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Day 239 – Try to keep yourself distracted

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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!

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

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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 234 – Well I didn’t see THAT coming!

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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

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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??

Day 230 – I feel like I’ve earned this!

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Day 230 – Nov 3rd

It feels like we’ve only just gone back to and yet Friday is here again already. I’m giving myself Monday and Friday to use my motorbike, so I don’t get carried away and end up not cycling and putting a load of weight back on. This makes today my motorbike day. Yayyy!

It was looking like a dry day, and the weather was fairly pleasant for the time of year, so the ride home was a rather pleasant one, especially with the roads being a little quieter for being able to get out of work a little earlier in the afternoon. 

The ride home was even more pleasant knowing that we were off to see a fireworks display this evening. The wife isn’t very keen on them, and was additionally concerned about Chloe being scared by the loud bangs, as she doesn’t do well with loud noises. I personally thought it was worth a gamble and knew Olivia would enjoy it. 

We managed to miss a lot of rush hour traffic on the way over there and even got a parking space without too much stress. Our local cricket club put on a bonfire and firework display each year, and it is always very popular, but thankfully they are thoughtful enough to put on two firework displays, an earlier one so that young children don’t miss out, and the main one about an hour later, generally when most of the young children have gone home. 

The fire itself was immense, and even though the heat stopped you from getting too close, the crowds around it were difficult to negotiate, so we didn’t spend long there. We hadn’t planned to stay too long tonight, but there was still time for the girls to go on a few of the fairground rides that had been set up, before the fireworks were due to start. 

Bedtime for the girls was a little later than usual, but they’d enjoyed it. Hopefully next year they’ll enjoy it a little bit more. 

Day 224 – Push yourself, try something new.

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Day 224 – Oct 28th

My final wedding of the year, and I was very pleased that it was actually a friend of mine getting married that I was fortunate to be able to capture.

The whole day was very relaxed, and the couple were very easy going. It turned out to be a fairly easy start for me as I wasn’t required to cover the usual hair and make up photos in the morning, which left me with a bit more time at home in the morning to get my things together and make sure the car was packed up properly, all my batteries were charged and the memory cards cleared and formatted.

The whole day, from ceremony to reception, was based in one location, the beautiful Highbury Hall in Birmingham. A grade II listed building which, for a while, became the residence of Joseph Chamberlain when he was a member of parliament for Birmingham.

I arrived at Highbury Hall with most of the tables, decorations and other things already set up, meaning I could get straight into photographing the details before I moved onto the final bridal preparations. This last bit was more of a “touch up” as the hair and make up had pretty much been done before the girls had arrived there. All that was left was for the brides dress to go on, and for me to make sure I captured it being done up.

The day went very smoothly, although it was somewhat of a challenge with the tricky autumn light, the small high windows and a distinct lack of not only natural light, but also any white ceilings to bounce any flash off inside the building.

I had to spend a portion of the day assessing the lighting situations and thinking on my feet, it certainly wasn’t a straight forward shoot in a technical sense. There were still many opportunities for some amazing photos both indoors and out, but I had to work with some difficult lighting, and had to get a little extra creative with the off-camera flash and remote trigger, including a few shots I hadn’t tried before!

You can find out more about the wedding itself from my good friend, and beautiful bride Suzie’s blog when she posts her more in-depth update about it very soon.

Day 222 – We’re running out of time

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Day 222 – Oct 26th

Its easy to get used to having so many holidays when you work in a school, and whilst no-one is ungrateful for all these breaks, you can get used to having a lot of time off, and perhaps take it for granted a little. This means that you don’t always necessarily plan much, and can easily spend a week getting very little done or not going far. During the week the girls had seen their grandparents on both sides, and we’d caught up with a few friends along the way, so it wasn’t like we hadn’t done anything, but we’d now got to Thursday and we hadn’t done half the things I’d like to have done. I love planning days out and catching up with as many people as possible when there is a chance, but with a busy weekend approaching it was too late to do much about it now. I still wanted to get the girls out of the house while there was a chance, and so with the in-laws looking after one of the girls cousins, we met them at a local park for an hour. The autumn weather is now in full effect and the temperature was not very warm, and the rain was giving a gentle knock on the door to remind us that we had a limited time outdoors! At least we’d got out and let the girls get some exercise and fresh air.

Tomorrow was going to be a big day, and I needed to prepare myself for it, on top of Saturday also looking to being a busy day with the wedding of my friend to photograph. With Thursday done I only really had Sunday left as a full day where I could do something with the girls… but still no plans!

Day 221 – Make any excuse, just go outside

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Day 221 – Oct 25th

Oh what to do to entertain the kids during half term? Well, they already get plenty of time in front of the tv, and we’ve been to the park… my one passion is to get the girls out of the house where we can and going for a walk, exploring nature and just enjoying being outside. 

