2013 in review – Blog stats.

It only seems like five minutes since I posted last year’s stats! Thanks to all of you for these silly numbers.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 63,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Year Older, Probably Not Wiser.

OK, I think today might be Sunday and so it is blog time.

Much like everyone reading this by now I am fed up of eating, almost allergic to chocolate and (this might just be me) having to live in my dressing gown and that one pair of pants that fit.

Christmas was good here, and I hope yours was too. It doesn’t matter that I have two very grown up girls of sixteen and eighteen, we were still woken at around 7am by Rebecca. She sent a tactical text from her bed asking if she could get up, and we agreed as long as she was the one to go and wake Emily. We’re not stupid.

As tradition dictates I go downstairs first and switch lights on, and most years find some festive music to play whilst they open their presents.

As tradition also dictates Rebecca has all of her presents open within thirty seconds, and Emily takes around an hour. The presents this year and in recent years have changed of course from the impossible to open dolls, with most of them now being clothes or make up for Rebecca and this year almost exclusively being Disney or One Direction related for Emily.

It is always nice to surprise them though, and we managed to do that with both of them. Rebecca had mentioned months ago that she wanted a (fake) fur jacket she’d seen, so Louise had sourced one of those, and Emily had been trying for weeks to get hold of a CD, which of course was WDW related, but not available in the UK on iTunes or in physical form.

I almost broke the internet tracking it down, and despite the best efforts of US Customs it arrived just a few days before Christmas.

WDW CD1

It contains pretty much every song from the theme parks.

WDW CD2

Of course the festive music I had earlier found was immediately replaced with this. Now, suspend your disbelief for a second, whilst I tell you that with a trip to WDW in 2014 being out of the question I have been doing quite well in blocking any such thoughts from my mind. You’ll notice I haven’t really mentioned it here for a while?

Well, I even did quite well listening to the theme parks being present in my front room until one song came on. I cannot explain why this one song gives me an aching and physically painful yearning for WDW but it does. It isn’t even a song you might immediately think of when trying to guess what it is. I suppose it is because we have spent some (a lot) of my birthdays in World Showcase and this just takes me right back to those lovely times.

Between this CD and the Frozen soundtrack, Emily has been fully Disneyfied in her listening habits recently.

I got some cracking gifts too. This year was the first year ever that the girls got Louise and I presents. They got Louise a perfume she had expressed a liking for when out with them, and I got the latest Call of Duty game for the XBox. Louise also got me a decent shaver, as I think she was fed up of me leaving for work looking like a burns victim with half a loo roll stuck to my face after another bad wet shave experience.

Xmas presents

Once all the presents were done (Louise had wisely got hers a little while ago when out shopping, and I got her a handbag and a scarf which were just what she wanted! I have such good taste.) I made our traditional breakfast of Eggs Benedict.

Eggs Benedict

Soon after that family started to arrive and the rest of the day was a blur of more presents, cooking the meal, Eggnog and in Rebecca’s case too much Christmas spirit. She ended the day not feeling too well at all. We’ve all been there I suppose.

We were hosting my Mum and Dad and Louise’s Mum so the numbers were manageable. The meal itself was a success. Louise did all the hard work of peeling everything and getting it on to cook, and then I took over whilst she got ready and just kept my eye on stuff until it was ready. There was a minor incident with the roast spuds but I like them a little extra crispy!

The day whizzed by as usual, as have all the ones since to be honest. We sit here a few short days away from a new year now, and at the risk of being like every single TV show you will see between now and then, I suppose it is time to reflect on the year that has gone.

As it will have been for everyone else it has been a mixed one. To varying degrees we will all have had crap bits, and we too have had our fair share of knock backs, upsets, bad luck and down right kicks in the goolies, but in the grand scheme of things we still have much to be grateful for, even if I forget that sometimes.

On the positive side this year just gone has been full of landmark events, and even though I’m bound to miss some here are the ones I can remember.

Louise passed everything she needed to and got onto the second year of her nursing course at Uni. As we expected, her returning to study has been a challenge in many ways. Financially of course, but also of our organisational skills in juggling busy lives, shift work, endless coursework and a hectic household. We’re over half way now, and I’m sure we’ll look back when it’s all over and laugh. Won’t we?

Both the girls took exams in the summer, Emily passing her A levels and Rebecca getting enough passes at GCSE level to get onto the course of her choice at college. We have to be happy with that! Rebecca of course also had her prom.

