A Look Back at 2021

2021 has been another difficult year with all that has been going on in the wider world, and also at work. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel – after fourteen years in my old automotive job, just before Christmas, I started a new role with a tech consultancy. My old job had stopped being about software development, and the office was moved fifty miles away. After a particularly frustrating day at the office and commute, I uploaded my CV to a job site and my phone did not stop ringing for a week! It turns out software developers are in demand. Outside of work, it feels like the year has flown by – we had two good holidays, to Wales and Essex (blog post to follow) and lots of good bike rides.

As well as becoming a full-time geek, I have had a good year for new technology. Apple finally released their AirTags, after breaking my trusty iPhone 7 – I replaced it with an iPhone 12 Mini, which has been a great device. I bought a cheap Synology NAS to test the water for a new backup strategy, it worked so well that I ended up keeping it, as I do not feel that I need the latest version. Then, after many years of waiting, I finally upgraded my 2010 iMac (and 2015 MacBook) with a new 14″ MacBook Pro and a 27″ 4K monitor, which is set up as a docking station. The M1 Pro Mac is a revelation, Photoshop Lightroom opens almost instantly and it is nice to be able to work away from my desk sometimes. Lastly, Jen got me some AirPods for my birthday, which have been getting a lot of use. The reason for so much technology this year is simply that I have not upgraded anything for a while – hopefully, this will last me for a few more years, but hopefully not all needing to be replaced at once.

I have not used the MR2 Roadster as much as I would have liked, but the highlight was an early morning blast to the Elan Valley, with my friend Partho in his BMW Z4. The low point was finding out that it needed new tyres and had a hole in the rear subframe. I knew the tyres were old and worn, but I had not expected the handling balance to change so much with new tyres. Even on the cold and damp December roads, I could not break traction, which reminded me of when I first had it. The van has been great too, both on holidays and day to day, but especially for all of the bike trips we have done. Unfortunately, it has had a bad few weeks. On the way back from Cannock Chase with Henry (on our last Friday “Daddy day”) a car bumped into the back of us, then drove off, when we were waiting at some traffic lights. Then earlier this week, I scraped the roof on a lower than advertised height restriction. I just need to remind myself that the van is a workhorse, and is always going to pick some scuffs.

I had another good year on the bike, riding further than last year. More rides have also been with other people – rides with Owen, family rides and some really good rides at Cannock Chase with my friends. More riding has meant less time in the workshop, so I am going to need to catch up in 2022.

At the start of the year, homeschooling for Owen was hard for everyone involved, although there were a few projects that we enjoyed together – such as when I filmed Owen doing some maths work. As he moved into year 1 at school it has become apparent that he has got a talent for maths – I was particularly impressed when he had to explain the “part-whole model” to my brother, who is a maths teacher and is also a doctor of maths.

Owen’s bike riding has come on really well in 2021. The key moments were getting his Orbea MX20 mountain bike (one of three new bikes this year!), joining the Peddlamaniacs cycling club and the opening of the new blue graded trail at Cannock Chase. A new interest for Owen in 2021 has been video games, particularly Super Mario – the Mario Lego set (Amazon affiliate link) he got for Christmas went down very well!

Henry has had a good year too, he has become a proper little boy, chattering away – often about Nanny’s handbag and/or car or when my mum slipped on ice and broke her wrist earlier in the year. His catchphrase for the year has been “do it by myself” – which probably shows just how independent he is getting. He knows what he wants and makes it very clear – one evening when I picked him up from nursery, the teacher told me that she had thought Owen was stubborn, but Henry is ten times as stubborn. He does seem to be making friends at nursery, at last, which is a good sign.

Since his birthday, Henry has really started to get the hang of his balance bike, to the point where I think he is ready for pedals – if his legs are long enough for Owen’s old Frog 43 14″ bike. He loves going to the pump track, or skatepark, and seems to have a great memory for which snacks he has eaten at each track, then demands more of the same on subsequent visits. He is also becoming a little petrol head – he can identify his favourite cars: Renault, Range Rovers and FIATs, from quite a distance. His favourite Christmas present was a model Porsche Macan – to match Grandpa’s new car.

