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……

 

Not a Week for the Weak.

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So how’s your week been? Mine? Well it has been an exercise in bouncing from one disaster to another. That’s right, after last week’s break from my usual litany of moanage, the angry gods of shite came down upon me with mighty vengeance.

Let me talk you through it so you can all pity me, in almost equal measures to the amount I pity myself.

Firstly, last Saturday night Rebecca went out for the night with her boyfriend and some friends. As I woke on Sunday morning I was greeted with a tearful Rebecca, sharing tales of her stolen phone and a night out she wanted to forget. After reporting said theft to the police, we then heard from a kind soul who had found her phone and taken it home with him. Luckily for him he called, as no doubt the Greater Manchester Police were just about to deploy the SWAT team to take him out after I had given them the location of the phone courtesy of the Find My Irresponsible Daughter’s iPhone app.

It'll end in tears!

It’ll end in tears!

I spent most of Sunday arranging to go and collect it, and then buying and taking a bottle of whiskey with me to say thank you for not having it on eBay within minutes. As he handed over the phone I quickly saw why he could not have done that, even if he were that way inclined. The front screen looked as if a small nuclear reaction had gone off just under the glass. The thing still worked, but using the touchscreen meant collecting shards of glass in the ends of your fingers.

Luckily, we have our mobiles insured, but still, a hefty excess makes the replacement of it painful.

Having barely recovered from the stress and heart-break of parting with that chunk of change, on Monday, whilst trying to look busy at my desk Louise phoned me, beginning the conversation with the words nobody wants to hear.

“You’re going to go mad!”

I did. It turned out whilst running the bath a couple of phone calls had distracted her and we now had a lovely water feature in the kitchen below. It sounded as if the Apocalypse was happening in my house as I sat with my head in hands at work.  None of the electrics were working, wallpaper was off, and I was weeping causing a similar flood at my desk.

By the time I got home, things were a little calmer, and I managed to get the electrics back on, and it seems all we have to make good is one wall which now has no wallpaper on it. I’ll need to leave that for about six months so it can properly dry out of course.

Things were all calm on Tuesday, which was nice. However as I arrived home from work on Wednesday I was greeted at the car by Oli and Louise, and I knew something was up. Louise told me that all the electrics were off again, and nothing was bringing them back.

“Oh deary me, what a week we are having,” I said, unable to suppress a smile!

I went to the fuse box thing and fiddled expertly with stuff, but to no avail. It was only after that fiddling that a thought occurred to me. This is a power cut. A quick check with next door, and yes, they had no power either. This was inconvenient as Louise’s new phone had just arrived, as she had just upgraded. I needed power for the WiFi, so that I could set it up.

Speaking of WiFi, about a week earlier, Louise’s old phone, with just days to go before we could upgrade, decided to break, and develop the world renowned “greyed out WiFi button” that it seems has befallen half of the iPhone 4s in the universe.  She hadn’t noticed for a few days and gone massively over her data limit, at great expense.

Now, with her upgrade date so close at hand of course this wasn’t too much of an issue, but upon upgrading I was looking forward to trading the old phone in for a few quid, which would probably now not be an option. I am still wrestling with it to make look like it works for the purposes of the testing said trade in folks will undertake.

Sigh.

Yesterday, I attempted to change the fuse in Rebecca’s GHD straightener things as they had stopped working. Of course, that did not do the trick and they lie dead under her bed. I don’t care one bit that she has used them every day for the past five years. The fact that they broke this week is evidence of the revenge being exacted upon me. It’s a good job GHDs are so cheap to replace isn’t it?

Today, the hoover, or more accurately, Dyson packed in. Again, we’ve had this for years and years, but why today, why this week? I had a new one all selected, with my finger poised over the Buy button on a suitable web site, but something within me told me to fight back, and not take this cosmic rogering lying down. I pulled at stuff, I disconnected stuff, I huffed and puffed and wrestled with pipes and brushes. With a good sweat on, I arose victorious, arms aloft. The bloody thing was working again. I had fixed it. In that contest of Man V Machine, Man was victorious.

