A look back at 2020

What. A . Year.

2020 started out well for me – I took January and February off work to look after Henry, as Jen went back to work after her maternity leave. It was a bit different to the parental leave I took in 2017 with Owen, as I also had a cheeky three year old to entertain. Fortunately he was at preschool three days a week, so I was able to get some one on one time with Henry. We cruised around in my MR2 Roadster, went to the park, met friends for lunch(!) and even collected my van together. Taking nine weeks off work was always going to be the highlight of the year, but it really does feel like a lifetime ago.

Little did I know that I would only be back in the office for four days, before being sent to work from home, which has since become permanent, with the announcement that the office I work(ed) from will close. However Jen and I have been lucky that we have both been able to continue working from home, if anything we have both been busier than ever at work. We found this particularly difficult during the first lockdown without any childcare, but things improved as childcare options reopened, and we got used to this new way of working. Being able to form a childcare bubble with my parents has been great, especially for the boys, as they love seeing their grandparents.

However, there has been enough negativity, so this post is going to focus on the positive things that have happened this year. The main one being all the extra time we were able to spend together as a family. Buying a van contributed to this, it was bought as we needed a bigger family car for holidays and bike trips, but even with holidays cancelled, it has been a game changer. We have done a lot of family days out this year, often with the bikes, and the van just makes it so much easier. To the boys, every trip out in it is an adventure, and Henry especially loves it – whenever we go out of the front door he stands expectantly next to the van. His absolute favourite thing to do is clamber into the driving seat to hold the steering wheel and play with all of the switches. He just about stays the right side of the line between cute and annoying because he is obviously enjoying himself so much.

In my look back at 2019, I mentioned that “Henry has learned to crawl/climb, his cheeky side is coming out – he is always up to something!” and over the year he has got cheekier and more mischievous! He learned to walk pretty soon after his first birthday and is always trying to escape, he is such a little explorer. Although he was walking at an earlier age that Owen, he is still not speaking properly yet. He has got the odd word – “Mama” (meaning Grandma), “va” (Van), “fire”, “ha” (hat, ofter accompanied by patting his head), “ba” (bye) and “Bapa” (Grandpa) – it is slightly annoying that he has names for my parents, but not Jen and I. Despite his limited vocabulary he is an expert in non-verbal communication – he is always clear about what he wants, or does not want. It is incredibly cute when he waves goodbye to anyone, if he particularly likes you he will even blow kisses. He loves dressing up, especially trying on everyone’s shoes. Henry has not quite got the hang of his balance bike, but he is starting to show an interest in mountain biking – as long as the bike has pedals. He will try to climb on to adult bikes and I have never seen him happier than when I pushed him around the pump track on Owen’s bike.

The main thing for Owen in 2020 is that he started school! He has settled in well, made some friends, learned lots and even landed the role of Joseph in the nativity play. He has also done a lot of bike riding – at the start of the year Owen had just about got the hang of riding his pedal bike, through the first lockdown we went out on the bikes most days and his riding really progressed. This has continued throughout the year. One of my highlights of the year was following him through the jumps at the bottom of “Cheese Roller” trail at 417 Bike Park, but we have also ridden blue graded trails and pump tracks together, done some night rides and ridden to school/nursery many times.

I have had also had a pretty good year on the bike – despite mainly riding locally, I feel that both my technique and fitness have improved. Building up my Clockwork Evo was a great move, it has been perfect for the sort of riding I have been doing this year. It has also been good to get out with other people: local rides with Owen, or Henry (on the front of my bike), family rides but especially getting out with my friends Partho and Ali, who now both have mountain bikes. In the workshop, learning to build wheels is one of my achievements of the year – I built the rear wheel for my new hardtail and almost 600km later is is still running well.

Off the bike, I rekindled my interest in radio controlled cars, renovating my Tamiya MX-5 and also buying/building a Tamiya Lunchbox, which I have painted to look like my van (I still need to blog about this). I also passed the exam to become an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and made good progress on some web projects I am working on – aided by discovering the Laravel framework, which I am now using for web applications.

