While I don’t condone senseless graffiti, especially when it is scrawled on a wall in your own lounge, the phrase “Good afternoon, your mum looks like Kim Jong-un” did make me chuckle – once I’d got over the fact that I’ll need to repaint the room. Was the sudden urge to write all over the wall a sign DS1 was struggling? Or was it a homage to Banksy? We’d just returned from a few days

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Never say to your autistic child: “Can you pass me a brick wall so I can bang my head against it.” Taking it literally, DS1 pushed my head into the wall. “There you go,” he said. I won’t make that mistake again. While taking the meaning of an expression or an instruction literally is a common autistic trait, DS1 usually grasps the concept rather than taking it at face value – unless trying to be

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TANZANIA 2018 Turning off the main road we head up a windy incline into the foothills of Kilimanjaro towards Kahawa Shamba, a family run coffee farm. ‘Kahawa Shamba’, incidentally, means ‘coffee farm’ in Swahili – it must have taken a long meeting to decide on the name.  I quickly slip (literally) into my first off-road driving experience as we bump along a narrow track to the farm, at the gate of which we are greeted

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Until recently I still viewed DS1’s inability to leave the house at the weekend – sorry, I should focus on his abilities: DS1’s ability to lie on the sofa watching television all weekend – as a major concern. Whatever we tried, he invariably dug his heels in and railed against the barrage of ‘stupid’ suggestions we made in the perverse name of having some fun, venturing outside… or doing his homework. But I have now

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MALAWI: April 2018 The alluring smell of herbs, music blaring from a house, goats bleating. The lap of the water on the shore, the long stretch of untouched sand. The splash of a paddle in the water, the freshness of the air. The heat of the sun, the warmth of the people. Fishermen casting their nets out on the lake, others tending theirs at the water’s edge. The stench of fish laid out on long

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MALAWI: April 2018 There’s something about travel that encourages me to try new activities – the sort I’d never contemplate having a crack at stuck at home. Having exhausted snorkelling and kayaking and general lazing about in the relaxed atmosphere of Kaya Mawa resort – on the picturesque Likoma Island in the middle of Lake Malawi – my attention turns to the paddleboards that lie invitingly on the sand, next to the still, aquamarine water.

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MALAWI: April 2018 As we watch a scrub hare scurrying across the road in front of us, before it just as quickly disappears into the vegetation, Whyte Mhone, our guide on the Nyika Plateau, turns to us, ready to impart another of his wonderful tidbits. “Hares are so clever,” he smiles, a twinkle in his eye. “People hunt them with dogs, and when a dog is the hare will wait until the last second before

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MALAWI: April 2018 Acha Chawinga, as well as extolling the virtues of his country – not unexpected seeing as he works for the Malawi Department of Tourism – likes a good story. The phrase ‘kaya mawa’ – the name of our resort on Likoma Island – is the local equivalent of  ‘mañana’, along the lines of I could leave Likoma today, but maybe I’ll go tomorrow. The wiry Acha explains the meaning in a more

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MALAWI: April 2018 “We need to make Malawi an experience in one country,” says David Kelly, general manager at Tongole Wilderness Lodge in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. But he adds that he would rather see Malawi promote its diverse ecosystems than go down the big game park route. “Malawi can offer a complete safari in one place – the Lake, wilderness, mountains, mopani forest. There are varied landscapes that Malawi could sell, but it has

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MALAWI: April 2018 As I sip a cool drink, perched on a barstool at Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island, overlooking Lake Malawi, barman Luke Kakhongwe tells me he was born on the island and has always lived here. Although members of his family have moved to the mainland, he seems to have no desire to do so. And looking around me, why would he – he has a great job in the perfect surroundings. As

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MALAWI: April 2018 “The translocation programme started in 2015, when African Parks took over Nkhotakota and Liwonde,” says Marnet Ngosi, education officer for African Parks, as she talks me through the largest transfer of elephants to a single reserve ever undertaken. Dubbed ‘500 Elephants’, the initiative saw the conservation NGO African Parks, together with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife, move more than 500 elephants to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in the north from Liwonde

