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?
Its almost the end of term, so close that I can almost taste it! For parents its that dreaded time of year, what to do for six weeks with the kids, but for anyone who works in a school its a long awaited break. Some friends grumble about us having six weeks off, some make fun of us because its only been a few weeks since our last holiday and our job must be (sarcastically) so stressful. The thing about schools is that they are all very different, and within that each class is different, and likewise, each pupil is very different. This is much more apparent when you work in a special needs school, as kicks, bites and punches can be part of every day life. So yeah, when we are making biscuits or getting the paint out, life may seem like a walk in the park to some people, but when your clothing gets ripped, you get punched in the head and kicked in the shin, and even spat at in the face on a fairly routine basis, you may feel like you need a bit of a break so that you don’t get to the point where you may lose your patience and snap at one of the kids, because as soon as you do… they’ve won! On top of which, we’re human, there’s only so much you can take on a daily basis, plus the kids need a break too, their behaviour is noticeably different at the end of term, and even more so at the end of the school year. Yeah, I’ll take that six week break thanks!
At the end of each summer term it is becoming increasingly popular for schools to have a leaving prom, even nurseries are getting in on the act now! As is traditional, our school did the same, and yet again I was asked to take some photos, although I was keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t get asked this time. I’ve done it for the last few years and its a hectic evening, I’m exhausted and aching at the end of it, I have to miss out on putting my own girls to bed, and unlike everyone else that goes I have to use my own (very expensive) equipment, plus I am usually the last one out of there and the only one to walk away from the night with homework!
Still, I’d agreed, so I had to do what I could. It was a combination of two kind of shots, firstly of the pupils that were leaving receiving their awards, and secondly taking some posed photos with the studio lights and backdrop, where some props had been provided for the occasion, as seen in todays photo. Although one of my fears came to light on this particular event, too many people getting silly and over excited with the props too close to the backdrop, one of them stumbled, stepped backwards, and tore a hole my nice vinyl backdrop and nearly pulled the whole thing down. I was not a happy bunny at this point, although I have been promised that a replacement will be paid for it is needed. It has made me think about whether or not I’ll agree to do it again next year though.
Its nice to have your skills recognised, and being a photographer, when your employer asks you to take time out of your work to do head shots of staff, its quite nice to be able to do something different for a day. As I’ve said before, I never like to complain about my job, but when I am being paid for the day to take photographs instead, it makes a refreshing change. This close to the summer holidays, everyone is winding down for the end of the year now, so things are quieter in the classroom anyway.
I shot around 80 staff, but had to do it in bursts here and there, waiting for staff to find an opportunity to step out of the classroom. Sometimes there would be a queue of people waiting, other times I would be stood around waiting for people to turn up. I also had a chance to edit a few of the photos before the end of the day, so that I didn’t get roped into having to do it at home. These photos don’t benefit me financially in any way, and so I don’t want to be taking up my own time working on them.
Todays photo was one of my colleagues, a guy I have known for a long time, as he started around the same time as me, over 20 years ago. A very friendly, charismatic guy, who is just one of those people who seems to make friends with pretty much most people. I know he won’t mind me using his photo. I have over edited his image a bit, to give it a gritty, high contrast feel. Nothing like the images I will deliver to my employer, which will not look as harsh as this, but I love the way this image looks!
At least I was still able to get out of work on time, as I had no choice but to bring the car to work today with all the lights, backdrops and stands that I just could not carry on a motorbike.
Back when I passed my driving test in 1995, I was just 19 and thought I had the world at my feet with my new found independence, but recently I have actually gone from loving driving, to starting to resent it a little. Its fair to say that I have been truly spoilt with the extra freedom of a motorbike… all the joys of cycling and weaving through traffic on two wheels… but with an engine!! Now I find traffic jams simply unbearable when I am in a car, and commuting to work in the car is something I try to avoid wherever possible! So getting out of work on time was crucial, and my sanity was saved when I got home a few minutes earlier than normal. My family time at home had started, I had my girls and that was all I needed… well, apart from a few Friday night beers!
