Category Archives: Family

Happy Buildermass, everyone!

Are you confused by this new festival of mine?

In December last year, Elaine’s (who died last August) bungalow had 42 pipe leaks during a cold snap while we were on holiday in Lanzarote. It suffered five days of flood damage. Insurance was fully paid out last week after a long, drawn-out process of drying the property and haggling over the details of the claim. The old boiler was a sticking point that dragged out the process by a month.

Today, our ace builders are fixing and improving it so we can finally sell it! I could barely sleep last night with the excitement.😀

And the best bit?

A skip! A skip! My kingdom for a skip! Now, after three years of skip envy, I have my own skip. All that useless crap that has been clogging up my house for the last five years can GET IN THE SKIP.

D&D at School!

Update on H at his new specialist Autistic School that he started last week. Within a week of being there, he’s been moved up a year because he’s very academic (he runs rings around Rachel and me, and we are both Masters level). He’s made a friend with an assistance dog (who sits under their desk during lessons, and H gets to stroke at break time). His new friend invited him to play in their D&D game during free social time in school on Friday afternoons. So H now has a 4th Level Dwarfen Cleric. The adventure continues on Wednesday after school D&D club. He’s the happiest I’ve seen him in years.

H after his first day at his new school

A New Door Opens

For the first time since the Pandemic Lockdown back in 2020, all the Newport Household will be at school or work. H starts at his new school today, and after feeling a bit mopey over the last couple of days about it, I’ve got my act together, and I’m happy for him. He’s certainly in a good mood about it. Evie is doing her GCSEs which is stressful, but she’s coping. Rachel is settling into a temporary role as team leader for Cancer Research at her hospital, which is still hectic, but nowhere near as mad as being the Covid Team Leader (which is a story for another day) which she did from early 2020 to just before Christmas 2022.

This leaves me with time on my hands during the day, so it’s time to get my head down and magically transform the house. Bring two rooms back from being unable, and generally clean and renovate five years of neglect. Oh, and there’s the stuff that needs fixing after ten years of the extension (like our horrific Ziggurat of Doom front stairs and a few water leaks). The Garden will get a facelift, transforming from the cover picture of Black Sabbath’s 1st LP (an overgrown wet ruin) into something more colourful and happy (with Sunflowers :D).

2023 needs to be a big year for D101 too. I’ve lots of stuff I need to get out (which I’m collectively calling the Swamp), stuff that I feel fired up to do, and getting the whole business on a firm footing so I can contribute more to the family funds consistently.

But for the first time in years, I don’t feel overwhelmed, partially because I see other things in my Reality falling into place (H getting back into school was a huge one here) and partly because I’ve been upping my game after hitting a low about it all June last year.

It’s weird, though. Like being some sort of time traveller. Moving from the preteen age to a new and exciting one for our teenage children. Now that I’m conscious of this, I’m now quietly planning for when the children have fled the nest πŸ˜€

So 2023, even without looking at the bonfire that is British Politics, is all about change. We even have new neighbours, with four(?) children who moved in last week.

Victory Day!

After our H’s Secondary School Head Teacher effectively expelled him last June (the fecking weasel), followed by our Local Education Authority SEND team miscommunicating and dragging their feet about sorting out a new school, we went to see a specialist Autistic school today, and he starts next week!

Here’s to a fresh start for all of us, especially H, who was mature and sensible enough to see that this school is the best place to continue his educational journey.

I’m going to miss him being at home, and I appreciate that I got to look after him and keep him safe when his previous High School failed to do so. Some of the chats about life and politics on our daily dog walks, I hope, will be as useful as anything he missed at school during the five months he was out. But it’s time for him to have a happy school life and some friends. Besides, his new school has an after-school D&D club, so they must be good πŸ™‚

Right Christmas

We had a very cut-down Christmas, with pretty much just us and the pets. Part of this was because we had our Lanzarote holiday a week before Christmas, coming home three days before.

Also, lots of the big rituals of Christmas past were broken. Rach’s church has changed (not for the better) during Covid, so there are no carol and Christmas Day services. The kids aren’t involved in the music at school, so there are no concerts there. Honestly, I don’t miss that side of things, feeling low on energy and obliged to attend these events.

