Freddie Fun and a Few Other Fings

I do try and prevent this blog from becoming the equivalent of the bloke at work who keeps showing you photos of their kids/grand kids. It’s hard at times as of course Freddie is the most special being on the planet and my track record for not sharing stuff like that is poor as I have spent every year since 2003 writing about the girls on our holidays, but I think I’ve done OK.

So you’ll forgive me I hope a couple of short videos from last night. We had the pleasure of Freddie’s company for a few hours whilst Rebecca an Tom went to the cinema. We did all the things that grand parents are supposed to do, like let him refuse to eat his tea and instead fill him up with yoghurts and chocolate, no doubt making him difficult when he went home. It is the circle of life.

You can see from video one that he may have had some previous experience with his Mum and camera phones. Also, I know that the music is annoying, but you only get a few seconds of it, not the whole evening.

And in this second video, ignoring any recent revelations about the artist, he does like a bit of a dance and MJ is one of his favourites.  You may also spot him attempt to shout at Alexa. It is amazing what they pick up, and he is obsessed with technology, buttons and fiddling with things he shouldn’t.

I resisted the urge to measure him and then try to calculate how tall he will be in late summer 2020 for our next trip, for now.

The week just gone has been a blur. Busy, stressful, problem ridden and wet, and that was just the commute. That does not sound like a set of ingredients for a week of joy and indeed it was not. Having to work for a living does place serious limitations on my ability to enjoy day-to-day life.

I am vexed that this eating of my time has not allowed me yet to investigate any of the villa tips many of you sent me a few weeks ago. I mean, time is tight, we are literally now only eighteen months away from our intended departure. This shall need to be addressed promptly. I should also thank you all for the many comments and thoughts last week on the Star Wars Land opening. It was a real mixed bag, but I think almost everyone had big concerns over crowd levels.

I do wonder, with my “I want to be a Disney Imagineer” thought bubble on, how they plan and consider these things. You see, those are some meetings I would like to be in and not spend half of it wishing I wasn’t. My mind boggles at the data analysis, planning and general interesting stuff that must go into just the opening of such a thing, never mind the building of it.

Almost every part of WDW will be affected, from hotels bookings and obvious things like that, but how do they accommodate the costuming requirements for all the new cast members and characters, where do they store them, are the car parks going to cope, what impact might there be on the other parks, which merchandise is de-ranged to make way for the new stuff in the shops as again they have finite amounts of shelf space. It’s no wonder Disney employ so many folks. Think of all the project plans in play at once for this stuff.  Imagine being the person responsible for the thing being ready on time. That must involve a few sleepless nights.

I’m sure my tiny brain can’t even come up with 99% of the considerations for this type of thing. The number of moving parts in play just to facilitate folks like me going on a few rides is unfathomable.

Right, with this post meandering around aimlessly I should probably go and be more productive elsewhere. At the back of my mind, my stress levels are being enhanced by the impending arrival of workmen to destroy and then reconstruct our bedroom. We have to empty the room before that, and find places to house all that crap until the work is done and then it’ll be weeks before we are totally finished. I do hate this disruption and it makes me stress more than it should for any sane person. I’ll address it today, not by getting on with the work of emptying the room of course, more by watching the football and doing things that will make me forget it’s happening.

You know it makes sense.

Till the next time…..

Ride Or Ride Not, There Is No Try

As you will know by now, I like this blog to be right on the bleeding edge of Disney news. I understand that many of you count on it as your one and only source for all things Disney related, and as such I spend every waking hour researching and being one step ahead of every other Disney blog on the planet.

So, I can now reveal, way before you will have heard it anywhere else that the opening date for Star Wars Land has been announced. I know! Exciting stuff right, and I appreciate that this breaking news may take some time for you to digest.

Had we been going this year (and I never say never, as those lucky lottery balls may yet drop in our favour) this would not have been the welcome news you may think it might be. The date of the 29th of August is slap bang in the middle of our usual touring time, and an opening like this is enough to ride the proverbial coach and horses through my laminated spreadsheet.

