A Tale Of Two Trees

Like my middle-aged paunch, Christmas has crept up on us without us really noticing. I have one full week left at work, which includes our team night out and our band night out, so that paunch will be getting a little paunchier by the end of it.

It was only five minutes ago that I was sneering at folks on social media for daring to mention the word and now mild panic is setting in that we’ve bought nothing and we’re only on our second Christmas tree.

Yes, you read that right. Having ordered a fake one from The White Company for the price of a small family car, as “it was perfect and would last us years” it arrived early last week and much time was spent decorating it. Twenty four hours later, Louise had declared that it was not satisfactory and it had to go. So it was stripped, boxed up and sent back and in its place now stands a seven-foot real one atop a three-foot pile of needles.

We’ve done well so far to only lose one decoration to the jaws of Bean, we can only hope it can go the distance to the big day. If it doesn’t then Bean may not either!

On Friday night, Louise and the girls went to an Anne Summers party hosted by one of Louise’s fellow nurses. Emily and Rebecca were quite worried about attending such an event with their mother, fearing it may scar them for life, and it is probably for the best that I don’t know what went on aside from the few Snapchats the girls posted. I took them there (and picked them up) which was quite a nice throwback to the “driving years” when my main role in life was to transport them around the planet.

It has been quite some time since it was the four of us in the car driving somewhere and it was in a strange way very nice. The night involved a fair amount of alcohol and with Rebecca not having drunk for a year and Emily being, let’s be frank, a huge lightweight when it comes to drinking, Saturday was pretty much a right off for both of them. Of course, I should also congratulate Tom for coping on his own with Freddie for the first time too whilst Rebecca was out.

At the moment, our Disney plans have assumed a position on the back burner of my priority cooker. This happens at times during a long countdown I’ve found. Beyond the occasional glance at flights, I haven’t given it much thought really. Well, I always give it thought, as in, it helps to get me through the two-hour commutes that I have been enduring over the last few weeks, but I haven’t really thought about it from a planning perspective.

I do need to find time to go over the plan in detail again, to firm up the day by day activities. I suspect my usual routine of doing the parks in the order we always do may need some attention as we have to factor in the day we will be at Mickey’s Not So Scary and the days that the running of that may impact on our potential planned visits to the Magic Kingdom. I also need to run the busy day guide against our plans. I don’t usually use these in any meaningful way, but it’s always wise to make sure there are no obvious clangers being dropped which can easily be avoided.

I have a suspicion that much of my well laid plan may be cast aside once we’re boots on the ground with young Freddie with us. Our activities will of course have to consider his needs and moods so there may be a bit of going with flows.

As some of you may have seen, I did a Facebook live on the Mkingdon Facebook page when Rebecca, Tom and Freddie popped round during last week. At such a young age he changes so much in the few days between visits and it’s just fascinating to see that happening. He’s had a cold recently which has been fun for Rebecca and Tom, but other than that he’s doing brilliantly, as are they.

He is photographed and videoed more than The Kardashians, which is only right, as he is more intelligent and newsworthy than all of them put together. I fear for the amount of coverage he will get during his first tour of Disney. He’ll never have another first time, so it may just be easier to do one long Facebook live for the whole two weeks!

I have big plans for the rest of the day and they are to rest my ageing tired body. With my taxi duties on Friday and another Mustard gig last night I have had two late nights and my middle-aged frame is protesting this morning. Louise is going out shopping for her outfit for her Christmas party so I intend to be best friends with the couch, watch some football and I have a song to learn for a Mustard rehearsal tomorrow. Next week’s blog may just be me moaning about how tired I am as this coming week, I have to work of course, but I have a rehearsal on Monday night, my team night out on Tuesday (huge Chinese meal and a few drinkies) and then our band Christmas night out on Friday (huge Indian meal and a few drinkies). I’m beginning to understand now quite how that middle-aged paunch happened.

Till the next time…..


Discount Disney Tickets


Stripping – A Beginner’s Guide

I have sensed the anticipation and excitement building for a few weeks now. Everyone is talking about it and so I can deny you no longer. Here, after two weeks of tangible yearning, is the photo of our new fireplace that I promised you. I was inundated with a request to share this so here you go….

