Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Since Then

For part of the 1970s, London-based viewers of the TV soap 'Crossroads' were six months behind the rest of the country. I can't remember why, but I do recall that part of the excitement of going on holiday was being able to watch an up to date episode. It was like travelling into the future.

As with all good time travel stories, I was shocked by some of the things I saw. Why was Sandy in a wheelchair? What had turned Amy Turtle into a common thief? Where was Ted Hope? How could so much happen in six months?

In the end, Thames Television decided to catch up with the rest of the UK and a special update was filmed, with motel owner Meg Mortimer explaining what had taken place in King's Oak.

As it's been a long time since I've written a blog post, I thought I'd emulate Thames and provide a brief update of what's happened here.

1. I Have a New Home

When my mother died, I'd hoped that we'd finally have the opportunity to swap our terraced Victorian broom cupboard for a decent-sized house in Lewes, where I could hide from people and everyone would have the space to potter around. By decent, I mean normal; a three-bed semi with a garage and a garden longer than 20 feet.

Sadly, I soon realised that my small inheritance wouldn't even cover this modest ambition, as the prices for non-terraced houses suddenly shot up. Disheartened, I began to think the unthinkable: leave Lewes.

Long story short: we now live just outside Lewes, in a detached house with a view of the South Downs. Thanks to postcode snobbery, it was almost exactly the same price as our old house. I love it.

2. I Am No Longer Gainfully Employed

In a normal family, my older son would probably be at university by now or in full-time employment, while his younger brother would be going to the local school and hanging out with friends. None of this has happened. Instead, I have gradually become a full-time carer to both boys, home educating the younger one.

There are two types of people who home educate their children: those who want to and those who have to. I am firmly in the latter camp and would far rather be working. For all its frustrations, work brings camaraderie, a sense of purpose and, of course, money. At the moment, my time is spent almost entirely at home, as neither boy likes going out.

After six months of this, I started to go a bit stir crazy, so my wife very kindly suggested that I went off on a little jaunt somewhere. This turned out to be a very good idea and I am now making full use of EasyJet's cheap flights. Visiting a city like Berlin certainly clears away the cobwebs and stops me feeling that my life is in a complete rut.

As for the home education, although I may be a reluctant teacher, I am trying my best to ensure that my son has a thorough grounding in the basics, but is also free to follow his enthusiasms and passions. Sometimes we'll read a book together, but at others we might watch a film or YouTube clip and discuss it.

So far, my son seems to be enjoying his lessons and is much happier than he was this time last year, so I'm quietly hopeful.

3. Reading Helps

It can be hard to maintain a positive outlook when you see your loved ones struggling. I feel haunted by the ghost of the carefree childhood that my older son never had. I have been assured by professionals that we did all the right things, but it is hard not to experience a residual feeling of failure. We do not bring children into the world to suffer.

On gloomy, winter days, I wonder if this is it. Will I work again? Will my sons ever find their way in life and if not, what will happen when we are old? Will I even make it to old age if I live a life where I rarely get any exercise, because my son won't go out but doesn't like being left alone?

Of course it's ridiculous to think along these lines and when I worked, I was far too busy. But during the afternoons, when the lessons are finished and lunches eaten, my quiet time can be a mixed blessing, so thank God for the novel. What greater pleasure can there be than getting stuck into a novel like Buddenbrooks, spending hour upon hour in 19th century L├╝beck?

Blogging also used to be cathartic, but without the stimulus of work and travel, I've been rather short of material. I haven't wanted to share my recent experiences because I didn't think it wouldn't be terribly entertaining, but I'm not quite ready to join the increasing number of people who have given up blogging.

I will try to ensure that my next post is more amusing.


Stephen Mitchelmore said...

Very nice to read a new post from you. Welcome back to the wilderness.

Crossroads: some years ago, I walked by Adam Chance on the Old Steine. Always thought it was an unconvincing name, like Tony Monopoly.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to read an update. Keep going! I'm also home-schooling my son, who turned his back on school. He's now learning only those things he needs to learn for what he wants to do.

In my opinion, university is a waste of time and money in that most humanities subjects are still dominated by the god-awful postmodernist philosophy. You only learn about the ideas of the past in order to dissect them in the most unsavoury ways possible.

Universities will be worthwhile again when we've passed through the current anti-philosophical phase. I'm counting on Generation Zed, with their dank memes, to do this work ...

Here's some interesting but dark commentary on the postmodern university: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uASdBXsgb2s

Nicola said...

I don’t know about entertaining but as a parent of an adult child with learning difficulties who is currently failing to gain independence I found your words comforting. Sometimes the internet seems populated only by beautiful people doing amazing things but the reality is that a lot of us are struggling. Perhaps you just more honest than a lot of people and perhaps we need more of that. Thank you.

frances said...

How nice to hear from you again. Can imagine it must be somewhat isolating and intense to be homeschooling, but it sounds as if it's well worth it, with your son so much happier. Glad you're happy in your new house too - we were in Lewes in the summer and although lovely, it is so busy - we almost got squashed trying to cross the high street even though at a crossing - terrifying Stagecoach bus and assorted range rovers etc ploughing through at great speed. Somewhere quieter and more spacious to live sounds good.

martine said...

Hi. Welcome to the world of home education. Interesting somethings some of the movements most ardent proponents are people who started out reluctantly like you and came to find that it was the perfect way for their children. Find yourself a local home ed group and get to know some other families, it will help with your feeling isolated and give the boys some low key social outlet. I wish you and your family the best for the future.

David Gouldstone said...

Welcome back. I wish you and your family all the best.

Anonymous said...

