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011014Wow! To think the 100 day countdown to the end of this years photo blog is already under way! I don’t think on this basis, that I need to be wishing any time away, but man is it starting to feel like a long week! I am quite in the mood for a Friday night beer, and yet it’s only Wednesday, although I can’t promise that the fact it’s only Wednesday is going to be enough to stop me anyway! Apparently there are a few that it will stop though, I see Macmillan have launched their Sober for October campaign to raise money by people saving the money they would have spent on wine and beer and donating that to charity. It looks like my regular drinking buddy has been signed up to it by his wife as well (she’s also doing it!) although I am not 100% confident he’ll reach the end of the month as he REALLY likes his nights out at the pub! He has all the right motivation though as they have a little boy with cystic fibrosis, which will be their charity of choice at the end of the month. Bit of a shame for me really, I was quite looking forward to a beer at the weekend after my detox session! Still, great excuse for takeaway and movie night in with the wife… well, that is if she can stay awake long enough to watch the entire movie!

So yes, it may be Wednesday, but as the photo for today clearly demonstrates, I have decided to treat myself to a beer! Don’t worry, I’m not drinking all of them tonight, the rest are for Friday! I have come to the conclusion that maybe I am actually only human after all, and as much as I like to keep myself busy, fill my time productively and avoid most of the reality vote-me-off rubbish on tv, there can come as time, as there has now, where I realise that maybe I have just taken on a little bit too much for myself. Mentally I am near exhaustion, and while there is nothing that a good holiday wouldn’t fix, sadly a holiday seems like a bit of a distant dream at the moment. So it is time to slow down and take a bit of time for myself, read a book, spend some more time with the family, and generally unwind a bit. I decided to treat myself tonight to a midweek beer, not that I am condoning that drinking is the answer to any of lifes problems of course, I just want to unwind and relax a little before bed time. Sleep is important and something I need more of, and I am sure the wife would rather I came to bed sooner instead of when she is asleep, although that isn’t always easy as she certainly loves her sleep! So just for tonight, I am enjoying a nice ale, no gassy lager for me, I am trying something a bit different. I have had a few ales in the past and I can’t deny that they are starting to grow on me! Yeah, maybe its an age thing, or maybe I have just learned not to follow blindly what everyone else drinks and actually dare to be a bit different. When you become a lager drinker you are limited to a handful of mainstream lagers, but as soon as you step into the world of ale, you are presented with literally hundreds, if not thousands of different beers! I even signed up with a new app on my iPhone today, whilst listening to my favourite internet radio show, Lunatic Radio (www.lunaticradio.com) one of the presenters, Adam, has spoke numerous times about an app called Untappd (yes, without the e) which is essentially social media for beer drinkers, and on the last show they even interviewed one of the co-founders of the app, who was a real genuine down to earth guy, and created it just for a bit of fun and never expected any one other than his friends to notice it, let alone for following of hundreds of thousands of users around the globe that it has attracted! You know what, I’ll try it, its a bit of fun, I just “check in” a new ale when I try it and could even find interesting recommendations out of it!

Anyway, bed time beckons, and I need some sleep!

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I feel like a record that’s stuck lately (something the kids won’t understand!) and although I may be repeating myself, I really need to start getting to bed earlier. I’m my own worst enemy sometimes! I should have bags of energy at the moment, but I continually find myself feeling tired, and that’s only really from going to bed too late! It certainly doesn’t help my inclination in the morning to get out of bed, let alone to jump on the bike when it’s time to go to work, although the recent traffic problems that have been happening very close to home have reassured me that taking the car would be a really bad idea! For example, the very busy major traffic light junction close to our house where the lights are frequently out several times a week, pretty much every week! It causes absolute carnage when they aren’t working, as it often seems to occur during the morning or evening rush hour! Recently some bright spark decided that the way forward would be to put in temporary traffic lights, perhaps not such a bad idea and one which would have worked fine had they not been four way control lights, meaning as opposed to traffic flowing in two opposite directions while the cross traffic waits, like normal traffic lights, only one direction at a time gets to go. This has caused absolute mayhem, and I am so glad to be whizzing down the middle of it on two wheels! I can’t understand how it has happened more than just a couple of times, let alone on such a regular basis! It has literally been going on for months, and cycling across that junction when no one wants to wait and thinks that everyone else should move for them, can be pretty scary on a bike! Thankfully the useless temporary traffic lights they have put in place that are causing more traffic problems than any single road accident I’ve seen are only going to be there for four weeks! Its like we’ll barely even notice!