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

Catch up on blogging

Narrow pass – I have shared 32 posts this year, including quite a few I had wanted to catch up on. However, I still have quite a few in my drafts that I need to finish and publish.

Publish more of my software work

Narrow pass – In June I wrote “I have a few more repositories on my Github profile, including the Twitter Bot I blogged about. I have a few more projects to finish off and share too. Ideally, I need to combine this with the previous goal and blog about these projects.” I have not done much more in the second half of the year.

Take a good wildlife photo

Fail – I did get out to the woods with my camera but did not manage to photograph any wildlife. I had also spotted a heron on a few bike rides, so returned with my camera to try and get a good photo. I was excited to see it there, but as soon as I got the camera out of my bag it flew off. I was pleased with some zoo photos, including the lorikeet above.

Ride 1,000 miles

Pass – This was an easy pass. So much so that in June I had set myself a stretch goal of 2,021km, which I failed to achieve.

Ride somewhere new with Owen

Pass – Owen and I rode together loads this year, it has been great. The photo above was taken at Thetford Forest on our October holiday. We also enjoyed the new trails at Snibston Colliery Park and the blue graded trail at Cannock Chase.

Get on top of cleaning the cars

Fail – All of the cars had a thorough wash at some point in the year, but given that they are all filthy now, I cannot claim a pass.

Declutter/sell stuff

Partial Pass – I have sold quite a few items, including a bike, but seem to have added more things to the “to sell” pile.

Tidy my garage

Partial pass – With the family fleet of bikes increasing in size, installing some Topeak bike hooks (Amazon affiliate link) to get the bigger bikes off the floor has made a difference. However, the workbench is still a mess.

Get my weight down to 85kg

Massive fail – Keeping my weight down has not really been a priority this year. My dad has done a really good job of losing weight this year, showing me that it can be done. I will need to try harder next year.

Whilst I have missed a few of my goals for the year, I have achieved one of my main life goals of getting back into a software development job, which was not something I was expecting for 2021. Another positive is that we, as a family, have managed to avoid catching coronavirus. It feels like it has been closing in on us, with close contacts at work, school and nursery testing positive, but test after test have come back negative up to now.

2021 Goals Update

So far 2021 has been another tricky year, especially with the lockdown and homeschooling at the start of the year. Overall I do not think I have made as much progress on my goals as I would have liked, other things have cropped up and I am also trying to factor in some downtime each day. The biggest excitement for me this year has been Henry turning from a baby into a little boy, especially over the last few weeks where he has began speaking more than just the odd word. He has also really taken to his balance bike. I must stop using selfies of us on my bike for these posts though – I have just noticed that I used similar photos on my 2021 post and my 2020 mid-year goals update.

Catch up on blogging

This is my nineteenth post of the year, but I do still have a bit of a backlog. I still have at least five posts in my drafts folder that I need to finish, and a few more post ideas in my head… I also need to do some blog maintenance and tidy up the structure of my posts.

Publish more of my software work

I have a few more repositories on my Github profile, including the Twitter Bot I blogged about. I have a few more projects to finish off and share too. Ideally, I need to combine this with the previous goal and blog about these projects.

Take a good wildlife photo

The only wild animals I have pointed my camera at are Owen and Henry! I have noticed plenty of robins and squirrels in my local woods, typically they only allow me to get close when I do not have a camera. We will also be signing up for membership at Twycross Zoo, so I am sure that I will at least get some animal photos.

Ride 1,000 miles

This is certainly one goal where I am overachieving, I am already past 500 miles so far and not too far off 600! It has definitely been a case of little and often, as I have not done any particularly big rides. Most of my rides have been with Owen and/or Henry, so less than 10km. However, all the riding probably explains why both of my bikes need a service. I am almost tempted to try and push for 2,021km, to beat my record from 2015. I am comfortably ahead of my friend Partho in our annual “who can ride their bike the furthest” challenge too.

