31.365.2014

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

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Ah the sweet taste of freedom, it’s Friday night, time to kick back, relax and look forward to two days with the wife and the daughter! Ideally, as its now the Chinese new year, we’d have picked up a takeaway, Chinese obviously, to play our little part in the celebrations. With the wife now on maternity pay however, we have to swap the luxury of a takeaway for the chilli that was hidden at the back of the freezer, from back when Clare was still pregnant and we were cooking meals in advance, preparing for the chaos that we were anticipating when baby Vokes arrived… the chaos that basically just never happened! With such a well behaved baby, we were free to continue cooking normal meals, and the frozen ones just kinda got forgotten about, that is until tonight anyway. We’d eaten the other meals that had been prepared, and for me, Chilli is a Friday night food anyway, so I was good with that.

I took todays photo to remember this time, Olivia is nowhere near standing yet, or even rolling over, but she is taking a lot of weight in her legs and managing to stand for up to five minutes at a time with us just holding onto her hands to balance her, not support her weight! She loves standing and its lovely to see her so happy doing it, as well as the fact that all the while she does its building up the muscles in her legs, ready for when she does start moving about and trying to crawl or stand or whatever babies do first! I was really hoping to be taking her swimming this weekend, but it looks like we may have to postpone again as her poor little tummy still isn’t right, and we’re still having quite a few nasty nappies. We’ve been very relaxed parents and tried not to panic or worry about every little thing or call the doctors at the slightest sniffle, but at the same time we don’t want to overlook anything that may be a cause for concern, and with these nappies not being right for a few days this week, it was time to get the doctors opinion. Clare took Olivia in during the week and the doctor essentially shrugged and said “Meh!”, which was exactly what we predicted would happen. Olivia is drinking her milk, sleeping well, not dehydrated and importantly still a very happy baby, so the nappies are either a) one of those things, or b) potentially related to teething. Either way, we’re not especially concerned and as soon as the nappies are back to normal, off to the swimming pool we go!

In bike news, the new bike is an absolute joy to ride and even the relentless rain on tonights journey home from work struggled to stop me enjoying it. I have decided to go ahead and purchase another rear light again, this one is going to be much brighter, its the Cateye Volt 50 and has some great reviews, plus I was super impressed with the Cateye Volt 300 front light! I know I only have a few weeks left of cycling in the dark, but even when i’m not, on days when its dull, grey and raining these are going to be essential to make myself as visible as possible, as drivers don’t seem to need any excuse to lower their driving standards even further. My theory is that the brighter your back lights, the more seriously cars on the road will take you. I do find myself often thinking, either when I am catching up with a slower cyclist or driving, that if they have a piss poor light on their bike and I can barely see them until I am almost on top of them, well… they kind of have it coming really, don’t they?! If someone hits them because it was dark and their lights were shit, then they kind of have no-one to blame but themselves! I have very little sympathy for poor cyclists, a lot of cycling is common sense. I mean sure, a helmet isn’t a legal requirement in this country, and no, of course it won’t stop a lorry crushing you, but from experience, if you go flying across the front of a car and land head first on the road… well, I hope I don’t need to explain where this is going! As for the cyclists jumping red lights thing, its no wonder car drivers get angry quite frankly, a red light means stop, end of! So yeah, I can see why some motorists get ticked off with cyclists, but then they have to remember that this is genuinely a case of the few ruining it for the many, not all cyclists are the same. I very often pull up to red lights and see other cyclists waiting there, wearing their helmets with their lights on the back of their bike. It would be like me saying, ALL car drivers run red lights, speed, park illegally, don’t have insurance, and drive far too dangerously. Of course its not the truth, and so on that note, why apply the same blanket hatred to all cyclists?? It has become apparent to me in recent months the amount of sheer hatred on the road between cars and cyclists, and I can’t figure out where it has all suddenly come from. We’ve always had cyclists on our roads! In Holland its the done thing, there are actually more cyclists than cars, and nobody falls out! My theory is that a) our roads just aren’t big enough (NOT the cyclists fault!), b) there are more cyclists on the road now as cars become increasingly more expensive to run (also not the cyclists fault) c) there are more cars on the roads with many households now having multiple cars (also surprisingly not the cyclists fault) and d) driving standards have just plummeted (again, not the cyclists fault). If I can just dwell on point d for a minute, as a driver myself, the one thing I have noticed in almost 20 years of driving is how bad the majority of drivers have become. Sure, from time to time i’ve gone a bit faster than I should have done, and yeah I’ve got to an amber light about to turn red and thought “f*ck it, i’m going!” but I also have a clean license and a full no claims, so I think I am fairly qualified to comment. There does seem to be a growing trend of bad driving, especially in the city, the anger behind the wheel of some drivers is insane, and I watch some people and just think to myself “at some point, someone saw fit to pass you on your driving test…. how??”. So while car drivers constantly point out that cyclists are “a bloody nuisance”, maybe its just their petrol fuelled anger talking, people seem to calm down so much when they step out of the car again, and maybe its that the cyclist isn’t being unnecessarily aggressive or angry for no reason whatsoever, just that they can’t believe that your stupid, ignorant, reckless manoeuvre amazingly didn’t actually kill them!

