Monthly Archives: May 2015

Gotta love a bank holiday

Gotta love a long bank holiday weekend, nothing feels better than sticking two fingers up to Monday morning and turning off your alarm clock, and there’s still one more bank holiday left for this year as well! There are numerous ways to kickstart the weekend, and while I couldn’t be out propping up a bar with friends or dancing the night away, I had a suitable, albeit a slightly antisocial alternative… film night! The wife was out with friends for food and wine, so once the little one was fed, bathed, and in bed, I had the evening to myself. I already had the pizza and the beer, so now all I needed to do was find a suitable film to watch. On a normal weekend I have to be fairly selective in my film choices with Clare around, if the pace is too slow she’ll fall asleep, if its too complicated she will lose interest and fall asleep, if the film is too long she will fall asleep, too much sci fi going and she will probably fall asleep… you see a pattern forming here? In fact, if we manage to get to the end of a film and a) she’s still awake and b) says she that she actually enjoyed it, then I am secretly high fiving myself and mentally doing victory laps of the living room! Tonight though, I had no such concerns, I had the full spectrum of films available to me, and could choose to watch absolutely anything I wanted, so where to begin? Well, the obvious two choices are Netflix and NowTV, as I have subscribed to both and have them available through the Apple TV. I eventually whittled my choices down to just the one film, Edge Of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise, the IMDb reviews were good, and although I’d previously discounted this film as I think Tom Cruise can be a bit smarmy, I have to say it turned out to be a pretty good film and I quite enjoyed it.

Saturday started out as a bit of a slow day until I decided that I was going to treat Olivia to a new car


and so we headed down to Toys R Us to have a look around. We already knew what we were buying as she had enjoyed Oliver’s push along Mini so much, and we knew it was currently half price, I certainly wasn’t going to be buying it later on in the year at full price! She had a look around and a play in the other cars, but the battery powered ones were ridiculously expensive for childrens toys. After wearing herself out running around the toy shop it was straight home for her nap whilst Clare went out food shopping. After the shop and nap we headed around to the in-laws to show off Olivia’s new car, and ended up staying for dinner.

I even managed to grab a few beers in the evening with a friend at the local, although it seems a little odd that he has moved into our old flat and so now has the long walk up to the pub and its me who has the five minute walk. I didn’t really mind when it was the other way around, but I definitely prefer it this way round! Its good to catch up with him, and also reassure him that after knowing him for almost 30 years I am not going to jump on the bandwagon of people who have turned their back on him after his marriage broke down. He is definitely very grateful that after all this time our friendship has never changed, we have been through quite a lot together over the years after all. I just hate when not only friends, but couples whose weddings I have photographed also split up, only this week I found out about another separation, and I was at least pleased to hear it was amicable between them, both parties are happy and have moved on, but for me half of the enjoyment of what I do is getting wrapped up in the excitement and emotion of what should be the biggest day of the lives of two people! Often at least one side of the couple will add me on facebook, and so I do get to find out when the marriage didn’t work out. Obviously the couples that do add me and then stay together make me even happier!

Sunday was another grand prix day, this time around it was Monaco, and I was very excited about this race, as its one of the classics. Clare is really understanding about the Formula 1, its totally not her thing at all, but she makes no fuss of the fact it takes up an entire Sunday afternoon, as she is pretty grateful that at least I show zero interest in football, which I know can take up the majority of weekends, and even weeknights, every single weekend of the football season, which pretty much runs from the end of August until the start of the following August… in fact I am not actually even sure why they have those four weeks off!

I had just enough time to see the race and watch the cars cross the finish line before we headed out to our friends housewarming, which we wrongly assumed was just going to be a couple of us and a few hot drinks. Little did we know it would be an actual houseful and and full on bbq! We were supposed to be meeting some of Clare’s friends afterwards, which was nice, but it sadly meant leaving the bbq early. It turned out that they couldn’t make it in the end, which was a shame, but on a positive note we hadn’t left the bbq when we found this out, so at least we got to stay a bit longer!

