A Loss Of Form

Today’s blog post is a salute to all Mothers, but mostly mine and Louise’s. Thanks to you both for everything you have done and continue to do for us.

I had a right old whinge last week about a load of problems that weren’t really. In the end, last week wasn’t as bad as I feared. It was worse. Now of course, I don’t have any real problems and events in London last week reminded me of that, but with that considered, in my own little world I had a week so stupidly busy that I didn’t even have time to moan about it.

Our bathroom renovations started and we currently have an empty room, stripped back to brick and a lovely collection of dust on every surface in the house.

Our boiler is in though and it is just delightful to have a boiler that is younger than me. It is amazing that having just one room out-of-order can seemingly send shock waves throughout the entire house. There is mess everywhere and where this isn’t mess there are large boxes containing stuff to be fitted into said bathroom in the coming days (hopefully).

Our chosen workmen have been great and were at the front door like clockwork every day at 7.30am. They have worked their socks off and made good progress. We are through the worst now I think, and from here on in the room starts to look better, not worse!

They have a week and a bit to go and just before they finish more workmen will arrive to dismantle almost all the gubbins at the back of the house, like our car port, walls and anything else in the way, to erect our new one large wall and roller shutter door thing for our cars. We like to do things the hard way.

My busy state was created by all of that house nonsense and a million other things going on at home plus my actual work life. Due to a perfect storm of team holidays, unavoidable meetings out of the office and yet another million things going on at work, I can’t remember a week when I’ve worked harder or faster. I earned my money for sure.

Monday was especially fun. Louise was due to collect her new car at 6pm, and with that in mind I dug out the V5 form for the car we were trading in at 8am that morning, from its secure holding place where it could not be lost from. Louise took it to work with her and we went about our day. Fast forward to 5.50pm and I get a call from Louise. She had lost that V5 document. It had lived safely in my secret special documents place since the day we got the car nearly two years ago, but within a matter of hours Louise managed to lose it. She had placed it in her diary which she carries with her to all of her patient appointments every day. What could possibly have gone wrong??

So this led to a whole load of faff, stress and last-minute nonsense with the garage having to undertake administrative somersaults to still allow Louise to take her new car home. Those somersaults would cause a load more admin for us too as they couldn’t pay off the remaining finance until we got a new V5 and that would mean we were paying for two cars until that was sorted. I was not pleased.

A replacement was £25 and a good few days to get hold of one but Louise told me to hang fire until she had a look for it in a few of her regular patients’ houses. I seethed for almost 24 hours, until she text me to say she had found it in a care home. This falls into the “only Louise” category. The form was dropped off at the garage and hopefully that will be the last of it.

Living life at a million miles an hour as I did last week did mean that it flew by. With only a few days to go now before we holiday that is always welcome. I have a couple of gruesome milestones to endure in the remaining time, such as a dentist trip tomorrow to hopefully sort out a developing issue and a particular meeting I am not looking forward to the week after, but as life has taught me over the years, these things come and go before you know it and we really are entering the final part of our countdown now. I’m not sure who will be most pleased when we get to the airport, us travelers or you lot, as you heave a huge sigh of relief that I can’t wang on about it anymore.

I do not like the dentist. My childhood dentist had all the bedside manner of Freddie Kruger and ever since I have dreaded every visit, more so since I had to start paying for it too. Needs must though as I cannot go on holiday and take on all that food with a set of gnashers not operating at 100% efficiency. They have a big job on.

Till the next time…..

Building Up To Our Departure

Life can be feast or famine at times. There can be long periods of time when stuff just rumbles along, the routine is just that and there’s nothing of note going on. I look forward to when that happens for us!!

I’m not sure how we manage it but we always seem to conspire against ourselves to make things as busy and at times, as stressful as possible. Here we sit twenty odd days from a trip that has been so long in coming that I can hear you all sigh that we haven’t gone already and I’m still banging on about it. Between now and when we do go, we have somehow managed to cram in what is, for me at least, one of the most stressful things on the planet…..having the builders in, and for multiple separate projects. With that, work and other real life struggles I have enough balls in the air for now thanks….

Stressed Juggler

More balls than a Chippendale’s dressing room…..

We have had these home improvement plans for ages and despite it all being literally months in the planning, by chance, it all happens in the next three weeks. I HATE having work done to the house. The mess, disruption and angst is not something I enjoy. Having had the pain of the kitchen being renovated just over a year ago, we are now going for the other room in the house which causes the most pain when it is out of action, the bathroom. We are also having a new boiler and the back of the house redone to give us more parking space.

