365 project, Personal, Photography


“Something for the weekend, sir?”


Anyone who has known me long enough will know that I took a change in career some years ago, and left my classroom assistant job in a special needs school to chase a career in retail management with a major supermarket, needless to say it reached a point where I knew I had made a bad decision and I really regretted my choice. Retail was not for me, and the company I was with clearly were all about the numbers, not the names. It got to a point where the daily stress was too much, I knew that if I did not leave it was going to start affecting my health, and so I gave up the desire to earn the big bucks and headed back to my old job where I knew I could be happy again. One of the things I had really missed during my time in retail was the weekend, that good old Friday feeling. It became very important to me when I started to photograph weddings and I realised how inflexible retail would be with letting me take occasional Saturdays off. Now I would be lost without my weekends off, and with tomorrow being Friday, I am very happy to have this first week after the half term holiday out of the way already. I am hoping that this weekend I can have another attempt at taking my daughter swimming on Saturday without her falling asleep before we leave the house, and then on Sunday I’ll be off to the NEC for the debut of The Photography Show, which is replacing the Focus On Imaging show that has been there for the last 25 years or so. It is total geek heaven, and requires a will of steel to walk out empty handed! I am as yet undecided on how to get there as it is £10 to park a car, regardless of how short you stay for! I may consider getting the train in, its a little bit too far to cycle!

The other thing I want to give some consideration to this weekend, is the allotment. I have probably mentioned this before, but with the weather being a bit mental, I still haven’t got around to planting any seeds and the weeks are just ticking by! My big concern is that I will plant the seeds and we will end up getting a late frost, and maybe even snow, just to make it a bit more fun! The last couple of years we have seen some late snow that has ruined some peoples allotments, and killed off numerous plant shoots. Thankfully I have a green house that I can get the seeds started in, I just need an hour to sort it! Our daughter is now starting to eat blended vegetables, and I can think of nothing better than her eating home grown food, free, organic, fresh and extra tasty! I just hope I can get some tomatoes on the go this year, I made had some wonderful soup the last time we had a big batch of tomatoes! Olivia has spent about a week now eating sweet potatoes, but the wife has just blended up some carrots, butternut squash and some parsnips for her to try as well. Jars of baby food?… Pfftt who needs them?! It really is very exciting watching all the changes in my little girl, and she is so close to sitting up now, and is also on the verge of rolling over onto her tummy! It makes me one proud daddy! I do try to imagine what life would be like if I couldn’t see her, and wonder how some fathers cope when the marriage/relationship breaks down. Without going into too much detail, I’m not totally unfamiliar with this situation as my own father walked out on me and my sister when I was three, and his alcohol problem put a massive strain on the relationship as we were growing up. Many people had lots of good things to say about my dad when he hadn’t been drinking, sadly it just wasn’t all that often. One of my big worries as I grew up was that I would start to see myself making the same mistakes that he had made. Still, I think I did okay in the end! I’d like to think he’s looking down and proud of me!

Right then, lets do this! Its Photography Show weekend, the Formula 1 Grand Prix season starts in 14 days, and it all starts with Friday night… come on Friday, lets have a piece of you!!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“After hump day, the weekend gets closer.”


Today I found out that pretty much the whole word knew that Wednesday was otherwise known as “hump day”, yet I was totally oblivious!! I thought it was like “kissing day” or “hugging day”, just a bit less subtle! Apparently it’s referring to the uphill of Monday and Tuesday and the downhill of Thursday and Friday, that told me!

So Wednesday is here and we are now over half way through the week, although today hasn’t been hugely eventful apart from having to stop halfway home to snap my mug guard off my bike as it was in bits anyway and rubbing on the tire. It would appear I have literally been kicking it to bits as I turn the front wheel round sharp corners and pedal at the same time, although this didn’t appear to be a problem on my last bike. How frustrating. Not exactly newsworthy stuff, but thats kinda been the peak of my day really. Of course, there are the hours at work that I don’t talk about, but that is strategic, talking about work on any kind of social media at all is heavily frowned upon in most businesses, regardless of the content! That’s the thing about this, you just never know who is reading. I see the stats on an almost daily basis, just to see whats going on, but it still surprises me when people get in touch to tell me that they enjoy reading this nonsense and even go as far as to say that they look forward to it. Really? Well, whatever floats your boat! This blog is here to stay for a little while anyway, I have committed myself to another year of the 365 and I intend to keep the journal style notes to go with it. 2013 was quite literally gone in a flash, and if you’d asked me what I’d done with the year I would have stared blankly at you and shrugged my shoulders! I have a feeling that 2014 is going to go very much the same way, as it is March in just two days, and it only feels like last week that we were putting up the christmas decorations! So if you are reading this as a regular thing, rather than just a one off as I imagine most of the visitors are, then let me know!

