2024

Happy New Year!

Owen and I started 2024 as we mean to go on – riding mountain bikes! We saw in the new year at home, my best friend Partho, his wife Marilena and their two sausage dogs, Otto and Leo, who came round to our house for a dinner party. We had Pastitio, a Cypriot meat, pasta and b├ęchamel sauce dish, similar to lasagne. Jen was going to make it, but Partho and Marilena offered to make it and bring it with them, as they had the correct pasta from Cyprus. Instead, Jen made a “Burnt Basque Cheesecake” for dessert. It was one of the tastiest dinners of the year. It was a low key evening, but really nice to spend some time together. Henry did not quite manage to stay up until midnight, but Owen did, just. He was flagging by 23:30, but we kept him going.

Thanks to their late night, the boys gave us a lie in this morning. After a late breakfast, Owen and I loaded up the van to drive to Hicks Lodge, for a first proper ride on his new bike. Everyone else had the same idea, so it took us a while to get parked up. When we eventually got to the trails they were wet, but still running well. Owen seemed to take well to his new bike – I need to stop giving him such long head starts, as I struggled to catch up with him on a few sections. He has lost some fitness whilst recovering from his recent illness, and could not keep up his initial pace, and we only managed one lap. It was great to be back out together though. Hopefully we will be doing much more riding together later in the year – one of his new years resolutions is “not to say no, to going for bike rides”.

We have not got any riding trips planned yet, as Owen still needs to take things easy. However he is looking forward to our trip to Manchester for the “Bricktastic” Lego show. We have a few other trips planned: Jen and I will be going to York in a few weeks, we hope to repeat our trip to Weston-Super-Mare for Cruise to the Prom and we will be joining my parents, brother, sister-in-law and new niece, for a week on the South Coast, near Brighton, in the summer holidays. Jen and I also have a trip to Rome to rebook. Hopefully we will also be able to squeeze in a few more trips.

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

Spend more time with my friends

Life always seems to get in the way, but this year I am going to make a more concerted effort to spend time with my friends. I saw a couple of my best friends, separately, yesterday and it was really nice to spend time with them. We all just need to be a bit more organised, especially as the lads all have big birthdays coming up, which we should probably celebrate.

Make my blog more robust

My blog went offline for a few months last year, and the replacement I deployed has not been great either. Last year I focussed on making what I had more robust, e.g. failing health checks triggering an AWS Lambda script to reboot the server, but I think I need to start from scratch and get something more reliable.

Refresh my photography portfolio website

A goal carried over from last year. My original plan to do customise the skin I’m using in Adobe Portfolio failed, because that option is not available. So all I need to do is choose some new images, hopefully it will not be a big job.

Photograph a rally

Rallying is my favourite form of motorsport, and it has been over ten years since I last saw one live. So I would really like to get to a forest and see some rally cars sliding around on gravel roads. My dad has also said we should go to a rally this year.

Complete a 50km bike ride

My goal last year was to do three 50km rides, I did not even manage to do one. This year I have set myself a more achievable target. Fitness wise, I am sure I could do three long rides, but it is more having the time in the summer, and what else I would have to miss.

Ride 25km with Owen

Like last year, this is more Owen’s goal, as he wants to beat his longest ride to date, which stands at 20km – his goal last year. I will have to think of somewhere we can do a long ride, without too much climbing. Sherwood Pines was a good bet last year, but it would be better to ride somewhere else this time.

Ride at Bike Park Wales with Owen

Another goal carried over from last year. We had booked on to the Little Rippers Halloween ride at Bike Park Wales, but had to cancel, as Owen was in hospital. He needs to get his bike fitness back before a big day at a bike park.

Ride at 417 Bike Park with Henry

I had completely forgotten that we rode the pump track at 417 Bike Park last year, Henry had been keen to ride the bike park trails, but we had not paid for that and I promised him that we would come back. Henry must also have forgotten about it, because usually he would keep reminding me. This will likely be one for later in the year when Henry has moved on to Owen’s old Orbea.

Ride at Bwlch Nant yr Arian

Another goal carried over from 2023, Bwlch Nant yr Arian in Mid Wales has some great looking trails, and is also known for their daily Red Kite feeding – which is enough of an excuse for me to go for a ride. It also seems like somewhere that might be worth visiting with Jen and the boys as part of a Mid Wales trip.

Ride one more of the “10 of the best XC trails in the UK” with Partho

In 2022, Partho shared an article with me called “10 of the best XC trails in the UK“. I have ridden a couple of the trails, and parts of a few more, last year we planned to try and ride a few more together, but it did not happen. We discussed it last night and decided we would aim for a more realistic “ride one of the trails”.

