Mirror, Signal, New Underwear

The internet lives once more. I spent a ludicrously long amount of time on hold to Virgin Media to be told that there were no faults in our area, and then about thirty seconds later, to be told, that yes, there were indeed faults in our area and they were working on it.

I think we forget how integral the internet has become in our lives, and only reminders such as fruitlessly trying to access Netflix during our down time confirm how much we take it for granted.

Our online blackout last night meant that there could be no blog from me at the usual Sunday evening time. I do sometimes wonder why I have chosen to make Sunday evening my time for blogging as it truly is one of my least favourite times ever. Maybe subliminally it was an attempt to distract myself from the impending doom of another week of commuting, meetings and drudgery.

Anyway, it is always nice when someone tells you that your blog has become part of their weekly routine, as they did last night when I communicated the fact that Virgin Media’s incompetence would mean no pearls of wisdom from me.

Last week Rebecca launched her first business venture. I have mentioned previously how she has been booked up for Halloween to administer horror make up to folks, and now she has taken that concept and rolled it out to wider beauty stuff too. Having invested in a spray tanning booth and gun she is now all set up to make people a funny colour. The thought of me having a spray tan is only mildly more amusing than the sight of me trying to dismantle her spray tan tent once she’s finished. Imagine trying to fit a four man tent into your back pocket, and that is somewhere close to the level of wrestling, sweat and frustration undertaken each time the thing has to go away.

As many have already done so, and I thank you, I would ask that you take a look at her Facebook page and if you can click the Like button, it would be very much appreciated.

I particularly enjoyed her gun shot wound that she did this week.

gunshot wound

Sunday also saw another new thing. For the first time, I took Rebecca out driving. Having swallowed the horrible financial pill of adding her to the insurance, we set off around lunchtime for her gym with her behind the wheel and me with a light sweat on in the passenger seat. I am not the best of passengers with fully qualified, experienced drivers, so I have to admit, the experience of going out with Emily and now Rebecca is not my favourite of all things to do, but needs must.

She did fine. She quickly realised that not all cars are the same, but to her credit she didn’t stall and we only had one minor incident involving her moving lanes without checking her mirrors, but a change of underwear soon rectified the effects of that.

We arrived in one piece at her gym and she got out looking a little frazzled and stressed but rightly proud of herself. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer until she passes and I have two daughters to worry about each time they go out in the car!

Holiday wise all I have done this week is think about food, which technically is no different to any other week, but specifically food we shall eat, and where we shall eat it in Florida. The list grows, and will be a highlight of our trip!

I also inputted the Advanced Passenger Information for most of our group, which I know is stupidly early, but you should know by now this is how I roll. ESTAs will be left until much nearer the time as with their two year life span, you never know, we may get more than one trip out of them!

Sp apologies for the lack of a Sunday post, and I hope a Monday catch up isn’t too discombobulating for you.

Till the next time…..

Gigs, Gore and Getting No Planning Done.

Now that all the initial excitement and euphoria about Emily getting her job at WDW has subsided, we’re now having to get our heads around her not being here for a year. That is the down side of this whole thing of course. It will be a huge change for all of us and of course for Emily. I say that as a Dad who still uses the Find my iPhone app to check she has arrived safely at work when she drives there. It’s about three miles away.

If she is to move away, I think we all feel better about it as she is off to Disney. She knows the place well, and working for the mouse, it is clear that there are rules, regulations and other stuff in place to make the sure the young folk on their programmes are looked after.

She is slowly working her way through all the admin and paperwork that will enable her to go, including a CRB check (which costs), an admin and accommodation fee (which costs), and of course her flight and visa (which costs). This programme is not something to casually consider on a whim. It tests the candidate’s commitment, determination and bank balance at every stage.

