Endless Errands and Expense

It’s a busy time. These final few days before we jet off are crammed full of lots of stuff. There’s too much work of course, but there also seems to be endless errands and expense connected to our holiday either directly or indirectly. For example, we’ve just doubled the annual sales for cat and dog food, stocking up for those kind souls foolish lovely enough to take our pets on board.

Today is a great example of this. Whilst Louise has been able to get on with the fun stuff, like the ironing of everyone’s clothes I have had to crack on with the less enjoyable preparations. No endless packing for me, no, I had to go to the golf driving range with my Dad to see if I could still swing a club after two years off from playing. I can report that the balls went in generally the right direction and I should be able to avoid major embarrassment on the first tee when we play in the Florida heat.

When I got home I was then allowed to start on the real fun by going to Asda to buy the stuff we forgot in the last big shop just a day ago. A quick walk of Oli, perfectly timed to start just as the heavens opened again and now here I sit all moist typing the last blog post before we go. It seems to have been forever since we booked and of course many eons since we were last there. So at this late stage it doesn’t quite feel real. Whilst watching yet more Florida vlogs this week, I noted that it seems odd to think that we will be there in a few days. These places that are so familiar to us in some ways feels so alien in others and I just hope we remember how to “do” Florida.

My journey to Asda also included a trip to the pharmacy to pick up Louise’s knock out drops for the flight. Such is her fear of flying that only drugs can calm her down sufficiently to board the thing. Seeing the tragic events yesterday at the air show only increases her fear of all things airborne but then again, her fear is an odd one as she will then be found watching all sorts of air crash investigation stuff when she really shouldn’t.

Don’t imagine for a second that I am moaning about all these preparations. I have pined to be at this stage for far too long so to see cases filling up and final preparations in full swing, it is a happy moan, if there is such a thing.

So the packing for Louise and I is pretty much done, no thanks to me, and I’m sure that at some point between now and Wednesday night the girls will find the motivation to do the same. Emily is getting there, but has a bit more to do as her cases have to contain stuff to get her through her entire programme, although of course her return flight may require an upgrade in her luggage allowance to carry all of her purchases, mainly tsums tsums and Disney sweat shirts.

Between now and Thursday should you happen to see me, I’ll be wearing emergency clothes. With everything I actually want to wear packed, I’m in my last resort underwear and that T-Shirt I never wear. The atmosphere in the house is a mix of excitement, stress, hard labour and anticipation, which is all pretty much from me about the thought of writing another trip report. I feel rusty and apprehensive and they are not two new dwarves. I might have to read a few of the oldies to get myself back in the zone.

So I sign off for a few weeks, with a whole new American Adventure ahead of us. I thank you all as ever for your interest in what we get up to and if your trip coincides with ours and you see us wandering about, do come and say hello. I’ll be the fat bloke wearing the attractive bumbag, eating something.

If you want to follow us virtually, then you can find me at the following places.


If and when we Persicope, I think it sends a tweet out so if you follow me there then you should get notified, assuming I can figure out how it works.



Till the next time……

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Holiday Hi-Tecs and Holes

Having spent all of last week’s blog going on about our upcoming holiday, then this week I should be blogging about some other topic to retain the interest of (both) my readers. Yeh, there’s absolutely no chance of that I’m afraid. With our departure impending, having not gone last year I feel massively out of practice now, convinced that I have missed some crucial part of the planning process and the whole thing will be a disaster. So once again this blog will be awash with a smug “almost on our holidays” glow.

I undertook all of my holiday shopping this week. It took about twenty-four minutes in a lunch hour and ten of those were the time it took to drive from the first shop to the second. Two pairs of shorts, a cap for the protecting of my slight bald spot, some under garments (which had been pre-ordered weeks in advance as no-one makes them large enough to accommodate my junk!), socks and of course the customary bright white trainers.

Every time I go to buy my Florida trainers I try on almost every pair in the shop. As much as I am a cool hipster type dude with my finger on the very pulse of fashion, this buying decision is 99% driven by the comfort factor. It’s all very well turning up for one of these holidays in those deck shoes or every so trendy “kicks” but two days into theme park touring and you’re in a wheelchair or hospital using a bed pan due to your inability to put any weight on your feet.

So after the ritual of trying on all of the big brands, without fail I find that the ones which feel the most comfy are these Hi-Tec favourites. They are, I believe, what the “yoots” would call Box Fresh…..

white trainers 15They will not win any fashion awards but they have loads of support and crucially are white enough to make both my daughters cringe with embarrassment whenever I have them on. So with that tradition complete, we must be nearly ready for the off now?

The other shopping trip, which happened yesterday, was to the opticians. It wasn’t because I had blinded a family member with my lovely trainers, but instead to get Emily some new glasses. She’s worn contacts or glasses since she was in her teens, but the chances of her wearing contacts for her long shifts in Florida heat are slim, so she needed a new pair of glasses that she’d be happy to wear more of the time. It was relatively straight forward as she wanted plain black frames so, once she’d chosen we sat with one of the assistants at Vision Express.

