365 project, Personal, Photography


“…vicinity to the sea is desirable, because it is easier to do nothing by the sea than anywhere else”


Sometimes there is nothing better than just getting away from it all for a while, and today we were going on a little road trip, all the way down to what some know as Birmingham-On-Sea, or to use its proper title Weston Super Mare. We had arranged to meet our good friends and their two daughters down there, and after a fairly smooth drive down, managed to somehow end up parking next to them at around the same time they pulled up, even though they’d driven up from Devon, which was a bit of luck. I’d also found out, via the magic of facebook that some other friends had, by chance, driven down for the day and we managed to track them down and catch up with them for a short while and as they’d already picked up the traditional seaside fish and chips we soon had to head off for our own lunch, as it was time to feed Olivia. We found a nearby pub that did food and also had high chairs to sit Olivia in while we fed her. The food was reasonable value, with us quickly and tasted good, so we were all happy. I decided to keep my lunch light as I wanted to save a little room for my own traditional seaside fish and chips later on before we left to go home. We then headed down to the beach, even though technically a beach has water and I’ve never seen the sea at Weston, although apparently, according to a sign we stopped and looked at on the walk down from the cars after we first got there, the high tide was around 8am and not due in again until nearly 9pm, and goes out so far that you can’t actually see water at low tide! This kind of explains why I never see any waves at Weston… EVER!! Clare sat down to give Olivia her milk and chat to her friends, while the girls dragged me off to play some frisbee with them on the sand. We all hung around on the beach for a while, catching up and enjoying the sea air and pleasant weather before eventually taking a stroll to go and get some ice cream and stretch our legs for a bit. Eventually it was time for our friends to leave, but with a 100 mile journey ahead of us, we needed to feed Olivia her dinner before we left to head home ourselves and so after a short walk, found a traditional fish and chip shop where I could indulge in the great British seaside meal while we fed the little lady! Eventually it was time to make the walk back to the car and start the drive home, which was a pleasure to do in the new car, made a little easier with its six speed gearbox, 2.0L turbo diesel engine and cruise control. We were a little later home than we’d have liked, so it was time for a change into her PJ’s, Olivias last bottle of milk an then off to bed, no hanging around! She has been such an angel all day, and yet again has made parenting really easy for us, and makes it look like we’re doing a fantastic job!
Even though I took a Canon 50D and a Fuji X100 with me, todays photo of the day was taken with my iPhone 5.

365 project, Personal, Photography


Daddy day care!


Somehow we managed a monster lie in this morning, either Olivia went back to sleep or was just lying quietly awake on her cot allowing us a little longer in bed. She was awake when I got up and went in, but bless her, she just doesn’t cry when she wakes up! Today was the day when Clare took her mother up to Manchester for the Coronation Street tour, and I was left alone with Olivia all day, which I think is the first time I have looked after her all day by myself. A totally easy job, but yet still somewhat intimidating, I think not because I don’t think I can look after her, but more because Clare has all her routines and knows exactly where everything that Olivia needs is, mostly because she probably put it there! The day went fine, and Olivia was a dream to look after, and it was nice to spend some quality time with her, even if we didn’t get to go out anywhere as we didn’t have a car, Clare had needed it to take her mother to Manchester! I’d considered going out for a walk with Olivia, but it pretty much rained all day, pesky British weather! We stayed in instead, and I was hoping to get a few things done around the house, but was waiting for Olivia to get tired and take her afternoon nap, which never happened, and it seemed that just one nap this morning was enough for her. I fed her lunch and dinner and gave her a bath before getting her ready for bed and waiting for her last bottle of milk of the day, just as Clare returned home and walked in the door, bearing gifts of chocolate and beer. Olivia gave a big beaming smile to see her mom walk in, a smile which we never get tired of seeing! With Olivia in bed and asleep we both tucked into some fajitas and a drink.

