My Top 10 Movies

I’m obsessed with making to do lists. My Notes app on my phone is full of them, whether it’s to do with house projects, shopping lists, finances or study plans. For once I figured I’d do a fun list, the top 10 of my favourite movies. It actually made me realise I’d never done one before so it was quite a challenge to decide on them… and I wouldn’t be surprised if they change a few times.

10. Pearl Harbour (2001)

“You know what top secret is?”
“Yes, sir. It’s the kind of mission where you get medals, but they send ’em to your relatives.”

This automatically makes it into the top 10 purely because it used to be a favourite for my wife and I to watch together. I’m a sucker for most war movies, it had all the hype of a blockbuster and a bonus for me, Kate Beckinsale!
Based on the true events of Pearl Harbour, it packs in plenty of action with a love triangle story chucked in. I think I choked up a bit when Danny passed away just after finding out he was to be a dad!

This is also the movie that persuaded me to purchase a surround sound!

9. Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

“You shall not pass!”

I think this movie opened the floodgates for movies to drag on for 3 hours! Now being parents, I can’t see us having that amount of free time for quite a few years yet combined with the ability to stay awake!
The ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ brought J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels into the public eye and introduced it to the younger generation (that would have included me back in 2001!) and went on to make a trilogy, concluding with ‘The Return of the King’.

8. Black Hawk Down (2001)

“F**king Irene!”

Bit of a random one, but again probably because it’s a war movie and I have a fascination with aircraft even though I have zero knowledge! Telling the true story of the US Army Rangers attempting to capture some top lieutenants of a Somalian warlord, all is going well until two Black Hawks are shot down. The movie then focuses on the efforts of the Rangers as they battle to get to the crash sites to look for survivors. It’s quite an intense and chaotic movie with its close quarters gunfights involving plenty of bullets, explosions and blood!

7. Transformers (2007)

“At the end of this day, one shall stand, one shall fall.”

Just like Lord of the Rings, I normally find that the original is the best of the bunch. I was a huge Transformers fan when I was younger so seeing this on the big screen got me ridiculously excited, especially knowing what the capabilities are for the visual effects! Most of the characters from the TV series make an appearance, such as Optimus Prime and Bumblebee from the Autobots and Megatron and Starscream from the Decepticons. It’s not the most amazing storyline, but it has vehicles that change into robots! What more could I want?!

6. Toy Story (1995)

“To infinity, and beyond!”

Toy Story to me was a big game changer. Coming from Pixar Studios, formerly funded by the late Steve Jobs and Apple, but now part of Disney, it was the first ever computer-animated movie and it had its audience of all ages visually amazed. Loveable characters like Woody and Buzz have made it an enjoyable film to watch over and over with all of the family.

5. Star Wars: A Force Awakens (2015)

“Chewie, we’re home!”

I’d like to say that the original Star Wars trilogy were the best with their epic storylines and characters, but visually I just can’t enjoy it as much as the modern Star Wars. Having seen the original movies I do appreciate seeing Han Solo and crew and it’s very cool to see how they’re linking the old with the new. I’m desperately waiting for the day when the boys are old enough to binge watch them all with me!

4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

“I am Groot.”

I’m a huge Marvel fan but it would have been silly to just fill my top 10 with Marvel movies, so I picked this one as my personal favourite, mainly due to its humour content compared to the others and the soundtrack. Chris Pratt is Peter Quill aka Star Lord and has to join forces with a group of intergalactic criminals (Rocket, Groot, Gamora and Drax) to stop a fanatical warlord from taking over the universe.

3. Goonies (1985)

“Hey, yooouuu guuuuuuuys!”

This is what I refer to as my classic movie from my childhood! Who doesn’t still use quotes from this?! This was watched on a very regular basis and I remember being completely immersed in the story every time, even finding it a little scary at times. In order to save their homes, a group of kids (including Sean Astin as Mikey and Josh Brolin as his older brother, Brand) set out to find pirates treasure after discovering a treasure map in their attic only to find themselves being chased by the family of Sloth, the Fratelli’s.

2. Elf (2003)

“SANTA! OH MY GOD! SANTA’S COMING! I KNOW HIM! I KNOW HIM!”

My Christmas classic has to be this one, which has probably been watched every year since its release. I think my wife struggles to see the appeal, so it’s probably just a guy thing? 99% of Will Ferrel movies have me in constant stitches and this one is just perfect. Again, a movie that has people using quotes in every day life such as, “You sit on a throne of lies!” and “I just like to smile, smiling’s my favourite”.

