Monthly Archives: April 2014
“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.”
You know what sucks… thinking its Friday when its actually only Thursday.
You know what rocks… thinking its Tuesday when its actually already Wednesday! Sweet!
The week is flying by and its a short term anyway, the next half term break will be here in no time at all! I am actually not that excited about the next few weeks disappearing, I mean I love my week off as much as the next guy, but the wife’s maternity leave is almost over and this makes me quite sad. I really wish we could afford for her to stay off work and look after Olivia full time, but sadly the realistic side is, the bills just won’t allow that! I’m sure we could streamline and cut back, but not enough to give up one full time wage, especially when Clare earns more than me! I’d even consider giving up my job and being a stay at home dad, but we’d still lose out on a lot of money, and we’re lucky enough to have Olivia’s grandparents willing to help, especially as its only about 6 or 7 weeks before I am off for the summer anyway and can look after Olivia for the next 6 weeks. If only we could win a bit of money, we don’t ask for a lot, just enough to pay off a few bills and give us a chance to take some time off work without the worry.
Anyway, time is slipping by, and there is nothing we can do about it. Our little lady is 8 months old this weekend already and growing at a rapid rate. She was weighed today and is putting on plenty of weight, although still on track for what she should be, she’s perfectly on target which is great news! We have been keen to find out her weight as she doesn’t always finish her food or her bottles, but as her weight is on track then she clearly just knows when she’s had enough! So this is it now, the 4 month countdown to her first birthday, and I am really hoping we have a warm, dry weekend for it so we can have everyone round for a birthday bbq/garden party. I need to spend some more time in the garden this weekend getting a few more weeds up and getting some flower seeds down! Four months to get the garden in order, it is totally doable! Anyone fancy lending a hand?? I am also aware that I need to spend some time on the allotment with Dave, we have some stuff to plant, although I am investing time in the greenhouse getting a lot of stuff ready to plant in a few weeks time! The greenhouse itself is looking pretty full at the moment, there isn’t a lot of free space for new stuff to go right now, we need to be moving some items outside, providing that the worst of the cold weather is over!
So what did the middle of the week have in store for me? Well the weather has been unusually kind, considering the less than optimistic forecasts, and has made cycling a pleasure. Its good to be back on the bike, and the treadmill again. It has been a fairly energetic start to the week, but then Tuesdays are generally pretty full on anyway, with cycling, running AND jujitsu. This weekend its back to the reservoir for another run, with my old running buddy Rob, it has been a few months since we last ran together, and I am quite looking forward to it. He has beaten my time repeatedly in each half marathon we have done together, so his last text message warning me that he is now “fat and slow” I find somewhat hard to believe. All the same, we’ll be doing the run with someone I work with that has a dodgy knee anyway, so keeping a sensible pace will be key to being able to make the distance. I have found through painful trial and error that a bad knee is quite unforgiving of any sprints, and will generally hold out longer when you keep a sustainable pace. I used to suffer with really bad knees myself when running, and would often tap out after 4-5 miles, sometimes less, which really frustrated me when I knew I had it in me to run further. I did some online research into it, and while nothing was conclusive, I did keep returning to the same point. My style of running and the impact of a heel strike on the knee. Landing on your heel turns your whole leg into a strut, and the only thing cushioning the impact id the cartilage in your knee. Cartilage doesn’t like this very much, its not designed to withstand repeated impact. I found a few articles online that mentioned professional runners landing on the ball of their foot and the muscles in their leg taking the impact of the stride, essentially turning the leg into one big spring. Imagine yourself hopping on one leg, then hopping in the other. The muscles do all the work and the knee takes very little impact. Its murder on the calves at first, but that’s only because they’re not used to doing so much work, as they take a lot of the strain slowing your bounce down and pushing you back off! Once I got used to running like this I found myself pushing way past the 5 miles barrier and going on to complete multiple half marathons! Is it a winning formula? Well, I wouldn’t like to say, but the difference in the distance I am running now speaks for itself! Sure my knees still ache a bit after the fairly unforgiving 13.1 miles of a half marathon, but at least I can make it across the line now, something I never imagined I’d be able to do several years ago when I started to resign myself to the fact that maybe running just wasn’t for me! The monotony of running can also put people off, and yes there is even a book and film entitled “The loneliness of the long distance runner”, but I find a set of headphones and some good music is enough to power me on for a solid hours running, no problem! Also, running with a friend helps, if we’re too out of breath to talk then we’re running too fast. Conversation helps us to pace ourselves! Quit the excuses, bring on the weekend, lets get running!