Sort out the boys toys

Last year we redecorated our lounge, and have kept it mostly free from toys, and it is lovely. There is so much more space. The downside is that the toys are piled up in their room, so we need to sort them out – ideally maintaining the nice “grown up” lounge. We need to sort out some storage and to be be ruthless, as realistically there are only a few toys that they play with regularly.

Tidy my garage

I did not get around to this last year, if anything, the garage got messier, as more bikes arrived. A thorough sort out is needed and I also need to be ruthless.

MR2 jobs

Last year marked ten years since I bought my MR2 Roadster, for the most part it has been cheap motoring, and very reliable. Last year I planned to tackle those little jobs that will prolong it’s life, things like cleaning the drain holes. The wheels could also do with a thorough clean and a good coat of wax. However, I’ll need to get the garage tidied first… There are also a few blemishes on the paintwork that I would like to get addressed.

Make sure that my pensions and investments are working for me

When I changed jobs a few years ago, I made sure I could access my old work pension, but other than that have just left it sitting there. I had a work pension with my new job, and set up a SIPP to boost my work pension, but other than paying in to it monthly I have not checked how it is getting on. I think some sort of of “health check” is needed, and maybe some consolidation. It is a boring job, but one that keeps getting put off, having it written down as a goal should mean I am more likely to do it.

Get my weight down to 90kg

For the last ten years, at least, my goal has been to get my weight down to 85kg, which has clearly not happened. 90kg is more achievable, but if I get there, I will try to keep going to 85kg. My plan is more riding and less pizza.

Hopefully 2024 will be a better year than 2023, it has got off to a good start, so I will do my best to carry on with these positive vibes…

A Look Back at 2023

2023 has been a mixed year – the first nine months were pretty good, but the end of the year has been hard for all of us, as Owen has been ill. He seems to be over the worst of it now, so I will focus on the good stuff! The highlight of my year was our road trip to the Lake District, Scotland and Saltburn-by-the-Sea – it was not the big European trip that we had planned, but nonetheless, it was our best family holiday to date. In the spring we also had trips to Somerset and another to Legoland and to visit my brother in Kent. This month Jen and I both celebrated our fortieth birthdays, although our plan for a long weekend away in Rome had to be postponed. At home, the year started off with a new sofa, which then kicked off a full redecoration of the living room, including a new carpet, after a central heating leak. Clearing the room out, and only bringing back what we need has made as much of a difference as the new decor, but we still need to sort out all of the other stuff stashed around the house…

2023 has been a fairly good year on the bikes! And also in the workshop as I am ending the year with three working bikes! I started the year with only my hardtail Clockwork Evo, and pretty much rode that into the ground. Which forced me to pull my finger out and get my Orange Four ridable again. Some of my favourite rides of the year were: Llandegla with Owen, the first ride back on my Four at FoD, Sherwood Pines with Partho and Owen, and riding at the Golfie but most of all, I loved all the family bike rides we were able to go on. I also got myself a new bike for riding around town, which has proved more fun than I was expecting.

I have also had a good year behind the camera, shooting more mountain bike races, and even a bit of motorsport. I went on a landscape photography workshop in the Peak District, but sadly had not yet got around to processing and sharing the images, as it was the week before our summer road trip. The boys continue to be my main photographic subjects, usually on our regular walks in the woods up the road from our house.

Although my website, in particular this blog, have had a rubbish year, with a lot of downtime, I feel like I have progressed a lot as a developer this year, both at work and on my personal projects. The main thing that I want to keep on with is using Infrastructure As Code, in particular AWS CDK to define the infrastructure for my projects.

Owen is growing up and starting to get his own interests – mainly computer games, reading and history. Sadly for me he seems to be drifting away from MTB, he often takes some convincing to join me on rides. Then gets upset that he does not get to ride much. Hopefully the new bike he got for Christmas will spur him to ride more next year. His main riding goal for the year was to ride twenty kilometers, which he achieved in September. He also joined a karate dojo, and was making good progress with that before being taken ill. He will be able to restart karate in the new year and work towards his yellow, and hopefully orange belts. Of course the main thing that happened for Owen his illness and subsequent hospital visits. Thankfully we are over the worst of it now though.

Henry has also had a big year – starting school being the highlight, I think he preferred nursery, but he is doing well with his reading and writing, and seems to be making friends. Outside of school he has joined our local Cycle Speedway team and enjoyed going to the weekly training sessions. He continues to be a right little diva – he knows what he wants, and he makes sure everyone knows about it.

