Climbing

The Ballroom Climbing Wall opened in the centre of Coventry last month and I had been following the build up to the opening on their Facebook page. Although I have never climbed before, I wanted to give it a go, as it is such a good facility to have in Coventry. I also thought it would be good cross training for mountain biking – I’ve noticed that some top pros, like Rachel Atherton and Aaron Gwin include climbing in their training.

I went for one of their group introduction sessions, as I am a total beginner. I was with in a group two young kids and half expected them to pick it up really quickly and embarrass me, fortunately being a bit taller and having decent upper body strength helped. Our instructor Frances did well in balancing the different needs of the group, explaining the flow of the routes and how to visualise them before climbing. This was important as I moved up from the very basic routes (only to the next level, 1 on a 0 to 9 scale with 9 being the hardest). I wasn’t expecting the thinking element, I thought climbing would be all about strength and flexibility. I also underestimated just how much of a work out it would be! My arms were really starting to ache after an hour, I could have stayed for longer, but was conscious that I needed to leave something in the tank to cycle home.

The type of climbing is called bouldering, it is a simple form of climbing as there are no ropes! The top of the wall is only 4.5m high and the floor is a big crash mat, so falling isn’t a problem. Falling properly was one of the first things we were taught, as well as not to stand behind/under people climbing, as they could fall at any moment. Not all of the routes went up either, there are a couple of horizontal routes, which took me a bit for thinking to fathom out. Each route probably only took me a few minutes, but my body felt like it was much longer, it is a pretty intense workout!

I’ll certainly be going back to The Ballroom, as I think climbing will be a good addition to my training, which is currently mostly cycling, with the occasional swim. As The Ballroom is open until 22:00 during the week, and indoors, it will be particularly good in the winter, when it is too dark and muddy to get out on the mountain bike. It also seems to be a social sport, so I will be trying to get some of my friends to join me there.

Parental Leave: Week 8

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It was back to normal after our week in Croyde, with Jen at work (starting in a new team) and me hanging out with Owen at home. We had a quiet morning, and Owen drank all his milk and ate all his porridge, which rarely happens. When he went for his nap, I logged on to my work PC to see if I had missed anything while we were down in Devon – I hadn’t. I haven’t really been thinking about work while I’ve been off, but I don’t want to be too out of the loop when I get back. My Mum and Dad arrived in time for lunch. They hadn’t seen Owen for two weeks and they could tell that he’d grown and put on weight, he’s also learned to wave and clap since they last saw him. I don’t really notice these gradual changes, as I see Owen everyday, but how quickly he is growing hits home when other people see him. I managed to get some jobs done around the house whilst Owen was being looked after by his grandma and grandpa – things get done much quicker when I’m not wrangling Owen at the same time as trying to do something. I dropped my MR2 off for a service at Rogue Motorsport, getting a lift back (with ice cream stop) from Dad. Whilst we were out, Mum took Owen for a walk, also with an ice cream stop. With Owen being kept occupied I was free to fire up the BBQ for dinner, something I haven’t done as much as I was expecting to during my parental leave. In the evening Jen and I made a start on a photo album we are doing of Owen’s first year – he looked tiny and so fragile in the first photos, now he is so strong and climbs all over us.

Owen woke up early on Tuesday morning, so I took him downstairs so we could catch up on the WRC highlights whilst he had his milk. After almost finishing his bottle he wasn’t too interested in the rally cars, as he had discovered a box of edible hay, which had been a nest for Easter eggs. As it was edible I thought I’d let Owen play with it, as all too often he tries to eat things he shouldn’t, then gets upset when they are taken away. This was a bad judgement call on my part, by the time Jen came downstairs the lounge was covered in edible hay – I’m still not sure how a small boy, with a small box of hay could make such a mess. Owen seemed happy with his morning’s work though, so I guess that’s the important thing. We then had an unscheduled pre-breakfast trip out to drop Jen off at the station for a work trip to London. When we got home, Owen ate pretty much all of his breakfast – Weetabix with banana and strawberry, making me think that he may be having a growth spurt soon. Either the excitement, or the early start meant that Owen had a long morning nap, allowing me to get some jobs done, including converting his buggy from winter mode to summer mode (swapping the foot muff for a sun shade). When he eventually woke up, Owen had a bath, then half his lunch. In the afternoon we went to Asda to stock up on nappies and beer. As the sun was out, it would have been an ideal errand to run in the MR2, but as it was still with the garage we had to make do with the BMW. At dinner time Owen was just eating everything I offered him, toast, a whole avocado, a yoghurt and lots of strawberries. He then tried to eat some of our dinner too.