365 project, Personal, Photography



So whats new today? What has been happening in the Vokes family? Well the weather has been awful, and put a real dampener on my plans! I was hoping to take a drive out to the little riverside village of Bewdley for a stroll and maybe some lunch, but the rain was relentless and heavy! It became clear early on in the day, that we wouldn’t be walking anywhere today! The wife and her mother were having their hair done this morning and their hairdresser turned up around 11am, so I left them to it. Depending on what they have done, its often no less than an hour before they’re finished. Once they were done, I decided that we could at least head out somewhere local for lunch, and make the most of the week off even if the weather did suck! I had the idea to try a bar/restaurant that we’d visited for a kids birthday party recently, where the menu looked tempting. The place was fairly empty so the service was quick, and friendly too and there wasn’t much of a wait for the food once we’d ordered thankfully. Sadly the food could only be described as “satisfactory”, it was okay. Its fair to say that it was reasonable value for money, but it wasn’t the greatest meal I’ve ever had. Would I go back? You know what, yeah I’d give it a second chance. They had plenty of high chairs, so Olivia could easily sit with us, where she ate all her dinner and was very well behaved. Once we got home though, she became a bit clingy and we had to work for those smiles, they didn’t come easy! She hasn’t been quite herself this week, and this afternoon required lots of cuddles and leaving her sitting on my chest as I lay down to keep her happy. I gave the wife my camera and got her to take todays photo for me, as this is how I will remember today, with the little person sat on top of me.

365 project, Personal, Photography


“You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.”

The bank holiday has now been and gone and we continue to fly through the week, with Clare’s return to work bearing down on us. I had totally forgotten about a trade exhibition I had put my name down for, the Newborn Photography Show, which was being hosted by the Botanical Gardens. Its an area of photography I have considered making a move into as it is less time intensive than a wedding, and if I shoot from home then I don’t need to deprive the wife of a car for the entire day (not including the pre-wedding meetings with the couple!). It is going to take an initial outlay to set up and get the minimum necessary kit to begin with, and I’ll need to get myself on some courses, but if it goes well then it could perhaps end up helping to give Clare a little longer off work when baby number 2 appears at some point in the future (please note that this is NOT an announcement, and the wife is not pregnant!). Its a plan anyway, and I believe you need to have something to focus on to move forward. As the quote says; “The poorest man in the world is the man without a dream.”

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

The show was inspiring and I could easily have spent a small fortune in there, I really have to hold myself back at these kind of events as it is easy to get carried away. I did bump into another photographer friend while I was there, someone I got to know through a photography group I created on Facebook. She has built up her own successful newborn photography company and is doing really well for herself. She is still, even now, learning about photography and makes mistakes, yet her business continues to thrive. Proof that hard work and dedication pays off in the end! There was the usual kind of stands at the show, album companies, framing companies, printing companies, all the kind of people I saw two months ago at the Photography Show at the NEC, so I didn’t need to hang around all day, but it did give me some ideas!

As we had no further plans for today, we decided to head out and do a bit of shopping to get some new work clothes for Clare. We ended up at Merry Hill, and as much as I like Birmingham and the Bull Ring, the traffic can be a nightmare and the parking can cost a fortune. Merry Hill is quick and easy to get to and the parking is free. We had a wonder round and Olivia just wasn’t herself again today, so I had to carry her a number of times, especially while we waited for Clare trying on various items in the changing rooms. The other benefit of Merry Hill is their baby changing facility, which really makes parents feel truly welcomed, they even provide bottle warming facilities and microwaves and a place to feed the babies, so madam got her milk on time! You definitely do take a different outlook on things when you have to go places as a parent now, and I get especially angry about ignorant drivers abusing parent and child parking spaces, to the point I become almost irrational in my hate for them. Why do I care so much when there are other spaces available? Or more importantly, will anyone see me if I punch them in the face?? I definitely don’t want to become one of those parents who charges with almost blissful ignorance or sheer determination, undeterred through a crowd with their buggy, totally prepared to take out the ankles of any poor shopper who doesn’t move out of the way in time. We do take the buggy out, but I also quite like the convenience and freedom of the chest harness we have that makes awkward terrains or crowds much easier to negotiate. Although our little chunk won’t be in that for much longer as she continues to put on weight. Clare took her to be weighed today while I was out at the botanical gardens, and even though she hasn’t finished all her bottles or eaten all her meals, she is still perfectly on track with her weight! Its a good job really, as meal time today was especially difficult with Olivia pretty much refusing everything. I guess we can only put it down to another off day.