In the league table of companies that desperately need to change their name, Vision Express stand second, only lagging behind Carphone Warehouse as companies who now have a name that make no sense in relation to what they do. Emily was told that it could take three and a half weeks for her glasses to be ready. If that’s Express then I’m Usain Bolt over one hundred metres. So if they don’t arrive before we go she’ll make do with her old ones until we get back home and post them over to her.

Yesterday I also dug out all of my holiday clothes. It is at this point that I discover two things –

  1. I own more shorts and T-shirts than I thought I did, so why did I buy more?
  2. Have I lost enough weight to fit into said holiday clothes?

In response to point two, then, not in all cases, but then again I’ve owned some of them since I had hair so I don’t feel too bad about those. Broadly speaking the efforts of the last few weeks mean that the huge amounts of weight I will gain in the US won’t mean I need a whole new wardrobe when I return (hopefully) and I can wear mostly the same summer attire I have for the last decade or so.

So all of my gear now sits ironed in the wardrobe ready to be packed. I am now moving on to other tasks such as digging out my camera (remember those?) to see if it still works and where the hell those rechargeable batteries are.

In other Disney news this week, if you follow any of the folks I do on social media, you cannot fail to have noticed that the D23 convention is in progress. At times, it has been all I have seen, but maybe that’s a reflection of who I follow. This blog has never really been a Disney blog, although it is probably the reason many of you know of me, and it often gets a mention. There are many reasons why the content meanders onto all sorts of day to day stuff too, mainly as there are many other better Disney blogs around, and living too far away from it, I could never produce the quantity and quality of content others do. Plus, when I don’t have a trip booked I have a right sulk on and often don’t want to write about Disney.

Anyway, it seems there are numerous incredible things coming up. I don’t know any of the detail so you’ll be better going to find someone else to tell you those but I have picked up on the new Star Wars Land at DHS which goes someway to explain the many closures and changes there, along with a new Pixar Land at the same park. Then with Avatar Land at DAK, regardless of whether you think it is the right thing to do, what is clear is that there is huge investment going on and it may be simpler just to pay my future salaries directly to Disney as it is clear there will be endless reasons to return in the coming years.

This is no doubt Disney’s response to the huge Harry Potter investment over at Universal and of course they will now feel pressure to respond in kind. This competition is great for us tourists as they battle for our dollars. The sheer volume of attractions and things to do in Florida is and will be incredible. We have been watching recent videos of the parks and there does seem to be a huge amount of work already in progress in many of them. It’s always a concern that this will somehow detract from the enjoyment of a park but it is unavoidable and inevitable as we demand improvements and investment to keep our interest. The only answer is to keep going back of course to see all those bits that were boarded off last time!

So we sit so close now to what has probably been the most complicated and stressful holiday to plan, with changes to the original touring party, Emily’s change of circumstances and her subsequent new start date coinciding with our pre-planned holiday and an endless series of real life dramas and events that have made the last year or two interesting to say the least. At this point, with all the planning done, all we can hope is that it goes well, everyone stays healthy (it would be a nice change) and fun is had by all concerned.

My only other hope now is that the remaining week and a bit at work are bearable. An extra challenge appears to be that the Mancunian Way collapsed on Friday, with a huge sink hole closing it in both directions for weeks to come. That hole is about five minutes from my office and represents pretty much my only sensible route into work. My commute is already hellish so what on earth will happen now I don’t know.  Clearly, I need to leave the country for a while!

See you next week for the final pre-trip blog.

Till the next time….


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Living in Slow Motion

Traditionally, in the coming few days, we should by rights be setting off for another American adventure. The fact that we aren’t, yet, means that the next two and a bit weeks loom over us like some ominous time vacuum standing between us all and where we want to be.

Yep, we are now at that stage in the countdown where time slows down. The rational part of me understands that every minute, hour and day is of equal measure, but right now, the remaining time at work seems insurmountable, chocked full of days that will last for weeks.

Planning wise, I have spent a lot of time this week on the My Disney Experience app and website, booking further Fastpasses. What I only realised this week was that you can also add other stuff to your plans beyond Fastpasses and ADRs. I’ve found it quite handy to add in the entertainment schedule around the World Showcase on the day we will do that for example, so that we can try to have our tour around the countries coincide with the goings on in each pavilion.

Sarah, Rebecca’s friend, who is coming with us this year, popped round this week for a preparatory chat. It is fair to say she is just a little bit excited. I think all of us old timers are just a little jealous of what she is about to experience as a first time visitor and we are definitely hoping and planning to make it as special as possible. She likes rides and food and as such, there can surely be no better holiday experience for her.

We talked her through the essentials to take, which in summary was two pairs of comfy trainers, and an appetite, and walked her though the plan. I suppose it is quite an alien concept to have each day of a holiday mapped out in any level of detail, but as I explained to Sarah, it is key to know where we will be most days as then we know where we will be eating, which let’s face it, is the most important part of the planning. As I talked her though each day all she could greet it with was “I’m SO excited!”. Well, so am I.

