Instagram Best Nine 2019

I enjoyed doing my Instagram Best Nine 2018 post earlier this year, so thought I would do one for 2019 too. Like last year I used the bestnine.net app to rank my Instagram posts from the year by likes.

Here are the individual posts with some more detail:

My best friend, Partho, finally bought himself a mountain bike, so we took our bikes over to Cannock Chase, to give it a shakedown. I love riding my bike, but riding it with a friend is even better!

I went to Llandegla on the May bank holiday. It is one of my favourite trail centres and worth driving for an hour past Cannock Chase! I fitted some purple parts to my Orange Four for 2019 and really like the new look.

Baby Henry was always going to be a popular post! He looks so small in these photos!

Ten days after Henry was born Owen and I were meant to go for a Little Rippers  MTB Facebook group ride at Hicks Lodge, but Owen struggled, so we came home and I went out on my bike. And fell off – on a drop off that I have ridden loads. I guess my Instagram followers liked me falling off!

We were more prepared for this Little Rippers MTB Facebook group ride at Cannock Chase – I had the Mac Ride fitted to my hardtail and Owen had new wheels, with pneumatic tyres, fitted to his Strider! Jen and Henry came along with their running buggy. I really enjoyed the day, and I’m sure Owen did too. He rode really well, trying some tricky sections of trail on his balance bike. My lasting memory from the day is when I was tucking Owen into bed that evening he told me he was going to dream about having a pedal bike.

Owen loves his #supersaturday sessions with Ready Steady Riders, and sometimes I bring my Fuji camera kit along to shoot some photos of him. This week the light was particularly good and Owen was riding well!

This was the first day when Owen used his Strider as transport, rather than just on a bike track – it was by far his longest ride at the time. I rode some of those trails yesterday and they are so muddy and flooded in places – definitely not passable for a balance bike!

I love photos of me and Owen riding together! My Mum came along to the pump track to wrangle Owen, so that I could ride too. She was surprised at how fast Owen was riding, but managed to grab these photos of us riding together.

This post ends the same way it started – with a photo of Partho on his mountain bike! This time at Sutton Park, his local trails. Being able to get out on the mountain bikes with Partho has made for my favourite rides of the year – we have already agreed to get out more together in 2020!

A look back at 2019

The main thing that happened this year was that Henry was born – going from a family of three to a family of four was a pretty significant change to our lives! Fortunately Henry has mostly been a chilled out baby, with lots of smiling and letting us deal with his big brother, as he went through the issues of being a “threenager”. However in the last few weeks, since Henry has learned to crawl/climb, his cheeky side is coming out – he is always up to something!

Our year started off quietly, getting the house ready for a baby – relocating my office into the dining room to make room for a nursery etc. Then when Henry was born I was either wrangling Henry, or Owen – my theory that two little boys actually means four times as much trouble has been proved right! My day job has also been really busy, so personal projects took a back seat, although I did start to get involved with Coventry Bloggers – the first event I did with them being the opening of MOD Pizza in Broadgate.

When I have had to opportunity I have tried to focus on improving my AWS skills and learning iOS development with Swift. I am partiularly proud of the workflow I set up to push Git updates to my AWS S3 web hosting. Away from my desk I also learned to wakeboard.

Photography wise I have continued to enjoy my Fuji kit, adding a new lens in the last few days (blog post coming soon!). More often than not I have taken the camera with me on days out, or even bike rides, meaning that I have captured more images in recent years. Two of my school friends, Partho and Rich, have also bought/upgraded their cameras and a few weeks ago we met up in the Peak District for a photography session. I messed up on the location, so we missed the best light, but we all enjoyed getting outside together.

My 2019 best nine on Instagram gives the impression of a year of bikes with my boys – including my friend Partho, who snuck into two of the shots. Like last year, I will do a separate post with more background to each of the nine photos.

Owen on the podium

Whilst Henry is the headline, Owen has also had a great year – getting a little brother was obviously a big change for him, as he was no longer the centre of our attention. He seemed to cope with it really well though – we have had some great adventures together, on the Mac Ride (which was definitely my best purchase of the year) and on his Strider. His highlight of the year was our holiday to Bluestone in Wales, including the stops at Flyup 417 Bike Park and Pedalabikeaway in the Forest of Dean. He has well and truly mastered his balance bike, even if he may not be cut out to be a racer and is now starting to get the hang of his new pedal bike.

