A look back at 2013

MX-5 Number Plate Changed
2013 has been another great year, at times it has been very full on trying to fit in work, holidays, house stuff and keeping some time for me, but I seemed to find a balance and have really enjoyed 2013. Aside from all the DIY skills I’ve picked up the new skill I’ve learnt is smoking on the BBQ, I’ve cooked some awesome ribs and am looking forward to trying pulled pork next summer. 2013 was also the year I got into watches, it started fairly innocently with a Casio GShock to replace my old watch which had broken, but ended up with buying an Oris Swiss automatic watch as a 30th birthday present to myself. Ooops.

Having friends round to see in 2013 meant that plans had been made to keep us busy over the next few months, the first thing we had arranged was a trip to the Autosport Show, which was a great way to fill the winter motorsport void. While I was there I had a few viewings on my flat – one of which lead to the sale, but more on that later! I also managed to break one of my wisdom teeth, which was probably the low point of my year, especially as I had to fly to Germany the next day. Fortunately after a few weeks of painkillers and soft food I was able to get the tooth removed and could get on with fun things again. Like travelling to Paris, this had been another of the new year plans I’d made with Partho, although we hadn’t planned on staying an extra day, which due to the bad weather we ended up having to do.

After Paris, the next few months were taken up with the biggest change of the year, selling my flat in Rugby and buying Jen’s granddad’s house (aka the 119 project) in Coventry (with Jen). Both the sale and purchase seemed to drag on, which gave us plenty of time to carry on with the renovations. The peak of the stress was the run up to easter weekend, when we had been told that we would be completing/moving, so we were juggling painting, fitting skirting boards, packing up my flat and dealing with carpet fitters, removal men and solicitors, only to find out the day before we were due to complete, that we wouldn’t. After the panic to get the house just about habitable, we decided that we would move anyway. It was sad leaving my flat, I’d lived there for five years and had many happy memories. We had a few weeks where we technically squatting, but eventually it all worked out. I lost a lot of money of my flat in the time I’d owned it, but it is great living in the house with Jen, we’ve now got off-street parking for both cars, can have BBQs in the garden and being able to walk to work means I’ve got more free time.

As I was walking to work my MX-5 wasn’t really getting much use, until the end of June/beginning of July, where we had back to back roadtrips planned. The first was to Scotland, for my wee brother’s graduation and a bit of exploring in the highlands, followed almost immediately with a trip to Devon, with a day trip to Cornwall thrown in too. That was almost 1,800 miles in about 10 days and the MX-5 had been faultless and fun to drive; the reality sunk in that I would only have the car for another 8 weeks – time to go car shopping!

The MK-5 was going to be a difficult car to replace, especially given my lowish budget, even though I’d said I didn’t want another MX-5, I was seriously tempted by a mk3, as my current car had been so good. They were just a little bit over budget for a good one, as were the Nissan 350z or the Lotus Elise I really wanted. While I was searching for a car, my criteria was that it would be suitable for travelling to Monaco, but I also wanted something fun, as the car would mainly be for fun drives out at the weekends. After looking at everything from Subaru Imprezas to old Mercedes SLs, I kept coming back to the mk3 MR2, despite the meagre luggage space it seemed to be the best car for what I wanted. After viewing a couple I eventually found a nice grey one locally, and for most of August I had two sports cars (the picture are the top of this post). Actually for the bank holiday weekend I had the choice of 3 sports cars, as I had a test car from work, which I took to North Wales, which was possibly my highlight of the year.

It was sad to see the MX-5 go back to the lease company, it was to be auctioned at Bruntingthorpe, so whoever bought OV11 EBO has got themselves a brilliant little car. Having said that, the MR2 is great, being mid-engined, it is snappier than the MX-5, but feels faster. One of its first trips out was to the PistonHeads Sunday Service at Silverstone, which for some reason I didn’t blog about, but included driving a few laps of the Grand Prix circuit, which was thoroughly enjoyable! Shortly after I bought my MR2, Evo magazine ran an article about which car to buy for £4k and the MR2 fared well. In the next issue they published a short write up of my 2012 trip to the Outer Hebrides in the MX-5, I was extremely proud to have my words and pictures in my favourite magazine.