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
The first day back on the bike in two weeks, but thankfully the weather was perfect for cycling and made it really easy going into work and even quite easy on the way home which is a slight uphill incline for the majority of the journey!
The day itself was fine, work was pleasant enough, and especially nice to know there is only 18 days left in this term, even better to know that there are only two more Monday mornings left as this coming Monday is a bank holiday and both the wife and me are very keen to get out and make the most of the day if the weather is nice. We won’t be going too far as the traffic is bound to be absolutely bonkers and the motorways will simply be reduced to carnage! I don’t fancy being one of those people who spends his bank holiday staring at the rear brake lights of the car in front for four hours not understanding why nothing has moved even slightly. The 15 day weather forecast is suggesting we may be in luck, but its still a little early to tell, so we’ll see nearer the time.
Today I sailed home on the bike and was greeted by big smiles from Olivia, who now she is missing her final nap, is generally still awake at this time of day! I got to spend a bit of time with her before headed out in the car to the final jujitsu session of the month, where we turn up in trainers and tracksuits and practise a bit of kicking and punching on the pads, always good for getting rid of unwanted aggression!! We did a few different techniques tonight and it turned into one big sweatfest! Great fun though!
Came home from training to a delicious dinner cooked by the wife and even a fresh cream cake, lovingly made by herself. Delicious!
Shattered, its late, I am off to bed now. Good night internet!
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Back to work after two weeks and starting my Monday morning by delivering a 3 hour training session on Manual Handling. I spent a lot of yesterday trying to polish the presentation and make it slightly less dull for the people that have to listen to me, but at the end of the day, its manual handling and there isn’t much you can do to make it exciting! The session didn’t go too badly, and the rest of the day was fairly productive, and it was really good to be able to jump in the car at the end of the day and drive home. I was a bit late to bed last night, and won’t be especially early tonight, so I am already off to a bad start for the week.Still, at least next Monday I can turn the alarm clock off again and enjoy a lie in! There certainly won’t be any lying in tomorrow for me as it work as normal and its back to the gym before I start the day, hoping to try and get at least 35 minutes on the treadmill, which I will start to increase over the coming weeks.
It was lovely to see Olivia again when I got home, and as she is napping less during the day now, she was wide awake when I got back and walked through the door. She loves looking out of the window at what is going on in the street and so while the wife was getting the dinner ready I took Olivia out for a little walk up and down the road as she is so nosey and watches everything that is going on around her, in particular the birds flying through the sky and the blossom petals falling to the ground. Suddenly I can see the little lady getting tired and know that its bathtime, if not already slightly beyond it. We need to initiate the bedtime sequence. She loves bathtime though, so that was very little effort, and we have the routine pretty much nailed now though to make it as smooth and efficient as possible. Once she is out of the bath, it is time for a bottle of milk and pretty much a sure thing that she’ll fall asleep before its gone.
Once she was down to bed and Clare was watching her soap operas, I decided to head off and spend a bit of time in the greenhouse repotting the squash plants and even planting some new seeds into trays. I was so lucky to have Clare bring me a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits while I was working away up there. Just a few minutes of piece and quiet, and some time to reflect. It’s quite a productive way to just have a bit of time out, and relax!
Just for the fun of it, here is another photo of Olivia just before we got her ready for her bath tonight!
“Finding a sanctuary, a place apart from time, is not so different from finding a faith.”
So the last day of the Easter holiday is finally here and at an end, and what a lovely two weeks it has been spending lots of quality time with the wife and daughter. We have had days out in Stratford, a trip to the sealife centre, lunch with friends, my friend Alan returned from Oz, I got to catch up with both of my sisters, I managed to get at least one good run at the reservoir in, we had some car issues but fixed them quickly and cheaply, we had friends over for dinner, caught up with some old faces, got Olivias photo in a magazine and generally enjoyed the last two weeks. That Sunday night feeling is generally an uncomfortable one, as much as I enjoy my job, I have treasured every day at home, having a child makes you see things very differently.
One other thing I have especially enjoyed over the last two weeks has been captured in todays photo, time in the greenhouse. A sign of getting old? Well it can’t be denied that you probably wouldn’t have seen me in one at 21 years old!! I have been quite excited about having the time to work on the allotment with my friend Dave this year, there’s a real sense of achievement from doing a good job and the thought of being able to grow vegetables that Olivia will be able to eat later in the year also fills me with a sense of purpose. The lousy British weather hasn’t failed to spectacularly disappoint as ever, a few days of sunshine and warm weather can barely make up for the cold, grey and wet days that have dominated the last month. This is where the benefit of having a greenhouse in your garden really pays off, really cold days, wind and excessive rain don’t ruin the shoots and even a little bit of sunshine creates enough warmth to encourage them to grow. I have purchased a variety of vegetable seeds from ebay and want to see what stuff we can actually grow successfully, growing some stuff that we haven’t tried before along with some flower seeds to plant into the newly cleared beds, as I am preparing the garden for September when hopefully we can organise a BBQ and have lots of people over for Olivia’s 1st birthday. If the weather is good and the BBQ goes ahead then I will want the garden looking the best it can, full of colourful flowers and hopefully we will have some decking down at the top of the garden if the father in law has enough time to help us. Fingers crossed.