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

Pass the AWS Certified Developer Associate exam

Pass – This goal was carried over from 2022, but I managed to get it done in the summer. I then started studying for the AWS Security Specialist Certification – I was almost ready to take the exam when Owen got admitted to hospital.

Rebuild my Orange Four

PassIt was so good to be back on the Four! However, I was not expecting to be the bike I rode the most all year.

Refresh my photography portfolio website

Fail – I did look in to this, but was disappointed that there was not much manual customisation available on the Adobe Portfolio service, which powers my photography portfolio. I have started to select some new images for the portfolio, but did not get very far.

Photograph more bike races

Pass – I shot four bike races this year, the Cannock Chase Winter Classic XC race, and three downhill races at Sitle Cop downhill trails. This is by far my favourite type of photography, and I am glad that I have been able to do it more often. I even sold a few images, not quite enough to pay for my new lens though.

Take a wildlife photo I am happy with

Fail – I put this on hold, as I have realised that to get an image that I will be happy with will require time, in addition to a much longer lens. Whilst I could have borrowed the lens, time was the bigger constraint, so I made an effort to concentrate on sports photography.

Complete at least three 50km bike rides

Fail – I did not manage one. I had planned one, including route and childcare, but the weather forecast was rubbish, so I wimped out. I did manage one ride over forty kilometers, with the Godiva Trailriders, and given that was at a much faster pace than I am used to, I am sure that fifty kilometers is doable.

Ride 20km with Owen

Pass – After a few failed attempts, we managed this, at Sherwood Pines towards the end of September with Partho, when I had borrowed the Fuji X-H2S. It was one of my favourite rides of the year.

Ride at Bike Park Wales with Owen

Fail – Owen did not ride much earlier in the year, so I did not feel that he would have the bike fitness for a summer trip to Bike Park Wales. We had booked to join the Little Rippers Halloween ride there, but had to cancel as Owen was admitted to hospital.

Ride at Bwlch Nant yr Arian

Fail – This one is on me. I still want to ride there, I just need to pick a weekend and go! I will be carrying this goal over to 2024 for sure.

Ride some more of the “10 of the best XC trails in the UK” with Partho

Fail – We did not manage to get too many full days together to ride, so it was just the odd ride at our usual spots, Cannock Chase and Sherwood Pines, as always though, it is just good to be abke to get out together,

Tidy my office

Pass – Given the current state of my office, I am only just scraping a pass. But for most of the year, it has been a lot tidier than it was. My excuse is that towards the end of the year I need some mess in there to disguise the christmas presents I have stashed. Ideally I will give it a quick spring clean tomorrow before I restart at work though.

Tidy my garage

Fail – I have got too many bike projects on the go, and too many bikes in general. This year I think I sold two, and added three, only one of which was for me. This is another goal that needs to be carried over to 2024.

MR2 jobs

Fail – Again, I had too many bike jobs, so wil need to carry these over to 2024.

Van upgrades

Pass – I had the interior of the van insulated and carpeted, a Loaded Bikes system installed to transport the bikes securely and an awning rail fitted. The interior is a nicer place to be and it is easier to get the bikes in and out of the van. However, we have not managed to have the days out in the van that we would like. The boys and I (minimal help from the boys) managed to get the awning set up to give us some shade on a very warm visit to Mallory Park. I think it is one of those things where we need to get dates in the calendar reserved for van days out, otherwise something else always crops up. The van was great for our trip to Scotland though.

Monthly blog posts

Fail – My blog was offline for two months, so those months were missed. I feel like I have been getting better towards the end of the year, so hopefully I can carry the momentum forward to 2024.

Flagged emails

Fail – I have just checked and I have 639 flagged emails, more than I started with. Hopefully none of them are too important… At least I have been making a concious effort to address them though.

Get my weight down to 85kg

Massive fail – Again! Looking at the data from my Withings Scales Amazon affliate link, I was losing weight for most of the year, but put a load back on this month. At one point, whilst Owen was in hospital, my weight dipped below 90kg, but I’m not sure that being so stressed you forget to eat is really a sustainable weightloss strategy.

Once again it looks like I have failed to achieve more of my goals than I acheived. I think for next year I need to try not to over commit myself, but given the past few months I am mainly happy that we are ending 2023 without daily hospital visits and two (mostly) healthy children.

2023 Goals Update

I usually like to check in on my goals for the year at the end of June, but due to the issues with my blog server, I have reviewed them two-thirds through the year, rather than halfway through. You would have thought that would have given me more chance to check off goals, but we will see…

Pass the AWS Certified Developer Associate exam

Done! I cannot be too smug though, as it was a carryover goal from last year. Given how much time this took in the spring, I am not sure why I have committed to doing another certification, AWS Certified Security – Specialty in the Autumn.

