The Next Florida Adventure.

I know we are at that time of year when a blog with this title would be announcing that we have abandoned all fiscal common sense and booked another trip to Florida. As I have said many times with great regret, not this year. This is news of a different kind.

For months now, this household has been living under a cloud of anxiousness, stress and worry. Finally, yesterday, that cloud was lifted, and we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief.

What am I talking about? Well, since early February, Emily has been going through the long, arduous and patience testing process of applying to work in Walt Disney World in Florida on the Cultural Representative Programme. For anyone that doesn’t know, this is the programme done by those folk you see working in the UK pavilion in World Showcase in Epcot.

Like these folks….

CRP people

It is a process with many stages, lots of travelling, and more than anything lots and lots of waiting. Finally, last night, the email was received to say that she had been accepted onto the programme, and she is now on what they call the “Wait List” to be allocated a role and a date to go out there. There are a small number of those on wait list each year that for one reason or another don’t get to go, but barring any such disaster, she should be on her way before too long.

To say we are thrilled and proud does not cover it. This is a very competitive process, and for someone like Emily who is not naturally outgoing or gregarious it was a real test. I have never seen her so determined, driven and focussed, and add to that the fact that she was the youngest candidate of the bunch by some distance, she has done incredibly well. She was up against folks in their early to mid twenties with years of work and life experience. In short, she nailed it.

You may remember an earlier blog of mine in which I talked of killing time in London? Well, that was her first interview, with Yummy Jobs, the agency who front the whole thing for Disney. A few weeks after that we were in London again for the second stage, the face to face with actual Disney cast members.

london

The Streets of London….killing time.

I won’t detail all of the ins and outs of the actual process as I’m sure Emily will be doing that in her own blog in her next few posts, which I’ll give you a link to at the end of this. The amount of preparation she did was incredible, and here I have to thank many very kind folks for helping her through it all from the initial application form to the final stage interview.

Emi Watson and Becky Ellinson, both former CRP cast members, were incredibly helpful in prepping answers, and Leanna Parsons, a soon to be College Programme cast member was a big help around the first interview stage as she had just been through it herself. Janine Pipe has been Emily’s cheerleader, moral support and life coach throughout what has been almost nine weeks of waiting since that second interview. They all go to prove that there are some really nice folk out there.

Yes, that’s right, we have been in limbo for over two months!! I cannot begin to describe how stressful a time that has been, and I have found it hard to concentrate on much else, so God knows how Emily has been feeling.

So, we may not be going on our usual holiday this year, but at least one member of the Williams clan will be representing us over there at some point in the coming months. The programme lasts for a year so it is a big step for Emily. I’m sure it will be a fantastic adventure, and a life changing experience.

More than anything, we are just so proud of what she has already achieved. Those long journeys to London, the hours of me walking the streets of the capital whilst she interviewed, the slightly dodgy hotel we stayed in just around the corner from the Disney HQ and all the weeks and weeks of waiting have been worth it.

I strongly recommend that you follow Emily on Twitter and at her blog to hear all about her excitement, preparation and first, some more waiting to get a date. It hasn’t quite sunk in that she’ll (hopefully, if you know what I mean) be away from home for a year, but I can’t think of a better place for her to be.

Well done Emily!

Till the next time….

 

Kevin Bacon? My Arse!

As a fitting balance to last week’s celebrity and entertainment special, this week I shall be sending mundane stuff your way.

I have no photos or videos of handsome young chaps with large instruments, instead, a tale of modern life that just makes me full of woe and worry for the way of the world.

If at all possible, I will undertake any day-to-day task online. This is a symptom of my dislike of most human beings I come into contact with on a daily basis, and the fact that I do online stuff for a living. Both of these factors make me feel more comfortable self-serving in this manner.

So after many, many years with the same mobile phone network, it had come time again to upgrade the handset. I have been on various iPhones now for a long time, and to be honest fancied a change. The 5S doesn’t look like enough of an upgrade from the 4S, and I had been hearing a lot of “buzz” about a new HTC handset. The fact that I describe news of a new handset as “buzz” probably tells you all you need to know about the excitement levels in my life.

So in the past couple of weeks I have been logging on to my mobile phone account to check the upgrade date and to take a cursory look at the deals that may be available to me. When the day finally came when I could do the deed on Friday, I logged on, absolutely in my own time and in no way during working hours, only to find their “Manage your Account” bit of their website was broken.

It wasn’t down, just throwing up lots of nasty error messages. Now as I mentioned, I do this online stuff for a living and totally understand that from time to time shit happens and a web site can have such issues. Typically, if it happens on my watch I am battering technical folks with a large blunt instrument until they resolve said issues, hopefully within a few minutes of it happening. So, being all understanding and empathetic, I left it an hour and tried again. Nope, still broken. I sent them some feedback via their feedback form, even pointing out the technical name for the error I was seeing. I am a dream customer indeed.

