Author Archives: andrewvokes

Day 242 – My only regret is that I hadn’t done this sooner

Day 242 – Nov 14th

Today was mostly spent staring at a small screen, I had been scouring the adverts in autotrader and eBay for a new motorbike, a proper full size bike so that I can have a bit more authority on the road, join my friends on their rides out, and maybe look at some longer rides in the future with my camera in my backpack.

After checking out many bikes, reading reviews, watching videos of rides and tests and finally pinned down one bike that stood out. It was a tough choice, there were some serious contenders in the price range I was looking at, and it came down to two, a BMW and a Suzuki. The Suzuki won for a couple of reasons, firstly Japanese bikes are very easy to repair as a lot of garages specialise in them, secondly a couple of reviews said the BMW was expensive to maintain, and that it wasn’t quite as easy to handle in slow moving traffic. Its huge benefit was that it was belt driven, rather than chain driven, but I can’t afford to take on a bike that is going to be expensive to run once I’d brought it home.

All being well, I will be able to bring it home next week, and obviously photos will follow.


Day 241 – you might not succeed, but you have to keep trying

Day 241 – Nov 14th

It’s that time of year, germs are everywhere. People are closing their windows because it’s cold outside and cranking up the heating… and the germs are loving it. Working in a school means that around the October – November time when the temperature drops, you are suddenly exposed to all those snotty, coughing, sneezing kids. It doesn’t help that when I finally get home to escape it all everyone has a cold too.

It’s the sort of time you really need to be keeping your energy up by getting plenty of sleep each night. I knew I had to make an extra effort to get to bed early tonight.

The day started with me not feeling great as soon as I got up, so I decided to abandon the cycle in and took the motorbike instead. There is no point pushing myself physically on a demanding cycle ride into work and making myself feel even more run down, then inevitably becoming even more vulnerable to the germs I’ll almost certainly be exposed to.

Having taken the motorbike in to work meant that, on a whim I could go and visit a bike shop after work to check out a bike I’d had my eye on. On paper this bike looked good, but I was glad I had taken a closer inspection as I spotted something I didn’t like. I gave up on this one, and now had a better idea of what I was looking for, narrowing down my search slightly. It really isn’t as simple as looking for a car!

That evening I actually got to bed earlier, and after a little reading we realised that Chloe was awake in bed, I went to check her out and realised she was red hot and had a temperature. Any chance of getting to sleep was quickly abandoned as we took her downstairs in an attempt to cool her down and get some medicine inside her… easier said than done. You’d think we were trying to put liquidised cat food into her mouth or something. I’ve never seen a child refuse medicine with such an energetic protest!

Midnight came and went, and thankfully our little lady was cooling down and looking like she was in the mood to play again, a sign that she was feeling better. Thankfully when she went down this time, she stayed asleep.

I probably won’t be cycling again in the morning either!

Day 240 – You’ve earned this one!

Day 240 – Nov 13th

I may as well not have bothered setting the alarm clock, I was awake 45 minutes before it went off and was unable to get back to sleep. The nerves were starting to settle in a bit now. I was still calm, but getting restless. I managed to grab a quick shower and should have found time for tea and breakfast, but was interested in neither. It was cold out, below freezing, and I was convinced that my motorbike was going to be cancelled today.

I layered up my clothing and headed out early on my motorbike to meet my instructor who was going to escort me over to the test centre. It was nice to jump on a proper motorbike, a Suzuki SV650, although the cold was beginning to ruin the fun a little. My fingers felt like they’d been caught in a slamming door, they were that painful!

Part 1 of the test was over quicky, tiredness, anxiety, and numb fingers meant it was sloppy, but I’d passed… only just! Still, it was a pass, and enough to get me onto part 2 of the test, which was getting out on the road. This felt even sloppier still, but when we got back to the test centre the examiner said it wasn’t a bad ride at all, and only marked me down on a couple of points… another pass! So with both part 1 and part 2 passed, that meant I had now got my full motorcycle license! I could get rid of the learner L plates, buy a bigger motorbike, take it on the motorway if I chose to, and even have a passenger on the back! I suddenly had an overwhelming sense of freedom and relief!

I am so glad I do not have to do that again!

I made it back to work for lunchtime to finish the day and after getting home decided to treat the family to a chip shop dinner to celebrate, and even got to wash it down with two bottle of Peroni courtesy of the very kind mother in law!

Day 239 – Try to keep yourself distracted

Day 239 – Nov 12th

Sunday morning was no lie in, we had arranged to meet some friends to take the kids swimming. The local pool had thankfully changed their opening times, making it easier to park and get in to the small pool early which worked really well for us. We were changed and in the water by 9am and out again by 10am with the whole of Sunday ahead of us. I managed to take both of the girls by myself as I am keen to get Chloe in the water more, and Olivia really takes no looking after.

