A Busy Blog About Being Busy

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It has been a busy week. It has been a busy weekend too, and so I won’t have much time to be waxing lyrical (or whining and moaning) here much today.

Work is stupidly busy at the moment. The upside of that is that the days and weeks do tend to shoot by. Home life too is hectic, with Louise’s final weeks of her placement and studies before she qualifies, Emily preparing for her departure and Rebecca popping in every now and again for food, money or bail money. Yesterday she was involved in a minor car accident. She wasn’t driving and thankfully everyone is absolutely fine but it’s just another minor drama that we seem to take in our strides these days.

I may have mentioned last week that I was slightly upset with my car. It had more ailments than a hospital ward and so I resolved to get rid, rather than spend the fortunes to fix it. Courtesy of one of these “We Pay You Much Less Than You Car Is Worth.com” services I did exactly that on Saturday morning. As pleasing as that was to get that done and out of the way so quickly I now have no car. This is a mild inconvenience to say the least.

Hopefully that shall be resolved tomorrow, on a short term basis at least.

The rest of this weekend has been spent playing my bass. Of course you all know that I am a guitar God, and that I have been playing regularly for the past twenty years. I play once a year, regularly. Since my last gig sometime around 1995 my playing has been limited to showing Rebecca a few bits and bobs, so it is safe to say that I am very rusty.

The reason for the playing of the bass is that the band my brother has been in for some years is in need of a bass player and I am to give it a go. Having learned about 25 songs on Saturday my head hurts, but not as much as my fingers, arms and hands. We shall see if my brain and meagre talent will be enough to be able to do a decent job of it. If not I shall bow out gracefully, but fingers crossed I’ll be OK. Well, I would cross my fingers but the huge blisters on the end of them are getting in the way. Luckily, even though I haven’t kept up the playing, my rock star six pack has remained so I have something to bring to the party.

So with my head spinning from such a hectic week and weekend I hurtle into a new week for more of the same. Conscious that I am short-changing you word count wise this week, I shall point you at a blog from Emily. It’s been a while, but she brings news of final preparations and paperwork from Disney.

We’ve just filled out her Visa application (another £130 plus trains and a hotel in London again) and booked her appointment at the US Embassy for early March. Have I mentioned what a long arduous and expensive slog this thing is? This is her last administrative hurdle before the plane.

As it’s taken me three hours to type this using the few fingers that do not have blisters on them, I shall call it quits and try to get some R&R in before the madness starts again.

Now then, how does Jump by Van Halen go again???

Till the next time…….

Exciting Emails and Catalytic Converters

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At last there are small signs of the world emerging from the dark, cold and lifeless days of winter. There was actual sunshine today as I walked Oli, and I had seriously overlayered for the temperature I encountered.

As a metaphor for the hope of spring being imminent, something exciting arrived this week. An email. It wasn’t an email to me. I get thousands every week and very few, maybe even none at all contain anything I could get excited about. No, this one came to Emily and looked like this….

prepare email

Some twelve months (and a bit) after filling out her online application, we are now in the final countdown to her departure. If you have stumbled across this blog looking for information on the CRP, this might give you some idea of the effort, commitment, cost and most of all persistence and patience required to go the distance. This is not something to do on a whim. If you do, you shall fall by the wayside along the way, distracted by something else. This programme is for those who want to do it above anything else and are determined to wait it out, take every hurdle and of course fund every stage.

Now, there is much paperwork to complete, insurance to arrange, CRBs to send off and excitement to savour. Why Emily is still filling paperwork in I don’t know. There isn’t a personal detail she hasn’t supplied at least a dozen times, but still they ask for it again and again, on a slightly different form. The next major step will be to journey to London to undertake her Visa appointment and once that is done she’ll be packing for her departure on the 7th of April.

We’ve been watching lots of videos like this one….

I’ve tasked Emily with getting chosen to do the next one of those.

And lots and lots of these…

and literally hundreds of these vlogs…. (this one chosen at random)

with crucial decisions to make about which complex she puts as her preference. Being under 21 she will be housed with others of the same age as they will be in an alcohol free complex. Courtesy of the Facebook group she is in, Emily knows that at least 40 people, from all the different countries in the Showcase, will be arriving on her date, so maybe she’ll be in an apartment with some of those.

So it’s all getting very close now and of course excitement is mixed with the thought of waving her off for a year.

Away from that excitement my week has been a heady mix of car repairs (I have a cracked catalytic converter, which sounds less expensive than it turns out to be!) and Louise and I making our way to the end of our Sons of Anarchy marathon. We’re deep into series 5 now with one eye on Better Call Saul as our next Netflix experience. These catalytic converters are similar to nuclear grade plutonium judging by how long it takes for them to be ordered and delivered. I have been driving around in a 107 that sounds like one of those cars from the stunt show in Hollywood Studios for a week now. Hopefully, tomorrow the thing will arrive and I can gladly hand over a large chunk of money to have it fitted.

My 107’s days are numbered now. It has betrayed me and my wallet once too often, and it is only a matter of time until I get a real car instead.

It’s been handy having Emily’s boyfriend on hand (he works at a garage) to give honest advice and costs for such repairs though. I think, if you had a list of occupations for future husbands for your daughters it might go something like this –

1. Generous billionaire with a healthy respect for the in-laws and several properties in Florida.

2. CEO of Disney.

3. No-one at all….face it, nobody is good enough.

4. Plumber.

5. Car mechanic.

All of that assumes they absolutely insist on getting married to anyone of course. Time to go, my eBAY auction for my kidney finishes soon and I hope to get enough to fund the car repairs.

