Saturday, 12 July 2014

Leila

It has been almost a year since my last post...................and there is a valid reason for my hiatus..............

Her name is Leila.


From the moment our daughter arrived last November, my world changed. In the months leading up to her birth and during the months following, all the things I previously considered 'important' (i.e. work, football and this blog) have subsequently taken a back seat whilst I have tried getting to grips with fatherhood. It's definitely something that you have to experience to really understand what it's like. You think you have a good idea what it's like but the reality is something else entirely. Nothing really can quite prepare you for it.

In the months leading up to the birth, I had a lot of well-meaning people trying to prepare me for fatherhood by telling me those same old cliches: 'say goodbye to your social life' and 'get your sleep in now' but I just politely smiled and nodded as you do, not really taking it in. On some level, I think I was just waiting for the pregnancy to end so my life to get back to normal.....................but I was of course just kidding myself! Once that baby arrives, the life you once had is no more...................but I wouldn't change it for anything. Don't get me wrong, there have been sacrifices and it is certainly one of the most challenging things we have ever done..................but it is also the most rewarding.

When you hold your child in your arms for the first time, the feeling is difficult to describe. I didn't cry or anything (just in case you were wondering) but the feeling of being in that delivery room is quite overwhelming. All the way through the delivery you are just hoping that everything goes according to plan and that she comes out healthy, with everything where it should be. So when she finally arrived and all was well, I was so happy but also incredibly relieved. Not only relieved that the baby was fine but that Aicha was ok too. Watching her battle through almost 24 hours of labour is something I will never forget. As the father you feel so helpless as there is nothing you can do to ease the pain. Seeing her do that was one of those most amazing things I have ever seen.

Leila is now 8 months old and from the day we arrived home with her there has never been a dull moment. She makes us laugh every day. Those first few weeks were some of the toughest of my life though. This was mainly due to the lack of sleep and the constant fear of doing something wrong but once you begin to find your feet and get into a routine it does become easier. You just get used to being tired all the time after a while! To be fair though we have been quite lucky with Leila. She sleeps really well (once she eventually falls asleep!), she eats whatever is put in front of her and she rarely cries. She can whinge sometimes and does have a temper when things don't go her way....................but I just put that down to being her mothers daughter! That's where she gets her beauty from too!



A friend once asked me how much my life has changed since becoming a father and to be honest it was difficult to answer at the time because I couldn't remember what life was like before Leila came along! As a parent, your life revolves around your children but it doesn't mean that you don't have a life anymore...............it just means you have to plan ahead a lot more. The first 3 months following the birth I lived like a hermit I grant you, but in the months following I have pretty much picked up where I left off before the pregnancy. I'm still playing my football, I'm still working hard at the gym, I still have time to catch up with my mates and still can afford the odd trip away here and there. I obviously can't do the spontanious things anymore like going for drinks at the drop of a hat but providing I have plenty of notice, my social life is not much different. I have to pick and choose sometimes if I get invited to a lot of things at the same time, over the course of a weekend for example, but that doesn't happen that often.

The main difference is at home. Our lives at home have become quite regimental, with both of us now sharing the night shifts and feeding responsibilities, but there is always something to do. Gone are the days where I could just come home from work, put my feet up and watch TV for hours. When I come home from work now it's like starting a second job! But again, once you get into the routine it becomes your life and therefore the norm.

I never really appreciated the value of 'free time' before. You know, those moments where you can just sit there and do nothing. If I'm doing the evening shift, those moments come at approximately 8:30pm every day once Leila is asleep. In those early days you never knew when you would get free time (if any) but now our routine is in place we are guaranteed at least a few hours free time, which is always something to look forward to I can tell you! The only problem is that I never know what to do during this time! It's good if you are into a tv series or something but most of the time I'm lost. Aicha always has something to watch, as she regularly has about 3 series on the go at once, but for me I spend the first hour scrolling through the tv channels or Netflix before eventually deciding to read something instead!

Things couldn't be much better for us at the moment. Work is going really well, we have a beautiful and healthy daughter, no money problems and our relationship is as strong as ever. I still haven't mastered the language yet though! I understand most things but its my speech that I really need to work on (the swedish that is not the english!). Having Leila in our lives marks the beginning of a new 'Adventure', one that will put my own 'Swedish Adventure' in the shade. I think I will have more personal adventures in the future but as the last 8 months has shown, I will never have the time to document them!

So this is me signing off from one adventure and diving head first into a new one.......................

