Monthly Archives: March 2015
Sundays blog should have been posted by now, it clearly hasn’t been!
The weekend was pretty hectic, and there was very little time to actually sit down and just type.
Friday was certainly a day to look forward to, the simple fact that it was payday alone is always a good start, and then on top of that a staff training day means no kids at work. Finally the end of the day rolls around and it means that my easter holiday and two weeks off work have now started! Boom! Sadly my Friday night celebrations soon became a one-man affair as the wife promptly fell asleep (yet again) almost as soon as we put a film on! In fairness, anything even remotely sci-fi related was always going to be a bit of a gamble.
Saturday started early, the day began by heading over to see my friends, as I was looking after their son J again for a couple of hours. When we initially began discussing this arrangement and how it would work out, I thought that it may end up being every weekend, which I was hoping to avoid. Thankfully the whole arrangement has been fairly relaxed and flexible so that it suits both them and me, as anyone who knows me knows that my weekends and my family time are very precious. This particular weekend the weather wasn’t great, but as I only had a couple of hours and J seemed quite lively, I thought I’d take him for a walk and give them a quiet half hour. While we were out I managed to quickly snap this shot along the canals and was quite impressed with how the phone handled it! I don’t take the camera out much any more now I have given up on this years 365 project, but still can’t resist grabbing a quick shot now and again.
After a couple of hours at home, I was dropped off at the pub by the wife as that afternoon I had been invited along on a stag party, the groom from one of next weekends weddings. He is an old friend, a nice guy that I used to work with a number of years ago, and so even though I didn’t know anyone else there I figured it would be a fun night out anyway. Starting with a few ales in a local pub, we soon moved on to some greyhound racing, and then finishing off with a curry… although by that time there was only a handful of us left and the groom had already been carried home! I even got home myself at a sensible time and without being ridiculously drunk, and managed to make it to bed quietly without waking anyone up. It may not sound like the most exciting way to get home from a stag party, not be staggering from one wall to another, but I had a 10km run arranged for Sunday morning with my friend and that level of hangover could only have meant a solid hour of pain and the rest of the day in bed!
As it happened, I got home feeling fine, and was able to make a start on watching the recording of the F1 Malaysian Grand Prix that I’d missed whilst out running, this is of course before Clare headed out for afternoon tea with friends leaving me in charge of the little person who sees no importance of the afore mentioned race, and apparently has other ideas on ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. So we decide to head out for a walk, although with no car it means a bit of a walk to the nearest park, time to get the trike out! The buggy seems to be an unpopular choice these days, and its much too far for Olivia to be walking yet, so the trike saved the day, and she was happy to be pushed all the way there in it.
Things soon changed when we got there though, it was clearly too late in the day, someone was needing her afternoon nap, and now I was nowhere near home with a little girl who was starting to get upset. All she wanted was to be picked up and was too tired to even go back in the trike, which resulted in screaming each time I tried it, and I didn’t exactly want to look like the guy who was trying to kidnap a child or something, and have some do-gooder call the police. So I had to carry her, and it made for a very long walk home, and there were tears anyway, even though I still hadn’t put her down at any point, and could no longer feel my arm any more! Eventually, after what felt like an eternity, I had finally made it, and was at least greeted by the wife who was now home and could take over toddler duty to let me regain my sanity, and our friend as well, who had popped over with her little boy for a short visit. Eventually the feeling came back in my arm, and I’d stopped sweating from the speed walking home, and could relax. I thought I had this parenting malarky nailed, apparently not, I can already hear the “Dad, you just don’t understand!” in my head, well in advance of her actually being able to say it! Oh well, they do say you live and learn, and I have learnt that with two weeks of being responsible for a little person, my forward planning needs to be a bit more effective than that! The wife seems to have this inbuilt knack of remembering everything and covering all eventualities… whereas I only have the knack of going out and making sure I bring the correct child home with me!
And so, as we ended Sunday night with a child now thankfully peacefully sleeping, we can relax and enjoy some time together that we missed out on Saturday night!
One thing I did do recently was to review my photography business and decide that my website was no longer up to scratch. It wasn’t terrible, but it definitely needed a facelift, and if I was going to move forward then it needed to look at bit more polished than it currently was.
I reviewed many options and had to consider numerous features, such as cost of setting up, the time it would take, how much time it would take to make changes, how it worked on mobile devices, whether I could sell prints through it, and whether I could get the site running on my own or if I’d need a designer to get involved (expensive!).
So far I have a free 14 day trial on a provider that has caught my eye, and seems to tick a lot of the boxes, so I am going to run with it for a while, and if it fits the bill then I even have the use of a discount code to make it cost effective! Should anyone be interested in taking a look, I even have a new website address and consequently a new email to go with it, and the new site can be found at www.andyvokes.com with emails going to firstname.lastname@example.org If you have any thoughts or comments on it, why don’t you drop me an email and let me know?! I’d love to hear from you, and its always good to know who actually reads this!
The site itself is currently quite basic, and there is much room for customisation, although that will require some investment of time, although I should be able to do much of what I want on my own with the help of a few online tutorials, rather than forking out a four figure some for someone to design something for me. Granted, it would be an awesome five star site if I paid a designer handsomely for the job, but thats not the kind of budget I’m working on at the moment!
As I add more to the site I will be singing my own praises no doubt, and if anyone reading this happens to be on twitter, you can follow me there @andrewvokes where I will be posting the updates and you can also get notifications about new blog posts at the same time! Winner!
Of course the irony is that focusing on the website has distracted me from finishing this blog post, and yet again it is getting late and I am still up typing. The good news is that tomorrow is the last day at work for a couple of weeks, and although I don’t get much of a lie in with the little organic alarm clock in the next room that gets us up each morning (and still in the middle of the night sometimes!), at least I don’t have to set my own alarm clock. Sadly the wife will still be at work for a lot of it though, so I will still get an alarm clock waking me up at some point!