And that was the weekend, normally by the evening I’d be thinking about Monday morning and returning to work, only this time I didn’t have to… half term baby! I am totally going to pretend I don’t have a toddler who will be waking me up early, and at least living the dream of a lie in, for a short while in my head anyway!

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Lets use this power for good…

Well, as usual, I am falling further and further behind with the blog, but it has been a busy week at Vokes HQ and I’m trying to catch up with myself. In the last week, there have been drinks, mountains and birthdays… well, one birthday specifically… mine!

The rather busy weekend started with our long awaited date night on Friday, with one of my sisters being very kind in agreeing to babysitting for us for a couple of hours. We couldn’t really go out until Olivia was in bed, as we like to keep her bedtime routine the same each night. Its no secret that children thrive on routine, and the bedtime routine we have in place for Olivia seems to work very well for us, so why change it if we don’t need too? No matter how energetic she seems to be before bedtime, she always goes down at the same time. The curtains close, the lights go down, we have some milk and read a book t her, and she gets starts to calm down and become quieter, and once she is down, she’s often asleep within ten minutes or so! So rather than complicate things, we figured that we’d just wait until she was in bed before we headed out, and then made our way round to the local indian restaurant, before moving on to a new “micro bar” that’s opened up a few doors down. I do like the idea of it, but I feel they could have executed the idea a bit better. Still, the few beers I’d had by this point, had really gone to my head, so I was in no place to be judging people. We soon headed off for the walk home, and had a lovely night all the same.

Saturday was one where we hadn’t really made any plans, and with me planning to head up Snowdon the following day, I had to take the opportunity to purchase a few extra bits for my walk from the local outdoor shop. When I got back Olivia was already in bed, so Clare took the opportunity to get our weekly food shop in, and we are still loving the Aldi, saving a small fortune on our normal weekly shop from Asda! Their own brands are easily as good, and we’re pretty much converted now. The afternoon seemed to roll around quite quickly considering we didn’t do much, and soon it was time for me to tidy myself up and head out (courtesy of a lift from my very kind wife!) into town to meet some old school buddies for a few beers. They’re a great bunch, and I definitely don’t get to see them often enough, our nights up town seem to be over so quickly! Hopefully if we cant catch up for another beer soon, we can at least meet up with the families!

As it wasn’t a late night, and I was home at a sensible time, this meant I was able to get up with a fairly fresh head on the Sunday morning ready for my Snowdon walk. I had offered to drive the minibus for the day, and had to meet everyone at work to pick them up. It was a slightly late start and a longer drive down than we’d planned for, so we were late starting, and due to a triathlon that was taking place in the area that day, all the parking places were full! The nearest place we could park was a layby over a mile away, and so another 30 minutes added to our start time! The promise I’d made to my wife of getting home early and taking her out for a carvery was looking extremely unlikely at this point! From our planned start time of 10am, it was now 12pm and we’d only just set off! Still, we made it up to the summit, via the Pyg track, in just 1 hour and 50 minutes, which I was pretty impressed with. I had taken my new cycling helmet camera with me to video clips from the ascent, which can be seen here, the whole climb condensed down to 39 minutes…

It has been about 8 years since I last went up there and the cafe at the top has had a major overhaul, from the little wooden hut that I was last in, it now looked more like an airport terminal! We waited for the couple of people that had fallen behind and headed down on a different path, which although much easier, sadly took us the wrong way and left us 6 miles from the minibus once we were down! Thankfully the cafe at the bottom allowed us to grab some drinks, use the toilet and call a taxi to take us back to the bus. By this point I’d given up all hope of getting home in time for a carvery and just wanted to get home to see my little girl before she went to bed!

