A Prick Of The Conscience

Moving house, or attempting to, seems to elevate your waking state to a constant mild hum of stress, with occasional peaks. Mostly, I am just sick of people being in my house, be that for valuations, energy certificate surveys, viewings or as we had last week our buyer’s survey. Those with dogs will know the pain of corralling them away from visitors so they do not love them to death and potentially scare folks who don’t do well with dogs. It’s just all a bit of a faff.

From the second the surveyor left our house and we began the wait to hear the results, we did, of course, think that would return all sorts of negative stuff that would either reduce our sell price or completely scupper the sale. Our glass was on its side, rather than in any form of fullness, half or otherwise. We felt a little battered and bruised by the rough and tumble of the short process to date.

Last week I also spent a silly amount of time on the phone to the bank formally applying for our terrifying new mortgage. The chap from the bank now knows more about us and our spending habits than our immediate family. Again, we now await the decision of that jury. Waiting and stress. It’s just a lovely combination.

I don’t know when we might move. I guess there’s an outside chance of it being before Christmas should winds be blowing in the right direction and no hitches be encountered. Our estate agent has warned that the stamp duty exemption has created a spike in activity and solicitors are and will be busy so things may take a little longer than normal. For a process that is not known for its swiftness, this may mean we will have one last Christmas in our current house.

Of course, should the survey show our house was held together with sellotape and spit and was worth about £7.50, then the whole thing would be irrelevant and we’d be back to square one, just minus all the money we’ve now spent on surveys and other move-related things. Did I mention elevated stress levels?

Anyway, on Friday morning we received a phone call to confirm that our buyer’s mortgage offer had been issued, meaning that the survey was all good. This was good news of course and now meant that the harsh reality of moving was very likely a thing we’d have to actually go through with. Between now and then we will have to undertake one of THE biggest declutters the world has ever seen. Yesterday I began the enormous task of clearing out our cellar. Imagine a place where for eight years you have put stuff you don’t really need but don’t want to throw out. Well, now that has caught up with us and I’ll be rectifying it at length.

What I really need is some form of holiday or break to look forward to. Luckily I have such a thing booked for next March. How I am looking forward to that definitely going ahead.

I have to say that I have pretty much-made peace with the fact that this will not be happening. I would love to be convinced otherwise, but I cannot see anything that will significantly change between now and then. I do of course hope that very shortly the US gets a President who is not incompetent, deceitful and seemingly intent on killing his own citizens. If the US gets something like a plan in place that’s got to help, but it doesn’t fix our issues or open up the airways from the UK to the US.

Should we not be able to travel by March, I’m not sure what we will do. I suppose it will depend on the cancellation policies of the companies involved. I suppose we would rearrange to a later date again, mainly as I really fear for the future of many of these travel companies and want to spend some money with them to keep them viable for when this is all over, but the temptation to cancel the whole thing and come back to it when some form of normality is available is growing.

Florida seems to be doing OK if the published figures are accurate. I say OK, in the context of the number of deaths every day is stable as is the number of new cases. The theme parks seem safe, mainly as they are doing a good job of mask enforcement and social distancing. Maybe there’s a clue there for the rest of the world? Crowds are growing it seems, with Universal yesterday reporting that the parks hit capacity by mid-morning. Nobody really knows what capacity limits the parks are operating at, but with so little open in most parks, queues are long.

As that, of course, doesn’t look too enticing, some part of me thinks it would be better not to go in those circumstances, but another part of me would just like to be there.

The wild card in this game of holiday roulette is a vaccine but within the timeframes, we are working in, that seems unlikely. Would I have it? Yes. I suspect other countries might insist on incoming visitors having proof that they have done so, and for that and many other reasons, I would gladly endure the prick. However, I will not endure any prick who comes at me with anti-vax bollocks, and similarly that the COVID virus and resultant death toll is a hoax. Facebook is awash with “medical experts” spewing up this shite and if it’s not too much a contradiction, I wish a pox upon their collective houses.

I try not to let that make me too angry as it isn’t productive. These days, as you will know from my Twitter activity, there is much to bring despair and anger to daily life and the world is not in good shape. I keep that political stuff out of my blogs as nobody comes here for that. However, this week I am going to make an exception without apology. The decision to not provide food for kids who might need it over the school holidays was an abhorrent disgrace and I just needed to get that off my chest. How anyone can make peace with that is an absolute mystery to me. Sure, some parents are a bit shit, and maybe a few fit the Daily Mail stereotype of pissing their meagre funds away on iPhones, cigarettes and Sky, but even if that were true of the parents of every hungry child, how on earth is that the fault of the children? Honestly, if you can imagine any child in your life being truly hungry and without food and be able to imagine not doing whatever it takes to feed them, then please read another blog. Sigh…..

Let’s get back to more normal topics. For now, the whole house move thing is proving to be stressful, but in a way, a welcome distraction from fretting about the holiday every minute of every day. Even I have a limit as to how many things I can stress about at once.

As that house move shifts into the realms of reality, we are now confronting the “problems” of where all our stuff will go in the new place. This brings to light the lunacy of buying a house. It is odd, is it not, that the biggest purchase you are ever likely to make is decided upon within the few minutes you wander around a house. Now, as we have to think practically about what we will have and do in each room, I realise that I can’t actually remember most of the rooms in any detail. I say that as if I will have any input into those decisions. Of course, Louise will be doing that.

Let’s pull this meandering rant to a close with a collective wish for that vaccine. Ideally, all the medical experts from the Facebook comments section will be recruited into the teams trying to come up with a vaccine so that their undoubted expertise can speed things up.

Till the next time…..

Back In The Chain, Gang!

It’s funny how, when you look back on “horrible times” after they are all sorted, you then can’t really imagine or appreciate why you were such a worrywart/dick about the whole thing. Human nature I suppose.

Having sat and stressed all last weekend about our property predicament, Monday came……and then went without any progress from the potential buyer of our buyer’s house. He was still fannying about speaking to his mortgage advisor, Childline, The Samaritans and anyone else he could speak with to inject further delay before actually doing something crazy like making an offer on a property he wanted to buy.

On Sunday afternoon, I had contacted our estate agent to express my lack of confidence in this chap ever actually doing something and said that we should get our property back on the internet. We’d been holding off doing that as this chap was “really close” to making an offer and sorting the whole thing out. Having given him a week, it was time to do something. Louise might tell you that this was her idea, but don’t let her fool you.

So by tea time on Sunday, we were advertised again and we were feeling suitably annoyed that every house we went to view had 412 offers on it within seven minutes of being on the market and here we were still looking for a buyer who had a buyer, who had a buyer etc etc.

By early afternoon on Monday, we had a call to book a viewing in. So we did for that evening. I admit I had little to no hope of a new viewer being the saviour we needed but absolutely didn’t mind spending hours preparing the house again.

So, we tidied up, again, and got the house into a state that suggested nobody actually lived in it to make someone think they wanted to. Louise was working a late shift so Emily took the dogs out whilst I showed the couple round the house.

I made all the same small talk I had made on the other viewings, and did my best to sell them probably the most expensive thing they had ever bought in their lives to date. They made all the usual noises about it being lovely and off they went. My spirits were not soaring with hope and expectation. We were, I thought, still relying on “delay man” to rescue our chain.

Earlier that day, we had been told that our buyer’s buyer (delay man) had a final call with his mortgage chap at 10am on Tuesday after which he would know whether he could offer or not. Sigh.

Tuesday began and at 9.30ish my phone rang and as by now I know our estate agent’s number by heart, I knew it was them. Expecting another tale of delay and dither I answered with zero expectations.

They were calling with feedback from the viewing the day before. Apparently, the couple liked it. The tone of voice being used suggested an incoming but. However, the call took a mighty fine turn when they told me they wanted to make an offer and it turns out it was exactly the same offer we had accepted from the last ones to do a similar thing.

Joy, deep and long-lasting, flowed and it was only surpassed by a huge sigh of relief. I tried to call Louise, many times. I messaged her, many more times. She did not reply. This was not unusual as when she is at work she can often have her hands in places that do not facilitate them handling a phone. However, this went on all day and the news that she had waited over a week for could not be delivered because, as I would discover when she got home, she had left her mobile in our bedroom!

Even when she returned home, I was then on endless work calls, and it was only an hour later that I was finally able to tell her the good news and a large dark cloud lifted from over us. For now (I do recognise, these are early days in this process) we had a buyer, a chain and no reason to think we would lose the house we were hoping to buy.

As much as I overshare all sorts of crap all over the internet and have for years (Louise still berates me for the Vagisil episode from a trip report a million years ago), I’m not going to post a link to the property we hope to buy here. It may, of course, all fall to pieces as the UK property market seems to exist as a deck of cards that the slightest tremor can destroy but it feels a bit crass to be doing stuff that could be a bit “braggy” when no doubt many folks are struggling at the moment.

We have been incredibly fortunate that the pandemic has not impacted us financially and we have been able to carry on with our long-held plans to upgrade the house a bit. I will though, share a couple of photos so you get an idea of what it’s like.

I guess now we can now claim to be truly middle class as we will have an Orangary!

And that, as I believe they say, is where the magic will happen!

Again, let me attempt to keep the evil forces of bad luck away by stating that we have a long way to go until we know for sure that we’ll be living there, but compared to this time last week, we feel better about it.

Typically the house we are hopefully getting does not fit the exact criteria that we set out as essential when we started this process. It shows that house buying is more of an emotional thing than a logical one. Firstly it is over budget and secondly, it doesn’t have a few of the things that we thought would be deal-breakers.

Ultimately it felt right and struck us as a really lovely family house that would serve us well for the next stage of our lives that will hopefully be filled with grandkids and rats (Emily has expanded her rat family again this week!). It is also within the geographic boundaries that we wanted to be in so that we can still be close enough to our parents to help them out and borrow DIY tools from my Dad.

If nothing else, the endless stress and occasional joy of this process have distracted us from the endless shitshow of the pandemic. My “are we going on holiday in March meter” is at rock bottom. I just do not see what will change by March that will see holiday travel being allowed again. That then leads into a spiral of doom, as that scenario may well be terminal for airlines and theme parks. So, with that in mind, I hope you can forigve the indulgent smugness of talking about spending some cash on a house.

Till the next time…….

Unchained Malady

In the context of “first world problems” and “others have it far worse”, last week was an absolutely unmitigated shit show of epic proportions.