Wednesday started off with a trip to Owen’s nursery, for Owen to meet and play with the staff and us to do some paperwork. When we sat Owen down in the nursery he seemed happy enough, although apparently he did have a little cry when he realised that we’d gone and again when he got moved from the main nursery to the food room. We’d chosen a time for our visit that suited Jen’s work schedule, but on reflection it may not have been the best idea timing our visit over Owen’s breakfast and nap times. We came away with a list of things we need to get for Owen’s nursery bag by the time he goes for his two settling in sessions next week – then the week after it will be his first full day! Being out over breakfast and nap time threw the rest of our day out, so we had a quiet few hours at home before Owen’s nanny came round to look after him for a few hours whilst I did some more veranda painting. Owen had a trip out to the supermarket and DIY shop, then a ride back on the bus. Later in the afternoon I needed some more DIY supplies, so took Owen with me, unfortunately he fell asleep in the car. As I didn’t want to wake him up, I went for a drive through McDonalds to get an ice cream, which was well needed after a long afternoon toiling in the sweltering heat! Owen must have been in a deep sleep, as he didn’t detect that there was ice cream to steal! As Jen was out for the evening with her colleagues I put Owen to bed – he must have been a sleepy boy, as he was in a deep sleep within minutes of his head hitting the pillow.

On Thursday, once again, Owen fell asleep just before we were about to leave for his swimming lesson. I don’t know why he only seems to have a nap at that time on Thursdays, but it is frustrating. After a short cry, due to being woken up, he enjoyed swimming. We tried a few new things, including Owen resting on my chest, whilst I swam backwards. Jen had the afternoon off work and took Owen to buggy workout, while I collected my auntie from the airport. She hadn’t seen Owen since September, so he was a lot bigger this time and much more active. He liked having someone new to make a fuss of him, especially as she’d bought him some lovely presents. After I’d collected the MR2 from the garage, thankfully with only a small bill, we sat outside for a BBQ, then after Owen was in bed I got out on my bike – pretty much a perfect evening in my book.

The builders made a start on the landscaping part of the garden project on Friday morning. This was exciting for Owen, especially when they were ripping up the old patio, he sat quietly in his highchair watching them. I had to take him out for a walk so that he would have a nap, as there was too much excitement at home. Owen was helping me unload the dishwasher, handing me the cutlery etc, but then got himself into trouble by unloading cupboards and smashing one of Jen’s Royal Doulton bowls. We met Jen at KFC for lunch and then went food shopping. Owen was the star attraction, everywhere we turned in the shop there was someone fussing over Owen. I’m not sure he was too impressed with the attention as he was acting all shy. As it was such a warm day I had an ice cream Mars Bar to cool down, I offered some to Owen and, as you can tell from the photo at the top of this post, he loved it – taking after his grandpa. After Owen’s dinner we all went out for a walk to the park, as it was such a lovely evening. By the end of the day I had done over 16,000 steps.

We spent Saturday at my Mum and Dad’s house. My brother and sister in law were up from London and my auntie was down from Scotland, so the whole family was there. This was exciting for Owen as he was the centre of attention,with lots of people to fuss over him. We had a BBQ, but the weather wasn’t as warm as earlier in the week, so we ate indoors. Owen was particularly well behaved at the table, and seemed to enjoy being sat at the table with everyone else. Once the garden project is finished we will get our dining room back (it’s storing the garden chairs and DIY equipment at the moment) and make more of an effort to all eat together as a family.

Sunday was a quieter day, Owen missed his chance for a trip in to town with Jen by having a particularly long nap. I got out on my bike to ride to Warwick and back for a Flying Cows burger. When I got back I gave Owen a bath then a nap. Partho cycled over from Birmingham to see us, arriving when Owen was still asleep. When he woke up, Owen didn’t seem too sure about Partho, I’m not sure if he was grumpy because he was still sleepy, had forgotten who Partho was or simply didn’t like Partho’s lycra cycling gear, but he was a bit out of sorts. He soon warmed to Partho again, it was funny seeing Owen climbing up Partho, as it made me think back to last summer, when Owen would snuggle up on Partho’s shoulder and stay there for hours.

 

Owen seems to have come on a lot in the last few weeks. His temper seems to have calmed down – he went through a phase of having a melt down whenever he didn’t get his way. Mostly because he is trying to eat something he shouldn’t be and we take it away from him, but also if he can’t do something he is attempting, such as reaching an object which is a little bit too far away. Since he got the hang of clapping last week, he has been clapping at every opportunity and can clap on command, he looks so pleased with himself when he does it. He has now almost completely ditched his seal-like crawling and crawls everywhere in the traditional style.

Since we got Owen back from hospital I’ve had rough, dry skin on my knees from kneeling down to change Owen’s nappy, or playing with him on the floor. I have discovered that this ailment has the everso macho name of “Mummy knee”!

 

Garden project – painted veranda

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If you have been reading my recent parental leave posts, you will know that I have spent a lot of time painting the veranda. I’m glad to say that the frame is finished. Jen is sorting out the detail parts, although I think it looks good as it is. The concrete bases for the veranda also need a lick of paint, but I plan to do that when they are removed from the old patio, but before they are put back on the new patio. I spent a very hot afternoon in the sun with wire brushes and scrapers getting as much of the old paint off as possible, it was hard work, but given how flakey the current paint is, I was the new paint to have the best chance of sticking as possible.

Things will be moving at a much faster pace now, as the guys are starting on the landscaping tomorrow morning. They had allocated 5 days, but forgot that next Monday is a bank holiday, so are starting this week. Hopefully it will all be finished in time for Owen’s birthday party on the third of June!

 

Parental Leave: Week 6

Fmily Holiday SelfieOur week started with a bit of a panic, Jen left for work and the power steering failed on her car. Fortunately I had decided to drive the MR2 this week and had already moved the car seat over, so she was able to take the BMW. As my friend Richard pointed out on Facebook – there always seems to be something wrong with one of our cars! It must have just been dodgy Italian electrics, as the car was fine when I tested it later in the day. Owen and I enjoyed being back out in the MR2, he had been really sleepy during his breakfast, so I bundled him straight into the MR2 to drive to my Mum and Dad’s house. Being in the MR2 perked him up and I had lots of smiles and giggles from the passenger seat, until he eventually drifted off to sleep. We had a lovely time with my Mum and Dad, Owen seems to have learned some new skills too – waving and drinking from his cup without any help!

On Tuesday Owen had some more firsts – I needed to do some more DIY, so Jen’s Mum came to look after Owen. They went for a walk to the park, where Owen enjoyed the playground, incuding trying the slide for the first time, then they came home on the bus – Owen’s first bus trip! When he got back Owen seemed content watching me paint – finding it funny when I was up the ladder waving down at him.

This is sounding a lot like my parental leave is just handing Owen over to grandparents to be looked after, whilst I crack on with something else – which isn’t the case. I guess the routine stuff, like battling with him eat his breakfast, changing nappies and playing peekaboo just seem normal to me now, so tend not to mention them. It isn’t all bad, as Owen does love hanging out with both his Grandma and Nanny. He always has huge smiles for them when they walk in the door and I’m sure he’s on his best behaviour when they are in charge!

Wednesday was a Daddy and Owen day, we mostly hung out at home, our only trip out was to the supermarket, taking the long way home, as it was a nice day and we were in the MR2. I still find it funny how small the MR2 looks, parked next to all the SUVs and people carriers in the parent and child spaces. On Thursday we were out in the MR2 again, to go swimming – this week we even made it on time! Owen did a lot of splashing when we got into the pool, he splashed himself, the other babies and parents, the teacher, but mostly he splashed me. After his initial excitement, he didn’t seem to enjoy the lesson as much as usual. I think that he was tired, as he didn’t have a pre-swim nap – probably why we made it to the lesson on time. He went straight to sleep when we got home, allowing me to get some jobs done, then have an uninterupted lunch with Jen! In the afternoon Jen took Owen to buggy workout, leaving me free to get out on my bike. With all the veranda painting it felt like I hadn’t had a proper ride in ages, so it was good to be out again, even if I had to do some more painting when I got home.

Whilst I was painting Jen took a phonecall that would slightly change our plans for the rest of the week – our holiday rental in Croyde would be ready for us on the Friday, rather than the Saturday. Naturally we jumped at the opportunity to have an extra night in our favourite place. Friday morning was spent packing, whilst waiting for the health visitor to come for Owen’s twelve month development check – of course Owen fell asleep just before she arrived and had to be woken up to be measure and weighed. He apears to be doing fine though, he is above the 75th centile for weight and 90th centile for length, when corrected for being born 6 weeks early. We had a few final errands to run before we could hit the road – Owen even cooperated and fell asleep in the car for the exact amount of time it took me to remove the bike carriers.

