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Day 250 – The morning after the night before

Day 250 – Nov 23rd

So some kind of crazy weather hit the UK last night. It made riding on a motorbike on the motorway for the first time pretty only for the brave or stupid… I am yet to decide which I am!

We had some minor damage in the garden, the fence was already slightly damaged from a previous storm and the green house has lost a few panes of glass and the door. Its all fairly easily fixable, and it seems that yet again we got away with a lot less damage than other places around the UK.

It was nice to see some quieter, calmer weather this morning though. I should have been cycling into work today, but I wanted to try out the new motorbike in calmer weather where I could focus on the ride and navigating the usual traffic rather than just the weather, like last night.

Weather or no weather, new bike or old, nothing beats getting home and seeing my girls! Just one more day before the weekend!


Day 249 – The beast has landed

Day 249 – Nov 22nd

I was really keeping my fingers crossed that today was going to be the day… the day my new credit card landed and I was able to collect my new motorbike. I had signed up to an ‘interest free on purchases’ credit card to make financing a new bike free of any finance charges.

And then the wife rang me… it had landed through the door. Being the awesome wife that she is, I soon had it in my hand at work, and had everything all in place to just jump on the motorway as soon as I finished work. There was just one problem though, I had never taken a motorbike on the motorway before, and my current one only had a top speed of 60mph at best! Still, it was the only way to get to the motorbike dealers on time, I was just getting very concerned that as the day was going on, the wind was picking up dramatically, in fact to the point where the weather service had issued a yellow weather warning for wind!!

With my insurance sorted at the very last minute, I headed straight up there, only to get caught up in some of the worst traffic I have ever seen almost as soon as I get out of work. I only had until 5pm before the dealer closed, and knew I wasn’t going to make it, although thankfully a quick stop and a begging phone call meant that someone was going to wait for me. The weather was trying to throw me off the bike the whole way there, but at least I had my satnav directing me and the traffic had eventually cleared meaning I could get my foot down!

After handing over my old bike, and completing the purchase on my new one, I was swiftly on my way to the petrol station to fill up before making the daunting ride home, in the dark on an unfamiliar bike, with the wind battering me from every side. There was a certain amount of pleasure to be had from a new and powerful bike, but the weather was really taking the edge off it.

I struggled to get my satnav mount fitted on the new bike in the dark, and with the wind and rain distracting me, I was also aware that time was ticking and I wanted to get home in time to see the girls before they went to bed, and so decided to make the journey without any GPS guidance. I didn’t know the area at all, but knew the motorway wasn’t far from the dealers and thankfully I was soon back on it, getting a feel for the bike and just keeping it in a straight line, trying not to let the horrific weather bother me.

It was a good feeling pulling up outside my house, with the girls in the porch watching me arrive, knowing I had literally defied the odds and made it back safely. Phew! I certainly won’t be going out in weather like that again any time soon!.

Day 248 – Hold onto those purse strings

Day 248 – Nov 21st

Its the time of year that few people look forward to, the government budget announcement where we get to see how financially difficult or easy the government want to make the next 12 months.

Rarely is it good news.

Previously I’ve just tutted and rolled my eyes, not usually paying too much attention to it, apart from the obvious increased costs of petrol and alcohol, the two things that may have affected me the most back then, but in recent years I’ve started to listen a bit closer, as there are more implications from being both a homeowner and a parent.

Tonight I intend to forget all about it and get myself back in the gym, as it has been a couple of weeks since I was last in there and I need to get that heart pumping!

Day 246 – Keep the rubber side down

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!

Day 244 – You know whats going to happen, but you still have to try

Day 244 – Nov 17th

Friday night, where I love to get the girls into bed so that me and the wife can sit down and relax together with a drink and a film. Traditionally the wife doesn’t do so well for staying awake in front of a film, we kind of expect her to nod off at some point, but every now and again we find something that really grips her, and she will still be focused all the way through to the end credits… not this time! Yet again, even though we’d picked a film we both liked which this evening happened to be Dallas Buyers Club, I don’t even think she made the half way point.

Usually it is left to me to make the choice as to what film we watch, sometimes its a hit, and sometimes its a miss. Its hard to predict what someone is going to like, no matter how much you think you know them. Apparently even when a film is a hit, its no guarantee that the wife will stay awake.

Oh well, lets try again next week!

Day 243 – I just wish I could do more

Day 243 – Nov 15th

The last few nights I have been making more of an effort to get to bed at a sensible time, only for any success I have been having to be pretty much wiped out by one little lady who hasn’t been very well, and another not so little one who, instead of sleeping through the night like she normally does, decided that for some reason she absolutely must get out of bed in the middle of the night for a hug!!

Olivia usually sleeps well and doesn’t wake until the sun comes up in the morning, so we’re a bit confused as to what is waking her. I just wish she’d stay in bed and not feel that she has to come in to wake us too!

Chloe, on the other hand, has been genuinely not well. She’s had an on/off temperature for a couple of days, and has been off her food, and not drinking as much as we’d like her to. Today has been a better day, although its still a series of highs and lows. One minute she’s all cuddles and looking very sorry for herself, and yet just a few minutes later and she’s running around the living room like she’s never had a thing wrong with her.

It looks like she is starting to get a little better, very slowly, although it doesn’t help when she won’t let us give her any medicine, so we’re having to sneak it into drinks and yoghurts where we can. The most important things are drinks and sleep though, both of those in enough quantities will speed the recovery along as nicely.

Day 242 – My only regret is that I hadn’t done this sooner

Day 242 – Nov 14th

Today was mostly spent staring at a small screen, I had been scouring the adverts in autotrader and eBay for a new motorbike, a proper full size bike so that I can have a bit more authority on the road, join my friends on their rides out, and maybe look at some longer rides in the future with my camera in my backpack.

