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Home improvements

We bought our first home back in 2015, when my wife was pregnant. The house we bought is one that estate agents would describe as ‘having potential’. That’s not to say it was derelict, but it had dated decor and needed a lot of work doing.

We spent much of 2015 renovating the downstairs rooms – new plaster on the walls, new electrics and fixing various issues which meant that, whilst we got the keys in June, it was October before we could finally move in. In 2016, we converted a newly-partitioned room into a downstairs toilet, and had a new central heating boiler fitted.

Progress with renovating the rest of the house slowed down after this. Working full-time and having a child meant that we just didn’t have the time, and money was also an issue. But then in 2020 I inherited a sizeable amount of money from a deceased relative, and so we were able to start work again.

Whilst we had done a lot of work downstairs, the upstairs rooms had remained pretty much as before. Of the three bedrooms, the one we had earmarked for our child needed the most work, so this is the first of the bedrooms to be renovated. As with the downstairs rooms, it was a big job.

Firstly, there was a large, built-in wardrobe which had to be removed – it was falling apart anyway, and it was partly there to house a water tank which was removed when we had the new boiler fitted. Once that was out, and after stripping the wallpaper, it became clear that re-plastering was necessary here as well. We also needed new wiring – before, we only had two single plug sockets for the whole room – new floorboards, and some central heating pipes needed re-routing. Thankfully, we were able to employ a builder who could do all of this for us.

The room now looks totally different; as with downstairs, we’ve gone for painted walls rather than wallpaper. We’ve also decided to have the floorboards varnished and put rugs down, rather than carpets, so that the room can more easily evolve with our child’s changing tastes as they get older. And it’s a more flexible space, with more options for where the bed can go.

This year, we’re renovating the kitchen. I’ll write more in detail about this later, but again, it’s a big project. When we moved in, we didn’t do much work on the kitchen, compared to the other downstairs rooms – just a few extra plug sockets and a new floor – but this time it’s a total renovation. It also includes opening up one of our cellars as a utility room.

There’s still more work to be done elsewhere – the bathroom needs renovating as well, as again we only did a small amount of work when we moved in. And the other two bedrooms could do with a refresh. We’ll need some more money first though.

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Parenting a six year old

So, the last time I blogged regularly, I had a 2 1/2 year old child who had just had their first trip abroad to France. Now, that child is 6 and is in their last term of their second year at primary school.

It’s been an interesting time, not least because a big chunk of 2020 was spent stuck at home. Days before the UK went into full lockdown in March 2020, our childminder closed and initially I spent time at my parents’ house in York for childcare. When that became an impossibility, I had the joy of working at home whilst trying to keep a four-year-old entertained for four months.

In some respects, I was lucky; my child hadn’t started formal education yet and so home-schooling wasn’t required, but it was hard; taking awkward phone calls for work whilst your child is demanding attention isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. A lot of CBeebies was watched, as were various Netflix and Disney+ shows. Indeed, my child watched so much of Jake and the Never-land Pirates on Disney+ that Jake became their imaginary friend for a while. I had to do this on my own as my wife is a front-line NHS worker, and had no choice but to carry on going into work throughout the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, she contracted Covid-19 in April 2020 and was very ill with it, but thankfully made a full recovery.

Fortunately, in September 2020, my child was able to start school, and settled in well. The school wasn’t our first choice – indeed, it was actually our third. Our top two choices where schools that were more convenient for us, being as they were on our commute to work; this third choice of school was further away in the opposite direction to our workplaces. However, whilst it may not have been our first choice, in retrospect, it was probably the best choice for our child as it has much smaller class sizes due to it being comparatively under-subscribed. We were also fortunate to get a place in the out of school club.

We were also blessed with good fortune in January 2021, when the country went back into lockdown and the schools closed. This time around, the government widened the categories of key workers, meaning that I qualified as well (and our HR department responded very quickly to my request for a letter confirming as such) so we were able to get a key worker place and avoided two months of home schooling. Thankfully, apart from short periods due to possible exposure and ‘having a cough’, there’s not been so much disruption to their education this year.

Despite a rough time in 2020, I’m still enjoying being a parent and we have a lot of fun as a family. We have regular days out, and our child now has regular out of school activities on Saturdays too. Most importantly, they’re happy and healthy, with a group of friends.

We still only have the one child at present; that could change in future but we’re still waiting for my wife to take her driving test before we consider having another.

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What’s this? A blog post?

Well, hello. This is my first blog post in almost four years.

I last wrote a post on here in September 2018, and then took an un-planned break from blogging. This was exacerbated at the end of 2018, when I attempted to upgrade the server that this web site runs on, and ended up wiping everything. And I mean, everything, including the backups that I thought I’d saved elsewhere but hadn’t.

Just like that, 16 and a half years of blog posts were gone, along with all the comments. Now, it’s possible that I could have re-built most of the blog posts, using things like the Web Archive and help from others, but between working full-time and being a parent, I just didn’t have the time or the inclination to do so.

Furthermore, I was beginning to become uncomfortable with how much I had shared about my life over the years. Back when I started the blog, aged 17, I had a tendency to over-share. Over time I reigned that in; I was in a relationship with someone between 2005 and 2009 where I agreed not to share her real name on here, and though we’ve both moved on I’m keeping that commitment – not least because we’re still in touch and actually met up recently.

But I also wanted to reign in how much I talk about my child, who is now six. I’m happy to share their age, but I’m afraid you won’t be knowing their name or seeing recent photos, and I’m even keeping their gender off here now too. It’s about consent and privacy – as a parent, I want to protect my child, and they’re too young to really know what a blog is, never mind have lots of information about their life made public.

I am hoping to get back into the habit of blogging regularly, though not on a daily basis as I had aimed for in the past. Initially I’m aiming for twice a week, as there are four years of news to catch up on, but my minimum aspiration is for one new blog post per week.

Why now? Well, I’ve wanted to get back into writing for pleasure again. I’ve written a few things on Medium, but it feels like writing for a magazine; I’d rather stick to somewhere more personal that’s just about and run by me. I feel like I have things to say now, and hopefully the time to put those things into written words.

If you’re an old-time reader of my blog, welcome back, and I hope that this wasn’t too much of a surprise when it popped up in your RSS reader. And if you’re a new reader, hello. You can read my very dry ‘about me‘ page which is more focussed on my work, but I hope you’ll stick around and will get to know me better.