So today, the last day of the holiday was mostly spent at home. The weather, apart from a few brief flashes of sunshine, was generally miserable, wet and cold. Olivia had kept us awake last night and so we were all feeling a little less energetic than usual. We figured Olivia must be suffering with her teething at the moment as she has been an unusually grumpy baby today, which was probably something to do with her being so unsettled last night. I left Clare to sleep in this morning as she was the one who got up at 3:30am when Olivia was crying. She then treated me to a delicious lunch of Toad In The Hole with sweet potato on the side, which went down a treat. After lunch she took Olivia for a walk round to her mothers house while I got on with some preparation for tomorrows training that I have to deliver. I just hope I have done enough!
“In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.”
Normally I’m overjoyed when the weekend arrives, on this occasion, not so much! The weekend signifies that two weeks of being off work is now almost over and on Monday morning its back to the grind again as a new term starts. Its not that I don’t like my job, my job is great, its just that it feels like two weeks has gone far too quickly, I have loved spending time with my wife and daughter, we haven’t seen all the people we wanted to and I haven’t finished all the jobs on my to-do list!
Today we went to visit my good friend Millie and my godson Noah. We were hoping to stretch our legs, blow out a few cobwebs and go for a bit of a walk, but even as nice as the sunshine was, the afternoon was frequented by scattered showers and it turns out we ended up with a sleeping Olivia on Clare and a sleeping Noah on me so we weren’t going anywhere! It was nice to see Noah and Olivia paying attention to each other and the start of a new friendship beginning!
Todays photo was of Noah and Olivia playing together, well, more Noah playing than Olivia, but she was still very interested all the same, and it got me thinking about friendship generally as I have recently become aware of a situation that I am genuinely disappointed in. Back in 2012 I married my beautiful wife Clare and my life which had improved significantly since meeting her seemed to improve even further, it was a fabulous day and I was lucky to have not one, but two best men to help me along the way. Two of my old school friends that I have known for over 25 years did a spectacular job, both on my stag weekend and on the big day itself. One of them was my good mate Dave, who I ended up living just a few roads from. We regularly end up at the local pub and work on our allotment together. I just know that me and Dave will be friends for a very long time to come. My other best man has been an equally good friend for just as long and I even ended up living with him for a while renting out his spare room, but things seemed to change after the wedding, when the weeks and months seemed to tick by without hearing from him at all. Eventually, 10 months after the wedding we managed to catch up for a beer again one Sunday afternoon, and it was great to finally see him again. Unfortunately that was over 9 months ago, and even though I have sent text messages, sent emails, left voicemails I have heard nothing back apart from one single text message back, apologising for not being in touch due to being away in another country with work, but that was several weeks ago now. The news I recently found out through the magic of facebook is that it seems that this week he is currently in Thailand and yesterday has finally got married to his girlfriend. I can understand a lack of invite, as it doesn’t sound like many people made the journey half way around the world. It is a significant distance after all. But after knowing him for 25+ years, living with him, going on holiday with him numerous times, asking him to be my best man… and he doesn’t even mention to me that he is getting married?? He didn’t even mention it in his last text message. I feel genuinely hurt by this. His wedding day, done, and I only found out by accident! I don’t really know how to deal with this! He was so generous on our wedding day too, and left a good chunk of spending money for our honeymoon in our wedding card. Sadly the relationship between me and his now wife had become a little frosty after we fell out over something, and I am sure this is part of the reason I am not hearing from him anymore. But what to do? Where do I go from here??
“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”
Last night may have seemed like a good idea, and boy did I get a lot of wood burnt, bushes and fence panels, but I was so late to bed, I really struggled to get up this morning! Oh and I reeked of smoke, a damn good shower was definitely in order! Before all that I gave myself a slow start to the day with a cup of tea and playing with Olivia for a bit, as you can see from todays photo. There were three main things on todays agenda, feeding our friends cats, visiting my oldest friend ever, and getting lasagne ready for dinner tonight with the in-laws. After lunch we were becoming a bit pushed for time and so I took Olivia out in the car to feed the cats while Clare prepared tonights lasagne so that it only had to be put into the oven when we got home!
