Justin Cawthorne dot com

read, write, ramble

Author: Justin (Page 2 of 40)

October 30: Proud Dad

Today the Elderbeast made me very proud, and it’s a sign of how far he’s come just in the last few months of this year.

So, I went to pick him up from school (and the Kinderbeast, too: I didn’t just leave one of them behind). However, the Elderbeast was not in his class. I saw his teacher, and her face pretty much told me that he’d messed up (that’s … obviously not the bit that makes me proud). Turns out he’d been messing around in class and had been sent to an entirely different room to complete his work … which he still hadn’t managed to complete properly!

So, yeah, still not proud at this point.

Following this, we had a bit of a talk: me, the Elderbeast, and his teacher. We talked about what he did wrong, what he needs to do right, what he’s capable of. Then we made our way home (me and the Elderbeast, that is: his teacher lives at the school, obviously. And, of course the Kinderbeast came too: I *still* didn’t leave him behind).

On the way home the Elderbeast immediately starts talking about how he’s going to get started on his literacy project. He talks about what he needs to do (spoiler: it’s to write a three-minute speech about a book) and he’s completely focused on getting it done. We get home. We talk about which book he’s going to talk about and pick one (we end up going with the Dragon Stone saga by Kristian Salva). He sits down and he starts writing. He writes for about 40 minutes, completely focused, and gets his three-minute speech written. And it’s pretty damn good too.

This is the same child who, earlier this year, I would have to fight with for almost a whole evening just to get a paragraph or two of writing done.

It’s an amazing turnaround from where he was at the start of the year. I hope it’s a sign of things to come.

October 29: Stranger Things 2

In one of those remarkable coincidences that you Just Don’t Question, the release of Season Two of Stranger Things happened on one of my #childfree weekends! Staring directly into the face of this fortuitousness, I decided to take a bash at bingeing the series. It has been Much Time since I last binged anything–having kids tends to eat up your free time–and the closest I’ve come to bingeing anything in recent years is to watch a whole two episodes of a show each night for more than one night consecutively.

With Stranger Things 2 I, at last, had the chance to do it properly. Bear in mind, I didn’t want to just spend nine solid hours on the sofa: I did have some other stuff to do over the weekend, and I did want to savour the show a little bit. In some ways I was reluctant to binge it: it meant that I had to watch some of it during the day, which diminishes the atmosphere a bit, and it meant that it’d be over damn quick. However, the (most likely) alternative was to spend the next two months trying to fit in an episode or two a week …. which really wasn’t ideal either.

So, I hatched a Grand Plan: I would watch three episodes on Saturday (after shopping); three episodes on Sunday morning; then the final three on Sunday night.

And I did it! Which means that this is the point where you might want to look away for fear of spoilers (which I will try to avoid all the same, but they might sneak in all the same) ..

In short, I loved it. Season Two had a huuuge challenge before it: the first season was a massive hit and had the benefit of a deep, underlying mystery to keep driving it along. This time around we already know the score, but we want something as excellent and compelling as the first. Luckily, the Duffer Brothers have a number of aces up their sleeves. First, they have an amazing cast. Second, they have that amazing cast playing some great characters. Finally, with the combination of the Upside Down and the eighties small-town setting, they have a premise that can continue delivering all manner of creepy goings-on. This all makes it sound like it would be hard to fail, but getting all of those pieces into place takes serious skill.

Some of the things I liked most about this season? Eleven, obviously. A number of other characters that I thought were going to go one way, and went another way instead (I always like to be caught out like that). The new characters in general, particularly Max–who was so good that it feels like they should go back and digitally insert her into season one. The wonderful Aliens homage at the end of episode 6. The fact that the entire season could be subtitled: “Dustin Makes Very Bad Choices.”

I liked that all the characters developed in some way or other from season one, but the evolutions that I most appreciated were: Joyce Byers being given more warmth (but no less passion); Will Byers becoming a significant character, instead of a MacGuffin; and Steve Harrington becoming pseudo-Dad (or Big Brother). I also enjoyed the delicate handling of the love triangle between Max, Lucas and Dustin (which could have gone so icky in the wrong hands).

And they even end on a classic prom scene! Just like all good eighties movies should!