Another cycling challenge that I would like to complete is the Godiva Trail Riders Lockdown Challenge route in less than one hour. There is now the added bonus of a Five Guys restaurant at the finish line on Broadgate in the city centre. I just need to do a brake overhaul on my hardtail bike and I will be good to go.

Ride somewhere new with Owen

Owen and I have done a lot of riding together. We rode at Snibston Colliery Country Park in our “week of bikes” at Easter, but that ride was cut short by mechanical problems on my bike. We have also ridden the new blue graded trail at Cannock Chase, including our “long weekend of bikes“. We have got a few trips planned later in the year where I am sure Owen and I will ride some more new trails.

Get on top of cleaning the cars

All three of the cars have had a wash this year – the MR2 before I had even started back at work! Unfortunately, both the MR2 and van could do with another wash though. The Worx Hydroshot (Amazon affiliate link) cordless pressure washer I bought has certainly made this easier, as I do not need to run power and water from/through the house.

Declutter/sell stuff

I have sold a few things on eBay/Facebook marketplace, but I still have a fair bit to go. We have also done a decent job of passing on baby bits that the boys have grown out of.

Does anybody want to buy a 24″ wheel kids bike? Or a camera bag? Or a tripod? Or a Lee DSLR filter kit?

Tidy my garage

It was tidy at one point! I even got some Topeak bike hooks (Amazon affiliate link) to tidy up the bikes. However, after rebuilding Owen’s new bike and a few other projects, it is back to being messy.

Get my weight down to 85kg

This is probably the goal I am doing worst at – after a good start, I have put on some weight on during the lockdown. There is still time to turn it around though.

Outside of my goals, I have spent a lot of time at my desk, either working at my day job or on various software development projects, which I hope to be able to share soon (see goal #1). After a quiet start to the year, due to the lockdown, we have lots of exciting plans for the summer and early part of the autumn, so I hope to have some exciting posts in the coming months.

A Productive Weekend

Two of my goals for 2021 are to “get on top of cleaning the cars” and “tidy my garage”. This weekend I decided to start as I mean to go on. So I shuffled the cars around to get the MR2 on to the drive to give it a quick clean – its first since 2019! The main motivation behind this was that my parents had bought me a car cover (Amazon affiliate link) for it for my birthday and I did not want to fit it on to a dirty car. It was also a good chance to use my Worx Hydroshot (Amazon affiliate link) – previously washing cars on the drive meant running a hosepipe from the back garden through the house, leaving both front and back doors open. Which is not ideal in winter, or with a small inquisitive child who like to get outside at any chance. I used a 40 litre flexible bucket to feed the pressure washer, and that was more than enough for a quick wash on the MR2.

Whilst the MR2 was on the drive, I took the opportunity to sweep out the garage and load all of the waste cardboard in to Jen’s Toyota Yaris to take it to the tip. The reason for taking the Yaris is that vans, like mine, are not allowed at the tip. Owen came with me, because he likes watching the heavy machinery there, and with the back seats folded down it was a chance to ride up front with me. It was nice to be out just the two of us in the Yaris, after running our errands we took the long way home, past the Midland Air Museum and Lunt Roman Fort, as Owen’s current interests are Spitfires (none at the museum unfortunately) and Romans.

Along with writing this short blog post, I make that three of my 2021 goals that I have made progress on, before starting back at work for what is going to be a very busy few months…

2021

Happy New Year!

I am going into 2021 with low expectations – hopefully, it means I will not be disappointed. We have got a few trips tentatively planned, a rescheduled return to Bluestone in Wales and a visit to our friend’s holiday cottage in Staithes, North Yorkshire. Partho and I also need to plan our return to Coed Y Brenin in Wales. I would like to ride there with Owen too. Closer to home, my parents bought us a family membership to Twycross Zoo, we had one when Owen was Henry’s age and we all loved it, so I am looking forward to returning.

