It’s time for my annual review of the year just gone. 2016 was a year that many will want to forget, thanks to the many celebrities who passed away this year (Victoria Wood arguably being the loss I’m saddest about), and major world events like Brexit and Donald Trump’s election. For us, it was a year of adapting to the major changes that took place in our lives in 2015, and coping with a rather limited income, thanks to Christine’s maternity leave and Lizzie’s childcare costs.
Anyhow, without further ado, here’s January.
Lizzie arrived in the world late in December 2015, and was re-admitted to hospital on the 30th December with jaundice. So Christine and I were apart for New Year’s Eve, for only the second time since 2009 when we first met. Indeed, Lizzie didn’t have a great January; an undiagnosed tongue-tie meant that she struggled to consume enough breast milk, and so we had to top-up feed her with formula. Thankfully, the tongue-tie was picked up, the operation was a success, and 12 months on she’s still being breast-fed in the mornings and evenings.
I was lucky enough to be on paternity leave for the whole of January. People whose partners give birth are allowed two weeks statutory paternity leave at 90% pay, in addition to any other leave entitlements; I topped this up with two weeks annual leave. A fifth week came about as my workplace is closed for Christmas. I’m really glad that I was able to take more time off – having spoken to other new dads who could only take two weeks, they found it not nearly long enough.
We made some progress on the house, with new doors downstairs. In that post, I alluded to being close to finishing the dining room by putting up coving and new architrave – nearly a year on, and those two jobs are still outstanding.
Later in the month, I went on the first of two visits to London this year, to attend a seminar on Big Data with my expenses paid. I also managed to squeeze in some time with friends whilst there which was nice, especially as I was on my own without Christine or Lizzie. And it was my blog’s 14th blogiversary. At the end of the month, we went to Halifax’s Bankfield Museum, to see the launch of a series of paintings by local artist (and friend of a friend) Kate Lycett, featuring various stately homes in Yorkshire that met an untimely end.
Right at the end of January, I had the first of three job interviews this year.
February saw me return to work after paternity leave, and on my first day back I was informed that I had got the job. It was a six month secondment working in timetabling at the university – same office, but different team. It was also quite a good pay rise and the extra money really came in useful this year. I hoped that this would become a new career path for me, but it didn’t really work out – I didn’t enjoy the job as much as I had expected, and other factors came into play in the summer.
Valentines Day was spent at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, near Doncaster. It’s a fantastic open-air zoo, and we’ll definitely go back there again when Lizzie is older.
Onto March. Lizzie reached 12 weeks old, which meant that it was time for her first round of vaccinations. This wasn’t fun for anyone concerned, but important and necessary. She’ll be due another round now that she’s 12 months old, joy of joys.
I spent an evening at an arts centre in Sale, near Manchester, for a recording of the Guilty Feminist Podcast. It was good fun, although I wish Christine could have come with me as she would’ve enjoyed it too. Alas, we’ve not really been able to get a babysitter for Lizzie and it wouldn’t have been appropriate to bring her along. At least Christine got to listen to the show a few weeks later.
We had a few days out in March – the farm at Temple Newsam, York Model Railway Show and Lotherton Hall, where I was able to make use of my new (to me) Canon EFS 55-250mm lens on my SLR camera. It’s great, and has allowed me to take some brilliant photos this year.
Lizzie got to see her first show at the theatre – an amateur dramatic production of ‘Back to the 80s’. She was very well-behaved, which may have more to do with the flashing lights, but it was a relief to know that we could still go out with her.
We started April by making a return visit to Hebden Bridge, for the first time since the devastating flooding on Boxing Day 2015. There was also a day out at Springtime Live at the Yorkshire Showground – a smaller scaled version of the Great Yorkshire Show with a focus on activities for kids and families. Again, Lizzie was a bit young but we’ll hopefully be back in 2017.
A visit to the Trafford Centre (now much easier to get to as we have a car) saw our first visit to Five Guys, which is still relatively new to the UK. They’ve since opened in Bradford and we’ve been 3-4 times now.
I had a free-standing weekday booked off as annual leave, so we ended the month with a day out at Chatsworth. It was an expensive day, but we really enjoyed the farm.
During April, I managed to hit my 10,000 steps per day target every day. I nearly managed it in December too.
May is my birthday month, and was also our third wedding anniversary. At home, we moved forward with a couple of projects – a new boiler, and a downstairs toilet. The new boiler, combined with a Nest thermostat, seems to be saving us money. Which is good, as we’ll still be paying back the cost of the boiler installation (on interest-free credit, thankfully) until May 2018.
I made the decision to suspend my World of Warcraft subscription, after 10 years. I just don’t have the time to play it anymore, nor do I have a computer capable of running the latest expansion. And I don’t miss it.
Another thing I don’t miss is running my own email server, as I decided to re-route all of my email to Gmail. This has been a good decision and made my email a lot more manageable.
Whilst it took me two months to write about it, we had a nice day out at Hollingworth Lake, a reservoir near Rochdale that’s become an inland tourist attraction. At the end of May, we had a day out in Scarborough, including a visit to the Sea Life Centre.