So, yeah, I just want to go and watch the whole thing all over again 🙂

October 28: Halloween (prelude)

Every year, until this one, my wife and I would hold a Halloween party. Halloween happened to be our wedding anniversary, so it was always a combined ‘Halloversary’ party (or ‘Hallowversary’ to some). Obviously that wasn’t going to happen this year. Nevertheless, I gave some thought to holding a Halloween party anyway. I went back and forth a little on that, but eventually decided I just did not have the headspace for it this year.

Luckily some friends stepped into the breach and held an awesome little party with games, costumes, prizes, and fantastic Halloween decorations. It was nice, at least for this year, to be able to maintain the tradition of a Halloween party without me having to actually hold the party (and likely break myself to do it).

Plus, I’m now even more inspired for holding a party next year.

October 27: XX

Tonight, for Horror Friday, we watched a film called XX. It was another one that had come off a ‘hidden gems’ type list, and caught my interest partly because it’s an anthology film not only written and directed by women, but also featuring women as the main characters. It ended up a little bit of a mixed bag, but it’s still well worth the time.

Biggest highlight for me were the animations that appear at the start and end, as well as between each segment. They were made by Mexican animator Sofia Carrillo who uses children’s toys (dollhouses , bits of dolls, etc) to create eye-catchingly creepy stop-motion scenes. I’ve stuck a YouTube compilation of these animation sequences below, for the curious …

The standout among the stories was easily the second one–The Birthday Party–a black comedy starring Melanie Lynskey as a middle class mother who finds her husband dead in his office, but is nevertheless determined to go ahead with her daughter’s birthday party.

Of the others, the first segment–in which a woman’s entire family starve themselves to death after sharing some unheard secret–was intriguing, but ultimately frustrating due its lack of answers. Number 3 was a fun, Evil Dead style tale, in which a group of teens fall prey to an ancient spirit while camping. The final story was wonderfully made, but echoed Rosemary’s Baby a little too closely for it to hit home for me.

Overall, though, it makes a change from the usual and is well worth checking out.

October 26: Exhaustion

Today I was exhausted. Absolutely shattered. I can only think that this was the after-effect of yesterday’s stress. Somehow all my energy was used up in keeping me functional for yesterday, and nothing was left for today.

Interesting experience.

I hope it never happens again!

October 25: Stress

Today I was very stressed. Very. Really Very. Like the sort of stressed I was virtually every day a few months back when Very Bad Things happened.

I’m pretty sure it’s all to do with the fuuuuuuuu from yesterday. I’ve mostly come to terms with the insurance debacle: it’s only money and I won’t miss it once it’s gone. But I think the business with the Elderbeast hit me pretty hard. He’s been remarkably well balanced over the last few months, and seeing him genuinely stressed and upset is tough. I can’t keep him happy all the time, but it was a bit of a throwback to some of the struggles we had earlier in the year.

But there are positives. I was stressed today, but most days I’m not: today was a reminder of that. Likewise, the Elderbeast is in a markedly better place now than he was earlier this year.

Also, I emailed his PEAC teacher to thank her for her intervention of yesterday. In return I got a lovely email that helped reassure me that we’re all on the right path.

Not all bad, then 🙂

October 24: Fuuuuuuuuu ….

Two things happened today, which filled the day full of fuuuuuuuuuuu!

Firstly, the Elderbeast had a minor meltdown on the way to his PEAC class. I did my best to navigate this, and to talk him through it, as we got dressed, made breakfast, dropped the Kinderbeast at school, and drove to PEAC. However, by the time we got to PEAC he was lurking outside the class in tears, reluctant to go inside so his classmates didn’t see him.

I ended up going inside to let his teacher know that he was somewhat stressed. She immediately came out with me, sat down with him and talked him through it. The transformation in him was astounding. He went into his class and, in fact, was in a top mood for the rest of the day.

That’s Positive One from the Day Of Fuuuuuuuu!

Then I have my day of work and I return home. You may or may not recall (because I may or may not have written about it) that one of my neighbours dropped round last week to tell me that our shared fence had been damaged in some recent weather. At the time I had shrugged it off, reasoning that my insurance would cover the cost of replacement.

Tonight is when I remembered two things. Firstly, that I would still have to pay the excess on the claim. Secondly, and most significantly, that I was literally a week into a new home insurance policy. As part of this policy, in a bid to reduce my monthly premium, I had adjusted my excess liability. And I had adjusted it from $400 to $1000.



