Five Guys, Six Beers and Fifty Years.

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I often take a look at the search terms put into Google that bring folks to my blog. There are of course a lot of mkingdons, mkingdoms and other obvious stuff but I have a huge sense of satisfaction that some people come to read my stuff having googled “dwarf sex”. Firstly, why, and secondly how dissappointed they must be when they get here.

It’s the small things.

This week we went to the Trafford Centre. I know this is folly, as any visit there post October is bound to be like a journey through the gates of hell but it could not be avoided. However, it was compensated for nicely with my first ever Five Guys burger. Contrary to popular belief, my diet does not consist of many burgers, I just like good ones, whether they be between doughnuts or simple bread. I did find the Five Guys experience a good one, and the stuff was obviously of a higher quality than your McDonalds or Burger King but I suppose it should be as it is twice the price.

The hours of shopping were somehow more tolerable with a ludicrous amount of food in my belly. I even bought a shirt! My clothes shopping is pretty much confined to American malls, but having missed our trip this year, there was no avoiding it. There’s nothing like trying on new clothes in the unforgiving lights of a hot changing room to start a diet!

The crazy investment in new clothing was driven by our year’s entire social activity taking place over this and the next two weekends. Last night, we attended a party to celebrate my brother’s 50th birthday. It’s always nice to see folks for the first time in ages at these gatherings and last night was no exception. I spent most of the night chatting to an old friend, Paul, who I was in bands with for much of the late 80’s and early 90’s. We both had more hair at the time, and I certainly had a smaller waist, but we are still rock Gods despite the advancing years.

It’s always very easy to slip back into a friendship forged in cold rehearsal rooms, recording studios and enhanced by the natural laxative of live performances. As ever, we vowed to keep in touch and get together more often. This time we really must! Hopefully, Paul will follow through on his promise to dig out our old recordings from his loft and if it is technically possible I shall share them with you, whether you like it or not.

There are rumours of photographic evidence of our devastating pop star looks in the form of some photoshoot pictures. I suspect I am all cheekbones, fringe and smoking good looks. That’s how I remember it anyway, I think.

A good night was had by all with my brother’s band Mustard performing a great set despite the onset of many beers. There was dancing, joviality and most importantly pasties, oh yes and alcohol. This was one of the results.

photobooth

As the event drew to a close around midnight, Rebecca reminded everyone that we really were getting on a bit, as we headed home for a cup of tea and bed, she went off with her friends into town. I think I remember that sort of thing. I was impressed with myself for making it to midnight to be honest.

Today has been a gentle affair with not much done beyond a dog walk, and now a blog post. I suspect it has been the same for most of the attendees of the party.

Next weekend we are off to Yorkshire to stay with our friends Steve and Di. We always look forward to this as they are lovely, fantastic hosts and great at feeding us. On my return I may have to go shopping again for another shirt in the next size up.

The rest of tonight will involve picking up Rebecca from work and allowing her to drive me home. There is little else worse for a control freak like myself so I shall have to be brave! Then we have some TV to catch up from last night, and then tonight’s to enjoy. Thankfully this Downtown nonsense is over and we can concentrate on proper stuff like Homeland. I salute it for being good Sunday night telly without a period costume in sight.

I shall leave you with a tease about some news I had earlier today. Inexplicably I have been signed up to blog for a large Disney site (it’s US based so not the Dibb) and I shall be working on my first post soonish. I shall be calling upon you all to click links and stuff to give them the illusion that people might be interested in stuff I produce. Don’t let me down. More details shall follow.

Till the next time…..

Viewers In Need Of A Change

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I should warn you, the grump factor in this post is strong!

So, if you wanted to benefit from the stunning discount on my superb first novel, All This and More, you can’t. It has expired and you shall now need to invest a whole £1.99. should you wish to experience it, which of course you should. I thank all of you that did take me up on the offer and I hope you enjoy it.

I sit here typing this through the fog of a near death experience. Yes, I have a cold. Although I suspect I have invented some new form of hell in the form of this disease as there is no snot, just a throat like glass, a hacking cough and an ache in every muscle I possess. I grant you the last of those is not something I am suffering too badly from which is a happy side effect of being flabby and unfit.

This condition came on last Thursday and like the hero I am, I still managed to make it through a full day at work on Friday. I did do the day in my dressing gown, but that was because Children In Need day is always a pajama day at work. As this fancy dress requires the least possible effort on my part, it is the one event that I tend to take part in. We have dressing up days very regularly at work, most of which I sit through in normal attire bathing in the glow of being a miserable git.

I am not a huge fan of Children In Need. I mean of course the day itself and the TV show, rather than the concept. I donate of course, but I find the whole “event” side of it very grating and forced. It’s a very British thing I think to think it acceptable to go to work in a dressing gown, or as Captain America, (who was shaking his bucket at me on Friday morning at the first set of lights I stopped at on the way to work!) in the name of giving a few quid to a deserving cause. It may be what they call giving fatigue, brought on by constant charity appeals, but seeing the seemingly same group of women being interviewed on local TV dressed as schoolgirls whilst ratting buckets of change in an intimidating manner is all a little tiresome don’t you think? Again, not the raising of the cash, just the same old TV format, trotted out year after year, with those rushed awkward interviews with those six blokes who shaved off their pubes and ate them to raise £178.56. Such “wacky” behaviour just pushes my grumpy buttons no end. It’s like the false and enforced pressure to have “fun” on New Year’s Eve when mostly it’s a squib so damp it makes you wonder what a squib is.

It is also a master class in wooden TV presenting. I never got the Wogan thing when he was on telly every other day. He comes over to me as stilted and false, and he seems to have passed those skills on well to his female cohort Tess Daly, who must be the reason the mute button was invented. Watching them stumble over their autocue for hours on end is like enduring some nails down a blackboard whilst chewing foil. Hey, but it’s for a good cause.

The autocue has stopped…..

If I have to see the cast of Eastenders murder some musical theatre classic one more time, I may have to commit a dirty protest at Media City quicker than you can say Shane Richie is a blue coat who got lucky. Maybe my illness is making me more weary and cynical than I usually am. But I doubt it. In my younger years at the first sign of such an outburst my Mum would say I was overtired and make me go to bed before Minder finished.

I propose that we all up our tax contributions by an elective amount each year to cover all such charity donations so that this marathon of toe curling cringey TV does not have to air. Why did I watch the thing again? Well, One Direction were to blame. Emily wanted to watch them and so we endured the first couple of hours until they were done.

See, serious illness and blogging do not good bedfellows make. It darkens my thoughts, restricts my sleep and makes me all moody. Hopefully I shall return to health during next week, as very unusually, the next few weekends are a heady whirl of social engagements. Next Saturday it is my brother’s 50th birthday and he is having a party to celebrate his half century. It involves real ale and pasties so I am not as concerned about the hangover as I am the heartburn and resultant wind. Hopefully, Louise will take it easy and I won’t suffer too much from the latter from her.

The weekend after that, Louise and I are off to North Yorkshire to visit our friends Steve and Di, where again, much food and some drink shall be consumed, as we are always looked after like royalty when we go there. This means we wander around their village shaking hands with strangers and making small talk whilst little girls curtsy at us.

Then the following weekend I am away for my Christmas Do with work in Minehead. I can confirm it is not Butlins, but instead a lovely looking old country house miles from anywhere, but mainly miles from my house. By the time I get home from that on the 6th of December I could be missing a liver but have gained a stone or two.

For now I shall continue with the medication and persist with the tried and trusted remedy of feeding a cold. I do undertake that approach all year round as a preventative measure of course. The fact that I have not repelled this cold is simply proof that I need to up my calorie intake. Pass the chocolate digestives!

Till the next time…..

All This and More Old Age

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It’s been a while since I politely rammed one of my books down your throats so please open wide!

My first novel, All This And More is on offer for a short while at a silly price of just 99p. Had you so far resisted the urge to indulge in the finest work of literary genius since Katie Price’s (auto) biography, then this opportunity is one you should not be passing up.

Book Cover

Buy 400,000 copies please.

I’m not sure what else you can buy for 99p these days that would give you hours (or minutes) of entertainment, so as an investment, you know it makes sense Rodders!

I am still battling to make any sort of real progress with the next one. Life and work especially is just very, very busy and this is rather annoyingly getting in the way of me doing much writing. I am quite indignant that nobody has yet offered me a million pound advance to go and sit on my balcony in my newly acquired Florida property overlooking Vero beach, whist I ponder over my latest plot twist and how many pancakes to have for breakfast. To make that happen, you should feel obliged to invest 99p in my dream, read the thing, leave me a glowing review and then petition every single person in the UK book business to sign me up and sort me out. Thanks.