Before anyone gets worried that anything serious has happened. Not really. It’s all house related, and as this has been the entire focus of my last week, it is, therefore, the most important topic on the planet. My self-awareness is only matched by my self-pity.

I am reluctant to retell events here as it will only enhance my PTSD, but I suppose as this stuff isn’t over, then I can drop the P from that. As we ended last weekend, and at this point, I am struggling to piece together all the events in some sort of accurate order, I think I was telling you about some offers we had made on some houses.

So these offers we made. On one property we had already offered significantly over asking last Saturday afternoon to “get it off the market”. I’ve watched a few Location, Location, Locations over the years. That failed completely of course and the vendor, being the most avaricious vendor on the planet, went to “best and final”. This irked me and this probably reflected in my less than enthusiastic best and final, which was almost “shove it up your arse”. We were not successful in that process.

That house was always plan B to honest so nil desperandum, we just needed to know if our other over asking price offer might be accepted. Monday dragged on endlessly without news, so I called the agent around lunchtime. What do you mean I may be impatient? I was told that they had spoken to the vendors and they felt it “likely” that they would accept our offer, but the lady needed to talk to her husband about it.

It’s hard to express our frustration at this point. We made the offer at 9.45 on Saturday morning. Had they been locked in separate rooms ever since?

So we went back to waiting. About an hour later my phone rang and it was an estate agent. Not the one I was waiting to hear from, but instead, ours.

They delivered the bombshell that our buyer had lost their buyer. The feeling of a thousand rugs being pulled from under us was mixed with a kick in the goolies. This was not good.

As we came to terms with that and spoke with our agent about what we could do to resolve the situation, my phone rang again, and in an expected ironic twist, our offer had been accepted on THE house Louise had fallen in love with and the one we both agreed was the first choice. Sigh.

So the race was on to reconstruct our chain. We had more viewings booked pretty much immediately, including a second viewing yesterday from someone who saw it on the one previous day we did viewings. We are waiting for feedback and maybe an offer from that second viewing (the estate agents are of course closed today), but all week, we have been more invested in the sale of someone else’s house than you could ever imagine.

Our buyer has had lots of viewings. As they are selling via the same agent as us, and they clearly want to sort out us and them, they have been updating us on their progress. They have had many viewings and one potential buyer has been tantalisingly close to making an offer since Wednesday. Every day, we ring our agent, hopeful and expectant that this nightmare of limbo and risk of losing our house might be over. Every day, there is one more delay and reason that the offer, whilst still expected, has not been made.

Apparently, there are historic issues with the property, that have now been rectified, but the potential buyer understandably wanted all the documentation for that and to do their own checks. How very selfish of them. That is now complete and they just now need to check their mortgage company are happy with that before making an offer. Sigh.

The time window to resurrect our chain is short before we lose the house on which our offer has been accepted. It’s a form of torture. In the very short time we have been involved in this moving house thing, everything that could go wrong has, aside from getting our offer accepted of course. To think this is just the beginning of the process, and we are stumbling over this first hurdle multiple times, horrifies me.

As I have tried to recount the events of last week, I’m not even sure what happened on which day anymore and I have without doubt, and mercifully for you, left out a lot of agonising, moaning, self-pity and swearing.

Still, as often happens, the universe in its infinite wisdom balances things out. Whilst it clearly takes away on the moving house thing, yesterday, to make sure my week really couldn’t get any worse it also gave back. I thought I would weigh myself. Lockdown has not been filled with exercise and healthy eating so the damage will be significant. Bracing myself for the worst, I pulled the scales out, blew the dust from them, like Indiana Jones would from some relic not seen for a thousand years, and stood on them.

Knowing that my tolerance for disaster has been fully expended for one week, the God of self preservation stepped in and the scales told me that I weighted Lo. My weight hasn’t been “Lo”…….well, ever, so that was good news right? The battery running out at that moment was clearly a guiding hand from some higher being, preventing me from spiralling into some nose dive depression. Now, all I have to decide is whether I buy another battery and confront reality or just keep getting bigger T Shirts from the denial store. One battle at a time right?

So next week promises to go one of two ways. Tomorrow, our buyer gets a new offer and our chain is repaired and we can all put this nonsense behind us. Alternatively, that could turn to dust and we lose our house and you have to fear for next week’s post. For all sakes, cross your fingers.

Till the next time……

A State Agents

In an effort to keep my blood pressure and stress levels nice and high, just as the major drama, activity and worry about changing our holiday settled down a bit, I have very cleverly replaced it with aorta threatening levels of stress by trying to find somewhere to live.

The last week has been a blur of swiping right or left on Rightmove and wandering around stranger’s houses mixed with large dollops of disappointment and frustration. With our “sale” having been in the bag for a little while now, the pressure to find somewhere to go is increasing.

We did find a house last week that we liked. As with everything we view, as soon as something decent goes on the market, the vendors have 73 viewings on day one and around 72 offers to consider. After making our first offer on something on Friday morning, we were sad to learn that we had not been successful. Silly us for only offering the asking price!

Even in the short few hours between viewing and hearing we hadn’t got it, emotional investment and attachment had happened. Plans had been made, which in Louise’s case always includes where the Christmas tree would go. It’s difficult to move on but move on we must and we have viewed two further properties that are contenders. We have upped our game in terms of aggression and speed with both, recognising the current market is no place for timidity or sloth.

What has completely bamboozled me is that in a market that is so competitive and fast-moving most estate agents take Sunday off. So for 50% of the time that most folks can search, view and make offers on houses, their offices are shut. I cannot tell you how completely frustrating this is. I know folks need time off but surely you need to operate in the hours that your customers do, like Louise does who has been driving around dressing, injecting and de-soiling folks she looks after all weekend.

In fact, the market is so competitive that second viewings are an alien concept. As Louise has been working all weekend, one of the houses we have now offered on was one she hasn’t even set foot in. Rebecca and I had a look at it yesterday and we were empowered to decide whether or not it would be suitable. That’s like picking your fiance’s wedding dress, but only if she then had to wear that dress every single day for the next decade.

So as Saturdays go, I have had less stressful ones. The fact that we now have to kick our heels for all of Sunday without an update or opportunity to find out where we are up to is not ideal. Regular readers will recognise that I do not deal well with uncertainty, wishy-washy responses and not being in control of my own destiny.

The two current contenders offer very different pros and cons and we would both be happy with either, but with lessons learned we are continuing to search for others whilst proactively harassing, chasing and cajoling estate agents to be competent, but right now I’d settle for them being open.

As often tends to happen in our world, several things converge to make things interesting. Rebecca and Tom are also in the market for their first house after renting for some time. They were also out house hunting yesterday so helping and advising them was also very much a thing. I wouldn’t have it any other way and as first time buyers I hope and expect them to be sorted before we are.

It will not surprise you to know that there wasn’t a lot of holiday thinking done last week. There was some, clearly, as it is who I am, but it is back burnered to some extent as other matters are more pressing. As I don’t have a clue what will happen, it seems silly to spend too much time worrying about it, but if you think that’s what will actually happen then clearly you don’t know me at all.

So it’s been a bit of a week, but of course, as ever, something comes along to remind me that I’m a big girl’s blouse, living a fortunate and privileged life that I should be grateful for.

Firstly, 28,000 cast members lost their jobs this week. I follow a few on social media and it was very sad to see them reacting to the news. To their credit, they all handled it with grace and dignity and that probably goes a long way to explain why they were excellent CMs in the first place. It is a tragic day for them and for what those cuts may mean for the future of the parks and resorts. We can only hope that as things get better they may be able to return should they wish.

Then just as I was just about to post this blog my Mum phoned to tell me that my Aunty Dot died last night.

She was my Mum’s sister and well into her nineties. She had been in a care home for a couple of years and in many ways had left us then, but still, the sadness of losing someone is still there and she was an absolutely lovely lady who played a large part in my childhood.

So with our current “trials” pulled into sharp perspective I’m off to give myself a stern talking to about over-dramatising stuff to folks on the internet.

Till the next time…….

Do Two Wrongs Make a Flight?

In my extensive array of skills, being wrong seems to be right up at the top of the list. It was only seven days ago that I came out with this whopper.

“My expectations of being able to go next March change on an almost daily basis. Right at this moment, I’d say I am slightly leaning towards it being possible. I can’t really articulate clearly why I feel that way. We have what is going to be a very challenging winter ahead of us and anything could happen, but ultimately it feels like as time goes by the world is learning to live with this thing a little more. You may remind me of this unusual optimism when I am undoubtedly proved wrong.”

Within 48 hours of that nonsense, I was indeed proved wrong and it now feels like I could not have been wider of the mark had I tried. With the incompetence driven second wave and lockdown seemingly all but inevitable, and new restrictions being in place possibly for six months, then our March 1st trip seems less likely than ever.

It’s just so sad. There is no other word for it. The seemingly endless woe is getting to us now, and even though I dread most winters, this one is going to be a doozy. I don’t know about you, but we’re all feeling the darkness of the tunnel which currently seems to be without an end for there to be light at.

As we watched various “leaders” from different parts of the UK deliver their addresses mid-week, it really did feel like we were watching some far fetched disaster movie. How we took stuff for granted pre-COVID.

Then, later in the week, Florida went all Florida and announced that COVID is apparently over in the sunshine state and all restrictions were being lifted. We can only hope that people keep up the stuff they have been doing to stay safe. Theme parks, I am putting my faith in you to keep the rules you currently have. Increase capacity if you must, but for all our sakes, keep the masks and distancing.

Let’s hope they realise that the numbers of sensible folks who recognise it’s worth taking precautions to increase the chances of folks not dying outweigh the number that drive to the parks in a car wearing seatbelts and on the correct side of the road to avoid death, but think that a face-covering suggests their lives aren’t their own. I think if they lifted all the current safeguards they may lose more visitors than they gain.

So in one week, I may actually have (and not for the first or last time) been wrong twice. The UK put rules in place, potentially for six months, that suggest I’m going to no further than the kitchen till April and then Florida ripped up the rule book and kicked off a COVID party. You can perhaps see why my thoughts around our holiday taking place change on a regular basis.

In other news, you may also remember last week me telling you how we had put the house up for sale? We went “live” on the internet on Monday evening. We had three viewings on Tuesday and accepted a very pleasing offer on Wednesday morning. Other than not knowing where we are going to live next, this is a mighty relief and shows that a pandemic seems to be a good thing for the property market. I suspect the current stamp duty exemption offer is driving a lot of activity. The joy at knowing we don’t need to go through the superhuman efforts of getting the house that clean and tidy again is lovely.