So what else has this week offered us? Well our little girl is unwell again, more pesky germs circulating at nursery, and yet another cold, only this time it brings with it a temperature. I decided that as I’d caught the cold too, I wanted to take a day off cycling and rest a bit, so we all got in the car this morning, dropped Olivia at nursery, and I then dropped Clare close to work and carried on. I’d been at work a matter of minutes before the nursery called and informed me of her temperature and asked me if they could give her calpol to bring the temperature down a bit. Ah yes calpol, the magic elixir for parents of sick and grumpy toddlers everywhere… I was only too happy for them to give her some, the stuff works wonders and has often been the only reason we’ve got a grumpy baby back to sleep in the middle of the night! Sadly this temperature didn’t disappear and so Olivia had to be collected from nursery where she then proceeded to take a giant 3 hour nap, clearly in need of some sleep! Thankfully by the time I got home after enduring the nightmare that was rush hour traffic! Tonight simply highlighted the exact reason I cycle to work and back every day… it took me just shy of an hour to get home, whereas I am often home within 25 minutes of getting on my bike, regardless of traffic! I just can’t do rush hour traffic any more, it makes me want to hurt people!
Getting home is always great, but even more so after being stuck in so much traffic and doubly so when your wife and daughter are waiting at home for you, even if I was greeted by a snotty, grumpy, hot little girl who just wanted to be picked up and cuddled until bed time!
The cuddles are great, and often the best part of my day, but they aren’t quite as much fun when they are the result of a poorly little girl who doesn’t understand why she’s feeling like this and just wants some reassurance. Still, this is the life of being a parent, and there is no magic wand for making them better, and the cuddles are about as good as it gets sometimes!
I have an awful lot in my life to be grateful for, and most of it comes down to a chance meeting on a drunken night out when I met a beautiful girl who ended up being my wife. The rather flat and pale start I’d had to my 30s suddenly changed direction when I met Clare, we soon moved in together, I changed jobs, started a photography business, we got married, went on an amazing honeymoon and eventually bought a house together, and then the best bit…we became parents and welcomed our beautiful daughter into the world.
In looking back, I’ve come an awful long way in the last six years, and I couldn’t have done it on my own. Some days I feel like I can take on the world, but then there are still days when I just want to sit at home and shut the world out.
Today is definitely one of those days.
I’m feeling tired and grumpy, the weekend was quite busy, and although it was generally a good weekend, it still came with its problems. In reality these were small compared to how good the rest of the weekend was, but being in the mood I’m in today I find myself dwelling on these little things.
It’s at times like these when you need to stop and put things into perspective, measure up your woes against someone else’s bad day, and see how bad things really are. As much as this is a great place for letting off a little steam, I don’t want to stop and dwell on things too much, so I’ll move on with the rest of the weekend.
We started our weekend with a trip to see the mortgage advisor first thing on Saturday morning, to get our mortgage deal renewed after the initial two year deal was up, and as we knew what we wanted it was a fairly quick and efficient process. It left me enough time to get home and get myself ready to photograph a very low key wedding of one of the wife’s work colleagues. My first wedding of the year, and thankfully a very small affair with a very friendly couple, it allowed me to ease myself back into the wedding season again without too much pressure. Photographing a wedding, from the outside, probably looks like quite an easy job. Turn up for a couple of hours, take a few snaps and head home with a pocketful of cash! The reality is far from that, and while there are many,many articles on exactly this kind of debate online, I won’t go into it now. Needless to say, I’ve totally lost count of the amount of weddings I’ve done over the last seven years, but I still get nervous even now! There is so much pressure, and so much to remember, there are so many things that can go wrong, and people that have paid you hundreds of pounds do not want excuses if you let them down… they’ve paid you, they want results! I have already made the decision to steer my business in the direction of newborn photography, as weddings are hugely time intensive. I can often meet a couple twice before the big day to discuss the details and probably visit the venue, then I can be with them for easily a 12 hour day, and then after that I have to spend many evenings (don’t forget I already have a full time job!) sifting through and editing the photos, oh and if they want and album that’ll need designing and ordering too! If only wedding photography was just a days work! The fact that this weekends wedding was a low key affair was an absolute blessing! I was still glad to head home and relax after it though.
Once I was home, that allowed the wife to take the car and get the food shopping. We’re still trying to make the switch over to Aldi as we know we can save money, but we just can’t quite seem to get everything we need from there. This week we managed it, and our weekly shop was significantly less than we were used to from Asda, result! My sister and her boyfriend popped in briefly on their way to a meal, and although they didn’t stay too long and we still had plenty of time to start cooking dinner, frankly neither of us were in a cooking mood… and so Indian takeaway it was!
I was quite surprised and pleased to see that I had got a “pub call” text from my friend Dave after we’d finished our takeaway. After him and his wife split up, he needed somewhere to stay and so he obviously had little other option than his parents for a few weeks, which is the other side of town, and so it seemed our walks to the pub had apparently come to an end at that point. He is, however, looking into renting somewhere close by, so he can still be near his son and close to work. He was made a special journey over to see me and so we were able to catch up for a few hours. It was good to see him, especially as I am not getting out as much these days, so the odd trip to the local once or twice a month was very appreciated and often as far as I’d go, unless of course there was a significant birthday or something to celebrate.
The funny thing is that as Clare’s parents had taken the flat off us when we bought a house and moved out so they could let it out, and it seems almost like fate that the current tenants are in the process of buying a house and the consequently the flat will now be available at a perfect time for when Dave needs somewhere in the area to rent! He thinks it a great idea that he will end up living in our flat! Its perfect for him as its a good size and still cheap, and in a perfect location too! Probably about the best result from his unfortunate situation. Living so close to one of my oldest friends was a real bonus, and it will be nice that we’ll still end up living within a short distance of each other!
Sunday morning was my usual time for running, but my running partner text me to call in sick, and as much as I was actually looking forward to a run, I didn’t have the motivation to drag myself out on my own, knowing I had plenty of other things to do today. It was the one day of the year I could have a total geek out… The Photography Show at the NEC! This was not a place for wives and children, not unless you want them constantly checking their watches and tutting and mumbling about all the other things they could be doing and how nice the weather was outside and how I couldn’t afford anything there anyway etc… so I went alone, and I was happy to do so! With my plans for moving away from weddings and into newborn photography, I needed a bit of kit, and found a few bargains there to get me started. As I already have my first paying customer planned, I can start to recover some of the costs already! Once the kit has paid for itself, I can fully justify the purchase and then its all profit! With the both of us wondering how we are going to afford baby no.2 whenever that happens, this could be a way to really help that problem! The only downside is that unlike a wedding, this requires a few props and such to make it work, and so requires an initial outlay. The plus side, is that props is actually all I will need as I already have all the cameras, lenses and kit that I’ll need from the weddings. However, this doesn’t stop me wandering around the NEC drooling at a few expensive items along the way. Eventually things will need upgrading, and until then a bit of window shopping never hurt anyone. Plus its a useful way to find out what the labs are bringing out, in terms of albums, and mounted prints and various other things that I can use to sell to try and make a bit more money along the way.