Exciting stuff for sure. Last week the decorator came and re-decorated the front room. It was a true dilemma, as my natural tightness was fighting with my absolute hatred of wall papering, but sense prevailed and every penny spent on my not having to do it was worthwhile.

In under two days he had stripped all the old paper off, glossed everything that should be glossed and re-papered. For me that would have been a two to three weekend job and a real threat to my will to live. It helps when you have the right tools of course. He had some instrument of medieval torture to strip the walls with which had a blade so sharp he needed no steamer or much elbow grease. He just applied a little water, wielded his diamond edged blade of death and not only did the wallpaper surrender itself with ease, it had the good grace to leave the old lining paper on the walls too. The pathetic stripping tool we own is pitiful in comparison and it takes several days in steam room like conditions to get a few strips off the wall.

When it came to the actual papering he had a pasting machine. Who knew these things existed? He just passed the paper through it on some roller thing and it applied a perfect layer of paste in about three seconds. No wonder I’ve been crap at decorating. I just don’t have the right equipment!

He’s done a great job, better than I could ever have of course, so it is money well spent.

Having just spent a couple of hours at a garden centre, crammed full of Christmas shoppers decorations, I would struggle to put most of the latter into that same category. We bought a few things, mainly some new lights for our tree as last year’s new lights will be in a ball somewhere in the cellar. With a few extra bits for Louise’s colour scheme this year we left with our financial health relatively unscathed. Having looked at a few items which we thought were nice only to find we’d need to sell the house or a kidney to have them, we decided to try elsewhere.

Being a Grandad has clearly changed my life immediately, as spending Sundays in garden centres is my destiny and I embrace it. I have ordered my cardigan and slacks and my Honda Civic is due to arrive any day now.

I had a night off from gigging last night, and it was nice not to have to load all the gear into the car in the rain (it always rains when I do that) for a change, so we had a look for a decent film to watch. Now, we have several streaming services at our disposal, with literally thousands of films to choose from. Nothing jumped out that we haven’t already seen, so we (well, it was Louise’s choice) decided to invest a fiver to buy a film from the Virgin Movies thingy. That film was a Tom Cruise film, which usually promises an hour and a half of turn your brain off entertainment and action. In this case….not so much.

We watched The Mummy. It was incredibly poor.

Bobbins

Before I get to the “plot” it was most confusing that the woman out of Peaky Blinders used more accents than a french person spelling lots of words with Es in them. British, a bit of American, a touch of Irish and many more. Perhaps she was demonstrating her vast range of dialects for future projects.

The plot was wafer thing, been done to death, not least by all the previous Mummy films and I fell asleep for about half an hour which did not prevent me from understanding what happened. Spoiler alert, The Mummy is defeated, Tom gets the girl and the comedic sidekick makes some very poor jokes just before the titles roll.  Poor Tom, very poor. Must do better. By the way, you owe me a fiver and about ninety minutes of my life back.

The most worrying thing about it was that the ending pretty much guaranteed their plans to make this into one of those franchise things, with multiple sequels being a distinct possibility. Having done so earlier this week, I can assure you that I really would prefer to watch paint dry.

Right, I have stuff to do, Emily is sat watching Hercules for the gabillionth time and at some point the dogs need walking.

Till the next time…..


No, I’m A Celebrity….

Right, you had a week off from Freddie photos last week, so you know what that means.

Having slept for what seems like 90% of his life so far, he is indeed living the dream. As you can see from the above photo, his eyes are open more now and he is starting to take notice of his surroundings.

Tom has gone back to work after his paternity leave and Rebecca has managed her first week alone with him. Louise has been off work, so she has helped out a little, mainly ferrying her off to relatives to show him off.

As things are today, he has already been introduced to the world of filters too.

After his first few days of health worries he’s bounced back nicely, putting on weight in a way which proves he is indeed my Grandson and also now parting with stuff into his nappy that is a mix of chicken Korma and nuclear accident. Rebecca feels the need to share those with us via group chat on a regular basis.