When we were finally ready (and the cats had been fed) we jumped back in the car and headed off to meet my old friend Vanessa who I have known since I was three years old! Its always lovely to see her, although sadly she never finished her driving lessons when she was younger and so unless her other half can join her too and provide transport then we have to go to theirs as the buses between the two houses would be a pain in the neck. Today was certainly not a day for jumping on the buses, the rain came down and down and down, it was pretty relentless all day long. It was a real shame, I’d love to have done something nice with the wife and daughter for the last day of the holidays, a drive out, a walk, a bit of exploring. We got to Vanessa’s just after 3pm as we’d arranged, and were able to stay until 4.30pm to make sure we were home in time for Olivia’s meal time, and also to make sure the house was tidy and that the lasagne made it into the oven on time. The in-laws arrived a little early to spend some time with Olivia, while Clare served up the dinner which was delicious and well worth the wait. Soon with drinks in hand, we moved away from the dinner table and put a film on for us all to watch, The Life Of Pi. But for now I am off to bed, well and truly exhausted I tell thee!
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
It was a rather exciting start to Thursday as we had to been waiting several weeks for Olivia’s photo to appear in a feature in a weekly womens magazine, and today was the day it was released. We were also promised £75 by the magazine for using the photo which was nice. Admittedly it was a large incentive in sending the photo off in the first place, but it will certainly be a welcome bonus now we know we’ll have a cheque coming our way sometime soon!
Clare and her mother were both having their hair done this morning after Jane, their mobile hairdresser turned up. I tried to make myself useful by spending some time in the garden getting rid of more weeds and putting the branches from the bushed I’d dug up into the garden recycling bin. There was of course lots of excited talk about Olivia and her magazine appearance. By the time the hair was finished and I was done in the garden it was time for lunch before we headed off to our friends house to feed their cats for them. It should have been a straightforward, two minute, in/out job. “Make sure you close the living room door behind you so that cats don’t escape” we were told, but as I opened the front door “WHOOSH!” out flew a cat, and the living room door was already wide open! Not what I needed as we were already running late to get over to my sisters house. Chasing a cat is almost impossible at the best of times, but when you know your friends wont be home for two days, you can’t leave the cat and just drive off. Thankfully I noticed the cat had only run around the house and into the back garden, and to make the situation slightly easier, they had left the key for the back door in an easy to find place. With the door open the cat took a look at the cat food I’d put down and walked off back down the garden, just typical! So I played a bit of reverse psychology on the cat, having had dinner with my friends on numerous occasions in the past I knew the cats only seemed interested in coming near the door or what was going on inside when the door was closed! So I shut the door and stood away from it. Eventually a small furry face appeared at the door and the cat was soon inside. We were on our way to my sisters eventually! The sun had suddenly come out and the day was getting unexpectedly warm, at my sisters we sat outside and enjoyed her new patio table and chairs, the same ones we’d had our eye on from a local supermarket. Todays photo was taken from my sisters house which can only be described as vintage and eclectic, its one of those houses where you could spend ages looking at “things”, and each time I go round I find something new on the wall or in a display cabinet that I hadn’t seen before. Its truly fascinating! Olivia enjoyed spending some time having cuddles with her crazy aunt, and it was nice to catch up with her in the garden with the sun on our skin for a change as we normally see them over dinner in the evening when its dark! We sadly had to leave earlier than we’d have liked as it was time for Olivia’s dinner, and shortly to be followed by bathtime, bottle and bed! We have such a good baby, her routine may sometimes be a little restrictive, but its fantastic. She is so happy in the day and settles so well at night. Yet again she fell asleep on her bottle and literally had to be just dropped into bed!
I decided that as tonight it was a dry, clear night, it was time to buy a few beers from the shop and get a fire on the go to get rid of the damaged fence panels we had hanging around and some of the larger branches from clearing the garden of bushes. Fire and beer, the ultimate man combination, I just need meat to complete the trio now!
On a completely separate note, I just want to add that I have been following the Stephen Sutton story with great interest. Stephen is a 19 year old guy who discovered he had cancer at just 15 years old is now on his deathbed with just days left, but has devoted his last days to raising £1million for charity. Comedian and bloody nice guy Jason Manford has been supporting this with gusto, and kudos to him for being so behind it, and has raised a massive amount of awareness and taken it to his celebrity buddies to help publicise the cause. This had taken the amount raised by Stephen for the Teenage Cancer Trust from an astonishing £500,000 to a mind boggling £2.1million in around 48 hours!! I can’t lie, I have had to wipe a tear from my eye more than once because of this. A humbling reality check for everyone!
