California Dreaming

Being almost permanently skint due to expensive kids and funding our holidays and lavish lifestyle in one of the Top Ten places to live in the UK (honest….look), our non working time activity tends to be dictated by whatever treats our £8 a month we give Netflix and my Amazon Prime membership can give us.

You’ve probably wondered in the past how on earth we have time to watch all the stuff we do as I have regaled you with reviews of all sorts from the unbeatable Breaking Bad to lesser, yet still entertaining shows. The trend, you may have spotted, is that they tend to be US shows. I don’t think this is a coincidence. There is simply something more exotic and exciting about watching a show set in the US than in Droitwich (apologies to the fine folks of that town).

I think it is burned into the DNA of many of us here in the UK, certainly those of my age, who were raised on shows such as Starsky and Hutch, The Dukes of Hazard and Knight Rider. Younger generations were raised on Lizzie McGuire, or whatever show was relevant to their generation too. None of those were outstandingly good of course but they just looked exciting and different from the grey Uk-ness of our daily lives.

Our latest binge watch sessions have revolved around the first two series of Ray Donovan and it has been great. This is set in (the very expensive bits of) LA, a place we haven’t been to and must, and it just looks great. Most of the most successful US shows rely on location to make them appealing to the eye. The sunshine helps, unless you are making some sort of Nordic Noir drama, then you go to Canada or Boston, but they still look great too.

It might be just me but I am a sucker for the TV non-reality of the States. All the traditions we try to imitate but fail, such as prom (ours just don’t seem the same having paid for two), the ball game and those leafy suburban streets with kids throwing newspapers from bikes onto freshly mowed lawns. Of course, those suburban scenes are those of the affluent upper classes and the gritty ghettos of the big cities might not float my boat as much.

My rational self knows that these cinematic scenes are not necessarily representative of real life. Having given emigration to the States more than a cursory consideration over the years I know that healthcare is a challenge, vacation time from work is limited, the politics are incredulous and sending your kid to school is only slightly less risky than deploying them to a war zone, but still, I can’t shake the dream from my mind. I guess America is a great place to live if you have money, much like anywhere, but I think more so.

Over the years of dreaming of such a move, our roots in the UK have been too deep and it never really was an option. Canada too has crossed our minds but family, jobs, schools and even bloody pets have meant it hasn’t ever come close to being a reality.

With Louise a nurse now our path into such a move may be easier than we might ever have found it. The kicker now of course is that with us in our mid-forties no bugger wants us, with our limited working shelf life and increasing health issues as we crash from middle age into our twilight years.

So I guess we’ll have to stick with Salford over Seattle and Leigh over LA, and whatever US scenery we can stream to our telly.

I know a few folks who sometimes read this blog have made big moves to new countries, so I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts and findings from your experiences. Don’t get me wrong we are not planning a similar move, I’d just be interested to know how you found it (and did it).

Till the next time…..

A Ranting Return

It’s been a while hasn’t it? All this trip report nonsense getting in the way of my pure gold blog posts every week. Welcome back. What on earth can I talk about now and will anybody care? Well, on the basis that hardly anyone will be reading this, we start with a rant….

So Facebook….it’s great isn’t it? It’s free, and ideal for keeping in touch with old friends, the sharing of vague emotional status updates, false bragging about how great our lives are and generally just seeking attention. That’s what it is intended for and I do most of those  on Facebook on a regular basis, as we all should. More than anything though it gives you a clear idea about which of your Friends on there might struggle to get themselves dressed of a morning.

Dear Facebook friends, I beg you to use the sense you were born with, the nouse you use in everyday real life when you are online. You would not act this way in real life.

Please, stop sharing right wing, made up, over sentimental, scam shite all over the internet. For example, you will often see….

Some school has banned the nativity due to nasty foreigners or people of a different colour being offended, share this to express your indignation.  Firstly, no they haven’t and even if they had what good is you clicking share going to do? Also, the old favourite…..

Someone is offended by a poppy…..again, no they aren’t. But then again I’m offended by a lot of things, like stupid Facebook stuff and Coldplay yet I don’t feel the need to start a Facebook meme about it that everyone then sees in their feed seventeen times an hour. Then we have…

For every share and like some company will donate some dollars…nope, they absolutely will not. Stop it immediately. Or maybe…

Facebook is trying to take this photo down, share it now. If Facebook cared about that photo enough to distract them from counting their money, then you probably wouldn’t see it in the first place…..do not click that shit!  One of my all time faves is….

Any post that ends with “and you won’t believe what happened next”. This translates to…this is click bait shite, please click onto this page and the other 100 pages you will be asked to click through to in order to generate a load of ad views/impressions on my advertising account…kerching. And I think we can all say Amen to….

Here’s a distressing photo of a sick child or abused animal…if you scroll down you are heartless. Type Amen. Sigh…really….just because some photo exists and someone has added some inciteful text to entice you to comment, like or share does not make it true. Facebook is not the news or some absolute source of truth. It’s social media and any idiot can post any sort of shite on it. Look, I’m doing it right now!!

a meme

Oh and those quizzes, like, see what kind of twilight character, squirrel or baked confectionery you are….well, that’s just you telling someone all your preferences and character traits so they can spam and annoy you with more ads. Your call!

