Justin Cawthorne (dot) com

read, write, ramble

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February 4

I begin the day with an epic lie-in. Saturday is Designated Lie-In day, but it’s gone 10am before I eventually get up, shower, and get dressed. I’m hoping that an extended lie-in will help kick the deadening fatigue that hit me the previous evening. I get up when required, generally to make breakfast for the Kinderbesten, but then return to my comfy lair each time. I don’t fall back to sleep, but the warmth and relative peace inspire a result, almost meditative state. The cats, who I have fed but purposely neglected to let out, join us one by one. Eventually all four cats are sprawled out in a line along the middle of the bed. It’s almost like a collective sleep-in, but the Kinderbesten are too young and naive to understand its glory.

Anyway, the lie-in doesn’t really work. I’m not exactly tired, but I am plagued with a dull headache for several hours after surrendering my bed. A combination of coffee, Panadol, britpop (mainly Portishead) and pottering around the house seems to do the trick. After much delay we manage to leave the house for the promised birthday trip to Lollipops (one of those indoor playground type places). We’re both dreading it–big open space, lots of people, lots of kids, lots of noise–but the Kinderbesten are excited. So excited in fact that it takes almost half an hour to persuade them to get ready and leave the house. In the end, Lollipops is a bug bundle of Just Fine. The kids play, we drink coffee and eat potato wedges. After a few hours the kids are as ready to head home as we are, which caps off the afternoon nicely.

We watch Apollo 13. Carter, predictably, announces that he’s tired and wants to go to bed about halfway through (right before things get interesting). It’s times like these that I should remind myself how hard it used to be to get him to go to bed not so many years ago.

I start reading The Martian again. It seems the right night for space disasters.

February 3

It’s the big day: the Kinderbeast’s fifth birthday! I drop him at school with three tubs full of cup cakes then head to work. I have a big meeting scheduled for the afternoon, but birthday thoughts keep me helpfully distracted. The meeting goes fine in any case and I head home as soon after as I can manage. I forget the time and choose the route home that takes me past a school that sits on the campus grounds. It’s fifteen minutes before I’m clear of the place. It’s a burning hot day and the car desn’t have air-con. My thoughts turn quickly to beer even though I’ve been considering staying off the alcohol for a while (I have a suspicion that my beloved wine–which I typically drink in pitifully small quantities–may be partly responsible for my lack of energy over the past weeks).

The Kinderbeast has been waiting patiently since he finished school to open his presents. I pause long enough to grab a beer and then we get into it. It’s a good haul, with lots of LEGO, and he calmly makes his way through it; playing with one toy for a while, then getting stuck into something else. I’ve always appreciated the way he treats his presents: never loses interest the moment they’re opened; always gives each new toy its time in the sun.

Various local family members come over to pay their birthday greetings. The beer seems to have awoken the coughing beast that has lurked at the back of my throat since the middle of January. I eventually resort to some hot honey and lemon, but the persistent coughing has left me knackered.

We have McDonald’s for dinner (since the birthday boy gets to choose) followed by a freaking enormous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cake, which is going to last for days.

The family members make their way home after dinner, leaving us in the company of our awesome friend Seb, which means that Fridate officially begins. It’s a quiet affair this week, everyone content to chill out in the company of their phones. We do, however, squeeze in some SNL favourites, a few music videos and a handful of trailers. I hadn’t seen the Logan trailer before, and I’m instantly keen. With that and the LEGO Batman movie coming up, there’s at least two good reasons to indulge in a Gold Class outing.

February 2

I need to leave work early to go and buy birthday presents for the Kinderbeast. So naturally it’s the day that I leave work way later than normal. Luckily it’s late opening night. Less fortunately, I find nothing inspiring in Target. I’ve been charged with finding suitable birthday presents from the Kinderbeast’s grandparents back in England. I want to buy him a building toy that isn’t LEGO (as we are fully overloaded with LEGO), but there’s nothing. I try Big W and eventually settle on a LEGO Creator set (which he can rebuild into three different buildings), the Marshmallow Man figure for LEGO Dimensions, and an awesome question and answer book about space (the answers are all hidden behind flaps). I spot one question–How do astronauts go to the toilet in space?–and know I’ve chosen wisely.

I get home and the Elderbeast manages to bust his designated home time (following post-school playtime with friends) by a whopping forty minutes. He scores a two-day grounding: one day for being late, a second day for playing up when we ask him why he’s late. For literally the rest of the evening we are treated to a spectacular display of pre-pubescent uncontrolled emotional outrage. He’s more angry with himself than he is with us, but he doesn’t yet have the tools to manage it. We get screaming. We get tears. We get pleading. After I’ve finished reading to the Kinderbeast I see that he’s texted me from his room: “Sleeping on the floor xxx”. I go to check on him and he is, indeed, fast asleep on his floor. No pillow, nothing. Just the carpet. A little later he wakes up long enough to grab his pillow and duvet. Later yet he relents and climbs back into bed.

The rest of our evening is consumed by wrapping presents and baking cupcakes. I hunt down some photos from the week of the Kinderbeast’s birth. There may be some parental bias at play, but I’d forgotten how cute he was. And still is. We’re very lucky.

February 1

It’s the first day back at school, and if there’s an award next year for the Least Well Prepared Parents you might want to bet on us because those odds will be in your favour.

This is the first time that most of the Elderbeast’s friends have seen his blue hair. Their reaction is appropriate. Luckily it appears that the institution is tolerant of different hair colours too, which is good: it spares us a needless squabble. 

Having fed on Chinese takeaway for the last two days I make us an appallingly healthy dinner tonight to make up for it: roasted carrots with ginger and maple syrup; green beans in butter with cajun seasoning; steamed baby brocolli and poached eggs. I hope that cramming a few veg in will help with the overwhelming tiredness that’s plagued over the past weeks.

I settle down to finish On Writing (the Stephen King book). Turns out that what my Kindle version reckons is the last page is more like the last 45 pages. I reach page 303 of 303 … and the pages just keep coming. The particular edition I’m reading has a postscript (much of which is the tale of the car crash that nearly killed King back in 1999) but something’s gone wrong: every page of the postscript is page 303. It’s the page that never ends. Seems appropriate.

January 31

I wake up buzzing with the need to start on a completely new story, even though the the previous one hasn’t quite finished its first draft (I don’t like leaving first, or any, drafts incomplete so this is a bit of a wrench for me). I’ve been pondering the appeasement, perhaps even collaboration, of Turnbull and Theresa May with Trump and it’s given me the spark of an idea, one that’s grown into a potentially interesting (and short) story. I manage to get about 500 words done.

The Kinderbesten have survived their sleepover, which is excellent to know: this now means we can safely abandon them on other occasions. I pick them up in my lunchbreak and return to work.

Much of the evening is given over to preparing the Kinderbesten for their first day back at school tomorrow–a day which also marks the Kinderbeast finally starting the full five days a week. We write names on stationery, make sandwiches, sort out clean clothes.

I had suggested earlier in the day that we would have time for TWO episode of Luke Cage, given that the Kinderbesten were now sentenced to their schoolday bedtime routine. My wife scorns me, but she ends up being absolutely correct. By the time we’ve finished and the kids are properly settled, we barely even have time for one episode.

January 30

The morning shift is sometimes interesting. I get out of bed at about 6:30 almost every morning to write; it’s more or less become habit by now. I still don’t find it easy to get out of bed in the morning, but getting a few hundred words written is always a good start to the day, which is enough of an incentive for me to get out of bed while I’ve still got time to start the day in a positive way.

But then there are Mondays.

Most mornings I’ll get up, get my coffee ready, and mostly look forward to sitting down and bashing my words out. But on Mondays you can never escape that ‘fucking Monday’ feel at the back of your head. It’s like an extra layer of matted vacuum cleaner fluff that you have to rip your way through before you can get started. And even when you do get started, you realise you’re still head to toe in matted vacuum cleaner fluff.

So, yeah, Monday’s an ordeal. I can get up, do my writing, but on the other side of the morning shift, it’s still fucking Monday.

So, around mid-morning I get a call from the Elderbeast to tell me that the power’s gone out. He’s at home with the Kinderbeast and their great-Nan. According to the website, the power’s due back at 2pm, so I tell him to hang tight. At 2pm the power’s still not back, so Rach goes to pick them all up and take them back to the in-laws house. At 5pm the power’s still not back, so I leave work and join them. We indulge in very expensive, but very good, Chinese take-out. The power is now due back at 6pm, which will work out nicely–we can eat and then go home. But, instead, the website is updated with a new, oddly specific, restoration time of 8:06pm. All this time, the extent of the power outage on the map has been shrinking until it’s seemingly focused on the few blocks immediately surrounding our house. It’s hard not to think that they’re consciously picking on us.

