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

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…….

Virgin On The Ridiculous

Virgin On The Ridiculous

We have a lot to get through so let’s not waste time. Take it as read that I’m a first world problem, holiday obsessed idiot with no awareness of the real problems going on around me.

The week began in a maelstrom of self-doubt and second-guessing. As soon as I pressed the button (metaphorically) to change our trip everything suddenly seemed to be getting a lot better very quickly.

This, of course, was just my perception and a reaction to having made the call, but it did not stop me persecuting myself. I’m not often right in my predictions but my spider-sense was absolutely spot on with regards to Virgin. Their website promises a joyously seamless experience should you wish to move your booking to a new date. I feared this was bollocks and I was very correct.

I emailed them and got no response within the 48 hours promised so I resorted to messaging them. What followed was a text message conversation that lasted longer than a 13-year-old talking to his first crush.

It may well have been that I just struck unlucky with my agent, but I don’t know what happened. It was a mess. I understand many agents are working from home and they may be worried about their jobs and long term future with Virgin of course, but it won’t stop me moaning about it like a man-baby.

It didn’t start well as their first reply to my initial message confirmed that my booking had been moved to the 26th of August. I pointed out those were my original dates and could they move it to the 1st of March as I’d requested. I was then told to go online and do that. If the agent knew anything about me at all they would have known that I would do almost anything to avoid dealing with a human being if an online alternative exists, but I patiently explained there was no option to change my booking to new dates online, or else, I would have done that before emailing and texting them.

Having run a dummy booking on their site for our new dates I saw that I could get Premium both ways for a few hundred quid more so I requested that. Apparently, when booking that via a person it comes with a slight surcharge of £425 each. Not wanting to prolong this agony I told them to just move the thing as it was to the new dates. This was just the beginning of the longest run of changing facts since the Vote Leave campaign.

Next, I was told there were no seats in the cabin we had booked on our outbound flight and there would be a price difference to pay as we’d have to go “Economy Delight” rather than “Classic”. I asked how much that would be and/or if the next day’s flight had better availability.

Some time passed and I was then told I’d be better off getting back to them “later” as they’d know more then what might be available. “Later” seemed to mean closer to our original departure date. How unavailable seats become available “later” wasn’t clearly explained. I explained I could not do that as I had a million other moving parts of this trip, some of which were holding dates for me and I just wanted to move the booking as promised on their web site.

I was getting tetchy at this point and having run that dummy booking on their web site, I could see a load of empty “Classic” seats. When I pointed this out, suggesting several rows that I’d be happy with, suddenly they miraculously found some too and, good news, they could be mine for just £145 extra…each. I declined, questioning why I needed to pay extra for the same cabin I had on my existing booking.

Amazingly, now they went back to insisting there were no “equivalent” seats on the outbound again and I would need to pay them lots of money. I asked about a refund. All I got was a standard reply saying I had to email another address and refunds would take a lot longer then the 90-day rule says it should. Confused? So was I.

I enquired why they were inventing extra charges. They said they were not, and they just had no equivalent cabin seats and I would need to upgrade. Pointing out that the dummy booking I was looking at was actually cheaper than the price I paid for our original dates they said they could not price match to the web site as it gave a discount. I do love a consistent brand experience across their various channels. You can’t beat a company’s website competing against their own call centre agents to give customers a warm glow. I said I did not want a price match, I wanted them to book us some of the available Classic seats I had already paid for and I could see lots of online.

Then I was told that I didn’t have Classic on my original booking (even though I could see it on their website that I did).

Apparently, they suddenly decided to tell me that I had OSCAR reservations which were promotional and funnily enough my new dates did not qualify for that promotion so I would need to pay another £900 if I changed to the new dates.

So the only option I now seemed to have was to apply for an open ticket as apparently then I could make my own new booking on their website. I abandoned the text conversation at that point and I filled out the form on their web site requesting that my booking be converted into an open ticket. This was Tuesday, four days after we decided to move the flight and we were still no further forward. Those who know me at all will understand that this would not be good for my planning obsessed, uncertainty allergic state of mind.