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It was too wet to get my camera out, but I managed to grab a selection of photos on my iPhone. Even though I was late home, the day had been a success, and our climb and descent were well within our allotted time to complete our challenge. We are aiming to get up and down all three of Britains highest mountains, Snowdon, Scafell Pike, and Ben Nevis in under 15 hours (driving time excluded), and raise money for Resources For Autism whilst doing it. If anybody is feeling generous, please make your donations online (it saves me going to the bank and handing over lots of coins!) at https://www.justgiving.com/calthorpeacademybirmingham/

Then came Monday… my birthday. My final year in my 30s, and not a thought that excites me greatly. I have kind of accepted that this 40 thing is going to happen to me soon, and its not like I am in a bad place in my life for it to happen. I have a house, a wonderful wife, and a gorgeous daughter, on top of which I am fitter than I have ever been and also have my own photography business (even if it is small and part time!)… its more than some of my friends have, so I must be grateful. I just don’t feel old enough to be 40. It kinda creeps up on you while you’re not looking, pretty much exactly like this…

So I still get to call myself a 30something for one more final year, and have to finally accept the inevitable, I have gone way beyond having to get my head around the idea of “being a grown up” that seems so alien to us when we enter our 20s, and now have to really engage my brain with the fact that I’m actually “a bit old”!! So, I guess the first thing on my list of “stuff to do before I am 40” is look at the financial aspect and feasibility of a brother or sister for Olivia. If money wasn’t a concern than this wouldn’t even be a talking point, but nursery doesn’t come free and these bills won’t pay for themselves, we have to be realistic about how we’re going to cope with it!

Man, where is that lottery win when you need it?

I am sure that if I put my mind to it, there is a whole bunch of things I could add to a list of “things to do before I am 40″, but the likelihood is that by this point, most of them are just going to stay on that list and never see the light of day!

A lot of my friends are also in the same position as me, and some of them have already hit 40, they don’t seem too fussed by it all, or maybe they’re just not saying anything. I mean I know nothing actually changes, its just another day, and yes age is but a number… but we all know that the big 4-0 at least bothers us a little bit… doesn’t it”?! So the next question is how do I actually celebrate it? It certainly won’t be Vegas like I hoped it might be! Do I just put my head under the pillow and let the day slide past without being noticed?

My 39th birthday was a very low-key affair, and obviously spent at work as I couldnt take the day off.  At least I came home to a beautiful dinner cooked by the wife, and both sets of parents to join us. It was a lovely evening, and my sister in law even showed up to drop off a card and present, and just when I thought the day was done my friend knocked on the door to drop off a card and a bottle of red wine! Even facebook had gone crazy today, I was definitely feeling the love, even if it wasn’t exactly a crazy day!

As I am running behind with this blog, I can even catch up on Tuesday. I decided to miss a week of Jujitsu, and although I felt a bit guilty, I didn’t really have the time without rushing, and my legs were still aching from our rapid ascent of Snowdon on Sunday, so I stayed at home and made some good use of the time. In between working on a wedding album, I somehow made the decision to have a bit of a catch up with some old school friends. It has been over 20 years since we left school, and with the magic of facebook bringing us back in touch with one another, it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity, so I put the word out to try and see if I could get a dozen or so of us to meet up for a few hours one sunday afternoon over the summer. Suddenly a whole bunch of people have jumped on board, and this thing looks like it could be growing bigger than I’d ever imagined! I guess we’ll see who actually turns up though, people are very quick to say yes to things like this and then just go silent on you!

Anyway, thats my week caught up on and I should be in bed by now!

Adios!

Photographing a new life is a privilege

Yet another week has flown by again, the weekend has pretty much been and gone, and I find myself here on a Sunday night wondering how I totally failed to get a mid-week blog typed up yet again. So what has been taking up all my time? Sometimes I just don’t even know. We did onlly have four days at work, as Monday was a bank holiday and with the weather being kind to us, we headed down to the local park to see the funfair. DSC03552