Anyway, enough ranting for this week, I think I’ve made my point and I have a bottle of wine to finish before bed!

30.365.2014

“We’ve been focusing so much on getting there that we haven’t been enjoying the ride”

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This morning was the moment of truth, time to take the trusty new steed out on the road, and what a morning to take my new bike for its debut ride. It seemed much darker than the last few mornings, and at just 2ºc it was very cold, not a morning when I needed to be stopping to try and fix things! It was almost like the sun had actually been cancelled today, but the bike totally took my mind off it, it was an absolute pleasure to ride! It looks like the weather forecast for the next week is set to do its best to put me off cycling, but I don’t give up that easily! I will be very glad for the arrival of February though, when I can actually cycle to and from work in daylight again. I still need to get some new lights for my bike though, the ones I got just before christmas are good, but just not enough! In all the years of cycling, I have never given lights the attention they deserved, I just wish someone had told me years ago about the importance of good lighting on a bike. Sadly one of the first and only places most people will go for bikes and bike accessories is Halfords, and whilst they sell a lot of bike accessories, their range of lights is, quite frankly, shocking! The only place I go now, is Amazon or eBay, the range of half decent lights on offer is so much better and lights that actually fill me with a little confidence as well.

The ride home was wet… wet and cold… wet and cold and dark and to be honest, its the wet that gets me. I can cope with anything else, even when the temperature drops to -4ºc i’m fine, its just the relentless rain! Just my luck that apparently we’ve had the wettest January ever since records began over 100 years ago! Still, it could be worse, there are families around the UK living in villages still totally surrounded by water, totally cut off from everyone else. Our problems in the Midlands are virtually zero by comparison! Still, I made sure I was well wrapped up before I left work, and was toasty warm on the way home. I text the wife before I left work and mentioned that I was starving, and bless her, dinner was pretty much ready when I got home. How lucky am I?! I’m making the most of this while I can, as soon as she is back to work, I am likely to be the first one home, and therefore expected to get on with the dinner, a bit of a role reversal!

I got some smiles out of Olivia when I got back, but it wasn’t long before the tiredness kicked in , as it was that time of night, and I was taking her upstairs for a nap in her cot. She woke screaming about half hour later, I am guessing some kind of bad dream, so I brought her back downstairs, calmed her down and rocked her to sleep, where she proceeded to spend the next hour asleep lying across my chest. Its lovely, but doesn’t give you the chance to get much done, and I was hoping to go and visit my nan again tonight!

Oh well, last day of the week tomorrow, Friday is almost here!

