Owen’s Eighth Birthday

Owen turned eight earlier in the week, although his birthday party only happened today. His actual birthday started off fairly low key, opening his presents, then going to school. After school all his grandparents came to visit for tea and cake, and of course, more presents. Then we went to Hickory’s Smokehouse for dinner – it was not in our plan, but Owen had mentioned to a few people that it was his favourite birthday tradition, and Jen and I did not really take too much convincing!

Rather than a big party, like the last couple of years, we took Owen and a couple of his best friends to Laser Quest and then for lunch. I joined the boys for Laser Quest, and we had the place to ourselves! The boys decided that they were going to team up against me – I did not get off to a good start by starting in a dead end, but I did manage to get the highest score of the game, albeit lower than the boy’s combined score – probably because I had more targets to shoot at. After our games of laser tag we did a round of the space themed mini golf, which is the reason there is a photo of Astronaut Owen), it was only a small 9 hole course, but we enjoyed it. Finally we went on the VR experience, I went on a car race one, which made me feel a bit sick, and the boys went on an underwater adventure – which must have been very realistic judging by how loud Owen screamed when the shark swam up to him. After Laser Quest we joined Jen and Henry at Pizza Express. I think that the smaller party worked well, as Owen could spend more time with his closest friends, their only disappointment was that they could not carry on the celebrations into the afternoon.

Wales with Owen

A few weeks ago Owen and I finally made it to Bike Park Wales, we have been wanting to go for ages, but various things had got in the way. We came close to going last year, we had passes and a hotel booked, but then Owen had to go to hospital. Earlier in the year we won a competition, on the Little Rippers Facebook group, for a “parent and child pass” at Bike Park Wales, which is a new offer which makes it cheaper to ride there with kids. One of the dates coincided with an Orange Bikes event, also in South Wales, so a plan was formed.

Owen and I drove down the afternoon before, taking a detour to Porthcawl for fish and chips, and some photophotography/playing on the beach. The fish and chips from Beales were good and we enjoyed exploring the seafront. I got a couple of good photos. Owen had play on the beach, but unfortunately he missed out on his favourite seaside activity, as the arcades did not take contactless and I had left my wallet in the van. We stayed at the Premier Inn at Caerphilly, ready to hit Mountain View Bike Park in the morning.

After a fairly restrained visit to the breakfast buffet, we drove the short distance to the Orange Gathering at Mountain View Bike Park. We got there early, before the event started, and hit the pumptrack after signing on. Owen managed about three laps before ending up on the floor. Not the start we wanted, especially as we still had the main event later in the day. We thought it best to leave the pumptrack and explore the trails, the short green loop went well, so we added on the “8 ball” blue trail, which was a bit rougher. Owen seemed to be struggling, he was not feeling 100%, but I could also tell that he had not been riding his bike much. He should have been fine on the trail, he has ridden worse, but his confidence was knocked. Fortunately, after a rest, and a look at the Orange bikes back at the event, a session on the skills area, practising drop offs, helped, and Owen rode really well on the “Twister” blue trail, which to me felt harder than “8 ball”. As we climbed back up to the start we noticed another trail, alongside the huge jump lines that looked fun. It was the “Jamming” red trail, and after another family told us that it was fun, we decided to give it a try. Owen loved it! We did another lap of “Twister” and “Jamming”, then went back to the event for pizza before the short drive to Bike Park Wales.

I was not sure what to expect at the Orange Gathering, but must admit that I came away slightly underwhelmed. I had hoped that they would have some merch on sale, but it just seemed like they had their demo fleet to test and I definitely do not need another Orange bike! The new, made in the UK, MsIsle hardtail looked great though. And seeing the bikes in different colours has made me rethink my plans for the Clockwork Evo, which I was going to get powder coated in “Norlando Grey” to match my Four. Now I think I will go for a brighter colour. There did not seem to need too many other Orange riders at the bike park, but maybe the afternoon was busier. However, I was really impressed with Mountain View Bike Park, the trails were compact, but well maintained and the cafe/bike shop were nice. If we were ever in South Wales again I would call in for an afternoon. I thought that it would be an ideal place to break the journey if we went to Bluestone again.

As good as Mountain View Bike Park was, we were both excited for our afternoon at Bike Park Wales. As we arrived we saw people parking on the approach road, but decided to risk driving up nearer to the car park, hoping to find a space, which we did. We also got checked in quickly, I guess most people had been there since the park opened at 10:00. The deck outside office/cafe/shop was buzzing with people, it reminded me of spring days at a European ski resort. The food looked good too, but we had already eaten and we were there to ride!