Not one to dwell on pleasing things, my mind is now crammed full of all the things that could go wrong and the horrors of physically moving all our crap to a new location. Before it can be half full, I need to find a glass.

So now we find ourselves looking for a place to live in a property market where everything is selling within 48 hours for more than the asking price. We have two viewings today and if neither of those work out then, based on the current stuff for sale in our area and budget, I may be shopping for tents and portable heaters.

So, leaving the inconsequential nonsense of where we might live and returning to the more crucial subject of our Disney trips. All of you out there with trips booked, no doubt having already moved them once or twice, how are you feeling now? Do you think the lifting of restrictions in Florida is another step towards overseas tourists being allowed in? Will it matter what the US do if the shit show in the UK continues?

These questions are going to be repeated for us all for many motnhs I fear.

Till the next time…..

A Moving Post

With the holiday that wasn’t now out of the way and my significant birthday behind us, it feels like this could be a watershed moment. A very welcome chance for me to stop bloody moaning about the same stuff and try blogging about something else.

Well, OK. But let me just say that being back in a form of lockdown and not being able to see Rebecca, Tom and Freddie sucks the largest of hairy ballsacks. The growth of my sense of resentment about that is only beaten by the rate of knots by which the number on the scales is increasing.

With that being said, we can move on. Literally.

Back in the old days, there were times when I would blog about “normal things”. These weekly posts weren’t just me ranting about cancelled holidays and inconvenient viruses. Anyone remember that?

In the spirit of that moving on, I can report to you today that, not content with battling a pandemic, rescheduling a wedding (twice) and losing out on a holiday, we have decided to move house too.

A few weeks ago I reported that we were wrestling with the dilemma of either moving or improving our modest abode. For the last few weeks, maybe months, we have literally been flip-flopping between the two options. Endlessly scrolling through Rightmove, pointlessly looking for a house we were in no position to buy, mainly to judge whether, if we did sell, would there be something we could afford that would get us what we want, alongside looking at photos of houses that had “extended” in the way we planned to.

We did venture down the improving route for a while, but the costs involved could have built the US/Mexico border wall twice over and for a house not worth that much in the grand scheme of things, that size of investment for “a bit more kitchen” just didn’t make any sense.

So the decision sort of made itself, and we have recently been through the process of readying our place to go on the market. All those DIY tasks that you ignore if you didn’t plan to sell needed to be done and after a variety of valuations, some comedic at both ends of the scale, on Friday our For Sale board went up. Yesterday we had our photos done and hopefully, in the next couple of days, we shall appear on the internet.

Having moved house just three times in my adult life, that is more than enough to have me dreading every second of the process. These early days seem to involve looking at the same twenty houses on the internet that match your search criteria and getting stupidly excited when a new one appears. Seconds later, when it is dismissed as not suitable you are back to scrolling through your regulars again. Should we sell quickly, the fun and games of finding somewhere to live will really begin.

What do we want?

Ideally, a 4 bed, with a large drive, garden and one of them cliched family-style open plan kitchens. If it can be within five minutes of where we live now that would be a bonus too. Shouldn’t be too hard, should it? You will, without doubt, be told how hard or easy that turns out to be in glorious detail as the weeks go by.

I like to offer variety here and the anticipation you must feel, not knowing if you will get moaning about the virus, not going on holiday or moving house is almost spoiling you.

I bet you wish I was still papping on about the holiday now, right?

Speaking of which…you knew I couldn’t resist. My expectations of being able to go next March change on an almost daily basis. Right at this moment, I’d say I am slightly leaning towards it being possible. I can’t really articulate clearly why I feel that way. We have what is going to be a very challenging winter ahead of us and anything could happen, but ultimately it feels like as time goes by the world is learning to live with this thing a little more. You may remind me of this unusual optimism when I am undoubtedly proved wrong. Hopefully, we’ll at least be in our new house by then with all that horror behind us!

Till the next time……

The Joy Of No Jetlag?

In a world that doesn’t suck big hairy devil balls, today’s blog post would have been me moaning about just having landed back in the UK, being jet lagged, cold, dreading work but at least having a decent reason to be the weight I am now. I’d also have to be trying to motivate myself to start the trip report.

Just think about all that moaning you have been saved from. That’s at least one thing you can thank the pandemic for.

So I suppose in some small way I should feel better now. Had we just got back, we wouldn’t have a countdown, it would be at least a year until we may go back and there would be a whole lot of real-life stretching out before me.

To fill the void in my life, I have been doing some regular vlog watching. I couldn’t for the longest time. It was too painful. It still is, and there are times when I see a certain location on a vlog and I feel physical pain at how much I am missing it, but on balance it is helping a little.

I have two go-to vloggers now to get my fix of the parks, which is precisely double the amount I had pre-lockdown. The Trackers, of course, are the default setting, and now thanks to a recommendation here some weeks ago, Paging Mr Morrow. They do cover much of the same stuff of course as many vloggers do. Indeed, I think half of the current park visitors are vloggers, but they do it quite differently.

What I like about Paging Mr Morrow is that he indulges in food like a tourist should when in the parks. Multiple beers and snacks are the default setting for most of his videos. In fact, some of them make me feel like I am the model of restraint.

I’ve also continued to review and edit our own home movies from the last couple of decades in an attempt to fill the void. You can subscribe to my very own YouTube channel if you like (guys), so as I upload you can watch them. That channel has existed forever as more of a dumping ground for random videos I wanted to save, but with our WDW videos now digitised, I do aim to edit and post all the “good” bits there. I have been gaining subscribers at the rate of around one every five years, so it’s only a matter of time until I too can give up my day job and rely on the advertising revenues my “content” generates.

Yesterday I added a couple more videos. One was spectacularly badly filmed footage of the Osborne Lights in what was MGM back in January 2005. The second was one that really only has interest and value to us, but I’ll share it with you. It’s a lovely clip of us in Olive Garden, again on the same trip over December 2004 and January 2005 with Rebecca playing rock, paper, scissors with her Grandad. There was some glorious cheating going on, and I’ll leave you to ponder who that was being done by.

It’s a daft little video and probably of little interest to anyone but us, but I uploaded it to make sure we never lost it. Yes, there are large spectacular events on a WDW holiday. Fireworks, shows, parades and all the castle stuff, but sometimes these little moments mean more. You can see we are all knackered, but we’re happy, full of good food and just enjoying being there.

I had totally forgotten this had happened of course. It is just one meal in a cavalcade of eating experiences over the years, so to find it within all the other footage was lovely.

Of course, it didn’t help with my feelings of missing the place. We’ve eaten in that particular Olive Garden more frequently than many of the restaurants near our house. I can almost feel the atmosphere there, the smells and of course the breadsticks and salad which, and I will not enter into any debate on the subject, are the best on the planet.

So as we slip back into all sorts of new lockdowns, and us Mkingdons feel like we are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of work and not a lot of fun, loins are having to be girded, and teeth gritted as we try to get through what feels like a bit of a grim time right now. For so many of us who congregate here of a Sunday, our trips to WDW are a bright light at the end of our tunnels, and right now they are a very dim glow, so far in the distance that they are almost invisible.

So you see, I shamelessly lured you into a blog post by telling you how in different circumstances I might be moaning about stuff and then, like some form of politician, I pull a sucker punch and deliver moaning anyway, just of a different flavour.

With Louise working all weekend, I shall step away from the keyboard now to attend to my chores. It’s probably best for all concerned.

Don’t forget (guys), Like, Subscribe and all that jazz on my YouTube channel (that’s what you say to become an internet sensation right?) so that within a matter of weeks I can be earning my living doing brand endorsements for funeral plans and incontinence pants. I’ll be uploading exciting content as regularly as ever, which to date has been about three videos a year. Watch out Tracker, I’m coming for ya!

Till the next time……..

Being 50 Is A Beach…..

You may have noticed that I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with excitement about my imminent birthday. Firstly, as a milestone, it was one that just confirmed I was old(er). Secondly, of course, I was in the wrong country. However, in a turn of events that bucks the trend and tone of recent weeks, I had a really lovely day.

It started as planned with a round of golf with my Dad. Having played about three or four times this summer, there were actual signs that I knew what I was doing in short bursts and it was very enjoyable. The weather was glorious, and as we sat out on the patio outside the clubhouse enjoying a post-round beer, my brother phoned me from France, where he has spent the summer at his cottage. He was just about to set off on the long drive back to his imminent quarantine and he called to wish me a happy birthday.

On my return home, everyone had gone to a lot of trouble to make the day as lovely as it could be. There was a US themed lunch laid on, with almost as many calories involved as I may have eaten had we been in WDW. Hot dogs, cupcakes, cheesecake, Danish (is that the plural?) and all sorts of other wonderfully unhealthy snacky delights were on offer alongside this glorious cake.

So I spent the afternoon eating food and receiving gifts, which is always a decent way to spend your time.

There was everything from cash (always welcome) to useful stuff I needed like clothes, alongside lots of really thoughtful stuff that blew me away. Rebecca and Tom put together a really lovely photo collage which had been framed and will take pride of place somewhere in the house once it gets moved from its current location on the mantlepiece. Louise had the absolute nerve to buy me a new rucksack, suggesting that it might be time for Ryan to be replaced. Do I want to replace Ryan? As Rebecca said when I’d unwrapped it….

Cut It GIFs | Tenor

Amongst the many things my Mum & Dad got me, the highlight was this lovely keepsake. This will be worn as I walk Rebecca down the aisle next year and generally looked after as a lovely memento of turning 50.

Emily had put together a photo/music presentation, (in addition to getting me some Vans cos I am a cool and trendy Dad who is well down with the kids) which it turns out mainly included photos of me with food all over my face. It chronicled our trips over the years and the ever-increasing number of my chins, but it was lovely, and at the end, there was “just one last thing”…..

The final photo bore the caption….. The Beach Club was looking forward to welcoming me back.

Lousie and the girls know this is my favourite resort. No, that’s an understatement. It is one of my favourite places on the planet. They have arranged a night there during our trip in March for Louise and I. The fact that they had the absolute nerve to amend THE PLAN was forgiven. Having very sneakily got access to it without my suspecting a thing a few weeks ago, they have expertly dropped this addition in, without too much disruption and I can’t wait.

