Monthly Archives: August 2015
Here are numbers 21 to 40, the second half of my 40 before 40 list. Will I actually get all of these done? Its doubtful, to be honest I should have started this list ages ago if I really wanted to be crossing things off, but you still need to have dreams and goals, otherwise what is the point in it all? You just never know when your time is up. No matter how healthy you stay, how well you eat, sometimes your number is up and it can be “game over” quite unexpectedly! If like me, you are a cyclist commuting on busy main roads each day, then you can take your life in your hands just getting to work, and yet we are all so good at putting things off that we can tend to forget about what our dreams were before we all grew up and had to put them on hold. Some of us get lucky and have the money and the lifestyle to be able to do all the things they want, but the reality is that the majority of us don’t get lucky breaks like this. We have to work hard, save up, and make sacrifices! Still, like I say, you just never know what is around the corner, and sometimes you just have to stop putting things off and enjoy life a bit!
21) Take a trip by myself DONE!
Probably about ten years ago, after recently splitting up with an ex I decided I wanted to do something a little different and get away from it all for a few days… on my own! I’d become a big fan of Ibiza, having visited the island a number of times. Its such a diverse island, you can party the night away, visit secluded beaches or quaint old villages, there is literally something for everyone. I booked myself a few nights away and flew out with a very simple plan, beach or pool with a book, grab a few beers, watch a few sunsets and take the opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone a little and make a few friends. It all went perfectly well until the very last night when some young local lad pretending to be friendly took advantage of my drunken state as I walked back to my hotel alone and ran off with my wallet! Thankfully there wasn’t much in it, and I’d left some money in my hotel room! Lesson learnt the hard way!
22) Print my photos
I’ve been snapping away since I was 9 or 10 years old, and have been trying to make my photos better all the time. I have a collection of albums tucked away in the loft full of prints from my old film cameras, but since the arrival of digital cameras most of my images (like everyone I guess) are all sat on hard drives somewhere, only seeing the light of day when I fire up the computer. I don’t like to hide my photos away and have printed a number of them already, some are in frames around the house, some are waiting to go into albums. I also have a large selection on a slideshow on my Apple TV which I put on every now and again, like a large digital photo frame, its fun to sit and watch! My plan is to get much more of my photos printed and into albums though, especially now we have Olivia and number two on the way! THey will be nice to dig out when they get older and want to look through them. I’ve made a start and just need to be consistently printing more each month to work my way through them. Technology continually changes, but printed photos will always look good in your hand!
23) Bungee jump
Its one of those things I’ve looked at and frequently thought “f*** that!”, but I guess if the opportunity ever came up, especially if I was dared into doing it, I’d probably give it a go… so its on my “before 40” list as its not something I’d really want to be trying for the first time when I am pushing 50 or 60! I don’t want my obituary to read “heart attack on a bungee jump… what was he thinking at 55?!”. Maybe one day the opportunity will come up, who knows?!
24) Plant a tree
Not everyone is going to change the world, and I am not likely to be remembered in history, win the nobel peace prize or have books written about me, but I would like to make my small contribution to the planet while I am still on it. We take enough out of the earth and sometimes its nice to give something back. I like to look after my garden and having trees around makes you feel like you are somehow a little further away from the grey concrete of the city. I was very lucky to move into a quiet tree-lined cul-de-sac when we bought our house, and it is especially beautiful when the blossoms on the trees running down each side of the road all flower for a few weeks each summer. So I took the opportunity to stick an apple tree in my garden when we moved in. Its lovely to watch it grow and start to fruit, and to think that it may still be here after I am gone offering its fruit and a bit more oxygen to the planet earth!
25) Ride in a hot air balloon
I’d never really given this much consideration until I started my martial arts class and got to know one of the guys there who was part of our class, who worked for a hot air balloon ride company. Sadly he moved away about a year ago and had to leave the club before I could try and hook up with him for a ride, but it did sound like fun and I’d love to give it a go! The thought of peacefully drifting and the fantastic views, it all sounds lovely. I think I’m going to have to chase this one up and see if I can get in touch with him and cross it off!
