Take Me Down To Cardboard City….

What am I doing here? I haven’t got time for this? People will often say “I have a million things to do” and currently, in my case, that seems literally correct.

The good news is that we did move house on Friday. How I have longed to type those words and have that horror behind us. For more months than I wish to count I have dreaded the day of moving. In fact, way, way back when we were deciding whether to extend or move, I was seriously contemplating months and months of building work just to avoid the experience of packing up and moving to a new place.

Seems silly? Well, you weren’t in my shoes on Friday when those fears were realised. It was not a pleasant day.

I’m not going to go into the multiple horrors in detail. To help my PTSD I need to move on and concentrate on the new beginnings and all that but I will give you some edited highlights.

I don’t know if I told you but we actually had two solicitors, one for the sale and one for the purchase. This was because our first one was relatively newly qualified and when she realised the complexity of our purchase, (due to it being old and with some rights of way issues) she passed that file over to a more experienced colleague. Throughout, that more experienced colleague has been a bit shit.

This held true right to the end. After a fairly easy morning, with the removal men making relatively short work of all the items I had stressed about moving for six months, we got the call before lunch that our sale had completed. We were now homeless for a bit and our selling solicitor had passed everything onto our buying solicitor to do her stuff.

So we actually sat down for a bit, had some lunch and waited for the next call to say we could go and get the keys. As the clock rolled around to 12pm, I was bored with waiting and I set off for the estate agents where the keys would be. This was a good half an hour away so I thought it better to be poised outside for when things happened.

So I arrived and waited. This went on for some time. I called my estate agents, and the seller’s and neither had heard anything. I was trying not to bother my solicitor as they would clearly be busy on a Friday throwing money around for everyone moving house. Ten minutes later and I could wait no longer.

Amazingly I got through and she genuinely seemed surprised to hear from me. I asked for an update. She told me she had sent the money “a while ago” but had not received confirmation from the seller’s solicitor that they had arrived. I explained that my household contents were in a van, I was outside an estate agents in Accrington and our buyer was en-route to my ex-house. These should not be things that need to be explained to a conveyancing solicitor.

“Perhaps you could give them a call?” I suggested, cheerily.

She did and two minutes later I was out of the car, sprinting (Dad jogging) to the estate agents. We had the keys. It was going on for 3pm but we had them.

Sigh.

The rest of the day could have gone better. Our removal men buggered us about by diverting off to another job as we had waited so long for the keys, and that meant we were still emptying our old house late into the afternoon with its new occupants smiling politely and telling me it wasn’t a problem that our fridge and several other items were sat in their new house as they were trying to move in.

Anyway, by about 6.30pm, we waved off the removal van and stared at our new house full of cardboard boxes. A take away happened and then an early night as I was broken both physically and mentally.

Things looked better the next morning. The house didn’t of course as we hadn’t unpacked anything but I took the dogs out on our field (ooohh, get me) and just took a minute to realise we were in, it was done and the worst was over.

I could go on, but honesty I have so much to do. Every room you walk into has a thousand tasks that need sorting, mainly in the shape of a box, so I will leave you to your Sundays.

I need to thank my Mum and Dad for looking after the dogs for the day when we moved. I don’t know what we would have done without their help on the day. The same goes for Rebecca, Tom and Emily’s boyfriend Mikey who have all helped in numerous ways and we are incredibly grateful.

In my immediate future are around 412 tip runs to rid the house of the cardboard mountain we have acquired, and today I am going to try and sort out my office/man cave as I have a desk, chair and other stuff coming early next week.

Overall though, right now it feels like we’ve gone away somewhere nice for the weekend, and it hasn’t quite sunk in that we live here yet, but I suppose that’s a good sign that we’ve done the right thing, despite all the tasks and teething troubles we are currently facing. That’s all natural I suppose when you start to learn to live in a new place after 8 years in another.

More news and photos probably next week when we are a bit more settled.

Till the next time…..

Don’t Stop Moving

After all these months of pain, stress, worry, frustration, heartburn and tedious moaning on my blog, we were fnally scheduled to move last Friday…………….and it didn’t fecking happen.

Yep, we have seldom suffered a week so stressful, frustrating and infuriating. All of the issues sat with our buyer’s buyer, which made things harder as we were always just getting Chinese whispers via our estate agent. The story seemed to change with every update, and we went several days with seemingly no communication at all coming from what appears to be the shittest legal conveyancing firm on the planet. For most of the week, it was said that the delay/lack of confirmation was all down to the lender and whether they could release the funds in time. Now, looking back, I would struggle to articulate all that happened and the circumstances which led to us still being sat in our old house.

As we approached the middle of the week we still didn’t know whether we were moving on Friday. We assumed not, but nobody could get, so it appeared, a definitive answer from the buyer at the bottom of our chain.

At some point in the week, I forget when exactly, our estate agent rang with the first proper update. It turned out that when the 26th of February was proposed and everyone said they were ready, the first time buyer at the bottom declared that they were without confirming that with either their estate agent or solicitor who, maybe, could have told them that they were not ready. So naïve buyers, with bobbins estate agents and solicitors, made for a perfect storm of incompetence and ultimately a disappointment.

If anyone still cares, it took until Wednesday for them to share what the actual issue was. Let me regale you with the inane triviality of what has delayed four house moves.

The house being sold by our buyer apparently had a clause in the lease that said that the ground rent can be renegotiated every 25 years for the first 100 years. It’s a relatively new house so that could happen four times in total. The lender wanted an indemnity policy from the seller, (our buyer) to cover the “risk” that the ground rent could be raised by such an amount that the buyer would then not be able to afford to repay their mortgage. As unlikely a scenario as that may be, why was this not addressed in all the weeks and months that we have all been sat waiting for legal folks to do legal things? When it was raised, it was resolved in less than 24 hours. How we laughed.

So with that done, on Thursday, I think, we had a call from our solicitor telling us that our buyer’s solicitor had contacted her to say everything was now in place. That double proactivity astounded me. Even now just a few days later I can’t really make sense of the sequence of events if I am honest. Life is so busy at the minute my arse and elbow are unacquainted, but at some point, on Thursday or Friday, all parts of the chain agreed that the 5th of March was the new date. It takes 5 days for lenders to send money apparently so that was the soonest safest date to choose. It’s funny how I can send money immediately to anyone just using my iPhone but there you go.

It has been one of the most unpleasant and stressful weeks we have ever known. That will sound over dramatic and even now looking back on it, I wonder how we felt like that, but buried deep in the eye of the storm, it felt like the world was ending.

Still, at least that delayed broadband order I moaned about last week won’t matter as by the time we get in that should all be working. Also, months ago we ordered a new sofa for the lounge thinking that we’d be in the new house for ages before it was ready on the 8th of March. So this new date timed perfectly to have that delivered just a couple of days after we moved in. That was of course until we had a call from the furniture place on Friday, a few hours after getting our new date, saying that our new sofa was delayed till the end of March, because of Brexit. If you follow me on Twitter you may have got a hint that I have some reservations about the sunlit uplands of Brexit, so this piece of news delighted me more than Farage’s glee at another dinghy being sighted off the English coast.

We have lots of luck, but most of it is bad.

With my head spinning from all of the above, plus a really busy/stressful time at work for both Louise and me, somehow, I managed to squeeze in a couple of thoughts about our holiday. It’s a big deal to me at all times so this won’t be too shocking. I think it was last week that the incompetent haystack in Number 10 made some announcements about lifting restrictions that would be data-driven not date driven. He then followed that sentence by announcing a load of dates that everyone has now taken as gospel.

Somewhere in that mess of information was a date of June 21st when “everything goes back to normal” and all restrictions are lifted. This is great of course, were it to happen. However, even if the UK alone could determine that international travel would start again then, that is sadly a little late for us, with our June 14th departure date. Add to that, Disney saying that masks will be needed for all of 2021 and that is the death knell for our trip I think. Masks would be tough for us all in the June heat, but Freddie at three years old, would not understand why he needed one and the battle to have him wear one would very likely be a major issue on the whole trip.

So I’m doing nothing just yet, mainly as flight prices aren’t available for the dates in 2022 I might want, but I have resigned myself to having to pick up and move the whole thing again, or if that proves too hard just cancel and book again when the time is right. Of course, there could be some miracle where the US keeps doing vaccines at 2.5m a day (yep, that was yesterday’s figure) and things get so much better that Disney decides they can lift mask-wearing…..and we may be able to go later in summer/autumn, but I have very low to no hopes of that happening if I am honest.

Let us hope that our house move finally happening, spring starting to be visible on the horizon and the continued success of the vaccination programme all signal a change in our lives and fortunes and a return to some form of normality so that I can once again spend every penny of our disposable income on holidays.

If nothing else it may make your Sundays a little more bearable. Having been through this whole moving thing the obvious and only advice I can offer is, don’t.

Till the next time……

I Fought The Law…

A long time ago, in a sixth form college far, far away (it’s not, it is actually visible from our bedroom window, but I wanted to shoehorn the Star Wars thing in) a young man briefly toyed with the idea of going to University to study law. A series of unexpected events, involving a week’s work experience in a bank, ending with a job offer and A levels then being abandoned for the lure of £70 a week to fund his ambitions to be a pop star saw that stellar legal career thwarted before it began.

If only I had known the very low bar (pun intended) that seems to be required to practice law, particularly conveyancing (apologies to my conveyancing solicitor reader) I surely could have breezed through life without stress or pressure.

Why am I tarring all such professionals with the same brush? Well, here we sit mere hours now from the day on which we should move house and we STILL don’t know for sure that it is happening. Our buyer’s buyer at the foot of our mercifully short chain is as yet not able to commit to that date. Why you ask? Well, yes I asked the same question. It would appear that when the 26th was suggested and accepted by all parties, the solicitor acting for our buyer’s buyer “forgot” to contact their lender to confirm the date on which their funds would be needed.

This only came to light when I proactively contacted all estate agents and solicitors in the chain that I had details for, checking that everyone was still OK for the 26th. A day or so later this brought forward an email from my solicitor, telling me the news that the start of our chain could not yet commit.

As they are a first-time buyer using a complicated mortgage where relatives donate their savings or some such thing, the release of funds is a complex affair that requires multiple days of complex cyphers and puzzles, a bit like the Da Vince Code but without Tom Hanks, and despite us discovering this cock-up on Tuesday of last week we have still not had confirmation that all will be well for this coming Friday.

We have been assured that Barclays, the lender in question, is expected to confirm the release of funds can be undertaken in time for the 26th on Monday, but still, this has left us with yet another weekend of uncertainty and stress, which makes a nice change.

So despite all the attempts to derail this move, all we can do is continue to pack and pack and pack endlessly, without it seems, any real progress to be seen.

