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Day 138 – Who needs sunshine to have a bit of fun

Day 138 – Aug 2nd

Time to make some indoor entertainment, August has landed with a wet start and little signs of improving any time soon. With two little girls who love getting outdoors we decide to head out to a soft play centre so they can burn off some energy with some climbing, jumping and sliding.

They may have energy to burn off, but its time to slow it down when we get home. Olivia loves to sit down and write, draw and colour, so I created a sheet where she could do all three, overwriting numbers, letters and her name, colouring in shapes and matching numbers to groups of dots. She’s amazing and does so well, I can’t wait for her to start school and show off her skills to the teachers. I love that she loves doing it too.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up with our friends stopping by to visit, their son is a few months older than Olivia and they usually play well together, although they were both a little lively and loud, so putting the minions 9 mini movie compilation on the TV quickly restored some peace and quiet as they both soon became engrossed in it.

With dinner done and bath time for the little ladies out of the way, its time for stories and bed for them. I decided to grab a quick shot of the chillies I have grown in the greenhouse as my photo of the day. I love growing chillies, far easier to look after than tomatoes, and there are still many more growing yet to come. I’m picking them and leaving them by the window to let them ripen before they end up in the freezer, ready to go in a chilli the next time we cook one, as they turn from green to red they become hotter, just the way I like them! This shot had to be engineered slightly with some sheets of A4 white paper and two Canon Speedlites bouncing light off the walls and ceiling, trying to minimise the light reflections on the chillies themselves. A high key shot requires two things, a white background and lots of light!

Has anyone else had any joy with growing chillies?


Day 112 – from the tiny ant to the mighty elephant

Day 112 – Jul 7th

Since February I have been growing flowers from seed in the house, the transporting them outdoors when the time came about eight weeks later, after the threat of frost had completely passed. I love to have a bit of colour in the garden, and would ideally spend more time gardening, although this is somewhat of a luxury with two little ones running around demanding attention. Now Chloe is almost 18 months old, fully running around, climbing, investigating, pulling, throwing, falling, she is demanding more attention than ever, and far more than her older sister! Having time to spend in the garden is something I can only hope for in the future when the girls are more able to entertain themselves and each other!

I do find a little time for some gardening though, and have managed to get my flowers planted, keep them watered and get rid of a few weeds, and having that colour really brightens up the garden. The other practical upside is the bumblebees, who are drastically in decline thanks to humans ruining the countryside and getting rid of all the wild flowers, it has been estimated that we have lost 97% of our flower-rich grassland since the 1930s, which you can read more about here.

Making sure there are plenty of bright, colourful flowers is my little bit to help the bees to survive, as we’d be in trouble without them.

When I got home from work on Friday afternoon, it was lovely outside, the temperature had risen again and the girls were keen to get in the garden to play, so I had to oblige. I had been wanting to capture a shot of the bumblebees with the flowers, so grabbed my camera and took advantage of being outside in the garden with the girls.

We even broke records this evening with Clare staying up to watch The Wolf of Wall Street, from start to finish, all three hours of it without even coming close to falling asleep! Virtually unheard of previously, and not only that, but having previously written it off, she even enjoyed it! It was nice to sit down and enjoy watching a good film together, as it feels like such a battle each weekend trying to find something to watch. You wouldn’t believe the options we have open to us, with not only Netflix, but NowTV, and Amazon Prime Video. More films to choose from than you could shake a stick at, yet each week I seem to keep scrolling through thousands of films that I simply haven’t heard of, questioning why I have subscribed to these services. I guess its just nice to keep our options open while the girls are little, but I am going to have to start getting rid of some of the subscriptions soon, especially if it is taking so long on a Friday to find something to watch, that by the time we have its time to go to bed!

Day 097 – The fruits of our labour

Day 97 – Jun 22nd

A few weeks ago I was given a strawberry plant by a friend at work, took it home and planted it in the garden just in time for flowers to start appearing on it. When the flowers appear it’s not long before they fall off and strawberries begin to appear in their place. Recently we’ve had some strawberries appear, and this week, with all the rain and warm weather we’ve had, the strawberries have begun to ripen, and Olivia loves to eat them straight from the plant, which is lovely to watch. The thought of being even remotely connected to the land for such simple things is a nice feeling. To watch your children pick fruit and eat it, and get excited about it too, rather than pick up sweets is brilliant! I can’t wait until the blackberries are out later in the year, its always fun going out for walks and spotting these!

The weather has cooled down a lot now, and by the look of the forecast, we’ve seen the end of our little heatwave. Its a bit of a shame, it was nice having so much sunshine, even if it meant that sleep was only possible with a fan in the bedroom, and a cold shower before bed. The garden has done so well in the sunshine, although it has meant some committed watering of all the plants. The seeds I planted back in February have all started to bloom now, and the garden is beginning to look very colourful. Its nice for Olivia to see the end result of the seeds she helped me to plant, although I am not entirely sure she remembers doing it!

