Pumped Full of Pumpernick’s.

We have two birthdays in the house today. Incredibly Emily is twenty years old. How this can be when I am still the same youthful, svelte specimen I always have been I do not know. For reasons unknown, Emily isn’t too keen on leaving her teens and has spent much of the last few weeks sulking about becoming old. This sulk has meant that she wanted minimal fuss today so there is to be no large family gathering. Presents were still gratefully received of course but she has gone out with her best friend for some food and a film.

Oli wasn’t invited even though it is his birthday too. He is four today, but if you use the standard calculation for dog years that means he is twenty-eight. So it could be worse for Emily if she were aging at the same rate that Oli is.

He seems less troubled by the aging process.

Emily’s birthday is traditionally one of the last landmarks on our countdowns to a holiday. Having ticked off Rebecca’s in May, followed by other non family landmarks such as Glastonbury, Wimbledon and the Open Golf, there is no denying we are getting close now.

When you’ve been blogging as long as I have now, I have no doubt that there has been a lot of repetition since my first post back in November 2009. At several points between then and now I have no doubt talked about the underlying reasons for my Disney/Florida obsession. I’m not going to go there in detail again, but this week my Mum and Dad found an important relic from our Florida history that goes someway to remind me at least how I fell in love with the place all those years ago.

Back in 1980, (and here I might go into the detail I said I wouldn’t) instead of going to Spain for our usual holiday, a ten-year old me was very excited to find that we actually booked to go to Miami, mainly due to the incredible cheapness brought on by a dollar rate well over $2 to the pound.

Whilst searching for other stuff in their house this week, my Mum and Dad found and brought round a menu from a restaurant in Miami called Pumpernick’s. We went several times during our first holiday and it has a lot to answer for. It exposed me for the first time to the wonderment of eating in the US, with strange foreign concepts such as good service, huge bowls of warm bread and coleslaw on the table when you arrived and desserts you would kill for. We were so gobsmacked by the whole thing that we asked if we could take a menu home with us, as nobody back home would believe us if we told them. Remember that back home was a 1980’s Bolton yet to become all exotic like it is now.

The menu is huge in every sense, and even now it makes me hungry whenever I look at it.

It had all those things you heard about in US programmes of the time, which were of course the likes of MASH, The Bionic Man and The Streets of San Francisco! Pastrami was a mysterious thing only leading men had on rye…whatever that was.

It’s funny seeing it again after all these years. The fascination it began for me has cost me endless pounds both in terms of money and weight. A bit of googling has revealed that it has long since closed, which is no surprise, but I also found out that it had already been there for years by the time we found it. Here it is in the 1950’s.

pumpermicks

 

It is now a Walgreens.

pumperniks2

 

pumperniks3

It’s hard to explain now how this blast of Americana had such an effect on a ten-year old boy from Lancashire, but clearly I am far from recovered from it. The entire first trip obviously had many more aspects which have forever stuck with me, even though we only spent two days in Orlando at the then only theme park.

Look at me, all oblivious to the endless obsession that lies ahead.

So what got you hooked? Tell me your Disney obsession stories in the comments below!

Till the next time…..

 

 

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A Ticket To The Magic

The post doesn’t often deliver things to brighten my life. Bills, junk and more bills are the daily routine for those still intent on killing trees to tell me stuff, but this week, a rare delivery of joy tumbled through our front door. Well, actually it tumbled out of our post lady’s hand into mine as I signed for it.

ticketsUpon opening said package, our upcoming holiday raced a little closer towards us as our theme park tickets tumbled out. It is always a significant milestone in any WDW countdown as I’m sure most of you can appreciate. Once the weekend came and I had a little time, I undertook the task of linking each Disney ticket to our Disney app thingy.

For five out of the six it worked like a dream, seamlessly linking each scanned ticket to the person for which it was intended. As a side note, I decided who got what ticket, as I wanted to avoid the ugly scenes of Nana and Grandad wrestling each other to the ground for the Mickey ticket last time! The final ticket decided it didn’t want to play ball and wouldn’t link. However, when I then tried to link it again, the app told me that ticket had already been linked. Evaluating the two options of cancelling the whole trip and going to Butlins instead or seeking technical assistance from Disney, I opted for the latter.

I called the number suggested to me by the app, disregarding the enormous expense of a call to the US, as I am just crazy like that. I was connected quickly after a few IVR choices and was soon embraced in the warm, welcoming Disney tones of some chap on the help line. The US accent alone evokes every positive memory of every previous trip and I could almost feel the Florida sunshine coming down the phone line. The service was of course outstanding, with courtesy, apologies for the inconvenience and a promise to have things resolved promptly. He apologised again for having to put me on hold for a moment to check things out, but he needn’t have, as when the first few bars of the hold music kicked in I filled up and had to compose myself quickly as he returned to line.

