One wedding, seven teenagers and almost my funeral.

Before I start, can I just point out, more for my benefit than anyone else, that it is 25 days until we go to Florida!

This is not a gloat, well not solely a gloat, but more of a wake up to me that this thing is close now.  The whole new job thing has really taken my eye off the clock watching, agonising minute by minute countdown analysis that is normally going on around now.

With my first week at the new place under the belt, my eye is now drifting back, slowly to the very pleasant task of awaiting our latest trip.

Oh, I bought our park tickets!  I know I have dragged that out for weeks now, but with the realisation that we don’t have long to go, and a minor rally on the Dollar rate, I took the plunge.  I used Orlando Attractions in the end, and got an 8 day Magic Your Way Base Ticket, with 2 days for free.  We will not do ten days in Disney, but it gives us a couple spare in case we want to pop in for an evening etc on a non planned Disney day.  Add to that the 14 day 2 park Universal ticket and we are sorted, and all with change out of a grand!  I was happy.  Well as happy as I can be parting with that amount of cash!

So, this new job then, how did it go?  I know you will not have slept with worry all week, so let me enlighten you.  It was OK.

Now what else happened this week….

Oh, more detail perhaps?  Well, it was OK, with most people being very welcoming, and I certainly know more now than I did last Sunday, but there lies the rub for me.  For the past many years I have been the guru, the gnu, the expert, the one with an answer for any question.  So to transport me from that to being the bloke who is still opening every cupboard in the kitchen area trying to find a cup, well its a culture shock.

Salford Quays
Quayed up

By Friday however, I was feeling like progress had been made as I did make a couple of contributions that were remotely useful.  Hope is high that I may do the same again next week.

The week itself consisted of training on Monday, London to see a customer on Tuesday, another customer meeting, but this in the office on Wednesday, and then Thursday and Friday a series of internal meetings and getting stuff sorted to respond to customers.

The view to the left is a snap I took on my walk from the car park to the office on Monday morning.  The offices are at Salford Quays, so it is all penthouse apartments, pink pound and expensive coffees, but the views are certainly better than the last place which was a business park in Bury (no offence Bury).

Having avoided being uncovered as the charlatan I am in one whole week, we’ll see if we can do the same again next week and take it from there.

Emily returned from Berlin on Friday evening after another 24 hour journey from hell.  She had a great time, but was glad to be home.  When she posts her photos (obviously on Facebook) I will post a link here if anyone wants to have a look.

She was zombie like and hadn’t eaten properly in about two days, so we did the decent thing and ordered a load of Dominos pizza.  Her early night drifted to 11pm of course, and she is still struggling now to be honest.

This is mainly because she had her birthday “do” yesterday.  This involved seven teenagers descending upon us at lunchtime Saturday.  We quickly deposited them at the cinema to watch Toy Story 3, whilst we did the BIG SHOP, and prepared things for the evening.

Wedding Party
Well groomed groom
Emily & Friends
Fringes are fire hazards

This involved buying three tonnes of junk food, preparing it, supplying a few horror DVDs and then buggering off out for the night.  We tried a local restaurant for the first time having driven past it a million times threatening to eat there.  Desperate to escape Teen City, we arrived early, and had the place to ourselves initially, but very soon the place was buzzing as an Asian wedding was taking place.  We were enthralled to be honest.  The colours, dress and all round showbiz nature of the event was great to watch.

With all the hullaballoo, we couldn’t leave the restaurant as we would have had to walk right through the video and photos, so we just sat and watched.  This meant that we missed the film we wanted to watch at the cinema, Inception.  So we had to kill 45 minutes until the next showing with a glass of wine and J2O.  I will let you guess who had which!

The film was great…I think.  It is so complicated it was hard to tell.  I was almost afraid to breathe in case doing so distracted me from the story line and I lost the thread.

So we didn’t get home until midnight, to find our lounge looking like Beirut, and smelling worse.  So we shut the door and went to bed like the responsible adults we are.

Next thing, we are awake at 8.30am, by shouting and giggling from downstairs, and I am soon on bacon butty duties.  An enormous amount of getting ready happens and finally they all stumble out of the door around 10.30.  I see this as a chance of escape, and run away, I mean drive to the gym.  Having being operated on a little while ago (what do you mean you forgot?), I have not been to the gym since.  I have used our treadmill at home a few times, but that is quite gentle really, so I was fearing the worst to be honest.  I was right.

Five minutes in to my normal routine I was seeing my life flash before my eyes, and as most of it seemed to involve seven teenagers and an Asia wedding, peppered with highlights from Inception, it didn’t make much sense.  I somehow made it to half an hour on the cross trainer, and then shuffled for a further ten on the treadmill.  The sit ups I ended up with were less than elegant, and I dragged my wheezing frame into the changing room before I presented the gym with the highlights from last night’s curry!