Till the next time…..

The Smelling of Roses

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Welcome to the third in a series of posts all about avoiding blogging about real life, and instead clinging to WDW like some half inflated lilo three miles off the coast of France.

Rebecca’s friend, Sarah, who will joining us on our next adventure came round last night. The first words out of her mouth to me were “How many days till we go?” I may adopt her. The answer was 200, and her excitement levels are impressive for someone who has not been before. I say that, as by default, first timers cannot usually get excited enough as they do not know what they are about to experience.

She really is very, very excited. It’s lovely to see.

It struck me recently that it has been a very long time indeed since we have been with anyone going for the first time. Members of our party are all veterans by now, and so things happen like clockwork. For example, I say we have to be out of the villa by 8.30, and like clockwork we leave just before ten. When we arrive at Animal Kingdom, we all use our tickets to get in, and then they are handed back to me in a silent ceremony before we all set off at top speed to secure Everest FastPasses (old school paper ones!).

It just works. So this time we really must recognise the huge responsibility we have to make sure that we make time and allowances for Sarah, and do not rush past the proverbial roses just because we’ve seen those roses a dozen times before. There is something truly magical about watching someone see this stuff for the first time, and I’m sure we’ll love seeing that wonder in her eyes.

So, as I seem to like lists at the moment here are some things I thought of that we must not breeze past and stop Sarah from appreciating them.

6. The Fireworks.  Whether it is Wishes, ROE or Fantasmic, these spectaculars are still impressive after all these years. Someone seeing these for the first time must be given the time and space to appreciate them in all their glory. These are quintessential Disney, and right at the heart of the Disney experience.

5. Main Street, Magic Kingdom.  Now, I’m not suggesting anything stupid like wandering through shops as we first arrive, as there are rides to be done. However, this walk up Main Street is special even for us, despite our numerous visits, so we must give her the time to soak this in. Later in the trip when time is not as important as our first morning, explaining the names on the windows, wandering the shops, getting a Starbucks and literally smelling the roses is something we must do.

4. Characters. I’ll be honest, it’s been a good few years since we have invested any time in waiting to meet characters. Should an opportunity present itself we take it, but they are rare. I think it is only fair that we set some time aside to introduce Sarah to the whole character experience. I doubt we’ll do two hours (and the rest) for the Frozen girls, but if she doesn’t go home with a good few character photos we won’t have done our job right.

It's been a while

It’s been a while

3. Resorts.  We are big fans and advocates of spending some time in the Disney resorts and I would assume this isn’t something most first timers would do. Wandering the Yacht & Beach and the whole Boardwalk area, especially of an evening is another side to Disney away from the hurly burly of rides and attractions that we should share.

2. Food.  No list on my blog would be complete without it. Sarah can eat, and isn’t one of those young ladies who picks at a salad like a budgie, so she will be in her element in Florida. We have lots of lovely places lined up, with a few new ones even for us. Little things that US folks take for granted, like free refills, outstanding service, great quality and quantity and every meal being an event should make this first experience of US eating a good one.

1. Parades.  Again, having been a lot we don’t tend to invest much time in parades these days. If we happen to be in the right place at the right time we take advantage, but we often do the rides whilst it is quieter and avoid the crowds staking out a section of kerb. For a first timer though these are an essential part of your early WDW experiences. I don’t care if you are eight or eighty, if we didn’t show her these ultimate Disney spectacles at each park we would be letting her down.

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I’m sure there are hundreds more that won’t come to me until we are there, but if you have any experiences a first timer shouldn’t miss let me know.  With Sarah and Rebecca unable to drink in the US they can embrace their childhoods once again and I hope Sarah throws herself into the whole experience head first. With those two together, I’m not sure WDW will know what has hit them!

Till the next time…..

The Winners in the World

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Thanks to everyone who has already read my latest article for The Dis. My Country Needs Me is all about the UK pavilion in Epcot, so if you haven’t yet please do have a look. Having only recently done so myself, I would also recommend liking their Facebook page as all the latest news is there for you plus of course some very talented contributors!

I never truly understood the scale of the Dis to be honest, but if these figures are true, and I don’t see how they can be, surely I am pretty much famous now? I think they represent the whole section rather than just my little post!

dis shares

Having waved January off with two fingers, February is upon us, and we chalk off one more month on our countdowns. I use the plural as the three I have in mind are, (in chronological order) Louise starting work, Emily going to WDW for her year and then of course our trip starting in August. Wedged in the midst of all of those is Rebecca’s 18th birthday. Rebecca’s countdown to that started just after she turned five I think. She’s excited. Not that we have a great deal planned for it. Her trip to WDW is most of her present, as it was for Emily, although with May and August being so far apart it is not ideal and I’m sure we’ll do what we can to make the actual day as special as possible.

Anyway, following on from last week’s post, where I listed stuff I have never done in WDW, it would appear that these list things are quite popular blog wise as I had a good few comments, and most of you buggers read and run every single week!

So, on the theme of my Dis post above, where I whinge about the UK pavilion being a bit short on stuff to entice us in, it got me thinking about my favourite pavilions in the World Showcase, so here (imagine Fluff Freeman music at this point) are my top five….

5. Norway. This one gets points for effort as it has a ride, and probably the most intense one in the whole showcase, which I know isn’t saying much. It has a bakery which always scores well with me and the pavilion tends to be staffed by young female blondes who have no choice but to be nice to me. What’s not to like?