Rebecca Prom Dress

I made that!

Shortly before her prom she turned sixteen. Hmm, this year has been chock full of important events. No wonder I’m knackered.

A short while after that in the summer Emily passed her driving test. As weird experiences go, having your daughter driving is right up there. Whether she is grabbing the keys and heading off on her own or if I’m sat in the passenger seat desperately trying not to break for her, I still haven’t got used to that.

On a personal note I did something I never thought I would. I wrote and self published two books. It still feels odd to say that, but it is true. I didn’t actually write the first one this year, other than trying to make it more readable and less error strewn, but you know what I mean. Mkingdon’s Tales of Family, Food and Florida and Mkingdon’s Going Limp in Orlando Tour 2013 were supported by you kind folks to a level that I could never have imagined, and I need to thank you all again for that.

The release of the latter led to a bit of a kerfuffle and a rant on my part, which led to two things. That blog post got a huge number of views and the fallout from that kicked me up the backside sufficiently to get on and do something I have been threatening to do for years. I have now actually written my first fiction novel, and am in the process of reviewing and editing it. Whether it is good, bad or indifferent, having it done and released (soon) will be something I should probably be proud of in itself.

Of course, another major landmark this year was Emily’s 18th birthday in July. Attached to that of course was her surprise trip to WDW as her present. The build up to the reveal was very stressful, but I have to say it was worth it. The way in which that panned out and her reaction is something that will stay with me forever. If you haven’t seen it, or want to do so again then have a look at that post here.

August of course saw us go on holiday to WDW. Emily spent most of it in tears, but they were happy tears. We did the Keys to the Kingdom Tour and loved it, and if it were possible this trip and that tour made Emily’s love for WDW even greater. The rest of us quite like it too!

WDW 2013

Door shot 2013

WDW MK

WDW Rebecca

The rest of the year was probably a blur of me moaning, Pick n Mix, things going wrong in the house and rants about crap TV. But then again that could be any year. I know I will have forgotten some major happening this year and I’ll remember it as soon as I publish this post.

We know that 2014 is going to be a challenging one for us with Louise coming to the end of her course in early 2015, but we know that it will be worth it once she is qualified, earning and done with most of the studying. I can assure you though that we will NOT be going on holiday next year. You have my word! Again.

I’m sure 2014 will be the usual mix of ups and downs so here’s hoping we can roll with the punches. I hope your 2014 is everything you want it to be and more, and I wish you and yours good health and happiness throughout it. Thank you for your interest, support, comments and patience with the Mkingdon output, and when the time comes to release the new book into the world I hope it doesn’t disappoint too much.

From myself, Louise, Emily, Rebecca and Oli, have a great 2014.

oli xmas hat

Till the next time….

Parties in my Pants.

Somehow here we are at the last blog before Christmas. I am already at the stage that I have no clue what day it is as I have been off work since lunchtime on Wednesday. I may have mentioned this last week?

I signed off from work with our team night out at a local Chinese restaurant on Tuesday night, and we had a good time. It was quiet and over by 10.30 but I’m happy with that. It had the hallmark of a good meal as by the time I’d eaten I had chest pains and an unstoppable desire to go to sleep.

I waxed lyrical last week about all the time and relaxing I would be wallowing in once free from work. Well, it hasn’t really worked out like that so far. I have been fully employed in silly things like taxi-ing Rebecca

to and from college and even jet washing the paving at the back of our house. This is the stuff of dreams I’m sure you’ll agree. Still, it’s been nice to be at home.

You probably know that our social calendar is usually about as full as an East 17 come back gig so yesterday we went absolutely crazy and had two parties on the same day. The afternoon saw us at a family do, with one of Louise’s uncles celebrating his 80th birthday. It was held at a local golf club, included a buffet, and so was to be applauded. It was one of those events when you see people you haven’t seen since the last birth, death, christening, wedding or significant birthday and anybody above the age of thirty spends the whole event marveling at how the kids they last saw a few years ago are now bigger, older and/or all grown up.

We left there at around 4.30 and had a quick turnaround for our next engagement. This was the annual pre-Christmas party held by my brother and sister-in-law. This year was a little different for two reasons,

  1. It had a theme and was fancy dress
  2. It started at the cinema

That will all make sense when I tell you that the theme was Anchorman, and so we had to come up with costumes from the film(s) to wear to both the party and the cinema. If you haven’t seen the film then this will give you the general idea.