After checking out many bikes, reading reviews, watching videos of rides and tests and finally pinned down one bike that stood out. It was a tough choice, there were some serious contenders in the price range I was looking at, and it came down to two, a BMW and a Suzuki. The Suzuki won for a couple of reasons, firstly Japanese bikes are very easy to repair as a lot of garages specialise in them, secondly a couple of reviews said the BMW was expensive to maintain, and that it wasn’t quite as easy to handle in slow moving traffic. Its huge benefit was that it was belt driven, rather than chain driven, but I can’t afford to take on a bike that is going to be expensive to run once I’d brought it home.

All being well, I will be able to bring it home next week, and obviously photos will follow.

Day 241 – you might not succeed, but you have to keep trying

Day 241 – Nov 14th

It’s that time of year, germs are everywhere. People are closing their windows because it’s cold outside and cranking up the heating… and the germs are loving it. Working in a school means that around the October – November time when the temperature drops, you are suddenly exposed to all those snotty, coughing, sneezing kids. It doesn’t help that when I finally get home to escape it all everyone has a cold too.

It’s the sort of time you really need to be keeping your energy up by getting plenty of sleep each night. I knew I had to make an extra effort to get to bed early tonight.

The day started with me not feeling great as soon as I got up, so I decided to abandon the cycle in and took the motorbike instead. There is no point pushing myself physically on a demanding cycle ride into work and making myself feel even more run down, then inevitably becoming even more vulnerable to the germs I’ll almost certainly be exposed to.

Having taken the motorbike in to work meant that, on a whim I could go and visit a bike shop after work to check out a bike I’d had my eye on. On paper this bike looked good, but I was glad I had taken a closer inspection as I spotted something I didn’t like. I gave up on this one, and now had a better idea of what I was looking for, narrowing down my search slightly. It really isn’t as simple as looking for a car!

That evening I actually got to bed earlier, and after a little reading we realised that Chloe was awake in bed, I went to check her out and realised she was red hot and had a temperature. Any chance of getting to sleep was quickly abandoned as we took her downstairs in an attempt to cool her down and get some medicine inside her… easier said than done. You’d think we were trying to put liquidised cat food into her mouth or something. I’ve never seen a child refuse medicine with such an energetic protest!

Midnight came and went, and thankfully our little lady was cooling down and looking like she was in the mood to play again, a sign that she was feeling better. Thankfully when she went down this time, she stayed asleep.

I probably won’t be cycling again in the morning either!

Day 240 – You’ve earned this one!

Day 240 – Nov 13th

I may as well not have bothered setting the alarm clock, I was awake 45 minutes before it went off and was unable to get back to sleep. The nerves were starting to settle in a bit now. I was still calm, but getting restless. I managed to grab a quick shower and should have found time for tea and breakfast, but was interested in neither. It was cold out, below freezing, and I was convinced that my motorbike was going to be cancelled today.

I layered up my clothing and headed out early on my motorbike to meet my instructor who was going to escort me over to the test centre. It was nice to jump on a proper motorbike, a Suzuki SV650, although the cold was beginning to ruin the fun a little. My fingers felt like they’d been caught in a slamming door, they were that painful!

Part 1 of the test was over quicky, tiredness, anxiety, and numb fingers meant it was sloppy, but I’d passed… only just! Still, it was a pass, and enough to get me onto part 2 of the test, which was getting out on the road. This felt even sloppier still, but when we got back to the test centre the examiner said it wasn’t a bad ride at all, and only marked me down on a couple of points… another pass! So with both part 1 and part 2 passed, that meant I had now got my full motorcycle license! I could get rid of the learner L plates, buy a bigger motorbike, take it on the motorway if I chose to, and even have a passenger on the back! I suddenly had an overwhelming sense of freedom and relief!

I am so glad I do not have to do that again!

I made it back to work for lunchtime to finish the day and after getting home decided to treat the family to a chip shop dinner to celebrate, and even got to wash it down with two bottle of Peroni courtesy of the very kind mother in law!

Day 239 – Try to keep yourself distracted

Day 239 – Nov 12th

Sunday morning was no lie in, we had arranged to meet some friends to take the kids swimming. The local pool had thankfully changed their opening times, making it easier to park and get in to the small pool early which worked really well for us. We were changed and in the water by 9am and out again by 10am with the whole of Sunday ahead of us. I managed to take both of the girls by myself as I am keen to get Chloe in the water more, and Olivia really takes no looking after.

After a spot of lunch we were off out to the park to meet some of our antenatal friends, Olivia loves playing with their daughter, and the two girls could go and ride their bikes and run about. I felt a bit guilty about it, but I was starting to clock watch towards the end as the penultimate Formula 1 race of the season was on at 4pm and I was keen to see not only the start, but some of the build up commentary to the grand prix. Our friends know I am a huge F1 fan and so is the husband, so he agreed to come back to our house and watch the race live, rather than having to wait to see the highlights later that night. It was nice to have a bit of company to watch the race with for a change. After the race, he was picked up by his wife, it would have been a nice quiet evening for the two of us, but Clare had to go out and babysit our nephew and niece.

It meant that with the girls in bed, it was just me entertaining myself for the evening, and trying hard to distract myself as I was trying to take my mind off the fact that I had my motorbike test in the morning and I was starting to get a little nervous… the worst thing I could do. I know I can do everything that is required on the test, and I know I can do it well, but under test conditions I begin to panic and it all starts to go wrong, I forget things and make stupid mistakes.

It wasn’t helping that I kept checking the weather, as it was getting colder and colder, with the temperature set to drop to -1ºc meaning that if there was ice about then the test could be cancelled.

I figured a few drinks before bed would help me relax and get to sleep a little better, although that unfortunately meant a later night than I had intended. D’oh!

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