Work is going to be interesting for me, as the project I am working on will finally launch. Our office in Coventry is closing, so I’ll either be working from home or commuting to Milton Keynes – hopefully, the former. Fortunately, I also have a few projects outside of work to keep me occupied: bike builds, and web apps – which I hope to convert to iOS apps once I have bought a new Mac. I am waiting for Apple to release the workstation-class version of their M1 processor, to replace the ten-year-old iMac I use for editing and software development – so a leap in performance will be something to look forward to!

We saw in 2021 the same way we’ve seen in the last few years – quietly at home. Not that we had a choice in the matter. Some of our neighbours decided to let off fireworks in the street – to be fair it was a pretty good display and as the boys sleep at the back of the house they did not get woken up (unlike last year). Given the combination of tier 4 lockdown and rubbish weather, we seized a window of blue sky in the morning to get out for a short family bike ride. I had fitted the Mac Ride to my Clockwork Evo, as Henry is now big enough to graduate from his baby seat. I was unsure of how he would cope on the Mac Ride, so we stuck to a short loop, but he did really well, and seemed more involved in the ride than on his old seat.

As in previous years, I have set myself some goals for the year ahead:

Catch up on blogging

I have loads of posts, either half-finished drafts or ideas on the kanban board I use to track ideas for this blog, that I need to get published. Following on from last year, I also need to set up the Organize Series plugin and apply it to my old posts, so I can finally have the structure to series of posts that I have wanted for a number of years.

Publish more of my software work

A lot of the projects that I am working on just reside on virtual machines on my Mac for my own use. I need to set them free! Either get them on a live server, sharing them on my Github or even just blogging about them. Not only will it push me to give projects that final polish, hopefully, it will act as a bit of a portfolio for my software development work.

Take a good wildlife photo

Looking back through my Lightroom catalogue, most of my photos from 2020 were of Owen and Henry. As cute/wild as they are, in 2021 I would like to take a good wildlife photo. Ideally, I would like this to be in my local woods, as I regularly see wildlife there, but am usually on my bike, or accompanied by two small children, so the animals do not hang about for long!

Ride 1,000 miles

I usually measure cycling distance in kilometres (it is the rule), but the 1,552km that I rode last year was just short of 1,000 miles, so I will put in the effort to hit the 1,000-mile goal. I have made a start, only about 997 miles to go…

Of course, my annual challenge to ride further than my best friend Partho still stands. He does not appear to have ridden today, so I am already pulling out a slight lead…

Ride somewhere new with Owen

I would like to take Owen for some slightly bigger days on the bike, possibly in Wales. I think he would manage the blue trail at Llandegla or Coed Y Brenin. I have also heard good things about Nant Y Arian’s new blue trail.

Get on top of cleaning the cars

I used to really enjoy cleaning cars, but with three cars and two small children, it has become increasingly difficult. Multiple cars need to be moved to get one on the drive, and running a hose to the drive means leaving both front and back doors open which is not ideal with Henry in particular, who likes to escape. I have recently bought myself a Worx Hydroshot (Amazon affiliate link) cordless pressure washer, which will run from a water butt and should mean that I am able to clean cars with the house doors shut.

First on my list is the MR2, it has not had a wash since May 2019, and I have a car cover to put on it, but do not want to do that until it is clean. I plan to get this done by the end of January – after all, there is not much else to do!

Declutter/sell stuff

I have got stacks of stuff that I have been meaning to sell for ages, 2021 needs to be the year that it goes! I also feel like it is going to be an expensive year – I need to buy a new Mac, which will also likely mean buying more backup drives etc, so any extra funds will help!

Tidy my garage

This is a carryover from 2020. The garage has got to a point where it is full of bikes, bike parts and bike boxes – I need to have a sort out! I have got a tip slot booked (in the Yaris, because vans are not allowed) on Sunday, so that should at least allow me to get rid of the bike boxes. Then after I have finished rebuilding Owen’s next bike, I will sort out the workbench and storage areas. I am going to force myself to do this before starting any major jobs on bikes. This year started hanging bikes on the wall, I need to rejig how I have got them arranged, to make it easier to get the bikes in and out.

