Sunday, June 19, 2016

Day Release

As some people who have followed this blog will know, my older son has faced many difficulties over the years and at one point, I wondered if he would ever set foot in a school again, let alone pass any exams. For quite a long time, things looked very bleak. However, I'm pleased to say that the last year has seen a remarkable turnaround.

With funding from the local authority, my son has been able to attend a school that caters for children like him and at last, he is beginning to discover his potential. He is particularly interested in science, maths and computing and is getting glowing reports from the teachers, so there's every chance he'll end up being far more successful than me (which wouldn't be that hard).

It's a pity that children often have to go through years of hell before they get local authority funding, but better late than never. And from the state's point of view, it's money well spent if a child can be turned from an individual who faces a life on benefits into an employable person.

I am now the prime carer in our household and spend most of my time ferrying our sons around, cleaning the house, shopping and cooking. It feels as if that is all I do now (one reason why I look forward to returning to work), but Instagram keeps reminding me that I do occasionally get out.

The following photos were all taken in Sussex during the last couple of months:

Herstmonceaux Castle. I visited it for the first time recently and was delighted to find that the car park was almost empty. Nothing kills the romance of an ancient castle more than several coachloads of people in pastel leisurewear. Even when the castle is closed, the grounds are still worth seeing.

This redundant observatory has been resurrected as a wonderful science museum for children, with lots of hands-on displays that make the official Science Museum in London look rather dull by comparison.

Market Street in Lewes during a rare, traffic-free moment. I like the lack of uniformity.

The Seven Sisters cliffs at Birling Gap. My sons love to explore the rockpools here. It's not quite the Great Barrier Reef, but it can still yield the odd surprise, from a beach covered in starfish to a woman covered in tattoos of Michael Jackson.

Whenever I see a red telephone box, I want to go and and ask for Scotland Yard. I don't know why.

My older son, during a rare moment in daylight. I think he was in a good mood because he'd just had an excellent school report; an event that surprised him as much as us.

This is a small annex to the bedroom of Rudyard Kipling's son, John, who was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

The black house, just next to Lewes Castle, has what are called 'mathematical tiles' - fake bricks, that were used by the Georgians to make older, timber-framed houses look more impressive.

This is Bateman's - the 17th century home of Rudyard Kipling. Whether you're interested in the author or not, it's well worth a visit.

Market day in Lewes, where the affluent middle classes abandon Waitrose for the day.

My favourite car outside one of my favourite pubs. In Lewes, even the cars are half-timbered.

Ypres Tower, Rye, where the English kept an eye out for any marauding Frenchmen.

An abandoned quarry, just outside Lewes, now largely populated by nervous rabbits and dog owners who assure you that "He's just being friendly".

The entrance to Rudyard Kipling's library. Whilst browsing through the books, an elderly man came up to me and started to talk about the unexpected death of a middle aged man he knew: "Chap was about your age." I left feeling like a condemned man.

This tiny circle of stones appeared, briefly, one afternoon. The next day it was gone. Rudolf Steiner would have probably attributed this to gnomes.

Smaller and prettier than Lewes, Rye offers a number of literary curiosities, including the homes of Henry James, Radclyffe Hall, EF Benson and John Christopher. I love Rye, but it is a victim of its own success, with more tourists than locals during the spring and summer.

The moon and Jupiter over a Tudor rooftop at twilight. Not great quality, but not bad for a phone.

Lewes in the rain. There seems to have been a lot of it recently.

This is a close-up of a pillar at Lewes Station. It's being redecorated and the workmen have stripped away decades of layers of paint, leaving a rather interesting abstract design.

Lewes Station at twilight, when the station is almost deserted.

I never tire of this scene and have photographed it in all weathers. In an ideal world, every town would have a 1000-year-old building at its centre, to give us all a sense of perspective.

This is Uckfield - a much-maligned market town near Lewes. It's not the prettiest of places, but the older part of the town is full of hidden delights for anyone who takes the time to explore.