29.365.2014

Every day I fall in love with the same girl…

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Right, tonights post can’t be long, its late and I need to be up early!

So, very resentfully took the car to work today, but was secretly a little glad on the way home as it was 4ºc and raining, relentlessly! It was not just wet, it wasn’t just cold and wet, it was really cold and wet! I didn’t hang about once I was home either, the bike was straight in the back of the car and off to halfords! What I didn’t want was to get there armed with attitude and a bike that needed fixing, only to find that the only people who could do the job had gone home! Thankfully there were two guys on the bike dept that were straight on the case and although they too couldn’t free the cursed pedal, they did take the whole crank arm off and put one on from the display bike, loosening the new pedal for me as they did it! I was now happy, a bike I could take to work in the morning! I got home and had dinner with the wife and then set about completing the jobs that needed doing to get the bike ready for the dark morning, cold air and busy traffic of the Hagley Road. Apart from popping over to see friends for a cup of tea for an hour half way through, as it is Wednesday night and we always catch up on a Wednesday, I spent the rest of the night trying to finish the bike off. The hardest job was moving the mud guards over from the old bike, it sounds easy, but its a rather snug fit, the bolts had ceased up and I had to remove the brakes to do it! With the seat adjusted and the lights transferred, the bike is now almost ready for the road, I just have to remember to put some oil on the chain! I just hope there aren’t any issues as I haven’t taken it for a road test yet!

I felt bad for not spending enough time with Olivia this evening, but in reality she is asleep a lot in the evenings now anyway, and going to sleep at a very regular time and I did make sure I spent some time with her while she was awake before heading out. There is only so much quality time you can spend with a baby that is fast asleep!! She is now also into her third night in the cot in her own room, and we’ve had no problems, she goes off fine and wakes up happy around the same time as she usually did in the moses basket, and the wife even seems to think that her naps are getting longer during the day now she’s in the cot too, rather than the very brief 20 minutes they have been in recent weeks!

Anyway, that’s me done for today, now to try and get some sleep!

28.365.2014

“Annoyance and pathos warred in my breast, and after a short struggle, annoyance punched pathos in the snout like the voracious shark it was.”

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Annoyed? Why yes, that’ll be me then! Today is going to be one of those whingy, moany posts, so if you’re just here for the picture then move along, you’ve seen it!

So I spent ages last night getting my old bike ready to hit the road, and set off for work this morning, a reasonable journey until I actually got to within a few hundred yards of work and my back tire suddenly went flat! With no way of fixing it I had little choice but to call the wife and get her to pick me up after work!

I’d decided that I wanted a new bike anyway and arranged through the cycle to work scheme to pick up a new bike today, it was a lovely bike with some good reviews, I just had to try and find the time to collect it after work, and before I headed out to my Tuesday night Jujitsu class. I had little choice but to collect it on the way, only the traffic was giving me the finger and telling me “not tonight Vokes!”. I was well and truly going nowhere. Finally I got to Halfords and picked up the bike, and got on the motorway, getting stuck in even more traffic, and it didn’t help that I got on going the wrong way!! It was official, I was out of time, the journey was 35 minutes at best, it was 6:45pm and the class, lasting only an hour, starts at 7:00pm. It was time to accept the inevitable and head home! I set about fixing my new bike up for the morning, and my first job was taking off the pedals and putting my clip pedals on. Turns out it was also to be my last job, I broke my spanner on the first pedal and had to head back to Halfords to buy a new one, when I got back I cut my finger wide open on the second pedal and still couldn’t get it off, even with the new spanner! I tried and tried to the point that I was wearing down the nut on the pedal, and feared I would never get it off. I had to accept defeat and face the fact I was not cycling tomorrow and my new bike was essentially useless at the moment! Looks like I am taking the car after all, something I didn’t want to have to do! I’m going to have to take the bike back into Halfords and tell them to fix it or give me another one! I could well do without having to waste even more time, why does nothing go simple when I buy bikes from there??

