Friday, 31 May 2019

Baby Blogging - My First Month Back At Work After A Baby!

Where do I start this post.....

I started it yesterday having just run full out across London Euston train station to jump on a 5.43pm train that arrived back in Birmingham at 7.03pm. I hoped to jump on a local train and be home some time before 7.45pm. Annabelle's bedtime is 7pm. The sprint wasn't just for the train, the sprint was to have some vague hope of seeing Annabelle's face before bed. Even if it is just for a hug. I made it, just.

I saw Annabelle at 6.17am. I didn't think I would see her at all today but due to teething the poor baby woke up at 4.15am - and was settled by Laura - then again at 5 something am and then 6.17am. At that point I abandoned the pumping I had been doing downstairs and raced up to sweep her into my arms and give her breakfast straight from the source.

It was 10 mins I didn't allow for in my morning routine but 10 mins I am glad I took. That 10 minute session will get me through the day and console me if I do miss bedtime tonight. 

After feeding was done I raced to throw my bag together, wash out the pumping equipment and get to the station for my 6.47am train. I made it. Just. And without my phone.....although I later discovered Laura had left Annabelle with my Mum to try and catch me to give me my phone - only to arrive as my train was leaving. 

Thankfully not all days start that way. 

In fact most days we are doing a good job with our new routine. Bisbee has no idea what is going on but the rest of us have found a rhythm. I have been back over a month and unlike when I wrote this post my emotions have balanced out.

So here's a quick run through of how life is running currently:

Monday - if I a lucky I have the day off as I have plenty of annual leave to use OR we are both lucky and there is a bank holiday. I am usually home for bed.

Tuesday - Annabelle goes to nursery and I usually head to London. Either I drive to the train station for the 6.37am train or Laura drops me and I get the 7.46am train. There is no middle ground. Or I work from home and Laura drops Annabelle at nursery. I try to make it back for bed.

Wednesday - is usually a lot like a Tuesday. Except I add netball in after putting Annabelle to bed. 

Thursday - my Mum looks after Annabelle and either arrives at 7.30am if I am heading to London or at 8.30am if I am at home. If I am at home I get to feed Annabelle before naps and spend the evening with her. If I have been in London I don't.

Friday - our favourite day of the working week for so many reasons. My Mum has Annabelle in the morning and Laura finishes at 2pm. I am rarely anywhere but home so get to feed Annabelle for naps and see her in the evening.

My crew picking me up on a Friday
And then we hit the weekend and want to lock the front door and do nothing expect be a family. Reality rarely allows it but we try. We can at least guarantee whatever we do we do it as a family. 

Birmingham Pride was a great event for us. It ticked a lot of boxes that make us happy:

  • Family Time
  • Supporting the LGBT community
  • A chance to enjoy nice weather
  • Spending time in our city

We have always loved Birmingham Pride - well the parade part - we have never got to the event part. The city really puts on a great show. This year we stood in a new location - Carr Street - right by a church that were handing out water and love hear sweets to the parade participants. There was space to stand and a Tesco for everything we had forgot - like water!

As the parade came down the street Annabelle would stare, intrigued by all the noise and chaos. Bisbee would prepare herself for fuss - she always does well for attention at Prides.
We just stood there and took it all in. We received occasional hugs from friend we know and photo requests from strangers - a perk of dressing up (Laura enforced :))!

Life may be busy but at least we are busy together - most of the time!

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Travel: We've Been Nominated!

It's been a busy few weeks and we have so much to tell you about, we'll follow it with posts in the coming weeks. We attended Birmingham Pride, we've been planning an extension to the house, we've been establishing our routine now I've been back at work for over a month and we've been planning our next trip to Scotland in a few weeks.

Oh and we have been nominated as 'Best LGBT Travel Blog' in the Teletext Holidays and British Travel Awards. We are up against some great competition so being nominated is an honour!

If you want to check out the other blogs see the roundup here

If you search 'Travel' in the search bar you will see all our recent travel posts but if you are looking for LGBT travel destinations you can check out this post on the Top 10 LGBT Friendly Destinations!

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Theatre Review: Rocky Horror Show

'Give yourself over to absolute pleasure.'

It's a famous line from the cult classic Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show, and also, it's our one line review of the current show and cast on tour around the UK, directed by Christopher Luscombe, and in Birmingham until Saturday 25th May 2019 at the Alexandra Theatre.