Get my weight down to 85kg

Another carryover from 2020 (and 2019), but this year I am hoping that I can keep up the momentum from the last 5 months. Jen is on board and is not going to bake any cakes, as we ate too much cake last year. I also have added motivation as my Dad lost a lot of weight last year and at this rate, he will get down to 85kg before I do.

As always, I am sure that more goals will crop up as the year goes on. Hopefully, Henry will start to ride his balance bike and to speak more than the odd word. I hope this is not a case of needing to be careful with what I am wishing for. I would like Owen to gain the confidence on his bike to ride up and down kerbs, however, he has set his sights slightly higher – he wants to learn to do jumps (and whips) on his bike!

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 kilometers around my local trails.

Do a strength workout at least once a week

Strength workouts, and to some extent yoga, have definitely 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 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 keener 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 aging 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 another 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 canceled, 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 kilometer 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 overachieving… 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 bodywork – 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…

2020

Happy New Year!

2020 is going to be an exciting year! Once again I will be taking nine weeks parental leave – officially starting tomorrow! It will also be exciting for Owen because he will be starting school in September. Henry will be starting nursery in March. We are looking forward to going back to Bluestone in May and have a trip to the south coast with my family too. Now that Henry is a bit bigger, we have more options for family days out – hopefully on the bikes. I will also be able to take him out in my MR2 – like I did with Owen.

We saw in 2020 at home, with Jen’s friend Jo. We got a takeaway from Rainbow Dragon, and just about managed to stay awake until midnight! In my case, by working on my Instagram Best Nine 2019 post. However, at midnight Owen was woken up by the fireworks, so by 00:01 I was upstairs with him, and he was awake until about 03:00 – welcome to 2020! Fortunately Henry slept like a log.

We had a quiet day today, only leaving the house to visiting Ryton Pools Country Park. Owen rode his bike to and from the adventure playground and really seems to be getting the hang of his new pedal bike, which I need to do a bike check for! We had a relaxed afternoon at home, watching Disney films, with the fire on. Henry even fell asleep in my arms – it has been quite a while since he last did that!

Like the last few years (2017 & 2018) I am setting myself some goals for the year, I was a bit lax in achieving my goals last year, so hoping I can do better in 2020!

Get my weight down to 85kg

This is carried over from the last few years, but I have had a bad year, particularly over the last month. Hopefully being off work for the next few months will give me a kick start and I will be able to keep up with it when I start back at work. I have realised that I really need to be focusing on my nutrition, rather than trying to out-exercise a bad diet!

Reinstate my mid week cardio session

Again, copied from last year, but I have been a bit slack on this. I have bought myself a better front light for my bike, so have less of an excuse now! I am going to try and get out at least three Wednesday evenings a month!

Do a strength workout at least once a week

Something else carried over from last year, which should also help my weight-loss goal! As part of the strength workouts I also need to focus on “kneehab” – the rehab exercises for my ruptured ACL, which has been causing me some pain over the last few weeks. I have managed to get morning yoga sessions into my weekly routine, so I know this is achievable!

New blog server and theme

I got most of the way towards a new blog server last year – as far as setting it up on a virtual machine on my iMac. I just need to replicate that on AWS. My goal is to get that done in January. The theme I am using on my blog is approaching ten years old, so that really needs an update too, so that will be my next WordPress task.

WordPress custom stories project

For a while I have wanted to be able to link groups of posts, such as multi location trips, or my weekly parental leave posts into a cohesive story. I think I have worked out a way to do this, so want to get this set up on my blog. A stretch goal would then be to roll it into a WordPress plugin that anyone could use on their blog.

Become an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

I have been using AWS for a few years now, for various personal projects, but am self taught. I would like to get a formal qualification, and in the process identify any areas I have missed whilst learning.

Build an iOS app

I have been dabbling in iOS app development, but I feel I have got to the point where I need to build an app from scratch! I have got a few ideas, current apps from the App Store that can be improved, and things I am using web apps to do for myself. Initially the app would just be for myself to use, but obviously the stretch goal would be get it into the App Store and ideally monetise it!