A day of hope and uncertainty. For me it’s birthday eve, time to open a few cards and presents with the wife and girls as I almost certainly won’t have time in the morning. I run a tight ship getting ready for work in the morning, and don’t have a lot of time for anything that can otherwise wait until later. Tomorrow I’ll have the family coming over straight after work, so I’ll be needing to entertain them when they arrive.
The girls have got me a bottle of bourbon, although fairly certain they had some help in purchasing that! The wife had bought me a bottle of rather expensive aftershave I’d had my eye on for a while, but had never bought for myself because of its price. I remember mentioning this in passing while I was looking online, although not as any kind of hint, but it seems that the wife was actually listening!
The more significant part of the day was that the mother in law was going back into hospital for her second operation, and it was going to be a pretty big event. It had to be done, but it left us all literally feeling a bit useless all day as we waited for some news that they’d finally finished and that all had gone well.
Thankfully they finished on time, as planned, and everything had gone well. A massive relief!
The weekend starts the minute I clock out on a Friday, and my favourite part of my entire weekend is when I get home, get changed and get straight out again to pick Olivia up from the in-laws. This particular Friday the weather was good, so I figured I’d walk round and so that I could get Olivia to walk back home with me. Since she has started walking she loves being outside and looks for any excuse to walk. She was quite happy to push her little pushchair home… until she’d gone about a hundred metres then suddenly wanted to be carried the rest of the way!
We managed to pick up the high chair that we’d brought to leave at my moms house, as it wasn’t getting a whole lot of use over there and even though it was only a cheap one, we preferred it to the one we’d been using. The adjustable and removable tray table is much more convenient, and the ability to shorten the legs so that we can use it as a small chair as well makes it a great option. She loves getting in and out of it herself and being able to sit and eat in front of the tv.
The afternoon was going well so far, great weather for cycling on the way home, a few hours with my beautiful daughter before she went to bed, an indian takeaway ordered so me and the wife could spend a few quiet hours together, the only thing I was only missing now was a few beers. I headed out to Asda to pick up some while we waited for the takeaway to be delivered…
and then this happened…
The grey Corsa in the top picture was hit from behind by a mystery Ford Focus travelling at around 40mph whilst we were all sat stationary at a red traffic light, and was then sent flying into the black Mitsubishi parked next to me, then bounced off him and hit me taking out my mirror and putting a significant dent in the car, (it didn’t look much at night, but looked a lot worse during the daylight). The Focus then rammed his way through and drove off straight through the still very red light, leaving the three of us wondering what the hell had just happened. I was waiting for blue lights to come screaming past as I assumed he had been trying to escape a chasing police or something, but nothing! Some blue lights did appear a short while later, that came from a random ambulance that just happened to be passing at the time, he stopped to make sure we were all okay and then carried on along his way.
The police eventually arrived and took our details, the Corsa driver had an ambulance called for him, although he wasn’t visibly hurt, he could well have been in shock or suffered serious whiplash. The poor Mitsubishi driver had to have his car towed away due to damage, and he’d only had it four weeks. Mine was thankfully still drivable and so the police soon sent me on my way as there was little else I could do once they’d got my details and saw that I was fine and clearly not at fault in any way. Oh well, at least the curry was waiting for me when I got home!
Saturday was a much better day, I started with a photo shoot of my friends newborn baby. I’d got my cousin coming over for lunch straight after, so thankfully things went smoothly, even though I was a little late getting there. I am still waiting to get signed up for some newborn photography training, but already know that the best age to photograph a newborn is when they are less than three weeks old, as they sleep much better and can be posed easier. This still went well, and we got some lovely photos out of it.
When I got home, we served up some home made bread and some home made carrot and coriander soup, which went down a treat when my cousin turned up! It was a lovely afternoon and the weather was gorgeous outside, so we all headed out to the local park for a walk, and it obviously wasn’t long before Olivia ended up on a swing, and was very happy. We squeezed in a quick food shop after my cousin had headed home, and then it was eventually time for my sisters birthday party on the evening, and thankfully the in laws had stepped up to babysit Olivia for us, for which we were extremely grateful. I’d normally ask my youngest sister, but as she was also at the party, this wasn’t practical. We could probably do with finding a couple of people who’d be happy to babysit. I am sure people along the way have said they’d only be too happy, but that was probably not long after she was born, and I have long since forgotten who they were!
