Vokesy

Photographer of weddings and people around Birmingham and the Midlands

Oh, how things change

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It there is one thing that doesn’t change, its change itself!

Just when you begin to get used to something, life inevitably pulls the rug from under you. This isn’t always a bad thing, and often change is for the better. Sometimes change is neither good, nor bad, its just change.

Life has changed again in recent weeks, the separation of a good friend of mine from his wife, and the fact that he is now no longer living around the corner. Then there is the news of a friends pregnancy, which really excites me. There is no better news than a friend becoming pregnant and expecting a little one. Promotions are nice, a new house is lovely, weddings are great, but expecting a baby is even better! Its a new life, the start of endless potential. There really is no greater feeling than becoming a parent!

I am making plans for changes for my year ahead too. The photography business has been, well, not dormant, but slow. Getting married, fixing up a house, having a baby and generally being a parent can be a huge demand on your time, strangely enough! I was busy building up the photography business, but then put the brakes on to focus on arranging my own. Life has kinda taken over since then, but now it is time to push back up into second gear and get things moving again. On that note, it is also time for a shift in direction. Wedding photography is a fantastic opportunity to capture a truly magical day in a couples life and produce some of your best photography, but the down side is that it is also hugely saturated market. Wedding photographers are 10 a penny on google. Everyone who has ever gone and bought a budget SLR from Argos will call themselves a photographer these days, and not be afraid to “have a go” and unwittingly potentially ruin someones big day with disappointing photos where the auto mode on a camera just couldn’t cut it, and only knowledge and experience and the right kit could have possibly paid off. To stand out as a wedding photographer takes something really special, and having a full time job just doesn’t allow the time to work on everything you need to. There is so much more to running a photography business than just taking photos. So I am looking into making a move into something a bit different, newborn photography. A growing market where there are not currently a large amount of photographers, unlike weddings, on top of which it requires some training before you even consider starting as you are dealing with someone’s tiny little brand new baby, much unlike weddings. I have some steps to take before I can get there, which includes some props and some training, but I will get there, and I will make this a success. I have that feeling, that feeling where I know I can do this and make a good job of it. That feeling where I know I can learn, and then put my own stamp on this and make it mine. I have the support of a fantastic wife and the inspiration of my beautiful daughter to push me forward and make this work. I also have plans for the future once I have made this work, and I want to look into training again, but hopefully this time delivering it rather than taking it. I truly believe that it is important in life to have dreams. It is equally important to know that they are achievable, and even more important to have a plan on how to get there and actually achieve them! There is a quote by Henry Ford “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” and he is totally right. Believing you can do something is half the battle, but along the way he also coined another genius phrase “One of the greatest discoveries a person makes, one of their great surprises, is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.” How true is that? So now I begin to make plans. Not all of them will work, and some will take some adjustment, but a plane does not reach its path by flying in a straight line, it is constantly readjusting its path along the way. I will get there, and I will make this successful! Others may laugh, they may think its funny, or tell me I can’t do it, but I have the will and the potential to succeed here, and I need to remain focused on that!

The obvious other constant source of change in our household is that of our little person, who wakes up each day just ever so slightly different to the previous day! She seems to be growing so quickly! More recently her latest trick involves swinging her arms about and hitting people and thinking its funny. Its not a nasty thing, she just thinks its hilarious when people react, she has probably seen too much of me making pretend ‘Ow!’ noises when she does it to think that its an okay thing to do. Hopefully if we stop drawing attention to it so much, she’ll just give up and eventually stop! the transition from crawling to walking is pretty much done, and she is walking all the time these days, and we are seeing much less of the just-learnt-to-walk toddler wobble, and more normal walking now. We are even getting sounds that are starting to resemble words now as well, she has pretty much grasped “peppa” each time peppa pig comes on, and we think we have an “oggy” each time we see a dog in the street. She is just so cute, I think that if she wasn’t ours we’d probably have kidnapped her by now anyway!

The seasons are also starting to change, spring is around the corner and the temperature is starting to change a little. The nights continue to stay cool, occasionally hovering or maybe just dipping below freezing on the odd occasion, but the days are starting to get ever so slightly warmer. I don’t think that the threat of frost is over yet, I’ll still need to be careful with planting out any vegetable seedlings we’ve grown. Just one night of harsh frost could kill them! Of course now that the allotment is no longer an option, I’ll be resigned growing everything in the back garden, which leaves me with very little space considering that the wife will undoubtedly be expecting to see pretty, colourful flowers and not just vegetables growing everywhere! The seedlings are coming along well in the spare room at the moment, I’ll need to repot them soon, and hopefully move them out to the greenhouse at the very least until the threat of frost has gone. I’m certainly going to miss that allotment this year, thats for sure! I know one of my sisters is taking on an allotment this year, maybe I could stick a few bits in there, I am sure she wouldn’t mind?! I am keen to get more out of the ground to eat this year, we had an absolute bumper crop the first year and its fair to say we knew bugger all about allotmenting, so even though I am working with significantly less space, I need to make it count! Of course, finding the time is going to be tricky, with looking after “J”, my friends autistic son, and hopefully building up the photography business again this year, my free time could be stretched a little. At least where the difficulty of previously trying to get over the allotment was that I could only go over at the weekend, now with growing things in the garden its much easier to spend a bit of time each night in the evenings once Olivia is in bed, little and often is the way forward! Generally I have to wait until Olivia is in bed to get most things done, my to-do list is a total waste of time if I am planning to do anything while she is still up. Considering she is such a well behaved, good child, I still find that most of the things I had planned to do just don’t even get looked at least until she goes down for a nap or more often when its her bedtime, by which point it has gone dark outside and anything that was supposed to be done outside can just be scrapped for yet another day! Things are a little easier at the moment now Clare is getting home from work slightly earlier, and the sunset is getting later and later, on top of which the clocks will go forward in a few weeks. I’ll be out in that garden in no time, and I’d love Olivia to be out with me too, but there is one garden chore I must do before all others if that is going to happen, and that is to put a picket fence at least 3ft high around the edge of the garden. Where the lawn and flower bed end it is a 4 ft drop down to the concrete below. Not much for me to jump down, I agree, but if you’re a toddler and you’re going down head first, its going result in many hours spent in A&E! I need to be able to leave her free to run around on the lawn without the fear of her not stopping in time and going straight over the edge! Oh the joys of having children!

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Procrastination is the thief of time

A week. Where has a week gone?

I almost feel robbed!