So, what’s the positive? Well, I checked my bank account and realised I can cover this quite comfortably. I’m not sure what I’ve done right, but I’ve been doing my best to build up a financial safety net over the last couple of months exactly for unexpected emergencies like this. So, it’s certainly $1000 I would rather have spent elsewhere, but at least I can cover it and still feed the Kinderbesten … and buy bluetooth lightbulbs …

October 23: New Who

I hate to be the naysayer, but I’m a little worried about New Who (the titular mantle now inherited by Chris Chibnall’s iteration of the show).

Worried about a female doctor? Hell no. It’s the most exciting thing to happen to the show since it got resurrected in the first place.

Worried about Bradley Walsh. Nope. If they’re going to do what I hope they’re going to do with him, it’ll be a blast.

Worried about the other new cast-members? Worried about them being soap refugees (apparently)? Worried about all the diversity? Nope, nope and nope.

Here’s what I’m worried about: the BBC losing faith in the show. The numbers have been on the slidey side lately, and, like it or not, introducing a female Doctor is a risk. A cynic–who is obviously definitely not me–might think that that the BBC is worried that Jodie Whitaker might not be able to carry the show on her own, and is therefore surrounding her with a range of other characters (which is what happened when Tom Baker left) in the hopes that at least one of the characters will land with potentially disaffected audiences. The last three (male) Doctors have all started their days in the TARDIS with a single companion, giving the new Doctor plenty of opportunity to make his mark.

Hopefully I’m wrong, and this is all just part of a new vision for the show–and, believe me, I get as excited as anyone to see how the show changes and evolves each time the showrunner or Doctor changes.

And, then again, the BBC is giving us fewer episodes each year. At first I was all up for this, when  rumours suggested that we were getting 60 minute episodes instead of 45. That sort of change offers the chance for a completely new storytelling dynamic–a whole extra 15 minutes to craft a story in. And then it turned out each episode is only being extended by 5 minutes, which … isn’t so exciting. And, in fact, it smacks of nothing more than the BBC trying to reduce the costs of the show.

Again, I might be wrong. And I am seriously excited to see a completely different version of the show at some point in 2018. I just hope that Jodie Whitaker is given the space to own the show, as every previous [male] Doctor has; and I hope that the change in format (and running length) has a better rationale than money saving.

So, come on New Who–bring it, and prove me wrong 🙂

October 22: Relaxed efficiency

I had minimal plans today. Carter had his friend over post-sleepover. The weather wasn’t promising much. I wasn’t about to punish myself for having another easy day. I was happy with the prospect of things not being done.

Yet, somehow, things got done. Gardening. Laundry, Cleaning. Tidying. Cooking. Baking. Alongside the general chilling out, there was a steady stream of unplanned chores getting ticked off in a relaxed and efficient manner. It was pretty good. I’m enjoying this theme of ‘unplanning’ that appears to be taking over my weekends occasionally.

Long may it continue. Or not. I’m breezy …

October 21: Noise

The Elderbeast had his friend over for a sleepover today. His friend, I have to say, is exceptionally well behaved–polite, clean, tidy: all the things you want of a house-guest.

However, when the two of them get together, the noise levels inevitably ramp up. Most people reading this will know I have a particular sensitivity to noise–and if you didn’t; you do now. Letting the Kinderbesten have friends over is a double dilemma. On the one hand, I want them to socialise and have friends, and do all the normal things. On the other hand, the resulting noise causes me such stress that I usually have to go and hide, and leave them to it.

Maybe that’s just a regular dilemma. I don’t know. Give me this over-dramatisation, will ya?

So, for this evening I let the Elderbeast and his friend play Cuphead on my PC, while I hid in the front room. I literally shut both doors and picked out a film that would hopefully provide a reasonable distraction (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, if you were wondering). For the most part it worked: the beasts had a good time, and I enjoyed a relatively chilled out film night.

Maybe one day I’ll learn some better strategies for coping with the noise and these evenings can be a bit more of a family thing. For now, however, I’d rather take myself out of the equation than have to keep barking at them to be a bit quieter.

Yep, yep, yep. I know …


Page 2 of 40

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén