Spring finally gets here, garden goes beserk in response 🙂 Nice to have some ‘normal’ weather for a change.
Evie turns nine, we go bowling and lazerquesting with her friends. Parents some how survive the experience of the small girls screaming and squealing. Touching moment when they all broke into song singing five or so songs from Joseph’s Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat which they are doing with school soon.
A day out in Manchester with the family, travelling via the tram (which was a big success) and then pottering about town centre. Surprisingly this is something we’ve never done before.
For some reason I’ve been obsessed with the darker side of the 70s. Its bleakness, its repressed emotions…
Started by watching Ben Wheatley’s adaptabtion of JG Ballard’s High-Rise.
At its heart its a Sci-fi story (without ray guns, spaceships or robots) the setting really transported me back to that time in both style and tone. Outstanding performances by an ensemble cast. Jeremy Irons is particularly chilling yet very fragile and human as the Architect of the building and Tom Hiddleston as the lead character shines but does not outshine the rest of the cast.
Total recommend from me, reminds me of some of the dark stuff you’d used to see on C4 & BBC2 in the 80s (not surprising this was funded by Film 4). A highly intelligent and well shot film, but not one for when you need a happy-cheery film
Meanwhile Radiohead ruin and soil many people’s childhood memories of shows like Trumpton and Camberwick Green with their video of their song Burn the Witch.
And continuing the theme of music and Black Magic, I picked up the Dark Horse Comic’s Graphic Novel version of That Damned Band. Without giving too much away its a beguiling mix of 70s Heavy Metal excess, the band that the story is about Motherfarther screams Led Zepplin (with elements of other bands of the time ), psychedelia (the cover which drew me in reminded me of the 13th Floor Elevators) and good old horror storytelling.
Of course the prize for creepy 1970s goes to Scarfolk Council, the blog/book/design project about a town stuck in a paranoid version of the 1970s.
The biggie being our Cotswolds half-term break. Me and Rach long have a tradition of going away in February, to beat the winter blues, and this year was a return to the Cotswolds. We stayed in a cottage in Shipston near Stratford upon Avon, and the absence of going to the more fairytale parts of the Cotswolds (Burton on the Water, Stow on the Wolds, Broadway etc) made it a different experience for me. The children are now mature enough to appreciate the historical places we go which is really good 🙂
We drove up after the last day of school on Friday, which turned out to be another 7 hour trek, and arrived late in the dark. Saturday was a pottering day round Shipston, which is a lovely little town which I could easily see an older Newt relocating.
Sunday was London. We got a Family Ticket (about £60) which not only let us get via a hour long rail journey, but also gave us unlimited bus and tube travel. Morning we did Buckingham Palace and Parliament Square, as well as a large chunk of Whitehall (Admiralty Arch etc) simply because it was on the way from the tube station we jumped off at. With aching feet we whizzed over to the British Museum and had lunch at family favourite Pizza Express. Then around the museum, which was excellent as ever but was way too busy for our liking. Then a quick tea at The Spaghetti Company ( big thanks to the manager who squeezed us in before the Valentines Day rush) and home on the train again.
Monday was another rest day at the cottage, with a bit of pottering around Shipton, and boy did we need it after London.
Tuesday was Warwick Castle. Still my favourite castle, despite the Disneyfycastion its undergoing.
Wednesday, a quick trip to Stratford upon Avon as a retail experience, ending up in the Bella Italia, where me and Rach first went on our way down to our Honeymoon all those years ago, watching H stuff his face. The others got toys and books, but I got a new lightweight waterproof (which is like having your own tent) which pleased my middle-aged self no end. It got immediate testing because it was chucking it down. Still no where near as bad as home, which we delighted telling the shocked locals.
Thursday was a nice stroll about Charlecote Park. It was still slightly damp and cold, but the day was clear and typical of the nice weather that we enjoyed while we were away. In the evening I quickly packed everything and dumped it in the car. A far cry from our two-week long camping holiday in the summer.
After a very quick rounding up of the last bits of stuff, well done Team Newport, we said goodbye to the Cottage and had a lovely morning in historical Stratford Upon Avon. So we did Shakespear’s Birthplace and the adjoining museum, before wandering down to the Merchant’s house (whose name escapes me) and doing lunch at a British Pub (cheese sandwiches and Pedigree for the win!). Then it was the long drive home.
After that February was pretty much done, but there were signs that Spring was coming on time which perked up my mood no end.
January was a roller coaster of a month. After an energetic start to the year, which we celebrated as a family with a breakfast at the John Milne after Rach’s Night shift, both me and Evie were off with obnoxious colds for a week.
Sorted out what I’m doing with D101 this year while the day job remained bizarrely broken, do to a Future of IT programme that sees senior management lay off a third of our department in the name outsourcing ( something that the rest of the world seems
to have given up on).The next working day after the last day of those taking “voluntary severance”, the Head of IT announces his resignation!
Rachel hit 40 … Opps sorry 28 😉 Amongst the Birthday celebrations we had a lovely family meal out at Manchester’s top Chinese Restaurant, Yan Sing and a rather strange trip to the Trafford Centre (which was still too busy after Christmas).
So I’m a big fan of the band Helmet, and I was checking out what their original drummer John Stainer was up to these days….and as a result I discovered his current band Battles. Mind blown, albums ordered 🙂
Talking about being more present in the moment, was something that I’ve had a feeling for – oh like 25+ years. But its been a nagging feeling that has been so overwhelming I’ve stumbled badly to put it into words, even into context within my life. The best I could do was turn that feeling into a life long commitment to the practices of Taoism.
Recently I did a short online course about Taoist Manifestation techniques, to help me really get on with life in a calm and relaxed way, and a basically it came down to “Be happy that you are here”. Amoungst all the mind blowing “you are what you think” techniques, its central message was “Look you are here, be more present, be in good shape and it will all come to anyway”. For a moment I got it fully, then the cynical voices came back and it slipped away again.
Then Bill Murray in full on wise elder emerges from the void that is You Tube (OK I’ve been searching for more Bill Murray quotes after coming across this wonderful meme image ), with this…
2016 started off in a really epic way, no it really did. Things literally flew through the air into place and everything was nicely lining up to be Awesome and Full of Win. Then like a mirror image of the end of last year, when Rach and Henry were full of cold/Flu for a week, me and Evie (who is the healthiest of all of us) had a grotty cold which stopped us in our tracks. Its been a weird and frustrating week, there’s so much I wanted to get done, but I think the best advice I’ve read during this time is “Take a step back, slow down, and see it all coming” 🙂
Kinda summing it all up, especially in the light of the recent deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman (both this week) and Lemmy, is this short animation by the creators of Southpark, using a fragment of a talk by Alan Watts.
All this makes me want to live more intensely, be more present in the moment, but at a slower more graceful pace. Especially when I’m full of cold at the start of the year 🙂