The Theory of Booking Everything

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Last night our viewing pleasure took in both ends of the intellectual spectrum. We started the evening with The Theory of Everything, the highly acclaimed life story of Stephen Hawking. It was very enjoyable and of course it showcases an extraordinary life of a chap who was blessed with an incredible gift of intelligence and cursed with a very cruel disease. It was very impressive that he still carried on with his career despite the challenges his disease inflicted upon him, but more incredible was the way in which his wife coped with a load of kids, looking after her husband and getting her own PhD.

Once that had finished we moved from the sublime to the ridiculous and watched some Eurovision. It is always silly, over the top and cringeworthy but last night’s seemed quite dull to be honest. Where was the hermaphrodite clown on stilts wrapped in tin foil singing in operatic style about a hedgehog? Europe seems to be forgetting what the contest is about. All this trying to write proper songs, performed by people who look normal is just not on. Unfortunately (I think) we missed the UK entry but I shall take the two points we received as an indication of the quality of it.

In planning news, I haven’t booked our Daytona night yet. To be honest, I haven’t had a great deal of time to get it done this week with work being  annoyingly insistent on my attention. More crucially I also need pay-day to roll around before pressing the book button. This scope creep is a persistent problem for us serious Florida holiday planners. As the booking and planning usually takes place over a prolonged period, what tends to happen is that things get added as you go. Once you’ve planned everything else within an inch of its life the mind wanders to other possibilities, and in my case, the thought process usually goes something like this….

No, we’re spending enough already, we should probably not do that……..Well, we’re going all that way so we may as well do it whilst we are there. It is the ultimate upsell, like when Currys try to flog you a warranty for your £30 toaster, and we all do it to ourselves.

Time is rattling along at a fair old pace, shown by it being June very shortly. So during June, it will be ESTA time and hopefully we’ll get both the Daytona hotel sorted along with the tickets to the Daytona Cubs which are all of $8 each. It could well be the best value night out in Florida. The last bit (possibly) of research beyond that is to find a golf course. Whenever my Dad comes along it is traditional to undertake a round of golf. I play regularly, at least twice a year, every year, and usually one of those rounds is in Florida. We usually play at Highlands Reserve, but I think we’ll have a change this year so I need to have a look around at the courses close to our villa.

Then of course, thoughts will turn to less glamorous aspects such as airport parking. It usually ends up being cheaper than a mini bus to and from the airport and of course it is better to be under your own steam once you have landed back in the UK. After a night of no sleep on the plane, waiting an hour for your cases and then emerging into the cold grey Manchester morning, the last thing you want to do is have to ring the taxi company to find out why your carriage isn’t sat waiting for you. He will of course have “just turned the corner at the top of the street”, which means he has just got out of bed and you’ll be stood in the drizzle for forty minutes wanting to commit actual bodily harm.

These holidays don’t just happen, clearly.

To come full circle in this post, I need to tell you about a hidden gem that we have been enjoying on Netflix.  We had never heard of it, as it has none of the promotion or indeed word of mouth of other Netflix hits, but it is a belter nonetheless.

Damages has a great cast, including Glenn Close and Tate Donovan. It has some great plot lines and unexpected twists, so if you are looking for that next binge watch addiction give it a go. There are five seasons, so fill your boots. No doubt we shall be doing so this evening.

Till the next time…..

By The Power of Olly Murs’ Hair Transplant

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If life were fair then obvious anomalies, such as Olly Murs playing Wembley, would be unheard of. This modern-day Sid Owen autotunes his way to another sold out night at a huge venue whilst genuine talent such Jessie J plays relatively tiny venues like the Manchester Apollo when touring. Now, I’m no avid Jessie J fan, in fact I’d struggle to tell you more than a couple of her songs, but in terms of singing talent there is little contest. Such is the power of the record buying demographic I suppose. Young girls are the king makers of the pop industry.

This is undoubtedly the only reason why I cannot make a living from playing gigs and not have to accommodate the nine to six existence of my day job. Age, no hair, limited talent and a tendency to be a couple of stone the wrong side of my fighting weight may also contribute, but you get the idea.

Yes Friday night witnessed my second gig this century and I enjoyed it very much. Sure it was a cramped, hot, sweaty pub but that did not diminish the amount of enjoyment. It also helped that I felt like I knew at least some of the songs this time around and so I was able to relax a little more. Overall, it went well, folks enjoyed themselves and I think we picked up a couple more gigs as a result. Even packing up after midnight in a moderate drizzle was tolerable. You won’t see Olly Murs doing that as it would play havoc with his hair transplant.