Last week seemed to  manage that impressive combination of going really quickly, and seeming an age from one weekend to the other. It’s probably an age thing to be honest. There are unavoidable and irrefutable signs that I am not the lithe coiled spring of youth that I once was. I am having to hold reading matter at arm’s length to get it into focus, I no longer seem able to lie in, long after the days of my children having me awake at silly hours of a weekend and, to top it all, I find my finger finding the preset button to take me to Radio 4 more often these days.

Don’t get me wrong I can still tolerate minutes of Radio One from time to time. You will be aware that I am totally awesome and down with the kids, attending gigs for the likes of Panic! At the Disco, and getting that important exclamation mark in the right place. However, it is unusal for me to last more than once record nowadays, just ask Louise! Radio Two is a safe bet of course, but some bits of that irk me, as at times it comes across as the audio equivalent of a Women’s Institute Meeting in rural Surrey. For example, the Friday drive time all request thing hosted by Simon Mayo (who I like a lot) appears to be dominated by people called Camilla proclaiming it wine o’clock before taking India to the Gymkhana the next day. I also wonder, when faced with the entire musical output of several generations and endless genres, everyone who gets through seems to pick one of the same six songs!

Anyway, Radio 4 is becoming a larger part of my ever-expanding commute and I often revel in its bizarre randomness. It is like a whole other world sometimes, and in the daily “comedy” slot at 6.30, slap bang in the worst battles of my journey home, I have yet been caused to smirk never mind laugh, but still, I continue to listen, feeling somehow soothed by the noises, like some sort of near term baby in the womb of my Peugeot.

Old age is a weird thing. As they say though, it does seem much more appealing than the alternative.

I have again done zero holiday planning and to be honest almost zero holiday thinking such has been the hectic nature of this week, including another visit down south to Head Office. I learnt, whilst there that our Christmas do is confirmed for Minehead. Yep, Minehead. If you were looking for the venue furthest from my home address that would be it. It involves a country house, shotguns, archery and some drinking. What could possibly go wrong? I am lucky enough to work for a company that pays for all this, so I am not moaning at all. I just hope my aged bones can cope with the alcohol.

Right, I have to complete the making of our tea, having bashed this post out whilst cooking it. Impressive I know. Enjoy your week!

Till the next time…..

 

Liking Lots of Likes.

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I wanted to start this week with an expression of gratitude. Earlier this week I was looking at the reviews left for my books on Amazon. I hadn’t looked for a while, and I was blown away, not for the first time, by the generosity and support I am offered.

To add to that warm glow, it would appear that my Facebook page has just received its 800th Like. That’s madness! I stated that page on a whim as an experiment, so I am gobsmacked at the way things have gone. If you are one of that 800, I salute you for your good taste and tolerance for this weekly tosh.

The fact that I get any sort of interest for anything I write is a constant source of amazement, and so this week I was once again delighted to be asked to write for the Floridatix blog. This time I decided to write about something I know a fair bit about, and that is of course food. So if you wouldn’t mind having a read of my article, The Top 5 Restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. Comments are appreciated as are Likes and shares and all that fandangled modern stuff.

Rebecca has had a busy Halloween, spending a few nights out and about applying horror make-up to folks. I know I’ve shared a lot of that recently so I’m sure you know where to find it if you want to have a look. The way she conducted what was her first venture into the working world, with professionalism, courtesy and great customer service made me very proud. Especially how she reacted to the inevitable idiots who let her down at the last minute.

We have been out driving again, and I can see an improvement since last time. She was much more relaxed and confident and she is, I’m sure, going to be a good driver. I’m not sure I’ll ever be relaxed at any time either of the girls are behind the wheel, whether I’m with them or not.

You may recall a couple of weeks ago, I appealed for help in finding our next TV addiction. I have stored all those suggestions away but recently we have stumbled across two almost by accident. The first, Luther, may not be that much of a surprise, knowing our track record for enjoying gritty murder mystery stuff, but we are enjoying that very much. What may be a surprise, as it was to us, is the second series, Million Dollar Listing – New York. It’s reality TV for a start, which normally sees me reaching for the remote and sick bucket, but this is great fun. It has top quality property porn with price tags in the millions thrown around as if people were buying a sandwich for lunch, and the main characters are definitely that. For a post work brain turn off and relax session it is perfect.

So I shall leave you now, mainly as tea is ready, but also as you all have an article about Magic Kingdom restaurants to read…..haven’t you!!

Till the next time…..

Mirror, Signal, New Underwear

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The internet lives once more. I spent a ludicrously long amount of time on hold to Virgin Media to be told that there were no faults in our area, and then about thirty seconds later, to be told, that yes, there were indeed faults in our area and they were working on it.

I think we forget how integral the internet has become in our lives, and only reminders such as fruitlessly trying to access Netflix during our down time confirm how much we take it for granted.

Our online blackout last night meant that there could be no blog from me at the usual Sunday evening time. I do sometimes wonder why I have chosen to make Sunday evening my time for blogging as it truly is one of my least favourite times ever. Maybe subliminally it was an attempt to distract myself from the impending doom of another week of commuting, meetings and drudgery.

Anyway, it is always nice when someone tells you that your blog has become part of their weekly routine, as they did last night when I communicated the fact that Virgin Media’s incompetence would mean no pearls of wisdom from me.

Last week Rebecca launched her first business venture. I have mentioned previously how she has been booked up for Halloween to administer horror make up to folks, and now she has taken that concept and rolled it out to wider beauty stuff too. Having invested in a spray tanning booth and gun she is now all set up to make people a funny colour. The thought of me having a spray tan is only mildly more amusing than the sight of me trying to dismantle her spray tan tent once she’s finished. Imagine trying to fit a four man tent into your back pocket, and that is somewhere close to the level of wrestling, sweat and frustration undertaken each time the thing has to go away.

As many have already done so, and I thank you, I would ask that you take a look at her Facebook page and if you can click the Like button, it would be very much appreciated.

I particularly enjoyed her gun shot wound that she did this week.

gunshot wound

Sunday also saw another new thing. For the first time, I took Rebecca out driving. Having swallowed the horrible financial pill of adding her to the insurance, we set off around lunchtime for her gym with her behind the wheel and me with a light sweat on in the passenger seat. I am not the best of passengers with fully qualified, experienced drivers, so I have to admit, the experience of going out with Emily and now Rebecca is not my favourite of all things to do, but needs must.

She did fine. She quickly realised that not all cars are the same, but to her credit she didn’t stall and we only had one minor incident involving her moving lanes without checking her mirrors, but a change of underwear soon rectified the effects of that.

We arrived in one piece at her gym and she got out looking a little frazzled and stressed but rightly proud of herself. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer until she passes and I have two daughters to worry about each time they go out in the car!

Holiday wise all I have done this week is think about food, which technically is no different to any other week, but specifically food we shall eat, and where we shall eat it in Florida. The list grows, and will be a highlight of our trip!

I also inputted the Advanced Passenger Information for most of our group, which I know is stupidly early, but you should know by now this is how I roll. ESTAs will be left until much nearer the time as with their two year life span, you never know, we may get more than one trip out of them!

Sp apologies for the lack of a Sunday post, and I hope a Monday catch up isn’t too discombobulating for you.

Till the next time…..

Gigs, Gore and Getting No Planning Done.

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Now that all the initial excitement and euphoria about Emily getting her job at WDW has subsided, we’re now having to get our heads around her not being here for a year. That is the down side of this whole thing of course. It will be a huge change for all of us and of course for Emily. I say that as a Dad who still uses the Find my iPhone app to check she has arrived safely at work when she drives there. It’s about three miles away.

If she is to move away, I think we all feel better about it as she is off to Disney. She knows the place well, and working for the mouse, it is clear that there are rules, regulations and other stuff in place to make the sure the young folk on their programmes are looked after.

She is slowly working her way through all the admin and paperwork that will enable her to go, including a CRB check (which costs), an admin and accommodation fee (which costs), and of course her flight and visa (which costs). This programme is not something to casually consider on a whim. It tests the candidate’s commitment, determination and bank balance at every stage.

After my very busy week of planning, outlined in last week’s post, I have done absolutely nothing holiday related this week. I’ve been busy in other ways, mainly with work, with a couple of very busy days down in Marlow doing all sorts of worky things. On Tuesday night it was that time again for our regular pilgrimage to the Level 42 tour. It tends to come round every couple of years, and this time marked the 30th anniversary of my first ever gig, which was Level 42, in the same venue, the Manchester Apollo.

My brother and I met up after work for a large and lovely McDonalds before making our way to the second row for the gig. This was to be the closest we have ever been to the action at a Level 42 gig and it was super to be so.