We took the green trail down to the uplift pick up point, which was further away from the cafe etc than I had expected. There was a push/climb to get to the uplift too, which was also unexpected. I was pleasantly surprised that despite it being a sunny, sold-out, day, we got straight onto an uplift bus without waiting. The system they have in place is very efficient. The uplift seemed to go on forever, much longer than at 417 Bike Park, which is my only previous experience. From the top of the uplift there was also a short, fairly flat, pedal to get to the trailhead.

We chose the green-graded “Kermit” trail for our first descent, as it is the easiest trail in the bike park, but also one of the longest. After dropping in we had the trail to ourselves. It started off twisting between lines, then there was a traverse out in the open, with scenic(?) views over Merthyr Tydfil. With a few more curves before a sneaky short uphill section which spat us out at the terrace. As unwelcome as the sudden climb was, it showed how much thought had gone into the park, as it slows the riders right down before joining a busy area.

We rode straight back to the uplift pickup for another lap, discussing which trails we would ride, settling on “Melted Welly” into “Roller Disco” into “Blue Belle”, all blue-graded flow trails. As we were about to drop in, Owen said that he was not feeling well and that he did not want to do another lap after this one, which as disappointing, but not surprising as he had not seemed himself all day. We enjoyed our second run down the hill, well maybe not the surprise climb on “Melted Welly”, but the downhill bits were great. It was a shame that we had to leave after only two runs, but Bike Park Wales was even better than I had expected, and I had very high expectations! I am sure that we will be back there later in the year to do some more runs!

New Camera – Fuji X-H2S

After trying a Fuji X-H2S last year, it was inevitable that I would end up buying one, I just was not expecting it to be so quickly… After buying a XF 50-140mm lens last year I was mostly happy with the performance upgrade over my old telephoto lens and was enjoying photography. Thoughts of upgrading my camera had been pushed to the back of my mind. When Owen was frustrated with the performance of “his” camera at the Dukeries Rally, I started looking at options for either a cheap Fuji body to use with my old telephoto lens, or even a Canon lens to use with my very old Canon Eos 20D body, an upgrade for me was not on the radar. However, the more I looked the more I realised that there was not really such a thing as “a cheap Fuji body”, and then that my X-T2 was probably the best of the “cheaper” Fuji bodies, and that I would be as well upgrading my body and letting Owen use the X-T2, but the idea was filed away for later in the year.

Then over the Easter holidays we visited Leeds Castle in Kent, and I figured it was as good a time as any to let Owen try the X-T2, to keep things simple for him I fitted the FUJINON XF35mmF1.4 fixed lens, whilst I used my X100V. Not only did Owen absolutely love it, he was careful with the camera and took some good photos. My plan would work. When we had guests round over the Easter weekend, rather than taking photos myself, I handed Owen the X-T2 and put him in charge of photos, once again he did a great job, capturing some lovely photos of his cousin. He had proven himself, but a camera purchase still was not on the cards.

What tipped me over the edge was learning that the price of the X-H2S was going to increase by £500 from April the first. Now I had three reasons to buy the camera, on their own better autofocus performance for shooting action sports, being able to have a spare camera for Owen or avoiding a £500 price increase would not have been enough to get me to buy the camera, but all three together was a compelling case. The only catch was that it was Easter Sunday, and the price rise was the next day. Usually I would buy from London Camera Exchange in Leamington Spa, as they have always provided good service, and I feel it is important to support bricks and mortar camera stores, but I had to settle for ordering from LCE online.

The camera arrived in the middle of a busy week at work, so I did not have much opportunity to try it out and work my way through the multitude of settings, although Owen and I did get out for a brief, muddy, walk on Coundon Wedge, where I took the photo above (of course Owen had the X-T2). From a photography perspective it was not the most productive, but it was nice to get out with Owen.

It was not until the weekend that I got to really try the camera out properly, and even then it was only a quick walk around the War Memorial Park, whilst Jen did Parkrun. I only had about thirty minutes, so did not want to waste time switching lenses, so fitted the 50-140mm and went to see what I could find in the park. First I found squirrels, and being park squirrels they were used to humans, so even with a relatively short lens, I was able to get close enough to them for some decent photos. More importantly it was a good opportunity to experiment with the animal detection autofocus, which worked really well.

Over the next few days I was able to take photos of the boys at Junior Parkrun, and also Henry at Cycle Speedway. In both cases the improved autofocus over my X-T2 was noticeable, and I was pleased with the photos. After each time using the camera I continued to tweak the settings to my liking, which I feel will be an ongoing process. I may also have made a mistake setting up the custom modes too early, as now if I want to change something globally on the camera, I then need to change it eight times, once as the default, then once again for each of the seven custom modes. I have got a busy few months ahead, and will have plenty of opportunities to put the X-H2S through its paces, so hopefully there will be more photos appearing on this blog soon.

