And that’s Magic!

With a new trip booked, we are all, to varying degrees, (me more than most I admit) thinking about another journey to our favourite state, Florida.  Even the girls, who can be ambivalent to the (what seems to be an) annual event, have been chatting about it, and last Sunday night, Rebecca asked if we could watch “the Florida DVD”.  This happens to be from our 2001 trip, which shamefully is the only one I have actually spent the time on to “cut it” into as working DVD, with music and everything.

So, not needing much encouragement to wallow in some magic we put it on.

Wow!  Back in 2001 the girls were 6 and 4, and of course looked very different.  There was a distinct lack of eye liner for a start!!  I have to admit to feeling a little emotional about the whole thing, and of course Louise and I made the usual comments about time whizzing by, and understanding why Grandparents take such delight in their Grandkids, having missed their own kids growing up in a blur of careers, housework and day-to-day nonsense.

Rebecca Beaches and Cream
I need a spoon Daddy!

The DVD itself contained scenes from The Garden Grill, Fantasmic, and two lovely scenes, one from Beaches and Cream, where Rebecca’s face is a picture of wonderment contemplating the milk shake in front of her that is bigger than her head, and lastly, a scene in our All Stars Music hotel room, where the girls re-enact the parade, in their Cinderella and Belle dresses.  I’m sure I’ve told you about this stuff before??

Emily had the Princess wave down to perfection, and was for those brief moments a Princess.  You could see in her face that she absolutely believed it, and was beyond happiness.

Now in the context of just having booked yet another trip, and worrying ever so slightly about the creative ways in which we shall be affording such an extravagance, within the space of a few seconds of each other, both Louise and I said exactly the same thing, in slightly different words.

“Worth every penny!”

To be fair, I think Louise was referencing the ridiculous cost of the dresses we had bought them (and did every year until they got too big).  For me, it was bigger than that.  With every passing year, that DVD becomes more powerful.  By the time they leave home, turn 21, or get married, I shall be a weeping uncontrollable mess before anyone presses Play!

Even uber cool Emily, at 15, updated her status on the bible of teens, Facebook saying that “Disney made her happy!”  It does.  I don’t know why.  The whole brand wraps you in cotton wool, whispers in your ear that everything will be OK, and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.  This state is how they get you to hand over such huge sums of money with a smile on your face.

Magic Kingdom
Man, Mouse, Magic!

I think that no other brand on the planet has this impact on its customers.  Universal, in many ways very similar in terms of product, comes nowhere near the experience.  Don’t get me wrong, Universal do lots of things very well, but it is just different.

As a brand, Disney get into the physce of their customers in a way that blows the mind.  Add to that a product of such quality that no-one can compete, and it is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped.  At a top-level, they do a few things very well –

  • Exceptional customer service as a given
  • Cater for all ages equally
  • Ensure things are always clean and neat

However that is moving towards far too clinical an analysis.  If you start digging too deep into the theory of Disney, then you run the risk of unmasking the ugly corporate beast that lies beneath.  From the very beginnings of the company, Walt was renowned as ruthless and incredibly focussed on success, and even today, the power of Disney is legendary.  You only have to witness any sort of minor fall or accident in a park to see the “machine” in operation.  Out of nowhere, multiple Cast Members appear, with audio ear pieces and walkie talkies, surrounding the “victim”, and whisking them away from the public gaze as quickly as possible.

This of course is no doubt the first stage in an operation to remove any risk of the member of the public suing Disney, but should the worst happen (from Disney’s point of view), then the aggression and quality of their legal power is again something of legend.

Remember, nobody dies on Disney property!!

I am open to the suggestion that my kids (and me) have been brainwashed in the past twelve (or 30 in my case) or so years, and that they are not a good stick by which to measure this, but I don’t think this totally explains the whole thing.

What this experience has reminded me is that –

a) The money on these trips is an investment to be repaid in later years.

b) I really must get my arse in gear and “do” the other half-dozen lots of video into a DVD.

What I fear is that I shall become an over emotional, weeping wreck whilst doing so.  God help me if and when we ever have Grandkids.  I will indeed be leading the charge up Main Street to Splash Mountain with young Gerard and Hayley (I’m guessing the girls will name their kids after their current musical heroes), with Louise raising her eyebrows and giving me her knowing look which tells me I am going all Chevy Chase again.