A lack of planning and forethought on my part meant that I had to be up at a stupid hour on Wednesday morning following the very late (for me) night on Tuesday to make my way down south. The drive down was a blur of energy drinks and open windows in an attempt to avoid an abrupt meeting with the central reservation.

Having made it in one piece, the next couple of days were a whirlwind of meetings as they normally are when I’m down in Head Office until I escaped on Thursday evening for the race home. Whilst in Marlow, I realised that I have a strange wife. Louise is currently on a placement in the Operating Theatres at our local hospital, and I woke early on Wednesday morning to this text.

 

and then later, more detail, as I needed that!

(WARNING: SKIP THIS NEXT ONE IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH ABOUT GORE AND STUFF!)

Having vomited all over my desk at work, it made it crystal clear that nurses are a special breed, and it’s a good job there are odd folks like them out there. It works both ways, as not everyone could endure my job. Sometimes the stapler in my top drawer can jam, and I have often drawn blood trying to fix it. We are all heroes in different ways. By the way, the “patient” was brain dead, hence the beating heart!

Hopefully you weren’t eating when you read those texts!

So I resolve over the coming week to find some time (not in working hours of course) to do some more planning. The next stage is to loosely plan on which days we’ll eat where. I have my list, to which it has been suggested I should add Senor Frogs, and I see no reason not to, and I will use said list to allocate an eatery to an appropriate day. If there are any new or little known good places to eat then please do let me know.

I am also looking for recommendations for the “next series” to watch. We’ve done all the obvious ones -

  • Breaking Bad
  • Homeland
  • Orange is the New Black
  • The Killing
  • A good many Dexters, but not finished them….

and loved them all in different ways. We have Netflix and Amazon Instant Video (and no social life clearly) so if you have found one of those gems that compels you to binge watch at the expense of living your day to day life, we need to know about it. I thank you!

Till the next time…..

Black Belt in Planning

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It’s been a busy week. I don’t mean work. Work is always busy, and is very rarely worth writing about here. No, I have been a whirling dervish of holiday planning activity. Having had no trip to plan for many, many months now, I have returned to my specialist subject like the proverbial duck to pancake and soy sauce.

I had told myself to take my time, enjoy the prospect and luxury of having a trip to research and plan, but as is often the case at my time of life, no matter how much I tried to think of other things, my bolt is shot. I rest, in the after glow of bookings, with a red hot credit card and a smile on my face.

If you have been following my pre-trip report thread on the Dibb, then what I am about tell you will not be news. This has never stopped me sharing anything before so here we go.

This time last week we had little else but flights in the bag, and joy in our hearts, at the prospect of a return home. The next priority was to find somewhere to stay, and that was to be a villa. I looked at a lot. I won’t quantify that any further for fear my employers may read this and do some basic maths around the number of villas versus the hours in the week, but let’s say it was a good few.

I got quotes from a handful, most being non Dibb villas, which always has me worried that we will turn up to find either no villa or someone’s house, the inhabitants of it knowing nothing about the rental of a villa to an overweight bald bloke from Bolton. With that in mind, it came to me, as the search was almost coming to an end that I “knew” someone who had a villa that may be suitable. Tracy Seymour must have originally become aware of me (and vice versa)  via the Dibb, and we’ve been Facebook friends since I don’t know when. I’ve often looked at her villa for previous trips, but we’ve never needed one that large so have always ended up elsewhere.

Crucially Tracy’s villa, the Disney Palms villa, ticked all of our boxes, plus we’d have the security of knowing that there actually would be a villa there to stay in when we arrived. Tracy and her husband are fellow Old English Sheepdog owners too.

Disney Palms Villa

Our decision was quickly proved to be correct as when we received our receipt for our deposit, it included a goody bag of villa themed key rings, fridge magnets and post cards. A lovely touch, and one that was really appreciated.

With a villa found, we now needed a way to get to it from the airport, so the car hire work began. Prices seemed to vary wildly for what is pretty much the same thing. I ended up with Alamo Brits, who came out much cheaper than everywhere else for the seven seater van we needed. It should take six of us plus luggage to and from the airport, and have enough bum spaces when Emily joins us too. Louise has often requested to be added as an additional driver on previous trips, but I am usually too scared, tight to do so. Her total US driving experience is from Westlife, I mean Westridge, to the Publix at Berry Town Centre.

However the great price with Alamo also included up to three additional drivers, so that was a bonus. We paid £420 for the whole thing for 18 days, which I thought was a great price.

So within a few days of booking the flights, I was nearly done with all the major requirements. Now, firmly in the planning zone, I moved on to the Hard Rock Hotel night we needed for our Front of Line access. Everywhere seemed to be charging the same price to be honest, and I was almost resigned to leaving that to sort out sometime in the next 300+ days before we go. However, I then discovered that Travel Republic would let me book our three rooms for a deposit of £3. The balance will not be due until the middle of August next year, so you don’t need me to tell you what happened next.

Hard Rock…I said Rock.

I really am very, very good at this!

It will not surprise you to know that I have a rough plan of what we’ll be doing on most days, including how we will avoid the parks around Labor Day weekend. I also have a list of restaurants we must do, and all I will say about that, is that it is a good job we’re going for eighteen days. You want to see the list? Oh, OK then, so far it is…..

  • Market Street Cafe (Celebration)
  • Whispering Canyon
  • Mannys
  • Applebees
  • Olive Garden
  • Romanos
  • Bahama Breeze
  • Orlando Ale House
  • O’Hanas
  • Teak
  • Outback
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Be Our Guest

Rebecca and Tom also plan to attend the Universal Halloween Horror Nights if they are on when we are there. This year they started in early September so they should be OK. I think I might give that one a miss to be honest. If I want to be frightened I can go for a walk through some of the dodgy parts of Manchester on a dark night for free. Speaking of avoiding the parks over that busy long weekend, we (I) have planned to do some resting, visiting of Celebration (we MUST have the cheesy fries and banana cream pie at the Market Street Cafe), golfing, and heading over to Daytona to watch a baseball game again.

So aside from bits and bobs, we’re done. I know I could have spent months contemplating options, but you should know by now that I’m not wired like that. I feel better once stuff is done and dusted.

We do have park tickets to get, but we will leave that until much nearer the time, crucially when Emily is officially a Cast Member so we can see what discounts she may be able to get. Once we have those I shall have to get to grips with all this new FastPass+ stuff, and no doubt get up at 5am a few times to make sure we get on some headliners. I’m not going to stress too much about all that. We are there for nearly three weeks, and in that time, I’m sure we’ll be able to get on what we want to. If not, well it isn’t the end of the world. It’s not as if we haven’t ridden stuff before.

I’m off now to polish and admire my planning spread sheet, and prepare myself for the return of Homeland at 9pm.

Till the next time….

What a Week That Was!

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As weeks go, outside of those we’ve spent on US soil, this one just gone has been one of the best. I’ve done little else but tell you all about Emily’s good news since we heard last weekend, and this week has been all about paperwork and finding her a flight. The flight search ended towards the end of the week with her booked on a Thomas Cook flight on the 7th of April from Manchester. She has decided to travel out in style in Premium Economy, which handily gives her 46kg of luggage allowance. Her main worry now is how on earth she’ll get it off the baggage carousel once she is in Orlando!

There a million practical considerations now coming into play around her journey and her time out there, but we have plenty of time to sort those between now and April.

Emily has finally blogged again too.

Rebecca has also played a blinder, demonstrating once again her impressive drive, determination, confidence and maturity by getting off her backside and finding a way to make best use of her talents, and some money! For those that don’t know she is studying Media Make Up and Hair at college, and part of that is how to do horror make-up. With Halloween coming up she has been advertising her skills, and has secured a whole host of bookings in the local area to make folks up on a gory fashion for their Halloween parties. She is very, very good at this.

rebecca gore 1 rebecca gore 2

Seeing how much demand she had if you fancy it for next year, I’d get in touch with her now!

So having felt blessed with good fortune for most of the week, it ended on another high. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that Louise had started to apply for jobs, even though she doesn’t qualify until next April. She thought it might be a little early, but from her first application she was asked to attend an interview on Friday. She was of course very nervous, and had no idea how she had done, but just a couple of hours later she got a phone call to offer her a job!

This was a special moment. You’ll know, because I’ve moaned a lot, that this past few years have been very tough. We thought it would be, and we were right. Louise gave up a good job to take the brave step of re-training at an age I’m too polite to mention. So of course financially that hurt, but it has been tough in many other ways. There has been stress, silly shifts, lots and lots of hard work, and weeks on end when we haven’t seen Louise as she was locked away at the computer doing her latest assignment. So Friday’s news was very sweet indeed. Relief, joy, pride, excitement and then for Louise a few minutes later, fear at actually having to do the job for real.