Emily asked me why I was walking around the dining room with my arms aloft. She wouldn’t have understood. It is these small, insignificant acts that (just) keep me sane. It is this act of saving a few quid on a new hoover that stops me from going all Michael Douglas in Falling Down through the village.

I don’t know which one is Chumba….

In the historic words of Chumbawumba, I get knocked down, but I get up again. Usually after a quick cry, and a few hours of sulking and swearing, but still, I do. I am hopeful that having been the play thing of the Gods of the shitty end of the stick, the week to come will include a lottery win, a 32″ waist and a Florida beach. I’ll let you know!

Till the next time…..

Where It All Began…..

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Rather than subject you to another few hundred words of banality surrounding my dislike for going to work, and joyous news of more stuff breaking and going wrong, I thought I’d go back, way back in time to where this very unhealthy obsession with Florida started.

I’ve told the story many times about being talked into a Miami holiday rather than Majorca by a high street travel agent, and he does have a lot to answer for. Whilst at my Mum and Dad’s earlier today I had a look at some old photo albums from that trip, and whilst this is no attempt at a trip report, as I can barely remember last week never mind 1980, here are some of the highlights.

We flew (I think) with Air Florida, which of course is now long gone. The US air crew were our first real exposure to real life Americans, and they blew our minds with their service and film star looks. For a boy of nine they probably started my puberty!

(By the way, these photos, are actually photos of photos so please excuse the quality)

Hot Damn!

During the flight those old enough to, partook in the Miami Whammy.

Whhhaammmmyyy!

Those not old enough simply practiced their Jimmy Osmond impression. My collars actually cut our flight time by about an hour.

This photo is at the end of the flight and includes some tired travelers and a tank top.

My own Florida fringe

We actually stayed in Miami for almost all of our holiday, but crucially we drove up to Orlando for two nights to visit what was at that time the only theme park on Disney property. Epcot was being built at the time. Whilst much of the trip is now long forgotten, something obviously stuck with me, and rooted itself deep within my subconscious. Much of what we saw and did is still there today, but it is also lovely to look back and see how things have evolved since.

Driver, we are clear.

Some things are no longer available. This was taken inside the castle, which I think is still inaccessible.

The Williams brothers.

You don’t see this guy wandering about so much either.

Not in Nottingham.

If you are below a certain age then this next photo won’t make any sense whatsoever. I can still remember going on this one….

Under the sea

For some reason we seem to have bumped into Earth, Wind and Fire in the Magic Kingdom.

More wind than earth or fire.

Back in these days, my Dad was the party leader rather than myself. You can tell that as he has the balloon of authority.

Is that you Clark Griswald?

Another ride that is no more is of course the Skyway thing that you could go on over the park. It closed many years ago amidst rumour and urban legend all around folks losing life and limb trying to get it to stop.

I did not spit on anyone!

We did of course meet some characters, and in those days you could do so just wandering around. There was none of this waiting in line for three hours, or Fastpasses. Donald might just walk right by and be grabbed for a picture like this.

I have a big neb.

Hot Dog

Of course, like all future Williams trips, ultimately everything began and ended with food. We started as we meant to go on.

I’m not happy at having to stop eating to have a photo.

Having spent a few hours looking at these photos, I have to say it hasn’t eased any of the pain of not being able to go this year. However, that is no reason not to look back on lovely memories whether they are from 1980 or just last summer. That is after all much of the reason that we all go is it not?

The place was very different back in 1980 as indeed were we. More parks and resorts have sprung up, expanding the World beyond recognition, but one thing is constant and that is the way the place gets into your bloodstream, infects you with the desire to return and makes you all misty eyed at the sight of a firework set to a Disney tune. I hope the break from the norm has been welcome, and that the old Disney stuff was of interest.