There are two ways of looking at how best to spend a week off, one way is to fill your time, be as productive as possible and not waste a moment, whereas the other is to kick back, relax and appreciate everything around you. I personally see time as the most precious resource we have, and hate to feel like I am wasting mine. The only problem with this attitude is that when you become preoccupied, you don’t notice the time pass, and suddenly a week off can quite literally vanish while you’re not looking. I started this week off with a list of things to do and people to see and so for me, it was a fine balance of doing all that needed to be done versus taking a bit of time to relax and put our feet up. Time at home with the family is never time wasted. Yes, I know there is plenty we could have got out and done as a family, but the weather has been miserable this week, the budget has been restricted, and now and again its nice to just have a lazy day at home, and enjoy having a bit of quiet family time.

One of our jobs for the week was getting Olivia to have her feet remeasured, to make sure she is wearing the right size shoes, and potentially buy her another pair if they have grown enough, which it turns out they had!

How can a tiny pair of toddler shoes cost more than my branded Firetrap mens shoes, which are several times the size of hers? I feel there is definitely a gap in the market for some healthy competition here!!

The following day was our day out to meet our friends Terri & Chris at a halfway point between their house in Devon and ours, so we decided to meet up and spend the day in Bath, which is a beautiful city and one that I have always wanted to visit. It was an easy enough drive down there, and we were really counting on Olivia having her morning nap in the car, but sadly she only slept for a short while, so we knew there was a chance she could be a bit grumpy today. Thankfully she was suitably distracted by the girls once we all met up, they love seeing her, and its nice to know that they potentially have a lifetime of friendship ahead of them. Our first port of call was Pizza Express, which I was really looking forward to, although the experience sadly didn’t match our expectations. Whilst the staff were friendly and helpful, we had to wait almost an hour for food, and even then they only brought half of them out. It was a further 10 minutes before the childrens meals arrived, and not all of the food was very warm. we were all starving though, so we tucked in and took it up with the staff when it came to paying the bill. Clearly the manager was just having one of those days, and I could feel his pain, just not enough staff and he’d spent several hours in the kitchen himself. Thankfully he went and chopped a significant chunk off our bill and this helped to make up for the wait, but it meant we had spent far longer inside than we’d planned and not enough time getting out and exploring the city.

What really pleased me about these photos is that I had packed up not one, but two cameras… and promptly left them both at home, so all of these were taken on my iPhone!

After taking a walk by the river, exploring some of the shops (including an interesting independent chilli sauce market stall!) and then stopping off for some hot drinks at a Costa, it was almost time to head home. Sadly our pizza experience hadn’t left us much time to explore the sights, although the fact it is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre site means that if you want to see a lot of the sights then you need to put your hand in your pocket! It is a wonderful place, and I’d love to go back and spend some more time there and actually visit the baths next time.

Here’s what the UNESCO website has to say about it: The City of Bath is of Outstanding Universal Value for the following cultural attributes: The Roman remains, especially the Temple of Sulis Minerva and the baths complex (based around the hot springs at the heart of the Roman town of Aquae Sulis, which have remained at the heart of the City’s development ever since) are amongst the most famous and important Roman remains north of the Alps, and marked the beginning of Bath’s history as a spa town.

We finished our day by stopping off at the Royal Crescent, as it was free and right next to the car park we’d dumped the car in earlier. It was lovely to see, a grade 1 listed building and a perfect example of Georgian architecture at its finest. I thought there would be a flood of tourists, and I’d struggle to get a photo, but it was surprisingly quiet!

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As soon as we got home and got Olivia to bed, we sat back and realised that the week was now almost at an end, Friday was done. There was only the weekend before we had to head back to work and the thought was a bit depressing. Its not that I don’t like my job, but after spending time at home with the family I feel spoiled and just wish I could have a job where I could spend more time at home, which is why I have decided that I am going to push the photography business again this year. It has been running very quietly in the background for a couple of years since we got married, started to get the new house ready to move into and then had Olivia. Now it is time to pick things up again, and I am hoping to change direction a bit, moving away from the weddings and more towards newborn photography. If I can get myself on a course and buy some props then I’ll just need a few babies to practise on. I already have some pregnant ladies lined up for later in the year, who are happy to get a free shoot while I build up some portfolio material for the website. I did have a family photoshoot lined up for Saturday that was cancelled due to some cross communication, partly an error on my part, a lesson learnt, but it left the day free. The weather was pretty miserable, and to be honest, we all just fancied a lazy day at home. They don’t happen often, and its nice to just relax without any kind of plan or need to leave the house. The evening was set aside for a 40th birthday, although it was only me heading out tonight as Clare was staying at home to look after Olivia. Nights out up town are few and far between these days, but it was great to finally have a catch up with my friends, celebrating my friend Trevor turning 40. It seems like only yesterday that we were dragging ourselves home after a night out AND a curry as the sun was coming up in our 20s! Now here we are all starting to hit the big 4-0 and life couldn’t be any more different. It was good to let our hair down a bit, especially riding into town and starting the evening in a stretched hummer! Sunday saw me regretting all this a bit though, suddenly last night wasn’t so big and clever. Its fair to say that I was suffering, paying the price for a heavy night. There was no rest for the wicked though, I’d promised my friends that I would be with them by 10am to help them look after their autistic son. It was only for a couple of hours, so I got through it and got home just in time for lunch, very kindly cooked by the wife. In fact everything was very kindly done by the wife today, I was not much use for anything, and even had to retire to bed for an afternoon nap to try and recover a bit of energy ahead of returning to work the following day! Sleep helped a little, but not as much as I’d hoped, so we eventually settled Olivia down for the night and went with the rather naughty option of a Sunday night chinese takeaway and a film to end our week off. Sadly the film choice was given the thumbs down (yet) again by the wife, and it has left me wondering if I still need to keep subscribing to Netflix, as it is becoming increasingly harder to find anything worth watching lately! In fact a quick google search (other search engines are available!) has led me to the fact that Netflix in the US has over two and half times more films than Neflix in the UK. How is that fair? Why do americans get so much of a better deal than us? I thought I’d done okay in my choice of film, but apparently not. Still, must keep trying, better luck next time!

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Its more than 3D TV… its real life!

Whoa! Hang on, are we half way through the half term holiday already? How did THAT happen??

The first two days, Monday and Tuesday have seen me flying solo so to speak, as Clare was working and Olivia was in nursery. Clare had booked Wednesday to Friday off, and so we could all spend some family time together, with Olivia at nursery on a Tuesday and a Thursday, it made sense to move her Thursday session at nursery to the Monday, meaning that Clare had a full three days with Olivia while she was off work.