To add a touch of spice and extra stress to the day tomorrow, Louise gets her new car too, admin, paperwork and sorting the insurance permitting. Rest assured we have not won the lottery. It just so happens that a lot of things a long time in the making have all happened at once, as always seems to be the case with us.

I am not filled with joy at the prospect of this work to the house I have to say. Living next door to my Mum & Dad comes into its own here of course as it means we can wander in to have showers etc when we are without a bathroom, but I am still sticking to my sulking guns. I just want it to be over, especially as when it is, we’ll be heading for the airport. At least our house and pet sitters, Rebecca and Tom will have a shiny new bathroom, boiler and a choice of parking spots when they are here.

They have the dubious honour of looking after all of the pets. We have too many of course. Oli, I approve of, he’s my mate and a fully fledged member of the family. Bean, well, she’s almost there I suppose. She seems fairly settled and content anyway…

We’ve had our two cats, Pumpkin and Daisy, a lot longer than Bean, and everyone in our house apart from me, would tell you that they definitely are family members, but I’ve never bought into that. I am not a cat fan. They are all effort and no reward. Still, they need feeding and so that falls to Rebecca and Tom.

On that note, it is now hitting home to everyone that Rebecca won’t be with us on this trip. We all understand why. They have just got their own place and that among other things needs to be their priority right now, but it doesn’t stop them, us and me especially stamping my feet like a two-year old at the unfairness of it all. Real life has no right getting in the way of trips to Florida.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, after re-sharing the video of our 2008 trip, I have almost kept my word and the work on the next video has started. 2006 happened to be the tape in the camera when it came out of the case so the import process is underway and hopefully time for editing can be found, more likely by Emily than me. Having watched he raw footage there seems to be about seven hours of the girls playing in the pool for some reason. Clearly we’ll edit that down, but of course, for us, if for nobody else, there’s some lovely stuff there too.

Rebecca can be heard talking with her pre-tonsil removal voice that bears no resemblance to her current one. I won’t promise it being complete by a certain time as who knows, but best endeavours are promised.

So today is filled full of prepping the house and ourselves for what looks to be a messy and busy time. We’ve also got to pop round to Louise’s Mum to do some DIY there and I have a football match to cram in somewhere…well specifically at 4pm, oh and walk the dogs should it ever stop raining, and iron some clothes for next week and find the spare key for the car we’re trading in tomorrow and look, the shopping delivery has just pulled up!!

AAAGGGHH….first world problems abound.

Till the next time…..

Changing Gear

A month today we shall be full of first day adrenaline, charging around our first park of the trip. Jetlagged, jubilant and just about staying awake beyond tea time, that first day is always a good one. There are two days in most years that I don’t mind being awake in the early hours. The first is the travel day when typically we’re up around 4am to start our journey. The second day is that natural early start on the first day in Florida, brought on by the time difference and excitement that usually sees us sat waiting for a theme park to open and then eating lunch at 10.30.

Unusually for us we won’t be spending it in Magic Kingdom this time. That unwritten rule has been obeyed on almost every trip and as I have often said, if you are going shopping, to Sea World or any other such nonsense, then you’re doing it wrong. The last time I made that tongue in cheek assertion I was attacked in the comments on my own blog and banned from a certain Orlando based Facebook group. The internet is a funny old place.

However, this trip is different and Universal is our first stop. As this trip started off as one for just Louise and I at some posh hotels and the beach, then we tore up the rule book a little. So this year we will find ourselves having an early morning meeting with Mr Potter and his friends.

Another key difference is Emily’s age. She has been pondering all of her alcohol based selections as this will be her first post 21 trip. Of course the other more upsetting difference is Rebecca’s absence. We’re already upset at the prospect of leaving her behind. It just won’t feel right. A bit like today when we all went to see her new apartment that she has moved in to with Tom. It’s lovely. Modern, spacious, secure and a lovely place to live. It doesn’t change the fact that we still call one of the bedrooms in our house Rebecca’s room and probably always will.

Emily has been making changes of her own and having recently bought her first car, she has been discovering the independence that can bring. After passing her test she was never the most confident driver, but now with a car of her own choosing and with it being automatic too, she is finding driving a pleasure and is just driving for the fun of it, discovering parts of her home town all by herself.

Her mini, which of course is called Mickey, is lovely and has more gadgets than some space stations. It compares very favourably to my first car, which was a V reg Fiesta. I didn’t love it any less than Emily loves hers.

During the process of buying Emily’s car, Louise was seduced by a car she saw in the showroom. On what was probably one of the best day’s of the young salesman’s life, an order was placed for one after some negotiations and bartering. Being a new one, that car won’t be with us for a few weeks yet, but it is a lovely looking thing.