Having seen what happened when Toy Story Land opened, those wait times for Slinky will seem like the blink of any eye once the Star Wars lot descend upon Hollywood Studios. Had we been there this summer, at opening, I think it would have more or less wiped DHS off our plans to be honest. That opening week will be like a scene from Ghandi, and I don’t mean that everyone will be wearing a bed sheet and sandals.

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The crowds generated by Disney vloggers (Hey Guys!!) alone would be enough to fill Wembley Stadium three times over and the chances of getting anywhere near a ride would be less than me growing a fringe.

So it’s good news that we have no trip planned for this summer right?  Right????

Ironically, the nominal date I have plucked from the ether for our potential travel in 2020 will be the one year anniversary of the opening, so that should mean that those at the back of the queue on opening day will just be leaving the gift shop as we get there, hopefully armed with FastPasses galore.

In the grand scheme of things, this opening is of course a good thing for many reasons.

  1. DHS has been half a park for long enough whilst they built the two new lands so it is fantastic to see those plans completed.
  2. I love Star Wars
  3. Nearly every park (come on Magic Kingdom, get that Tron ride built) now has new headliner attractions and it will spread out the crowds and FastPass desires of guests meaning that some of the current bottlenecks and frustrations around the likes of Flights Of Passage and Slinky will be alleviated.

The parks are in good shape, and with plans recently announced to renovate and modernise the Epcot entrance area, as ever Disney aren’t resting on their laurels, which is one way to justify their prices to myself.

There is a slight anxiety that big new stuff brings of course. The planner in me finds it easiest when I am scheduling stuff we’ve done before. With so much new stuff, I am poking around in the dark a bit hoping for success, although that is something I am relatively familiar with if I am honest. It doesn’t come much bigger than a whole new land, and as I sit in the comfort of my armchair this August, watching the absolute carnage that is Hollywood Studios, I shall be grateful for two things.

  1. I am not in those crowds.
  2. The internet, that will allow me to watch other folks navigate it and enable me to have a better stab at planning our assault on it a year later.

Over that time, there is much to do, not least trying to get Freddie to watch all the Star Wars  and Harry Potter films in readiness for our trip. That may well be a challenge at his age, but I’m sure his Dad will look after the Star Wars side of that bargain.

So if you are going this year after the opening I’d be interested to know how you feel about it. Are you happy or has it put a bit of a cat amongst your planning pigeons? Let’s be honest, I wish we were going too and I’d deal with whatever carnage that created, but if I can lie to myself that there are some benefits to not having a holiday then I shall cling to them like Rose did that piece of wood in Titantic.

Comment away folks….

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Till the next time……

Sense and Sensibility

As we bid a fond farewell to summer for another year, it has at least served its purpose and allowed us another American Adventure. Clearly, being a grown man, with a job that almost matters, bills to pay and real life day-to-day issues I have this week done absolutely none of the following –

  1. Researched if it’s better to stay on site at Universal or to buy the Front of Line passes instead.
  2. Checked hotel prices for our on site stay.
  3. Spent a not inconsiderable amount of time working out our departure date, based on pesky work schedules, flight prices, the ability to do MNSSHP again and my inability to wait longer than I absolutely need to.
  4. Looked at several menus for restaurants we may eat in eighteen months from now.
  5. Browsed some villa websites.

Nope, I didn’t do any of those things as that would have just been silly.

If I had been that silly I would have discovered that Universal wanted £1500 for Front of Line passes for two days for our party. That is of course is in addition to our tickets to get into the park. This, Universal, is madness. An on site stay for the same number of folks in two rooms, (suck it up Emily, you’re sharing with Mum & Dad), was about £500. I guess the method in their madness is that they want you to stay on site as they hope you’ll spend more than the difference when you do.