The first two days of the week were not going to be quiet, although it would have been nice to put my feet up with a book, I had plenty on and was keeping myself quite busy! On Monday, I had to meet up with some friends to discuss helping them, for a couple of hours a week, to look after their son who has autism. A charity has funded some hours for some help, but they didn’t know anyone who may be suitable, or had experience of autism. It wasn’t until a chat on a night out where they realised they had overlooked me and my experience working in the school, especially my more recent experience with autism, dealing with similar behaviours and abilities. Everyone working in any kind of care role, especially children, has to have a criminal check to be employed, this used to be known as a CRB, but has more recently been replaced with the DBS, which is essentially the same thing. Although whilst I can still remain in my current job with the CRB I originally took, which is still valid, I cannot start any new role without the new DBS check. Frustratingly for the family, mine took literally months to process, and eventually came back just before christmas, so once the chaos of christmas was out of the way we were able to meet and discuss how we were going to approach this situation, and what we could do for their son. Straight after I went over to visit my good friend Phil, one of the few from my school days who I still regularly see, and was kind enough to photograph our wedding day. He has just moved house, into what I can only describe as a mansion sized house! Simply huge, just so vast I was trying not to make myself looks stupid by walking round with my mouth open, repeatedly saying “wow!”. When I was done being blown away by the house, I was then taken outside and shown the garden, literally more land than half of our street and their gardens all put together! So much land that I wouldn’t even know what to do with it, I’d feel like I’d have to buy a horse or something, just to justify it!

I sometimes sit back and think how interesting it is how a group of children from the same secondary school, all in the same year, who had grown up together for a number of years, have all ended up on such very different paths in our lives. Back then, we could never have guessed by the time we’d hit 40 years old, who would be married (or not), who would be divorced, who would be rich or poor, who would have children, or even who would have got carried away and had lots of children, or maybe even who would end up living and working in far away exotic corners of the world! It has been a privilege to get back in touch and be able to catch up with some of them in recent years, and become a part of each others lives again.

Life has changed hugely for those of us who have children now, and its easy for us to lose track of time, and so when it comes to arranging a night out or a lunch with the wives and kids, it needs someone to make the first move and get the ball rolling. I have always been one for keeping in touch and so I’ll often be the one to start the process, often all it needs is a text message or two. Time is relentless, and the months continue to fly by regardless, so its important we all stop and catch up with each other once in a while. It doesn’t matter who arranges it, its the getting together one way or another thats important, so what’s a few text messages or emails between friends anyway?

We really do have the joy of social media to thank for so much of this, I have found a lot of my old friends through the likes of facebook, and continue use it to keep up with them even when we’re too busy to meet up. Our age group left school a few years before mobile phones became popular, and before the internet starting appearing in peoples homes! So we literally had no way of staying in touch with people once we left school, unless we had their home landline phone number, or their actual home address, which was all very well until they moved house and/or changed their phone number… then you were knackered! Things are, of course, very different now, we’re more connected than ever, in fact once you have been on the internet, it will take a significant effort to try and remove yourself from it and hide yourself again if you’re one of the few who decide, for whatever reason, that you don’t like it. I have facebook to thank for where I am today, and anyone that knows much about me and the wife will know that even though we met on a night out, we still wouldn’t be together now if it wasn’t for facebook. So all those who knock social media and complain about it for various reasons, I can see that while its not for everyone, it has definitely improved the quality of my life beyond all recognition, and things would be very different for me without it. Would I even be married now, or would I have ever become a parent without it? Who knows? If I hadn’t met Clare then I know my life would have taken a very different course. Some of my friends my age still are not married and still don’t have kids, and we’re of a generation where marriage and children seemed to happen later and later anyway! As a childless 30something living in a shared house when we got together, I’m just grateful I met Clare when I did.

Getting back to this week, on Tuesday, I was still on my own, so I made a second visit back to see my friends again about looking after their son, and today the plan was to actually spend some time with them to see how he behaved at home and out walking, and to let him get used to me being around, and to see how his parents dealt with various situations so that I didn’t create too many changes for him. It went well, and we’ll be doing it all again on Sunday, just to ease us in gently. After I’d left I jumped on the motorway and headed straight over to see my photographer friend Cheryl from Captured By Cheryl. This is a determined woman whose business I have pretty much watched grow from day one when she brought her first new SLR camera. Cheryl knew that she either find out how this camera thing worked or end up getting a regular job and then not be able to spend time at home with her children, or even see much of her partner due to his shifts. She threw herself into newborn photography, spent money on the kit that she needed, turned her living room into a makeshift studio, attended numerous courses and slowly started to see a following build up on her facebook page and her diary regularly full up and her finances begin to turn themselves around. Its almost feels like a proud father moment to see her doing so well, and I hope her business continues to grow at the rate it has been! We caught up for a quick coffee at a Costa, and it was lovely to catch up and “chat shop” with someone who gets as excited about photography and building a business as me. Its a conversation that I just can’t have at home, if I even mention photography in front of the wife, I can see her face begin to glaze over and I may as well be discussing the market statistics for the Tokyo stock exchange in Japanese for all the response I get!

Then Wednesday rolled around, and the wife was no longer at work, her three days off had begun and Olivia was done with nursery for the week, so it was the three of us at home. We had only one commitment today, and that was visiting my sister. I’d promised to take a freshly home baked loaf over for lunch so that we could have some delicious sandwiches for lunch, and with the selection of fillings we had available, lunch went down a treat. Clare had happened to notice online the previous day, that Peppa Pig was going to be visiting the Selfridges store in the Bullring, and so after lunch was finished at my sisters we all jumped in the car and headed into town to see Peppa Pig so that Olivia could meet and have her photograph taken with Peppa. Her face was a picture when we got there, she was so excited to see her, waving and pointing and smiling! It was essentially her first “celebrity” meeting! She even gave Peppa a kiss before she left and had strangers in the queue behind us saying “ahhhhh”.

We also found that Olivia now has a new favourite game, which is riding up and down on all the escalators and travelators she can find! I managed to grab a photo on the iPhone of her doing this in Asda after we’d dropped my sister home. I was also quite impressed with the exterior shot of Selfridges that I’d taken earlier on the iPhone too. Its certainly proving itself as a solid replacement for any compact camera I’ve carried about before!

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Forget the weather, lets go for a walk!

The countdown to the half term holiday is finally over, and its time to relax with the family for a few days. This term has gone so quickly, it feels like we’ve only just started back from the christmas holidays. The major benefit of reaching this particular half term holiday for me, is the amount of daylight whilst I’m cycling to and from work, it makes a massive difference, and I am no longer just relying just on bright lights and a hi-viz jacket to be seen. I do still feel like I need to invest in at least one more front light before next winter to feel completely safe, the one I ordered from China that I waited two months for was great while there was power in the battery, but the charger didn’t work and so once it ran out, it was dead! A real shame considering how bright it was. I can’t even send it back to them, as after waiting two months and sending a few “where is my light? Its starting to get dark here!” emails, they agreed to refund me on the chance it had been lost in the post. Ironically it turned up later that day, I kid you not! Sure, I felt a little guilty, I’d just got a free light, but when the power ran out a few days later and the charger failed to do anything I soon got over it! I’d only have sent it back anyway, so they’d lost nothing.

