Plastering and Pining

Events have conspired to make this past week a toughy.

We are, as I have mentioned before, undergoing some home improvements. This week has seen us getting plastered. Of course, that’s a messy thing and my oft mentioned dislike for disruption and mess has been in full effect. This work is also a blatant reminder of where a lot of our cash has been going recently, when it really should have been going on practical, sensible things like getting us across the Atlantic to Florida.

When we made these plans earlier this year, involving getting some stuff done to the house this summer and planning a trip early next year seemed OK, even manageable and it certainly demonstrated much more common sense than we have in the past decade or more.

Now, however, with my social media feeds full of people on holiday, the weather resembling November and my house like a building site, the irresponsible child in me is screaming that I should be on some roller coaster somewhere with pancakes in my belly.

Work has been extremely busy too, but to add to my longing for our usual American adventure, that’s because a member of my team is currently away, yes, on holiday. He isn’t in the US, but it is Canada which is close enough for me to put that into the same bucket of stuff that I shall keep to remind me never to be so bloody sensible ever again.

April seems a long way away.

Pining for Siesta Key…..

Our dose of US sun normally girds our loins sufficiently to get us through the grim, dark, cold and miserable UK winter. We shall have to take it on this year without that in our tanks and I fear for us. I also fear for you lot as you’ll see this manifest itself in a series of whinging, bleak and self pitying blogs. What do you mean you’re used to it?

On the subject of social media feeds and them being filled with Orlando stuff, of course that’s my own fault. Your social media content is of your own doing (mostly) and mine of course are made up of folks with similar obsessive interests in Florida. I joined a few of those Facebook Orlando groups some time ago, but never really contribute to be honest. They feel too big and impersonal and just a a diluted version of all that was good about the Disney forums most of us used back in their heyday. Plus, there’s some right crap on there tooūüôā

From questions that make my toes curl, to people who make me want to scream “Stop doing Orlando wrong!!” at my phone, to what seems to have become a stream of “blogs” or “trip reports”, I feel that these groups aren’t for me, other than to keep my eye on any news /updates I need to be aware of. Call me old fashioned, but jotting down a couple of paragraphs around a few photos from your phone isn’t a trip report. It’s fine to do that of course, it’s nothing to do with me after all, and it will still be nice to look back on of course, but for us old school Orlando folk a trip report involves a lot more effort than that. Endless notes, extensive photographs, details of everything, some of which nobody wants to know about and more words than anybody in their right mind would ever want to wade through (and no singing!!). THAT’s a trip report. These Facebook things are just status updates, valid all the same, and each to their own, but let’s not use the wrong term for them eh? There’s another example of my up and down relationship with Facebook!

Hmm, not sure where that rant/trip report snobbery/Disney forum nostalgia came from….perhaps I need a holiday? Maybe that or a new Disney forum we can all use that somehow is protected from cock wombles and trouble makers? I’m not volunteering by the way, but if you find one let me know?

Till the next time…..

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A Capital Weekend

This is a first. I’m on the train back from London blogging from my phone. The typos will be numerous….

We’ve just had a lovely and at times very emotional weekend in the capital celebrating Emily’s recent 21st. We decided to take her to watch Les Miserables in the West End. It’s a show she has been listening to for as long as she can remember. She used to pretend to be Cosette and do the Castle in the Cloud number in our front room at a very young age.

When they made the film version it became an obsession and she watched it more times than I can count.

So our journey began yesterday with the 9.23 out of Manchester and quite possibly the worst breakfast from one of those food court thingies at Piccadilly. I had forgotten I’d upgraded us to first class on the way down so that expense and experience were not necessary after all. We made use of the free coffee at least as we sped South.

We Ubered to the Holiday Inn in Mayfair for less than the tube would have cost us and we were able to check in early and dump our stuff in the room.

We had a wander across to Buckingham Palace and as you do we bought our 21 year old daughter a stuffed corgi from the shop over the road.


We then wandered aimlessly for a bit through the parks nearby and ended up in Trafalgar Square. After a bit of a sit down we wandered into the National Gallery for some culture. That lasted about ten minutes before Louise’s face told me we’d had enough of that.


We walked back to the hotel enjoying the history and architecture (hark at me, ten minutes in a gallery and I’m John Humphreys) whilst Louise moaned about her aching feet. Those dolly shoes were no match for mine and Emily’s trainers!!