Kind of a big deal

So for the hardy few that were brave enough to go and watch Anchorman 2 in fancy dress we looked like this.

We smell of rich mahogany

We smell of rich mahogany

I went as Champ Kind.

Whammy!

Louise went as Baxter!

Little Gentleman

There were a couple of Rons, and a Veronica too and we got some strange looks for sure, but it was good fun and the film is very funny. I will caveat that by saying it is right up my street by being childish, silly and a bit rude.

We returned to burritos, drinking, some party games and the inevitable misplacement of fancy dress wigs and moustaches as the evening progressed.

In a glass case of emotion.

In a glass case of emotion.

We rolled in at some crazy hour, so crazy that it was way beyond midnight. This is unheard of. Safe to say that today hasn’t been the most productive day in the Williams household, with my entire output being a dog walk and these words and pictures here.

The big Xmas shop arrived today and we have personally contributed all of the salaries due to the staff of Tesco for the next three months, but no doubt we’ll be out buying bits come Boxing Day.

So I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, and I’ll see you on the other side. There may be a little bit more of me to see of course, but that won’t surprise you. I’ll save any soppy retrospectives for the last blog of 2013, but I am thankful for every single person who comes here at any point, and of course supports my writing efforts in whatever shape or form they come. You all have great taste and because of that you deserve whatever sort of festive period you wish for yourselves. All the best!

Till the next time…..

 

Hard Nipples and Silly Hats

Every now and again no doubt due to some odd Gregorian calendar anomaly, a week lasts about sixteen days. That was last week. Perception is reality of course, so whatever you think that is what happened.

It was my last full week in work (have I mentioned that I have a good deal of time off over Christmas?) so that may explain the feeling that the week dragged a little. I didn’t do anything ridiculous like go for any more runs, but I did keep up a fairly decent regime of walking, mainly with the dog. The weather has been a delight of course and so this has been a massive joy.

Oli is sporting a decent coat these days and so he strolls around like he is on a balmy holiday beach whilst I cower under sixty-eight layers of clothes and my Int Milk Brilliant hat.

Living la vida loca

Living la Vida loca

How I miss warmth. I don’t do cold very well, and even my desk at work is situated under an air conditioning unit that could make chapel hat pegs out of anyone’s nipples at a hundred paces. I was looking back at some photos from 2013 this week and found this one from the summer. Can you feel the heat? Can you remember that far back?

play time

Our walks at the moment are dark, cold bleak affairs that end with me washing his muddy paws in a bowl at the back of the house, much to mine and Oli’s disgust.

Emily is still sling bound and hating every moment. She goes to hospital again on Wednesday to see if she can take it out of the sling and start physio. If she can’t she might need another sling for her bottom lip. Roll on her full recovery when she can start taking her turn walking the bloody dog again!

Last week I told you that we were off to see Frozen. I have to report that we absolutely loved it. It is destined (in my view) to be up there with the other classics, Beauty and the Beast, Mermaid, Lion King etc, it is that good. The songs in it are just fabulous, and the feel of the whole thing is pure Disney.

We did get a few odd looks as we entered and left the film, being two forty somethings and an eighteen year old, but little did we care. Emily of course has been back since to watch it again, taking a friend and Louise with her again (as Emily can’t drive right now) and Emily will probably be going again this week if she can find a willing volunteer to take her.

If you haven’t yet seen it and like Disney stuff (well why else would you be reading this?) then you MUST go and see it. It is pure Disney, and not only that it is Disney at its very best. Emily is already getting excited at the thought of Frozen and Saving Mr Banks coming out on DVD around the same time next year!

Speaking of future releases (my God that was a beautiful and seamless link wasn’t it?) I have made some pleasing progress this week. I am in the final stages of the first draft and just over 70,000 words. I wasn’t best pleased to be awake at six this morning throwing ideas around in my head as I tried to get back to sleep. I gave up at seven, came downstairs and made some notes. I then cracked on and spat out another couple of thousand words. I am definitely in the final stages now, with probably one or two chapters left to write.

Having never done this before I have no idea how long it will then take to read it over and over again, edit it, improve it, extend it, improve it some more and then, maybe get it proof read. I also need to get a decent cover done and decide upon a title, which is easier said then done when every bugger else has already used all the ones I keep thinking of.