1. Interstellar (2014)

“Once you’re a parent, you’re the ghost of your children’s future.”

So here is my current favourite movie, Interstellar. I never would’ve thought it would end up being a Sci-fi movie! It has quite a complicated, but very clever storyline. I remember coming out of the cinema and being completely amazed and it had my mind going crazy for days after. Like aircraft, I have a fascination with space exploration and a bit of astrology (I even dragged my wife to the Kennedy Space Centre when we were in Florida many years ago). So I’m pretty much admitting that I’m a nerd, right?

The visual and sound effects are just breathtaking and mesmerising, the two together creating the most stunning atmosphere.

Cast-wise, Matthew McConaughey is pretty much THE movie, even though the rest of the cast like Sir Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain were also great. McConaughey’s ability to play so many different types of characters in different movies is impressive and I feel he was the perfect choice for this movie. He is capable of making us feel so many different emotions throughout this movie, especially as a father. There is one particular scene that really got me choked up, even after watching it more than once. It’s the scene where Cooper (McConaughey) decides he has to leave his daughter, Murph, in an attempt to explore space and find a new home for humankind. Murph is upset with him for leaving so refuses to say “goodbye”. There is no guarantee that Cooper will ever make it home… so you can just imagine why the eyes start welling up, especially being a parent myself!

So there it is, my top 10 movies! That was harder than I thought it was going to be! Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments or even add your own top 10 : )

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Holidays Under The Trees

With our upcoming holiday to Centre Parcs I thought it’d be fun (and probably quite cringe) to have a look back at all of our previous visits.

Uttering the 2 words “Centre Parcs” and straight away people comment on how we can afford it. Yes, it can be expensive, sometimes even as much as a family holiday across the Atlantic. Who in their right mind would spend £3,000-£4,000 on a holiday 2 hours down the road?!

But it doesn’t always have to be that expensive. We’ve only ever paid £300 maximum as a family. There are several ways to get the cost down. Here are my top tips on how to do so.

The first would be dependant on how flexible your dates are. Scanning the costs of various weeks on the Centre Parcs website and it soon becomes clear how extreme the price difference can be, ranging from £250 to as high as £2,500 within a couple of weeks!

Next would be choosing the accommodation. Our experiences have been with the New Style Woodland Lodge, the hotel & last year, a 2 storey house. The New Style Woodland Lodge (or a similar lodge) is pretty much perfect for most families, with regards to size, appliances, etc. The hotel (I’m having to strain my memory it was so long ago) is more ideal for the romantic weekend getaway. The 2 storey house? Great for a large family plus all the partners! Plenty of space, very open plan, a games room (including pool table) and a sauna situated outside.

Not eating out in the many restaurants can be a big money saver! Although it can be a pain for space in the car, taking a food shop has always worked well for us. The bonus being if you feast well during your stay there’s less to pack for the return journey! The one thing we are guilty of spending quite a bit of money on is Starbucks. To me, when I think of a Centre Parcs holiday a part of it is the numerous afternoons sat outside a Starbucks with a coffee and cake, watching the wildlife go about their day as if you’re not even there. Unless they want your cake, then YOU will definitely know that they are there!

Activities can be expensive, depending on what you sign up for. Fortunately for us, our boys aren’t quite at the age where they’ll burn a hole in our wallet (Freddie is about to turn 5, Zachary is just over 17 months). Last year (or was it the year before?) Freddie got involved in the mini Jet-ski’s. It was only a 10 minute ride, but the cost at £7.50 was quite reasonable. Although you may not class it as an activity (more of a method of transport around the village), bike hire costs can also add up. This year we’ll be hiring a few but also taking a few of our own, which will help.

The last and probably most enjoyable way to make Centre Parcs cheaper? Invite the family! Yes, that includes the in-laws! Luckily for me, I have great in-laws (I hope they’re reading this) so I have no problem at all inviting them along. We tend to alternate between my parents and them and on the odd occasion, just the sister in-law and her family. Let’s be honest, if we didn’t invite anyone how else would my wife and I get to enjoy the Aqua Sana?! Most of the lodges have 3 or 4 bedrooms which is more than enough to accommodate everyone, sometimes even leaving a spare room to pile all the suitcases in!