June’s big event was the EU referendum. I voted remain, and was devastated when a majority of those who voted chose to leave. I don’t know if we will actually leave the EU – the government says we will, but doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job of it so far. We’ll see what happens.
In other politics news, I joined to Labour Party. Historically I’d voted for the Liberal Democrats, but following their collapse in the 2015 general election, I felt it was important to support the left-wing party best-placed to form a government in 2020. So far, the regular emails that I get from my local MP and councillor (both Labour) have been useful but I’ve not yet got further involved.
June was my first Fathers Day, which was nice. I also took Lizzie out on my own for the first time (without Christine) on a trip to Ikea. We both came back alive and happy.
I started July with three job interviews scheduled, for four jobs (one was for two posts). Restructuring at work meant that my substantive post was being made redundant, and so I needed to find a new post. My secondment was also about to run out at the same time, and the third interview was to continue this on a fixed-term 9 month contract.
I got offered both jobs in the first interview, but failed the second. I accepted one of the jobs, and declined the third interview, as the job I accepted was a permanent post. Best of all, it was on the same wage as the secondment, so I finished the year with more pay, better job security, and, thanks to several workshops, a massively improved CV. 2016 wasn’t all bad after all.
Having booked a Friday off for something that then got cancelled, Christine and I ended up with a free weekend, and so we booked a last-minute impromptu trip to Liverpool. We took Lizzie with us, and it proved that we could still spontaneously go away even with a small child in tow. It was our first visit to Liverpool since 2010.
Whilst we were there, Christine started playing Pokémon Go, which hadn’t officially launched in Europe but it was possible to side-load the APK on her Android phone. I started playing when the official launch happened, and we both still play to this day. I’m level 27.
Although we’d been to Springtime Live earlier in the year, we went back to the Yorkshire Showground for the Great Yorkshire Show proper in July. Having Lizzie with us, and meeting with friends whilst there, meant that we didn’t see as much as usual, but it was still a fun day out.
At the end of July, Christine finished her maternity leave and returned to work. Lizzie now spends weekday daytimes with a childminder, although until September this would only be four days a week. Christine and I took it in turns to take Wednesdays off, and I had my first full day on my own with Lizzie. It wasn’t a total success but I managed better on later occasions.
I started my new job on the 1st August, processing PhD applications. The first couple of months were basically spent firefighting, as I started at a peak time, but things have settled down somewhat and I’ve been able to make some improvements to processes. I’m enjoying the job; I get to work with some of my old team and lots of new people who I get on with well.
We attended a couple of wedding receptions in 2016, but it wasn’t until August that we went to a full ceremony and reception, for two friends from university. It was up in County Durham, in a really nice part of the world that I’d not previously been to before. And we had a day out in Ripon on the way home which is one of Britain’s ‘Cathedral Cities’ – it’s a small town that has city status by the virtue of having a massive cathedral.
On one of my ‘Daddy Days’ with Lizzie, we followed the Hebble Trail from Salterhebble into Halifax. Someday, I’ll actually write up the blog post that I’ve been meaning to write about it.
We’d finally ‘finished’ the living room – all the paint is on the walls and we’ve installed the furniture that we want. The living room is also a designated ‘baby safe’ room, so we spent some time erecting a TV stand and fixing the TV to it, so that there would be no chance of Lizzie pulling it onto herself. Indeed, just about all of the furniture in there is fixed to the wall. Lizzie had learned to sit up by July and was crawling by this time, and later in September she learned how to pull herself up on furniture. She’s still not able to walk independently yet, but she’s not far off.
Only one major day out in September, which was a visit to Cannon Hall Farm, near Barnsley. It’s a great place for families, with an indoor soft-play area, lots of animals to look at (including meerkats, bizarrely) and activities. Lizzie enjoyed it, and we’ll be back sometime. Especially as it was quite cheap.
We spent a week away from home, with two nights staying with relatives near Oxford and then three nights in a hotel in London. In Oxford, we had a child-free afternoon browsing its museums, and in London we went to the Tower of London, and the Museum of London Docklands.
We also managed a child-free day closer to home. After dropping Lizzie off at the childminders, we went to see Doctor Strange at the cinema. This was our first cinema visit in almost a year – the last film we’d seen was Spectre, when Christine was still pregnant.
America decided to emulate Brexit by electing a man whose surname means ‘fart’ in British English as their next president. I was hoping Hillary would win, and I guess we’ll have to see what happens. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not still president in four years’ time – whether he resigns due to corruption or boredom, or gets impeached, I don’t know.
Despite not getting as much sleep as usual, I managed to stay reasonably healthy this year, until a bought of gastroenteritis hit me in November. Annoying, I got ill with it again in December, and then had a horrendous cold right through the Christmas period.
As in previous years, we went to the Thought Bubble comic con, this time with Lizzie. We didn’t have chance to dress up this time though.
And so to this month. We haven’t had any days out – it’s winter, and we’ve been spending time doing Christmas shopping. But we did manage another child-free day, this time to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at the cinema. We spent Christmas itself with my parents in York. Plans for New Year are sketchy, but shouldn’t involve Lizzie being in hospital this time, hopefully.