I knew when it was time to call it a day though, and so I headed home around lunchtime and the weather had actually turned really nice. It was sunny, and one could almost call it warm! So I decided that even though the wife had plans for lunch, as long as she hadn’t actually started cooking, I was going to suggest we abandon the idea and head out for something to eat. Like a pro poker player, she saw my idea and raised it… we were heading to cannon hill park where we could a) be outdoors and b) grab a sandwich and a cup of tea at the same time! Winner!
It was a lovely afternoon, and although the parking was nothing short of a nightmare, the park didn’t actually feel that busy. We stopped off at the Garden Tea Room and enjoyed a toasted cheese sandwich and a cup of tea while little madam attempted to demolish a Choc Dip.
We finished the afternoon off by visiting my mom and her other half, which I like to do every couple of weeks as they can’t get over to us very easily any more. I’d like to go more often, but its not always possible sadly, so I always try and make the effort when I can.
So the weekend draws to a close yet again, it has been a busy one, but we have got lots done. The only problem with being busy is that you don’t notice how fast the weekend is actually going! So we decided to slow Sunday evening a bit with a few glasses of wine (for her) and a few beers (for me) while we put our feet up and watch a film, instead of the usual rubbish thats on tv! I have recently taken out a months free trial of NOW TV which is only slightly more expensive than Netflix, but has a far superior selection of films, and is making me seriously reconsider whether I want or need to keep my Netflix account! I’d already dropped LOVEfilm in favour of Netflix previously, but I am becoming seriously frustrated with the lack of decent films to watch on it! We opted for the Hangover 3 as neither of us were sure whether we’d actually seen it, and even when we started watching it and realised that we had, neither of us could remember what actually happened in it anyway, so we left it on and kept watching! A good chuckle and they’ve totally left the door open for a 4th film!
So flip the calendar back about 11 or 12 years and I am trying to find something to read on holiday. I don’t remember exactly when or where I found the book, but I was drawn to a book titled ‘My Legendary Girlfriend’ by an author that I had never heard of (not that I knew many authors) called Mike Gayle. I wasn’t a massive fiction reader, apart from reading Bravo Two Zero, and a couple of Stephen King novels, that was about it for me. So I genuinely didnt know where to start in trying to find something that might keep my attention, this Mike Gayle book looked interesting though, and it wasn’t long before I was engrossed in it, staying up late unable to put it down soon came to realise that Mike was actually from Birmingham, and found it pretty cool that he mentions various locations around the city in some detail as I begin to go through more and more of his books, each one as equally good as the first!
Eventually, after a number of house moves, with things being packed, unpacked andacked again before being eventually left in boxes when I realise the futility of unpacking them, most of my books all end up in my mothers loft and don’t come down again as I find myself with less and less time to read them anyway. Its also worth noting that I have since cancelled all of my photography magazine subscriptions as I have a significant number of magazines still in their plastic wrapping, that I just haven’t had the time to read. In fact one of my goals for this year, is to make sure I find just a little more time in my day to relax and do some reading. I know this time won’t just magically appear, and I will have to actually take certain steps to make sure this time becomes available, such as creating a deadline for going to bed and then going, regardless of what is going on, or more likely what I have told myself is far too important to just put down and leave, and cannot possibly wait until tomorrow… blah blah blah. I am sure there is actually very little, if not nothing that actually fits this scenario, and if there is anything that really must be done before bed, then I just have to get off my ass earlier in the night and do it then! The one exception, of course, is this blog, as there are only certain times I can do this, and pretty much any time Olivia is awake is certainly not one of those times, when she is up, she comes first! I have already reduced the frequency of the posts down from daily to now just twice a week, so I need to make sure that I stick to that at least, even if I end up starting each post one day and finishing it the next. Other than that, there is no real excuse for not going to bed a little earlier and giving myself a little time to relax with a book. My grandad, bless him, left me with numerous nuggets of wisdom as I was growing up, some I was too young to appreciate at the time, but some I have never forgotten… one has always stuck with me, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise”. Even though it has stuck with me, the irony is that I have never been able to carry this out and stick to it. I am in a bad habit of going to bed late, and then complaining about it the next morning and promising each day that ‘tonight will be different, tonight I will change things and start getting those early nights’! Yeah right, whatever!
So, with my collection of books still sat in my moms loft, forgotten and unloved, we fast forward to the current day, and by chance I find that not only does Mike Gayle have a real facebook page instead of just a business page that anyone can follow, but he is actually friends with someone I know, and that person being someone I still talk to (as this can’t be taken for granted with friends on facebook!). I mentioned to them that I was a fan and they pointed me in the direction of an upcoming appearance at a local library, and best of all its free! So I email the library and put my name down for a seat and actually begin to feel a little bit excited about it. I am generally so unimpressed and uninterested by celebrities, and quite frankly couldn’t care less about what it is they wear when they go to the supermarket that some newspaper must be having a quiet news day to actually warrant bothering to write an article about, with photos of said celebrity, yes… shock, horror, actually looking a little rough around the edges…
The current trend of Celebrity Cooking On Ice In The Jungle style programmes drives me to despair, I really have no interest in celebrities or what they’re doing! They’re just people. Just humans, and often with no real talent to speak of. They don’t care about me and my life, and so equally I have little interest in them or their life. Sure, if they make a good film then I’ll sit down and watch it. So then why, when this is my position on celebrities, and always has been… why do I start to get excited at the idea of meeting my favourite author? Is it because this is someone with some real talent who actually deserves the recognition? Someone who has actually proven himself to have a skill and get his name out there and known to many solely on his achievements, not like some ‘celebrities’ relying on some weak acting skills in some dumbed-down soap opera for the hopelessly addicted before turning to reality vote-me-off shows to revive their dusty and tired careers!