At the start of the year I set some goals, I also did a mid year update back in June, but here are the final results:

Get my weight down to 85kg

Massive fail! – I have actually ended the year heavier than I started. I have been eating too much nice food, especially over the Christmas period.

Reinstate my mid week cardio session

Fail! – This was probably a bit optimistic with a newborn and a massive project at work. I did get out for a few mid week rides, and in the summer a few Friday rides, with Owen on the Mac Ride, but neither were a regular thing. I also managed to commute to work by bike at least once most weeks. The flip side is that I learned more programming skills than I was expecting to.

Do a strength workout at least once a week

Fail! – I probably only used my weights about ten times and my resistance bands a handful of times. I did manage to do yoga most weeks. Again, this was probably optimistic with a newborn. I suspect this could be why my dodgy knee has been giving me gyp the last few weeks.

Ride at the pumptrack at least once a month

Yes! –  This was probably the easiest goal to achieve! Especially as towards the end of the year Owen could join me. In addition to our local pump tracks we also had good sessions at Flyup 417 Bike Park’s indoor pump track (which I have dubbed “the barn of dreams”), the pump track at the Forest of Dean and Leeds Urban Bike Park, which was awesome – we met our friends from York there and had a great day! I was so busy riding and wrangling Owen that I barely took any photos – hence the lack of blog post. I did not make my stretch goal of clearing any tabletop jumps or manualling through rollers. My jumping has improved, but I still cannot hold a good manual – I had to stop practising when I was riding with Owen as he was trying to copy me on his balance bike.

Ride at a bike park

Yes! – Twice in fact! Flyup 417 Bike Park is my new favourite place to ride. I have been twice now, both times were midweek and I was lucky enough to have both the bike park and the uplift service to myself. There are only a few trails, but it is great for focusing on technique – which is something I need to do!

Clock over 100 active hours on Strava

Fail! – The final tally is 94h 17m. On reflection expecting to clock more hours than last year with a newborn was not realistic. I am actually surprised that at the halfway point of the year I was over 50 hours! Maybe I am being unfair to Henry using him as a scapegoat, when it has actually been the last month or so, when the weather has been terrible that has done the damage.

However, on the Strava based goal that really counts – I managed to comprehensively beat my best friend Partho, by logging 1,223km to his 955km in our annual Strava challenge.

New blog server

Fail! – I was over confident in this, and planning on doing it at the last minute, but I ran out of time. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it off this week.

Take control of my open tabs in Safari

Yes! – Well I am going to claim it as pass, I am down to under 100 open tabs across my three Apple devices.

Replace my ageing iMac

I am not quite going to call this a fail, as I have decided what I want – a new iMac. I am just waiting for Apple to release one! I ruled the MacBook Pro out as I can buy a well specced iMac AND a MacBook Air for the price of a well specced MacBook Pro and monitor.

Do some night photography

Yes, but only just! – I had a few shots planned, and even read up on astrophotography, but generally, by the time the boys are in bed I am too tired to think about heading out to take photos. Especially when I expect to be woken up early in the morning. I did get out to take a photograph of the Hearsall Star – a local festive season landmark.

Detail my MR2

Yes!I ticked this one off early in the year. However, it could probably do with another wash again, but is at the back of the queue behind my BMW and Jen’s Yaris.

Get my MR2 to 60,000 miles by its MOT in April

Fail! – Just like the MOT… Fortunately after a good Italian tune up the MR2 was able to pass the emissions test. It passed 60,000 towards the end of the summer. Embarrassingly I cannot actually remember the last time I drove it…

Drink more whisky

I have certainly drank more whisky than previous years, so did not fail in that regard, however I only emptied one bottle, which was then replaced at Christmas, so not sure I can claim success either. At least Jen’s gin collection is catching my whisky collection…

2019 feels like it has been a year of change, Henry being the biggest, but best change to our lives. Owen has also grown up – at the start of the year he was sleeping in a cot and wearing nappies – now he sleeps in a proper bed and takes himself to the toilet when he needs to! It was also the first year since 2008 that I did not visit Croyde in North Devon, nor did I leave the UK – I cannot remember the last time that happened!