As for the rest of the day, well the kids are out, probably taking crack somewhere, Louise is happily ironing away upstairs, so I think I’ll take my lead from Henry, and join him in a bit of this….


Henry asleep
I'm letting him lie.

Till the next time…..

Adieu, Adieu, to you and you and you.

Food, Glorious Food

It has been a few days littered with goodbyes.  As I may have mentioned, I finally, after 12 weeks of hellish notice period, left my job on Friday.  As tradition dictates I was expected to take in some snacks for the team, as part of the ritual of escape.

It may not surprise you to learn that I may have over bought.  I do…no, did, have a largeish team of around thirty, but I still defeated them, and ended up bringing home quite a bit.

I was, by some bizarre circumstance, quite busy on my final day, which was annoying.  Perhaps they may miss me after all, but frankly, you cannot imagine the enormity of the toss I do not give.  As the time came to actually leave, the goodbyes were made with arms full of gifts and excess food.

The saddest goodbyes were with the chaps at my favourite supplier Merus Software.  We have worked together for ten years now, never had a cross word, and I can honestly say that it was fun working with them.  As they are based in the South West, our virtual office that we share is a chat room, and the goodbyes exchanged there were harder to do than the ones face to face in Bury!

The old place....
Nerds for Herding

Anyway, on to the important stuff, what pressies did I get?  Well, I got a posh pen.  I am not an aficionado of pens, but it looks nice, and someone let slip that it cost £40.  These pen makers must live off the gift trade as surely nobody in their right mind would spend £40 of their own money on a bloody pen???  I also got some M&S vouchers.  A safe, and appreciated thought, as, within 48 hours they are spent.  Louise works on the premise that vouchers expire within minutes, and we have spent the day today in Bolton getting me some new clothes.

There, I admitted that I do clothes shopping at M&S.  I am officially 106.

I think I realised today how long it has been since I actually went clothes shopping for myself.  Put it this way, I didn’t know that half the shops we walked by existed.  The last time I was in town they were model aircraft shops, and toy shops selling Rubik Cubes.  Having only managed to get two items of clothing for the best part of £50 was also a bit of an alien concept!

My team also got me another present which was a little odd, but a nice thought.  A photo of the team!!  Now, my unofficial job title for the past ten years has been nerd herder, so you can imagine the subjects in said photo would not trouble the cover of GQ magazine, but as I said a nice thought all the same.  It now lives on my fridge.  It puts the kids off eating too much!

Emily at desk

Emily’s work experience ended on Friday too.  The two weeks were probably two of the longest in her short life.  Anyway, on Friday she was allowed to “work on her PC”, which meant playing with Photoshop, and perhaps more likely browsing the internet.

Speaking of Emily, the second set of goodbyes were this morning as we waved her off on her school trip to Berlin.  Linked to this, yesterday I had to go to a travel agents to pick up some Euros for her, and I realised that people actually still book their holidays in these places.  Whilst queuing I overheard couples taking to “agents” (typically early twenty something false tanned travel experts) describing their ideal/preferred trip, and then sitting back as these girls then tap at computers and make phone calls to secure their holiday.

It brought back memories of doing this with my Mum & Dad, over twenty years ago.  Really, someone needs to tell them that internet has been invented.  How can you hand over thousands of pounds based on one brochure photograph and the reccomendation of Kirstie from Bolton (apologies to all Kirsties).

So back to this morning.  Having packed yesterday we wrestled her out of bed early, and drove her to school.  We then stood for half an hour as about fifty sleepy teenagers were packed onto their coach.  There was a slight delay as one chap didn’t turn up.  It turns out he thought the trip was tomorrow.  Oh dear.

At 9.30 the coach left, followed by all the parents waving at their particular bundle of hormones, all feeling a little bit sick and upset at the thought of their child being out of their control and protection for the next week…or was that just me?  I hate the thought of Emily doing the long journey without me driving the coach and sailing the ferry.  Who said I was a control freak??

As goodbyes go this week, this was the harder of the two!

Tomorrow of course I start my new job, so all those new kid at school feelings will resurface, but hopefully I can avoid having my head flushed down the toilet for most of the day.  To ready myself for the trauma of this new experience I have told Louise that the correct preparation is to sit on my arse for about six hours in front of the golf.  She looks sceptical, but she’s busy with her ironing hobby so she’ll be OK.

I still haven’t ordered my tickets by the way.  My finger has hovered over the button a couple of times, as it has with the purchase of dollars too, but with the dollar rate having a welcome surge recently I am holding my nerve as long as possible to gain those extra few pence that will make all the difference to our holiday.