Showers baths and resting happened before another Uber down to Shaftesbury Avenue. With the myriad of top class dining options at her disposal Emily had chosen to eat at the Rainforest Cafe.

We were seated quickly after I had used all my powers of persuasion to have the bartender serve Emily some alcohol. Nachos to share as an appetiser before the mains arrived.


We were stuffed and all of my dessert intentions were cast aside as my belt rebelled against my stomach.

With a few beers, wines and multiple cocktails it was £130ish. Pricey but good fun and it was for a special occasion.

We then made our way down to the theatre.


At this point Emily was shaking with excitement. After ordering our interval drinks we made our way to Row C. Well done to whoever secured those gems!!


Emily started crying somewhere in the opening number and was a gibbering wreck for most of the show until the end. The emotional peaks were the end of the first act which is a proper goosebumps and lump in the throat thing and of course the finale which if it doesn’t get you right in the feels you need to seek medical help. The theatre is surprisingly small as was the cast but the noise they generate is incredible. 

Wonderful music, singing and staging led to us being on our feet cheering as they took their bows. We were so close that a few of the cast could see Emily in bits, make up down her face as they took the deserved standing ovation!

We strolled back to the hotel with the tears still flowing and as we had a nightcap in the hotel bar she still could not gather herself. Rest assured she loved it….a lot.

Sunday morning was a lazy one with brunch in a nearby eatery with terrible service and decent food followed by a look around the shops before getting on the train.


It’s been a dear do of course but an experience Emily will never forget and therefore of course money well spent.

I’m now going back to concentrating on not throwing up as I’m travelling backwards at high speed with blurry countryside to my right. Ugh.

Till the next time….

Sent from my iPhone.

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Bait and Switch

Despite me boring you all to tears with the blow by blow account of my planning adventures (and I had, believe it or not, edited out a lot of stuff) following last week’s update there were still some twists and turns to go.

The final link in the chain that did not want to get sorted was our Siesta Key booking. I consider myself fairly experienced in this DIY holiday malarkey but even I was stunned and shocked at some of the stuff I have come across.

I had spent a good deal of time on sites like HomeAway, VRBO and even Trip Advisor looking at and enquiring about properties. As I have said before, Siesta Key has very few hotels and even fewer within striking distance of the beach and village so it was always going to be a private rental.

Now, call me old-fashioned but when you see something online that gives you a price once you enter the required information, in this case, dates and number of people, you would expect that to be the price you were going to pay. There are rules about this stuff…believe me, I do it for a living.

However on more than one occasion, including the property I linked to last week, the web site offering that property¬†at a given price then only¬†gave me the option to Enquire Now, despite showing me a detailed breakdown of the costs involved. I waited longer than was ideal for a response and I then got quite a terse reply telling me that the costs would actually be about 30% higher than shown on the web site I had seen the property on. This wasn’t the only time it happened during my planning travels and they typically then tend to send you a link to a different website, managed directly by them where these new prices are shown.

These websites tend to look like something a teenager built in 2003 and haven’t been touched since. They offer no online booking facilities and do indeed give these new prices the tetchy owner is claiming to be correct. I honestly felt guilty for –

a) having insulted them by daring to want to book their property at the (originally) advertised price

b) querying why the price had risen by a good few hundred dollars

It won’t surprise you to know that I walked away from that particular deal without further discussion. I believe the term I’m looking for here is bait and switch.

Anyway, later that night, using a site I had heard much of but had never used, I found a suitable property on AirBnB. Crucially I was able to book there and then at the advertised price and things such as the cancellation terms etc were also clearly shown.

So, after what seems an endless search, seventeen false starts and more stress than it should have caused, here is where we will be staying in Siesta Key.

final siesta

It is a little bit further away from our ideal location than I might have liked, but the more realistic price and extra space clinched it. It is literally steps from the beach and a ten minute walk to the main street of the village where all the food and stuff is. I also remembered a chat I had with a blog reader (Thanks Mark) months ago when I first mentioned Siesta Key about free taxis operating on the island, so if needed we will use those if the walk is just too much our sun soaked bodies.

Finally, surely now, we are all sorted. I have marked the calendar with important dates about the booking of dining and fastpass stuff and I can now start to fill in each day with some plans. You’ll know by now that this starts with our eatery of choice for the day and we work backwards from there. There was a minor crisis when I realised that we simply didn’t have enough days in Orlando to get all our favourites in but I think I’ve resolved that by finding some of the chain restaurants we love, such as Olive Garden and Applebees close to Siesta Key, which frees up a couple of meals for our limited time in Orlando.