So the cringeworthy photos? Let’s see what I can dig out…

  • According to my archived discs of very old photos, our very first visit was waaaay back in 2006. Unfortunately, our iMac (a family member itself, having been with us 9 years!) has decided it doesn’t want to play ball and is repeatedly spitting the disc back out. Grr. This visit was our first experience of Centre Parcs and was a birthday gift from my wife, a long weekend in the hotel at Elveden Forest. As mentioned above, perfect for the romantic weekend getaway, especially when you include a trip to the Aqua Sana. It’s probably best we can’t see the photos!
  • 3 years later in 2009 saw us choose the Lake District Centre Parcs, still as just a couple, staying in a Woodland Lodge. Memories of this trip include being woken at 3am to binge watch some more of the Lost TV series (oh, the freedom we had back then!), Ems slipping into a large puddle during a trek up a hill (still the only hill/mountain I’ve persuaded her to climb to date) and lastly, discovering that the music playing on the TV can also be played through the speakers in the bathroom! That was impressive to me back then, showering to the Pussycat Dolls was awesome…

* starts humming “Jai Ho!” *

  • Married life was to follow the next year and shortly after that, baby-making, so our next visit would be Elveden Forest (again, as this is about 45 minutes drive from home) with the in-laws in 2012. This time we opted for the updated New Style Woodland Lodge with 4 bedrooms, with their being 3 couples and baby Freddie. I remember this being a very chilled break, consisting of plenty of food, swimming and walks for Freddie’s naps.
  • The trip the following year (2013) was yet again at Elveden Forest, very tempting to keep it to a short drive when you have a hungry baby in the back of the car! We invited my parents this time and by now Freddie was becoming a funny little character! He was showing very obvious signs of my OCD as he insisted on touching every bin he saw on our walks (not very hygienic, I know!). My parents also bought us a child seat to attach to the back of my bike which Freddie enjoyed!
  • 2014 saw us skip a trip to Centre Parcs as we celebrated Ems’ 30th with a short couples holiday to Barcelona, it was heartbreaking to leave Freddie, but it was a much deserved birthday treat. For my 30th in 2015 (yes, I’m Ems’ toy-boy) I chose to return to Centre Parcs, although instead of the usual short trip to Elveden Forest, we made the 2 hour journey to the newest addition to Centre Parcs, Woburn Forest. Freddie was much more manageable in the car now and quite enjoys looking out for Eddie Stobart trucks on the road! Joining us this time was my sister-in-law and partner. With Woburn Forest being relatively new, it had a very fresh and clean feel to it as well as introducing some new technology such as wristbands to access lodges and to also store bank cards on. Very handy when you’re swimming and feeling peckish or fancy a Starbucks, as it saves having to dash back to the lockers for cash! On my birthday morning as well as the many birthday gifts we opened the curtains to find a beautiful blanket of snow had fallen overnight, it made the day feel that little extra special.
  • Our most recent trip (2016) was probably the most extravagant. We somehow managed to book a 2 storey house, just opposite the Village Square for around £800. This time there would be 4 couples going, including us, the other 3 couples being the in-laws and now 2 more babies! £800 divided by that many people made it such a bargain we decided to add a basic lodge for anyone to escape to should they need a child and baby free zone. Our second boy, Zachary, was born 6 months previously. My sister-in-law and partner had also begun their little family so their little girl, Olivia, would also be joining us. They were very brave as she was only born the month before! We couldn’t have asked for better accommodation. It had a ridiculous amount of space, plenty for everyone to lounge around and do their own thing, not forgetting an additional games room that included a pool table! A sauna was also situated at the rear of the house, but sadly never got used, probably due to the child and babies requiring much attention! The view from the balcony of the house was also pretty impressive with us being opposite the Village Square. Freddie also turned 4 during this visit and it was great for him to wake up with family around him and celebrate. There was plenty of Lego building during this holiday!
  • This years trip is seeing us travel to Longleat Centre Parcs with my parents, as this is one we have yet to visit. The Longleat Safari gave it the extra appeal, although Ems is beginning to panic at the idea of being able to drive through the Lion enclosure! I’m more worried about the cheeky monkeys destroying the car!

