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!

 

Parental Leave: Week 4

Owen and LewisThe week started off quietly with a visit from my Mum and Dad. We all went in to the city centre to IKEA and the market – to get Lorne sausage. With my parents looking after Owen, I was able to get some jobs done, including a sub-15 minute bottom bracket service on my bike. Followed by an amazing dinner – Lorne sausage with sweet potato macaroni cheese, one of my favourites! We had another vistor on Tuesday, my old school friend Stevo. We went to Hickory’s Smokehouse for a meaty lunch and a good catch up.

After eating well the previous few days, I needed to get out on my bike on Wednesday. So, I put the bike on top of the BMW and drove to my parents’ house in the Cotswolds. After a tasty lunch of cheese scones, I went for a 36Km bike ride to the east of Chipping Norton. It was hard going, with probably 30 of the 36Km being off road, but the scenery was much nicer than cycling around Coventry! Owen enjoyed his time with grandma and grandpa, so we both returned home tired and happy.

After a two week break, Thursday swimming was back. This is usually Owen’s favourite part of the week, but he seemed to be doing everything he could to delay us getting out the house – refusing to eat his breakfast, crying, standing up in his cot then eventually falling asleep, just as he needed to get changed to get to the pool. In the end I had to wake him up and take him out in his pyjamas and got him changed for swimming at the pool. We were late for the lesson, but as soon as he was in the pool Owen was back to his happy self! After our eventful morning, I gave Owen an early lunch, which he wolfed down, because I was off to work in the afternoon for a handover meeting, as one of my colleagues is leaving. It was strange being back in the office – in some ways it felt like I’d never been away, other than the complete lack of knowledge of what had been happening. It was also a lot easier than wrangling a wriggly Owen, but I did miss him. He also seemed to have missed me, as he was all smiles when I got back home.

After a busy week, Friday was a quieter day and we had a walk down to the butchers in the morning. Later, Owen woke up screaming from his afternoon nap. I was about to start cleaning the bathroom, so was glad to have an excuse to avoid it. I gave Owen a cuddle, which cheered him up, and we spent the next hour snuggled up. Six months ago this would have been normal, but it is rare these days, as Owen would much rather be crawling round the house looking for things to climb or eat, or trying to pull my ears off/gouge my eyes out if I’m holding him.

Jen was in London on Saturday, so Owen and I had another quiet day, with a trip out to Leamington to meet my parents. Sunday started off well, with another trip to Hickory’s, for breakfast. I left early and cycled to meet Jen and Owen there, so I felt like I’d earned my breakfast. In the afternoon we did some work in the garden, in preparation for the next phase of the 119 Project, then went to Jen’s Mum and Dad’s for afternoon tea and cake.

I’m now half way through my eight weeks at home and it now feels like it is going very quickly. Going back to work, even for half a day, made me realise just how busy the days are with Owen. Very rewarding though.

Parental Leave: Week 3

Playing in the garden

Week 3 started with a bank holiday, so it was pretty much a repeat of the previous few days, with Jen at home to help with DIY and Owen wrangling. I did manage to get out on my bike though. Tuesday and Wednesday were very similar, jobs at home with a few trips out in the MR2. Once again Owen fell asleep in the MR2, so I parked up in the parent and child spaces at Asda waiting for him to wake up and had a proud moment when the little boy in the car next to us loudly exclaimed that my MR2 was “a cool car”!

Owen seemed to be in a foul mood on Thursday, which was strange, as he’d had a really good nights sleep! He seemed intent on destroying anything he could get his hands on, or crying when being prevented from destruction. He also took offence at having his nappy changed or having clothes put on. I guess it was just one of those days.

Friday was much better, Owen slept through again, but woke up happier. He had learned a new skill overnight – he can now climb! He used the bed to pull himself from his belly to standing up and now seems to be climbing anything he can reach, nothing is safe now. We met up with Jen for lunch then spent the afternoon setting up the roof bars I’d ordered for the BMW, so we can go out on some family bike rides.

Saturday started with a trip to the park to cheer Jen on at Parkrun, although Owen fell asleep and missed the action. We then tried to cram in as much DIY as possible before our friends arrived for the afternoon. When our guests arrived we spent a lovely afternoon in the garden, with Owen the centre of attention, chattering away and looking cute.

After spending most of the week looking after Owen, Sunday was my day off. I started with a bike ride, then a cross country blast in the MR2 to meet some old uni mates for a burger. It was a good day, but I was still happy to get home and have a play with Owen.

