2017

Happy new year! 2017 is another year with lots for me to look forward to. I am most excited about taking April and May off work to spend time with Owen – thanks to the newish shared parental leave policy in the UK. Owen should be big enough to go in a forward facing child seat, meaning he can join me in the MR2. I also plan to get a trailer or child seat for my bike, so Owen will be able to get an introduction to cycling too. Even if Owen/reality don’t share my sportscar/cycling vision for our 9 weeks together, I’m sure it will be great father/son bonding time.

We already have a couple of trips away planned for 2017 – our usual trip to Croyde, which will be our first as a little family. Jen and I are looking forward to introducing Owen to our favourite places in North Devon. Then in October, we are going to Cyprus  – which will be Owen’s first trip on an aeroplane!

The reason for our trip to Cyprus is that my best friend Partho is getting married and his fiancé is from Limassol. I will be best man at the wedding and will have my work cut out as Partho did such a good job of being my best man. Another good friend, Rich, is getting married in April, so that will be Owen’s first wedding. Two weddings also means two stag dos – I am especially looking forward to Partho’s, which I am organising.

Work is going to restart on the 119 Project, the plan is to restyle the garden and tidy up the back of the house. Hopefully this will get done whilst I am off work in the spring. I might even get phase 2 of my garage project finished…

Another task I have for 2017 is to redesign my website. I have already made a start on this and you will hopefully see some changes in the next few weeks.

This year I have got a few goals/resolutions, making them public should make them easier to meet:

  1. Get my weight under 90kg – and keep it there. Jen bought me some brilliant Withings connected scales for my birthday, so this will be easy to track. This morning I weighed 90.8kg (down from 91.6kg a few weeks ago), so I haven’t got too far to go, keeping my weight down will be the harder bit.
  2. Do a trackday at a new track in the MR2.
  3. Ride my bike at a new trail centre.
  4. Ride the full Follow The Dog and Monkey Trail loops at Cannock Chase in one ride.
  5. Get out on my bike with my camera.
  6. Make yoga a part of my weekly routine.

After seeing my 2016 cycling data infographic I’d like to clock 100 active days and get at least 1x Everest of climbing, after I missed by 5% last year – I can’t believe that some people can do as much climbing in one ride as I do in a whole year. To help with my cycling goals I am going to buy a new bike, as I’m still on the cheap bike I bought to see if I would regularly use a mountain bike – over 3,500km later I think it is safe to say it has had a lot of use.

Like the start of 2016, the weather has been rubbish today – we haven’t even left the house. We have managed to have a productive day, tidying and childproofing our front room. As Owen is going to be crawling any day soon I’ve had to pack away my surround sound system, which has speakers on little stands – perfect for little hands to pull over. I have replaced it with a Goodmans Soundbase, which sounds great considering the £75 price tag. I did manage to find time to take a silly selfie with Owen.

A look back at 2016

Owen

Despite all the bad press, 2016 has actually been a good year for me – mostly down to the arrival of Owen!

My plans for 2016 didn’t exactly go as expected, Jen and I did get to Croyde, but I didn’t get a mountain bike trip to Scotland, nor did I hire a Morgan 3 wheeler – hopefully both are on the cards for 2017!

The year started with Jen’s 12 week scan – our first chance to see Owen! Then the Autosport Show and Leisure Lakes Mountain Bike Demo Day, both of which are regular features in my calendar.

The first few weeks of April were great – a trip to Santa Pod for my first experience on the drag strip. There wasn’t much rest for the MR2 – the next weekend we took it Croyde, a last minute decision, because I wanted to use it as much as possible whilst we were still a twosome! I had brilliant drives over both Exmoor and Dartmoor, we may have been restricted on luggage space, but the decision to take the MR2 really made the holiday for me. After being thrashed up the drag strip and a 600 mile road trip; it was service time for the MR2 – because I had a trackday booked the next month and wanted the car in top shape. The weekend after getting back from Devon, I had motorsport filled weekend: I met my friend Phil and his son William at Donington Park for the BTCC; then the next day I went to the FIA WEC at Silverstone with my Dad.

May started with another weekend away in the MR2 – up to Stockport to stay with our friends Rich and Anna, then over to Bakewell, via the Cat & Fiddle pass, to meet up with Helen and Hayley for Jen’s baby shower. The highlight of May was the track day at Donington Park – my first wet trackday, I had a fun lap following an Austin A35 race car. It dried off in the afternoon and I really felt like I was faster than my previous Donington track day. May was also the start of ante natal classes – things were starting to feel very real!

We didn’t get to our last ante natal class, as Owen arrived on the 6th of June, about 6 weeks early. This was a bit of a shock to us – we hadn’t finished decorating the hall, stairs and landing, let alone started on getting ready for our new arrival! He spent a few weeks at hospital, which felt horrible at the time – we just wanted to get him home, but looking back on his time there, we learned a hell of a lot from the nurses and I think we coped well when we eventually got Owen home! The rest of the year was dominated by Owen; watching him grow and develop into the cheeky little boy he is today – the last few days he seems to be sticking his tongue out at everybody! We have taken him on trips away to Church Stretton – with my family and Weymouth – our first holiday for our little family, where the photo at the top of this post was taken. Owen is the star attraction wherever he goes – especially since learning to smile, which he does a lot!