After my very busy week of planning, outlined in last week’s post, I have done absolutely nothing holiday related this week. I’ve been busy in other ways, mainly with work, with a couple of very busy days down in Marlow doing all sorts of worky things. On Tuesday night it was that time again for our regular pilgrimage to the Level 42 tour. It tends to come round every couple of years, and this time marked the 30th anniversary of my first ever gig, which was Level 42, in the same venue, the Manchester Apollo.

My brother and I met up after work for a large and lovely McDonalds before making our way to the second row for the gig. This was to be the closest we have ever been to the action at a Level 42 gig and it was super to be so.

A lack of planning and forethought on my part meant that I had to be up at a stupid hour on Wednesday morning following the very late (for me) night on Tuesday to make my way down south. The drive down was a blur of energy drinks and open windows in an attempt to avoid an abrupt meeting with the central reservation.

Having made it in one piece, the next couple of days were a whirlwind¬†of meetings as they normally are when I’m down in Head Office until I escaped on Thursday evening for the race home. Whilst in Marlow, I realised that I have a strange wife. Louise is currently on a placement in the Operating Theatres at our local hospital, and I woke early on Wednesday morning to this text.

 

and then later, more detail, as I needed that!

(WARNING: SKIP THIS NEXT ONE IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH ABOUT GORE AND STUFF!)

Having vomited all over my desk at work, it made it crystal clear that nurses are a special breed, and it’s a good job there are odd folks like them out there. It works both ways, as not everyone could endure my job. Sometimes the stapler in my top drawer can jam, and I have often drawn blood trying to fix it. We are all heroes in different ways. By the way, the “patient” was brain dead, hence the beating heart!

Hopefully you weren’t eating when you read those texts!

So I resolve over the coming week to find some time (not in working hours of course) to do some more planning. The next stage is to loosely plan on which days we’ll eat where. I have my list, to which it has been suggested I should add Senor Frogs, and I see no reason not to, and I will use said list to allocate an eatery to an appropriate day. If there are any new or little known good places to eat then please do let me know.

I am also looking for recommendations for the “next series” to watch. We’ve done all the obvious ones –

  • Breaking Bad
  • Homeland
  • Orange is the New Black
  • The Killing
  • A good many Dexters, but not finished them….

and loved them all in different ways. We have Netflix and Amazon Instant Video (and no social life clearly) so if you have found one of those gems that compels you to binge watch at the expense of living your day to day life, we need to know about it. I thank you!

Till the next time…..

Black Belt in Planning

It’s been a busy week. I don’t mean work. Work is always busy, and is very rarely worth writing about here. No, I have been a whirling dervish of holiday planning activity. Having had no trip to plan for many, many months now, I have returned to my specialist subject like the proverbial duck to pancake and soy sauce.

I had told myself to take my time, enjoy the prospect and luxury of having a trip to research and plan, but as is often the case at my time of life, no matter how much I tried to think of other things, my bolt is shot. I rest, in the after glow of bookings, with a red hot credit card and a smile on my face.

If you have been following my pre-trip report thread on the Dibb, then what I am about tell you will not be news. This has never stopped me sharing anything before so here we go.

This time last week we had little else but flights in the bag, and joy in our hearts, at the prospect of a return home. The next priority was to find somewhere to stay, and that was to be a villa. I looked at a lot. I won’t quantify that any further for fear my employers may read this and do some basic maths around the number of villas versus the hours in the week, but let’s say it was a good few.

I got quotes from a handful, most being non Dibb villas, which always has me worried that we will turn up to find either no villa or someone’s house, the inhabitants of it knowing nothing about the rental of a villa to an overweight bald bloke from Bolton. With that in mind, it came to me, as the search was almost coming to an end that I “knew” someone who had a villa that may be suitable. Tracy Seymour must have originally become aware of me (and vice versa) ¬†via the Dibb, and we’ve been Facebook friends since I don’t know when. I’ve often looked at her villa for previous trips, but we’ve never needed one that large so have always ended up elsewhere.

Crucially Tracy’s villa, the Disney Palms villa,¬†ticked all of our boxes, plus we’d have the security of knowing that there actually would be a villa there to stay in when we arrived. Tracy and her husband¬†are fellow Old English Sheepdog owners too.