Rest assured next week I’ll be right back on the moaning bandwagon heading for nervous breakdown bay.

Till the next time…..

 

 

My Big End Has Gone!

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Right, I can’t stay long, we are two-thirds of the way through Series 4 of Game of Thrones. I know you’ll understand!

I have made a mental note to draft a very stiff letter of complaint to the producers and indeed George Martin about the lack of dwarf sex thus far in this series. What the producer of the Beatles can do about it I don’t know, but it is worth a try. Game of Thrones without dwarf sex is like a summer without a trip to Florida. Unheard of, unfair and something I should not be subjected to. I need both dawrf sex and Florida holidays in my life. Now there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d be typing.

The main news I wish to share this week is good, I hope. For all those of you that have been saving up to buy my book, and had only managed to save up 50% of the required fee….well, for the next few days, you now have enough to enjoy probably the finest piece of literature ever written, by someone called Craig Williams from Bolton.

Yes, All This And More is just 99p!

Book Cover

Buy 400,000 copies please.

Having the book on promo does seem to have worked, with the rate of sales rising quite dramatically over the last few days. Hopefully, those taking the plunge will like it and tell the world about it in the form of a glowing review. (That’s a hint).

The most exciting part of the week just gone was the realisation that the MOT on Louise’s car had expired, let’s just say, a little while ago. It was a genuine oversight (officer), and resulted in a panic ridden call to our newly regular mechanic. He’s a mobile one. This doesn’t mean he turns up with two turntables, a string of neon lights and some Boney M records. No, instead he comes to us for servicing and stuff, and so far has seemed extremely trustworthy in terms of not inventing issues to relieve us of our meagre wealth.

One of the great fears of a non petrol headed office worker nancy boy like myself is the trip to the garage where they sneer at my soft hands and work suit and proceed to shake their head whilst telling me my big end has gone. It would be nice if they would have the decency to actually be looking at the car when they say that, but nevertheless I get my wallet out anyway.

So despite the overdue nature of the MOT a pass was received, and with mine done just a few weeks ago that makes two out of two. So there we have used up all of our good fortune until around 2019. It is nice to be legal once again, which was a phrase Jimmy Saville and his mates may have done well to heed.

The weekend has fallen through my hands like sand again, with the  main event last night being the attendance of a “charidee” fundraising event. It was perhaps not quite as grand as that phrase may infer. It was a pie and peas with beer evening at my brother and sister in-laws. They had laid on said delights in return for donations towards Paula’s (my sister-in-law) upcoming bike ride. She is hoping to raise money for stammering children by cycling from London to Paris over four days next April. This is quite clearly madness and the damage to one’s rear end on such a journey will no doubt eclipse whatever the mechanics would say had happened to my big one.

Anyway, the pie, peas and beer were all very nice and a good amount of cash was raised, as well as my team being not just victorious, but imperious in the France and England based quiz. I have the trophy and medal to prove it.

Should you wish to find out more about Paula’s endeavors here is the info you need.

Right, episode seven beckons.

Till the next time…..

 

Who’s The Daddy?

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We really enjoyed the film last Sunday. I thought I’d start with that as I often say we’re going to see a film and then never report back on what we thought of it. There are few films I watch that make me laugh out loud, but A Million Ways to Die in the West did. If you like a bit of silly, rude, sweary humour you should go and see it.

So it’s Sunday evening again already. It’s drizzling, I have work tomorrow, no holiday plans and England lost last night. It is a good thing I am such a naturally cheery soul or else these sorts of things could be getting me down. Having stayed up until after 1am to watch the football last night, as grateful as I was to be woken with breakfast in bed with a Father’s Day card and present, an hour or so later wouldn’t have gone amiss. Gone are the days when Louise or I have to buy the relevant card and present for the Mother or Father’s Day occasions. Emily seems to have become a black belt on Moonpig, and to know the girls actually gave the thought and time to make sure they had something to give me makes it more special.

fathers day card

So, I shouldn’t grumble about the early hour. It’s the first time Emily has been awake before me since 2008. Rebecca immediately retreated to bed as she had been up until who knows what time on a Netflix marathon watching Orange is the New Black, which I think is about young girls with a false tan addiction.