The evening meant only one thing, more training in the samurai jujitsu dojo! Being the end of the month meant pad work again, the once a month chance to actually make contact and use a bit of power. Great for when you’ve had a bad day at the office!

Now I am home again and after stuffing myself on the wife’s delicious stir fry, and settling down to watch The Day After Tomorrow, I may just treat myself to a little Jim Beam and coke as its technically not a school night! Salute… as the Italians say!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”


I enjoyed a little bit of a lie in this morning, as Olivia had woken early and gone back to sleep for a bit, so for me 8am is a lie in. I got up to change her and take her downstairs when the house phone started ringing. The house phone only rings when one of the mothers calls, and at 8am this had me worried straight away! Thankfully it was only the Asda delivery driver saying he was going to be early, panic over! We decided to spend our bank holiday doing a few chores, myself in the garden and Clare cleaning the house. We decided to break the afternoon up with a drive out to the shops, and look for some new work clothes for Clare’s imminent return to work, but ended buying some bits for Olivia instead. Whilst wondering round the supermarket we bumped into our old neighbour and stopped to say hello, before heading off home to feed the little lady. Dinner time for Olivia was going to get a bit messy as we are trying to encourage her to feed herself, and food quite literally got everywhere, but it was worth it as she seemed to be enjoying herself. Clare had to pop out and so that left me to give Olivia a much needed bath after her rather messy dinner time. She went to sleep really easily and this gave me a chance to get back out in the garden and do a bit of work in the greenhouse sorting out the tomato and chilli plants!

With regards to todays photo, I have noticed with the arrival of summer there have been an awful lot of flies buzzing around the house which annoys me immensely. I have also noticed a couple of spiders appear, as often happens in a house, and usually these are humanely captured and just tossed into the garden. I had noticed one such spider today and was about to rehome him in the garden when I was distracted by this pesky fly… who knew the two would meet?! The spider did me a great favour and stopped the fly in his tracks, and then promptly disappeared, so I figured I’d cut him some slack and leave him to it. I’ll get him tomorrow instead!

Apologies to those who don’t like spiders… don’t forget they’re on our side though!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”


Sundays plans didn’t exactly come together in the end. One of the things about having children is that you quickly need to learn to adapt and be flexible. Plans are no longer written in ink, but instead written in pencil with an eraser close by! We had a birthday buffet and drinks to attend and the postponed bbq still an option. Clare was going to the buffet regardless and I was undecided, but had asked my mom to look after Olivia for a couple of hours anyway. Olivia herself has had a cold for a few days, not a huge concern for us, but it has also brought a cough along with it, and Olivia has been quite chesty and rattly with it, especially at night. We didn’t want to worry and gave it a few days to improve, although not much seemed to change, and with the doctors closed over the weekend and bank holiday we had little choice but to take her to the walk in medical centre, which was not surprisingly packed out when we walked in, and resulted in a two hour wait for us. The plus side, Olivia was an angel, smiling and waving at everyone and putting a smile on a lot of peoples faces. She got a little bored towards the end, but taking her for a walk around to satisfy her nosey nature soon fixed that. On the negative side, we missed both the buffet AND the bbq, and so lunch totally went out of the window for us! When we were done, I dropped Clare into town to catch up with her friends so she could at least have a couple of drinks with them, even though she missed the food, while I went over to see my mother, and let her see Olivia for a bit. I picked up Clare on the way home and sat down to watch the F1 Monaco Grand Prix that I had recorded along with a couple of beers and snacks as compensation for missing lunch! By the time the race was over I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and all hopes of blogging had gone out of the window, I was just grateful to crawl into my bed and be able to turn the alarm clock off! I did manage to capture this shot before I dragged myself upstair, a low light macro shot of a flower illuminated only by a lamp, and taken with the ISO pushed up to 3200 to see if I could get away with it.