Anyway, hopefully once I am free of work I can get a lot of that done. Did I tell you I finish on Wednesday?

I am out on the razz on Tuesday night for a wild night out. You may not think that a Tuesday evening in Prestwich with two other middle-aged blokes in a Chinese restaurant is technically the razz, but each to their own. I intend to eat so much egg fried rice that my internal organs may be absorbed completely.

If I survive that I shall see you back here next Sunday for my Christmas blog extravaganza. (This will be much the same as any other blog but I may mention Christmas a bit).

Right, Emily insists we watch the X Factor now as One Direction are on so I cannot be held responsible for my social media output for the next few hours.

Till the next time….

X-Rated X-Rays and Idiotic Exercise

Early drivel this week, as we are going to watch Frozen this evening. Hopefully it will cheer Emily up who has had what can only be described as a crap week.

You may remember from last week that she fell at work and hurt her arm. Our visit to A&E resulted in it being declared not broken, and she soldiered on with it for a few days. As the pain was getting worse Louise took her back on Monday to get it checked again. Lo and behold she was already on a recall list as the X Ray had been reviewed, and a fracture had been spotted.

That would explain the pain then. So she attended a fracture clinic on Wednesday and now has an attractive looking sling, and regular pain killers. So she’s had a rough time of it, being in pretty much constant pain and discomfort and unable to do basic things like wash her hair and make food. She can however still operate her phone to the same expert standard.

Whilst on that subject, I have to say a public thank you to Gill Riley, an extremely nice Dibber and blog reader, who, knowing that we had failed miserably to get Emily a new phone case on our last trip did that for us during her recent holiday. It arrived a few days ago and is perfect. There are some really lovely people around!

I am gutted for Emily as her injury has meant that she has had to finish the Xmas job she had been doing. Sure, she can warm the couch all week and watch Disney films, but I think even Emily would rather be fully fit and at work.

Work for me has been busy. I have been foolish enough to allow a member of the team some holidays and this has meant that I have been extra busy as a result. This has had a direct result in my word count productivity as my lunch hour typing fests have been reduced to throwing a sandwich down my neck whilst fending off emails. So I think I’ve done about 6,000 words this week, and most of those were yesterday.

I don’t mind so much as I am at a very critical part as the major thrust of the plot is unfolding, and a lot of the different threads are now coming together. I need to concentrate on unravelling all of that in the right order or it won’t make much sense. I have to say that isn’t easy.

To tantalize and tease you I will say that the book is the story of a struggling band craving fame, and their unusual route through the music industry. Wrapped around that are a few relationship sub plots, a disillusioned record company executive and some corporate finance shenanigans. Now, doesn’t that sound exciting? Hello….anybody there??? Hopefully I haven’t made it too niche so that folks with no interest in music won’t entertain it, but I think it’s OK. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

Having told you that now, once I have got it all out, so to speak, and then start the review process much of that may change. Now you know the rough outline you may hope that it does!

Anyway, how are your preparations going for Christmas? I can ask that without vomiting for two reasons.

  1. Louise is pretty much in charge of doing any shopping that cannot be done from my laptop
  2. I finish work until the 6th of January in seven working days.

Our tree is up, so allow me to post an exact replica of last year’s picture of it.

It's a new picture, I promise.

It’s a new picture, I promise.

Yes I know you can’t see all of it, but that would have involved me getting out of my chair and moving to get a better view, and that is not an option.

This is because, after an argument with the scales this morning it is clear that I cannot enter the food Armageddon that is Christmas in my current state. I immediately resolved to do some exercise and, steady yourselves, I went out for a run. Now, let’s not get carried away here. When I say run, I mean that I took Oli for his normal walk and ran a few sections of it.

How quickly I remembered why I don’t go running. Within a few hundred yards I had several vital organs competing with each other to vacate my body via my mouth and my leg muscles, if indeed I have any, were audibly screaming at my stupidity.

Even Oli could not get his head around why I was being so stupid. He kept running up to me and jumping at me, as if to say, you are a forty-three year old fat knacker, for God’s sake man stop! Anyway, I ambled around our normal route a good few minutes faster than we normally walk it in, and I await the pay back in the morning when I am unable to walk.