Dukeries Rally With Owen

One of my goals for 2024 was to photograph a rally, ideally one in a forest. The Dukeries Rally, was not in a forest, it was a single venue tarmac rally at Donington Park, but it was a good opportunity to get some practice in. It was also an ideal rally to take Owen to, as it is fairly local and at a venue with good facilities, rather than in the middle of a muddy Welsh forest. I was not sure if he would want to join me, but was pleased with his excitement when I suggested it to him. As such the day was more about Owen’s first rally experience, rather than a pure photography mission, but we both managed to get some shots we were happy with.

We had a later start than normal, which was a good move, as it meant that we avoided the morning rain, and timed it perfectly to arrive at the Craner Curves viewing area just as stage three (of six) was starting. During the stage with worked our was up from the Craner Curves to the end of the start/finish straight stopping at various points to photograph the cars. As the last few cars were completing the stage, we went back under the track, and got an ice cream whilst waiting for the crossing to Redgate to open (the cars were entering the track next to the hospitality units at Redgate), as Owen had spotted the grandstand and wanted to watch from there. Which worked for me, as I wanted to see the part of the stage on the large asphalt area behind Redgate.

As stage four started, we watched the first few cars on the coned area behind Redgate, but with high fences it was not really ideal for photography, although it was good to be close to the cars as they accelerated away from a slow corner. From there we climbed up into the grandstand, which gave us a good view of most of the circuit, so we watched most of the stage from there. I spotted a gap in the fence which would give a nice view down the Craner Curves, so we went there next. I think it would be a good angle on a busier race weekend, as you would be able to see cars all the way from Hollywood corner almost all of the way to MacLeans. We did not have the cars for that shot, but the light played nicely, highlighting the cars that were there.

As the stage layout was being reconfigured for the fifth and sixth stages, there was going to be a long gap before any more cars came out, so we decided to call it a day after two stages. Owen really enjoyed himself, but struggled a bit with the shutter lag on the camera he was using, my old Canon S90 compact camera. Worryingly I think it might be time to have (another!) camera upgrade, as he is really enjoying photography at the moment, and has already outgrown my old camera.

Bricktastic

When Owen was in hospital last year, he was given some LEGO sets from the Fairy Bricks charity, which really cheered him up when he was feeling rubbish. So when we learned that their main fundraising event of the year was Bricktastic a big LEGO show in Manchester we had to get tickets. Spending the day with LEGO whilst supporting a charity dear to our hearts was too good an opportunity to miss!

We decided to make a weekend of it, travelling up to Manchester on the Saturday, before going to the show on Sunday. After checking into the hotel, we went for a swim – it was nice to be able to swim with both of the boys. Owen even managed to swim the full length of the pool! At his swimming lessons, they only use a third of the pool, so he rarely gets a chance to swim longer distances. Having worked up an appetite in the pool, we met our friends Rich and Anna at their local Hickory’s restaurant. We always love a trip to Hickory’s, and it was great to catch up with Rich and Anna.

On the Sunday morning, we drove into Machester, via a McBreakfast stop, and parked under the venue, Manchester Central. Jen and I had parked there quite a few years ago when I had my mk3.5 my mk3.5 MX-5, it is one of my favourite car parks as I really like the old brick archways and would be a great location for a car photoshoot.

As we entered the venue we were greeted by a lifesize Bugatti Veyron and a mermaid, both made from LEGO bricks. True to form, Henry was more excited by the mermaid! Behind these were a few sections displaying LEGO artwork, both recreations of famous paintings and original works – this was just a taster of the various interpretations of the Lego hobby that we were about to see.

Behind the art was a large LEGO trains display, with multiple trains running around a track, this was one display that we probably should have spent a bit longer at because it was really impressive. But something else had caught the boy’s attention – a big pool of LEGO bricks, all turquoise in this case, so the boys had a quick play in there.

Whilst the boys played I stuck my head around the door into the main exhibition space, and realised just how big the show was! There seemed to be a good mix of small exhibitors, and traders with plenty of opportunities to do some building too.

The Fairy Bricks stand, right in the middle of the show, had a LEGO tombola, where we each won a minifig, mine was a “punk shark man”, but the centrepiece was a huge LEGO mosaic, made up of hundreds of tiles, each consisting of 256 2×2 LEGO bricks. And visitors to the show were able to grab some bricks and a pattern to complete a tile! We did two, between the four of us, we were just given a grid to copy and roughly the correct bricks, but it was trickier to follow than I expected. It was a proud moment adding our tiles to the main mosaic though. The completed mosaic can be found on the Bricktastic Instagram.