Then, to top off my week, on Friday, our removal man rang me to ask if it was OK if he got to us around lunchtime on Friday as he has had another enquiry for a move on Thursday that he may need to finish off on Friday morning. I shall just let you know that he is turning up at our house at 8.30am on Friday as booked and planned. Sigh…..

I suppose it is months of nonsense like this that leads to me struggling to believe that we will ever live in this house. The thought of moving into the new place was once a source of a modicum of excitement and anticipation and day by day it just becomes a source of worry, stress and angst.

Oh, and….

Knowing that broadband is essential for us workers from home, I ordered it with plenty of time to have it work on the day we move in. A few days later, they contacted me via email with a query about the existing lines in the house. I contacted the seller and answered that on the same day. Having then seen four days go by and my order status not change, I called them. Indeed, nothing had been progressed and now, we won’t have broadband for about four days after we move in. I deliberately chose PlusNet as I spotted the previous owner used them and this should make the transition nice and easy, especially with the house being a bit out in the country. It seems I can do no right. I am raging about this, but apparently, nothing can be done and I sit impotently seething about that as well.

The ordering of new broadband and a TV package for the new place had allowed me last week to finally tell Virgin Media where to stick their temperamental broadband and TV package, uncompetitive prices and even worse customer service where you are not allowed to talk to a human.

Fittingly, it took me five, yes five hours to get to talk to a person and cancel the service. It isn’t actually available at our new house so it saved them the trouble of trying to persuade me to take them with us. I did point out that spending five hours on hold, getting cut off a couple of times and generally suffering this crap for the last few years was not the best way to encourage customer retention. I have to post their kit back to them when we’ve moved. I may do a huge dump in the box.

In an attempt to insert some crumb of house move positivity into this diatribe, Rebecca and Tom picked up their keys on Tuesday. They have already made great progress on the work that needs doing before they can move in but it is great to see them finally over the line. It has gone some way to dispelling the myth that house moves no longer happen and people just stay in a constant state of purgatory until everyone in the chain dies. Decorating has already happened, windows and doors are due to be fitted in the coming days and hopefully within a week or so they will be in and starting to get settled.

So next week I have three days off work because we might be moving house and there are things to do. Then again, we might not, but clearly, I just have to accept this as part of the game. If we are lucky and people fancy doing something to make it happen, the next blog you read will be from our new house. I won’t have broadband of course, so it’ll be some brief badly formatted thing done on my phone. I think I have said this most weeks since the summer (yes, this all started in the summer) but moving house should not be this difficult. The results are in….

Moving House 1 – Overweight Northern Blogger 0

Till the next time…..

It’s A Date!

Thankfully for you dear reader, I will need to be brief this week as I have things to do.

I owe you an update on our move of course after all the moaning of the last few weeks and months. The week started in a maelstrom of frustration and stress and I was almost immediately onto my solicitor in yet another attempt to get things moving, literally.

I can’t remember the play by play breakdown of how things happened, but a few robust conversations were had followed by me pestering anybody even close to your chain. The two remaining queries that were awaited by our solicitor, remained as just that as we careered into Wednesday, and my conversations in those few days were along the lines of, WTF is it that is so hard about these two things that we sit here, six weeks after they were first raised, still waiting.

My solicitor could not understand that either. At one point I even got her on the phone, and despite my shock at that turn of events, I did manage to make that call useful by understanding a little more about what she was waiting for. My questioning was along the lines of….

“You and my seller’s solicitor do this all day everyday. Why are these two things proving beyond you?”

She assured me they were standard queries with what she called standard remedies and it just needed the other side to do something.

With that knowledge and a new level of frustration in hand, I went to our seller’s estate agent again, and began a conversation with the seller, urging him to kick his legal folks up the arse. It all came down to a missing page of the deeds (the house was originally built in the 1700’s so this was not a shock) and the seller needed to provide one more indemnity policy to protect us from whatever might be on that one page.

As a final testament to solicitor inertia and with all due respect to any conveyancing solicitor’s reading this (I know there may be at least one, hi Rhian!) I got a message back from the seller, via their estate agent along the lines of…

“I have seen a new policy from my solicitor. They haven’t told me what it is for or why it is needed, but I have accepted the costs and signed it for the sake of our collective sanity”.

How can I know what the policy was for and he not? It is his house!!

So with my opinion of solicitors damaged a little more, I told myself that I would give my solicitor till about 4.30 that day before calling her to see if she had received this final piece of the jigsaw. At around 4.10 an unknown number rang me on the mobile. The fact that we are six months into this move and my solicitor’s number is unknown to me, says all that needs to be said about the service we have received I think.

She was calling me to let me know that she now had all she needed and we would now be able to aim for a moving date of the 26th of February. This was a date already suggested to us by our very unimpressed buyer a few days earlier in a vain attempt to hurry us along. We needed no hurrying, just a competent legal team.

So there followed several minutes of relief, joy, and delight that we had saved our chain and preserved the chances of us ever moving into this bloody house. Shortly afterwards, the sheer scale of the work still required to get us ready to do so dawned and the stress returned.

It at least allowed me to move onto a load of tasks that I had been gagging to get done. The essentials such as broadband and a TV package needed ordering. The former being absolutely crucial with Emily and I working from home. So those were done along with quite a lot of address changing and informing utility companies of our move. With a following wind, we may actually have broadband in place by the time we get there.

So the long journey to a moving date is seemingly complete. Let’s hope we do not suffer in the same way as Rebecca and Tom, who had their moving date missed again on Friday, due to, you’ll never guess, their solicitor forgetting to do something! They are now lined up for next Wednesday.

I now need to leave you to survey the catastrophic state of our house and find some more things to put into boxes. This will be interspersed with me staring at large pieces of furniture and stressing about how on earth it will get transported to the new place. It’s how we roll these days.

Till the next time……

Conveying Stress

I am undertaking some rest and recuperation this weekend. For the past few weeks, every weekend has been a whirl of packing and sorting stuff out, but I have decided, no, have been forced, to not do that this week, as to be frank, I’m bloody knackered.

No doubt that is a build-up of month’s of angst and stress but last week especially was a busy one. My own job was particularly hectic, but I was also trying my hand at some DIY conveyancing.

Here is a representation of last week, with me being portrayed by somebody with hair and a normal BMI.

As our solicitor, and as I discovered, our seller’s too, seemed disinclined to have a go at the stuff they are qualified in and paid well for, things were taken into my own hands. I can’t recount the full set of events, but it started with a strongly worded email to all concerned parties on Monday (nobody answers their phone or calls back) and it ended with myself and the seller, via their estate agent, directly discussing what was outstanding and the best way forward.

In a nutshell, there are about six outstanding queries on our purchase, mostly relating to the quirky and often changed nature of the house and all its conversions and extensions over the years. The solicitors involved were playing a never-ending game of email tennis, which when I finally wrestled a copy of the email chain from my solicitor, seemed to contain lots of referring each other to other emails dated blah, blah, blah and not a great deal of effort to actually get any of the issues addressed.

So I took it upon myself to reach out to the seller and ask him to try to get his solicitor to do something….anything…..much as I was trying to do with mine. Via their estate agent, an email exchange happened, and rightly or wrongly I shared with him the outstanding issues and asked if he could help get this sale done so he can pocket all of our money.

To his credit, he quickly agreed to cover any outstanding bits of paperwork that could not be provided with an indemnity policy, much as we have done to our buyer for works done to our house that we have no paperwork for and gave his solicitor a kick up the arse. Last I heard late on Thursday was that he had approved the draft policy provided to him and told them to get on with it. I am led to believe that this is now with our solicitor but of course, any form of proactive update from them is clearly not in the package I am paying for, and I shall have to wait until my third email chaser next week to get a half-formed update. There was no point in trying to get any such update on Friday as she has long since made it clear that Fridays are a day when she has more important stuff to do.

So I do not know if this covers all outstanding queries but it will sort the majority. The coming few days may see my solicitor do something other than ignoring my calls and emails.

I think the stress and frustration of all that hit me on Saturday morning when my body untensed after such a busy week, both in the job for which I get paid and the one I am doing despite paying someone else to do, so I woke feeling like rubbish. I declared the weekend a write off and that I wouldn’t be doing anything of any note.

Indeed, the day’s only achievements were eating three-quarters of a pack of Rich Tea and having two poos. A red-letter day indeed. The evening, as nearly all of them are now, was spent binge-watching something. Our current set of things on the go are –

Servant (on Apple TV)

The entire Marvel film back catalogue on Disney + (to be fair we only started that journey last week by watching Captain America, so I don’t know how committed we are to that).

Wandavision

Celebrity Game Face

The latter is our newest form of vegetation and is a new discovery tucked away on the channel E. We seldom watch this channel as it normally features too many Kardashians or reality shows about WWE wrestlers that we don’t know. However, we stumbled upon Kevin Hart’s Celebrity Game Face. It’s silly, pointless and at times hilarious and just what you need when you’ve been trying to move house for six months and still don’t have a clue when it might happen. Give it a go if you want to turn your brain off and have a chuckle.

Of course, Rebecca and Tom’s move did not happen last week as they were promised. Their seller had the nerve to find himself in hospital, which rendered him unable to sign things and so their date has been put back to next Friday. It’s almost as if moving house is an absolute horror show that you should never, ever do.

Someone commented last week that I didn’t even mention our holiday. It’s a sign of how full my mind is of houses, solicitor inertia and other such bollocks and I know the entire UK Disney community uses this blog as some sort of bell-wether or canary in the coal mine for their entire planning strategy, so here’s my current take.

My current forecast of the chances of us being in WDW in June is slim to none. I can’t back that up with any firm stats or evidence and as such I have been invited to take up a position in cabinet, but it’s just a feeling. Now, I know that my overall mood right now is one of stress and frustration, so I may not be in the best place to make that judgement, but it just feels too soon….again.

Being so tired and emotional I also feel that even if borders are open, the thought of wearing masks, especially for Freddie, also appears to be dragging me down a bit. Not that we will ever be back to the normal we thought we had pre-Covid, but I think it will be Summer 2022 before things like social distancing and masks have a chance of being removed by the risk-averse Disney parks.

As I said, I’m tired and emotional. For that reason, I am properly missing our holidays right now. The juxtaposition of seeing my trio of vloggers in the WDW parks whilst we have to stay in our houses wrapped in cling film isn’t helping.

Who knows. By the spring, international travel may be allowed with a vaccine or a negative test and we may be able to make the best of the experience despite the masks and at least get some sun, good food and a change of scenery in mid-June. If we can’t, then I guess the next obvious set of dates would be our usual very late August time of year, but I have to say, sacking it all off and waiting for 2022 is also a very real consideration. There are only so many times you can book one holiday.

So there you go. A post where you can almost see my tiredness and stress hanging off every word. Luckily, everything that is contributing to that will continue at a pace for a while so buckle yourselves in for the next few weeks. How frequently I will update you on the poo count is, at this stage, unknown.