With half term here, the family time starts at the weekend for us, and this particular Saturday happened to be valentines day so we had the little person with us. The thought didn’t cross our mind to drop her off with family so we could just have some romantic time together, and while the romance certainly isn’t dead, we’d rather have Olivia with us anyway, just the three of us. We had a bit of lazy Saturday where we didn’t go very far, as we had plans for the evening anyway. I had no-one to run with this weekend and so had the dilemma of “do I run or do I not run… or do I just leave it until sunday and hope I’ve got the willpower to run on my own?”. So we stayed at home, which is a nice way to spend a Saturday once in a while, sometimes we can plan too much and not have time to relax. Our Saturday evening involved meeting up with our antenatal friends, as we’d all managed to get babysitters to enjoy a child free night out together for the first time since before the babies were born. Our baby sitter was my sister and boyfriend, who we fed with a bolognese before we headed out. Bearing in mind that everyone in our group was the parent of an 18 month old toddler, we knew it wasn’t going to be a late night.

Sunday morning, and my weekend run just wasn’t going to happen. I bailed out.

Instead we had a fun afternoon meeting our good friends for lunch followed by a walk through Sutton Park. The lunch looked promising, the pub restaurant we’d met in was lovely inside, and while the staff were friendly and helpful, we were let down when the food quite simply took forever to arrive, and considering the portions weren’t huge we were hoping we’d be blown away by the quality… I think its fair to say that while it was nice, I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed by it. Still, an apology from the manager and we shrugged it off and headed for our walk. It was grey outside, and not especially warm, but that didn’t matter, this is Britain and so we can’t waste weekends sat inside waiting for sunshine!

I started tracking the walk on a gps app on my phone, although I missed the start of the walk, but after doing the maths, worked out that we had covered about 4 miles walking from one side of the park to the other and back again. Yes, if you haven’t been to Sutton Park before, it really is that big! It was good to get out and get some fresh air, walk off some of our dinner and get the heart pumping a bit. We should be doing this more often. I can’t wait for when Olivia is a bit more steady on her feet and we can go for more countryside walks. Hopefully when the summer arrives and the days get a bit warmer, she’ll be much more confident in her walking.

As Sunday night arrived, with the weekend coming to an end, normally by now I’d be thinking about Monday morning, preparing lunch and checking the bike over, but with the week ahead off work, I was able to grab myself a few beers and treat myself to a little bonfire in the garden. I’d saved a load of wood from when the fence blew down last year and had to be replaced with a brand new one, and all this wood needed to be got rid of, it was either try and get it in the back of the car and make the drive to the local recycling centre, and NOT have a fire… or just save yourself the time, trouble and diesel, and burn it! When we moved in a brought myself a firepit so that the fire is contained and safe and there are no ashes to sweep up when its done. There is something about a fire that makes a man feel quite primeval, add a beer and it makes for a perfect couple of hours entertainment. Its even more fun when the couple of beers in question have kicked in and you end up playing with the iPhone slow motion feature!

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Look beyond your own little bubble

Each morning I am woken by one of two things, either the little lady waking up in the next room, or my alarm clock. Eventually I roll over to kiss the wife and get out of bed to start my day. I have so much to be thankful for and I never take it for granted for a moment. I have a healthy wife and daughter, a roof over my head that I can call my own, a car, and a job that I enjoy to pay for these luxuries. We’re by no means rich, but we’re happy and fairly comfortable. This fact is regularly highlighted to me on my journey home from work when I go under the five ways roundabout using the underpass to avoid the traffic. Four out of the five days that I cycle through there, there is usually a couple of homeless people asking for change. I have always had mixed feelings about giving to the homeless, people often say we shouldn’t give as it only encourages them to spend the money on drugs or alcohol, donate to homeless charities instead. Who’s to say that homeless people are the same and they are not actually going to spend it on some hot food or a hot drink on a cold day? I often see a few regulars down there, there seems to be a couple that stand out and I often wish I carried a bit of change for them, but in my job there isn’t a lot of call to carry money on me. I’ll give them a nod and a smile, and carry on with my journey, at least feel this way that I am not totally ignoring them like they are any less of a person just because they are homeless. Who am I to judge when I don’t know them? These are real people with real feelings and all sorts of reasons for being on the streets. Most of them don’t actually want to be there, they are not there by choice, and most of them just want the chance to get out of the vicious cycle they’re in!

I was intrigued by one in particular the other day, I have seen a couple of times and noticed that he is often writing. What does a homeless person write about? Was it a letter to an MP complaining about the lack of support? Was it a letter to long lost family? Was it merely a shopping list? Or was it some kind of diary, something left behind to say “look, even if I’m not here now, I once was… I existed even if you didn’t notice me”? I consider words to be very powerful, and to see this guy putting pen to paper meant that being on the street hadn’t beaten him… he had a voice and he wanted someone to hear it! He had more going on in his head than just getting enough change together to get wasted later that day. I did think about it for a while on my ride home.

