In The Bleak Mid Easter.

Right, I have two complaints.

1. Who the bloody hell said it was OK to pinch an hour of my weekend? I have not authorised this.

2. I was “promised” an Easter heat wave. Instead I have just returned from walking Oli and it took me longer to remove my layers than it did to do the walk.

As we wave goodbye to March, we seem to be doing so with November weather and it simply isn’t good enough. The end of March is often welcome as it signals better weather, often some days off work and for us the end of what is a very busy month. It starts with my Mum’s birthday, closely followed by Mother’s Day and ends in a flourish with three family birthdays in the space of two days, one of which being Louise’s.

So from a cash flow perspective I am glad there is only one March in each calendar year and it is now almost behind us. We celebrated last night, both Louise’s birthday and the ending of her training with a Chinese meal in Tottington, a small village not so far away. For the first time in a very long time, it was the four of us. It was nice for it to be so and we had a lovely meal. It will of course be the last time we can go out and be together in this fashion for some time, as time marches on and Emily will soon be overseas. The case, is out…..

We are all making lists, mental and physical of what she must take. It all has to fit in that case though, not due to an airline restriction, she has a 43kg limit as she is flying all posh and Premium, but more because she won’t be able to lift anything heavier. Louise now has time at home before she starts work, so will be able to make sure Emily is all prepared and packed of course.

On the day itself, it has been decided that the farewell party will be kept to a minimum at the airport. Just the four of us will make that journey. Emily doesn’t want hordes of family weeping uncontrollably as she will be in bits anyway. She’ll just to have to contend with me, Louise and Rebecca sobbing away.

This week, Emily has sorted out her room-mate. A young German girl called Lea, who she has been chatting to on Facebook for weeks now. Disney have a clever online thing where they can link themselves to others to denote they want to share a room etc, and they can also put their preferences down for which accommodation/complex they want. None of it is guaranteed of course and she won’t find out until she gets there, but it is highly unlikely she won’t be put with her nominated roomy. It has been trickier for Emily to sort this out as she is under 21. The rest of those starting in the UK on her date are all over 21 and this means Emily can’t live with them as they will be able to have alcohol in their apartment. So it was very handy that she got chatting with Lea, who is even younger than Emily. Emily is rubbish at drinking so it is an enormous sense of comfort to me that she won’t be able to do it over there. Her last attempt at a drunken night out here ended up in A&E and several weeks of limping with a badly sprained ankle.

It all got very real for Emily earlier this week when one of those already out there sent her this, which is currently pinned up in the kitchen at the Rose and Crown.

rosecrown list

She’ll be there to see it soon.

I have spent a lot of the last week (none of it during working hours of course) searching for a car. A few weeks ago I flogged mine and get a short-term lease on another to give me time to look around at what I want next. After weeks of doing so I’m more confused than ever and no closer to a result. I have been through about six different “I’m getting one of those” and now have no clue at all. I think I need to stick a pin in something soon as it is driving me insane.

I do not enjoy the process of buying cars, I have to be honest. On all but one occasion in the past, I have come home with my purchase feeling as if the deal I have done has the sales chaps rolling about laughing in the showroom. Used car salesmen, like double glazing sellers, get a stereotypical bad name, and I’m sure it isn’t anything like true, but the one chap I have spoken to this week about a car I was interested in has done nothing to remove that impression for me. My suggestion of a discount off the listed price brought about a reaction as if I had asked him to sacrifice his first born. He countered my offer with one that represented no discount whatsoever and has hounded me ever since despite me telling him to stick it (politely). It’s a first world problem for sure, and hopefully I shall solve it next week.

I must go now as I need to encourage the qualified nurse I live with to make me some tea.

Till the next time……

The Show Musn’t Go On!

It has been an odd week. As the days get longer, it seems that the working week does also. It dragged somewhat, but I suspect that was due to the knowledge that this Saturday would be my first gig with Mustard, and my first live appearance with my instrument (fnar) in twenty years.

As Friday eventually happened, I was mentally prepared and oddly not nervous at all. What I felt was anticipation. I was really looking forward to it, regardless of how many mistakes I was bound to make with so little rehearsal time.

With my final practice and warm up complete in the afternoon we headed for the venue, a Conservative club in a nearby suburb of Bolton, similar to Wembley staduim in lots of ways, at around 6pm. Setting up was a whole new experience for me also, as since the last time I set up with a band to play live all sorts of gadgets and gizmos have come along that I didn’t even recognise, never mind know what to do with them. Anyhow, I made myself as useful as possible by carrying stuff and after about an hour or so we were getting somewhere close to being ready.