26) See my favourite band live
Not exactly ground breaking ambitions, but sometimes the simplest things can be overlooked. Then again, sometimes life changes and we forget to chase what we really enjoy and just go with what we sometimes have time for in our busy lives. Back when I was 17 I was in full-on rock mode, I had the long hair and the black leather jacket and was all into a number of metal bands, my favourite being Metallica, and along with some friends I managed to get a ticket for one of their concerts for what now seems like the bargain price of £17, I dread to think how much it would cost to see them now! One of the other bands I got into back in my college days was a local indie band called Neds Atomic Dustbin, although I missed out on seeing them live before they split up! Much to my delight I found out that they have recently been doing some reunion gigs, and are having another one this December! So its sorted, me and a friend are booking our tickets and going to relive our youth for an evening! Sadly the long hair and the tight black jeans will have to remain a thing of the past, and we will be dressed a lot more appropriately this time!
27) Lose a stone
Oh man, this is a tough one! I have done, half marathons, tough mudders, but this is the hardest! Its no secret, I love my food, and of course I love to have a drink at the weekend too! Yeah sure, I run and cycle a lot, I do it fairly regularly, but all I seem to do is balance the calories going in with the calories I burn off. As I am turning 40 the ability to shake this bit of excess weight off is just going to get harder and harder! I guess that as I am already regularly exercising 5-6 times a week, I guess the only thing I can really change is what goes in, limit the calorie intake a little. With the wife pregnant again with our second child, she is a little conscious of post baby weight after Jr No.2 arrives, so maybe if we start planning our meals a bit better she can help me to watch what I am doing a bit! I’ve lost a stone before with the daily use of the myfitnesspal app on my phone, and so I know it works. If I can get back into using that every day then I just might crack this!
28) Own stocks or shares DONE!
Well there’s some good news and there’s some bad news. The good news is that I already own shares, and obviously its one of those things you want to do to make money on, by buying when they’re cheap and selling when they’ve gained value. As it happened when I joined Tesco they gave me some free shares with the option to buy more on a regular basis out of my salary. I couldn’t touch them for a number of years and so just sat and watched them go up in value.
Unfortunately it wasn’t all good news… Its fair to say that Tesco has definitely seen better days than it has recently. With profit scandals, store closures, and the dramatic rise of strong competitors like Lidl and Aldi, the company are seeing some dark days. While I am not shedding too many tears after the tough, spirit breaking time I had while I worked there, with some ruthless managers pushing people to breaking point, the negative impact on me now is that my shares are now worth a fraction of what I originally bought them for, and if I sold them now I’d hardly get anything for them. People keep saying “Oh just wait, they’ll recover” but the future is looking somewhat bleak. In fact the store I first worked for has only just closed down this week, and another local superstore is rumoured to be closing down in the near future too. Its a sad time for the company, and a very sad time for my shares too! I can only sit on them a bit longer and keep my fingers crossed!
29) See a Formula 1 Grand Prix live
I have been to both Silverstone here in the UK, and Spa over in Belgium, but never to see a Grand Prix. I have always wanted to see a race live, and it looks like I may finally get a chance next year. If all goes well then me and a friend get to drive to Belgium to watch the race at one of our favourite tracks the
It is also one of the easiest to get to outside of the UK, just 450 miles door-to-door, easily drivable! The european ticket prices are also far lower than Silverstone and will help to offset the cost of diesel for a fun weekend away! If I do pull this off, I will have just turned 40 when I do this, but I still count it as a win!
30) Teach Photography
What did I want to do when I was growing up? Well we all had our ideas and plans, and I’d like to bet that very few of us actually followed through with our dreams and ended up doing what we’d always dreamed of. I certainly never intended to work in a special needs school, or in retail, topping up my wages with bar work. One passion I’d always had since I was about 10 was the photography, but never thought of it as a career option, even when I was in college, and never thought I’d be good enough to do anything with it once I first considered that it could be an option. Eventually I was convinced by a friend to give it a go, and started shooting weddings, which I still do now and still enjoy. One thing I learned along the way is that the money isn’t necessarily in high paying clients or filling up my calendar with back to back weddings each weekend, the real money to be made is in the training! People will happily pay good money for all kinds of training, and this is especially true with photography where the training is notably expensive! It is definitely an area I would like to make plans to cross over into, perhaps to bring a little extra money in, and ideally be able to stay at home while Jr.1 and Jr.2 are little!
31) Learn to Drive DONE!
This may seem obvious and a bit less of an exciting goal, but in reality this is life changing and I still know so many adults that cannot drive! I have been driving for 20 years now, and can’t even begin to imagine what life would have been like without a driving license! Even if I’d only just passed my test and got one now, that’s 20 years of being very restricted in what I could do or where I could go prior to it. I’ve driven in America and across Europe and it has been a blessing. Undeniably it has become ridiculously expensive here in the UK with insurance prices rocketing and the introduction of the theory test, all adding to a very expensive experience for new drivers. I am lucky to have got my driving license when I did and it has helped with work, travel, photography and seeing friends and family that would otherwise have been difficult or impossible without it! Like I said at the start, this list isn’t just a bunch of things I want to try to do or have already done, its also a mix of things that would count others approaching this landmark birthday.
some I want to do, and some I have already done.