Just to make all this worse, it was time that I WASN’T spending with my daughter. I wouldn’t mind if I had a working bike at the end of it, but all I have now is a bike I can’t use and a plaster on my finger and no patience left! At least I got to enjoy a little time with the daughter, and a delicious dinner courtesy of the wife. I did take Olivia up to her room for a nap before her final bottle of the night and as she was still awake, decided to read to her and picked up where I left off with Paddington Bear on the Kindle app on my iPad. I know she is too young to understand the words, but I believe that it is good for her to get to know my voice properly, and be surrounded by proper words and not just baby noises and cooing and to establish her concentration and listening without the distraction of music or tv! I want to make reading to her a part of a regular night time routine.

27.365.2014

“Ideas pull the trigger, but instinct loads the gun.”

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This weekend was an idea that just never happened, and that idea was to take my bike down to the repair shop and get the gears looked at. Just before I got home on Friday the rear gears on my bike totally failed on me, I’d have a go at trying to fix it if I could work out what caused it! So today I had no choice but to take the car to work, and thanks to the wife for letting me use it. We became a one car family two years ago after my car was written off, as I mentioned in a recent post, and so far only having the one car has caused us no real problems. Things obviously changed when Olivia was born, as Clare would obviously be off work and would need the car to get out and about if she didn’t want to be sitting around the house all day. Consequently I do feel a little guilty when I take the car to work and leave her without it, even though I know a) she has probably been out several days that week and wants a day in, and b) her parents are retired and living just around the corner, and c) its generally only on days that its pouring with rain or icy that I take it anyway.

I decided to head into work early today, and instead of hitting the treadmill, as I still have this horrible cold anyway, actually got some work done instead, so I can get out early and take my bike to the bike shop, like I should have done on Saturday! I tried calling them, but they didn’t answer, and upon getting there with my bike in the boot of the car, it became apparent why… they were closed! At 4:15pm they must have been closed all day, although I can’t think why. My plan was to head to Halfords afterwards anyway to buy a new light bulb for the car, so I thought I’d see if they could look at the bike instead. After waiting what felt like an eternity with almost no staff visible, I was finally told that they couldn’t help anyway. I got what I needed and headed home.

This evening it became my mission to get my old bike up and running again and ready to take me to work tomorrow. This was going to involve re-inflating the tires, taking my clip pedals from the current bike and putting them on the old bike, oiling everything and then transferring the lights. It took a lot longer than I expected as the pedals were almost impossible to get off, but I managed it! Now my bike is ready for the morning, although I haven’t taken it outside and tested it, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the gears behave! Even though she has assured me she doesn’t need it, I don’t want to leave the wife without the car for two days in a row!

In other non bike related news, it looks like tonight is the night we leave Olivia in her own room over night. It feels like a big move, and i’m not sure i’m 100% ready for it anymore, but we do have the baby monitor! Still, she’s in there now, and its probably a good thing as there’s every chance I’ll be making some ungodly snoring noises with this horrible cold, and an inability to use my nose which currently feels like it has been sandpapered! One of the downsides to working with children is the difficulty in avoiding their pesky germs!

26.365.2014

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana…

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Very grateful to my wonderful wife for allowing me a bit of a lie in this morning, as I was up later than I’d hoped last night fighting with itunes, and then to top it off, woke up this morning with a cold. No, I’m not after any sympathy, just grateful for an extra hour in bed!

We’d invited both of the parents over today for lunch, and it was a great success. We used the posh plates from Christmas and it all tasted delicious, the beef was cooked perfectly and the yorkshire puddings came up a treat! I had already decided, before anyone turned up, that I wanted to recreate a photo I took almost six months ago just before Olivia was born…

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I thought it was a lovely comparison, and I’m glad with how it came out. I was very grateful to the two mothers for washing up after we’d eaten. The kitchen looks spotless again already! Both parents had a lovely day spending time with Olivia and being cooked for, and commented on how much more they enjoyed the food having not had to stand and cook it themselves. Olivia seemed to enjoy all the attention, although did need to keep having naps, and so we made sure she went up to her cot in her own room. The video monitor, although a bit of a luxury, has been a great asset!