All in all, I was overwhelmed with everything and the huge efforts everyone had gone to in order to stop me sulking like a huge man-baby.

Of course, as soon as the “festivities” were over I had to fire up the laptop, dive into the plan and make sure the new addition was properly catered for. I am not known as a complete control freak for nothing.

They had done well to be fair. It bodes well for the years when I am no longer able to do all the planning and just need to be wheeled between meals and fireworks shows. Our stay is on the night of what would have been my birthday had we been there now, with that day seeing us in Epcot with (ADRs permitting) brunch at Beaches & Cream and dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel at the Mexico pavilion. So being able to wander back to the Beach club afterwards works well. Tom will have to assume driving duties and transport everyone else back to the villa.

The next day was marked as Volcano Bay, but it would be wasteful to leave the Beach Club early in the morning to do so, so that has been sacrificed so that we can spend the day at the resort. The others will spend a leisurely morning at the villa before joining us at some point for some rest time at one of the quiet pools there. That evening has hopes of dinner at Whispering Canyon, before the next two days being spent at the Hard Rock at Universal. This detailed level of planning pleases me greatly.

So after a lovely bank holiday Monday, I have spent my week off work mainly eating all the glorious leftovers from the celebrations. I have eaten more high-calorie crap this week than I may have done had we been in WDW. A bold statement, but the scales back up this claim. There has been some unavoidable unpleasantness in the form of DIY, but overall, so far being 50 has gone quite well.

As evidence of some sort of acceptance, I don’t even know where we should have been on this day had we been in WDW. If that isn’t a demonstration of maturity and personal growth, I don’t know what is. Being 50 might be good for me.

Till the next time……

Fifty Shades of Beige

I’m sick of moaning. You’re sick of me moaning. I get it. This week’s post could very easily be a shit fest of self-pity and woe is me. Let’s face it, most of my posts are, but in a week where every day I am thinking where I should be instead, it would be a miracle if it were not.

I will desperately try to perform that miracle.

FYI though, so far this week we should have eaten at O’hana, Teak Neighbourhood Grill, Bahama Breeze and today would have been Yak & Yeti.

On the plus side…..erm……I don’t have to go to work next week. When cancelling my annual leave I retained a week just to not be at work for a bit. I have been working hard and I haven’t had a break since before lockdown so I need to be away from it for a bit. The fact that we are currently in the middle of decorating a couple of bedrooms is the perfect metaphor for 2020.

Tomorrow is my actual birthday. Unlike in the alternate universe in which I would be in Epcot, I have no plans other than I am playing golf with my Dad in the morning. I’m not very good but I enjoy it. I have given very strict instructions that there should be no elaborate celebrations. Of course, we aren’t allowed to be together in groups larger than….I mean on a Wednesday, if it’s raining, I can see six members of my family….erm, every other week, if I close my eyes I am allowed to sit outside with…..

No, I haven’t got a clue what we are allowed to do, but I know that a large family gathering, even if I wanted one, is not allowed. I know it makes me an ungrateful grinchy knob, but I just don’t feel in the mood for big celebrations. I’m sure I will see everyone that matters at some point, at whatever the currently allowed distance is and that’s all that counts.

I did pick up my car on Thursday. It’s nice. It’s like my old one, but silver and a bit newer. It has a lot more gadgets though including voice commands. I need to sit in it for several hours learning what everything does so that I can use my voice to do things and concentrate all my efforts on moaning about my commute, should I ever do that again.

Still, at least the weathers’s been nice.

A Collection of House of Cards' Best Frank Underwood Side-Eye GIFs | Frank  underwood, Kevin spacey, Redes sociales

A lot of the angst we are feeling is due to the fact that the rescheduled dates in March feel very shakey too. For a family used to having a concrete countdown, this does not work well. How’s Florida doing? Better, if you believe the reported numbers. I don’t so much.

Ever since the reporting of numbers was moved from the CDC to the Whitehouse, amazingly, the numbers of cases have immediately and drastically declined. Even if those numbers were true then case numbers of around 3,000 per day and deaths of over 100 still do not make great reading for the state….never mind what’s really happening.

So I still cannot foresee borders being opened, certainly not before the election over there. With the new (please!) President not taking office till January, any lifting of travel restrictions to the US from the UK is going to be close to the wire for a 1st of March trip I think.

So as this descends into another moan-fest I should slap myself, count my blessings and stop being an annoying douche bag, right?

I have reached 50, all of my family are here and healthy, we are not living in poverty or hardship and I have a car that I can talk to. I am like some sort of portly, older Marty McFly, living in the future we all dreamed of….apart from the highly contagious deadly disease and the fact that there’s no Huey Lewis in Bolton. Swings and roundabouts and I need to watch Back To The Future again.

Anywho, as I live through the last few hours of my forties I suspect I won’t feel very different when I wake up in my 50’s tomorrow. As I plan to live to at least 120, my mid-life crisis isn’t due until I am 60. The coming decade of my 50’s holds the hope of it being better than my 40’s. We went through a lot during that time. Louise returning to study to become a nurse was a challenge, there was also some “nastiness” right at the start of my 40’s that saw my, to that point stellar, career hit a few bumps. (It wasn’t at all stellar and hasn’t been since either). Those and other financial challenges were tough and hopefully behind us. There were all sorts of dramas involving the girls, but this is par for the course and I expect nothing less in every decade to come to be honest, but hopefully, as they get older these shall be less frequent and less traumatic.

Of course, Freddie joined us in my 40’s and that would be the highlight of any decade. I hope to spend however many decades I have left spending as much time as possible with him, whenever possible, in Florida.

Some of you reading this will have been with me through all of that and in some cases, for many years before. I first started over sharing stuff about my life and family online around 2003 on various forums (remember those?). I don’t even find my own life that interesting so I can only applaud in awe your tolerance for mediocrity and average writing. We’re approaching twenty years of me papping on and both of you that read this every week are still here.

I am away now to spend the last day of my 40’s doing a bit of decorating. At some point, at a time totally of my own choosing, I will also walk the dogs. The fact that I should, by rights, be in Animal Kingdom won’t be on my mind at all.

Till the next time……

World Class Whinging When WDW Wasn’t

You’ve known this was coming. I have known this was coming. The last few months have been like standing on a beach watching the tsunami approach, fascinated by it, but unable to do anything but surrender to its majestic and irresistible force. This blog post should have been my last before heading off to Florida for my special 50th birthday celebrations.

That fact that it is not may see levels of moaning and childish foot stampery than has ever been witnessed and we all know this blog has witnessed a lot of that over the years.

It’s a gut-wrenching pain. A sorrow so deep that it is eating me up inside as the intended day of departure gets closer. It’s the little things. That magical early morning at the airport when you are an over-excited bundle of new trainers, not much sleep and an £80 breakfast. The passive-aggressive social media posts from the airport with no other intention than to signal to anyone watching that you are going on holiday and they aren’t. Sigh…..

The happy, aimless wandering around duty-free shops, spending amounts on pointless perfume that you would normally resist paying for a week’s grocery shopping. That combination of dozens of perfume sample smells mixed with Starbucks coffee and raw anticipation should be bottled and sold….oh wait it probably is.

It’s the strange zombie-like state in which you queue for immigration upon arrival at Orlando airport and then jostle for your cases before inevitably waiting for Louise to spend half an hour on the toilet, despite having sat next to one for the last nine hours.

The sudden shock of being behind the wheel of a large unfamiliar car, on the wrong side of the road with a “trunk” full of luggage and a bum crack full of sweat. The toss of a coin decision as to which exit you’ll take out of the airport, as despite having gone every year for two decades, it always feels like they changed the entire road layout since last year.

The absolute all-consuming relief as you wedge your “as slim as it’s going to get for a few months” body into the booth at the first night eatery of choice after dumping the cases and doing the supermarket shop. The blissful feeling of a whole new holiday lying in front of you untouched.

You see, what I should be doing right now is stressing out over incoming tropical storms and hurricanes, wondering if the 20 day build up on the news will deliver total carnage or a light drizzle….like these two currently making their way to the US, potentially spoiling the holiday I’m not having. The fact that I am not currently spending more time with Denis Philips than my family is not OK.

Sigh……again. The mood, as you might imagine, has not been ebullient in Mkingdon Towers this week.

In this week that should have been, I don’t wish to come across like a “playa” but to lift the mood I bought a new car. I didn’t just wander into a showroom with a bag of cash and demand the keys. My average family saloon is three years into a four-year deal and typically this is past when we do a swap/upgrade. Having just had it serviced and MOT’d last week, I walked out of the dealership after the rare experience of not having spent a penny. I had a service plan that covered the routine stuff. I did, however, have an estimate for work that was “necessary very soon” for just over a grand, so dropping the car like a hot brick into the arms of the dealership giving me a “new” car was the right thing to do. I pick it up next week. I don’t know what day yet, but by rights, it needs to be Wednesday at around 11am when we should have been accelerating down the runway.

At my time of life, this new car should be a large red convertible. It is instead a silver mid-range family car. What mid-life crisis?

The car I should be driving next week is the ridiculously huge thing I have hired for our Florida adventure. It is an extravagance I feel no need to justify. What will be odd this next trip, which as you may know, is not happening next week, is that there will be other potential drivers. Usually, I do all the driving. I don’t mind. I enjoy it and I can even tolerate Diet Coke most of the time. However, Louise says she wants adding but we also have Tom and Emily who are both now over the magical 25 years of age. Emily doesn’t fancy it, not wanting to “kill us all”, but I bet Tom wants a go, so I may get a beer or two. Not being the best passenger in the world (control freak? Me?) I may need those beers and a blindfold to let someone else navigate the Orlando roads.

So when Wednesday morning comes, and I am sat on my seven millionth Teams call, barely feigning interest, my heart will be at Manchester airport and the trip that never was. I’d ask you to spare a thought for me, but I know that so many of you are in the same position and have your own struggles to deal with.

You might think that this blog post will be the drawing of the sting, and with the passing of departure day I will be “over it”. It’s almost as if you don’t know me at all. The week after next will be my actual birthday and next Sunday will not only see me continue to piss and moan about not being in WDW, I’ll be on the precipice of my fifties too. I bet you can’t wait.

Till the next time…..

I Tube, YouTube, We All Tube

I issued a warning that this may happen just a few weeks ago.

