Parental Leave: Week 7

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This post starts off where the previous one left off, with us on holiday in Croyde, North Devon, so this has turned into a bit of a travel blog too.

Monday mornings are a lot better when you are on holiday, even if you get woken up at 3:00. This time it wasn’t Owen, just heavy rain on the roof of our chalet. When I got woken up again, this time at 6:30 by Owen, the rain wasn’t as bad, but it was still windy. Not ideal weather for a seaside holiday, but to be expected in the UK. We weren’t going to be able to go back to the beach, so instead we took Owen to the soft play centre in Barnstaple. He is still a bit too young to fully apreciate it, but did enjoy playing in the ball pit. All the excitement must have tired him out, as he fell asleep in the car, scuppering our plans to stop for lunch in Braunton (again), instead we got some pasties and brought them back to the chalet. The rain let up a bit in the afternoon, so we went out for a walk, once again with Owen in the baby carrier on my back. We got to the far end of the beach and wimped out of doing the full route, going straight to Blue Groove for a white chocolate milkshake and some cake. Whist in the village I bought some Croyde Cycle maps, I didn’t need them for this trip, as the chalet had one, but they are brilliantly detailed and I am a bit of a map geek. I’m sure I’ll be able to make use of them on a future trip anyway. As the weather was still miserable, even if it wasn’t raining, we settled into the chalet for the evening. This gave me to chance to read Guy Martin’s latest book “Worms to catch”, which I recieved as a Christmas present, but hadn’t been able to read. I especially liked it as it was more about mountain biking than motorcycle racing. However I felt like I was reading it a bit late, because Guy made a big thing in it about not wanting to return to motorcycle racing, yet between the book being published and me reading it he has got back into racing.

Tuesday was a slow morning, the weather was even worse than Monday and I think Jen was getting cabin fever, so we went out in the car, without much of a plan of where we would end up. I decided on Lynmouth, as we’d been there last year and knew that there was a cafe serving a pasty/cream tea meal deal, with free parking outside. By the time we’d finished lunch (yes, I did go for the pasty and cream tea) the rain had just about stopped, so we took the funicular up to Lynton and had a walk around. I must admit that the ride on the funicular was the highlight (there wasn’t much in Lynton), especially the views looking back towards Exmoor. Owen seemed to enjoy it, especially going up the hill when he was right at the front of the carriage. We took a detour to look at Damien Hirst’s Verity statue in Ilfracombe, then back to Croyde via Mortehoe. The fog had really come in around Mortehoe and it was easy to see how in the past ships could get lost, then crash on the rocks, leading Mortehoe to become notorious for “wreckers”. Once back at the chalet Owen’s Nanny joined us, and looked after Owen for the evening so that Jen and I could go out just the two of us. We went back to Blue Groove and ordered what I’m sure we order every year, beef enchilada for me and moules mariniere for Jen. The food was good, and it was nice to have an evening just the two of us.

Wednesday was notable because Owen had four poos, two of which breached the nappy! I think it must be something to do with what he’s eating or drinking down here. We’ve changed him on to pre-mixed formula, rather than the powdered formula he drinks at home, and he seems to be drinking more of it. Owen also had his first ride on a train, a steam train no less! It was only a short run on the part of the Lynton and Barnstaple railway which has been restored, however his granddad seemed very proud. In the afternoon the weather had started to improve, so we had a short stroll around the village, before heading to The Thatch for dinner. The food was tasty and Owen was on great form, flirting with the waitresses and stealing my chips.

Owen’s late night at The Thatch must have tired him out, as he slept in until past 8:00 on Thursday, either that, or he knew that I had plans to head to the beach for some early morning photography when he woke up. I was a little bit later setting off than planned, but am pleased with the photographs I took, based on an initial review on my laptop. I was back on the beach late morning, this time with Owen and Jen. We timed it to be on the beach at high tide so that we could take Owen for a paddle without a long walk to the sea. Owen loved the beach, especially destroying sandcastles and crawling around on the sand. Given how cold the sea was, I was surprised at how little it seemed to bother Owen, his giggling when the waves came in and splashed him was so cute. The excitement of the beach tired him out, he actually fell asleep in Jen’s arms whilst I was packing up the tent. Owen’s Auntie Heather arrived in Croyde on Thursday afternoon, so we took her to the National Trust tea room at Sandleigh, where we spent a lovely afternoon in the sunshine eating cakes. Unfortunately Owen had a nappy disaster of epic proportions. Not only did the poo breach the nappy, it also breached his vest and shorts – all whilst he was sitting there smiling at us. This was the worst possible time to discover that the the only spare item of clothing in the changing back was a t-shirt – the only item Owen was wearing to have escaped the poo explosion. It was a nice sunny day, so a nappy and t-shirt combination wasn’t too much of a disaster, except that Owen’s new favourite game is to undo his nappy when he isn’t wearing a vest. Obviously this has potentially disasterous consquences. I ended up tying the spare t-shirt round his waist, to prevent him getting to the tabs of his nappy, which I am glad to say worked well, and we got Owen back to the chalet without any further mess. After Owen went to bed, the girls went down to Billy Budds to get some pizzas and I walked up to Down End car park to get some nachos from Calaca Loca and we had a takeaway feast back at the chalet. I’d done over 15,000 steps on Thursday so felt like I’d earned my pizza!