We set off at 17:30, half an hour later than planned, mostly due to Owen being fussy about eating his dinner. Jen drove the first stint through the Friday rush hour traffic on the M42 to Glocester services, where we stopped for dinner/milk and a crawl round the play area. I took over for a long second stint all the way to Croyde, by this time the traffic had cleared and we made good progress. The downside to the late arrival was missing the view across Croyde Bay when driving round Down End Point, one of my favourite views anywhere in the world. We could just about tell that the tide was in, but couldn’t see much else. We found our chalet, complete with cot already set up for Owen, so all we had to do was transfer him from his car seat to the cot. It didn’t quite go to plan though, Owen woke up, and was keen to explore his new surroundings. He slept well when he drifted back off to sleep, and had a bit of a lie in.

The fun really started when he’d had his morning milk and realised that he had the full run of the chalet – heated laminate floors and no stairs must be perfect for crawling around, as Owen looked to be enjoying himself immensly. He then found the springy door stoppers, hours of noisy fun for a little boy! Due to getting to Croyde a day early, and our early morning wake up call, Jen decided to do Parkrun in Barnstaple. It was a lovely morning, so Owen and I expolored the park whilst Jen ran. The plan had been to stop off for breakfast in Braunton on the way home, but Owen fell asleep in the car on the way, so we carried on back to Croyde and went to Blue Groove instead. This was no hardship as it is one of our favourite places to eat anywhere  in the world. We spent the afternoon walking around Croyde and seeing what had changed since our last visit, then chilling at the chalet during nap time. We visited Squires fish and chip shop in Braunton, another of our favourite haunts, for dinner and Owen had his first taste of fish and chips. He didn’t quite get the concept, as he only seemed to want the chips.

Sunday started with another lie in (we now class 7:00 as a lie in), but as this was forecast to be the last sunny day of our trip we wanted to make the most of it. We started off with a walk to the National Trust tea room at Sandleigh, which after extensive testing Jen and I have declared to do the best cream tea Devon. Pete and Gill (Owen’s Nanny and Granddad) joined us for the walk, and we had a lovely morning. After Owen’s lunch we took him down to the beach – this was his first chance to play in the sand, as last time he was only a few months old! Rather than taking the pushchair to the beach we used the baby carrier, which hadn’t been used since last summer, when Owen was a lot smaller. He went on my back and seemed to enjoy the walk down to the beach. We set up a tent to shelter us all from the wind and sun. Owen was happy to stay in the tent to start with, so I took a stroll to the sea, and by the time I got back (it was long way due to it being low tide) he had ventured out and was fearlessly crawling over the sand. I built some sandcastles, but Owen was destroying them quicker than I could build them, maybe my Dad is correct in thinking that Owen wants to become a demolition engineer…

Owen seemed to enjoy the beach and did really well with not eating sand until just as we were packed up and about to leave, when he somehow ended up with a big face full of sand and cried most of the walk back – I’ve never had such a noisy rucksack! After desanding ourselves we all went for Sunday lunch at the Manor House Inn, followed by an ice cream from the little ice cream shop, introducing Owen to more of our Croyde traditions. After Owen had gone to sleep I went back out with my camera, planning to take a photo of the sunset, however it wasn’t to be, the sun dipped below the horizon, but there wasn’t even the faintest glow of orange in the sky. It was still good to get out with my camera, as I haven’t had much of a chance to do landscape photography recently.

We have got more of the same planned for next week, although the weather forecast doesn’t look as nice. Whatever we get up to it is nice to spend a decent amount of time together as a family and hopefully Owen will benefit from it.

Parental Leave: Week 5

IMG_3082Another bank holiday! The excitement for me being that Jen is at home, rather than not going to work. However, as Jen had been away on Saturday, it felt like the weekend had just been shifted back a day. The day started off with more bank holiday DIY in prepatation for the garden project kicking off. Then, in the afternoon, we went for our first family bike ride at Kingsbury Waterpark. Owen didn’t seem too bothered by being sat on the back of my bike, I can’t say he seemed to enjoy it either though. I can see that a front mounted bike seat would make it easier to interact with him whilst riding along, but as my seat was free, I can’t complain! Hopefully with more rides Owen will start to enjoy it more, as I have a few longer rides I would like to do as a family.