So I turned up at the library in plenty of time to get a seat, not knowing how busy it was likely to be, and even though it was quite a small library, on the very outskirts of Birmingham, I still figured that there may not be many empty seats left. I had never been to anything like this before, so as much as I usually like to be prepared, that preparation actually required a bit of guesswork on this occasion, hence I had come armed with at least one of his books that I had been and retrieved from my moms loft, and had even stuck a pen in my pocket. As I walked into the library, I saw a table set up with some of his newer books and a price list… duh… of course, why would he sign an old book if he is selling more current ones? What was I thinking? Well damn it, I had always wanted to meet and shake the hand of this guy after being hooked on so many of his books, and so I wasn’t going to let a technicality stop me from getting a signed book, and so off I shot, hot footing it to the nearest cashpoint down the road to draw out some money and buy another one of his books. I felt suitably robbed by the cashpoint machine charging me to remove my own money, it pains me to pay those charges, and generally I’d rather refuse and spend that money on petrol searching around for a free cashpoint, just to make a point… but this wasn’t the time for such protests, I had to get back to the library pronto to try and make sure I didn’t end up with the last seat right at the back stuck behind Mr Seven Foot Tall with the big head! As it turned out, most people had for some reason chosen to shy away from the front seat, and so I was straight in there! Mike did a reading from one of his books, spoke about his career and finished off with a Q&A session. It was a lovely and rather different evening, and for free you really can’t complain! I got my book signed and even got a photo with the man!
I had to skip my usual Tuesday night jujitsu class, where I should have been picking up my new brown belt, after completing my recent grading… but this was worth missing one class for! In jujitsu we are graded, not only on our skills, improvement and completion of certain aspects of our syllabus, but also our attitude. Time keeping and attendance are big factors in this, and our sensei keeps a close check on those who are not turning up each week. Jujitsu requires discipline and commitment, and all of this goes towards being graded, just as much as our techniques. So I did feel a bit naughty skipping a class, but sometimes you have to do these things!
The weekend, time to relax and spend it with those who matter. Its no secret that I love to spend as much of it with my wife and daughter as I can, but its also important to make time for friends, and this weekend I was lucky to be spending some time with a great bunch of friends who had all got together to surprise one of the group with a weekend away in Liverpool. I’d managed to secure a minibus for this occasion, and had made sure the appropriate insurance was in place, so we could all head up together in one vehicle, and then only one person had to worry about driving… although unfortunately that was me!
We set off on the Saturday morning around 11am and after a couple of comfort breaks arrived in Liverpool around lunchtime, and found a lovely little pub to stop for a little while to eat in, as we were running a little early to meet one of our friends who lived up that way that we’d arranged to meet. The Shrewsbury Arms was a very friendly little local pub and considering the bargain prices, the food was suitably impressive, and soon we were back on our way so that we could meet our friend and I could dump the bus for the evening to join everyone else for a few drinks.
We caught up with our friend at his house and all relaxed with a few drinks , and so with some of us stopping the night at our friends house, and some stopping at a hotel, the hotel guys eventually went and checked in so they could also get ready. The rest of us got ready at the house and caught a train into the centre of Liverpool. The train we caught had a very familiar feel to it, it all felt a little London Underground Tube like, with the way it was all set out. It felt like something Birmingham should have had a long time ago, but in fairness I haven’t caught a train in Birmingham in over 10 years, so they may well be like that now! We had the name of the restaurant where we were meeting the others, and although we had never been to Liverpool before, with the magic of the iPhone and gps and google, we found our way there on foot, from the station, in less than five minutes. You have to love technology! Getting off the train in an unfamiliar city, and walking straight into an unfamiliar restaurant just minutes later, without getting lost and successfully meeting up with your friends, its clever stuff! We’d set our sights on a recommended restaurant called Bem Brasil which was not the kind of place you’d see many vegetarians… it was carnivore heaven! The staff were walking round with swords full of meat that they’d place on a stand and carve off for you at your request, all different cuts, cooked to perfection. This is the kind of place where you need a will of steel just to stop yourself from eating more and more until you realise you’ve gone too far and its just too late!
After we’d eaten we headed out to experience the Liverpool nightlife, and it looked like a fairly cool place… until we left the first bar and headed for the second bar and were refused entry for no good reason, popworld you suck! The rest of the night proved to be fun, and Liverpool has many cool bars to offer, although we were all suffering a little from overeating at the restaurant. It was a good night and there was clearly more to see than we could get around in an evening, but just before we were done we noticed that one of the group was missing, the guy whose house we were supposed to be staying at. After numerous calls and text messages to his phone, it became apparent that he was clearly asleep and we were not getting in, even if we got in a taxi and banged on his door. We decided to hang on to our friends who had booked a hotel room, as it may mean sleeping on their hotel room floor or the street for the evening. The street had limited appeal, and although it wasn’t the comfiest night I’ve ever had, at least I was warm and dry in what had quickly become a crowded hotel room.
The following morning we picked up the minibus and headed for the motorway, and had decided to grab a late breakfast at the first service station we came to. After a reasonably poor nights sleep, this quick bite to eat was just what I needed to pick myself up and focus on the road for the drive ahead. Several traffic jams slowed us right down, but we still got back in time for lunch, although Sunday here in the UK was mothers day, and as most of us had children, it meant we had abandoned the wives on mothers day. We’d all explained the situation and had been given a pass, so there was no friction caused as a result, but I did feel a little bad that I wasn’t there on the morning to hand over Olivia’s card and present. Still, it was a 40th birthday, and we’d struggled to all agree on a weekend and make sure that everyone was off work and that all the other halves were on board, even though some were celebrating mothers day for the first time! But, we’d pulled it off, and it was long overdue. Clare was round at her parents house with Olivia and I made it just in time to join them for lunch. I was even lucky enough to be allowed to take over the tv and watch the recording of the Australian Grand Prix, even though it was mothers day and the race is of little interest to Clare. It was the first race of the year, and if I hadn’t gone away I’d have been up about 4:30am to watch it live, most probably at Aprés with my friend, and would have been done, dusted and home by 9am. It was either watch it in the afternoon or take over the tv on Sunday evening. Sunday night was reserved though, it was actually our Saturday night, we both sat down for a film with a glass of wine and a beer after Olivia had gone to bed, although we had to both put our hands up eventually to being beat and in desperate need of an early night. I needed it, and it felt very good, I should do this more often, this being a night owl thing is over rated!