We’re also now very aware that with Freddie about to turn 5 (where did the time go?!) and being at school, we will no longer have the flexibility to go at the cheapest times without the worry of getting into trouble with the schools. Whether that means a sad end to our trips to Centre Parcs remains to be seen. Now both boys are getting older and travelling is becoming easier, it would be nice for them to start visiting places further afield and experiencing new cultures.

The Mutterings of an Accounting Student

For the last 18 months I have been self studying Accounting in the hope of creating a path to a new career. When I first started I panicked that I’d made the wrong choice, but I stuck at it and I’m glad I did.

At the very beginning I signed up with Kaplan Financial as a distance learner as I was very fortunate that they had an exam centre based in the centre of my home town, Norwich. The first level I was recommended to start on was Level 2 with the 2013 syllabus (known as AQ2013). This consisted of the following units;

  • Processing Bookkeeping Transactions,
  • Control Accounts, Journals and the Banking System,
  • Basic Costing,
  • Work Effectively in Accounting and Finance, and
  • Computerised Accounting.

Having not done anything academic for around 14 years I was petrified of failing an exam, with the fear that it would make me give up there and then. Despite this, my brain had been begging for stimulation so I spent weeks and weeks studying the first unit (Processing Bookkeeping Transactions), which was based around the double entry of bookkeeping, the debits and credits. To me, this was all completely alien, but perseverance paid off and after finally taking the plunge and booking the exam I walked away with a pass, having exceeded in all but one section. The relief was immense!!

Confidence high, I jumped straight into the next unit and then the next, passing all first time. 5 units later and with an anxious wait for the last result (Computerised Accounting) with it being a project, I was able to access my AAT account and see online  that I’d passed Level 2 and I officially had a Certificate in Accounting! Fist bump!

I did feel quite exhausted once I found out that I’d passed, it was a huge weight off my shoulders. At this point, our 2 boys were about 4 years old and 11 months old, so not an easy time! Studying as a parent is incredibly hard, I’m trying my best to not let it interfere with family life in any way. I allowed myself 4 – 6 weeks off before jumping into the next level, the Diploma in Accounting.

After advice from a friend, I opted to start with Indirect Tax, with it being one of the easier units of Level 3. I figured a pass on my first Level 3 exam would given me a much needed confidence boost. It was good advice… passed first time! Next up was Accounts Preparation. After doing a bit of research online, I began stumbling across horror stories of it making or breaking people, to the point of them quitting their studies or taking several attempts to pass. The exams aren’t cheap and it was coming out of my own pocket. On I ploughed! The weeks were rolling by and I was struggling. Christmas of 2016 was approaching and I was considering booking the exam even though I wasn’t ready, so I could relax for Christmas. Very fortunately, my accounting studies buddy (shout out to Freya!) gave me the heads up that exam dates were running out and the choice was either middle of December or not until the middle of March! I couldn’t wait that long, I’d go mad and I’d get very behind. Again, I took the plunge and booked the December exam. I had about 2-3 weeks to be ready. Shitballs. Anybody that has done this exam will more than likely quiver at the mention of accruals, prepayments, depreciation and doubtful debts. These words were going around in my head for nearly every minute of the day until exam day.

Exam day came. My mind copes fine on exam days, a stranger or even a friend wouldn’t have a clue that I was about to sit an exam within the next few hours. Unfortunately, my stomach says otherwise! A few toilet trips later and I was off on my way to the exam centre, about 15 minutes walk away.

3 hours later…

… and I’d beaten it. Oh yes! Another first time pass. The further along I’m getting the more I’m freaking out that I’m eventually going to fail one and I wonder how I’m going to react.

I’m now onto the 3rd of 6 units, this one being ‘Final Accounts for Sole Traders and Partnerships’. Sounds like a bag of fun! Pass this one and I believe I can apply for a bonus certificate which officially gives me qualified bookkeeping status, albeit with no experience. Even cooler is I can add the letters AATQB after my name. Big grin. I’m aiming to book this next exam for around the middle of March… so I’ll update again around then : )

 

Welcome to Planet Lego!

Why I haven’t created this before, I do not know?!

Lego dominates our lives on a huge scale. If you ask Freddie what is the first thing that enters his mind in the morning? Lego. Last thing at night? Lego. His nightly ritual is to take either a figure or a vehicle to bed with him to put next to his pillow and who are we to complain, he’s in dreamland within 10 minutes every night without fail.