4. Mexico.  This pavilion scores very highly for theming. The night-time all the time interior is excellently done and no holiday is complete without shaking my maracas in public and the trying on of a big hat. The restaurant is also one our favourites in the World Showcase with the candlelit tables and moonlit backdrop doing a great job of replicating al fresco dining. Mexico would have been more of a contender for top spot had they not changed the fabulously kitsch 70’s film on the boat ride for the Donald Duck thing that is there now.

3. China. The food here of course has an influence as I love a Chinese, although the restaurant here isn’t the best example in the world. The counter service option is superb though and we’ve over ordered and over eaten there several times. I mark this one highly for the entertainment value. The frequent shows from the acrobats both amaze and shame me, as I wonder how two bodies, built basically the same way can be so different. These acrobats can perform feats that I would get inured just watching. As much as I do not like too much shopping, the shop here is always worth a good look around as it always has interesting items to browse and not buy.

2. America. Size isn’t everything but the scale of the place is impressive. However, my appreciation for this pavilion is based upon the unbelievably good Voices of Liberty. The soprano regularly communicates with dolphins with her high notes and when they start singing the patriotic American songs I want to invade a small country under the star spangled banner.

1. Canada. The song alone wins it for me. As you know I am likely to be in tears at the opening bars. If I were actually Canadian I don’t think I could cope with listening to it all the way through such is the effect it has on me. Add to that of course the excellently humorous film with Martin Short and one of the better eateries on property, and you have a clear winner.

My affection for the World Showcase is of course evident from all the birthdays I have spent there, and no doubt my top five will change based upon our next set of experiences in the summer, but those are my current favourites.

You may have noticed that I am trying to block out the reality of these cold winter times with thoughts and blogs about sunnier places and happy travels. Next week, as I did this, I have less happy travels down the wintry motorways to Head Office. As I scrape the ice from the windscreen at 5am on Tuesday, I shall be humming O Canada and closing my eyes hopeful that when I open them I will be stood in shorts and T Shirt in the ultimate happy place. I’m sure that will work!

Till the next time……

I’ve Never Done That!

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January seems intent on sticking around forever. The last time I got paid Dave Lee Travis was hosting Top of the Pops. It seems that time has slowed down, and these cold, dark days and nights are clinging on for dear life.

I’m probably not the only one pining for a payday, but the slow march of January (pun intended) just illustrates how far away August is, and late August at that when we board that plane for Orlando.

I’ve been around long enough to know that as you get older, as m’colleague Steve will often tell me, you seem to eat breakfast every ten minutes. This isn’t literal of course, but meant to illustrate how time slips away as we get older. When I had six weeks holiday in the summer as a child they lasted for about four and half years each. Now, I look back on photos from ten years ago and if pushed would guess it was three, four years maximum since it was taken. So, if that is true then these next 213 days should pass by next Sunday. The trouble with that of course is that the holiday itself lasts about seven minutes. Which by the way is a totally respectable amount of time to last.

So having finished the vast majority of my booking and planning about five minutes after we decided to go, I have been looking for ways in which I can bring a little WDW joy into this bleak mid-winter. So, here we go with my list of things I have never done in Florida despite having been more times than I could admit to without seeming sad and narrow-minded.

1. A Dole Whip – Nope, never had one. Every year I vow to and then somehow don’t.

2. Cirque Du Soleil – Everyone raves about it and having loved Blue Man Group, despite fearing I wouldn’t, now I suppose it is only my inherent tightness that prevents me laying out for the tickets.

3. Swiss Family Treehouse – technically, I have done this, but it was so long ago it almost doesn’t count. It was on my first ever visit (I think) and having never done it with Louise and the girls, we still walk past it year after year.

4. Main Street Vehicles – whether that is the horse-drawn thingy or the trolley bus thing, we’ve done none of them. Our walk up Main Street on our first day is too full of slack-jawed wonder that we’ve made it back again to do anything but wander towards the castle fighting back tears.

5. The Rose and Crown – I’m sure we’ll remedy this on our next trip with Emily situated there but in all our trips we have never eaten, or for that matter had a drink in the Rose and Crown. I suppose we feel we should explore all the countries we don’t actually live in first.

6. Atlantic Dance Hall – I know this will shock you, as you’d be right in thinking I am a snake hipped devil who shouldn’t deprive any dance floor of my presence. We’ve done Jellyrolls next door a good few times but never made it into the boogie barn next door. The fact that I called it the boogie barn is probably why.

7. House of Blues – I don’t count sitting outside drinking a diet coke, which we have done a few times. We have never eaten there let alone attended a gig of one of the popular beat combos that appear there regularly.

8. The Hoop De Doo Review – Again, I know not why we haven’t done this one yet. There are some inherent flaws with a dinner show, in that the show can get in the way of me eating stuff, but still, we should.

9. Main Street Barber’s Shop – That’s right, laugh it up. Yes, I know I wouldn’t keep any barber busy for very long but I keep meaning to do the whole hot towel shave thing and get both hairs cut, as long as I get pixie dust and little Mickey heads in my hair too.

10. Any of the numerous running events – Let me state, just to be clear, that I have no intention ever of running any distance longer than the fast paced walk from entrance at rope drop to the preferred first ride of the day. Run? In Florida?  HAHAHAHAHAHAH.

This goes some way to answer the question regular visitors to WDW are asked. Namely, aren’t you bored of doing the same things every year. Well, firstly, are you out of your mind? Secondly, no, as there is always something new to do and experience. That list of ten came to me easily, so if I really tried I’ll bet there’s a lot more besides, certainly if I extended that thinking to other attractions and parks in the area.

So, what about you? What’s on your list of stuff that for some reason you’ve never got around to doing?

Till the next time…..

