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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 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 225 – What shall we do today?

Day 225 – Oct 29th

Sunday was the final day of a week off before I had to go back to work, and the one day we had made absolutely zero plans for. The weather was looking good outside and once we were up and breakfast was done, we spent a little while pondering over what to with ourselves.

I was a little bored with the prospect of going to the park again, but after going through the shower and getting dressed, Clare came up with the fantastic idea of heading out to a farm to go pumpkin picking!

She soon found Essington Farm which wasn’t too far away and so after packing a small lunch for the girls, we headed out and jumped on the motorway. After locating the farm and taking a walk it wasn’t long before before we found some suitable pumpkins, dumped them in the car and decided to take advantage of their fantastic farm shop, which was packed with all sorts of goodies, and we could have easily spent a small fortune in there!

With only two days left until Halloween it was straight onto the task of scooping out and carving the two that we brought home, although there was no convincing Olivia to have anything scary on hers, nope, we had to do a cat… and not even a scary witches cat either! Pfftt! Kids!

Day 223 – It won’t always go your way

Day 223 – Oct 27th

Today was all about one thing.

Two and a half months of waiting, after a full year of practising… it was finally time for my motorbike test. Time to show I could handle a big bike and earn my full license.

I rocked up to meet my instructor before our ride over to the test centre, and we talked about the things I needed to look at.

I was nervous, so so nervous, but still deep down I knew I had the skills to do this!

The test is in two part, the first part called module 1 on the pad at the test centre going around cones and doing some low and high speed manoeuvres, ahead of Module 2 where you go out on the road and show your ability to ride correctly in traffic.

Module 1, for me wasnt a concern… it should have been. I had a faultless ride, I was on fire… then as I went into my figure of eight around two cones, I lost too much speed and put my foot down on the floor. I thought it might be a minor fault, of which I was allowed five, but sadly no, it was a serious fault and it was game over for today. Just that one incident meant that the test was over and I had failed.

I was devastated, and at the same time unbelievably angry with myself at such a stupid mistake, one that I had never made before!

So, I was going home early. The wife had brought the girls out to see me as I pulled up, and being the wonderful person she is, took us all out for lunch to cheer me up.

You can’t beat a Chiquitos lunch, especially when the wife produces a 50% off main meals voucher code! Its no wonder I married her! We took the iPads loaded up with some films for the girls to watch in case they got bored and irritable while we sat down and ate… and they worked a treat! Our girls did us proud, and they sat so well and ate well, we really don’t have to try at all.

Mexican food, with a beer in hand whilst surrounded by my wife and two girls… I am starting to feel better already. Motorbike test? What motorbike test??

Day 222 – We’re running out of time

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 206 – it won’t always go your way

Day 206 – Oct 9th

The week hasn’t started well. I am full of germs and feeling a bit sorry for myself. Not sick enough to actually stay at home and rest, but just enough to complain about it to anyone who asks. It’s not like i want sympathy or anything from anyone, I don’t want food and drinks brought to me while I lie down and rest, I just want a bit of patience and understanding if I seem to be slacking or not pulling my weight. 

The wife took herself off to bed early to watch some TV on her own, which left me feeling miserable and sorry for myself on my own. Probably for the best, as it meant I couldn’t moan at her about how ill I was feeling.

So I set about working on some stuff on the computer, only for my laptop to turn around and give me the middle finger too! It didn’t even pretend that it wasn’t mocking me with its “This will take a while” message!

Day 205 – Time flies when you’re having fun

Day 205 – Oct 8th

Its not often you’ll find me setting an alarm on a Sunday morning, and its particularly you will see that alarm set for a ridiculous time like 5am, but today was the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix, and I always try to be up on time for it. Even though the race itself begins at 6am, I still like be up early to to put the kettle on, make myself a slice of toast and give myself time to wake up a bit while I watch the warm up coverage. Anyone with no interest or understanding of F1 would see this behaviour as nothing less than absolutely crazy… but then I can still imagine a number of F1 fans who are just thinking “It’s 5am on a Sunday morning… what on earth are you thinking??!!”.

Getting up at that hour, I was setting myself up for a long day for me today, after the race was over there was just enough time together ready to head out and meet some friends at the park before going for lunch with them. The Sun was out, and although it was October, it was still pleasant out. We took a walk, fed the ducks, and the kids took the bikes and scooters around the park before heading to the play area. We could have stayed here longer, it’s a big park, but we needed to get lunch sorted before Chloe had a meltdown for missing her lunchtime nap, she’d already turned up at the park in full on whinge mode!