I did take one significant thing away from this weekend, it was a chat with my friend S as we sat down over lunch. He was talking about moving house in the next couple of years, although he has spent a long time and a significant amount of money turning his house around from the dump it was when he bought it to the show home it is now! Its a beautiful house, with lots of space, it feels light and airy, and its the kind of house we’d dream of owning. I questioned why he’d possibly consider making a house look so beautiful and then moving. It all came down to location and the importance of being happy. Being happy, I mean properly happy, its something we don’t often think much about, and often confuse with what I consider pleasure, which tends to come in short bursts and doesn’t last, and is often easily brought about, especially by things that have price tags attached to them… a nice ice cream, a new phone, booking a holiday, a compliment… they may all bring pleasure, but they won’t make you happy in the true sense of the word. It was funny that we were talking about this as recently its something that has been on my mind, in a good way of course. Happy is that feeling when I lock up the house at night, walk upstairs and check in on my sleeping daughter and stop for a minute to ponder how wonderful she is and how much I love her, then walk into our bedroom to see my sleeping wife and ponder how wonderful she is and how much I love her too, and how lucky I am to have these two wonderful women in my life and be in this blessed position. It’s true that I am in a job that I do enjoy, but it doesn’t pay me much and a lot of my friends earn a lot more than me, and can easily afford much nicer cars, better holidays, and nice gadgets around the home. I don’t even consider comparing myself or what I have to them, its completely pointless. I can’t get jealous about not having the same flashy toys that they own, they’re just ‘things’ and the end of the day! Things can never make us truly happy, things break and get forgotten about, and lets face it, I am not friends with any of these people because of what they have, or what I can get out of them, I’m friends because they’re good people who would have my back if I needed them, and know they can count on me when they need to.
Going back to the house, S was saying a similar thing about the decision to move and make a better life for his family, and why it would make him happy. Their next move will be for good, so at this point its about the location, which I can totally understand as this was a big consideration for us too when we were thinking about house buying. They want to move to what he describes as a ‘semi-rural’ location, away from the city, a friendly little village where there is a local pub to walk to, and the butcher knows you by first name, but its still not a huge drive back into the city. We’re all different and obviously different things make us happy, as for S, part of his plan is to end up living in a place like this and then finally slowing down and being able to appreciate time with friends and family a little more. For me, I am already in the happiest place I have ever been in and once never thought I would be in, getting married was the first turning point, I never thought I would end up meeting someone who would want to marry me that didn’t drive me crazy very soon afterwards. So many of my previous relationships started out as what seemed to be a good idea at the time, but ended up with me plotting ways to hide a body! So meeting Clare was a breath of fresh air, then stepping that up a gear and buying a house together, and then having Olivia… I couldn’t ask for much more. Sure, more money would be nice, its always nice, but that wouldn’t bring happiness, only the short term pleasures. Happiness can’t be bought, and I have seen plenty of people with more money than me who are not happy at all and have to fill that void with pleasures by spending their money on ‘things’. I’ve seen people with money where the marriage is over in less time than they even spent engaged. I see other people who have even less money than us and are equally as happy. Having the love of a wonderful wife and a beautiful, well behaved (yes, I know she hasn’t hit the terrible two’s yet!) daughter are priceless. Having just seen one of my oldest friends split up with his wife makes me even more grateful. I have found the yin to my yang, and someone that not only encourages me, but can also keep me grounded when I need it. Those shiny expensive gadgets are often nothing more than pleasures, and pleasures don’t last. Once the thrill has gone, in the gaps between them you are only left with what you had before, and if that isn’t much then its time to go shopping again and look for the next pleasure to entertain you. Quite simply, the happier I am, the less gaps I have to fill.
I still like the gadgets though!
What are you thoughts on being happy? Is ‘stuff’ important to you?
Follow me on Twitter @andrewvokes for more blog updates
Advertising would have us believe how much insurance companies want to do for us, how much they want to help us, and how we should totally believe them that they’re simply the best (oh, and always the cheapest of course) company to go with.
In reality they’re a bunch of big bullies and its all very corrupt and dark.
No one wins with car insurance except the insurance companies themselves. A quick search on google comes up with articles like this and its not just young drivers that feel this way. Why are insurance companies the only business to offer no loyalty rewards for people that stay with them? On the contrary, anyone stupid enough to stay with the same company two years in a row is going to get totally fleeced on the policy renewal!
Anyone who has been to the blog recently will have read about the hit and run that happened to me last weekend, involving myself, two other cars and the car who drove off. Well thats all still being processed and giving us a headache at the same time, but now we have finally got our hire car come through, and we get sent this…
Its all very nice, but as a minimum £30k car I wouldn’t even like to imagine the daily hire costs that they’ll be charging for this! Yes, the insurance companies are paying for this but they won’t lose out, it is only going to end up being recouped on policy premiums, so we all pay for it in the end. Now bear in mind that this is replacing a humble Vauxhall Astra that cost us about a quarter of the price, and you have to question why they have sent such an expensive car! It surely can’t be a case of “this is all we had left”! I may as well enjoy it while we have it though, especially as our insurance company played only a minor part in getting us this car, we had to do a lot of the leg work ourselves, and the company who provided it literally made us jump through hoops of fire first! They haven’t even promised us we can keep it, as the company it came from don’t want to claim from the car that hit us, for some reason they want to claim from the car that drove off and are leaving it up to us to do the detective work on finding out more details about this mystery car… well excuse me while I fire up the time machine!
It has all proved to be rather stressful so far, and when you pay insurance companies a huge whack of money each year, for essentially no work at all if like me you haven’t actually claimed for anything in over 10 years, you’d kind of hope that they’d put a bit more effort in, in taking the stress away from you.
At least for the moment we have wheels, and we can get about, although for how long I don’t know. The company who provided the car say they won’t claim from the car that hit us, they want to claim from the car who caused the accident… yes thats the one that drove off that no-one has the details for… although I am contesting this and will be phoning the insurance company tomorrow evening to have it out with them, as if we can’t get any more details on the car who caused the accident (even though he drove off and we don’t have a time machine!) then we may not even be entitled to a hire car. Surely the claim HAS to be against the car that hit us though? Yes, even though it wasn’t his fault, the fact remains that he was the one who hit us and caused the damage to our car!