Rebuild my Orange Four

Also done! Again, a recycled 2023 goal, but it has been great being back on the Four, especially at the Golfie earlier this week. I have been riding it so much that it needs a service now. The Clockwork Evo is also due a big rebuild – it was a good job I got the Four finished when I did. Fortunately, I now have Maurice, my new-to-me urban bike, for running errands around town, as the Four is too valuable to leave locked up outside shops. Currently, I have a commuter bike in the work stand for Jen, it was a freebie from a friend, but is taking a bit of time to rebuild, as I am not used to a lot of the road bike/SRAM components and everything needs a thorough clean.

Refresh my photography portfolio website

Not yet, but this is a good project for when the weather is rubbish.

Photograph more bike races

Another goal that I have achieved – I photographed the Cannock Chase Winter Classic cross country race in February, which I did not get around to blogging about, and the Racer’s Guild Downhill at Stile Cop in May. I hope to shoot a couple more races in the autumn too. Henry has joined the local cycle speedway club, so I expect that I will also shoot some cycle speedway races.

Take a wildlife photo I am happy with

I am not sure that this photo of a bee on a sunflower in our garden really counts… I have got better at spotting wildlife, both small ones in the garden, like the bee, or bigger ones when out and about, including a couple of herons and a buzzard.

Complete at least three 50km bike rides

This one is going to be a big fail – I have not even done one, nor am I sure when I will do one. I feel like I have been riding more often though, fitting shorter rides into my week. My longest ride of the year so far did not even reach 30km and that was on the 8th January. The Clockwork Evo is a better bet for long rides than the Four, so really should get that back on the trails again and see what I can do before the trails get too muddy again.

Ride 20km with Owen

Another fail, we have done a couple of 17km rides, at Llandegla and Sherwood Pines, but the full 20km has eluded us. It is getting increasingly difficult to get Owen out on the bike, although he enjoys it when we do get out. I am sure that he could do a 20km ride if he wanted to though.

Ride at Bike Park Wales with Owen

The plan was to go to Bike Park Wales in the summer holidays, but by the time I should have booked it, Owen had only done 2 MTB rides and I was not sure that he would have been able to safely ride downhill trails, so I had to give up on that idea. He has asked to go to 417 Bike Park though, which we may do between Christmas and the new year, as he will have a new bike to try out.

Ride at Bwlch Nant yr Arian

Not yet, but still on my radar. Partho and I had a trip planned earlier this month, but the planned full day trip turned into a brief trip to Cannock Chase, then we cancelled as the weather was rubbish

Ride some more of the “10 of the best XC trails in the UK” with Partho

At the start of the year Partho we doing well at getting out for monthly rides together, but life has started to get in the way. The closest I can claim to riding any of the “10 best XC trails in the UK” are riding some of the Glentress Blue trail earlier this week, and a few rides at Cannock Chase, including a full lap myself, and most of a full lap with Partho.

Tidy my office

Well it must have been tidy at some point, as I treated myself to a new keyboard and desk mat. It has got messy again though.

Tidy my garage

With all the ongoing projects this has not happened, nor have the 3 extra bikes to squeeze in to the garage. Although a tidy garage may help with the projects, so I should probably crack on with this…

MR2 jobs

The poor MR2 has been a bit neglected this year, at the bear minimum it needs a good wash.

Van upgrades

The van interior was insulated and carpeted earlier in the year. I also fitted a Loaded Bikes rail with fork mounts in the back, which makes transporting bikes easier. I also bought an awning. We have had some good roat trips, but other than testing the awning with the boys at Mallory Park, we have not had any day trips to set up the van and have a barbeque or picnic.

Monthly blog posts

Given that my blog was officle of the best part of two months, this is obviously a big fail!

Flagged emails

I had been making good progress on getting through my flagged emails, but currently I am on 595 (up from 536 at the start of the year), but my excuse for that is that I am on holiday from work and have recently been flagging a lot of emails to deal with on my return to work.

Get my weight down to 85kg

I think this is going to be a tough ask, I think I will be happy to get under 90kg by the end of the year! The trend of the year is downwards, but my last weigh in was before setting off on holiday and eating out a lot…

Life just generally seems to be busier this year, especially as the boys are getting more into their own things. Later bed times for the boys, and often having to work/study in the evenings after collecting the boys from school are reducing available free time, so next year I may need to slim down my goals accordingly.

