The Show Musn’t Go On!

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It has been an odd week. As the days get longer, it seems that the working week does also. It dragged somewhat, but I suspect that was due to the knowledge that this Saturday would be my first gig with Mustard, and my first live appearance with my instrument (fnar) in twenty years.

As Friday eventually happened, I was mentally prepared and oddly not nervous at all. What I felt was anticipation. I was really looking forward to it, regardless of how many mistakes I was bound to make with so little rehearsal time.

With my final practice and warm up complete in the afternoon we headed for the venue, a Conservative club in a nearby suburb of Bolton, similar to Wembley staduim in lots of ways, at around 6pm. Setting up was a whole new experience for me also, as since the last time I set up with a band to play live all sorts of gadgets and gizmos have come along that I didn’t even recognise, never mind know what to do with them. Anyhow, I made myself as useful as possible by carrying stuff and after about an hour or so we were getting somewhere close to being ready.

The club itself was already pretty full which meant a sound check to an audience. As we began to play, I was blown away by the sound we were making. The difference between rehearsal room noise and the sound we make through a proper PA etc was astounding. We managed about half a song until our singer Steve, who was out front listening to make sure all the levels were right got a tap on the shoulder. His neighbour appeared and told him that his Mum had been taken ill and he had to come straight away.

He of course left immediately and we sat in shock for a little while until he called to deliver the awful news that his Mum had passed away. We sat there stunned for a while feeling awful for him and not quite knowing what to say. Clearly the gig was the last thing on anyone’s mind and after getting our heads around the events of the night for a while we began the task of taking down everything that had just been set up.

We left the club at around ten still shaking our heads at what had just happened. So for awful reasons, I wait to take part in my first gig still. That of course is irrelevant when compared to the events of last night and we’ll play again whenever Steve is ready to do so and not before.

In other news, Louise has her start date for her new job as a nurse. Her new employers got in touch last week and said as the 6th of April was a bank holiday could she start on the 7th.  Of course, that is the day that Emily flies to America, so a quick call back to them to explain the situation and she is starting on the 8th instead. With incredible coincidences like that, where after three years of study for Louise and over twelve months of waiting for Emily, both events land on the same day, I do think that there are some soap opera writers somewhere putting my life together. Add last night to that as well, and I’m expecting the Eastenders “duff duff” drums to play at any moment.

At this point I could lament how last week a suspected broken shower led to the replacement of our entire fuse box at enormous expense, but  won’t as it would make me seem petty and tight, which is the last thing I’m sure anyone could accuse me of being!

So Louise enters her last week as student nurse tomorrow knowing that everything is submitted, signed off and every assignment passed. After a week off she’ll begin work and fulfill an ambition held for more years than I care to mention. The hard work, determination, tears and staying power during those three years have been incredible, and it’s a huge credit to Louise to go back to study in her forties and get through the whole thing with flying colours as she has.

After the awful events of yesterday, today has been quite uneventful. I walked the dog, and then I bathed the dog. I’m not sure who enjoys that the least to be honest. He’s currently running around the house in a bad mood rubbing himself on stuff, which is what I tend to do on a Sunday evening when confronted with a costume drama on the telly and another week of work stretching ahead of me like eternal damnation.

post bath march 2015

Till the next time…..

Word To Your Mother

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So here’s a very quick, fairly late post due to a busy day doing the Mum thing. A day of tidying, (for me) peeling spuds and (for Louise) cooking ended with a meal for both Mums and my Dad. Alas Rebecca had to work, with it being Mother’s Day as the restaurant at which she waitresses was booked to the rafters. Emily should have been working too but a bout of tonsillitis has kept her at home for the past few days. I don’t think she was too upset!

The week just gone has been too full of work for my liking but also contained my second rehearsal with Mustard. It went well, however the next time we play together it will be in front of an audience. Yes, that is as scary as it sounds. The 21st of March is my first gig. I’ve learnt about thirty songs and played all of them at least once with the rest of the band. What could possibly go wrong? It’ll be fun that’s for sure.

In CRP news, Emily’s visa came back this week and seeing it pasted into her passport was surreal and exciting in equal measure. We’ve now bought her medical insurance for her first 120 days until the Disney Cast Member one kicks in and she has now started to gather stuff together as a pre-cursor to actually packing! She has procured the essentials of course like a bikini and that play suit she loves from Forever 21 or one of those other young lady’s clothing websites.

She has also fulfilled her requirement as surrogate trip planner by securing all the ADRs we wanted.

ADRs

With Crystal Palace in the bag, she added Be Our Guest, Rose and Crown on my birthday and a fun night at Whispering Canyon. With that, we’re done.