Jen went out for a run on Friday morning, which justified us all going to the Thatch for breakfast! As I hadn’t been for a run, I only ordered a bacon and egg sandwhich, although the pancakes that Jen ordered looked much better! As the weather was nice again we went down to the beach. Gill and Heather came with us, so as there were plenty of people to wrangle Owen I hired a surf board. The waves weren’t quite as good as earlier in the week, but I still managed to catch a few decent waves, after two years off a surfboard I am glad that I could still surf. For some reason Owen didn’t seem to enjoy the beach as much as his previous visits, but I think he may have been tired. We spent the afternoon in the village, then went back to Blue Groove for dinner. I had octopus and chips, which was nicer than it probably sounds. Once again, Owen was on top form, making friends with the staff. Despite it being past his bed time he was really well behaved, especially when there were chips to steal. When we got him home, he drank all his milk and went to bed straight away. It was our last full day in Croyde, and it had been a great day.

Saturday morning was spent packing up the chalet. It was raining, so at least we weren’t tempted to head out for a walk or anything. However, I had made the schoolboy error of leaving my wetsuit out to dry overnight, and I’m sure it was wetter than when I took it off. With the BMW eventually loaded up, we set off to Cribbs Causway for our pitstop/lunch and made good time. Owen slept most of the way. We had some tasty burritos for lunch, then had a wander around the shops. Owen had his feet measured in Clarks and we ended up buying him some cute, but expensive little shoes. Even walking round the shops afterwards I was paranoid that Owen was going to take his shoes off and lose them, hopefully he’ll manage to get some wear out of them before losing or outgrowing them. The rest of the drive back to Coventry was uneventful and Owen seemed pleased to be home. As we’d had some windows fitted whilst we were away there was a bit of tidying up to do, I also had to re-hang the curtains in Owen’s room. By the time all of the jobs were done it was way past Owen’s bedtime, not that he seemed to mind after sleeping so much in the car. He slept well back in his own cot, which allowed me to crack on with processing the photos I took in Croyde.

When I stepped on my Withings scales for the dreaded post holiday weigh in, I had put on over 2kg, taking me back over 90kg (one of my goals for the year was to get my weight under 90kg and keep it under 90kg), although my body fat percentage had gone down and muscle mass had gone up, so it can’t have been all down to the cream teas and cider. Maybe the brown skin on my face and arms is heavier…

On Sunday morning I was back up my ladder painting the veranda. I am happy to say that I have now got all of the main framework painted, although I still need to do the bases and Jen is going to prep and paint the detail sections. I wasn’t the only one climbing, Owen has come back from holiday with new found confidence and we caught him starting to climb the stairs. We will need to be careful about leaving him unattended downstairs and making sure that doors are shut! He also clapped his hands together, something we haven’t seen him do before either. It is hard to say if it is normal 11 month old learning, or if our holiday has helped with his development. I’ve certainly come back re-energised and ready for my final two weeks of parental leave.

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.

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 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

Monday

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

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

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

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

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

The day 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

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.

Leisure Lakes Demo Day 2017

The annual Leisure Lakes Demo Day at Cannock Chase is the highlight of my mountain biking year – it is a chance to check out the latest kit, and try a few bikes on trails I know fairly well. As I don’t need to take my own bike, it means I can drive to Cannock Chase in the MR2, which makes it even more fun!

Whyte 905

Leisure Lakes Demo Day - Whyte 905

After signing on I went to the Whyte stand, as the T-130 was top of my list of bikes to try. Unfortunately they were all out being ridden, so I opted for a 905, which is a much better version of my current bike. I thought it would be a good bike to base all the other reviews on. The 905 did feel better than my bike, but the SRAM gears took a bit of getting used to. I was struggling on the bumpy trails, especially the long rooty section at the end of the lap, I thought I was just unfit/out of condition, but didn’t have the same issues on the full suspension bikes I rode later in the day. If I was looking to replace my current bike, the 905 would be a top contender.

Cube Stereo 140 HPA Race

Leisure Lakes Demo Day - Cube Stereo 140 HPA Race

The 120mm travel version of this bike is high up my list of possible next bikes, but they only had 29” or 140mm suspension versions to demo. I opted for the 140mm 27.5″ wheeled model to demo. I rode last years version of this bike at the previous demo day. I was on the 16” frame version, which felt quite compact, I later sat on the 18” version which fitted me well – this isn’t always a given, as I have a long body and short legs.