2023

Happy New Year!

2023 did not get off to a good start for me – being woken up by Henry before 8:00, then getting punched in the eye for not being his favourite parent – it was Jen’s turn to have a lie-in, which Henry did not appreciate. After that Hen went back to bed in a sulk to wait for Jen to get up.

Once again, Jen and I saw it the new year at home, but this year Owen managed to stay up for midnight with us! Owen and I have been working our way through the Star Wars movies, so watched Return of the Jedi – I was impressed at how he was able to stay awake and pay attention to such a long film. The film got us most of the way to midnight, and although Owen wanted to go to bed just before the clock struck twelve, we managed to keep him up to see in the new year and watch the fireworks on TV.

After the initial commotion, we had a quiet morning at home, even managing to get a few jobs done around the house and garden. After lunch we drove to Leamington Spa, to meet my parents. We parked at Newbold Comyn, and walked into town, via Jephson Gardens. Then my dad treated us to ice creams. After walking back to Newbold Comyn, the boys had a roll around the skatepark. Owen said that he had had a “lovely walk and a lovely ice cream”, which pretty much summed up our afternoon. We also had a quick peek at the new mountain bike trails under construction. The trails looked good and are one of the things I am most excited about this year – great trails within a thirty minute drive means that Owen and I will have a new regular riding spot.

We have not got much planned for the year – we had been thinking about a road trip to France, but with the new Entry/Exit System for the EU looking like it will cause chaos at the channel crossing, so we will wait and see how that pans out. We have got a few shorter trips pencilled in – Lego Land, a VW Show in Weston-super-Mare and hopefully a visit to my brother’s house in Kent. But before all that, we have a new sofa arriving next week! Something that I am not looking forward to quite so much is turning 40 in December!

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

Pass the AWS Certified Developer Associate exam

A recycled goal from 2022 – as although I did a lot of studying I did not take the exam. I need to pass the exam in the next few months, as my AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification from 2020 will lapse. And I promised myself a Fuji X100V when I passed – I have already bought it…

Rebuild my Orange Four

Another recycled goal from 2022, although I do not know if it is still a rebuild, given that the frame was replaced under warranty, so I am technically building up a new bike. Fortunately, I am most of the way there! I am waiting for my Four to be built up to ride the new red-graded trail at the Forest of Dean.

Once the Four is back on the trails, the Clockwork Evo is probably due a thorough service, after hard year in 2022.

Refresh my photography portfolio website

I have been using a Bootswatch theme on my homepage, which still needs a backend refresh, and I would like to carry that theme over to my photography portfolio website, which is hosted on Adobe Portfolio to tie them together. I could also do with updating the images, to include some more recent ones.

Photograph more bike races

Photographing the British Downhill Series mountain bike race was one of my highlights of 2022, and I would like to do some more this year.

Take a wildlife photo I am happy with

This was a failed goal in 2021, and one that has been in the back of mind since. My plan is to borrow a long lens from Fuji and spend the day at a nature reserve.

Complete at least three 50km bike rides

Rather than setting myself a year long cycling goal, I have decided to switch things up and target some longer rides. My longest ride to date is 48km, so 50km is achievable, but multiple rides should make it more of a challenge. I have got a few ideas for routes and hopefully my friend Partho will accompany me for some of the rides.

Ride 20km with Owen

This is more Owen’s goal, as he wants to beat his longest ride to date, which stands at 16km. I have no doubt that Owen will be able to beat this – I just need to find the right route. He rode 15km, on some of the toughest trails he has ever ridden at Coed y Brenin last year, but I do not want to make it too hard (hilly) or boring (riding along a straight/flat disused railway) for him. So I am thinking a return visit to Sherwood Pines may be in order – Owen has ridden the 14km blue-graded “Adventure Trail” there, so I am sure we could add in some loops of their red-graded trail to bring it up to 20km easily.

Ride at Bike Park Wales with Owen

Bike Park Wales is the biggest bike park in the UK, but well set up for kids. Owen and I have watched a few videos from there, and the trails look fun. Annoyingly we have missed the last few Little Rippers MTB group rides there. After our North Wales trip last year, I thought that a South Wales trip, with a possibly making a weekend of it with a return visit to Dare Valley Country Park to ride the main trails, as it looked like a good set up when we called in on the way to Bluestone in 2021.

Ride at Bwlch Nant yr Arian

Bwlch Nant yr Arian in Mid Wales has some great looking trails, and is also known for their daily Red Kite feeding – which is enough of an excuse for me to go for a ride. And may help with my wildlife photography goal. It also seems like somewhere that might be worth visiting with Jen and the boys as part of a Mid Wales trip.