Todays photo is one freshly picked strawberry from the garden, hopefully the first of many if the squirrels don’t find them!

Day 083 – Election day, have your say!

Day 83 – Jun 8th

Thursday the 8th of June is election day, where the country gets to vote in a new leader. Unlike previous elections the difference between the two main parties has never been more obvious, and so turnout is expected to be much higher this time around. Clare had been busy all day, and so waited for me to get home so we could all head out as a family to the polling station, our local library.

There is something about going out to place your vote that makes you feel extra grown up and responsible, certainly not a decision that should be taken lightly. I still wouldn’t call myself the most politically astute person I know, so I do try and make sure I’ve done some research before I put my X in the box. This year I was already fairly clear on who I was voting for, and feeling a little confident with my choice, I even put a little bet on!

My only other duty of the evening was tending to my greenhouse, and making sure my tomatoes and chillies were adequately watered. We are starting to see the plants flower now, and have even found a couple of small tomatoes beginning to grow. The first time I grew tomatoes I had a really good crop and made soup and a pasta sauce from it, since then I haven’t had so much luck, so keeping my fingers crossed for a better crop this year.

More project 365 photos: days 168 – 179

Welcome back to the project 365 update and another look at what has been going on or catching my eye, as we now get closer to halfway through the project.

168: We start off with a shot of some very colourful tulips sat on our window ledge that I had bought for the wife. Its lovely to see nice, bright colours about the house and I know the wife appreciates it. I used to buy flowers regularly for her, but I guess that as time goes by and children preoccupy your time, you forget to do things like this, but I think that a small gesture can go a long way!

Day 168 - Jun 22nd

Day 168 – Jun 22nd

169: This little lady is now trying her best to roll over by herself. Suddenly she has gone from not wanting to move to trying her hardest to get over, and now she is so close!

Day 169 - Jun 23rd

Day 169 – Jun 23rd

170: Friday night and you just want to sit down with a beer and watch a film on the tv, but when you suspect that teething may possibly have started and your little one won’t settle then there is one screen you really must keep your eye on!

Day 170 - Jun 24th

Day 170 – Jun 24th

171: Saturday, its the weekend and time to take the girls to see their grandparents. Now they don’t have a car its essential that we make the journey to them as often as we can so they can see the girls and spend time with them.

Day 171 - Jun 25th

Day 171 – Jun 25th

172: Sunday morning starts with swimming, and I was hoping to meet friends there, but sadly they couldn’t make it. Olivia still enjoyed herself though, and we still got to catch up with our friends after the swim anyway. The two girls are just weeks apart and love playing together.

Day 172 - Jun 26th

Day 172 – Jun 26th

173: Monday rolls back around and clearly its not just the adults feeling tired. It looks like we have really got this little lady’s sleep routine under way. By 8pm she needs to have had her final bottle as she is good for nothing, and ready for bed! It seems we need to make sure that bottle is on time, and not be hanging around, as this girl waits for no-one!

Day 173 - Jun 27th

Day 173 – Jun 27th

174: The say the eye is the window to the soul, and this little girl is full of soul, she is such a lively little thing that its actually hard to get many photos of her at the moment. She is normally rolling round or rolling over, and doesn’t stay still for long. This photo took a number of attempts to get right!

Day 174 - Jun 28th

Day 174 – Jun 28th

175: I seem to be getting a lot of late nights recently, so many things to do in the evening (including this!), and I have a limited amount of time once the girls are in bed and asleep. I am terrible when it comes to staying up late all the time and need to stop making excuses for when it comes to going to bed… soon, I’ll do it soon!

Day 175 - Jun 29th

Day 175 – Jun 29th

176: Earlier in the year I had planted some seeds in the greenhouse, and now they were ready for transferring from pot into the garden. It seems like far too exciting a task for someone to be left out of and the words “I help” generally aren’t a request, more a notification! But you know what, after a long day at work and battling the traffic home whilst on two wheels, this is what I want… time with the girls, and not sat in front of the tv!

Day 176 - Jun 30th

Day 176 – Jun 30th

177: Evenings out are few and far between lately, and even less common are nights out together! I had been invited to a surprise 40th birthday of one of my oldest friends, a girl I had known since I was 3 years old. As we were also going out for food the following night, and using a babysitting favour with the in-laws, we didn’t have much choice but to take the girls with us, which was fine as Chloe was asleep in no time after her bottle anyway and Olivia was having a whale of a time running around and on the dancefloor. The photo obviously wasn’t actually taken my me, but was taken on my phone so still counts as my photo of the day in my book!

Day 177 - Jul 1st

Day 177 – Jul 1st

178: She did it! She’s finally on her front, and now we can’t seem to stop her! Literally every time we lay her on her back, she is attempting to roll over, although thankfully not in her bed yet!

