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Day 261 – Some days will just be quieter

Day 261 – Dec 4th

A quiet kinda day, nothing much to report. Enjoyed a nice ride into work on the new motorbike as the weather had been a little milder for a couple of days. The risk of ice on the road is the biggest deterrent. I don’t mind braving the elements, and won’t shy away from adverse weather as long as its safe, I certainly wouldn’t call myself a fairweather rider. My big concern is hitting some ice and not being able to keep the motorbike upright, which could mean not only damage to the bike, or damage to myself, but potentially damage to another vehicle or even another person in the worst case scenario. The big problem with this bike is its size and more so its weight, a full 100kg heavier than my previous 125cc motorbike weighing in at a whopping 240kg!

Thankfully my commute is a fairly safe affair, especially in the good weather, and it made it quite enjoyable… but the best part of my day is always getting home to see the girls. Nothing beats the look on their face when I walk through the door.


Day 254 – Oh well, it had to happen at some point

Day 254 – Nov 27th

Working in education, what is the one thing guaranteed to get teachers sweating a little bit? Well, the news that Ofsted will be visiting in the morning is a sure fire way. Considering we didn’t do too well not so long back, the only way we could go now was up. Still, not much I can do about it at home, so I put it to the back of my mind and forget about it.

I am lucky in that I can switch off from work in a heart beat once I have left, and one of the benefits of my job is that I don’t have to take work home with me, which means that once I get home and get cuddles from my girls, I don’t even think about work until I am about to leave the house the following morning.

On getting home this evening I was greeted by both the girls as usual, and as much as I love both of them my little heart melted when I saw how cute Chloe looked in what she’d be dressed in this morning. She’d been put in a beautiful cream jumper and denim style leggings, and suddenly looked a lot older. I decided to get out a couple of flashguns, and a chair I use for portrait shots, and get a couple of nice shots of the girls, although I didn’t actually expect them to sit together. It was a long shot to get a good photo with the two of them both in, but then some magic happened and I snapped the perfect shot, one that I know will be a favourite for a while to come yet.

Day 252 – Letter to Santa

Day 252 – Nov 25th

Saturday was a big day for the biggest little lady, after her usual morning session at the dance school it wasn’t long before she was home and nagging us to let her write her letter to Santa. The excitement about Christmas was starting to build a little in the Vokes house as we approach the end of the month. There had already been plenty of talk around what she was hoping to get for Christmas, and thanks to the wife’s organisation most of it was already sat on a high shelf in the wardrobe in our bedroom.

Still, she was keen to send Santa a letter, and insisted that we had to write one today. I found a quick and simple template online to download and print, making the job a little easier. It wasn’t long before we had a letter finished and ready to go in the post, even though we knew we’d be seeing Santa the following day. If there were any questions about why we were posting the letter and not giving it directly to Santa, I already had a bunch of excuses, mostly around Santa not wanting to lose letters, or the elves needed to reply to it etc.

Once this was done I was keen to get on with the task of fixing up the Christmas eve box that we wanted to give to the girls. It seems to be a growing tradition by all accounts, although I have only found out about it in the last few weeks, and there seems to be some mixed reactions to it online, some people loving it, while others think it is a complete waste of money when they are already spending enough on gifts for the following day. To be fair, I don’t intend to spend a fortune on what’s inside the box, I just want to see their faces when we pull out a few nice surprises. I’ve got a few ideas and I can’t wait to show the girls. So today was off to B&Q for some furniture paint after I spent a little while the other day sanding it down. Once it is painted I will give it a bit of a glitter spray and then start trying to work out what is going to go inside it.

Anyone else doing a Christmas eve box for their kids?

Day 251 – Look and ye shall find

Day 251 – Nov 24th

Friday means getting home from work early, but this doesn’t always lend itself to having more time for a photo.

It was a day of relief, as an assessment at work that had been bothering me for a while was finally out of the way, and I could relax and forget about it.

It was also the end of a rather lazy week, I had been on the motorbike all week, and hadn’t cycled at all. The start of the week had been riding in on the old 125cc motorbike, and the end of the week was the new 650cc motorbike. I’d had a rough ride home from the dealers on the Wednesday and so wanted a couple of days to get used to riding this big beast in some normal weather. I did manage to get a session in the gym to compensate, but it was only the one, which feels a bit like a token gesture!

The other reason I stayed away from the camera and computer this evening was because I had promised the wife a bit of a date night. Get the girls to bed early, I’d cook something nice, we could have some wine and candles with dinner, then follow it up with a film… only it didn’t quite go to plan. Those pesky kids getting in the way of my idea. So with them in bed later than intended we decided to have dinner on our laps and start the film while we were eating, otherwise there is every chance that I’d have been watching it alone whilst listening to the wife sat next to me snoring! The food was good and the film was funny, so it was still a pleasant night.

