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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

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It was a rather exciting start to Thursday as we had to been waiting several weeks for Olivia’s photo to appear in a feature in a weekly womens magazine, and today was the day it was released. We were also promised £75 by the magazine for using the photo which was nice. Admittedly it was a large incentive in sending the photo off in the first place, but it will certainly be a welcome bonus now we know we’ll have a cheque coming our way sometime soon!

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Clare and her mother were both having their hair done this morning after Jane, their mobile hairdresser turned up. I tried to make myself useful by spending some time in the garden getting rid of more weeds and putting the branches from the bushed I’d dug up into the garden recycling bin. There was of course lots of excited talk about Olivia and her magazine appearance. By the time the hair was finished and I was done in the garden it was time for lunch before we headed off to our friends house to feed their cats for them. It should have been a straightforward, two minute, in/out job. “Make sure you close the living room door behind you so that cats don’t escape” we were told, but as I opened the front door “WHOOSH!” out flew a cat, and the living room door was already wide open! Not what I needed as we were already running late to get over to my sisters house. Chasing a cat is almost impossible at the best of times, but when you know your friends wont be home for two days, you can’t leave the cat and just drive off. Thankfully I noticed the cat had only run around the house and into the back garden, and to make the situation slightly easier, they had left the key for the back door in an easy to find place. With the door open the cat took a look at the cat food I’d put down and walked off back down the garden, just typical! So I played a bit of reverse psychology on the cat, having had dinner with my friends on numerous occasions in the past I knew the cats only seemed interested in coming near the door or what was going on inside when the door was closed! So I shut the door and stood away from it. Eventually a small furry face appeared at the door and the cat was soon inside. We were on our way to my sisters eventually! The sun had suddenly come out and the day was getting unexpectedly warm, at my sisters we sat outside and enjoyed her new patio table and chairs, the same ones we’d had our eye on from a local supermarket. Todays photo was taken from my sisters house which can only be described as vintage and eclectic, its one of those houses where you could spend ages looking at “things”, and each time I go round I find something new on the wall or in a display cabinet that I hadn’t seen before. Its truly fascinating! Olivia enjoyed spending some time having cuddles with her crazy aunt, and it was nice to catch up with her in the garden with the sun on our skin for a change as we normally see them over dinner in the evening when its dark! We sadly had to leave earlier than we’d have liked as it was time for Olivia’s dinner, and shortly to be followed by bathtime, bottle and bed! We have such a good baby, her routine may sometimes be a little restrictive, but its fantastic. She is so happy in the day and settles so well at night. Yet again she fell asleep on her bottle and literally had to be just dropped into bed!

I decided that as tonight it was a dry, clear night, it was time to buy a few beers from the shop and get a fire on the go to get rid of the damaged fence panels we had hanging around and some of the larger branches from clearing the garden of bushes. Fire and beer, the ultimate man combination, I just need meat to complete the trio now!

On a completely separate note, I just want to add that I have been following the Stephen Sutton story with great interest. Stephen is a 19 year old guy who discovered he had cancer at just 15 years old is now on his deathbed with just days left, but has devoted his last days to raising £1million for charity. Comedian and bloody nice guy Jason Manford has been supporting this with gusto, and kudos to him for being so behind it, and has raised a massive amount of awareness and taken it to his celebrity buddies to help publicise the cause. This had taken the amount raised by Stephen for the Teenage Cancer Trust from an astonishing £500,000 to a mind boggling £2.1million in around 48 hours!! I can’t lie, I have had to wipe a tear from my eye more than once because of this. A humbling reality check for everyone!

I dedicate todays quote to Stephen!

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“Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.”

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The week continues to roll along at an alarming rate and Wednesday is already upon us! We managed to get the car into our mechanics garage today and after leaving it with him for a while, it was finally back and running properly again. Our mechanic did however point out something I had already observed, but not given much consideration to, the gearbox was starting to get a bit noisy. Its a very slow and gradual thing, and it takes a while before you notice it, and it continues to get louder until we eventually need a new gearbox fitted. The thought of a brand new gearbox doesn’t fill us with any joy, even after the wife is back in full time work, so the other option we can consider is to look into part exchanging the car and getting another one, very tempting!

Id arranged to have some friends over for food this evening and so while the car was still with the mechanic I took at walk up to the local supermarket with Olivia in her pushchair to get a few bits for dinner. I got the call from my mechanic while I was out that the car was ready to be collected and so arranged to pick it up shortly after I’d got home, with the father in law dropping me in to pick it up.