The weekend obviously wouldn’t be complete without a run of course, and thankfully my running buddy Rob was on hand to tackle another 10km with me on Sunday morning. The weather was grey and cool, which is good for running in as you don’t overheat too quickly, and that was certainly a possibility as today we were going for it. With the first ever Great Birmingham 10k coming up, we needed to step up our training a little and so today we took a deep breath and went for it. Rob can set a mean pace, and I was good for the first few miles keeping up with him, but after about 3 out of the 6 miles I was starting to struggle. Still, we managed to keep up our pace until the end (only just!) and ended up keeping a solid 8:30 min/mile pace all the way around, meaning our 10k run actually came in at a respectable 52 minutes compared to the 1hr 7 mins we’d done the last time we went round! Not too shabby, although I was pretty much running on empty by the time we finished!
Sunday was looking to be as busy as Saturday, after the run we met up with my old school friends Andrew and Richard and their wives and children for some lunch at a pub carvery, which after a 10k run felt like I’d really earned it! It was great to see them again and lovely to see their kids growing up, and of course Olivia loved playing with them too. It wasn’t the original venue I’d planned to meet at to eat, but it did the trick. Then after a slight confusion over where to meet, we eventually caught up with my friend Millie and my godson Noah for an afternoon in a school hall called ‘Messy Church’. Their local church takes over a school hall and provides plenty of opportunities for kids to have fun and make things, before sitting down for some food. It was good fun and the kids seemed to enjoy it, plus it was nice to see Millie and Noah again, as we don’t see them often enough.
So that’s it, the weekend is now done, and back to work in the morning. At least we really made sure we made the most of it. I don’t think we could have crammed anything else in, and I need to balance this out with a few quieter weekends soon, as Clare much prefers these. A slower pace is nice sometimes, but its still nice to feel like we have actually done something with our couple of days off.
Right, I am NOT going to let this be a late night! I am typing this as I wait for a loaf of bread to finish baking and it has about 25 minutes on the clock. Once the loaf is done, I want to take it out of the bread maker, cover it over with a cloth and leave it overnight to cool down, ready to slice in the morning, then I can head to bed! I have had two nights in a row of getting to bed far too late, and although it hasn’t actually stopped me getting up and cycling to work in the morning, it just makes it harder and has definitely meant that I am crawling out of bed a few minutes later than normal, and inevitably leaving the house a few minutes later than normal and then getting to work with barely enough time for a shower and a change of clothes. The shower is a must, it can get a bit sweaty keeping up with rush hour traffic, so I definitely need a bit of a freshen up, but its also nice to get a bit of heat back into me after cycling through the cold, especially my feet, they always feel it when the temperature drops. The rest of me is pretty well covered up, enough to retain a bit of heat from the house as I leave, until my body temperature takes over once I’ve hit got going! Choosing the right clothing when autumn kicks in and the outdoor temperature drops, can be a tricky balance, too much clothing will leave you toasty as you head out of the house, but it won’t be long before you over heat and become distracted on the road. For me its normally a case of just putting on a couple of thin layers and gritting your teeth for the first couple of minutes. By the end of the journey I am frequently feeling plenty warm, regardless of how cold the weather is, and very much looking forward to that shower!
With today being Thursday, it means we now only have one day left before the weekend. Friday is almost here and hopefully the weekend will be a little more eventful than the last one was! I’m hoping we can find time to visit my mother on Saturday as not only will she love to see Olivia again, but my sister will be there too, and I know she gets very excited about seeing Olivia. I don’t think we have any plans, but it still needs the thumbs up from the wife first, just in case she has anything planned that I didn’t know about, or “have definitely been told about but managed to forget or plain just didn’t listen in the first place” as she puts it. I don’t know where she gets this idea that I don’t listen from, its just not true. She did try to explain it to me, but I just heard blah blah blah!