Much time passed and nothing happened. The form told me that I could relax now and, although it may take a few days they would sort it all out and come back to me.

They did not come back to me.

By Saturday I was stressed out, anxious and angry. I’d already moved the theme park tickets to next year, investing in a new one for Freddie who will be three next March and I had the villa holding our new dates, now, for over a week. I had a Frankenstein of a trip, made up of two different sets of dates and nobody at Virgin cared one jot.

On Saturday afternoon I decided enough was enough and I did something I never do. I phoned them. I had to wait 90 minutes listening to Bitter Suite Symphony by the Verve, before getting through to someone. Melanie, the agent I was connected to was Welsh, lovely, professional, efficient and understanding.

Not that I have anywhere else to take my Trans Atlantic business in future, but she restored my faith in the company I have to fly with.

Within ten minutes the dates were changed. Did I have to pay the extra £900? Nope. There was no charge to amend the booking of course, but there was, for reasons I didn’t understand or care enough to get into at this stage, a £30 per person fare difference. This would be more than compensated for by the £210 refund I was due for the bubble seats we’d upgraded to that no longer existed. I did have to pay the extra there and then and wait about six months for the refund, but all in all, after the angst of the week just gone, I took that as a victory. I did have one last concern.

With the dates now moved, I had a fear that my request to convert my booking into an open ticket (remember that?) would still be carried out. Melanie assured me she would add notes to my booking so that would not happen. As much as I want to believe my new friend Melanie, I hope that works out.

Immediately I could see the new details on their web site and I was able to book seats and meals. It was a relief.

With that in place, I could now move through the other required changes like a virus at a protest. Of course, everyone wanted their extra pound of flesh. I could change the villa booking online as that was with Airbnb. I had been messaging the owner and I did again to query whether the chunky extra fee I was being shown was valid and they really would charge me that. It was and they did.

I booked the Hard Rock for our new dates and again, the prices now quoted were significantly higher than the ones for this August. I also requested our original booking was cancelled. Travel Republic allows you to book with a very low deposit with free cancellation right up until the booking, so surely that will all be straightforward. Right?

I have messaged USRentaCar to move our booking to March. The same intuition that told me Virgin would be a shit show also tells me there will be more money heading their way for the privilege. I will, of course, let you know.

I emailed our airport taxi, and that change was the least painful of them all with an immediate reply saying that was all OK with no mention of extra costs. There’s time for that I suppose. I even messaged my nephew Jack who house and dogs sits for us and booked him for the new dates.

So I think we’re all sorted now, or as sorted as we need to be at this stage.

Having found it so hard to make the change, I did feel an unexpected sense of relief at having done so. I did get a cold shiver after seeing the new dates for the flights on the My Booking part of Virgin’s site. It was a sudden horrific confirmation that I wouldn’t be there this August, but overall, I feel it’s probably the right thing to do.

This view has been confirmed slightly by the case numbers in Florida spiking over the last few days of course. They do seem to be rising quite dramatically and were we still planning to go at the end of August that would be stressing me right out.

There’s some suggestion that the extra positive cases are a result of increased testing, but that, from the Republican Governor hell-bent on re-opening seems like a bit of a stretch.

Disney is publishing more detail on resort and park rules and I’m more convinced than ever that we wouldn’t be getting into a Disney park every time we might want to so I suppose that is some consolation.

Now, I can concentrate on stressing about what things will be like next March of course. I just pray there is a vaccine between now and then.

It’s been a week I wouldn’t wish to repeat and now you just have to endure me papping on about this trip for the next 267 days or so. Enjoy!

Till the next time……

Defeated and Demoralised

Let me get the obligatory “first world problems” caveat out of the way. We are all healthy, housed, clothed fed and safe. I understand most folks have it worse than me and I know I am a snivelling gimp for what is to about to happen. With that said, I am about to unleash both barrels of my moan-gun all over this blog.

On Friday the decision was made to postpone our upcoming trip.