Our planned trip back to Bluestone in Wales was cancelled, as was a return to Coed Y Brenin with Partho. However, we were able to go on our planned trip to Dorset with my family, albeit staying at a different place. Even though the weather was not the best, we had a fun time, the boys loved visiting the beach and spending a lot of time with their grandparents. Probably my favourite memory of the year was the first part of our family bike ride at Moors Valley – for me it does not get any better than riding dusty singletrack with Jen and my boys.

At the start of the year I set myself some goals, I posted a halftime update in June, but here are the final results:

Get my weight down to 85kg

Fail – I have lost some weight, but not as much as I would have liked – this morning I weighed 88.75kg. I had a good start to the year, but the daily afternoon tea and cake whilst working from home was probably the cause of putting on a load of weight. The trend line has been moving in the right direction, so hopefully I can keep that going in to 2021.

Reinstate my mid week cardio session

Narrow pass – Other than the last month, I have managed to get out on the bike at least once a week during the week. With working from home, I particularly enjoyed getting out for an end of the week “commute” – a half hour loop on local trails, after shutting down my work laptop for the weekend.

Do a strength workout at least once a week

Massive fail – I have only done eight strength workouts this year. My (weak) excuse is that I have done a lot more riding, and yoga, than previous years.

New blog server and theme

Partial pass – I ticked off setting up a new blog server early in the year, I also set up a script to restart the server if I got an email report that the blog was offline – which I still need to document. I am still however using the same old theme I have been using for a number of years.

WordPress custom stories project

Fail – I finally found the Organize Series plugin that does most of what I wanted to do. I just need to set it up and go back and apply to all the posts.

Become an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

PassI passed the exam in April.

Build an iOS app

On hold – I completed an iOS development course, and modified some code from Github, but have not yet built my own app. I put this on hold as my iMac does not support the latest version of Xcode and if I am making the effort, I would like to learn/use the latest technology. A new Mac has been on the cards for a while, but I am waiting for the workstation grade Apple silicon Macs to be released.

Tidy my desk

Pass – I think I tidied it a couple of times, but since working from home is the “new normal” and my desk has become my main workspace this has become more important. Over the summer, Henry moved in to Owen’s bedroom, which the boys both love, meaning I have reclaimed my old office. We took the opportunity to repaint and add more storage. Since moving back in, I have made a conscious effort to keep the desk clear. I still need to do a bit more sorting out, to regain some floor space.

Tidy my garage

Massive fail – It feels like 2020 has been a constant stream of bike projects, in fact I still feel like I am chasing my tail. When I have finished Owen’s next bike build I am going have to take a step back and have a good sort out in the garage. The one change that I have made is to start hanging bikes on the wall, making it easier to get to any individual bike, and also cleared some floorspace.

Ride more with Partho

Pass – Although we did not get our planned trip to Wales in April, we probably rode together more than any previous years. Our trip to the Forest of Dean in January was a highlight, getting lost Sutton Park, then having to do a full gas sprint back to Partho’s house less so. We even got a ride out for my birthday with our friend Ali.

In our annual Strava competition, I thought I was going to lose when Partho bought a smart trainer at the start of the year. However, my “little and often” technique has prevailed and I ended up riding over 500km further than Partho.

Do some night photography

Fail – Knowing that we would be going to Dorset on holiday – a known “dark sky” location, I put all of my eggs in that basket. I even bought a new tripod for the occasion. We did not have clear sky at night the whole time we were there. I really should have gone out one evening from home, but the last few months have been so busy that I have not had a chance.

Fix up my radio controlled MX-5

Scraped a passI got the radio controlled MX-5 running again in January. Owen and I took it for a shakedown, then lockdown hit and I bought a Tamiya Lunchbox (#lockdownlunchbox), which I could drive in the garden. I did repair the original body shell of the MX-5, but am yet to blog about it, I have also cut out and painted the new body shell, I just need to do the decals, which I have been dreading. I also managed to find a 1:10 scale MR2 Roadster body shell, although I am yet to do anything with that.