After adding our tiles to the mosaic we looked at more LEGO creations, I liked the lineup of customised Star Wars AT-AT Walkers, each based on a different theme. Each builder had customised the set uniquely, one was a cinema projector, another dressed as a sheep, one was a botanical garden etc. I think having the lineup of different interpretations of the same set was more interesting, as you could really pick out the little details that the builders had added. Henry liked the Disney Princess Avenue display, especially as he had some of the characters in his own LEGO collection. It was a row of houses, each inhabited by (and themed around) a Disney princess, it was fun spotting them in the houses. Owen’s favourite display, which I also thought was impressive, was the Great Ball Contraption, a huge collaborative display, consisting of probably over a hundred smaller mechanisms, all passing LEGO footballs to each other in a continuous loop. We followed the balls around the tables, marvelling at the ingenuity and variety of ways balls could be moved from one to another. Some sent the balls individually, others collected them and then sent them in a batch, there was even one that sorted them into colours, releasing the balls in coloured groups. Owen and I are going to have a go at making our own ball contraption during the school holidays.

Of course, we could not visit a LEGO show without bringing back something to build. Fortunately, Grandma had given the boys some pocket money to spend. Owen bought a large Minecraft set, Henry bought a Disney princess set, with Belle and Cinderella minidolls and I could not find the Speed Champions Toyota Supra that I was after. So all I came away with was some inspiration, so stay tuned…

Top Five from 2023

The PistonHeads.com Photography Forum had a thread to share your favourite photos from the previous year, in this case, 2023. As it is usually your “top five” photos, I chose five and also decided to share them on my blog, as I have done in previous years.

This was my favourite photo of Henry, taken when we were in Peebles on our Summer Road Trip. Owen had not been feeling very well and did not want to go out, so I took Henry for a walk to the park. The colours on this rocket worked well with Henry’s t-shirt.

I could not have a favourite photo of Henry without one of Owen too. I took this one at a friend’s barbeque in the summer, whilstt is not technically perfect, I liked how the colours of the bubbles work with Owen’s shirt and draw your eye through the image.

I do not do much “street” photography, but enjoyed the Coventry Photography Meetup group photo walk at the War Memorial Park. This was the only photo I was happy with from the morning, but I am still really happy with it and it made it worth it. Even the 5:30 alarm!

Another photo from our summer road trip, this time from our final stop in Saltburn-by-the-Sea. As we were finishing up our dinner, I could tell that it was going to be a good sunset, so I rushed back to the flat we were staying in, grabbed my camera kit and headed back down to the beach. This was my favourite photo from that evening – and I took a lot! It was almost totally dark by this point, but that meant I could use a long shutter speed to blur the sea.

I managed to shoot more mountain biking last year, including three downhill races at Stile Cop, this was my pick of the images that I shot at the most recent race, in December. It was the first outing for my Fujinon XF 50-140mm f2.8 lens, and it was a good job I had it, as my old lens would have really struggled in the woods on a rainy December afternoon. Of all the shots I got during the race, this was my favourite, you can tell that the rider is fast, and their red kt stands out from the dull background.

Bike Check – Owen’s Vitus Nucleus 24

Owen has outgrown his trusty Orbea MX-20, at least it has lasted two and a half years, unlike his previous bikes which only lasted twelve and five months respectively. Owen got the Orbea for his fifth birthday, so Henry should be upgrading to it soon.

We wanted a hardtail for Owen’s next bike, and I got a good deal on this Vitus, which is the smaller version of the bike I started my MTB journey with, in 2014. I swapped on Owen’s SDG saddle and pedals but figured that the bars that came fitted to the Vitus would fit him. I also moved his mudguard and bottle cage across. I did try to set up the Maxxis Snyper tyres tubeless, but they did not hold air, so I have left the tubes in. Owen was excited to have Maxxis tyre, like me and Brandon Semenuk, mostly Brandon Semenuk though. The tyres are not particularly grippy either, so we will likely swap them to the classic Minon DHF and DHRII combo, which I run on my Four. Hopefully, we will be able to set them up tubeless. The other main upgrade we have planned, once Owen has done some growing, is to fit a dropper post. We will also have to see how the Clarke brakes and Box drivetrain fare, I usually only fit Shimano.

Owen got the bike for Christmas but has only been on a few rides so far, as he needs to take it easy for a few months. We had a good ride at Hicks Lodge on New Year’s Day, and he seems to be getting on well with it – including conquering his fear of riding up kerbs. We are looking forward to more bike adventures later in the year.

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 béchamel 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.

Owen’s Extradural Empyemas

Yesterday was a good day – Owen did not need to visit a hospital, for the first time in 63 days! The last few months have been pretty rough for all of us, especially Owen. He was in hospital for almost three weeks, then has been on “home leave” for 23 hours a day for the last six weeks, but needed to return to the hospital daily for intravenous antibiotics. He has not actually been discharged yet, but as he has been told he can stop the antibiotics, we are classing this as a win! This blog post may seem a bit disjointed, as it has been updated over the space of a few months, often at times when I was quite sleep-deprived. It was mainly written so I can look back on what happened, especially if Owen has questions in the future.