Highlights from the last ten years

I will post my usual year in review post tomorrow, but as we are at the end of a decade, I thought I would look back at key points of what has been an amazing ten years. Of course being me, the key points are cars, cameras, bikes and holidays in addition to the big life events!

To set the scene, I started 2010 single, living in my bachelor pad in Rugby. My life pretty much revolved around cars and photography, especially car photography. At work I was in the middle of a big product launch that went on to set a sales record for our company.

2010

The most significant thing that happened in 2010 is that I went for a date with a girl called Jen – and that pretty much set the course for the rest of the decade! We had a great holiday to the Basque Country and at the end of the season I gave up motorsport photography.

2011

Jen moved into my flat in Rugby, and we had some great trips – to Barcelona and Cyprus. Sadly my old MX-5 turned to rust and I had to replace it, of course I went for a new silver MX-5!

2012

Jen and I had some great holidays – Costa Rica was definitly the holiday of a lifetime, but Croyde with our friends and a roadtrip round the Outer Hebrides were both pretty special too. We also decided to buy a house together and the 119 project started!

2013

We moved into 119 – albeit with a lot of renovation still to do! Fortunately we were still able to get away for a few city breaks – Paris in the snow in March and New York in the snow to celebrate our thirtieth birthdays. My new MX-5 went back to the lease company, and now that we were living less than a mile from my office I could not justify another new car, so bought my MR2 Roadster!

2014

2014 was a quiet year for trips – Jen and I had a long weekend in Copenhagen, I also went to Le Mans with my Dad and on our annual trip to Croyde I proposed to Jen! The big project for the year was building my garage, but the thing that made the biggest change to my life was buying a mountain bike!

2015

Jen and I got married!!! We had an awesome honeymoon cruising round California in a Dodge Challenger. After ten years of daily driving sports cars, it was time for me to buy a sensible car. I also achieved my goal of cycling 2,015km in the year.

2016

 

The first part of the year was pretty quiet, we had a trip to Croyde in the MR2. Then on the sixth of June our lives changed forever – Owen was born!

2017

2017 was a special year – I got to take two months off work for parental leave, hanging out with my little wingman! We had our first family holiday abroad – to Cyprus to celebrate my best friend getting married. I also bought my dream bike!

2018

It was Owen’s turn to get a bike! We had a great holiday to San Sebastian with our friends Nicki and Mat! We also went to France and Croyde with my family. Jen bought her Toyota Yaris – which replaced the FIAT 500 she had since before we met. And after more than ten years shooting with Canon cameras I moved to a Fuji system.

2019

We became a family of four when Henry was born! I will post a more detailed year in review post tomorrow, but the key points are that I started working with Coventry Bloggers and we had a great holiday to Bluestone in Wales.

What a decade it has been! From living on my own in Rugby, we are now a family of four, living in the house we renovated (well have almost finished renovating), in Coventry. Photography and cars are still important parts of my life, but have been joined by mountain biking and two small boys! At work, I am still working for the same company, on another big project. I do not know what the next decade will have in store, but I doubt my life will change as much as it has in the last ten years.

Wakeboarding

Wakeboarding at Pier 52

Photo © Richard Long 2019

For years my main sport was snowboarding, although I also dabbled in other board sports such as surfing, skateboarding, mountainboarding, kite boarding and kite surfing. Wakeboarding had been on my radar, but I had never had the opportunity to try it – until this year!

The first opportunity was on a rainy weekend in August with my closest friends on Ali’s stag do. I knew that Ali also wanted to try wakeboarding, so we decided to book at Sheffield Cable Wake Park, and planned a big night out in Sheffield afterwards. Unfortunately our booking was cancelled at the last minute, due to algae or something. So we ended up at Pier 52 near Cannock, which ended up being a blessing in disguise, as their two pier set up is better suited to beginners than the larger set up in Sheffield.

We had exclusive hire of the cable for an hour, between four of us, with the cable operator also acting as instructor. None of us knew what to expect, but Richard stepped up (down?) and got into the water first. The three of us on the dock were pleased to see him standing up on the board and getting to the end of the cable fairly quickly. However it did look like it was hard work!