I am very much not OK about this. Yes, it was a special trip for my 50th and that hurts a bit, but more than that, I just miss the place, need a holiday and was really, really looking forward to spending some time with the family in nice weather with nice food. (I refer you again to paragraph one above).

Why did we take that decision? Well, for many reasons I suppose.

First, of course, is our own safety. Whilst this is our primary concern it isn’t the thing that I feel is the highest risk or the main reason to defer. I am pretty confident I have had it, along with Tom and Rebecca. Louise suspects she had it very early in the outbreak but of course none of us knows for sure. Hopefully, that affords us some protection. None of our party is particularly at high risk, but of course, we need to protect ourselves as much as possible. However, we are no less likely to catch it here than in the US, to be honest.

In reality, the procedures outlined by Disney for their re-opening were the straws that broke this camel’s back. I woke on Friday to the news that all my ADRs had been cancelled as I suspected they would be. You can’t socially distant in restaurants that are full. It also became almost clear that there would be a reservation system to get into Disney parks. Being off-site scum, without a valid park ticket (yet), I assumed we would be some way down the pecking order in getting those. That would make the investment in a 14-day ticket unjustifiable.

Add to that the fact that masks would be mandatory for Freddie and there would be no parades or fireworks, then for us, I felt the effort and investment to get over there, didn’t feel like it would be worth it. I am not moaning about Disney doing any of this. They need to do what they need to do. In a way, I feel they want to deter visitors, certainly in the first few weeks.

There is still much for Disney to outline, flesh out and confirm of course but for us, with park tickets to buy in the next few weeks, there is too much uncertainty around gaining entry to parks for us to go ahead and do that, with the seemingly unavoidable risk that we may not get a reservation to get into a park on some days.

Secondly, I don’t want to get into political discussions on here, that’s what my Twitter is for, but all I will say is that I have very limited confidence in the respective governments of the UK and the US getting their countries out of this any time soon. Neither have a test, track and trace scheme in place and neither are seeing their infection and/or death rates coming down as other similar countries are.

It is spikey, but the above shows the new cases in Florida. The trend just isn’t going down. Even if international travellers from the UK were allowed into Florida by the end of August, that may only add to what seems to be a second wave forming from the limited re-opening the state has allowed already.

As for the UK. I do despair. Our trend looks better, but we haven’t opened up things like restaurants, gyms and hairdressers yet as Florida has. Yet we do seem to think it’s OK to send the kids back to school whilst the test and trace scheme so crucial to ending lockdown was “launched” prematurely with all the hallmarks of success we have come to expect from the response to the pandemic so far.

With gatherings of up to 6 being allowed alongside schools going back and with large parts of the country citing Dominic Cummings as an excuse to do whatever the hell they like, my confidence in us avoiding a second wave, or more accurately a prolonging of the first, is not very high. That, in the context of our holiday, might mean non-essential travel not being allowed any time soon. That also brings up fears of the sustainability of airlines like Virgin who are currently sitting on a good chunk of money.

I understand many of you may feel differently about the approach and “success” so far and I respect that. I’m just outlining some of my thinking whilst trying to avoid too long a stint on my soapbox.

So, for those and many other reasons I won’t bore you with, it was with a heavy heart and massive sulk on that I emailed Virgin on Friday and requested our booking be moved to the 1st of March. I haven’t had a response yet and I do have a fear deep down that this change won’t go as smoothly as their website claims it will, but if all goes to plan that is when we will be going.

I have emailed the villa and they are holding our new dates until Virgin confirm the change and then I can swing into action and sort out everything else.

Now that the decision is made my worry can be transferred onto the topic of whether or not things will be any different in March. My main hopes there are that there might be a vaccine so that things like masks and social distancing won’t be needed as much, but I just hope stuff is more back to “normal” than it would be in three months from now.

I am most definitely not OK. The dread of facing a whole other winter before getting back there is horrifying. As for how I will feel on the 26h of August, our intended departure date and my birthday a few days later are not worth thinking about.