On a less happy front, my mother-in-law’s death earlier this year. meant that we didn’t have any guests. But seeing that Evie, who put together the decorations this year with great gusto, used Elaine’s tree (a great relief since it’s smaller and in better condition than our Orphanage sized tree) and her decorations, it was like she was with us. Since Rachel and Evie bought a decoration that opens up, we could have put some of Elaine’s ashes in it and hung it on the tree! I quietly ignored requests to do this, feeling a bit funny about it.

So small and cosy would sum it up. With good food and some board games (Fireball island and Monopoly), pets and time for each other.

Lanzarote Parts One and Two

So in 2020 and 2022, we had family holidays in the Spanish isle of Lanzarote, off the North West Coast of Africa in the Canary islands The main motivation for my wife Rachel, who organised the trips, was that on the Isle of Eternal Spring, the climate is the opposite of our rainy and damp climate here in the NW of England, a dry heat of about 18-26 C all year round. Both times we went to Playa Blanca, which, although a tourist destination, is the quietest of the island’s resorts.

Weirdly, we’ve spent two weeks there, and in many ways, it’s one experience with a break of two and a half years Since I didn’t document the first week, back in March 2020, I’m going to do a combined post with the week we’ve just come back from, December 2022.

Part 1 March 2020

We went at a very quiet time of year, just after our Spring half-term and Playa Le Blanca’s Carnival. So, in many ways, it was like a big deserted movie set. This suited us since we had a rough year, Henry’s autism had become an issue at his school, and we just wanted to chill out in a quiet villa with a pool for Henry to splash about in.

Villa Carabella was a perfect fit. It was slightly larger inside and actually had a garden (of palm trees and cacti) than the typical tourist unit (which, although kept in the white-flat-roofed style mandated by island hero architect CΓ©sar Manrique, are multiplying at a terrifying rate). It was stylish and sleek and that much-needed sense of calm we needed for our break. We spent most of our time there, and with the cool breezes keeping the temperature bearable and the ever-present Red Mountain on the skyline, I really felt like I was in a totally different world. One of calm and spiritual healing.

And it was Evie who was first in the pool and spent most time splashing about πŸ™‚

Playa Blanca town was our next visited destination outside of the villa, apart from the nearby mini-market, and we had short outings to the seafront, with its icecream bars and resturants.

We had one big day out, to the Timanfaya Volcanic national park. The entire Canary Island chain has its origins in volcanic activity. Over a six-year period in the 1730s, a series of massive eruptions converted one-third of the island to a lava-based landscape. Most of the population left the island, and that left had to repurpose their agriculture from grains to succulents (such as Aloe Vera). The park is right in the volcanic heartland of the island and is the nearest thing I’ll get to visiting Mars. As a sci-fi fan, I was already over-excited, but the actual trip was beyond epic.

We spent an afternoon at the most awesome waterpark Aqualava, which had the most excellent waterslides. Henry loved this. My middle-aged-overweight body was unable to keep up with my inner child on this one πŸ˜€

We ended the holiday at the Rubicon Marina, which was at the opposite end of the town. Here the endless villas gave way to a yacht dock, with attendant shops and restaurants, and at its far end, a large hotel.

Rubicon Marina, Playa Blanca

Despite the massive tourist presence, the island has a calming spiritual dimension, which I can’t exactly put my finger on. By the end of the holiday I was well tuned into it, restored and chilled out.

Afternoon nap and chill, wait I never get to do this!?!

My soundtrack for a holiday was the rather melancholy rocker of Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork

Intermission: Covid

We saw the storm brewing via news from home and by following in disbelief posts on Twitter.

We missed the Spanish Lockdown by one day! The gravity of the situation hit me when we reached the airport departure lounge, and duty free was closed, and the food court staff was standoffish.

In the coming months of lockdown, the fun and serenity of the Lanzarote holiday kept us going. It was also the number one destination the family came up with when I asked, “Where would you like to go on holiday when we can again?”

Part 2 December 2022

This holiday was gifted by my mother-in-law Elaine, who died in early August this year. Rather than have a funeral, she used a cremation-only service and told us to go and have a holiday with the saved money. This was so typical of Elaine’s life-affirming spirit.

So four months on, I’m getting the family up at 1, so we can be at Manchester Airport to catch a plane at six. We travelled from a record-breaking low (for us anyway) of -9 C in Manchester to a lovely hot of 21 C when we arrived on Lanzarote.

On the plane Where’s isle 13? Where did all the people go?!

The new villa was in the more built-up area nearer the town centre. It was available at a fantastic rate, was more functional and less pretty than Villa Carabella. Which was initially a source of great disappointment to Evie. But it set us up for a more active holiday. For starters, it was a short five-minute walk to the beach and across the road from Aqualava. For which I and H got a week pass and went every day, sometimes twice!

About 5 minutes’ walk from the villa was Playa Flamingo, a local beach with supermarkets, restaurants and local cats. Evie and I made it a regular thing to have an evening walk there, and H had a snorkelling swim around the man-made bay (it has huge concrete blocks to stop the terrifying North Atlantic waves washing it away).

We literally picked up where we ended the first holiday by returning to the Rubicon Marina on the first full day of the holiday, killing some time by wandering about, stocking up on provisions at the Super Dino (a dinosaur-themed supermarket chain), and having lunch La Grill the big family restaurant at the edge. It was our default centre, and we went to La Grill, for an evening meal (something we rarely do) on the penultimate evening.

We did Playa Blanca town centre a couple of times, revisiting the green restaurant to have veggie paella during the day and going to the ice cream/coffee shop on the seafront one evening.

We knew what we were doing this time round, and Rach was more confident driving on the wrong side of the road, so we explored more of the island.

We went to Purto Del Carmen, a more urban Lanzarote closer to the capital and airport but no less touristy. We wandered around the shopping centres, visited the Irish District, and had lunch at a lovely restaurant on the seafront.

Our big day out this time round was the Jameos Del Aqua or the Cave of Crabs as we called it (due to the tiny white crabs that live in the pool). This was another creation of Island hero Artist/Architect  CΓ©sar Manrique, and it was a stunning piece of art. Up there with the Volcanic National Park of the previous holiday in epicness!

On the drive back, we visited the Aloe Vera Museum, which was fascinating. Still, being mainly text-based exhibits (an oddity of all the places we visited), I’ve not bothered taking any photos.

My Soundtrack this time out was the chilled electronica of Amon Tobin’s Out from Out Where.

Would we go again? I’d love to, as a midwinter break, feel refreshed and relaxed and that I’m not going to hit that big wall of tiredness in February, triggering a Long Night of the Soul. But as a family, we feel we’ve done everything to do on the island. This is important since we aren’t a sit-on-a-beach type of family. We like doing and seeing stuff. And there are other similar islands in the sun to explore. The other Canary islands and Cyprus, for example. However, Rachel and I can see us going in later life, just the two of us, when the children have flown the nest.

Autumn Apocalypse

Or less grandly the return to normal after the holiday.

Overall. This has been the story of my post-holiday return week, and I realised where I was going wrong on Friday. So I stopped thinking about what could go wrong and instead started thinking about what would go right. And like magic, it worked!!! 🙂

Dirty Stop Out Cats. We’ve now got three cats, in the space of as many months. Max the Kitten, Felicity a one-year-old cat that we’ve inherited from my mother-in-law Elaine and our existing Queen Milly, who has been with us for a good eight years now. Of the three, Milly is the only one who hasn’t been lost. Felicity is still getting used to us, and only had been here ten days before we went on holiday, got startled three days into being looked after by our fearless warrior cat sitter Tania and ended up back across the road at Elaine’s. Fortunately, Evie had the sense to go over there looking for her on day one after we had returned home. Scardy cat won’t leave our room (which is a good thing in a way). Last night Max comes on the evening dog walk and didn’t want to come home disappearing into the front garden of a house down the street. Come bedtime still not here, and his people start getting concerned. Five thirty in the morning, I hear this crunching and tearing sound from the kitchen. I investigate its our Max tucking into a packet of cat treats πŸ˜€ But really cats, less drama and disappearing, please πŸ™‚

Me and Max the Kitten

Post From the Shroud #3 . This was a Kickstarter for D101 Games that I opened the week before we went away, to frankly pay for the expenses of the holiday and put some dough back in the Bank of D101. You know make money, like a business does (honestly I sometimes forget this). So I did a quick Old School D&D zine, using midjourney generated art (which I had created in evenings playing) for my Swords and Sorcery game Crypts and Things. It funded, and then some, and the week away was gently doing updates and resisting the temptation to offer new stuff as stretch goals. This week has been quietly sorting out finalising production of the zines the campaign funded and tapping my fingers waiting for the funds to arrive in my bank account next week.