Whilst on a creative roll, my first (and hopefully not last) novel, All This And More,  is currently gracing Amazon at a ridiculous 99p. That’s hours of entertainment for not a lot of cash. Should you have not yet purchased a copy, firstly, shame on you and secondly now is the time. Who knows when this crazy offer will be repeated. It is a time limited offer so don’t delay!

Book Cover

With the year motoring along now our thoughts are starting to turn to our WDW trip. Louise especially declares herself very ready for our holiday and is even doing silly things like trying to have a say in what we do when we go. I know, crazy right? This weekend she has been trying to add a night away at the beach. The implications and complications this sort of late change can make is incalculable. It is only because I am a planning genius that I can begin to contemplate such madness. We were always going to drive over to Daytona to watch some baseball on Labour (Labor is no way to spell that word America) weekend, but I was not planning for us to stay over.

Today then, I have been looking into hotels over in Daytona to make Louise feel as if her input is valid. The benefit of doing so is that it fills up that weekend when we shall not be going within five miles of a theme park as all of America and several other countries will be trying to ride Soarin’.

The current front-runner is Hyatt Place, which looks like this.

Hyatt Place

It fits our (small) budget for this unplanned excursion and has lots of good reviews. If nothing better turns up as I continue my research then that shall be booked and the plan altered. It will soon come to a point where the plan cannot be amended again as it will be laminated and stored away for safe keeping!

With my eye on Orlando so to speak I have noticed a couple of new attractions which seem to share two themes. The first is that they both involve heights and the second is that Louise won’t be going anywhere near them due to that first theme.

The Orlando Eye, much like the London one, will be familiar to many. I very much doubt we’ll be paying a visit as Louise would need to be unconscious to darken its doors.

Having said that, there would be more chance of Louise living the rest of her days going round on the Eye if the alternative was to go on the other one just once.

The Vomatron looks like fun but I fear that I’d feel like death for about a week after riding. Rebecca and her friend Sarah may have to be the volunteers from our party should we get to Old Town!

We are 101 days away from departure and it is nice to have that so close now. With everything else we’ve had going on it hasn’t been something we have thought about or focussed on too much. Hopefully I can now bore you to death over the next few weeks with every small planning detail, most, as you know, will involve food.

Speaking of which, time to eat.

Till the next time…..

Big Birthday Blog

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It has quite rightly all been about Rebecca this week as we celebrated her 18th birthday. I suppose legally, we no longer have any children. In practice of course the reality is very different.

As far back as we can remember birthdays have been very important to Rebecca and she would often plan them for months before the day arrived. In those days of course we would be heading to a Tumble Jungle or other such nonsense with about 30 other kids. How I enjoyed those afternoons!

Her 18th was relatively low-key in terms of plans, with a family meal on Thursday night and a more raucous affair on Saturday with her friends. All that matters is that she enjoyed both and is certainly paying for it this morning, which I can assure is not a lingering aftermath from Thursday.

The family affair was at a local Italian restaurant.

Rebecca and Tom 18th

With the average age well above 18, it was left to Rebecca and Emily to indulge in cocktails as I savoured my pint of lager shandy. We returned home for a decadent brew and slice of birthday cake.

Cake

Those of you who have been reading this stuff for a while may remember Emily’s 18th, with the extravagant video reveal, telling her about the surprise holiday to WDW. Once you do that for your eldest daughter there is little point trying to do the same for the second so Rebecca has known about the holiday in August since we booked it. Despite the time between her birthday and the holiday, we will be celebrating it whilst in Florida. A birthday badge will be worn by Rebecca whilst we are there.

However, despite having no big surprise to reveal, it was only fair to inflict all the embarrassing photos on her as we did with Emily, commemorating her first 18 years on the planet. I post it here, but warn you that it is quite long and for anyone not in our family it may be beyond your interest limits.

It isn’t as Disney themed as Emily’s equivalent, as the end game wasn’t a Disney holiday, so the music chosen represents the different tastes and phases (at least some of them) of her childhood.

If you do make it to the end, then you will see that we did slip a small surprise in, with a short break to Barcelona for Rebecca and Tom at the end of June. She seemed happy enough with her present and she is looking forward to some sun and no doubt some sangria.