Louise and I haven’t yet had time to watch this one. Louise is deep into a Tudors marathon, as she loves all that bodice ripping stuff. I’ve seen the odd few minutes of it and it appears to comprise around 90% sex scenes and 10% dialogue. That may be reason enough for me to break my “no period drama” resolution.

Louise finished her latest placement this week, which she was pleased about. They are a definite mixed bag these placements, with some being a delight and some being, well, not so delightful. It’s all one more hurdle cleared towards qualification. Once we get past Christmas I think she starts applying for jobs which is no doubt frightening for Louise yet heartening for the bank manager.

In other news I am writing again. I have made a start on the next book. It is very, very early days and I am under 10,000 words, but still it’s a start. Why? I honestly don’t know why. I just feel like I should, or need to. It’ll give some folks something to write bad reviews about anyway. I have a title and everything. Well, I say everything, I don’t have a fully formed plot, chapter plan or an ending, but apart from that, yes, everything. It is a sort of sequel to the first one, but should work as a standalone book too. However, what you all clearly need to do now is read the first one so that you are fully up to speed to read the new one as soon as I complete it, which will be any time this decade.

Having done the really scary bit (that being to write the first few words on the blank page) I am getting back into it slowly, and with a million miles to go, I am starting to get the odd waft of enjoyment as the brain starts whirring away to solve plot points and things start to fall into place. It would be nice to do it for a living, from my beach front house on a Florida coast, but then again it would nice to do anything from my beach front house on a Florida coast.

So with another working week stretching ahead of me like a Krypton Factor assault course of tedium and monotony I shall retire to my Sunday night during which I think we’ll be watching my Father’s Day gift, Anchorman 2 on DVD or maybe the football, it is Father’s Day after all. I should of course be grateful that I have a week of work ahead of me. I could be one of the unfortunates that are out of work, you know, like the bloke who used to be in the Go Compare ads. I expect his prospects for alternative employment are quite limited.

Till the next time…..

Give Me Strength

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In any other year since 2003, today would have seen me aboasting and abragging about my shiny new countdown to a wonderful holiday in Florida.

Each year, without fail, comes a day like this, when Louise finally breaks, and declares that we simply must return to the promised land, and no matter how much I argue, I am forced to do the deed. My yearning for returning is pretty constant, at a solid 10 out of 10, sometimes peaking at around a 26 on a bad day.

It takes Louise a little longer to get to this position, but today, she did, and it has resulted in me explaining in great detail all of the reasons why we cannot. Most of those involved a bank statement and the stains of my tears upon it, but I think I have made my point, and the credit card remains undamaged in my wallet. Don’t get me wrong, this did not prevent me from darkening Kayak’s door to “just have a look” at what deals might be available, should we be looking to book. If I showed half as much self-restraint with food, I’d be about six stone lighter.

Louise’s pleadings included offers of selling vital organs, but I did point out that nobody would really want her liver anyway.

I know it seems odd that I have resisted so fiercely, but, I am playing the long game. With Emily (we hope) lined up to be working over there for a year at some point, we know that we’ll want to be over there visiting her during that time, and with one less body to transport over the Atlantic, some lovely cast member discounts on hotels and tickets, that trip seems a lot more attainable and realistic. It is certainly more realistic than doing one this summer and then having to fund that one too!!

So, still, we are not going this year. I pray for the strength to keep it that way, as one more bout of pleading from Louise and I’ll be whipping it out and doing the business. I might book a holiday too.

So real life, and its constant demands on our bank balance continue to deny us the pleasure of the Florida sun, and at any one time, we have a list of stuff that needs attention and money that we’d rather be spending on some biblical amount of food in some Orlando eatery.