Day 178 - Jul 2nd

Day 178 – Jul 2nd

179: Who says Birmingham isn’t beautiful?! A lovely stroll over the Lickey Hills on a Sunday morning is made extra special with a bit of unexpected sunshine warming our backs! I was looking after my friends little boy and wanted to head home and bring the girls over here too, but with lunch and naps an absolute necessity, I had missed my opportunity. So we headed out to Warley Woods for a stroll after we’d had our evening meal. We even got there in time to get an ice cream and sit in the sun to eat it.

Day 179 - Jul 3rd

Day 179 – Jul 3rd

365 update: days 76 – 83

Blimey! How quickly do the days fly by when you get a little bit distracted? I have fallen way behind with these updates now, as it has been a busy few days, and I need to get caught up. At home there are many distractions, a toddler and a baby can easily keep your hands full, and by the time we have a couple of hours to ourselves in the evening, I am usually too tired to type anything coherent! At work the term has finally ended and Easter has now been and gone, leaving a trail of chocolate behind, and the temptation to be a terrible parent and eat all the kids chocolate, making promises to replace it at a later date, or justifying it by saying that “they really don’t need that much chocolate” is tough. Well it is if you’re a chocoholic like me!

76: With just a couple of days left of the term, its still hectic at work and not much quieter at home. There are days when getting a photo every single day can be tricky and completing a 365 project can seem like a mission impossible, but this is the work horse I have already completed two of them on. I just need to get a bit more creative over the remaining 9 months.

Day 76 - Mar 22nd

Day 76 – Mar 22nd

77: I came home from work feeling relieved, the last day with the kids, as the following day was a staff training day. The wife was at home with the girls, and I was looking forward to seeing them all. I was soon aware that the wife was ushering Olivia into the living room to show off the easter bonnet that her nanny had made for her, and when I picked up the camera to take a quick photo, as I so often do, I didn’t expect what happened next. As I raised the camera and asked her to look at it, she suddenly, out of nowhere and without prompting gave us jazz hands and said “ta-daaaah!!”. Where on earth has she got ta-dah from?? It kept us laughing for a while!

Day 77 - Mar 23rd

Day 77 – Mar 23rd

78: Time to do something a little different, I’m feeling inspired! I had picked one of the chillies I’d grown last year, and after being sat on the window sill, it had begun to turn see through. I wanted to shoot it against a plain white background, with the flash behind it to emphasize this, and I think the effect worked. Which reminds me, I need to get this years chilli seeds planted pronto!!

Day 78 - Mar 24th

Day 78 – Mar 24th

79: The milk feeding process seems to have fallen into a bit of a routine now, and its making the day easier to plan and it means we can work out a system for bedtime. Although Chloe is still being sick a lot. How much is too much, and when do they stop being sick all the time? I didn’t get involved in the feeds much today as I’d been given a pass out for the release date of Batman vs Superman at the cinema where I was joining some friends to see the film following a five guys burger. A whole day of not cooking as we’d also been out for lunch with friends and tried Wagamamas for the first time too. How have we not been there before?

Day 79 - Mar 25th

Day 79 – Mar 25th

80: Saturday, and again we weren’t cooking as we were heading over to a friends for lunch. A very pleasant couple of hours, but we had to rush home as the wife had a friend heading over to spend couple of hours at our house. She’d brought with her some eggs for the girls, and Olivia had her own personalised chocolate egg.

Day 80 - Mar 26th

Day 80 – Mar 26th

81: Easter Sunday, and the only plan for the day is heading over to the in-laws for lunch to join with the brother in law and his family joining us too. Olivia loves playing with her cousins and needed no entertaining from us at all. She’d dressed up lovely for the day, and I was betting on her not looking like that when we got home! It wasn’t psrticularly easy getting a photo today as it was surprisingly windy when we stepped outside, but I persevered.

Day 81 - Mar 27th

Day 81 – Mar 27th

82: Bank holiday monday, and its off to the swimming baths with Olivia for a quick splash with some friends and their daughter. One thing I am conscious of, is making sure that after getting trigger happy on the camera with the first born, there wasn’t just 5 photos of baby number 2 because of the age old concept that you don’t put quite as much effort in for the second one. I want to make sure I capture all of Chloe growing up, just like I did with Olivia. She doesn’t seem very excited about the fact though.

Day 82 - Mar 28th

Day 82 – Mar 28th

83: Trainers, shorts, running top and gps… check! All set to join my friend for a run around the reservoir. We used to go almost every weekend, but haven’t run for a few months. I have been keen to get back into it, but keep putting it off, as it never seems like the right time. The weather was glorious, sunshine and blue sky, and we did 6.1 miles before heading back to the car. Not long after getting home and enjoying a nice soak in a hot bath to relax my leg muscles, I watched the grey clouds head over and the downpour started. It suddenly wasn’t a day for a picnic blanket in the park any more!