I have a theory as to why running helps you lose weight based upon my experience today. It seems that this sort of exercise induces vomiting almost immediately, expelling hundreds of calories in one go. It’s like mobile bulimia. I’m not sure I shall be repeating the madness, but I need to rid myself of a few pounds in the next week or two to enable me to put them back on in about forty-eight hours. It makes perfect sense.

All this exercise had made me hungry though.

Till the next time……

Apples, Arms and a Really Good Film

If you ever want to find out how important your phone has become in your life, go to work without one for a couple of days. It is quite silly to discover how many things you use it for outside of things like making phone calls.

This was my world for most of this week as the kerfuffle levels around my dodgy phone raised themselves a few notches this week. Last week I bored you with the tale of my iPhone 4S not wanting to do the Wi-Fi thing, and the good fortune of it being insured. My new one turned up the very next day, and having spent a whole day at work without a mobile I was happy to get home and set my new one up.

My new handset sprang to life, embraced my Wi-Fi like a long-lost friend and we were off. The handset had arrived with iOS 6 on it, and to enable me to restore the back up from my old phone, which was iOS7, I had to upgrade. This as you may know takes an age, and when it finished it appeared that I had restored my phone right back to the broken state it was in previously.

iPhone 4S

I spent the rest of the evening on a web chat session with some Apple chap who was stumped and having tried everything apart from setting the thing on fire agreed that I needed another new handset. As the hour was late he arranged for someone to call me the next morning to arrange collection and delivery.  They did as promised, and so I had to work from home on Wednesday as they could not give any sort of time for the chap to come.

Having been literally sat at my front door from 8.30, and having accepted deliveries of all sorts of things for other members of the family by 11am there was no sign. At 11.05 my Mum and Dad appeared at the back window of our house asking me to go out back with them to look at some ivy chopping they had been doing on our back wall (they live next door remember). I did so, and of course when I returned indoors three minutes later the DHL man had been to our front door ninja style, popped his card through and scarpered sharpish. How I laughed!

Not being able to work from home the following day due to meetings in the office I had courier stress all day waiting to hear from Emily or Louise to say he’d been and the exchange had been successful. I arrived home once again keen to get my mobile life back, and thankfully it worked. I was not silly enough to restore my back up again, I just set it up as a new phone.

So as I said, a right kerfuffle.

The rest of the week was calmer thankfully, and on Friday evening I had booked us tickets to see Saving Mr. Banks at the cinema. As I drove home I got a text from Louise saying that Emily had fallen at work. Upon getting home I discovered that she had really hurt her arm, and based upon her level of pain and lack of mobility we decided that we had to take her to A&E to get it X-Rayed. This did not please Emily as she was desperate to see the film.

Anyway, we had superb service, and were in and out within an hour. Thankfully they said the arm was not broken, but very badly bruised with a lot of soft tissue damage. She hasn’t really been able to move it since, and she’s in a lot of pain. It is not nice seeing her suffer of course.

She did manage to drag it along with her on our second attempt to get to see the film on Saturday and we all loved it. I demonstrated my Disney geekness by spotting a monologue from Walt that is pretty much lifted from the One Man’s Dream film, as he describes his paper round. Anyone else spot that?

Waving Walt

Anyway, it was delightful, and if by any chance you haven’t seen it yet, you must. I would imagine that most folks will enjoy the film, but if you happen to be a fan of WDW and Disney then it is an added bonus. Both the lead actors are superb, and it got me hoping that someone now has the idea to make a film of Walt’s life. Having read about his life there is a lot to tell, and of course Tom Hanks needs to play him at the appropriate age. I know many Hollywood producers read this blog so it will be in production next week I’m sure.

A book update is about to follow, so for those already bored with hearing about it, you can stop reading now and I’ll see you next week!

I had set myself a target of 50,000 words by the end of November, and I am delighted to report that I got there this week. There is still a way to go in the telling of the story, but with that milestone passed I’m too far along now not to finish it. You have been warned. I also thought of and added another plot element/twist which also pleased me, and will hopefully help to keep the interest of all seven people who eventually read it.

I’m at the tricky stage of it now I think, having to build it to a crescendo style ending (steady, it’s not that sort of book!) with enough pace to make it interesting, but balanced with enough detail to make it understandable. I shall approach it as I have the rest of the exercise, by winging it entirely.

Anyway, I have to make the tea now, as I suspect does Stephen King.

Till the next time…..