As I always say though, never say never. I continue to play the lottery, despite the fact that the last time I won a tenner was in the late nineties, or if I sell about 400,000 copies of any of my books, then that will do the trick too.

I have been formulating an idea for another book, and have actually written several words to start it, but then it has stalled. This is a symptom of some busy times at work, and I guess, also a lack of motivation. Just as I think I am ready to crack on and reinvent modern literature, some insightful soul leaves a shitty review for the last one, and I think, well, what’s the point? Of course, in this scenario, I totally ignore the 95%+ of reviews which are glowing, and focus on the tiny percentage that aren’t. If you wonder why, then clearly you don’t know me at all even after all this time.

What I am trying to do is remind myself that the fact that I have actually accomplished a life long ambition and got a book out there, which is complete, and in my view not too bad, is something to be proud of. I often forget how awesome that is, (the achievement, not necessarily the book).

Book Cover

Buy 400,000 copies please.

This evening, with Emily at work (check out her latest blog post about the interview at Disney HQ) and Rebecca of course out with her boyfriend, Louise and I are going to the cinema to watch A Million Ways To Die In The West.

Hopefully it will bring many laughs and some ridiculous amounts of sugar. I shall let you know.

Till the next time…..

 

 

A Tale of Two Gigs, One Direction and No Hope of an Early Night

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Tonight I am on the taxi duty from Hell. I have to drop off and then pick up Emily and Rebecca, as they attend the One Direction gig at the Etihad. I have been investigating ways in which I could parachute them in, and then undertake some SAS style extraction once it is all over, as the traffic will be like Mordor on a Monday morning.

How do I know it will be awful? Well, the last time the girls watched them was at the infinitely smaller Phones 4 U Arena, and the entire area was at a standstill for what felt like months. Secondly, on Friday night I got caught in the post 1D traffic after their first gig at the venue. At 11.00pm, it took over an hour and a half to get out of Manchester and home. I was not, you will not be surprised to hear, working late at the office until that time. No, instead, my brother and I attended a gig of slightly smaller proportions in the city centre.

When I saw slightly smaller I do of course mean the diametric opposite, as we were watching The Francis Dunnery Band at the Manchester Uni student union. Francis who? Well, he was big in the 80’s….a bit, with his band It Bites. The only hit anyone really knows by them is this one.

After that and a few minor follow-up hits they proceeded to have a decent career with albums and were worshipped by musos for their musical ability.

So fast forward a few decades and he is back in the UK from his American base, with a band, doing a small tour of even smaller venues. Not that there was a great deal of competition, but we were on the front row, and regardless of his now advancing years, and the size of the venue, it was still exciting to be so close to someone who was, and still is, a musical hero. Don’t let the fact that you haven’t heard of him persuade you that he isn’t one of the best guitarists in the world. The solo in this song should be proof enough of that.

By the way, that video was taken by my lovely new phone, which was the subject of a post a few weeks ago. It is a thing of beauty and a modern marvel of technical loveliness.

He played a mix of old and new stuff, and we had a great night. It is amazing how songs first heard in the mid eighties can be dredged up from your memory banks to prove you still know all the words. They can also transport you back immediately to that period of time, when I was mostly sat listening to those songs and wondering if I would ever be able to play like that. The answer was of course no I wouldn’t, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

So after that gig we set off for home, only to quickly stumble upon gridlock in every conceivable direction, caused by One Direction. I didn’t get home until Saturday morning, which is frankly unheard of at my age.

So tonight, think of me as I loiter in Manchester side streets, hoping for a painless route out of Manchester once the girls find me. We have to set off very shortly so I shall leave you in peace. For those who didn’t see it yesterday, Emily has posted her next blog which is all about the first part of her application process for Disney. Have a read if you are interested.

I am off to Hades!

Till the next time…..

The Next Florida Adventure.