 

 

 

Breaking (Bad) Appliances

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Let me get the book plug (not butt plug) out of the way first, as I am forever conscious that this sort of promo isn’t something many enjoy. I often feel uncomfortable pushing my wares here, but then I remind myself that the fact I completed an actual novel, figured out how to self publish it and have had some half decent feedback means that I should be more proud and pushy about that.

Anyway, I found another route via which to offer a proper actual physical paperback version of All This And More.

paperback coverKnowing how hard I am finding it to eek out any time to write the next one, with each passing day the admiration I have for myself for getting this book out there is growing!

I know few of you will make the purchase. It’s £6.99 for goodness sake, which cannot be avoided, but I have been asked a few times if a physical copy is available, so there you go. I will take the chance to ask those of you that have read it and vaguely enjoyed it to share your gushing appreciation via an Amazon review.

I have looked into doing similar for the trip report books, but the large number of photos in them means it isn’t really viable. You could buy yourself a holiday to WDW for just a little more than the price of the book would need to be to cover the costs of production.

It’s been a busy yet uneventful week, with the “highlight” being as mundane as our new toaster arriving. Normally I would not bother you with such nonsense, but it is the latest (and hopefully last) item in what appears to be an electrical appliance revolt in our house. In the past couple of weeks we have replaced the TV, microwave, kettle and toaster. My annoyance at such outlay on these unexciting, yet essential purchases is only outweighed by the joy of the retailer I have bought them from. Someone less grumpy may point out that we’ve had each of these items for many a year and that everything has its limited lifespan. To that I say, sod off smart arse, I’m skint.

After what feels like weeks (or in the case of the Daily Express, who start their “worst winter ever” stories in June, months) of warnings about incoming snow we got some over the weekend. It was sadly not enough to see me stranded in the house for a week unable to do the commute to work, but it did afford Oli some play time. He does enjoy a good frolic in the white stuff. In that regard he has a lot in common with Lindsay Lohan.

Louise has seen little of the snow, TV, our new toaster or the outside world beyond work as she continues to wrestle with her last ever assignment. It is due in very soon and if you are connected to her on Facebook, you will know that she is not enjoying the writing of it. A cloud will lift from the house when it is submitted I am sure. The fact that this is the last one is no doubt playing its part in the struggle but it is one more milestone on the long and arduous journey to nursedom.

Emily is more or less fully mobile again after her ankle injury over Christmas just in time for her countdown to becoming even shorter. We shall soon be off to London again for her visa appointment at the Embassy which signals the final stages of her build up.

Rebecca continues to adjust to single life after her two-year relationship ended recently which mostly involves doing things that Louise and I need to worry about. Is there a phrase that strikes fear into a parent’s heart more than “I’m just going out for a drive with (insert friend’s name)”? From these outings and her rare nights out in town, there is no better feeling than knowing she is back home, safe and sound, once again. I am assuming that keeping your daughters in their rooms in bubble wrap until they are thirty is frowned upon?

In our ongoing quest to find a replacement for our Breaking Bad addiction we have been down many avenues on Netflix. We have enjoyed many without ever feeling that they could hold us as Walt and Jessie did. Our latest binge watch obsession is Sons of Anarchy. It’s up there with the best of the rest, but still hasn’t taken over our lives and thoughts as Breaking Bad did. I’m not sure anything ever will. If you haven’t yet watched that, what are you doing wasting your time reading this crap? Get yourself an internet connected device, a Netflix subscription and about 100 hours of your life. You will not regret it.

So in summary, buy my book (any of them), write me a good review, convince my daughters to stop doing stuff that they might enjoy which causes me stress and watch Breaking Bad. Thanks!

Till the next time….

 

Celebrity Tip Runs.

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Wow, that first week back after two weeks off was grim. How about you? I have to say I struggled to get through it and felt totally wiped out by about 11am on Monday! Hopefully the weeks can only get easier from now on.

I have suspected for some time that I suffer from this winter illness thing. I’m sure I’ve blogged about it before, but hey, when you blog every week for this many years that is just inevitable. I find the lack of daylight an overbearing shadow on my day-to-day life. Everything is harder in these cold, dark mornings and evenings. Moods match the darkness too I find and I certainly have less get up and go at this time of year.

I spend far too much time pondering how I can transport my life to sunnier climes for more than the two weeks each year we spend on holiday but as yet, I have drawn a blank. Our roots are deeply laid here in many ways, but who knows at some point we may be able to spend all of our time in shorts and T-shirts in the sunshine state.

Instead, a year which started with illness (Louise is now much better) and injury (Emily is semi-mobile again and managing to do some shorter shifts at work) continued with the need to spend a load of money. Imagine my disgust that the TV I bought back in 2009 started to misbehave. Why don’t they make things to last anymore? It began randomly turning itself off and back on again just before Christmas and as the new year began it became a real pain in the arse. Now, buying a new TV isn’t a chore. I did relish the research, but it still involved an outlay we hadn’t planned for which hurts.

Having said that, it is superb. We have upped the ante by a good few inches on our last model (I told Louise she has no such option) and of course since we bought one last, TVs have gone all smart and slim (unlike myself) so we are pleased with the result, as is Emily as the older model is now up in her room and so far behaving itself for the short periods she uses it for. Add this purchase to a new microwave and kettle, which both died within hours of each other like some electrical suicide pact and as well as having no money anymore I also had the inevitable date with the local tip, to drop off old broken things and enormous amounts of packaging.

