by fire, the interior being entirely gutted. The Windmill remained derelict until 1921, when it was given by the Squire to the Lytham Urban District Council. In 1989, the Windmill was restored by Fylde Borough Council and opened to the public. Lytham Windmill is run in partnership with Fylde Borough Council and Lytham Heritage Group.

Lytham offers an ideal place to wheel walk. A lengthy promenade, flat and a wide, open area where you can walk for miles, encompassing several parks and skirting the town centre where outdoor cafes offer an opportunity to enjoy the sea, sun and company in a wheelchair and with a dog too. Fabulous 🙂