We think it all started at the end of September, Owen was falling over a lot – even more than usual. Enough that I was concerned enough to think I needed to call the doctor. However, Henry became ill, with whichever respiratory illness was going around school at the time, and we thought nothing more of it. Whilst Henry was off school, Owen had his flu vaccine and then became quite poorly. The boys were meant to spend the weekend with my parents, as Jen and I had a night out planned, to see Jo Whiley DJing in Coventry, so my mum came to stay and look after the boys on the Friday night, as Owen was too poorly to travel. His condition got worse over the weekend, he had a fever, was sick a few times and at points he was almost delirious. We still thought it was a bad cold or a reaction to the flu vaccine. By the Monday, he was feeling a bit better in himself but was complaining of sore hips. At this point, we visited the doctor, who suspected “Irritable Hip Syndrome”, but sent us to A&E to rule out anything more sinister. I dropped Jen and Owen off at the hospital and returned to collect Henry from school – then had to take him back to school for a meeting, which children were not really meant to attend. He was so good and sat quietly whilst the teachers explained to the reception parents that we needed to read lots with our children. By the time we got home from the meeting, Jen and Owen had finished at the hospital, so we collected them and all went to McDonald’s. The verdict from the hospital was that Owen had “Irritable Hip Syndrome” and a Urinary Tract Infection, for which he was prescribed antibiotics.

Owen’s health continued to improve, and he was back at school on Thursday, albeit with strict instructions to take things easy and to go to the office for his antibiotics at lunchtime. On Friday we had a nice evening watching Redbull Rampage and eating pizza with our friends Partho and Marilena, and their two sausage dogs. I had even managed to make a big batch of cookie dough for dessert. The rest of the weekend was quiet, we went for a walk in Millison’s Wood and I joined the Godiva Trail Riders for a ride around my usual loop. On Sunday Owen had the last of his antibiotics. By Monday he was back to normal, his hip was feeling better, so he rode his BMX to and from school. He even went swimming in the evening. Then, unbeknownst to me he woke up in the night feeling poorly. Jen was at the gym first thing in the morning and when he started playing up at breakfast, saying that he was too poorly to go to school I thought he was trying to get another day off. I told him that if was ill, he would have to go back to bed and stay there. Which he did, for the whole day, because he was actually quite ill. Wednesday was slightly better, he managed to make it down the stairs, to sleep on the sofa all day. By Thursday he still had headaches, although they were improving slightly. At this point, we called the doctor again and were directed straight to A&E.

Jen dropped Owen and I off at A&E and we were seen relatively quickly, although there was a bit of a wait to see the senior doctor. When we eventually saw her, Owen had decided that he did not have a headache anymore and that it only happened “at home, when my brother is annoying me” – I thought we were about to get sent home and had wasted a day, but thankfully, as it was Owen’s second visit in two weeks, she took it seriously and booked Owen in for a CT scan and some blood tests. By this time it was the evening, and Jen took over waiting with Owen. The CT scan showed something on Owen’s brain, which normally would not require further investigation, but given the headaches, an MRI scan was requested, and Owen was admitted to the hospital. Little did we know how long he would be staying in hospital!

The next day, Owen had the MRI and after it had been analysed, it was decided that Owen would be transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for an operation the following day. There was some uncertainty if the infection/pus had spread from Owen’s sinuses into his skull, but either way, it was putting pressure on his brain and it needed to be cleaned out. Owen was also started on a course of intravenous antibiotics. Another CT scan was ordered, this time focussing on the sinuses. Henry and I were able to visit in the evening and deliver a McDonald’s before Owen had to stop eating in preparation for the operation. Owen and Jen got taken to Birmingham by ambulance – Owen’s first ride in an ambulance. However, it was not deemed to be a serious enough case for the lights and sirens to be needed. He was initially admitted to the “short-term surgery” ward, which sounded positive, but was then moved to the renal ward, as they had space, and there was no ENT ward. Whilst all of this was happening, Henry and I had a quiet morning at home, waiting for my mother-in-law to arrive to look after Henry and take him to a party, so that I could join Jen and Owen in Birmingham. Keeping things as normal as possible for Henry was going to be a big part of Owen being in the hospital.