Ride some more of the “10 of the best XC trails in the UK” with Partho

My best friend Partho shared an article with me called “10 of the best XC trails in the UK“. I have ridden a couple of the trails, and parts of a few more, but we have decided to try to ride a few more together.

Tidy my office

I spend most days working in my office, and other than what can be seen by my webcam, it is a complete tip. I still have my old iMac set up on my desk – it did not even get switched on last year, so I need to clear it down and get rid of it. I also need to move the artwork I hung on the dining room wall when I had my desk there a few years ago. As an incentive, I am going to treat myself to a mechanical keyboard when it is done, as I have been using the same keyboard at home since 2008.

Tidy my garage

As above, my garage is also a bit of a mess, with bike parts all over the place and not enough room to work on my MR2 Roadster.

MR2 jobs

This year marks ten years since I bought my MR2 Roadster, for the most part it has been cheap motoring, and very reliable, but I have neglected those little jobs that will prolong it’s life, things like cleaning the drain holes. The wheels could also do with a thorough clean and a good coat of wax. However, I’ll need to get the garage tidied first… There are also a few blemishes on the paintwork that I would like to get addressed.

Van upgrades

It is hard to believe that I bought my van three years ago – my plan had been to run it for a year to see how I got on with it, then make the interior a bit nicer, with carpet and insulation etc. The van has proved itself, and fits into our family life perfectly, so the interior upgrades are well overdue. It could also do with new tyres, possibly on bigger wheels, and I would also like to fit an awning rail to the side, so we can have some shelter when we park up. Family days out in the van are something that we want to do more of as a family.

Monthly blog posts

I feel like I have not been blogging as much as I would like the last few years, so in 2023 I plan to post at least once a month. Even if they end up being shorter posts, just sharing a photo and a few words.

Flagged emails

I currently have 536 flagged emails in my inbox, spanning the last ten years. At somepoint I have thought that there is something I need to do as a result of these emails, but either have not done, or at least have not subsequently unflagged the email. I am going to try to get this down to a list of tasks I genuinely need to do. I will attack it from both the top of the list, and the ten year old tasks at the bottom of the list, which I hope were not too urgent…

Get my weight down to 85kg

I have had this as a goal for many years, but never seem to make much progress on it, despite feeling like I am making more sensible choices when it comes to food. I am going to try to get a decent midweek bike ride in every week this year – working from home gives me the flexibility to take a long lunchbreak, so I am going to try to use that for bike rides, to hopefully help towards this goal.

Based on all these goals, it looks like 2023 is going to be a busy year for me, which should hopefully give me plenty to post about on here! Given my poor success rate last year, I have set up a document to keep track of them.

A Look Back at 2022

The main thing for me in 2022 was my new job as a software engineer in the technology industry – after fourteen years in the. automotive industry. I started my new role right at the end of 2021, but it was in the new year that I got a chance to get my teeth into it. My new team are great and have helped me find my feet. A year on, I have learned loads, more than I expected, even little things, for example I recently noticed that I was subconciously using the command line for git commands. I have also realised how much more there is still to learn, but the constant learning is one of the things I enjoy the most. The main thing is that I look forward to work every day!

Whilst work has been good in 2022, I did not have such a good year on the bike. After a decent start, I injured my knee at the end of May and had to take it easy for a few months. Then I had bike issues, and some sort of flu type illness at the end of the year that took me out for a few weeks. I did manage to fit in some good rides when I was healthy enough, 417 Bike Park and Coed y Brenin (both with Owen) being particular highlights. For the first time since 2016, all of my riding was on a hardtail, as my full suspension bike (Orange Four) has been undergoing a very slow rebuild.

Being off the bike gave me plenty of time for photography. Over the Easter weekend I borrowed an X100V fixed lens camera from Fuji, and loved shooting with it. Predictably, I eneded up buying one! It has been great for taking out and about with me, on bike ride, when I go to the office and on family trips out. One of my favourite days of the year was when I photographed a round of the British Downhill Series mountain bike competion – I had not realised how much I missed sports photography.

We had some good trips away, our main holiday was to stay in our friend’s cottage in Staithes on the North Yorkshire coast, it was great to explore a new part of the country and make memories with the boys. Jen and I even managed to get away for a few days without the boys – we went to North Devon, one of our favourite places in the world, but upgraded our usual accomodation, staying in the Saunton Sands Hotel, which we have driven past many times over the years. For me, the cherry on the cake was taking the MR2, and detouring via one of my favourite roads, the A39 over Exmoor.

