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Day 246 – Keep the rubber side down

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Day 246 – Nov 19th

Now I am settling into my early 40s it is fair to say I am quite a different person than when I was in my early 30s. My life has not just simply changed direction, but in fact moved up to a whole new level. I am happier, more settled, more confident than I was back then, although it can’t be denied that I can still be a little grouchy at times as I am frequently more tired than I should be, usually the result of not getting to bed early enough.

In the last ten years I have started a photography business, met a wonderful woman and got married, bought a house and had two beautiful girls, I’d even picked up a couple of tattoos along the way! Life has been looking very rosy indeed. Sure I’d waited a little longer than some of my friends to get settled down, quite a few of them were married and had children long before me, although not all of them are still in that position today, which is sad, but it seems to have justified my waiting.

One of the final changes to happen was more recently, in the last year, after watching Ewan McGregors documentary of his motorbike journey around the world yet again, I was finally inspired to grab the opportunity to get myself a motorbike. Something that I had never really considered before, I guess I just never saw myself as that kind of person, someone who was brave enough or adventurous enough.

If there is one thing that is sure to happen when you turn 40 its that you can become quite reflective on life, at least this was the case for me. I was in a privileged position, I never ever imagined that I would be happily married, with children and my own house. I started to believe that if you really wanted something badly enough, it could happen, and the more I thought about a motorbike adventure, the more passionate I became about it.

My wife has been supportive in everything I have done, even if she wasn’t so sure of it initially. Likewise, when it came to telling her I wanted to ride a motorbike, it took a little convincing, initially she assumed it would be far more dangerous than cycling, although anyone who cycles to work on a regular basis will tell you how dangerous it is, how they risk their life daily and how many times they have been knocked off. Likewise, most cyclist accidents or deaths rarely make the news, and anyone getting knocked off a motorbike only really gets noticed because of the traffic chaos it causes.

Eventually she began to see that two wheels with an engine stood a better chance in traffic than two wheels with no engine, and so I went on to take my basic training, otherwise known as a CBT course, and got myself a 125cc motorbike with an L plate on.

The CBT lasts for two years, before it either needs renewing or you go for your full motorbike license and throw away the L plates, which I fully intended to do, or at least attempt to.

The test came and after failing the first one, I retook it and thankfully passed on the second attempt. The L plates were firmly in the bin, and a deposit had been put down on a big bike which I will be picking up soon.

After paying out for some expensive lessons prior to taking my test, one of the benefits that I wasn’t told I would get was that I was emailed a voucher for free entry into this weeks Motorcycle Live show at the NEC. I had already considered buying a ticket, and I am glad I didn’t now, as that would have been £20 wasted!

I went to the show with two of my friends who had been riding motorbikes for years, and felt like the absolute novice, which in fairness I was! It was a fun day with lots to see, and many opportunities to spend a great deal of cash, the only downside being that as I’d grabbed a lift there with my friends, I had to wait until they were done before I could get home to see my girls.

It does feel like the start of a very exciting new chapter though!

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Day 214 – If I can’t win today, maybe I’ll win tomorrow

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Day 214 – Oct 17th

A 365 project can be a tricky thing, some days you don’t feel as inspired as others. One of the hardest things is trying to find inspiration in a routine. The daily work schedule leaves little time for spontaneity, and having two small children at home who want attention as soon as I walk in the door, need to eat at the same time each day, go to bed at the same time each day and often need a bath at the same time most days, it doesn’t leave a lot of room to go out and get creative. I do the best I can with the little time I have, and sometimes I do wish I just had a little more time to commit to this project. Shots of the girls can feel like a bit of a cop out sometimes, whilst I love capturing them daily, it doesn’t feel like I am pushing my creativity to its full potential. On saying that though, it has definitely helped me create some amazing shots of the girls, especially when there is always a camera around and they are used to having one pointed at them without the usual “stand there… smile… no, look at me!” commands that often comes with photographing young children who would rather do anything else other than stand still!