We’re nearly ready though.  I have, with the aforementioned M&S vouchers bought a shirt that is one of those that you will only ever wear on holiday, as it is  –

  1. White
  2. A bit see through
  3. Built for maxiumum coolness (and I mean temperature, as that boat has long since sailed)
  4. Likely to get you beaten up if you even think about wearing it in Bolton

All I am missing now are my obviously brand new bright white trainers, bum bag and one size too small speedos!!  Now there is a mental image to leave you with…

Till the next time….

As Joey Tempest once said….

For those too young to understand the reference in the title, your life is poorer for not having embraced the poodle permed, leather trousered, white teethed Lothario that was the lead singer of Europe, Joey Tempest.  The title of course refers to their finest hour, well three and a half minutes anyway.

The countdown reference is double barreled.  You may have heard me mention that I am due to start a new job?  I mentioned it once or twice.  I can’t believe that I’ve been saying this since April of course, but next week will be my final week of purgatory, otherwise known as my notice period.  This countdown has sort of distracted me from my more important countdown to my ever so special 40th birthday WDW trip.  This countdown too is entering the final furlong, with around 40 days to go now.

Last week and the one to come have been a little unusual in that Emily has been with me on work experience.  I do find it odd how things work out.  When I started work at my current employer, Emily was four, not yet in proper school, and now some ten years later she is in GCSE phase, and how ironic that she is on work experience for my final two weeks.

The experience she has mostly gained in her first week is the mind numbing banality that is the working office.  I think it was mid afternoon on her second day when she uttered the fateful phrase “How many hours to go?”.  Well, if I calculate that you will start work at say 18, and retire anytime between 55 and 75, I’d say she has a lot of hours to go.  Hopefully, it will help her to appreciate school a little more, and follow my one and only piece of advice about school, work and life in general.

That is to find something to do that you enjoy, because if you don’t, work becomes one long interruption to what you’d rather be doing.

Emily’s other contribution to this week has been to be the daughter with a broken heart.  They tend to alternate on this one, having met some boy, agreed to go out, and then about seventeen minutes later, break up.  This is a little disrespectful I suppose, as this week Emily is very, very upset over some little Oik, and I’m sure at fourteen the world seems to have ended.  If only there was some way to inject what you know into them they may not be quite so upset, but I suppose everyone has to go through it.  It is not an easy thing to watch though.  I should ready myself for lots more to come I guess.

On to more pleasant matters, and I have (I think) decided upon the ticket options.  It will, as predicted, be the Magic Your Way Base option for seven days, along with a two park Universal ticket which last for fourteen days, but we’ll only use two.  I had more Disney days in the plan, but to keep the ticket spend down to a level that George Osbourne would approve of, I did a quick switcheroo with the plan.

I have tagged an extra day onto our Daytona Beach visit, and rather than do their and back in a day, we are going to do a stay over.  This suits Louise a lot, as you may know that she is the first to tire of the Disney parks every year, and she is quite keen on a spot of sunbathing.  After a quick trawl of the The Dibb, I had enough info to make some firm plans.

Accommodation wise, the criteria was clean and cost-effective (ie cheap), as we’ll be spending very few hours in it.  A name that popped up a fair bit on The Dibb was the Sun Viking Lodge.  A quick bit of a google found me a price of less than £50 for a three bedded room (this is key as the girls are not keen on sharing a bed).  Having used Quidco, this cash back brought the price to nearer £40!!

The location looks superb, being beachfront, with a decent waterslide and pool, and if the rains come, and indoor pool too.  It is also less than five minutes from the baseball park where we have tickets to watch a game on our second evening.

Daytona Lagoon
We oughta Water Park

Again, from Dibb research I discovered that Daytona has a waterpark, and this being the activity I had culled from the plan, this seemed like a good option.  Even better that upon looking at their web site, the admission for our date was $12 each!!

I am not expecting a Disney experience from our break at the beach.  The hotel will not be Vero Beach, and the water park may not live up to Typhoon Lagoon, but it will be good to experience new things, and of course save a few hundred quid into the bargain.

Once I have the new job started, I imagine that I can concentrate more on the holiday, but for now it seems perhaps further away than it is.

So onwards we go into my final week at work for the old regime, and if you can imagine scenes similar to the closing ceremony of the World Cup, or even the last Olympics, these will be the scenes in an office in Bury on Friday.  I expect several members of my team to be wailing, tearful wrecks as I try to leave the office with several of them attached to my legs begging me not to leave.

More importantly I will find it hard to leave the office, burdened as I shall be by the vast quantity and size of the leaving presents I shall have bestowed upon me.

