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Todays plans to get out and do something were hampered yet again by that pesky teething problem. Yet again Olivia had been up in the night, and had taken a while to settle and so was a bit tired and pale today, needing lots of sleep to catch up at nap time. By the time we had got naps and lunch out of the way there wasn’t much time left before we were due to go to my sisters anyway, so we kinda gave up on doing much before that.

My sister had originally agreed to baby sit for us tonight as we were planning on going to the surprise 40th birthday party of my friend, but with Olivia teething and being up and down so much all week, there was no guarantee she’d sleep properly after we went out, so Clare, still not feeling great herself anyway, decided that she wasn’t going to come to the party. It came as no surprise really, as we’d known all week that this would be a possibility. I know how keen my sister always is to see Olivia though, so we decided to visit her so she could still see Olivia, she had agreed to give up her Saturday evening after all. Going to my sisters also served a second purpose, as the 40th birthday party was actually only 5 minutes from her flat and it meant that if Clare dropped me off at the party before heading home, then it would save me a taxi fare, and throwing money at taxis is something I never enjoy doing.I rarely get black cabs as they always seem far more expensive, and although the private hire taxis seem a slightly cheaper alternative, I feel like I always have to be on my guard to make sure they’re not ripping me off. Their prices always seem to fluctuate for the same journey, and also depending on how much you’ve had to drink! If they think they can get away with charging the drunk guy a bit extra as they think he won’t notice, then they’ll give it a go! It is quite handy though when, on asking how much we owe at the end of a journey, they ask “how much do you usually pay?”, it always feels like an opportunity to get one back on them, whilst in my head I’m looking like some kind of cartoon villain rubbing my hands together and and smiling with an evil bad guy kind of grin. Its a very careful balance of chancing how much you can get away with, without them refusing and demanding much more than that anyway!

We had a lovely couple of hours at my sisters, before we left and I was dropped at the party. Clare had her wine, pizza and X Factor, which she was more than happy with for a Saturday night especially as I tend to refuse such tv drivel when I am in at the weekend. I’d sooner sell the tv than have to sit through all the X Factor, Celebrity jungles and Gogglebox rubbish thats literally melting peoples brains at the moment! It feels like we have taken a step backwards in the evolution of mankind with this kind of garbage on tv! If anyone hasn’t yet seen the film Idiocracy, then I’d suggest watching it, and you’ll see what I mean! Going back just over 10 years we saw the introduction of reality tv with Big Brother hitting our screens, and whatever your opinions of Big Brother, it did well and made a number of people very famous indeed. It also spawned a new era of television with more and more reality shows popping up, and ramped up the publics weird obsession with celebrities taking on various challenges or competitions or vote-me-off programmes. Personally it baffles me that anyone even takes this stuff seriously, yet my own wife is hooked on this stuff. Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t get it! I know its going to make me sound old, but tv really was better when there was just four channels! There was definitely more thought given to what was actually put on air, whereas now it seems that all you need is a camcorder and a word in the ear of the right person! Look at me, on another rant about how desperate tv has become, I mean to be fair its not all bad. Having so many channels increases the amount of truly awful stuff that we can now sit and watch while our brains turn into mush, but it also means that once in a while you find a little gem out there. So what makes me sit down and actually watch tv for a while, well I personally believe that tv was invented purely for Family Guy to be aired, everything else is just a bonus. I’ve enjoyed a few series such as 24, Heroes, and Prison Break and you can’t beat a bit of good guys catching the bad guys in Road Wars! Anything with the word “celebrity” in the title, requires people to be voted off, or is deemed a “talent” show (if you can is generally never going to be on the tv when I am sat in front of it! Still, while people continue to watch it, they will continue to make it!

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When you look forward to a Friday and it doesn’t quite work out how you expected… sigh!