Pistonheads Sunday Service at Silverstone: Damp on track

Being at Silverstone for the WEC race reminded me that I hadn’t blogged about the Pistonheads Sunday Service I’d attended at the circuit last month. It was similar to the event I attended last year, except it was wet. Very wet. I was leading the convoy of cars down from the Midlands forum and had to slow right down on the M40 due to standing water.

The weather wasn’t much better at Silverstone, with the first track session being cancelled. By my session the rain had stopped and the track was mostly dry, except for a river across the track where the access road to the international paddock cuts across the National Circuit, between Becketts and the Wellington Straight. Copse corner was also extremely slippery, it felt like the MR2 was understeering, but was ready to snap into oversteer at any moment. It took some delicate balancing on the throttle to keep on the track. I found it a lot trickier than the wetter trackday I did at Donington Park last year. The wet weather seemed to have put people off attending, so I managed to get some relatively clear laps, including the one in the clip above, and coping with different track conditions is all part of the fun!

When the MR2 had its MOT test recently the tester pointed out that it really should have a suspension overhaul before I do any more trackdays. Following on from the big bill on the BMW and my plans to buy a new bike, that may have to wait until next winter, so this short session at Silverstone may be my only track action this year.

Parental Leave: Week 2

Roof down selfie

My second week of parental leave was better than the first, we seemed to have more of a routine and kept ourselves busy. Jen only being at work for four days helped too!

The week started off with another hospital visit, this time to UHCW, where Owen was born. The timing of Owen’s appointment worked well, as we were able to attend the Neonatal unit’s coffee morning. We also had time to pop up to the Neonatal unit to hand in some tiny hats that my Mum had knitted for them, and to see their photowall, which features this photo of Owen, holding a photo of himself when he was on the unit. At his appointment, Owen charmed the doctors, except when they needed to get equipment near to his face, in which case he kept trying to play with it.

On Tuesday my Mum and Dad came to visit, which meant I got to sneak out on my bike – the weather was pefect and I had an awesome ride! I also got to take the MR2 for a drive, unfortunately it was to collect my BMW from the garage, with a large bill to pay. Jen’s Mum came to visit on Wednesday afternoon, which meant I could get some jobs done whilst she looked after Owen. There was no swimming on Thursday, due to the school holidays, so Owen and I had a lazy morning, before meeting Jen for a McLunchdate. As it was only a short trip I decided to try Owen in the MR2 with the roof down, as you can see from the photo above – he loved it!

Friday was the start of the bank holiday, so DIY time. We got our jobs done fairly early on in the day, so I managed to escape for a short bike ride. Jen’s mum came over in the evening to look after Owen, so Jen & I could go out for dinner. As it was just the two of us we took the MR2 – it has been quite a while since we’ve been out in the MR2 together! Saturday was more DIY, along with a lunch trip out to see Jen’s friend Jo.

On Sunday Jen looked after Owen, whilst I met my Dad at Silverstone to watch the first round of the World Endurance Championship. The LMP1 cars looked so fast and the race stayed exciting right up to the end, with the lead Porsche being caught, and overtaken by the #8 Toyota with only a handful of laps remaining.

Next week is going to start with more work on the 119 Project, but after that I haven’t got anything planned when Jen is back to work, but I’m sure Owen will find plenty to keep me busy!

Parental Leave: Week 1

My first day of parental leave started on an ominous note – Owen refused to eat his breakfast, preferring to blow raspberries at me. Normally we could just wait for him to be hungry, but we had an appointment at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, to look at the hemangiomas on his eyelid, so had to get a move on!

Jen joined us for the trip in to Birmingham; we had hoped to take Owen on his first train journey, but couldn’t get parked at the station, so drove into central Birmingham, which worked out to be quicker anyway. He will get to go on a steam train with his granddad soon enough and that will be more special as a first train journey than the London Midland train to Birmingham!

We had a bit of a wait at the hospital, but came away with some Timolol gel (usually used to treat glaucoma) to rub on Owen’s eyelid, which should speed up the healing process for the hemangiomas. We made it into the city centre in time to meet my friend Partho for a burrito – Owen seemed happy to see him, but not as pleased as he was to see a big bowl of guacamole!

As Jen was off work, I took advantage of having someone to look after Owen and took the MR2 for an MOT, which it passed!

Tuesday was our first day flying solo! We just had a quiet morning at home, Owen had a bath, then a nap, which left me time to get on with some jobs. In the afternoon we went to buy Owen a bike helmet, then watched Top Gear, whilst Owen practiced his new skill – going from lying on his belly to sitting up. I could get used to this!