Till the next time……

Louise Bought Me Expensive Hose

Hey, guess what? We STILL don’t know when we are moving house. Incredible isn’t it? With how quickly everything else has gone with the process so far it was nailed on that we’d be all sorted this week. Right?

Instead, it took all week, yes five working days, for a set of questions to go from our solicitors to the seller’s, get answered and get sent back. That doesn’t include our solicitor actually checking that they are happy with the answers. Oh no, that has been scheduled for next week, and if they do need further clarification, no doubt that will be another week down the swanny.

To say we are sick of the whole shit show is an understatement. We are trapped in this limbo of being half packed, but unable to do a massive list of tasks that can’t be done until we know when we will actually move.

In better news, after all sorts of shenanigans, stress and swearing, Rebecca and Tom are now scheduled to complete on their purchase on Tuesday. That is a relief and one worry off all our minds. At least they will be sorted and can crack on with the work and decorating it needs before they can move in.

Whoever finds a way to simplify, modernise and speed up the conveyancing process in the UK deserves to be a billionaire. It is literally unbelievable how unfit for purpose the whole thing is. As an example, despite the fact that legally, everything could still fall apart and we may not end up buying the house, we have had to take out buildings insurance on it, as the mortgage company insist on seeing that before they will release the money. So, if the worst happens, we will be the proud owner of an insurance policy on a house we don’t own, for a year.

I think much of my own stress is based on two things –

  1. I am building up the day of the actual move into a horror show that will probably never materialise. For some reason, I think the amount of stuff we have and how big and awkward a lot of our furniture is will be an insurmountable problem for removal folks who do this every day.
  2. I look around at the house and cannot imagine a time when it is totally packed up. The sheer scale of the job terrifies me and we can’t go full steam ahead until we have a date as we need a lot of the stuff for day to day living.

No matter the scale of carnage at the new place, when we are in with all our stuff and we wave off the removal van, I will breathe the largest sigh of relief known to man.

To give you some appreciation of the scale of disruption in the house right now, this is just one corner of our dining room.

To add insult to injury, last week also saw Louise’s car in for a service. It was only marginally cheaper than the house purchase. It has to return for a 2 day stay at the garage next week to complete all the work required. To save time, they have a kidney harvesting facility on-site now, so it’s a one-stop-shop.

Having had a bit of a week, yesterday I undertook some hard labour and carried a lot of boxes down from Emily’s bedroom. She is up in the loft so that was two flights of stairs per box. I then emptied the spare room, Rebecca’s old room, of 90% of the boxes in there too. This is why the dining room looks like it does. By mid-afternoon, after also clearing out and either binning or packing up some of the kitchen, I got a little tired and emotional. I think if any of you had tackled your “under the sink” cupboard, you too may have found that to be the straw that broke your back.

Louise went out to buy a new hosepipe. No, really, it makes perfect sense. It’s January, and we move in a few weeks so this was clearly at the top of our shopping list for understandable reasons.

Wanting to leave our house in the best state for the new occupants Louise decided she needed to jet wash the back yard. Personally, I thought the dark green shade of the flags went well with the overall aesthetic of the back of the house, but no, jet washing was to happen.

Of course, at the back end of the summer, our hose pipe had broken. So Louise came home with a new one yesterday. She asked if I would set it up and connect it to the jet wash. Sure thing. This will just take a couple of minutes, then I can have a sit-down and relax for a bit.

I’ve seen simpler instructions for rocket flight. It was ridiculous and my tired, patience deficient brain just would not onboard the 72 step process to get some water through a pipe. Louise had seemingly bought the most expensive hose in the place, which is not a phrase I can get onboard with unless it is for a special birthday treat.

Things were not helped by Louise suggesting she asked our neighbour or my Dad to do it as they were “better at this sort of thing”. Words were exchanged, at volume. Louise wandered off to get my Dad and in that time, I did manage to figure out at least the first few steps. My Dad arrived and fairly quickly water flowed into the jet wash and I retired indoors to evaluate my life choices.

Had you told me, back in the summer, when this whole house move thing started that my breaking point would be figuring out why a hosepipe had a spring that needed fitting somewhere in it, I may not have believed you. Further breaking points lie ahead I am sure. When I was younger, whatever ailment afflicted me, my Mum would say it was because I was tired. I have self-diagnosed the same thing for me at this time.

So another day lies ahead filled with takings thing out of places and putting them into boxes. Meanwhile, our solicitor might, if the mood takes her, at some time next week, brush the cobwebs off our file and casually glance at what the next steps may be so that we are in for Christmas.

The next time I move house, it will be me in the box being carried out of the house!

Till the next time…….

Positivity Payback

Like some sort of legendary mythical siren, calling sailors onto the rocks, my positivity packed post last week seems to have summoned the combined forces of negativity and doom onto our shores.

I apologise and promise to just piss and moan every week from here on in.

I don’t know if it is more a symptom of where my head is, but this week, I have just sensed a collective groan and downturn in the mental health of the entire country. I’ve seen social media posts from friends expressing despair, downheartedness and downright depression. I don’t know specifically what it is, but the mood seems to have slumped.

Yes, we are rolling out the first jab at an impressive speed, but I think there have been a good few signals that this isn’t a silver bullet that will deliver us relief as soon as we would like. The government briefings have continued to be a mess of blaming everyone else and moving the goalposts and it has led, I think, to a dreary realisation that as much as there may light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel is very, very, very, very long.

My younger foolish self, all that time ago last week, was fairly upbeat about the prospect of international travel by the late spring or summer. Whether I am just drinking the kool-aid and reacting to the downbeat and cautionary messaging from those in charge to make us all realise this is far from over, but now, being much older and wiser, a full seven days later, I am much less optimistic and I have to say I am now in the mind that we will need to rearrange again.

I am very open to being wrong. Six months is a long time I suppose.

My vlog watching has not diminished. For someone with a very low tolerance for vloggers, or should I say most vloggers, we have settled on a trio of folks, The Trackers of course, who seem to be approaching Bill Gates levels of earnings from their efforts, and good luck to them, Prince Charming Dev and Paging Mr Morrow. Between the three of them, they do just about produce enough content to occupy the short windows of time I need them to fill as I do my twenty minutes on the bike or during that wasteland of TV around the time we eat our evening meal. Of course, they sometimes all chase the same content as events happen and parks do new things, but overall they are deserving of my eyeballs.

What I would say, is in recent weeks, since the end of the Christmas celebrations at the parks, they have all been enjoying how quiet the parks are. Riding Flight Of Passage with no wait, getting onto Rise Of The Resistance on a whim and generally just walking onto everything. I understand that this makes the experience on the day a nice one, but I am a little concerned about this. I know the parks are quiet at this time of year, but in light of where we are, and looking at the amount of time still to go before the parks can enjoy “normality”, they need to survive. If this quietness continues I worry for more layoffs, closures and other bad things.

The parks need to be there for us all when we can return. I am in no doubt that once we can, there will be the mother of all bounce backs, but I fear for them in short term. It’s probably unfounded as these companies no doubt have more of a clue of how to structure their finances than, and I know it may shock you, some random bloke from Bolton, but I often find that I don’t have enough to worry about, so I take this on as well.

Speaking of stuff to worry about, I do admit that this house move nonsense is getting to me. I think it’s getting to us all. I include Rebecca and Tom in that, as their move last Friday did not happen due to seller idiocy and solicitor delays, with a hint of Covid related issues. They are battling with all of those to try and get their deal over the line and get the keys.

We waited all last week for an update from our solicitor only to find that when we got it, they just confirmed that things were exactly where they were the last time we had an update. It is beyond frustrating. We are unable to plan anything needed for the move whilst at the same time living in a house that is now 45% bubble wrap and cardboard. We await another promised update early next week after of course, I have had to chase them half a dozen times to remind them to give it to us.

Louise is dealing with it all by going and sitting outside our new house. It exists between where we now live and where she works so she often pops by to make sure it is still standing.

After her snow ridden day at work yesterday she called on her way home to see how bad it was to get to when the white stuff hits. It was just about OK.

I have to point out that as large and impressive as that looks, it isn’t all ours. The old farm it is within also houses a couple of other properties inside those gates. However, we are lucky to be moving to somewhere like this. I’ll be honest, it has only been possible as nowadays the mortgage application form has a new section where employees of the NHS can declare the amount of claps they have received and they now count towards your income. Which is nice.

So on we go, into another week, just like the last. I think a lot of folks who bother to read this guff do so because of a shared love of holidays. For many, if you are anything like me, these trips act as both incentives and relief for the day to day slog of going to work. Without them, like now, it feels like there is no wind in the sails. There is literally no choice other than to hunker down, battle through and persist. In a few years time we will, I’m sure, look back on this period as we sip a cocktail on the lanai at Bahama Breeze or tuck into a Kitchen Sink at Beaches & Cream and laugh/weep.

There I go being positive again. I apologise for the inevitable payback that will bring.

Till the next time…….

Positively Positive

Wow, last week was just jam-packed with positivity and good news.

No, really it was. OK, well not jam-packed, but it had some good stuff in it…OK in the grand scheme of the usual shit show of recent weeks and months, it wasn’t as bad as all the others. Look, a couple of things went well….let’s leave it at that.

Early in the week my Mum & Dad were invited for their vaccines. They went yesterday and that’s another weight off my mind. That weight has of course transferred to my stomach.

Then on Thursday, Louise had her first jab too. So a good number of our immediate family are (almost) protected and that’s got to be a good thing. Nobody has grown a second head or lost a limb, so all in all, I’d say getting the vaccine is a good thing to do. As someone who has made the odd negative comment on the government’s handling of this pandemic, I am obliged to say that the rollout seems to be going well. All that can stop it now are the “Bill Gates” fearing crowd refusing the vaccine for non-sane reasons.

I think that will be it for vaccines in our family for a while. The rest of us are some way down the priority list. I’ll be next, based on my advancing years, but I suspect that won’t be until the summer at the earliest. The kids are well down the pecking order but I read yesterday that every adult should have been offered their first jab by September.

It is of some comfort and reassurance that each week hundreds of thousands of folks are getting vaccinated now in the UK. With the arrival of a sane leader in the US next week and his promise to do 100 million in 100 days then, and I hate to say this out loud, but could international travel be on the distant horizon?

I have to say I still think our mid-June plan is a flip of a coin. If it does go ahead then it was pretty much confirmed this week, that as I thought, you will need to have a negative test within 72 hours of departure to be allowed to fly. Or I suppose you could show proof of vaccination, but, other than a flimsy bit of card, I’m not seeing any tangible, electronic record of that which could be produced.

Of course, if you test negative three days before you fly, then you could still be positive by the time you board the plane. Everyone needs to be responsible and observe all the common-sense rules between taking such a test and flying. You could make an argument that everyone should take one of those rapid test things at the airport but for folks like us can you imagine investing all the money, time and emotion into a trip to WDW and then rocking up to the airport still not certain you are going to be able to travel?