A quick refresh of the app confirmed that the issue was resolved and every traveler was now linked. Not content with sorting out my problem, he enquired, with seemingly genuine interest, when our trip was, where we were staying and how long we would be staying with them. If I could have hugged him I would. One step from me suggesting we get married, he thanked me for my call and instructed me to have a magical day. Upon ending the call I sat collecting myself for a few moments before carrying on with every day life. The latter, being at times consistently challenging, with this week being no exception, this is an insight into how the Disney magic really operates. Whenever you engage with the Disney brand, be it on the phone, in a store or actually in the parks, it is that temporary escape from what can be quite sucky reality and long may it continue.

You will notice from the picture above that our Universal tickets also arrived. As much as I love those parks and the on site experience, for me personally, they just haven’t yet delivered that immersive experience of that elusive magic that will always see us visit Disney, with Universal being a casual and occasional addition.

Aside from tales of grown men over reacting to a simple call to Disney, I again find myself exhausted on a Sunday after two gigs on successive nights this weekend. Whilst I have no interest or much respect for their musical output, I tip my hat to the Rolling Stones, who tour in their 70’s. Two gigs in a weekend and I am ready for the scrap heap. Mind you, they don’t have to work all week and then transport, carry, set up and then take down their own gear, so I suspect they wouldn’t  be in great shape either after carting our gear up and then down two flights of stairs last night.

Both nights were good and I am now becoming much more comfortable with the whole thing, feeling like I know all the songs well enough to relax a little. We have a weekend off next week, but then three weddings on the bounce over the next couple of weekends. After that, we have a fairly lengthy break as there are lots of holidays within the band, including of course mine.

I must go now to stare at my theme park tickets a little more.

Till the next time…..

 

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Tim Tracker & Peter Pan

The tone of these posts usually reflects the traditional sick at the pit of my stomach feeling that Sundays bring. I’ve long since forgotten why I dread Mondays so much, but I do, so when, like today I have to write a post without the dark cloud of work on the horizon tomorrow then surely the post shall be filled with rainbows and sunshine? I make no promises.

When my Sunday has been filled with the Trafford Centre then there is a fair chance that my aching feet and broken wallet may darken my mood. To be honest though it wasn’t that bad and spending the afternoon with Louise, on our own, was a nice change, made all the more palatable by the fact that nothing was purchased. This, I fear, is merely delaying the inevitable as she needs an outfit for her graduation ceremony on Tuesday. This brings me nicely to the reason that I have no work tomorrow. Having the day off on Tuesday to attend Louise’s graduation made me see the benefit in adding the preceding Monday to that and having a long weekend. Sat here now staring at that Monday it may well be one of the better decisions in my life time.

Tomorrow can be a seldom had, “me day” where I do all the things I wish I was doing when I’m sat at my desk doing things I wish I wasn’t. A lie in, hopefully, some XBox, a little plinking and a plunking on my bass and whatever else takes my fancy. If Emily is home, we may catch a couple of videos from some vloggers we have been watching for a while. Emily discovered them (of course). Usually my tolerance for vloggers is minimal and the same for podcasts too if I’m honest, but this one is well done and has some good content. It’s been a lovely way to spend time in and around the parks without being there.

The vlogger in question is The Tim Tracker. He’s been at it for a good while so if you do find them enjoyable you will have a lot of content to go at. If you aren’t good with facial hair then it may not be for you, but otherwise it’s worth a watch.

The other thing along similar lines that I have noticed taking off in a big way recently is Periscope. That’s mainly down to me downloading the app and following a few folks, so my phone buzzes regularly to tell me someone is “live”. If you aren’t familiar with the concept it is basically a live video streaming app, where viewers can comment and show their love for the stuff they are watching. The ones from the Disney folk are good of course, as they are typically in a park, live, and who doesn’t want to see that? I am toying with the idea of doing some Periscopes (I think you call them that) when we are over there. Let me know if you think you’d be interested in joining our holiday for a few moments, assuming I can find something interesting to “broadcast”. If there’s enough interest, we’ll give it a go. The problem is that the only time I’ll have time and remember to do it is when I’m sat around waiting for females to be ready, so you may just get shots of me being grumpy around the villa. What’s not to like?