We are HUGE Rocky Horror fans. I have watched the film in costume at an event at least once per year since I was 16 (that's a lot of years, people!) and I had a huge poster of Frank N' Furter, one of the main characters, played in the film by Tim Curry, above my bed in my childhood bedroom. In the 10 years Sarah and I have been together, we have attended these events together, and have dressed up as dozens of characters over the years. It's a big deal to us.

This was my actual poster!
(There were the times we went to London to watch it on the big screen here and here.
Our first RHPS viewing party at home with Annabelle and meatloaf feet here.)

However we have each only seen a theatre production of RHPS once before, both over 12 years ago, so when we were invited to review this production of the Rocky Horror Show, we were intruiged as to what we could expect. How could anyone live up to the characters brought to life on screen by Tim Curry, Richard O'Brien, and Susan Sarandon (among others)?

We donned our Columbia (Sarah) and Eddie (Laura) costumes and arrived at the Alexandra to a lively, excited and dressed up audience. One of our favourite things about Rocky Horror is how much those who love it, love it. There were characters seated all around us, and there were two older ladies next to us who were Rocky Horror virgins (they hadn't seen it before) and didn't know what to expect. I couldn't think of how to explain what was about to happen on stage to them, so I just said that it was strange and they would love it!

To try to explain it to any Rocky Horror virgins reading, Brad and his fiancee Janet are clean cut kids who have just gotten engaged, they decide to go see their school science teacher who introduced them. Sadly on their way they get a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, so visit a nearby castle to use their phone, and end up with, well, a lot more than they bargained for.

But honestly, the plot isn't what you come to Rocky Horror for. You come for an experience - a funny, shocking, wildly inappropriate one where the audience is part of the show, an experience that you can't get anywhere else; which was indeed delivered by this production.

From the moment the show started, we were absolutely blown away. The set was really cleverly designed by Hugh Durrant, quite small but effective setting the scenes and transitioning between them. The live band, under the direction of Musical Director George Carter, were hidden at the top of the stage, and did a great job. We absolutely loved the cast, they were very likeable, drew us in immediately, and they each brought their own spin to these classic characters.

Some of our favourite actors were Duncan James of Blue fame, who played a fantastic Frank - he was the perfect balance of masculine and feminine, attractive to everyone, as that character needs to be, and side note, he is so buff! We also loved 90's boyband A1's Ben Adams as Brad and ex-Strictly Come Dancing star Joanne Clifton as Janet (though their American accents were SO strong, I think purposeful hyperbole, but I kept thinking, do I sound like that??), and Kristian Lavercombe was a hilarious and creepy Riff Raff.

One character we thought was better than expected was Rocky, played by Callum Evans - in the movie, besides muscly, he doesn't have a lot else to him, but in this theatre production, he was laugh out loud funny, he had much more character to him. Also, Callum is a gymnast, which was a great casting choice as he had the audience 'Oooooh'ing and 'Aahhhh'ing at his incredible gymnastics onstage!

Finally, it was wonderful to see Brummie Alison Hammond as The Narrator, a role that traditionally gets heckled by the audience to quite a degree - she was so much fun, you could tell she really enjoyed clapping back at the audience yelling out funny things in response to her lines, and once when she accidentally missed her cue and recovered rather hilariously, she had us all in stitches!

Rocky Horror Show is a unique musical because the audience is encouraged to participate. From getting up to learn to dance to the Time Warp (where I got to speak to the girl next to me, Rocky Horror always helps you make friends!), to audience members yelling out funny lines in between lines from characters, to audience members even bringing props to use during scenes throughout the show, it is an experience unlike any other. What we loved about the show more than the movie was that the actors seemed to pause for some of the better known funny lines, so you got to really laugh at what was being said and not miss anything, where in the movie the scene continues despite the audience participation. Also, the Narrator especially really reacted to the funny lines, which made them even funnier!

At the end of the Rocky Horror Show, we all got to get up and dance to our favourite songs from the show, which was a wonderful way to end it and celebrate being there.

As self titled Rocky Horror connoisseurs, we know our stuff - and absolutely recommend that you, whether you're a seasoned party goer or a Rocky Horror virgin, catch this production of the Rocky Horror Show in Birmingham at the Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 25th May, or on tour around the UK until November 2019.