Thankfully, the introduction of these ridiculous lights means that I can at least make it safely across the junction now, and back again at the end of the day. I was a little later home then usual, only a few minutes, but when you have a limited time with your daughter, as I do on a Tuesday with my jujitsu class forcing me to leave the house before she’s even in bed… well, those few minutes count. Sadly she’d not long been asleep when I turned up to collect her from nursery, and being picked up again and woken up only upset her, she was so tired after such a small nap this morning. Its not often we see her cry, and it was a sad sight, but she loves being outdoors, and within a few seconds of collecting her bag and buggy and leaving the building she was happy again and looking at all the scenery around her. We’d only been home a moment before my phone rang and the wife was stuck in traffic yet again thanks to the useless lights at the junction, so Olivia and me jumped in the car and set off to collect her. Olivias tired and grumpy mood had completely gone by now and back at home with mommy, she was happier than ever. I snapped todays picture as they both grabbed a single biscuit between their teeth to see who could win. Clare lost, Olivia bit her! I tried to hide my laughing, although not very successfully I might add!

One other significant event I managed to get organised this week was our antenatal meet up for christmas. I know that to some of you it may seem a little far off, and perhaps too early for most people, but facts need to be faced, we literally only have about 11 weeks until christmas, and now only 3 paydays too! That means that if we don’t want all our presents coming out of just one payday, then we need to be either saving money or start buying presents now. Either way, many bars have probably already booked out their tables for xmas meals, so it was pretty important that we didn’t leave things any longer. The problem with a large group like ours, of 14 adults is that it needs someone to make a decision and take some action towards making things happen, that someone happened to be me.

*I threw a date out on the email, everyone seemed happy with that date – part 1 complete.

*I threw a venue out there on the email. Everyone seemed happy to try it – brilliant! Part 2 complete

*I phoned the bar to make sure we all had seats, and the plan was good.

Antenatal xmas meal booked! Yayy! Go me!! Its looking like all seven couples will be there too, with just the faint possibility that one might have to possibly miss out again due to her shift patterns. On top of the suggestion of a trip to the German Market, this Christmas is looking like its going to be one hell of a festive period, I just hope little legs doesn’t eventually pull Christmas tree down on her when we finally put it up.

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In this era of immense materialism, it has become very easy for us to obsess a little, maybe a little too much, about what we have or haven’t got and what we want. I know Clare and myself may not be rich, but we are still in a very fortunate situation, there’s no denying that! Both of us working, with a happy healthy daughter, helpful in-laws around the corner, our own home on a peaceful road and a fantastic nursery just a short walk away. In fact only today, I returned home from work and found that the father in law had been in put up our new kitchen lights that we only bought at the weekend. Impressive! We’ve been waiting over a year so far to replace the bare bulbs hanging from power cables on the ceiling, but as with so many things, life tends to get in the way, and they have just been forgotten about. Ironically, after browsing online and spending time weighing up the pros and cons of various lights at B&Q we ended up choosing the lights we’d first looked at all those months ago when we were first in the house and still doing it up, and then promptly forgot about. The kitchen is now so different from when we actually purchased the house, we could never have lived in it at that point. We’ve come a massive way since then and couldn’t have done it without the help of the father in law who has turned his talented hands to so many tasks, we are so grateful for his help, and also for the mother in law for all her support in so many different ways.

This evening I went to visit an old school friend, a girl I haven’t seen for numerous years (at this stage I don’t like to count them anymore!) to tell her about my business and how she can build her own. She’s in a perfect position to really benefit from it, and seemed keen so hopefully she’ll take it up. From speaking to her she has had a really rough ride in recent years for one reason or another, and although she is determined to win and not let it get her down, it made me appreciate all that I had a little more. I’d like to be able to support her if she takes up the business and help her turn her luck around! Talking to her, I realised we both had similar goals, and no matter what journey our separate lives had taken us on, we had both got to a point where it is all about our children now. Everything we do is for them and their future. I must admit, maybe I’m getting lazy as I get older, but all I want to do lately is stay at home and spend time with the family, which is lovely in the short term, but doesn’t really do much in the long term.