Disney Palms Villa

Our decision was quickly proved to be correct as when we received our receipt for our deposit, it included a goody bag of villa themed key rings, fridge magnets and post cards. A lovely touch, and one that was really appreciated.

With a villa found, we now needed a way to get to it from the airport, so the car hire work began. Prices seemed to vary wildly for what is pretty much the same thing. I ended up with Alamo Brits, who came out much cheaper than everywhere else for the seven seater van we needed. It should take six of us plus luggage to and from the airport, and have enough bum spaces when Emily joins us too. Louise has often requested to be added as an additional driver on previous trips, but I am usually too scared, tight to do so. Her total US driving experience is from Westlife, I mean Westridge, to the Publix at Berry Town Centre.

However the great price with Alamo also included up to three additional drivers, so that was a bonus. We paid £420 for the whole thing for 18 days, which I thought was a great price.

So within a few days of booking the flights, I was nearly done with all the major requirements. Now, firmly in the planning zone, I moved on to the Hard Rock Hotel night we needed for our Front of Line access. Everywhere seemed to be charging the same price to be honest, and I was almost resigned to leaving that to sort out sometime in the next 300+ days before we go. However, I then discovered that Travel Republic would let me book our three rooms for a deposit of ¬£3. The balance will not be due until the middle of August next year, so you don’t need me to tell you what happened next.

Hard Rock…I said Rock.

I really am very, very good at this!

It will not surprise you to know that I have a rough plan of what we’ll be doing on most days, including how we will avoid the parks around Labor Day weekend. I also have a list of restaurants we must do, and all I will say about that, is that it is a good job we’re going for eighteen days. You want to see the list? Oh, OK then, so far it is…..

  • Market Street Cafe (Celebration)
  • Whispering Canyon
  • Mannys
  • Applebees
  • Olive Garden
  • Romanos
  • Bahama Breeze
  • Orlando Ale House
  • O’Hanas
  • Teak
  • Outback
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Be Our Guest

Rebecca and Tom also plan to attend the Universal Halloween Horror Nights if they are on when we are there. This year they started in early September so they should be OK. I think I might give that one a miss to be honest. If I want to be frightened I can go for a walk through some of the dodgy parts of Manchester on a dark night for free. Speaking of avoiding the parks over that busy long weekend, we (I) have planned to do some resting, visiting of Celebration (we MUST have the cheesy fries and banana cream pie at the Market Street Cafe), golfing, and heading over to Daytona to watch a baseball game again.

So aside from bits and bobs, we’re done. I know I could have spent months contemplating options, but you should know by now that I’m not wired like that. I feel better once stuff is done and dusted.

We do have park tickets to get, but we will leave that until much nearer the time, crucially when Emily is officially a Cast Member so we can see what discounts she may be able to get. Once we have those I shall have to get to grips with all this new FastPass+ stuff, and no doubt get up at 5am a few times to make sure we get on some headliners. I’m not going to stress too much about all that. We are there for nearly three weeks, and in that time, I’m sure we’ll be able to get on what we want to. If not, well it isn’t the end of the world. It’s not as if we haven’t ridden stuff before.

I’m off now to polish and admire my planning spread sheet, and prepare myself for the return of Homeland at 9pm.

Till the next time….

What a Week That Was!

As weeks go, outside of those we’ve spent on US soil, this one just gone has been one of the best.¬†I’ve done little else but tell you all about Emily’s good news since we heard last weekend, and this week has been all about paperwork and finding her a flight. The flight search ended towards the end of the week with her booked on¬†a Thomas Cook flight on the 7th of April from Manchester. She has decided to travel out in style in Premium Economy, which handily gives her 46kg of luggage allowance. Her main worry now is how on earth she’ll get it off the baggage carousel once she is in Orlando!

