… then so it is time for our annual update.

Last year I said you need to read this blog for updates but then got totally sidetracked in not providing many – my last post How To Find Me goes some way to explaining the why but in reality events that happened I just forgot to post here.

So what did happen in 2011?

Kathryn and I hit the 25years of marriage milestone mark and have yet to celebrate it – we really wanted to do a cruise but money and time prevent that. Instead (and I can say this here because Kathryn never reads this site) we have a weekend away next year, sans children, at posh hotel & spa in West Wales. It’s one of the little pressies she’s getting this Christmas.

We did allow myself (you’ll understand why presently) a shiny new DSLR plus bits as our present to ourselves – not that Kathryn has done any more than just look at it yet. Still, some of the results of my experiments with it can be seen over at my photo blog. I was also conned into creating a school calendar for Coel’s school with it and I’m led to believe it has been the schools single best fund raiser to date. Not bad for an amateur snapper.

Kathryn has seen some health issues this year – her main one still debilitating as ever and a challenge for her to handle and for us to work around. But we keep on keeping on. The other one was the shape shifting mole on one of her big toes that turned out to be a melanoma. For those that don’t know, Kathryn’s father died from a melanoma so on top of her main illness this took her down a step or two. Thankfully it’s been removed, some plastic surgery and a few weeks wait later and she’s been told it hadn’t spread and that they got it all. Other than this she is undergoing a “Job Re-Evaluation” which she’s told is not (and I quote) a cost cutting exercise. So why then is her equivalent annual salary of over £18K being reduced to £6K? Lastly she is about to embark on getting her Level 3 BSL

Owen, as mentioned last year, has started and is now half way through his year at CERN. His frequent posts on facebook say things like “living the dream” and that is spot on. It’s been a long time since I can recall Owen having any other dream, so as a parent it is truly heart warming to see one of your children achieving a major life goal so early on. Despite this, his life is quite a solitary one and this is the one aspect that really gets to him. Thankfully Skype is a magnificent tool and his use of borrowed interent allows him (or us) to talk to him daily. On top of this he has some awesome friends that are in regular contact – namely, Rob, Weasel (yes truly) and Steph.

All that said, he is still there until the end of June 2012 so please do take him up on his standing offer to go and visit – aside from the fact that Geneva is an awesome place to see. If you don’t mind sharing then we can vouch for the fact that his little apartment can sleep up to 5 reasonably comfortably. Another plus of his year away is that he is slowly paying off his overdraft in the UK which will set him up nicely for his final year.

Jenna meanwhile has moved from primary to comprehensive and has thrown herself fully into the life of her new school – first she had to endure 2 or 3 weeks of teachers asking her how Owen was and then one teacher getting over-excited when he discovered that her big brother was working at CERN! Thankfully, the big brother hysteria has passed and she is enjoying her time by getting involved in street dancing, drama, orchestra and more. Her piano and violin and coming along nicely and have now been added to by the flute. This along with her love of languages reminds us very much of Owen at this age.

She is of course developing as a young lady and remains stunningly beautiful – yes I’m biased, so what. Sadly for me she dropped Tang Soo Do after the world championships back in May. I’d tried everything from praise to promises to bribery to guilt yet she insisted. I told her she had to see out the (first ever) Traditional TSD World Championships – and to be fair she did. But not more than a minute after finishing her final event she came to me and said I want to give it up. Regretfully I accepted but am grateful to Pencoed TSD for giving her a grounding and maybe in a year or so she’ll come back to it. One other thing that Jenna really wants to get into is rugby but despite where we live, the timing and location of doing this eludes us.

Coel remains a mini Owen in things he does but he equally very much has his own personality. He is our little ray of sunshine and usually has a joke or funny tale to tell us. In one area he differs from his big brother – Owen never was able to lie as a child…. yet Coel can convincingly trip out a lie without blinking. Trouble is, as most children find out, their parents have been there done that and got the t-shirts. Coel is now enjoying his little bit of freedom at school now that his big sister has moved on and recently stared as a robot in the school production.

He too has dropped Tang Soo Do – despite becoming a World Champion in the process. Yes that’s right, Coel is the current Tang Soo Do World Champion for sparring in his age and grade. The huge trophy was incentive enough to keep him coming for about another 8 weeks or so but the lure of what his sister did was a bigger pull.

And as for myself… well I’m still in the same job despite trying to find a daytime role (I’m happy on shifts but t’other half struggles with it) – it isn’t easy given the economy, where I live and other factors to try and come close to what I’m earning on shifts. I accept that I have to take a drop but I’m trying to minimise that as much as possible. Trouble is, any role will see me having to commute to Cardiff (most likely) which will easily cost a minimum of £50+ per week just to get to the job and home. So I not only have to maximise my potential earnings I also have to try and minimise my out goings and as I’m sure anyone realises this is never easy.

Sure, some land dream roles (cough, Owen) that pay handsomely but I accepted long ago that a consequence of living in Wales was a reduced salary when compared to equivalents across the bridge. But then the quality of life and being only 3 miles from home is unbeatable. Add this to Kathryn’s likely reduction in salary then it all adds up to staying where I am – I accept that this role is comfortable and that I could do with being stretched….! I know I need to knuckle down and re-certify at the base level first and then just keep looking and keep applying. Something always turns up and I’ll make it work whatever.

One thing that has taken my interest this year is improving my photography. Being a part of Google+’s new social network tool has helped that by introducing me to so many talented photogs – some of whom I’ve even joined on a local photo walk (images are all over on my photo blog). One thing it has made me realise is that I need to identify my niche – trouble is, like most things in life I just like being involved and taking pictures of anything. I think though my preferred images are wildlife and landscapes at present – though a decent zoom lens is required to take these to a new level. I also have a desire to get involved in street photography but don’t have the gumption to walk up to total strangers and ask to take their picture. Again, a zoom will help as that eliminates a need to be nearby but then takes one away from “the story” behind the picture.

Despite my younger two dropping out of Tang Soo Do I very much remain involved and on target to achieve my goal. Namely to attain black belt level by the time I’m 50 or during my 50th year!

So it just remains for me to say that if you want or need anymore details then you know how to reach us and to wish each and everyone of you a truly relaxed Christmas and a fantastic 2012. Sláinte.


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