We’re not going to lie, my wife and I are pretty big Lego fans too! Quite often one of us will get into a hissy fit knowing that the other will just happen to be with Freddie when he opens his latest Lego purchase and starts building and occasionally asks for help.

In my last blog post End of an Era, I mentioned that Ems’ maternity bucket list included a surprise family trip to Legoland in Windsor. We managed to keep it a surprise right until we reached the gates! Freddie was amazed!

“Yegoyand?! Mummy, Yegoyand!! Yegoyand?!”. His pronunciation has improved quite a bit since, although it was very cute at the time!

With the Star Wars franchise making a comeback in the cinemas only months before, it made the trip even more special for me.

We spent two days at Legoland and enjoyed every minute of it – okay, we had a couple of baby nappy issues in the car park that created a bit of a mess (at one point there was confusion between soiled trousers in a nappy sack and a chocolate croissant in a bag) and I forgot the baby formula but that was soon forgotten about once past the gates. Staff were welcoming and friendly and the layout of the park worked really well as it didn’t feel too spread out. From memory I think Freddie got to go on most rides with regards to his height which was a bonus… and one of the most important things at theme parks? Queues. We were there mid-week which meant they were pretty much non-existent! Win! Weather was perfect too!

We’ll definitely be visiting again when time and money allows, especially as Zachary is beginning to show interest and pretty impressive building skills with his Lego Duplo!

In the meantime, Freddie’s collection and love for Lego continues to grow (and our dining table space is slowly getting smaller). Hopefully soon we’ll be making a trip to the local cinema to see ‘The Lego Batman Movie’! We also have plans to surprise him with a trip to London for his 5th birthday in March which will obviously involve a lot of time spent in the new Leicester Square store, that could end up being quite an expensive trip.

When time allows I hope to post more Lego-related stories, photos and videos on here, whether it be opening up his latest set or his latest creation, or even reviews!

End of an Era

The countdown has begun. In around 4 weeks time my wife will be unwillingly returning to work. I’m gutted and to be honest, quite terrified. I know it’s an overused phrase, but these 9 months have gone way too fast. I may not have shown it every day, but I’ve loved Ems always being at home, both before I go to work and after.

During the pregnancy we did talk about having longer than the standard 9 months, but eventually decided against it for financial reasons. Or was it just me who decided that? Oops. If I was given the choice again, I’d definitely opt for the maximum term. Ems knows that I’d be happy to work the extra hours to bring in the extra money. Or we’d make cuts here and there. Less meals out at Nando’s (the ultimate sacrifice). No more Starbucks and Costa just because Zachary needs feeding or has had a nappy explosion (we yell “Code: Brown” if it’s a leaker, then it’s all hands on deck).

Anyway, the decision has been made and the date is set. We’ve both admitted that we’re a bit excited at the prospect of extra income. We did build up some savings to supplement the maternity pay but then we decided to get that new kitchen. Oops again. I also think it’ll be good for her to stimulate her brain in a way that doesn’t evolve around nappies, feeds and sleep.

So why am I so terrified? I’ve never felt confident about being a parent to 1 child, let alone 2! I also work shifts. This means that I’m extremely lucky in that I get to see more of my boys than the average 9 – 5 working person does, but when Ems goes back to work on the odd weekday I’ll have to look after both of them on my own. Feed them. Dress them. Get Freddie to pre-school (or school as of September) and hand Zachary over to one of the grandparents. And then get to work on time. Holy shit.

It doesn’t help that I’m quite OCD. I’m quite kitchen proud. Unfortunately not in the cooking way, just the cleaning part. I’ll leave the cooking to Ems (It has literally just dawned on me that I’m going to have to feed the 3 of us when she’s working. Holy shit again.). As I was saying, due to my kitchen OCD, I can’t leave the house without having a clean kitchen. I am actually going to be a sweaty mess before I even get to work. So there you are. That’s why I’m terrified. Dads in the 9 – 5 jobs, contain your jealousy.

When realising how little time we have left before Ems goes back to work and how rare it will then be for us all to have time off together, I decided the 2 of us should make our own ‘Maternity Bucket Lists’.

My maternity bucket list

  1. Beach and chips day. And donuts. And ice cream. And sweets – we don’t live far from the Norfolk coast so this is pretty doable, it just comes down to our ridiculous British weather.
  2. Date night – this hasn’t happens for a long time, 8 months apparently. Squeeze in the cinema if we can!
  3. Couple of hours at a local pub – by local I mean actually 30 seconds away. 2 of them! It’s been nearly 2 years since we moved into our house and I’ve been to the pub once. How has that happened?!