The countdown to Freddie’s first Christmas is officially underway. I’m a Celeb is on, every advert is a festive one and most scarily Louise has started shopping. Speaking of I’m a Celeb, they way it is going, it is only a matter of time until I’m on it due to the fact that I once met Sonia and Big Fun at ITV’s Telethon in the 80’s. Oh, I have also spoken to Gemma Atkinson in the ladies toilets in a Manchester hotel. I’m expecting the call from Ant or Dec within hours.

Oh, and I also worked with the cousin of Howard Donald (Take That bloke) at the NatWest in Manchester in the 90’s…..at this rate, I am more famous than half of the current camp mates. Thinking about it, a week or so ago I was walking the dogs and bumped into Sam Allardyce who lives close by and at Christmas most years my dog walking route takes me past the house of Danny from McFly’s parent’s house and he is often there.

I have other celebrity encounters and tales which frankly mean that I am more famous than Jamie Vardy’s wife. That, along with my 1100+ Twitter followers means that I will also be getting a book deal to publish a children’s story that somebody else actually wrote. However, when they trawl back through my tweets they will find content that is unacceptable and I shall be disgraced and thrown back into obscurity with only the Daily Star kiss and tell story about my Gemma Atkinson encounter to support me in my old age.

Such is celebrity life in this day and age. It’s a world where unexplained celebrities such as Gok Wan get famous for saying bangers a lot and then for some reason nobody can explain, starts to do cookery and people pay him money to do so. Similarly Kirstie Allsop falls into a TV career about houses and then rinses the general public every year with books and TV programmes about making paper chains and decorations out of used tissues and spit.

Keep your eye out for which minor celeb spent the first half of 2017 putting weight on so that they could then lose it before recording their fitness DVD. You too can lose all your weight. All you need is to do it full-time with your own personal trainer and dietary consultant. Or give them £15 for their DVD which you’ll find a drawer long after their fifteen minutes has passed.

Whilst I’m ranting, there’s a special place in hell for the talent vacuums that exist within The Only Way Is Chelsea Island.

Well, that came from nowhere didn’t it. A few minutes ago when I sat staring at the blank page I had no clue that I would be spewing onto the page in such a manner. I’ll probably feel better for it.

Enjoy your Sundays folks. I’m off for a lie down with a wet flannel.

Till the next time…..


Diary Of A Flabby Kid

As life tends to be, last week has been a glorious mixture of loveliness and joy in the 8lb shape of young Freddie and brutal, bruising shite from other stuff that isn’t for the blog. I think in reaction to the latter, I reached out, as is often the case, to the distant promise of our next Florida adventure for some solace. That took the form of my first serious glance at flights for next August.

I checked them out last when we were picking our dates and booking the villa and despite everything the world is doing to destroy itself, the prices haven’t changed that much. Thomas Cook still seem to be the likely recipient of my hard-earned, as Virgin, as ever, in my experience seem to be asking me to buy the plane rather than hire a seat for a few hours.

For the first time we are in the position of our dates being fixed now with the villa booked, but to be fair they were anyway due to various work commitments, so I know I am at the mercy of the search results as to what we will pay. We’re probably not going to book until January or February unless some price miracle happens before that, but I shall be a slave to Kayak and Skyscanner in the mean time. The losing of myself in holiday planning for a few moments helped and as I have often done over the years in times of stress, upset and objection to everyday life, I brought up our villa’s website and had a walk around. Don’t judge me!

One of the bits of last week that was not too pleasant was saying goodbye to one of our cats. Now, I have never been the biggest fan or lover of cats, even our own, but this is never a nice thing to do. She’d been ill on and off for some time and over the last few weeks it had become increasingly clear that all wasn’t well. She was very thin and that was because every time she ate she immediately threw it up again.

Louise had the unenviable task of taking her to the vets and it was the kindest thing to do to let her go.

I will add that the fees involved for the vet to give her that injection and deal with her afterwards are absolute robbery. It wasn’t our prime concern at the time and I’m sure they know that.