To add extra cherries on top of our very large cake, the job she has secured is exactly the one she wanted at the local hospital where she desperately wanted to work. She will be a Recovery Nurse in the Operating Theatres and we are still both a little numb and disbelieving that this has happened. As you know, I am a professional self pitier and woe is me merchant so I am unused to dealing with such scenarios. I think I could get used to this.

So there you go, a great week in the Williams household. I am trying to squeeze every last drop of joy and enjoyment from it, as I know these weeks are rare. I mean, what else could have happened this week to make it any better? Well, of course here is where I go off into another “We’re not going to WDW” rant. I would but…

WE HAVE A NEW COUNTDOWN!

Yes, if Carlsberg made weeks, even they wouldn’t have been able to come up with this one.

To be honest with you, we’ve been thinking about next year for a little while, but until Emily’s fate was known we couldn’t make any plans as we didn’t know who would be travelling. So as soon as she was sorted, I moved quickly, as you might imagine, to make the plans into reality.

With Emily over there for a year, there is no way we could not go over there to see her. We have booked for next August, and with everyone out of school, college and university, we are able to travel a little later and not have to pay the ludicrous school holiday prices. We have only booked flights at this stage, as of course we have a long time to do everything else. We fly out on the 27th of August, and we are staying for an indulgent 18 days.

We have booked our flights with Thomas Cook, as we really wanted direct flights and Virgin continue to market to millionaires only it seems. Having paid north of £650 for indirect recently, and seen very similar prices for indirect again this year I was delighted to secure flights, including Premium Economy on the way back, for £580 each.

There is a new line up for the trip too. Returning to the cast list after a few years off, are my Mum and Dad, who are keen to see Emily of course, and for the first time, we are taking a boyfriend with us. Rebecca’s Tom will join us on the trip, making his debut as a cast member of one of these adventures.

Our plan is to get a villa, so that Emily can stay there with us as her work schedule allows, and we hope to do a night on site at Universal so that we can do the new Harry Potter stuff. Having spent all my time recently ignoring any Florida related news in a sulky protest, I now need to get up to speed on how these band things work, and this booking your Fastpasses up front malarkey too.

You shall, of course be subjected to every twist and turn of the planning and build up. It could be a long few months for us all.

I cannot promise that next week’s blog will be as chock full of joy and positivity, in fact I can probably guarantee it won’t be, as a lottery win aside I’m not sure what else could top this one.

Till the next time…..

 

 

So You Want to Work for the Mouse?

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This week, I was asked by a Dibber, if Emily would mind giving some advice to their daughter, as she was hoping to apply for the Cultural Representative Programme, as Emily has. Of course, she was happy to help, as it wasn’t long ago that she was doing the same, asking those who had been down that road for similar tips, hoping to get an advantage in what is a very competitive process.

I’m not sure what Emily advised, but my biggest learning from going through the process with her, is that the thing you need most of is patience, and lots of it. This is not something with a quick turnaround. I sort of understand why, as they literally have to travel and scour the globe to find suitable folks for each pavilion, do endless admin and allocate those they want to a suitable role.

Having said all of that, it takes too long, and I’m sure many of the 45 people who attended that face to face interview with Emily in London last March have since had to drop out, move on and give up. Yes, it has been six months since Emily attended her final face to face interview, and there haven’t been very many days in that time when we haven’t thought or talked about it. When things drag on like that, you start to wonder if it will ever happen.

Sometimes though, good things come to those who wait.

Disney email

We have a Cast Member in the family!

Yes, Emily’s date has come through, and she if off to work in the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida on the 7th of April 2015. We are delighted, proud, relieved, and of course dreading her leaving us for a year too. Knowing every detail of the arduous application and interview process inside out, I am so proud of Emily for getting through and being offered the job.

She has wanted this for many, many years, but deep down I think we all thought that the fact that she isn’t naturally one of life’s extroverts might stop her realising her dream. Seeing how she carried herself and how driven she was during the process, her success is all the sweeter. We have now already started the many and varied admin tasks required, with much form filling, plans to make, flights to find and excitement to enjoy. There’s a Visa to get too, which will mean another trip to London no doubt and room mates to find. This process is not one for the fickle and fainthearted. It requires dedication, patience, tenacity and as a certain Michael Bolton once said the ability to Go The Distance!

As you probably know it doesn’t take much for me burst with pride at anything Emily or Rebecca do. The fact that I produced them is and always will be the proudest achievement of my life, but when they do stuff like this, it is on a whole new level. I can’t over egg the effort and the journey outside of Emily’s comfort zone this has required.

Of course, we may, yes, may have to plan a trip to visit her during her year too. I’m sure there are some Cast Member discounts we can look into!

She will be working in the UK pavilion, in quick service food and beverage, which translates to the fish and chip place we assume, although it does say she will be asked to undertake a wide variety of roles. This doesn’t seem real to me yet, so who knows how Emily is dealing with all of this. I’m sure she’ll be blogging again very soon, now she has this news. There wasn’t a great deal of point in her blogging regularly about waiting for her date. We were all pensive enough without her having to write about it.

For any of you that are connected with Emily on Twitter and Facebook, can I ask that if you contact her, you do so discretely, via DM or Messenger. She has people from her current job on both, and of course, she’d rather they did not know about this just yet. Your discretion is appreciated!

So she has 190 days at home with us before her adventure begins and of course we need to make the most of those. She’s probably started packing, and who can blame her!

Till the next time…..

Posting about Posting.

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Each week, when I come to fill this blank page with words, I genuinely have little or no idea how I’m going to do so. I know, you can’t tell!!

Over the years, I have become able to predict the popularity of a post before I hit the publish button and unleash it upon you. When I waffle on about writing a book, those posts are as popular as Rolf Harris at this year’s Children In Need, and when I post saying that we’ve booked another holiday the stats they boom, and servers overheat with the increased demand. That’s no surprise at all, as the majority of folks reading this “know me” from a WDW perspective, and it is in no way a moan. The fact that anyone reads this rubbish baffles me, so if a few less click on it one week then who am I to have a problem with it?

This post won’t be either of those by the way. I am technically writing another book, but haven’t been near it for weeks, and it is stuck at 15,000 words. Work has been very busy, as has life in general, and I need to find the time, discipline and mojo to get it back into my daily routine. By the way, if you’d like to know what I’m like at writing books, you could always download my last one.

Book Cover

Buy 400,000 copies please.

Holiday wise, we have nothing to report. The yearning is strong and is pretty much killing us, but we can do nothing until Emily’s plans are firmed up, and Disney are taking their bleeding time in coming up with dates for the majority of the group currently sat on wait list. We are in limbo, and it is immensely frustrating. Of course, should they call tomorrow and ask her to be on a plane PDQ, we then only have the problem of finding a way to fund any future trip. It is a problem we have somehow managed to overcome many times before, so fingers crossed.

These types of posts which meander aimlessly through a week’s events, or are general updates on our lives do OK by the way. Each post may not be spectacular, but I am persistent if nothing else. I see lots of folks starting blogs (Emily being one of them), and they write a few posts in the first flush of enthusiasm. The trick to building any sort of audience, I think, is consistency. I write “something” every week at pretty much the same time, and over time the audience has grown now, to one I could never have imagined. Thanks by the way.

So if anyone asks me for advice on writing a blog, all I tell them is, make sure you write it, regularly. That of course is easier said than done. Life is busy, without, at times, being very interesting, so finding something to share regularly can be a challenge. You’ll know that of course as you are reading this! I am driven by completing things, so this isn’t too tricky for me. Don’t get me wrong, some times I struggle to force one out, but the doctor says that’s an age thing, but until the blog is up I feel restless and as if things are incomplete, which isn’t a feeling I enjoy.

Life update wise, Rebecca is back in college, and loving it generally. She’s good at what she is doing, and enjoys learning about it, which is a good mix. Naturally she chose the most expensive course on the list. Media make up and hair requires a kit of equipment and make up that costs a similar amount to a small car, and then, she is on the only course at the college that requires a defined uniform.

Louise has started applying for nursing jobs! Apparently now is the time to do so, despite not finishing her course until next March. She submitted her first one last week, and she has got an interview. That’s a good start!! She is currently compiling her CV and portfolio for the process of finding employment over the next few months. It has been a long old road, and I think we’re both grateful to be counting down the last few hurdles now.

Emily is still working at a local restaurant, getting the experience that will hopefully help her as and when she works in and around the Rose and Crown. She’s earning decent money too, but not of course through tips. With two daughters working in the restaurant biz, I have to say we are truly awful at tipping decent service. They have both been left some truly embarrassing amounts of money masquerading as a tip. If you are eating out soon, think on!!