Day 206 – it won’t always go your way

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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 203 – Friday night fish and chips, its the law!

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Day 203 Oct 6th

Olivia needed her flu shot today, for kids its a spray up the nose. We’d prewarned her yesterday, well in advance as to what was going to happen, she seemed pretty cool with it and knew it would stop her from getting really poorly, but when she actually got there and it was time, she freaked out a a bit and had to be held to have the spray. Its not ideal, and certainly no-one wants to upset a child that much, although it will be for her own good if it means she doesn’t get ill over the winter.

I promised her that after work we’d do something nice for her as it has been a traumatic day, and her choice was to walk to the chip shop to buy dinner for this evening. I didn’t take a lot of convincing!

Day 202 – There are worse ways to spend an afternoon

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Day 202 – Oct 5th

It has become quite expected now that when daddy gets home from work its time to put our shoes and socks on and go out for a walk. Thankfully today after a poor nights sleep I had taken the motorbike to work, I just didn’t have the energy to cycle, so I wasn’t all hot and sweaty when I got in. I don’t mind taking the girls out even though I’ve only just got home, I know how much they enjoy it, and sometimes the wife doesn’t always have time to take them far, you can’t entertain kids 7 days a week, but if its always nice to see them stretch their legs if I know they haven’t been far that day. Today we went out for a slightly longer walk, Chloe decided to take a break at one point and sit on someones garden wall like she owned it, and as Olivia had been at nursery today she didn’t take much convincing to join her sister for a little rest.

Day 194 – If only those bathroom scales would lie for once

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Day 194 – Sep 27th

It has become very obvious to me in the last few years, that two wheels is the only way to get to work these days. I have enjoyed doing the journey by cycling for almost five years, even in the rain and ice, and life got even more fun when I added an engine to the mix and got my motorbike. It was nice being able to keep up with the traffic and not getting cut up by arrogant motorists who thought I had “no place on the road” or whatever, but the problem was that the motorbike was too much fun, I went months without my bicycle even seeing the light of day.

Suddenly I find that a lot of my jeans are feeling rather tight and the bathroom scales are crying silently when I step on them, so with the new school term it is time to start some new habits, and whilst I am not about to give up the motorbike, especially ahead of the motorbike test, I have committed myself to at least three days a week cycling to help try and keep the waistline in trim.

There has been a handful of times that I have taken the car over the past few years, and each time I have been no more than a couple of minutes into the journey before I am cursing the traffic congestion, the fact I am not moving, and the number of cyclists that keep whizzing past that are so clearly not stuck in any traffic.

I still have a few niggling pains stopping me from running, hopefully I can get those fixed soon and get my running shoes back on and start training for my next half marathon. I’ve really missed running and the pain in my heels has been an ongoing nightmare. The mix of running and cycling has been a major influence in keeping a hold over my weight over the years, as my willpower when it comes to snacking is almost non-existent! I have tried several times to start using myfitnesspal again and have found myself not bothering after a couple of days, yet I know it can work from previous success. I just need to be stricter on myself, easier said than done I guess.

Day 151 – boy or girl, who cares?

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Day 151 – Aug 15th

Tuesday means nursery for the big one, and just the little one at home with us, giving us a chance to get a few chores done. One place I seem to be visiting a lot lately is the local tip to get rid of garden rubbish and stuff thats cluttering up the garage, and today I was off there again, with more of the same. With the garden in a much better state and a bit more room in the garage, I am hoping to see less of the tip over the rest of the holiday!

From the tip I was off to the gym for the first time in a while, I’d been forced to rest up for a couple of weeks after a running injury, a pain in my heel that made it really uncomfortable to walk for a few days. It felt like really hard work today getting back into the gym, I hate taking time off as it makes it so hard going back. I need to get back into it, get a proper routine going. I just hope this rest time has been sufficient to stop the pain from coming back.