You may remember me telling you that I had finally paid a king’s ransom to have a load of our old camcorder tapes put on t’internet. They are now stored online, on a USB stick and some DVDs. We’re never losing this stuff!

They are formatted in line with the original tapes, so that’s roughly 90 minutes at a time. There’s a lot of guff on there that is only ever going to be of (mild) interest to us, so they shall not be shared in their original state.

However, being the technical genius that I is, last week I figured out how to chop them up into (almost) palatable chunks and whether you like it or not, you’re having some.

I started with 2001. I don’t know why. This was our first trip as a four and was not trip reported. A scandal I know. We stayed at the All Star Sports, paying massively over the odds for a package deal booked over the phone (ridiculous!) with one of those holiday selling channels that used to be on your telly.

There was so much wrong with how we booked and failed to plan this trip that I am almost glad it is undocumented. It does, however, contain lots of lovely and important memories for us, which now, for the first time in almost twenty years, we can watch without hooking the camcorder up to the telly with a combination of cables more complex than NASA used to launch folks to the moon.

I won’t share stuff you’ve all seen a million times. As an example, I, of course, videoed every second of the Legend of the Lion King. This happens most years. But let’s start with something a little random. We only saw this once (I think), but this was a show that used to happen in Camp Minnie Mickey, starring Pocahontas and on this day, some quite unreliable animals. The restraining order I took out in 2001 against Pocahontas is still in force as far as I know.

On the subject of things that are no longer around. Back in 2001, before the Beauty & The Beast show, you got another one. We used to love this, and the small detail of these guys walking out on stage as if they were part of the “tech team” for the show and starting to sing, was really one of those bits of magic that make the place so special. I give you, Four For A Dollar. I apologise for the incredibly shaky camera work. I was zooming in from Tampa.

Next, we move on to a parade that no longer exists. There are a number of these, and I think Spectromagic is the one I miss the most, but this was probably Emily’s favourite. You can see her having it scorched into her psyche halfway through this brief video.

Recognising that watching somebody else’s twenty-year-old camcorder classics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, (but reserving the right to do it in the future) I’ll end with a clip of the girls in The Boneyard in Animal Kingdom. I hope I’m around in another twenty years to post the clip we have of Freddie doing the same for the first time from last year!

Just in case I’m not, then here is Freddie 18 years later.

This video demonstration of how quickly times passes and how precious each trip is serves as a nice segue way into me telling you that I am feeling the onset of a gargantuan sulk that we won’t be in WDW at the end of August. The hurt is growing day by day and I cannot be held responsible for my enormously immature outbursts in the coming weeks. At the risk of being maudlin, you never know how many more trips you have in you and to have one stolen from us is smarting a bit. Sure, yes, I have things in perspective as usual. It’s what I do.

I think that mood is enhanced, nay worsened, by the real concern that March may not happen either. I know that’s all negative nelly, but in the absence of any concrete change that is likely between now and then, we may be no further forward by that stage. That, of course, stinks.

Regardless, I did a bit of plan tweaking yesterday. With thanks to whoever pointed me at the Paging Mr Morrow vlogs, we have watched his lovely series of resort stays recently and a vlog where he ate at Whispering Canyon Cafe. That, of course, is a favourite of ours and was somehow not on the plan for the next trip. Well, it is now, for a few reasons.

  1. It’s great fun
  2. The food is hearty and wonderful
  3. They do unlimited milkshake refills (Tom may be banned).
  4. They do a Vegan skillet for Emily
  5. It has taken the place of The Outback on our plan.

That last point is a surprise to us too. The Outback holds a special place in our hearts and yearly plans but with Emily now Vegan, it had to go. It seems all that Emily would be able to have there would be the bread. Add to that, for some reason they have blocked their menu to anyone outside of the US on the internet so we couldn’t even look to see if they added any Vegan stuff since last year, and it just had to be sacrificed.

The Outback is our traditional arrival night go to, mainly due to location, so a little bit of surgery was required on the plan. It didn’t seem wise to do a straight swap and book an ADR for Whispering Canyon for our arrival night. We can’t guarantee what time we’d be there and ready to eat and if Freddie would be awake and up to a meal out after all that travel. So, our arrival night eatery will be a new experience for us, with Ford’s Garage getting the nod, mainly as it is on the 192 close to our villa.

Whispering Canyon has slotted in where Ford’s previously sat on the evening of our planned day at Volcano Bay. I bet you feel better for knowing all that now, right?

Let’s hope we do get to eat at these places in March!

Till the next time……

Feeling and Falling Down

Holy moly I am missing WDW.

That could start any of my posts, any week, any year, but right now, it stings like a hot curry the morning after. For most of lockdown, I haven’t really been able to watch any of my favourite vloggers. That’s a narrow list to be honest, but with the prospect of getting there so small, watching them didn’t fill the hole, it just widened it.

I don’t know what’s happened in recent weeks but I have relented and been able to watch a few. I am not a good enough writer to express how much I miss the place. It’s not just Main Street and the castle and all the cliches you might expect, it’s just the atmosphere of the whole place, how we feel when we are there and an inexplicable feeling of comfort and ease.

The heat that wraps around your body, contrasted with the palpable relief of a good dose of air conditioning. The comforting welcome you get in almost every eatery and that warm glow you feel when you are seated and start to read the menu, knowing you are about to eat well.

There are few times and places to compare to a Floridian dusk. The strange half and half light as night begins to take over from the day, lights begin to twinkle and the temperature drops to one that is almost bearable. Mix that with the unmistakable smell of Florida and that’s home when we’re not at home.

There’s just a feeling of belonging that we have developed and embraced over the years that can’t be easily explained as I have just demonstrated. For us, Florida has thousands of different faces, sights and sounds and they all play their part.

So of course, Tim Tracker was the default choice. I know he is the obvious choice but I feel less guilty as I’ve been watching him for some years, before he became so big vlogging became his job. Good luck to him.

Seeing him do the parks in this new masked fashion is interesting of course and it’s nice to see the place, even if we can’t be there, but it is also sad. It reminds me of what used to be and what currently can’t be. As much as I yearn for that of course, I am a little bit scared of how busy the parks will be at the point at which masks and social distancing are no longer required. It’s gonna get crazy, but right now, I, no doubt like all of you, would take that over where we are today.

In the desperate search for positives around the fact that we are not in the final stages of our countdown as we should be now, last night, Rebecca, Tom and Freddie were here for tea and noticing that Freddie seemed to have grown another few feet since we last saw him a few days ago, we were wondering how the extra few months would affect what rides he could go on. He’s tall for a two-year-old and after a quick measure this morning Rebecca has reported that he is currently 39 inches without shoes.

So with seven months to go (I could weep), there is every chance he will get to 40″ and be able to enjoy many rides for the first time. If his growth carries on at this rate he may reach 42″ and that opens up all sorts of scary stuff for someone of his age. We’ll just need to start small and build him up to the bigger rides and see how he reacts.

I don’t think Louise and I particularly covered ourselves in glory with the girls when we went with them during their small years. I do remember buying Rebecca some Jellies with heels on to help get her onto stuff, as she was always a daredevil and would ride anything. Having said that I do recall her crying as we got off the monorail after riding upfront with the driver (remember that being an option?) but I think was first day over-excitement and jet lag.

We probably dragged them onto stuff they weren’t ready for at different points in our travels. This may be the reason that even now at 25, Emily has a morbid fear of the Dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom. As parents, we’ve not done too badly, but perfect we ain’t.

So I might watch a few more vlogs later. It’s dangerous on a Sunday as the black dog of depression can often visit on the day before work resumes. Add to that the fact that I should be a couple of weeks away from that exciting early morning at the airport and there could be a Michael Douglas Falling Down moment around Bolton.

To make matters worse, tomorrow morning I have my car in for a service. I always play the prediction game on such days. I guess the time of the phone call from the garage and the amount of money I will be required to pay to fix whatever issues have been discovered. Despite years of practice I always underestimate the financial wounds inflicted upon me.

If you see news reports tomorrow of any kind of rampage in a Bolton car dealership then remind me to delete this post as it may harm my defence.

Till the next time……

Living La Lockdown Loca

I am blogging to you now, live from lockdown in the North West of England. As we all try to familiarise ourselves with yet more disinformation and confusion designed to allow the government to shift the blame to others, we can no longer see other households unless we are spending money at the same time.

This whole mess is just soul-destroying and the incompetent handling of it is just prolonging everyone’s agony. I watched in horror as Johnson, like some rotting haystack of incompetence, was on my telly doing his own Trump-style cognitive test, spouting shite about face, space and hands. The announcement of this lockdown, with about twelve minutes notice, via social media, where are all the vulnerable, elderly folks are hanging out at close to midnight has resulted, as you might expect, in there being absolutely no discernable difference in behaviour as far as I can see.

To be honest, lockdown makes little difference to me. Since March I’ve been to the local Sainsburys three times and played a couple of rounds of golf with my Dad. Who is or isn’t in your bubble now, if a bubble is still a thing, is anyone’s guess and I suspect most people are completely ignoring whichever flavour of government advice is currently on the telly and doing what they think is sensible and safe.

It is, to use one of my favourite words, an absolute shambola.

I have no issue working from home. I get more done, am less angry (that’s what the commute does to a person) and the joy of closing the laptop at whatever time I finish and being home and ready to do nothing of an evening is very welcome.

However, it would be nice to be able to go out gigging with Mustard again at some point. There is absolutely no chance of that happening any time soon in my view, but when we can, that will be welcome. I’d also like to have a holiday, but that’s waaaayyyy off in March, so that’ll be fine right?

Those of you who have been with me a while will know the “fondness” I feel for Disney Facebook groups. Some are great resources for information and chatting with like-minded folks. Others are a cesspit of power-obsessed whack jobs who I would cross a multi-lane motorway to avoid. Maybe we should start our own dear blog readers?

Anywho, this week I joined one called Vintage Disney World and it’s great. Granted I haven’t been there long enough to know for sure that it isn’t full of power-obsessed whack jobs who I would cross a multi-lane motorway to avoid, but the early signs are good as I have not yet been banned.

I posted a few photos from my first WDW experience in 1980 but other than that I have very much enjoyed seeing some posts from others, some going back as far as 1972. This was one of the 1980 photos I shared.

It’s incredible how much has changed of course. Take a look at the group if it sounds like your thing. (I am in no way sponsored, paid or in a position of power in this group). That isn’t to say that if a brand wishes to shower me with cash and/or gifts I am not prepared to whore myself out and give you a mention as often as you like. Bring it on!!