Normally I am out seeing friends on a Wednesday and although that didn’t happen tonight for various reasons, and I have still left it until the last minute to realise that I haven’t put my new mud guard on my bike yet and it is now way too late to be considering it, even though the forecast tomorrow is for showers, so raining or not, the roads are going to be wet, and eventually so will I be! Damn it!! The weather is still showing no signs of giving us a bit of a break, rain, wind, subzero temperatures, more wind… and that’s just the Midlands that have pretty much got away with it all, we won’t even mention the coast or the riverside villages in the country that have lost most of their possessions! I am fairly certain that we will see a summer which is absolutely nothing like last year, perhaps like the cold, wet 2012 we had. This miserable start to the year doesn’t bode well!

So instead of heading out to see friends tonight, I have actually had a rather slow evening for a change, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself, but knew I had to get a photo before it got too late, which is never easy when you are not feeling any inspiration… but then it hit me, and I got it. Although I am not going to give it away, if you can work out what todays picture is, feel free to take a guess! I do look back at some of the photos I have taken along this journey and think to myself, “that turned out okay actually” and wish I had taken another photo of the actual set up, which would otherwise be pretty dull. I remember when I was out walking with friends a few weeks ago when they caught me aiming the camera at what seemed to them like quite literally nothing at all, but ended up being a photo I quite liked. Sometimes we have to try things, and something they work, sometimes they don’t! It is always nice to look back and remember various days by the photo I took and see the months unfold, and to see small improvements in my photos, and equally so in my imagination! I still have a few tricks up my sleeves for the coming weeks, although brace yourself for a whole lot of baby photos at the same time as my daughter is now on quite a steep learning curve, eating food, trying to roll over, standing, grabbing and exploring!

Anyway, is bed time, I’m out!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“LinkedIn? More like LinkedOut!!”


So it was back on the bike this morning, after what feels like not being on it for ages, but in reality is more like 10 days! It was a lovely day to be cycling, although crawling out of my nice warm bed this morning after only about 5 hours sleep, it felt like the worst idea in the world ever! It always does when I get up, which is why I set my alarm clock much earlier than I need to, just to give my body time to adjust to being awake before I try to force hills and rush hour traffic upon it. Tuesdays are never a great day for me anyway, as I never get to spend much time at home, and consequently get to see less of my daughter too. I had about 45 minutes from getting home after work to heading out to training tonight. As it was the last Jujitsu session of the month it was time for some pad work and boxing gloves! Normally our contact when practising is only light, we don’t want to hurt each other, but on the last Tuesday of the month, the pads come out and we can go bonzai! A great chance to get rid of any unwanted aggression, of which there was a little tonight due to the sheer ignorance and stupidity of Royal Mail lorry driver tonight, who at 40mph came so close to me when passing on the way home, that I nearly didn’t need a shave any more! Still, I made it home in the end, and can’t let muppets like this ruin my day!

In other news, I have finally got around to closing down my LinkedIn account. It was one of those things that I “gave it a try” after receiving several invites from friends, but genuinely, in all the years I have been registered, I have never actually truly worked out what it is supposed to do! I seem to have connected to a number of friends, but I guess a little like facebook, not done anything with that person once I have connected, on top of which the site just confuses me, I am not sure where I am supposed to be looking for what, or even why!! Facebook is enough of a distraction, and something I am trying to limit my time on a bit. Checking it 8 times in 5 minutes isn’t just boredom, its a problem! Although I am not suggesting that I am going to get rid of facebook though, I do find it massively useful, and often quite entertaining too! Even though to this day I have never accepted a game request and don’t intend to… so if you’re one of those people on my facebook page who reads this and sends requests then please stop!!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”


The alarm clock went off at 5.55am… then again at 6am… then again at 6.05am… having an alarm clock with multiple alarms is good if, like me, you’re pretty useless at getting up, eventually at some point you have to give in and drag your sorry, good for nothing ass out of bed! I was up and showered well ahead of normal, although still a little later than I’d planned leaving the house, although it didn’t matter too much. Today I took the car, it was decidely windy out, but that wasn’t part of my decision, which was mostly based on having bulky, heavy stuff to take to work for this mornings training session. The morning didn’t start well as I had to head to work first before setting off for the venue I was training at and had to print a 70 page document, which refused to print, and then the photocopier essentially gave me the middle finger and said “not today Vokes!” which left me pulling my hair out as I couldn’t do todays training without either the print out or photocopies! Thankfully both decided to give me a break and work just in time, and I was on my way! The session went okay, although I have yet to get feedback on it, but I’m fairly sure it was a success. I was just glad to get home and get Monday out of the way, it was always going to be hard, especially after such a wonderful week off! Its always great to spend some time with the wife, especially while she is off work as well, but its extra awesome to spend some quality time with the daughter, she changes so fast, and yes I know people joke about how many photos I take of her, but these moments are gone too soon, and they never come back… when they’re gone, they’re gone! I can’t believe that next week she’ll be six months old already… SIX MONTHS!!… Where the hell did six months go???