Today she is recovering from her first legal bout of drunkeness and is currently watching trash TV in her room in a post McDonald’s food coma. She is also nursing the first phase of her brand new tattoo. I cannot say I am entirely happy with her having it done, but she is legally an adult and there is little I can do. She has another couple of hours to complete it and again she’s happy with it so I suppose that’s the important thing.

So that’s both childhoods done. It’s been a pleasure (mostly) and all things considered we’ve done OK. Now, we go onto the next phase and whatever that brings for both of them. On a personal note there is still a small amount of birthday cake left and that represents my immediate next phase of life.

Till the next time…..

No News Is….Tricky To Blog About.

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After a couple of weeks of record visitors to this blog, I think it is safe to say it is now the electronic equivalent of fish and chip wrapping. That’s good. Indeed should any non-regular readers be knocking around looking for a little more controversy, then this week’s mundane update should shoo them away for good.

It’s been what the media might call a slow news week. You know, like one of those were reporters stand outside a doorway for twelve hours talking bollocks just because a baby was born. Louise got her “pin” through this week though, which for those that don’t know means she can now actually start doing real nurse stuff to actual people. Until that arrived she had been undertaking lesser duties but now as of Monday she’ll be up to her elbows, often literally, in all manner of gruesome activities.

My week involved far too much work, commuting and office for my liking but then again most weeks do. Mustard rehearsed again on Thursday night and that was good fun. We attempted a few new songs, well, to be honest, all the songs are new to me, but you know what I mean. We shall play a few of them at our next gig on the 15th which should make for an interesting evening.

Despite the week being a heady whirl of not a lot, I did manage to squeeze in one more ADR for our holiday. Recognising that we have a first timer with us, I thought it only fair to do the decent thing and get a Kitchen Sink in. So I booked us in at Beaches and Cream. With the size of our party, we may need to order two Kitchen Sinks to make it more of a fair fight!! On that subject, to enable me to take on board the record level of calories that a Florida trip can entail I need to get my arse in gear and shed a few pounds. I’m sure that I look my normal hunky toned self but there is a middle-aged spread that comes to most men and it does feel as if I have taken on that spread for myself and a few other men besides.

I often use the excuse of a lack of time to exercise, beyond my daily lunch time walk, but being honest it is more a lack of desire and sometimes energy and I just need to make myself do stuff to burn off some of the crap my body has to contend with. Next week won’t be a great time to start, with a meal planed on Thursday for Rebecca’s birthday followed by the customary cake but a start must be made. Mind you it can’t be that bad as all my old T Shirts still fit me.

The lack of a Monday at work tomorrow is a source of joy of course and I notice with interest that Sky Movies are embracing the May the 4th be with you thing tomorrow, and showing all the Star Wars films. I approve of that, but less so the endless tweets and Facebook posts of that phrase, each one with the verve of joy as if the poster was the first person ever to post it. Imagine someone writing the same old gags, time after time, and expecting them to still be funny or even tolerated. On a totally unrelated note, have you read my trip reports? :-)

I have also taken two days off next week, on Thursday and Friday, to be at home for the birthday stuff that shall be going on, but mainly so I don’t have to get up for work on Friday, having eaten enormous amounts of cake on Thursday. A two-day week at work seems much more tolerable to me and I implore whoever leads the country come Friday to implement this immediately.

I hope you enjoy your extra day of rest should you be getting one. The lack of much happening in this week’s blog should easily be enough to get you all sleepy for your lie in tomorrow.

Till the next time…..

Call Me, Maybe

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It’s been a strange couple of weeks. I haven’t been called so many names in such a short space of time since that infamous night of passion with Louise. In that case it was stallion, champion, shamer of men and spolier of women. The more recent labels given to me are probably equally true I suppose. If you haven’t stumbled across any of that then it’s for the best and I won’t be pointing you at it.

Onto more positive things and Rebecca passed her driving theory test this week. She had a few attempts and she was starting to lose faith and belief in herself, so it was great for her to get through it. Now, she has one final hurdle until she can be unleashed upon the roads. As much as I want her to pass, that thought fills me with terror of course.

Also, yesterday, I picked up my new car. This of course is a direct result of me making lots of money recently from all the extra traffic to my blog. As you will know, it has been a huge revenue stream for me over the years.  I have been posting nearly every week since 2009 so my dodgy maths says that’s roughly –

300 weeks at £0 per week = Well, you can see, it’s a tidy sum.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Those more regular readers will know that I’ve been looking for a car for a while, and the one I chose was finally ready yesterday. I am very pleased with it, having driven it at least twice now and it is lovely to be back in a proper car after years of driving cars I wouldn’t choose to. For those who might care, I have a Peugeot 308. I know, decadent isn’t it?