The one thing that a group like that reminds you of is the constant change at WDW. Even over the course of the time the girls have been going, the number of changes is impossible to count or remember. This will always be the case. However, the worry now is that the current desperate circumstances may force some decisions onto Disney that it may not have taken or at least not yet.

With revenues so low and no sign of that improving, bad news may be inevitable. As evidence, I present you this rumour which has struck horror deep into the heart of the Mkingdon household today.

I know Disney is having all sorts of challenges with the actors that feature in these type of shows and I can only hope that things can be sorted out to the satisfaction of all parties and we don’t lose absolute classics like this show from the parks.

I know, in the midst of a pandemic, that the impact on a theme park may not be a top priority, but at some point, it will be over and I can’t help wondering what might be left for us at that point.

Sigh.

Next, if you will allow me to abuse my very small platform, I wonder if any of you may feel inclined to sign this petition for Emily. She is incredibly upset about what she saw at this place yesterday. I have no idea if anything can be done but she is determined to make a difference and if you feel like you wish to support her she would appreciate it massively.

I shall end this week by wishing Mrs Mkingdon a very happy 24th wedding anniversary for tomorrow. I salute her for entering into the commitment all those years ago, to go to WDW on holiday every year. I am a joy and delight to live with so try not to be too envious of her for getting to do that for over a quarter of a century now.

Till the next time…..

Birthday Bonanza

This week, in an attempt to reassure my bosses that I am competent I spent most of it reciting five random words. Several of them were not even swear words. I await my pay rise with tepid anticipation.

The world has indeed gone completely bonkers and I stare, mostly at Twitter, in a catatonic state of disbelief for large parts of my day. I need to get out more…oh wait….

Today is not a day for morbid bemoaning of world events, and political incompetence, instead, it is the time to celebrate the fact that I have had a daughter for a quarter of a century and am clearly very, very old. Emily’s birthday is today and probably much like you, I cannot quite fathom how she has the gall to be 25.

If there is anything to be thankful for about that, it is that of course that we are no longer infected and inflicted with a house full of noisy kids having a sleepover where nobody, including me and Louise, ever slept. I do remember one such event “fondly” which involved me trying to make our brand new kitchen floor less sticky for a good few hours after one lovely hyper child spilt a full two-litre bottle of coke all over it. Hello to Simon, wherever you are.

Instead, Emily is, of course, spending her day with her boyfriend and we are wishing her well electronically. As ever, this is the circle of life. Happy Birthday pud!

It also means that today is Oli’s birthday too. It is spooky that they share a birthday, but of course, Oli is not yet 25. We got Oli for Emily when she passed her GCSEs and I have walked him ever since. He and I are showing signs of age now of course and the walks that we do are more of me dragging him along rather than what was the opposite for many years. Bless him. He will probably never forgive us (well it was Louise technically) for introducing Bean to his a life a few years ago. She is the annoying younger sister every elder sibling loves to have.

Right now, Oli is spending his birthday in the the only way he knows how.

Next in line for a birthday in the household is me. As you can imagine, my anticipation of it has diminished considerably of late and I am contemplating just emulating Oli’s approach to it as I cannot be in my location of choice.

In the world of holidays, not much has changed. Florida, along with most of the US, seems to be embracing the Walking Dead approach to controlling a pandemic. With each passing week and each notch of the graph over which new records are set on infections, my hopes of our March trip take a bit of a dive. I cannot make any sense of it.

With our trip some time away, and with half of me expecting that we won’t go anyway, my interest in happenings in the parks has dimmed a little, but from the small snippets I have seen online, they look quiet. Very quiet. It has to be a worry that this can’t be financially sustainable for the theme parks. I’m not sure whether they were losing more money when shut or now that they are open. Whilst infection rates soar there can surely be no chance of international visitors being allowed in, even assuming anyone wanted to, and as if 2020 hasn’t been surreal enough, it is not beyond the realms of imagination that some parks don’t survive.

I don’t think Disney is at risk of that. I don’t know of course, but surely they have enough backing and other revenue streams to survive, I hope, at least, but some of the smaller ones could be in trouble. This, of course, must be the case across multiple industries and makes the unbelievably irresponsible inaction on the whole thing in large parts of the US unfathomable.

Having said all that about being disinterested in how the parks are doing and pessimistically downplaying our chances of going in March, it has not stopped me from performing some surgery to the plan. That surgery involved me cramming more food into our trip, like an LA plastic surgeon cramming triple DDDs into their client. Like them, I think I want it, but everyone else knows it’s just a step too far. (What? I have watched the odd episode of Botched!)

Somehow, ADR permitting, Beaches & Cream now sits on our plan. I am of course curious to see what it looks like after the recent extension but more than that I want a kitchen sink for brunch. Both are at least equally important.

Maybe I need to do more of this and employ the technique of positive thinking rather than moaning about stuff? We WILL go to WDW next March, there WILL be a working vaccine in place and we won’t need to wear masks and social distance and I WILL not put on a stone in two weeks due to massively overeating. I suspect I am being too aspirational with the last one of those.

I’ll let you know how I get on with that!

Till the next time…..

Being Right & Retro

In a very rare turn of events it appears that I made the right decision.

This week Virgin pushed back any possibility of flying to Orlando until October at the earliest. So now as I sit here with new flights already secured, updated plans made and park reservations in the bag, it does appear that making that decision a few weeks ago has saved me a considerable amount of stress and panic right around now.

I guess we would have now been waiting for refunds, rearrangements and all that jazz along with everybody else cancelled for our original dates. It may well be a one-off occasion that I made a right call, so please allow me to wallow in it.

I have to say that although the 1st of March is so far in the future I don’t think we can still be 100% sure that we’ll definitely be going then. That may sound mad, but in a country where new records are being set every day for infections and deaths are rising again, you have governors banning cities from enforcing mask-wearing in public.

This level of stupidity cannot be comprehended and it is this sort of muppetry that may see me stressed and panicked again in the new year trying to move stuff once more.

As you will have seen on Friday when I shared an old, yet recently rediscovered photo on Facebook, we found some old photos. Emily is getting a new bed and re-doing her bedroom so she is currently trying to make her room look a little less like one of those “hoarder houses” you see on the telly.

Having gone through the photos from the box she discovered deep under her bed, I’ll share a few more now. I’ll try to keep it to those of historical interest as long as I can remember what they were.

This is from, I think 1999. It is from our only visit to date to the Liberty Tree Tavern. Rebecca is two here if it is 1999. My Dad took us and my brother and his family to Florida on his maturing endowment, which is not a euphemism.

It’s terrible that I can’t be sure of the year with a lot of these. If there is one positive from my writing of trip reports in the years that followed these early trips it is that we will always know the exact date of things we are looking at.

I think this is 2001 and the first trip we did as a foursome. This would make the girls six and four respectively which I think looks right. We stayed at the All Star Sports, paying massively over the odds for a package deal. I knew no better at this early stage in my Disney development. This was the first trip I booked as up until that point I had been with my parents or had been taken by my Dad in 1999.

This is Mickey or Minnie’s house. Both of course now a thing of the past.

Again, I am guessing but I think this is 2001 again based on Rebecca’s size and dress. This, if you can’t work it out is in France in World Showcase. The hours we spent with the girls getting those masks done. Every minute of them an absolute pleasure.

Now, this one is a bit of a rare find. This must be 1999 and the brief but glorious thing that was Tapestry of Nations. For those too young to remember this was an outstanding parade type of thing that made its way around World Showcase before ROE. Forgive the photo. I had an old steam-powered camera and it was very hot and raining.

Again from 1999, and this is my brother’s eldest son, Jack, at the time around six I think. This was when paper maps were relevant and in the Animal Kingdom, we still needed one. The park hadn’t been open that long at the time.

Again, I’m guessing that this was 2001. It’s some bizarre stage show that I have little to no recall of and I certainly have no idea what it was called. It had all those characters in that anyone from the UK only has a passing knowledge of like Rocky and Bullwinkle. I have to say, I have not mourned the passing of this show in the way I did Wishes!

This looks like 2001 again. Although Rebecca looks small for four. Maybe it’s 1999? No, I think 2001. I honestly can’t remember. See, if you think writing trip reports is for OCD idiots with nothing better to do, then, of course, you are right, but they do serve a purpose.

This was outside those silver character caravans in what was MGM at the time, near Little Mermaid and what was One Man’s Dream.

This was definitely 1999. Rebecca is two here and looking very similar to a currently two-year-old Freddie. This was taken at Busch Gardens. On top of her stroller is one of two giant stuffed toys that were won that day on the boardwalk games. We somehow got them home and they still sit in my Mum and Dad’s house. When the girls were younger and slept over at Nana and Grandad’s they had to be moved out of the bedroom as they terrified them!

And finally 2003, the first trip report year. For that reason and the fact that I remember this like it was yesterday this is outside Rock n Rollercoaster and that is Rebecca with the untamable and unfathomable hair she had at the time.

We were waiting for Louise to finish her ride before heading to The Brown Derby for our ADR. Just as Louise emerged and we set off it started with torrential rain and we got absolutely soaked. We had to get the girls a sweatshirt each from the villain’s shop on the way so they wouldn’t freeze to death in the air con whilst eating. Rebecca’s look of happiness and joy is a strong reminder of how (almost) every minute of these trips are happy memories and things to cherish as we make new ones with the new people now in our lives.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I finally got all of our old videotapes from many trips converted to a digital format and we’ve been watching those again. There are hours and hours of unedited and largely tedious ( to anyone but us) footage, so I won’t bother you with those, but if time allows I may try to share some highlights if I can master the required technology to do so.

Until I can spend some time finding out how to do it properly here’s a little clip from 2001, recorded from laptop to phone so excuse the sound quality and wobbly camera work. There are about another ten hours of this stuff…..

Till the next time…….

Reigniting The Fires Of Anticipation

It’s taken a while but we’ve got to a Sunday where I have no trip rearranging drama to report. All was quiet on the holiday front this week.

So now I have to think of something to write about. I think I preferred it when I was in the midst of the re-planning maelstrom. Almost. This week it appears that the something to write about is me getting angry about American people. I suppose it makes a change from me getting angry about British politicians (see Twitter).