So, on site it is. I would suspect, had I researched prices, I would have decided that it will be the Royal Pacific again. We love the Hard Rock, but it’s about £300 more and as we’ll probably only be there for one night it seems silly. However, when we come to book at a time more sensible, we shall see what deals are around. I mean, what idiot would be looking so far away from their travel dates?

As if he somehow knew what was being planned, Freddie recently took part in a photo shoot, and naturally it had a strong Disney theme. Indulge me sharing a handful of them here….

He’ll thank his Mum no doubt for that Mickey costume when these are shared at his 21st!

Again, if I were an idiot, I might have had an extended conversation with Emily about how tall Freddie might be when we go and which rides that might mean he can go on. Thankfully, I am not that stupid.

Sticking to my declaration last week that I won’t over plan this trip will be a test of my resolve, mainly as it is a long way off and but also because I am a sad act.

I mean, how silly would it be for me to ask both my readers to send me their suggestions for any nice 4 bed villas they know of in developments around Sunset Lakes, Emerald Island, Lindfields and Formosa Gardens. If I had given it any thought at all, I would know that we only want to be staying in that area. Don’t be suggesting me stuff ten miles down the 27 that claims to be “15 minutes from Disney”, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Thankfully, such silliness has not taken place, and I am proud to see nobody else in our travelling party has indulged in any such nonsense. I mean, had I been an obsessed over excited idiot, I might have sent my daughter a text just to tell her that Caseys’s now do a foot long Corn Dog only to have her tell me that my other daughter had already messaged her the day before to tell her the exact same thing. They make me proud every day.

Till the next time…..

Hagrid Makes Me Happy

I have long been an admirer of Disney. I appreciate this may not be a surprise to many of you, but it is true. I do recognise they are not without their flaws. The fact that they insist on charging me to enter their parks and stay at their hotels being the largest. They are also a money-making machine, as is their right, but I do feel like many others, that they price things a little too high, and it has only been fifteen minutes since they increased the price for parking at one of their theme parks.

What really impressed me this week was their control of the weather. I know that may sound odd but there is no other explanation. Clearly, at the last Disney board meeting, as they were studying my latest blog posts, there must have been real concern and the risk of a profits warning at the news that we would not be returning any time soon. So they called the weather department with an urgent request.

Said department were clearly instructed to crank up the temperature and reveal the long hidden sun in the UK. These February balmy temperatures cannot be explained away with any other plausable scenario. Why did they do this I hear you ask?

Well I will tell you. If you trawl back through last (almost) ten years of this nonsense (who is sillier, me for writing these for ten years, or you for reading them? Think on) you will see that every time we say we have no Florida plans, it is pretty much always at the first sign of spring that we buckle and find some way to do so. Now, I am not saying at this stage that anything is booked. Certainly this year will not be possible, but alongside the Disney weather Gods making the weather nice, they also got their fierce competitor to announce a new roller coaster.

What nonsense is this? What am I going on about? Well, they realise that the decision to go to my happy place is always dependent on the green light from Louise. They also know, from my blogs, that Louise is a huge Universal fan too. So due to the combo of the nice weather and Disney making Universal do their bidding, this happened.

For those concerned for Louise’s health, she had been close to the toilet for many hours this week. You know she doesn’t mind me sharing this stuff, right back to the Vagisil episode of an earlier trip report.

So having sworn that we would not be darkening Florida’s shores within the foreseeable, with a caveat that nothing yet is guaranteed, the Disney board, along with their weather department and spies within Universal may have influenced Louise enough to have opened a door. It’s impressive.

When Craig, I hear you ask? When will you be returning? I don’t know dear reader, but thanks for asking. All I know is that next year contains a significant birthday for me and if I’m not stood in Epcot at some point during that day either the world will have ended or Louise will have changed my mind. It’s on!