The club itself was already pretty full which meant a sound check to an audience. As we began to play, I was blown away by the sound we were making. The difference between rehearsal room noise and the sound we make through a proper PA etc was astounding. We managed about half a song until our singer Steve, who was out front listening to make sure all the levels were right got a tap on the shoulder. His neighbour appeared and told him that his Mum had been taken ill and he had to come straight away.

He of course left immediately and we sat in shock for a little while until he called to deliver the awful news that his Mum had passed away. We sat there stunned for a while feeling awful for him and not quite knowing what to say. Clearly the gig was the last thing on anyone’s mind and after getting our heads around the events of the night for a while we began the task of taking down everything that had just been set up.

We left the club at around ten still shaking our heads at what had just happened. So for awful reasons, I wait to take part in my first gig still. That of course is irrelevant when compared to the events of last night and we’ll play again whenever Steve is ready to do so and not before.

In other news, Louise has her start date for her new job as a nurse. Her new employers got in touch last week and said as the 6th of April was a bank holiday could she start on the 7th.  Of course, that is the day that Emily flies to America, so a quick call back to them to explain the situation and she is starting on the 8th instead. With incredible coincidences like that, where after three years of study for Louise and over twelve months of waiting for Emily, both events land on the same day, I do think that there are some soap opera writers somewhere putting my life together. Add last night to that as well, and I’m expecting the Eastenders “duff duff” drums to play at any moment.

At this point I could lament how last week a suspected broken shower led to the replacement of our entire fuse box at enormous expense, but  won’t as it would make me seem petty and tight, which is the last thing I’m sure anyone could accuse me of being!

So Louise enters her last week as student nurse tomorrow knowing that everything is submitted, signed off and every assignment passed. After a week off she’ll begin work and fulfill an ambition held for more years than I care to mention. The hard work, determination, tears and staying power during those three years have been incredible, and it’s a huge credit to Louise to go back to study in her forties and get through the whole thing with flying colours as she has.

After the awful events of yesterday, today has been quite uneventful. I walked the dog, and then I bathed the dog. I’m not sure who enjoys that the least to be honest. He’s currently running around the house in a bad mood rubbing himself on stuff, which is what I tend to do on a Sunday evening when confronted with a costume drama on the telly and another week of work stretching ahead of me like eternal damnation.

post bath march 2015

Till the next time…..

Word To Your Mother

So here’s a very quick, fairly late post due to a busy day doing the Mum thing. A day of tidying, (for me) peeling spuds and (for Louise) cooking ended with a meal for both Mums and my Dad. Alas Rebecca had to work, with it being Mother’s Day as the restaurant at which she waitresses was booked to the rafters. Emily should have been working too but a bout of tonsillitis has kept her at home for the past few days. I don’t think she was too upset!

The week just gone has been too full of work for my liking but also contained my second rehearsal with Mustard. It went well, however the next time we play together it will be in front of an audience. Yes, that is as scary as it sounds. The 21st of March is my first gig. I’ve learnt about thirty songs and played all of them at least once with the rest of the band. What could possibly go wrong? It’ll be fun that’s for sure.

In CRP news, Emily’s visa came back this week and seeing it pasted into her passport was surreal and exciting in equal measure. We’ve now bought her medical insurance for her first 120 days until the Disney Cast Member one kicks in and she has now started to gather stuff together as a pre-cursor to actually packing! She has procured the essentials of course like a bikini and that play suit she loves from Forever 21 or one of those other young lady’s clothing websites.

She has also fulfilled her requirement as surrogate trip planner by securing all the ADRs we wanted.

ADRs

With Crystal Palace in the bag, she added Be Our Guest, Rose and Crown on my birthday and a fun night at Whispering Canyon. With that, we’re done.

On the subject I raised last week of collating the (hopefully) numerous photos of folks meeting Emily in the UK pavilion, I think flexibility is the key. Not everyone has every app, and so I don’t want to restrict the “project” to twitter or instagram, so if you get a photo of and/or with Emily then just get it to me somehow. My contact details are on this blog, you can do it on The Dibb (I’ll probably start a thread for the posting of such photos), post it on the Mkingdon Facebook page or any other social media you can find me on. My current thinking is that I’ll do a Pinterest board of them all.