I have been watching with interest the bizarre juxtaposition of WDW re-opening and the state of Florida letting the disease run almost completely unchecked at the same time. When Universal announced they were re-opening in early June, I along with a lot of others I imagine thought that was early but I wondered if Disney would feel pressured to follow suit.

They did not, to their credit, despite reportedly losing a million dollars a day by staying shut. Instead, they took their time, (almost) built a completely new IT system to take park bookings and, looking at some of the pictures from cast member and AP previews, also did a not-insignificant amount of work to many of the attractions. I see the likes of Jungle Cruise has new screens to help keep parties separate and protected for example.

Credit to wdwnt.com for me stealing their photo

The safari at DAK also seems to have screens in place betwen guests.

I stole this from Lionel Dore’s Facebook post

I suspect WDW are playing the long game and assuming that things may never return fully to normal and having these extra ways to keep guests from breathing all over each other will generally be a good thing regardless of this particular disease.

It does appear that the recent catastrophic increase in cases in Florida and other states led by stupid people is now leading to fuller hospitals and more dead people. Nobody could have predicted this, right?

Side Glance GIF by Reactions | Gfycat

These graphs really are grim reading.

For a while, the narrative was that a different demographic were catching the disease. That demographic was stupid people who thought it was a hoax and a piece of cloth over their mouth was a bridge too far on what they were able to tolerate. Sure cases were rising faster than my anger at Brexit, but deaths were not, so it’s all good and we can go to the bars and lick some bar stools.

It does now appear that the lag between new cases and folks dying is over with Florida’s daily COVID deaths (the ones they are admitting to anyway) doubling over recent trends.

I guess the only slim pickings of comfort in those figures is that it is making the UK’s response to the pandemic look succesful, and that’s an impressive feat in itself.

This week those in charge in Florida voted against making masks in public places mandatory. Well, stupid is as stupid does as someone once said. This makes me sad and angry that this will both kill people and in less serious news, probably affect my upcoming holiday. I can be sanctimonious and shallow at the same time, it’s no trouble.

Away from me being judgemental about people thousands of miles away, along with the theme parks, things are opening up again all over the place here too. Whilst it doesn’t particularly affect me directly, barbers and hairdressers were among those businesses to begin trading again, and Rebecca managed to get Freddie booked in as he was, in her words, starting to look like a mushroom.

Yes, you are right, during lockdown he has become a teenager. Now that he is at nursery a few days a week it is apparent that he is roughly twice the size of the other two-year-olds there, so I am looking forward to riding every single coaster in Florida with him before too long, assuming the entire state hasn’t been wiped out by its own stupidity.

Of course, we are measuring him regularly to see what he will be able to ride. He’s currently 38 inches which will see him allowed on the likes of Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Smuggler’s Run, Slinky Dog Dash and Kali River Rapids. He has around six months to grow another two inches and be able to do stuff like Soarin’, Test Track and Big Thunder.

I have to say that all the kerfuffle and concern about our next trip has sort of stripped away the ability to look forward to it. It would help if the disease was at least under some sense of control over there I suppose, but hopefully now with things rearranged and settled, we can begin to reignite the fires of anticipation, which sounds like one of those straight to DVD movies they show on those Hallmark channels.

Till the next time…….

Park Strife?

After all the hassle and nonsense that I have been sharing with you recently, you will not believe what happened when I tried to make all our park reservations.

It all went very smoothly.

I know this is a shocking situation but I can only tell you the truth. On Monday, my tickets turned up around mid-morning. I quickly whipped them out of the envelope and tried to link them up to the My Disney Experience app. That was pretty painless with only one (mine) refusing to link up on the app and it needed me to use their web site instead.

With that done, every day for which we wanted access to a Disney park was available and after ten minutes we were done. I don’t know what all the fuss was about!

After my diva strop last week it is only right that I bring you up to date with Floridatix. I did get a response to the email I sent them last Saturday on Tuesday of this week, asking for a little more information which I provided. I then got a call from Carly there on Thursday. She was very good, apologised and could make no excuses for what happened. She explained the delay in despatch was due to them running out of Universal tickets (the irony) and she could not understand why I had been told twice that the order had been sent.

She promised a small gesture of financial goodwill and a goody pack was heading our way as a token of apology and all in all she provided just the right amount of understanding, culpability and customer care to make me feel like I had been listened to. With there being no impact on the booking of our park reservations, I was a lot more willing to accept an apology than if that hadn’t been the case.

I stand by my emotional rant last week. It was in no way an overreaction or a sign of irrationality on my part. So there.

This coming week is a big one with WDW re-opening the first of its parks. We can all only hope that they somehow get a fecking grip on infection levels before the whole country resembles some sort of Walking Dead cosplay event.

It doesn’t look good if I am honest, with infection rates In Florida and other states seemingly completely out of control now. For the first time, I am feeling fairly comfortable that the decision to push the trip back to March was the correct one, with growing concerns that things may not be “right” even by then.

I have no doubt that Disney will do things as well as they can. It will probably be one of the safer places to go if you want to go “out”, but it certainly won’t decrease the number of infections.

I know that both of my readers love this endless stream of nonsense about a holiday they won’t be going on, but how about some other content? I could share with you the details on how I have used lockdown to relentlessly exercise, resulting in a weight loss of almost two stones. But who wants to hear about that nonsense. If I see one more work out video online my overdeveloped sense of guilt may consume me alive.

Instead, in real life news, we are currently grappling with the quandary of whether to move house or stay where we are and do some pretty extensive work to it. Both options horrify me in fairly equal measure but we do need to do one or the other. Our house doesn’t really do what we want it to as it’s very old and was built for folks with a very different way of living so it needs surgery or we need to find one that does.

We had our builder and his architect round this week to explore what we could do here and we are leaning towards that option but neither of us feels we are 100% sure either way. The plan is to remove the back of the house and re-configure it as the stereotypical “family room” with open plan kitchen and living space, rather than the traditional three-room layout that all houses of our age seem to have.

Whilst we were encouraged by the architect’s advice and guidance, we do continue to fire up Rightmove and see what’s out there too. We may end up tossing a coin in the coming weeks as it comes to the point when we need to make the decision.

So you now have the prospect of me not only pontificating and stressing about our holiday in the coming months, I will also have the stressful scenario of either major construction or a house move to throw into the mix. How will you stay away?

By the way, I haven’t lost two stone.

Till the next time……

Floridadix

If nothing else, this pandemic and ensuing holiday destroying after-effects are giving me plenty of stuff to blog about. I know that many of you will be really missing those weeks when I’d squeeze out a few hundred words on walking the dogs or how great my commute was, but I’m sure there will be a time for that when some form of normality begins.

Speaking of normality, on Tuesday, clearly based on the science, ahem, the 2m rule was abandoned from the 4th of July and in surely unrelated news, pubs and restaurants would be able to open again from that date. You may have spotted an opinion or two from me on Twitter during this crisis that I do not feel the government have covered themselves in glory. Certainly, if the drop in my follower numbers is any judge, a good number of you did and decided you didn’t want to see any more. Each to their own of course.

Now, as much as there may be arguments and reasons to suggest that the entire exit from lockdown was driven by a reaction to, cover-up of and defence of a certain person driving to Barnard Castle rather than the science, I do recognise that at some point, the risks of further infections and deaths have to be balanced against the country being able to function and survive economically. I did hope that we would all be able to behave ourselves once in the pubs and restaurants so that they can earn some money but we could avoid a Florida style spike in cases as soon as they re-opened. But even before they open, the evidence of the beaches in Bournemouth and some football fans in Liverpool suggest we cannot.

Lots of news again this week. Virgin deferred their resumption of flights from the 20th of July to the 24th of August, still without any news on when international travel may be allowed again. Our original travel date was the 26th of August so you can only imagine the panic-stricken carnage this blog may have witnessed if we were still booked to travel then. Be thankful we moved stuff to next March as it would not have been pretty. Add to that the not unexpected horrors of folks trying to reserve their days in the theme parks and I may have combusted from a mixture of frustration, stress and wind.

TUI went a step further than Virgin and abandoned all plans for Orlando until November. A sign of things to come? Maybe and if so I fear for Virgin’s viability.

This huge spike in cases in Florida and other states is horrifying and weird. Not that I would suggest for a second that the stats may be doctored, but to see such record levels of infection have little or no effect on hospitalisations and deaths (yet) seems odd. I really do hope that we don’t see similar spikes in deaths and it might be possible, to some extent, to live with this thing just making people ill for a few days and not killing them. The way things developed as the week went on did not look promising. Now we are seeing re-openings reversed in some states and beaches being closed in places like Miami.

Seeing the depressing tales of woe from those trying to make park reservations on Monday and Friday did not fill me with glorious delight and anticipation. As I girded my loins for my turn I was both dreading and looking forward to 12pm today, being online and ready to go.

To make that a reality I would, of course, need our theme park tickets in my hands. To this end, I sent Floridatix a huge sum of money on the 19th of June so they could get them to me in good time. Their web site promises that once your balance is paid you have your tickets within 7 days.

By Thursday I was getting a little jumpy as I had not got any texts or emails with the promised tracking number so I called them. I was told that they had been posted that day and was given a tracking number for the 48-hour service they were using. They would be with me on Saturday they said. Jolly good.

I did try to use that tracking number to see where they were but the Royal Mail web site didn’t recognise it. Giving them the benefit of the doubt I thought it may take a while to come up there so I left it till Friday.

Earlier in the week, I think it was Monday, I had emailed them on a separate matter about being able to get a refund should my tickets be worthless if I could not reserve any parks. They replied within a day or two saying I could. I replied, thanked them and asked if they knew when my tickets would arrive. They hadn’t replied by the time I called on Thursday but, on Friday I did get a reply to that email saying they had been posted “today”.

I thought that was odd but took them at their word.

Saturday came, as did the postman. Sadly the tickets did not come with him. I tried to call Floridatix but they were closed. I tried their Facebook page, with no response and emailed them, expressing my “mild disappointment”. I had no reply to any of those methods but spookily, within half an hour I had a text and an email from Royal Mail telling me my package from Floridatix was on its way and would be with me on Monday.

Imagine my absolute rage. The tracking number was of course not the one I was given earlier in the week and when I did use that new tracking reference, it told me the sender sent the package at 7.28pm on Friday, using a 24-hour service, not the 48 hour one I was told they always use.

Now, I suspect I will still be able to book the parks we want a day after everyone else gets to have a go and I know of course that things go wrong from time to time, but what I cannot fathom or accept from a company I have just given a shit ton of money to, much earlier than I usually would, is being lied to, not once, but twice.