So that is where I headed earlier with my poor little 107 bursting at the seems with crap. My 107 is playing up too of course and hasn’t been fully well for some time, but replacing that will have to bloody wait. Arriving at the tip I sighed as the long line of cars waiting to enter meant I was in for a wait. Having done that wait, I was gobsmacked to find that the queue only existed up to the bloke in a High Vis Vest telling folks which containers to use for their crap. Once past him it was plain sailing up to the area where stuff is dumped. Each of these containers of course has a huge sign on them telling what goes in each, so unless a large percentage of Bolton’s population can’t read, the queue and the bloke at the head of it were completely redundant.

Anyway, amazingly I managed to make sense of the signs without further help from the experts at hand and deposited my stuff successfully. As I got back into my car I had an unexpected brush with a showbiz personality. Reversing into the spot next to me, not surprisingly in a Mercedes and not a 107, was one of Bolton’s most famous Kay’s, Peter. I contemplated trying to get a photo with him but then came to the realisation that nobody wants to be at the tip and I guessed that if you are famous you certainly don’t want to be at the tip having photos taken with buffoons in the car next to you. So I put my phone down and started to pull away only to see one of his kids open the car door and almost become one with my front driver’s side. I gave him a knowing smile and moved away as Peter began to shift his own shite and cause quite a stir with the folks doing likewise. Even millionaires have to go to the tip after Christmas it seems. With cries of “Garlic Bread” ringing around the bin bags I left them to it and drove home to walk the dog.

You see, I, as a world-renowned trip report writer and novelist live a normal life just like the rest of you muggles. They’ll be talking about the day that Peter Kay and Mkingdon turned up at container seven at Bolton tip at the same time for years to come. Won’t they?

Elsewhere in the world, and by world, I mean Disney, they have started to take the hat down in Hollywood Studios. It would seem that this landmark used as the logo for this park is to be replaced by the Tower of Terror in future. Don’t mention this to Emily, she isn’t happy, but change is constant and whatever comes as a result will be enjoyed I’m sure. On the subject of Disney, this week, my niece booked to go to WDW with her partner. She’s been many times with her Mum & Dad of course but this is their first solo trip. She’ll be there just after Christmas next year and into 2016. As much as Emily may not have time to breathe over the busy festive period, it will be nice for her to have a family and friendly face over there at that time. Hopefully they can find time to catch up.

Disney have warned those working over there not to have family come out at Christmas as they will be working twenty-five hours a day, eight days a week. As much as that makes sense, were finances not an issue we’d be out there like a shot. You never know.

Two trips in one year? As if we’d do anything so silly….Oh yes, I remember now, we’ve done that before!

Till the next time…..

 

A New Year, A New Hope.

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As I spend my traditional post Christmas break Sunday wondering if I’ll fit into my work suit tomorrow, I welcome you to 2015. I embrace the new year with an unusually positive outlook as it signals the confirmation of the official sighting of light at the end of a very long tunnel. Indeed for a good few years, I wasn’t even sure where the tunnel was, or what light might look like, but with Louise due to qualify and start work in April, a return to normality and solvency is so close I can taste it.

The road to qualification has been very tough (as I have mentioned on several hundred occasions) but the end is in sight and praise your Lord for that. However, before I get too happy clappy, for all of 2015’s promise it hasn’t covered itself in glory yet. Last Sunday night, Emily went out on her work’s Christmas do, had a few too many and fell down a six inch step. We then spent that night in A&E and a subsequent follow up a few days later as it was getting worse. Thankfully there was no break, and after a few immobile days and starting the year on crutches she is now able to at least put some weight on it and hobble about. She was most upset that this meant she couldn’t go out on New Year’s Eve but alcohol and crutches do not a good combination make. She and her boyfriend stayed in whilst Louise and I went wild, going to the pictures and then getting a take away on the way home.

At the same time as Emily was incapacitating herself, Louise had the nerve to go and get Pleurisy. So to complete the tour of health establishments we spent Saturday morning at the emergency doctors and she’s been in a bad way for a few days, again starting the new year on a high. There are signs that the drugs are kicking in and hopefully a few more days will see her right.

Despite the dodgy start, 2015 does have the potential to be better than many of the years which have preceded it recently, but let’s be honest that won’t be too hard. Louise starts her job in April, we have a holiday booked for late August to the best place on the planet, Rebecca completes her studies and strikes out into the world of employment in early summer and in what will be a busy and emotional month Emily begins her American adventure in April when she starts work as a cast member for Disney.

With Emily’s countdown now under 100 days it is starting to become real. Plans need to be made, visas obtained and excitement needs to be enjoyed. I know she’s a little nervous about the whole thing but that is to be expected as it will be her first time away from home, and it isn’t exactly around the corner. She’ll be fine. I may be a gibbering emotional wreck, but she’ll be fine.

Our countdown is now 234 days and with the turning of the year, planning and anticipation have been allowed to kick up a notch. I have today marked my calendar to note when I am able to make ADRs (not that we’ll need many) and of course when we can try to get some FastPass+ things booked too. It’s all part of the countdown process and I like it.

I have hinted at some planning changes recently so I shall bring you up to speed. We had a very emotional and upsetting end to 2014 as in the last couple of months of the year Rebecca’s relationship with her boyfriend disintegrated and they are no longer together. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved to outline the ins and outs here, but of course he was a knob, behaved atrociously and our lives and holiday will be better for his absence. I will not entertain any suggestion of bias!

So with flights and all sorts booked for him this caused some problems of course, but thankfully with some persuasion and negotiation I have been able to transfer the flight to Rebecca’s best friend, Sarah, who I am delighted to say will be traveling with us for her first visit to Florida. She is giddy beyond belief at the prospect. Here she is…

sarah prince

Speaking of Rebecca, she has done a bit of modelling recently. One of her friends from school has started her own clothing business, and she had Rebecca showing off some of her range. I know I am biased (again) but she did a great job.

