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

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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!
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Even though I took a Canon 50D and a Fuji X100 with me, todays photo of the day was taken with my iPhone 5.

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Daddy day care!

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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

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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!

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

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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.

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“Fun with the family”

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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!