Well, that's it folks ... I'm just hours from my birthday and from being 30. Goodbye to my youth and hello to ticking those boxes that say "30 to 39" on forms. People tell me your thirties are like your twenties but with money; but those people are all old themselves. As I sit here tonight, I wonder what happened to the last 10 years, and then I realised.
Age 20, in 1999, I was in my second year of my History Degree at UEA, living in Southwell Road in Lakenham, single and jobless. Later that year I met a beautiful young lady called Louise Cowan and spending most of this decade with her has been the best thing about it. At the end of the year Louise and I spent time in California together; an amazing holiday wit great memories.
Age 21 (2000) I got my 2(i) degree from UEA and got a place to study a PGCE in Norwich; by now I was living in Grove Avenue, Norwich, and worked at both M&S in Rampant Horse Street and McDonalds on Westlegate. I started work at Aylsham High School in that October.
Age 22 (2001) I worked at CNS, Eaton Road, and completed my PGCE. I left Norwich to work at Douay Martyrs High School in Ickenham - a wonderful school and with colleagues that I am proud to still call friends. The kids were rough, tough, challenging and thoroughly fun, decent and satisfying to work with. At Christmas I proposed to Louise and she ageeed to marry me
Age 23 (2002) I was promoted at school to being Assistant Head of Year 9; a job which gave me a passion for Pastoral Work in education. I spent a lot of this year saving and planning a wedding (OK, Louise did most of the latter). I spent a lot of time commuting between Ickenahm and New Malden.
Age 24 (2003) we married in July in what still remains the most amazing day of my life; everytime I think about it a smile still creeps across my face. We had a stunning honeymoon in Italy (again, all Louise's choice - I wanted Mexico, but she was right). In August we moved house and bought our first home - a one bed bungalow in Three Score, Bowthorpe. Moving in was no problem as we had very little stuff; I remember driving there in just my Fiesta! It was a small place but had a lovely garden and we had brilliant neighbours. It was ours. That September Louise started work at Poringland Primary School and me at Notre Dame High School as Head of Year 10. I'm not sure I was what they were expecting! It was the most hectic year of our lives! Oh, yes, and I started blogging!
Age 25 (2004) and my first major launch into politics. In the February I was selected as Conservative candidate for Norwich South - a deeply lonely experience in an association with active members you could count on one hand (how things have changed). Later in June I failed to be elected for my home ward of Bowthorpe by just 14 votes - a defeated that shaped me in so many ways. Firstly not to allow Labour to make me feel like that again, secondly about the type of campaigning people respond to and thirdly the importance of a track record of success. In the June of that year we discovered some shocking news - we were expecting Emily, just 5 years ahead of schedule! Louise's pregnancy was bad and that summer I spent most of the time with a sick wife and thus our tour of America was cancelled.
Age 26 (2005) saw yet more great changes. First of all where we lived. Mardle Street was just too small for us. We had bought a place on Alexandra Road, Norwich, which feel through on the day of exchange. Thus, with a 7 months pregnant wife we panic-bought a bigger house - a destroyed shell of a property on Trafford Road. With the amazing support of our family we did it up slowly and continue to do so. I have never felt more at home anywhere than I do in Trafford Road. We became very strong friends with our neighbours John and Eileen Wyatt (now Cllr and Mrs Wyatt) who remain the best, if nosiest, neighbours around! There is a great community feel here and I never regretted the move; although as Louise stood crying in the garden on the day we moved in because of what it state it was in I'm sure she did! In March that year our beloved Emily was born - after a very long hard labour. She was beautiful with long dark hair. And such an alert baby! Sleeping wasn't great but without her picture on my desk, working wouldn't be worth doing. In the May I was defeated by Charles Clarke at the election but it made me want to do politics even more. Contrast that with, in August, my year group getting record exam results for the school.
Age 27 (2006) and two more significant events - firstly my successful campaign to be elected in Bowthorpe. Really that campaign was run by 2 people and I owe my entire political career to John Wyatt. I won by 139 votes defeated Labour's former Lord Mayor Ron Borrett. I was then thrown into the world of local government and straight into the party leadership, and only the work of Eve Collishaw in introducing me to the right people and translating the local government speak could I have survived! This evening I helped someone with some casework and I still get the same buzz from helping people that I did back in 06; long may it last. In the September we very suddenly lost my Uncle Johnny who was only in his 40s. He was a larger-than-life character who enjoyed his life from beginning to end and in that respect he remains an inspiration to me. Growing up he was more of an older brother than an Uncle (mainly because the things he did were stupider than the things we did) and, apparently, we looked very much alike. I still miss him now as much as I did then. In April of that year we discovered that, again, Louise was pregnant and that Olivia - our super Libby - was due and sure enough she arrived in December. Looking like Emily but a lot easier to deal with! I remember one cold day in December the four of us falling asleep together on our bed; Libby on me and Emily in Louise's arms.
Age 28 (2007) This was a year for growing - watching Emily and Libby grow into their characters and watching the Conservative Group on the Council grow, as Eve held her seat in Catton Grove and John gained a seat in Bowthorpe from Labour's Chrissie Rumsby. Blair left office and I started teaching my first set of A2 Politics students. For the first time I was elected as the local Tory Chairman in my own right; I had done an Acting Stint in both Uxbridge and in Norwich South, following Trevor Ivory's resignation. We lost my Nan this year, after a long illness - we all went to see her and I got pictures of her holiday Libby with Emily dancing in the foreground of the photo. I am glad we did because I got to say thank you for her part in bringing me up.
Age 29 (2008) And I finally got to tick off one of my wish list - we went to New York on a very long weekend, something I have always wanted to do. Once again we made gains (Niki George defeating Brenda Ferris in Bowthorpe and John Fisher winning Catton Grove from Juie Westmacott) and I was re-selected as Conservative candidate for Norwich South, having another go at Charles Clarke! I stepped down from the Tory Chairmanship and was pleased to do so but still very much remain linked with the association. We finally extended the house, a conservatory was build and finished in November.
And now I spend my last few hours of my Twenties blogging; and what a good use of time its been. Tomorrow is going to be hell on earth but the last ten years have changed and enhanced my life in so many ways. I am a far better person today than was I was the day I turned 20 and I have so much to look forward to in the next 10 years; especially my 2 beautiful little girls, my loving wife and a career that I still enjoy and find challenging in equal amounts. And then there are my friends - the people who use their own insanity to keep me sane. I have a feeling my Thirties won't be as eventful as my Twenties but my God do we plan to have some fun ... so look out Life!