I left Clare to bath Olivia tonight while I set about preparing dinner, my friends surprisingly turned up on time and caught me off guard, dinner was nowhere near ready when they arrived and sadly I hadn’t quite cooked quite enough food, the portions were smaller than I would have likes, but everyone seemed happy enough. It was a lovely evening, although we did have some rather unexpected news from one friend that I can’t really talk about on here, once they’ve shared it with those that need to know first, I’ll be able to go into it a bit more! The news itself has thrown me, not how I expected my wednesday to end up at all.

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“Life’s too short to drink cheap wine…”

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With the car not completely reliable at the moment, much of today was spent at home, which was fine as we were expecting several visitors. The first was an old work colleague who not only hadn’t I seen for several years, but who also went to school with my wife. What a small world! He gets married next year and has asked me to take the photographs, I’m totally honoured and would love to! Sounds like it will be a fantastic day, I’m really looking forward to it! Our second visitor was our good friend Tracy who popped over in the afternoon with her son. They stayed for a couple of hours, although it never feels long enough when we see them, especially as we don’t see them quite as often at the moment, hopefully we will be able to join them for dinner one night soon as we haven’t seen them properly for a while now. Today was the first day of the holidays that I hadn’t really left the house at all, although the weather wasn’t very inspiring and didn’t do much to encourage me. Not long after Tracy left it was dinner time for Olivia, and then her bath time is almost upon us, then once she’s out its a bottle of milk and then bed time. While she was having her milk, I popped out in the car, although reluctantly, to grab a couple of things to go with dinner. The engine temperature light still came on as soon as I started the engine, as did the engine fan, so I couldn’t go too far, and had to miss my Tuesday night jujitsu class, as the journey is just too far to risk it. I will be taking the car in to the garage tomorrow to see if my mechanic can have a look at it and do anything with it, fingers crossed. If we can get it sorted we have a few people still to visit before the easter holiday is over (where did two weeks go??). We really are running out of days to see people though, and we’re just not going to squeeze everyone in! I was hoping to put a film on tonight, but with the wife already into one of her favourite programmes I couldn’t really, but I still opened up my bottle of red wine to take my mind off the whole council tax issue. I did ring the council tax office today, but as I wasn’t prepared to hand over any cash they became rapidly disinterested in the call and as I wanted to dispute it, they said I should just write in on the back of the letter (you mean send the letter they sent me, back to them with my scribblings on the reverse??). I asked for an email so that I could keep a track of the conversation and what they’d said, the girl on the phone didn’t seem to really care, then she mumbled an email address, and finally when I said I couldn’t understand she mumbled it again. I gave up in the end and googled it after the call, the email address she gave me was no reflection of what was actually on the council website. In the end I managed to get my email typed up, checked it over several times and then sent it off, only to get an autoresponder email back saying that it could take them 2-4 weeks to reply!! I give up, Birmingham City Council, this is in your hands now!

Todays photo was taken between visits while Olivia was in her baby walker but completely transfixed by the tv! It was shot on a 50mm lens wide open at f/1.2, I had Olivia near the window and was crouched with my back to the window so that Olivia was lit up by the light pouring in from the window even though it wasn’t a sunny day. With such a small depth of focus and a moving baby I had to take several shots to make sure I got one that was sharp and in focus.

Sometimes we don’t know just how lucky we are…

19yr old Steven Sutton is dying from cancer and is not expected to see the morning. His one goal is to raise £1M for the Teenage Cancer Trust and he has already passed the £720,000 mark. Lets help him try and get there while he is still with us. I’ve donated, every pound will count, and whether you donate or not, at least share this with your friends https://www.justgiving.com/Stephen-Sutton-TCT

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As banks holidays go, this was a fairly quiet one, the only place we went was for lunch at my mothers. The car was working, although we are still not sure what is wrong with it, and we had a few issues on the way home with the engine temperature gauge giving us cause for concern by showing that the engine was over heating, even though it actually wasn’t. It made for a pretty uncomfortable journey home, although I did keep getting Clare to stop so I could check the engine periodically and make sure the warnings were false!

We stopped to get some food shopping on the way home as we didn’t think our normal food delivery would be working today, being a bank holiday. Normally we opt for the trolley where you can dump the car seat on top, but it appears our little baby has now outgrown that!

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With the shopping done it was time to head home and get out unusually grumpy little girl ready for bed, as we had guests coming for dinner and had to cook anyway. That’s not why we put Olivia to bed, it was her normal time, but we wanted to make sure she wasn’t late and getting any more tired! Clare made us a delicious Spaghetti Bolognese, and our guests brought wine, we sat and chatted about life and their upcoming wedding day and my involvement in it with the photography. Unfortunately with all the chit chat going on we didn’t get much chance to discuss the wedding photography, although I will head over to see them a few weeks before the big day with my note pad to go over the final plans and discuss any arrangements with them.