Birling Gap, where a child can turn a distant yacht into a pirate ship.

I apologise for the mundane nature of this post. I can't promise that the next one will be any better.


rupello said...

I love 'Lewes in the Rain' - glad to here that your son is doing well

Chris said...

One should never apologize for the mundane; it's where the truly marvelous hides. In any case, the pictures are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Thank you for this. Rosi

joan.kyler said...

Mundane is the most interesting to me, the everyday that we can all experience. I laughed out loud at your comment under the red telephone box photo. As always, I love your photos and want to be there. The consistency of modern life and the architecture around me drives me wild. I much prefer inconsistency. I'm glad your son seems to have found his passion and himself. It has to be a great relief to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Love the photos. Please don't stop. I was lucky enough to visit your beautiful island almost 15 years ago and keep dreaming of going back. The states just don't compare to the history around every corner of your neighborhood. Our architecture is very plain most of the time and living in the center of the country I crave the ocean.

Anna said...

Whatever you write and whatever you photograph is so interesting. I've scrolled through your pictures several times - particularly admired your spotting the terrific scraped paint abstract... one person's 'mundane' is another person's discovery! Keep writing; keep photographing! Pleased about the happier eldest son...

Kristin said...

Glad to hear your son is doing well, and I enjoy a mundane post now and again.

Steerforth said...

Rupello, Chris and Rosi - Many thanks.

Joan - It is a great relief. I had lost hope. Re: buildings, variety is definitely the spice of life.

Anonymous - I know what you mean. There are towns over here that have few pre-20th century buildings and they just feel soulless. It doesn't help when they're designed around the needs of drivers rather than pedestrians.

Anna - Glad you liked the paint, I'm relieved I wasn't here when the station was bright orange!

Kristen - Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous pictures - I think you could definitely have an alternative career in photography. And great news about your son - long may it continue!


Lucille said...

I like seeing these familiar places through someone else's viewfinder. I was very taken by John Kipling's ensuite bathroom too.
I found the guides at Bateman's a little overbearing last time - have they been told to interact? One of them accosted me and asked quite sharply if I knew what the wallpaper was made of. I did know, but felt that I had to feign ignorance so she could deliver her piece.
I'm very glad to hear your son is finding his feet. Is he interested in photography at all?

Dale said...

The orange paint will be metal primer and would not have shown up.

What a relief that your son is getting so much from his new school. Long may it continue.

zmkc said...

It's not mundane; I loved it, as I do all your posts. The generosity of spirit you express in this statement:
"It's a pity that children often have to go through years of hell before they get local authority funding, but better late than never"
is admirable. I'm so glad that at long bloody last your son is being helped and understood and so sorry that you and your wife (not to mention both your sons) have been put through the wringer for so long

Anonymous said...

Lewes Arms. A great pub. A few years ago there was a wonderful bar operative - Fiona, where is she now? Bob.

tristan said...

hurrah for lewes, and each of its denizens

Little Nell said...

That’s great news for your family. I enjoy your instagram pictures, and I know what you mean about the red telephone box!

GSGreatEscaper said...

Rumer Godden also lived in Rye - in the same house as James.

Erika said...

You see beauty in the quotidian, and share it with the interwebs. That's a gift not to be disparaged.

So very chuffed that Eldest Son is doing so well. Those are huge steps!

Steerforth said...

Kaggsy - Thank you.

Lucille - Yes, the guides are a little oppressive. I always try to avoid eye contact with them. I want to get the feel of a place and imagine what it must have been like to live there, not be bombarded with information I haven't asked for.

Dale - Another illusion shattered! I've been trying to imagine an orange station in the 70s.

Zoe - I don't feel I have any choice - bitterness is a very unattractive quality. But deep down, I do feel angry with the professionals who let my son down and very sad that he lost a large part of his childhood.

