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Day 213 – When the wind blows

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Day 213 – Oct 16th

Yeah, I’d seen the reports about hurricane Ophelia trying to lay claim to the UK and that it could all get a bit crazy, but as I looked out of the window on Monday morning I was just a bit concerned that it was raining a little bit, and I didn’t really want to cycle to work in the rain… I mean who would?! Other than that… no signs of any such hurricane whatsoever!

We’d treated ourselves to a cheeky Sunday night Chinese takeaway and so I had been totally guilted (by no-one other than myself) into cycling to work on Monday morning when I would have otherwise have taken the motorbike in. I’ve now committed myself to cycling three days a week to keep my fitness up, but take the motorbike on a Monday and a Friday. As I finished packing my bag up ready to leave the house I looked out again and with some relief noticed that the rain had completely stopped, and so I set off.

Then by lunchtime, as predicted, it all went a bit crazy!

The winds picked up, the sun was almost blocked out by Saharan sand being whipped up in the crazy weather, it almost seemed to turn day into night… during the middle of the day! The sun had gone a weird red/orange colour and people were beginning to get a bit freaked out by it!

Finally everyone realised the world was NOT actually ending when the high level sand storm cleared and the sun continued to shine, back to its normal brightness throwing shadows across the floor. The one thing that didn’t subside was the wind, it was clearly not the nightmare that Scotland and Ireland were experiencing, but it was still quite wild, especially when you had to contend with the notion of cycling home in it!

Strangely it had also been a rather peculiar 21ºC today, very un-autumn like, so at least it stopped the wild winds that were whipping you about from side to side a little less like the icy blast of an air conditioner! I did opt to abandon my usual ride down the main road, and stick to a quieter, but slower side road so there was less traffic to be buffeted into if it all got a bit hairy. My usual route is a straight run and can take me as little as 20 minutes door-to-door on my way to work, but the road can get quite narrow and the traffic can be crazy at times. Sometimes you have to realise that taking a slower route may be the difference between getting home a little later, or getting home at all!

How did hurricane Ophelia affect you?

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Day 205 – Time flies when you’re having fun

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Day 205 – Oct 8th

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

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

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

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

Day 191 – It won’t always go to plan

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Day 191 – Sep 24th

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a way to finish a day! 

Day 188 – How do other parents do it?

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Day 188 – Sep 21st

Tonight was a big event for us, the first open evening of a potential new school for Olivia for when she starts this September. We have finally had to start looking into schools as we need to have registered our choices by christmas, and so finally we have to admit that our little girl is growing up fast. School is the next big stage in her life, the point where we have to let go and watch her fly. Its going to be an emotional time. 

We still have at least one more school to check, and it’s tough working out which is the right one, this is going to massively affect their lives, who they become, what friends they make, maybe even what they want to become one day. 

Still, once that decision is made there’s the realistic prospect that we have literally no idea how we’re going to do the school run every day. When both me and the wife were growing up our mothers used to stay at home, and they’d walk us to and from school each day, and be there if we had to take a day off sick. It seemed normal. 

Modern life is quite different to this, both parents quite often work full time and usually develop a lifestyle that makes it hard for one of the parents to give up work. Grandparents have become heavily relied on in recent years, doing a lot of the childcare for small children while the parents work, and I’d imagine that a lot of them are doing the school run too. 

Realistically our only hope is breakfast and after school clubs to provide that wraparound care making drop off and pick up just a little bit easier. My job working in a school is totally inflexible, I can’t go in late or leave early, as that’s just not how it works, and the wife will also be working in a 9-5 environment when she finally goes back to work.

How do other parents cope??

Day 186 – The day I remembered that I’d forgot

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Day 186 – Sep 19th

Back on track, and at least I’d made it half way through before I missed a day, although I can’t believe I just totally forgot, usually just before bed I’ll remember and at least make an effort. 

The project begins to get a bit more difficult from here onwards as we head into Autumn and the days get shorter and shorter giving me less daylight to shoot in after work. Sure there are other options, using the flash at home, long exposure shots at night, or taking the camera to work and shooting during the day, although the latter is brings its own challenges as I don’t get a huge dinner break to both go out and find some and also eat, plus when you’re cycling, the added weight of carrying a big camera in your bag is something you really don’t need. I tend to carry quite a bit in my rucksack at times and each little thing adds extra weight. It might not seem much as you pack each item, but it adds up and there are some days when you first pick the bag up that you begin to wonder how you’re going to cycle with that load on your back at all. There is also the fact I can’t shoot anything within my work environment as cameras and camera phones are generally not allowed in a school setting, especially in this era of heightened safeguarding. So although not impossible, photos during the day are tricky to say the least.

Autumn does bring with it some beauty though, and it is a season I love. The colours in the trees, the leaves on the ground, the way the sky seems to turn so blue. I was looking for a shot and managed to capture this pigeon as it flew overhead, contrasted against the sky. I knew that was my picture for the day.

Day 185 – The day I forgot

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Day 185 – Sep 18th

Okay, I am human, I completely and utterly forgot to pick up my camera today! Can you blame me after taking around 1000 shots yesterday??

For day 185 we’ll have to make do with a photo that is essentially a day late. The wife doesn’t think it should count and said I should have no photo for that day, like there are some unwritten rules somewhere. I disagree, this is my project and therefore I make the rules, so if a photo a day late is to be included then I am happy with that. This one is a bit of an abstract shot, so as to not represent a significant event on a particular day. I still like it!

One a journal note, I hate rain! Sometimes it sucks not having a car to take to work, traffic drives me mental, but at least you don’t get soaked through to the skin like you do on two wheels!! Grr!

Come on Autumn, don’t you let us down now… summer was an absolute wash out, and we need a bit of sunshine to cheer us up!

Day 163 – Summer isn’t over yet

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Day 163 – Aug 27th

Its a beautiful Sunday morning outside, and I’ve made the executive decision that we’re getting out early and doing something. The initial suggestion was swimming, a firm favourite with the girls, especially Olivia. I am keen to get Chloe in the water more as she has only been in a couple of times so far, and Clare was happy to join us, which meant taking both the girls was a lot easier… until we realised we were out of swimming nappies! These little things are essentially when taking little ones swimming. They’re not going to stop a toddler peeing in the pool, but the reality is that its half a cup full in several thousand gallons of water that is already pumped full of chemicals to remove any traces of body fluids anyway. No, the nappies are only to stop the number two’s, those bad boys can only be contained by a nappy that won’t disintegrate in the water, and so the swim nappy is as essential and swimming costumes!

Being a Sunday meant that the supermarkets did not open until 10am, but we needed to be at the swimming pool for 10am for the first session or we wouldn’t get in on time, and consequently wouldn’t get out on time for us to get home so I could see the one thing on TV that I had been waiting weeks for, the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix!

Thinking about it a little, I figured that swimming was an indoor thing anyway, and something we could do in any weather, so stressing about nappies, and times was pointless, lets get outside and enjoy the sunshine, after all, we’ve waited weeks for it, and we’re not even sure how long its here for!

So the decision was made, Clent Hills it was. Its only 10 minutes away, its a lovely walk, and we can be out there for as little or as long as we want. The girls can stretch their legs, explore nature, burn off a little energy, feel the sun on their skin and the wind in their hair, which is something I have always been keen to make sure we do with them, from even before they were born. This generation of techno-addicts who are either glued to a xbox/playstation console or a mobile phone seem to have lost touch with nature, and I always wanted my girls to enjoy the world around them, ask questions about the changing colours of the leaves, taste the blackberries on the brambles, listen to the sounds of the birds, climb the trees, and just be kids. There is a time and a place for technology, and I am fine with them using it, but as the age old saying goes… everything in moderation!

Once we got home we treated the girls to a splash in the paddling pool to cool off a bit, as it was still sunny and warm and they both love any excuse to play in water and splash about, not surprisingly they were straight in there in no time at all. We threw the gazebo up over them for a bit of shade, and although it was a little late in the day for a gazebo to be going up, the following day was also supposed to be sunny again and even warmer, so it was worth putting up for two days.

What do you like to do when the weather is nice?

Day 152 – We’ll get there eventually

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Day 152 – Aug 16th

Getting ready and trying to get out of the house on time is something every parent of small children dreams of doing. It seems like an elusive dream, a holy grail of parenting, the one false promise you make to all your friends and end up apologising for on a fairly routine basis.