Tidy my desk

My desk has become a bit of a mess, since this time last year when my office was annexed to make room for Henry and I was relocated to the dining room. The problem is twofold – it makes the dining room look messy and it is easy for people to add to the mess and treat it as a dumping ground! Part of this project is also to create a proper home for my camera kit. I am thinking of something along the lines of a box with foam cut-outs, or even grids with foam/felt lining. I am sure I will post about the solution when I finish it!

Tidy my garage

In a similar vein, my garage has ended up in a bit of a mess after too many bike projects!

Ride more with Partho

As I mentioned on my Instagram Best Nine 2019, riding with Partho last year was great – we have both agreed that we need to do it more! I would like to go to Nant Y Arian in mid Wales and I think Partho would like to conquer the Minor Taur trail at Coed Y Brenin – ideally before Owen does… As I have been writing this post we have been discussing dates for a trip back to Coed Y Brenin and it looks like we are set for April!

Obviously we will have our annual Strava competition – to see who can log the furthest distance in the year.

Do some night photography

This was a goal last year, that I just about passed. However I did plan some ideas for shots. Hopefully it will be easier now that Henry is a bit older and in more of a bedtime routine. My friend Rich has also expressed an interest in joining me – so I will be taking him up on that!

Fix up my radio controlled MX-5

When digging my Scalextric out of the loft to play with Owen, which was a big success, I found my Tamiya 1:10 scale MX-5. I would like to get it out of the loft and recommission it so I can play with it with Owen. If it goes well I would like to get Owen a radio control car for himself and possibly a more rugged, off road buggy for myself.

I have left some goals off, as hopefully they are ones that will happen organically, like getting Henry on a bike, continuing to regularly ride at the pump track (I know Owen will be keeping me in check on that one!) and replacing my iMac – which I will do, when Apple release a new version. I am also sure that new things will pop up during the year!

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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6vAQ6QnFwa/

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!

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.

2019

Happy New Year!

2019 is going to be an exciting year for us – Owen will be getting a little brother! Baby Craik is due in March, hopefully he will wait a bit longer than Owen did before coming out! Owen seems to be excited about being a big brother, he has already been shopping with us to pick out a special toy for his new brother – he was very decisive and chose an elephant soother – hopefully it will be loved as much as Owen’s blue rabbit toy! We are currently busy preparing for Baby Craik’s arrival, my office is being relocated to the dining room (meaning a lot of sorting/decluttering in both rooms) and Owen is being promoted from cot to proper bed. I’m sure that wrangling two little boys is going to take up most of our attention this year, but we do have a few other exciting things planned!

June is going to be especially busy, with Coventry Motofest, Monster Jam in Coventry, Malverns Classic MTB festival (including Strider racing for Owen) and Owen will be racing again at the Strider Cup at Kingsbury Water Park. In September we’re planning on going away for a week, somewhere in the UK, ideally near a beach – but for the first time in ten years, not Croyde! Pembrokeshire is looking favourite, but if you know anywhere good to holiday with two small boys, please let me know!

We saw in 2019 with our friends in York, which was really nice. Especially as Owen is now big enough to play with the other children. Owen loved having access to lots of toys, and a few slightly older friends to play with. This meant the adults could have a good catch up. I really hope Owen is as good with his baby brother as William, Billy, Violet and Catherine were with him! New Years Day continued in the same style, albeit at a different house. The kids had a hotdog party and the adults had a burger party – my sort of party! Owen slept through most of the long drive home, but it gave Jen and I plenty of time to reflect on how much we always enjoy seeing our friends in York and also to discuss our goals for the year ahead.

As in 2017 and 2018, I have set myself some goals, stating them publicly gives me more motivation to get them done. Having said that, I had a few fails last year.

Get my weight down to 85kg

This is carried over from last year, as I ended the year weighing 88kg. I got close to 85kg in the spring, but got carried away with too much nice food in Spain.