I’m not the sort of person who can just strike up a conversation with a stranger, its just not me, although I’d love to find out a bit more about our homeless writer friend and how he ended up on the streets, and of course what he is writing about. Most people avoid conversations with a homeless person, we have generally given them a bit of an intimidating persona, imagining they’ll get angry if we don’t give them money. Its easy to imagine this and use it as an excuse to walk past and pretend we didn’t see them. Yeah, maybe some of them have taken the fall on times especially hard and turned to drugs, and sure I wouldn’t want to encourage their habit by throwing more money at it, but getting clean and turning their lives back around is a choice that only they can make, simply walking past not giving them anything probably won’t change anything, as they’ll no doubt find the money one way or another. It does make me wonder what is going on in our society when we have people sleeping rough in the 21st century. How can immigrants wander in a get housing when we can’t keep people who have always lived here off the streets? Something seems wrong about all of that! It was heart warming to read about Robbie, the homeless guy from Preston who offered his last £3 to help a young lady get home late at night, and was rewarded with an online campaign that went viral and raised £45,000 for him. If only we could do more of this and get more people off the streets, especially in this cold weather!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I never take my life for granted, I know how lucky I am, and I am thankful for it every day (even on the bad days!). It hits home when I hear of close friends going through tough times and relationships failing. I literally had my feet swept from under me this week with news of this very kind. One of my oldest friends had spoken with me of tough times the last time I saw him, but knowing the relationship I just thought they’d work through it. It seems I was wrong, and it seems with very little warning, a point of no return has been reached, and while I can’t go naming any names or gossiping about it on here, I can’t complete a journal without mentioning it. This blog documents my life, my thoughts and stuff that affects me, and this is huge news! I am truly gutted by it, especially as I photographed their wedding. Although Its not the first time I have been made aware of couples whose weddings I have photographed that have separated, and I always find it really sad. To have seen, and been a huge part of what should have been their biggest day, only to find out that it just wasn’t meant to be, is a real anticlimax. In two of these cases I hadn’t even got their wedding album back to them before I found out it was all over. Bad times indeed. I guess you just never know whats around the corner. You think you know someone and then suddenly your world turns upside down. Of course nothing is guaranteed, and of course there is no rock solid guarantee that my own marriage couldn’t fall victim to this. I guess everyone, as certain as they are, is taking a chance on love, although I’d like to think that when it comes to odds, with me and the wife they are stacked heavily in our favour. I knew straight away when I met my her (even though I’d had a couple of drinks that night!) that there was something different about her. She was so much more than just a pretty face, she’s the other half of me! I have the best wife ever, and I am well aware of it. If I had a time machine and could go back and change anything, all I’d do is make sure I met her sooner!

Still, enough dwelling on relationships for now, this blog post is a little later than planned and needs to go out, but it can’t be uploaded without this little lady in it…

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Someone has really found their feet, and after daddy being such a soft touch for such a long time and carrying her home twice a week since September from nursery instead of using the buggy, now suddenly she doesn’t want to be carried at all, and would rather walk home! I was a little unprepared for this, but managed to get this shot by giving Clare my phone, as I’m still smitten with it, and it seems to do a half decent job in low light! I need to get in the habit of carrying a camera around with me again as this new 365 project isn’t getting off to a very good start! Oh well!

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Sometimes you have to look a bit deeper

The last few days have been a mix of good and bad, and one of the good points was the arrival of my new phone… yes, I finally have it! The iPhone 6 Plus gold edition, and it is living up to all expectations! I do get very excited around upgrade day, and after many weeks of deliberation I finally managed to make a call on which phone I wanted. I am not going to bore everyone with a review on it, you either like iPhones or you don’t, and if you do then you already know what it does! The one thing I have been especially impressed with though, is the camera. I’d heard numerous people comment on it on various youtube reviews and it really does deliver! I’ve taken a few indoor shots of Olivia and some outdoor shots on some crocuses that have appeared, and I’m blown away by how good it is!

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All three of the above photos were taken in the iPhone 6 Plus. As beautiful as it is, I was a little concerned about the size of it when in came to using the mapmyrun app and tracking the GPS location on my weekend runs, but thankfully realised that there may be an alternative, as a lot of the functions were still working on my trusty old iPhone 5, even without the SIM card in it, as all the apps were using the wifi. I was also pretty sure that the GPS function doesn’t need a phone signal and so would work without the SIM card in, and decided to test this theory. I loaded up the running app on the wifi at home and then took it with me on this mornings run where the GPS found it straight away and tracked us for the entire run while my big new phone sat in the boot of the car. I got back home after a rather chilly 10k run with my friend Rob this morning, and once the phone reconnected to the wifi I could upload all the data. It worked like a dream!

So what didn’t go so well this week then? Firstly it started with my first real injury at work, and bearing in mind I work with children with autism, the school actually caters from 2 years up to 19 years meaning some of them are adults by the time they leave, some are taller and even stronger than me! I’ve managed to be quick enough to avoid any real injury before now, but this week one of them managed to sink their teeth into my arm. Thankfully I avoided any hospital trips as I’d managed to avoid the skin being broken properly because I’d reacted quickly when I saw the teeth heading towards my arm. Yes, not quickly enough I know, but it could have been a lot worse. The surface injuries have pretty much vanished, and now I am left with a significant bruise, although I am lucky that I don’t bruise a great deal, so this is not hugely obvious!

Then there was the sad passing of the mother-in-laws aunt, an elderly lady who lived in Ireland, I believe I’d met her once, but not a bad innings at 94. I think most people would be happy with that! The main implication of this for us, is that the funeral is obviously in Ireland, meaning the mother-in-law, our baby sitter for three days a week, will be away for a few days and so Clare and myself will have to take a couple of days off to look after Olivia. I’m sure work won’t be especially thrilled about it, but they do understand and it shouldn’t cause any problems for them. Between me and Clare, we’ll only need a day off each, and as I’ll be taking Wednesday, at least I can give them a little warning rather than dumping it on them Monday morning.

Our weekend plans also didn’t quite work out. Initially we were supposed to be having lunch with friends on the Saturday, but they had to cancel at the last minute as their youngest was ill again. I do feel sorry for them, he seems to be ill all the time, and they just don’t seem to get a break. As a last minute alternative we decided to have the parents over for lunch instead, but certain complications meant that only Clare’s parents ended up making it over. Something small had caused my mom some distress, and knowing she has been a lifelong sufferer of depression, in the end I figured it was best to just leave it for now. Depression really is a hidden monster, made worse by the fact that some people don’t even know its there and can react really badly to someones apparent unreasonable behaviour or difficult attitude. Being armed with this knowledge doesn’t always help the situation directly at the time, but it does help with how you react to it, and it means that you can avoid making things any worse and know when to just step away. Sadly this had to be the case for lunch, but thankfully it was all soon resolved. We finished our Saturday off with a rare trip to the supermarket for some shopping as we’ve cancelled the home shopping delivery pass, followed by a pizza and a film. I took a gamble on the 80s classic Wall Street, which although I enjoyed, it appears Clare found pretty dull. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

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As has been pretty typical of the weather lately, Sunday started dry and cold, a rather fresh 1ºc, which made the Sunday morning run a real wake up call. As if running 10k wasn’t going to wake you up anyway, doing it in this temperature certainly did a pretty swift job of that! Still, even after last nights pizza and beers, I was up and out and knocking out a 10k run before breakfast. There is a sense of pride in just being able to do that, although it is one of the times where having a running partner is critical, as I’d have otherwise stayed in bed!

With the run out of the way, and Olivias nap done and lunch finished, it was time to head over to see my mom, and make sure she was okay. We knew seeing Olivia would cheer her up, and Olivia could get to show off her walking and dancing skills! We could only stay for a couple of hours though, as we had to be home in time to make sure Clare could get ready and get out for her night out with friends, apparently ‘bingo’ is the new ‘clubbing’!! How times have changed! I thought Clare would scoff at the idea of bingo, not go and join and become a member!!