Another welcome event this week was Louise getting her first salary payment as a qualified nurse. Not that we need such trivial amounts of money with the increased income from my blog and the book sales that I have racked up in recent days but it was welcome and well deserved nonetheless. Sigh.

Regulars will also know of my belated push for rock super stardom with me joining a band. We tucked another rehearsal under our belts this week, learning some new stuff for the next gig in May. It’s still all a bit novel to me, not having done this for twenty years or so, and it was good fun. Should you wish to know about upcoming gigs or look at photos and videos that don’t (yet) contain any of me then you can do so by liking the Mustard Facebook page or by following us on Twitter. If you do that, I shall do my best to make sure stuff gets posted and updated regularly.

mustard logo

Were you to be in need of a high quality covers band who happen to be mostly bald then do get in touch. If you aren’t in the North West of England, extravagant travel expenses and ridiculous riders will apply.

We are now counting down to Rebecca’s 18th birthday in a week or two. There will be no big reveal of a trip to WDW as she of course already knows that she is going in August. Trying to surprise two daughters with a Disney trip for their 18th birthday is impossible. The younger one would always have guessed. We hopefully have a surprise or two up our sleeves that she isn’t expecting though. Rebecca, if you are reading this, I absolutely promise you it isn’t a car….or a puppy!!

Till the next time…..

Kill The Beast

My reluctance to post the “Update” last week was, it turns out, very wise. Some of my posts in the past where I talked about exciting things like sheds, light bulbs and crap traffic have attracted a readership of two men and a (bored) dog, but not surprisingly, the hysterical rant, from my glass case of emotion last week has reached parts of the internet that I never intended or wanted it to.  In the end, I only posted it as I had a lot of regular readers asking me what was going on, and I felt obligated to let them know. What others then do with a post to share it with a wider audience is beyond my control. That post has sparked much lively debate on all sorts of forums and web sites which wasn’t the aim or intention of it at all.

Looking back, writing it when I did was a bad idea as everything was raw and I was upset. Sure, no-one died, but I don’t need to check a league table of woe to be justified in my levels of upset, especially on my own blog. If anyone has read more than the last post you won’t need reminding of my world class whining abilities over life’s trivialities never mind something that was a big deal to my family.

The subsequent discussion and scorn is what you get for being an attention seeking blog whore who shares their life across the internet every week. It’s the rough with the smooth and it’s fine.

Having been accused of being everything from a shit parent to someone using this situation to sell some books, all that’s missing are some pitch forks and flaming torches. I’m a big boy and you just have to laugh really.

Anyway, to try to help the whole situation (yes I know I inadvertently started it) I wanted to just clarify and update a few things. Whatever I write now will be taken to mean other things and no doubt fan the flames of discussion even more, but you see, that’s the thing about writing a blog. It’s my blog. You don’t need to read it or comment upon it and the only rules I need to follow are the ones I make up as I go.

I have been accused of not publishing some comments on my last post. I have published them all. If I don’t do so in a time frame that pleases you, then don’t comment. I have not given any of those comments any sort of rating or reaction. I’ve had better things to do recently. For those very desperate to have their say, I trust you are satisfied.

1. Since Emily got home Disney have been in touch with her and they have been great. The Disney we all know and love in fact. I am absolutely not going to detail what has happened, but for the cynical among you, nothing has been given or asked for, they have just done all they can to resolve/improve the situation. Just know that they have restored my love and respect for the brand.

2. If anyone thinks we haven’t been sat at home cursing the stupidity of getting the tattoo and of course not making 100% sure of the rules then you don’t know us very well, indeed many debating this don’t know us at all. Aside from there being a little more clarity in the published Disney guidelines, there was nothing Disney could have done about that. I will say that when the tattoo was done, it was a good few months after the interview process ended and nothing had been heard from Disney. The assumption was that Emily had not been successful and so she decided to move on with her life and have the tattoo. Then, when she was eventually offered the role, again some months later, she looked into removal, but interpreted the guidelines to say it could be covered, and you know (some of) the rest. Had she been allocated a merchandise role this would have been correct.  Claims and assumptions that Emily was deliberately trying to “buck the system” are so wide of the mark it is ludicrous.