As 8pm arrives the website is still giving us mixed messages. The power outage message disappears, then reappears, then disappears. Could it be a website glitch? Or are they struggling to fix the problem? In the end the kids decide to sleep over with their grandparents–which is an adventure for them–and we head home to feed the cats in the hope that we have power.

We get home and the power is indeed restored, but after all the mild drama we’re too knackered to do much more than have a cuppa and an early night.

January 29

I start the day with a mammoth 1775 word morning shift (words written, not edited). I think this first draft is finally coming together. My only other duty for the morning is making a potato salad: we have friends coming over for Zombicide, and it only seems polite to feed them. It takes about 17 hours to peel the potatoes, but it all ends up tasting pretty good.

I’m finding it hard to tear myself away from twitter. The world is a car crash and I can’t stop watching it. It seems wrong to be absorbing it all in 144 character bites, but the inescapable fact is that we’re caught in the middle of a historical moment–a terrible one that’s been founded entirely on ignorance–but being able to witness it in this way is addictive.

After murdering lots of zombies we retreat further from the real world with the remaining episodes (so far) of Brooklyn Nine-Nine season four.

Didn’t see that cliffhanger coming!!

On rejection

I began last year with the quiet hope that I might manage to get at least one new story published somewhere. While I definitely had some wins, I didn’t end up getting any stories published. What I did end up with was a small pile of rejection emails. You might think that’s a bad thing, but it’s not, and here’s why …

Read More

January 28

It’s time … time to buy the Kinderbesten new shoes for the start of the new school year. We get to the shops at opening time. Even so, we still have to wait to be served, despite getting into the shoe shop almost as soon as the door opens. The Kinderbesten pick out shoes within minutes, which makes them about a million times better at shoe shopping than I will ever be. The assistant is also super helpful. All in all it’s a stupendously successful operation.

Rach and the Elderbeast head off to the cricket final in the afternoon. The Kinderbeast and I chill out for the rest of the day and watch some films (including The Secret Life Of Pets). Since my newly vegetarian wife is out for the evening, I’ve made the executive decision to have steak for dinner. I’m generally as happy with vegetarian food as I am with meat, but the steak turns out so well that I have to resist the urge to send my wife send photographic evidence for fear that it will cause her to revert to her carnivorous ways.

I pack the Kinderbeast off to bed and settle down to watch Predators, which I borrowed over the xmas break but haven’t had a chance to watch yet. I enjoy it a lot, but I see why it didn’t quite kick-start the franchise again, even if it did keep the flame burning. It’s easily the best Predator film since the original, but by hewing so close to the original it ends up doing little more than providing a very well crafted vignette.

January 27

A successful, albeit slightly reluctant, morning shift is achieved. The new story is still a struggle but it’s slowly, painfully coming together–like extracting a nugget of truth from Trump’s cabinet. I manage just over 500 words, but the greater victory is the gradual dissolution of the fog that lies between the story in my mind and the words on the page.

On a random urge I check the EB Games site and see that the game the Elderbeast wanted last week (Skyrim) is on offer and finally within his means. However, in a sign that the universe is definitely against us, our local EB Games store was without internet and unable to process the Elderbeast’s gift card. I’m not the kind of person to get angry about things that retail staff have no control over, and I’m pleased to say the Elderbeast took it very well too.

Without Skyrim to waste the day on we needed a backup plan. It may still be the case that every day lately is finding me wanting to go straight back to bed, but I still mustered up enough conviction to propose a trip to the swimming pool. In the end a trip to the in-laws, to collect the bike that they had given the Kinderbeast for Christmas won the day. I stopped by the park on the drive home, but the Kinderbeast’s cycling game is currently poor. More training will be required.

Determined to make some further use of my day off I bake some banana bread and clean up the more flagrantly cluttered areas of the house. I also make a futile attempt to fix our water cooler, which no longer cools. Hey, it’s the thought that counts.

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