Category Archives: Heart matters

Space is the Final Frontier!

Still my favourite Star Trek Captain (even when played by Chris Pine).

A long overdue tidy-up D101 HQ (aka the Office) started yesterday. “My god, what happened! Thought that room was destined to be box heaven for the cats” my mate Ginger Matt exclaimed when I told him πŸ™‚ The problem was there wasn’t enough room to swing said catsβ€”especially our new Kitten, Florence (aka Flo or Flossy).

I’ve tried and failed previously to get on top of all the piles of books, bits of electronics (inc my desktop, which was a much-loved gaming machine in its time that is as old as our Henry, 14), graphic novels, and even Evies old single bed. That was disassembled and stored in the office when she got one of those two-story beds older kids like and then quickly grow out of. Which itself was replaced by a double bed, now she’s a teenager going on young adult (YIKESS!). The irony of this illustrates how I’ve neglected to deal with this for the last five years or so, to the point that I was worried I had become a clinically depressed border.

The good news is that I’m not. I’ve just been a bit distracted by everything that’s been going on in my family’s life over the last five years. But that’s easing off. Now that the builders are about to move in and sort out my deceased mother’ in-laws bungalow (and about time, she says since she’s been dead a year and a week now), I’ve really got nowhere to hide, and I’m cracking on with a long overdue refresh of the whole house. Taking it a step at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed, which has been my problem in the past.

So yesterday, I took fifteen minutes, which turned into a couple of hours, to clear out the obvious crap and move some bits into the attic. This itself will get a sort out in November because I’m well aware this conceptionally infinite space actually has limits and already has two sets of Christmas decorations, big trees and all (ours and Elianes up there), as well as other “collections” of stuff (including my children’s baby clothes). I have a list to keep track of it πŸ˜‰ November is my date for this because that’s when I want to solve the problem of Two Christmas’ by having a good throwout πŸ™‚ But getting back to my office tidy up, I’m not finished, but already I’m 25% up with floor space, which I need a damn good hover! Now all I have to do is sort out my stuff, and I’ll have a clean space to work in. Already felt the “feng-shui” benefits of having the extra space and woke up feeling that I had more space to breathe, less oppressed by the amount of stuff I have and that it’s alright to have some of my big collections of stuff (RuneQuest/Glorantha looking at you), while some collections can go to new homes very soon πŸ˜€

Next job…sort out the shoes stashed in the office cupboard!

Us Newport’s have passed the Shoe Event Horizon!

Further information

Fly lady. This cheerful methodology takes you from chaos ridden clutterbug to a habitually tidy person in small, supported steps. She has a big thing, which works, that fifteen minutes of tidying is better than nothing.

Family Wall – A website with an app version for mobiles and tablets, which we as a family have been using for a good nine months now to share calendars, shopping lists, to-do lists etc The list of stuff in the attic that I mention above lives here. Recommended.

RuneQuest at chaosium.com

The Shoe Event Horizon from the radio version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy

Three Little Talks

Well, my latest game, Lost Fools of Atlantis, has ended its run on Kickstarter after a numerically significant 23 days. Part ritual, part goof, while it’s not gone stellar money-wise (of all the Kickstarters I’ve run it’s funded the least), it’s been too much fun and restored my sense of humour in what I’m doing with D101 Games. I’ve got a supreme sense of achievement and a clear path – even in these very uncertain times.

As I sit here way past the Witching Hour, as is my want, considering occult matters, consciously dreaming and setting up magical events for fun and, err, more fun, using YouTube as an Oracle, it spat out three shorts by the late great Alan Watts, one of my favourite pathfinders and Not-Uncles.

I’ve been worried about getting old and painfully dwelling on my own mortality, so this was the first one to flow out…

When Life Changes, Stop Clinging To It

I sat there all warm and fuzzy – having nothing to do with the fact it’s an extremely hot summer’s night – and then almost instinctively came up with a wobbler. “What about all the people, especially my nearest and dearest, who worry all the time?” So then this flowed out from autoplay.

We Worry About Problems We Don’t Even Have

And finally, to complete this classic trilogy of the answers to all life’s problems, a favourite of mine that I realised in my late twenties in the late 90s (but have doubted many times as I have repeated the same vicious cycle of becoming serious and static, and breaking down and learning to laugh again – well no more!).

It’s Only A Game

So I’m going to go away now and sleep when I’m tired πŸ˜‰

Life in the Slow Lane

Life has been satisfyingly slow recently. The last couple of years, after Covid lockdown in 2020 (Mar-July?), have been all sorts of hectic in ways I didn’t anticipate. Worst of all, I didn’t see it coming until it was too late, and I was involved in day-to-day reactive behaviour rather than stepping back calmly and dealing with stuff. In short, for the last couple of years, despite working for myself, and looking after the family (and attendant Grandmas), I was swamped. Last year for the first six months, I had five family crises ongoing. When a sixth raised its ugly head, I said, “NO UNIVERSE, I CAN NOT TAKE THIS ONE ONBOARD! I’ve only five fingers to count them on” πŸ˜€

But things are gradually sorting themselves out. Annoyingly while three of them have gotten much better through the situations changing, I’ve learnt the big Adulting lesson that responsibilities, once taken fully on board (like Adults do with dependants) may change due to circumstances but never really go away. Saying this, once you accept responsibility, if you do it firmly and calmly, this gives you a reassuring sense of control. Even if circumstances are beyond your control and you just have to go with the flow πŸ™‚

I’ve had to start taking care of myself physically a lot better than I have been doing. I’ve taken my body for granted, and while I’m practically a vegan, don’t drink or smoke, and get moderate regular exercise through walking the dog, I could be doing better. Also, mentally, I’ve been pushing myself too hard in the wrong directions and being too stubborn and self-reliant. So some things have been given up on, and some put aside (for now). I’ve accepted that my projects aren’t as Epic as I thought they would be, and by giving up the struggle, they’ve actually become fun and much more profitable! (just like the Taoist Masters say!).

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.

Wrong Christmas

I get it, capitalism wants to make back the profit that two Christmases of Covid and then Coming Out of Covid has denied it. The whole Commercialmas thing, where the Christian Christmas symbols are left out in favour of new non-religious ones that encourage the buying presents for family and friends side of the festival, has been steadily on the rise during my lifetime. This year, it was especially noticeable. I feel we’ve reached a turning point where things like Angels and other characters of the Nativity have been dumped in favour of Santa, the Nutcracker and Gonks(?!). Even our New King Charles said he now presides over a multi-faith Kingdom. The recent Office of National Statistics news shows that Christianity is no longer the majority religion. While I’m not a Christian by any stretch, the unchallenged rise of Comericalmas worries me somewhat because it lies how marketeers and the shady money that pays for it all manipulate everyday reality. Also, it ditches some of the core messages of Christmases of my youth that, even as a Heretic, cheered me up. i.e. peace on earth and goodwill to men. Probably redundant since our Government is backing War in the Ukraine and fostering a xenophobic hatred towards refugees at home. Christmas is a good case study on how we all collectively are manipulated by conspiracies with their own agendas and happily play along.

But I’m here for fun, not the fear. Hence, as I navigated my way around the West’s Premier Religious Mid-Winter Festival, I took photos of stuff that I feel typify this spirit of #WrongChristmas (and posted them to Twitter and Farcebook using that hashtag).

It’s been long bemoaned that Christmas starts earlier and earlier each year. This year I think I saw and quickly ignored Christmas produce in the shops in late September.

This is the first instance of #WrongChristmas, taken early October – so the mince pies would not have been ediable come Christmas. Notice the big thing about its being a “Magical Christmas”. This is a big thing about Comericalmas, it swops out religious symbols (mainly mention of Jesus and the Navitivity) for ones from more general midwinter-folk lore.

But Wrong Christmas noticeably first reared its ugly head for me at our local George at Asda on November 15th.

#WrongChristmas @George, mainly Christmas tree decorations.

Misclanous wrong and more wrong Christmas bits from local shops.

Gonks deserve a special mention, in that the little buggers are everywhere now. An admitly cute little character (we got one when they first turned up from Sweden about five years ago), but now they are just too much.

Gonk Village
The Gonk Village at our local garden centre.

Our Evelyn wanted me to to take her to the Christmas Markets in Manchester. We went about 10:30am and by 3:30pm it was loud and overwhelming. Partly in fact to the Christmas Markets which crowd up the walking only streets in the city centre, with a tat filled crappy version of the traditional German Christmas market. Total WRONG CHRISTMAS!

Me, after five hours of shopping in Manchester last weekend of November.

Garden centres make a large dollop of their money from their annual Christmas halls. Bent’s Guarden centre on the Manchester Ring road is no exception. It was also a hot bed of Wrong Christmas.

Of special mention, is this Star Wars Advent Calender. Because obviously, Star Wars is just a retelling of the Birth of Christ Story. Vader as King Herod? Ben Kenobi as a composite character representing the Three Kings? CP30 and R2-D2 as shepherds?

Very Wrong, but I bet it makes all licenses involved tons of money

We took a mid-winter break on the sun drenched island of Lanzarote, a week before Christmas. I thought I could escape Wrong Christmas there, I was wrong.

Worked out on the plane back from Lanzarote where this sign was on the back of the chair in front of me, why there is so much #WrongChristmas this year. “They” put it there. A special hallucinogenic ingredient in popular drinks πŸ˜€

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˜€

RRR and C?

Rest, Recuperation, Recreation and Consolidation.

Well, that’s what I’m hoping to get out of this here family summer holiday, which I’m now on. We are staying in a Georgian Town House in the North Norfolk town of Holt, a place that I bet we’ve either visited or been through many times before. Since we had many holidays in this neck of the woods when the children were small. Mainly because of the beaches, and it’s amongst the driest parts of the country, which was a big draw for my wife Rachel in the 2010s when we came regularly when summers in the North West were almost constant rain! The house is big and spacious, and slightly quirky in layout because of its age. Its also very white and beige, which is a nightmare for clumsy old me. I’ve already broken a toilet seat! But it also brought to mind, the episode of Dr Who from the 80s, where the Dr is regenerating into Peter Davidson and most of the episode is spent putting the recovering Doctor into a very white neutral space, to get a definite sense of who this new incarnation is. That’s where I’m at. In a spotless environment, without my pack of animals (we now have yet another cat, for reasons I’ll go into) and the distractions of my daily life. There’s been a five major family crises in the last 6-7 months, and while it’s left me stronger overall, I’m still catching up with myself. Hence Consolidation.

More about the actual holiday, since the weather is gorgeous and I’m in the heart of historic Norfolk, so there will be all manner of photos and holiday journaling!

January Bloody January

It used to be I had long self-indulgent Long Dark Night of the Soul in February, where at my lowest ebb of energy, all manner of Self Doubt Demons would assail me. When I realised this and stopped moping about this self-inflicted torture, I turned it into a marvellous game of self-discovery and healing πŸ™‚

So the Universe seeing my Mastery of February sends me real horrors and misfortune to keep me on my toes in January instead, where I’ve only a smidgen more energy than in February, and Christmas has lulled me into a sense of complacency. The last two years have been well – interesting. I’ve been up to it, and with the right attitude, the ability to change my perception (and others), and newfound powers of “getting things done quickly”, I’ve been dealing with these real issues as easily as the imaginary ones that cropped up in Feb The trick is that something that has manifested physically in the world is just as easy to banish as something that is hovering in the mental plane, and with the same methods of imagination, affirmation, visualisation, the combined concentration of focus and clarity of intent (or “sheer bloody-mindedness” as my Lancastrian ancestors would call it).

January is still with me, the solutions to various woes haven’t manifested themselves (but they’ve been bloody well ordered and will turn up), but I reckon I’ve cracked it in an “I can see you, stop it now” sort of way πŸ˜€

For such is the way of a Wizard of Awesome and Win Sometimes life seems to suck, but if you get on top of it, you get to turn it around to your advantage πŸ™‚

Dealing with Mr Angry

So I went to Angrytown this morning and brought Mr Angry Newt home with me. He was great pain in the ass while he was here. Shouting, scaring everyone, simmering with resentment, and being an all-around grumpy sod. Logical reasoning wouldn’t make him go away.

Until I realised even Angry Newts just need an open forgiving heart, and to be hugged in warm unconditional love. Then it turns out they will go meekly away mumbling sorry πŸ˜€

My Morning Routine

This is more a note to my self to keep this up. I’ve been doing bits on and off every day

All the Abundance people at some point say that you should have a regular routine to set you up for the day. My Taoist teacher Barefoot Doctor pretty much says the same, in a looser less defined way (which is what Taoists tend to do, which drives literal non-Taoists up the wall πŸ™‚ ). He also likened not doing your morning meditation/chi-gung practice as going out without your clothes on.Β  Personal experience bears this out, days where I do at least mediation flow much more smoothly than days where I go “fuck it lets not bother!”

So here’s my morning routine

  • Get up
  • Praise the day, feel that life is essentially good and take some time, at least 5 mins, to appreciate and feel grateful that I’m alive :). (aka Feel the Awesome and be the Win you want to be πŸ˜€ )
  • Toliet (if needed)
  • Juice roughly 300 g of Celery, and drink the juice (this stops my early morning feelings of bloatedness and works as a general tonic).
  • 5-10 minutes of counting 50 breaths meditation (which settles the mind) followed by visualisation (contact to Tao and drawdown energy, or Barefoot’s Feelings meditation if I’m already feeling overwhelmed or too giddy) or dreamwork depending on what has turned up in my dreams.
  • Get cleaned up.
  • Dance around the kitchen and load the dishwasher πŸ™‚