Inevitably, even before the new flights are confirmed I am doubting the decision. I think (and hope) that is just driven by how much I miss the place. I watched a vlog of someone wandering Disney Springs yesterday, and despite the masks and distancing, it was still that beautiful dusky time of the evening, lovely and warm and full of that twinkly light Florida loveliness and my heart broke.

I wonder if I have gone too early and with three months before we would have arrived, might things have improved/changed in the parks by then? If I am sat watching folks enjoying stuff without too much disruption in early September I will be very hard on myself. I also constantly wonder if we should have just abandoned the parks and gone for a “relaxing break” on a beach somewhere in Florida but that isn’t the first choice of holiday for a few of our party and the rejigging of accommodation would inject quite a lot of extra cost into a trip with a lot already invested.

More than anything I am just horrified at the prospect of how much work is stretching out before me now until we get to go on holiday. That’s a whole lot of stuff I don’t want to do and I am very sad, probably in more ways than one.

Till the next time……

That Was The Week The Wedding Wasn’t.

Before I move on to more important matters let’s get the angst-ridden holiday waffle over with.

There has been a lot happening this week. I’m sure some of it is positive and some negative but I have no idea which is which.

I was very surprised to see Universal announce they will open on June 5th. That’s a whole month ahead of when I thought that might happen. Once again, proof, as if you need it, that I have absolutely no clue. That feels early to me if I am honest but I refer you to my last sentence.

Disney Springs opened last week too. I watched some vlog footage of that and it looked very, very quiet so it’s hard to make any sort of judgement on that so it is one to watch I suppose.

Disney seems to be keeping their powder dry as to when their parks may open. I think there might be a couple of factors here. They may have been waiting to see what Universal announced and I think the discussions for them to host the rest of the NBA season at WDW were also a factor. That seems to be happening in July which may suggest their resorts and perhaps the parks might be open then too.

Then the 14-day quarantine was announced for folks entering the UK from June 8th. It may seem odd that the country with the worst record in Europe is starting that this month, long after other countries did, but little shocks me right now. There is no clue as to how long that will last for, but I think there’s an exception if you somehow manage to drive to Durham on your return to the country. Of course, if that were in place at the end of August, assuming entry into the US were allowed (and it currently isn’t) that would be another reason we won’t be able to go.

All ends up, we’re not really any further forward on knowing what will happen for us. The only real change is that I am more accepting of what will be I suppose. I don’t feel driven to be moving the thing right now as I was last week and I am fairly comfortable with seeing how things pan out. My own personal view right now is, should we be allowed and able to travel on our dates then I would be happy to go to have some form of holiday.

What I think will happen is that we won’t be able to travel and that will mean we should be able to cancel our villa booking without losing our chunky deposit and then I can then rebook the whole thing on the best dates for us rather than being tied to when that villa has availability. Having spent days (literally) finding that villa, that will be a bitter pill to swallow, but there is no perfect outcome here.

I think flights to the US will start running around our dates but I have a strange feeling that they will start from early September, discouraging those with kids from taking their summer holidays as schools may be open to some extent. Boy, am I glad my two are out of school. I do not envy any parent that decision of whether to send your kids to school. If my prediction is right (and there is no precedent for that) then our departure date will be a few days the wrong side of flights starting up and we will be rearranging.

We’re still three months out and things are changing rapidly now so who knows.

In more important news, yesterday should have been Rebecca and Tom’s wedding. They have, of course, been upset this week. It didn’t help that we couldn’t all be together to help them through it, but everyone rallied round as best we could to make the day as tolerable as possible. Flowers, afternoon teas, posh takeaways and all sorts of other treats were bestowed upon them from all sorts of folks and all things considered they had as nice a day as they could.

Rebecca made this lovely video for Tom which sums up how they feel about the whole thing.

It is no consolation but the weather yesterday would have made the day an interesting one with gale force winds for most of the day. Hopefully, next July will see better conditions.

I, like you no doubt, am very much over all these ruined plans and hope that we can return to some kind of certainty soon. A large chunk of my life is spent planning stuff so these conditions are not my natural habitat.