Go Go Go to Go Play Manchester. We are back to face-to-face gaming at fanboy3 every month, and I kinda dropped the ball in organising promoting the September meetup on the 11th since I was away on my jollies, but it’s been quickly picked up since everyone is enthusiastic about it. I’m running Fallout the RPG for the first time, as part of an initiative to play games other than my own that have been sitting on my shelf too long. Fortunately, I know the setting inside out (from practically living in Fallout 4 in my PC gaming evenings), and the system is straightforward, clear and well supported.

Become like a Grey Rock. Unfortunately, I have a close family member who is a classic Narcissist. I use the tactics outlined in this article on a regular basis, to varying degrees of success. Given who this person is it’s very draining and even if I’m in a good mood, and in high spirits and the visit goes well I usually feel like I’ve been in the ring with an 800 LB Gorilla afterwards. So Grey Rocking is one to remember and visualise when I see them next.

Bracing for School return. Evie is going to do her final year at Crompton House School, doing her GSCE’s, and is really anxious about it. Lots of emotional support from myself and Rachel, that kicked in over the holiday. Henry, well Henry isn’t going back to Crompton House, because they failed to meet his needs as an Autistic child with an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP). Grrr! So we are waiting to hear back from the local specialist school, which has been in and out of the office over the summer holidays. So H is in my care, next week (and probably a couple of weeks into term). We’ll have fun, I’ve got science kits, boardgames, dog walks and we went swimming for the first time in years last Friday and was well worth repeating πŸ™‚

My lovely daughter Evelyn, we made sure we had fun on our holiday

Elaine. I’ll probably do a blog post all of its own for this one because she really was an inspirational lady, but a week or so before we went to Norfolk my mother-in-law Elaine passed on. No one is bursting into big public dramas about this, she was very ill for a long time (since 2016 – which ironically was the last time we went to Norfolk before this one), and we were prepared and had made her as comfortable as possible, but I can sense the undercurrent of sadness and occasionally I get it myself. Practical matters are first and foremost. The aforementioned Felicity cat needs to settle in. And I’ve got a whole bungalow to clean and start sorting out before we sell it.

Oh and this week was also the week where Rachel went sort of viral on Twitter by telling the secret origin story of how we got together πŸ˜€

Last Day of Norfolk Holiday

Tomorrow we get up early, well early for the rest of the family who have been having big dirty lie-ins, and make the big drive back home.

It’s been a great break. I’ve done my RRRC thing, it all clicked into place yesterday and I truly reached a relaxed peaceful state. Apart from going through the angst and quietly going no thanks I have got a brighter happier way of doing this and letting it go, it was an easy procedure.

This of course means that two days of holiday left, I finally felt settled here. Even with Holt, the town where we are staying, being a bit upmarket for us, there’s still enough to do.

Yesterday despite being a BIG RAIN day, which made me miss home, allowed us to explore the town, which is full of courtyards and back streets full of shops. The girls did a big shop, which resulted in me being summoned back from the house to collect the shopping, while I and H visited the Punk Office, home of the Holt Vinyl Vault, which is a vinyl shop. It was just like going back to the 80s/90s and since it was a faithful recreation of record shops back then, minus the funky smell. And the prices! OMG Β£15-Β£50 per LP. Funny moment when I had to explain to H that the smaller packages were not CDs but Singles, you know a single track with a B side πŸ™‚ Weird of all the museums we’ve visited this really felt like one.

Then we had a big buffet-style Italian, 90% of which had been sourced by the girls at the local family-run department store (Bakers and Larners) and the last was me making a tomato sauce and pasta dish since I do like to do some home cooking. Then we played Ticket To Ride Europe, the first time we had dusted it down in a good five years!, and I got royally hammered by Rachel and H. Good job I was King of Uno, winning four out of five games.

But tonight I start uprooting us all by loading up the car, and we leave first thing, have a quick breakfast somewhere nearby and then get home mid-afternoon, to be greeted by our small pack of animals (three cats and one dog). I know I could have done with another week, probably moving to a different location, but this was so last minute (our luck came in again, this is a new holiday home ) and the kids are back to school the week after next. So I’m truly grateful that we got to go away and have this break.

Sheniagians in Sheringham

Straight from looking round the tank museum, to the seaside town of Sheringham. As well as a public lunch, me and Evie took a walk up the prom (to the right) and found the Art Trail, while me and H went right and went to the Sheringham Museum.