I dedicate todays quote to Stephen!
“Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.”
The week continues to roll along at an alarming rate and Wednesday is already upon us! We managed to get the car into our mechanics garage today and after leaving it with him for a while, it was finally back and running properly again. Our mechanic did however point out something I had already observed, but not given much consideration to, the gearbox was starting to get a bit noisy. Its a very slow and gradual thing, and it takes a while before you notice it, and it continues to get louder until we eventually need a new gearbox fitted. The thought of a brand new gearbox doesn’t fill us with any joy, even after the wife is back in full time work, so the other option we can consider is to look into part exchanging the car and getting another one, very tempting!
Id arranged to have some friends over for food this evening and so while the car was still with the mechanic I took at walk up to the local supermarket with Olivia in her pushchair to get a few bits for dinner. I got the call from my mechanic while I was out that the car was ready to be collected and so arranged to pick it up shortly after I’d got home, with the father in law dropping me in to pick it up.
I left Clare to bath Olivia tonight while I set about preparing dinner, my friends surprisingly turned up on time and caught me off guard, dinner was nowhere near ready when they arrived and sadly I hadn’t quite cooked quite enough food, the portions were smaller than I would have likes, but everyone seemed happy enough. It was a lovely evening, although we did have some rather unexpected news from one friend that I can’t really talk about on here, once they’ve shared it with those that need to know first, I’ll be able to go into it a bit more! The news itself has thrown me, not how I expected my wednesday to end up at all.
“Life’s too short to drink cheap wine…”
With the car not completely reliable at the moment, much of today was spent at home, which was fine as we were expecting several visitors. The first was an old work colleague who not only hadn’t I seen for several years, but who also went to school with my wife. What a small world! He gets married next year and has asked me to take the photographs, I’m totally honoured and would love to! Sounds like it will be a fantastic day, I’m really looking forward to it! Our second visitor was our good friend Tracy who popped over in the afternoon with her son. They stayed for a couple of hours, although it never feels long enough when we see them, especially as we don’t see them quite as often at the moment, hopefully we will be able to join them for dinner one night soon as we haven’t seen them properly for a while now. Today was the first day of the holidays that I hadn’t really left the house at all, although the weather wasn’t very inspiring and didn’t do much to encourage me. Not long after Tracy left it was dinner time for Olivia, and then her bath time is almost upon us, then once she’s out its a bottle of milk and then bed time. While she was having her milk, I popped out in the car, although reluctantly, to grab a couple of things to go with dinner. The engine temperature light still came on as soon as I started the engine, as did the engine fan, so I couldn’t go too far, and had to miss my Tuesday night jujitsu class, as the journey is just too far to risk it. I will be taking the car in to the garage tomorrow to see if my mechanic can have a look at it and do anything with it, fingers crossed. If we can get it sorted we have a few people still to visit before the easter holiday is over (where did two weeks go??). We really are running out of days to see people though, and we’re just not going to squeeze everyone in! I was hoping to put a film on tonight, but with the wife already into one of her favourite programmes I couldn’t really, but I still opened up my bottle of red wine to take my mind off the whole council tax issue. I did ring the council tax office today, but as I wasn’t prepared to hand over any cash they became rapidly disinterested in the call and as I wanted to dispute it, they said I should just write in on the back of the letter (you mean send the letter they sent me, back to them with my scribblings on the reverse??). I asked for an email so that I could keep a track of the conversation and what they’d said, the girl on the phone didn’t seem to really care, then she mumbled an email address, and finally when I said I couldn’t understand she mumbled it again. I gave up in the end and googled it after the call, the email address she gave me was no reflection of what was actually on the council website. In the end I managed to get my email typed up, checked it over several times and then sent it off, only to get an autoresponder email back saying that it could take them 2-4 weeks to reply!! I give up, Birmingham City Council, this is in your hands now!
Todays photo was taken between visits while Olivia was in her baby walker but completely transfixed by the tv! It was shot on a 50mm lens wide open at f/1.2, I had Olivia near the window and was crouched with my back to the window so that Olivia was lit up by the light pouring in from the window even though it wasn’t a sunny day. With such a small depth of focus and a moving baby I had to take several shots to make sure I got one that was sharp and in focus.
19yr old Steven Sutton is dying from cancer and is not expected to see the morning. His one goal is to raise £1M for the Teenage Cancer Trust and he has already passed the £720,000 mark. Lets help him try and get there while he is still with us. I’ve donated, every pound will count, and whether you donate or not, at least share this with your friends https://www.justgiving.com/Stephen-Sutton-TCT