One of the last points on tonight’s post is the fact that we have some seeds shooting up to mark the start of this years growing season. It’s too early to get them out and planted, as we still have a few weeks of frost ahead of us potentially, and historically we’ve had late frosts up to late Feb/early March for about the last four years. Putting these shoots out now means they’d either get eaten by birds, or more likely just die because of the cold. I just hope we find sufficient time to get over the allotment and keep it in check this year.

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Where does the time go?

I think I am fairly happy now with the new frequency of this years blog. I am still missing being able to put daily thoughts down on here, but the whole blogging daily thing was just unsustainable, and I was starting to get behind towards the end of the year. Although we’re now well and truly into the new year, and as todays title suggests, I don’t actually know where this year is going, we are into February already and the weeks are rolling around with a scary kind of regularity. Working in a school and being almost a victim of routine, so to speak, makes you notice these things even more. There are times when I may be sat in a lesson thinking to myself “I just cannot wait for the weekend”, and suddenly I am sat in that very lesson again seven days later thinking to myself “I’m sure it was only five minutes ago I was wishing for the weekend, has it really a week ago I was sat here thinking that??”, almost like it was the same day and there had been no weekend! When we started the new term after christmas, I was thought about how pleasnant two weeks off had been and it had spoiled me, and this term was going to feel like forever, yet here I am with only a week and a half left, literally just seven actual school days! That’s it, virtually a whole term gone, and I’d barely even blinked!

The practical upshot of this apparently accelerated time scale is that tomorrow is finally phone upgrade day, and I (hopefully) take delivery of my new toy at work, and with a quick backup and restore via iTunes thanks to the genius folk at Apple, I should hopefully have my new phone up and running with all my apps, music, contacts, text & emails, and call logs on it, like I had just photocopied my old phone. Oh the beautiful simplicity of Apple! Yeah I know its not everyones cup of tea, and a lot of people have walked away from the iPhone in the last couple of years, but it literally does everything I want a phone to, and with my only real complaints for me, have been the slightly restrictive screen size and poor battery life of the iPhone 5, but I am a happy bunny now both of those issues have been apparently resolved… well, if you are to believe all the many, many reviews online. I did a whole lot of research this time, more than I’ve done before, and think I’ve made the right choice, still, as the saying goes “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, so I guess only time will tell.

What else has been happening recently? Well my jujitsu didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped and the elusive brown belt I am still waiting on continues to hover just outside of my reach formthe time being. I fell apart on the night during grading and forgot everything, I had a complete mental block and obviously wasn’t quite as ready as my sensei imagined on a few key areas. Our sensei is not the kind of person to try and catch us out, and wouldn’t put us through a grading if he didn’t think we were ready for it, but with us only having one training session a week, and with so much to learn, especially at brown belt level, sometimes weeks and weeks can go by from the time when you practise a technique, to when you get the chance to do it again!

I have been training in jujitsu for over four years now, and my friend Matt started literally a few weeks after me, so we are on the same grade and it really helps when we can train together, although now and again due to his work commitments there are the odd weeks where he can’t make it, and training with the other belts below me doesn’t always give me the practise I need in certain areas. I am determined though, I’m hoping to have that brown belt very soon, they mean so much more to you the higher you go. I remember being very pleased with my first ever yellow belt when I started, but in hindsight, it was such simple and basic stuff that the yellow belt didn’t actually mean a lot. Four years on and I am feeling more confident, although I think I still have a way to go before I’d feel particularly brave in a confrontational situation on the street, which in reality was the whole reason I started doing this. Still, after brown belt the next stop is black, and I will need to be much more skilled and confident by that point! This is definitely a marathon and not a sprint, there is nothing short term about training in martial arts, and I am glad I fought the pre-christmas urge to quit when I was feeling down and fed up!

We’ve been very grateful lately that Olivia seems to be over the majority of her winter germs and is much more energetic now, and sleeping better at night too, although a recent cough is getting in the way of that a little bit, but we are still well on the way to regular sleep patterns again and sleeping through the night. She is now walking pretty much everywhere, the crawling has virtually disappeared altogether, and we’ve even been walking her out in the shops and supermarkets. She’s slow and keeps going the wrong way, but its fun, and we’re never in any hurry to get where we’re going anyway! all this walking has clearly made her very tired though, and when she gets home its obvious that she’s just had enough!

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We’re still looking forward to the weekends and hoping to get out and allow Olivia to do as much walking as she can, although the park is a very cold choice at the moment with temperatures regularly hovering around freeing. The two week forecast is suggesting they will rise slightly, but not by much, and its still going to be pretty chilly overnight! The weather may not be warming up much, but the great news is that the nights are drawing out and the sun is setting later and later. I am even starting to get home before it gets dark now, which makes a huge difference when you are riding home in rush hour and people just haven’t got the time to slow down or pass you safely! There is also the benefit of Clare being able to walk back from the bus stop before it gets dark as well, and the knowledge that she won’t have to make the walk in the dark again until well into October! I just hope we get a good summer with plenty of sunshine so we can enjoy some time in the garden with Olivia playing outside before we have to think about those dark nights again. They’ll be here in no time, where does the time go?

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Day 1 of 365

Originally posted on 365 days through my eyes:

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So the 365 project is back, this year starting on 1st of February after a month off. Today happened to be a Sunday and a family day, As we left the house to head to the shops, we noticed that there was some colour in the front garden and the crocuses have begun to appear. Is this a sign that spring is on the way, or are we expecting more snow and frost?

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life through my eyes

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So what is this weeks news then? Well firstly I’ve taken the weekend off running, I think that when you train hard and push your body you need to stop now and again to let it catch up. So while I am no triathlete, I am usually cycling five days a week and running one day at the weekend in a typical week. Combine this with the fact that I don’t give myself enough sleep each night (although it is a new years resolution to do something about this!) my body can sometimes get a bit run down. So when we had some rather unexpected snow on Friday night I got a text from my friend and we wrote off Saturdays running, and when it came to Sunday my running buddy was feeling under the weather and phoned in sick. So I took the opportunity to make sure it was a weekend of relaxing for me. I still have my goals to focus on, the weight loss initially, and the 10k run in May, but one of the things overlooked in most peoples training is that rest and recovery is as big a part of it as the actually running itself! Needless to say, the the extra hour or so at home this morning was greatly appreciated!