The week ahead, as I say starts with two days off for me and then Wednesday sees me down south on business. You can’t beat eight hours in the car for a ninety minute meeting! Then on Friday, Mustard are back on the road, albeit a short one to a pub about five minutes from our house, with our next gig. I’d invite you all, but there wouldn’t be room!

Having been clothes shopping with Louise and then walked Oli, I am now typing this thing as the tea which I am making comes to fruition in the oven. It is steak tonight, cooked just how I like it…which is pretty much however it turns out by the time I finish typing this. Emily could be helping but she is busy watching Peter Pan for the gabillionth time. I don’t mean the Disney animated version, although she does like that one. The version in question is a live action one that she has been totally obsessed with since it came out in her formative years way back in 2003. I suspect Peter (Jeremy Sumpter) may have been her first crush…

These days he’s twenty-three stone and bald.

Till the next time…..

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Mo’ Money, Mo’ Mustard.

Holy hell, I have spent some money today. My aversion to doing so is well documented in the many years of writing this blog, but if you’ve been around for a while, you’ll know there are some chunks of change that I spend with a smile on my face. Today has been such an occasion.

After booking way back last October, we now have just eight weeks to go until our trip. It has certainly snuck up on us and as they say shit just got real. The first expense today was to pay the balance on the villa. If you’ve forgotten, never knew or don’t care either way, the villa we will be staying in is the Disney Palms Villa.

With that all paid for now, at least we’ll have somewhere to sleep!!

Bearing in mind the 30 day window for the booking of these new fandangled FastPass+ things, I also had to sort out our park tickets so that they arrive at least 30 days before we go. I always sort of dread and relish this in equal measure, as it involves a lot of hard work, but it also means the trip is close.  The task of working out the best value options for your park ticket needs can be a complex exercise, but I have to give a big thank you at this point to someone who has done a huge amount of work to make this task so much easier. Slinky Malinki, a user on the Dibb forum has put together a comparison spreadsheet which does all the work for you.  Using that, I have got 21 day ultimate tickets for Disney and 14 day 2 park tickets for Universal for what appear to be the best prices currently available. When your party is six adults, that’s a hefty transaction.

(Disclaimer – If you use it and something isn’t right then don’t moan to me!)  

Never have I spent so much cash with a smile on my face. This week I also went to the huge expense of getting us a FastPass, this one being for security at Manchester Airport. Whether or not it helps that much I don’t know but at £3.50 each it’s worth the risk I guess.

Earlier in the week saw both the girls return home. Louise and I had the house to ourselves unusually last week and it was strangely peaceful and drama free. Still, it was good to have them both back, Rebecca from her Barcelona trip and Emily from a few days dog sitting for a relative of her boyfriend.

Rebecca loved Barcelona and they had a great time. Most of the photos we saw were similar to this. I don’t know where she gets this from?

barcelona pic 1

With the occasional….

barcelona pic 2

 

Personally, I am on the other side of another 2am finish last night after the mighty Mustard gigged once again. Of all the gigs I’ve done, I have to say that playing at a stadium is my favourite kind!  I took this as we were setting up.

macron pci 1 4-7-15

We were playing at a gala dinner for a local running club who were celebrating their 30th anniversary. The venue, audience and atmosphere were excellent and I made my fewest amount of mistakes to date, so all was good. Everyone seemed to have a good time and the packed dance floor throughout was testament to that. We had a good few photos taken which will be up on the Mustard website at some point in the future, if you wish to see middle aged rock gods at work.

So I end the week with a full house, an empty back account and a lack of sleep but I don’t really mind any of them.

Till the next time….

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If Only Kanye Had Been This Brief

I’m going to be brief. Mainly as I don’t have a great deal springing to mind to share with you, but sometimes, come this time on a Sunday I am not engulfed with the desire to blog. However, such is the drive of my minor OCD about completing things, not blogging on a Sunday may tip me over the edge of the compulsive cliff.

Not a great deal has happened this week, apart from working and enduring a little more trolling from the parts of the internet where idiots live. There has been no holiday planning progression, mainly as it has been planned to death already. I have been researching some golf courses but nothing has been booked as yet. I have to save some planning for closer to the time or I may have to do some work instead.

Oh, I tell a lie. We did sort out our transport to and from Manchester airport. I researched airport parking and my Dad looked into mini bus options. He popped in mid-week to let me know he’d found a reliable chap at a price the airport parking couldn’t compete with so we shall be driven there and back without the need to negotiate the M60 after twenty minutes sleep on our return home.