After Rich it was my turn to lower myself into the cold reservoir, lie on my back with my arms stretched out and hold on for dear life! On my first attempt I went straight over on my face. The second attempt went better and I was up on the board, heading towards the pylon at the end of the cable. Once I was up on the board it felt like riding a snowboard on a bumpy piste, I could move the board left or right and adopted a kite boarding position, to the left of the cable. Then I realised that I did not know what to do at the end of the cable, so when the cable stopped I dropped down into the water and floundered about in the water trying to turn round, whilst my feet are attached to a board and without dropping the wooden handle – all whilst quite a way from the shore! After getting back to the pier, I was given some pointers – to stay under the cable – and dragged back out to the middle of the lake for another dunking. This all makes it sounds bad, but when I was up on the board with the spray on my face it felt great! Towards the end of my first session the instructor tried to explain what I needed to do at the end of each run to turn around, however I was too tired, from being dragged around the water, to understand it. Partho and Ali went out after me, with similar results – after our session we were all tired, but in a good way! We compared notes, and watched some other riders, and all went into our second session feeling more confident!

We switched over to the longer “Bay cable” for the second session. Rich went first again and made good progress – I think he got the best turn out of the four of us. I was up next and liked starting sat on the dock, rather than lying in the water. The water felt choppier on this side of the pier, but the longer cable felt faster and therefore better! The best bit was on the first run, when I was still dry from the dock start – it felt like I knew what I was doing, until getting another dunking at the end of the cable. I got quite close to making turns, particularly at the pier end of the cable, but as I slowed down the board sank into the water slightly too much. By the end of the session I knew exactly what I needed to do, but lacked the energy/strength in my legs to complete the turn. Ali went out and had a good session, but Partho had a stinker – with the biggest and most spectacular slam of the day, which marked the end of our session. After getting dried off and warmed up we drove up to Sheffield for the night out part of the stag do! We have all vowed to have another wakeboarding session, as it was so much fun and we all left with unfinished business – nailing those turns.

My next opportunity to get on a wakeboard came the next month when I was on holiday at Bluestone in Wales. Pembrokeshire Wake Park snared me with their clever targeted advertising on Facebook – pointing out that they were located right next to the Bluestone resort. As much as I wanted my next wakeboarding session to be with my mates, I was right next to what looked like a decent wake park, the weather was lovely and it felt like too good an opportunity to miss! After the success of the previous trip, I booked two sessions, thinking it would be a case of one to remember how to do it and one to nail the turns.

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I cycled round to the wake park, I thought this would be a good warm up, and less hassle than taking the car. The wake park seemed perfect – a chalet with a cafe and changing rooms next to a purpose built lake with two tow-pier cable wakeboarding set ups with the Serendome at Bluestone, where Jen and the boys were spending the afternoon, visible past the end of the lake! The sun was out and the water was flat calm (I later learned that this was due to the island in the lake spearating the two cable runs) – the complete opposite to the conditions on Ali’s stag do.

I explained to the instructor that I wanted to work on turns and that I thought I knew what to do, but struggled to actually do it. I strapped the board to my feet and assumed the position, lying on my back in the water. When the cable started to pull me along, I managed to stand up and was whizzing down the lake, towards the Serendome in the distance. When I passed the last obstacle on the left, I dug my heel edge into the water and carved towards the bank, the cable sped up, then when it slowed down again I rolled to my toe edge and all of a sudden I was heading back towards the dock. I had nailed a turn on my first run – I could barely believe it! Then I repeated the turn at the dock end and again at the Serendome end. I was stoked, feeling like I had wakeboading nailed! I went to do another turn at the dock end, but the instructor put the brakes on my fun, stopping the cable, pointing out that I had obviously nailed turns and should work on something else!

I spent the remainder of the session working on riding switch (swapping from left foot forwards to right foot forwards) – the idea was that I would ride towards the Serendome end, turn, try to ride back switch then swap back to left foot forwards before turning and doing it again. It was easier said than done! Pretty much each attempt at riding switch ended up with a spectacular slam, initially on the swap to right foot forwards, then riding right foot forwards, then on swapping back. I probably managed it sucessfully once, but I ended my session happy!

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I had a short break to recharge before my second session, and it was lovely sitting by the lake in the sun! For the second session the instructor suggested trying ollies – getting some air between the board and the water! Again I was to ride towards the Serendome end, turn then try the ollie on the way back towards the dock. I found it hard to get the board out of the water – it is the same technique as on a snowboard, but the action needs to be exaggerated. On the times I did get the board out of the water I had to be careful on landing – if the front of the board dips too far into the water you are going to get dunked! I felt shattered by the end of the session, but I had just about managed a half decent ollie – and landed it. I was most pleased by the fact I had nailed all of the turns at the Serendome end, although I struggled to understand how it was so much easier than at Pier 52!