It’s one of these…

We’re trading in what was my car, a Peugeot 308, which is starting to get on a but, I’m now driving the car Louise got just over a year ago and she will be having the new mini. Confused? Me too. It’s a miracle I get into the right car of a morning.

Louise has loved minis for a long time and this new Clubman with the extensive boot now allows her to have one and still be able to cram all her nursing gear in the back without her car becoming a one seater mobile medical store.

It’s all change, all round it seems. I’m told it’s as good as rest, in which case I should be more perky and energetic than I normally feel.

Till the next time……

Video Skills That Make Us Go Aww!

It’s a cliche to come out with this phrase and for those with no trip booked, it’s very annoying. However, we go to Florida next month!

We are at the stage where the trip feels ridiculously imminent and miles away at the same time. No matter how much planing is done, and I do too much, every trip rushes up on me and I have last minute palpitations that I have forgotten some vital element of the process.

However, I’d settle for a bit of rushing up on me right now.

Last night Louise and I had a very rare night out. With Louise working quite a few weekends and me progressing my rock star career with gigs of a weekend evening we’ve not seen a great deal of each other. We went to a local favourite of ours in Horwich. Sokrates is a Greek Taverna….in Bolton. Over some Taramasalata, Kofta and Baklava I explained to Louise what she’d be doing on holiday!

I assume Louise reads my blogs where I outline every second of every day of our holiday but somehow it still wasn’t clear to her where we were staying and for how long. The conversation turned into a tour of Florida restaurants as I described our itinerary with where we were eating. Thankfully, my plan was met with approval, which was handy as I’d like Louise to come along!!

We also did a bit of reminiscing about trips gone by. This was brought on by my re-discovery of a video of our 2008 trip. Emily and I edited it a couple of years ago, as the first of an intended series of all the years we have video footage for. A few years on and we’ve still only done one. For those that didn’t see the link yesterday here’s that video.

Yep, that’s nine years ago. Looking back at our lives like that brings back lovely memories of course and a self congratulatory pat on the back for booking all those holidays and not doing more sensible stuff with our money, but of course, I don’t mind admitting a small lump in the throat moment as it confirmed that time has marched on, the little girls aren’t anymore and instead of watching them play in the pool and buy pointless plastic tat, this week I took Emily to pick up her first car and Rebecca is moving into a new apartment this week with her boyfriend. Damn you time and how you relentlessly rumble on.

That video also shows me how bad I was (am) at videoing stuff. It seems to be a collection of us pulling faces to camera and walking around. Mind you, there are some folks on YouTube making a living doing that!

Watching that has given me a timely kick up the arse though. Today Emily and I will commence Operation Edit All of the Videos. They are all sat on very fragile tape in a case somewhere and I’d be gutted to lose any of that, so it’s time to edit it all down and commit each trip to the internet where it can be preserved forever. You know I will inflict them on you so be ready for a few more versions of the video above with the girls at varying sizes.

They will not be troubling the Oscars voting committee.

So just to remind you, this time next month we will be well into another cliche, the single digit dance. These cliches will mean nothing to anyone reading who isn’t obsessed with these holidays, but stick around long enough and you’ll get the idea.

Right, I have boring real life things to do….

Till the next time….

 

 

 

 

FastPass Fiesta

Before we begin, sometimes I share with you some of the great search terms folks get to my blog with via a search engine. Usually it is some mis-spelling of mkingdon, or other random phrases that I’ve blogged about in the past. Well, this new one beats them all and if I have achieved nothing else in my blogging “career” (and I haven’t) this shall be my pinnacle. The search term was…

Dwarf sex blogger

I am proud to know somebody came to my blog after searching for that. God bless you.

This week was FastPass+ week. Since the last time we booked any I’m delighted that the time they open up has changed from midnight Orlando time as it means you don’t have to be online at 5am. Instead, it’s a civilised midday start. As many of you reassured me, as soon as it was 60 days from the start of our reservation, the dates opened up and away we went.

I did have a senior moment initially when I forgot that onsite special folks can book all of their FastPass+ rides for the entire trip once you get to 60 days. Having been off site scum for most of our trips I had put notes in my diary each day to book some more. Having overcome that brief dance with incompetence I was down the rabbit hole of ride selection for quite some time.

Of course, despite there being loads of availability for all rides and attractions this far out, you can never book exactly what you want as they put many of the headliners into the same category from which you can only pick one. I also have to say that Disney could make this selection process a little more intuitive from a web site perspective. I like to think I know how web sites work as that’s been paying the bills for a good few years, but it took me a while to get my head around it. Should anyone from Disney wish to pay me huge amounts of consultancy I have some really good ideas on how to make it better.