Dropping in to the Son of Chainslapper section, which is a lot bumpier than I remember, the Cube felt so much more planted than either then Whyte 905 or my hardtail. Within seconds I knew my next bike would have both front and rear suspension! What I hadn’t expected was how much smoother the rooty climb would be on a full suspension bike. I arrived back to the demo area feeling a lot better than after riding the Whyte 905 and it wasn’t just down to the 2×11 gearing! On the subject of gears, the Cube was the only bike I rode with Shimano gears, it may be down to familiarity, but I just cannot get on with SRAM shifters. The downside to the 2×11 setup was that the dropper seatpost level wasn’t easy to reach, on a couple of occasions I went for the left shifter instead of the dropper post.

Orange Four by Hope

Leisure Lakes Demo Day - Hope Orange Four

After lunch I planned to take a walk around the various stands, but spotted an Orange Four on the Hope stand. An Orange Four, especially one dripping in Hope bling is my dream bike. As it was in my size it would have been rude not to see if it lived up to my expectations! Aside from the colour, the only thing I would spec differently would have been Shimano, rather than SRAM transmission. I could feel the quality of the bike from the first few pedal strokes and it was a dream on the rough downhill sections. It also climbed as well as the Cube, despite only being 1×11 – the Hope 44 tooth cassette helped there! I must admit that when I got home I had a look at the Orange website to see if I could afford a lesser specced Four – unfortunately even the cheapest model is significantly above my budget. I have certainly found a bike to benchmark all other potential new bikes against though!

Whyte T-130s

Leisure Lakes Demo Day - Whyte T-130s

My fourth, and final, ride of the day was on a Whyte T-130s, I had high expectations for the full suspension Whyte. These were compounded by the fact it took my three visits to the Whyte stand to find one in medium, which I thought would be my size. Unfortunately, the medium frame was too big for me, the seat wouldn’t go low enough. Luckily I was able to take our a small frame instead, however it felt ever so slightly cramped. I don’t know if it was how the suspension had been set up, but the rough sections, especially braking bumps, didn’t feel as smooth as with the Orange or the Cube, yet it managed to feel bouncier than either on the climb. I don’t know if riding the T-130s after the Four had recalibrated my expectations, but I found that the Whyte didn’t live up to the hype.

Conclusion

I don’t think I’ll be buying any of these bikes, unless I win the lottery, in that case I’ll have an Orange Four, with all of the Hope bits. However, I have got a much better idea of what I want when I start bike shopping in earnest – short travel full suspension with Shimano 1×11 transmission and a dropper post!

Owen in the MR2 and other news

Owen enjoying the MR2

The last few weeks since my visit to Prodrive seem to have been non stop in all aspects of my life – I have a few things to blog about and others will come to light soon. However, today was an important milestone for Owen (and me) – it was Owen’s first ride in the MR2! I had been excited about sharing my love of sports cars with him ever since we found out we would be having a baby, so I was relieved that Owen seemed to enjoy it. I think he especially enjoyed being sat next to me and able to see where we were going.

One project I have been working on recently is this blog – you may be able to see a few subtle changes, but the big one is that I have moved it to a new server (Amazon EC2 for any other geeks reading), so there may be a few glitches to iron out. Once those have been sorted there will be a few more tweaks and updates.

I haven’t been doing too well on the goals I set myself in my new year post, although my weight has been less than 90kg for over a week, so I’m on my way to the first goal. Hopefully after that some of the others will start falling in to place.

Pistonheads Sunday Service at Prodrive

Prodrive Factory

Prodrive are a company that I’ve admired for years – they ran the Subaru Impreza rally cars that Colin McRae drove in the ’90s. So I was excited to hear that Pistonheads were holding their first Sunday Service event of 2017 at Prodrive’s new HQ in Banbury.

Before I could go I had the small matter of finishing my winter jobs on the MR2; in summer it makes sense to put off these jobs until the winter, when the car isn’t being driven, but the reality of lying on a cold concrete floor is less appealing at the time! With all the jobs, and a brief shakedown completed yesterday – I was ready to join up with some friends early this morning for the drive down to Banbury. Via the country roads of course.

At Prodrive I met up with my Dad for a look around the factory – I was surprised to learn that they do some much more than building race and rally cars. What initially started as something to keep their motorsport engineers busy during the off season has evolved to 60% of their business! Motorsport is what I am interested in though, so seeing numerous Aston Martin GT cars in various states of build was a highlight. The workshop looked so much more appealing to work in than my garage too.

Their heritage collection brought back memories from my childhood, alongside a few Impreza WRC cars there were Honda Accord and Ford Mondeo BTCC cars and a Metro 6R4. My favourite however was the ’80s 911 Safari Rally car in Rothmans livery,

Being a Pistonheads event the car park also had some interesting cars, alongside the usual selection of Porsches, BMWs and Loti there was a lovely little Connaught sports car but it was another Porsche that I’d have loved to take home – a 356 Speedster. It was parked between a Cayman GT4 and a 911 GT3 RS, but they barely got a glance, to me the little Speedster is the coolest car ever.