So having written today’s post about writing posts, I shall tick the imaginary box of completion on this task and go back to my Sunday.

Till the next time…..

Damned if Disney Do, Damned if Disney Don’t.

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One of the side effects of people being passionate about a subject is that it tends to drive some heart-felt opinions. This is very true for the ever passionate and dedicated Disney community too.

I would guess that this set of fans has one of the largest blogging communities on the interwebs, along with endless podcasts, forums and multitudes of other social media style get togethers. Hats off to Disney for delivering a product and experience that engenders such dedication, interest, and at times venomous hatred.

It may be a little extreme to call it hatred, but they only have to change something at one of the Disney parks, or indeed not change something, and the internet catches fire with vitriolic bombardments, stating each side of the argument as if folk’s lives depended on it. This week, the announcement to fuel this fire of fury was the one about the Norway pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, replacing the Maelstrom ride. I’m going to assume that if you are reading this you know what that is, and if you don’t then a short spell on google will tell you all you need to know. To summarise, they plan to replace a ride called Maelstrom that has been around for years with a new attraction themed around the incredibly popular Frozen movie.

Bye!

Replacing anything that has been in place for years at a Disney park is fraught with danger. The Disney company make a big deal about memories, and when you’ve got decades of them concerning a ride or attraction, when someone comes along and removes it, emotions can run high. I have similar anger issues over the fact that Stitch’s Great Escape still hasn’t been replaced by something that doesn’t suck.

So these Imagineers have a difficult balance to maintain, as well as the best job in the world. Firstly they have to do things which will keep the company profitable or else they won’t be around too long. They have to keep things fresh, without changing too much and they have to make sure they keep up with the Jones’ down the road at Universal.

Look at that queue!!

I can see both sides of the argument in this case. Sure, Frozen isn’t set in Norway, although there are obvious inspirations there. So it may seem that this new Frozen attraction is being shoe horned into Norway a little, but there is the alternative view that just next door to Norway, the Mexico ride has removed the more traditional view of Mexico in favour of the Donald Duck Three Cabaleros thing. I miss the kitsch nature of the old film, but I can see why they did it too.

Frozen is so huge now that I can see there was an urgent need to get something more than a queue to meet face characters in place. My main concern regarding the introduction of this into Norway is size. The crowds and demand for this will be enormous, and I just wonder where the queue might end up snaking too. They may be lining up past Spaceship Earth and out into the car park. I know that the pavilions around the showcase are much bigger than the facades may have you believe, but I just hope that they can build an attraction with the capacity to cope with the demand. As long as they keep those young Norwegian blondes who constantly undress me with their eyes whilst I queue, how bad can it be? The women cast members do it too.

There have been similar uproars and approval for the proposed Avatarland at Animal Kingdom. I have to say, I’m not doing cartwheels down the street over this one, but, I’m sure that when delivered it will be another high class, well executed set of attractions that we’ll thoroughly enjoy doing again and again.

In a conversation with Emily earlier, we gave the UK pavilion a make over too. I suggested that a new dark ride be built based on Robin Hood. We also then decided to put a traditional tea shop in place too, where we could charge silly amounts of money for a pot of tea, some crustless sandwiches and a Fat Rascal. We’d make it a Princess Tea Party, with Maid Marion, Wendy, Alice, The Mad Hatter and Pooh and friends in attendance.

Now, if someone can plant that as a rumour on some Disney forum we’ll have folks fighting in the streets before dawn. To the barricades!!

Till the next time…..

The Parent Crap

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For those of you that have internet known me for a while, you will have no doubt been a part of the journey of my little family. Since I started over sharing trip reports back in 2003 and then subsequently via social media, you will have seen many of the milestones we’ve been through, the different phases of parenthood, and the stresses, worries, troubles and joy they have brought.

I’m now an old man (well, I feel like one) and the girls are women in their own right. Emily is 19, and Rebecca 17 so as far as it matters both are adults, starting to find their own ways in the world. This new phase in our family, as all the previous ones have, brings its own challenges, positives and upsides. They both now have boyfriends, have left school and are starting to carve out what will be their own lives in years to come.

In this blog I have previously documented their first boyfriends, endless gigs, and various occasions when they demonstrated that they were growing up before my eyes. Much of the “fun” in this current phase of parenting revolves around their relationships, and all the ups and downs that come with it. You won’t need me to tell you that no boy on earth will ever be good enough for either of them. They are the two best things I have ever done, and so pretending that some hairy arsed youngster is worthy of their company is not a leap I can easily make. Letting their partners into our family unit is tricky. We’ve been four for a long time, and as (hopefully) welcoming as we are with the boyfriends, it’s a learning curve for us too in how to manage the expanding family dynamic.

Don’t get me wrong. Their respective partners are great. Rebecca has been with Tom for two years now, and he’s a lovely lad. Polite, well mannered, hard working and depressingly muscular, Rebecca could do a lot worse. Emily’s boyfriend is a much newer acquisition, so we don’t know him that well yet, but again, he seems to be a lovely lad. In the hormone fueled world of these young couples of course, there are ups and downs. They fall out, break up, get back together and have text warfare, and that can be a cycle that happens several times before lunch on some days. That’s life of course. Even those couples that have been together forever fall out. It is usually over different things to these youngsters of course. Louise often hates me for being so adorable all the time. I understand that it can be tiresome.

When these downs happen, sitting and watching your daughter be upset is not an easy thing to do. We know of course that there are always two sides to every story, so we try not to take sides too readily, but all the time reminding anyone who will listen that if any of these boys even think about hurting one of them I’ll be turning them inside out and setting them on fire.

The aforementioned social media makes these relationships even more complicated. A misguided like or friend request can cause Apocalyptic consequences. As bystanders we do what we can, support them, wipe the tears away and give what advice we can. We try to see their “disasters” as that, and not as the minor blips we recognise them as with our considerable life experience (compared to them). It is largely ignored of course, but every now and again a few words of advice stick, and hopefully they help.

The folks I connect with on social media have children of all ages, and when I see their photos, I think back to my two at that age, what we were going through, and how we sometimes thought we were the first to ever do it, and we had it the worst of anyone, ever. The current stage is always the hardest/worst and they naturally only improve with hindsight, as the brain tends to lose the truly bad bits, and allows you the pleasure of remembering the good bits. I’m sure the same will happen to these times too when the girls go on to do whatever they do with whoever they want to do it with, we’ll no doubt look back and smile wryly at these nights stained with tears and excessive eye makeup (and that’s just me), and our fight to resist the urge to knock their heads together, or at times remove the heads of their partners.

Not actually either of my daughters!

As boundaries are tested and naturally expand we find ourselves confronted by new and challenging dilemmas. Do we let them do this? Is it appropriate at their age to do that or go there? Are we being too restrictive, or much too liberal? Who knows. I certainly don’t so we go with our gut feel and cross our fingers we don’t get things too wrong.

There are certainly areas of parenting that get easier as the children get older. No nappies or fighting to get them dressed of a morning is great and those fall outs about the sharing of toys gradually give way to cat fights over liking the same boy, the other one getting preferential treatment and at all times the other one being your favourite. However, whilst they may be less physical work, the actual parenting bit changes little. Look at last week. My Dad is in his seventies, and just because he’s my parent he was obliged to spend a week on my roof working hard when he could have been golfing instead. Similarly, last night I was up until after 1am as I had to pick Rebecca up from a babysitting job. At my age, a bedtime after the witching hour can set me back for months, but you do it, without question whether it be that late night pick up, or the week’s hard labour.

So we’ll continue to wipe the tears away, offer the advice and pick up the pieces when required, and then moments later accept the fact that we’re then told to just leave them to it, once the upset is over. We shall have payback when we’re old(er) and infirm and they are changing our adult nappies and feeding us blended food.

Oh and Rebecca, if you are reading this, you ARE NOT having a sleeve tattoo, and that’s final!

Till the next time….

 

 

Big Bricks and Birthdays.

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Ah holidays. Lounging around, with no work to worry about. Recharging the batteries, taking it easy, de-stressing. Yes, that would have been lovely. My week “off work” has been one of the hardest weeks I have known. I have spent it up and down a ladder, atop some scaffolding, dismantling this bloody chimney with my Dad.

I don’t think either of us appreciated how big a job this was going to be until we’d gone too far to go back. The chimney stack was inconveniently made from huge blocks of stone and not lovely light modern house bricks. Knocking it down, and then more crucially getting the buggers down to ground level and into a skip has broken my body in all sorts of ways.