If Zuckerberg is reading this (and he does most weeks) my one request for new functionality would be a “For all that is holy NEVER show me this again in my feed” button for that hilarious photo/meme or inspirational quote over that lovely scenic photo that I have already seen more often than my wife and kids.

Anyway, I know that 99% of my friends won’t read this, but please copy and paste it onto your foreheads because if you don’t, somewhere a small puppy will burst into flames due to ISIS or some other bogey man that triggers an irrational fear.

and yes…I’m OK hun! 🙂

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2016 – Day Nineteen

Day Nineteen – 14th September

Who knew that a holiday that started on the 27th of August 2015 would last all the way until mid-February? In more ways than I could ever describe, it has been one heck of a journey.

No matter how hard I try, our last day and our journey home never have any decent notes recorded. It isn’t intentional, I just can’t seem to bring myself to record this day. So I’ll do my best with the half a page I do have and the handful of photos, but your reading may be brief today.

I had another fitful night’s sleep before the alarm woke me at 7am. The next couple of hours saw the traditional Tazmanian Devil impression as we dash around the villa trying to get everything into our cases. Inevitably this involves the purchase of an extra case, which I nipped to CVS to do before we were able to finish and leave the villa at 9.45. It took an act of God to fit everything into the car and Grandad and I were a little hot and sweaty as we reversed off the drive.

A huge breakfast was now required, so we drove up to the 192 and I decided upon the Perkins, mainly as it was the first place we saw.

We were seated and ordered orange juice, coffees and in some cases chocolate milks.

I didn’t record what everyone had but you’ll get the idea from these photos.

We paid $103 plus a large tip made up mainly of all the change I wanted to get rid of. They didn’t seem to mind.

Next on the list was a trip up to Lake Buena Vista, where, being the coward I am, I put $10 of fuel in the car. With everything else going on today I wasn’t mentally ready for a game of Russian roulette with the fuel gauge.

Just when we thought that the car was about to burst at the seams we stopped off at Publix near Emily’s apartment to stock her up one last time before she would be left to fend for herself. The mood today was sombre as you can imagine. Not only were we going home, but of course one of us was staying behind and after knowing this day would come for many months it wasn’t making it any easier. It didn’t feel real.

Anyway, as we started wandering the aisles of Publix Louise had to nip to their loo. She found us again afterwards and on we went with the shop. A few minutes later she stopped in her tracks with a look of panic on her face. It would appear she had lost her phone. She dashed back to the loos to see if it was there. She knew she had it as we entered the store and so it MUST be in there right?

Wrong!

She went to Customer Services to see if it had been handed in there but it hadn’t.

I started to incur huge data roaming charges on my own phone now trying to contact Vodafone to block the thing and report it lost. This was, pretty much, the last thing we needed amongst everything else that was going on.

It was about this time that Louise realised that she hadn’t lost her phone at all and that it had been stuffed down her bra the whole time.

How we laughed.

Already emotionally spent, we took all Emily’s food and her new iron back to the car and somehow packed it in with everything and everyone else. As we set off for The Commons we all knew we were coming to the time we had all been dreading. We were about to drop Emily off for the last time.

I won’t document this in great detail. I have a history of over sharing our stuff all over the internet so let’s not and just say that it was difficult, and it isn’t something I want to experience again.

Despite my $10 investment we still coasted into the airport on fumes with my heart racing. Maybe that wasn’t due to the low fuel?

Having booked Premium Economy for the home leg we checked in quickly and easily, got through security and then monorailed out to gate 81. Louise, Rebecca, Sarah and I got a table in the Outback. We weren’t hungry but fancied a sit down for a drink. To be polite we ordered some cheesey fries too.

With this done I wandered off to the restroom to put my long pants on. This is a symbolic event every year and denotes the end of the fun. Today it felt more sombre than usual.

We wandered duty free for a bit and then as we eventually went to board the plane which had been delayed for half an hour it struck me very hard that I had three passports in my hand and not the usual four. My stomach churned.

I know I’m over egging this upset malarkey, and even looking back now I sound like a big girl even to myself, but at the time, this was how we felt and so I’m reporting it as such.

My notes end here. I will openly admit that Louise and I cried like babies as the wheels left the tarmac of Orlando. It felt strangely symbolic and the last twenty years flashed before our eyes. All the holidays, all the times we’ve flown home together and all the challenges Emily would now have to face on her own. Sure, she was twenty, but a young twenty and it was our job to look after her, both then and forever.

We eventually gathered ourselves somewhere above the Atlantic and the flight happened. We landed, waited an age for our cases and got ourselves home.

So there we are, the end, in many ways.

It’s been a blast over sharing these adventures with you all over the years. Our return home this time was an arrival into a whole new world. Louise and I returned to an empty nest, with Emily in the US and Rebecca and her boyfriend Tom getting their first place together. Both of those departures had been a long time in the planning so we knew it was coming. It didn’t make it any easier and I think we’ve both taken a while to get used to the idea.