Parenthood!!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sussex by the sea

A trip back to the UK felt long overdue. Whilst I felt bad leaving my heavily pregnant wife at home I couldn't wait to see my friends and family, especially my niece and nephews. Once again I would be staying with my friends Chris and Julie, although this time I would be there for 10 days. On paper it seems like I would have plenty of time to relax but even though I would be visiting for longer this time, my days were just as busy as if I was in town for only a weekend! As people knew I was back for the whole week, everyone it seemed wanted to meet up with me, which was a nice feeling. Because I had so many people to see I had to literally create an agenda! It was like one of those things a PA would create for a CEO, complete with dates and times! My sister Charlotte was the first to call me a sad twat for turning up with an agenda and rightly so! To be honest though it was the best thing I could have done, as my short term memory is not the greatest and I did not want to forget anyone................which I have done in the past!

Charlotte was the first person I met up with when I arrived. I especially wanted to meet up with her as I felt that we never spend enough time together when I visit. We met up around 5pm on the Friday afternoon and spent a good 3 hours talking relationships, work and life in general. We ended up having a great night! The beer and wine was definitely flowing................



There was definitely no expense spared. Trust me, once you have lived in Sweden you will drink like a King when you come back to the mother land! £3.80 a pint is like happy hour for me! Once we left the pub we headed to a curry house (as you do) then finally we ended up in a karaoke bar, where I did my customary rendition of Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition'. Classic stuff! What I didn't know was that Charlotte had secretly filmed me singing and then posted on Facebook! Luckily there was a large crowd between me and the camera so you couldn't really see me but I sounded ok! We had a blast and I think it was the first time that just the two of us has been out together. We were quite sozzled by the end the of the night and both ended up with hangovers but it was well worth it!

The following morning I met some old pals of mine at Sussex University for a game of footy. Playing football whilst being hungover has never been a problem for me..............in fact it is one of the best hangover cures there is in my opinion! Saturday morning footy was a regular occurrence for me prior to moving to Sweden and I made a promise to myself that I would play the next time I was over. It was also an opportunity for me to play out on pitch rather than my usual position of goalkeeper. It had been a while since I played on pitch and it showed during the first 15 minutes, as I struggled to keep up with the pace of the game but after a while I started to find my touch. Once I scored my first goal the floodgates soon opened! My team went on to win 9-3, with me notching five goals..................one of which was scored from the halfway line! I was quite proud of that one!

Later in the day I met up my brother Adam and some pals at a local pub to watch Liverpool open the Premiership campaign against Stoke City then it was on to the wedding reception of my friends Joe and Celia in the evening. I didn't attend the wedding itself but I was told everything went accordingly to plan. She said 'I do' so it could not have gone too bad! I have known Joe for a very long time so I was pleased that it went well for him. He has found a good girl in Celia and I wish them all the best for the future.


I was especially looking forward to the reception as not only would I get to enjoy the wedding party but many of my close friends would be there, some of whom I had not seen for a very long time. I also hadn't seen my brother Chris or his girlfriend Jenni since arriving back either so this would be the first time I would see them as well. The evening was a great crack and I was able to catch up with many old faces, just as I had hoped to do. The great thing about seeing my old friends is that every time I see them it feels like I only saw them yesterday!

One of the other fun things about the evening was the photo booth that Joe and Celia hired for guests take photos of themselves for the guest book. Once in the booth there are four pictures taken, which are then merged together in one photograph like a postcard. They also had several fancy dress costumes for the guests to wear as well! The photos were printed instantly so you could put them straight in the guest book, plus you get to keep one for yourself. I thought this was a great idea! Some of the pictures were classic! I am a sucker for fancy dress however on this occasion I decided against it, as I just wanted take a good photo with my brothers. The end result was quite comical anyway! We placed the photo in the guest book with the message "LOVE ALWAYS, THE BISHES XXX". We gave the best two pictures from our copy to my mum and Charlotte. I kept the other two. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not I got the short straw.............



The following day we all descended to my mums house for a BBQ. This was the first time I got to see my nephews Charlie, Max, Bradley and Ollie since I got back and it was great spending time with them. It was also the chance for me to present Charlie and Ollie with the birthday gifts that I bought them in New York. At first they were reluctant to wear them but eventually they succumbed to the pressure............




On the Monday I popped over to see my older brother Ryan and his family but most of my time during the early part of the week was spent shopping! I did manage to get in another game of football on the Tuesday evening however this time it was with my old work colleagues from EDF Energy. Again my team won and again I scored 5 goals! 10 goals in 2 games.................someone needs to give Roy Hodgson my number!