Well, bring it on.  As long as the girls don’t bank on me leaving them any cash once I’ve gone to the big castle in the sky then all is well.

All of this may seem like an odd outburst for someone who is claiming that they won’t be stepping foot into a Disney park this year.  Well, maybe, but I am confident we won’t.  In fact to prove my resolve, it is probably timely to share our plans for our upcoming jaunt.

We fly out on the 28th of July at 8.30am.  That’s an early flight at the best of times, but as we flying from Heathrow, it would be a little testing to make it from Bolton.  So on the 27th we’ll load up the Mondeo and head on south to the luxurious Travelodge Heathrow Central.  At an extravagant £27 for the four of us, I can safely say this will be the cheapest night of our plans.

I have booked parking at the Long Stay thing at T3, and handily that is where we fly from.  A few hours later we touch down in Toronto, and after a couple of hours, we complete the journey down to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at around 5.30pm local time.  One of the quandaries I have been wrestling with recently has been what to do upon arrival.  I did not know whether we should hunker down in Fort Lauderdale for the night and then drive down south(er) the next morning, or to bite the bullet and endure a matchsticked eyelid drive down to Key Largo.

I have gone for the latter, embracing a “He who dares wins” attitude, and hoping for the usual adrenaline filled euphoria fuelling my body for the drive.

Hilton Key Largo
Lots of Hilton, no Paris!!

At Key Largo, we are booked into the Hilton.  This was primarily driven by our lovely experience at Daytona last year, some good reviews on Trip Advisor, and the fact that it was on the beach.  This is crucial for us throughout this trip, as the four of us have different tastes between pool and beach and it is lovely to have both next to each other so each can do their own thing.  We have three nights there, and during that time we will drive down through the Keys to explore what is has to offer.

This takes us through to the 31st of July, and we then make the journey cross-country to Naples.  Again through a mixture of google, trip advisor and inordinate amounts of time on the internet, I have plumped for Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club.  This again is right on the beach front, and hopefully is as nice as it looks.  With five nights there, it had better be.  During that time we are off to a baseball game on one evening.  We are this time supporting the Fort Myers Miracles.  Again, the value is incredible, at $8.50 each!  Other than that we have loose plans to perhaps visit the zoo, but mainly, we will relax!

After these two new experiences we then head off to more familiar territory, with the next two nights at Vero Beach.  Although we are not DVC members this place truly feels like coming home.  Hopefully if the waves are performing I shall be showing off my world-renowned boogie boarding skills.  You have been warned.

Then finally, we head “home” again, with our last five nights in Orlando.  We have a villa booked now, at Lake Davenport, courtesy of course of yet another kind Dibber.  Shamefully my planning for those last few days is centred mainly around our favourite eateries, and we should just have time to squeeze in –

  • Applebees
  • Bahama Breeze
  • Olive Garden
  • Romanos

We have also made arrangements to meet up with Jakki, Steve, Aodhan and Niamh, as is becoming a tradition now (probably much to their regret).  As nice as it is to see them, this year, the fact that we can watch Wishes from BLT with them adds to the occasion!!

So as you can see we have no theme parks planned, and certainly nothing Disney on the cards (OK, OK, Wishes is sort of Disney but we’re cadging it for free courtesy of Jakki and Steve!!).  We MIGHT go for Universal if funds allow nearer the time, as it would require a night at the Hard Rock, as we just couldn’t do it without FOTL I’m afraid.  We’ve been spoilt.

So there you go, if your internet has been a bit slow over the last few weeks, that would have been me using it all up, reading and researching these new things and areas we are visiting, and I have a bit more to do.  However, it is nice to have the basics in place now.

For anyone not able to go this year, I can can only apolgise for the planning orgy!!!

Till the next time…..

Hospital, Hearts and Horror Stories

It has been another quiet, uneventful week in the World of Williams.

I am of course being sarcastic, as the major event was a worrying turn of events for my Dad.  He went into hospital on Wednesday for a routine operation, which involved a bit of keyhole, his liver and some graphic detail best skipped over here.  All appeared to have gone well, and he was back on the ward recovering.