I have been a “happy” customer of theirs for a few years now. By happy I mean they have done what they were meant to and provide me with something I wanted when I wanted it at a price I was willing to pay. Now, they have shit the bed, pissed me right off and not only lost my future business but led me to moan about it to a few people who may at some point be in the market for theme park tickets.

I am by no means a “Karen” (google it if you don’t get the reference) and I am not inclined to “ask to speak to the manager” or moan about stuff (outside of my weekly blogging, but you know what I mean) but I’m afraid lying is beyond incompetence or human error and I need to passively aggressively shout into the void to make myself feel better. My first world problem rage grows by the hour as the 12pm milestone grows closer and I can only imagine thousands of others piling on to the website to book up all the slots I want, but due to shit service and dishonesty, I cannot.

I will admit that the completion of my self-assessment tax return early on Saturday morning, right around the time that I realised I had been shafted by Floridatix, had not helped my mood for several thousand reasons, but regardless of external factors ticking me off this is, whichever way you look at it, a bit shit and it needs calling out.

Although I do genuinely think there will still be slots to be had tomorrow (although I can’t possibly be sure) if there are not then the actions of Floridatix could potentially have ruined the entire trip and made the huge sums being paid for it null and void should we not be able to reserve entry to any theme parks at any point during our trip. I am, as you may be picking up, absolutely furious.

Anyway, after another post which confirms this blog as first-world problem central, I shall go and silently seethe for the rest of the day watching social media fill up with tales of everyone booking the theme parks I want to go to.

Till the next time……

Reservation Reservations

It’s time to retire the cliche that a week is a long time in politics. What has happened in the last seven days in the small world (see what I did there?) of WDW holidays has dwarfed anything that has ever happened in Westminster.

It’s been an odd week for sure. Away from WDW, work has been off the scale busy, with me barely having time to knock another day of our countdown on the fridge each morning. There was also all sorts of COVID crap going on too. Having just read through this post before publishing it, the scattergun, all over the place nature of it reflects the nature of the week just gone quite well, so I’ll leave it as it is.

Florida seems to be trying to become the new global centre for infections, leading to the Mayor of Orlando issuing a mandatory mask executive order from yesterday for the “Disney” counties. No doubt the same folks who think they need to take an AR-15 to Taco Bell just in case shit goes down and they need to lay down some covering fire will find a piece of cloth across their mouth too much to bear.

Disney, although understandably busy getting their act together did not cover themselves in glory either. Early in the week, Floridatix posted a since-deleted blog post with all sorts of odd stuff in it. There was talk of reservations for the parks being required right through 2021, the removal of the 7 and 14-day park tickets from September 2021 and some other bizarre stuff around 21-day tickets that my brain couldn’t take on board. Displaying all of my customary wrongness I, of course, dismissed it as nonsense.

It does appear that Floridatix jumped the gun as did a couple of other ticket companies, but despite me originally thinking it was all bollocks, as the week progressed it became clear that something along those lines was in the planning. The fact the information was published and then removed and that there was no immediate communication from Disney itself was if you looked at any of the WDW related Facebook groups, causing some angst among Disney fans.

It was a bit poor in my view. Disney knows that a lot of the fun of going there is the planning and anticipation and the current chaos and random communications have killed all of that. Now, I recognise there’s a pandemic going on and they are busy reinventing their entire operations, but this death by a thousand cuts approach to their communication isn’t good. It’s a stressful time for the planners in the party.

So by the middle of the week, it did look to be the case that park reservations would be in place going into next year. By I think Wednesday, the Disney website had been updated to show those bookable dates for park entry for AP holders through June 2021.

The ticket companies, when they prematurely communicated this stuff were suggesting everyone pay their balance asap so that they could link their tickets to My Disney Experience and make their park bookings. The one bit of missing info at that stage was what the window might be to do that. If there was no window and you can literally book your days as soon as you have your tickets then I figured I’d likely cough up the balance to give us the best chance of getting into our parks of choice. If they said you can book from say, 60 days out, then, of course, we’d pay up just before that. It would just have been nice to know what the hell was going on.

Well, on Friday, it became a little clearer with the following info being released this time by Disney.

Booking Dates for Park Reservations

The Disney Park Pass system will be available soon to select Guests. Booking dates vary based on your plans.

Beginning June 22, 2020, Disney Resort and other select hotel Guests with a valid theme park admission can make reservations.
Beginning June 26, 2020, Annual Passholders without a Resort stay can make reservations.
Beginning June 28, 2020, existing ticket holders can make reservations.

Park reservations will be available through September 26, 2021, based on your Resort stay and ticket eligibility or ticket eligibility window.

So that made it clear(ish) that we would need to have our tickets paid for and linked up asap so that on June 28th we could attempt to secure the parks we want. Hopefully, we will be able to get them sorted. Thankfully, when I booked our theme park tickets I included cancellation cover so should we find there is not enough availability during our stay then we will be able to return them and sack the whole thing off.

I do wonder if Disney have not put a booking window in to help themselves and their ticket company partners. It is clear they have all had a torrid time, taking in very little new revenue and no doubt refunding a lot of people. With this new system many folks will be encouraged to pay for their 2021 park tickets now, helping the cash flow of those selling tickets. I have some sympathy for that, if that is the case, as we all need those companies to stick around.

Overall though, this is just a whole heap of stress and uncertainty that should not be the case with an expensive holiday. It still seems odd to me that Disney is announcing so many changes so far into the future. To be releasing policy changes up until the end of 2021 when nobody knows what the end of next week looks like seems premature to me. I do hope they are not using the current situation to make some changes they ideally would have liked to anyway, but feared the backlash. The termination of the 7 and 14-day tickets from September 2021 seems especially weird. If that persists beyond the 50th celebrations that will have a material effect on UK visitors. I understand that many of you will be more outraged by the withdrawal of the dining plan. We’ve never used it so that doesn’t really affect me, but I shall be angry on your behalf.

In all of this, I am clinging on to the hope that they are going for the worst-case scenario and it can all be taken away as things improve with something like a vaccine. My naive yearning for normal is never-ending.

In other news, Canada and the US extended their border lockdown until July 21st. Now, this may be a coincidence, but Virgin have been saying for a while that they are planning to start flights again from July 20th. Virgin this week also said they would start up again from early August from Manchester. This is a total guess, and please bear in mind my very poor track record on this sort of thing, but maybe Virgin know something, and that is the date that the US will open up to international visitors. Not that this affects us anymore. Trump got bored with COVID about three weeks ago and is instead concentrating on infecting lots a few of his supporters at rallies so who knows. When he remembers the ban exists on international visitors he may just lift it.

As this traumatic week came to an end, cases across Florida spiked above 4,000 in a day and the whole country’s stats look like they are on the rise. There’s some chatter about this being OK as hospitalisation and death rates are flat. I want to buy into this theory, but there is a few weeks lag between infections and those then needing to go to the hospital and/or dying so I think it’s too early to tell. The thinking that the increased testing in Florida was driving the spike in cases seems to be largely incorrect. The positive case rate is up above 12% compared to around 5% for recent weeks in early June. It’s not good.

So ahead of me is another week of stress as I watch the front door waiting for our tickets to arrive. This time next week I need them in my sweaty mitts so that I can be online booking our park reservations. We’ll be fine, right?

Till the next time…….

The Post Postponement Post

Welcome to the first blog post after the big reschedule. This shall be an attempt to embrace the “new normal”. A normal in which my countdown went from a very lovely 80ish days to around 270. It will take some adjusting to, but try I shall.

One thing that this whole debacle has taught me, or should I say reminded me of, is that there is no bad time to take that holiday. I of course specifically mean one to WDW but I guess it goes for those who do holidays wrong too.

I was about to try and count all the years that we went despite probably thinking we shouldn’t for all sorts of financial reasons. The truth, however, is that was probably the case every year. We could always have spent the money on something else. The fact that we didn’t and instead blew all our disposable income on these trips is something I never regret. Now, later in life, with probably more disposable income and options, the fact that we have been prevented from going is ironic at best and a complete shower of shit at worst. So I am very glad we were “silly” in the past.

Just to complete the loop on my reschedule planning, I was correct for a second time last week when I predicted that the car hire folks would suddenly need a load more money. To move our booking required a 20% increase in the fee. I did a quick comparison on a few sites to see if a fresh booking and losing my £50 deposit would be cheaper but it wasn’t worth the hassle. I swallowed the ridiculous increase and just got on with my life, only pausing briefly to moan about it in my weekly blog that nobody reads. It is news to me that March is somehow more “high season” than the end of August but what do I know about trips to WDW?

I have rebuilt “the plan” around our new dates, retaining the bulk of all the theme park days and eateries, but they may get a little tweaking over time just to cater for the weekends falling on different days of the trip for us now.

It appears that the Flower & Garden Festival is scheduled to start on our first day too. Louise, Emily and I have experienced this before, but it will be a first for everyone else on the trip. As nice as it is to get to see different things like this, I still would very much have preferred to go in bloody August.

I have been keeping a close eye on how things are shaping up in Florida. Having done so previously to desperately look for reasons that we may still be able to go, now, it’s more to check that we made the right call. I, like probably both of you reading this, watched the Tim Tracker video of him going to Universal, face mask and all. It looked OK to be fair, but there did seem to be very few people about and he only did a couple of hours. How that would be for a full-on park day with capacity crowds (whatever they may be) I don’t know. Look, I know I’m trying to subliminally convince myself we made the right call, just play along.

I’ve also been continuing to enjoy and appreciate the daily updates from Lionel over at Hit The Theme Parks. He’s been doing some useful and welcome analysis (in a spreadsheet and everything) about what the recent spikes in Florida cases are all about. It does seem to be linked to some more tests being done, but there is an increase in cases, which is to be expected when re-opening up everything, but whether it is the catastrophe the headline figures suggest, we don’t yet know. If case numbers rise rapidly but hospitalisation and death rates don’t then this might be tolerable. Let’s hope things can be kept open and under control until that vaccine arrives just in time for our trip in March to be just like the good old days!

So with all the kerfuffle of making the decision not to go finally behind us, now we need to settle into the reality of the longer countdown, so much more work and the prospect of a glorious UK winter to endure. If I moan about that from time to time, forgive me. It’s not like me to do that, as you know, but I can’t make any promises.

Till the next time…….