A bit of fresh air and a good walk is guaranteed to wear the girls out, and hopefully they’ll get a really good nights sleep from it, although to be fair we did get really lucky with two girls who already sleep well anyway. 

A short drive away from where we live are the Clent Hills, a National Trust location that attracts a lot of walkers and families from all over the surrounding areas. It’s a place I have been going to for over 20 years and have probably only ever explored 15-20% of it. We did start to explore a little bit further when Olivia was walking a lot and Chloe was in a baby carrier,  it but now Chloe is also walking we’ve had to reign in the length of our walks a bit as Chloe’s little legs just can’t walk that far, and she loves to join in with the walking instead of being carried all the time. The distance we cover is significantly less, and it is more about just exploring nature and getting outdoors than how far we get.

We’d left our walk a little late in the day, as trying to work around Chloe’s nap time can be tricky, but these last couple of weeks we seem to have had teething rear its ugly head with an absolute vengeance, and we are seeing many of the evident signs, besides the appearance of teeth. One of which is the clear need for her to get a good 2-3 hour nap during the day. Some days we can push it and get away with less, but it catches up with her. We made it out today with just enough time before the sun went down, and it was nice to see the girls enjoying the outdoors, although putting wellies on was definitely a good idea as Olivia was straight into the muddy puddles and soon soaked from the waist down! Peppa pig has a lot to bloody answer for!!

Day 220 – When a problem becomes an opportunity

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Day 220 – Oct 24th

In a small inconvenience we had to hand over the car to our mechanic today for its annual service, it meant not being able to go far, but it needed doing. It brought with it two problems, firstly that we had originally arranged to meet friends, but this was the only day my mechanic could do, so we had to work around it, and secondly that my once mobile mechanic now has a garage that he works from which is 5 miles away. We have garages that are closer, but I have an inherent distrust of most mechanics and garages, even the BBC launched a Watchdog investigation on how corrupt they are. My mechanic is a friend of a friend who has been working on a lot of my friends cars for many years, he doesn’t do work if it doesn’t need doing as he has more than enough people waiting to use his services. His prices are always highly competitive as well, in fact often cheaper than local garages. Mechanics like this one are like four leaf clovers, if you find one, you hold onto them! I took the opportunity to throw the bike in the back of the car and cycle home once I’d dropped the car off, it is free and I haven’t been to the gym for a few days, so it was a good excuse to get some exercise!

We’d altered our plans with friends slightly so that instead of going to meet them for a day out, they came to us for lunch instead, it made things much easier. Just before they arrived we got a call from the mechanic… more work needed doing than just the regular service, some of which we knew about and was on the to-do list, so at least having it done today meant it was out of the way and we didnt have to worry about it any more, but it did mean that there was a good chance we wouldn’t get the car back today as a result.

We had a nice afternoon with our friends and the kids enjoyed playing together, and in a twist of good luck our mechanic called to say our car would be back with us in the afternoon. So with biscuit decorating finished and the house empty once our guests had gone, it was back on the bike to pick the car up, although with significantly lighter pockets than before!

Day 218 – Keep going until you get it right

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Day 218 – Oct 22nd

Today I was out for my final motorbike lesson ahead of my test next week. It was a bit windy, but thankfully the rain clouds managed to hold it together and only let a few drops out rather than soaking us as Storm Brian tried to disrupt the UK.

The bike lesson went well and gave me a lot more confidence for my test, as we took a long ride out to the Wolverhampton test centre it gave me a chance to get used to being on the big heavy, and rather powerful Suzuki SV650. I found out as I arrived that we had gone to the test centre so that I could do a practise test, which I wasn’t expecting, but could only really be a good thing. It soon came back to me, and I was quickly back into the slow speed manoeuvres around cones on a heavy bike with ease. My instructor Mick was firm but fair, and we were riding out with another girl on lessons who had never ridden a motorbike before, or even done much cycling, but here she was on a 650cc motorbike going for her full license, its ballsy for sure! Fair play to her though, she was doing quite well!

After getting home and feeling quite underwhelmed with my lowly little 125cc bike after playing with the big bike, it was time to head out and meet some friends at their house, along with a few other friends that had already got there, for afternoon tea. Usually this is some delicately cut sandwiches and a few cakes washed down with a cup of tea, very British, but it actually turned out to be more cake than anyone could possibly eat and even a beer for the dads, and the sandwiches never actually made it to the table! The kids played lovely together though, and by the time we had checked our watch the afternoon had flown by, it was rapidly getting dark outside and we needed to be on our way home to get the girls into bed!

Todays photo was relatively unrelated, but I was keeping up the practise with my macro shots, keen to nail the close up shots that I just wasn’t happy with when shooting jewellery at weddings.

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