What else is happening this weekend? Well, one thing really. Its ALL about one thing. The final and championship deciding race of the Formula 1 2014 season, and what a season it has been! I watched the opening race from Australia at a blurry eyed 6am with my good friend Duncan, in the company of a bunch of other F1 fans at the Aprés bar in Birmingham city centre where each race is shown live, and that is how I intend to end the year, although thankfully with this race being in Abu Dhabi, it starts at a much more sociable 1pm. I am fairly positive that most people reading this couldn’t give two hoots about F1, sundays race or the fierce championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, but you’re here now, so settle in for a minute! It has been another mind blowing year in F1 with some fantastic races, some amazing overtaking, some awful crashes including the unfortunate Jules Bianchi who is still in a bad way after a severe head injury several weeks ago. There have been some real eye opening battles between drivers that we weren’t expecting, especially with the rule changes and new engines and after four years of Red Bull dominating each race, the tables have finally turned and we have a new monster on the track, the Mercedes cars of Hamilton and Rosberg who have been virtually untouchable since the first race back in Adelaide in March. They have literally left everyone else standing in their dust, unable to provide an answer to their epic pace. This Sunday is guaranteed to have people sat on the edge of my seat, and it could go either way, and anything can happen. Either way, a Mercedes driver WILL be the new world champion, but which one is not going to be decided until that chequered flag goes down on the final lap of the final race of the year! The last time it was this close and exciting was 2008 in Brazil and it was down to Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton, and with Hamilton down in 6th place on the last lap, Felipe Massa crossed the finish line in 1st place giving him enough points to become the world champion… for a total of 38 seconds, before Hamilton managed to somehow catch and pass a slowing Timo Glock. This change of position gave Hamilton the extra point he needed to steal the championship from Massa on the last corner of the years final race to give Lewis his first ever world championship title.
Well that’s pretty much me wrapped up for today, a quick run out earlier to drop off a bottle of wine and a birthday card for my friends wife, and with my loaf of bread now cooked its bed time. Todays photo, one of the chilli’s I have been growing this year, a cayenne chilli turning from green to red, which will be going into tomorrow nights Chili Con Carne! A dish I never used to eat when my mom made it, until I realised that it didn’t have to be made with the dirty baked beans she used to add, and in fact the humble kidney bean was much more accepted. Don’t ask me why I eat kidney beans but can’t stand dirty baked beans, its just one of those things. I was a ridiculously fussy eater as a child, and some things have just stayed with me!
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
It was good to have our class teacher back from his residential trip and a bonus to know which classes we’l all be in next year, as it often causes some anxiety amongst staff. The day turned out to be a bit of a scorcher at times, although I totally wasn’t expecting this and failed to leave the greenhouse door open, almost killing everything inside. Thankfully my tomato plants survived and everything is doing well. I even got some pumpkin plants in the ground yesterday, so I am quite excited to see how those get on!
I also have a new business going on at home as well, its early days and is going to take some effort to get moving, although I do have some wonderful support. So fingers crossed that starts to bring some money in. I’m sure some of you will be hearing about it soon!
Have a great week everyone!
Todays post is on time and coming to you from the comfort of my own bed! I was hoping to be in bed by 10pm, but although thats not quite been achieved, I am at least lying on my bed as I type this, which is something. It really was the morning after the night before when the alarm clock went off, numerous drinks combined with not knowing when to stop on a Sunday night didn’t bode well for my ability to jump out of bed with a spring in my step this morning! Still, it was a reasonably quiet birthday this year, and so I felt like I owed it to myself to at least have a bit of fun, even if it was on a Sunday night. When I woke up I had two thoughts initially, one was “I quite literally do not know how I am going to find the energy to cycle to work, and today is one day I CANNOT take the car!” and the other was “Is that rain outside? It sounds like someone has installed a giant shower about our street and turned it on full! I am going to get D-Renched!” Thankfully as quickly as the rain started, it seemed to stop again, and the roads began to dry fairly quickly.