Reinstate my mid week cardio session

I used to get out on my bike, or go for a swim pretty much every Wednesday evening, but I have slacked off over the last few months. I need to get back on it. I also want to start climbing, after my taster in 2017.

Do a strength workout at least once a week

Jen bought me some resistance bands for my birthday, I am ashamed to say that four weeks later they are still in the packaging. There is also a new gym opening next to my office. I have no excuses for not fitting in at least one workout a week!

Ride at the pumptrack at least once a month

After riding at the pumptrack last month, and realising what a good workout it is, I want to make sure I do more of it in 2019. My plan for 2018 had been to ride at the pumptrack with Owen, but it didn’t quite work out, as he still isn’t confident enough to ride without me following close behind. Hopefully 2019 will be the year we can ride together at the pumptrack. As a stretch goal, I would like to be able clear some tabletop jumps and/or manual through some rollers.

Ride at a bike park

I used to think that downhills had to be earned, but after doing some van assisted riding in Spain with Basque MTB last year my opinion changed. Not killing yourself on the climb gives you the energy to focus on the downhill, and doing laps of the same trail really allows you to hone your skills, so I can now see the benefits of doing an uplift day at a bike park. 417 Bike Park is an hour’s drive from Coventry (about the same as Cannock Chase), so I will be booking a day there fairly soon! I hear they also have good trails for kids, so maybe Owen will get to ride there too.

Clock over 100 active hours on Strava

I have added this goal mainly because I “only” clocked 99 active hours in 2018 and it seems a good target to aim for.

New blog server

I have been dabbling with AWS for a few years now, and have identified a few ways that I can improve the server set up I have for this blog. I would also like to move it to blog to WordPress 5.0 and write a new custom theme. All geeky stuff, but as my day job is getting more and more project management based I like to keep my technical skills sharp.

Take control of my open tabs in Safari

I have been thinking for a while that I have too many open tabs in Safari across my two Macs and iPhone. I counted (well used the “Bookmarks” menu on the Macs and “Close all tabs” button on iOS) almost 400 open tabs, so need to work through and close them. I am sure that there are some duplicates and ones that I opened for something i was researching, but never got around to implementing. I am going to try and close a few each time I use Safari.

Replace my ageing iMac

I have been thinking that I would do this the last few years, but keep stretching it out for “one more year”. However, now that it will not run the latest version on macOS, is running out of space on the hard disk and is incredibly slow, the time has come. There are two things making this difficult – deciding between an iMac, Mac Mini or MacBook Pro and saving up for it!

Do some night photography

I always look at astrophotography in awe, and enjoyed doing some night landscape photography when I lived in Rugby, but haven’t done any in ages. Now that I have switched camera systems to Fuji, and I am more interested in photography again I would like to get out and try some night photography. Hopefully I will be able to get my Dad to join me…

Detail my MR2

I took the MR2 out for a quick spin on Sunday and realised that I last washed it in 2016! After the Peak District hoon, I know I have not driven it much, but it deserves better! I bought some special Japanese car wax for Jen’s Yaris, I think it would also work well on the MR2.

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

I actually set this goal after its last MOT, when it had 57,239 miles on the clock and I was disappointed that it had done less than 2,000 miles in the previous year. Unfortunately I forgot to check the milage last time I drove it, so have no idea how likely I am to meet my goal.

Drink more whisky

A strange resolution I know! I am not a big drinker, but do enjoy the occasional wee dram of single malt whisky. However people have latched on to this and I am being bought whisky faster than I drink it! I currently have ten bottles (plus one miniature), with six that haven’t even been opened. I am still yet to finish the Tomatin twelve year old that I bought when we visited the distillery in 2014!

I got this off to a good start by seeing in the new year drinking a dram of Tasmanian whisky, that our host Will had been given as a gift. As a Scotsman I usually only drink Scottish whisky, but I doubt I will have another chance to try Tasmanian whisky, so I gave it a go. Now to make a dent in my own collection…