On Tuesday the guys arrived to start the first phase of the garden project, so my morning was split between making cups of tea for the builders and baby wrangling. My Mum and Dad arrived at lunchtime, so I was able to run some errands whilst they played with Owen. Wednesday was a day at home for Owen and I, whilst the builders made progress on the veranda. Owen managed to climb into the coffee table in search of Jen’s iPad – nothing seems to be safe in this house!

Thursday was a much busier day! Like last week, Owen decided to take a nap just before we were meant to leave for swimming. Fortunately he didn’t seem too upset when I woke him up and we were only a few minutes late. Owen really enjoyed himself at swimming, with lots of splashing and squealing. Jen was on a half day and took Owen out after lunch, which was when the plumbing disaster mentioned in the new veranda post happened. After that panic was sorted I detailed Jen’s car – my plan is to detail all three cars whilst I’m on parental leave, so I thought I’d better get a move on! I started with Jen’s car as I’d borrowed it for ten months and returned it filthy. I didn’t feel too guilty though, as Jen returned my BMW in limp home mode and requiring an expensive trip to the garage.

On Friday Owen wasn’t keen to eat his breakfast, but made up for it by stealing some of my chips when we met Jen for lunch at McDonalds – this was after he’d eaten his own lunch! He was also on top form when we went round Sainsbury’s, chattering to staff and customers and enjoying a sample of samosa from the deli counter. After all that food and excitement Owen had a long afternoon nap, only waking up as Jen arrived home – at that point the trouble started. I think it was Owen’s way of showing he’d missed his mummy. I was able to escape out to run some errands in the MR2, which hasn’t been getting much use these last few weeks.

Saturday was a DIY day, Jen was away on a hen do, so my Mum came up to look after Owen, whilst I was perched up a ladder painting the veranda. I actually managed to get a fair bit done, despite the weather conspiring against me. Owen had a good sleep, not waking up until 7:15 on Sunday, and behaved well in the morning, which I was thankful for as Jen didn’t arrive back until early afternoon. Owen was adament that he didn’t want to go to sleep when I put him in his cot for his morning nap, but after sitting up and voicing his displeasure to me for a few minutes, he fell asleep, sitting up with his face resting on the bars of his cot. When Jen got home I got back up my ladder for more painting, at least today the weather was much nicer – I had to change into shorts, it was so warm! I’m now about halfway through the painting, so hopefully I’ll have it all done before we go to Croyde next weekend.

Garden project – new veranda

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The framework for the new veranda is up! Now we have three weeks to paint it, before the polycarbonate roof panels are fitted.

The job went mostly to plan, the only issue being that during the removal of the old veranda a piece of wood fell into the drain collector. This wasn’t a problem until I emptied Owen’s bath, which overwhelmed the drain, causing it to back up and overflow out of the boiler drain pipe. The first I heard about it was when the builder shouted up to say that there was a problem with the boiler. I came outside to a flood of water pouring out of the boiler cupboard, I was glad to realise it was the bath water, rather than an expensive sounding boiler issue. We were able to unblock the drain and it gave Jen and I the kick we needed to clear out the boiler cupboard which had become a bit of a dumping ground.

Blog spring clean

You may have noticed some slight changes to the structure of my blog recently. You aren’t going mad – I am giving the blog a bit of a spring clean, as I move it away from being a photography based blog, to being more of a general blog. Old posts should be easier to find now – especially important now that I am over two hundred posts and seem to be posting more than previously.

I have also moved server recently, so there may be a few broken links, which I will be sorting out as I come across them. The new server is part of AWS, as I had identified a gap in my web development skills when it came to managing webservers. A side effect of the server move is that it should offer better performance than the old one, especially when I have finished optimising both the server and the blog. I am taking my time over these as the main goal is to learn the skills and I want to do them properly.

Garden project – before

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Landscaping the garden was meant to be part of the garage build way back in 2014, but when we realised the scale of both jobs, we decided to hold back on the landscaping. After almost a year without much work on the house (I can’t think why) we are ready kick things off.

Those who have visited our garden will notice that things have already started – all the clutter has gone from under the veranda, this is because renovating the veranda is the first part of the job. The veranda is an important part of the house, Jen’s family have been having tea and cake on a Sunday afternoon under there for decades! So we will be keeping all of the period features, and making sure we can keep using the veranda for decades to come.

Later parts of the project include sandstone paving the path and patio and adding another patio up by the garage, which will be in the sun when the veranda is in the shade (and vice versa). Like all good DIY projects we have a deadline – Owen’s first birthday party at the start of June!