Ems’ maternity bucket list

  1. Evening out with close friend – this is maybe my fault that this hasn’t been done sooner. The thought of doing the bedtime routine for a 4 year old & 7 month scares the shit out of me… but I haven’t done it yet, so for all I know it could be a breeze?
  2. Getting her eyebrows and eyelashes tinted – this will mean more spare time to change nappies!
  3. Family trip to Legoland – this is booked for the last week before Ems goes back to work. Freddie has no idea and we’re hoping to keep it as surprise until we arrive.
  4. Date night – see my no.2.
  5. Get more family photos on the wall – give me someone else’s house and I will drill holes at will, when it’s my own I get a bit freaked that the walls will crumble!

Who hit the Reset Button?!

Up until now I’ve been writing my blog posts in the past tense and I’d say they were quite sensitive, but now I’m in the present tense and the father of 2 amazing boys I’ve decided I’m going to be more… let’s just say ‘shit’s about to get real’.

I don’t know if it’s common knowledge between family and friends that I took some persuading to have baby number 2. I found some of the baby parts hard first time around. Not being able to stop the screaming baby, feeling helpless when they’re in pain, the stressed out mummy from the sleepless nights.

4 years on and it feels like someone has hit the reset button and I’ve forgotten how to deal with it all! I’d forgotten how to cope with all the poo under the finger nails, rinsing out poo filled baby-grows, the relentless crying during car journeys, breast milk sprayed everywhere in close proximity to the sofa. I still don’t feel like a super confident dad and seeing the endless sick and poo freaks me out (and I’m probably seeing a small percentage of it compared to my wife). Do we need to call the doctor? Take him to hospital?!

Zachary was doing quite well going through the night at one point but he seems to have gone backwards lately. Ems is soldiering on amazingly though. Me? I wake up on the rare occasion to help feeling like shit and delusional, it takes me about 5 minutes to understand what she’s talking about so she may as well have just done it herself! Hats off to her! Most mornings we wake up feeling and looking like we’ve been doing jäger bombs until the early hours (sorry Ems!) when in reality that hasn’t happened for a good 5 years!

Fancy a quick trip into the city? Don’t forget to add the 2 hours it takes to get ready and that’s without poo or sick incidents! Need to get important information when buying a certain product at the till? Chuck in a hungry baby and the bored “Mummy? Muuummy? Muuuuuuuuuuuuummy?” three-nager!

In the mix of all this is poor Freddie. It seems like all we do is ask him to “be quiet”, “wait in minute”, or “sit still”. I’m proud of him for not hating his little brother for taking all the attention away from him. In fact, he’s the complete opposite, constantly in his face cooing, “Zachary baby, do you like your mummy’s milk?!” in a high pitch voice, which we realised is exactly how we sound when we talk to Zachary. He’s not an angel but he’s not a naughty child either. He’s just a typical 3 (nearly 4) year old with the energy to bounce off walls, scream/sing Macklemore’s ‘Dooooooowntowwwwn’ (one of his current favourite tunes) over and over and do headstands butt naked.

I wouldn’t changes any of this for the world. It’s what we signed up for and I’d like to think my wife and I make a great tag team, picking the other one up when it looks like hell is about to break loose. There will be light at the end of the tunnel eventually and I’m sure we’ll be looking back in a few years and chuckling at all the stories.

Although before then, I have my first evening with the 2 boys coming up. Mummy is going out for the night…

Photography by Chloe Harris Photography

8 months on…

It seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote my last blog post and I didn’t mean for it to take so long to write again. It’s been a crazy 8 months. Last summer especially was busy!

We had a new kitchen fitted, right back to being re-plastered, and the electrics & plumbing were tidied up. Not fun with a 3 year old (who was off for the school holidays) and a very pregnant wife! I also decided to start the long road to hopefully my next career, accounting. I’ve passed 2 exams so far but still have about another 18 to go! Most important of all though?

We became a family of four!

Again, throughout the pregnancy I was getting stressed about whether our baby would be born with a hearing loss. Maybe not so much this time around as I’ve been wearing my hearing aids for a few years now and I feel a lot more confident than I used to, therefore I don’t feel that having a child with a hearing loss is really the end of the world for them. Like F at birth, Z (hmm, I wonder what his name could be?) failed the hearing test the hospital carry out within hours of them making an entrance. This time around though, I didn’t make a huge deal of it. The experience with F plays a big part in this, as does the fact that he was born in a birthing pool.