On the subject I raised last week of collating the (hopefully) numerous photos of folks meeting Emily in the UK pavilion, I think flexibility is the key. Not everyone has every app, and so I don’t want to restrict the “project” to twitter or instagram, so if you get a photo of and/or with Emily then just get it to me somehow. My contact details are on this blog, you can do it on The Dibb (I’ll probably start a thread for the posting of such photos), post it on the Mkingdon Facebook page or any other social media you can find me on. My current thinking is that I’ll do a Pinterest board of them all.

Louise has just two weeks to go on her three year nursing course. That too is hard to take in. Everything is happening at once! After three years of hard slog, blood sweat and tears it is almost all over. So on that subject of the Mother of this household, I shall bring this brief, rushed and inadequate Mother’s Day blog to an end.

Till the next time….

A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America!

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The internet. Aside from those needy vague Facebook status updates that drive everyone insane, and all that click bait shite which all end in “You won’t believe what happened next”, the internet is probably a good thing. At some point in the future my fridge will know that I have eaten the last six of something and will connect to my online shopping establishment of choice to order some more. If that’s wrong I don’t want to be right.

One of the huge benefits of the internet is that some weird folk share their lives and experiences all over it. What sort of idiot would do that? For Emily, and her long arduous journey towards being a Cast Member, reading the blogs of those who have gone before have been a huge help and at times a reassurance. Add to that the vast number of vlogs by those folk already out there working for Disney and there isn’t much that could surprise her now. However, one small chink in this armour of information appears to be the application process for the required Visa for her stay in the US.

We’ve always known this would be required but we journeyed down to London this week not really knowing what to expect. Emily had heard small snippets about airport style security, which unnerved her slightly, but beyond that we were clueless. So here I will attempt to fill that void a little.

I won’t bore you with the details of our journey etc beyond our pre-train Starbucks…

1starbucksand the fact that we traveled backwards which meant we almost saw that muffin again around Northampton.

We got to London around 4pm and Emily wanted to go and see the Disney store on Oxford Street, so we did.  We then wandered the clothes shops of the capital picking up some essentials for Emily’s year away. Two pairs of denim shorts and a “dressy blouse” for her Traditions training course, for which she needs to be in smart office attire secured and we then gorged on a very welcome McDonald’s. We re-boarded the tube and headed to Paddington, close to which our hotel was.

The hotel was fine. Basic, clean and relatively cheap…a bit like me. Disaster struck shortly after we pajamaed up and started enduring the Kardashian marathon Emily insisted upon. Her phone charger stopped working! At 4%, the matter was urgent. I put my pants back on and set out into the heartless metropolis to try to secure a new one. About four doors down from our hotel was a very dodgy looking mobile phone accessory, and if I’m not mistaken, based on the bongs they were selling, Hashish establishment where I got a new cable for a fiver. I got back to the room with Emily weeping over her now 2% battery and plugged her in. Success!

Not much sleep was had and we were up nice and early for Emily’s 9am appointment at the Embassy. We walked it down from Paddington, past Marble Arch and down into Mayfair where all the embassies live. Most are impressive enough large terraced town houses with flags flying outside. America of course have to do things on a bigger scale and as we saw their place for the first time it did look intimidating. Armed guards, enormous security fences and concrete bollards all fitted nicely around the enormous concrete behemoth which straddled most of the road.

Our preconceived ideas of popping into a small terraced house at five to nine for a cosy chat with some bloke in a suit where dashed as we turned the corner and saw not one but two huge queues up to a marquee outside the main building. With no-one to explain where to go I wandered off to ask someone and found that of course we had joined the wrong one. Once in the right queue we waited about half an hour to get to the front of that one.

emb2 emb1

We showed the required documentation, got ticked off a list, Emily was asked if she really was 18, which amused her greatly, and we were then sent to join the back of a second queue. Another half hour or so passed and I then left Emily, as only applicants can actually go into the building. She went through the security checks, which were airport style and I wandered off in search of breakfast.

About an hour and a half later I wandered back to the Embassy and luckily she appeared almost immediately. Once inside she had been asked to take a seat until her number was called and then went up to a window to be seen by what Emily described as “cute old lady”. She was probably in her fifties!!

So all this effort, huge amounts of paperwork, £130 for the Visa application plus all the travel and accommodation and she was asked three questions and then told her Visa was approved. How I laughed. Anyway, Emily was obviously relieved to have all that over with and we headed for Euston where Emily was fed before we boarded the train for home.

It was a tiring couple of days, and according to the app on my phone we walked over five miles on both days. So here are my top tips for anyone having to go through this process.

1. Check your paperwork a million times. Whilst in the queue we saw a few turned away for not having what they needed or indeed in one case not having booked an appointment!