Till the next time……

(Unf)Air BnB

In all my times of whinging and a moaning over the years, seldom have I been so securely ensconced within a glass case of emotion.

Last week was the one when I seriously started to consider realistic options for our holiday. Now, again, I know I seem to talk exclusively about this here, but that’s kinda what this blog is about and for. I am appropriately concerned, stressed, worried, perplexed and angry about a whole range of proper stuff in real life so don’t take this weekly obsession with a trip to some theme parks as a litmus test to my moral compass.

Is it only me who can remember about three things from school? One being litmus test, one is an essay I wrote about the French Revolution, including the opening sentence (and got an A!) and the last is how to ask for black forest gateau in German.

I am in deep turmoil. I swing on a minute by minute basis from thinking our original dates might work and then just minutes later I wonder if even postponing to next Spring will give us enough time for this thing to get sorted to a level where holidays can happen. It’s one roller coaster I don’t enjoy.

I have watched the footage of City Walk re-opening (or small parts of it) and heard the news of Disney Springs planning to do the same. Online commentary ranges from “I don’t know why they even shut the parks as I have been injecting disinfectant into my eyeballs since February and this is all a hoax…MAGA” to “the parks will be shut until 2050 and anyone who even considers setting foot in one before that has the blood of children on their hands”.

Florida has just moved into “full phase one” which means restaurants can go to 50% capacity as long as the 6ft rule is observed and they opened barbers, nail salons and gyms even though those were not officially included in phase one. Infection rates in Florida are steadyish currently but the next few weeks will be crucial and determine if they proceed to phases 2 and 3. Theme parks are now allowed to request permission to open by submitting their plans to keep folks safe.

I am torn between wanting things to get back to something approaching normal of course but fearing what we will see in a couple of weeks time when the limited reopening in Florida possibly leads to a spike in infections and deaths. I don’t like the current situation.

I have found and enjoyed useful information from this chap on You Tube.

I have never watched any of his “normal” videos which I assume are theme park based, but his concise daily summaries have been helpful. He covers daily infection and death rates in Florida and outlines and then visits stuff as it opens up again. He is on the ground in Florida so has useful insight into what is actually going on. For what it’s worth, his thinking is that parks are set for a July 1st opening, with oodles of restrictions.

My thinking this week has been in the form of a few different options. None of them are particularly pretty and certainly, none are perfect. This whole decision is more complex than a complex thing. Very few elements of our existing trip plans function well together with any change to our dates and with most options, we are likely to lose money.

Option 1

We go as planned and make the most of the likely limited park experiences. This assumes flights are operating and the US is allowing European flights in and there are no 14-day quarantine restrictions at each end. That’s a lot of moving parts to fall into place and for that reason, this option, right now, seems unlikely to me. Virgin tell me our flights are currently scheduled to depart as planned but that means little without both the UK and the US allowing non-essential travel to resume. You may have gathered by now that my confidence in either administration’s ability to manage that adequately is on the low side.

One of the other big unknowns with this option is the limited capacity in the parks. Suggestions are that you may need to book your attendance each day. Six Flags have published their “rules” for re-opening and this is what they are doing. Shanghai Disney are saying…

“Guests are required to purchase dated admission tickets prior to their arrival, and Annual Pass holders must make a reservation for their visit date and time through the resort’s official online channels before their visit to the park.”

Now for parties like us that have spent thousands on 14-day tickets, how will that work? Do we risk not getting “in” on some days and therefore losing that money? This is one thing that will need lots of clarity and will be a big factor in us being able to go ahead with plan A should we even want to.

Option 2

We go as planned, assuming all the same stuff as above and don’t do the parks at all (maybe Universal as we’ll be on-site). Instead, we do a beach holiday. Again, we lose the cash paid to the villa already and need to pay for new digs. However, we do save many thousands by not buying theme park tickets.