From the gym it was back off to nursery to pick the big one up again, and as it was a nice afternoon, we all went out to stretch our legs.

One subject that had fired up some debate today was the feature on ITV’s This Morning show on a couple who claimed to be Britains first “gender neutral” parents, an article on which can be found here. The mom was actually born a man, and the dad was born a woman but does not identify as being male or female. Fine, quite simply their choice! The nation, however, seems divided on the way they want to bring up their son, encouraging him not to see himself as a boy, but instead as a neutral person with no gender identity, and let him decide if he wants to be a boy or girl when he is ready. They are sending him to school in a boys uniform, but making him go in pink socks as a compromise! Is this child not being set up to be a target for the bullies? Does it really matter that much if he just doesn’t get it, and wants to be a boy like his friends?

The This Morning facebook page lit up like a firework with comments, and twitter nearly went into melt down. Of course, what adults choose to do or call themselves is one thing, but it should have nothing to do with the kids who just need a normal upbringing. They need an equal chance and to be on a level playing field with their friends.

I know many people, myself included, who have had a miserable time at the hands of bullies at some point or another whilst at school, whether it be a one-off episode or a repeated problem. It doesn’t take much for some knuckle head to think that his picking on someone is “harmless fun” and has no impact. But parents who line their child up with a number of reasons to be considered different do nothing to help with this problem. Is “being a bit different” really so important to you??

I think the majority of people agreed on one point, you just need to let kids be kids. Stop interfering, a childs life should be simple and fun, it gets confusing enough as you get older. Just let them be themselves and not have to worry about your hang-ups.

Some might say that it’s not our business, and they don’t need or want our opinions. A valid point, yes, but when they take their issue onto national TV to be discussed in front of millions of viewers, I think it’s fair to say they have invited people’s opinions. 

The debate continues.

Day 143 – plant the seed of friendship

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Day 143 – Aug 7th

With the six week holiday stretching out ahead of me at the end of July, the one thing I wanted to do with the wife was make some plans to take full advantage of the time off together. There were things we wanted to do, places we wanted to go, and people we wanted to see. Without plans, inevitably, some of these things just wouldn’t get done, and I’d be going back to work in September kicking myself for not being more organised.

Some of our plans were quite simple, catching up with various friends, days out walking or swimming, or a drive out somewhere nice. Anyone who has read this blog recently more than once will have noticed my grumbling about the poor and uncertain weather that we’ve been having lately. This means that some of the days out we have planned will just have to wait a little bit, and we need to add a few Plan B wet weather options to our list of plans.

We had no plans for today, the poor weather had again put some of our Plan A ideas on hold, and so happened to take a last minute chance and check in with the parents of one of Olivias’s nursery friends, and thankfully ended up meeting them at the soft play centre for a couple of hours of fun with the little ones.

This photo wasn’t planned, I was just trying to grab a picture of them both together, and when they turned around, out came one tongue, and then the other! Cheeky little devils.

Parents, what are you doing with your little ones over the summer… especially when its raining?

Day 137 – The devil finds TV for idle viewing

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Day 137 – Aug 1st

A week off work should mean turning off the alarm clock, but any parent knows that this is a fairly irrelevant task, as those pesky kids have no concept of “sleeping in”, and I have barely peeled my eyelids apart before our bed is turned into a trampoline.

There is a delay at this point, a few moments where me and the wife see how long we can tolerate the sleep terrorists invading our bed and crawling over us like we’re some kind of fun, organic assault course.

The temptation of a hot cup of tea and some toast is a strong one, and escaping downstairs means the little ones have enough distractions to occupy themselves so that we can get used to being awake.

After dropping Olivia at nursery for the day, there was only Chloe to entertain, but with the wife taking her shopping, it meant that I could actually take a little time to use the steam room at the gym, something I had been wanting to do for a while.