Owen and I have had some great bike rides together this year, his skill and strength on the bike are such that we can do decent rides together, on the sort of trails that I ride. When it is just the two of us his behaviour is really good too. As well as mountain biking Owen has been very much into computer games this year, especially Super Mario based games. One of Jen’s friends lent him a Nintendo Wii, so he has been trying some older console games in addition to his iPad. I have also tried to channel this enthusiasm into coding, he is already confident with Scratch and we have also been experimenting with JavaScript – he is mostly copying what I write, but he is starting to understand the general programming concepts, like declaring variables and referencing them later in the code, so you only need to change the value once. He has uploaded his take on Space Invaders to his website – not bad for a six year old! He is now at an age where we can do things together that we both want to do, from going to a mountain bike festival together to working our way through the Stars Wars movies.

Henry has grown up so much this year, the main change is that he started at the preschool at Owen’s school, because he is going to school with Owen every day and wearing his uniform it is hard to remember that he is still only three! I am so proud of how he has settled in to the new routine. However my proudest moment was when he learned to ride his pedal bike. Henry did not get the same opportunities to ride his bike as Owen, due to the pandemic, and not having the undivided attention that Owen had as a three year old, so it is good to have him riding with us.

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 settled at my new job

Pass – This was my main goal for 2022, and I am happy to say that I love my job and am glad that I changed industries. A few weeks ago a colleague was surprised when I told him I had been with the company less than twelve months, he said it felt like I had been a part of the team for years.

Pass the AWS Certified Developer Associate exam

Fail – I did a lot of studying for the exam, and even booked it, but had to cancel after a particularly poor showing on a mock exam. My studying has been in fits and starts, as I have prioritised learning skills that are used day to day on projects at work.

Redo my homepage

Fail – Although I have rebuilt my webpage using NextJS, and set up a staging site on AWS Amplify I decided I should not publish it without setting up the infrastructure as code. No, it is not needed for what is essentially a simple website, but I feel like if I am doing something I should do it properly. I have done most of the hard work though, so the website should be published early in 2023.

Rebuild my Orange Four

Fail – The strip down took longer than I would have liked, then when I sent the frame back to Orange for a respray, a new frame was sent back as a warranty replacement. It is currently half-built in the work stand. Progress also took a step backwards when I broke the rear hub on my hardtail, and to keep myself riding I had to take the freshly built rear wheel from the Four. I have got the bits to build up another rear wheel, and once that is done progress should be quicker.

Ride 2,022km

Fail – 2022 was a rubbish year for cycling, I rode less than 1,400km. I hurt my knee at the start of the summer, then again later in the summer because I did not let it heal enough. Then in the autumn, when my knee had recovered, I had bike issues and to top it all I barely rode in December due to a flu-like illness.

Get my weight down to 85kg

Massive fail – Again! Looking at the data from my Withings Scales Amazon affliate link, the damage was done at the start of the year, when I was able to ride my bike most.

Whilst this looks like a list of failures, my main goal, by some margin, was getting settled in my new job, which I achieved. The other goals can wait for 2023! I felt like I lived more in the momet in 2022, which has been a good thing, but maybe also why I did not manage to post this before the end of 2022…

2022 Goals Update

So far 2022 has flown by – how are we already halfway through the year? I have been keeping busy, with a new job, some personal projects, a bike build and two boys to wrangle! As with previous years, at this halfway point of the year, I like to check how I am getting on with the goals that I set myself at the start of the year.

Get settled at my new job

I can happily say that I am settled in my new job, and indeed new industry. I have found my place in the team as “the thorough tester”, which makes sense, as that was what I was doing for the last ten years in my previous role. I have also enjoyed working on other areas of the software development process – especially coding new features. It can be difficult, as I am still learning both the technologies and the project, but it is especially satisfying when something I have worked on gets deployed to production.

Pass the AWS Certified Developer Associate exam

At the start of the year, I was able to dedicate a lot of time studying for this as part of my job, however as I got more involved with project work I had less time to spend on it. I am planning to take the exam in the next few weeks though, as I want to get it out of the way before we go on holiday.

Redo my homepage

I made a good start on migrating my homepage to Next.js but got distracted by redoing my mum’s website, as I thought she would be losing access to it. That issue has gone away, so I need to get back on with my website.

Rebuild my Orange Four

I had hoped to have my Four built back up by now, but I was slow with the strip down – I caught Covid in April and used the enforced downtime to strip the frame down. However, the project has passed the halfway mark, with parts being refitted. However, I am not rebuilding my old frame, Orange noticed an issue with the frame and replaced it under warranty. I have built up the wheels, sourced most of the components I think I need and hopefully the build will be finished before the end of the summer. For now, the colour is being kept secret, hence the black and white image.