Bob - I don't get there as much as I'd like, but that's probably a good thing for my wallet.

Tristan - It is an extraordinary place, although it's becoming a little too much like a London suburb these days.

Nell - Just seen your picture of the red phone box - lovely!

GSGreatEscaper - Thanks, I'd forgotten about her. I remember now that 'In This House of Brede' was set nearby.

Erika - Thanks, they are huge steps. It just goes to show what difference the right school can make and how important it is to maintain them, rather tha go for the cheap option of a unit in a mainstream school.

Peter Sipe said...

Good news, sir, and glad to hear it!

Re: Mundane: Maybe from your side of the camera. But to me it looks like you live in storybookland.

Polly said...

Absolutely wonderful news about your son!

Mundane, domestic chores will suck the life out of anyone.In a previous post, you were wondering about taking a course of some kind. You asked for ideas. Have you thought of blacksmith classes? Our son asked to take a three day class for his 16th birthday present. He's since built his own forge and slowly acquired the basic tools - anvil and blower. Beating the heck out of a lump or hot iron is a great stress relief,and making something as simple as a coat hook is quite satisfying. A great father/son bonding hobby too should the boys become interested. Just a thought.

Steerforth said...

Peter - I'll have to photograph some horrible places to give a more balanced picture, but on the whole, it does feel like storybookland. When I first arrived here, after living in a London suburb, I couldn't quite believe my luck.

Polly - It's extraordinary that you have mentioned this, as that's exactly what my son is obsessed with at the moment. He's threatening to build a forge in our tiny garden. I'm desperately looking up open days at a blacksmith's forge before he burns the house down!

sukipoet said...

I am so glad to hear your son is doing well in his new school. Loved the tour of Lewes and Rye. Had no idea Rye was home to so many writers. Rudyard Kipling also lived for a time not far from where I live in New Hampshire in the USA. He lived in Dummerston Vermont and also I vaguely recall had a room in the hotel in Brattleboro.

Polly said...

Gosh, that is a coincidence, Steerforth! I hope it's something he takes to as there's nothing like having a good hobby to immerse yourself into.

A few links I found:

This site lists one or two courses in Sussex:

I have a feeling your son is pretty savvy and resourceful in finding forge building tutorials online, but here's one on You Tube showing a very simple forge that seems easy to build with a few basic tools. It would be ideal for your small back yard. You could cover the wooden frame that's closest to the fire with a bit of aluminum chimney flashing bent over and tacked down with roofing tacks.

And here's our son's set up. It's taken him a few years of saving to buy the refurbished anvil and antique blower. He took over one of the horse shelters and we're now in the process of enclosing it to make a proper workshop. - You'll need to scroll down a bit, past the lamb birthing pictures!

Anyway, have fun.

Oh, there's also the forum: I think thee are some British members on there.

Steerforth said...

Sukipoet - I didn't realise that Kipling lived in New England for a while - I've just been reading about it and see that it inspired a very productive period in the early days of his literary career. It sounds like it was an idyllic life there.

Polly - Thank you so much for going to all the trouble to send the links. I'm very impressed by your son's forge! It must be very good for him to have all that space to bring his projects to fruition. I'll pass this on to my son.

Polly said...

Your most welcome. I thought you might think it a bit of a daft idea when I first suggested it. Yes,we are fortunate to have a lot of space, though our son is not at all outdoorsy, much preferring to have his head in a book or be holed up in his room repairing someone's antique clock. ( which makes him a bit of money,actually!) He's an engineering student and does say that if your son decides to lean in that direction and needs any math or science assistance, he'll be happy to help.

Lynda said...

A bit late to the party commenting on this post but I just wanted to say that I never find your posts mundane. To me they are sanity in an increasingly confusing world. I'm really glad to hear that your son is doing well at his school too.
I had to smile at your telling of the man who spoke to you at Kipling's house. It reminded me of my friend's mother phoning to tell him that "men your age are dropping like flies"