After a spot of lunch we were off out to the park to meet some of our antenatal friends, Olivia loves playing with their daughter, and the two girls could go and ride their bikes and run about. I felt a bit guilty about it, but I was starting to clock watch towards the end as the penultimate Formula 1 race of the season was on at 4pm and I was keen to see not only the start, but some of the build up commentary to the grand prix. Our friends know I am a huge F1 fan and so is the husband, so he agreed to come back to our house and watch the race live, rather than having to wait to see the highlights later that night. It was nice to have a bit of company to watch the race with for a change. After the race, he was picked up by his wife, it would have been a nice quiet evening for the two of us, but Clare had to go out and babysit our nephew and niece.

It meant that with the girls in bed, it was just me entertaining myself for the evening, and trying hard to distract myself as I was trying to take my mind off the fact that I had my motorbike test in the morning and I was starting to get a little nervous… the worst thing I could do. I know I can do everything that is required on the test, and I know I can do it well, but under test conditions I begin to panic and it all starts to go wrong, I forget things and make stupid mistakes.

It wasn’t helping that I kept checking the weather, as it was getting colder and colder, with the temperature set to drop to -1ºc meaning that if there was ice about then the test could be cancelled.

I figured a few drinks before bed would help me relax and get to sleep a little better, although that unfortunately meant a later night than I had intended. D’oh!

Day 238 – Make the best of what you’ve got

Day 238 – Nov 11th

The wife had made plans to go out with friends for lunch today, that was fine, but it left me with the dilemma of what to do with the girls. Lunch time wasn’t great to be making plans, they both need to eat and Chloe will be needing a nap, on top of which, after Olivia’s late night Peppa pig fest last night, she was lacking in enthusiasm a little too.

After dropping the wife in town, we came back and Chloe went straight up to bed as she’d unsurprisingly nodded off in the car. Olivia was happy to lie on the sofa with her feet up and watch Toy Story while I pottered around doing things.

Then I had an idea, lets get some nice photos of the girls. It had been something I had been meaning to do for a while, and so out came the back drop and studio lights, and with the limited space in the living room maximised by moving some furniture around, I was able to have a little fun with them both once Chloe was awake. For not being two years old yet, she sat surprisingly well for a few photos, but I was more surprised by Olivia who could not get enough of being in front of the camera, she was loving it!

The confines of the room made it tricky to set the lights up properly, but we made the best of it and got some nice photos out of the afternoon!

The evening was then a chance to relax when me and both my sisters got together fora siblings night, with one of them cooking for us. She wasn’t very confident in the kitchen, but did a great job, we’re looking forward to having another night arranged soon.

Day 237 – You’d have thought I’d have learnt by now!

Day 239 – Nov 10th

Friday didn’t provide me with many photo opportunities, but we had seen a collection of new christmas decorations appearing around the house this week. Not that we were in any way thinking of putting christmas decorations up yet, just that I think the wife was in no hurry to put them away as a) they’ll be coming back out in a couple of weeks, and b) the girls seem to like them!

The wife and I sacked off bath night for the girls, and enjoyed a film together when they were in bed. I even let the wife choose the film tonight, normally she refuses and leaves that to me, but I was hopeful that she’d make it through to the end still awake as it was her choice.

She didn’t.

I then proceeded to make my classic Friday night error of “ooh, i’ll just pour myself one more drink and start watching this…” before suddenly its 1:30am and I’m nodding off in front of the TV. It should have been a very straightforward switch everything off and climb into bed, but apparently that wasn’t to be, as the wife had been woken up by a very awake four year old. I soon realised that she wouldn’t be going back to sleep particularly quickly, and so gave up my plans of getting to bed and headed back downstairs with her to watch a half hour of Peppa bloody pig! That pig is intolerable at the best of times, at almost 2am all you can think of is bacon sandwiches and brown sauce… and eating a crispy and delicious grilled Peppa between two pieces of soft white bread.

Bed felt so good when I finally got into it!

Day 236 – It’s just one photo each day, you can do it!

Day 236 – Nov 9th

We’re coming up to two thirds of the way through the Project 365, as today marks 236 days out of 365. Some days have been far easier than others with opportunities literally jumping out at me, and then there have been some days when it was getting very late I was extremely tired and wanting to go to bed but was instead scouring the house desperately for something to photograph, because I’d promised myself that I wasn’t going to miss a day.

People take up a Project 365 for many reasons, some like to document, some like to understand their camera better, some like to improve their photography, some just like taking photos. I could probably say that all of those statements apply to me, although the one I appreciate the most is documenting things. Its fascinating looking back on all that has happened and reading about what I was thinking about it at the time, as so much has happened since I started my very first Project 365 back on January 1st 2013. The single biggest change is that we became parents that year, and again just over two years later. These two little ladies have changed our lives and everything we know, and documenting their journey has been so much fun, but I didn’t want it to be the ONLY thing I was photographing, so my one mission on this particular 365 is to make sure I mix up the content a little, the girls are still a huge and integral part of it, but I need to push myself in other areas too.

Soon I will be creating a post on advice for starting your very own 365 project, who would be interested in reading it?