With Mum and Dad now coming along, thoughts turn to maybe fitting in a game of golf with my Dad and again that is likely to be somewhere close to Siesta Key as our Orlando time is too precious.

The basis of the plan currently involves the likes of Teak, Cowfish, Market Street Cafe (Celebration), Bahama Breeze, O’hana, Sanaa, Outback, Olive Garden, Applebees and Beaches & Cream. We also somehow have to fit in the new Toothsome Chocolate Factory place at Universal…

Credit to Insidethemagic.net for the image…..

Image credit to themeparktrader.com

I don’t know about you but that’s made me hungry so I’m off to eat something….

Till the next time…..

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Everything’s Changing….But Planning Isn’t a Pain.

I had three days off work this week. I had booked them to do some decorating following our recent builder visit. However, the plasterer who needs to get our walls ready for that decorating seems to be a relative of Ronnie Biggs (ask your Dad) and has thus far not materialised.

You can imagine how upset I was not being able to decorate. Instead, those three days flew by in a whirl of nothingness. I am honestly struggling to remember anything I did during that time. I’ll take that as a good sign.

What I have had to do recently is completely re-engineer our holiday. For reasons I won’t trouble you with, we had to move the dates of our trip from March until April next year and this took a fair amount of my planning expertise to execute. Half way through that re-engineering our party size grew a little too.

This trip started out as just Louise and I, planning to indulge in the beach and endless nights at Jellyrolls. Then Emily confirmed she would allow me to pay for her to come with us shortly afterwards, which didn’t change much at all and finally, as I was in the middle of moving stuff to the new dates a tipsy conversation between Louise and my parents resulted in them coming along too.

This was a real test of my planning skills and Florida knowledge. We had pushed the boat out accommodation wise. It was pricey enough when we booked all this pre-Brexit vote, but now with the dollar rate being shite, the costs were just out of the question for a retired couple.

So, I deployed ninja like planning skills to make this work.

So we are now going on April 10th, with Virgin. For the first five nights we are at Royal Pacific Resort and I have got Mum and Dad into the Holiday Inn Across From Universal Orlando. Honestly, that is what it is called. The idea is I can nip over to pick them up or Uber can do the honours. They won’t have Front of Line of course but it matters little as the big rides never interested my Mum and my Dad is recognising that at almost 80 and with heart trouble, endlessly¬†riding the Hulk isn’t the best of ideas!

Then we head off to Siesta Key for a week. Luckily I had free cancellation on our booking there so I cancelled our property there and I have now booked a three bed place instead for us all. That sounds simple enough but there have been a few false starts and it feels like 27 changes of plan with regards to our stay there. Hopefully, now we are locked and loaded here.

This video includes our property and a few others, but it is just nice to look at Siesta Key!

It is safe to say I know Siesta Key as well as it is possible to know anywhere without actually visiting it.

For our last few nights we were booked into The Swan. Alas, it was not available for our new dates so we were looking at other on site options. Again, we had free cancellation so that was not a problem. For years we have vowed to stay within walking distance to Jellyrolls to do it without me drinking Diet Coke and after flirting with other, cheaper options such as Old Key West, and sacrificing that dream, I bit the bullet and the extra cost and went for the Beach Club. Of course, once my Mum and Dad were coming the silly costs for that were not an option with the $ rate now at less than 1.3 so a plan was hatched.

They will stay at the All Star Sports at a price so low that for a few seconds I considered doing the same and saving a small fortune. I have resisted. You live but once. They can bus, Uber or be picked up from there as it is just ten minutes from us.

So thinking about it, those three days off were not spent decorating. Instead they were spent buried deep in accommodation web sites conjuring up options so complex the CIA have recruited me into their Cyber Ops team. (Guess who watched Jason Bourne last night!)

Despite the extra hassle of rearranging all of this, it has meant that I have had two bites at the planning cherry and as a good few of you will appreciate, that is a big part of the fun of these trips.

Right time to go. We are off to meet Jakki, Steve, Aodhan and Naimh (long term Disney/Dibb friends that we usually meet in WDW) for some ten pin bowling and food (seperately) as they staying in Manchester.

Till the next time…..

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A Little Less 21 Candles….

I often see posts on Facebook where parents are wondering where the time went before telling everyone that their child is now whatever age they are. I’ve done similar many times I’m sure.