Day 83 - Mar 29th

Day 83 – Mar 29th

The year ahead

Often I come on here and just don’t know where to begin.

Today is one of those days.

One of the biggest features of the last few days was a trek to the Lake District with some work colleagues, as we were planning to get to the top of Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It was part of our training for our three peaks challenge, which for those of you that don’t know is: Scafell Pike – the highest point in England, Snowdon – the highest point in Wales and Ben Nevis – the highest point in Scotland, all done within a time limit. Usually this time limit is all three, including the driving, done in 24 hours. We have decided to go with the alternative option of all three, with driving time excluded, done in 15 hours.

Recently, as part of our training, a small group of us headed up Snowdon. It was useful in terms of highlighting a number of issues that even though we’d planned in detail, we’d still managed to overlook. So doing Scafell Pike, you’d have thought couldn’t throw any more surprises at us… but it did! Both myself and another colleague were particularly ill, and struggled with the physical effort involved in getting both up and down the mountain. Then there was the subject of where to stop for lunch, as quite unlike Snowdon, there was no cafe at the top, just a pile of rocks, surrounded by cloud and icy cold blasts of wind, It wasn’t somewhere you wanted to hang around long! Then the critical issue of no phone coverage! Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was a genuine, bona-fide problem considering I have almost totally given up my Tom Tom and replaced it with the rather amazing Waze app on my phone, a superb and somehow free app. The only problem with Waze is that you need a 3G signal or better to help it locate you and plan your route. Without a good data signal the phone does little more than make calls and send text messages, it certainly fails at being a sat nav by a long way! Then there was the fact that our original group split, not into just two groups, one fast, one slow, but into a further third group in the middle who didn’t to fall behind, but weren’t keeping up with the faster group.

So we had things to be thinking about before the actual weekend of the climb where we’d have much bigger group numbers, and no room for problems as we wouldn’t be heading home between mountains this time!

In this particular photo of myself, near the summit of Scafell Pike, I am smiling and look happy, although secretly I was dying and crying a river inside. The mind was willing, but the flesh was weak! I’d picked up yet anther virus and was struggling, really struggling on this climb. My body just wanted to curl on and go back to bed! I thought I could probably just push through it, but nearly collapsed several times on the way down as I got closer and closer to the bottom! My legs had totally given up, on what should have been a fairly easy walk! I was eventually able to rest them and stretch the muscles enough so that I could at the very least climb back in and continue to drive the bus back home, although it did highlight the issue of making sure we have enough drivers on hand that weekend to each do their stint of driving, rather than just relying on one or two people. The only mountain we didn’t practise is the only one I haven’t been up yet, Ben Nevis! On a plus note, we did get to test the walkie talkies I bought and they were a success!

If anyone is keen to help, we are all doing this challenge, and facing the elements in order to raise money for a local charity close to our hearts, especially considering the nature of our jobs, and that is Resources For Autism and you can help by sponsoring a small amount (or large if you’re feeling generous and its the right side of payday for you!) by going to our team JustGiving page. We’re still a long way off our target  yet, and would be grateful for every single donation, no matter how small!

The only available day to climb happened to coincide with fathers day here in the UK and sadly I couldn’t be in two places at once. I was treated to a very nice surprise when I got home from my walk though, the wife apparently knows me very well!


For my green fingered friends, I have been able to get more done in the garden recently and I am quite proud of the fact that I have vegetables growing out there and not just flowers, even though the flowers are very beautiful and doing wonders for the bee population! With the loss of the joint allotment I shared with my friend I was left with a lot of vegetable seeds, some of which I had already planted and had started growing. Now I have turned a corner of the garden into a mini allotment, which I thought the wife would protest at, but she has been very supportive about it. We have some cucumbers beginning to appear, the broccoli and brussel sprouts are doing very well and should be ready for late autumn, the cabbage is down and starting to grow, the french beans have found the garden canes and are starting to climb them, the strawberries are doing well and the first strawberry has even begun to appear, and the onions have finally gone in the ground. In the greenhouse the tomato plants look as if we are about to have a tomato explosion, although my habanero and cayenne chilli plants have massively failed for some strange reason this year! Oh well, you can’t win them all!

Olivia apple 1

The apple tree I planted at the top of the garden is coming on a treat, however, and has even started to grow its first apple this year! This will come as much of a delight to Olivia, who in the last 10 days has literally discovered apples and has pretty much announced them as her favourite food of all time, she just can’t get enough of them and will often hold onto one for several hours taking occasional bites from it just when you think its ready for the bin!

What have you got growing in your garden at the moment?