For the ride back, the guys at Pembrokeshire Wake Park told me about an offroad “shortcut” back to Bluestone, except that I must have missed a turn, I ended up dropping a lot of vertical and having to climb back up to Bluestone – not an easy feat after a couple of wakeboarding sessions! Then I ended up going for another long ride, with Owen on the Mac Ride – I slept well that night!

I am really hoping that I can get out for another wakeboarding session in 2020, ideally with the lads! I want to get ollies and riding switch nailed!

2019 Goals Update

As we are halfway through 2019 (and also nine years to the day since I went on a first date with Jen) I thought I would revise my goals for the year. When I did this in 2017 and 2018 I found that it helped me keep on track for the second half of the year. The last few months have been dominated by baby Henry, who seems to be growing into a very chilled out little boy – as long as he gets plenty of milk and cuddles he is happy and gives us loads of cute smiles!

Get my weight down to 85kg

I got off to a good start on this, but recently I have put weight back on and am roughly where I started. I think it is time for me to admit that if I want to lose any more weight I will have to address my diet, rather than just exercising more. Well maybe after going to Festival of Speed with my Dad next week…

Reinstate my mid week cardio session

This may have been a bit ambitious with with a newborn, however it should be easier later in the year. I have managed to get out for a few evening rides with Owen on the Mac Ride, being able to take Owen with me – leaving Jen free to deal with Henry does make it easier to justify.

Do a strength workout at least once a week

Again this was maybe a bit optimistic with a newborn. I was doing well for the first few months, and have done a few more since, hopefully this will become easier as Henry gets into more of a sleeping routine.

Ride at the pump track at least once a month

I am just about on track with this! Some months I have also managed to add a second pump track session with Owen. March, the month that Henry was born, was the trickiest, but I managed to sneak in a pump track session at the end of my ride at the Forest of Dean.

Ride at a bike park

I can confidently check this one off! I rode at Flyup 417 Bike Park in February and enjoyed it so much that I went back again last week (Strava)! Both times I went midweek and had the place (and the uplift van) to myself! Hopefully I will be able to fit in another trip later in the year, maybe for my birthday. I would also like to take Owen to the indoor pump track barn there.

Clock over 100 active hours on Strava

I am well on the way to achieving this – at the halfway point of the year I have clocked 51 hours and 27 minutes, but I cannot be too complacent! Although not mentioned in my original post, my other Strava-based goal is to clock more distance than my best friend Partho. When Partho is on form we are usually pretty close, until he was knocked off his bike earlier in the year we were within a few kilometres of each other. Whilst he was out action I was unable to capitalise on his misfortune, as Henry had just been born. Then Partho put in a few massive rides on his new roadbike. I am currently 27 kilometres behind, which I am pleased with given where I was a few weeks ago! Having the Mac Ride has really helped with this, as Owen and I are able to get out together.

New blog server

I have completed the first part of this activity, by creating a new development server on my iMac and installed WordPress 5.0. This will mirror the new live server I will set up on AWS. I even created a script to initialise it in Vagrant with one terminal command (GitHub). I should be able to get the new server up and running fairly quickly, as I will simply be copying what I have already done (and documented) on my test server.

Take control of my open tabs in Safari

I have almost halved my open tabs in Safari! Next I need to tackle the bike parts manuals that I have open in Safari on my iPhone, I always seem to need to look something up whilst I am fettling bikes in the garage.

Replace my ageing iMac

I am no closer to making a decision on which Mac to buy – or more accurately finding a decent 4K monitor that I could use with a Mac Mini or MacBook Pro. I still need more time to save up though, so no rush to make a decision yet.

Do some night photography

I must admit that I had forgotten about this goal! Hopefully later in the year it will be easier for me to get out in the evenings!

Detail my MR2

Done!