By the time I got to Birmingham, Owen was ready to go into theatre for a FESS (Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery) procedure. He was able to walk himself to the operating theatre – bizarrely we had to go through an event, unveiling a new plaque, to get to the theatre, squeezing past photographers and dignitaries. This an article about who the plaque was commemorating. Jen and I were able to go with him to the anaesthetic room, which allowed me to meet the surgeons (Jen had already met them) and for us to be able to reassure Owen, who was getting quite nervous at this point. Owen went to sleep fairly quickly and Jen and I were left twiddling our thumbs, whilst the surgeons got to work. We went for a little walk around the block, but did not want to be too far from the ward in case Owen came back. In the end, the surgery was a bit longer than expected, as they fitted a neck line, to make administering the antibiotics easier. It was the evening by the time Owen came back from surgery – 24 hours since he had last eaten. And he was hangry! His nose also hurt, unsurprising as there had been a camera poked up it! As we were trying to sort him out with some food, the neurosurgeon came to visit us and gave us an update on Owen’s condition. I was impressed that he had gone into theatre for Owen’s procedure, even though it was being led by the ENT team, so that he could get a better handle on what the infection was. He also took the time to explain Owen’s condition – a bad sinus infection, which was putting pressure on his brain. Inside the skull, there is a membrane between the sinus cavities and the brain, but the surgeons were unable to tell from the scans if the infection had crossed this membrane yet. It seemed like we were lucky to have caught it early, as usually the first people know about it is when the patient collapses. In Owen’s case, they were able to treat it from the sinus side first, and monitor the brain side, rather than needing two separate operations. It also became clear that this would not be a quick road to recovery, with a long course of antibiotics required. The neurosurgeon said that he hoped to have Owen “home for Christmas” – bear in mind this was mid-October.

The neurosurgeon had also arranged for Owen to be moved to the neurosurgery ward so that they could keep a closer eye on him. On the ward, it became clear that Owen was one of the least poorly children there, which certainly put our situation into perspective. As difficult as it was being on the ward, the care he received was second to none. We quickly got into a routine on the ward, with Jen and I alternating staying with Owen and looking after Henry at home. We had to get into a routine because fourteen medical things had to happen each day, most of which the nurses left us to do:

  • 4x sinus flushes – squirting a saline solution up his nose to rinse out anything, as he could not blow his nose for the first few weeks
  • 3x thirty-minute intravenous antibiotic infusion
  • 2x doses of anti-seizure medication
  • 2x doses of nose drops
  • Another thirty-minute intravenous antibiotic infusion
  • A nose spray
  • A wash with some special antibacterial soap

In addition to all that the nurses had check Owen’s blood pressure, oxygen saturation, temperature and neurological responses every four hours. And of course, he needed to eat and drink – which all needed to be logged by the nurses, along with any trips to the toilet.

I was surprised to meet the physio team, but I think it must have been a standard procedure for patients on the neurosurgery ward. They were happy that Owen was fine walking and using stairs, so discharged him from their care straight away. I raised that Owen is usually pretty active and my biggest concern was that he could be bed-ridden for months and that lack of movement may lead to issues, so the physio told us about the play centre at the other end of the hospital, which really changed Owen’s stay for the better! We had to get a nurse to do some paperwork each day that we wanted visit but once that was done, Owen was free to leave the ward and visit the play centre, albeit only the indoor facilities, as his neck line precluded him from going outside. Being able to get off the ward was great, Owen could stretch his legs walking down the long corridors and the play centre was the sort of things little boys dream of – a big room full of toys, musical instruments, games, video games and staff there to make sure you are having a good time! On our first visit, after initially trying out the drum machine, Owen gravitated towards the Lego, building a Lego hospital, which endeared him to the staff straight away, and as they could see he loves Lego he was given a Lego Minecraft set, supplied by the Fairy Bricks charity. We finished up our visit with half an hour on the PS4. The only downside to the play centre was that we could only visit in the gaps between our various commitments on the ward. So usually we could only fit in a few short visits a day, but Owen made the most of these visits! There was also a smaller playroom on the ward, which Owen could use when we did not have enough time to walk across the hospital.

One project that I have thought might be worth doing with Owen “one day” was to make a stop-motion animation, and a long hospital stay seemed to be the ideal time for such a project! I installed the Stop Motion Studio app on Owen’s iPad and we started experimenting with Lego characters on the table at Owen’s bed, quickly learning the basics and that we ideally needed something to support the iPad. When Owen had built the Minecraft “Abandoned Village” Lego set from Fairy Bricks, we realised that it would be perfect for a stop motion animation, as there were multiple characters and buildings. We found a quiet corner in the ward playroom, built an iPad support out of Megablocks and put our new-found skills into practice. Owen was rightly proud of the end result, showing all his visitors and any doctor or nurse who came to his bedside. This is the film we made:

Whilst in the hospital Owen also got a lot of Minecraft practice, I had planned to set up a Minecraft server on AWS so that Owen could play with his friends, but I could not get into the AWS console on the hospital WiFi. I got as far as setting up an EC2 instance using CDK, via the hotspot from my phone, but realised that it would be easier to pay for Minecraft Realms and get Owen playing as soon as possible. The only issue with Minecraft Realms was that Owen could also not connect to it over the hospital WiFi, so he had to tether to my phone to connect to that too. We invited one of Owen’s friends to the realm, and when we next logged in, his friend had been busy – he had built Owen a house, and left him with lots of supplies and some nice messages on the wall. It was so sweet to see how they interacted through the game. Owen’s friend’s mum also got involved, building herself a nice house and garden. The only downside is that Owen can only have one world loaded at a time, so I think it will be worth carrying on my project to get a server set up.