Ride 2,022km

I was a bit behind schedule on this, albeit with some big rides planned. Then I tweaked my knee and had to take a few weeks off the bike, so there is no way I will achieve this goal – June is usually the month to get lots of big rides in, but all I have been doing are the school and nursery runs. My knee feels a bit better now, but the calendar is already looking pretty full for July, without any riding planned.

Get my weight down to 85kg

This one is going even worse than riding 2,022km! Somehow I have managed to put on weight, although I am getting it back down slowly.

Outside of my goals, I have been working on some other software development projects and have been doing more photography. I seem to be riding less with Owen, but when we ride together it tends to be a bigger trip – we have had a couple of days at 417 Bike Park and have some new localish trails in Bedworth. Hopefully Henry will be riding his pedal bike by the nd of the summer too – he is ready, but just needs to realise himself. Going to Llangollen for the BDS and a weekend away with Jen in Devon have been a highlights, however, we have got lots of exciting plans coming up over the next couple of months over the summer…

2022

Happy New Year!

Hopefully, 2022 is going to be a better year than the last couple! We have got a few things to look forward to – a rescheduled trip to our friend’s cottage on the Yorkshire Coast in Staithes and trips to Devon and Wales with Jen and Partho respectively. 2022 is also likely to be the year that Henry learns to ride a pedal bike, which will open up a whole new world of adventures. For me, the main thing that I am looking forward to is getting stuck into my new job in the tech industry. After fourteen years in the automotive industry, it is a big change, but hopefully, one that will be worthwhile. Unfortuantely it also means that I am back to working full time, after five years of not working on Fridays.

Jen and I saw in 2021 at home, after letting the boys stay up late to watch a film (Luca), I just about managed to finish my 2021 review post before Big Ben struck midnight. Then it was straight to bed! Predicably, the boys were up early in the morning, but Jen made us a tasty breakfast of pancakes and bacon. I took the boys out for a walk in our local woods – they are so muddy after the recent rain, so it was a good job we were all wearing our wellies. I probably should have put Henry in his all in one puddle suit, as he fell over into the mud a few times. In the afternoon Jen took the boys out, so I spend some time working on bikes in the garage, making some progress towards my big project of the year – refreshing my Orange Four.

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

Get settled at my new job

This has got to be my main priority for the year. Starting in Christmas week means that I have not yet “met” my full team – we are working remotely, so I have not really met anyone. We have daily team meetings, which have been useful to get to know both the team and the projects I will be working on. The slower start has been good it has allowed me to brush up on my knowledge of the software stack I will be using. I can already see how React is going to help with some of my personal projects too.

Pass the AWS Certified Developer Associate exam

After passing the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam in 2020 my plan was to take the Certified Developer Associate in 2022, as you need to pass an exam every three years to keep the certification valid. My new employers are AWS partners, and also expect me to pass the AWS certification exams, so will be able to study on the job.

Redo my homepage

My homepage is now a bit out of date, redoing it will also give me an opportunity to experiment with some JavaScript frameworks, such as Next.js or Gatsby.

Rebuild my Orange Four

The Four has been my main bike over the last few months and has taken a beating. I have also been a bit lax on maintenance and it has got to the point where it needs a full refresh. The drivetrain all needs to be replaced, the suspension needs to be sent off for a full service, the dropper post also needs a service and the frame is looking a bit tatty, so I will send it back to the Orange factory for a repaint and fresh bearings. It had one last ride at the pump track yesterday, then its next ride will be after the refresh is completed.

I have also fitted the wheels from the Four onto my Clockwork Evo hardtail, so need to build up some new wheels for the Four. For a few years now the wheels and tyres have been the weak point in the build, so I am looking forward to finally being able to remedy that.

Ride 2,022km

This is going to be a tough challenge – when I rode 2,015km in 2015 it was all-consuming, but I am much fitter now and was able to ride 1,000km in the first half of 2021, so I just need to keep the momentum going.

Get my weight down to 85kg

Yes, this one again! Hopefully, all the riding for the 2,022km goal will help! I will also need to focus on my diet though. When I weighed myself this morning I was 91.7kg, which is the heaviest I have been for a while. My dad did a great job of losing weight in 2021, which is great motivation for me to do the same.

If it feels like my plans for the year are a bit on the light side, it is because they are! After the last few years I have consciously not planned so much for 2022, and will just take things as they come. Whatever happens, here’s to 2022 being a much better year!

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…