I had arranged to meet an old work colleague who left for a new school around christmas, that I haven’t been able to catch up with since. We decided to head down to Cannon Hill park, as its central for most people to meet up, there is a lot of space to walk around, the lake, two play areas for the children, the crazy golf and a funfair, plus the gardens and a tea room. Its a great spot, but on really warm days we tend to avoid it purely on the basis of how busy it can get. When the sun comes out its near impossible to find a parking space!

Like almost every other day, we were late getting out of the house, and so I was quite grateful that a) we got a parking space quite quickly, and b) my friend, thanks to his little boy, was even later than me. As most of our friends seem to have kids these days, you kind of expect things like this to happen, and you’re just glad that its not you that is the last one to arrive!

The kids had a fun time, and it was nice to catch up with my friend, he’s a really nice guy and I was quite disappointed to find out he was leaving and moving on. We’d played catch with some balls, tried to fly Olivia’s kite, although it wasn’t quite windy enough to keep it up, enjoyed ice creams and spent a bit of time avoiding the large groups of geese that could look a little intimidating to a small person.

Its a lovely park, and I’m looking forward to going back again soon.

Day 144 – Gotcha!

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Day 144 – Aug 8th

There were three things on my to-do list today, and at least with Olivia in nursery I had the opportunity to tick them off. First on my list was getting down to Streetbike, my local motorbike shop, to arrange booking in my motorbike lessons so that I can get my full motorbike license and remove the L plates from my bike, and hopefully in the not too distant future, upgrade my wheels to something a little more powerful.

Second on the list was to collect the bicycle we had ordered and reserved for Olivia’s 4th birthday. It was still boxed, and so easily hidden until her birthday rolls around in a few weeks.

Last on my list was to head back down to the gym and take advantage of the steam room again. I am quite enjoying spending half an hour in there every few days, as I don’t normally have time after a cardio session in the evenings. I finished up and showered just in time to pick Olivia up from nursery on the way home. Usually she grumbles if we have to go home in the car, its nice to know that she enjoys walking home so much! Although it seems that today she was tired enough not to care too much!

Todays photo was a chance shot of our local neighbourhood fox, who always appears from the same place most afternoons/evenings, wandering from one garden across the road into another garden, and doesn’t even care if its dark out, or the middle of the afternoon. Today I saw him out with another fox for the first time and knew that if I wanted a photo, that now was my chance. I wouldn’t have time to change lenses, and had to hope whatever lens was on my camera would get me close enough. Thankfully the lens was suitable, but by the time I was ready to take the shot the second fox had already ran off. I do wonder where they sleep, and what it is they’re finding to eat each night, as food must be slim pickings around here! I’d love to stick a GoPro on one, one evening and find out what they get up to.

Time to relax with a well earned beer, even if it is only a Tuesday night!

Day 142 – If only Sunday was a day of rest

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Day 142 – Aug 6th

So much for resting on the Sabbath, the wife was off out this morning to meet her friends for breakfast, leaving me to sort the girls out. So consequently I am taking no responsibility for any mismatched clothes the girls may end up wearing today though, I apparently always seem to make poor choices where this is concerned!

Me and the girls decided to take some lunch outside onto the new garden furniture, which made a nice change as its not something we’ve really done before, and todays pleasant weather allowed us a chance to do that. Poor little Chloe was just too tired to eat anything with us though, so she was soon up to bed for a nap, leaving me and Olivia free to play a few games and do some reading that is a bit more difficult to do with her energetic little sister around, leaving a trail of destruction behind her.

Once Clare was home, I was free to jump on my motorbike and head out to briefly catch up with a friend who had moved out to Australia a few years ago and was back for a short while to catch up. It was very last minute, and the original plan had been to take the girls over to see my mother, so I left Clare to put them in the car while I was out and meet me at my moms house. Having the motorbike certainly has been a huge benefit. For me, all the benefits of being able to get about without having to deprive the wife of a car while she has the girls.

The best thing about tonight is the fact that its Sunday night and there is no Sunday night feeling. No work for me in the morning!!

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