The perception is that you blink and then somehow find your kids are no longer kids, you are three stone heavier and persistently feel the need to nap. Just me? OK.

I think I know where the time goes. It passes at the same rate whether you are doing something you hate or something you love, it’s just that you just tend to block out the former and so your memory recalls only a percentage of all the days, minutes and seconds you’ve spent with your kids. It’s a bit like childbirth. Lord knows I was mentally scarred by the pain of horror of it all the first time around. How Rebecca came to be I don’t know, as after all that sitting around and waiting for Emily to pop out, you would have thought it had put me off for life!

This time perception confusion is¬†just one of life’s mysteries, like why I’m still paying the mobile phone bills for my daughters every month even though they are 19 and 21!

Yes, Emily turns 21 next week and we have been out this weekend to celebrate that with some of the family. As usual, a Williams celebration involved food, and probably more than was healthy or necessary. The main benefit of this milestone is that she’ll be able to come to Jellyrolls with us when we go on holiday next year! This is great news as up until now¬†we’ve had to leave the kids outside with of bottle of pop and a rape alarm.

I think she will need to carry ID well into her forties though as she has never looked her age. This burden will become easier to tolerate as she gets older I’m sure.

It is only natural for me to treat any meal out as an excuse to pretend I’m doing a trip report and take pictures of everyone and more importantly their food. For anyone localish we went to the Retreat in Adlington and it was lovely.

Here are Rebecca and Tom doing a good job of being cheerful even though food has not yet arrived.

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Emily and her Nana…..

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Food at last, this was Emily’s Beef Nachos appetiser (yes I said appetiser, what of it?)
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Louise and I had Halloumi Fritters, but I believe there is an over the counter cream for that….

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Tom, quite rightly ordered using the “which dish is the biggest” method and¬†went for an appetiser of “Meat Platter”. He also had half of Rebecca’s garlic bread and finished off Emily’s nachos.

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Most of us had the Jack Daniels Bourbon Beef Skewer, which is not a euphemism.

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A few cocktails later….

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I am clearly out of practice as I’d started my dark chocolate cheesecake before remembering to take a photo…

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Emily had Creme Brulee, which I finished off.

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Once we were back home the inevitable Disney themed cake was set on fire with twenty-one candles.

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Emily’s birthday is not actually till Tuesday and she shares it with Oli. Look how happy he is about it!IMG_0168

Emily with her Grandma who is clearly off her nut on champagne and frosting.

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Emily picked up quite a few of her presents last night with a couple to come on Tuesday no doubt. Her main present from us is a trip to London in a couple of weeks to watch Les Miserables in the West End. She may never stop crying!

Happy Birthday Pud. Here come the usual collection of photos that will embarrass you…..

dad scruch nose

Taken yesterday

WDW 2013

chip n dale

emily nose pierce

Emily prom 2

Girls good food

Till the next time…….

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Ain’t That The Tooth?

Years ago, when the girls were at school and we still did things like put them to bed, I remember many an evening sat on the foot of one of their beds listening to them fret about some upcoming event at school that they were not looking forward to. At the time it wasn’t appropriate for me to then spend an hour telling them about all the stuff I had coming up that I didn’t fancy either and instead I would do my best to reassure them that everything would be OK. I would tell them that worrying about this stuff would do no good and once whatever they were dreading had happened they would no doubt realise that it wasn’t actually as bad as they imagined and they would wonder why they worried so much in the first place.

These days of course my advice is seldom asked for, yet I still cast it, like bread onto a pond without ducks whilst they feign interest and resist the urge to roll their eyes and shrug their shoulders.

Last week’s blog was filled with me whining about my impending dental treatment and I have to admit that I spent a good deal of time with it on my mind. It was casting an ugly shadow over what was already looking like a crap week as we were having the house taken apart to improve it. I did not, it probably won’t surprise you, follow the golden advice outlined above that I used to impart to the girls.

As they always do, Tuesday rolled around and I made my way to the dentist feeling less than enthusiastic. Once in the waiting room I was having to do breathing exercises to prevent some sort of cardiac mishap before I was called into THE CHAIR. I assumed the position, put on the protective orange Roy Orbison glasses and paper bib and girded my loins for an abundance of pain.

“I’ll just take a quick X-Ray to see what we’re dealing with” said my dentist before leaving the room to expose me to dangerous amounts of gamma rays just like David Banner.

“Don’t make me petrified, you wouldn’t like me when I’m petrified!” I replied.