For now, there’s no formal planning in progress (or real clue as to how to fund it) for many reasons. It needs to ferment a little in my mind first. Clearly Universal is “in scope” due to the newly announced roller-coaster successfully chipping away at Louise’s will, so that needs to be considered, and baked into the overall schedule. But, and this may shock you, I intend to learn the lesson of the last trip and not over plan things. This may strike you as strange and going against everything I stand for, and you would probably be right, but it needs to be done.

Things will be planned and organised of course, but I intend to leave more to ever-changing winds of freewill and the going of flows.

There is also the as yet un-researched (as I was sulking due to us not going) imminent opening of Stars Wars Land to look into. There are some practical things of course, like a wedding to organise and pay for yet, but the die is cast and the cogs are turning.

So thank you to the Disney weather department, you have played a blinder. I thank you, even though my retirement savings plan may not. Rebecca, Emily, don’t ever plan on inheriting a penny, you have and are enjoying it in the form of sunshine, fun and food, and I suspect you respect my decision.

Now that I have blogged about this, it shall be so, and the green light cannot be over turned. That is the law.

Till the next time…..

We Shall Rebuild!

With a couple of days with temperatures in the double digits allowing me to venture out without the need for more layers than a lasagne, the annual emergence from the bleak, dark chill of the winter cave begins.

My allergy to the dark, cold winter is covered in-depth in previous blogs, and this welcome appearance of lighter nights and warmer days literally brightens my mood. After last week’s bleak blog of breakages, the week just gone has felt like a literal reconstruction of our lives as things got sorted one by one.

Monday, our trusted and long time joiner/builder of choice came to start the process of figuring out how to fix the broken curtain in our bedroom. This may seem like overkill, but when you learn that rather than replace a £10 curtain rail, our plan is to destroy the bedroom entirely, take it back to brick and start again at a cost which would fund a holiday, that may be more of a surprise. It was to me!

As much of a shock to the financial system that is, it is long overdue. We’ve been here almost seven years now, and our bedroom was dated when we got here. It was acceptable in the 80’s I suppose and the previous occupants clearly spent a chunk of change on it, but it is at the stage that it is embarrassingly naff and definitely showing its age, so rebuild we must.

Whilst he was here quoting us for that, he took a look at our catastrophically broken kitchen unit. It took him about thirty seconds to fix it. Reinforcing my reputation as a DIY disaster, he kindly said that everyone has different skills and left to laugh it up in his van.

So that was fix number one.

Wednesday the dishwasher man came. He said some words about what was wrong with it like circuit board and element before taking some money off me. At least the long struggle of washing up by hand for several days was over. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.

Thursday saw a man arrive with a car for us. No we haven’t bought a new one. It was a courtesy car to use whilst Louise’s was off being sorted. She is currently in a fraught legal battle with a lamp-post which was clearly not looking where it was going as she reversed at speed off a pavement. This careless lamp-post doesn’t have a leg to stand on and Louise’s car has the scars to prove it. That will be back, all shiny and new in a few days.

We are also in the process of decluttering the house a bit. We have built up our furniture levels to one that is not sustainable and we need to get rid. Our coffee table went to a new home this week giving us a little more room, but we still have a dining table and chairs and four seater sofa with matching chair to go. Don’t ask how we got to this state, you wouldn’t believe me. So if you are looking for either, hit me up, as the youngsters say.

What a fun week, even before the strange mixture of comedy and tragedy that is work.

Anyway, we now have a quote and plan for the bedroom and work starts at the end of March. I do so love building work going on in the house. Anything that can deliver the greatest disruption is fine with me. I can’t wait…..(Spacey gif).

Louise will be away at the time on her “girl’s holiday” with folks from work. She’s off to Rome to celebrate her and her colleagues 50th birthday. I meanwhile will be sweeping up and taking dust out of every orifice and no doubt sleeping in the car.