Get my MR2 to 60,000 miles by its MOT in April

I failed this one. In fact the MR2 is still yet to pass 60,000 miles, I think it is still at around 59,500. It also had the embarrassment of failing the MOT, on emissions. Fortunately a can of “Emissions reducer” and a bloody good thrashing sorted it out. I will have to try harder next spring. At service time it was also pointed out that I really should get new tyres and a wheel alignment, both were already on my radar as I have had the car six years and not fitted new tyres. I have got a couple of longer trips planned in the MR2 over the next few months to Goodwood Festival of Speed next week and a pre-wedding lads wake-boarding weekend (not a stag do) in a secret location.

Drink more whisky

I was making good progress through my whisky collection earlier in the year, but since Henry was born I have hardly drunk any alcohol. Again, as Henry starts to sleep better I am sure I will start having a wee dram in the evenings again.

A few other things I have achieved that were not on my goals list are learning to straighten bike wheels – it was close to making it to the list of goals, but I decided that it was not really needed. Until I realised that I had a wobbly wheel on my Orange Four, then needed to rebuild the back wheel on my hardtail – why do these things always happen at the same time? Fortunately I was able to find a cheap wheel truing stand locally on eBay. Maybe next year one of my goals will be to build some wheels from scratch.

I have also revisited iOS development, something I have dabbled in a few times over the years, but never using the new Swift language. I have a few app ideas that I would like to develop, so will continue to work on these over the rest of the year.

Father’s Day 2019

Owen woke me up at 6:30 on Father’s Day, with a gift of matching pyjamas – fortunately he let me go to back to bed for a bit, before we went downstairs for a very light breakfast in our matching pyjamas. The reason for the very light breakfast was that we would be meeting my Mum, Dad and brother for brunch at Dough and Brew in Warwick. The breakfast pizzas are my absolute favourite breakfast anywhere. It seems to have become a regular Father’s Day thing for us. Previously I have cycled both there and back – as the route from Coventry is mostly off road. However, with the recent rain, which cancelled the Malverns Classic MTB festival we should have been at yesterday, I figured I would be too muddy to sit in a restaurant if I rode there. So I strapped my hardtail to the roof of the car and so I could at least ride back.

The only problem with having a massive pizza is feeling a bit sluggish on the ride home – especially as it is mostly uphill back to Coventry from Warwick. Riding out of the town centre I felt pretty fresh, so decided to add in an extra loop around Hatton to include a fun section of bridle way that I missed by not riding down – which is where I stopped to take the photo at the top of this post.

I was really enjoying being on a leisurely cross country ride on my hardtail, the sun was out, the trails were running well and my bike was feeling super fast without Owen on the Mac Ride! I also felt a bit naked riding without knee pads and wearing a short sleeved t-shirt, rather than a jersey, but it was only a gentle ride! Then the clouds came over and it started to rain gently at first, so I kept going. As I was approaching a farm it got heavier, so I took shelter next to a barn to put my jacket on. When I turned around I noticed a whole field of cows walking towards me – fortunately on the other side of a fence. They must have been after my jelly babies! By the time I left the cows the rain had almost stopped again, but I knew I was about to ride through the muddiest section of the ride, so kept the waterproof on until I was out of the mud. The rest of the ride, on familiar trails,
went without a hitch and with my extra loop I clocked just over 34km.

As we were seeing my Mum again the next day, Owen went home with her for a mini break in the Cotswolds. With only a chilled out Henry to deal with, Jen was keen to crack on with the DIY when I got home. Seven years after starting, we are now at a phase with the #119project where we are redecorating rooms, although to be fair some of the bits we are doing in the kitchen weren’t really finished in 2012… We pulled the fridge freezer out of the pantry, I got to work chipping the ice out of it (and sucking it up with my wet and dry vac), whilst Jen repainted the pantry walls which were looking a bit scruffy. Given we started this project after the shops had shut on a Sunday afternoon we were lucky to have found a pot of the right paint stashed away! I had to keep having Henry cuddling breaks, although he did spend most of the time sat in his bouncer supervising – I had put him in his dungarees, but he decided not to get his hands dirty. We finished just in time to watch the new Top Gear and eat some amazing Moroccan lamb (one of our favourites from our local butchers. Henry spent his first night in his bedroom (my old office which he annexed).

It was a busy, but fun day. I hardly spent any time with Owen, but I have got the next week off work, so will make sure we do plenty of fun things together!

Owen’s Third Birthday Weekend Including Monster Jam

I can hardly believe it has been three years since Owen was born unexpectedly early, but it was his third birthday last week and we had an extra long weekend celebrating it!