3. Could Disney have handled this situation better at the time? Yes. I’m confident and grateful that Disney recognise that from what has happened since and I’ll be just glad to move on. Nobody reading this has all the facts. It hasn’t stopped a lot of theorising and giant leaps to conclusions but that’s my fault for not posting every minute detail (through choice).

4. With regards to me giving a shit about my daughter’s welfare at any time, never mind when she is 4,000 miles away, on her own, dealing with a large corporate machine, well, frankly you can kiss my virtual behind. I still need help from my parents and I am a lot older than 19. Congrats to all those better parents than I who have children that wouldn’t need their help in relocating to a new country at 19. I aspire to be you.

So in summary, Disney have been really great after initially not handling something as well as they could.  I’ve apparently been an over emotional knob who interferes too much with his daughter’s life and the internet is full of ass hats, including me.

Update

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I do not want to write this or any further blog post. However, Louise has pointed out that many of you are invested in Emily’s experience and have supported her and me for years and so I owe this to you. I understand that.

Many of you already have picked up that Emily is coming home. I honestly don’t want to go over the back story again as I will just open up the large gaping wounds that I am struggling to deal with so I will try to keep this short.

Emily has been refused entry onto the programme by Disney. This is because she has not, in their eyes, complied with the Disney look.  Here’s a brief summary.

She has a small Disney tattoo on her wrist. We have always known of course that the Disney look prohibits them. With that in mind, we researched whether we should remove it. Having read the specific guidelines on Disney’s career web site about her role we understood that covering the tattoo with professional cover up make up would be sufficient.

Disney have said that covering a tattoo with make up in a food and beverage role is not allowed. I understand that.

What I don’t understand is why their own guidelines never mention this on any web site or document sent to Emily in the 14 month application process.

Food & Beverage and Merchandise locations

In order to maintain a safe and healthy environment and continue to comply with State-mandated regulatory food standards, all cast members (salaried and hourly) working in locations that prepare food or beverages are required to abide by the following Food & Beverage Nail & Jewelry policy. Merchandise cast members who work in food & beverage locations also need to follow this policy.
Food & Beverage Nail & Jewelry policy:
  • Keep fingernails trimmed, filed and maintained (not extended beyond the tip of the finger) so the edges and surfaces are cleanable and not rough.
  • Do not wear fingernail polish and/or artificial nails when working with exposed food.
  • Do not wear jewelry, including medical information jewelry, on arms or hands. The exception is a plain (commitment) ring, without stones, raised designs, engraving or jagged edges. Acceptable options for medical jewelry include necklaces and ankle bracelets.

Body Alteration or Modification

Intentional body alteration or modification for the purpose of achieving a visible, physical effect that disfigures, deforms or similarly detracts from a professional image is prohibited. Examples include, but are not limited to, visible tattoos, brands, body piercing (other than traditional ear piercing for women), tongue piercing or splitting, tooth filing, earlobe expansion and disfiguring skin implants.

Tattoos must be discreetly and completely covered at all times. Jewelry, spacers, retainers, or plugs are not permitted in any body piercing, including non-visible piercings, while working.

The lack of specific mention of food and beverage workers not being able to cover their tattoo with make up is both incredible and obvious.

Knowing the effort and expense undertaken to get any applicant to the US, you would think they would make every effort to redeploy her into a merchandise role, where make up cover is apparently allowed. They didn’t make any effort to do so, and after a ten minute meeting where she was told she was being sent home, she was left alone in a room with a laptop and a phone, having been told she must be out of the US in 48 hours, and she was expected to book her flight on the spot as they needed the flight details for their records.

Disney refuse to talk to her parents as she is “an adult” and my several emails asking reasonably for help or a conversation have been ignored. When I email them, they call Emily with a witness from Disney listening in and no doubt recording the conversation, which to me suggests they are worried they have messed up here. I have sent an official complaint to Bob Iger and any other senior Disney person I can find an email address for setting out their failings to give clear direction and the devastating effect this has had on a 19 year old kid away from home for the first time. It has been ignored so far.

I could go on with many more aspects of Emily’s treatment which disgust me but that would be doing what I said I wouldn’t and I’ll just get more upset again.

My 35 year relationship with Disney is broken, as is his my heart. Emily’s future is at best uncertain and at worst severely compromised, with no job, no plans now and her illusions shattered.