Olivia loved going on the rides, although she was still too small for the majority of them, but she was certainly all about the cars this weekend! The funfair is essentially a way for people to empty your pockets of cash for you in a very short space of time. I made sure that we only went with a small budget and weren’t tempted to blow large amounts of cash to win cheap teddy bears or a goldfish! I had committed myself, as a father, to win at least one bear for my daughter, I kind of see it as a fathers duty, its in the job description! I decided that the Hook-A-Duck would be my first game of choice, especially as “every go wins a prize”, although I didn’t expect each go to cost £3! It came as no shock that I hooked a duck pretty quickly, but my heart quickly sank when my gaze was directed, by the clearly disinterested woman behind the counter, away from the teddy bears on display towards the cheap plastic toys on the floor which was all my duck apparently qualified for! I was welcomed to take another go and trade in for a teddy bear, but could see that this could soon get expensive and I’d end up spending £6 or £9 on a bear that clearly cost them a small percentage of that. I’d rather go out and buy a nice looking bear than throw money at the cheap looking tat that was on offer, still, I’d come here with a purpose and found a fluffy unicorn doll amongst the cheap toys I’d been told to choose from. Not quite the teddy I’d hoped for, but close enough! The rides, on the other hand, were far better value, as each one was only £1 per person per go, and far from being over after 30 seconds, they all seemed to last quite a while and Olivia had a great time.

I’d heard about the pickpockets at events like this, and so we all held onto our phones, keys and money for dear life, although trying not to make it too obvious, but I did feel a sense of relief when we walked out of their and headed back to the car with everything that we’d taken with us! It was a nice afternoon, and lovely that one of my sisters had met us there with her boyfriend for a couple of hours. After the funfair, we went to visit my mom for a couple of hours, and stopped off at Clare’s parents on the way home, as requested, as they had bought her a ride on car that weekend, which she got to take for a little test drive and refused to get out of until she’d been pushed about in it for over half an hour!

It was a lovely way to spend a bank holiday, and I’d really been looking forward to it! It didn’t disappoint!

The rest of the week passed by in a blur and suddenly its Friday night again, and I have few things planned for the weekend, starting with my friend arriving on Saturday morning for me to photograph her newborn baby. The session goes quite well, and getting the baby off to sleep is a little tricky, as is keeping them that way whilst they are being posed. The whole thing is a very slow, relaxed process which a) keeps the baby asleep, and b) relaxes mom so that she isn’t worried about me handling her most valued possession in the world!

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Baby Chloé was a fantastic model, and so super cute that I almost didn’t want to give her back at the end! This was it though, my first successful shoot since the training, and while there was still a lot of improvements to be made, I felt much better than the previous attempt where baby Sebastian flatly refused to go to sleep!

After the shoot we had an afternoon to fill, and toyed with the idea of jumping in the car and heading out to the park, but both agreed that we really couldn’t be bothered. Instead, we took the opportunity of a bit of down time to just play in the garden and not have to worry about going anywhere, or putting coats on, or parking, or if it would rain. Just getting silly and playing in the garden.

I had a 10km run planned for Sunday morning, so didn’t want Saturday to be a particularly late night, although at the last minute got a pub call text from my friend who I hadn’t seen since he’d moved into his new flat. At this point I knew I wouldn’t be in bed early, but sometimes you just have to give in and spend a bit of time with your friends!

Sunday morning proved to be a challenge, not only was I still feeling bloated from the chip shop dinner we’d had the night before, but I had also woken up on the sofa at 6:30am, which wasn’t the greatest nights sleep I’d ever had. I was a bit puzzled by it, as the tv was off when I woke up, so its not like I had fallen asleep watching the tv or anything, I’d somehow just not quite made it to bed! So, tired, bloated, and slightly hungover, I headed out to meet my friend for our run, and I have to say that it really is quite a good hangover cure! 10km later and I felt much better, cleaner inside, and bright and awake!

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It’s decision time…

the eve of the general election, and I won’t lie, I’ve never really taken as much interest in it previously, as I am at the moment. 

Why? Because I am now a parent, and thinking of my child’s future and not just my own? Because as I approach 40 I’m suddenly paying more attention to the things that actually really matter finally? Because it’s about time I grew who and started to take this kind of thing seriously? All of the above? Who knows!! All I know is that this time around they are not making it any easier for us to decide. The two main big parties in the lead have very passionate followers, and each of them screaming for why people should in their wildest dreams consider voting for the other guy. All this misplaced loyalty is very admirable, but is it necessarily what’s best for the country? I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing that the differences between the parties was much more black and white, and we’d instantly know which side to pick, but it isn’t and I don’t!