Day 250 – The morning after the night before

Day 250 – Nov 23rd

So some kind of crazy weather hit the UK last night. It made riding on a motorbike on the motorway for the first time pretty only for the brave or stupid… I am yet to decide which I am!

We had some minor damage in the garden, the fence was already slightly damaged from a previous storm and the green house has lost a few panes of glass and the door. Its all fairly easily fixable, and it seems that yet again we got away with a lot less damage than other places around the UK.

It was nice to see some quieter, calmer weather this morning though. I should have been cycling into work today, but I wanted to try out the new motorbike in calmer weather where I could focus on the ride and navigating the usual traffic rather than just the weather, like last night.

Weather or no weather, new bike or old, nothing beats getting home and seeing my girls! Just one more day before the weekend!

Day 245 – fun with a 50mm

Day 245 – Nov 18th

Todays shot was simple, Chloe was starting to feel better after having a temperature and not eating much this week, and was happily sat watching tv. I had put my 50mm lens on my camera, and knew that I’d get a cracking shot out of it. The 50mm f/1.2 lens gives a notoriously narrow area of focus, and as with almost all portraits, the key is to make sure that the eye is in focus, most other things are out of focus giving a huge emphasis on the specific area you are focusing on. I love this effect and this lens.

I didn’t have a lot of time to get a photo again today. For an hour each Saturday morning Olivia has dance class now, and getting out of the house without Chloe tagging along is getting harder, sometimes its just easier to take her. So ahead of any temper tantrums I had decided that we’d all go to the dance class, and while Clare waited inside watching Olivia I would take Chloe off for a wander around Streetbike to have a look at new things.

That afternoon I was heading out to meet a new friend, the husband of someone I work with who I met at a party a few months ago and found we had absolutely masses of things in common. One of which was a fondness for new and different craft beers, and there are a couple of shops in Birmingham which specialise these. It was a fun afternoon and Cotteridge Wines is truly a unique and quirky place. It kind of looks like someone had a great idea in around 1970 and then thought “oh this is working, lets not change anything… ever!” Fold away chairs are placed around crates stacked up to be used as tables. The toilet is literally a bathroom with a bath in it, and the corridors make it feel like you are walking through someones house. BUT.. they have some absolutely amazing craft beers on offer and are clearly doing well, so well in fact that a couple of other shops in the local area have tried to copy the format.

Sadly I missed putting the girls to bed, but did make sure I got home at a sensible time and not too drunk even though we were drinking some pretty potent ales!

Day 244 – You know whats going to happen, but you still have to try

Day 244 – Nov 17th

Friday night, where I love to get the girls into bed so that me and the wife can sit down and relax together with a drink and a film. Traditionally the wife doesn’t do so well for staying awake in front of a film, we kind of expect her to nod off at some point, but every now and again we find something that really grips her, and she will still be focused all the way through to the end credits… not this time! Yet again, even though we’d picked a film we both liked which this evening happened to be Dallas Buyers Club, I don’t even think she made the half way point.

Usually it is left to me to make the choice as to what film we watch, sometimes its a hit, and sometimes its a miss. Its hard to predict what someone is going to like, no matter how much you think you know them. Apparently even when a film is a hit, its no guarantee that the wife will stay awake.

Oh well, lets try again next week!

Day 243 – I just wish I could do more

Day 243 – Nov 15th

The last few nights I have been making more of an effort to get to bed at a sensible time, only for any success I have been having to be pretty much wiped out by one little lady who hasn’t been very well, and another not so little one who, instead of sleeping through the night like she normally does, decided that for some reason she absolutely must get out of bed in the middle of the night for a hug!!

Olivia usually sleeps well and doesn’t wake until the sun comes up in the morning, so we’re a bit confused as to what is waking her. I just wish she’d stay in bed and not feel that she has to come in to wake us too!

Chloe, on the other hand, has been genuinely not well. She’s had an on/off temperature for a couple of days, and has been off her food, and not drinking as much as we’d like her to. Today has been a better day, although its still a series of highs and lows. One minute she’s all cuddles and looking very sorry for herself, and yet just a few minutes later and she’s running around the living room like she’s never had a thing wrong with her.

It looks like she is starting to get a little better, very slowly, although it doesn’t help when she won’t let us give her any medicine, so we’re having to sneak it into drinks and yoghurts where we can. The most important things are drinks and sleep though, both of those in enough quantities will speed the recovery along as nicely.

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!

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