Right now, Rebecca is trying to fit the proverbial quart into the pint pot for her trip to Barcelona tomorrow. You may remember that was her surprise present for her birthday back in May. I don’t know why she is taking a quart with her, or indeed why she is carrying it in a pint, but Easyjet’s luggage rules have always confused me. She may only be going for four days but still it seems that half of our house is currently in her room vying for space in her postage stamp carry on.

The flight is very early tomorrow, so early I am just glad that I am not on drop off duty. Monday’s are bad enough without adding a 3am start on the front of one. Tom (her boyfriend) has talked his Mum into doing the honours. Both of the girls are of course seasoned flyers and travelers but it won’t stop me giving her a four-hour lecture on safety abroad before she goes. I know she is looking forward to it.

As I write this, I have the travesty which was Kanye West’s “performance” from last night on the iPlayer. I was certain I wouldn’t like it, but felt that I had to witness first hand the outrage that played out on my social media last night. By the Lord of autotune what a jumped up load of over hyped emperor’s new clothes this excuse for an artist is. Suddenly his marriage to the other vacuum of talent makes a whole load of sense. As much as he really is an arse for forcing this crass, talentless talking over music onto us, the bigger idiots are the ones buying it and making him the multi-gazillionaire he is.

I’ve added him to my list of rant inducing musical acts. It’s a long one, but includes the likes of Example, Coldplay, U2 and Diana Ross, the latter being solely for inflicting Chain Reaction on to the world. Her and Lulu’s “Weeeeeeeeeelllllll” at the start of Shout besmirch every wedding and family party in the western world and both make me want to take a steaming dump on the DJ’s equipment, and that’s not a euphemism.

I’ll confess that Mustard (the top North West covers band, perfect for your function, reasonable rates assured, that I play bass in) do perform a Coldplay track. I get through it for the greater good and I maintain that playing it is different to listening to it voluntarily anyway.

So much for being brief. I have to go now and set fire to the BBC iPlayer.

Till the next time…..

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Plan vs Food

Welcome to the new look Mkingdon blog. That’s if you’ve noticed that we’ve had a bit of a redesign. It’s been a long time since a change was made so I hope you like it.

I’m blogging a little early today as Louise is working. This is her first weekend at work since qualifying and so it makes sense to get it done whist she is out at work. It is also of course Father’s Day and I sit here in the after glow of a breakfast of enormous proportions. Now that the girls are old enough to operate cookers and stuff I get more than I used to in the heady days of cereal and toast.

Pardon my knees

Pardon my legs

I have a fine collection of presents which also include ludicrous calorie numbers, a T-shirt and an Xbox game.

My breakfast today represents the struggles of the week just gone too. In time that absolutely should not have been spent working, I have been wrestling with our WDW plan this week. Trying to predict Emily’s movements and meetings as she starts work is just one challenge I am trying to rise to, but the main one has been not having enough days. This has surprised me, as we are going for our longest trip ever at 18 nights. With that in mind I had thought we’d have endless rest days and time for the smelling of roses and all that jazz. To be honest, theme park wise, we’re doing OK. Even with Disney and Universal to fit in, we have the odd day without firm plans. The real tricky bit has been the eating plan.

Having been to WDW a lot, we have built up a back catalogue of favourite eateries that we have to do each time. We also like to fit in a new one or two as well, so this week I came to the conclusion that I simply don’t have enough days to eat all the stuff we want to. By around Thursday I had somehow slotted in all of the following –

Outback
Crystal Palace
Be Our Guest
Applebees
Rose and Crown
Market Street Cafe (Celebration)
Romanos Macaroni Grill
Hard Rock Cafe
Cowfish
Beaches and Cream
Miller’s Ale House
Whispering Canyon
Bahama Breeze
Olive Garden
Teak Neighborhood Grill

I still had a couple of places, such as the Cheesecake Factory that I couldn’t find a slot for unless we were to eat four meals a day. Then, yesterday, whilst chatting through the plan with Emily she was a very bad influence and threw up a couple of dining “must dos” that I had totally forgotten about. Whilst looking for availability on the Disney app for a reservation at O’hana (that we never did get), we were reminded that Sanaa had been a new one that we had wanted to try for a while and so with a bit of juggling we slotted that one in too, quite early in the trip.

Whilst searching for that reservation for Sanaa we also saw Trail’s End mentioned and remembering our previous visit there that quickly got added to the must do list. Don’t ask me how, but that’s now booked too!