Option 3

We move to a late November/early December date this year. Things may be clearer and more settled in the parks or they may not. I do like the idea of experiencing the Christmas stuff without the peak holiday crowds in early December but the uncertainty of all this is doing my nut and I have no idea what to do.

A significant consideration in all of these options is that should we move dates, the villa we booked is unavailable on all dates prior to March. On the face of it, should we move dates before next March and then we have to find a new villa/accommodation and we lose a non-trivial amount of cash already paid to Air BnB.

Option 4

We move the thing to next year, say, early March. January and February may be too cold and I don’t want to wait until next summer as I want a holiday and I will stamp my feet until I get one. Currently, our villa has dates available so we would not lose any cash in this scenario.

This experience has got me thinking twice about whether I would book through Air BnB again as their deposit requirements are high and cancellations costly. I have not yet spoken to the owner directly and they may, of course, be more forgiving, but I suspect they don’t have too much wriggle room as they are bound by the terms of the site we booked through.

Virgin Atlantic updated its policy last week. If like us you booked before March and travel before October you can move your dates for free, with no penalty or price difference for a new trip with a return before November 30th. That doesn’t work for us dates wise but still, if we move dates, we won’t be charged any admin fees but would need to pay any price difference.

As we would be moving from August to a quieter time, any price difference should be minimal. Looking at the Virgin site we could rebook for early March and get Premium both ways, rather than just on the return leg as we have now for a couple of hundred quid more.

Being me, I, of course, want to get it sorted and reinstate some certainty back in to (that part of) my life but I don’t feel informed enough to do so. If I haven’t pushed the button on any of this soon, things will come to a head in June as that is when balances on things like car hire are due and we’ll have to decide to do something or nothing at that point. Knowing me, I will have done something already as I am not renowned for my laid back, let’s see what happens approach!

Part of me is urging that I just sit tight for a while. This will allow us to see what the parks do, and more importantly, if non-essential travel crucially is allowed again. If it isn’t and the flight gets cancelled on us, our options for moving it without penalty or price difference would be extended to later dates….perhaps. Having said that, that doesn’t matter too much as the flights in November or March are a similar or lower price than we paid for our current August dates.

Sigh, I suspect you are all more fed up of this than I am. Well, let me tell you, you may think you are but you are most definitely not. But at least I actually get to go on the trip if and when it gets sorted. You just get all the moaning. At this point, writing this stuff here is close to therapy and is an outlet for my frustration and angst. Having laid out the options in detail and worked through the finances of all of them, I think I have discounted the November option. The loss of villa deposit and having to find new accommodation makes that too pricey. It would appear we are faced with a choice between going as currently planned or going next March.

Deep down, I know that March is the only option that gives any drop of certainty. The thing stopping me pressing the button on that is the thought of the horror of having to endure another UK winter without a break. At this point I honestly don’t know how I would drag my flabby exhausted self through that.

Sigh…..answers on a postcard please.

Till the next time……

Teams & Tantrums

Rebecca turned 23 on Thursday. Many of you still may think of her as the “little girl” from the trip reports, as do I, but time waits for no man and she has, without any regard for my feelings on the matter, gone and turned into a fully grown human.

It was, of course, frustrating that the best we could manage was a brief socially distant giving of presents in her back yard, but this week I shall be doing all I can to refrain from moaning like a big baby so instead, I shall be grateful for that and for the fact that as a family we are so far relatively unscathed in this crisis.

We got her a Nintendo Switch with Animal Crossing which is a throwback to the game she and Emily played a lot as children. Emily bought herself the exact same set up so they can now “visit each other’s islands” and there has been group chat about gifting fruit and ladders. I don’t know what that is but if it takes Emily’s mind off the fact that she can’t see her boyfriend still then it’s a good thing.

In the continuing search for positives, the four day week was very welcome. Despite the fact that all I have done for the last couple of months is work and walk the dogs, I am very tired. Not having to sit on my laptop for work all day on Friday was a joy and instead, I could sit all day on my laptop looking for news on things that may affect our holiday.