If this remains in place and we do somehow get to go in June, we’ll be getting tests right on the 72-hour window. You know by now, I am a “need to know” certainty craving idiot.

Each year, I am taken by surprise by spring. I am not good with winter. Then each year, there tends to be a watershed weekend, where the weather suddenly changes and the world just seems a much better place all of a sudden. I am crossing everything that this spring/early summer will be the mother of all that and we will emerge not only from the shitty weather and being cold at all times, to the sunlit uplands of spring, an easing of restrictions and the opening of borders. I am not naïve enough to think everything will go back to how it was, but I am hoping very hard for a step-change in all this as we round the bend out of winter.

To continue this abundance of positivity and joy, Rebecca and Tom get the keys to their new house on Friday. They are overjoyed to be getting onto the ladder and having somewhere of their own. They won’t move in immediately as there is some work to be done first, but they can at least get their furniture in, get the work underway and look forward to getting settled in very shortly.

We have had no such news just yet but we have to be close, right? My prediction of us moving on the same day as Rebecca and Tom now seems very unlikely, which is probably a good thing as we have a shit ton of packing still to do, but I suppose whenever we have to be ready, we will be.

So after such a gloriously positive(ish) week, for the first time in a long, long time I have some belief at least that our June trip might happen. Much will depend on the US of course. It is a country of contradictions, with Florida more or less fully open and the Senator hiding the stats and arresting folks who want to publish them compared to California, with Disneyland never having opened since the first lockdown. The latest rumours/thinking about travel to the US seem to be centred around May. That is, of course, cutting it very fine for us and in the back of my mind, I am already thinking about a “what if” plan for new dates should they be required.

All in all though, with a vaccine rolled out to as many that will have it, as we get into the second half of 2021, we have to be able to think about being able to book a holiday and actually going on it. Imagine that. I am very much imagining it and as all good planners do, my tentative plans for the trip after next is already on the back burner in my overtaxed tiny mind.

OK, that’s my limit for positivity. I need a lie down to recover.

Till the next time…….

If The Stress Doesn’t Give Me A Heart Attack, This Doughnut Will.

For those with the ability to remember all the way back to last Sunday and the much smaller subset of folks who care enough about the moan-fest that was last week’s blog, I should give an update. Mary, Louise’s Mum did get her second vaccine jab on Tuesday. That’s good news of course and hopefully by around now her body is much better equipped to keep her safe from the virus.

In less better news I am still no wiser as to what the actual policy is for vaccinations. Are folks going to get the second one three weeks later or is it twelve? I have no qualifications to dispute either approach but whatever has been decided for heaven’s sake communicate it clearly. My Dad had his letter about his vaccine late in the week so it would be nice for him to know what to expect. But, let’s focus on the positive, that folks are getting some protection at least. Looking at the figures, we desperately need it.

In a world ravaged by a pandemic and where one of the globe’s superpowers repelled a coup attempt last week, you might think that the trivial matters troubling me may have been put into some sort of perspective. You might think that if you have never read this blog before, but of course you’d be wrong. I am troubled by world events. However, my own little world is a busy one and my mind is a whirling mess of all the stuff that is going on.

The putting of our house into boxes has begun. I feel better now a start has been made, but at points during that process, I have stepped back and forlornly looked around at the sheer scale of the task and felt as powerless to affect things as I do with global events. All we can do is plough on and hope that at some point we actually do get to move. After all this time it feels like the day will never come. There has been a little bit of significant progress as we now have the contracts to sign for the sale of our house and we will be doing the signing of those over some form of a video call with the solicitor during the week to come.

There are a million other things to do. They are all little things, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but nonetheless, they play on my mind. From the sorting of broadband for the new place to telling every company I give money to that we have moved, the more I think about it, the more things I come up with that need doing and it can feel overwhelming. If only I were one of those people that couldn’t eat when stressed. Alas, I am the opposite and if this carries on much longer the removal men may well be carrying me out of the house with the aid of a winch and pully system.

This is where the grown up, buried deep within me tells me it will all be OK, things will get sorted and it will all be worth it in the end. Good pep talk, now back to the stress headaches and lack of sleep.

In other house news, you may remember me mentioning weeks ago that Rebecca and Tom were house hunting? Well their purchase is progressing about as quickly as ours. Despite them being first time buyers moving into an empty property, they too are sat waiting for legal folks to collect various bits of paper before they can get in. What is the betting that we get the same moving in date. It’s one of those odd quirks of fate that I can see coming.

So, I could do with a holiday. To be honest, I’d settle for the knowledge that I was going to get one as planned. On that note, I still don’t have my refund from Virgin. After a full week of trying to extract some sense from their automated text system, I think I did get an actual human to respond, who just said they have referred it to a supervisor who will chase the refunds team and they can give no timescales. Well, I don’t know about you but that makes me feel loved and all warm and fuzzy inside. I am desperately trying not to take out my stress and frustration at other stuff out on someone just doing their job.

Let’s end with something not related to a global pandemic, the breakdown of democracy or my own petty little stresses about everyday life, shall we? Remember the old days when I would blog about holiday plans and food. Let’s take a small step back in that direction. This last week or so saw two new places open in Disney Springs. Gideons and Everglazed. The former is a cookie place and the latter, doughnuts. Those two acts in themselves have made the world a slightly better place. I have watched a vlog or two about Gideons and it looks great. The shop is wonderfully themed and the cookies look amazing. I did see that it had to temporarily close again but I am ignoring that for the time being in this hunt for normality.

One thing that really caught my eye was from Everglazed. Long time readers will know of my fascination and love for the Doughnut Burger at Teak, so something about that sweet and savoury mix pleases me greatly and along those lines I saw this…The Grilled Cheeeeeese

A grilled cheese sandwich on a doughnut seems all kinds of right to me. The article reviewing all the menu items, from which I pinched the image above can be read here. There’s nothing like a little bit of food porn to brighten your Sunday.

Let’s quit whilst we are ahead on that slightly positive note and reconvene next Sunday to see if I have had a stress-induced stroke.

Till the next time……

New Year, Snow Change

I’m probably not alone in feeling that 2021 is a little to similar to 2020 so far. After a very different Christmas and New Year, and mostly not for the better due to the current situation, we all slid into 2021 hopeful of better. It will take some time of course and luckily I am extremely patient and laid back so this is no problem.

I am fighting every urge in my ever-expanding body to not piss and moan about the abject and endless incompetence we are suffering on a daily basis from the government. The fact this paragraph exists suggests I have lost that fight. The latest goal post moving on the vaccine, along with the usual hokey cokey approach to policymaking around schools is just another apparent attempt to make this shit show last as long as possible. I know this is hard and unprecedented but we are ten months into this now. At some point, you have to wonder if those making decisions are just incapable of competence.

I know this isn’t the place you come for real-world stuff and political opinion but this is beyond politics now. Ultimately all this affects my ability to holiday and is relevant to the core focus of this blog, but before all that, we have to stop people dying.

Where is the communication? Why is all this vaccine uncertainty being allowed to gather momentum, cause confusion and undermine confidence in the only way out of this mess? Louise’s Mum is due to go back for her second jab on Tuesday. Or is she? At 89, with no internet access, her news sadly comes from the Daily Mail and the news on the telly. She literally has no clue whether she should keep her appointment. She hears that the second jab is perhaps now at 12 weeks but she has had no contact from her GP, who will no doubt be bombarded with incoming calls about this, giving them no chance to make any proactive calls to either reschedule or reassure those due to have their second dose.

Luckily, she has family who can try to find out for her, but what about the thousands of other octogenarians who don’t? This latest act of wilful neglect will cost lives and prolong the pandemic. My frustration is indescribable. Sigh………

Louise has worked for most of the festive period. This, alongside the six-figure salary, is one of the main perks of being a nurse. She has not enjoyed it. If you ever come across some comments online about the pandemic being over-exaggerated and the NHS being quiet and not struggling, please, do not believe it. Every day is a horror show, with staff constantly off ill or self-isolating, leaving those still standing to pick up the pieces and ever-increasing demand. Louise has finally been issued with some PCR rapid testing kits that she has to do twice a week. I’d like to slow hand clap that, as it’s only been the ten months that Louise has been working with COVID positive patients on a regular basis.

I blame my impending return to work for the unexpected ranting today.

House wise, almost everyone involved has had the audacity to take the whole of the festive period off. Imagine doing such a thing. So not a lot has happened. We have not started any of the packing we desperately need to do. It is just too hard and I suspect we will need the looming presence of a deadline to force us into action. Never had I wanted a day to be over more than the one on which we eventually move house. Over the Xmas break, we have had the results of our Home Buyer’s Report back from the surveyor. There are no show stoppers, but there are it appears about a million things that could go wrong and cause us issues at some point in the future. We are assuming this is the standard form of these things with the surveyor covering his arse just in case those aliens do land and sabotage our electrics and roof.

So as the working world wakes up again next week, I’ll be looking to get a decent update from our solicitor about how quickly we can now get this done. It feels like we have been “moving” forever and I just want to get that ominous cloud from over us.

In cheerier news, as is the law, I must report to you that we have had some snow over the last few days and for the first time ever, Freddie has been out playing in it. In his previous short years, he has either been too young or the snow has not been substantial enough. He loved it.

As for my weekly ever-changing moods on any chance of international travel, well, this week it has ebbed to a pretty low point, even for a mid-June departure. As the UK government continue to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, over in the US the outgoing abomination is determined to leave things as badly broken as possible to show his successor in the worst possible light. Add to that, the Florida governor, who is falsifying death rates and taking what could be politely called a “laid back” approach to vaccine distribution and that is not a recipe for the quick resumption of holidays to the US.

Virgin currently aspire to resume flights to Orlando on the 18th of March, but in a similar way I aspire to wear 30″ waist jeans. Right now, I’d settle for Virgin processing my promised refund from my altered booking that was “guaranteed” to be with me by the end of last year. I am currently in yet another endless wrestle with their infuriating automated text system.

At times I do wonder if I will just endlessly blog about a holiday that I constantly move back and never actually have. It’s a form of planner’s purgatory.

So it’s nice to start the new year in the right frame of mind I find. Happy New Year?

Till the next time…….

Rescued by Rennies

Greetings from the no man’s land of extra pounds, empty Quality Street wrappers and cheese and biscuits. For those like me, lucky enough to be off for the duration, these are the lost days and you are lucky (or unlucky) that I have remembered that today is Sunday.

Our 2020 style festivities were as lovely as they could be in the circumstances. We didn’t hug, we stayed as far away as possible from each other and the day was shorter than usual. Louise’s Mum was wrapped up and put next to a radiator to combat the breeze from the open window and the switch to a buffet, rather than a “sat down really close to each other” meal was great. Our fridge is still bulging with the leftovers. I think I should be able to stop onboarding Rennies by early March.