So here are our selections

Saturday April 22nd – The day we drive back to Orlando from Siesta Key, so we have gone for all PM times in Epcot.

Mission Space – 11:55

Turtle Talk – 1:00

Soarin’ – 2:10

We had an ADR at Sanaa that day and for reasons I couldn’t remember, that was at 5.15pm. To give us more time in the park I moved that back to 8.20pm after which we may do Jellyrolls.

Sunday April 23rd – Animal Kingdom. An aspirational early start, especially if we’ve done Jellyrolls!

Safari – 10:35 (I’d hope to get an early Everest walk on in before this)

Everest – 11:40

Kali Rapids – 1:40

We have an ADR at Yak & Yeti around 5pm. After that we hope to do Everest again but in the dark for the first and if time allows maybe even a night time safari, before Rivers of Light.

Monday April 24th – A nominal rest day, with a morning at Stormalong Bay and lunch at The Fountain but with minimal time in the parks we’ve booked some afternoon Epcot rides as it’s next door to us.

Mission Space – 2:35

Frozen Ever After (for the first time in forever!) – 3:40

Spaceship Earth – 4:40

Tuesday April 25th – Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Mania – 10:10. Again, I’m hopeful of an early Rock n Rollercoaster prior to destroying all my rivals on this.

Tower of Terror – 11:25

Star Tours – 1:00

Wednesday 26th April – Magic Kingdom

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (with no dwarf sex I would hope) – 9:50. This will be our first time on this ride which after all these years is always a welcome bonus. We should be able to sneak in a Thunder Mountain and maybe Pirates before this.

Splash Mountain – 11:05

Buzz Lightyear – 12:35

We have dinner at Trail’s End around 5pm, so we might be able to book more FastPasses for the afternoon once the last one opens up. Whatever happens we’ll be back in Magic Kingdom at dusk getting ready to watch Wishes for the last time ever. There will be tears.

Fitting planning of this precision into the madness of everyday life is, if I may say, truly impressive. I have more plates spinning than Platey McPlate Spin of Plate Town.

Outside of these FastPass+ bookings I am going to have to have a strong word with myself. We don’t need to charge round the parks like idiots Craig…we’ve done the rides many times before and we can take our time, do what we can, and if things get too busy we can retire to somewhere less busy and smell some roses. I wish myself good luck with that.

Till the next time…..

Jet Set Jerry

Years ago, in my formative working years, colleagues, who at the time looked like ancient dinosaurs, but were probably the age I am now gave me two bits of advice that have stuck with me. That doesn’t mean I have adhered to the advice of course, I just remember it!

The first, was on my first day of work at the Nat West Bank in Bury in 1987. The branch manager, a grey haired reverend (I’m sure I haven’t mis-remembered that) welcomed me and asked if I was ambitious. To be honest, on that day, my ambition was to make it to 5pm without falling asleep and working out where to get some lunch from, but of course I said yes, thinking this was the thing to do.

Well, he said, the best way to get ahead in the bank is to go to head office and fall down the stairs. It seemed a bit dramatic and to seventeen year old me a little eccentric, but I have since realised what he meant. Often rewards, promotion and progression are dished out to those who are known, not necessarily to those that may deserve it. I have seen this play out time and time again since.

That first example has no relation to anything I’m saying today.

The second piece of wisdom was another senior chap in the bank telling me that I needed to work out whether I wanted to live to work or work to live. His point being that it should absolutely be the latter. This surprised me at the time to be honest but again it is a wisdom I have tried to remember when work gets crazy, like it is at the moment. Both Louise and I are dangerously close to the former and it’s not a good thing. There needs to be a new word for busy that covers this.

Louise is currently coming to the end of a nine-day stint without a day off and whilst I’m fortunate enough to get weekends off, the bits in the middle are madness at the moment. You may be familiar with that feeling of always being behind schedule and never quite having enough time for everything? For someone like myself who lives to plan and plans to live that is hard to bear at times.

This week I was Johnny Jet Set and had to travel to Amsterdam for a meeting. Yes, one meeting. To be fair, I instigated it as it was something that had to be done, but it was a heck of a long day. Taking off at 9am, doing a meeting from 12 till 2.30 and then taking off again at 5pm was a whirlwind day. I didn’t see much any of Amsterdam, apart from the inside of two taxis, some motorway and an office. It didn’t stop being blown away by the fact that everybody there speaks perfect English. When are we going to catch up with this in our education system? I did three years of German and I remember so little I’d struggle to spell BMW.