Summer is just around the corner

Its Sunday night and I am hoping I will have time to get this blog started and finished before bed, without it being the middle of the night before I finish!

The weeks are slipping by at quite a rate now, in the big countdown to the summer holidays. We have just five weeks left, and then the whole summer off, and I’m a little excited about this one. Olivia will be a much more fun age, we’ll be able to get out and about and do things and see people, and then of course there is the holiday as well! Four nights away in Cornwall with the family, I really can’t wait! We’ve been given a whole bunch of leaflets from a work colleague who goes there often, to help us plan our time down there. I don’t like to have holidays set in stone, and tick items off on a clipboard as we do them, but I do like to have a vague idea of things to do if its sunny, and things to do if its raining. When you only have a short time away with the family, its no good being sat around for half a day trying to work out what you’re going to do with whats left of the day. All we can really hope for is some nice weather so that we can keep all our options open, but this is Britain in August we’re talking about, the weather is no more guaranteed than the roll of a dice! August may seem like it should be hot and dry, but of all the weddings I have photographed, it is also the most temperamental month!

Thankfully, even though June has proved to be a bit colder than expected so far, at least it has stayed reasonably dry and the rain hasn’t caused too much of an impact on cycling, but when you are cycling home on a Friday knowing you have the weekend stretched out ahead of you then even a downpour wouldn’t really bother me that much! Friday evenings are all about kicking off the shoes, relaxing and letting the stress of the week just drain away. We put a pizza in the oven, poured a drink and put a film on. The latter part is always a gamble, trying to find a film that the wife won’t fall asleep through, or fail to understand. My choice this weekend was called Traffic, three separate story lines, apparently unrelated, all about the american futile war on drugs and how it effects different people. Not necessarily one I’d have normally chosen, but the imdb reviews all looked quite positive, and so I thought it was worth a gamble. It turned out to be quite a good film, interesting and a real eye opener, and the extra bonus is that Clare managed to stay awake through most of it.

Saturday was set to be a busy day for me, starting off first thing with 3 hours looking after J again, which was hampered by the rain, as he is quite energetic and loves getting outside. So it was time for plan B and  some indoor activities. From there I had to shoot home once I was finished and let the wife get ready to go out as she was meeting friends in town, while I took Olivia over to see my nan. As it has been a while since I saw my nan, far too long in fact, and I’d like to get over much more often, but for one reason or another there just doesn’t seem to have been the time recently. I feel a bit bad about it, especially with my nan at her age, as she can’t get about much like she used to and relies on people visiting, and obviously she’s no spring chicken anymore, you just don’t know how long grandparents will be around for when they start creeping towards 90! I really want Olivia to remember seeing her, and not just from photos that she looks at when she’s older. I really must make more of an effort to get over a lot more often. Once I’d left my nan’s it was time to head home and start getting dinner ready as we were feeding my sister and her boyfriend, who would be baby sitting Olivia for us later that evening while we popped out to a quiz. It was a good day, and the only problem with being on the go all day is that the day seems to go so much faster! In fact it actually seems crazy that we are pretty much halfway through the year, we are as close to putting christmas decorations up as we are to the last time we took them down! Where does the time go? Our little lady is two years old soon, and I’d be lying if I said we’d even begun to think about what we’re going to do to mark the occasion! If you want something really depressing to think about, this Sunday marks the longest day of the year, which means every day from them on is going to get shorter and shorter! I know, I really didn’t need to put that out there, but you’d have figured it out soon enough anyway, so don’t blame me for highlighting it! It has been lovely enjoying these lighter evenings though, I was even out tonight doing some gardening at 9:30pm because I could. The wife was in bed early and I never sit around and watch tv anyway, there is rarely anything on that I want to watch, to the point I do actually question why I pay so much for Sky TV each month. I have thought about getting rid of it, but the reality is that we get our phone line and broadband from them anyway, and the TV really isn’t that much extra, plus the wife always has the tv on, she’d never be able to live without it! Combine all this with the fact that we removed the connection from the living room for the tv aerial, meaning we wouldn’t be able to pick up freeview tv even if we did ditch Sky! In a way it feels a little bit like a drug habit, it costs us a small fortune and yet we can’t give it up! While we’re on the subject of Sky, we’ve recently had an upgrade to our broadband and taken up their Sky Fibre offer. They had recently put their price down, and made it a bit more appealing, but in reality I am not feeling the huge benefits from it that I had hoped for. Our line speed on the original broadband would quite often hit 16.5mbps on a speedtest, and the fact that I was promised 40mbps with Fibre would only have been encouraging if it had actually happened, as 40mbps isn’t bad, but still isn’t exactly the leap I’d quite hoped for. Some of my friends with Virgin have exceeded well over 120mbps without any issues! The fact that some of my first speed tests on Fibre gave me speeds of just 15mbps (on a service I am paying extra ££ for don’t forget!) was not encouraging at all. After a little research and playing about with some settings, I am not getting around 30mbps on the speed test, better, but still not great. The real bonus that I am not going to complain about though is the upload speed, which is 9x faster than the original broadband, crucial for times like when I am uploading several hundred wedding photos to the website, a job which frequently means leaving the computer running overnight, and just hoping that I wake up in the morning to the job being done, and not having paused halfway through for some unforeseen error. When I have been uploading stuff previously, it can literally feel like it is taking forever, so this is a huge bonus! Trialling their 25Gb usage cap to try and save a little money was a total waste of time though, as they emailed me within a week of the Fibre going active to say I’d burnt through the 25Gb in less than a week, (although I am still not sure exactly how we managed to do that, 25Gb in six days sounds a bit fishy to me!), but it looks like we’ll end up switching to their ‘unlimited’ Fibre plan instead and having to pay extra for it. Although I do feel a grumpy phone call coming on to complain about the line speeds and see if I can get them to waive the extra monthly fee as compensation. If you don’t ask, you don’t get… right?!