In November things really cranked up a notch, I had another business trip to Germany, another business trip to Japan, including the Tokyo Motorshow, which I haven’t yet had a chance to blog about – or even look at my photos from. Then, after a day back home it was off to New York to celebrate my 30th birthday with Jen! We had an amazing time, ate lots of lovely food and saw the sights. We haven’t really stopped since, with work on the house, exciting projects at work, Christmas celebrations with colleagues, friends and my family before Christmas, then we spent Jen’s 30th and a lovely Christmas day with her family. The usual void between Christmas and New Year has been filled with decorating our front room and all of a sudden it is New Years Eve and I’m sat here writing this with an Edradour single malt (bought from the distillery earlier in the year) seeing the new year in with Jen & her best friend!

Selfie and seeing out my twenties

MX-5 Selfie

It has been announced that “selfie” is the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year, so I had a look back through my images from 2013 and chose this as my favourite selfie. I took it while Jen was driving my MX-5 on the way to Scotland and I apologise for the roof being up!

If two posts in a day is a surprise after a lean couple of months it is because I am on a coach to the airport, so have a bit of time on my hands. I’m seeing out my twenties with a couple of trips away, Japan, where I’m heading now, then New York with Jen for my actual birthday.

Although Japan is mainly a work trip, I will have some free time in Tokyo and will also be going to the Tokyo motorshow. I’ve packed my camera, so hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share when I get back. Or more likely when I get back from New York, given I’ll only be home for 36 hours between the trips.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share from the New York trip – it must be the most photographed city in the world! I’ll try to blog daily from New York as our families like reading what we’ve been up to each day and I like reading back over past trips.

Evo magazine

A quick stop by Loch Glascarnoch

I’ve been a bit rubbish at blogging the last few months, my excuses are working on the 119 project, enjoying my MR2 and that I’m really busy at work. It was on a flight for work that I was reading evo magazine on my iPad and came across the image above, of my MX-5 next to Loch Glascarnoch on the A835 and a few words about my 2012 Scottish roadtrip.

I’d submitted the article a while back and almost forgotten about it. The word count I had to meet was quite restrictive, so there’s hardly any detail, but the full details of the trip are earlier in this blog.

MR2

Toyota MR2 Roadster

 

The lease deal on my MX-5 is coming to an end, so it was time to search for a new car. Jen and I had been toying with the idea of driving down to the Historic Grand Prix of Monaco, so I had been looking for something suitable for a two week roadtrip around Europe. However, nothing with storage space and in budget caught my eye, but I kept getting drawn to the little Toyotas with no boot!

After looking at a few with Jen and confirming that the storage space (behind the seats) would be enough for a weekend away, I saw this one, which had fewer miles and was in much better condition than the others – so I bought it!

As I still have my MX-5 for a few more weeks, the MR2 is going into storage – but I got it insured for the day to drive it home and it would have been rude not to take it for a run out!

The first trip was to Tesco – I can confirm that it can fit a large weekly shop in the storage bins. Then we went for a picnic at Broadway Tower near Evesham. Broadway Tower is an old tower and country park, on the A44 between Evesham and Moreton in Marsh. Aside from the great views, free parking and cafe the other attraction to Broadway Tower is that the road to get to it, known as Fish Hill has some great alpine style hairpins, so was a good place to test out the new car – don’t worry, my standard Melton Mowbray and Uppingham test will happen when I get it out of storage! The return journey, through the Cotswolds, was a good comparison with the MX-5, as I’d driven that route last month on the way back from Croyde. The MR2 isn’t as refined as my mk3.5 MX-5 (more refined than my old mk1 MX-5 though), but being lighter, mid engined and more powerful, the handling is better than either and I can carry more speed through corners. I’m going to have to take it on a track day to see what it can really do! That will have to wait until it is back out of storage and in the mean time I’m going to make the most of my remaining time with the MX-5!

The 119 Project

It has been a while since my last blog post, mainly because I haven’t been doing much photography, my weekends have been taken up with renovating Jen’s granddad’s house, which we are hoping to move into by Easter!

Hopefully normal service will resume soon (we have some good road trips in the planning stages), but in the meantime I’m uploading photos of our progress to a 119 Project set on Flickr.

Top five from 2012

I’d been meaning to take part in the “Your Top 5 From 2012” thread on PistonHeads.com for a while, so once I’d selected my five favourite images of last year, I though they would make a good blog post too.
Cement Works
Rugby cement works – A shot I’ve had planned for quite a few years, as I can see it out of my kitchen window.
Hoffmann's Woodpecker
Hoffmann’s Woodpecker – This guy woke up up while I was having a post surf nap at the Funky Monkey Lodge in Costa Rica.
BMW Z4
Ali’s Z4 – Taken on the A39 near Porlock on Exmoor during our trip to Devon.
Cloud forest abstract
Cloud Forest Abstract – Another one from our trip to Costa Rica, this was taking in the Selvatura Cloud Forest.
500
Fiat 500 – This was only meant to be a test shot, while Jen was shopping, but I really liked the effect with plain car and bright building.