32) Learn to make cocktails DONE!
Who doesn’t love a good cocktail, they’re not just for the ladies! I had a brief experience working in a bar in the city centre that trained me how to mix and pour cocktails. The pouring was just as important as you had to count the alcohol rather than measure it. It was fun, I loved working there and enjoyed the experience, even if it did mean some extra late finishes, but sadly the bar went out of business and I was forced to find another bar to work in. Afterwards I did make cocktails at home with friends every now and again, and had fun making a few new ones up, but these days I tend to stick to a nice bottle of red if we have friends over.
33) Learn yoga
Not something I have been desperate to try before now, but I know a few who do or have tried yoga, and they swear by it! To be honest, I am just curious as to what all the fuss is about, and whether it would help me with my running or my martial arts! There is every chance I won’t try this before I am 40, but I am intrigued enough to consider giving it a go at some point!
34) Own my own home DONE!
A mans home is his castle, and that is certainly what it feels like when you have a place you can call your own, especially when it is filled with the sounds of a loving family. When we found out we were expecting our first child we were still living in the flat together and realised that we needed to move quickly into second gear and find a house to live in fast! We moved into the house that used to belong to the wife’s grandparents, and so it was nice to keep it in the family, plus it was on a lovely, quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac which was perfect for us, particularly suitable for families and small children. I grew up on a quiet road myself, and it was nice being able to play in the street without the worry of heavy traffic passing by regularly, which was what it was like when we were in the flat!
35) Complete a 365 project DONE!
I decided that as my wedding photography was part time, I wanted to keep using my camera even between weddings, to get to a point where I knew every lens and button inside out, and could use the camera in the dark and with my eyes closed. I figured a 365 project would be fun, where I had to take one photo every single day for a year. In fact I had so much fun doing it that I continued it into year two and managed to keep it going for two solid years in a row. It wasn’t easy towards the end, finding something different every day was tough, but it covered a very interesting time in our life and will be wonderful to look back on if I can get the photos printed into a photo album or photo book of some kind!
36) Write a bucket list
One saying that I hear always sticks in my mind, “I do not regrets the things I have done, but those I did not do.”
Its a great saying to live by, but obviously having a wife and family now, some of the things I “did not do” are going to have to stay that way. There is still a lot of time to be thinking about what else I would like to do while I still have the chance though, and thankfully a lot of my potential bucket list can wait a little longer! I know things like visiting NYC are not urgent and while I’d love to one day drive through Tuscany and photograph a beautiful sunset there to print on a canvas and hang on my wall, it can wait a while. I believe every man needs to have dreams though, which reminds me of another saying that I like, “a man without dreams is like a bird without wings”. Sometimes we get so caught up in our routines, especially once we have started families, and have been so sidetracked by our jobs that we might forget about doing all the things that we like doing, or may have dreamed about doing, until one day its suddenly too late. Its a well known point that the people who really appreciate time the most are the ones who have so little of it left. One lovely film I enjoyed with the wife a while back was “The bucket list” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, which makes you think about what you’d do if you suddenly realised time was almost up and you may never get the chance to do the things you’d always wanted to! I will start crossing a few things off soon, but first I need to get writing!
37) Learn to cook new dishes
I used to be such a fussy eater as a child, although I am much better now. Still not a fan of sea food though, a bit of a frustrating hurdle I can’t seem to get past! I do enjoy cooking and have tried lots of new dishes, I especially love cooking for friends when we have them over, and its always fun trying to cook something new, although I don’t often get the chance, One thing I have never cooked is a curry, I’ve not even attempted it, if you exclude the jars of cooking sauces I sometimes use! The irony is that I enjoy them so much, but I have always been put off from attempting to cook them by the first every curry cook book I owned being so complicated with so many ingredients I had never heard of, or would have no idea where to even begin looking for them! Still, I now own a recommended book called the curry bible, so I am going to delve in and give it a shot! Hopefully I won’t poison anyone, maybe I shouldn’t try it out at a dinner party!
38) Go wine tasting DONE!