Louise has just two weeks to go on her three year nursing course. That too is hard to take in. Everything is happening at once! After three years of hard slog, blood sweat and tears it is almost all over. So on that subject of the Mother of this household, I shall bring this brief, rushed and inadequate Mother’s Day blog to an end.

Till the next time….

A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America!

The internet. Aside from those needy vague Facebook status updates that drive everyone insane, and all that click bait shite which all end in “You won’t believe what happened next”, the internet is probably a good thing. At some point in the future my fridge will know that I have eaten the last six of something and will connect to my online shopping establishment of choice to order some more. If that’s wrong I don’t want to be right.

One of the huge benefits of the internet is that some weird folk share their lives and experiences all over it. What sort of idiot would do that? For Emily, and her long arduous journey towards being a Cast Member, reading the blogs of those who have gone before have been a huge help and at times a reassurance. Add to that the vast number of vlogs by those folk already out there working for Disney and there isn’t much that could surprise her now. However, one small chink in this armour of information appears to be the application process for the required Visa for her stay in the US.

We’ve always known this would be required but we journeyed down to London this week not really knowing what to expect. Emily had heard small snippets about airport style security, which unnerved her slightly, but beyond that we were clueless. So here I will attempt to fill that void a little.

I won’t bore you with the details of our journey etc beyond our pre-train Starbucks…

1starbucksand the fact that we traveled backwards which meant we almost saw that muffin again around Northampton.

We got to London around 4pm and Emily wanted to go and see the Disney store on Oxford Street, so we did.  We then wandered the clothes shops of the capital picking up some essentials for Emily’s year away. Two pairs of denim shorts and a “dressy blouse” for her Traditions training course, for which she needs to be in smart office attire secured and we then gorged on a very welcome McDonald’s. We re-boarded the tube and headed to Paddington, close to which our hotel was.

The hotel was fine. Basic, clean and relatively cheap…a bit like me. Disaster struck shortly after we pajamaed up and started enduring the Kardashian marathon Emily insisted upon. Her phone charger stopped working! At 4%, the matter was urgent. I put my pants back on and set out into the heartless metropolis to try to secure a new one. About four doors down from our hotel was a very dodgy looking mobile phone accessory, and if I’m not mistaken, based on the bongs they were selling, Hashish establishment where I got a new cable for a fiver. I got back to the room with Emily weeping over her now 2% battery and plugged her in. Success!

Not much sleep was had and we were up nice and early for Emily’s 9am appointment at the Embassy. We walked it down from Paddington, past Marble Arch and down into Mayfair where all the embassies live. Most are impressive enough large terraced town houses with flags flying outside. America of course have to do things on a bigger scale and as we saw their place for the first time it did look intimidating. Armed guards, enormous security fences and concrete bollards all fitted nicely around the enormous concrete behemoth which straddled most of the road.

Our preconceived ideas of popping into a small terraced house at five to nine for a cosy chat with some bloke in a suit where dashed as we turned the corner and saw not one but two huge queues up to a marquee outside the main building. With no-one to explain where to go I wandered off to ask someone and found that of course we had joined the wrong one. Once in the right queue we waited about half an hour to get to the front of that one.

emb2 emb1

We showed the required documentation, got ticked off a list, Emily was asked if she really was 18, which amused her greatly, and we were then sent to join the back of a second queue. Another half hour or so passed and I then left Emily, as only applicants can actually go into the building. She went through the security checks, which were airport style and I wandered off in search of breakfast.

About an hour and a half later I wandered back to the Embassy and luckily she appeared almost immediately. Once inside she had been asked to take a seat until her number was called and then went up to a window to be seen by what Emily described as “cute old lady”. She was probably in her fifties!!

So all this effort, huge amounts of paperwork, £130 for the Visa application plus all the travel and accommodation and she was asked three questions and then told her Visa was approved. How I laughed. Anyway, Emily was obviously relieved to have all that over with and we headed for Euston where Emily was fed before we boarded the train for home.

It was a tiring couple of days, and according to the app on my phone we walked over five miles on both days. So here are my top tips for anyone having to go through this process.

1. Check your paperwork a million times. Whilst in the queue we saw a few turned away for not having what they needed or indeed in one case not having booked an appointment!

2. You can take your phone in but not laptops. Don’t take one, or they send you to stash it in some lockers at a nearby Pharmacy but you only find that out after enduring the first queue.