The company Urban Route can be found here, and I’m sure any support or orders will be appreciated, but other than that do have a look at Rebecca’s efforts in the photo gallery.

model 1

model 2

So welcome to our Disney year. I am going to get giddy as the weeks go by and I make no apologies for doing so. Should you also be in planning mode, but find yourself struggling to find the time and/or information then a Disney pal and Florida blogger has launched a new venture, Disneynine Florida Holiday Planner, which you may find useful. Do have a click though and Like and use as you see fit.

Till the next time…..

Cakes, Pies and Videotapes

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Apparently it’s Sunday? So I’d better do a blog then. It won’t be a long one today as I am doing my best to avoid the usual routines and tasks that straddle normal weeks when I have to go to work and stuff.

Before I get on to festive stuff, Louise has been at it again, being all successful and stuff. You may remember that a little while ago she got herself a job at the local hospital? Well, she’s gone and done it again, and has been offered another. This new job is in the community as a district nurse and this is the one she will be taking in April once she qualifies. Community jobs are the proverbial hen’s teeth and for a newly qualified to get one is almost miracle status, so she’s done incredibly well. If you have a weeping sore in the North West of England she may well be attending to it from the spring!

Christmas Williams style was a good one. The day itself was a little different this year as Emily had to work for a few hours, which meant that we didn’t have our meal until the evening.

The day started as it always does with the girls unwrapping their gifts, and of course Oli got his traditional gifts too.

We spent the day relaxing and cooking (Louise did the cooking anyway), until Emily was done.

We then walked all the way to next door for the meal itself. It was deliciously excellent, perhaps the best we’ve ever had. We all chipped in with elements of the meal but my Mum and Dad did the hard graft of hosting us.

xmas 2014 mealAll too soon the familiar pain of being too full to function was upon us and we all groaned a lot whilst watching some TV and wishing we had room for one of the lovely desserts which mocked us from the kitchen.

Guess who this plate belonged to?

I just couldn’t manage that last pea!

Joseph and Emily…..(oblique song lyric reference there).

The days since have been a blur of nothingness but I have had a chance whilst off work to complete the first holiday video that has been promised to you for about six years now! 2008, The Chronicles of Nana (& Grandad) Tour, is available for your viewing pleasure (and only contains one “deliberate” mistake). I have to say, we only seem to have filmed when we were walking, swimming or pulling silly faces, but looking at the other footage we have for other years, there are better to come. 2006 is in progress now, so expect that any time this millennia.

I have another week off work yet, so the weight gain potential is immeasurable. I have done a little tweaking to holiday plans too, and I shall share that news with you next Sunday, as it may deter me from moaning about going back to work. Yes, I know it’s unlikely.

So I shall sign off for 2014, amazed at the fact that I’ve been blogging here now, pretty much every week since November 2009! If you’ve been with me all the way, seriously, get a life, but thank you.

Have a safe, fun and drunken New Year, and we’ll do it all again next year, next week.

Till the next time…..

 

It’s a Circle Online

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I’ve made many spelling mistakes over the years, as my trip reports stand as testament to, but some were more significant than others. One of the more memorable ones was made about twelve years ago, and is the reason why you have clicked through to a blog at this web address, most likely from a Twitter account or Facebook page named the way it is.

Yep, sometime around 2002 I started my online Disney life on a certain forum, and trying to be all smart, thought I’d create a username reflecting my love for the Magic Kingdom. One slip of the finger later and I was stuck with mkingdon instead and many forum posts, trip reports, social media accounts, two trip report books and a blog later, I have returned to those origins where it all began.

My latest bit of writing is as a blog contributor at The Dis. So remember when I warned you that I would require you to click, like, share and promote? Well, this is that time. Please do click onto my post Do You Remember The First Time and do your stuff.

I’m delighted with the level of activity from those US folks who have no idea who Craig M Williams is (I had to add a middle initial as they have a Craig Williams already, and the M only stands for Mkingdon), with a good many Likes on Facebook and lots of comments there too.

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So having written my first ever Disney related words and first ever trip report on The Dis forums all those years ago, it truly has come full circle that I now contribute to their blog. It is also scary to think that when I joined that site, no-one knew what a blog was!

I thank you in advance for your support as ever.

I should apologise for the blog post last week. Introspective self-pity and vaguery does not good reading make, but I was pissed off and it’s my blog so I’ll allow myself that one. All I will add is that things have happened in the week since that have signified progress of a positive nature. The negative impact certain folks were hoping to inflict are now unlikley to happen and in the end they will be dealt with in the appropriate manner. In the words of a very good song, we go on to a much more positive situation all round. I promise to give more details when I can, soon.

Speaking of positive developments, after the longest week in the history of mankind I finished work on Friday. Already I can feel the stress and hassle leaving my body as I try to relearn the art of doing stuff I want to do and not what I have to. The deep burning joy within me at not having to tackle a commute tomorrow that has proved beyond horrific for weeks now, due to both the East Lancs Road and the M60 being worked on at the same time, radiates from me in bright yellow sunshiny shafts. It’s a good thing believe me.

Add to that the satisfaction of having pretty much all the shopping stuff done, without, I must add, setting foot into one actual shop, and you can bring Christmas on, I’m ready. Whilst I’m off I am going to try to get a few things done which have been long promised. The main one that has been promised here for about thirty years (it seems) is the first holiday video from our rediscovered camcorder footage. Emily has been distracted by a boyfriend and having to work for a living, so I have committed, at least to myself, that I will attempt to finish it, and get it posted asap.