In other, mundane every day news, we had a new fireplace fitted. *THIS* is the stuff you come to the blog for I know. Since we moved into the house we’ve had a very naff early nineties fireplace that never worked and looked totally out-of-place in our very old house. It has taken us this long to replace it as we’ve had more pressing matters such as holidays to have (as well as doing the kitchen, bathroom and a million other things). We are on a programme of updates and improvements before our next trip and that was the latest part. Now we need to redecorate our front room. The amount of horror that this filled me with drove me to seek out a professional to save me from it. He comes next Monday and will have it stripped, the paintwork redone and the papering done in 2-3 days when it may have cost me every weekend between now and Christmas, along with my will to live.

I shall share a photo of said fireplace once that’s done as it currently sits on a bare chimney breast as we stripped the wallpaper from that before it was fitted. How will you be able to live with that level of anticipation?

Continuing with the diary element of my ever so exciting existence, last night, Mustard were gigging. We started working for a local agent about a year ago and most of their gigs are in Phoenix Nights places. It is alive and well and exactly as that programme shows it. It hasn’t changed at all. Louise did the club circuit twenty years ago and some of the clubs I am now playing with Mustard are the same ones Louise and I went to back then. The same artiste photos are up in the dressing rooms and the same bingo, open the box and play your cards right have to be avoided between our first and second spot. However, they are lovely places to play with genuine people who take great pride in their clubs and do their utmost to make it a nice place to be for all concerned.

Last night’s gig was only possible due to Louise. Having packed up my car and driven forty minutes to the venue, I immediately realised that I had forgotten a box of stuff that was crucial to our PA working. So I had to phone Louise and ask her to bring it over. I put it down to a stressful week and me being stupid.

In the spirit of rock n roll I got home after the gig at around one in the morning and had four crumpets. Not a euphemism. Now, the rest of the day will be spent doing as little as possible.

Till the next time….

Full Of Freddie

I promise that I will try not to become a grand chlild bore each week bombarding you with nothing but Freddie stuff.  However, this week is not the time for that. It’s felt like a long week, and a tough one for Rebecca and Tom as Freddie was in hospital for pretty much all of it.

He wasn’t feeding too well and was generally taking a while to recover from the trauma that is birth. Frustrated at wanting him home and at the same time worried that he’d be OK, after probably the longest week in the world, Rebecca and Tom were finally able to bring him home on Friday. They were a little naughty and just turned up at our house with him out of the blue having told us earlier that day that they hadn’t heard anything about him coming home.

With him being in special care until this point I hadn’t been able to hold him so this was a special moment which I celebrated by growing an extra chin.

So putting that week of stress and worry behind them, he was taken home so that his parents could then start a whole new phase of stress and worry about important things such as poo, eating and sleeping, which sounds like one of my normal weeks.

That new phase of stress and worry for Rebecca and Tom, I shall needlessly point out, will never end!

There have been lots of gifts and stuff purchased for the new family unit. One thing I gave them was something I wish we had been lucky enough to have. It is free but yet priceless. I set up a YouTube channel for Freddie. I know he won’t be vlogging for a while (if at all) of course, but the idea is that it is somewhere to put as many videos as possible of him, so when his Mum & Dad become middle-aged nostalgia machines they will be able to look back at any given point in his life and watch it all over again.

To make this easier we also got them a vlogging camera. Now, I have no idea if that channel will be made public, that’s up to his parents, but that isn’t the point. Our memories of the kids are scattered across photo albums, trip reports (thankfully) and other stuff crammed into drawers. With technology as it is, this won’t be the case for young Freddie.

So we’re all getting used to our new life with another member of the family in place. Even Rebecca said it felt surreal and unreal but within a very short period of time it will feel like he’s always been here I’m sure. We are all absolutely smitten with him and when you look at these photos, you will probably see why. I say that with not one hint of grand parent bias of course!

He’s a sleeper so far, which is a blessing. He’s already doing six hours or so through the night in between feeds. That’s better than I do! That all may change over time, but it sounds very much like Emily who we had to prod whilst asleep to make sure she was still alive. Nothing has changed there to be honest and if left to her own devices would only wake to be fed and then go back to sleep.

So with very few apologies there ends an entire post dedicated to having a Freddie. It may happen again but I will try not to be the online equivalent of that bloke who keeps showing you the photos of his grand kids in his wallet. Maybe….

Till the next time….