As the older generation left us to get “seckled” for Call The Midwife etc, those left ended the night with a disturbing game of Cards Against Humanity and a decent amount of alcohol.

Freddie of course had the time of his life, opening presents for about eight hours solid.

He still has a number of unwrapped presents boxed and pristine here which will need to be opened and played with whenever he can return. He was a little superstar all day as he always is (yes I am biased) and it was just lovely to spend that time with him.

Louise was working on Boxing Day so my day involved making Eggs Benedict for those not working, (it’s one of our little Christmas traditions) and a little bit of tidying. Our house was unrecognisable, buried under the chaos of the day before, so there was a little bit of reconstruction, but not too much as the exertions of the day before had taken its toll on my age ravaged body. I had a little play of one of my new PS4 games, which was 90% waiting for stuff to download and 10% playing.

So the last Christmas day (barring disasters) in our current house was a nice one, but I think it’s fair to say that we are all looking forward to all those to come in our new one. It is a bit bigger and more able to host what can hopefully be larger groups, with no restrictions in years to come.

A number of my gifts were new house related. Louise got me a lovely map of WDW to hang in what will be my office, along with a very good quality pair of proper Wellies as we are of course becoming landed gentry with a little chunk of land out the back of the new house. They will be essential for the walking of the dogs on it. Louise also put a huge amount of time and effort into finding an exact replica of Ryan the Rucksack. As the original is well over twenty years old then that is very impressive. We’ll now have two “Ryans” to travel with us. As if the OG is going to be retired!!

In the same vein, I got Louise a picture/painting she had admired in a shop we ordered our new couch from a few weeks ago. It will look lovely wherever Louise tells me to hang it in the new place.

One of Emily’s gifts was a large mirror for her new bedroom and Rebecca and Tom’s main gift was also new house-related, with us contributing to some improvements they want to make as soon as they move into their new place. It’s fair to say that we are all focussed on these new beginnings coming early in 2021.

The focus for me over the next week is one of recharging and relaxing if I can. I think there will need to be a start made to the packing up of stuff and with that in mind, we have been collecting boxes for weeks now. Many of those boxes have come from us trying one of these meal delivery services recently. We had fallen into the trap of eating the same meals every week, and as I got a healthy discount for a trial period via work, we gave it a go. So we’ve had some nice meals in recent weeks, which has been a lovely change and each cardboard box will be ideal for moving. They keep pestering me to recruit other folks to their service so if you were thinking about it you can get £20 off using my special code thing. Believe me, this is in no way sponsored. No bugger gives a toss about my blog enough to be giving me paid promotions.

I hope your Christmas was as good as it could be. I will improve it a little by putting a stop to this rambling drivel now. My brain is semi-disengaged and this post is proving that. By the time we meet again, 2020 will be behind us. I still think we have some tough times to endure in the early parts of the new year. I don’t think New Year’s Eve will be any form of an immediate watershed between bad and good (are they ever?) but let’s keep our fingers crossed that as we move into Spring and Summer, 2021 gives us back some form of normality.

Please accept best wishes for the new year from myself, Louise, Emily, Rebecca, Tom and Freddie and if there is one thing to cling to it is that the atrocity that is Mrs Brown’s Boys is now behind us. The only way is up.

Till the next time……

Tiers Of A Clown

Well, where to start? Perhaps with a genuine question. How are you doing?

If you just want to rant, have a moan, or just get off your chest how you are feeling, then feel free to do so in the comments here. It is very unlikely I’ll be able to help of course. I’m just a portly middle-aged bloke stumbling through all this like everyone else, but, as I find with Twitter, it can sometimes help just to get things off your chest.

Yesterday saw the year rounded off with a crescendo of incompetence. A tribute to the constant litany of dither, delay, and mixed messaging that has seen the UK spend the most per capita on the pandemic and still have the worst death rate in Europe and the worst economic outcome. It isn’t the measures that piss me off. I’m usually on the side of supporting measures designed to restrict the spread of the virus and will fight that corner in the trenches of the Facebook comments section on an ever more regular basis, but as ever, despite all evidence to the contrary, the government make announcements that they think will make them popular/less hated and then right at the last minute, snatch hope away from millions with a U-Turn and a reversal to a policy that was obviously the correct thing to do anyway.

I know this is an unprecedented situation, but it is for every government and every country and yet we still set new standards in ballsing it up on a daily basis. This latest last-minute U-Turn saw hundreds of folks at London train stations last night trying to head north, spreading that lovely new strain of the disease to the parts of the country that currently aren’t seeing too much of it.

Being relatively unscathed by yesterday’s nonsense, sitting here in a consistent Tier 3 for weeks, I can only send sympathies to anyone who has just had their plans ruined at the last minute. If we had locked down longer and harder in the last few weeks to prepare for Christmas, and done a whole host of other things that would not have thrown away the relatively solid situation we were in during the summer, things may have been different again. That may have allowed some sort of Christmas. How much easier would coming to terms with just one day of limited relaxing of restrictions for Christmas have been had we known weeks ago? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, but there have been experts saying this for weeks now. How often can you consistently make the wrong calls?

All we can do I think is cling to the hope of the vaccine that is being rolled out and the others that will hopefully be approved shortly to save us from further acts of incompetence. As of yesterday, I believe 350,000 people have had their first jab. Of course, the Health Minister promised “millions would be vaccinated by the end of the year”, but I think we just need to ignore this sort of stuff now and just see how things pan out.

On that subject, last Tuesday I took Louise’s Mum for her first jab. Mary is in her late eighties now and as is your absolute right at the age, has some pre-existing conditions. These have meant that lockdown has been pretty grim for her. So she called her GP to make sure she was one of the first in line, so off we went.

I was very impressed with the setup, to be honest. It was incredibly well organised with a mixture of clinical staff and volunteers corralling lots of old people into the various stages of the process. There was, and I know this sounds odd, a nice atmosphere. One of community spirit, pulling together and finally hitting back against the virus. It was great to see the place so busy, full of people doing their part in trying to get us out of this mess. In the interests of balance, from my limited experience, it is being executed efficiently and quickly and if that is the case, the government deserve credit for that.

Mary has to go back, three weeks to the day, for her second jab and then will be “protected” about a week or so after that. I am of course no expert on any of this, but I do try to read as much stuff as I can from trusted sources, and I came across an article that gave me some comfort and encouragement last week, so I clung to it like a drowning man to a raft. I offer you the same raft here.

It said something like if we vaccinate the over 75’s, which is about 9% of the population, then, based on the demographic of deaths we’ve seen so far, they estimate the death rate would reduce by about 70%. This would protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, which has always been the government’s main aim (they say), and that may well then allow many of the restrictions to be lifted. With younger folks much more able to get the virus, have a few shitty days and not go and die, then life may be able to edge back towards normality. I know people of all ages have died of this thing, but I’m talking generally of an approach that may see us escape most of the worst restrictions before the summer. Not just for the sake of our holiday, which seems more irrelevant than ever right now, but I hope that is the case because it really is something we’ve all now had enough of I’m sure.

In what has been a busy news week, the virus made an appearance in our little world last week too. Tom tested positive last Tuesday, along with his Mum and his brother, who all work together. This was not good news, and it meant all of us went into a period of isolation as we had seen Tom, masked and socially distanced when helping out with Freddie. We all had tests and thankfully, nobody else returned a positive result and we hope it stays that way. Tom has since had a negative test result.

At the same time, my brother messaged me to let me know his wife had tested positive too. Thankfully, she and Tom were not seriously ill with it and it is just a case of riding it out. This entire thing is, as they say, a shit show. Our collective isolations end around the 22nd or 23rd of December, and with us all testing negative and pretty much self-isolating between now and Christmas Day, we plan to stick to the Tier 3 rules of three households briefly getting together.

To make the gathering as safe as possible we have abandoned plans for a sit-down meal, replacing it with a buffet. Windows will be opened as per the advice, and folks shall be distanced, banned from hugging and generally told to stay away from each other. Is it the right thing to do? I have no idea. We have taken every precaution to make sure we are all negative, made the set up of the day as safe as possible and balanced the risks against the prospect of seeing mine and Louise’s parents sat on their own on Christmas Day, as they have for pretty much every day since March.

I know it is hardly worthy of any consideration right now, but on the subject of our frequently rearranged holiday, it appears I was right to move it when I did. When you are right as seldom as I am, I will bask just a little to say that I have started seeing posts in the various Disney Facebook groups about flight operators now cancelling flights for March and beyond. Having already gone through the pain of the reschedule, I’m pleased I don’t need to worry about that….yet. June is by no means guaranteed of course, more now than ever.

It seems trite to wish you a Merry Christmas as I cannot fathom where everyone’s head is at right now. Make the best of it you can, do take up my offer of having a rant and a moan if it will help and let’s just hope things get better as quickly as possible. As pissed off and bored as you might be, and lacking in faith that all and any government advice is not worth listening to, adhering to the basic rules as much as possible will accelerate that so I hope you can and will.

All the best to you all from myself and the family. x

Till the next time…….

I Should Be So Lucky……

As the week has gone on, the number of pricks all over the news has increased. But, I promised myself I would never blog about Brexit, so instead let me celebrate the start of the vaccine rollout. Indeed, Louise’s Mum is off to get her first dose next Tuesday. So after her second jab and a brief waiting-period, she should be “sorted” in early to mid-January. As much as she will need to remain vigilant, it should allow her to leave the house, which is something she has only done a handful of times since March.

I think it is fair to say that she is over the whole pandemic thing and has moved beyond stir crazy. So it shouldn’t be too long before she can re-enter the world and do crazy things like join us for Sunday tea. Hopefully, my Mum & Dad won’t be too far behind as they too are very much done with the whole thing.

As 2020 staggers towards its end, I begin my countdown to finishing work for my traditional extended Christmas break. One week people, just five little days until I get two weeks away from work. Technically, with my “desk” being the dining room table it means that I won’t be away from it at all, but I am looking forward to not having to join any video calls for a good period of time. I say this with full recognition that I am not digging ditches or saving lives, but I am knackered and in need of some down time.

Louise has Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off which is a nice change from recent years and she too is in need of a break, much more than I am, I would imagine. I can’t share with you some of the horrific incidents and fluids she deals with on a daily basis. If you knew, you’d immediately support a quadrupling of nurse’s salaries just to never hear of them again. To prevent Louise from spending her two days off shopping and cooking we have ordered in a buffet for Christmas Day. Most of us would prefer the more traditional sit down do with all the trimmings but, knowing how much time and effort goes into making that most years, we have decided not to play that game this year and be kind to ourselves.