2013

Old BoatFirst of all – Happy new year! So far 2013 has been pretty good, a lazy breakfast of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup with my friends who had joined us to see out 2012 at my flat, then a roof down drive in the MX-5 to blast away the cobwebs and a walk along the Grand Union Canal at Braunston to make sure they were really gone!

As usual I had my camera with me and saw this barge which was looking a bit sorry for itself, almost as if it had over done it seeing out 2012. Although from geotagging the image in Lightroom, it looks like the boat has been there a while, as it is on the Google Maps satellite view!

2013 is already shaping up to be a busy year, with a house to renovate (and a flat to sell), an new exciting project at work, car shopping (for my best friend, my Dad and the replacement for my MX-5), hopefully some travelling and not to mention my 30th birthday!

I’m hoping to update this blog more than I have been recently, as one of my new years resolutions is do do more photography, including time lapses with the GoPro I got for Christmas.

A look back at 2012

What a year 2012 has been, not only due to the jubilee and London Olympics, but personally I’ve had a great year of holidays, road trips and working on interesting projects, both at home and at work.

The highlight of the year was in February when Jen and I spent two weeks in Costa Rica, I really upped my game surfing (I’m sure warm water and perfect waves helped a lot), we did all the touristy things, saw loads of wildlife ranging from spiders to whales and ate some amazing food!

After a few weekends away in Norfolk and the North West our next holiday was down to Croyde in Devon with some friends, we rented pretty much my dream house and although it rained a lot and the surf was non existent, we had a great week and I can’t wait to go back in 2013. For me the highlight was a road trip to Minehead on the A39 over Exmoor, where I managed to take one of my favourite shots of the year, which I still need to print for Ali! The week ended with meeting Jen’s friend from uni who was back in the UK, from Australia, for a few days, then meeting up with my best friend who had just moved back from Cyprus. From the start of our search in April, we still haven’t managed to find him a new car, certainly a priority for 2013!

Also around the time we went to Croyde was the start of the biggest personal project I’ve been involved in – the 119 project! Jen and I are buying, renovating then moving into her granddad’s house in Coventry. We’re planning on turning this mid terraced house last decorated in the 1970s into our home, we’ve done a lot in 2012, but still haven’t been able to move in, mainly due to my flat in Rugby not selling (if anyone wants to buy a nice 2 bedroom flat in Rugby get in touch with David at Brown and Cockerill). Before our next trip I also managed to fit in visits to the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power with my Dad and the Rally of the Midlands, which was great for photography, after a few years away from motorsports. I also had a business trip to Japan, after an urgent issue cropped up on a project I thought I’d put to bed a few years ago!

The next big trip I went on with Jen was one I had been planning for quite a while – a road trip to the Isle of Lewis, the MX-5 performed brilliantly, we both had a great week and ate way too much nice food! This is where my blogging for the year tailed off, as the rest of the year involved a lot of work on the house/flat with only a couple of Pistonheads Sunday Services at Aston Martin (where I didn’t take any pictures) and the Ferrari Race Day at Silverstone (where I reacquainted myself with photography at Silverstone) and a trip to York (to celebrate the ten year anniversary of Jen starting university there) to break up the DIY, hence the lack of blogging!

The year finished up with a trip to my parents place in Perth for Christmas and as Santa seemed to think I’d been a good boy this year he brought me a GoPro camera, so stand by for my movie debut on the blog next year!

Happy new year!

 

Lewis

2012

Jen at ryton Pools Country Park, Warwickshire, 1st January 2012 (Lewis Craik)

This is my girlfriend Jen, she’s the subject of my new year blog because we have got lots of exciting plans together for 2012 (and she has just made me a gorgeous dinner!).

The most exciting of our plans are trips to Costa Rica and the Outer Hebrides, which should both provide some great photo opportunities. Our 2012 got off to a slightly less adventurous start with an afternoon stroll around a local country park to break in new boots for our trips further afield and of course to take a few pictures!

Merry Christmas – Here’s one I made earlier

Trees on the snow covered North Inch Park in Perth, Scotland (Lewis Craik)

Merry Christmas! I’m up in Perth with my family for a few days, but it doesn’t look as festive as this image from Christmas Day a couple of years ago! I went out for a walk with the camera, but the conditions were grey and windy, not ideal for photography, so I spent the afternoon stuffing myself with food and geeking out with new gadgets!