The highlight of my work week (unless my employer is reading this) was finding out that in Microsoft Teams (for those who might not know, this is a software programme that allows for online collaboration and video chat etc) you can upload custom backgrounds that can be used when you are on video calls. It means you don’t have to worry about where you are sat in the house and what folks might see behind you.

I was supposed to add to my library a range of branded company ones but instead, I just chose a load of my favourite WDW photos from over the years and loaded those in. Now, when I’m sat on two-hour video calls that should have been an email, at least my colleagues can marvel at the night time shot of World Showcase or my slightly blurry castle photo that I am sat in front of.

Indeed on one call yesterday, a colleague with a similar WDW obsession and I spent a good portion of the meeting discussing exactly from where I took the shot of World Showcase. It was time well spent.

It was this photo.

Here are some of the other backgrounds I will be discussing boring stuff in front of in the coming weeks. They will give folks something to look at as we inevitably circle though the unavoidable shite like….

“Who just joined?”

“Can you see my screen?”

“You’re on mute!”

“We’ll just give it a couple more minutes for people to join” despite the fact that I had the courtesy to turn up on fecking time.

“Sorry, you broke up a bit then….what did you say”?

“He just dropped off I think……”

You will know, due to it being a fantastic photo, that I did not take the one above.

Or that one…..

The shame of it is that I will be sat in front of these glorious backdrops blocking the view, but frustratingly, it is a condition of getting paid that I actually attend meetings.

To capture my current thinking on if and when we may ever see these things again, let alone in August, I would say my expectation of being able to do our holiday as planned has worsened since last week. That isn’t saying a lot as my “likelihood rating” was almost zero. You all knew I couldn’t resist papping on about this again, right?

Despite Virgin trying to make plans to stick around for a while, unless you want to fly from Gatwick or of course unless you are one of the 3,500 staff affected, that slight ray of hope seems almost irrelevant as the overall situation seems to be worsening on a daily basis.

Disney Springs and City Walk are both opening up in the coming weeks with very limited capacity and lots of new rules, which could be the first step on the journey back to normality. The fear, of course, is that a second wave ensues and the US is back to square one very quickly. To be honest, I’m not sure “second wave” is the correct term as I don’t think they are through the first wave yet. So whilst that and news the Shanghai are also opening their park soon is in one way welcome, my hopes still aren’t high or indeed existent.

It’s clear from comments made by senior Disney folks at a recent shareholder meeting that they are working very hard on how to make things safe(r) and how they can get some folks back onto property anytime soon. That’s slightly encouraging but I am still in a big man-baby sulk that my 50th trip is in serious jeopardy and just because that is a trivial concern in the midst of a global pandemic, spreading death and destruction upon the human race, it won’t stop me, in some small way, stamping my feet a bit every now and again. Unfortunately for all of you, that tends to be here every Sunday.

There was news yesterday that it seems the wearing of masks/face coverings will be mandatory when the parks reopen. I’ve seen stuff from some airlines too, suggesting they will be required on flights. Freddie aside, I don’t see a mask as too much of an issue on a flight for a few hours but they are less than ideal in a park all day.

All in all, I’m very much in the headspace of just trying to figure out what the best outcome will be of the holiday not going ahead at the end of August. Can we reschedule, how much cash will we lose, will things even be noticeably better later in the year? And for that reason, I am more than a little sad. To reassure you that I’m not a one-trick pony, I have other emotions too of course, such as……

If you or anyone you know were involved in the conga or a rendition of Oops upside your head that were reported during VE Day street parties on Friday, you’re an idiot and you are contributing to people dying and this thing dragging on for longer than it needs to. The fact that you are bored and have had enough of the lockdown would seem, to an intelligent person, a reason to keep to the advice rather than break it. I understand that government advice has all the consistency of blancmange but we are able to make our own judgements and you should strive for good ones.

See, I set out on this post trying my best not to moan about a holiday and in a few hundred words I have not just failed, I have ventured into berating people I don’t know and have never met. This is what happens when a shallow knobhead like me can’t get his holiday.

Till the next time……