Thankfully, after we left the park, she managed to at least grab a little mini nap in the car on the way to the restaurant, which wasn’t far away, and ask I sat in the car for a few minutes longer to let her sleep a bit in case that was all she got, but at some point I had to call it, I was going to brave it and try to get her from car seat to buggy without waking her. To my surprise it seemed to work initially, but inside the restaurant it seemed especially noisy and there was no keeping a light sleeper like Chloe asleep.

Still, the nap seemed sufficient for now, and we all enjoyed the afternoon, and I even treated myself to a few afternoon beers!

Day 196 – If at first you don’t succeed…

Day 196 – Sep 29th

Two wheels in the rain is rarely fun. When cycling you either get soaked in lycra, but it dries fairly quickly, or you put on a waterproof jacket and sweat a lot and don’t end up much drier for it. On the motorbike you can wear fully waterproof gear and generally get to your destination quite dry, as there is little risk of you over heating.

Today I was on the motorbike, and today it rained. A lot.

The downside to waterproof motorbike gear is that eventually, after enough rain, water will slowly begin to get through, and it can take forever to dry it afterwards. The one thing I regret is not doing something about my motorbike boots, as I purchased these based on their waterproof description, and they have leaked since day one. It has been almost 12 months now, and I am not sure I’d get much help even if I did complain. Still, they’ve seen plenty of wear, and I’ll probably look at replacing them soon anyway.

Being Friday I was looking forward to getting home and putting my feet up for the evening with a film and a beer or two, but sadly I had to go out again in the evening before I could sit down and relax. I had arranged a meeting with a friend to discuss their wedding next year and thankfully didn’t have to drive too far to get there. It was to be a first for me though, this was the second time I had sat down with this groom to discuss his wedding. The first marriage sadly didn’t work out, but he was keen to have me back to talk meet his lovely new fiancé and talk about the plans for their big day. The venue looks lovely and it sounds like it is going to be a wonderful day. After a quieter few years since we got married, moved house and had both the girls, it is nice to see the calendar filling up a bit for next year.

Right, now where’s that beer?

Day 195 – I’m not working for nothing

Day 195 – Sep 28th

September has usually been a fairly good month for weather, and we have seen things dry up a little as the sun comes out after the frequently mixed weather of August. Today there was some beautiful autumn sunlight coming through the window that I wanted to capture as the sun began to set.

It was my third day of cycling to work and I was very much looking forward to riding in on the motorbike tomorrow, especially as I had extra luggage to take in, although my rucksack has been especially heavy this week whilst cycling. I have been carrying a camera, just in case, for my 365 project, but the main weight was due to my MacBook, which I wasn’t keen about carrying on my back whilst cycling, but I needed to edit some staff photos for work that I had taken that I really didn’t want to be dealing with at home in my own time as I wasn’t being paid for it. I don’t usually take photos for free, out of principle, unless it is a gift, but these should work in my favour, and as a one-off I will hopefully reap some benefits from it.

Day 191 – It won’t always go to plan

Day 191 – Sep 24th

What better way is there to start a sunny Sunday morning in September than with a trip to the farm for a birthday party? Well for many there was the excitement of the Birmingham Velo, which I was a bit gutted to be missing out on, but there is always next year for that. The Velo was passing close by our house, walking distance, but I didn’t have time to go and watch it as we needed to jump on the motorway to get to the farm.

The girls had a great time at the farm, there was horse riding, animal feeding, tractor rides, party food, small animals to stroke, ferrets to walk… and the weather was glorious to top it off. 

As we weren’t too far from my moms house, we decided to stop in on the way back, as they love to see the girls, and we hadn’t made it over last weekend. It wasn’t exactly a hectic day, and from here it should have been quite simple, head home, get dinner for girls and put them to bed… that wasn’t quite what happened though. I’d planned the morning, getting to the party making sure to miss the Velo road closures, but I’d not even given it a thought for the journey home, and some of the major roads were still closed off. 

Due to my lack of planning for our journey home, we got stuck in some horrendous traffic trying to get across the Hagley Rd, which we had to do to get home. The side roads were backed up and hundreds of cars were queuing to find a way across, and then desperately trying to turn around only to find out that they’d been blocked in bya long line of other cars queuing behind them also desperately trying to find a way home!

It became quickly obvious that even if a route home was avail able, there was too many cars to fight with, we were spending more time stationary in queues than anything else, and the girls were sat in the back of the car getting hungry.

There was only one simple decision to make, abort mission! Turn around, stop fighting the traffic, and go find somewhere to eat. Tonight, it was a table for four, and we weren’t going to be cooking after all, so the least we could do was to relax and enjoy the opportunity, and we did exactly that. Pizza Express had us sat down and fed in no time, and by the time we had finished, all the roads had been reopened and the traffic had gone! 

What a way to finish a day! 

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