Another landmark was passed this weekend with the final Mustard gigs before the holiday. We did two weddings this weekend to bring our “summer tour” to an end. Most of my fellow hard rocking amigos from the band are also heading off for holidays from about now and by the time we are all done we will reconvene in September to begin gigging once again.

wedding 8-8-15

Ryan the rucksack, who has recently been drafted into band duty, carrying around my leads and other musical paraphernalia, will now move back to his true calling as we prepare for departure. He is nothing if not versatile. I will need to ransack a few wardrobes now to find out where I safely stored my bumbag two years ago and there’s a US sat nav knocking around somewhere that I’ll need to blow the cobwebs off before we go. I’ve also noticed that Louise’s passport isn’t in “the folder” with everyone else’s, as she needed it for work recently. Louise, if you are reading this, please return it to “the folder” asap.

As I do before every trip with a few weeks to go, I got “the folder” out this week and went through everything to make sure it was in order. By that, I actually mean in order as in, correct but also, in the right order. I appreciate the OCD nature of this but I arrange the relevant documents in the chronological order in which they will be needed. This starts with passports of course, this year it is then security fastpasses, moving on to the car hire voucher, and well, you get the picture. That picture being that I am a sad individual who clearly needs to get out more.

As my social media is awash with folks currently over in Florida, it is whetting the appetite nicely. If you are one of those lucky folks, I only hope you can forgive me for wishing your holidays away. When you realise you are coming home already and it only feels like you’ve been there for five minutes, you can blame me.

So wish me well with the slog through the rest of the countdown. The struggle is real. I only hope the holiday goes as slowly as the next two and bit weeks will.

Till the next time….

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It’s August and I’m Annoying.

Well, hello August!!

For anyone without a current countdown to a WDW holiday we are now entering the zone where these weekly blogs will be unreadable…well, more unreadable than this stuff normally is. Florida is getting so close now, I can almost smell it, and the potential to upset those not due to holiday there with my constant countdown nonsense is immense.

One thing I try to do every trip, but seldom succeed in doing, is to savour these last days of the countdown. It is so easy to simply wish them away, desperate to get to the departure day, but, I honestly never know if and when we’ll have another countdown, so I try to fight my natural instincts and enjoy the fact that we have everything booked and the trip is so close.

This week we went sub 30 days on our countdown and for the first time ever this has meant booking some Fastpasses ahead of time. It went pretty smoothly for the couple of days we’ve done, but for our first day we’ll be there so early that it will hardly matter. We have a lunch time ADR at Crystal Palace and once that food hits our stomachs all we’ll want to do it head back to the villa and vegetate.

One the subject of these Fastpass plus things…I would welcome comments and advice from anyone who has used Magic bands and stayed off site. Our plan is for me and Emily to nip to Downtown Disney on our first evening and at Guest Services convert Emily’s Magic Your Way voucher into a ticket (she has a 4 day ticket to use before she checks in and gets her Cast Member one) and buy Magic Bands for all of us. Looking at the MDE app/web site it appears you can link Magic Bands to your tickets via that. Has anyone done this? Is it easy? This would certainly be easier for us than getting everyone to go to Downtown Disney in person when they will be tired and trying to unpack etc. We’d also rather get it done before we head to Magic Kingdom on our first morning as any delay at a ticket window and/or Guest Services will have me in fits of rage at the thought of all those people getting on rides whilst we faff about.

I also ordered and received some dollars. I say some, as they will no doubt not be enough. I have paid absolutely no attention to the dollar rate since booking. Until I physically have the cash ready to change there seems little point in stressing about it. On Friday when the time came I did about four minutes research into recent trends to quickly discover that all and any recent variances would mean about a $20 difference in total, so rather than sit watching the rate for the next twenty odd days, I just ordered.

As we speak, Louise is out “holiday shopping”. This may be a wasted task as she tells me that she is so terrified of the flight this year that she may well not get on the flight. To be fair, this is an annual event, but every year she tells me she feels worse about it. I’m sure with the correct prescribed medication and the usual red wine or two she’ll get through it. My hand usually comes off worst with nail marks there for weeks after as she grips it for dear life upon take off. The reward at the end the flight has always been enough for her to tough it out and so I expect this year to be the same.

So after this post today, there are just three more blog posts (Sundays) until we go. I shall shortly be procuring the customary new bright white trainers that are as much a part of a WDW holiday as Mickey Mouse and Ryan the Rucksack, and I am in the middle of my annual struggle to lose enough weight to allow me to eat like a lunatic in Florida and not have to buy a whole new wardrobe upon my return. Progress has been made, but not enough and the struggle continues.

As a distraction to the now almost endless obsession with the never-ending slow creep towards our holiday, (what did I say about trying to enjoy the countdown?) I am quite busy over the next couple of weeks with some gigging. Last night we played a lovely wedding in Cheshire and we have two more next weekend too. Last night was good fun, at a lovely venue, Hollin Hall In Bollington, with an appreciative crowd who never left the dance floor.

Here’s a lovely shot of the back of my head. I can’t believe nobody told me I had a bald spot!

hollin hall 1-8-15So I’ll see you here again next week for more stunning gig photography like that and more tiresome countdowning to our holiday. What more could you ask for?

Till the next time….


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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.



It is now a Walgreens.




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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