To balance this out, I have had good news this week, unrelated to the car. Firstly on Tuesday I was assessed for my next jujitsu belt and passed the grading, I am now officially a brown belt in jujitsu Kiiiaaaaaiiiii!!!! This is the result of four and a half years of training, and the next stop is black belt! That’s quite a thought really, its going to be a massive leap from brown to black and it will be quite some time before we are even close to ready for it, as the time between belts goes up exponentially. I did wonder if, after finally getting the brown belt, I might actually take a bit of time off or even consider dropping it altogether. Four and a half years is a long time, and it would be nice to have Tuesday evenings back again for a while, but then to come this far and not even attempt to go for black seems a little crazy. It would be like swimming the English Channel from England to France and then turning back as soon as the french coast is in sight! Admittedly I was struggling a bit for enthusiasm before christmas when I started to consider taking a break, I was tired, busy and possibly a bit down because of the time of year. Most people have heard of SAD, where some people suffer with a mild depression as the months head into winter. I used to have it each winter, for a number of years, but I haven’t had it for a while now, I actually thought I was completely over it, but it seems it was back again just before christmas, and left me feeling a bit flat, leaving me to question the jujitsu, and whether I wanted to continue at all, or whether I even had the ability to improve and keep up with it, and more importantly whether I wanted to leave Olivia each Tuesday and not see her go to bed. In reality, these were pointless thoughts really and I just needed to get through this dark mood and back to my normal self again.
In other good news, also related to insurance again, I needed to book and use a school minibus soon and as the deadline for booking it came closer, it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to insure it, as I’d been informed that, due to recent changes, it looked like the school were no longer insuring minibuses for personal use outside of school hours. I tried with no luck to find temporary cover for the weekend and left with virtually no options, and after much research and hunting down quotes online and phone calls to insurers, it turned out that there was actually a chance it could be covered by the school policy anyway. I spoke to our head teacher and he promised to look into it and find out, and so after a phone call from him, it looks like the bus IS actually insured at weekends, so my plans are back on! High fives all round!
Yet again this post is not out on Wednesday as planned, so I’ve thrown in a lovely photo of a post-nursery Olivia who has had a busy day playing with friends and frequently arrives home after nursery wanting a few cuddles and a bit of time in front of Peppa Pig, although as this little girl changes she seems quite happy with a bag of Pom Bears rather than cuddles from daddy today! Sad, but inevitable!
Thanks for any comments I’ve had along the way, especially from anyone who reads this regularly! Apologies if I don’t reply to you very quickly, I still read them all!
The weekend starts the minute I clock out on a Friday, and my favourite part of my entire weekend is when I get home, get changed and get straight out again to pick Olivia up from the in-laws. This particular Friday the weather was good, so I figured I’d walk round and so that I could get Olivia to walk back home with me. Since she has started walking she loves being outside and looks for any excuse to walk. She was quite happy to push her little pushchair home… until she’d gone about a hundred metres then suddenly wanted to be carried the rest of the way!
We managed to pick up the high chair that we’d brought to leave at my moms house, as it wasn’t getting a whole lot of use over there and even though it was only a cheap one, we preferred it to the one we’d been using. The adjustable and removable tray table is much more convenient, and the ability to shorten the legs so that we can use it as a small chair as well makes it a great option. She loves getting in and out of it herself and being able to sit and eat in front of the tv.
The afternoon was going well so far, great weather for cycling on the way home, a few hours with my beautiful daughter before she went to bed, an indian takeaway ordered so me and the wife could spend a few quiet hours together, the only thing I was only missing now was a few beers. I headed out to Asda to pick up some while we waited for the takeaway to be delivered…
and then this happened…
The grey Corsa in the top picture was hit from behind by a mystery Ford Focus travelling at around 40mph whilst we were all sat stationary at a red traffic light, and was then sent flying into the black Mitsubishi parked next to me, then bounced off him and hit me taking out my mirror and putting a significant dent in the car, (it didn’t look much at night, but looked a lot worse during the daylight). The Focus then rammed his way through and drove off straight through the still very red light, leaving the three of us wondering what the hell had just happened. I was waiting for blue lights to come screaming past as I assumed he had been trying to escape a chasing police or something, but nothing! Some blue lights did appear a short while later, that came from a random ambulance that just happened to be passing at the time, he stopped to make sure we were all okay and then carried on along his way.
The police eventually arrived and took our details, the Corsa driver had an ambulance called for him, although he wasn’t visibly hurt, he could well have been in shock or suffered serious whiplash. The poor Mitsubishi driver had to have his car towed away due to damage, and he’d only had it four weeks. Mine was thankfully still drivable and so the police soon sent me on my way as there was little else I could do once they’d got my details and saw that I was fine and clearly not at fault in any way. Oh well, at least the curry was waiting for me when I got home!
Saturday was a much better day, I started with a photo shoot of my friends newborn baby. I’d got my cousin coming over for lunch straight after, so thankfully things went smoothly, even though I was a little late getting there. I am still waiting to get signed up for some newborn photography training, but already know that the best age to photograph a newborn is when they are less than three weeks old, as they sleep much better and can be posed easier. This still went well, and we got some lovely photos out of it.
When I got home, we served up some home made bread and some home made carrot and coriander soup, which went down a treat when my cousin turned up! It was a lovely afternoon and the weather was gorgeous outside, so we all headed out to the local park for a walk, and it obviously wasn’t long before Olivia ended up on a swing, and was very happy. We squeezed in a quick food shop after my cousin had headed home, and then it was eventually time for my sisters birthday party on the evening, and thankfully the in laws had stepped up to babysit Olivia for us, for which we were extremely grateful. I’d normally ask my youngest sister, but as she was also at the party, this wasn’t practical. We could probably do with finding a couple of people who’d be happy to babysit. I am sure people along the way have said they’d only be too happy, but that was probably not long after she was born, and I have long since forgotten who they were!
The weekend obviously wouldn’t be complete without a run of course, and thankfully my running buddy Rob was on hand to tackle another 10km with me on Sunday morning. The weather was grey and cool, which is good for running in as you don’t overheat too quickly, and that was certainly a possibility as today we were going for it. With the first ever Great Birmingham 10k coming up, we needed to step up our training a little and so today we took a deep breath and went for it. Rob can set a mean pace, and I was good for the first few miles keeping up with him, but after about 3 out of the 6 miles I was starting to struggle. Still, we managed to keep up our pace until the end (only just!) and ended up keeping a solid 8:30 min/mile pace all the way around, meaning our 10k run actually came in at a respectable 52 minutes compared to the 1hr 7 mins we’d done the last time we went round! Not too shabby, although I was pretty much running on empty by the time we finished!