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It has been a weekend of changed, cancelled and postponed plans, and a need to be understanding and flexible. I can cope with that, especially as the practical upshot of it is that I get more time to spend with the family, which is always a good thing! It was the same early start that I have become well accustomed to in the last year, long gone are the days when weekends meant I didn’t get out of bed until midday, now I am calling 8:30am a bit of a lie in. It hadn’t been a particularly early night, especially as Olivia had been up twice before I had even made it to bed last night. Her teething is in full flow and so is her nose, running like the Nile! She was so blocked up last night, its no wonder she woke up a couple of times. Thankfully she eventually settled after a dose of calpol, a clean nappy, nose drops, a vapour plug-in and some cuddles! Never the less, I was up by 8:30am and the day had begun, even if it was a slow start. Clare was out of bread and had added some wholemeal flour to the shopping delivery, and so we decided to put the bread maker to the test and see how wholemeal bread came out. It was a 5 hour programme, so I’d have to wait until later to find out. I’d agreed to photograph the christening of my friends daughter today, and after such a slow morning I was starting to run behind schedule, although thankfully the church was only 20 minutes away, and so after a quick shower I was soon in the car and on my way. It was a beautiful church, and as usual I made my way down to find the vicar, and turned on all the charm and politeness I could muster up, although I frequently find it is often wasted on vicars and registrars, they have their way, and they will not change it for anyone. It just so happened this one didn’t like photographers much. I do find it very frustrating when people pay me to capture their memories and then I am denied from doing so by someone who insists that the best memories are “all in the head and the heart!”… really?! So why are people paying people like me to capture this stuff then? I am pretty sure that no matter how clever someone thinks they are, the details of their christening day will be long forgotten by the time they are 50 and trying to recall it to their children. Oh by the way, the girl in question happened to be 8 years old, as you can see from todays photo, so yes she will be remembering it… well, for a while anyway. I just don’t see why a vicar can’t leave me to be discreet and snap a few photos from the service for the family to remember for decades to come and pass down to their grandchildren. I am not trying to intrude on the service for my own benefit, I am creating memories. It’ll be a few clicks of the camera that no-one will even notice anyway, its not like I am running around the church naked, whilst singing “the hills are alive with the sound of music” and throwing pink neon paint all over the congregation!! Memories, that’s all I am trying to create. To me they are so important, and obviously also for anyone who has ever decided to part with cash to pay me to capture them on their behalf! I know vicars have a job to do, but so do I, and I have the skills to make sure you don’t even notice me doing mine!

I managed to get some nice shots outside the church and with everyone happy I left to head for home when I was done. Clare was eager to head out and buy some new kitchen lights, and to be honest we really had already left it long enough, so we were soon back in the car and off to the shop to disagree on a wide variety of lights until we eventually found one we could both agree on. Ironically, it happened to be the set we’d looked at about 9 months ago and had never got around to buying! Oh well, the job was done, now all we had to do was hope that my amazingly talented father in law had the time to fit them this week. I am hugely grateful for the money he has saved us in having things fitted, and also in awe of the number of things he can turn his hand to. I am pretty sure that fitting the lights will a fairly small job for him, whereas for me it would most likely be an ordeal where I end up electrocuting myself, short fusing the house and pulling plaster off the ceiling!!

With the lights purchased the only other priority for my afternoon was eating, and although we had a meal ready to cook, I decided we should head out for a bite to eat at our favourite pub restaurant. I am still on my Clean 9 detox, and trying to look after myself, but I knew that the pub had a bunch of 600 calorie meals on the menu, so it should be no concern. I soon found out when we got there and sat down that they had only gone and changed the menu, so now I was just left to pick the thing that was least likely to have been fried! I have to be honest, it wasn’t the best meal we’ve ever had there, and this is the second of our favourite places to eat to have let us down this year. It wasn’t awful, but we were used to amazing food there, and this was a long way from amazing, on top of which we had to wait far longer for our food to turn up than we’ve ever waited before, even though half the tables were empty, normally we’ve only waited about 20 minutes at the most, even on a busy day. Still, it meant no cooking and no washing up, but we were bordering on a hysterical toddler who was getting more and more tired and didn’t want any of the food we’d brought with us for her.

It has been a lovely weekend overall, and I’m just sad that Monday morning is almost upon us again so quickly. The bonus of having a baby is that you spend less time in bed at the weekend and more hours up and about and appreciating all 48 hours of freedom and all that you have around you.