The plan was perfectly simple, put the little lady to bed and then sit down for a delicious dinner with the wife, before a trip to the supermarket for wine, beer and snacks, and then both of us sitting down to a good film. Dinner was a success, although I wanted to get some music playing through the tv while we sat and ate, rather than have something actually on the tv that would be too distracting, as its nice to sit down and talk when you’re eating, and a bit of background music would have been nice. I was having an issue with technology this evening though, it did not want to play ball. I gave up and we moved on to trying to find a film to watch. Oh dear, this was a bit of an oversight, and something we should have looked at earlier. There was simply nothing that inspired us whatsoever. We went through the entire dvd/blu-ray collection, and couldn’t find anything that jumped out at us. We sat and went through Sky Box Office and couldn’t find anything we wanted to rent. We went through Netflix, and felt even more deflated as I am paying to watch movies on demand from them and couldn’t find a single film that we wanted to watch together, in fact I’d say that 60% of the films on there I hadn’t even heard of! Netflix really need to sort it out, or I’ll definitely be cancelling my subscription. I mean, yes I know £6 a month isn’t much, but when you sit down on a Friday evening with your film and can’t even find ONE film you may want to watch, then what is the point? They have had some good films on there previously, and then due to licensing issues, they have pulled down hundreds of titles from their catalogue. I even had a free trial of Amazon Prime a couple of months ago, and as they had taken over LoveFilm I thought they may have a better catalogue of films. That was also a little disappointing, and even more so when we found a film to watch and I end up getting charged for it, as it turns out that not all the films are free! Fair play to Amazon for their amazing customer service and refunding me straight away, although needless to say I didn’t take up the Prime membership after the trial.

I just have to ask myself, how hard is it to find a decent film to watch on a Friday night? It felt like a mission impossible last night. In the end we settled on a film neither of us knew much about, that was part of a Danny Boyle boxset, it was called Sunshine, about a mission to send a nuclear bomb into space to reignite a dying sun. Sounded right up my street, and Clare was even keen to give it a go.

Worst film ever!

1hr 40mins of my life I will never get back!

Up to half an hour in and we were both a bit confused, I was going to change it, but Clare was tired and looking to go to bed early anyway, so I figured that I would persist and see the film through to the end as the reviews weren’t that bad on Imdb. The end was just as disappointing as the rest of the film. I can safely say that it is one film I will never be watching again.

I was going to stick on another film after that, one that was easy to find as it was just for me. Clare had gone to bed, and the challenge of finding a film we’d both like was no longer an issue. I thought I’d give the new Robocop film a chance… that was until Olivia decided to wake up.

After a fantastic night of sleep the night before, I thought the teething issue may have been subsiding and we could get back to normal sleep, which just goes to show how unpredictable toddlers can be. I tried to settle Olivia with all the usual tactics, clean nappy, drink of water, a dose of calpol, some cuddles. and even though she went back down, it lasted all of 10 minutes before she was up and making noise again. This went on all the way through to 1:40am whenI decided that Robocop was not going to happen, and neither was my last bottle of beer, and this blog was certainly out of the question! I may have cancelled my Saturday morning run, but I was still going to be tired in the morning!

Oh well, I love my little princess, and wouldn’t change her for the world. Nights like this are just one of those unavoidable things in the long process of bringing up a child. There will be other nights the same, and there will be harder nights than this to come, but they are par for the course. You can’t appreciate the good days quite as much without days like this.

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I have been sat with the computer in front of me most of the evening and still managed to leave it to the last minute to type anything on here!

Teething has reached a climax now and our poor little lady has had a full night of misery. We took in in turns to get up to her and spend time with her. There was no quick fix, and there wasn’t much we could do that seemed to help her. She was in a lot of discomfort with her big back teeth coming through, and all we could do was keep her cool, make sure she had enough water to drink and give her cuddles to reassure her. Eventually Clare had to miss a day of work as she was feeling tough anyway, so it seemed to make sense at this point to leave her to look after Olivia as I needed to at least get a few hours shut eye if I was going to be going into work. I’d already been up for a while with her and done my bit, but it soon became clear that sleep was going to be a bit of a luxury and we were trying to keep Olivia comfortable and relaxed rather than getting her back to sleep. When I left for work Olivia went back down for a nap, and Clare took the opportunity to catch up on a bit of sleep herself. By all accounts they spent most of the rest of the day cuddled up on the sofa in front of the tv, which at least meant that Olivia wasn’t crying any more. I kept checking in with text messages throughout the day, and was at least pleased to hear that Olivia had started to find a little more energy in the afternoon, even though she’d barely eaten a scrap of food all day! Leaving work isn’t a quick affair for me when I am cycling, as I have to get changed into my cycling gear, make sure my backpack is packed properly, and then unlock my bike and lock the gates behind me before I can head off on my journey. Tonight I was ready to go, changed and loitering by the door ready to bolt as soon as it was time to leave, I wasn’t hanging around. By the time I got back I could see that dinner was already in the oven, and so I took over looking after Olivia while Clare carried on with serving dinner up. I think she was just a bit glad, by this point, to be able to hand a whingy baby over to someone else, and distract herself with some cooking!