Let me remove my tongue from my cheek, and just hope that I can slip away in a peaceful manner with minimal fuss, and then get on with the new job…but only for a few weeks, as I have a holiday booked.  I did mention that didn’t I?

You may also have noticed that I have worked out how to embed video into these here posts…be warned!!

Till the next time….

That’s the ticket?

The time is drawing close when I need to make my annual trip through the absolute maze that is, buying theme park tickets for our Florida trip.  The sheer enormity of the options available are enough to scare anyone, even someone who has been through this as often as I.

The simple stuff is usually Universal, as we only need two days there around our on site stay, and even I can navigate that purchase fairly well.  Sea World and Busch have alas not made the final cut this year.  Budget plays a part, but really we just don’t have enough days to get to them and do them justice.  So the real task is to select the ideal ticket option for WDW.

So that will be a major thrust of my weekend to come, and if you need the internet this weekend I’d get on it early as I may wear it out by late Sunday.

Disney Tickets
Ticket to Rides

My choice may be swayed by the ever improving dollar rate.  Many a day in the preceding months I have toyed with the idea of getting some dollars before the dollar rate dropped any further.  Seeing rates at less than 1.4 at one stage was truly depressing.  Thankfully, the bank rate seems to be consistently above 1.5, and whilst this is still pretty paltry compared to the freakishly high 1.9 or so we have had on one previous trip, psychologically, getting above the 1.5 makes me feel like I have had a minor victory!

With a better dollar rate I may buy our tickets from a US site in dollars.  We shall see.  I am tempted by those non hopper things, for the exact amount of days we need, as they are good value, however, they come with several drawbacks.

1.  You can’t hop between parks

2.  They don’t include water parks and Disney Quest

3.  We can’t just pop into a park on a whim for an hour or two, as this will use up a full day

Choices, choices.

How goes your post op recovery Craig?  I hear you all say in unison.  OK, thanks.  I have had better weeks in terms of sleep, mobility and lack of pain, but I seem to be emerging from those woods now, and edging back to something like normal, well as close as I ever got anyway.  I got bored of the whole resting and not doing stuff within about two days, and just became really frustrated by not being able to do anything.  Now that I can actually do stuff again, the appeal seems to have worn off a little.

The week gone by has seen Emily go to Chester Zoo on her end of year reward trip.  The reward was that I was allowed to give the school £17 for the privilege.  Speaking of Emily she finishes school this week, as she has a busy few weeks ahead until the official end of term.

Next Monday she starts two weeks work experience.  She managed to get a placement at the same place as one of her friends.  How did she manage that?  Well, because she is coming to where I work.  My team is naturally delighted to have the bosses daughter around for a fortnight!!

Once she finishes that, she immediately goes to Berlin on a school trip.  This is to support her History GCSE, in which they are covering the Nazis.  The itinerary looks great, and I wouldn’t mind going.  Seems only fair after sorting her work experience out for her?  Then on her return, it is her fifteenth birthday, and of course a few weeks after that we go to Florida.

Some locals Emily may meet

We attended a planning session at the school a few weeks ago to go through the long list of rules, and even worse, stuff they will need to be bought to take with them to Germany.  As the group are obviously below eighteen, visiting the proper concentration camps is not an option but they are going to Sachsehausen Concentration Camp which apparently was the place where they trained SS officers to carry out the Final Solution.  They are also doing the Stasi Museum, the Wannsee Villa and Checkpoint Charlie amongst lots of other stuff in a very busy week.  There will be some light after all that shade as they also visit a waterpark, ten pin bowling and the Olympic Stadium.

Most of my school trips involved a kagool, curled up sandwiches and three hours on a coach to some caves in Yorkshire.  Although, I did do one overseas trip to Hamburg to stay with my German pen friend.  Everyone in my German class had a pen friend allocated, and they also came over to stay with us. My chap was called Carsten Polland.  I wonder where he is now?  Germany I am guessing, but you know what I mean.   This exchange programme will explain why after three years of study, my grasp of the German language starts and ends with being able to ask for a piece of Black Forest gateaux.

Sounds like a fun summer for Emily.  She had better make the most of it though, as next year is her official GCSE year and she will be locked in her bedroom for all of it revising.  In case Emily reads this, if you look up the definition of revising, there is no mention whatsoever of Facebook, MSN or iPod.  Just so we are clear!

Time to draw this here post to an end now, as I have the house to myself.  The girls are out with friends celebrating someone’s birthday.  This involves a trip to Manchester (for a change), a visit to see Eclipse, and then a sleepover.  The best bit of all of that is that it happens at someone else’s house.  Louise is also out, at the hairdressers, which is a double-edged sword.  It creates an Xbox opportunity, but also creates a huge dent in the bank balance.  Life is never simple!

Here’s to a shorter week next week.

Till the next time…..