Wednesday started with some complicated logistics to drop my BMW off at a garage in Warwick. This wasn’t helped by Owen doing everything possible to delay us getting out of the house, deploying both hunger strikes & dirty protests! He was fine once my Dad picked us up in Warwick, and on his best behaviour as soon as we got to Chipping Norton and he saw his grandma!

My Dad and I spend the afternoon sorting out the lawns at their house, which Owen played inside with his grandma. Then we all met Jen for dinner at the Hatton Arms. After an afternoon raking lawns I felt like I’d earned my steak pie!

Thursday is swimming day! Swimming is probably Owen’s favourite half hour of the week, he splashes, smiles and squeals with joy when he is in the pool! It also really tires him out, so I can get a lot done during his post swim nap. After the exciting morning we just hung out at home and in the garden, followed by a trip to the supermarket, where Owen seemed to be a hit with all the female staff! In the evening we strapped Owen on to the back of my bike and rode around the block a few times. I don’t think Owen was as excited by this as I was, but I’m sure he’ll get used to it.

Friday was another day where Owen didn’t want to eat breakfast, I think he’s gone off Weetabix. A similar performance followed at lunchtime, leaving me deciding between giving in (and Owen realising that he can cause trouble and get what he wants) or let him be difficult and go hungry. This hassle meant that the day went slowly, and mid afternoon – when I’d normally be finishing work and going on a bike ride, I began to question my decision to take parental leave. Fortunately Owen cheered up, which meant I cheered up!

Saturday started off well – after Owen’s breakfast we went to a small car show at Fargo Village, Coventry’s trendy market area. It was great to walk around looking at the various cars and small shops/studios. We bumped into my friend Dan with his bright green bike engined kit car, which looked awesome. Before we left we had some cake and a milkshake from Spangles American Diner, although after seeing what the next table ordered I should have gone for one of their freakshakes – a milkshake topped with a piece of cake!

In the afternoon we set up Owen’s beach tent on the lawn so that Jen and I could crack on with some gardening, we managed to get most of our jobs done, but it was hot work and I was really suffering with hayfever. Jen went out for the evening, leaving me to wrangle Owen. I think he may also have been suffering with hayfever, as he had a really rough night, alternating between crying and coughing for a few hours, only stopping about five minutes before Jen got home, then sleeping soundly until the next morning – I’m beginning to thing he is just doing it to annoy me!

Sunday started well – I had a bit of a lie in, whilst Jen sorted Owen out. Then, when she brought him through in to our room and put him on the bed next to me he said “Daddy”! We thought he may have said it before, but weren’t sure, but this time there was no mistaking it, so I’m calling that his first word – a proud Dad moment! He did follow that up by eating all of his Weetabix without any fuss for Jen, something he’d refused to do for me all week. We spent the rest of the day at my parents’ house, with my brother and his wife – Owen was once again the star of the show. We had a lovely lunch, sat outside in the sunshine.

My first week of parental leave has absolutely whizzed by, I’ll admit it is harder work than I was expecting, but I’m sure both Owen and I will get into more of a routine over the coming weeks and things will get easier. Hopefully leaving more time for bike rides and drives out in the MR2!

Family Portrait 

Family portrait

As I mentioned in my last post, we were at Richard and Anna’s wedding this weekend. My friend Ali took this photo before the ceremony, it is my favourite from the weekend – we scrub up well, don’t we!

It was a lovely day, we were well fed and the new Mr & Mrs Long make a great couple. Owen was on his best behaviour and everyone commented on how good he looked in his outfit.

Ali seems to have a natural talent for photography, whenever I hand him a camera and ask him to take a photo of me I get back some of my favourite photos of me. This one from mountain biking in Wales is a case in point.

Parental Leave

Owen dressed as Woody

Otherwise known as Daddy Daycare! I have finished work for 9 weeks to spend some time with Owen, as my wife Jen is off back to work after her maternity leave. As I mentioned in my looking forward to 2017 post, we can do this due to some relatively new legislation – in fact I am the first person from my work to opt for this. As it is still uncommon for Dads to take parental leave, I thought I would do a series of weekly blog posts with my thoughts on the experience, what we have been up to and use it as an excuse to share more cute pictures of Owen!

Our first week is already looking busy, with a visit to Birmingham Children’s Hospital – to be combined with an exciting lunch out and possibly Owen’s first trip on a train. We’ve also got a day out to visit my parents planned and the small matter of tasks from Jen’s handover document…

Before we get to that though, we will be spending the weekend in Chester, as our friends Rich and Anna are getting married. This will be our first wedding as a family and we have got Owen a little suit to wear – hopefully he doesn’t steal too much attention from the bride!