365 project, Personal, Photography


“Fun with the family”


I was hoping for a quiet start to Saturday morning, but was soon reminded that having a baby doesn’t always allow that! I had promised the wife a lie in and that I’d deal with Olivia and let her catch up on some sleep after a few disturbed nights, which she was truly grateful about. I like to try and run on a Saturday when I can with my friend, but my legs were aching and very tired on Friday whilst cycling, and after a few late nights during the week I just wasn’t feeling it, so we managed to rearrange the run for Sunday morning instead. This afternoons BBQ at another friends house was also postponed until Sunday due to the forecast showing heavy rain all day, which meant we were now free to go to a family 1st birthday party. Todays photo is Olivia with what I call my uncle Keith, although not technically my uncle. His wife Maureen was my dads cousin, so I’m not entirely sure what that makes me, and their son and daughter, Gary & Tracey, who are a similar age to me… um, well its anyones guess really! I still call them cousins though, its easier! Today was Gary’s daughters 1st birthday, and thankfully the heavy rain eventually gave way to some sunshine for them, which made the day seem even nicer and allowed the kids to go and play outside. We made our way home in time to give Olivia her dinner and waited for the in-laws to come round and take over on baby sitting duty while we walked round to our friends for a takeaway. We had a couple of drinks and managed to order and eat dinner before the phone rang and we were told that Olivia was awake and upset and they were struggling to settle her. She hasn’t been herself this week, a bit of a cold and a bad chest, which seems worse when she’s lying down. We thanked our hosts, said goodbye and took a quick walk home. I managed to settle Olivia and get her to sleep thankfully, a trip to the doctors may be in order as her chest doesn’t seem to be improving much. With Olivia settled and asleep, the wife decided that a few glasses of wine was enough to send her off to bed too. So me and Dave managed to head back out to the pub just in time for last orders. It was a shame the evening didn’t pan out the way we planned, but thats part and parcel of having children and we’re just glad to have a baby that generally sleeps so well 99% of the time!

365 project, Personal, Photography



The end of another half term and the end of the week, its finally Friday and getting home felt really good. For the second day in a row it was raining heavily and just to add a bit of fun to the mix it was also quite windy, yay… my two absolute favourite conditions for cycling in, no really! Yeah okay, maybe not! I was quite literally soaked through to the bone when I walked in the house, and needed a complete change of clothes, right down to the smalls! My wife assumed I’d be grumpy as I walked in because of the bad weather, but far from it, I was just grateful to see the beautiful faces of my two favourite ladies and know that I had not only the weekend with them, but an entire week ahead of us! We don’t currently have many plans for the week, but I think that’s a good thing, we often try and make plans, but this week I don’t want to be so busy that the week is actually over before we know it, for this week I’d actually just like to take each day as it comes and be free to visit people as and when we like. There are a couple of plans we already have, like Thursday when I am Daddy Day Care, as the wife and mother in law head off to Manchester for her Mothers Day present, the Coronation Street tour. Then on Friday we head off to Bristol Zoo to meet our friends from Devon for a day out together at a rough half way point between the two houses. Now we have the new car, with its six-speed diesel engine, I am actually quite looking forward to putting a few motorway miles underneath it! I don’t think the weather is going to be especially summery this week, so I can’t see us getting out and about a whole lot, but I am quite sure it will be a great week all the same.