You always know when your phone rings at 2.20am that the news isn’t that good.  My Mum phoned me asking if I would mind taking her to hospital, as they had just phoned her, saying that he was having some chest pain, and had been taken to the coronary care unit.  Dad has a history of heart issues, and has had a stent fitted in the past.  Fearing the news to be less than good, we travelled the few miles to hospital in double-quick time, and once on the ward had both the nurse and doctor tell us that it looked like he was having a heart attack, and that he would be going across to Manchester Royal Infirmary to have an angiogram.

Being full of morphine following his op, Dad was pretty oblivious to everything but the pain he was having, and we were advised to go home, let him go and have the procedure and call in the morning.

To cut to the chase, it turns out his stent had moved and/or got a bit blocked, hence the heart trouble.  They sorted this, and he was fine.  So he’s staying in over the weekend, but looks good to come home early next week, and begin his recovery from his operation.  As I said, another quiet week then!

Dad blending in

Many of you will “know” my Dad if you have read the trip reports in which he features.  Whether it be The Six Gain Flab in Disney Tour (2004) or The Back, Sack and Hi-Jack Tour 2005 or the more recent The Chronicles of Nana (and Grandad) in 2008 you will have gathered that he is somewhat of a character, and a gold mine for someone like me looking to find amusing incidents to write about.

Hopefully then with this operation out of the way, and his stent fixed he can get himself right for the upcoming golf season.

I have to say, seeing my Dad in that situation is not going to make it into my all time Top Ten things.

Speaking of holidays (what a seamless segueway), I haven’t done that much planning this week, other than reading a few trip reports from others who have done the Keys, Naples thing.  I also thoroughly enjoyed Bonzo’s report which was based in and around Orlando, but still flagged up something we will hopefully do in our few days in the area.

Bonzo made me aware of a Segway tour of Celebration which looks great.  I had half an idea to visit Celebration again anyway, so the added attraction of doing it on some sort of big boy’s toy has sealed the deal.  I mentioned this to the girls, and they burst into hysterical laughter.  Once they had composed themselves enough to talk, I asked why they found it so funny.  A simple answer….”The thought of Mum doing it!” they said, and again collapsed in laughter.

Anyone who saw Louise’s attempts at boogie boarding at Vero Beach may indeed agree that the potential for calamity when you mix Louise and a Segway is quite large.

Emily was glad of the light relief as she is currently buried in coursework for her GCSEs.  This week, the main thrust was Media Studies, as she had to have all that submitted for Friday.  I will say that her planning skills and time management left something to be desired, but she somehow got it done and in just in time.

One of the main things she had to do was to film, edit and produce a film trailer.  Being a big horror film fan, it will not surprise you to see the work of art below courtesy of YouTube.  It stars Emily’s friend Kirsty as the main character (victim) and Rebecca as “the baddie”.

Bless them, it took hours of filming in freezing temperatures to get enough footage to make the minute and half’s worth of trailer.  It also involved Rebecca wearing a lovely mixture of jam and water all down her face for hours on end!  My O Levels were slightly less interesting, with me spending weeks learning about truncated spurs and the French Revolution!!

So here is to a quieter week next week, with Dad home and healthy, and I’ll settle for work being tolerable.  Emily is moving on to her English essay, and I shall moving onto her back to make sure she doesn’t leave it until the last-minute again.

I hope all yours are healthy dear reader, and as usual,

Till the next time……

My Daughters are the new Paxman!

It’s been a bit of a week all things considered.

It seems a little trite and inconsequential for me to witter on about the unimportant events in my life, with the catastrophic events in Japan and beyond this week.  It is something I can’t really get my head around, and so I can only express my horror about it all, and send my thoughts and best wishes to anyone connected to these tragic events.

Returning to banality, much has happened in my little world this week.  I shall quote myself from last Sunday.

“For now I have resigned myself to a sort of defeat on the flights front.  I have not given up, and will not of course, but March brought with it an increase to the already silly prices.  I had been banking on Thomas Cook, but they have put their prices up, and even when they were lower, by the time you click-through to book and find that you need to add-on those optional extras like luggage allowance and in flight oxygen, they were not much different from everyone else, albeit direct.

