It's been a long year so far, with little chance to take time off work. Between the office and the band, instructing at Frampton and my dan grading back at the end of June, we've had little chance to get away anywhere with Calstar.
As of the end of today, I have two weeks off work, and no gigs until Friday 19th.
Nikki is away this weekend, camping at a festival of all things, with her friend, Lisa. She did invite me along, but didn't seem fussed either way, so I elected to stay at home and look after the dogs and let them have a "girly weekend" away. The amount of time I spend away with Dad, even with the year's distractions aside, I can hardly begrudge her that.
In a happy coincidence of diaries, Nik also has next week off work herself. In a not so elegant diary collision, Dad has next week off work, but before he realised that was the first week I'd booked off, had elected to go away with a friend, Aunty Dorn, on a week's tour of North Wales or something. Aunty Dorn is lovely, she was one of my late Mum's best friends from my distant childhood years out in Kuwait and has been a great friend to Dad since we lost Mum. A week's holiday sounds terrific, and given how I hog Dad's spare time with sailing, I can hardly begrudge them that.
And Dad doesn't mind if I take the boat for the week.
It gets better.
Tash, my daughter and eldest child, finally spread her wings and moved out at the beginning of this year (or sometime towards the end of the last, can't actually remember truth be told)
Ben, my eldest son, was away at university. So we'd gone from three offspring underfoot down to just one, the youngest, Sam. Likewise down to three dogs from the original five plus extras (inevitable, regrettable attrition of old age) and no additional foster dogs (Nik now works full time, so fostering is on a hold for the foreseeable). The house was feeling almost deserted. Nice, but at the same time, kind of hollow.
Anyway, once it was clear Tasha was out and happy and seemingly stable where she was and not coming back in a rush, we let a friend of hers, Shoni, take her room. If I'd realised how quiet and unobtrusive it was to have a lodger around the house instead of (however undeniably lovely she is) an (inarguably) high maintenance, attention-seeking daughter, I'd have encouraged the swap years before. I jest, of course. Sort of.
In the last six weeks, Ben has finished university and come back home, bringing all the stuff accumulated from living three years away in a flat of his own. And Tasha has sadly split up with the boyfriend and likewise removed herself to home at very, very short notice, along with all the goods and chattels of almost a year of setting up house on her own.
Likewise, the youngest, Sam, has just finished college so is now at home all day, albeit he is looking for a job and expected (however much he resists) to become a fully productive member of society.
But the bottom line: you can't move in the house now without tripping over dogs, or kids. Sorry, young adults - actually not so young anymore, three out of the four are long out of their teens - seems to have happened so suddenly, I only blinked. Or boxes full of enough stuff to set up at least three fresh households (our guest and lodger Shoni came with boxes of her own, that we were at the time, having space aplenty, quite relaxed about not rushing to put into storage)
It is a kind of soft-spoken, unassuming pandemonium. I wouldn't have them anywhere else in such need of a place to go, and all four (and I include the lodger, Shoni, who we invited as a guest into our home and so that, so far as I'm concerned, gives us a responsibility towards her as well) will always have shelter anywhere I am, for so long as I'm fit and able to put a roof over our heads. But I can't say I'm especially enjoying it.
There is a bright-side however.
Between Tash and Ben, there is enough self-reliance and maturity there to look after my household for a week, and more particularly, dog-sit for us. As I said, Nikki and I both have next week off work. And Dad's away in Wales.
We're moving down to the boat for the week, far from the madding crowd.