I’m not going to drag this blog out tonight, there is plenty I can type and I’d love to write more, but its getting late and I am already tired after last nights episode with Olivia, especially considering that I can’t rule out more of the same tonight! Todays photo is a similar shot to yesterday, I had left the flash on, and the lightsphere, and my trusty 50mm lens on that creates that beautiful out of focus are behind Olivia. I couldn’t resist, especially with her crazy hair, which always makes me smile. Clare always wanted a baby with curly hair, and we got one! Some of our friends have babies that are now over a year old and still almost bald. Thankfully there appears to be a fairly strong gene on my side of the family that keeps my hair curly, and seems to have passed down on to Olivia. I know that she’ll still hate her hair as she grows up, she’ll curse not being able to do anything with it if its all straight and a bit limp, but then if it ends up being curly and wild she’ll still curse it equally as much, and she’ll convince herself that she can’t do a thing with it and that just attempting to straighten it will be a long slow process. In the meantime, while she doesn’t complain about hair, mommy and daddy love her curls!

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Decided to try something a bit different with todays photo, as I grabbed a couple of shots of Olivia I realised the lamp light wasn’t going to be enough, and using the flash from the camera would just create an effect I’ve already used countless times, so I decided to add my Gary Fong Lightsphere attachment, otherwise known as the Fong Dong, to my flash to spray the light around the room a bit, as it doesn’t get much use these days. There has also been an element of Photoshop been used to play with the contrast and colours, in case you couldn’t tell, in the form of a bunch of presets known as Totally Rad Actions. An ‘action’ is a sequence of preset adjustments used to create a specific effect, these can be varied in intensity and combined to create new and unique effects. Basically they save me many hours of trying to modify photos, which was key to me when I started my 365 journey. A photo a day is one thing if it takes you 5 minutes, its another if it takes you an hour to edit the photo to create a specific effect. I have no objection to actually learning photoshop, in fact I think its the right way to do things, but when I am covering a different photo every single day, and creating many different effects, you can only learn so many tricks. There are some that I have done the hard way, and only actually ended up using once and then promptly forgot how to do them again, which questions the value of learning it in the first place. Still, this 365 journey has been fun, even for the second year, and even considering how I have struggled for inspiration and images on some days. The persistence has paid off though as I am about to enter my final month of the year now, we are just a few days away from December, and it is nice to look back on all the images.

I think I will definitely be doing a review of the years photos on New Years Eve, especially as I very much doubt we will end up going anywhere again. I think it might be a while before we see much NYE action as a number of our friends have babies, toddlers or small children at the moment. I am much more of a fan of New Years Eve than Clare is anyway, she doesn’t see the point or get remotely excited about it, whereas I have always loved New Years Eve and enjoyed making a big song and dance about it. I have previously taken Clare to house parties where she has admitted to having at least a little bit of fun, and kind of got into it a bit, which is better than nothing! I actually didn’t mind staying in that much last year, for several reasons, firstly I was in with my two favourite people in the world, my wife and daughter, secondly I knew that most of my friends were also having a quiet night, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much, and thirdly, I am definitely getting lazier in my old age! I do love a good night out, but sometimes I just think it is such an effort that I’m not even sure if I have to motivation to blow all that money and feel like a car crash the next day! Hangovers aren’t what they used to be! Rather than a bad head in the morning, they can be a day long event now! I have to admit that on the very occasional previous night out, not all the time you understand, just once or twice, here and there, where I’ve just thought to myself “can I actually really be bothered? The waiting in queues, 20 minutes at the bar just to get a drink, waiting for taxis, thinking I am floating round the house like a butterfly when I get home, only to be told I sounded like an epileptic elephant the morning after, rude door staff, fights in the street, the hangover from hell, knowing how much money I blew and then finding debit card receipts on top of that!”. My 30 year old self would be purely disgusted with me for even thinking such things! Life has changed, with both the imminent threat of turning 40 charging at me like an iceberg on the still and lifeless ocean as I hurtle towards it like the titanic, combined with a change in priorities after Olivia arrived on the scene and made me look at absolutely everything differently!