On another subject I have also restarted the 365 project for its third year, and I have decided to disconnect it from this blog and keep it separate. It can be found at http://365daysofandy.wordpress.com/ for any body that wants to stop by and have a nose. It was a big project to take on, and year one was made much easier by the journey we went on announcing the pregnancy, the arrival of Olivia and our transition into parenthood. It was fun, and it will be great to look back on in the future. Year two I went at it again, and largely documented Olivia as she grew and learnt new things. It was not a year for me to be honing my photography skills, this was all about capturing my little girl and making some memories. I debated year three and decided to put it on ice for a little while, but a few weeks into the new year and I am starting to miss it! My baby is a baby no longer, and every day is different. Life is suddenly wonderful and full of excitement, and capturing it is in my nature. Running another 365 project is only going to encourage me to keep a camera in my hand, although hopefully soon I will have a new camera that will make this easier…

No, I am not talking about a super expensive Amazon purchase which would inevitably cause the wife to chase me with a knife, I am in fact referring to upgrade day on my phone contract, which is just days away! My current phone, the iPhone 5, is now two years old has been great, it has done everything I needed it to and been a fantastic phone, and now I can upgrade it, and have finally made a decision on which one will be its successor. This time around it has been tougher than ever, the phone market has changed massively, and smart phones are constantly evolving and becoming more like hand held super-computers! They’re not so much smart phones, more like genius phones! I think I am not alone when I say that I feel naked without mine, it is like an extension of me, and I’d rather leave my lunch at home for the day than leave for work without my phone!

Does anyone remember when we thought this screen was genuinely big enough for all our needs…?
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We may mock it now and wonder how we didn’t lose more of them considering how small they were, but back then at least we got a good few days out of the battery, even when we were using it all the time! On top of which, our choice between phones seemed much simpler during that era, and a 12 month phone contract didn’t seem like such a massive commitment even if we had picked a phone that sucked a bit. Things stepped up a gear for me when I picked up a blackberry, which wasn’t something I may have looked at if my friend hadn’t got one and raved about how good it was. Soon after I signed my contract and took my blackberry home the first ever iPhone was released and I was immediately kicking myself! Being the self confessed tech junkie that I am, I’d seen a new toy that I knew was different to anything I’d owned before… and I wanted it! I had to be patient and wait, and eventually the time came for me to upgrade, in which time Apple has released a new version of the iPhone, the 3GS and so I grabbed one straight away. Like many others, I have never looked back, and when it came to upgrade again it was not even a contest, Apple had changed everything since they released their first iphone, and again, I wanted their latest product, the iPhone 4S. Suddenly this new 2 year contract thing that everyone had been forced to get accustomed to didn’t seem quite so bad as I had a phone that I was actually not looking to upgrade anytime soon. It wasn’t long before the next embodiment of iPhone was released, the iPhone 5, sleaker, longer and faster, I knew it would be my next upgrade… which it was! It was at this point though, that the competition started catching up, and people started to notice that Apple had been caught napping, suddenly the phone market was a mass of exciting technology and this fierce competition between manufacturers had suddenly got very interesting! People that were taken in by the iPhone and all its flashy features were beginning to get put off by Apples inflexibility on the cost of the handset, and when they saw that the competition was as good, if not better, they began to turn to the dark side. I can’t lie, I looked. Several of my friends were switching, and their new toys looked nice, but by this point I was kinda tied in to the whole Apple thing, having the Apple TV at home and an iPad that worked so nicely with both the phone and the Apple TV, as well as the wife having an iPhone too and us being able to enjoy the benefits of the two handsets working together effortlessly in that magical Apple way! I had a decision to make now, upgrade day wasn’t far away and the competition looked sweet… but… Apples new iPhone had yet to be unveiled. They had to pull something special out of the bag this time or it was likely to see a mass exodus from iOS to android. I had grown to love my iPhones and the simplicity of such powerful products, and really wanted this to be something that I’d continue to want, and they didn’t disappoint! With the iPhone 6 and 6 plus being announced, I think many iPhone users were happy, as was I. The android option was still there for me, and my friends LG was a seriously nice looking piece of kit, so what to do?! I did more research on this upgrade than I have ever done before, and lets face it, a two year contract is going to feel like forever if you pick a crap phone! I checked out multiple reviews online, and countless reviews and comparisons on youtube, listing all the pros and cons of staying with Apple or switching, and what it was about the new iPhone would actually make me want to stay. There were strong arguments for both sides, and in the end I decided that it wasn’t quite 50/50, it was actually 60/40 in favour of one device… I was staying with Apple, and come upgrade day which is actually this Thursday, I’ll be putting my name down for a new iPhone 6 plus. The reviews have been very impressive, Apple have addressed the screen size issue, the battery issue and given us a phone with a great camera, from what I’ve gathered. So I am hoping that when I come to upgrade, suddenly my phone camera will be a suitable alternative to having a compact camera around. Sure, my iPhone 5 has done the trick when it has needed to, but it had its limitations. One of the shining reviews about the new iPhone 6 was its camera, and even though the megapixel count has not changed since my phone, it is still wowing people with the results it is producing, and that can’t be argued with! How much will I be using it for this years 365 project? I guess time will tell!

And before I sign off for the night and make my way to bed…

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This little lady has now had her very first haircut, and is sporting a very cool fringe! The major downside of this is the sudden and painful realisation that she really isn’t a baby any more… apparently they keep growing, who knew?!

Our little baby has (what feels very suddenly) gone from being this exactly TWO YEARS AGO today…

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to this little lady that we see marching around the house now, making various demands on us…

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When I met my wife I thought I’d never fall in love again, oh how wrong I was, our gorgeous little daughter has totally stolen her daddys heart!

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Does life actually begin at 40? Really??