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MALAWI: April 2018 “I was attacked by a leopard when I was around seven years old,” says Emmanuel Kandiero, a guide in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. We are sipping rather generous measures of Jameson whiskey (well, I am, Emmanuel’s drink of choice is a ‘Green’ – a Carlsberg to you and I) around the campfire at Tongole Wilderness Lodge, while telling stories. I have a feeling Emmanuel will trump the rest of us with this

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MALAWI: April 2018 James Lightfoot, a tall, blonde Englishman appears to love his lifestyle. Co-owner of Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island, a Malawian outpost that lies in the Mozambican-owned waters of Lake Malawi, he is also co-founder of Latitude Hotels. A backpacker in the ’80s and ’90s, like myself, he wanted to recreate the experience for that generation of travellers now that they had ‘grown up’. Although, we both agree, we haven’t really grown up.

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MALAWI: April 2018 Christopher Mvula, known more affectionately as Mr Christopher, is an engaging character. He oozes charisma and has one of those faces that you don’t forget – the sort you know has a thousand stories to tell. I’ve met him before – in Liwonde National Park on a previous trip to Malawi – but on that occasion I didn’t get the chance to sit and chat; this time I don’t miss the opportunity.

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“You can use this to cure nosebleeds,” Whyte Mhone – our guide from Chelinda Lodge, high up on the Nyika Plateau – informs us, picking up a porcupine quill he has spotted lying abandoned on the track. “If you burn the end and sniff it, it aids clotting.” As if this doesn’t seem far-fetched enough, he tells us about a friend of his at guiding school who came to the aid of a colleague who

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MALAWI: April 2018 I have a T-shirt from the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa that states: “Football is life”. For many people around the world this is certainly the case – and Africa is no exception. Africans are obsessed with the game. Not so much with their own teams but with overseas leagues – the English Premier League, in particular; their allegiances often influenced by African footballing exports. They are fiercely proud of

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MALAWI: April 2018 As I buckle up for the flight that will take me from Addis Ababa to Lilongwe, I fall into conversation with my neighbour. Abraha, who hails from the Ethiopian capital, is on his way to Malawi for the first time. I can see the sense of excitement etched in his craggy face; maybe a touch of apprehension too. I’m full of anticipation as well. I’ve had the pleasure of travelling to Malawi

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“Hurry up,” DS1 messaged the wife. Given that the wife was only a couple of feet away from him at the time and on her way out of his bedroom, having been chatting to him while he lay in bed ill, she was somewhat flummoxed. “What with?” she replied digitally. “Leaving,” he responded. I think it was at this point that she regretted giving him his phone, so that if he needed anything he could

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“All Tottenham and Arsenal fans over 18 will be murdered,” said DS1. “If they are under 18 they will go to prison, then when they become 18 they will be murdered.” Although, obviously, I don’t condone killing people, I couldn’t be more proud of his need to dish out a punishment for such a heinous crime. Perhaps, I should explain. This term’s theme at school is ‘Crime and Punishment’, and DS1’s class had been tasked

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Back to school, back to reality. (No, this isn’t a rework of the Soul II Soul classic.) Back to high anxiety, back to a child going off the rails. “You can’t come in here,” DS1 pleaded, a look of absolute panic on his face. “But this is my lounge too,” I replied. “I am allowed to go where I like in my own house.” Apparently not. An increasingly agitated DS1 pushed me with all his

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“Can we go back now?” pleaded DS1 “No, we’ve only just arrived.” I’m sure all parents suffer from this particular scenario when visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But when the autism kicks in, it goes to another level. To be fair, he had thoroughly enjoyed walking around the ruins of Ancient Olympia – re-enacting races on the grounds where the Olympic Games was born some 800 years BC, as well as taking the time

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“I need a shower,” said DS1. I stood there open-mouthed. Those were words I never thought I’d hear my son say. Admittedly, we were on holiday. Different place, different rules, perhaps. And he was plastered in sand, and could probably foresee the merits of cleaning off the plethora of grains stuck to his body before lying down on his bed. As for the bed, that was a whole different story. We were staying in a