Whilst 2020 has been a difficult year, I appreciate that I am one of the lucky ones. We’ve all stayed healthy, Jen and I have been able to work from home and riding bikes in the woods was one of the few leisure activities still allowed. I realise that there are many people who have had a much worse year. If at the start of the year I have been told that we would all be healthy and that I would have my perfect car pairing (VW Transporter and MR2 Roadster) and bike pairing (Orange Four and Orange Clockwork Evo), I probably would have been happy with that.

2020 Goals Update

2020 has been a funny year, with parental leave and coronavirus lockdownI have only been in the office for four days. You would have thought that with all this time at home I would have been able to make good progress on my goals for the year…

Get my weight down to 85kg

All this time at home has meant mid afternoon cake most days, so despite not really eating out for the last few months I have not lost any weight. Getting a takeaway from Basement Browns (the best pizzas in Coventry) this evening probably won’t help – but it is ten years since Jen and I went on our first date (and had pizzas), so can be excused!

Reinstate my mid week cardio session

Until Owen started back at pre-school at the start of this month we were getting out for lots of bike rides – but I could hardly call them cardio sessions! Some of the rides have been whole family rides, with Henry on the front of my bike. I did have a great midweek ride last week though – twenty kilometres around my local trails.

Do a strength workout at least once a week

Strength workouts, and to some extent yoga, has defintely fallen by the wayside since I started working from home. I am so tired in the evenings, that I cannot face a workout. I did do some earlier in the year though and this has reminded me that I need to restart.

New blog server and theme

I have migrated my blog to a new server, and created an automated workflow to reboot the AWS EC2 instance I run it on if the blog goes offline. The new theme will have to be a job for the second half of the year.

WordPress custom stories project

I did start looking at how I could switch up the order WordPress arranges posts when viewing by tag, but have not yet had to time to try and code anything up. I did find a few plugins, but they did not do exactly what I wanted – which makes me even more keen to build my own.

Become an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

I passed the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam in April!

Build an iOS app

I have decided to put iOS development on ice – partly because my ageing iMac cannot run the latest Xcode, but also because I want to concentrate on WordPress and web applications. Hopefully the logic/structure of the web application I am working on with transfer to an iOS app further down the line.

Tidy my desk

I tidied my desk during Henry’s naps when I was on parental leave, but since I started working from home my desk is overflowing – with at least two computers on it, multiple external hard drives, cameras, phones and paperwork. I think I may have to reclaim my old office from Henry.

Tidy my garage

Tidying my garage is one of my top priorities now, it has got so messy that I cannot get my MR2 out! I recently completed a full strip down and service on my Orange Four and I have an other bike to build up – but a tidy garage will help with that process.

Ride more with Partho

Coronavirus has definitely put a stop to this one! We had a great ride at the Forest of Dean in February, then did not get to ride together until the end of June – just a blast round Partho’s local trails in Sutton Park, followed by a road sprint back to the van. Our trip to Wales was cancelled, but we will be back there at some point. We have got plans to ride in the Peak District over the summer, which should be fun.

As it stands, Partho has got a 59 kilometre lead in our annual “who can ride the furthest” challenge – I had been leading for most of the year, until Partho put in a few big road rides.

Do some night photography

Another one that has completely fallen by the wayside – hopefully I will get a chance to do this if our family holiday to the south coast goes ahead.

Fix up my radio controlled MX-5

This is one goal where I am almost over achieving… Before the end of January I got the little MX-5 working again, and Owen and I took it for a spin. I have since repaired the body, but am yet to photograph/blog about it. However at the start of lockdown I treated myself to a Tamiya Lunchbox (a radio controlled stunt monster truck van) and new radio gear, the build was fun, but as with the MX-5 I am not fully happy with the body work – hopefully it will be appearing on the blog soon. I also managed to buy a 1:10 scale MR2 body, unfortunately I do not yet have a radio control car that it will fit on, nor is it a common size. So I have got a few eBay searches saved for a suitable chassis.

Outside of my goals I have replaced my BMW with a Volkswagen Transporter van, which has been a great purchase. I have also learned to build bike wheels, in anticipation of building a new hardtail mountain bike.Hopefully with lockdown starting to ease and things returning to a “new normal” I will be able to make progress on my remaining goals and be a bit better at posting on here, as I have a bit of a backlog to work through…