This act, along with the new blogging stuff for The Dis, will hopefully get me back into a Disney frame of mind. It goes without saying that I am always in one of those to some degree, but the length of the countdown ahead of me, being annoyingly busy at work and other random shit life has made me deal with has pushed the joyous trip to the back of my mind. With the upcoming turn of the calendar bringing us at least into the same year of the trip and Emily now able to countdown to her departure in weeks, things are coming into sharper focus. I do have some planning changes to make shortly, with which I will bore you all as and when they happen. Without giving too much away, these changes are going to make the whole trip more enjoyable l’m sure.

So now you have read my Dis blog post, (you have, right?) I shall send you all our best wishes for your festive season and Louise, Emily, Rebecca and I hope it is all you want it to be with those you want it to be with. As we now enter the Christmas vortex of not knowing what day it is, I cannot guarantee blog posts when expected, but knowing my compulsive rule following self I’ll see you back here next Sunday! Click the piccy below for a festive treat from all in Mkingdon Land.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas…click the picture for a treat!

Till the next time…..

You OK Hun?

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Warning – before you read this….

Don’t be worrying about me after this oblique and vague rant. This isn’t the equivalent of one of those “You OK hun?” Facebook posts. Some recent events (that will not be detailed here) have just got me wondering about how some people behave.

There’s an oft used saying that nice guys finish last. Outside of the bedroom, that saying is meant to be derogatory I suppose. It means that to be a success, or to “win” you have to be a nasty bastard. The fact I never have enough money to do the things I want to do means that I probably am not “winning”, and as such maybe I am a nice guy too. Do I finish last? Well, that would be telling, but in life I would say that I am consistently average to middling in all respects. There are certainly those worse off than me, and of course many more better off too. What I would say is that anything I do have is a result of honest graft, effort and persistence, rather than luck or dodgy doings.

I am contemplating this saying as today I have witnessed what I can only describe as c***tish behaviour of the highest order. I can’t and won’t go into detail here as the repercussions of it will rumble on for quite some time to come, but it has got me pondering a few things about the folks I share this planet with. It’s a theme I often visit and ponder, but rarely commit to writing.

Maybe it’s just that I’m not ruthless enough, maybe, to quote one of those knob head X Factor judges, I don’t “want it” enough. Maybe I trust that others operate with the same moral compass as I? This failure to annihilate anything and anyone that stands between me and my wants and desires means that I probably won’t get a good many of them. I don’t, for example, ignore the lane closed signs at road works and then expect with absolute certainty that someone will see my last minute use of the indicator as my God given right to be let in. I do sit a few cars back screaming at folks letting these self-absorbed ego ridden knob jockeys in, but it is all very impotent and useless. Indicate they do, and let in they are.

Is it breeding? Is this a result of your nurture, or are you born with a bad attitude and a penchant for late indicating? I don’t know, but without really thinking about it I do find that I do treat most folks the way I would wish to be treated. I have a high sense of justice and fairness and will moan a lot when I see someone ignoring either or both. I could give to charity more, in fact I could and maybe should be one of these folks that climb, swim and run things to raise money for those less fortunate, but frankly I don’t have the time or the inclination. I’d rather donate to a few times throughout the year and hope that makes me nice enough.

If you are like me then you do hope that at some point there is a totting up procedure, not so much for me to get my pat on the head and a gold star, but more for the roadworks ignoring ass and the like to get some form of payback or slap on the wrists. Alas, I fear that does not exist, and I am yet to ever see Karma be the bitch she is reported to be.

I’m a big lad and can and will deal with stuff as I always do but I just find myself wondering how when you behave in these ways do you sleep at night and feel at peace with yourself. Whether it’s someone pushing into traffic, not queuing for something or getting themselves ahead in some other manner, the rewards are there, so why don’t we all do it? Personally, I find I literally can’t. I have a long and deeply ingrained sense of playing by the rules I suppose, and get quite tetchy when someone does something that bends or breaks them. This kill or be killed, or look after number one above all else attitude grates a bit, although of course I can be a selfish arse at times.

Anywho, I’m also not a fan of these vague ranty posts on social media where no further details are given so all I will say now is that it isn’t life or death, won’t have a sizeable effect on our lives but just pisses me off that people behave in ways that I would never allow myself to.

In lighter news, I enter my last week at work before Christmas and then I shall luxuriate in two weeks off. As ever, I claim to be in dire need of the break, as we’ve have had a tiring, stressful and bumpy end to the calendar year. As I have fallen out with the world I may lock the front door, draw the curtains (we don’t have any so I’ll pull the blinds down) and just spend time with those people who aren’t likely to behave in ways of which I disapprove.

Being December, and the girls working in the restaurant biz, they are both very busy over the next few weeks. Extra shifts and extra pay will never be enough to convince Emily that working on Christmas Day is worth it, but she’s only in for a few hours and isn’t working at New Year. Rebecca has an enormous amount of work coming up, so she will be loaded for about eleven seconds when she gets paid. This is the length of time it normally takes her to spend every penny in her possession on essential items that she simply cannot live without.

So, with my beady eye cast out over a world that has some work to do to get back into my good books, I shall leave you to your own Xmas prep. I hope to be calling upon you soon to click, read and pretend you enjoy some stuff I’ve written for a large Disney site. I often call upon you to endure crap I’ve written and at the right time I shall be painfully insistent that you help me out this time. You have been warned. Be ready!

Right, I’ve finished now….not sure if I was last.

Till the next time…..

Large Weapons and Long Journeys.