This evening was a fairly early dinner, as the wife had friends visiting and I had decided to take myself off to the hospital again and see my nan who is still in there until they can get enough support for her when she comes out and hopefully goes home. Its always nice to visit her, and she is always grateful for the company, although she is getting on well with the other folk in there. I know she is keen to get home, but at least she has some company at the moment, and there is generally someone around in the middle of the night if she can’t sleep! The day in general had not lent itself to many photo taking opportunities though, and so I figured I would pull this pocket watch out and see what I could do with it, as the wife and her friends are still downstairs filling the room with hot air and generally putting the world to rights, and I’m leaving them to it!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“Er, jump? Tiggers don’t jump, they bounce.”


This morning I was awake far too early, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I really needed to though, I was tired and a little hungover, exactly where I didn’t need to be today. I did head back to bed a little while after getting up and managed to get a short nap.

The rest of the day was spent preparing a powerpoint presentation for tomorrow as I have to deliver some training first thing, and really don’t feel 100% ready for it.

Clare decided to put Olivia into her door bouncer and it was a perfect distraction for a little while, before they both headed out to the in-laws and left me to get on with things for a while, including a second and somewhat unsuccessful nap.

Its now bedtime and I am feeling truly burnt out, I need to be up early and feeling fresh in the morning!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”


I should have known better than to hope for a lie in this morning, little madam was awake at the crack of dawn and sadly stuck in our room again, in her moses basket, while the smell of gloss paint disappears from her room, so there was no escaping the noise of a gurgling, cooing baby first thing this morning!

Clare finished decorating some cakes for a surprise baby shower, a very american tradition that seems to be working its way over here slowly, and left me looking after Olivia for the afternoon. I had a simple plan, I was going to feed her at 2pm and then take her swimming again for the second time, but a few yawns and a bit of eye rubbing from madam by 1:30pm had me casting doubts on the success of this plan. I tried her with the baby rice first, as we are continuing to try and wean her, but this was a disaster. She clearly hasn’t connected the baby rice with not feeling hungry in the same way that she has with the milk yet, and so only wanted her bottle. I may have to dip into the weaning books I bought from Amazon recently for some advice. Once the bottle was finished with, it was clear she wanted to sleep, and with Saturdays swim session at the local pool finished at 4pm, there was no way I was going to get her there. Swimming is officially cancelled for today!

Right now I am shattered and needing a bit of a power nap, although I know that if I put my head down I am unlikely to actually get to sleep. I could really do with a bit of extra energy tonight as I am heading out up town to celebrate my friends birthday this evening, and all I actually want to do is go to bed early! I won’t, obviously, but I do need to be back at a sensible time and watch what I am drinking as I really need to make the most of tomorrow so I have a reasonably clear head to prepare for Monday morning.

Where has a whole week off work gone??

365 project, Personal, Photography


“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”


Our second and final morning staying in Axminster, Devon at our friends house. Yesterday was a lovely day, and the wife and me truly felt like we’d had a break, just being somewhere different for a couple of days. Our hosts were fantastic, made us feel right at home and really looked after us. It has been almost 18 months since we last came down and stayed with them, just after they moved down to Devon, and although it is quite a drive to get down to see them, they really have moved to a beautiful part of the country and makes visiting them even more appealing. Olivia had slept well again, and this time Clare was up first to feed her. She has been the perfect baby, and I don’t even think we had any tears the entire time we were away. After Olivia was sorted, we had breakfast, took showers and got dressed, then headed out for a walk into Axminster town to pick up a few bits including some bacon to go on sandwiches for lunch. It was another day of blue sky and showers, but our walk today was all blue sky and sunshine and very refreshing. We paused at the church where I took todays photo and even passed the factory where the original Axminster Carpets were produced, but eventually became a victim of their own design. By being so well made, they were rarely replaced and the company has twice collapsed, now being in its third incarnation. After some amazing bacon and egg sandwiches were washed down with a cup of tea for lunch, I was about to load the car up when we were offered some of last nights left over cheesecake, what a way to spend a day! So a million calories later I loaded all our stuff into the car, wondering if I’d be able to get it all back in, as it was a bit of a squeeze on the way down! It all fitted and we were ready to go, with some snacks and a drink for the journey, we said goodbye, the satnav was set and we were off. Our new feeding routine for Olivia was going well, but I knew there was a chance we wouldn’t be home in time for her next bottle. As it happened, the traffic was abysmal and we were never going to make it, so we stopped off just after Bristol, about 100 miles from home, for a hot drink and gave Olivia her bottle before the final stretch. The traffic got even worse and we finally got home almost five hours after we set off, a little different to the two and a half hours it took to get down there in the first place! As a result, dinner was courtesy of the fish and chip shop, which I wasn’t going to argue about too much, it is Friday after all!! While we were away the father in law had done a little work around the house and put some new doors up for us, and glossed two of them, including Olivia’s new bedroom door. Sadly the smell of gloss paint was still in the air, and we couldn’t leave the window open as it was so cold outside, which meant she couldn’t sleep in her own room and we had to squeeze her back into her moses basket for the night, not ideal but not the end of the world. Anyway, she’s now asleep and as much as we’ve had a lovely few days, it IS good to be home!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“You are the moon, dear love, and I the sea”