Ready Freddie Go

The subject of this week’s blog will come as no surprise. Let me start by thanking everyone who sent their congratulations and lovely thoughts when I posted Freddie’s photo on Facebook earlier this week.

I’m going to try and talk you through the events of the last week but if I’m honest my head is a bit scrambled and I’ll probably get bits wrong. It’s been a heck of a week for all sorts of reasons, not least becoming a Grandad!!

At the start of the week we knew it was likely that he would be coming soon. Rebecca was being monitored daily as she was having a few health issues herself. The main one was Strep B, which I’d never heard of but there was a risk it could be passed on to Freddie so a plan was hatched to kick-start things sooner rather than later.

By Wednesday Rebecca was in hospital knowing that she wouldn’t be going home until he arrived. It took some time and a lot of drugs to start her labour and as much as that was tough for her and Tom, trying to carry on with every day life knowing what was going on and what Rebecca was going through was tricky.

By the end of the working day on Thursday it was clear that he would soon be with us and sure enough at 9.16 that evening he made his entrance at a healthy 7lbs and 14oz. His first few minutes were a little worrying for Rebecca and Tom as he wasn’t doing a great deal when he first popped out and the delivery room soon filled with literally dozens of medical folks all doing their thing to sort him out.

Thankfully all was well but he spent his first night in the intensive care unit just to make sure. He was then quickly moved to special care where he still will be until (fingers crossed) tomorrow when he goes home. He was on a drip for a while just making sure he had no infections but over the next couple of days he’s made steady progress, coming off that and starting to feed etc. The biggest landmark so far was when Rebecca was allowed to dress him. That first outfit had been planned for a long time!

So on Friday we made the trip up to the hospital to meet him. We were all excited and eager to get there which made Louise’s insistence on stopping at several shops to buy a balloon not at all frustrating, making the twenty-minute trip to the hospital last over an hour!

Rebecca was obviously tired but thankfully safe and sound which was a relief after months of privately being terrified about her going through labour. Because they had to speed up her labour dramatically for Freddie’s benefit they put her on some very strong drugs to take her contractions to warp speed. She was told she wouldn’t be able to cope with the pain levels that would bring so they said they would give her an epidural. Unfortunately, they struggled to get that done and it took two hours to administer it during which she was in inhuman amounts of pain. I am a bit glad I didn’t know that until after the event. She has some impressive bruising for her troubles.

We are all incredibly proud of her and also proud of Tom and thankful for supporting her through labour and the last nine months which have not been easy for Rebecca.

One by one, as only two were allowed into the unit at a time, Rebecca took us in to meet him.

With him being in the special care unit in a glass case of emotion it wasn’t possible to hold him, we have that treat to come later today, but it was amazing to have him hold onto my finger and for us to say hello.

Thankfully, after not too long, over the weekend, he was able to be held by his Mum and Dad.

Rebecca was discharged yesterday and if all goes to plan they should be able to bring Freddie home tomorrow but we’re not sure yet.

It all feels a bit surreal at the moment. I’m sure that will change once he’s home and normal life can begin and I can’t wait. The next generation begins, and I’m sure it will be an adventure for all but mostly Rebecca and Tom. There’s a huge sense of relief all round that he’s finally here and everyone is fit and healthy. Here’s to a new chapter signalled by his arrival.

I have to go and get ready now as I have a date with my Grandson during which I’ll hold him for the first time. I shall be starting the Disney indoctrination by talking him through the plan for his first trip!

Till the next time….


Best of Orlando

Disney Beef

Well, my illness of which I do not speak has taken all of last week to go away. I still hack up the odd lung now and we’re two weeks from the start of the illness of which I do not speak. See, I told you I was ill, or I would have if I spoke about it.

If you’ve been reading here for a while you will have noticed that I have slipped in the odd reference to me being banned from a certain Facebook Disney group. I won’t name it, but I’ll bet most of you can guess which one. I have the distinction of being banned despite never having posted in it. It’s a source of regular amusement for me. From time to time the online Disney community can be a right set of dicks it seems. I don’t aim that at the admin of that Facebook group. It’s their group and they can be as stupid as they wish with their rules, it is more of a general comment.