She retired to somewhere behind me to look at said X-Ray and after a couple of tuts and a sigh asked me to join her there. I stumbled across the room, confused by the out of focus orange blur everything had become to look at an image of what I assumed were my teeth.

To cut a long story short, she wasn’t happy to proceed with what she had planned as I had a shorter than expected root. Insult to injury sprang to mind, but sensing the chance to leave the place minus any pain or financial exploitation I did. The plan is to “wait and see” and review it all again in six months. I have several options at that point it seems, none of which cost less than a grand unless I have things extracted. I pray then to God of dentistry that whatever glue she used to stick my implant back in is like that Ultra No Nails stuff they sell in B&Q.

If not, well, faced with those potential costs, I think this is a good look…

You may wonder, as have I since, why she did not take that X-Ray when I went to have my implant stuck back in and she told me what the longer term solution was. My short root was, after all, of her doing when I endured the horrors of root canal work “under” her. Had she X-Rayed me back then it would have saved me many hours of fretful nonsense and it would have removed the need for you poor souls to listen to me whine about it.

Anyway,¬†not only have I avoided something I was dreading, ¬†but I have proved once for all that I know best, my advice is gold dust and I should be heeded and obeyed at all times….girls……are you listening? ¬†Girls?! Oh never mind.

As Ying to that Yang however, the pain of the disruption to the house has been very real. Every evening has been spent moving all our furniture from one room to another, stripping wallpaper and generally not being able to relax. We’re not 100% finished but things are almost back to normal and I am telling myself the worst is over. That’s a lie of course¬†as now we have to re-decorate the living and dining rooms. My lack of interest in such a task is only matched by my lack of prowess to do it well.

So having learned a great lesson this week about how worrying doesn’t help, things are rarely as bad as you imagine them and I am a big nancy when it comes to a dental visit, the only thing left for me to do is to create some inspirational message about all of this, add it to some suitably inspiring stock photograph and launch it at Facebook for everyone to like, share, comment on and then do exactly the opposite when they have shit to deal with.

fretting meme

Till the next time…..

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Builder Me Up Buttercup

We’re busy today so this won’t take long to read. ¬†We have impending building work about to take place in the World of Williams and so today we are clearing out two cupboards that are about to be removed. ¬†You may relate to the fact that over the years these have become a dumping ground for all that stuff you think you have to keep but haven’t used or looked at this stuff since you crammed into that cupboard all those years ago.

It’s been a morning of mixed emotions as we throw away a lot of the crap in there along with lots of sighing at old school photos of the girls, drawings they did and a clay cow one of them made which has clearly been exposed to radiation. This picture is one of my favourites….

drawing

I hate the process of having work done to the house. Disruption does not sit well with me so the coming week or so will not be a comfortable one for me. We’re having a wooden floor through the dining and living room along with the removal of said cupboards, which currently sit in the alcoves either side of our dining room fireplace, which is also about to bite the dust. Louise is a big fan of the phrase less is more and so renovations tend to take the form of removing stuff and making things simpler.

So we have spent all morning cramming the stuff we “really” want to keep into other already full cupboards around the house. We need a bigger house or less stuff…or maybe both.

Speaking of removing stuff. One day last week I was minding my own business eating my lunch when disaster struck. Mid plum, I thought I felt the plum stone floating around in my mouth. Upon removing it, I felt as sick as you will when reading this, to discover it was my “implant” that I had fitted into one of my tooth holes when I endured root canal work a couple of years ago. In deep shock, my mind raced at the pain and expense this would inevitably lead to. I called the dentist immediately to get an appointment.

I had to wait until the following morning, with what felt like a hole this size in my mouth.

Eating was tricky and I didn’t sleep too well as I am a massive coward when it comes to the dentist. Thank Mr Stevens, my childhood dentist, who took pleasure from pain.

Thankfully, my dentist was able to glue that thing back in fairly easily but of course, life is never that simple. It needs a more long-term solution involving procedures that make my toes curl and my wallet weep. I am back there on Tuesday to have things like rods fitted and a crown added, which spookily costs what a real crown does. The fun doesn’t end there. Nope, this is a two visit procedure, so the misery and anticipation stretch out for weeks.

I am in no way feeling nervous about it……..

So if you had to dream up a really crappy week for me, you would have the builders in my house and my mouth at the same time. Still at least I get to go to work too!! ¬†I can’t wait.

Till the next time…..

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