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So my three week social whirl has come to an end with my return this afternoon from my Christmas Do/Weekend with work. It started on Friday as my team and I traveled down to Bristol to meet with one of our main suppliers for a meeting (it was really just lunch) in a fab place called Grillstock.

We indulged in some very fine bar-b-q style fare, which for me consisted of Pulled Pork with coleslaw, corn bread and fries. We continued our very productive business discussions in the local Patisserie Valerie for stupidly sickly cakes and a decent coffee. I live life at the cutting edge of business as you can see.

With business concluded we journeyed on out of Bristol and further south and west towards Minehead and our home for the weekend, Croydon Hall.

We had hired the whole place out for the weekend for the 45(ish) of us that were attending. It isn’t the most luxurious place in the world but it did the job of accommodating and catering for us and our needs.

After a few drinks on Friday night, Saturday saw us take part in a clay pigeon shooting and archery contest. Sure, it was one of those team building things, but it was all good fun, and I astounded myself by actually hitting the odd clay and getting one or two arrows into the target and not a colleague’s head.

archery

As you can see we stood well behind anyone handling a gun or other weaponry for obvious reasons!

After hours of fresh air and friendly rivalry (I say that as I didn’t win), we retired cold and hungry to our house and got ready for the evening ahead. We had a surprisingly good Christmas meal, which is noteworthy as typically a mass catered festive meal has all the culinary charm of Anthony Worral Thompson’s Y Fronts. More drinks were had and the younger folk did some dancing to that modern music the kid’s enjoy so much. I, and some of the other more senior members of the party spent most of the evening in a quieter area of the place drinking at a sedate pace and chatting. Tartan slippers were optional.

After a second rubbish night’s sleep, on a bed that was thinner than some sandwiches I have eaten, we had another full English, packed, tidied and hit the road by ten.

The lap (and knees) of luxury??

All in all it was a great weekend, and with it all paid for by the company I have to say I am very grateful that they take the trouble and expense to look after us so well. I would say that if you were wondering just how many miles it is from my house to Minehead, the answer is too many. That was the only issue with the whole thing, and some four and a half hours later, I arrived home never wanting to see the inside of a car again.

This young chap who works for me had a more extreme experience than many of us older folk, which at nineteen I suppose he should. Having had it very large on Friday evening, just a few hours later he was handling live firearms in a field. If that doesn’t say Christmas I don’t know what does. He took it a little easier on Saturday, however, having ripped him out of bed at 9.45 on Sunday morning, to then have him in the car five minutes later he spent most of the journey home like this.

He drank too much and stayed up too late, and at his age, he bloody should!

I shall now retire from social engagements for the foreseeable future as frankly I am knackered.

Till the next time…..

To North Yorkshire…and Beyond!

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I know it’s late. How have you coped in these few hours this evening without my words of wisdom? Oh, you hadn’t noticed the lack of a post? Rats.

We have been away in North Yorkshire this weekend, being pampered, treated and fed enormous amounts of food by our friends Steve and Di. We traveled over to Harrogate for Saturday lunchtime and met them (already drinking) in a bar. We then spent a lovely few hours wandering around quirky and interesting shops, made even better by not buying anything, other than a delicious mulled wine in an ancient pub. Of course we *had* to visit Betty’s Tea Room and have a look at the yummy wares on display. I’ll leave it to you to decide if anything was actually bought (Thanks Di).

As darkness fell, we wandered back to the cars and made our way over to Sinderby, the tiny village where they live to partake in a food extravaganza of epic proportions. It was so outstanding that I totally forgot to take any photos until my jeans were screaming and the puddings arrived. To summarise the party in my mouth, our starter was goat’s cheese with pear, then the mains were a tangine (not a small orange apparently) of some lamb dish, slow cooked for a million years so it fell apart when I looked at it. The dish was gorgeously unusual containing pomegranate too which was the perfect finishing touch.

Dessert (or one of them) was Baklava, a Greek (I think) dish made of chopped nuts syrup and filo pastry. It is just orgasmic. Emily demanded we brought her some home as she was with us the last time we had it. There were also Macaroons (from Betty’s) and Victoria Sponge hand crafted by Di.

Beer and wine flowed and we chatted the night away about Disney (they are DVC members), who would play the next James Bond and almost every other subject under the sun until we all craved our beds at around 11. Yes, we are party animals. Louise was so full she was in actual pain and I think it took me multiple seconds to fall asleep.

Today, following a sensational full English that I surprised myself by being hungry for, we headed off up to Northallerton to Kiplin Hall.

Exceedingly good old house.

There was a Christmas Gift Fair but the highlight was the tour of the house. It has been recently restored and is full of detail, information and incredible history.

We also saw a very impressive bush…which is always nice.

We spent a lovely couple of hours learning about the house and it’s owners and imagining life before central heating!

Then, back to Steve and Di’s for one last brew, and a bit more cake before making the journey home across the Pennines. It may shock you to learn that we have done without any tea. I know!! We are slaves to our waif like figures. There could be a spot of supper whilst watching Homeland shortly!

To compensate for all the lovely stuff over the weekend, on arriving home I undertook a DIY project with the much needed help of my Dad. We’d been promising to put Rebecca’s TV on her wall and all the gear had been delivered to do so over the weekend. It took much longer than it deserved too, and it left both my Dad and I sweating and swearing at the fiddly badly designed nature of the whole experience. I hope she appreciates it, and uses the now TV free wardrobe space to house all the crap that is usually all over her floor. My hopes are not overly high.

So that’s been our weekend, and it’s been superb. Thanks to Steve and Di again for making it so, we loved every minute.

Till the next time…..

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….

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