I did, however, enjoy the company of a knowledgable friend who also had no allegiances to any one particular party,  but did argue the different merits of each one, and gave me something to think about which I think may actually help in my decision tomorrow, or technically today as we’ve gone past midnight!

I don’t want to get too political on here, discussing each party and why I have picked the one that I have, the debates are already currently raging all over Facebook and it can all get a little bit “my dad is bigger than your dad!”, and I certainly don’t intend to attempt to sway anyone’s decision, my views are my own, as are yours! I just hope that whatever the outcome, we don’t start rolling our eyes and wishing we’d voted for the other guy in six months time!

So yeah, while I say I’m approaching 40, it’s still actually a little while off yet. My next birthday still allows me one last final year in my 30s, hardly a reason for a monumental celebration, but still an excuse to treat myself to a few drinks and an evening out for a meal with the wife. Ideally I’d love to be putting the BBQ on and inviting lots of friends and family over, but the current weather situation isn’t hugely encouraging. Traditionally, my birthday has always been a dry day as far back as I can remember, except for one year when there was a shower in the morning, but then it stopped and dried up! As it stands at the moment, the long term forecast for my actual birthday is suggesting a temperature of around 12°c and a couple of showers, not what I’d got in mind and certainly not what I’d hope for if planning a BBQ! In fact it’s fair to say that the current weather is pretty miserable, and the rain and high winds make for some fairly tough, if not a little scary, rides to and from work! Hopefully this will all settle down and we can start to enjoy a proper summer soon, it’s the one time cyclists actually look forward to where we can forget about the waterproof clothing, so much rain and spray that not only can we not see where we’re going, but even if we could the road had become one giant mirror and all the potholes have suddenly vanished! Riding blindly with no idea of where the potholes lie is essentially the cyclists version of Russian roulette!

Anyway, this post was only ever meant to be a short one, so here’s a photo of my beautiful daughter, enjoying colouring at her new table whilst playing with her dolly.

  

One person can make a difference, and every person should try

Yeah, another week has gone by, and this whole bi-weekly thing on the blog has fallen by the wayside a bit. Still, I’m here and back on it for a recap of this week. On a big plus point, I am now done with editing the two easter weddings, so I have a little more free time on my hands. This alone has been a major contributor in not blogging much for the last couple of weeks.

Another plus point is that this is a bank holiday weekend, so after what has felt like a long week at work, we have three days at home with the family. People kept mentioning the bank holiday, but I kept forgetting about it, which is a good thing, as waiting for something can make it feel like its never going to arrive. I didn’t want to make too many plans, as I know how much the wife hates it when we try to cram too much in. There were a few things I had arranged to do, and it started on Saturday morning with our friends coming to visit. These were the friends I had been to see last weekend, trying to get photographs of their newborn baby. The shoot didn’t quite work out then as he wouldn’t go to sleep, and this weekend it was much of the same. A disappointment, but one of those things. I can only set so much up, and the baby is in charge after that. I will endeavour to get them some nice photos however, but it probably won’t be the posed shots I had been hoping for. It was still lovely to see them, and of course for the wife to meet the little one as well. Their daughter is almost the same age as Olivia, and it was nice to see them starting to learn to play together.

After they’d left and headed home I had to head out on my own to look after my friends little boy, J again. I haven’t seen him for a few weeks, as they’d recently been away on holiday, but now it was time to start getting a few more hours in. It can be said that I don’t make a huge amount of money out of doing this, its certainly not going to be taking us on holiday, but it does help out a bit, especially at the end of the month when things are starting to get a little tight, and its nice to be doing something good, knowing they appreciate the respite that my looking after him provides. His autism is no real challenge for me, as I am already used to similar behaviours from the pupils I have been working with for the last 18 months anyway. So it has been quite easy for me to just walk into this role and provide the help they need, and things have got off to a good start so far, which we’re all very happy about. Initially I was a little concerned that this could really tie up my weekends and get in the way, and I was wondering if I had perhaps agreed to it too quickly without realising I’d lose a chunk of time with Olivia each weekend. Thankfully they have been very understanding of this, and they also have things they want to do as a family, so we are keeping this very relaxed and flexible, which seems to be suiting everyone. If it becomes a problem, of course we will review it, but for now it seems to be working.