So good to hear from you! Life is challenging always but you are making a positive effect on your family and your readers. Do not underestimate your impact. It is easy to do in when you are in the details of each day. You are extraordinary in the best way!

Steerforth said...

Stephen - I agree about Adam Chance; he almost sounds like a Martin Amis character.

Rob - I agree about university education. It no longer has the same kudos and firsts are handed out with an alarming frequency for relatively mediocre work. My wife had to proof-read a colleague's MA dissertation recently and it was an unreadable concoction of academic buzzwords that obfuscated her relatively simple arguments. She passed with flying colours.

Nicola - I know exactly what you mean about the internet. When I see Facebook posts about a wonderful family holiday, amazing exam results, or a child starting at university, it's a bittersweet experience. I feel happy for the friend, but terribly sad that my child has missed out through no fault of their own. The good thing about the internet is that it can remind us that we are not as alone as we think.

Frances - The high street is terribly busy. I lived in a relatively quiet road, but it still had the odd lorry drive past and far too many cars for my liking. I love the silence of the new house. As far as visiting Lewes goes, I'd advise anyone to stick to the Twittens, which are largely car-free and full of interest.

Martine - I'd love to get to know other people in the home education community, but sadly my son stubbornly refuses to have anything to do with other children because they're "weird" (he can't see that he also has his eccentricities). I once managed to talk him into going to something, after a long chat in which I explained that children were home educated for all sorts of reasons and most of them were perfectly normal. Unfortunately, when we got there, the only other child was a boy in pyjamas who was bouncing off the walls. That was the end of that. I shall have to be a little more devious next time.

Steerforth said...

David and Anon - I found your comments after I'd finished replying to the others. Thank you both for your kind words.

Jo said...

Really nice to see your blog post.

By the way, I am not being facetious at all when suggesting a way you could exercise at home. Have you thought of buying a secondhand exercise bike? That way you could exercise inside and still be with your sons.

Alternatively, if your house has a long hallway - I realise it might not - you could always move a bit of furniture and walk around as well. I have actually done this as it's currently a hundred degrees fahrenheit here today, and although travel agents will tell you otherwise, it's bloody awful out there.

I think you are doing great things for your family. You were given a unique situation and you have not only come to terms with it but have a routine that has produced some positive results. Considering you were in an unknowable situation at first, that is a fine thing to have done.

All the best for 2019 for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

It is good to know that you are still blogging even if you think you have nothing to say; we like to know that you are still breathing!

Tororo said...

As others have said, it's good to hear from you. Being quietly hopeful isn't a bad mood for a year's beginning: I wish you all the best.

Unknown said...

Welcome back. I am glad

Kid said...

Back in 1973 or '74, I was on holiday in Blackpool (actually, I was there both years, but I can't remember which year the following event happened) and saw an episode of Crossroads on TV. It wasn't ever a programme I ever really watched, but I knew that Sandy was in a wheelchair - yet here he was walking about. I just assumed he must've got better, until I got home and, weeks later, happened to see that Sandy was still in his wheelchair. It was only then that I realised that the episode in Blackpool must've been an older repeat.

Glad to hear you're in a house that you like. It can make all the difference. And best of luck with the other events in your life.

MTFF said...

Hello again, I have not blogged for I have no idea how long but I chanced across your post and I am glad to see it. There is nothing, but nothing more important in terms of 'life work' than working with your children even if it is frequently unrewarding (as is the case with my very challenging 14 year old). Your posts and your prose do not seem to be suffering for lack of an outside job.
I did not watch Crossroads in the 70's. I can still hear the theme tune in my head and at those first few notes a deep sense of boredom and disappointment that it wasn't something more interesting like The Magic Roundabout or Hong Kong Phooey.
I will return.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Welcome back Steerforth. Great that your new home has worked out. Yes it must feel daunting to be home-educating both boys. Did the younger son also turn out to have issues? Not that either will be missing out if they do not go to university, And I should know having worked most of my adult life in them! Indeed 70% of successful entrepreneurs didn't go to university so perhaps you should encourage their creativity in that direction! Then they can also support you in your old age, hopefully in the Georgian mansion of your choice if you are all still living together!
I don't blog as much as I would like either. Writing groups, heritage groups and my fledgling stand up career (when not at work) appear to have taken over but I try to keep my hand in.
Re going out, presumably they have sampled Raystede wildlife lake for a walk around? Local and not too many people around. Hope pussycats continue to be a comfort too.
Great that you are able to have the odd mini break and return to blogging anyway.

Anonymous said...

I only just discovered this blog -- trying to find out more about John Gale after a mention today in the Guardian article on Marlene Hobsbawm, widow of Eric. Gale's book sounds lovely.

Life never turns out how we imagine it, does it? And indeed it's so easy to end up feeling resentful and bitter at all those apparently lovely lives "out there." Meanwhile, suicide and anxiety rates are through the roof. I think many of us wear our cheerful masks and rarely let on what we actually feel, in our insane world run by certified sociopaths.

Do keep blogging, Steerforth. You sound like a lovely man. All blessings to you as you home-school your son. Meanwhile, can I recommend Cynan Jones' latest, Stillicide? Almost like a prose poem, but with the drive and energy of good fiction.

Josh said...

Hi Steerforth,

I miss your blog.
I hope you're all doing well in the new place.

StillBenjamin said...

Just ran aross your blog via "A Corner of 10th Century Europe," which I found in turn from another blog -- all because I was looking up the definition of an obscure word. I read your latest post from 2019, and several others, and all I can say is that I hope you and your family are doing all right. I hope you'll come back to your blog in the future, but I know from experience that sometimes you may find that it no longer serves.
Best --