So I’m playing the waiting game, holding my nerve until either I or the airlines blink.”

Who then could have predicted the strange events of the following day?  There was I sat at work minding my own business, when an email lands in my Inbox from Ocean Florida.  I had asked for a quote a few days earlier, and chuckled at the returned prices, as they were in line with the other silly ones I had seen.

This email promised much, but as I get lots of emails that do that, I was about to delete it along with the ones for those blue pills, and the claims to make things longer.  But wait, it said there was a one day only sale, and they had unbeatable prices for all July and August dates.  Expecting to fall foul of the usual trick where the actual price quoted is three times that in the email, I called anyway, as it was either that or do some work.

Air Canada Logo
Canada, O Canada!

When I called, the staff at Ocean seemed genuinely excited, and a bit busy.  After a bit of chat it seems that they suspected some sort of system blip, with prices available that were just unheard of for school holiday dates.  We threw some options around, but at the end of it all, I had a price that started with a 5 for a flight into Fort Lauderdale for fifteen nights.  We could have gone into Orlando, but it suited us not to, as we want a different trip this time.  We fly back out from Orlando on the way home though.  Both legs have connections in Canada, Toronto on the way out and Montreal on the return.

A slight drawback is a departure from Heathrow, but even with the now booked Travelodge (£27) the night before and some petrol, it made sense.

So confronted with a price that I knew was fantastic, and a chap on the phone telling me that these seats were literally vanishing before his eyes, I bit the bullet and went for it.  Job done.  Funny how things can change in 24 hours then.

So Monday was eventful enough then, without what then followed that evening.  Emily and Rebecca had been asked to film a question for David Cameron whilst they were in Manchester on Monday evening.  They had gone in as a last-minute decision trying to get a wristband for a One Direction signing.  Emily is obsessed with one of the anonymous haircuts within their number.  Whilst waiting (fruitlessly it turned out) a Producer approached them and they committed a question to camera, after only a dozen or so takes.  The giggles took hold!!

So after signing a quick consent form on Tuesday, we waited to see if they made the final cut on The One Show that evening.  Having had to endure nearly all of the show, we had almost given up on it, and then, right at the last moment, they were shown.

A small gathering had, well, gathered upstairs as the girls and friends huddled round a TV upstairs.  As the clip began, the screams were heard, and what sounded like a herd of elephants danced around above us.  Once the hysteria calmed down, Sky+ was hammered as they played it back a few times.  Fame at last for them.  Dibbers around the land also recognised the girls it seems, and I suppose their fame has now progressed from the internet to TV!

So a hectic start to the week.  Like many of you Florida obsessives out there, throughout the week, having secured flights, I have been pulling together the bare bones of a plan, and with this trip taking place right outside of my comfort zone, it is proving  a little tricky.  Research has been the name of the game, but here is the work in progress.

Most of the first week will be spent in South Florida, based in Key Largo for two days, then five days in Naples.  The first booking to be made was for Vero Beach, a place we have all fallen in love with, and courtesy of Tom , yet another kind Dibber, points were rented, and two nights booked.

After that we drive up to Orlando, for the last five nights, and I am just in the process of securing a nice villa off the 27.  There shall be no Disney theme parks this year, for two reasons.

1.  It costs a fortune and we are on a budget

2.  We’ve done it to death, and need a break.

We might do a night at the Hard Rock, and a couple of days in the parks there, but we’ll see how the funds go.  The main focus of this trip will be sand, sea, pools and relaxing.  Oh and food!

Getting in the way of vital planning and research this weekend was the arrival of our wardrobes!  They took four weeks to come, and just so happened to arrive on the same day as Rebecca’s new bed.  The bed was trivial when compared to the weight, hassle and complexity of the wardrobes.  With spotlights, full mirrored doors and the weight of a small tank, it took me all of Saturday (literally) and then needed my Dad to help me finish, as the lifting needed more than little ole me.

They look good though.  I on the other hand am an old aching mess.

It is funny how the arrival of one piece of furniture can trigger a chain reaction of things in the house.  Rebecca’s new bed means that I had to dismantle, move and then rebuild her old bed into our (now) spare room, in preparation for “her German” in a few weeks.  This meant that the PC and desk in there had to go up into the loft (plenty swearing…imagine camel and eye of needle stuff), and a general clear out of the wardrobes in the spare room, which was Rebecca’s room…still with me?