Sunday turned out to be a quieter day, although it did start early, with Olivia deciding that 6:30am was her time to wake up. She woke us both up, but it was Clare’s turn to go back to bed while I took madam downstairs and entertained her for a couple of hours until she’d caught up on her sleep. I wanted to get a few more portrait shots of Olivia in the garden as it was a dry day and it wasn’t too bright with the cloud cover breaking up the light a bit. Getting these weekly portrait shots is something I am keen to try and keep up, and she is changing so much each day, and now that she is on the move I find I am taking much less photos of her, as its harder to get her to keep still and/or look at the camera!

It was nice to get out in the garden, turn off the tv and enjoy some fresh air and natural light. It was also a chance to get a little gardening done. One thing I have learnt from owning a house with a greenhouse in the garden and growing things is that I need to be planning and planting stuff far earlier in the year than I am. I have left some flower seeds until May to plant, which doesn’t really give them much growing time! Being in the garden is definitely therapeutic, gardening and growing things is relaxing, and that is definitely something I need much more of. I don’t feel very relaxed at the moment, like my to-do list is never empty and I am always racing through it to cross things off. I like being busy, but sometimes I can make myself too busy, and that is not good for us. In fact I have just read an article on “The disease of being too busy” and do have my own views on it, but I will share those another time!

IMG_0107After a while in the garden, I thought I felt a drop of water on my hand, and it turns out that rain was most definitely stopping play this afternoon. The gardening equipment was in, the play sand covered up, it was time to head indoors, where we were to stay for the rest of the afternoon. There was a momentary break in the rain where I caught this shot of one of the foxgloxes with droplets of rain on it, and with the colours it made a very beautiful sight! The break in the rain didn’t last long though, and we were resigned to an afternoon indoors, although its never a bad thing when I get to spend an afternoon at home with my two favourite people!

Oh, how things change

It there is one thing that doesn’t change, its change itself!

Just when you begin to get used to something, life inevitably pulls the rug from under you. This isn’t always a bad thing, and often change is for the better. Sometimes change is neither good, nor bad, its just change.

Life has changed again in recent weeks, the separation of a good friend of mine from his wife, and the fact that he is now no longer living around the corner. Then there is the news of a friends pregnancy, which really excites me. There is no better news than a friend becoming pregnant and expecting a little one. Promotions are nice, a new house is lovely, weddings are great, but expecting a baby is even better! Its a new life, the start of endless potential. There really is no greater feeling than becoming a parent!

I am making plans for changes for my year ahead too. The photography business has been, well, not dormant, but slow. Getting married, fixing up a house, having a baby and generally being a parent can be a huge demand on your time, strangely enough! I was busy building up the photography business, but then put the brakes on to focus on arranging my own. Life has kinda taken over since then, but now it is time to push back up into second gear and get things moving again. On that note, it is also time for a shift in direction. Wedding photography is a fantastic opportunity to capture a truly magical day in a couples life and produce some of your best photography, but the down side is that it is also hugely saturated market. Wedding photographers are 10 a penny on google. Everyone who has ever gone and bought a budget SLR from Argos will call themselves a photographer these days, and not be afraid to “have a go” and unwittingly potentially ruin someones big day with disappointing photos where the auto mode on a camera just couldn’t cut it, and only knowledge and experience and the right kit could have possibly paid off. To stand out as a wedding photographer takes something really special, and having a full time job just doesn’t allow the time to work on everything you need to. There is so much more to running a photography business than just taking photos. So I am looking into making a move into something a bit different, newborn photography. A growing market where there are not currently a large amount of photographers, unlike weddings, on top of which it requires some training before you even consider starting as you are dealing with someone’s tiny little brand new baby, much unlike weddings. I have some steps to take before I can get there, which includes some props and some training, but I will get there, and I will make this a success. I have that feeling, that feeling where I know I can do this and make a good job of it. That feeling where I know I can learn, and then put my own stamp on this and make it mine. I have the support of a fantastic wife and the inspiration of my beautiful daughter to push me forward and make this work. I also have plans for the future once I have made this work, and I want to look into training again, but hopefully this time delivering it rather than taking it. I truly believe that it is important in life to have dreams. It is equally important to know that they are achievable, and even more important to have a plan on how to get there and actually achieve them! There is a quote by Henry Ford “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” and he is totally right. Believing you can do something is half the battle, but along the way he also coined another genius phrase “One of the greatest discoveries a person makes, one of their great surprises, is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.” How true is that? So now I begin to make plans. Not all of them will work, and some will take some adjustment, but a plane does not reach its path by flying in a straight line, it is constantly readjusting its path along the way. I will get there, and I will make this successful! Others may laugh, they may think its funny, or tell me I can’t do it, but I have the will and the potential to succeed here, and I need to remain focused on that!