I am pleased with all our plans but I have to say that I’m also a little worried about the amount we’re going to be eating. I’m sure we’ll manage. I’m not suggesting that we are food obsessed or that our touring plans start with where we will be eating, but Emily already knows what she is ordering at certain places. For example, at The Market Street Cafe she will be having –

Cheese Fries
With Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, topped with bacon and served with ranch dressing. 6.95

Banana Cream Pie 5.50

Milkshakes
Cookies & creams 4.50  add malt .50 

At Sanaa, I think it is fair to say that most of us will be going for this as an appetiser –

Indian-style Bread Service

Choice of Three Breads – Traditional Naan, Garlic-Ginger Naan, Spiced Naan, Onion Kucha, or Paneer Paratha. Choice of Three Accompaniments – Red Chile Sambal, Cucumber Raita, Coriander Chutney, Mango Chutney, Tomato-Date Jam, Garlic Pickle, Spicy Jalapeño-Lime Pickle, Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus, or Tamarind Chutney.

It goes without saying that when we go to Teak I will be having the Doughnut Burger. That has to happen. On a similar note, when we visit Cowfish at City Walk, there is only choice for me and that is the  –

The Cowfish Has Offically Left The Building (A.K.A. The Hunka, Hunka)

Full-pound beef burger, creamy peanut butter, fried bananas, applewood bacon, brioche bun. Choice of side.

It’s ridiculous. I am still stuffed after my breakfast and now I am drooling over my keyboard! I’m putting weight on just writing about this stuff. I shall have to walk Oli for an extra few minutes. That will burn a few thousand calories, right?

I hope your Father’s Day is a good one should it be relevant to you and I shall go now to see mine. The effort of walking all the way next door may well burn a few hundred more calories!

Till the next time…..

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A Gig With Midges….Ure.

I sit here with another gig under my belt. This might explain the unsightly bulge, but with each one, I feel I’m getting somewhere closer to the standard required. We played a charity gig last night, and despite it being a little chaotic in the early parts, once we got set up and playing it was good fun. It’s always nice to get a good reaction and we did. The fact that most of the audience had been drinking all day had nothing to do with it I’m sure.

charity gig grapes 13-6-15By the time we got on it was bloody cold and we made a lovely meal for the entire midge population of Bolton too. It was good fun though and I was home at a much more reasonable half twelve as well.

The only other bit of news this week is one that we’ve been sitting on for a while. You may remember my hysterical over emotional rant back in April when Emily came home from the Cultural Representative Programme? It seems half the internet got involved and some of the nastiness and abuse I got, both publicly and privately was truly a bit scary. I didn’t share any of that on here as I didn’t want to fan the flames, but trust me, it was vitriolic and worrying. This meant that when I posted an update to that rant a few days later I was suitably vague about how Disney had redeemed themselves.

This was mainly because I felt that had I shared what had happened, certain parts of the internet may have exploded in disbelief and outrage and with our emotions still all over the place it was the last thing anyone needed, especially Emily.

With considerable water under the bridge now and my blog visitor levels back to the usual readers (mainly) hopefully I can share the news with you without having to check under my car each morning before turning it on. Crucially, this week Emily decided to blog about this so I feel it’s OK now for me to mention it here. It would always be her call.

So when I said that Disney had been in touch, they had. The Head of Recruitment called Emily about three days after she got home and said that they had found her a role in Merchandise (where the offending tattoo can be covered) and gave her a range of dates to consider. Surprisingly, they even offered to fund her flight back to the States. So after a lot of thought she chose to start this August and finish next June. We are hopeful that she can fly out with us when leave for our holiday. We’re just waiting for confirmation from Disney that this will be OK and that they have booked it for her.

I really, really, don’t want to open up any more debate about the rights and wrongs of what happened. I’ll say now that I won’t publish any comments (nasty or nice) about the rights and wrongs if they go any further than wishing Emily well.  It is likely those so intent on abuse last time will come across this update and want to continue to call me anything from a liar to much, much worse. My blog, my rules. Only Emily and to some extent us know everything about what happened and nobody was without blame. Hopefully, this news can just be taken for what it is, which in my view is just a good end to a not very good situation.

I have another request. If you are connected to Emily and want to send her a message, please avoid doing so publicly on her Facebook. Her current managers, who were kind enough to immediately take her back on when she returned would see that.

So for those who have asked recently if Emily was coming on holiday with us etc, this is why I have avoided answering you. Sorry!

Obviously we are very pleased that Emily has a second chance at this experience and I thank those at Disney who were gracious enough to make it happen. We are also very proud of Emily who handled the issue better than I did at the time and has had the courage to go back and try this again despite the experience she had last time.

It certainly feels good to have shared that at last!

Till the next time….

 

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