On the Wednesday I met with my sister Jo and her daughter Emilia at the local park, where we spent the afternoon having a picnic. We had a lovely time and it was awesome spending time with Emilia as it gave me a little taste of what fatherhood may be like! I managed to get some great pictures of the day too............













The following evening I was invited to an open mic night at The Farm pub in town. My close family friend Shane was playing with his band 'Two & Eight' and as I hadn't heard them play before so I made sure I would be there. His mum Mandy and his brother would also be going so this was again another opportunity for me to see some familiar faces. I was quite impressed with the band actually. They write all their own stuff and some of the songs were pretty good..................however later on in the evening someone got up and sung 'Suspicious Minds' Elvis style and that stole the show for me! Once again it was a great evening and after the pub we all ended up back at Mandy's place. As these pictures will show, it turned into one messy night!













I had to follow this up with another night out the next day with my old work colleagues. I suffer big time from hangovers these days. I'm not as young as I once was so I was not looking forward to the prospect of another night at the pub. As the day went on I slowly began to feel more like my usual self and when the time came around to do it all over again, I was ready. Before I headed out, my sister Jo popped by the house with Emilia to say goodbye. My friend Chris is a drummer in a band and in his dining room he has an electronic drum kit, and I couldn't resist putting Emilia in the hot seat...............



That evening I met with my old work colleagues and as I suspected it turned into another heavy night. We started off the evening at a pub close to where I was staying then worked our way further into town. By the end of the evening we found ourselves back in the same karaoke bar that my sister and I had been to the week before! 'Superstition' made another appearance but this time it didn't end up on Facebook! By the end it was just myself and my friend Matt still standing.....................still standing but acting like wallies!!






I had once again put my name down to play football at Sussex University on the Saturday morning but when the time came to get up I was dead to the world. Two nights out in a row is something my body couldn't handle! My friend Paul came round to the house to pick me up at 9:15am but Chris had to tell him that I wasn't available! I eventually rolled out of bed at 11am and the first thing I did was text Paul to apologise. Luckily he saw the funny side but I felt bad for not turning up.

That day I had a ticket to watch Brighton & Hove Albion Vs Burnley with my brothers Adam, Chris and Adam's former boss John. My brothers company has four tickets for the corporate area known as The 1901 Club. It was quality! We were able to spend time in the corporate bar area before and after the game, where there are no queues for the toilets or for the bar. The only catch is that you have to wear a shirt and shoes which I had no problem with! The atmosphere was buzzing! I'd forgotten how much I enjoy going to watch The Albion. There were the same old chants coming from the North end and the crowd really got behind the team. Brighton went on to win the game 2-0 and deservedly so. What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon!



That night I had arranged a night out with my brothers and my closest pals to celebrate my birthday, which had been a few weeks earlier. It was my friend Olivier's birthday that day as well so it was a double celebration. I was still feeling ropey from the previous day but this was the night I had looked forward to the most as it is very rare that we all get together and there was no way I was going to miss it. Initially we had planned to go to a comedy club but that turned out to be a bit expensive so we decided instead to just hit a few bars in town. My friend Chris was playing with his band The Lanes that night so we decided to pop by for the gig. It was at the gig that my brother Chris had one of the moments which women usually dread....................finding out that someone is wearing the exact same thing you are!!





After the gig we headed to a bar, which an old school friend of ours is the manager of. As we were old friends we had every intention of getting in for free by name dropping him to the bouncer. This didn't get us anywhere at first but luckily enough the bouncer recognised me and my brothers from our local pub in Portslade as he used to work there so he let us in for free anyway! Once we were inside it was like a reunion party! I saw so many old faces it was amazing! The music was awesome too and we ended up staying there for the best part of evening. 

When we did eventually leave we bumped into a superhero stag party on the way out. I could resist getting a few pictures, especially of the joker as he looked nuts! The only one who was missing was Batman.................apparently he was around the corner with a girl dressed as Wonder Woman! Nice work Bruce!




On the Sunday afternoon it was back to my mums for another BBQ and to say my goodbyes to everyone, as I was back on the plane to Sweden the following day. This would be the last time I would be there without any children in tow, so it was important for me to get some quality time in with my friends before my life changes forever! I definitely enjoyed the nights out (which my friend Chris kept referring to as 'living the dream') but I also definitely know that 3 nights out in a row is something I am not built to do anymore................although I did give it a good go!

My focus now is on my wife and daughter. Its not long to go now until she arrives so it's time to start preparing............