Chatting to the people in our meeting it turns out that English is pretty much the default language in Amsterdam. That chap was Turkish, speaking English in a Dutch company who also spoke Dutch. I apologised for Nigel Farage and left.

Security at Schipol airport was crazy. It’s fortunate that we were early as it took over an hour to get through. I felt safer for it, but that must be stressful if you are running late, or even just on time for your flight.

I am not a nervous flyer at all, but there’s always those first few nervy minutes, when you haven’t flown for a while when the engines kick in and you hurtle down the runway. That is magnified when your plane is basically a Mondeo with wings. Both legs were bumpy and I have to stay I feel safer in the big things that take you across the Atlantic mainly as they don’t have propellers and their landing gear has tyres that aren’t the size of a typical 4 x 4!!

a-plane

With all this being busy and stuff it’s a god job all of my holiday planning is pretty much done. All I’ve done this week is pay the balance on the hire car and tick off another few days in the countdown to making FastPass bookings. That’s Tuesday by the way. It’s nice to be so close now as God knows we need a holiday.

It felt odd and quite cruel to be driving to Manchester airport early in the morning not to be catching a flight to Florida last week. Mind you I did fly back at the same weight that I left at, which won’t be happening in April.

Oh and if anyone is reading this who is in charge of the short stay car park at Terminal 3. £40 for 11 hours? Really? How do you sleep at night. My expenses may be laughed out of the office!

Till the next time…..

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I had reason to call Disney this week. It’s an incredible compliment to their brand experience and customer service that having a problem that necessitates an actual phone call isn’t seen as a negative. I even had to hold for over ten minutes to get through to someone and I didn’t mind. I sat and listened to the hold music with my phone on speaker so that Emily could enjoy it too.

When the dreamy American accent on the other end of the line eventually answered, the warmth of the greeting was like a Floridian summers day. I immediately had to put on my “I’m talking to an American” voice so that they would stand a chance of understanding me.

I explained my issue feeling genuine regret that I had to trouble them when I’ve only spent the value of an average house in the UK with them in my lifetime. The agent sounded as if I had just explained that half of my family had passed away and her regret and genuine concern comforted me in its warm embrace.

My issue was that even though I had linked all of our tickets to our party members, when I did a dry run of a FastPass booking to make sure we were ready to go, the app and web site errored telling me one of the party had no valid ticket. Yet I could see the valid ticket against their name elsewhere in the app.

The agent said she would speak to tech support if I didn’t mind holding. Mind holding? I was a few moments away from sending her my house keys and pension details. A few moments passed and she returned to apologise again that I had indeed linked everyone correctly but one hadn’t linked all the way through. She asked me to refresh my web page and there I would see that everything was now sorted. I was asked if there was anything else I needed today and when I confirmed there wasn’t she wished me a magical day and said she was looking forward to seeing us in April.

Emily at this point was close to tears and I felt like changing my will to make the Disney company sole heir to my debts. This does not happen when I contact other call centres. I know they are selling magic and most of their customers love the experience which is hard to match if you sell energy or mobile phones but how they manage to deliver such high standards consistently is truly amazing. In all of my dealings with Disney over thirty odd years I do struggle to remember a negative experience.

I was so misty eyed that I didn’t think to keep them on the phone whilst I tried another FastPass dry run and after putting the phone down I noticed that I was only being offered dates that are 30 days out, rather than 60 as we are on site elite uber customers. I couldn’t face the emotion of another phone call so I emailed them instead.

It may be that the FastPass window only opens to 60 days when you are actually 60 days out from your on site booking? If anyone of you who do the on site thing more than we do know that would be lovely. Otherwise I shall await the reply to my email.

In other news this week, it was announced that it will be the end of Wishes just after our visit. I cannot tell you how upset Emily was. She does have a complete aversion to things changing at Disney. Anything that she experienced during her childhood is not allowed to be amended in any way. I understand that of course but having seen more changes than she has, I know that these things have to happen to keep the parks interesting and of course keep the punters coming back.

Image credit Mousehints.com

Image credit Mousehints.com

She will observe a period of mourning and the usual guaranteed tears on our final day as we watch Wishes will be increased by a factor of about ten, as she knows she will never see it again.

With Rivers of Light also coming on line and opening dates announced for Avatar and Star Wars Land it’s been a big week for Disney. Anyone would think that Universal have a new park opening soon!!

Image credit wdwmagic.com

Image credit wdwmagic.com

I won’t bother with you with my pre-holiday weight loss progress. The least said the better.

Till the next time…..