On his birthday he rushed into our bedroom first thing in the morning to remind us that it was his birthday and ask if he had any presents! Fortunately “Henry” had bought him a Playmobil Mountain Biker, which kept him entertained for a while. I find it cute how Owen still refers to it as “the bike that Henry got me”. Then we came downstairs and Owen discovered the big pile of presents, which he unwrapped over breakfast. By far his favourite were the Playdoh Wheels sets – one of the only things he has asked for after seeing it on an advert. But Playdoh and construction vehicles is pretty much heaven for Owen, so I can understand why! Unfortunately he had to go to nursery in the morning, so had to leave his new toys. He did ride his bike to nursery though – it is only a kilometre away, so even Owen riding is quicker than driving, despite me carrying Henry in his baby carrier, meaning I could not really run after Owen. While Owen was at nursery, Jen and I got the house ready for his party, then I snuck off to the pump track for a few laps.

Owen had a good morning at nursery and was excited to see that his Grandma and Grandpa had joined us to collect him. I was proud that when Owen realised both Jen and I were there without Henry, who was waiting with my parents, his first thought was to ask where his little brother was. Of course, when we got home there were even more presents from Grandma and Grandpa! Later in the afternoon his guests arrived for the party, it was only a small affair, with both sets of grandparents and Owen’s best friend, Cara. Owen and Cara had fun playing together with Owen’s new toys. Then it was time for the cake – Jen had excelled herself here, the chocolate “construction site” themed cake looked amazing and tasted even better!

Friday is Owen’s swimming day, so I took him to his lesson as usual. He has been doing really well recently, but did particularly well this week, putting his face in the water, jumping in and insisting on swimming on his own when the pool noodles were given out. He was swimming lengths of the pool on his own with his arms over the noodle. After swimming Jen’s friend came round with her little boy, so Owen had another fun afternoon playing. For dinner we went to Owen’s favourite restaurant – “McDonald’s with the softplay”, which is right at the other side of the city, but Owen always asks to go there. Incidentally, the last time Jen and I were there was about ninety minutes before Henry was born. Owen ate his dinner like a good boy, then was let loose on the softplay! It was interesting watching him, as he has obviously grown so much in confidence since our last visit at the start of the year. Usually he just does laps of the same section, but this time he went exploring – right to the top of the softplay structure! Maybe it is time to try taking him climbing again?

Owen’s usual Ready Steady Riders session was cancelled on the Saturday, due to the poor weather, so we just had a quiet morning at home – because in the afternoon we were going to Monster Jam! Monster Jam is a huge touring monster truck show, and Owen loves monster trucks almost as much as diggers. So when I heard it would be coming to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Owen’s birthday weekend I knew we had to go! Monster trucks are too loud for Henry (Jen had an excuse not to come), so my Dad joined us – we have talked for years about the three generations watching motorsport together, so this was a good opportunity. As soon as we got to the arena we saw the monster trucks in the pits, along with some construction vehicles that made the track – Owen’s day was already made!

Once in the stadium the first of the monster truck events was a series of head to head races – Owen loved it! He was cheering on the trucks and clapping excitedly at the end of the races! I was glad that he was wearing his ear defenders, as even quite high up in the stadium the trucks were really loud. Owen was less excited by the next event, the donut competition. He was upset that the monster trucks were not jumping! I enjoyed the donut competition, especially as most of the trucks did their donuts at our end of the stadium. I also liked that the scores were voted for by the fans in the stadium on a special website. After the donuts the trucks went back to the pits and the construction equipment came out to redo the track and prepare it for the freestyle motocross riders – which Owen enjoyed almost as much as the monster trucks! The freestyle motocross riders were as impressive as ever and hopefully Owen did not take too much inspiration.

When the monster trucks came back out they had a two wheel skills competition, which was not that impressive, possibly because the track was so slippery due to the rain meaning most of the trucks failed to do their stunts. One truck, Max-D, ended up on its roof – which prompted lots of questions from Owen. “Why is it upside down? Why did it land on its roof? Why did the stunt go wrong?” etc. However the final event, the freestyle competition was by far the highlight of the show. The trucks each had two minutes to perform stunts on as many of the obstacles in the arena as possible. There were huge jumps, donuts and even a backflip – right in front of us (albeit with the truck landing on its roof)! It was a great afternoon out for all three generations of Craik and I would certainly go again.