On our honeymoon, as we were spending two weeks in California, we thought we should take a day out to sample the local wine. We had planned to spend out honeymoon driving down the coast, and had started our journey in San Francisco, only a short drive from the well known Napa Valley, and the lesser known, but equally beautiful Sonoma Valley. We booked a day trip where we were taken on a coach from San Francisco to three vineyards throughout the two regions, and got to taste some very different wines and buy some of the local produce. It was a really fun day and I’d love to do something similar again! Maybe if I get to arrange that driving holiday through France that I’ve always wanted to do…?
39) Take 40 days off alcohol
For numerous reasons I’d like to have a go at this. Like most people I love to have a drink, although usually only at the weekend. I don’t have the energy any more for cycling to work, doing a full days work, and coming home to a two year old, all on a hangover any more, so weekdays are out for me! Even at the weekends I don’t drink that much any more, but I still could do with cutting it out for a while. It is also something that is full of calories (see point 27) that I can easily get a little carried away with, which isn’t much good on a calorie counting diet when I am trying to lose weight. Plus it will be nice to reset the system and detox for a bit. Why 40 days you ask? Well, just because the number 40 ties in with my age really, and it looks like I am making a bit more effort than just having the weekend off!
40) Plan my 40th
My 18th was an reasonably uneventful evening in town with a few friends, my 21st was a sensible family bbq, my 30th was a night in a pub up town, a bigger turn out that my 18th at least, but ruined by the fact that my then girlfriend only bothering to get me a card, and the only surprise I was getting was that there was no present! So that leaves me with my 40th, and what to do? It can’t be any more of an anticlimax than previous milestone birthdays, and I don’t intend to let it pass unnoticed.
Though this list may be long, the three main things I had always wanted to achieve before 40 was, getting married, buying a house and having children, and I did it! I managed all three, and if that isn’t cause for celebration then I don’t know what is! I think my original plans for hitting Vegas with friends for our joint 40th has now well and truly gone out of the window, especially with No.2 now on the way, but I am sure we can still do something fun!
If you were to be turning forty, or are actually turning forty, what would be on your list?
I am now well into the final year of my thirties, and its time perhaps for a bit of reflection. Looking back on how I got here, the journey along the way, as well as more recently since I met my wife and life moved up a gear.
When you are a child, time seems to go so slowly, always wanting to be older, waiting for something, the six week summer holidays can feel like literally forever, just waiting for the weekend can feel like torture, and yet as an adult time seems to go much faster, the months can feel like weeks, and weeks begin to feel like days. I have somehow only got two weeks left of my six week summer break, four of those weeks have gone already, and I don’t even know where! It still feels like the summer break has only just started, and already I need to give some consideration to squeezing everything in that I wanted to do before I went back to work!
Of course, anyone who knows me well, will know how I love to make lists. Any kind of event, in my opinion, is much more likely to go without a hitch with just a simple bit of planning, and nothing makes that easier than a list, such as our recent holiday in Torquay, or planning our wedding, or what to take to the hospital when we were expecting Olivia, etc.
One thing I did give some consideration to recently, was another kind of list, not a bucket list, but what seems to be a popular theme from the little research I did, forty things to do before you’re forty. I spent a little while thinking about my list, and came up with much more than forty options. I spent a little while whittling it down, and considering what I was hoping to achieve from it. This list is not specifically a list of goals or targets that I “must complete or I have failed at life”, some of the points are general things that I think most people would want to tick off before they’re 40, some are things I may have already achieved, some of them are things that I may never achieve, but that doesn’t make them any less valid, a man needs to have dreams! Some of these things may seem bizarre, or maybe just not sound very exciting, but for me they are things that I think are either important to do, or maybe something we just need to stop putting off. I will try to explain each one, even if only briefly, as to why I have chosen this above others.
Here is my list, in no particular order:-
1) Party in Ibiza till the sun comes up. DONE!
I have been to Ibiza a number of times, and on the last visit I got engaged there, popping the question as we watched the burning sun sink into the ocean. I love the island and have seen all aspects of it, from the old town to the rowdy english lager lout corner, from the sleepy villages to the international superclubs. I’ve partied hard and had fun, but I definitely needed to do that before I was 40!
2) Run a half marathon. DONE!
I completed my first Birmingham Half Marathon in 2011 and then went on to it again three more times and also the Silverstone Half Marathon. I’ve broken the 2hr mark, but still want to try and break the 1hr45 mark, so I will undoubtedly try it again. Its no secret that I am fitter now than I was at 21, and do far more exercise, even if I am slightly heavier, but I am glad I got the half marathons under my belt before I got any older! Not that being over 40 would stop me, but when you are trying for timed races, you don’t want to leave it too late!