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“Of course, after an orgasm you will have to have a shower,” said the wife. “Well, I won’t have any of those then,” DS1 harrumphed. Ah, the perils of telling your child that their expression made them appear orgasmic, and then having to explain what that meant. Sometimes giving him an insight into adult life isn't always the best policy. And it seems that even that height of pleasure won’t improve things on the washing

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One day, you think you are on a path to enlightenment, the next you are scrabbling around in the gutter, feeding off whatever scraps you can find. DS1’s humour never deserts him, though – although sometimes it can be very cutting, especially when he’s factually correct – there’s just no filter sometimes. It’s a good job I’m not paranoid about being fat, ugly and gray. Anyway, we were discussing the wealth of certain footballers and that

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DS1’s battles with everyday life continue. While he is generally in a good place at the moment, his old friend anxiety is always bubbling just under the surface. Often manifesting itself in weird and wonderful ways. His latest sensory-seeking habit on the way to school, for example, is to prick his fingers on a holly bush. I mean, what’s that all about? My cup runneth away We’ve started a new campaign to re-engage him with

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“It’s not my fault we’re in this situation,” indignated DS1. (I know ‘indignated’ isn’t a word, but I think it should be where DS1 is concerned.) Well, whose fault is it then? I didn’t bother asking him, I knew the answer: mine. We’d been having our weekly battle about having a shower. He wouldn’t have one. And here we were, sat on his bed, well past his bedtime, with him unwashed and still in his

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“Where’s.” Headbutt.“My.” Headbutt.“Acgh.” Headbutt. “Where’s your what?” I asked. “Where’s.” Headbutt.“My.” Headbutt.“Acgh.” Headbutt. “No, sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying,” I replied. “Where’s.” Headbutt.“My.” Headbutt.“Acgh.” Headbutt. “Nope. Maybe you could write it down for me or draw it?” I should point out, at this stage, that they weren’t full-on Glasgow kisses, more taps to my forehead. I should probably also point out that he hasn’t grown two feet (in height, not two extra trotters)

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“I can’t wear those anymore,” said DS1, in response to me asking him to put his trainers on. “Oh. Are they too small?” “No.” “Are they uncomfortable?” “No.” “Why can’t you wear them, then?” “Because they were covered in quicksand.” “But they are all clean and dry now.” “Yes.” “So why can’t you wear them?” “You know why.” Perhaps, I should explain about the ‘quicksand’. We are extending our patio area and the bottom of

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“Remember you’ve got science club after school,” I said to DS1’s back as he hurried off into the playground with his customary ignorance of the pleasantries of saying “goodbye”. “I’m not going,” he shouted over his shoulder. What? We’d had this discussion the previous evening: the fact that he’d asked to do science club; the fact that I wouldn’t have forked out some hard-earned and signed him up for it if he didn’t want to

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In recent weeks DS1’s anxiety has been on red alert. While the underlying reason is as yet unclear, it has manifested itself in several behavioural formats. But the upshot of it is, everyone (and by this I mean me) is ruining his life. By way of example, we were having a heated debate about how it was advisable to have a shower after playing football, because, as a result, your body sweats and becomes dirty.

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Ten-pin bowling – what could possible go wrong? We have been many times before and DS1 has always had a great time. So, what better way to celebrate the start of half-term than a game of bowling with his mate Henry, Henry’s little sister Bridget and their mum Polly. Bowling over, the kids would be dispatched to the arcade area with a few pound coins in their pockets, while Polly and I enjoyed a well-earned

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“My foot hurts,” DS1 complained. He’d mentioned it the night before, but there was no sign of physical damage, and he couldn’t remember doing anything to hurt it. And it was certainly a rubbish excuse if he was looking for a day off. But hurt it did, he insisted. So much so that – as he exaggeratedly limped to school at a pace that meant by the time we got there we’d have to turnaround

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Following a sleepover at his friend Joanne’s house, DS1 became somewhat fractious the next day. But, before I get into that, here’s a couple of highlights from the preceding day’s events. To the suggestion that he slept in the loft room, he replied quite vociferously (hence the capital letters): “I’M NOT SLEEPING IN THE LOFT. SERIOUSLY, DON’T BE RIDICULOUS!” He did. Once the two of them had ‘settled’ down for the night, a voluble command