Woke up this morning to grey clouds and rain, but the forecast had promised us some clear skies. I was the first up today to feed Olivia, although the others weren’t far behind me and soon after breakfast the sun came out and the clouds drifted away, so we all headed out to Lyme Regis for a few hours. It was lovely to introduce Olivia to the seaside even though it was a cool, windy day, she still got to see the sea and smell all the different seaside smells, and listen to the waves break on the shore. I truly believe there is nothing better than the fresh sea air to cure many ills and give you a great nights sleep.
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We walked along the promenade and stopped off for some seaside chips and a hot pork sandwich, whilst dodging a few showers and then headed down to the beach and walked along the cobb, which for those who don’t know is a enormous curved wall which acts as a breakwater to protect the coast line from the strong tides and waves. Apparently it was first built in the 1600s and has been rebuilt several times since, the last being about 1912. We finished our trip to Lyme Regis with an ice cream before heading to another beach for a little walk, but once we we’re there decided against walking far as the girls were all tired and the weather was a bit cold and windy by this point. We headed back to our friends house for a film and some homemade lasagne, before the girls all went to bed and we kicked back for a relaxing evening before we prepare for our journey home in the morning!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“Behind every successful man is a woman, but few of us realise that behind most successful women is a man too; her father.”


Todays road trip was a military operation getting the car ready to take a trip down to devon to stay with friends for a couple of nights. We were a little late leaving, but the traffic was good to us on the motorway and we still got there on time. We had a lovely afternoon seeing the girls and finished the evening off with a chinese take away and a few drinks. Not wanting to seem antisocial, I’m not spending long on here!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”


Day 2 of visitors, and today we were expecting Olivia’s god parents and their two little boys. Before they turned up though, we had a little tidy up of the house, I threw the vacuum around and we had a new plan for Olivia to implement as well. I thought it was time for a change to her feeding routines and Clare agreed with me, and she had already expressed an interest in putting Olivia down for regular naps, rather than just waiting for her to get tired. We just had to try our best to make sure that the naps didn’t get in the way of the feeds. I wanted her five bottles to be three hours apart, starting at 8am and finishing at 8pm so we can put her down straight after and let her sleep through the night as we’ve been previously waking her up between 10pm & 11pm for her final bottle and I didn’t want this to become a habit or a part of her sleep routine. We also decided that we were going to properly start the weaning process today, as there was a chance with the bottles becoming bunched up, that she wouldn’t finish them all as she hasn’t been finishing some of them anyway, and so I wanted to introduce some food to help keep her energy and calories up. The weaning went well, and we managed to get a few spoons of baby rice down Olivia, even if a few funny faces were pulled. A few small spoons is all we can expect for the first few times, they’ll get bigger as we continue. We finished just in time as our visitors pulled up, and we spent a lovely few hours with them before I had to head out to jujitsu training again, even though they were staying for dinner with Clare. I couldn’t really miss training as we have our next belt grading coming up soon, and every lesson counts at the moment. Looking back as I sit here at the end of the evening, it has been a fantastic day, Olivia’s naps and feeding has gone like absolute clockwork! We have the perfect baby! Even putting her down at the end of the day was lovely, with lots of smiles. I took the opportunity to read a bit more Paddington Bear to her, as I have done for the last few nights, the difference now being that this will hopefully now be her proper bedtime as we won’t be getting her up again for another feed and so its the perfect opportunity to get into a proper bedtime routine.

Tomorrow… road trip!