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I know we are at that time of year when a blog with this title would be announcing that we have abandoned all fiscal common sense and booked another trip to Florida. As I have said many times with great regret, not this year. This is news of a different kind.

For months now, this household has been living under a cloud of anxiousness, stress and worry. Finally, yesterday, that cloud was lifted, and we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief.

What am I talking about? Well, since early February, Emily has been going through the long, arduous and patience testing process of applying to work in Walt Disney World in Florida on the Cultural Representative Programme. For anyone that doesn’t know, this is the programme done by those folk you see working in the UK pavilion in World Showcase in Epcot.

Like these folks….

CRP people

It is a process with many stages, lots of travelling, and more than anything lots and lots of waiting. Finally, last night, the email was received to say that she had been accepted onto the programme, and she is now on what they call the “Wait List” to be allocated a role and a date to go out there. There are a small number of those on wait list each year that for one reason or another don’t get to go, but barring any such disaster, she should be on her way before too long.

To say we are thrilled and proud does not cover it. This is a very competitive process, and for someone like Emily who is not naturally outgoing or gregarious it was a real test. I have never seen her so determined, driven and focussed, and add to that the fact that she was the youngest candidate of the bunch by some distance, she has done incredibly well. She was up against folks in their early to mid twenties with years of work and life experience. In short, she nailed it.

You may remember an earlier blog of mine in which I talked of killing time in London? Well, that was her first interview, with Yummy Jobs, the agency who front the whole thing for Disney. A few weeks after that we were in London again for the second stage, the face to face with actual Disney cast members.

london

The Streets of London….killing time.

I won’t detail all of the ins and outs of the actual process as I’m sure Emily will be doing that in her own blog in her next few posts, which I’ll give you a link to at the end of this. The amount of preparation she did was incredible, and here I have to thank many very kind folks for helping her through it all from the initial application form to the final stage interview.

Emi Watson and Becky Ellinson, both former CRP cast members, were incredibly helpful in prepping answers, and Leanna Parsons, a soon to be College Programme cast member was a big help around the first interview stage as she had just been through it herself. Janine Pipe has been Emily’s cheerleader, moral support and life coach throughout what has been almost nine weeks of waiting since that second interview. They all go to prove that there are some really nice folk out there.

Yes, that’s right, we have been in limbo for over two months!! I cannot begin to describe how stressful a time that has been, and I have found it hard to concentrate on much else, so God knows how Emily has been feeling.

So, we may not be going on our usual holiday this year, but at least one member of the Williams clan will be representing us over there at some point in the coming months. The programme lasts for a year so it is a big step for Emily. I’m sure it will be a fantastic adventure, and a life changing experience.

More than anything, we are just so proud of what she has already achieved. Those long journeys to London, the hours of me walking the streets of the capital whilst she interviewed, the slightly dodgy hotel we stayed in just around the corner from the Disney HQ and all the weeks and weeks of waiting have been worth it.

I strongly recommend that you follow Emily on Twitter and at her blog to hear all about her excitement, preparation and first, some more waiting to get a date. It hasn’t quite sunk in that she’ll (hopefully, if you know what I mean) be away from home for a year, but I can’t think of a better place for her to be.

Well done Emily!

Till the next time….

 

Kevin Bacon? My Arse!

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As a fitting balance to last week’s celebrity and entertainment special, this week I shall be sending mundane stuff your way.

I have no photos or videos of handsome young chaps with large instruments, instead, a tale of modern life that just makes me full of woe and worry for the way of the world.

If at all possible, I will undertake any day-to-day task online. This is a symptom of my dislike of most human beings I come into contact with on a daily basis, and the fact that I do online stuff for a living. Both of these factors make me feel more comfortable self-serving in this manner.

So after many, many years with the same mobile phone network, it had come time again to upgrade the handset. I have been on various iPhones now for a long time, and to be honest fancied a change. The 5S doesn’t look like enough of an upgrade from the 4S, and I had been hearing a lot of “buzz” about a new HTC handset. The fact that I describe news of a new handset as “buzz” probably tells you all you need to know about the excitement levels in my life.