When we were driving to the hospital in Birmingham every day I noticed a billboard on the side of the hospital, highlighting their campaign to fund an iMRI scanner for the neurosurgery team. This would allow the neurosurgeons to be able to perform MRI scans mid-operation and ensure that they have removed all of a tumour, for example. Whilst Owen did not need brain surgery, it was the neurosurgery team leading his care, so this appeal is close to our hearts. The Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity also do great work all over the hospital, including things like the play centre and running a Santa’s Grotto for patients.

After about a week on the neurosurgical ward, Owen was moved next door, to the gastrointestinal ward, as he was the least ill child on the neurosurgical ward and they had too many patients. Whilst it was good that he was considered the “least ill”, it was concerning that he was no longer on the neurosurgery ward. Other positives were that there was a bit more room around the beds, so it was easier day to day for us. And for Owen, the ward had a Nintendo Switch that he could borrow. Before Owen could be transferred back to the hospital in Coventry the last thing that needed to happen at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, was for Owen’s neck line to be replaced with a more durable “Hickman Line”, which goes into Owen’s heart, which is what you can see in the photo at the top of this post. This type of line means Owen can go outside and lasts for up to a year – although Owen should only need it for a few months at most! The downside is that it needs to be inserted and removed under general anaesthetic, meaning that Owen had to have a second, short operation, and still has another one to come in the new year to remove it.

Once Owen had recovered from his operation he could move back to Coventry, as a bed and transport became available. It was past Owen’s bedtime, on the day after his operation, by the time we were able to be transferred. As Owen was still awake we decided to get the taxi to Coventry, as it felt like a big step forward for Owen’s recovery and we did not want to risk waiting for more transport to be arranged the following day. When we arrived back at UHCW we were shown to our side room – after more than a week on wards it was nice to be in a quieter room with our own bathroom! It was also a nice touch that Owen had the same nurse looking after him who had looked after him before his transfer to Birmingham. And that she remembered him. We both had a good sleep in the room, but it was only in the morning that we learned Owen was in the side room to make sure he was not bringing any infections over from Birmingham. So the trade-off for our good sleep was that Owen was not allowed to leave the room. He did manage to borrow another Nintendo Switch from the ward play worker, so he did not get too bored between the various medicines and nose flushes. Being nearer to home also meant more visitors, so even though Owen was confined to the room, he as kept occupied.

Jen and I had a trip to Rome planned around this time, which we had to cancel. Fortunately, Henry was keen to stick to his part of the original plan – a four-night sleepover at my mum and dad’s house. After two weeks of alternating looking after each of the boys, it was nice to be able to have some solo time at home, to get jobs done and in my case get back out on my bike – it definitely felt like hard work after a few weeks off the bike, especially with much muddier trails.

On one of my bike rides I had a message from Jen, that as Owen was no longer in isolation in his side room, he could leave the ward and come home between his doses of antibiotics! I raced home, but Jen and Owen beat me, it was nice to get back to a full house though, even if Henry was not there. We had a quiet few hours at home, before I returned to the hospital with Owen for another round of medicines etc. The next morning we were able to come home again, and word had got out, so a few of Owen’s schoolmates called round to see him. Seeing his friends really cheered Owen up, as did his favourite dinner – Jen makes a great toad in the hole, but it must have tasted even better for Owen after a few weeks of hospital food! We also managed to squeeze in a quick Lego build, and a photo (the one at the top of this post) for the Lego #BuildToGive campaign – where Lego donate a set for the Fairy Bricks charity to distribute to poorly children in hospitals each time anyone shares a picture of a Lego heart on social media. Henry also got involved from Grandma’s house.

Jen took Owen back to the hospital – with an MRI planned first thing the next morning, the results of which would decide if the three times a day antibiotic could be stopped. Unfortunately, as is the way with these things, we were unable to get an answer from the doctors in time for Owen to come home, but the headline was that the size of the abscess had reduced. We were also told that we could stop the nose flushes. I took over from Jen, and the disappointment for Owen of having to stay in hospital one more night was somewhat reduced by him beating me at UNO. After he had fallen asleep the nurse gave me the good news that he was only due one more dose of the three-times-a-day antibiotic, which meant we could go home the following morning. Although, we would still need to come back each day for the daily antibiotic. Naturally, it still took some time for us to get all the paperwork completed for Owen to come home, so Jen came to join us after she had dropped Henry off at school. Eventually, at lunchtime, we were told that we could go home, and collect the paperwork when we came back in for the evening for his daily antibiotics. It was nice to be able to potter around together and to do a bit of Lego at home with Owen. And Henry’s face was a picture when he saw the three of us picking him up from school – he had really missed Owen. Henry had even promised that he was “not going to fight with Owen ever again”. However, that soon got downgraded to “I am not going to fight with Owen whilst he has his line in”.