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“Come on, time to go,” I called up the stairs. Nothing. “Come on, we’re leaving now.” Nothing. I resigned myself to climbing the stairs to investigate. I found him lurking in Joanne’s room. As I entered, he scuttled away and hid under her desk. After a one-sided conversation on what the problem might be, I eventually managed to coax him out from his hiding place. I nudged him in the direction of the stairs and

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As the snow plopped down on the way from school, DS1 and his little gang were in their element. Walking along, mouths open to catch the snow soon degenerated into scraping it off the cars and, for one young man in particular, this meant putting said scraped snow into his mouth and crunching down on the already icy substance. Even setting off a car alarm failed to deter them. The inevitable snowball fight ended with

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I turned to check on what DS1 was up to, only to see him chasing two girls across the field while videoing them on his phone. A bit like stealing from a multi-storey car park, this was (at first sight) wrong on so many levels. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as it seemed; in fact it was a major positive. We’d come to watch the football team he has started training with play a game.

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So far, so good, as far as going back to school is concerned. Indeed, the last day of the holidays – usually one for acting like a hermit – saw DS1 reminding me that we were supposed to be getting his feet measured. “I thought we were going to get my feet measured,” he reminded me, mid-morning. “Yes. Do you want to go now?” “Yes,” he replied, unexpectedly. Half an hour later he was the proud

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The time has come. DS1 is now the proud owner of a mobile phone. His elevation into the technological age has come a bit earlier than we’d planned – but his friend Andreas is moving overseas and they want to be able to keep in touch. So, apprehensively (certainly on my part), the wife handed over her old phone and set him up with Skype as well as granting him access to Spotify among other

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There seems to be a new landscape at home. I don’t know – you go away for a couple of weeks and everything changes. For one, the wife has tidied up the house – it is no longer DS1’d. Things are where they should be; the sofa, for instance, isn’t in the middle of the lounge with an assortment of musical instruments stashed behind it – backstage, apparently. For two, the boy is charming, articulate,

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“He has finished his sentences and his times table practice,” read a text from the wife. “The bad news is his sentence for guarantee: ‘There is no guarantee that Dad is sober’.” Now, this was fairly accurate, seeing as I was at the football – and a good use of the word, it has to be said. That night (a Sunday), though, he woke me up at 3am to tell me he had been sick.

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“Oh god, you still have magic sperm coming out of your mouth,” said DS1 to the wife. Now this may be a difficult sentence to swallow, especially coming from a nine-year-old. Can I get any more innuendo in here? While you return your bottom jaw to its correct position, allow me to explain. We went to see Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald, last weekend – in 3D don’t you know. All clear, now? No?

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“It’s all your fault and I never want to speak to you again,” DS1 wailed. “Oh, it’s my fault that you stubbed your toe, is it?” I queried. “But I wasn’t even in the same room as you.” It was all too apparent that DS1’s equilibrium was still not quite level; a fact that was confirmed later by the discovery of a lump of cucumber floating in the downstairs toilet. I had thought it strange

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“My brain is wasted on this idiot,” said DS1, as I failed to grasp what he was talking about. I’m clearly not in his intellectual league anymore – if I ever was. It’s hard living with a genius, you know – just ask the wife. Last weekend, we went to see Grannie. Something we hadn’t done for a fair few months – the boy being somewhat reluctant to venture beyond the front door. “It’s non-negotiable,” said

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Potter is back. I’ve left the boy casting spells at the TV while he watches the seventh Harry Potter film, as he nears the end of his back-to-back film-watching marathon. What started as an innocent “Shall we watch a film” on a wet Friday during half-term, which saw us select the first episode in the Potter franchise for the want of anything better, has turned into a rekindling of his obsession with the school of

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“I wish I wasn’t so clever,” said DS1 on the way home from school. “Why’s that?” I asked, intrigued. “Then I wouldn’t have to do this boring research for the NHS.” You may recall that towards the end of the last school year, DS1 finally received a visit from an occupational therapist. The idea being she would identify his needs from an OT point of view and create a programme for the school and us

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DS1 is still under the illusion that he is a genius. A remarkable achievement considering that he is burdened with, in his eyes, intellectually challenged parents. “Two idiots make a genius,” he has become very fond of informing us. While we’re on the subject of his genius, I recently asked him to shut the door on his way out of my study. “No,” he replied nonchalantly. “Geniuses like me are too posh to do that.”