A few weeks in I was already feeling quite positive about his hearing. During his many, many hours of sleeping (why can’t he do this now?!) he was flinching at the slightest sound. I even struggled to eat a poppadom one evening when he was asleep on me, he was jumping as if I was letting firecrackers off! Eventually, the day of his hearing test at the hospital arrived. Z didn’t play ball as well as F did, it took a while but in the end we got our result. A very good result!

Treating ourselves to a Costa at the hospital after getting the good news!

Z is now 18 weeks old and although it’s hard work, it’s also very rewarding seeing all the new things he’s learning every day. A few days ago he amazed us by doing his first roll, his first chuckle and he took a bottle (that’s a whole other story!) all in one day! F is about to turn 4 (how?!) and fast becoming a teenager. I’m extremely grateful to have 2 healthy boys.

Too Much

Just before F was born I had decided to go all out and wear both hearing aids all the time. I have a hearing loss in both ears so that would be the logical thing to do, right? Straight into the deep end, out in public, seeing family and friends, etc. I found the whole experience quite uncomfortable. Physically wearing them in my ears, hearing new sounds or sounds I could hear before but 10 times louder. No one really spoke about them, it was as if I’d been wearing them all my life.

Even though I felt like this, it was definitely worth wearing them. Mainly for E and F’s sake. I found that E was getting less frustrated at me when trying to make conversation. It must’ve been a huge relief after 10+ years of being patient and understanding and having to raise her voice for my benefit. When E and myself first started smooching those many years ago, I didn’t tell her about my hearing loss. It wasn’t until our relationship became more serious that I decided to tell her… and it turned out she already knew! She’d known since the ‘Hanson’ days, when we met first time round as young teens!

Most rewardingly, I was getting to hear all the sounds that F was making, even if it was just a gurgle or filling his nappy. I shouldn’t wear my hearing aids overnight, but I was. It meant I was able to help out when F was waking up crying rather than sleeping all through it and leaving it to E.

Wearing two hearing aids in public as opposed to just one makes a lot of difference. When in shops staff were over-exaggerating their mouth and hand movements when speaking and I was finding it very awkward, as if a hearing loss wasn’t the only disability I had. Also, the amount of noise that was coming into my ears now was ridiculous and sometimes overwhelming. E will tell you that for some reason I’m quite sensitive to some sounds and I get very agitated. If you’ve been in our back garden since we moved house you’ll know exactly what I mean (damn you, cockerel!).

After a while I decided to try coping with just the one hearing aid. Instantly I felt a lot more comfortable. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on any sounds in our home or with F and I found that I was treated more like a normal person in public. Three years later and I’m still wearing just the one hearing aid. E seems to have accepted it (for now) and I’d say that F and I can have conversations fine and I’m still able to do my bit during the night on the rare occasion he gets upset.


Remember I said that we like to be very ‘planny’? F was getting to the right age and we now had a bigger home… a home that will soon become a lot louder!

Like Father, Like Son?

Probably since the very first moment that my wife (let’s call her ‘E’) and I talked about having a baby I began to panic that our child would be born with a hearing loss. Over the years I’ve been told by people in the medical profession that’s it’s not hereditary, but I find that hard to believe. I’m one of five siblings and three of us wear hearing aids. My mother wears hearing aids (or did – she recently had a cochlear implant fitted) as do all of her sisters. Their mother (my grandmother) also had a hearing loss. Three out of five of my nieces and nephews are deaf. I’m glad to say that my oldest niece didn’t follow in my footsteps with the stubbornness to wearing hearing aids and I’m sure she’ll reap the benefits throughout her education. I just wish I had the foresight to see this when I was younger.

Anyway, you can obviously see where my panic was coming from, as well as the standard fear that all expecting parents experience when going for their scans and tests throughout the pregnancy. I’m glad to say that the pregnancy itself was all plain-sailing (well, from my point of view! I’m not sure E would say the same!). I would just have to wait for our baby to arrive (on here I’ll call him ‘F’). As this was our first, we thought it’d be exciting to not find out the sex until the birth.