2. You can take your phone in but not laptops. Don’t take one, or they send you to stash it in some lockers at a nearby Pharmacy but you only find that out after enduring the first queue.

3. If you don’t live in London, you seem to have two choices. Travel there and back in a day or do an over-nighter. To do it in one day you’ll be better with an appointment from mid-morning onwards. When we booked Emily’s appointment time after completing her application online, we were only offered 8am, 8.30 or 9am. There clearly were later appointment times as upon leaving, the queues were huge. It seems they only release those later slots after the early ones are full, so you may need to book your date just a few days before to get those. We booked about two weeks out so only saw early slots. If I were doing it again I’d book an 8am slot and be there about 7.30 to avoid all the queues outside. Luckily it was a sunny warmish day. Had we gone the week before we may have lost a few fingers in the cold.

So the last hurdle is cleared, we are a month away from departure, and it is really hitting home that Emily won’t be around for a year. It was nice to spend those two days with her, although I’d have chosen a different location and something else to do, but still, we made the most of it.

I recognise that I am a little like a stuck record with all these updates about Emily’s programme in WDW. If you are fed up, imagine how it’s been for us for the last 13 months since all this began. It has been a huge amount of pressure, some stress, lots and lots of waiting, really, a lot of waiting and a whole chunk of change to get to this point. All of that will be worth it for the incredible life experience she will have over there.

I haven’t decided how yet, but I’d like to start something online where anyone meeting or seeing Emily in the UK pavilion can post their photos of and/or with her. It will be lovely for us to see her of course and to know she is alive, eating, safe and happy and when she returns it will also be great for her to look back on.  I’ll have a think of the best medium for that, but if anyone has any ideas please let me know.

Till the next time…..

 

Getting Back Into Swings

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It still feels a million miles away, but today, a major milestone was passed in our countdown to WDW. Today, we were able to book our first ADR, and as I am (see last week’s post) busy, I delegated the task to Emily. This important passing of the planning baton saw her take delivery of THE SPREADSHEET and my log in details for the Disney app so she could manage things.

This act should give you some clue as to how busy life is, as entrusting this sort of thing to anyone else would normally be unheard of. Anyway, she knows what she’s doing and she was delighted to be helping out and bless her even tried to stay up until 5am to get us in at Be Our Guest on our first day. The app had issues and she didn’t but she can keep trying for the next two and a half weeks I suppose. My hopes aren’t high to be honest.

She did make us a reservation for our first day in the Magic Kingdom. Typically on that first day, having been awake since about 4am we are ready for lunch at about 10am, but this year we shall have to survive until 12.50 when we will be eating at the Crystal Palace for the first time in many years. My thoughts on a buffet don’t need documenting here, and for our first timer, Sarah, this will be a lovely introduction to Disney dining, with characters.

It's been a while

It’s been a while

I fully expect us to retire to the villa after eating as we’ll be jet lagged, full and ready for some hours of feet up around the pool. We only have a handful of target ADRs in mind to be honest. The Rose and Crown will be a first time for us but is a must do for obvious reasons this year, along with Whispering Canyon, as my Dad loves the place and Sarah, as a first timer, won’t know what’s hit her. Beyond that we have more than enough off site favourites to keep us going.

I really do feel out of practice with all this. It’s amazing how one year off can do that to even a veteran of too many trips. Once we get to sorting out this FP+ stuff I’ll be totally lost.

Away from WDW my poor blister filled fingers stood up to the first rehearsal with the band. I did OK I think as I have been invited back to further rehearsals and some potential gigs which is great. The next rehearsal should have been this Thursday evening but it is Sod’s law that this is the night I’m away in London with Emily for her Visa appointment at the US embassy. So I shall now have to play with myself a lot to get myself prepared. I’ll have to play the bass a bit too.

So in two different ways I am getting back into the swing of things that I used to feel like I was almost an expert in. One has given me an overdraft and a larger waistline than I might like and the other has given me sore fingers and a headache from trying to learn over thirty songs. Both have given me a lot of pleasure over the years and hopefully they will continue to.

So if you see two lost Northerners wandering the gold paved streets of that there London towards the end of this week it will no doubt be Emily and I. It will be nice to know that this time there is no nerve-wracking interview process to endure during the trip, aside from a few questions for Emily from the Embassy folk. Prior trips for the two of us have been nervy affairs, planning and preparing all the way down for what might happen in Emily’s interview and then wondering how it went all the way home.

Emily took delivery of this during the week…

hoody1 hoody2All of those arriving for their programme on the same day from the UK have one. It’s another sign that her experience is happening and very soon! I told you life was busy!

Till the next time…..

 

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.

dis blog 1

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…..

 

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