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I have said before, and still say, there is no better way to start the weekend than with a good run around the reservoir, and as I am still helping my friend train for her first half marathon, now just a few weeks away, that is exactly where I was this morning! My usual run is a modest 6 miles, but with the half marathon in mind we are starting to push the distance a bit now, up to 7.5 miles, especially as I haven’t yet decided on whether I am going to sign up for it myself yet. My fifth half marathon, should I or shouldn’t I? I found it tough last year, even though I think that it was mostly down to having a bit of an off-day, probably combined with the fact I hadn’t done quite enough training. It was my fourth half marathon and I should have beat my previous time easily, but I struggled, and was struggling before I’d even hit the halfway point. Its made me realise the real importance of training and that actually I am not as invincible as I sometimes think I am! I am seriously tempted though, I guess I’ll just see how next weeks 9 mile saturday morning run goes and see if there are any places left to sign up for.

After getting home from my morning run, the next best thing was a nice hot shower, it really can’t be beaten, especially after a long run or bike ride, and especially on a cold morning. I wouldn’t have described this morning as cold, the sun did eventually try and come out to warm the day up a little. I’d been keeping an eye on the 15 day weather forecast and knew we were in with a good chance of a dry day that was likely to be warm enough, so I had planned to go for a little drive with Clare and Olivia. The plan was to head out to a lovely little town along the river Severn called Bridgnorth. As always, our day was based around Olivia’s naps, and we couldn’t head out until she had woken up from her morning nap and had some lunch. Although with her being in the midst of teething, she was not especially interested in food, which made lunch a much shorter process. She has also become especially independent, and sometimes won’t eat simply because you are trying to feed her, and will often eat the same food without issue if we leave her to feed herself. It provides a new challenge around meal times, as we now have to consider cooking foods that she can easily pick up without redecorating the walls with it.

We finally got in the car and set off on our way. The drive to Bridgnorth isn’t a short one, but it takes in a lot of countryside and is a very pleasant journey all the same. Once we’d finally got there the parking was a nightmare to say the least, we seemed to have arrived on what looked like the busiest day of the year, or at least felt like it. We managed to find a space and took a stroll around the town, ending up at a Costa to grab a quick drink and a bite to eat.
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One thing you can’t come to Bridgnorth and say that you didn’t end up doing, is the cliff railway. The town is essentially split into the upper town and the lower town with a venicular train taking people up and down for a very reasonable fee. So we hopped in and took ourselves down for a short walk by the river.
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Sadly yet again our day was dictated by Olivia’s need for naps, and with it getting well into the napping hour, we had to consider heading for home as this little princess has decided that she’s no longer interested in sleeping in her buggy. We knew she’d at least sleep in the car though, and thats exactly what she did on the drive home.

We finished the evening off with a delicious mexican dinner, and sat down to watch a recording of the latest Derren Brown show, Infamous which yet again did not fail to impress us both! We’ve already seen one live show for my birthday, thanks to the wife, and I’d love to go and see his next show if we got the chance!

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HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!!

The weekend is finally here, another week is done and a chance to spend another 48 hours with the family! For the end of September the weather is still reasonably warm, and cycling to and from work this week has been especially pleasant, but none more so than on a Friday afternoon when I get to leave work early to head home and see my little girl! Friday is a day when she is looked after by her grandmother, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the father in law had been busy while we were both out at work and had put up a venetian blind in the kitchen which looked lovely and is so much nicer when its dark outside than a bare window! The wife tends to get a bit paranoid whilst stood at the kitchen sink, convinced that she is being watched, especially since the security light decided to die on us! Must get around to fixing that!

Took Olivia for a little trip to the shops to get some dinner for tonight, while we were waiting for Clare to come home, and Olivia was so distracted, she just loves watching people, and occasionally waving at strangers too, thankfully most of them wave back! Back at home and it was soon time for Olivia’s dinner, and with not much time to prepare anything, hers was from a jar tonight, although according to the wife, it tasted particularly nice… only Olivia didn’t want it…. or so it would seem. What Olivia actually didn’t want was to be fed, as when it comes to feeding herself she’ll normally eat anything! Something we have seen on numerous occasions, where the little madam refuses every morsal of food that you offer her, and yet will quite happily eat when she can grab it and feed herself. Although, there are times when this just isn’t practical, such as pureed or blended food… well, that was until today when she decided to try and use a spoon to feed herself! It got a bit messy, but I convinced Clare to just leave her to get messy and enjoy exploring. It was bath night anyway, so we had nothing to lose, and looking back this was EXACTLY the reason we opted for the nice wipe clean laminate wooden flooring rather than having downstairs full of carpet, which would have inevitably ended up being stained carpet! This was a decision we made way before moving in, and I still sometimes wonder if we’d have been better off putting carpet down, but that’s mostly because of how cold the laminate floor can be during the winter and how much nicer it would be if it was soft and fluffy! It never seems to concern me during the summer.