After the excitement of Monster Jam on Saturday, we had a quieter Sunday. I dropped Jen and the boys off at Jen’s friend’s house in Nuneaton, then went for a bike ride at Pooley Country Park, near Tamworth (and even used my GoPro for one of the runs). Jen and the boys had gone for a walk/bike ride to the park when I got back to Nuneaton, so I rode to meet them and rode back with Owen for lunch. We had a few errands to run on the way home, including stopping at Jen’s parent’s house for tea and cake, which was a nice way to wind down after a busy weekend. Next weekend is also going to be exciting as we are going to the Malverns Classic mountain bike festival, where Owen will be racing dual slalom on his balance bike! Does anyone know how to explain slalom to a three year old…

Henry’s New Trick


As I have just shared two very Owen centric posts, I thought I should also blog about Henry! He is doing really well, drinking loads of milk, and although it feels like he never sleeps, I think he is actually doing better than Owen was at this age! The most important thing though is that he has learned to smile – as if he could look any cuter!

Henry’s Due Date

Today was Henry’s due date, he was born a few weeks early, although not as early as Owen, so has already been on a few adventures. The first few days he stayed at home, stealing the hearts, and cuddles, of all his visitors. When he was four days old he was starting to look slightly yellow and by day five he had lost more weight than the midwives were happy with, so we were sent back to hospital. This was reminiscent of when Owen also had  jaundice and was admitted to special care. This time much easier on us, as we knew what to expect. Seeing Henry in the incubator took me right back to June 2016 and the many hours spent with Owen on the neonatal unit. Fortunately Henry responded well to the treatment and was back home within 36 hours.

As he was gaining strength we could take him out and about, to the supermarket (for a photo in the whisky aisle, like I did with Owen), to visit Nanny and Grandad in Nuneaton, (whilst Owen and I went on a bike ride with Little Rippers) and also to the garden centre/softplay to watch his big brother. While Owen was at nursery, Jen and I took Henry to register his birth, followed by lunch at Dough and Brew in Warwick – the first restaurant we had taken Owen to. Like Owen in 2016, Henry was so well behaved, letting us eat our pizzas without disruption – not something that we have experienced for a while! We also took both boys for a visit to Coventry Transport Museum, and Sprinkles Gelato for ice cream and waffles.

However the best part of my paternity leave was being able to spend time together as a family of four. My paternity leave for Owen was spent in the neonatal unit at UHCW, I had already gone back to work by the time he got out. So the bonding time at home was great. There have been lots of nappy races, where we line the boys up on their changing mats and see which parent/boy can change the nappy fastest. What was harder this time round, was not being able to devote our full attention to the new baby. Owen had been a bit poorly around the time Henry was born and I think felt like we had abandoned him a bit. So to start with he was playing up a bit, we have tried as much as possible to keep to his normal routine, but it has not been easy. Things have improved now and he seems to have accepted Henry, it is very cute when Owen says goodbye to him whenever we go out just the two of us.

Henry has also changed loads in the two and a half weeks since being born. He is now heavier than his birth weight and so much more alert. The jaundice has cleared up too. His little legs are already really strong, despite their skinniness. He loves his milk, often drinking way more than his little tummy can hold, with predictable consequences…

I am really going to miss Jen, Owen and Henry when I go back to work tomorrow. It will be especially difficult trying to fit a full work day and spending time with the boys, especially as I am doing Henry’s late feeds. I had visions of getting all sorts of jobs done during my paternity leave, life admin, servicing my bike etc, but had forgotten just how much attention a newborn needs – almost as much as a toddler!

I am still working a four day week, so will have extra time to spend with Henry and I am very much looking forward to taking some shared parental leave at the start of 2020 – it was such a rewarding experience when I did it after Owen was born. 

Baby Henry

Henry Peter Craik was born at 18:10 on the 7th March 2019, weighing 2.78kg. He had a much easier time than Owen did when he was born and we were back home a few hours later. Owen is still getting used to the idea of having a little brother, but he is always keen to help us with Henry.

Henry is a cool little dude, he likes milk and cuddles. When I first started talking to him about bikes he started pedalling his legs – this has got to be a good sign!