I was home with enough time left for us to squeeze in a quick food shop for the week, so we all jumped in the car and headed out to Aldi, as we are now fully converted from mainstream shopping to budget shopping. There are a couple of things Aldi don’t seem to sell and we can only get from Asda, but we are saving a small fortune from getting everything else from Aldi. Their own branded products have actually really impressed us, and we certainly don’t feel like we are losing out on quality just because we are spending less! We are trying to switch to as much of their own stuff as we can, we are certainly not brand name snobs, if it tastes good and we’re happy with it, then there seems little point in just throwing money away at brand names.

Sunday I woke up feeling a bit delicate, I had decided to give Aldi’s own version of Jack Daniels a try, as it was less than half the price that Jack Daniels sells for in Asda, and still less than the cheaper alternative of Jim Beam. The verdict? Suitably impressed! So much so that I put away over half a bottle of it while I was watching a film and didn’t even realise! Although I don’t think it was the drink that left me feeling rough on the Sunday morning, my poor stomach was gurgling and spinning like a washing machine, telling me it was the Chinese takeaway I had thoroughly overindulged in! I had ordered far too much food, and knew I had, and yet still decided to do as much damage to it as possible… but in the end it beat me! I had little choice but to cancel the Sunday morning run, and postpone it to the Monday morning, which thankfully my running partner was very understanding about. The only other plan we had for the day was to visit our friends who had just moved house, they were now much closer to us, and the new house was lovely, so much space, but they’d totally earned it after spending so long in their previous house which was tiny, even smaller than ours! We spent the whole afternoon there, and Olivia plays so well with their son, who is a year older. We were even fed before we headed home, its so nice to spend time with them and see things actually start to work out for them. Its good to see friends happy, and lovely to be a part of it. This was originally one friend who I had managed to keep from my days of bar work, many years ago. Now we are both married and all four of us get on really well. Its funny how some friendships last while others just seem to fade away! I have always been proud of the fact that I am one of those people who always strives to stay in touch with others, but the trick is knowing when to give up. Its a fact of life that some people are only destined to stay in your life for a short period of time. It can be a bit of a balancing act, as you can find yourself being spread a bit thinly around everyone if you do manage to keep in touch with a lot of people though. Still, the weather was good and we had a great afternoon. We even got to put Olivia’s hair in a little pony tail to keep it out of her eyes and off her neck, which is still a little dry and flaky at the moment.

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I did want to brush on another topic, and while I don’t like to get particularly political in my blog, normally I’d try to avoid it completely, there is no escaping the fact that the UK’s general election is fast approaching and I am still totally sitting on the fence about what I am going to do with my vote.

I certainly don’t want to just waste my vote, I believe it is very important to get out there and use it to make a difference, but I clearly still need to do a bit more research into each of the parties before I commit and make a decision. I don’t have any kind of loyalty to any one party, unlike some of my friends and family, although I am very aware of the strong feelings for and against some of the parties, from some of those around me. I am trying not to be influenced just on the opinions of my friends, but I haven’t seen enough from any one party to sway me in their favour. In fact, its no secret that politicians are generally a bunch of lying creeps that no-one trusts anyway, so even if I DID see something from them that interested me, there’s no saying that they’d keep their promise and see it through anyway, which makes me wonder why we even bother sometimes. Why don’t we just roll a dice and put an X next to the corresponding number?! I was actually reading an article recently about what was promised at the last general election, from the party who actually won, and how little of it was actually delivered. It was frightening, these people we trusted and voted in, yet totally failed to keep their word on not just one point, but numerous points!

How are you deciding on who to vote for? Informed decision? Misguided loyalty? Taking a punt on a gut feeling? Lack of options?

Follow me on Twitter @andrewvokes to keep updated about future posts.

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