On the subject of holidays, and what is this blog without such, I had a tweet last week (thanks Paul) pointing out that I hadn’t mentioned the “F word” in weeks. I know, I know. It is all part of the process of denial. If I do not say its name, the fact that there are no current plans will not be real and I will not have to deal with it. The after effects of the last trip are wearing off and the levels of “F word” in my bloodstream are starting to get low. I must put such thoughts from my mind as with bedrooms and weddings in our imminent future there is nothing to be done about it. Again, nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.

I shall have to take comfort from the meagre positives such as not having to wear my attractive bobble hat, scarf and gloves to walk the dog the last few days. Yay?

Till the next time…..

House of Cards

Well this is a first. I am writing this first bit of this week’s blog at a Mustard gig on a Friday night. Firstly, I never pre-write these things, certainly not on my phone as the spelling will be carnage and at most gigs there isn’t time.

Tonight is different as there are two bands on and so we have some down time whilst the other lot do their thing.

We have done our first “spot” and they are now on their second before we close the night in a bit. The place is rammed and therefore the band not currently on stage (us) has nowhere to sit so I am tucked away in a stairwell listening to a long string of songs I’d forgotten and frankly I was glad to. Well executed they are, but a bit too predictably pub rock for my tastes.

I’m also starving as I had to come straight from work (well I shot home to walk the dogs and load the gear) so all I can think of now is what I’m going to eat when I get in. You see, it’s this rock and roll lifestyle that has denied me a six pack. Eating that late is not a good thing no matter how amazing it tastes and feels. It’s those thoughts of food which will normally distract me mid set and cause me to make a right ricket in a song or two.

The week just gone has been another meeting fest. After a while, sitting in meetings, just contemplating all the stuff building up that you should be doing but can’t, as you are in a meeting, just gets stressful. Again, I can drift off mid meeting thinking about that and of course what I’m going to eat. That’s pretty much a constant if I’m honest.

At this point, Friday’s writing stopped, I did some bass playing and writing was resumed on Sunday.

The other theme of this week has been that our house is falling down. I am not one to over exaggerate the negative as you will know, but things are just getting stupid now. We have a broken dishwasher, which refuses to run a cycle and instead puts on a dazzling performance of flashing lights. I have googled this stuff and the results are full of all men who can handle a tool belt talking about how easy it is to just take the thing to bits, clean some sensor or other and then put it back together.

In our house that just leads to a dishwasher in a thousand pieces, me in a rage and dishwasher sales going up by one. I am in the process of securing a repair person to come and make the problem go away.

We also lost one of our curtains in our bedroom. They just fell down. They were hung on rickety old tracks/runners or whatever you call them and I’ve just been ignoring the fixing or replacing of that as there are literally 671,234 things I’d rather do instead. So now we are paying the price and it serves me right that Louise is using the opportunity to look at some of these fandangled shutter things. Again, folks will be arriving to measure, quote and bankrupt us.

Then on Saturday, Louise was opening one of our fancy, hydraulicy, lift up doors on one of our top kitchen cupboards and that fell off too. How we laughed. Again, having spent moments looking at it, drawing on previous countless similar experiences, I declined the urge to try and fix it myself and I shall again support the local tradesman economy and hopefully they are coming tomorrow.

This series of unfortunate events has been taken as a message that the house may now be showing the signs of all our great holidays and we need to sort it out. A list is being drawn up and projects are beginning. I am a little bit afraid.

Amidst all this carnage a normalish weekend was attempted. Bean went for a haircut yesterday and has spent the hours afterwards shivering and giving us dirty looks.

Then, in the evening Louise and I went out for some tea at our local authentic Italian restaurant, Frankie and Bennys….. I over use the Kevin Spacey gif but it does serve almost every purpose and would work again here….before heading to the cinema next door. Twice in two weeks. Crazy I know.

This time (and I’ll just point out here that again it was Louise’s choice) we watched Glass.

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We both loved the previous film in this series, Split, and thought James McAvoy was excellent in it. He was again very good in Glass, but alas, in our view the film itself was, and I shall try to be all highbrow and analytical here, a bit shit.