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“The TV has broken,” pinged a text from the wife. “What? How?” I replied, flustered – I can’t deal with this now I’m watching football, I restrained myself from replying. “Dunno, half the screen has gone black, like it’s got a crack in it. But it’s still smooth to the touch.” Followed by: “He doesn’t think he touched it with anything, but he can’t be sure.” Ah, now we were getting to the crux of

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“ is wearing Chelsea shorts, a Russian hat and one sock. I have no idea why,” pinged a text from the wife. Now, I don’t think this is anything autism related – and it bears no relation to the rest of this post – but it’s definitely worth relating. We never did find out the reasoning. Over the last couple of weeks, DS1 has gone from showing the first signs of new-school-year wobble to transforming

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Typically, we had arranged to go camping with friends on what turned out to be the wettest weekend of the summer. No matter, keep calm and carry on. A cliché, but never truer a mantra. All I need to do now is adhere to the advice. DS1 likes camping, and the fact we were going with his best mate, Henry, was an added bonus. What could go wrong? Yes, we were on a campsite, with

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With DS1 out of the lounge, the wife, on a tidying spree, took the opportunity to put the cushions on the sofa back how they should be (the boy had rearranged them a couple of days previously to make some sort of den from where to watch TV. And there was me thinking that was what a sofa in its original format was ideal for. The newly built den-style sofa, though, was a ‘safe haven’,

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“No issues whatsoever,” WhatsApped Grannie (other messaging services are available). “He didn’t use a towel or flush the loo, but I can live with that.” Not a bad return for four days apart from his mum and dad, thrown into the ‘lion’s den’ of living away from home. Indeed, as Grannie added: “The worst part of the last few days was abandoning in Marks & Spencer to do some man shopping – I needed a

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“Do you want Grannie to make you a cake for your birthday this year?” the wife asked DS1. Grannie is a cake-maker extraordinaire, but she doesn’t relish the opportunity to make the boy’s birthday cake. She operates under the fear that if it doesn’t quite meet his expectations of whatever design he has requested, the proverbial shit could hit the fan. It never has, but the pressure must be horrendous. The other reason the wife

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The Saturday before DS1’s birthday was a touch fraught. He was anxious about something – getting agitated about the tiniest, seemingly (to us) insignificant thing. He was flitting around, unable to keep still. Preparing teamsheets and recording the score was more important than the actual games of football we were playing. Various items were randomly moved about the house, turning up where least expected – a lone football boot tied to a door handle, for

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“, where’s my USB stick?” “I dunno.” “Well, it was on my desk and it’s not there now.” This wasn’t the first time it had gone missing, so I knew who the likely culprit was. “Are you sure you don’t know anything about it?” “Maybe.” “OK. I’m not cross, I just need to know where it is.” “I dunno.” “So, you’ve hidden it but you can’t remember where?” “Yes.” “Well, can you have a think

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“Do you want an ice cream?” I asked as he came out of school. Every Friday, during the summer term, the PTA sets up a table from which to sell ice creams to the kids. DS1’s mate Henry was also eyeing the contents of the cool boxes. His dad handed him a quid and told him to get DS1 one as well. DS1 stood rooted to the spot. Henry beckoned him over, but he was

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“Knock, knock,” said DS1. “Who’s there?” “Gene.” “Gene who?” “Genius.” DS1 is currently under the impression that he is a genius. He’s not – very bright maybe, but not a genius. “Mum, have you got a picture of a genius?” “No.” “Well get out your phone and take a picture of me then.” The poor, misguided soul. To emphasise his point, when I pick him up from school he runs over to me, points and

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Over the past few weeks DS1 has been finding it harder and harder to settle at night, often complaining that he “can’t sleep”. Although, if he hasn’t fallen asleep within 30 seconds he gets out of bed to inform of us of this fact. “Well, you’re not going to fall asleep if you are sitting on the top of the stairs complaining that you can’t sleep are you?” I’ve said more than once. The reason