So in the past couple of weeks I have been logging on to my mobile phone account to check the upgrade date and to take a cursory look at the deals that may be available to me. When the day finally came when I could do the deed on Friday, I logged on, absolutely in my own time and in no way during working hours, only to find their “Manage your Account” bit of their website was broken.

It wasn’t down, just throwing up lots of nasty error messages. Now as I mentioned, I do this online stuff for a living and totally understand that from time to time shit happens and a web site can have such issues. Typically, if it happens on my watch I am battering technical folks with a large blunt instrument until they resolve said issues, hopefully within a few minutes of it happening. So, being all understanding and empathetic, I left it an hour and tried again. Nope, still broken. I sent them some feedback via their feedback form, even pointing out the technical name for the error I was seeing. I am a dream customer indeed.

So after all of Friday had passed without any sign of resolution, I got the hump, and started to look around the other network operators for a similar deal. Having mentally noted what my network were offering a few days ago, imagine my dismay to see that I was struggling to find a deal equally as bad as the one I was being offered as a long-standing and loyal customer by my own network. Once I’d added in some Quidco cash back it was making a load of sense to jump ship, and had completed everything on another (working) web site, and I was just one click away from doing the deed.

I even checked my own network’s new customer prices, and they were far better for an identical deal that I had seen online a few days ago. I had the right hump. Whilst doing that, one of those fandangled chat things popped up and asked if I needed help. Well, that’s more like it I thought. Two minutes in and my hump had quadrupled in its size. After explaining all my woes and their online failings I was promptly told that this chat service was only for new customers and I, as a scummy existing one would have to email someone instead. My irateness knew no bounds.

At that point I called my own network to get my PAC code so that I could transfer my number and cancel my contract. They asked me why, and so I told them. I was immediately transferred to their retention department. So after a few minutes “chat” a deal that had started off with a huge upfront cost for the handset, and a monthly fee about 20% more than any other new customer deal I could see, I ended up with -

  • A free handset (quoted at £159)
  • A monthly fee less than I could find anywhere else, as I fibbed a little about the deal I was leaving for. It is £5 less than I have paid for the past two years!
  • Four times the amount of data allowance I currently have and 4G.

So, after toying with them for seconds, I agreed, and my new phone arrives tomorrow. So thank you EE for having a broken web site (by the way it is still down), truly shockingly bad deals for customers who have been loyal to you for years, and having the under hand tactic of getting you to the brink of leaving before dropping your drawers and offering deals you should be doing in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, having four mobiles in the house on different networks, I know that none of them are exemplary. Vodafone for example refuse to limit the data use on Rebecca’s account as she keeps going over it. Aside from sending her a text when she is close to her limit, typically three days into a new month, they will not simply stop data being used when she goes over her allowance. This is profiteering of the highest order.

All in all, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth, and a lesser view of a company I have been a customer of for years. On the bright side, I have a shiny new toy arriving tomorrow, for less than I’m paying now, with a much better contract. Tomorrow evening will be awash with me fiddling and a faffing with my toy, transferring contacts, installing apps and the like. The fact that I am moving from iOS to Android will surely only add to the fun. The old phone is off to be traded in for a tidy sum too. I shall endeavour not to do as I did with Rebecca’s last trade in, when I left her sim card in it! Maybe that is why she keeps using so much data. There is some guy in the trade in factory browsing YouTube on her contract allowance!

Anyway, for those sad of mind this is the beautiful new thing that shall arrive tomorrow.

Come to Daddy

It is the HTC One M8, and is according to the reviews I have read, THE best smartphone in the world ever, amen! I shall let you know of course.

I’m off to throw darts at my photo of Kevin Bacon and burn my copy of Footloose. Well, maybe not the latter, let’s not be too hasty.

Been working so hard, I’m punchin’ my card….

Till the next time…..

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