We have endured wind, rain, sunshine, and a lack of a will to live when the job seemed never-ending. Luckily, I was the unskilled labourer to my Dad, who has spent most of his working life in he roofing business, from time served apprentice to Director, he’s done the lot. I have become an expert in passing him stuff, carrying things up and down ladders and humping huge chunks of stone into a skip. It took us pretty much all week, with an odd day off for my Dad to go golfing, and we finally finished on Saturday afternoon.

There used to be a huge chimney stack there!!

As hard as it has been, there is an undeniable sense of satisfaction and pride at having completed such a huge job successfully. Knowing that something I have been a small part of has improved our house is great. My back and muscles will currently disagree, but I’m sure that pain will fade by Christmas.

With that horror done, on Sunday, I celebrated my birthday. I haven’t done so in the UK since 2008, when we went to Florida in July for Emily’s birthday. Whilst nothing can top having a birthday in WDW, I had a lovely day.

I started it in bed with three beautiful women and an Old English Sheepdog. That sounds like a chapter from Oliver Reed’s autobiography, but it was just lovely to have the family gather on our bed for the giving of presents and cards and a few hugs. These days, the girls actually buy me presents which is a pleasant side effect of them growing up. However, their shopping skills still have some way to go as the stuff they had ordered hadn’t arrived in time. So I got sweets and stuff as a holding pattern until they do…

pressies

 

Then, I was treated to a breakfast of kings, courtesy of Louise.

brekkieIt was mighty fine. Then, I played my new Xbox game for a while until the footy came on, when I watched my team play superbly and win comfortably. The day was off to a good start.

After the footy, we had been invited to a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at my brother’s house. He and his wife, Paula, were hosting it to raise some funds for her chosen charity for her London to Paris bike ride next year. It didn’t matter. They said there would be cake and so we would be there.

cakesIt was mighty fine cakeage and I had a lot. After a few hours there I waddled home and collapsed in front of the telly. So the day didn’t involve a Kitchen Sink from Beaches and Cream, or a wander around World Showcase at Epcot, but it was a lovely one all the same. I didn’t even sulk about the lack of a Disney location.

I had the forethought to tag and extra day onto my holiday so I didn’t have work to dread on Monday either. What’s not to like?

I am not saying that I plan to repeat many more birthdays on UK soil, but as much as I like to moan and whinge, I cannot about yesterday.

Last week also saw a little bit of drama on Thursday. I was two and half hours into my hair cut (honest) when  my phone rang. Louise was on her way up to the restaurant where Emily works as she had “blacked out” at work. She had been taken to A&E in an ambulance and we of course speedily followed all full of panic and worry. As we arrived she was clearly OK, if not a little embarrassed at passing out. She had given her head a bit of a whack, so we are keeping a close eye on her, and she is going for some tests tomorrow at the GP’s, but the folks at hospital could find no underlying issues so a few blood tests should put out minds at rest.

Emily, being off work, is having a Disney day on the sofa today. She is having one of those “I’m really missing Disney days” and all I can hear from her phone are blasts of parade music, and just now, that 80’s sounding retro music that plays as you walk through the gates at Epcot. I sympathise!

Today I have had a lie in, bathed Oli, bought a new spot light for our security light outside, and now written this. So I now need to leave you. I have lots of sweets and stuff to eat, TV to watch and nothing to do lots of.

Till the next time…..

 

 

Channeling Fred Dibnah.

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It is rare that the content of these weekly outpourings are unique in any way. However, this one is rare if not unique, as I don’t think I have ever written one at this time in August. This of course is because I have usually been on holiday.

So this (and next week) will be a bonus post, whether you think that is a positive or negative thing is your call of course.

I am technically on holiday now, just like most years. I finished on Friday, and I don’t go back until the 2nd of September. I did not leave the office in the usual pre-holiday manner, as nice as it is to not have to work this week, I could not muster the same levels of enthusiasm. There is little that beats that feeling of leaving the office for the last time before a Florida adventure, so it all felt a little underwhelming to be leaving for a staycation.

I have already DIYed. That is of course insult to injury, but it needed doing, and the Type A freak in me does feel better that the wall ruined by our (not so) recent flood is now restored to glorious wallpapered splendour. On that note, we have a large erection at the back of our house now. I do of course refer to the scaffolding that arrived last week, ready for my Dad and I to tackle the chimney stack that needs removing. We went up said erection yesterday to measure up, and I have to say, the bricks making up that chimney look a damn sight bigger than they do from ground. Getting the buggers down will be fun I have to say.

Blokes from Bolton are good at taking chimneys down

My aversion to manual labour is only intensified by doing it at a silly height above hard concrete. Bad weather aside, I shall be getting dirty and tired on our roof tomorrow. Still, it’s probably better than going to work. Maybe.

Being at home next week, and if I avoid A&E, I am hopeful that I will be able to nag Emily enough to finish the 2008 video trip report. I have seen what she’s done so far, and it looks good. Of course, with me in it she has some very good raw materials to work with, but she’s doing a good job.  Her main issue is not wanting to include herself in any footage. I am of course making sure she does. Her horror at her 14-year-old self is probably understandable from the distance of now being 19, but I guilted her into including stuff by telling her she’d be robbing me and Louise of our memories!

I of course look no different at all. Ahem.

Louise had some good news this week. She passed her OSCE. That isn’t a type of gall stone. Instead it is a practical exam where she had to examine a dummy in a scenario whilst being evaluated. She of course was certain that she had failed it, but was delighted to hear she got 70% and passed. This represents yet another hurdle on her journey to qualification. She remains chained to the PC cranking out her latest assignment. Anyone would think that nurses need to know a lot of stuff or something!

I shall endeavour to enjoy my downtime of course, despite the hard labour that awaits. If I do not blog next week someone had better come and scrape me up from underneath that scaffolding.

Till the next time…..

 

I Told You So!

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See? I told you we weren’t going this year. This weekend is traditionally the one on which we jet off for our annual adventure. I know many of you did not believe my declarations that we would not be doing it this year, but here I sit, in a cold Bolton, watching sideways rain and gale force winds blast past the window.

I take absolutely no satisfaction whatsoever in being right. My sense of loss is tangible and ever present. It comes over me in waves of physical pain, and I can almost taste the atmosphere, sights and smells of our favourite places. That is both a good and a bad thing. The unique feel of different spots that we love are both lovely to remember and painful to recall.

If I imagine myself in the warm embrace of an evening on the Boardwalk, cosseted in the warm night air, full from a ludicrous intake of calories, and strolling around aimlessly, yet joyfully, I tend to well up. What? That’s normal right?

Don’t worry I’m not going to spend all of this week’s post moaning about not going. I’ll just spend a bit of it if that’s OK? It’s not fair, I want a holiday, I should be in Florida, life is unjust etc etc.

OK, I think that’s out of my system.

So instead of living la vida loca in the US what can I possibly do to fill the next two weeks? Well, I’m in work next week, so that of course is easily as good as being on holiday, and then the week after, I am on holiday. I use the term loosely, as I shall just be at home, doing that wallpapering that’s needed doing since we had that flood weeks ago. I am also going to be dismantling a chimney.

Please try to hold back your excitement and awe, I know how impressive that is. Our house is old, and on the back of it there is an ancient, now unused chimney stack that is doing nothing but collect water and deposit down into our bathroom. It dates back to when most rooms had a real fireplace rather than central heating. I shall be providing the unskilled labour to my Dad’s expertise, as it is taken down and replaced with roof tiles and stuff that will make it all better. I think you’ll all agree that this is a much better use of my time and money than one of those daft trips to Florida.

I know that I’ve been trailing this for about four years, but as I type this, Emily is sat editing the first Williams family vacation video. She’s adding music and all sorts right at this minute so it can’t be too long now. For reasons I can’t explain, the first one to be done is from 2008, which does nothing for my OCD orderly tendencies. Having waited so long for them, I’m not going to complain.

I have to also let you know about our latest Netflix addiction which we completed this week. The Killing was one we stumbled across having never heard of it before, but it was superb. It had more twists than a twisty thing, which, if you are watching it with Louise is a recipe for disaster or divorce as she is compelled to second guess things at every turn. Rather than sit, watch it and enjoy the fact that you haven’t got a clue what’s going on, she spends half of it postulating and theorising about who done it, when clearly there are still several episodes and a dozen twists to go. Anyway, find it, watch it and enjoy.

Bereft of a go to series to binge watch, we’ve been ploughing through The Walking Dead series 2. We’re enjoying it, but on the come down from The Killing it hasn’t quite captured us in the same way. We may go old school, and watch all seven seasons of The West Wing which appears to be available on catch up now.  I know we are a decade or so late to it, but it means we can do the whole lot, minus adverts, and I can pause it several times an episode so Louise can tell me what she thinks is going to happen.