Speaking of Olivia, we are in full on teething mode at the moment, those big back teeth are coming through and she isn’t happy about it. She has been off her food one day, then a monster eating machine the next, then back to not wanting a bite of even her favourite foods the day after. She is waking up regularly throughout the night for no other reason than needing to be picked up and cuddled. We often take the opportunity to give her a drink, change her nappy and wipe her nose, although it can still be up to an hour later before she settles again! Its horrible to see her not well, but the cuddles are a nice by-product! I just hope she has a better nights sleep tonight as she is back in nursery tomorrow. She’s already passed her germs on to her mommy who took the day off form work as she wasn’t feeling great and wanted to take Olivia to the doctors just to look at her nasty cough. Turns out its nothing, just teething, winter, and nursery germs!

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Todays photo is a portrait shot of a work colleague of mine. He is responsible for the school website at work and asked me to bring my camera in to get some proper photos of certain staff members to go on the website, one of which being himself. Its a bit of a pain bringing the camera in, partly because of the cost and the worry, carrying it on the back of the bike itself is a huge risk, and then I have to make sure its safe all day at work too, but the biggest problem by far is the weight! The camera and lens combo that I take in adds a significant weight to my backpack when I am cycling, especially considering I’d thrown a couple of flashguns in there too, and my poor little legs struggle enough on the hills first thing in the morning, especially on days like today when my muscles are colder than normal, seeing as it was a nice, fresh -0.5ºc when I set out this morning. I was a little concerned about the bike staying underneath me, regardless of whether I am carrying a camera or not!

Anyway, the journey was fine in the end, the camera was safe all day at work, and the photos came out fine. The only downside is that three of the staff I needed to photograph today weren’t available for one reason or another, which means taking the camera in for a second day. Not an ideal situation, I am much happier when I can just leave the camera at home. Still, I said I’d do it now, and I don’t like to let people down, so I really have to finish the job!

Back at home we still have Olivia not quite herself at the moment, although this is mostly limited to bed time, aand she is generally fine during the day. She is still teething and we have her big back teeth coming through at the moment, which is causing her a few problems with sleeping. I know the teething thing is a long, slow process and the teeth can be causing problems for months. Olivia seems to have taken most of it in her stride, but she is not totally immune to the discomfort, and night time is when it seems to be at its worst. Last night we had numerous issues where we were barely getting an hours sleep between the noises from the next room that kept waking us up. Tonight has started out a little better, but it turned out worse than I expected! Clare had gone to bed early to make up for last nights lack of sleep, and I heard several Olivia type noises coming from upstairs, so I went to investigate knowing full well she’d be awake, which she was. I’d beat Clare to it, and she stayed asleep for now, what I didn’t expect though was how hot Olivia would be, a full on high temperature. I stripped her down a bit and gave her a cold drink, and Clare came in to help me give her some medicine. Her temperature had hit 39.5ºc which I was a little concerned about, but we stayed calm and continued to cool Olivia down, and eventually her temperature came back down to around 38ºc which was much more reassuring. Lets hope she sleeps a bit better tonight.

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Ah Monday never seems quite as bad when you still have the sweet taste of the weekend in your mouth. The weekend is something to be treasured, for me anyway, I have certainly rekindled my love of the weekend after leaving my previous job in retail. As I have said before, probably on numerous occasions, I certainly don’t dislike my job, but I do love not being there when it means I have the weekend to spend with my wife and daughter. Last weekend I got to spend plenty of time with them, but as everyone was coughing and snotty and generally not feeling 100%, it didn’t feel like quite as much fun! This weekend was definitely much more fun, having the family over on Saturday for dinner, and then spending Sunday afternoon with a good friend of mine taking in the joys of the final Formula 1 race of the year, the championship deciding title race in Abu Dhabi, all in the comfort of Aprés bar, on the big screen with a beer and some food in front of me, and a crowd of like minded people behind me, all cheering on the same guy… Lewis Hamilton, who turned out to be the new 2014 F1 world champion! Its certainly better than cheering to myself from the solitude of our living room when I’m at home as no-one wants to watch the race with me! At least here I can feel like I am not the only F1 fan in the world!