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People have said “Oh it’ll make you neurotic, you’ll end up watching it all the time instead of the tv!” which couldn’t be further from the truth. When our little lady sleeps, she really sleeps! It would be pointless to watch it all night, but it does save her rather anxious mother the trouble of heading upstairs every 15 minutes to make sure she hasn’t smothered herself with a blanket! Last night we gave in and put her back in her moses basket in our room, but clearly she likes to spread out, a luxury the moses basket does definitely not allow any more! So, is tonight the tonight we let our big girl sleep in her own room? It feels like such a big step, I can’t lie, I’m a little anxious about it myself, but it has to happen soon, no matter how much we try to kid ourselves! On a plus note, her poorly little tummy seems to be slowly getting a bit better, although we have introduced some water in between feeds to make sure she doesn’t dehydrate!

Sadly it looks like tomorrow morning I’ll be taking the car, my poor bike is having gear issues and there is a weather warning for frost, which is never a good thing when the amount of rubber I have in contact with the road is the size of two postage stamps! All in all the best thing is going to be to drive, so I’ll have to get up extra early and see if I can compensate with a big run on the treadmill!

25.365.2014

“The storm starts, when the drops start dropping. When the drops stop dropping then the storm starts stopping.”

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It comes as no surprise that the day started slowly with both me and the wife feeling quite tired. We didn’t hurry to get up and let Olivia have cuddles in our bed for a while. It was a nice way to start the day. There was only one real plan today, and that was to take Olivia for her first time swimming. Sadly, her poor little tummy wasn’t quite right and we’d had a number of nasty nappies in the last 24 hours, so we abandoned the idea. We didn’t yet have a swimsuit for her anyway, it had been my plan to get up early and buy one first. Eventually we decided it was time to get out of the house, and took ourselves off to find a swimsuit for Olivia, which thankfully didn’t take too long. We’ll try her in it next week and see if we can find some baths with a decent kids pool that isn’t too cold. While we were out on our little shopping trip, some dark grey clouds rapidly rolled over and the next thing I know the car is being battered by a hail storm with lightning flashing above us and the road turning into a real hazard. We were soon heading down hill and had to adjust our speed as the road was covered in hail, these tiny little balls of ice were not going to be our friends when we tried to brake at the bottom unless we slowed right down. Normally in the UK we find hail showers lasting a minute or two, but this went on for a full 20 minutes or longer and by the time it had finished, the ground looked as if it had been snowing! After we picked up the swimsuit our next stop was the DIY store to check out some home alarms as Clare was having some reservations over the long term cost of the ADT one that we’d recently signed up to, as we still have a few days left to cancel the contract. Hopefully we will get one installed pretty sharpish, as the recent break-ins in the area have left me VERY nervous about leaving the house unattended! My only reassurance is that the back of our house can been seen clearly by most of the houses behind us. The last break in we knew about was just a couple of doors down and they have big bushes all around their garden! My last job of the day was to pop to the butchers to get piece of meat for lunch tomorrow as we have both parents coming over. I spent a bit more than I expected, but I don’t usually buy beef for six people, and maybe I’ll even get a bit left over to take to work on next weeks sandwiches. Clare headed out for an hour to the evening service at church and left me with Olivia, who was asleep in her cot by the time Clare came home. We want to put her down in the cot just for naps at the moment, but as I type this I’m still not sure if she is coming back into our room tonight, or we’re going to leave her in the cot overnight for the first time. She’s quite happy there and perfectly safe, but I know Clare is reluctant to give in just yet. I’ll admit, I am too, but it has to happen at some point!