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It’s been wall-to-wall football over the last couple of weeks. When DS1’s not watching it, he’s out in the garden kicking a ball around. He’s now up to World Cup 2058 in his re-enactments (can you re-enact something that hasn’t happened yet?) He has got emotionally involved with the event, feeling the highs and lows of the various teams – though, strangely he is remaining calm, almost unmoved, when England play. I think he is

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“We had the best English lesson ever,” said DS1, as he greeted me when I picked him up from school. “Oh, yes, what did you do?” “We watched The Crown.” Oh, that was surprising. I was under the impression that this Netflix production was a tad too risqué for the likes of an eight-year-old. They’d watched episode 2, which was about the accession of Queen Elizabeth II. “There was a sad bit,” he told me.

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“Dad, you’ve got a big willy,” said DS1. What a boost for my ego. For a moment I basked in the glory – not morning glory, I assure you. And I was fully clothed at the time, your honour. “It’s not appropriate to say that,” I cautioned him. “You’ve got a big bum.” “While that may be true, again, it’s not appropriate to say that to people.” “You’ve got a big willy.” He hasn’t quite

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Finally, DS1 has gone back to school wearing new shoes. The ‘finally’ refers to the getting of new shoes, not the going back to school… then again. For the past two months (possibly longer) it had been plainly obvious that his school shoes were too small for him, but he refused to acknowledge the fact. He claimed they fitted him perfectly, even though his trainers and football boots, which were a size bigger, were deemed

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It took four days but it finally came out. Being at a music festival and needing a number two is, for the least squeamish among us, a test of the human spirit, but for someone who doesn’t like dirt (except, bizarrely, on himself or in his bedroom) it is a major challenge. It’s amazing to me that he is happy to dive around on wet grass and cover himself in mud, but he cannot bring

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DS1’s continuing discombobulation at home was becoming cause for concern, with recent events prompting me to contact his teacher and the school Senco for a chat. That day, he’d refused to go to judo, hiding his kit and getting dressed in his uniform, adamant, that although he still wanted to do judo, he wasn’t going. Explain that one. His downing of tools with regard homework was ongoing and, from talking to other parents, it was

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“We had a little incident at lunchtime,” DS1’s teacher told me, after catching me in the playground after school. “He punched Andreas in the face.” Gulp. She gave me a look that suggested it wasn’t quite as bad as it sounded, but I needed convincing. “The got things under control and took him to the Head,” she continued. “I walked past him while he was sat outside office and asked him why he was sitting

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DS1 is a bit off-kilter at the moment. There’s no obvious reason why and he’s not forthcoming when asked. “I’m fine”, “There’s nothing wrong” or “Be quiet” are his staple answers. The latter coming when clearly there is something troubling him right that second. Door slamming is a current favourite pastime. Not just once, but repeatedly opening and forcibly shutting the same door until he gets a reaction. The wall around the doorframe in my

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“Dad, can we play football?” “Sure, but I won't be able to save many because, remember, I hurt my arm when I fell down the stairs yesterday.” (I’d missed my footing trying to avoid a Match Attax card that was lurking on the top step.) “Yes, I know.” “Oh, you know do you? Only you didn't come and see if I was OK.” “Erm, well… I had better things to do,” he informed me, “…

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“Dad, I'm making a Man U Dream Team and I can't think who to put as defenders. I’ve got Ferdinand but I need three more.” “Most people normally say ‘hello’ first, especially when someone has just walked through the door after being away for nine days,” I replied. He smiled and handed me his team sheet. A Chelsea Dream Team as well as Liverpool and Barcelona ones already lay on the floor of my study

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The floor of DS1’s bedroom is awash with pieces of paper – drawings, song lyrics, made-up family trees – he’s kneeling on the carpet frantically moving them around, engrossed in whatever game he is playing. He has been ensconced in his room for the best part of three days now, only leaving it to go to the toilet. “Shall we go out?” I ask, feeling trapped in the house. “No way! N. O. W. A.