At 7am on Saturday 10th March 2012, F was finally here. From the first contractions to F finally making an appearance was nearly 24 hours. My mother-in-law was my wingwoman and I couldn’t have done it without her… this kind of sounds like I was the one in labour! I found the whole experience amazing but also traumatic. It was so hard to see E going through what she had to and she did it with just gas and air. Now that F was with us it was time for all of the necessary checks, hearing test included. He had two arms, eight fingers, two thumbs, etc. So far, so good! Now for the hearing test. I can’t even remember what the test was as I was so exhausted from being awake 24+ hours. All I remember is the result and it wasn’t good news. The nurse did explain that the result could’ve been affected by fluid in the ear, but given my family history (contradicting what I’d previously been told!) it was unlikely. She seemed pretty convinced that he was deaf as she was talking about how great hearing aids are now and that the technology has advanced a lot.

I was really devasted, like I’ve never been before in my life. As beautiful as he was, all I could think of was his future with a hearing loss and I only had my personal experience to go by. My entire school life suffered because of my hearing. Since leaving school I’d say that my hearing has also led me into the job I’m in now, a job that I don’t want to be in. At the hospital I lay with F for about 10-15 minutes, in our own little world, all of these thoughts running through my mind. With the help of E and family I snapped out of it and tried to put it to the back of my mind. We had a newborn to look after!

All of the days and weeks rolled into one big blur. Not that I’m complaining, I was loving being a daddy. We had a follow-up appointment at the hospital to give F a more thorough hearing test. I’m not a religious person so I’m not going to say that I was praying every day for good news, but I was hoping. Hoping a lot. The day of the appointment arrived and I tried to be in good spirits, although maybe I’d already accepted that F was going to be deaf like daddy. He was the perfect patient, not making too much fuss and allowing the doctors to do what they needed to do. The result… ?

I really wasn’t expecting it, but he got the all clear! I’m not sure I said much at the time because of the shock, but I’d like to think I had a huge smile for a long time after! The days following his check-up we began to notice how well F was reacting to noise around him. He’d react to the slightest noise, like a bag slightly rustling. I can’t really say what else he was reacting to as his hearing was much better than mine, but E was letting me know.

Life couldn’t be any better. I was married to a beautiful, yummy mummy and had a handsome son – with good hearing! I’d like to say that if it turned out that F did have a hearing loss, I would’ve loved him no less.

Keeping A Promise

About 5 years ago, I made a promise to my wife. We were on an evening out with friends in a bar and she, as she always did back then, could see that I was struggling to keep up with everyone’s conversations.

I’ve had a hearing loss since birth but as soon as I was old enough to worry about my appearance, the hearing aids were put away, not to be seen again for the next 17 or 18 years.

We were a young couple, newly married and yet to start a family, although we knew this would happen soon. Although we didn’t socialise in bars every single weekend, we’d try to meet with various friends whenever we could. I think it must’ve been around now that my wife was starting to get more frustrated than ever with my stubbornness to wear the hearing aids. This particular night out that I was struggling, she must’ve asked me straight out if I was going to start wearing my hearing aids once we had a baby (I say ‘must’ve’ as alcohol was involved and I’m a lightweight). Again, I must’ve said yes and she made me promise.

My wife and I love to plan (maybe me more so). I’m pretty sure the original plan was to start trying for a baby straight after getting married. I remember exactly where we postponed that plan – sunbathing on a beach in Mauritius during our honeymoon! “Just one more year”, we said! Fast forward a year and it was during our last ‘couples’ holiday that we conceived. And so it begins…

The last couples holiday

I hadn’t worn my hearing aids for so long that my ears had changed shape. I made an appointment to get new moulds fitted & to get my hearing tested again, something I had refused to do since I was about 13. This was the start of me accepting that I had a hearing loss. Not long after, they arrived. I didn’t immediately start wearing them every day. I’d occasionally wear them when I was home alone watching TV. It was hard to get used to all the new sounds. I started wearing both of them all day every day towards the end of the pregnancy.

In March 2012, our son was born. There was no turning back now. To me a promise is a promise & I couldn’t break this one that I had made to my wife. Looking back now I’m so glad I had the courage to do this. I feel that since that day my confidence has increased immensely, even to the point of finally enrolling on a course to hopefully lead me to my dream career. Quite a few years were spent in a quieter world before wearing hearing aids, but the way I look at it now is that I have so many more years in a hopefully normal hearing world.