3) Get a tattoo. DONE!
I have never been opposed to tattoos, I’d just never found anything I liked enough until we went to California on our honeymoon, and I had a dragon put on my arm whilst in San Diego. It gave me the taste for more, but now we have a child and another on the way, that is just going to have to wait!
4) Visit Las Vegas.
This was originally my plan for my 40th, to get out and celebrate in style in Vegas with friends. Since the arrival of Olivia, and the news that number two is on the way, that trip has been postponed and my 40th birthday plans heavily downgraded!
5) Get married. DONE!
Its not necessarily something you can make plans for, you’re either with the right person or you’re not! For me, it came at the perfect time though, I’d done a lot of growing up prior to meeting Clare and was ready to settle down!
6) Have Children. DONE!
I always wanted to have had my children before I turned 40, it was important to me. I didn’t want to be an “old” dad. I didn’t want people assuming I was the grandparent and not the parent. Sure, I left it a bit late, but again, it was the right time for me. Of course, I never went into any of my previous relationships trying to work out if they’d make a good mother or not, but as you begin to creep towards 30 that thought does start to cross your mind. Clare was perfect, and I knew as soon as I met her that she was the girl I wanted to settle down with and have a family with. She was my winning lottery ticket!
7) Learn to oil paint.
You may think its a pretty low goal, not much of an achievement if I do manage to do it. The artist in me would love to have a go at this though. Photography has been wonderful, but sometimes its nice to create rather than just capture. Why is this on my before 40 list? Well if I get to around to starting this and really enjoy it, I’ll have missed out on years of doing it, plus I don’t want to be 75 and find either my eyesight has gone or my hands are now too shaky.
8) Go to Disney World. DONE!
The child in me jumped at the chance of doing this! It was my first ever holiday abroad, my first journey on an airplane, and I was off to Florida! It seemed rude to go all that way and not do Disney! No matter how old you are, its still a lot of fun! Sure I was 23 when I went, but I felt about 7 again!
9) Learn a new language.
Yes, I am British, and yes I expect everyone to understand me no matter where I go in the world! I was top of my class in French at school, but that was a loooong time ago! I have been on Spanish holidays many times, and of course I know some key phrases such as ordering drinks and food etc, but not enough to hold even a basic conversation, so I can’t really count either of theses as knowing another language.
10) Complete a three peaks challenge.
I arranged to do this with friends 10 years ago and ironically couldn’t go myself in the end, even though my friends carried on! I tried it again with a large group of work colleagues more recently, but when part of the group got lost, it set the rest of us back and we ran out of time to get to Ben Nevis. A smaller group of us are going to try it again soon, without the distractions of slower members, so hopefully this will be completed before the big 4-0!
11) See a west end show. DONE!
Actually I have been to see several, and they are all fantastic. Each one was a wonderful experience, and worth every penny! The first was Miss Saigon back in the 90s, then I went to see Blood Brothers about 10 years ago, and more recently saw Mamma Mia which was so much fun, and the music blew me away! With nippers in tow, it will be a while before we get a chance to do it again, but I’m keen to get down and see another one, maybe for a wedding anniversary in the future!
12) Go to a festival.
Never done it. I guess they never really excited me when I had the opportunity, but now I realise I’d love to have a go! I refuse to pay the ridiculous prices of the big named festivals, the obvious famous ones, but I keep becoming aware of smaller, more local ones that friends go to, some of which are more child friendly. Maybe something to consider for when Olivia and Jr are a bit older?
13) Visit a casino. DONE!
I went to one about 10 years ago with some friends on a drunk night out, but was well aware I had no idea what I was doing, and saw fit to leave my wallet in my pocket and just watch! Last year a group of us went to one for a friends 40th birthday, and I joined a poker table, and even won a little money, enough to mean my night was virtually free, even after the meal and drinks we’d had! Bonus!
14) Play an instrument. DONE!
Not a lot of people know that I actually used to own a bass guitar and be able to play it. I was even in a band for a little while. We practised each week and it was fun, I even organised a charity band night at the pub I worked at, to raise money for a local charity. As the manager was a friend of mine, I left all my equipment where I thought it would be safe afterwards. I never saw it again. I knew who took it, but could prove nothing. I never played again after that!
15) Learn to ski.
Always wanted to ski, never done anything about it. The school I work at have even sent pupils on skiing residentials, but only staff with skiing experience could go! So unfair! Will I get a chance to learn before I am 40? Unlikely, but I am not ruling out the chance of doing it one day!