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“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

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Sunday morning and time for the F1 Chinese Grand Prix! Olivia was awake too, so I took her downstairs for breakfast and left Clare to have a bit of a lie in! I would have liked to have headed out to watch the race at Après, the bar where Birmingham fans meet up to watch the race together, but with the car not working it wasn’t going to happen this weekend, maybe for the first of the European races in May? As a British fan it was a huge race for Hamilton having his 3rd win in a row, those Mercedes cars are looking mighty, but it was a tough race for Button in his McLaren, yet again they are struggling to keep up. Lets hope they have a bit more luck in Spain! As Hamilton crossed the line to win, I heard a tap on the window, and thankfully my mechanic had turned up. I was very grateful for him coming out on a Sunday, especially Easter Sunday, although after half an hour with his diagnostic machines, we weren’t much further forward as to what the problem was. He had a theory that it was linked to the battery within the key fob, and so I am now waiting on some new batteries to confirm this, fingers crossed!

We did get the car running and went out for lunch with the mother in law, as we had previously planned, as the father in law was out at some convention at the NEC. Olivia was good as gold while we ate, and sat munching on a cucumber even though she was tired. We had a lovely bunny suit for her this morning as it was Easter…
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although she wasn’t the biggest fan, maybe she was too hot in it, or tired, or it was too restrictive, but as cute as she looked, it didn’t last very long sadly. We can try again tomorrow when she’s less tired!

After tea and cake at the in laws after we’d got back from lunch, we gave Olivia her milk and let her nap for a while before heading home. All that was left to do was give Olivia her cheesy pasta dinner and dig out the tools to put together a bookcase for her bedroom while Clare was giving her a bath. One baby in bed for 7:30pm! Boom! We have this bedtime routine nailed! Now time to kick back with a beer and settle in to watch Independence Day. I have watched this film many times, but its still a great film, probably one of my Will Smith favourites!

“Now that’s what I call a close encounter.”

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“The path of my life is strewn with cow pats from the devil’s own satanic herd!”

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In my wisdom I had agreed to run with a work colleague this morning, and even though the car was not starting and the reservoir we were running around was 4 miles away, I still insisted on doing it! The logical option for me, was to suck it in, run there, do a few laps and then run home. It was a bit of a cold grey morning, but the run in was fine and I was nicely warmed up when I got to the reservoir and I pushed my friend to run that bit further, so by the end of it, with the 4 mile run there and the 4.5 miles around the reservoir I’d run 8.5 miles in total. I was feeling good, but not looking forward to the 4 miles home again. Thankfully my friend dropped me most of the way home, so it was only a short walk to the house.

When I got home I was feeling a sense of achievement, I felt good… then I saw this mornings post! A bombshell I wasn’t expecting, the council had written to tell me that, without any room for debate, I owed them £465 in council tax on a property I lived in from 2001! Simply outrageous, I have never owed council tax in my life, and just how do you find proof 13 years on?? I am not even with the same bank any more! It has made me so angry, how can someone just send you a letter saying you owe them money from so long ago and not even give you a chance to argue the case. I know I paid them, I know I did! My only line of defence as far as they are concerned, was if I didn’t live there at the dates they specified, which they clearly know I did or they wouldn’t have written to me! This saga is to be continued, hence todays title!

I tried not to let this mornings news ruin my day as there is not much I can do with it this side of the weekend, in fact not until Tuesday as it is a bank holiday on monday, but I still had to sit around stewing over it as the car was waiting for my mechanic to come and fix it, so we couldn’t go anywhere. The wife did take Olivia for a walk to see her nan though, and I took the chance to get my head down and grab an hours nap, a late night and an 8.5 mile run will do that to you! It was much needed and I felt better after it, although it took me a while to come round from it. I spent a little while in the greenhouse making sure everything was watered and coming along nicely, as I am due to transfer some of it to the allotment tomorrow afternoon, and have a whole lot of new seeds shooting up too. Eventually, it was bathtime for Olivia, and daddy was in charge of arranging bathtime and getting her dried and ready for bed. Its one of those things that feels like it is going to be a whole lot of work until you actually get up and just do it, and its actually quite enjoyable and over surprisingly quickly!

After bathtime and bottle it was time for Olivia to hit the sack, and after a text message from Dave about a few quick pints up the pub, I figured “why not?!”. We’ve put the world to rights and chewed the fat, now its time for bed!