Once we’ve done that, well, it may be time to go on holiday again. Either that or we’ll be going so far back into the archives that it may be Dixon of Dock Green. At least the football is back, which is good for me, and less so for Louise. The only downside of its return is the sign that with it comes autumn and winter. It feels like we’ve been waiting for summer to get going and now it’s over. We’re back into the nine months of winter again, before a few brief weeks of summer with grown men wearing flip-flops in Asda and people drinking Raspberry Cider and thinking that’s normal.

I think I need a holiday.

Till the next time……

Gatorland? Are You Out Of Your Mind?

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There seems little point in cranking out a blog post this week as pretty much anybody I am even mildly connected to appears to be in Florida, and will have no interest in reading this drivel. I am of course very happy for them and in no way scrolling quickly past their non stop Facebook posts swallowing hard and fighting back the tears. You may think that is a joke. It is not.

My overblown sense of entitlement means that I feel wronged and deprived not to be heading over there. We should be packing now, and I should already have lost the customary few ounces on my annual diet. Instead, I teeter at the top end of my weight range, and stare unimpressed at unending weeks at work stretched out in front of me.

I have actually booked a week off work at the end of August around the bank holiday and my birthday. I have decorating to do, and at least if I am not at work, I can focus properly on the world-class sulking I will be undertaking at that time.

As I always say, I never say never, and there could yet be a lottery win. Having said that, has anyone actually won the lottery recently? I don’t mean the multi-million pound jackpot which results in your own helicopter and a swimming pool tiled with pound coins and unicorn spit. I haven’t heard of anyone winning anything for ages. I have been playing the main Saturday draw every week since it started back in 1994. I’ve used the same numbers too, and over that time I have maybe recouped about £50. I have to play the same numbers now, as I know the one week I don’t, they will come up and I will be found with a smoking shotgun and half a head in our garage.

We haven’t had even a small win for years. Clearly, as you know from last week’s post, Louise won the lottery eighteen years ago when she was lucky enough to marry me.

I have a sneaky feeling that since the financial downturn the government have just been pocketing the whole lot, and fibbing about anyone getting any sort of payout. It’s either that, or the fee for Nick Knowles and Dale Winton is now taking up almost all of the proceeds, even at £2 a ticket.

Orange Saturdays

Every now and again of course you see that couple win big. You know the ones. He works in a factory and says he won’t give up work, but he is going to take his family to Abersoch on holiday. For me, these types should be disqualified for being crap. If you don’t know what to do with that amount of money then you shouldn’t be allowed to win it.

That reminds me of a conversation I had earlier with Emily. She was reading some questions posted in a Facebook Orlando group, gradually getting herself more and more wound up. She has definitely inherited my Type A control freak genes, and believes that things need to be done a certain way. People asking questions about buying Yankee Candles, or whether Gatorland would be a good idea for their first day just drive her crazy. The first day is to be spent at the Magic Kingdom, and there is to be no debate about that in her mind. There shall be none of this Sea World stuff, or a day by the pool and some shopping.

We decided that once you get through immigration at Orlando airport there should be another desk through which you need to pass to begin your holiday. This desk would probably be manned (or womaned) by Emily, and she will determine whether you are allowed entry to Florida based on your answers. If you call WDW Disneyland, then not only will you be denied entry to the US, but she may also have you shot. Failure to answer satisfactorily will see you back on the plane to the UK on the basis that you are doing it wrong and therefore don’t deserve the holiday. You can do some research and try again next year if you like.

You are doing it wrong!

You are doing it wrong!

I understand that I am probably responsible for the Disney monster I have created in Emily, but she is what she is, and happy with it. The fact that I once found her throwing things around her bedroom because someone on Twitter had said they were going to Disney World that day, when they meant the Magic Kingdom perhaps suggests it may have gone a little too far. Maybe.

We are all dealing with our Disney grief in our own ways. I am off to unfriend anyone posting WDW stuff on Facebook.

Till the next time…..

Don’t Mention the Mushrooms!

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To paraphrase a very famous song, it was eighteen years ago today. However, I do not refer to any member of the armed forces teaching folks to play musical instruments, instead, it was the day on which all of Louise’s dreams came true. Today, is our wedding anniversary.

Right about now eighteen years ago I was stuffed full of the wedding meal (we had chicken, but no mushrooms…that’s important. The mushroom debate seemed to take up about six weeks negotiation, angst and debate in the build up to the wedding due to certain family members not liking them) with that meal ending with some legendary profiteroles that we still remember to this day. It will come as no surprise that some of the most vivid memories from the day are food related. I also remember spending ages planning and organising all sorts of things for the big day but then managing to completely forget to even give a moment’s thought to the speech I would have to give at the reception. I don’t recall what I said, but it was a mash-up of thank yous and a lot of errs and ums.

A recurring theme of my ramblings here is the speed of passing time. This is all relative of course, as I know tomorrow at work will feel like twenty-five years, but the time since this photo was taken feels just a bit longer than a commercial break, and I don’t mean one of the Appliance Direct ads in the States.

wedding

 

A lot has happened in the years since I looked so dapper (Louise looked OK too I suppose), including a lot of great holidays, oodles of hard work, a fair few crappy decisions, lots of fortune both good and bad, and I may have gained a pound or two, but I’m not sure. We’ve done a decent job with the girls, I think, managed to keep a roof over our heads, and not kill each other, although Louise may have come close on an occasion or two. I  understand that I can drive the ladies crazy with my outright adorableness at times. Apparently porcelain is the symbol of eighteen years of marriage. For anyone desperate to get us a gift, you can keep your tea cups thanks, we’ve got some. I believe that the traditional symbol for a nineteenth anniversary is First Class flights to Orlando, so just hang on until next year as we haven’t got any of those.

Our celebrations have been fairly low-key. If you can call Louise working on her latest assignment for most of the weekend, watching our new obsession, The Killing, on Netflix, followed by a few episodes of The Walking Dead Season 2 celebrations.

We did celebrate Rebecca’s return from holiday this week. It is always a relief to have them home again isn’t it? Especially with half of the world seemingly desperate to kill each other and any overhead planes at the moment. She appears to have brought half of Turkey home with her after discovering a local market she liked. She returned with handbags, clothes, jewelry and make up, and I hadn’t even asked for a present!! She had a great time, although found it a bit too hot at times, and it hasn’t managed to usurp America from her number one holiday spot. I don’t think that was ever in doubt though.

By the way, last week I forgot to mention that the first big book of trip reports had been formally reviewed by a book review blog. You will know that it was favourable as I am mentioning it now. If you’d like to read the review, and explore the rest of that blog to get some ideas on what to read next then you can do so at Random Redheaded Ramblings here. The fact this book now has 72 five-star reviews on Amazon is just crazy, and I thank every single one of you that has taken the time to say how much you enjoyed it. Hopefully, the next one won’t be too far away!

If you have read any of my books, and liked them, please do try to find a few moments to tell the world on Amazon. It makes a difference to any folks considering buying them, and of course satisfies my endless craving for attention and praise.

I’m away to Facebook now to view pictures from what seems to be everyone I know being in Florida at the same time, posting updates just to make me even more wistful and moany about not being there myself. You know who you are!!

Till the next time…..

N N N N N Nineteen.

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It has been a birthday week in the Williams household this week, with Emily turning nineteen. Of course, now she is over eighteen, all presents, gifts and cash must stop, as those are the rules. Well, that’s what we’re telling her anyway.

Whatever we did this week, we could not live up to what happened this time last year, with (even if I say so myself) a perfectly executed reveal of her 18th birthday present, a trip to WDW. This year was a much more low-key affair, especially as Rebecca is still overseas on holiday in Turkey. The day was spent by Emily with her best friend Meg, and her boyfriend Joe, doing what I believe the youth of today call “hanging out”. When I do that, it is usually due to the age of my underwear.

Present wise, she had to settle for cash, some perfume and this addition to her newly acquired laptop.

macbook snow white

Emily and Joe went out for a meal and Louise baked her a cheesecake, her favourite cake in the whole of the world, but of course this did not remove the requirement for the standard Disney birthday cake too.

disney cake

 

She was more excited by this than most nineteen year olds may have been, but then, I suppose you know that by now?

Rebecca’s having a lot of fun on holiday, with days at water parks, and a go at scuba diving.

rebecca scuba 1

rebecca scuba 2

rebecca and tom water park

She’s due back home on Thursday and we will of course be delighted and relieved for her to be so. She has had a really good time, however, she did say “It isn’t America.” Years of training are not forgotten in two weeks in Turkey it would seem.