So the plan is that sometime after lunch we lay out the buffet and let the very few folks in attendance graze at their leisure for however long they wish. As a double bonus, it should also reduce the amount of stuff to cram into the dishwasher and instead we can settle down to watch the glorious array of delights scheduled on the telly for the big night. I mean who doesn’t want to sit back and watch Call The Midwife and Mrs Brown’s Boys? In normal circumstances, I would sneer with derision at the numpties and their “Defund the BBC” nonsense, but looking at their output for the festive period, I could be tempted.

In the interests of balance, ITV does not escape my wrath. What, in the name of national lobotomy, is “The Real Full Monty On Ice”? How are we still being force-fed the endless rehashing of the “minor celeb learns a new skill” format? There are a species of “celebrities” that no longer actually do anything, apart from appearing on this endless round of gravy trains. Having said that, they are the showbiz elite compared to the dregs of society that appear on nothing but “Celebs Go Dating” abominations. I’m looking at you Callum Best. He is now in his mid-fifties (surely) and should know better. The other ex-Love Island desperados are perhaps understandably seeking out their six minutes of pseudo fame in the hope of getting a Misguided discount code named after them, but it should all be set on fire and replaced with the test card. Anyway….

A good few weeks ago we did hold out a very slim hope of getting into our new house for Christmas. It would have been lovely as it is a house seemingly purposely built to host the festivities, (not that we could actually host very many folks this year of course) but the glacial speed of solicitors, surveys and searches put paid to those hopes some time ago. Our buyer is ready now, but we are still some way off being so, as our searches seem to be being undertaken by Bob Cratchet with a quill and parchment, rather than in the 21st Century using the technology available to all. I’ll say it again, how can the process of house buying and selling still be so slow in 2020?

In better house news, you may remember me mentioning some weeks ago that Rebecca and Tom were also house hunting. Their struggles to board the property ladder have been enormous, but it does look like they are almost there. They have found a house, had an offer accepted and just last week, after jumping through more hoops than an agility dog, had their mortgage approved. It’s testament to their determination and hard work that two folks of that age can make that happen. They will almost certainly be in before we are, hopefully very early in the New Year.

So inevitably, at this time of year, thoughts turn to the future, as if the transition from one day to another at the end of December is actually that significant. This year, more than most, I suppose everyone will have high hopes for the year to come. That is of course based mainly on the absolute shit show that has been 2020. For us, as I’ve said a few times, we have been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. Thankfully Emily and I work for a brilliant company that is run extremely well and we have been protected from any financial impact. Louise of course is more in demand than ever, but she has had an incredibly busy and stressful last nine months. Nursing is always like that, but the dial has been spun a few times since March.

Rebecca works in a nursery, at our local hospital, so has had a busy time looking after the children of all the folks working in the hospital, so again has not suffered any risk of losing any income but has had a busy time. Tom has been broadly unaffected. He works for a company that designs and builds windows, bi-folds and conservatories etc and they have seen demand go off the scale. So for all my moaning, I know we’ve been lucky.

So for next year, some more of that luck would be good, with a lot less pandemic, so that Louise’s job may become close to tolerable at some point, and with a large dollop of holiday right in the middle of it. Hopefully starting the year in a new house, in a new town is an exciting prospect which lays down a marker for a new standard of good stuff coming our way.

Look at all that positivity and gratefulness. Don’t worry you are at the right blog. I am just (apart from on Twitter) ignoring the elephant in the room that is coming on January 1st at the hands of the idiots in charge. You will not find an equivalent act of national self-harm in modern history and I cannot fathom any upside whatsoever. Sigh.

So with loins girded for one last push of the grindstone, I shall see you here next week for the start of the festivities. For anyone not enjoying an extended break or any of the luck I have described above, I wish you well and hope things improve quickly for you.

Till the next time…..

Another Damn Plan

When you’ve been writing a weekly blog post since 2009, it can be challenging at times to come up with content. Lord knows you know that. Some weeks I wouldn’t read it, and I wrote it!

However, living through a pandemic that is playing havoc with travel plans is, oddly, a blessing in that department. The same trip has now given me three iterations of the plan that I can share with you. You didn’t care about the first two, but if you think that will stop me sharing the third then I’m not sure I can help you.

I often find that sharing it here helps me to visualise it more clearly than when it is just in my spreadsheet. What? You don’t have a spreadsheet for your holiday? I’m not sure we can be friends.

So here we go, with the third time’s a charm plan for my 50th birthday trip (yes, that is still a thing).

Day One 14th June – Travel

Sigh, how I miss and yearn for that morning at the airport buzz. I’m all new trainers and gassy excitement, happy to pay £30 for an average breakfast and sit in a metal tube for almost nine hours.

We are scheduled to take off at 10.30, so that will mean we will taxi down the runway sometime after 11. We are still flying Virgin (hang in there, we are all counting on you!) and we are in something called Economy Delight on the way out. I do wonder if any aspect of flying Economy can be a “Delight”, but we’ll see I suppose.

We are scheduled to land at 14:30 US time. My original car hire booking with Us Rent A Car had to change as our new dates saw their price double. How I laughed. It was cheaper to cancel that and lose the £50 deposit and go elsewhere, so our Full-Size SUV awaits us.

The big change at this point is that we will head straight to Universal. As we are on a hedonistic 16-day trip (but no so hedonistic that I would pay for anything other than a 14-day WDW ticket), we cannot enter a Disney park for the first couple of days as that would mean the 14 days would be up before we got to the end of the holiday and if we are not in Magic Kingdom weeping on our last day then have we even had a holiday?

So we need to keep our WDW powder dry. We have two nights booked at the Hard Rock Hotel. We will arrive all sweaty and tired, check-in, and head to City Walk for dinner. As an added bonus, we don’t have to unpack as we’ll be moving again in a day or two, so after a quick stock up on waters etc for the room we can go eat. The first restaurant of our trip will be Cowfish. The Cheeseburgerooshi is one of the most pleasant things to enter my mouth. It is delicious and I know I will be having that….and a pudding.

Full and tired we shall retire to bed.

Day Two 15th June – IOA

Hopefully, rising early we shall be at the park for rope drop and make full use of our front of line access. If I go into as much detail for every day as I did for the travel day we’ll be here till next week so let’s keep it brief.

We plan to eat at City Walk again, at Antojitos.

Day Three 16th June – Universal Studios

We will have checked out nice and early, stored the cases somewhere and be off for another day in a Universal theme park. Once we’re done, we will hopefully have dinner at Teak as it is up in that neck of the woods, and then check into our villa, having done a supermarket run to stock up on essentials.

Day Four – 17th June – Magic Kingdom

We might need a rest day ideally here, but how long do you think we can wait to get into a Disney park? Adrenaline and jet lag, with lots of coffee and calories, will get us through I’m sure.

Dinner plans involve an ADR at Ohana should it be open and should we be able to secure one.

Day Five – 18th June

A rest day for heaven’s sake. We shall do some of that at Typhoon Lagoon. A day for some skin crisping and lying down.

Dinner is another step in our relentless calorie quest, tonight at The Cheesecake Factory.

Day Six – 19th June

Epcot at last. How I have missed this place. We will probably focus on Future World, whatever is left of it now, trying to bag the big rides.

Dinner plans are Italian at Via Napoli and who knows, maybe some fireworks.

Day Seven – 20th June

Hollywood Studios, getting frustrated at not being able to ride Rise of the Resistance. Dinner at Bahama Breeze.

Day Eight – 21st June

Amazingly I only have half-formed plans at this stage. I have it as either Magic Kingdom or Volcano Bay. It’ll probably firm up as we get closer or who knows I may leave it fast and loose and we can just decide how we feel the night before. Madness!

Whatever we do, dinner intentions are firm at Homecomin’, should we be able to get an ADR of course.

Day Nine – 22nd June

Animal Kingdom. We will return to Tiffin’s for lunch on one of our AK days as we loved it last time, but I don’t know if that will be this day. Crazy! However, we ALWAYS do Yak & Yeti for dinner.

Day Ten – 23rd June

For my birthday, I was given a night at the Beach Club. It is my favourite resort. We will be staying here today, enjoying the resort and pool(s) as a rest day. We might do a character breakfast at Cape May and there’s a strong chance we will wander into Epcot after dark for some World Showcase action. Dinner plans are Cantina De San Angel.

Day Eleven – 24th June

A proper Epcot day, tidying up any missed rides and getting around World Showcase. Dinner plans are mainly bread at Sanaa.

Day Twelve – 25th June

Back to Hollywood Studios to continue the frustration about not riding Rise of the Resistance. Dinner is off-site today at Olive Garden. Bring me the breadsticks!

Day Thirteen – 26th June

We are off to spend the weekend at the beach. Vero Beach to be precise. It’ll be an early start so that Louise can be prone on the sand by the time the sun rises. Dinner will be at the resort. I think it’s called Wind and Waves.

Day Fourteen – 27th June

More beach, more sunburn and probably a lot more calories. Not sure where we will eat. Hit me up (sorry!) if you have any suggestions for good places close to Vero please.

Day Fifteen – 28th June

Checkout from Vero, Louise will cry all the way back to Orlando and the intention is to go to Animal Kingdom. Dinner is tentatively planned for Romano’s Macaroni Grill at Lake Buena Vista. We had a break of a good few years from eating there but returned last year. It was awesome.

Day Sixteen – 29th June

Our last full day so you know where we will be. Assuming these things are back on, we *may* make Fantasmic over at DHS our farewell show. The MK fireworks, now not being Wishes, haven’t yet captured us, so as the last remaining “traditional” nighttime spectacular that may see us head over there, for tears and dread of the return home.

Day Seventeen – 30th June

We have a late flight home at around 7pm, so the day will be spent frantically packing, onboarding life-threatening amounts of food, probably some Disney Springs and then admitting defeat with a drive to the airport. We are flying home in Premium, so that’ll make up for having to come home right?

For the love of all things holy and not, please let this bloody thing happen. If for no other reason that you can’t go through another change of dates. It will break you.

Till the next time……

We March To June

I am not, it may shock to you learn, a “wait and see” kind of guy. One thing I am not blessed with is a laissez-faire, let things unfold attitude. Things escalate quickly with me, and after digesting the news and implications of the vaccine announcements last week, it became obvious to me very quickly that the 1st of March was going to be too soon. I suspect that the act of writing my thoughts down in last week’s post actually helped me to process all the information and options. So, yes, you guessed it, here we are, with this holiday rearranged again, on its third set of dates.

Why did I come to the conclusion that March wasn’t happening? Well, my thinking is….

  1. Our government seem to be suggesting that Easter 2021 will be a reasonable timeframe to vaccinate most of the vulnerable folks and begin relaxing restrictions etc. That’s April at best.
  2. Biden won’t have a chance to do much until late January so the US vaccine rollout will probably be worse and not better/quicker than ours.
  3. Even if borders are open for March, it would (in my view) still see theme parks with mask policies and that’s not ideal especially with a three-year-old who won’t understand why he is being forced to wear one.