On Owen’s first night at home, we had a bit of a scare, as he woke up screaming with stomach pains. Even though he was an inpatient, the ward told us to take him to A&E, Jen took him over, and it sounded like chaos, the ward where Owen had been was full, which meant A&E had nowhere to send patients, so they were also full. In the end Owen said he was feeling better, so Jen brought him back home, and we had a doctor check him over the next evening – and they said that they could not find anything wrong. He had a couple more episodes of this, but without the trips to A&E.

Although Owen still needed to go to the hospital for his daily antibiotics, having him at home, sleeping in his own bed (and us sleeping in our own bed!) and going to school was a big step forward. It did not take long for Owen to get back to his usual self, it was funny hearing one of his school friends saying it was good to have loud Owen back again. Even though things were getting back to normal, we still had to visit the hospital every evening for Owen’s antibiotics. It did not seem that the ward was set up to deal with longer-term patients on home leave, it was just a case of turning up every evening and seeing what happened, usually, we were put in a small side room, and sometimes Owen would be hooked up to the pump for his antibiotics straight away, other times we would have to wait for an hour or two, depending on how busy the ward was. Eventually, Owen was able to get booked into the day unit on the ward, four days a week, where things tended to run a bit smoother, Owen was usually their last patient of the day, so they were waiting for him. One thing that particularly annoyed us during this period was that we were paying at least £5 per day to park at the hospital, we applied to get a free parking pass, but the requirements were that you had to have at least three appointments a month, for three months. Daily appointments for two months did not cut it. It is madness that someone having nine appointments over three months gets free parking, but someone having sixty appointments over two months does not qualify!

In addition to the daily trips to Coventry hospital, there were also regular trips to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, for MRI scans, reviews with the consultants (both neurosurgery and ENT) and eventually an ultrasound scan to look for gallstones – a side effect of the antibiotics that Owen was on. Nobody had mentioned this at all, even when Owen was being checked out for the stomach pains he had been experiencing. It was only because a doctor mentioned it in passing. The scan showed that there were not any gallstones, but it did highlight the missing link in communication between the hospitals. Another example of this was when we were told that Owen would be stopping his antibiotics mid-November, which had been a date we were all focussing on, only then to be told that there were at least another four weeks to go, but as usual we just adapted to the new routine and carried on with it. It all seemed to be getting to Owen, as he had a few issues at school, he needed first aid at school most days, and it almost got to the point where he was going to be kept inside at break times, we are yet to get to the bottom of why, but anxiety about his line probably played a part of it.

Owen has not yet been officially discharged, from hospital, but after a review of his most recent MRI the neurosurgeons were sufficiently pleased with his progress that they said the antibiotics could be stopped, and that they would start the process to get his Hickman Line removed, which should be a day procedure. Until that happens, the dressing for the line still needs to be changed weekly, at Coventry hospital, but hopefully, that will be a quick job.

After seeing the neurosurgery team in Birmingham, we dropped OWen back at school, relieved that we would have a few days away from hospitals. Then we got a phone call from school… This time it was about Henry – “You need to take him to A&E?” He had bumped his face on a bench and split his nostril, so nothing major, but after thinking we would be avoiding the hospital for a few days, it was not ideal. Fortunately, it was a quiet day at A&E and Henry was seen quickly. He seemed fine in himself and was very well behaved waiting, he could probably sense how unimpressed I was to be back at the hospital. He mentioned to the nurse that he had bumped his head “but it is OK now”, so the nurse had to check him for signs of concussion. She also needed to get second, third and fourth opinions on Henry’s nose, so we were in there for a few hours. Eventually, they settled on a steri-strip to hold his nose together and a follow-up appointment with the ENT team when the swelling has subsided – another hospital trip. When Henry and I got back, we all went to KFC for a “traditional Japanese Christmas dinner” to celebrate. The next day, yesterday, we successfully managed to avoid hospitals!

This post ended up being longer than I planned, I guess that’s what happens when you have too much time on your hands your hands in hospital. The TLDR is that Owen had headaches for a few weeks, we took him to A&E, and they found an abscess in his skull, he was admitted to hospital in Coventry, and transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for an operation to clear out his sinuses, then had a few months worth of intravenous antibiotics. He is making a good recovery and is now back home. Fairy Bricks gave him some Lego – donate to them! And the Neurosurgical team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital looked after Owen really well – donate to their iMRI appeal too!