It is some form of miracle that I have got so far into a blog post without whining about my lack of America. I will admit that there have been actual conversations this week between Louise and I about a trip next year. To be honest, we both sort of knew one would be on the cards if and when Emily is called over to WDW for her programme. I won’t go into the details of the lengthy five-minute discussion, but all I will say is that the words “well, we just have to go next year” came from Louise’s mouth.

The biggest shock to you from that conversation was that I was the one advising caution, and not leaping immediately onto the nearest flight website, to rape and pillage the closest credit card. I have to admit though, even the merest, slim, outside chance of a trip has a positive effect. I read an article this week entitled something like Ten Things You Can Do Right Now To Be Happier. As soon as I saw that number one wasn’t fly to Florida, my hopes were lowered, but I persevered through all the boring obvious stuff like sleep more, work less, move closer to work to shorten your commute and finally got to a point I definitely agreed with.

There was actual scientific proof, it said, that even planning a holiday can relieve stress and increase happiness. Even if you don’t actually take the trip, the benefits are still real. The very small chance of a return home has kicked off some very low-level butterflies of anticipation, which have been greatly missed. The thought of seeing places such as Vero Beach, the Boardwalk and Applebees again are proving to be a mild anti-depressant. Yes, I know I’m strange.

So now I need to go and sit on Kayak for a bit to help my mood. I actually have already found suitable flights, so I’m just going to stare at the website for a bit. Then, I might look at endless villas for a few hours, making a detailed spread sheet comparing features, attributes and costs in a complex pivot table to arrive at the best choice. If we actually really decide we are going, then I may not survive the excitement.

Time for more cheesecake!

Till the next time…..

Don’t Care How, I Want It Now!

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As the world continues its journey to hell in a handcart, in my own little universe, Rebecca left us for two weeks for her holiday. She has been very excited about her trip for a long time, and has been counting down the days for the past couple of weeks. Quite right too, as she was off to what looks like a lovely place, with outstanding weather. However, it was noticeable that as we got in the final few hours of her preparation it started to dawn on her what was happening. All of her teenage know-it-all bravado evaporated in a panic about airport security and flying without us.

She was honest enough to admit that she was feeling nervous about flying without Louise and I. Her apprehension continued to build as I drove her and her boyfriend to the airport on Thursday. She was unusually quiet on that half hour journey, and by the time I had pulled up and relieved the car of their cases her quivering bottom lip was a tell-tale sign of her true feelings.

One extra-large hug later, and half of her makeup all over my T-shirt, she seemed better, and waved happily as I drove away. Are there many worse feelings than waving your child off to a flight you won’t be on? I’m sure there are lots but I couldn’t think of any on the drive home. I certainly couldn’t think of any when a few short hours into her flight the news came in of the tragic fate of flight MH17 over East Ukraine. In the following minutes I was really wishing I had studied harder in Geography at school as I couldn’t tell you how far Turkey was from there, and that was a cause for concern.

A little googling told me it was a fair distance, but frankly, not far enough, and with a bit more browsing I was literally watching her flight make its way across Europe and down to Turkey. It may have been one of the longest ninety minutes or so that I can remember. To see the flight show as arrived was a delight, and I knew I could tone the worrying down a little, for two weeks at least until she flies back!

Safely arrived, she is now having a ball in 40 degree heat, and treating us to envy inducing photos like this.

Rebecca is the one without the beard.

Rebecca is the one without the beard.

They are staying at Tom’s parents place near Bodrum (I think), and it looks delightful.

The customary hot dog shot

The customary hot dog shot

All of this of course is doing nothing for those of the Williams clan that are left behind. You may have picked up on my subtle hints in the last few weeks that the lack of holiday blues have kicked in. I don’t like to talk about it too much so you may not be aware! I shall not lie to you, there has been a modicum of flight searching this weekend, but very much for 2015. I shall also not lie to you about the fact that right now we have no means to pay for such a thing, but hey, that’s never stopped us before.

Much depends on our plans moving forward, not least what Emily ends up doing with her place on the programme. No sign of a date yet, so we wait, and we’ll see. Also, these days, any trip “home” will need to probably accommodate one or more of these here boyfriends both of the girls seem to have acquired. That will make for a larger touring party, unavoidable complications and a compromise or two. Such is life and its ever-changing ways. The girls are absolutely building and living their own lives these days, which of course, as Tim Rice said, is all part of the circle of life. I have no great desire to stop them from doing so, as going back to sleepless nights, nuclear nappies and doing all of their homework from school is not something I really pine for.

So we shall see what happens to our 2015 plans. We all desperately want, and in some cases, need to go, but having been so often we can’t be too greedy. No, balls to that, I am greedy and I NEED to go. I am the Veruca Salt of Florida holidays.

Just book the sodding flights Willy!

Yep, I don’t care how, I want it now.

I wish you all a lovely week to come, especially those teachers out there facing a horrendous six or so weeks away from work. Frankly I pity you. I don’t know how I would cope with such a hardship. Sigh.

Till the next time……

 

Bikinis and Belly Aching.

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Later this week, on Thursday, Rebecca goes on holiday. She is off to Turkey with her boyfriend and his family for a couple of weeks. So the house is filling up with the tell-tale signs of an impending journey abroad. Summer clothes hang freshly ironed around the house, bikini shopping has happened, and excitement levels grow. None of that of course applies to me, aside from the bikini shopping. You can never have too many of those.

It isn't polka dot...

It isn’t polka dot…and yes, that’s her new phone!

The horrific realisation that we are actually not going to have a holiday this year has hit Louise and I like the proverbial tonne of bricks. I’m sure Emily is feeling it too. I know this as she keeps shoving videos and photos of the new stuff at Disney and Universal under my nose and demanding to know why we aren’t going! She of course should be going anyway, once her date comes through for her programme, and she is also distracted with her recently acquired new boyfriend. Joe is his name, and he of course will never be good enough for her. That is nothing against Joe. I’ve met him, he’s nice, but that statement about not being good enough applies to every male drawing breath on the planet so he shouldn’t take offence.

So there is a fairly high level of sulkage going on in our house at the moment. At work, the holiday season has started, and for the next four of five weeks, somebody from my team is away somewhere nice, and I am not. I am wishing them lovely times through gritted teeth.

For me, endless weeks of work stretch out like untouched very monotonous snow. That Groundhog Day, hamster on the wheel feeling is hard to escape. Sure, I’ll have some time off, probably in August to coincide with Louise’s holidays from University, but it just won’t be the same. Not being at work is nice of course, and I’d rather be at home than working, but there’s a real sense of bereavement at the loss of our annual injection of fun, luxury and incredible amounts of food.

Now, I am fully aware that in the grand scheme of things, these are not real problems. God forbid that we actually have something serious to deal with, but it does little to lessen the blow. There is always someone better and worse off than yourself, and whilst recognising that, I reserve the right to have a massive cob on until I have a new countdown to gloat over.

In slightly more upbeat news, Emily took delivery of her shiny new laptop this week. She has long coveted and craved a Macbook, and having been working for some months now, she has saved enough to get herself one. I have to admit that it is a thing of beauty. One thing it has finally enabled us to do is to start the long process of uploading and editing over ten years worth of Florida videos. We tried a little while ago, using my brother’s Mac, but came upon some technical issues and Emily gave up. After some tricky research regarding the required cableage to connect our aged camcorder to this brand new piece of technology, we ordered the doings we needed and yesterday started to upload the first lot.

For some reason 2008 was the first one uploaded, mainly as that was the one in the camcorder at the time. This was the year we went for Emily’s birthday. I think she turned 14. She’s 19 in two weeks time! I think the tapes go back to 2004, so this all might take some time, but finally, finally, we hope to get them all edited down and up onto YouTube sooner rather than later. Hey, this could enable you all to buy the trip report books and then indulge in a multi-media extravaganza by watching the relevant videos too. It’s like we are living in the future! Having watched 2008 last night as it uploaded the main thing that struck me was just how uncomfortable we, no I, am on camera, how much the girls have changed and how much my Dad loves being on camera.

It also made me realise how much I miss Vero Beach. We have had some of our loveliest and best times there over the years. It is a special place, nestled close to lots of other special places…to us anyway.

So I am very aware that this post has sounded full of self-pity. That is because it is full of self-pity. There will come a time when we return to our true home, and when I do, you will be praying for posts like these when I bleat a bit about not going, as the amount of gloating, over planning and smug countdowning I shall be doing will be more unbearable than what you have just read. No, believe me it will, no matter how unlikely you may think that is.

I’m off now to ready myself for another joyous week at work.

Till the next time……

 

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