So after all of Friday had passed without any sign of resolution, I got the hump, and started to look around the other network operators for a similar deal. Having mentally noted what my network were offering a few days ago, imagine my dismay to see that I was struggling to find a deal equally as bad as the one I was being offered as a long-standing and loyal customer by my own network. Once I’d added in some Quidco cash back it was making a load of sense to jump ship, and had completed everything on another (working) web site, and I was just one click away from doing the deed.

I even checked my own network’s new customer prices, and they were far better for an identical deal that I had seen online a few days ago. I had the right hump. Whilst doing that, one of those fandangled chat things popped up and asked if I needed help. Well, that’s more like it I thought. Two minutes in and my hump had quadrupled in its size. After explaining all my woes and their online failings I was promptly told that this chat service was only for new customers and I, as a scummy existing one would have to email someone instead. My irateness knew no bounds.

At that point I called my own network to get my PAC code so that I could transfer my number and cancel my contract. They asked me why, and so I told them. I was immediately transferred to their retention department. So after a few minutes “chat” a deal that had started off with a huge upfront cost for the handset, and a monthly fee about 20% more than any other new customer deal I could see, I ended up with –

  • A free handset (quoted at £159)
  • A monthly fee less than I could find anywhere else, as I fibbed a little about the deal I was leaving for. It is £5 less than I have paid for the past two years!
  • Four times the amount of data allowance I currently have and 4G.

So, after toying with them for seconds, I agreed, and my new phone arrives tomorrow. So thank you EE for having a broken web site (by the way it is still down), truly shockingly bad deals for customers who have been loyal to you for years, and having the under hand tactic of getting you to the brink of leaving before dropping your drawers and offering deals you should be doing in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, having four mobiles in the house on different networks, I know that none of them are exemplary. Vodafone for example refuse to limit the data use on Rebecca’s account as she keeps going over it. Aside from sending her a text when she is close to her limit, typically three days into a new month, they will not simply stop data being used when she goes over her allowance. This is profiteering of the highest order.

All in all, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth, and a lesser view of a company I have been a customer of for years. On the bright side, I have a shiny new toy arriving tomorrow, for less than I’m paying now, with a much better contract. Tomorrow evening will be awash with me fiddling and a faffing with my toy, transferring contacts, installing apps and the like. The fact that I am moving from iOS to Android will surely only add to the fun. The old phone is off to be traded in for a tidy sum too. I shall endeavour not to do as I did with Rebecca’s last trade in, when I left her sim card in it! Maybe that is why she keeps using so much data. There is some guy in the trade in factory browsing YouTube on her contract allowance!

Anyway, for those sad of mind this is the beautiful new thing that shall arrive tomorrow.

Come to Daddy

It is the HTC One M8, and is according to the reviews I have read, THE best smartphone in the world ever, amen! I shall let you know of course.

I’m off to throw darts at my photo of Kevin Bacon and burn my copy of Footloose. Well, maybe not the latter, let’s not be too hasty.

Been working so hard, I’m punchin’ my card….

Till the next time…..

A Bulging Blog.

Some weeks when I come to write my post, I stare at the blank page wondering what on earth I am going to ramble on about. Somehow, I always manage to find something to fill the void with, but no doubt you can spot those weeks as much as I can.

Then, other weeks, such as this one, my usually quiet and uneventful life takes a mad turn and I have oodles of stuff to talk about. Whether or not it is of interest to anyone other than me is questionable of course.

I’ll get the book stuff out of the way first for you. This week All This And More had its first ever book blog review. Thankfully it was positive, so I was able to share it with you all. In total there are seventeen reviews of the book now, and again, despite all of my worst fears when publishing it, it is very pleasing to see folks enjoying it. Following closely on the heels of that review, I did my first ever author interview for the same book blog this week, which was pretty surreal to be honest. Seeing that published online was nearly as scary as the photo which accompanied it.

On Wednesday, Rebecca turned 17. Many parents question how things like this happen. They say things like “How can I have a (enter age) year old son/daughter”. Well, without pointing out the biology behind such things, it is usually because certain things happened that number of years ago, leading to their offspring being that age now. I do sympathise with that view of course, as between blinks, I seem to be sharing a house with three grown women all of a sudden, which, if you’d told the 18-year-old me that, he simply would never have believed you!

Gone are the days of Bratz, Barbies and character cakes. Instead we bestowed upon her driving lessons, paying for her holiday to Turkey later this year and some Mac make-up. The latter was definitely in contention for being the most expensive item on that list!

The rest of the week has been a blur of nights out (two) and entertainment extravaganzas. On Thursday, Emily and I went to see Panic! At The Disco at the Apollo in Manchester. Not for the first time this week, I may have been the only forty something bloke in the audience, but I think I got away with it. The gig was superb. For those not familiar with the group I’ll post one of their better known songs here, as a form of education!

So we had a good night, and it is always nice to spend some time with one of the girls like that.

