Whoa! Hang on, are we half way through the half term holiday already? How did THAT happen??
The first two days, Monday and Tuesday have seen me flying solo so to speak, as Clare was working and Olivia was in nursery. Clare had booked Wednesday to Friday off, and so we could all spend some family time together, with Olivia at nursery on a Tuesday and a Thursday, it made sense to move her Thursday session at nursery to the Monday, meaning that Clare had a full three days with Olivia while she was off work.
The first two days of the week were not going to be quiet, although it would have been nice to put my feet up with a book, I had plenty on and was keeping myself quite busy! On Monday, I had to meet up with some friends to discuss helping them, for a couple of hours a week, to look after their son who has autism. A charity has funded some hours for some help, but they didn’t know anyone who may be suitable, or had experience of autism. It wasn’t until a chat on a night out where they realised they had overlooked me and my experience working in the school, especially my more recent experience with autism, dealing with similar behaviours and abilities. Everyone working in any kind of care role, especially children, has to have a criminal check to be employed, this used to be known as a CRB, but has more recently been replaced with the DBS, which is essentially the same thing. Although whilst I can still remain in my current job with the CRB I originally took, which is still valid, I cannot start any new role without the new DBS check. Frustratingly for the family, mine took literally months to process, and eventually came back just before christmas, so once the chaos of christmas was out of the way we were able to meet and discuss how we were going to approach this situation, and what we could do for their son. Straight after I went over to visit my good friend Phil, one of the few from my school days who I still regularly see, and was kind enough to photograph our wedding day. He has just moved house, into what I can only describe as a mansion sized house! Simply huge, just so vast I was trying not to make myself looks stupid by walking round with my mouth open, repeatedly saying “wow!”. When I was done being blown away by the house, I was then taken outside and shown the garden, literally more land than half of our street and their gardens all put together! So much land that I wouldn’t even know what to do with it, I’d feel like I’d have to buy a horse or something, just to justify it!
I sometimes sit back and think how interesting it is how a group of children from the same secondary school, all in the same year, who had grown up together for a number of years, have all ended up on such very different paths in our lives. Back then, we could never have guessed by the time we’d hit 40 years old, who would be married (or not), who would be divorced, who would be rich or poor, who would have children, or even who would have got carried away and had lots of children, or maybe even who would end up living and working in far away exotic corners of the world! It has been a privilege to get back in touch and be able to catch up with some of them in recent years, and become a part of each others lives again.
Life has changed hugely for those of us who have children now, and its easy for us to lose track of time, and so when it comes to arranging a night out or a lunch with the wives and kids, it needs someone to make the first move and get the ball rolling. I have always been one for keeping in touch and so I’ll often be the one to start the process, often all it needs is a text message or two. Time is relentless, and the months continue to fly by regardless, so its important we all stop and catch up with each other once in a while. It doesn’t matter who arranges it, its the getting together one way or another thats important, so what’s a few text messages or emails between friends anyway?
We really do have the joy of social media to thank for so much of this, I have found a lot of my old friends through the likes of facebook, and continue use it to keep up with them even when we’re too busy to meet up. Our age group left school a few years before mobile phones became popular, and before the internet starting appearing in peoples homes! So we literally had no way of staying in touch with people once we left school, unless we had their home landline phone number, or their actual home address, which was all very well until they moved house and/or changed their phone number… then you were knackered! Things are, of course, very different now, we’re more connected than ever, in fact once you have been on the internet, it will take a significant effort to try and remove yourself from it and hide yourself again if you’re one of the few who decide, for whatever reason, that you don’t like it. I have facebook to thank for where I am today, and anyone that knows much about me and the wife will know that even though we met on a night out, we still wouldn’t be together now if it wasn’t for facebook. So all those who knock social media and complain about it for various reasons, I can see that while its not for everyone, it has definitely improved the quality of my life beyond all recognition, and things would be very different for me without it. Would I even be married now, or would I have ever become a parent without it? Who knows? If I hadn’t met Clare then I know my life would have taken a very different course. Some of my friends my age still are not married and still don’t have kids, and we’re of a generation where marriage and children seemed to happen later and later anyway! As a childless 30something living in a shared house when we got together, I’m just grateful I met Clare when I did.
Getting back to this week, on Tuesday, I was still on my own, so I made a second visit back to see my friends again about looking after their son, and today the plan was to actually spend some time with them to see how he behaved at home and out walking, and to let him get used to me being around, and to see how his parents dealt with various situations so that I didn’t create too many changes for him. It went well, and we’ll be doing it all again on Sunday, just to ease us in gently. After I’d left I jumped on the motorway and headed straight over to see my photographer friend Cheryl from Captured By Cheryl. This is a determined woman whose business I have pretty much watched grow from day one when she brought her first new SLR camera. Cheryl knew that she either find out how this camera thing worked or end up getting a regular job and then not be able to spend time at home with her children, or even see much of her partner due to his shifts. She threw herself into newborn photography, spent money on the kit that she needed, turned her living room into a makeshift studio, attended numerous courses and slowly started to see a following build up on her facebook page and her diary regularly full up and her finances begin to turn themselves around. Its almost feels like a proud father moment to see her doing so well, and I hope her business continues to grow at the rate it has been! We caught up for a quick coffee at a Costa, and it was lovely to catch up and “chat shop” with someone who gets as excited about photography and building a business as me. Its a conversation that I just can’t have at home, if I even mention photography in front of the wife, I can see her face begin to glaze over and I may as well be discussing the market statistics for the Tokyo stock exchange in Japanese for all the response I get!
Then Wednesday rolled around, and the wife was no longer at work, her three days off had begun and Olivia was done with nursery for the week, so it was the three of us at home. We had only one commitment today, and that was visiting my sister. I’d promised to take a freshly home baked loaf over for lunch so that we could have some delicious sandwiches for lunch, and with the selection of fillings we had available, lunch went down a treat. Clare had happened to notice online the previous day, that Peppa Pig was going to be visiting the Selfridges store in the Bullring, and so after lunch was finished at my sisters we all jumped in the car and headed into town to see Peppa Pig so that Olivia could meet and have her photograph taken with Peppa. Her face was a picture when we got there, she was so excited to see her, waving and pointing and smiling! It was essentially her first “celebrity” meeting! She even gave Peppa a kiss before she left and had strangers in the queue behind us saying “ahhhhh”.
We also found that Olivia now has a new favourite game, which is riding up and down on all the escalators and travelators she can find! I managed to grab a photo on the iPhone of her doing this in Asda after we’d dropped my sister home. I was also quite impressed with the exterior shot of Selfridges that I’d taken earlier on the iPhone too. Its certainly proving itself as a solid replacement for any compact camera I’ve carried about before!