While I was in work, trying my very best to keep my eyes open and not look like I had spent most of the previous day drinking, Clare went out to pick up our new car and trade the old one in. I’ll be honest, I am glad to see the back of that Peugeot, we had paid enough out on it already and were pretty confident that there was a whole lot more to pay out ahead of us. On the day we first saw the car, it was me who took it out for a test drive, so today was Clare’s first go in it, and from her subsequent text message she seemed suitably impressed! Also while I was at work, the in-laws landed from their week away in the mediterranean, and arrived home about the same time I got back. To save them cooking, we had them over for dinner, and even showed them the new car. They came bearing a couple of gifts, including a new bracelet for Clare, as pictured above. Poor little Olivia was in a particularly whingy mood today, and seemed to cry at the slightest thing, although as much as it could possibly be teething related, it could also be that she is just too warm at the moment and maybe tired, as she doesn’t seem to be napping as much lately. It has been warm and sunny outside, and consequently warm inside, although I have brought the fan down from the loft, which has been fantastic and much appreciated! I love my fan!
“Many of us pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we hurry past it.”
Plans are fine, but often you have to adapt. Saturday didn’t end as I had planned and Sunday didn’t start that way either! The plan for Sunday morning was a 6 mile run with my friend Rob, one of the reasons I was a little cautious about going a bit crazy with the drink the night before. As it turns out, the night before wasn’t quite so crazy, and I didn’t need to worry anyway, as an early morning text from my running buddy today, to inform me that he couldn’t run due to a back injury whilst in the gym, meant that I was staying in bed just a little longer this morning, with my inspiration to get out of bed whilst its early, cold and raining, having just cancelled!
With the wife and daughter up and dressed, we headed out briefly to see a car showroom and have a look at the prices available Vs some of the models on offer. Clare was quite obviously quickly disheartened by the sheer limitations of our budget, so we gave up and headed home, with plans to do a bit more online research first. Once home, I sat and watched the Spanish GP while Clare took Olivia round to see grandparents, and once the race was over, we had to get the house tidy for the arrival of our friends Adele and Rob. They were a lovely couple that we’d met as part of our antenatal classes back in July last year, a few weeks before Olivia was born! In total there were seven couples in our antenatal class, including us, living within reasonable driving distance of each other, that had paid to attend these classes instead of the free NHS ones, and we are so glad we did, as we’ve met some truly lovely people as a result!
“Like a flower, we blossom when the conditions are right.”
Friday morning I was lucky enough to be blessed with a visit from my good friend Alan, who I featured in a post last May about him leaving to follow his dream in Australia. This week he returned to the UK for an unspecified length of time, although is ultimately hoping to head back out to spend a few years in New Zealand. It was lovely to catch up, listen to some of his stories and look at a few of the many photographs he’d taken and grab a spot of lunch with him. He got to see the house at last, as the last time he was here we were still stripping the old wallpaper and the house was a far cry from what it is now. Plus he also got to meet Olivia, as Clare was still 6 months pregnant when he left. I know he was sad to have missed her birth and christening, but fingers crossed he may still be around for her 1st birthday. After a few hours he had to say goodbye as he had several other people to visit, and we were due to go out for our nephews 6th birthday party. Usually we are a few minutes late leaving for most things, it takes a while to get used to taking a baby with you and everything they need, but today we were ready on time, it was a miracle… only to find that the pesky car refused to start! Battery was fine, oil was fine, water and petrol were fine, but it was having none of it. Thankfully the in-laws were just around the corner and hadn’t left yet, so we hitched a lift with them after I called my mechanic and arranged for him to pop over and look at it the following day. It was a standard kids party with lots of cake fuelled hyperactive children, and we did try Olivia in the ball pool again, although she really doesn’t like them much!
We were dropped home in time to start the dinner before my sister and her boyfriend came round for a bite to eat. They were running a bit late and I didn’t think they’d get to see much of Olivia, but I think her teeth were playing her up and she was just playing with her milk bottle and stayed awake long enough to see them for a while. Clare made a great chilli, and we sat down after it to put a film on, although it came as no surprise that Clare couldn’t stay awake until the end of it. Sadly I was starting to struggle myself, and couldn’t keep my eyes open. After my sister and her boyfriend left, I attempted to work on the photo and blog and promptly fell asleep, and so after a very short nap, gave up and went to bed!
Todays photo was from the blossom tree right outside our house, it flowers once a year and looks absolutely amazing, but sadly only lasts a week or two before all the petals fall off, so it was my mission to try and capture it. Thankfully our front lawn is slightly raised and allowed me to get quite close to it. I also wanted to make sure I got some of the blue sky in the shot rather than any of the surrounding houses or more of the tree!