After dinner was done and Olivia was in bed, I sat down with Clare and put a film on. The recent Godzilla film which I’d heard much talk about. I just sat and shook my head when Clare said to me, and in a genuine voice, “Godzilla… is that the monkey?”. Oh dear, she really never fails to amaze me with the gems that she comes out with!

Just a short blog tonight as I am tired and have to go running in the morning. Have a great weekend everyone!

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Just one day left before the weekend leaves me feeling very happy indeed! It has just been one of those weeks that I just can’t seem to get into the groove of. Maybe too many late nights, or a change in the weather, I don’t know what it is but I am genuinely feeling a lack of enthusiasm for most things this week. It hasn’t really helped having the whole summer off with Olivia, I just haven’t got my head back into work mode properly, almost like I am going in each day and faking it. It doesn’t help that we’re in the midst of one of the longest terms I’ve known since starting my job, and yes I know all those NOT working in education won’t have an ounce of sympathy either, but term time is term time and it is one of the few downsides to my job. The sheer lack of flexibility, does get a little frustrating at times, but on a positive note, we are now half way through this one and its payday tomorrow just to make things feel a little bit better this weekend. I’m already looking ahead to the half term holiday and what we can do with it, I have a few ideas!

I am very glad that September has given us such kind weather this year to allow me to be able to cycle to and from work for the last four weeks and only get wet once! This is the time of year when things get a little different though, the time when the mornings feel a lot cooler, when rain is a lot more likely, when the waterproof jackets have to start making an appearance just to keep the cold air off me. Although I am still a long way off the scarf and the insulated hat just yet thankfully, the -3°c mornings are a different beast altogether! It takes some real grit and determination though to keep getting the bike out and jumping on it every morning when its actually warmer inside your fridge than it is outside! I do need to invest in some new kit though, such as new replacement over-shoe rain protectors, some new mud guards, and maybe even a new helmet as my current one is part of Halfords super cheap budget range, plus I’ve owned it for over 10 years now and the cover of it is starting to come away, which is far from ideal, especially as I am still considering purchasing a helmet cam (too many idiots on the road, and it only takes one of them to really ruin your day!) and it needs to be fixed securely to the helmet. I’m already thinking of reasons to not cycle into work during the winter, and so I need to address every single one of those to ensure I don’t quit. Getting on that saddle every morning is a great way to get fit, a great way to save money on diesel, it’s good for the environment and a great way to get to work stress free having not sat in stationary traffic with the threat of being late for work hanging over you! It’s actually surprising how little we actually use the car during the week now! Which is why I’ve planned a nice day out for us on Saturday, we both love driving our new car, and I want to make the most of some time with the family as I seem to have been so busy lately! I did have plans for this evening, which were postponed, meaning I had a bit more time at home, although Clare was busy in the kitchen making cakes and cookies for the Macmillan coffee morning. She’s really good like that, but bless her, she doesn’t need much of an excuse to bake a cake!

I had to pop to the supermarket at some point, and put a little diesel in the car at the same time, ready for the weekend, and was immediately annoyed by the amount of fully able people parking in the disabled bays. It seems to have almost been accepted that they’re not really for disabled people any more. It makes me really angry, to the point I have to stop myself saying something. What would it achieve? These people clearly have no conscience already, I’d only end up in an argument I was never going to win, as I can’t do anything to actually make them move anyway. There really should be a way of reporting them and getting tickets on their cars much quicker and easier though, they’d soon respond to a fine much better than they’d respond to me getting annoyed with them. But on reflection, it has been a day of irresponsible and poor driving from most people I have seen. Idiots on the road while I am cycling getting way too close (hence the need for a helmet cam!) and me even catching up and over taking these people in slow traffic, to make a point about their poor driving, only for them to do it again a minute later! How did society become so selfish??

I was never going to let these idiots ruin my day though, I have a gorgeous daughter to come home to after work and a beautiful wife who arrives home not far behind her! Today’s photo was from some flowers I decided to buy the wife to cheer us both up!