16) Learn a martial art. DONE!
I’d thought about doing this for years, and never did anything about it, but then I discovered a friend of mine was a black belt in jujitsu and so joined him at his class. Five years later and I am now a brown belt in jujitsu, the next grading I take will be for MY black belt, although with each belt it takes longer until the next one, so I am still a few years away from black yet!
17) Drive down the coast of California. DONE!
Of the many options we had for our honeymoon, we picked California. There was plenty to do, it wasn’t all based around one hotel, one pool and one beach. Plus Clare was unlikely to seriously burn her pale skin on this kind of holiday! We landed in San Francisco, took in Napa Valley, drove down Route 1 to Carmel, Pismo Beach and Los Angeles, and ended our stay in San Deigo. It was everything we could have hoped for from a honeymoon! I’d do it again tomorrow if we could!
18) Go camping. DONE!
Yeah, I know, it sounds simple! Its something that not everyone has had a chance to try though. I know I went as a child, with my dad and his girlfriend at the time, although I remember very little about it. I went about 10 years ago with a friend and our respective partners at the time, it was a failure! My friends girlfriend (after being warned about the lack of home comforts and luxuries) hated it so much she cried! We went home the next day! I got to go again on our recent three peaks attempt, and actually quite enjoyed it! I had a three man tent to myself, and thats about as small as I could go! I don’t know how people cope with smaller tents!
19) Complete a Tough Mudder! DONE!
I did my first (yes, I did it more than once!) Tough Mudder in 2013, and have to concede that its name is fair… its tough! I enjoyed it though, the challenge enticed me in a second time, and I did it again last year in 2014. I found it much easier the second time around, and felt proud to wear the orange headband and also the green “2x Mudder” headband! I am man, hear me roar!! On top of which, all the money goes to Help For Heroes, bonus!
20) Attend a live Formula 1 race.
I have been a big racing fan for many years now, and even remember my dad taking me to the Birmingham Super Prix when I was a child, I must have been 10 years old at the time. I was never really exposed to football at home, so I never really got into it, it was more about the racing for me. I started watching the Formula 1 and even remember watching the race back when Ayrton Senna famously crashed and lost his life. Now I am a bigger fan than ever, and have run a half marathon around Silverstone, and have even been for a tour of the buildings. I also got to visit the Circuit De Spa Francorchamps in Belgium on a school residential a few years ago, sadly nowhere near the F1 race on the calendar! Belgium would probably be my circuit of choice to see a race at, plus its quite easy to drive to!
So there is 1-20, the first half of my list of forty things to do before forty. A number of them already ticked off, not exactly cheating, they are still valid points. In an ideal world I may have started this list a few years ago and had longer to work on it, but as I didn’t I am just going to have to plod through it like it was some kind of project I’ve been working on for a long time! Just use your imagination!
I will do the big reveal of 21-40 in a few days time, stay tuned!
For all those who despise the amount of holiday time that people working in education get, yes this is essentially a holiday within a holiday! I can’t defend the amount of time we get off, it is what it is, but you can sit smugly and gloat over your last minute 5 star all inclusive holiday that cost you £200 in the middle of June that I will never get to enjoy! My 5 start all inclusive holiday to the same destination will cost £1500 because I have no choice over when I take it!
Consequently, our first family holiday away was never going to be in the mediterranean, not only because of the ridiculously over inflated prices, but also because I have a toddler who I would have to spend a week covering up or hiding in the shade so that she didn’t get burnt, making us look like terrible parents who should be reported to social services for neglect! I also have a wife, who burns just as easily, and would take just as much covering up and hiding in the shade, and thats if she didn’t just plain melt away on the first day! So we had to look somewhere a little bit more sensible, and for me there was only one option… Torquay! I’d always wanted to go, I love the south coast and it was potentially our best chance of good weather within the UK, I’m a big fan of Devon and Cornwall, and lastly, if we did have any sun related health problems we were only a couple of hours from home and not far from an english speaking hospital!
I’d done some research a few months in advance, and found what looked like the perfect bed and breakfast. Being a big fan of tripadvisor, I checked out many of the reviews, and was surprised to see that the hotel I had just booked ONLY had 4 and 5 star reviews! This is pretty much a first for me, there is normally always at least a few negative ones, I take these with a pinch of salt of course, but no, not this time! I had a good feeling about this!
Finally the countdown went from weeks to days and we were packing to go, after a pretty straight forward drive we could see the sea and we’d arrived! I wasn’t disappointed! The room was lovely, the owners were amazingly friendly and helpful, and they just couldn’t do enough for us! The bed was super comfy, the place was absolutely spotless, and they cooked a fantastic breakfast! On top of which , we were a mere five minute walk from the harbour and a massive selection of places to eat!