Sadly today was yet another day where I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with Olivia as I was due to head back out for a meal with some work colleagues that I had forgotten all about. It was a fairly fancy restaurant in the city, but the food was reasonably priced considering its location and it tasted good. I decided to drive on this occasion and pick up one of the guys who lived nearby on the way. I knew it wouldn’t be a late night, and as a result it wasn’t like I was going to do a whole lot of drinking anyway. It was nice to be home at a sensible time to see the wife, even though she was struggling to keep her eyes open and was soon off to bed. It won’t be long before I am doing the same!

365 project, Personal, Photography


“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.”

The week is yet again coming to an end and my to-do list doesn’t seem to be shrinking at all, there are some priority jobs that need attending to pronto, and a bunch of stuff that I seem to be putting off on an almost daily basis. I’m just glad that I am off next week to finally do something about these jobs, although it is just as important to be spending some time with the wife and daughter whenever I get the chance. We don’t have many days out planned, apart from a trip to Bristol Zoo, and although the weather looks as though it may be against us for most of the week, we need to make an effort anyway, even if it does end up being a cold and wet day! Its all about spending time together!

The forecast for today wasn’t great but I managed to cycle into work without getting wet, and inevitably end up spending the day in dry clothes, I had my hopes up to be able to get home the same way too. Sadly Mother Nature had other ideas and gave me a proper good soaking on the way home and I was drenched right through to the skin by the time I got home, but it did feel really good to slip into a few nice dry clothes.

Sadly it was down to the wife again to put Olivia to bed, as I had to pop out and meet a couple about their wedding plans, as we are only about 6 weeks away from their big day. Usually I have this meeting at the couples house, but they wanted to me meet me at the venue. It was a gorgeous place and the meeting went very well. I decided to stop off on the way home and see my mom for a bit for a cup of tea, although it was getting starting to get a bit late, so I really couldn’t stay much longer, with stuff to be getting on with when I got home. I managed to take todays photo at the hotel before I left, I could have spent hours there taking photos, but the sun was close to setting.

Strangely enough it is now almost midnight, I am ready for bed, and my to-do list still hasn’t got any shorter!!

365 project, Personal, Photography


Like most people who have had one baby, I am an expert on everything and will tell you, unsolicited, how to raise your kid!”
Our poor little lady just isn’t herself at the moment. We have seen a lot more tears in the last few days than normal, and she just doesn’t seem that interested in her meals. This is all very new for us, having been used to such a placid baby. We’re still getting a lot of the smiles and laughing, but not quite as many as we’re used to seeing. Tonight I came home from work and I was in the house just minutes before the crying started, she was sat in her high chair, yet again refusing to eat dinner, and so we gave up and tried to console her. It wasn’t more than 15 minutes before she was lying across my chest fast asleep and didn’t wake up for another 45 minutes! The poor little mite was absolutely exhausted, and this was just an hour or so from bedtime. Last night she was coughing a lot, sounding quite chesty and clearly has a cold too, its just a whole lot of no fun seeing her like this. I just hope she gets over it quickly and gets her appetite back soon. From quite a young age she became disinterested in having a dummy, and has happily replaced it with her thumb, which I hope she grows out of quickly, but she only normally sticks her thumb in when she is very tired, so we’re not hugely concerned about it at the moment.

I unfortunately missed Olivia going to bed as I had to pop out and run a couple of errands, before popping over to see my friends for an hour or so. Tomorrow night I will miss her going to bed again as I have a meeting with a couple to meet them at the venue and discuss their wedding day plans. There kind of meetings generally don’t take too long, but I do wish I could at least put Olivia to bed before I have rush out of the door. The weather forecast is looking grim for tomorrow as well, I am not looking forward to cycling if we get all the rain that has been forecast as I still haven’t got round to replacing the mud guards on my bike yet. This could mean a real soaking, as the spray from the road is far worse than the actual rain that comes down! The rain itself doesn’t bother me too much, but the spray is literally like standing in the shower fully clothed, there’s only so much even a waterproof coat can withstand before it gives in and you are soaked through to the skin! Still, only two more days to go before we have another week off, which will sadly be Clare’s last week before she has to go back to work! Sad times!