There a million practical considerations now coming into play around her journey and her time out there, but we have plenty of time to sort those between now and April.

Emily has finally blogged again too.

Rebecca has also played a blinder, demonstrating once again her impressive drive, determination, confidence and maturity by getting off her backside and finding a way to make best use of her talents, and some money! For those that don’t know she is studying Media Make Up and Hair at college, and part of that is how to do horror make-up. With Halloween coming up she has been advertising her skills, and has secured a whole host of bookings in the local area to make folks up on a gory fashion for their Halloween parties. She is very, very good at this.

rebecca gore 1 rebecca gore 2

Seeing how much demand she had if you fancy it for next year, I’d get in touch with her now!

So having felt blessed with good fortune for most of the week, it ended on another high. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that Louise had started to apply for jobs, even though she doesn’t qualify until next April. She thought it might be a little early, but from her first application she was asked to attend an interview on Friday. She was of course very nervous, and had no idea how she had done, but just a couple of hours later she got a phone call to offer her a job!

This was a special moment. You’ll know, because I’ve moaned a lot, that this past few years have been very tough. We thought it would be, and we were right. Louise gave up a good job to take the brave step of re-training at an age I’m too polite to mention. So of course financially that hurt, but it has been tough in many other ways. There has been stress, silly shifts, lots and lots of hard work, and weeks on end when we haven’t seen Louise as she was locked away at the computer doing her latest assignment. So Friday’s news was very sweet indeed. Relief, joy, pride, excitement and then for Louise a few minutes later, fear at actually having to do the job for real.

To add extra cherries on top of our very large cake, the job she has secured is exactly the one she wanted at the local hospital where she desperately wanted to work. She will be a Recovery Nurse in the Operating Theatres and we are still both a little numb and disbelieving that this has happened. As you know, I am a professional self pitier and woe is me merchant so I am unused to dealing with such scenarios. I think I could get used to this.

So there you go, a great week in the Williams household. I am trying to squeeze every last drop of joy and enjoyment from it, as I know these weeks are rare. I mean, what else could have happened this week to make it any better? Well, of course here is where I¬†go off into another “We’re not going to WDW” rant. I would but…

WE HAVE A NEW COUNTDOWN!

Yes, if Carlsberg made weeks, even they wouldn’t have been able to come up with this one.

To be honest with you, we’ve been thinking about next year for a little while, but until Emily’s fate was known we couldn’t make any plans as we didn’t know who would be travelling. So as soon as she was sorted, I moved quickly, as you might imagine, to make the plans into reality.

With Emily over there for a year, there is no way we could not go over there to see her. We have booked for next August, and with everyone out of school, college and university, we are able to travel a little later and not have to pay the ludicrous school holiday prices. We have only booked flights at this stage, as of course we have a long time to do everything else. We fly out on the 27th of August, and we are staying for an indulgent 18 days.

We have booked our flights with Thomas Cook, as we really wanted direct flights and Virgin continue to market to millionaires only it seems. Having paid north of £650 for indirect recently, and seen very similar prices for indirect again this year I was delighted to secure flights, including Premium Economy on the way back, for £580 each.

There is a new line up for the trip too. Returning to the cast list after a few years off, are my Mum and Dad, who are keen to see Emily of course, and for the first time, we are taking a boyfriend with us. Rebecca’s Tom will join us on the trip, making his debut as a cast member of one of these adventures.

Our plan is to get a villa, so that Emily can stay there with us as her work schedule allows, and we hope to do a night on site at Universal so that we can do the new Harry Potter stuff. Having spent all my time recently ignoring any Florida related news in a sulky protest, I now need to get up to speed on how these band things work, and this booking your Fastpasses up front malarkey too.

You shall, of course be subjected to every twist and turn of the planning and build up. It could be a long few months for us all.

I cannot promise that next week’s blog will be as¬†chock full of joy and positivity, in fact I can probably guarantee it won’t be, as a lottery win aside I’m not sure what else could top this one.

Till the next time…..