So, I began the initial investigatory work on new dates in earnest early last week. The real push to do so actually came from a blog reader and long time Dibber/Disney associate, Matt, who contacted me after last week’s blog. He noted that I had said our current villa would not be available for any dates next year should we need to rearrange the trip again and he kindly suggested that his villa might be suitable. It just so happens that when he sent me the link, his villa was a gorgeous and glorious affair, very close to where our last booking was.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself a little. At that point, I had defaulted to our usual late August range of dates. I’m not sure why. I guess my inner diva wanted my birthday in WDW, having been denied it last year and we have just always gone at that time. After chatting with all members of our travelling party though, for reasons I won’t trouble you with, those dates may not have been ideal for various plans already in place for 2021.

So after discussion, it was suggested we look at earlier dates in the summer. So we needed a time that was far enough away that things may be somewhere adjacent to normal but close enough to avoid the reasons that late August wouldn’t suit some of us.

Typically for me, within minutes of that discussion, I was a whirling dervish of planning, spreadsheets, google searches and waiting to speak to Virgin. I was a little upset to see that US school kids are on holiday in June, but a little research suggested June was not as busy as July and early August. To be honest, I think all bets are off for what counts as busy for 2021 once things start to free up a bit.

I was a multi-tasking, multiple chat window planning animal. I had the usual chuckle whilst Virgin tried to tell me the price of our new flights, as they had apparently more than doubled for the first dates I suggested to them. It almost made the 90 minutes on hold worthwhile. A couple more tries with dates and a play around with cabins on a few dates saw new flights secured for less than the ones we had booked in March, so I’ll be getting a nice refund once they process that, so most likely it’ll hit my bank account just before next Christmas.

A quick request to Matt to change his quoted dates from August to June for the villa and that was secured too. So, before I get into any more details, I will share our new villa here, as everyone likes looking at Florida villas, don’t they? Here’s a random room from it.

I have taken the opportunity to start from scratch with the plan. There are some radical new ideas and approaches being taken for reasons I will share with you even though you don’t care. Those crazy new ideas have also been joined by something of a greatest hits element, with us somehow squeezing more into the time we are there and going back to some of our favourite hotels.

We will still be staying at the Hard Rock, and Louise and I will still get our night at the Beach Club that I was given for my birthday. The most radical change, breaking the unbreakable law that you have to be in Magic Kingdom on your first day is that we will begin our holiday at the Hard Rock. When working through the change of dates, I spotted a huge flaw in my original plan and that was that our 14-day WDW tickets would run out a day too soon if we went to a Disney park on the first day of our trip. So I had to go left field and have us go directly to Universal from the airport for two nights there, enjoying Front of Line access to everything.

From there we check into our villa and begin our time at the Disney parks. Our one night at the Beach Club slots in nicely in the middle of the trip and then, in a real quart and pint pot extravaganza, I have somehow shoehorned in two nights at the beach towards the end of our trip. This is always popular with sun-worshipper Louise but we all know that Freddie will also love time on the beach and a couple of days of not having to be somewhere at set times will be welcome for all.

I had toyed with the likes of Clearwater, St Pete’s and Cocoa Beach, but like a tractor beam built of familiarity and reliable quality, Vero Beach pulled us in, with our resistance being futile. We haven’t been there for many years and it will be lovely to go back.

So, having skipped this crucial detail so far, our new dates see us departing on the 14th of June and returning on the 30th of June 2021. Come on vaccine….do your thing and get us to some state of normality by then. I am missing WDW very badly indeed and need some incentive to shed some lockdown pounds too.

At this point, I just want a holiday that actually happens. I still don’t feel totally confident that even these dates will go ahead yet, but hopefully, as we move through the winter and spring, with lots of folks getting the jab, restrictions will fall away and life can begin again. As much as I do enjoy and (if I may say so) excel at planning all this stuff, having done so three times now, I do need the actual release of having the holiday at the end of it. Let’s have a collective crossing of fingers for this and everyone else’s upcoming trips.

Till the next time……

A Pandemic Prick

As a fully-fledged, badge-wearing social media keyboard warrior, armed with nothing more than an opinion and a mood swing, I often attempt to put the world to rights. It doesn’t look like it’s working, to be honest, but whichever omnipresent being you subscribe to loves a trier.

Similarly, when I look back at the content of these posts each week since the pandemic started, I have contradicted myself more frequently than a government press conference. Theories and thoughts about how this pandemic will play out, specifically, relating to my ever so important holiday, have been a pick ‘n’ mix of ever-changing word vomit. This week shall be no different of course, but I feel better about things when I demonstrate a least a soupcon of self-awareness.

With the ever encouraging news around vaccines, it finally looks as though there may be an end to all this. It will be a more welcome prick than all the others we have endured so far in this pandemic, myself included.

With that news, I have of course, outside of proper worrying about real, important things, been applying these new facts to our holiday and how it all fits together. To keep true to form, I am literally having arguments with myself, simultaneously getting excited because March isn’t very far away now and fretting about how hard it will be to rearrange everything for late summer as March will absolutely not happen.

I try to keep informed as best anyone can with zero actual qualifications and knowledge on a subject so here, let me present the cases for both as they are forming in my mind.

  1. It won’t happen

The vaccine will probably start to get deployed in December. You need two jabs, a month apart and then there is another 14-day waiting period until you are “immune”. That alone takes us deep into February even for the first to be jabbed to be sorted out and then before any form of serious relaxation of restrictions for anything can be relaxed, including non-essential travel, it will need to be seen that these steps are keeping the level of daily deaths down to “normal” levels and hospitals aren’t busy with COVID patients.

The above only really applies to the UK of course. Many of you will have gathered that I have little faith in any competence being displayed in anything COVID related by our current government. Surely….surely they cannot mess up the vaccine rollout? It is literally the thing they have been praying for which will allow them to not have to focus all their time on the pandemic and get back to their routine agenda of punishing the poor, destroying our relationship with Europe, enriching their friends, removing our freedom of movement and intentionally making us all poorer because they don’t like foreigners.

However, we also have to consider the US in this equation. With the soundly beaten former President barricading himself into the Oval Office and his golf cart, refusing to allow a smooth transition, this incredibly and unforgivably will have an impact on the speed and efficiency of the US rollout of a vaccine. Assuming Biden can’t do much until the orange one is dragged from the White House in late January, then their timescales are inevitably pushed back. It’s not a question of course of whether the parks will be open, as they already are, but of course, more crucially are US borders open to us and then as a special bonus point, are the parks able to stop insisting on masks and social distancing.

I put it to you, m’lud, that all of the above result in us having to move stuff again.

2. It will happen

The aviation and travel industry are on their knees. As soon as the most vulnerable start to get immunised, then the rest of us can be a bit less careful and social distancing rules could be relaxed and things can start to open up again. These industries will be crying out for help and the earliest possible resumption of their normal schedules. As long as the most at risk are taken care of, and advised to continue to self isolate until their vaccine is effective then economies may return to some form of normality.

A member of Sage, the medical folks, not the accounting software, today has suggested that in the UK, early Spring could see the “lockdown” stuff being relaxed as the most vulnerable are vaccinated.

Could it be that our departure date, being the 1st of March and a signal that winter is over, be the actual date flights resume and we are on the first flight out to MCO, cheering, waving and being greeted at Orlando by cheerleaders and Joe Biden?

I rest my case(s).

On balance, the former seems to outweigh the latter if I am honest. The 1st of March just seems too close for everything to fall into place. As much as I like planning and booking stuff, the pain of doing so again fills me with dread and a foreboding of more expense as there is always more expense.

I already know our villa isn’t available for the rough dates we might like to move to and I am also filled with the horror of how busy everything might be in the late summer if things are normalish. I cannot cancel our villa and book another one now as I would lose the hefty deposit we have paid until travel is confirmed as not possible of course. Flight availability, a lack of decent villas and crowded parks are just the tip of anxiety iceberg.

As ever, these are trivial issues in a non-trivial situation, but hey, I need something to blog about right? It hasn’t helped (you) that the last week was a complete non-event house move wise, with no news, drama or updates to moan about. On that note, thanks for all the lovely comments and messages last week about our intended new home. Thank you for at least attempting to limit your eye rolls and disdain for the distasteful boasting. Once we’re in let’s have a blog reader house warming party. All three of you can stay over too.

Till the next time…….

C*ntry House

As the great poet and philosopher George Formby said, it turned out nice again. In what is and has been par for the course in Mkingdon land since our time on earth began, drama, crisis and faff are the currency in which we trade and somehow, inexplicably, often things turn out OK. There are many times they don’t of course, but let’s not go there.

I ended last week’s post with a minor fib. Forgive me. For those of you who can’t remember, didn’t read it, or really don’t care, let me remind you that I dropped a subtle hint of some upcoming kerfuffle with the purchase of our new house.

The seller, some five weeks after accepting our offer, still had not found anywhere to move to. This was causing our buyer and their buyer some concern and they were applying a lot of pressure to us to come up with some progress towards a moving date. Our seller also refused to even contemplate moving into rented accommodation to preserve the chain.

I get it. They were downsizing and finding it hard to find something that didn’t feel like a shoebox compared to their home of the last few decades, but it did not solve our issues and protect us from losing our buyer. We had looked at renting, but everything was a six-month minimum term and our menagerie of pets would have restricted our options to a field or a shipping container.

After several chats with our estate agent last week, their advice was to give our seller a deadline and start to keep an eye on what else was on the market as a Plan B, just in case. Unbeknownst to them (and Louise) I already had said plan B in my locker in the shape of a house I saw come onto the market just after we had our offer accepted on the original house. I had put it to the back of my mind, happy with our choice but as this situation developed I have to admit to looking at it, wondering if it were still available and half wishing the purchase might fall through so we could consider it.

So last Saturday morning I planted that seed in Louise’s mind. By 3pm, we were inside it (the house, not Louise’s mind) having a look around and by about 3.05 we were both exchanging knowing looks, certain that this had to be ours.

So taking our usual measured and considered approach, as we drove home from the viewing we phoned and made our offer. The vendor wanted time to think and would let us know on Monday. So you see dear reader, I knew all this last week but did not want to tempt fate or jump any guns by sharing it with you all.

The thing that sealed the deal for us was that the vendor had no onward chain. He has already bought a new house and is close to completing on that, so any issues with them finding somewhere to go were solved.

Monday came and as we had not heard by 11am I of course chased them up. What is it with people? Just do it. There followed a fairly intense day of negotiations and faff, resulting in an accepted offer at around 4.50pm, leaving me precious little time to inform estate agents and other interested folks.