I have been missing the gym recently, due to some sort of chest infection, on top of the fact that I somehow seem to have injured my heel, preventing me from running or doing a great deal of cardio. I usually get to the gym in the evening when I have the time, after the girls are in bed. I don’t like missing out on bed time and reading stories unless I have to, which means my gym session is often ending just before the gym closes, so there is no time for the luxury of the steam room or sauna. Today I thought I’d give it a blast, and see if the steam room could help clear up my chest a bit, on top of its other reported benefits.

With only one car between us, I was dropped up to the gym when the wife left for the shops, but had to make my own way back. Halfway, I paused along the bridge over the motorway to grab this shot. I had toplay with a few settings to get some motion blur in the traffic to give it a sense of movement, easy to do at night time with longer shutter speeds, but not so easy in the day time.

I found a little time in the afternoon to start sorting out the garage, it has been on the agenda for a while, and whilst I didn’t have quite the impact I wanted, I did make a start and have a few ideas on how to maximise the minimal space we have available. The six week holidays sound like a great opportunity to do so many things, when in reality they are gone in a flash, and some serious planning and time management is required if you want to get done half of the things that you expect to. Its no secret that I have spent a portion of the last few blog posts whinging about the weather, but its so annoying when all you want to do it get outdoors and it can’t go a single day without absolutely throwing it down! Yes, I know I can’t complain, I’m aware that most people don’t get that much time off in one go, but when you are used to it, you get used to saving jobs for then, and making plans to see people, go places and entertain the kids.

As the day draws to a close I can grab myself a beer, catch up on the blog and… wait, whats this? The wife has put Celebrity Big Brother on the TV?!? Oh man, I really don’t want to watch this, its truly painful… but who are these people?? Its the kind of show that the wife loves, but that makes me want to put the TV on eBay! I am sat with the TV straight across from me and I am trying not to look, but I am totally dismayed at what counts as “being a celebrity” these days, and my eyes keep being drawn back to the joke that is modern entertainment! So far half of the people who have walked in to the house were absolute nobodys who have had a vague appearance on a reality show, and are now being classed as a celebrity in order to appear on a celebrity reality show! It must get pretty awkward when all these so-called “celebrities” meet and look at each other, wondering who everyone else in the room actually is, because the truth is… none of them are famous enough to be called celebrities!!

At least I have the internet!

Day 136 – Finding time to relax is just as important as chores

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Day 136 – Jul 31st

After half a day of showers, then sunshine, showers, then sunshine, I headed off out with to meet a friend and his little girl so we could take them both swimming. One of the many benefits of Olivia attending nursery has been her social development and in particular, her making a best friend, who she has seen outside of the nursery setting several times now.

I like to get the children away from any tv’s and electrical devices wherever I can, and so swimming seemed like the perfect option as I haven’t taken the girls for a couple of weeks. It was just Olivia and myself today, as going at lunchtime meant that Chloe would be down for her usual 2 hour midday nap.

The girls had great fun in the water, and great catching up with the other dad too. Olivia has come on leaps and bounds with her confidence in the water and her attempts at swimming. We’re going to have to get booked up for swimming lessons soon!

Once back home, after stopping off at the shop for some chocolates “because I did good swimming today, daddy!” there was a break in the rain, where the sun came out and dried everything up for a while, leaving enough time for me to enjoy the new garden furniture, which I haven’t had much chance to do so far. I think I will be appreciating it more during the evenings, with a beer after the girls are in bed. Hence the need to go shopping for a chiminea for those cooler autumn nights, so we can stretch out the length of time we can use it for! All the fire wood I collected the other day will finally come to some good use rather than me just lighting fires in the garden!

Having this feature put in has definitely made the garden feel significantly bigger. The girls seem to love it too, and with my new Anker bluetooth speaker giving us some tunes right at the very top of the garden, I think we’ll enjoy having a few friends over to enjoy it with us!

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