The premise is that McAvoy is a person with multiple personalities and struggles as they battle for “the light”. In this film, seeing that Samuel L Jackson and Bruce Willis were in it, it looked like little could go wrong. It did.

I won’t spoilt it, but there’s a comic book theme to this one, which, not being in any way a comic book fan or indeed very fond of any super hero films to be honest, it left me and Louise a bit cold. The film didn’t really feel like it knew what it wanted to be and the dark, evil themes of the first were lost as demonstrated when the last twenty minutes sees Samuel L Jackson sat in a wheelchair in a car park in a purple shiny suit. It was, at best a lost opportunity to showcase McAvoy’s incredible range playing the 20+ characters in one body. Anyway, my ice cream was delicious. A three scoop, Rum and Raisin, Chocolate and Strawberry bowl of pleasure, so every cloud etc.

Right, I must away, to secure other parts of our house of cards before this anarchy gets any worse.

Till the next time…..

I Don’t Want To Build A Snowman

I left you last week with a cliffhanger about us going to the cinema. It was the equivalent of the Netflix thing of just having to watch the next episode and the fact that you are here now proves that you could not resist knowing what happened next…yes?

To prove that point, I was inundated with a request to give my feedback on our experience.

It was decent. A strong start, quite sweet, but went to pieces towards the end. But enough about my bag of popcorn, we watched The Favourite and enjoyed it very much.

It’s a two-hour job, so that’s either good value for money or a reason to take a cushion with you. You may be aware, from previous bloggage of my absolute hatred of period dramas. This is more to do with their ever-presence on Sunday night telly as some omnipresent reminder that Monday is coming for you and it ain’t gonna be pretty. So this probably wouldn’t have been my first choice for a film to watch, but Louise was very keen, and the reviews had been very favourable so I allowed Louise to watch it.

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It was a really enjoyable watch. It became clear early on that they were using modern language so you won’t be battling with thees and thous, but you will encounter some colourful words of a very modern nature.

The story, whilst not a blockbuster style action fest held the interest with ease and there were several very funny moments too. The ending was just a bit weird if I am honest but I won’t spoil it of course. All in all, I give it four out of five stars and a strong Mkingdon thumbs up. I do wish I had gone Pick N Mix, but we had plans for a large tea that evening and I didn’t want to be spoiling that, but I knew I’d regret it! Life is cruel at times.

The working week has been a little more bearable than last, mainly due to a couple of snow days at home which always make working more pleasant. The snow and ice have made other tasks more challenging when really it just shouldn’t. Simple jobs like walking the dogs turned into a form of water skiing with me gliding across the ice ridden pavements whilst Oli and Bean searched out their next sniffing place, typically three feet from the last. With the fields temporarily being snow crusted delights and not the usual mud fests they are for six months of the year it did allow me to venture onto the local playing fields and let them have a good run without ending the walk like a Tough Mudder contestant. This does tire them out which makes for a more peaceful evening.

Things got very real in this laughable snowmageddon when the bin collections were cancelled on Wednesday which means we are now two weeks away from the next one and facing endless fun and games with our plastics and cardboard. In a time before my blogs, I do wonder how you made your lives work without such crucial updates.

The ultimate travesty was when I went to do our usual weekly big shop. I have long since stopped venturing to an actual shop to do this. It is an online experience and usually works out well. Upon starting up the app I discovered that every delivery slot for the next four days was full. Now, either they had cancelled deliveries due to the light dusting of the white stuff or the entire population of Bolton has decided to stock pile three months worth of food to cover the next few days of nasty weather. Brexit? What could possibly go wrong?

Now I have to actually leave the house and go to the supermarket and undertake a “Click and Collect”. I shall be taking a receipt so they can reimburse my fuel expenses. So enough snow now thanks, as we just cannot function in its presence.

With that click and collecting the next task on my endless list of weekend chores I shall leave you having uplifted your Sunday with these essential and world-changing updates of my week.

Till the next time…..