The devastation caused to Emily’s entire family is impossible to describe. I cannot express my own heart break right now. I cannot begin to imagine how Emily is feeling, and she now has to fly home tonight.

This will probably be the last blog post I do here. I don’t feel I can carry on with anything Mkingdon related as Disney has always been at the heart of that. You’ll forgive me I hope for not engaging in replies to comments etc, I am just too upset to discuss this again. Sorry.

Thank you for your support over the years. I have always appreciated it.

Bye.

Dear Emily…..

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It’s not long now until you will be leaving home. We’ve always known it would happen one day, but so soon? When you and Rebecca were growing up, it felt like you’d be children forever, and here we are with both of you young women already. Time has snuck up on us again and just like the blink of an eye from you arriving into our lives to today, what felt like an eternity until you were leaving is now just a few short hours. Everything we thought we had so much time to do is now a rush before you go and if that’s not a metaphor for life I don’t know what is.

I know at the back of your mind you wonder if you are ready for what is to come? I wonder if I am ready too. Even though you are going to be twenty in a few months, you are still our daughter and the instinct to protect and look after you is unshakable and never-ending. Having worked so hard with you to get you this opportunity, mine and your Mum’s hearts are bursting with pride at what you have achieved, but they are also breaking in two that you won’t be around for so long.

Once we are all through the pain, tears and heartbreak of the airport goodbye I want you to remember a few things whilst you undertake your American Adventure.

1. Relax, you’ve got this. Don’t worry about anything as there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Should anything go wrong you are only a few hours away and we can either be there with you or have you home in the blink of an eye. With that in mind take each day as a new opportunity, soak it up, wring it dry and make the most of it. It will be over before you even realise.

2. Work hard. Whilst you will be in your happy place there is a job to do and you must do it well. Grab the job by the scruff of the neck and be the excellent cast member we all know you can be. Delight every guest, give them the magic you adore so much and you will get much more back in return.

3. Trust yourself. You are great, believe me. Don’t feel intimidated by others with more self-confidence or more years on the clock. They are just as lost, confused and unsure as you and everybody else is. Nobody gets Disney more than you, be yourself, and everyone will love you as we do. Listen to your instincts, trust that you’ve been brought up correctly and do what you know is right. Be considerate to others but stand up for yourself.

4. Have fun, lots of it. Embrace social situations and the chance to meet others who feel as you do about WDW. Be a little crazy, (in moderation!), laugh till you cry, make friends for life and remember every day only comes along once. I promise you, not too far in the future you will wonder where the year went. Make it count!

5. Record your memories. For God’s sake don’t spend the year staring at your phone, but do make sure that you record your experiences. We want to see everything of course, but when it’s over you’ll want to look back on your time there again and again.

6. Treasure your room-mate. They are going to be very important to you in your time over there. Look after each other, look out for each other and DO NOT let your room get into the state it does at home. You will be sharing some of the best times of your life with them, treat them well and if they don’t do the same to you, tell them!

7. Be Tough. There will definitely be times during the year that you will get fed up. I know you will be in WDW, but it is still the real world and there will be times when you are tired, home sick, lonely and grumpy. Sit tight, it will pass. Remember what it took to get there, think back to those long London journeys and grueling interview processes when you never thought you’d get to where you are now. Go to a theme park, have a very calorific snack, watch a parade, send a Tweet, Instagram or Snap Chat (not that I understand the bloody thing) or get on Skype to one of us. We’ll show you the inevitable rain outside where we are and make you feel better. Everything and everyone here at home will still be here when you get back.

8. Be Careful. Orlando is still a big scary city filled with its fair share of not very nice people. Don’t drop your guard or your common sense and do silly things. Always travel with someone, keep your wits about you and your eyes open.

9. Keep in touch, but don’t put the pressure on yourself to be Skyping us every day. You’ll be busy, we’re busy, we’ll do what we can when we can. However, a simple message on a regular basis to let us know you are alive, eating, healthy and happy is a requirement. Think on!

10. Be proud, every day. You have come through a highly competitive selection process as the youngest in the entire UK application pool. You have overcome some real challenges as I know you thought your shyness and lack of self-confidence could hinder your chances, but you have shown others with more life and work experience how it is done. Remember that, always. You is kind, you is smart, you is important! Carry that approach on, especially in the early days as you meet new people and settle in. Be you, cos you’re great.