I’m tired just typing that lot.

So the weekend passes in a blur of Alan keys, screwdrivers and bits left over, followed by the obligatory trip visit with enough cardboard to construct a small village.  I am off to bed now to see if I can somehow get to sleep despite the excitement of another week in work!

Till the next time…..

Everyone’s a winner, isn’t that right Charlie?

For now I have resigned myself to a sort of defeat on the flights front.  I have not given up, and will not of course, but March brought with it an increase to the already silly prices.  I had been banking on Thomas Cook, but they have put their prices up, and even when they were lower, by the time you click-through to book and find that you need to add-on those optional extras like luggage allowance and in flight oxygen, they were not much different from everyone else, albeit direct.

So I’m playing the waiting game, holding my nerve until either I or the airlines blink.

I had one of those weeks that fly by in about two seconds, which means that I am busy and getting old.  No sooner had I got through the depressive state of Sunday night, than Monday melded into all the other days, and I was at Friday all over again.  In a way of course I like the fact that the working week whizzes by, but I do worry that I’ll be dead before I know it, and I wouldn’t mind not wishing every week away.

(PLUG ALERT) I wrote some on this topic on my new outlet for middle-aged ranting and meandering here (PLUG OVER)

On Thursday night I attended Rebecca’s parent’s evening.  I say evening, but it started at 4pm, and was over by 6pm.  Last time I looked that was afternoon, and as long as it suits the teacher’s to hold it at this time then of course that is cool.  The rest of us can just rearrange our lives to suit.  Rebecca is doing fine at school, with the main thing being that (almost) all her teachers are reporting good effort, even if she won’t be breaking any records in the grades department.  Later tonight we shall convene at the kitchen table to finally decide on her options for GCSE.  Sadly for Rebecca the list does not contain GCSE courses in texting, My Chemical Romance or “fit boys”.

Emily is nearing the end of her GCSE courses, and again, no doubt much like every other Year 11, isn’t doing enough revision, course work or stuff that doesn’t involve the things listed above in Rebecca’s GCSE course wish list. Ritually though we go through the motions of giving her a hard time about it, in the vain hope and belief that it makes the slightest difference.

In other non Williams news this week, it seems it is de rigeur to be coming spectacularly off the rails and in most cases straight into rehab.  Charlie Sheen, Demi Lovato and Dougie off of McFly all seem to be doing their best to take their privileged lives and piss them up against the nearest wall.

Charlie Sheen
Winning Ways
Demi Lovato
Living Lovato Loca









Having never been rich and/or famous I cannot of course empathise with their plights, and it is very easy for someone who actually has a normal job to imagine why someone with more money than they will ever require, in jobs they presumably love, then proceed to try very hard to knacker it all up by drinking/drugging and Sheen’s case winning it all away.  Is it too simple to tell them to pull themselves together?  Perhaps we should place them into shock therapy, and transplant them until further notice into a regular life.  Take away their money, pay them an average wage and have them battle with normal issues, like paying the mortgage, and wondering if they can afford a holiday this year.  Once they have done a few weeks in a monotonous nine to five, and realised that it lacks glamour, interest or stimulation, it might make them realise that it is these folk, the professional worriers, that need the drink and drugs, and not they, as their lives should be cool enough without external stimulants.

Dougie Poynter

Don’t get me wrong, I like Charlie Sheen, (I love Two and a Half Men) have tolerated Lovato on TV, and have been known to tap a toe to a McFly track, but I don’t have that much sympathy for them as they crash and burn into rehab or law suits.

Meanwhile I’ll see you all on the commute tomorrow, at the start of another week of work.   Mind you now that I have topped the 200 mark on Twitter followers, and write for another website, surely I qualify as famous now?  So, by Wednesday I’ll have overdosed on Costa Coffee, Millie’s Cookies and anything else they sell in the Lowry Outlet at Salford Quays (office is next door), and I’ll be tweeting absolute nonsense in a Sheen style.  Hmm, not much will have changed then.

Onwards to winning and not whinging!

Till the next time….