The very next night, all four of us had a night out at the McBusted gig at the Phones4U arena in Manchester. Busted hold a special place in the hearts of the girls as they were their first real band, and the first one they ever saw live back in 2003. Once news broke of this tour with McFly we had to get tickets, and again it would just be lovely to be out as a four again. We do it so infrequently these days.

You may question why a man of my style, taste and undoubted good judgement should wish to attend such a gig? Well, I’m not ashamed to say I like McFly. There are a couple of reasons beyond their songs being decent pop stuff too. Tom Fletcher is a huge Disney fan, regularly visiting WDW, so he’s worth a follow on Twitter, which is what I’ve been doing for a while. Danny Jones from McFly grew up literally around the corner from us, so we’ve always taken an interest in how he was doing with his band as his fame and success increased. I think they write decent songs, and suffer from being tagged with a boy band label, and as such largely don’t get the credit they deserve.

So we got ourselves to the arena, and after a small kerfuffle when our seats didn’t exist, we were reallocated, closer to the stage and we waited.

mcbusted girls

After three support acts, the average age of which were less than most of my underpants, the main event started and I have to say I loved it. The effort that had gone into the production was incredible, ranging from a DeLorean car on stage, to a full size space ship descending from the sky with the band on it. This was the highlight for us, as our newly allocated seats were literally next to it and we had a great view for that section of the show.

mcbusted space ship

The girls took loads of video too, but I’ll leave that to Emily to post on her blog as I think that is the subject of her next one. I’ll point you at it when it is up of course. I’ll just show you one video, which, is the best I managed, if you ignore the fact that for some reason I turned my phone sideways towards the end!

Overall it was just a really good night, a great show with an enormous amount of thought and detail going into it, and something that put a smile on all of our faces. It was lovely to see the girls jumping up and down, singing and remembering all the words to the Busted songs they lived and loved over ten years ago.

So we’ve had an entertaining and busy week. To finish it off, we’re off to the cinema tonight to watch Bad Neighbours, with Zak Effron. He’s in it, he isn’t coming with us! Emily seems keen to see it for some reason! This by the way, is the reason for the early posting today. I hope this break from routine does not blow your minds too much.

Lastly before I let you go, my latest guest blog for Floridatix, How to Enjoy Orlando Without the Queues, was published last week too. It would be very helpful if you could give it a click and a read and a Like etc. It covers things to do in Florida that you don’t need to queue for. You will notice it does not then include the bathroom in our villa/hotel room!

Till the next time….

I Don’t Care!

It’s been a busy week over at WDW, with several announcements, dedications and celebrations.

However, as I’m not going any time soon I couldn’t give a shit! That’s a little harsh, but it is amazing how my interest in such things wanes when there isn’t a countdown with my name on it.

From my casual glances at the internets this week it would appear that a dedication ceremony happened for the new Mine Train ride at the Magic Kingdom, and in it they confirmed it will open on May the 28th. In any normal year that would be perfect timing for our usual tour in the late summer.

So what else happened that has no relevance to my immediate plans?

Well, there’s been a birthday at Hollywood Studios. It was 25. Any time now it should getting to the age where it meets another park it likes and starts to reproduce smaller parks that will grow up too quickly. The fireworks were up to the usual standard of course, and I post them here with the highest possible endorsement. Emily says they are great!

As if that wasn’t enough to taunt me, Disney then go for the hat trick by unveiling some new fandangled night-time thing at the Animal Kingdom. That’s just rubbing salt in my wounds. Even in my sullen mood I can be thankful for this. Animal Kingdom was always the park that could be done in less than a day, and with its early closing, felt like it lacked something. Now, there’ll be something at every park that folks can start to reserve spots for just after lunch!

The Rivers of Light Nighttime Spectacular looks to be a Fantasmic style affair, with water, lasers and stuff. See, I can’t even bring myself to enthuse about it or outline any further detail.

This apathy has been apparent all the way through this barren no countdown period. There have been roughly six hundred and twelve thousand announcements and updates all about FastPasses and some new fandangled type of coloured bracelets. I know nothing, because I don’t need to. As and when the stars align and allow us another countdown I’ll be the one on popular Disney forums asking stupid questions about that, and all of the above. I shall try not to ask how much spending money I may or may not need.

If all or any of the above are relevant to you, as you have an impending trip, then bully for you. Really, I’m delighted for you, truly ebullient. Did that sound sincere? Well, I tried.

In other news this week, I picked up a flurry of Twitter followers following a mention on a book review blog. They all had about a gabillion followers, proper publishers and probably some actual talent for writing. I felt fraudulent and amateur and have been double checking the spelling of all my tweets since. Most of my tweets only contain four letter words so I think I’ve done OK. I shall say this though, if you think I over promote my writings via social media, then, as someone once said, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Don’t worry, I won’t emulate them by upping the adverts for the books. Besides, you’ve all bought them by now, right?

Till the next time…..