From that day of your first interview when I said goodbye to you in Starbucks and watched you walk away to the group of applicants you were meeting, I have known exactly what it has taken for you to do this. My heart broke then as I watched you leave me, as it will on Tuesday, as you leave once again. But you know….

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

I know now that you are your own woman and you can look after yourself (most of the time!), but we’re here, and always will be. Your determination and drive have been literally awesome and we are all so proud of you pud. We’re going to miss you more than you will ever know. We’ll be counting the days until our trip in August even more than usual. This experience will be the making of you. You deserve it and it deserves you.

Remember, relax, enjoy, embrace every experience and we’ll be thinking about you every single day.

dad scruch nose

mickey 1

 

emily airport

 

louise 2007

emily

1emily yummy

Mum, Dad and Rebecca x

In The Bleak Mid Easter.

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Right, I have two complaints.

1. Who the bloody hell said it was OK to pinch an hour of my weekend? I have not authorised this.

2. I was “promised” an Easter heat wave. Instead I have just returned from walking Oli and it took me longer to remove my layers than it did to do the walk.

As we wave goodbye to March, we seem to be doing so with November weather and it simply isn’t good enough. The end of March is often welcome as it signals better weather, often some days off work and for us the end of what is a very busy month. It starts with my Mum’s birthday, closely followed by Mother’s Day and ends in a flourish with three family birthdays in the space of two days, one of which being Louise’s.

So from a cash flow perspective I am glad there is only one March in each calendar year and it is now almost behind us. We celebrated last night, both Louise’s birthday and the ending of her training with a Chinese meal in Tottington, a small village not so far away. For the first time in a very long time, it was the four of us. It was nice for it to be so and we had a lovely meal. It will of course be the last time we can go out and be together in this fashion for some time, as time marches on and Emily will soon be overseas. The case, is out…..

We are all making lists, mental and physical of what she must take. It all has to fit in that case though, not due to an airline restriction, she has a 43kg limit as she is flying all posh and Premium, but more because she won’t be able to lift anything heavier. Louise now has time at home before she starts work, so will be able to make sure Emily is all prepared and packed of course.

On the day itself, it has been decided that the farewell party will be kept to a minimum at the airport. Just the four of us will make that journey. Emily doesn’t want hordes of family weeping uncontrollably as she will be in bits anyway. She’ll just to have to contend with me, Louise and Rebecca sobbing away.

This week, Emily has sorted out her room-mate. A young German girl called Lea, who she has been chatting to on Facebook for weeks now. Disney have a clever online thing where they can link themselves to others to denote they want to share a room etc, and they can also put their preferences down for which accommodation/complex they want. None of it is guaranteed of course and she won’t find out until she gets there, but it is highly unlikely she won’t be put with her nominated roomy. It has been trickier for Emily to sort this out as she is under 21. The rest of those starting in the UK on her date are all over 21 and this means Emily can’t live with them as they will be able to have alcohol in their apartment. So it was very handy that she got chatting with Lea, who is even younger than Emily. Emily is rubbish at drinking so it is an enormous sense of comfort to me that she won’t be able to do it over there. Her last attempt at a drunken night out here ended up in A&E and several weeks of limping with a badly sprained ankle.

It all got very real for Emily earlier this week when one of those already out there sent her this, which is currently pinned up in the kitchen at the Rose and Crown.

rosecrown list

She’ll be there to see it soon.

I have spent a lot of the last week (none of it during working hours of course) searching for a car. A few weeks ago I flogged mine and get a short-term lease on another to give me time to look around at what I want next. After weeks of doing so I’m more confused than ever and no closer to a result. I have been through about six different “I’m getting one of those” and now have no clue at all. I think I need to stick a pin in something soon as it is driving me insane.

I do not enjoy the process of buying cars, I have to be honest. On all but one occasion in the past, I have come home with my purchase feeling as if the deal I have done has the sales chaps rolling about laughing in the showroom. Used car salesmen, like double glazing sellers, get a stereotypical bad name, and I’m sure it isn’t anything like true, but the one chap I have spoken to this week about a car I was interested in has done nothing to remove that impression for me. My suggestion of a discount off the listed price brought about a reaction as if I had asked him to sacrifice his first born. He countered my offer with one that represented no discount whatsoever and has hounded me ever since despite me telling him to stick it (politely). It’s a first world problem for sure, and hopefully I shall solve it next week.

I must go now as I need to encourage the qualified nurse I live with to make me some tea.

Till the next time……

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!

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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…..

 

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