The obvious other constant source of change in our household is that of our little person, who wakes up each day just ever so slightly different to the previous day! She seems to be growing so quickly! More recently her latest trick involves swinging her arms about and hitting people and thinking its funny. Its not a nasty thing, she just thinks its hilarious when people react, she has probably seen too much of me making pretend ‘Ow!’ noises when she does it to think that its an okay thing to do. Hopefully if we stop drawing attention to it so much, she’ll just give up and eventually stop! the transition from crawling to walking is pretty much done, and she is walking all the time these days, and we are seeing much less of the just-learnt-to-walk toddler wobble, and more normal walking now. We are even getting sounds that are starting to resemble words now as well, she has pretty much grasped “peppa” each time peppa pig comes on, and we think we have an “oggy” each time we see a dog in the street. She is just so cute, I think that if she wasn’t ours we’d probably have kidnapped her by now anyway!

The seasons are also starting to change, spring is around the corner and the temperature is starting to change a little. The nights continue to stay cool, occasionally hovering or maybe just dipping below freezing on the odd occasion, but the days are starting to get ever so slightly warmer. I don’t think that the threat of frost is over yet, I’ll still need to be careful with planting out any vegetable seedlings we’ve grown. Just one night of harsh frost could kill them! Of course now that the allotment is no longer an option, I’ll be resigned growing everything in the back garden, which leaves me with very little space considering that the wife will undoubtedly be expecting to see pretty, colourful flowers and not just vegetables growing everywhere! The seedlings are coming along well in the spare room at the moment, I’ll need to repot them soon, and hopefully move them out to the greenhouse at the very least until the threat of frost has gone. I’m certainly going to miss that allotment this year, thats for sure! I know one of my sisters is taking on an allotment this year, maybe I could stick a few bits in there, I am sure she wouldn’t mind?! I am keen to get more out of the ground to eat this year, we had an absolute bumper crop the first year and its fair to say we knew bugger all about allotmenting, so even though I am working with significantly less space, I need to make it count! Of course, finding the time is going to be tricky, with looking after “J”, my friends autistic son, and hopefully building up the photography business again this year, my free time could be stretched a little. At least where the difficulty of previously trying to get over the allotment was that I could only go over at the weekend, now with growing things in the garden its much easier to spend a bit of time each night in the evenings once Olivia is in bed, little and often is the way forward! Generally I have to wait until Olivia is in bed to get most things done, my to-do list is a total waste of time if I am planning to do anything while she is still up. Considering she is such a well behaved, good child, I still find that most of the things I had planned to do just don’t even get looked at least until she goes down for a nap or more often when its her bedtime, by which point it has gone dark outside and anything that was supposed to be done outside can just be scrapped for yet another day! Things are a little easier at the moment now Clare is getting home from work slightly earlier, and the sunset is getting later and later, on top of which the clocks will go forward in a few weeks. I’ll be out in that garden in no time, and I’d love Olivia to be out with me too, but there is one garden chore I must do before all others if that is going to happen, and that is to put a picket fence at least 3ft high around the edge of the garden. Where the lawn and flower bed end it is a 4 ft drop down to the concrete below. Not much for me to jump down, I agree, but if you’re a toddler and you’re going down head first, its going result in many hours spent in A&E! I need to be able to leave her free to run around on the lawn without the fear of her not stopping in time and going straight over the edge! Oh the joys of having children!

Sometimes you have to look a bit deeper

The last few days have been a mix of good and bad, and one of the good points was the arrival of my new phone… yes, I finally have it! The iPhone 6 Plus gold edition, and it is living up to all expectations! I do get very excited around upgrade day, and after many weeks of deliberation I finally managed to make a call on which phone I wanted. I am not going to bore everyone with a review on it, you either like iPhones or you don’t, and if you do then you already know what it does! The one thing I have been especially impressed with though, is the camera. I’d heard numerous people comment on it on various youtube reviews and it really does deliver! I’ve taken a few indoor shots of Olivia and some outdoor shots on some crocuses that have appeared, and I’m blown away by how good it is!