Life changes when you become a parent, and you never know by how much until you actually get there. Its different for everyone, and I have since found that for us, routines have become a huge part of our life. These can be both a good thing and a bad thing, although on the whole they’re mostly good. Being able to anticipate, and plan and prepare things helps us to bring up our daughter the best we can. With our routines in place, more often than not we will just plod on through our daily life, getting on with things as we always do, but occasionally things may happen that make you stop for a moment and begin to think, and you may start to think about life, about how it has changed recently, about where its come from and where its going. This has happened to me recently, and I think it all started with a recent succesion of 40th birthdays of my friends that I have been celebrating in the last few months. Some people don’t get especially excited by birthdays once they’re over the age of 21, some people don’t get excited at all, although there are some people who treat each one like a six year old on christmas day! Some people, on the other hand, get very sensitive about their age, and I’d like to think I’ve never really been one of those people. I didn’t do a great deal for my 21st, a small garden party with a bbq and a few family and friends, and then my 30th pretty much passed without any great deal of ceremony, in fact for that paricular birthday my ex at the time didn’t even get me a present, and in fact I think I was supposed to be grateful that I even got a card! I wasn’t especially concerned with the thought of turning 30, I had no problem saying goodbye to my 20s, in fact I almost felt a bit grown up at this point, like people should actually start taking me seriously because I was a bona fide adult once I became 30, right?! Soon into my 30s and I thankfully became single again and left the crazy ex behind, and although I’d spent a lot of time in relationships in my 20s the thought of being single didn’t bother me at all, it was quite refreshing, but eventually with each passing birthday, I started to become vaguely aware of the problem of being unmarried and without children as I sailed further away from 30 and more in the direction of 40. Not exactly a huge concern at the 30 end of the scale, but with each year that went by, I started to think about it now and again. As luck would have it, it wasn’t long before I met Clare, my soul mate, the girl I just knew was right for me, we got married a couple of years later and eventually along came our beautiful daughter Olivia. In our new house, with our new family, life was suddenly wonderful, I had everything, I finally felt settled and happy, and I still am, although in recent months, I have suddenly started becoming aware that 40 is not far away and fast approaching. Next year sees me counting down the last few days of my 30s, and it kinda got me thinking about life and stuff. I have spoke to several of my friends who have recently turned 40, and on the whole they generally don’t seem too concerned about it, although for some strange reason I am, just a little bit, and that thought is starting to niggle at me now and again. I couldn’t even tell you why, but I know I am starting to contemplate what I’ve done with all that time, almost like maybe I should have achieved so much more in life, or something? Maybe I just haven’t been looking the bigger picture, maybe I have to finally accept that I am a different person now and that the 18 year old in me that still wants to party and drink all night until the sun comes up has finally gone. I have realised that life has reached a corner, not an end, it isn’t suddenly all over at 40 at all, in fact quite the opposite, life is quite literally just beginning, its just a very different kind of life… its a whole new chapter, and its life as a parent! My compass has been suddenly reset and my direction has shifted. I’m entering a new phase, and its going to take a bit of getting used to, but you’d have thought that all the grey hairs that have been making an appearance in the last few years would have prepared me better for that!

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Still, I have to put it all this behind me and remember that age really is just a number, and 40 means nothing at all, tomorrow is another day, and this little lady is making every minute of every day all worthwhile! We seem to have done a good job bringing her up so far (I think… is it too early to tell?), and I think the only real thing bothering me is the fact that I wanted to have two children and to have had them before I turned 40.. which now isn’t very far away at all, and as we’re still trying to do the maths to work out how we can afford nursery fees for two, it looks like No.2 may not be making an appearance any time soon! My Job, as much as I love it, and as much as it provides me with good working hours and great holidays, doesn’t exactly pay a fortune, so the financial side of having a second child becomes a bit of a concern, and not something we can just overlook! Still, I am sure we’ll work something out. We managed to do okay the first time around.

I have actually been reading a number of blogs recently on parenting, and how others have coped and how different people deal with the various scenarios that present themselves when you have a mini human running aroung the house. What really occurred to me was how both myself and Clare have coped with everything so far, both preparing for parenthood and since Olivia’s arrival. We have both been very calm, rational, logical, and sensible, and mist of all we’ve talked and agreed on everything. When we found out that we were expecting, I guess like most people, we had that moment of “Arrgghh! What next? What do we do now?”, and I think the temptation is to prepare, and prepare like there is going to be some kind of war where shops will no longer exist. Buy everything, buy the best, and buy lots of it!! Its no wonder that some people can see having a baby as such an expensive time. For us this really wasn’t the case. Like the wedding, we tried to plan it out and prepare in advance, having a look at what we wanted versus what we actually needed. A quick walk around Babies R Us soon showed us that we could easily go crazy and max out a credit card if we actually wanted to get a bit reckless and decide to “throw caution tomthe wind because our baby is worth it”… but logic reminded us that we weren’t brought up with such luxuries as children, and our little girl was rather unlikely to thank us, pat us on the back or high five us for spending wasting so much money on “things” when all people were actually concerned about was how cute she looked!

We looked at bedroom furniture sets and found that, if momey was no object, we could easily spend upwards of £600 or more on a cot/cupboard/drawers combo, some of them were not far off £1000, and yes they were very nice bedroom sets, but we didn’t have that kind of money. On top of which, the wardrobes we toddler size… and last thing I heard, they don’t stay toddler size forever, so if we got a toddler size wardrobe, at some point it would need replacing! Instead we opted for a standard adult wardrobe from Argos for £200, a cotbed to last her until she is 5 years old, and a set of drawers also from Argos for £45. Total spent about £360, which is a far cry from the bedroom sets in Babies R Us, and on top of which the extra large wardrobe meant we also had the bonus of extra space for some of our clothes too!! We debated buying a brand new buggy, and did have some that we being offered to us from friends, and this is the one area we did splash out a little where we could have actually saved, but we took a walk around the new Kiddicare store in Merry Hill and found a bargain, neutral colours with a mickey mouse logo (as we still didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl), it was a complete travel kit turning from a pram, into a car seat, and then to a buggy as she got older. It was all we were going to need from birth up until she no longer needed to be pushed about. With £100 off in a sale, we took it there and then! There were some prams and buggies that only had the one function, not three like ours, and were going from anything around £600 up to £1000 or more, and we got ours for the budget price of £300! We didn’t bother wasting money on clothes or nappies, as so many were given to us, in fact for the first six months of her life we didnt have to buy her any clothes wnd the only clothing I’d bought her myself was the coat that she came out of hospital in when she was newborn! When we did finally start buying nappies we looked at the popular and most obvious choice of Pampers, but then caught onto the fact that many people had found the award winning Aldi nappies, which we’d heard so many good things about, for around a third of the price of Pampers. We tried them, they worked, we saved a small fortune, and Olivia is still wearing them now, 17 months on!

Its fair to say, that while Clare was on maternity leave, this new little person in our lives wasn’t actually costing us a great deal after all, pretty much just over £600 was all we had to lay out, and half of that was optional. We even borrowed the moses basket that she slept in rather than buy a new one, and little by little added to the bits she needed as she grew. We didn’t do it all on the cheap, but we had pretty much got everything we needed for the price that some people would have paid for just a buggy alone. Even though we could have no doubt done it cheaper, it didn’t feel like we’d thrown money away just to look good or impress people. If we didn’t have the income we did, I know we could have borrowed so much more from our friends, as so many of them kindly offered to lend or give us things.

Its fair to say that baby number two, whenever he or she should make an appearance will not cause us any concern, especially if there is one of us off work to look after them! We will have to cross that bridge at some point, but I guess I’d better sign up for some medical tests or something in the mean time and start saving!

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