Sunday was looking to be as busy as Saturday, after the run we met up with my old school friends Andrew and Richard and their wives and children for some lunch at a pub carvery, which after a 10k run felt like I’d really earned it! It was great to see them again and lovely to see their kids growing up, and of course Olivia loved playing with them too. It wasn’t the original venue I’d planned to meet at to eat, but it did the trick. Then after a slight confusion over where to meet, we eventually caught up with my friend Millie and my godson Noah for an afternoon in a school hall called ‘Messy Church’. Their local church takes over a school hall and provides plenty of opportunities for kids to have fun and make things, before sitting down for some food. It was good fun and the kids seemed to enjoy it, plus it was nice to see Millie and Noah again, as we don’t see them often enough.
So that’s it, the weekend is now done, and back to work in the morning. At least we really made sure we made the most of it. I don’t think we could have crammed anything else in, and I need to balance this out with a few quieter weekends soon, as Clare much prefers these. A slower pace is nice sometimes, but its still nice to feel like we have actually done something with our couple of days off.
Its getting late, and I should be thinking about going to bed very soon, yet I am only just starting to type this, I have been too distracted to start before now, even with the little one in bed, the wife out, and the tv off! Damn you internet for distracting me so! On a plus point, I have managed to cross a couple of things off my to-do list, including rearranging a venue for sundays lunch with a couple of my old school friends and the significant ladies in our lives, not only are we all married, but we all have daughters too within a couple of years of each other! We are men who are going to see a lot less of the bathroom in years to come and will undoubtedly end up becoming unpaid taxi drivers at some point!
I do love to get together with all the friends we have when we get chance, especially those with children, its so nice to think that if we’re all still friends in years to come, then hopefully our children will be too, and they will then have friends they’ve known their entire life! Does that sound silly? I only have the one friend that I’ve known that long, its my friend Vanessa, who I have known since I was three years old and don’t get to see nearly enough of her these days! Bring on the summer, that BBQ is going to get put through its paces this year, I’ll be on it every other weekend if I get the chance, and yes I know its unlikely that I’ll get to use it even once a month given the british weather, but one can hope! I really need to start thinking about getting out in that garden at some point and starting to dig up the weeds that have begun to appear, before they start taking over again. I want the garden looking colourful again this year, like it was for Olivia’s 1st birthday party last year. I have all the seeds ready to plant, and I just need these pesky frosty nights to disappear. We seem to be getting a regular late frost these last few years and it really puts the brakes on getting out in the garden and being productive! The weekends through March are already looking busy anyway, which doesn’t help, its difficult trying to fit anything last minute in at the moment, and spending a few hours in the garden when its cold and wet is somewhat especially unappealing when you don’t have that many hours to spare anyway! Still, I managed it last year, and I can do it again, I already have vegetable seeds growing in the spare room, and they will need planting out soon, some of them are too big for the tiny seed trays they’re in! Tonight isn’t the only night that the wife is out, she is also busy tomorrow night as well, and hopefully this post will be finished, so I can crack on with a few other chores while I have nothing to distract me (no, not even you, internet, you’ll be turned off too!). I just need to be organised and actually make this to-do list a physical one, and not just in my head!
Todays photo was one of the few I’ve actually taken this week, I have truly fallen off the 365 project wagon, I’ll have to start again soon! I wanted to capture Olivia sitting at the table drawing as she loves having a pen in her hand, which she unfortunately favours over the much safer option of crayon or pencil! We are pleased to see that she seems to be favouring her right hand for the majority of her drawing, which means she wont be spending the rest of her life as a “leftie”. There is nothing wrong with leftie’s of course, but there are things us righties do take for granted. A humble pair of scissors, and something I hadn’t thought about until last week… an innocent camera, the shutter button is always on the right, and it hadn’t occurred to me! You poor lefties, totally forgotten about!
One thing on my shopping list is a mini table and chair for Olivia to sit at, so that she can eat, draw, paint, play with play dough, all at her own height. We did buy a booster seat for the dinner table so that she could sit with us, instead of in her high chair, but it boosts her a little too much for our table and she doesn’t fit under it properly, so we haven’t really been using it much, although it will be useful for eating out, so its not going in the loft just yet! I did just sit her on the chair without the booster seat for this photo, and she fitted perfectly, although obviously wasn’t strapped down at all! I’ve found the perfect toddler sized table that she can sit down and get up from as she pleases, without any need to be strapped in which is this one which is perfect for the job, although it isn’t exactly pocket change, so if anyone is feeling generous or comes into any sudden obscene wealth…
Things were a little tight last month financially, but we feel a bit more relaxed about things this month, and so I decided to book us our first little family holiday…
Its no secret that I love jumping on a plane and flying out to somewhere hot and mediterranean, but
being a parent means that you have to adapt to a new way of life, and it involves making sacrifices. The fancy foreign holidays will have to be put on hold for a little while, and I don’t think Olivia would appreciate being kept hidden in the shade all day long anyway. With this in mind we’re keeping it local and sensible, a humble break in Torquay will suit us just fine, and I have wanted to go there for ages anyway, a few days by the seaside building sandcastles with Olivia and eating fish and chips by the sea… I’m just as excited about this as any holiday I’ve been on, mostly because we get to take Olivia on her first ever holiday… and then remind her in years to come about how it did nothing but rain and all our dreams of sandcastles came to nothing! In all seriousness though, I really can’t wait, just for some time away together as a family. It will be nice to actually get away, especially when I didn’t think we would this year. By then Olivia will be just a few weeks short of being two years old, and no doubt will be a completely different child. I know its England, and the weather is really hit and miss, especially in August for some reason (you tend to notice this as a wedding photographer!) but I am really looking forward to watching Olivia running up and down the beach and in and out of the sea. Lets keep our fingers crossed that the weather gods are smiling down on us that week! I know this holiday gets the thumbs up from the wife too, as she’s not much of a traveller, she likes to be close to home, and this is only a couple of hours on the motorway, plus its not breaking the bank, which is her primary concern, and rightly so. Our parents only took holidays in England and Wales when we were little, its all they could afford to do, and so its good enough for us too! When Olivia is older, and hopefully has a little brother or sister (this is NOT an announcement, merely pondering the future!) with both of them in school and us not paying nursery fees any more, we should be able to save up for a trip to Spain with a bit of luck. We just have to be a bit more patient now!