All three of the above photos were taken in the iPhone 6 Plus. As beautiful as it is, I was a little concerned about the size of it when in came to using the mapmyrun app and tracking the GPS location on my weekend runs, but thankfully realised that there may be an alternative, as a lot of the functions were still working on my trusty old iPhone 5, even without the SIM card in it, as all the apps were using the wifi. I was also pretty sure that the GPS function doesn’t need a phone signal and so would work without the SIM card in, and decided to test this theory. I loaded up the running app on the wifi at home and then took it with me on this mornings run where the GPS found it straight away and tracked us for the entire run while my big new phone sat in the boot of the car. I got back home after a rather chilly 10k run with my friend Rob this morning, and once the phone reconnected to the wifi I could upload all the data. It worked like a dream!

So what didn’t go so well this week then? Firstly it started with my first real injury at work, and bearing in mind I work with children with autism, the school actually caters from 2 years up to 19 years meaning some of them are adults by the time they leave, some are taller and even stronger than me! I’ve managed to be quick enough to avoid any real injury before now, but this week one of them managed to sink their teeth into my arm. Thankfully I avoided any hospital trips as I’d managed to avoid the skin being broken properly because I’d reacted quickly when I saw the teeth heading towards my arm. Yes, not quickly enough I know, but it could have been a lot worse. The surface injuries have pretty much vanished, and now I am left with a significant bruise, although I am lucky that I don’t bruise a great deal, so this is not hugely obvious!

Then there was the sad passing of the mother-in-laws aunt, an elderly lady who lived in Ireland, I believe I’d met her once, but not a bad innings at 94. I think most people would be happy with that! The main implication of this for us, is that the funeral is obviously in Ireland, meaning the mother-in-law, our baby sitter for three days a week, will be away for a few days and so Clare and myself will have to take a couple of days off to look after Olivia. I’m sure work won’t be especially thrilled about it, but they do understand and it shouldn’t cause any problems for them. Between me and Clare, we’ll only need a day off each, and as I’ll be taking Wednesday, at least I can give them a little warning rather than dumping it on them Monday morning.

Our weekend plans also didn’t quite work out. Initially we were supposed to be having lunch with friends on the Saturday, but they had to cancel at the last minute as their youngest was ill again. I do feel sorry for them, he seems to be ill all the time, and they just don’t seem to get a break. As a last minute alternative we decided to have the parents over for lunch instead, but certain complications meant that only Clare’s parents ended up making it over. Something small had caused my mom some distress, and knowing she has been a lifelong sufferer of depression, in the end I figured it was best to just leave it for now. Depression really is a hidden monster, made worse by the fact that some people don’t even know its there and can react really badly to someones apparent unreasonable behaviour or difficult attitude. Being armed with this knowledge doesn’t always help the situation directly at the time, but it does help with how you react to it, and it means that you can avoid making things any worse and know when to just step away. Sadly this had to be the case for lunch, but thankfully it was all soon resolved. We finished our Saturday off with a rare trip to the supermarket for some shopping as we’ve cancelled the home shopping delivery pass, followed by a pizza and a film. I took a gamble on the 80s classic Wall Street, which although I enjoyed, it appears Clare found pretty dull. Oh well, you can’t win them all.




As has been pretty typical of the weather lately, Sunday started dry and cold, a rather fresh 1ºc, which made the Sunday morning run a real wake up call. As if running 10k wasn’t going to wake you up anyway, doing it in this temperature certainly did a pretty swift job of that! Still, even after last nights pizza and beers, I was up and out and knocking out a 10k run before breakfast. There is a sense of pride in just being able to do that, although it is one of the times where having a running partner is critical, as I’d have otherwise stayed in bed!

With the run out of the way, and Olivias nap done and lunch finished, it was time to head over to see my mom, and make sure she was okay. We knew seeing Olivia would cheer her up, and Olivia could get to show off her walking and dancing skills! We could only stay for a couple of hours though, as we had to be home in time to make sure Clare could get ready and get out for her night out with friends, apparently ‘bingo’ is the new ‘clubbing’!! How times have changed! I thought Clare would scoff at the idea of bingo, not go and join and become a member!!

One of the last points on tonight’s post is the fact that we have some seeds shooting up to mark the start of this years growing season. It’s too early to get them out and planted, as we still have a few weeks of frost ahead of us potentially, and historically we’ve had late frosts up to late Feb/early March for about the last four years. Putting these shoots out now means they’d either get eaten by birds, or more likely just die because of the cold. I just hope we find sufficient time to get over the allotment and keep it in check this year.


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