Day 235 – Early to bed and early to rise

Day 235 – Nov 8th

My grandad is no longer with us any more, but I have some wonderful memories of him from when I was growing up, and always remember how he used to say the one particular phrase to me “early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”.

Sadly as much as I have remembered it over the years, it is something I have completely failed to put into action. Early nights elude me on a daily basis, and I am always in bed far too late, pretty much each and every night.

I regularly promise myself I am going to start going to bed earlier, and inevitably things get in the way. I had even promised myself that I was going to get to bed early to have a bit of reading time with the many books I have pilling up, gathering dust, which has helped a bit. I had also downloaded a sleep analysis and heart rate app to my phone to monitor my sleep and resting, which suddenly made me a lot more aware of how little sleep I am getting on some nights.

The Stephen Fry event at the Symphony Hall on Tuesday provided me with yet another book to add to the collection, and I am now determined to start getting through them, especially as I am now heavily committed to my Brian Blesses autobiography, which I want to visit soon as he is releasing another book in March and has a new tour to talk about it that I am keen to go to. The man is a legend as far as I am concerned, and his current book Absolute Pandemonium is proving very entertaining, although it is very hard to read it without it being narrated by Brian Blessed’s voice in my head!

One thing that has had our heads spinning recently was the search for a school for Olivia, it is proving to be a minefield, and there are so many reasons that make it such an individual experience for each family, that there is simply no set formula to work out not only which school is best, but which schools are actually available to you. I am very thankful to my wonderful wife for really being on top of this and arranging dates for us to go and visit several different schools, including the one we saw tonight, which we’d initially written off, but actually turned out to be a very nice school that could easily be either our first or second choice when we come to put Olivia’s name down! It feels like a real lottery, but not just a lottery where you lose £1 if your numbers come up, this lottery could affect the rest of Olivia’s life.

So no pressure then!

Day 234 – Well I didn’t see THAT coming!

Day 234 – Nov 7th

Some days your day ends up taking a bit of a twist that perhaps you didn’t see coming, but sometimes it goes off at a complete tangent and ends up a long way from what you expected when you woke up in the morning.

I’d anticipated tonight to be no different from any other Tuesday night, a quiet evening at home with the wife, but not long after I had got to work I was offered a very kind proposition from a work colleague… they had two tickets to see the legend that is Stephen Fry talking about his new book, and the person they were going with had dropped out that very morning. The ticket was paid for and all I needed to do was turn up, and I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. It meant missing bedtime with the girls, which I always like to be around for, I feel like reading bedtime stories is part of my job as a dad.

Still, I had a free ticket to see Stephen Fry and as a result I even got to visit the Symphony Hall for the very first time, which feels a bit wrong for someone that has lived in Birmingham his entire life!

The symphony hall did not disappoint, a lovely venue, and although I had no idea what to expect from tonights talk as I had not seen Stephen Fry before and literally had no idea what his book was about, I was feeling a little excited.

As it turns out the man is a legendary story teller. His book, Mythos, was a retelling of the ancient greek myths and how the gods came about and where a lot of some of the everyday words that we use originated from… Narcissus fell in love with his reflection in a river, and today we talk about selfie obsessed people being narcissistic, and so on, all told in his inimitable style. The whole thing was completely unscripted and yet he talked and talked in absolute confidence without missing a beat, I was both entertained and educated at the same time. Greek mythology has always interested me, but has felt far too confusing to try and understand. The best bit about tonight was that not only did I have a very entertaining evening at no cost other than that of parking the car, but I also got to take the book home too. It seemed only fair that I drop my friend home rather than to leave them to get the train!

As a side note, todays photo was actually taken on the walk over to Symphony Hall, not using one of my cameras, but actually using nothing more than my new iPhone 8 Plus! Camera phones have come a long way, the compact camera is dead!

Day 233 – Less excuses, more exercising

Day 233 – Nov 6th

We’re a week into November, Winter is knocking on the door, and this morning we get a reminder of that as the mercury has only crept up to 1ºC as I climb onto my motorbike and head off to work, a little nervous that the last time I went out with frost on the road I wasn’t able to keep the bike upright as I pulled out of a junction. I was still quite new to riding and a fairly lively wobble and the bike went down. Thankfully that wasn’t the case today, and I made it to work in one piece.

The next three days I’d be cycling to work, a much more preferable option when its frosty out, firstly its easy to keep warm when you have to peddle uphill, and secondly the bike is easier to keep upright than a heavy motorbike.

Tonight I had committed myself to hitting the gym again after work, as I hadn’t been for a few weeks. I seem to have found plenty of excuses to not go, but really needed to just get off my lazy ass and do it! Usually I head straight for the cardio equipment when I am at the gym, but with a niggling foot injury giving me some bother I decided to do something different and get on the weight machines instead. It was nice to do something different, even though I was aware I had to cycle in the morning and could easily wake up in the morning with stiff legs. In the long run, if I use the weights regularly it will make the cycling easier.

One thing I that would really benefit me is some kind of training plan, but where do you begin with something like that without throwing money at a personal trainer??

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