To celebrate our first wedding anniversary, Jen and I hired a classic Fiat 500 and spent the day touring the Cotswolds, whilst Owen enjoyed some time with his grandparents. In October a got the MR2 on track again, this time at Silverstone – once more I felt like my driving had improved since my previous visit to the circuit. The MR2 also made it into the Pistonheads Carpool in December and I seem to enjoy it more each time I drive it.

On my bike, I was never going to beat my 2,015km in 2015, in the end I only clocked 1,281km in 2016 – about the distance from home to Barcelona. The highlight of which was conquering my nemesis – “Cardiac Hill” at Cannock Chase. Annoyingly, I was 64km short of my friend Partho’s 2016 total – although he did need to ride all the way to Paris to beat me!

Owen is tucked up in bed, and we have a few friends coming round to see in 2017 with us (quietly), so I wish everyone reading a happy new year!

Peak District Hoon

It is that weird time between Christmas and New Years Eve where you don’t know what day it is, I actually enjoy it, as I rarely have time off work with nothing planned. So when I saw that a group from the Pistonheads midlands forum were planning an early morning hoon to the Peak District, I ignored my own rule about not driving the MR2 on salty roads and joined them. Fortunately my Christmas gift from Jen was a chassis cleaner attachment for my pressure washer (I had dropped a hint) so I’ll be able to wash off the salt.

It was a clear, cold morning with a heavy frost and patches of mist/fog. The countryside looked beautiful. I should have been out with my camera but I was enjoying the drive too much! The slippery roads meant that the MR2 could easily keep up with the other cars, which ranged from modified MINIs to a Cayman GT4, which sounded awesome. Andrew’s M3, which I was behind for most the drive also sounded amazing.

We stopped for a cup of tea at Flash Bar Stores, in Flash, the highest village in Britain at 1,519 ft above sea level. Whilst we were inside the sun came out, so we retraced our steps and actually got to see what the scenery looked like over some of the twistier roads.

I did 150 miles in the MR2 and loved every moment of it, now all I need to do is clean it…

Owen Triptych

Owen TriptychOwen was lying on our bed whilst Jen was getting ready, I noticed that some lovely winter light was coming in through the window and grabbed my camera. I’m pleased with how these have come out, they will be going into a triptych frame that we got for Christmas.

World Prematurity Day

OwenAs today is about raising awareness of premature birth, I thought I’d post an update on how Owen is doing. He was born 6 weeks early, and as you can see from the photo, he was quite skinny. I’m pleased to say that over the last 5 months he has been drinking a lot of milk and is putting on weight. We dug out my old baby book, and at 5 months Owen is already heavier than I was at his age – not bad considering he had a lot of catching up to do!

Owen has also been learning lots of new tricks: he got smiling nailed a while back and has been doing a lot of practice! His latest skill is rolling over, he can roll over on to his front and is having a go at crawling, but isn’t quite there yet. He can also sit up in his highchair and joined us at the table for a family meal for the first time yesterday.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the great work of the doctors and nurses who looked after Owen at UCHW. Being born at 34 weeks, he was one of the bigger babies in the special care baby unit, but he still looked tiny compared to full term babies, especially as he was struggling to put on weight. It was hard having to go home each evening, leaving Owen at the hospital, but he was being cared for by the best people. We even managed to pick up some tips from the nursery nurses, which I’m sure helped us when we eventually got Owen home.

Pistonheads Sunday Service at Silverstone

Since Owen was born I haven’t been able to get out in the MR2 much, so when Pistonheads announced another one of their Sunday Service events at Silverstone, I had to go.

Rather than driving straight to Silverstone, a few of us met up between Coventry and Birmingham to drive down together. I’ve joined a few of these convoys previously, but this was much bigger – around 30 cars, ranging from my MR2 all the way up to a Porsche Cayman GT4 and a brace of Italian supercars. We took the scenic route to Silverstone, somehow managing to arrive all together, despite the group splitting up and following different routes. I made a time-lapse of the drive.

At Silverstone I met up with my Dad for breakfast and some tyre kicking, before heading out on track in the MR2. I had driven the National Circuit at Silverstone a few times previously, but I felt like I was faster than before, I expect that this is due to having a few more trackdays under my belt in the MR2. I really enjoyed myself, the driving standard was better than the same event last year, where Jen drove the MR2, and I was surprised to have the track pretty much to myself for the last few laps – perfect.

To finish off a great morning I followed my Dad back to his house – via the cross country route. I has been a long time since we’d both been out together in our sports cars, and driving together through the Cotswolds, with autumn leaves being kicked up by Dad’s Boxster in front of me, was just as enjoyable as convoying with the supercars or taking the MR2 on track earlier that morning. Including driving back to Coventry I did 170 miles in the MR2 and I can’t think of a better way to use 2/3rds of a tank of petrol.

Classic 500

Jen in the 500 To celebrate our first wedding anniversary Jen and I hired this little Fiat, and spent the day pootling around South Warwickshire in it. Jen has got her own modern 500, and both of us love the 1950s classic, so when I found out that Great Escape Classic Cars have one available to hire, a plan was formed.

The 1966 model is a lot harder to drive than the modern version, especially as this one was LHD. Both brakes and steering are unassisted, the 4 speed gearbox didn’t have synchromesh so double clutching was needed. Top speed was 40mph – you wouldn’t want to go any faster!

We both enjoyed our trip in the little 500, it could have been a case of “never meet your heroes”, but it wasn’t at all. Despite the trickiness to drive we would buy one if we had space for another car, even a really small one.