The weather forecast leading up to this week hadn’t been fantastic, but thankfully changed at the last minute and we were blessed with some sunshine and warm weather, it was lovely. All I had hoped for was that our first family holiday and last holiday for a few years at least wasn’t going to be a rain soaked flop! I’d had visions of taking Olivia to the beach, splashing in the sea, and building sandcastles, as well as getting a bit of sun on my skin… and thankfully thats exactly what we did! We took in a couple of beaches, although Oddicombe beach was horrible and shingly, I just don’t get why people go there! Goodrington Sands on the other hand was a lovely beach, and we had a great day out! We also got to visit Paignton Zoo, which was a huge place and a lovely day, and we found out my aunt and uncle were staying close by, so we hooked up with them for afternoon tea in a beautiful quiet idyllic village called Cockington. On the very last day we enjoyed a ferry ride from Torquay across to Brixham, a bargain at only £3 for a return ticket! Olivia loved being on the boat, and we got a good 30-35 minute ride each way out of it, which kept madam quiet for a while! All in all, it was the perfect break, we made the most of each day (Olivia’s afternoon naps permitting!) and ate well, relaxed, and came home feeling like we’d been there a lot longer, in a good way! If you’re going to Torquay and looking for a room, check out the Ravenswood Hotel, you will not be disappointed!
Coming home sadly meant that firstly Clare is back to work, and secondly I am now into the fourth week of six of the holidays! They seem to be flying by so fast! It has been wonderful to have the time off to spend time with Olivia, the evenings just never seem long enough when I get home from work, as there is only a couple of hours before she is in bed. We do have her in a really good sleep routine though, and by half seven we are usually getting ready to read her a story and put her to bed. The girl needs her sleep, and as parents we need our adult time too! Sometimes having Olivia in such a good sleep routine can feel restrictive when you want to do things with your afternoon or your evening, but the long term benefits are worth the sacrifice now. I have some friends whose children have no bedtime routines, who are still up at 11pm and consequently struggle to get up in the morning. Each to their own, of course, but if thats how they are as toddlers, then that habit that is going to be hard to break further down the line, and once they start school it is going to make EVERY single school morning a nightmare, trying to drag them out of bed. They will then be going to school tired, and will struggle to focus on the lessons. I certainly don’t want to be that pushy parent that makes my child work like a robot, but what I do want is to create some good habits that will give her the best chance at a good start! I think its the little things that make a difference too, like making sure that as much fun as we have, she still knows who the boss is! Kids need boundaries and an appropriate level of discipline, I don’t understand households that are run by a screaming five year old. I hate to see parents screaming, and sometimes swearing, at their children in the street because they haven’t been given any boundaries and now won’t do as they’re told! Olivia is reaching her second birthday soon, and we are already getting a taste of what may lie in store for us when the “terrible twos” begins. It will be a real test of strength and determination, but I can be especially stubborn when I need to be, and I am ready for any battle of wills that she wants to throw at me. If a child knows boundaries, and learns respect that we are hopefully setting ourselves up for less tantrums and an easier ride. I think working in a special needs school for so long has really helped me to learn some qualities that will come in useful.
It may sound like I have all this figured out, but the truth is that I still have no idea what is around the corner, or what problems Olivia is going to drop in our lap, or how I will end up dealing with them, but I do at least feel ready for the battle!
With number two on the way though, I am sure that most of my plans and good ideas will end up redundant and my rapidly greying hair will end up getting thinner as I pull more and more of it out!
My 40th birthday looms ever closer and while I have given it very little thought up until now, the reality is I can no longer ignore the fact that is not only the next birthday for me, but its also not very far away. Its a landmark birthday, and previously I’ve never been fortunate enough to have had anything particularly special done for any “big” birthdays before, indeed for my 30th birthday all I got from my ex was a card… no, not a card and a trip to Vegas… just a card! This time around obviously things are going to be quite different, while it may still be a big birthday, and I guess psychologically quite big to get my head around, I think the obvious fact is that I will be suitably distracted by baby number two who will be three months old by that point! So really I don’t expect much, indeed becoming a parent changes your mindset hugely, and now we have one child already, I am very keen to meet number two, and so having a happy, healthy family is pretty much all I could ask for. Its certainly far more than I expected around seven years ago, just before I met Clare, when I was in my early thirties and had become single again after ditching the ex who couldn’t even bring herself to buy me a present for my 30th birthday (yes, I’m bitter about it!). Back then I was beginning to think that either a) all women were crazy b) I wasn’t very good at this relationship thing (even though I considered myself a nice guy!) or c) both a and b were true, in which case I was knackered! I certainly didn’t think a wife and two children would even be a possibility by the time I was 40!