3. If you don’t live in London, you seem to have two choices. Travel there and back in a day or do an over-nighter. To do it in one day you’ll be better with an appointment from mid-morning onwards. When we booked Emily’s appointment time after completing her application online, we were only offered 8am, 8.30 or 9am. There clearly were later appointment times as upon leaving, the queues were huge. It seems they only release those later slots after the early ones are full, so you may need to book your date just a few days before to get those. We booked about two weeks out so only saw early slots. If I were doing it again I’d book an 8am slot and be there about 7.30 to avoid all the queues outside. Luckily it was a sunny warmish day. Had we gone the week before we may have lost a few fingers in the cold.

So the last hurdle is cleared, we are a month away from departure, and it is really hitting home that Emily won’t be around for a year. It was nice to spend those two days with her, although I’d have chosen a different location and something else to do, but still, we made the most of it.

I recognise that I am a little like a stuck record with all these updates about Emily’s programme in WDW. If you are fed up, imagine how it’s been for us for the last 13 months since all this began. It has been a huge amount of pressure, some stress, lots and lots of waiting, really, a lot of waiting and a whole chunk of change to get to this point. All of that will be worth it for the incredible life experience she will have over there.

I haven’t decided how yet, but I’d like to start something online where anyone meeting or seeing Emily in the UK pavilion can post their photos of and/or with her. It will be lovely for us to see her of course and to know she is alive, eating, safe and happy and when she returns it will also be great for her to look back on.  I’ll have a think of the best medium for that, but if anyone has any ideas please let me know.

Till the next time…..

 

Getting Back Into Swings

It still feels a million miles away, but today, a major milestone was passed in our countdown to WDW. Today, we were able to book our first ADR, and as I am (see last week’s post) busy, I delegated the task to Emily. This important passing of the planning baton saw her take delivery of THE SPREADSHEET and my log in details for the Disney app so she could manage things.

This act should give you some clue as to how busy life is, as entrusting this sort of thing to anyone else would normally be unheard of. Anyway, she knows what she’s doing and she was delighted to be helping out and bless her even tried to stay up until 5am to get us in at Be Our Guest on our first day. The app had issues and she didn’t but she can keep trying for the next two and a half weeks I suppose. My hopes aren’t high to be honest.

She did make us a reservation for our first day in the Magic Kingdom. Typically on that first day, having been awake since about 4am we are ready for lunch at about 10am, but this year we shall have to survive until 12.50 when we will be eating at the Crystal Palace for the first time in many years. My thoughts on a buffet don’t need documenting here, and for our first timer, Sarah, this will be a lovely introduction to Disney dining, with characters.

It's been a while

It’s been a while

I fully expect us to retire to the villa after eating as we’ll be jet lagged, full and ready for some hours of feet up around the pool. We only have a handful of target ADRs in mind to be honest. The Rose and Crown will be a first time for us but is a must do for obvious reasons this year, along with Whispering Canyon, as my Dad loves the place and Sarah, as a first timer, won’t know what’s hit her. Beyond that we have more than enough off site favourites to keep us going.

I really do feel out of practice with all this. It’s amazing how one year off can do that to even a veteran of too many trips. Once we get to sorting out this FP+ stuff I’ll be totally lost.

Away from WDW my poor blister filled fingers stood up to the first rehearsal with the band. I did OK I think as I have been invited back to further rehearsals and some potential gigs which is great. The next rehearsal should have been this Thursday evening but it is Sod’s law that this is the night I’m away in London with Emily for her Visa appointment at the US embassy. So I shall now have to play with myself a lot to get myself prepared. I’ll have to play the bass a bit too.

So in two different ways I am getting back into the swing of things that I used to feel like I was almost an expert in. One has given me an overdraft and a larger waistline than I might like and the other has given me sore fingers and a headache from trying to learn over thirty songs. Both have given me a lot of pleasure over the years and hopefully they will continue to.

So if you see two lost Northerners wandering the gold paved streets of that there London towards the end of this week it will no doubt be Emily and I. It will be nice to know that this time there is no nerve-wracking interview process to endure during the trip, aside from a few questions for Emily from the Embassy folk. Prior trips for the two of us have been nervy affairs, planning and preparing all the way down for what might happen in Emily’s interview and then wondering how it went all the way home.

Emily took delivery of this during the week…

hoody1 hoody2All of those arriving for their programme on the same day from the UK have one. It’s another sign that her experience is happening and very soon! I told you life was busy!

Till the next time…..