My online echo chamber, from a Disney perspective is made up of what I see to be exclusively nice folks that I first “met” on The Dibb and then from my trip reports, blogging etc. Anyone who thought I was a dick has long since fallen by the way side and everyone I interact with are without exception, lovely, supportive and a joy to have around. There’s a hardcore of Disney folks, most I have never met, that now make up part of my feeds on almost all the social medias. We have met a few of them too and they have been without exception lovely folks.

At the time when I was writing trip reports on The Dibb and they were quite popular I came across a very small taste of what these higher profile vloggers and bloggers seem to get from time to time. People suspected I was cashing in and making heaps of cash and making veiled comments about the fact that trip reports should be free for others to get information from etc etc. They always were (and still are) online, I did the books for a few reasons…

  • Everyone told me I should
  • I was planning to write a novel and wanted to learn how to self-publish etc
  • They are a great way to preserve our memories should The Dibb ever explode.

Anyway, I wasn’t making money, I don’t from my blog, but perceptions are everything and sometimes a little jealousy/resentment can happen to anyone, even when in my case it absolutely wasn’t needed or justified as I’m just not that good at it.

(Oh, by the way….go and buy one of my books!) 🙂

Anywho, this week I saw The Trackers having some beef on Twitter. For those of you who don’t know, and it won’t be many, The Trackers are a very popular couple who vlog every day. They’ve become a success because their videos are good. It’s a simple concept but there you go. They come over well on camera, do good content and aren’t dicks. In the land of YouTube they are a rare oasis in the sea of over exuberant follower addicts with their hauls, giveaways and overly enthusiastic false demeanour. My twitter timeline is awash every day with follow suggestions for “Hey, we’re Ben and Kate (made up names) a couple from Random Town, England and we vlog our WDW trips and share the magic”, and they have about 17 followers. Just my opinion but most YouTubers aren’t bearable to watch for me, but The Trackers get it right I think. For those who love vlogging that of course is fine and it’s none of my business, but it’s just an example of the huge numbers out there doing it and how well those like The Trackers do to stand out.

YouTube is a jungle and I know very little about it, but outside of the Disney community the big vloggers all now seem to have a book deal, some a record deal and all in all have found some way to monetise their followers. Fair play to them. It beats working for a living and I know I couldn’t do it.

So back to this beef. I couldn’t get to the bottom of it from the tweets I saw but someone on Twitter has it in for them. They seem to be upset about them getting paid for some content/videos and/or being invited to special stuff and maybe even getting certain activities or accommodation funded. I don’t get it really. It’s the obvious result of them having almost 300,000 subscribers, most of whom like Disney stuff. I’m not sure what they are expected to do really. Turn down invites to stuff that will make great content for their channel? Refuse any sort of monetary compensation and/or not take any money from ads on their videos. That’s how YouTube is funded, they are creating content folks want to watch so I don’t see the issue.

It may be a green eyed monster for sure. Like anything, once something gets popular it is hard for it to stay the same. They will get shitty comments on some videos, they will get trolls, they will get people who resent them for all sorts of reasons. The effort they must have put it in to get to this point is unimaginable. I’ve had this blog since 2009 and it reaches a good number of people, but the effort, expense and commitment to “breakthrough” is beyond me. It isn’t that important to me and I don’t have the time and maybe the ability.

So if you are trolling The Trackers or anyone else making something of themselves, have a word with yourself. They aren’t perfect human beings and exposing your life as they do on a daily basis must be exhausting. Sure they could stop, but they clearly enjoy it and I’m sure it’s nice to have the attention they do and be stopped in the parks for photos. That even used to happen to us every now and again and it is a lovely feeling.

Now, having written all of that as the protector of things vlogger/blogger, what does grind my gears is when I see WDW themselves posting stuff about some random Mummy blogger writing about a freebie trip they have been given. That to me is different, mainly because they didn’t ask me ( 🙂  ) but also because that is a bit blatant for my liking. If anything it makes me less likely to be booking a WDW holiday. Now of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t, but it irks me a bit. Am I a hypocrite? Almost certainly…. Anyway, you can troll me in the comments to let me know!

Till the next time….


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