This happiness and contentment with life and the universe is a great thing, but it can lead to feeling a little guilty at times. Its true, I have left things to the last minute in terms of settling down, but not all of us are lucky to meet the right person for us so early on. I know of one couple who got married when they were in their very early twenties, “you’re too young!” they were told by so many people, but after celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary with two children in tow, they proved everyone wrong. Sadly this kind of good news story is rare, and while a lot of my friends were married long before me, I now start to see them become single again as their marriages break down, its very sad. On top of which, being a wedding photographer, you get to see the happiest days of some peoples lives, they are magical to share… but not all of them work, and I frequently get to hear about the ones who don’t… yet here I am feeling wonderful about life, a fantastic wife, a beautiful daughter and number two on the way. I can’t lie, I feel a little guilty sometimes, like I am used to not having these simple luxuries and feel bad that some people had them and have lost them. I even have close friends who have recently split up where children have been involved, its all I can do to hope they remain civil, for the childrens sake. It takes me back to my childhood where I was the one who suffered with the parents splitting up and only seeing our dad at weekends and school holidays, often it wasn’t even every weekend. Alcohol played a big part in his life and I was too young to understand, so often me and my sister didn’t question things, its just the way it was. It wasn’t great, but it was all we knew. As I started to grow up I put it all behind me and tried to forget about it, but then as you start to get close to, and turn 30 you do begin to have these thoughts about relationships, settling down, and families. I didn’t go into every new relationship wondering about marriage, but obviously after a while you do have to stop and assess the situation and think to yourself “do I see a future with this wierdo person?” and the answer was invariably “no!” regardless of how long it took me to do actually anything about it afterwards.
So now I find myself in that position that I always hoped, but never thought I would be in, wife and daughter and another one on the way. Life feels great, but I do sometimes still feel guilty when I am around friends in, or recently out of, relationships or marriages which hadn’t been working for some time. Either way, I have a wonderful wife and I think I am a fairly good, sensitive, considerate husband who tries to do all he can to keep the wife happy… I am pretty sure that after the rollercoaster that has been the last 30 years, I am owed a little happiness. All I can do is support my friends and be there for them, and just hope that if the tables were turned, they’d be there for me too! At my age, the majority of my friendships have lasted a good while now, and my friends will know that I am there for them, as they will hopefully agree with!
So back to the here and now, and here I am with two weeks out of six of my holidays already done, and I don’t feel like I have got much done, but it has been nice to catch up with some friends and family, even though I still have a whole lot more to catch up with and I am probably going to run out of time to do i!, especially with our first family holiday just around the corner! The last week has been spent well, we had fun visiting people, going to see the animals at the nature centre and going swimming too, it has been lovely spending time with Olivia and getting a few bits done around the house and garden on her nursery days.
This weekend we had two childrens parties to attend, one of which we were involved in, as It was a joint part and Olivia was part of the celebrations. Two years ago we’d completed our antenatal course and got to know some great couples, and it wasn’t long before the first baby of the group appeared, the rest soon followed with only about six weeks or so between the first one and the last one. We all met up for their first birthdays this time last year and I managed to get a photo of each of them which the wife put into a lovely collage for all the parents…
It was a photo that everyone fell in love with straight away, including myself, and one photo that I was very keen to try and replicate on their second birthday. I would be happy to make it a bit of an annual tradition so that we can see them grow up and keep a record of it. The joint 2nd birthday on the Saturday went really well, and everyone enjoyed themselves, especially the kids. I had made it my mission to get at least one good photo of each of them to create a similar collage made by the wife last year. It was far trickier than I had imagined, as they were all now mobile and very fast with rather short attention spans. If there is one thing I have learned from taking all the photos that I that has the kids are in charge, and there is no forcing them to do anything , especially if they are surrounded by distraction and are prone to not looking at the camera and running off! At times like this though, the perseverance tends to pay off and I got lucky, I managed to get a photo of each of them, although I wasn’t giving up until I had, and here it is…
Such a good looking bunch of kids, this photo made me incredibly proud. I can’t wait to get it printed and on the wall, it will be something we all look back on for years to come!
-Days until my 40th birthday: 288