We did feel bad about pulling out of the previous purchase, but, from their reaction, it feels like we did them a favour. They have “other stuff” going on in their lives, since agreeing to sell, and apologised for the lack of progress, wished us well and said they would take theirs off the market and come back to it next year. So we didn’t feel so bad after that.

What then followed was a week of very heavy admin, amending mortgage applications and informing solicitors to get everything moved over to the new house. Most of that is now done and so we now just wait for the survey, conveyancing and all the other stuff to happen before we can move. The estimated timeline seems to be January at the earliest.

Louise and I are both happier with the new place if I am honest. It is slightly further away from our current location, more rural, which is nice, bigger, better and just more suitable for our needs by quite some distance. Crucially, unlike the other house, Louise cannot think of any major works that it requires, so that’s just peachy.

It’s an old converted farmhouse and has retained a fair bit of land with it. It is a type and standard of house that we did not expect to ever be able to get, but for (almost) the same price as the other one, it seems we can, due to it being outside of our current location which carries a high premium due to the local schools. We care not one jot about schools at this point in our lives so that extra ten to fifteen minutes to get back to see our parents is worth every mile.

I do shudder at the thought of how braggy and crass all this is, and it makes me very uncomfortable (hence the title of this post) but you get all sorts shared here, the good and the bad, so I can only apologise.

So with another apology for the hideous nature of all this, here are some photos.

I’m looking forward to being a bit more out in the sticks and the dogs will love the extra outdoor space. So by feeling more genuinely excited about this new property than the previous one, I take from that it is meant to be and it, as I said at the beginning, turned out nice again.

Enough vomit inducing not so humble bragging. Let’s move on to vaccines and holidays.

The news of a vaccine coming within weeks was welcome of course. Many will have concerns about having it which is fair enough, but hopefully, it is a major step towards some form of normality. Looking at the rollout schedule, Louise will be eligible early doors I think as a health care worker, with the rest of our family then being fairly close to the end of the queue, so I don’t think this will rescue our March holiday if I am honest. Whether, once the most vulnerable are done, travel is opened up, I, of course, have no clue, but my thinking right now is that we’ll be more likely to be able to go in the late summer, when there’s a fair chance that most folks will have had the chance to have the vaccine and we may be able to move away from masks in the parks and social distancing.

Knowing Disney and their understandably risk averse nature, those two things may take longer still, but hearing about their recently announced losses, I would imagine they are very keen to get back to full capacity and no restrictions too.

However all that shakes out, it does seem that in the next six months or so, the worst of this may be behind us and that is at least some hope to cling to. The only trouble is, the longer we wait to go on holiday, the more airline seats I will have to book to cope with my work from home, lockdown inactivity ever-expanding girth which is accelerating at an alarming rate. How much are those ECVs to get around the parks? This whole thing has confirmed my thinking that it has only been WDW holidays and the fact that I had to leave the house to go to the office that has stopped me from eating myself to death.

I did ten minutes of gentle exercise yesterday and almost had to go to A & E. The long journey back to my legendary athletic build may be a long one, but as we get back to being able to look forward to stuff it may keep me honest and on it, which since March I have absolutely not been.

Till the next time……

Un-Presidented Joy

I’m Craig Williams, in Bolton and THIS is CNN.

What a surreal week it has been. Not that I have missed a moment of work to do so, but I have watched CNN for about five days straight. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing. It has been its own parallel universe of interactive maps and incredulity at how long it takes to count votes. If nothing else, my geographical knowledge of America has increased by about 3000%.

Before this week I have dipped into CNN from time to time. If I screw up my eyes really tight and eat something that tastes of cinnamon, I can almost imagine I am in Florida whilst doing so. This week though felt like a week of holding my breath. This won’t be a political rant but, it was nice to exhale yesterday when the result was confirmed. I know little about Biden and have no idea if he will be a great President or not. In my view, it doesn’t matter who replaced Trump, just that somebody did. The rest can be worked on.

Getting back to the recent core focus of this blog, and whether we will be able to go on holiday at some point on the future, will this change make that any more or less likely? I have no clue. I’m an increasingly overweight alleged middle manager in a northern backwater and my insight into global pandemics is not something I would include on my CV.

I was really encouraged to see one of the first things Biden announced was his intention to at least have a go at sorting things out. He was taking briefings on the virus even whilst waiting for the results and has now said he is going to set up a task force to tackle it. The pleasing change is that it will be led by actual experts and scientists. That’s got to beat trying to ignore it, right?

Whether that will mean the timeframe for the US opening up to overseas tourists will be closer or further away is anyone’s guess. If they make a significant difference quickly then it may open up the borders, or if they know they have to play it safe and keep things closed for longer then it may not. Either way, I still suspect our March 1st departure is unlikely right now and we may have to go through the pain and expense of rearranging one more time.

I’m strangely sanguine about it and will just be happy for the adults to have a go at sorting it. If only the UK would take the same approach. The latest update there is that the £12bn test and trace system is currently managing to contact about 60% of people exposed to the virus. You can’t go to the pub, cinema or see your elderly parents but your kid is sat with 30 others in a small unventilated room with no mask. I for one cannot understand why we sit in the foreboding shadow of a second wave.

This very strange “Que sera sera” attitude towards a WDW trip is very unlike me and I suppose the intense focus on the house move is probably responsible for giving me something else to fret and obsess about. Perhaps once that is sorted I will be back to rocking in a corner listening to the Epcot Futureworld loop music.

As there is literally no better use of your ears (other than listening to O Canada) then I will point you at this. It is just ten hours of Epcot loop music, but you can always just start it again when it finishes.

Should we have to move the trip again, then I suspect we would move it to late summer, to pretty much a year after we should have been there. That’s a kick in the guts, but for my sanity’s sake let’s hope things are normal enough to do fun things again. Heaven knows how heavy the crowds are going to be whenever that happens. I’m not saying we won’t be there, enjoying the fact that we can jostle shoulder to shoulder with other folks to get a decent view of the fireworks, but I do think the park reservation system will stay for a while to cope with something other than the limited capacity due to a pandemic. With the prospect of the parks hitting full capacity for some time once restrictions are no longer needed, that would make sense. It’s far from ideal of course, but right now, that’s a step forward.

House wise, there is a sniff of some kerfuffle on the horizon as our seller still hasn’t found anywhere to go and is refusing to contemplate going into rented accommodation to save the chain. It’s been a month since they accepted our offer and we and the rest of the chain below us are all some way down the road now in terms of conveyancing and surveys etc so we are starting to apply some pressure (nicely) as there is a risk that buyers below us in the chain may get tired of waiting and look elsewhere, seeing the whole thing crash down. We have some options and tactics to pursue as next week begins so stay tuned for a bit more stress and hassle.

For those of you who know how well I deal with uncertainty, it will not be a surprise to you that the house and holiday situation are causing me stress, heartburn and a lack of sleep. To once again highlight the cruel injustice of the world, where some people see higher stress levels as a route to weight loss, it would appear my body needs triple its normal calorie intake to cope. This may not end well.

Till the next time……

Three, Is The Magic Number

I know this place is normally a constant source of joy, happiness, positivity and delight, but even I, the master of all those things am struggling not to stare down the barrel of winter’s gun and think, well, it’s all a bit shit isn’t it.

I could pap on about how dreadful infection and death rates are going to be over the winter and how the government until yesterday were using their “cross their fingers and hope it goes away” strategy to save us all, and what dreadful effects the new lockdown might have on the economy. As much as I am critical of the handling of this pandemic I do recognise the challenge of balancing the economy with the nation’s health. Add to all that the fact that nobody is seeing their Aunt Mabel this Christmas, which depending on your Aunt Mabel, might be a positive, I don’t know. Instead, well, frankly anything instead of that would probably be better received.

Well, let’s see, this week, some more Cast Members were laid off….nope, can’t do that……

How about America’s infection rates setting new records this week and hospitals there starting to become overwhelmed again so holidays seem a forlorn hope….nope…..not that either….

Erm, ah, of course, there is a beacon of joy and reason to be happy this week in the shape and form of my favourite little friend Freddie. He turns three tomorrow. Yep, three. Rebecca and Tom have taken him away for the weekend, having checked all of the relevant COVID rules etc, to Peppa Pig Land for a special Halloween celebration of his big day. I’m so pleased they got to celebrate with him before we go back into lockdown.

Here he is on Friday morning, ready for his Halloween party at nursery.

Because I am not doing negative things in this post I am not allowed to tell you how absolutely gutted we are that we weren’t able to take him to WDW last August and probably still won’t be able to in March, to blow his little mind with all the awesome stuff we could do. That will come I guess, so I won’t moan about that.

Hopefully, he is having a great time and we will see him tomorrow night for his birthday and the giving of presents. He is such a welcome and constant beam of light and happiness in our lives and for that, I am properly grateful.

Since I last mentioned him here he has mastered the potty thing, had about half a dozen different obsessions (currently it is Halloween, robots and dinosaurs, the latter being a constant for a while) and every time we see him, things are just that little bit better.

House wise, no news is being classed as good news right now. We await the survey on our new house to be done, which will hopefully get the mortgage approved and then we can start chasing solicitors to get stuff done asap. Hopefully, the latest lockdown won’t hamper progress too much. Whilst the process isn’t great, both in terms of the paperwork side of things and the horrors of decluttering which we are in the midst of, we are looking forward to the change, a new house and with it, a little more room, comfort and good things, which right now, are the gold nuggets we are all digging for.

During said painful decluttering, in our cellar, which was a museum to our past life, I came across a USB memory stick. Before ruthlessly throwing it out as I am doing with 90% of the stuff down there, I risked plugging it into the laptop to see what was on it. At some point in the past, I seem to have shoved a load of old analogue photographs onto it, including most of them from our 1980 “first-ever” Florida holiday. You’ve seen a good few so I’ll leave those for another time. Instead, let me leave you this week with some absolute belters from the bowels of Williams family history.

If you can’t work it out, my Mum is in the green dress, with a family friend who we went away with and two Spanish waiters. This is summer 1976, on a holiday in Spain before we figured out that WDW was better. That is some suntan is it not?

From the same holiday here is my Dad with my brother and me. It blows my mind that I am about twelve years older now than my Dad was in this picture. Emily always says he looks like a mafia boss in these pictures.

And as I pointed out to Rebecca earlier this week, this last one shows where Freddie gets his good looks from. This is me and my brother with some frankly, quite poor gifts from Santa, I’m guessing in about 1974. My brother has some extraordinary pants on.

If nothing else, these history lessons show that time marches on very quickly and these shitty depressing times will too. At some point in the future, we will look back on them with a mixture of disdain, despair and manic laughter. I will probably yearn for the ability to work from home full-time, whilst booking all those extra WDW holidays to make up for the ones we missed.

Oh, and in the spirit of positivity, we’ve had a change here at the Mkingdon blog and spruced up the look a bit. I hope you like it.

Till the next time….

A Prick Of The Conscience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..