So with the weekend out of the way, its time to start planning for December, as there are plenty of things coming up that I’ll need to be checking the calendar for. There are numerous 40th birthdays (for some reason, sign of the times?), meals out with friends, christmas cards to write and send and not leave until christmas eve like I did last year, various photo shoots, a visit to the german market, and a whole bunch of other stuff! Its a fun month, but its a busy month, and I just know it will all be over in a flash, I just need to make sure I am on top of things and don’t go forgetting anything important! And not forgetting anything means diaries and lists, I must have lists! If its not written down, there is every chance its not getting done! That’s my motto, and in my defence, I am consistent with it!

Monday has been a fairly standard and run of the mill kinda day, and as with most days, the last five minutes before work I always get a little excited, at the thought of heading home on my bike, as fast as my little legs can carry me, to see Olivia. Of course at this time of year, the journey takes on a darker and more ominous aspect, the shorter days mean that I am cycling home with absolutely zero sunlight to help the drivers see me, and I am relying on making myself stand out, with the super bright lights I have added to the back of my bike, the hi viz coat I am now wearing, and also making sure I am not rattling around in the gutter and in fact take up a good portion of the road, forcing the drivers to take notice and attempt to pass me properly leaving ample space, instead of skimming past without indicating or even moving out of the same lane. These tactics have served me well so far, and it is always a relief to get home in one piece, as the roads seem to have become a very uncaring, ruthless place for anyone on two wheels! I do have one more set of lights on order from Amazon, these have been likened to “being like car headlights” and even come with their own battery pack. Unfortunately I ordered them from a chinese company and I am still waiting for them seven weeks later! I was told they should have been with me by now, and so an replacement has been sent out, although who knows how long I’ll have to wait for this! I need it for the dark nights… and I ordered it before the dark nights were a problem… now its really dark out there, and they’re a problem! Where are my damn lights??? One of the downfalls of ordering online I guess, I just hope they are worth waiting for, as there is absolutely nothing of comparison in any of the bike shops, just horrible, cheap, feeble lights with hardly any power behind them! Why do none of the bike shops, especially the likes of halfords, sell any decent bike lights? I’ve never quite understood this.

Anyway, its now time to put the bread machine on so that we can wake up to the smell of fresh bread again in the morning, and then I am off to bed! Good night internet!

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There may be no better way to start a Sunday than with cuddles on the sofa with the little lady, where today’s photo was taken. It took a little bit of engineering with the lighting to get it to turn out this way, especially as it was a bit of a dull start to the day, but thankfully I have the knowledge to get some good looking photos that we can look back on and appreciate in years to come. A clever use of a bit of flash in the right place makes all the difference.

There is also one thing that is bothering me slightly recently, which is the use of mobile phones and how they have started to replace people’s main cameras. Now while it can’t be denied that this is hugely convenient for everyone, as we all have our phones on us pretty much all of the time, the simply fact is that a lot of people are getting poor quality photos out of them. I know that in the years since my first iPhone, smartphone cameras have leapt forward massively in their capabilities, and they can capture some truly wonderful images, but like most things, you kinda have to know what you’re doing to get the most out of them. These camera phones will take great photos in most condition, especially with sufficient light levels, but are often not very good in low light or indoors, and yet this is where a lot of people will use them. I tend to see a lot of pictures on Facebook that friends have taken of their children, and while I am never going to criticise or judge other people’s photography (even though people seem to assume I’m going to!) it does make me a bit sad to think that a lot of the babies and small children I see photos of, are only ever going to have their pictures taken on a phone. This presents several issues for me, they will potentially only have poor quality baby photos to look back on when they grow up, the photos will most likely never get printed, and very likely will never get backed up, which creates another problem when you think how easy it is to lose a mobile phone, especially if it is the only place all your precious photos are stored!

My dad was always our photographer, so when my parents split up when I was a young child, looking back I see a distinct drop off in the photos of me when I was growing up, and particularly in the quality. My mom did her best, but she was busy bringing up two children, and on a budget too, so cameras and photos naturally weren’t a priority. The benefit this does have is that I do treasure each and every photo of me as a child, and know pretty much all of them. There is something to be said for taking less photos and making each one worth more.