Other theatre reviews include:
HAIR - The Musical
Jersey Boys
Mamma Mia

Monday, 13 May 2019

Travel: Exploring New York!

Our first family trip abroad was to New York in February. We flew from Birmingham, UK to meet Laura's parents in the city that never sleeps and it was AMAZING! Annabelle was just over 7 months old.

We shared this post earlier in the year on our family Must See List but we thought we would share a video we recorded while there.

The video is here.

We also shared a post on Essentials of travelling with a baby here.

Our highlights in New York included:
  • Top of the Rock
  • Brooklyn Bridge / Dumbo
  • The High Line
  • Stardust Diner / Times Square 
  • And tons more!
And here's a few of our picture highlights, there are some in the video too :)

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Travel: 8 Reasons To Visit Bergen, Norway!

When we visited Oslo in 2017 we had an amazing trip. You can read all about it here. From the scenery to the people, from the food to the history Norway has plenty to offer. Having explored the biggest city last time we wanted to try something different this time and headed to the gateway of the fjords - Bergen!


Honestly our trip had so many highlights that we highly recommend visiting Bergen. We arrived on Friday evening having flown Birmingham to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Bergen on KLM (highly recommend this airline unlike Brussels Air). Each flight was just over an hour. We had 3 days exploring the city and flew back Tuesday afternoon. It was a perfect amount of time and even though the weather was changeable we had plenty of time to see everything we wanted.

Bergen is a UNESCO world heritage city and European city of culture - check out Visit Bergen here.

 1) Everything is beautiful. The surrounding scenery is spectacular, the houses nestled into the mountains by the port are adorable and the area is so clean and well laid out. When you arrive (depending on the time of year) at the lake in the centre you are greeted with beautiful blossom trees and the largest tulips in every colour. It's like a painting of spring.

2) It's SO family friendly. There was so many families everywhere we went and with Norway encouraging Dads to take parental leave you were just as likely to see a group of Dads with buggies as you were Mums. We were always acknowledged as Mum's wherever we went and even found an entire LGBT artwork store!

At the airport there were free buggies to use to move around, there were children's play areas that were free to use (although we are noticing more and more airports doing this now) and when we boarded our bus to the centre there were child seats available. All of these things were amazing as we only travelled with our baby carrier.

3) Bryggen - the old wharf area of Bergen stands on the port side and is a reminder of the trade significance of the area back as far as the 14th century. The wooden buildings have created passageways in a higgley-piggelty way making it interesting to wander around. Most of the buildings are now shops, cafes or art galleries and worth checking out. We spent over an hour seeing what was on offer before enjoying a snack in a cafe.

4) The Floibanen Funicular - this railway takes you to the top of Mount Floyen in 6 minutes and is 125 NOK (£12.50) per person for a return. The views all the way up are magnificent and when you reach the top it is breathtaking. From the station there are a number of hikes based on how far you want to go. We walked to a lake that took half an hour for the round trip. We also explored the troll garden, met some goats and checked out the play area. There were also free, and very clean, facilities to use - always a plus when you have been getting in the steps!

5) Try the food, it's delicious! Norway does love it's meat and fish so it made sense to try what was on offer. With the fish market on the port you can smell and taste the fish as soon as you arrive. The stalls are generous with samples and after tasting a variety including whale and the freshest salmon we'd ever had we had to make choices to take back to our Airbnb.

At dinner we tried reindeer sausage that was delicious - very meaty! Fish cakes that looked like hockey pucks but were delicious and meatballs the size of our hands. Everything we got was so fresh, everywhere we went.

We also did the Norwegian thing of having a daily hotdog and ate way too many bollen (bread products) of different types - with cinnamon, with icing, with coconut, with icing and cinnamon, with custard, with custard and cinnamon - okay you get the idea. They were so good we couldn't resist!

6) Take a fjord tour. We did a day tour on Hardangerfjord to Rosendal. It involved taking a 2 hour cruise through majestic mountains, past fjord-side villages and arriving at the picturesque Rosendal town, where we spent 3 and 1/2 hours. From the time you dock until the time you leave it's like stepping into a fairy-tale. Going in May the lambs were springing around, the flowers were blooming and the river gushed from the snow topped mountains. We followed one of those rivers to an amazing waterfall and loved every step.