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As we enter the theatre for the event of the year – Horrible Histories live on stage, DS1 becomes agitated, dithering over the best place to sit (I’ve never been to a Ryanair version of a theatre before). Eventually we take our seats, DS1 seemingly happy with our vantage point. He sits hunched up in his chair. Any attempt to speak to him is met with a “shut up” and a flick of his hand.

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Just before the Easter break we had our end of term catch up with DS1’s teacher to go through how he was progressing against the targets set in his IEP, which forms part of the overall EHCP. Which is as easy as ABC. One of the ‘outcomes’ the school is working on is helping DS1 to ‘manage his emotions’. The ‘small step target’ is for him to identify two emotions – worried and upset –

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As we come out of school, the wheel of DS1’s scooter gets caught in a drain and he hits the ground with a thump. Before I can check if he is alright he is up and swinging a roundhouse punch at me, which luckily I manage to deflect. “Hey, what was that for?” I ask. “Serves you right.” “So it was my fault that your scooter got stuck in a drain and you fell off?”

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“He’s not a Plantagenet – look at his clothes,” came the cry from upstairs. The tone of his voice suggesting he was a tad frustrated with his grandparents’ inability to identify British monarchs. The wife and I were sat downstairs in hysterics, as the octogenarians floundered in the face of DS1’s superior knowledge. The fact the pictures of various kings and queens were on thumbnail-sized magnets meaning their failing eyesight didn’t really assist them in

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KENYA and TANZANIA 1993 Leaving Uganda before war breaks out (in my last story), we cross into Kenya, heading for Lake Nakuru. After a couple of days on the road we close in on our destination, camping up in a crater near Nakuru town. The approach to our home for the night is a ponderous one, up a steep dirt track. In fact, our progress is so snail-like that a kid jumps onto the back

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UGANDA 1993 I’m not sure what it was in particular, but Uganda was my favourite country that I travelled through in the early ’90s. Maybe it was the unsurpassable Queen Elizabeth National Park, or happening upon Lake Victoria and all the legends (and myths) of the great explorers that it conjured up, along with our mistaken belief that we were at the source of the Nile. It might have been the fact that we had

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SOUTH AFRICA 1993/2010 Without doubt visiting Africa has changed over the last 20 years. But then so have I. When I first arrived on the world’s most exciting continent in the early 1990s, I was a fresh-faced (sort of) 24-year-old, eager for adventure and prepared to rough it – sleeping out under the stars with only a flimsy mat and a mosquito net to protect me from the elements. I travelled on overland trucks, hitched

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As far as school is concerned, the Romans are done with and it’s onto the Vikings and Saxons. The advent of his new class topic saw DS1 go on a school trip to an open-air museum-type place where they got to partake in a number of activities that they might have encountered had they been around some 1,200 years or so ago. The children were requested to go wearing old clothes. A requirement that proved

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There’s nothing like a bit of a winter break, timed perfectly to get out of the UK when the Beast from the East hit. Only we went to Lille, where it was snowing and absolutely freezing. Still, it was a few days break for the wife and I from the little terror at home; the joy of looking after him fell to his Grannie. She came up to stay at our house so it didn’t

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I’m Proudy McProud Face on a proud day. I have just got back from the Year 4 Roman Assembly, in which DS1 had to deliver three lines. And he only went and did it – spoke out loud in front of the whole school and a load of parents. He has never uttered a word on such an occasion before – even when he was supposed to. He brought his words home last week to

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“I need you to come straight out of school quickly today because we’ve got the dentist,” I informed DS1 as we walked to school. “Oh, that’s the third boring thing we’ve had to do after school in a row.” That wasn’t the response I was expecting. “Three boring things?” I enquired. “Yes, first we had to go to the bank, then yesterday I had my haircut and now we’ve got to go to the dentist.”

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I recently experienced three miracles in one day – two in consecutive sentences. “I think I’ll do something calm and relaxing like listen to a CD,” said DS1, not long after we had got home from school. This was brilliant. He had recognised the need to take some time out to get his head straight and he had found his own solution. He went upstairs to his room, from where I heard him declare: “But

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