Just to finish off, as I am already a day late with this post, today (now Thursday) is world book day, and there have been many things going on around the UK with various schools and nurseries to mark the occasion, and so we packed madam off to her nursery today dressed up like cinderella… could she get any cuter??
Yes, that Friday feeling really is a fantastic one, one that I really missed in the few years I spent working in retail, I appreciate even more now that the weekends have become so important to me. When work finishes on a Friday afternoon and we send the pupils home for the weekend it feels like I have a 48 hour mini holiday ahead of me. This particular Friday didn’t end quite as planned, but we were soon able to put the day behind us and head home to relax and spend time with the people we care about. I could almost smell the weekend on my journey home when my bike failed on me, and a gear cable snapped. It suddenly felt like I was trying to pedal up an almost vertical hill, if you can call anything about it lucky then as least I was almost home and so only had a very short distance to go. A quick call to the local cycle repair shop when I got in proved to be a pleasant surprise as well, a new cable fitted for just £6, and they could do it first thing Saturday morning too! So with the worry of a broken bike out of the way I was changed and heading back out of the house to walk round to the in-laws to pick up Olivia, and bring her home.
It was just the two of us tonight as Clare was out with friends for a meal followed by the Fifty Shades Of Filth that women everywhere seem to be hooked on. From never reading the book and going on what people have said, it appears to be little more than a weak storyline and terrible writing, yet it has picked up a massive following thanks to overexposure on social media, so fair play to the writer, who is undoubtedly very rich by now! It still seems a little hypocritical that if men were going to watch anything like this we’d all be branded dirty perverts, yet with woman watching it, apparently its all perfectly fine and normal. Yeah, well… I’m just glad it turned out to be rubbish! IMDb gave it a thoroughly shameful 4.2/10 which did not surprise me one bit, although I did feel bad at how much the wife had wasted on her cinema ticket, not much change out of £10, when did going to the cinema become so expensive?? Still, at least she enjoyed a night out with her friends anyway, and its good to see her get out, as neither of us are going out that much at the moment, and certainly not together. Clare has spotted a trailer, however, for a film thats coming out soon that she’d like us to see together, so it could be a potential date night for us. A nice meal followed by a film, sounds ideal, we just need to book a baby sitter. It’s been a while since we managed to spend a night out together on our own, although we did get out for an wedding anniversary meal last July, although we haven’t been to the cinema together since way before Olivia was born.
As far as this particular Friday went, after picking up Olivia I strapped her into the car and we headed down to the local Asda, two birds, one stone, I picked up a cheese and tomato pizza for the little lady and a few beers for myself. The pizza went down a treat, she loved it, although it did create a bit of a mess, good job it was bath night! So, pizza, bath, bottle and bed, the little lady was soon fast asleep and it was time for a beer and a film with a few snacks thrown in for good measure! Not a bad way to spend a Friday, as it meant I totally had the tv all to myself and could put any number of man-films on, the sort of action stuff that would no doubt have Clare rolling her eyes, folding her arms and refusing to watch it.
Then came Saturday, which turned out to be one of those days where you want to do so many things, and end up doing none of them. Clare had decided that it was food shopping day and was going to go on her own, not the day out I was hoping for, but I voted that we all went and give Aldi a go as we knew it was almost certainly going to be cheaper, and it was just a question of whether they would have everything we needed, we knew there was a chance we may have to go back to Asda anyway to pick up the few bits Aldi didn’t sell. It was obviously becoming a very popular shop and even their own brand products seemed to be getting some great reviews! We managed to pick up most of what we needed, although sadly not everything, but to be honest we just wanted to try some of their own brands, to see how they faired up to our expectations, and it would be nice to see how much we’d actually save if we could make the switch. The big debate was the soft drinks, I was hesitant as I know how ropey cheap cola can be. So when Clare picked up what was clearly Aldi’s version of pepsi max, I thought that it may well taste awful, especially at only 39p, and suspected we’d be pouring it down the sink by the end of the day. After tasting it we did no such thing! Compared to the equivalent £1.98 bottle of Pepsi Max that we usually pick up from Asda, we could just not tell the difference! We were sold, this place was brilliant! I know Clare wants to go back next week to see if she can do the entire shopping list all just in Aldi.
So with the shopping out the the way, the only other plan for me was meeting my friend on the evening for a drink in town, as he is no longer living around the corner from me, and the local isn’t an option any more. Thankfully the bus stop is quite close to our house, so getting into town was easy and pain free. I had already decided to get a taxi home using the Uber app that I had downloaded on my phone. I still had a code for a free £15 ride, so the whole journey should cost me nothing, who could say no to that?! We met up in a more traditional old school pub that even had a dart board and specialised in real ale, the sort of place that would fit into Broad St or Summer Row like a square peg would fit into a round hole! It had a certain charisma though, the prices were reasonable and it had a very unpretentious air about the place. There was no-one stood on the door inspecting what I was wearing, to decide whether to let me in or not, and no thumping music to shout over. Without wanting to sound old, I quite liked it! It was good to catch up, as I hadn’t seen D since he had recently split from his wife. Last orders came, we finished our drinks and went our separate ways, and I decided to take Uber up on the free taxi code. Its a brilliant concept, the app uses your gps and they send a taxi to your location. When you get to the other end it works out the price and charges it to your credit/debit card/paypal. No need for cash, no getting fleeced by the driver who thinks he can pull a fast one if you’ve had a few beers, and it makes it safer for the drivers too, who are guaranteed to get paid and don’t have to carry all the cash around with them!
Sunday turned out to be particularly hectic, but it was nice that the day started with a cold, but sunny 10k run, as Saturday had been grey, wet and generally a bit miserable, making for a less than exiting run. The sky was blue, the sun was out, and it felt good to have put 10km behind me before breakfast. I had a brief opportunity at home to make some tea and toast and grab a quick shower, before driving over to see my friends and look after their son J for a couple of hours. Once I was done there, I left them and headed to the in laws for some lunch. We couldn’t stay all afternoon as we had promised to visit my mom as well, and after a couple of hours there, had to be home again as my sister was coming round to collect a bathroom cabinet we were getting rid of. Eventually they headed home, Olivia was bathed and in bed, and we could slow down and begin to get ready for Monday morning! Goodbye weekend, I miss you already!