7) The streets. There aren't many cities where it's fun to get lost, but Bergen is somewhere getting lost means finding new things. The back streets run up the mountain and you pop up overlooking roofs the higher you go. There is no right or wrong way to turn as every street has a different bar, restaurant, cafe or art gallery to check out.

8) The art work. It's everywhere. If you like sculptures you wouldn't be disappointed, they appear everywhere. If you like graffiti there is plenty to check out. If you like paintings you could spend all day enjoying local artists work and never get bored and if you like trolls - well they are everywhere!

We will definitely be heading back to Norway!

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Baby Blogging: Back To Work!

Our new normal is up and running. I am well and truly back to work and our routine is in place. The only thing we are struggling with is having enough hours in a day, what's new eh?!

As you may have seen I went back to work in April and my first week was not as expected, details are here.

Since that first week I have settled into a routine of working from home or heading to London, Manchester and wherever my team require me. It feels weird. It feels like I never left. I have found my rhythm quicker than I expected. There is still plenty to catch up on but it's coming back to me.

Making our time together count
What I have found surprising is the speed of which my maternity cover (contracted for a year June - June) has disappeared. Within 3 days everything was being escalated back to me and other than a few calls the handover I expected has never come. I have been a little taken back by that as it has meant that I have had a lot of groundwork to do myself. Ah well.

Being busy at work has actually been great. I have very little downtime to wonder about Annabelle. In the moments that I do, and she's at nursery, I log on and am able to reassure myself that she is okay. I miss her though. That phrase about your heart being in two places at once after you have a baby is true. It's strange but I all I really want to do is hug her, all day, everyday. I know in reality that hug is with a wriggly little girl who can't wait to get down to play with toys or anything else in the room, but it's a nice thought.

That smile!

I console myself with the fact that if I was with her I would be playing with her just like the people taking care of her. I do nothing special in that sense so I know she's not missing out.

In fact my main challenge is not the work/life balance right now it's getting enough time with Annabelle while she is awake. After nursery she is tired, she will either come home and nap - usually 4.15 - 5pm or she will be grisly until bed making it hard to really spend time with her. The nap works well if it happens on time as I finish work and join Annabelle and Laura at 5.30pm.

Morning crew
BUT life isn't always that easy and doesn't always go to plan.

My trains often run delayed from London and instead of a 6pm arrival, I get in at 6.10pm. No biggy except my connecting train is at 6.10 or 6.25. If I get the 6.10 I am at our local station by 6.30 and home by 6.45 and half an hour with Annabelle. If I get the 6.25, I get in at 6.45 and home at 7. I literally just get to feed Annabelle and we have no time together.

Or, in the case of last night, Annabelle fights her nap until 5pm, then falls asleep until 6pm only for me to leave for netball at 6.30pm and return to put her to bed. Not ideal knowing I would be in London today and as usual my train is running 10 mins delayed.

Sneaking in a nap
Our girl loves her routine and her bed and while they are both great things it does leave very, very limited time for me to see her. That is hard, really hard.

When I am working from home I try to spend every minute with her until she leaves for nursery and I take a short lunch so I can grab some time with her as soon as she gets in. I try to make her laugh, get her to smile, get her to know that even though our time together is now so short it's good time. That I love her and that her happiness is my priority. I just hope she doesn't miss me like I miss her.

Nursery is doing what we hoped. Annabelle is now chatty, vocal and more confident. There are different numbers of children each day and they have different activities to do. Annabelle's favourite is being outside in the garden. Her eating has improved and while their are some tears on drop-off they are over quickly (Laura is the hero that handles that). She now takes her bottle and has two naps - all signs that she is comfortable there.

And my parents looking after her is going really well. Laura and I both look forward to Thursday's. While we enjoy checking in via video-link at nursery it's not the same as seeing Annabelle's smiley face in pictures or hearing her giggle in videos. I still wish it was me with her but if not Laura and I then my Mum's the next best thing.

Laura in the meantime continues her relentless hard work. Dropping off and picking up Annabelle. Making sure Annabelle's food is prepped, that she has a change of clothes. She entertains Annabelle until I get back, while doing what she can in the house. When we do get Annabelle to bed and I sit down it's usually 8pm. We have some time checking phones, some time planning the next day and watch a show before falling into bed.

Off to nursery

Any tips on making more of the day? Where do you find your extra time?