So at this ending of an era, I suspect there won’t be any further trip reports. It feels that way anyway, mainly as there probably won’t be any more holidays of this nature. The days of the four of us going away will now be forever captured in these reports. Any future Disney trips will be very different I’m sure and not for some time and that weirdly feels OK to be honest.

We’ve been through some huge changes and challenges as a family in the last year or two with more to come no doubt.

So now, I need to thank you for reading this one and any of the others if you have. Writing these has been a huge part of our, or certainly my, enjoyment of these holidays. Louise, Emily and Rebecca, I thank you for letting me write them, tolerating the note writing and photo taking along with allowing me to share things you’d rather I didn’t with a load of strangers on the internet.

Girls, at least when you have kids of your own, you can look back on these trip reports and let your kids know how many knob gags their Grandad knows!  I’m waffling now as, to be honest, I don’t know how to end this. Bringing well over a decade of reports to a close isn’t something I know how to do, so how about a few memories from them?

It’s been a blast.

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Till the next time?

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Eighteen

Day Eighteen – 13th September

For any serial WDW visitor, there’s a phrase which strikes fear and dread into their hearts.

Last full day.

Here we are, after all this time, with just one more day here. Those of you who know anything about us will probably be able to guess which park we would spend such an occasion in. We were headed for Magic Kingdom of course, but aiming to be consistent with the rest of the trip we obviously decided to have a lie in. To be fair, my notes tell me I had a rough night, probably brought on by the thought of not only our last full day, but leaving one of my daughters behind too.

With this unintentional lie in I found myself on the PC shifting our FastPass bookings to later in the day. Of course, by doing this on the day I was now booking FastPasses for the monorail and to watch a trash can get emptied on Main Street.

With the morning a bit of a write off some packing happened and with that pretty much done we left the villa at 12.30. This wasn’t as bad as you may think as we wanted to stay until parades and fireworks tonight so this later start may give us a fighting chance.

It was raining. The weather making its own comment on the mood surrounding the end of the trip. We parked in Scar 119 and were in full poncho as we trammed into the TTC.

As we left the monorail the rain stopped. It is where dreams come true after all. I had my sack handled by an elderly US gent for the last time, Ryan had a cigarette and recovered as we took some photos.

As usual at the end of our summer trips, Halloween was in full effect on Main Street.

More photos happened as there was a definite sense of the impending departure minus one of our party.

Here we see what happens when two different people are taking your photo at the same time.

All trip I had been putting off visits to certain shops using the excuse that we needed to wait until Emily had her Cast Member discount, and then when that ran out, the age old “I don’t want to carry that around all day so we’ll come back at the end of the holiday”. Today neither of those were any good so we spent more time than I would ever want to in the Pandora shop on Main Street. Louise bought some earrings that were worth more than her actual ears.

Nana and Grandad spent some time chatting with a Cast Member in the shop whilst Louise and the girls spent more time choosing jewellery than we did our last house.

Of course having arrived at the park half way through the day, every ride had wait times almost as long as the time we spent in the Pandora shop. So we deployed the “everything is busy” strategy of wandering about and looking at stuff. The first thing we looked at was the new Circus area where Mickey and Minnie’s house used to be.

There’s a feeling that this isn’t for us as we no longer have children to which this relevant. Stuff moves on of course, but I will forever have Mickey’s house in my heart alongside the mental images of my very young girls within it.

We decided to catch the train and do a loop of the park.

As we waited for the train there was a rescue situation. A tiny turtle was sat on the rail of the train track about to find out that its shell was no match for a couple of tonnes of train. The Cast Member on the platform was told about it and he bravely made his way out onto the tracks and moved it on into the bushes, thereby saving a few hundred kids an experience that may well have scarred them for life.

Just in time….

We stopped at Main Street but didn’t get off.

We alighted (got off) at Splash Mountain and went into the shop there as we certainly weren’t getting on the ride. Inevitable hat trying ensued.

We bought Emily a fluffy blanket that had a hood. An essential I think you’ll agree.

We walked past Splash heading for Country Bear Jamboree. Yep, that’s how busy all the real rides were.

Having not seen this in years and of course Sarah never had, we enjoyed it more than we thought we might. We made our way then over to the new area to find Gaston about to appear. However, his queue was already full and closed to new guests, so instead we loitered at the front of the queue watching him interact with those who had waited since last week to see him.

Gaston found time to flirt with the girls as he spotted them taking photos of him.

Thankfully we were now approaching one of our FastPass times so we slowly wandered down to Space Mountain taking more photos as we did.

We did the People Mover to kill the last bit of time and to rest our legs.

At 5.05 we got on our first ride of the day, but to be honest we felt no sense of having not had a nice day so far. Sometimes it’s about where you are, not what you’re doing.

Space Mountain was fast and bumpy and my notes classified it as “full clench”.

Nana and Grandad had gone shopping rather than ride the mountain so we now met them on Main Street as we were now, having done one ride, heading out for our evening meal. We caught the boat headed for Trail’s End.

 

This is one of the nicest ways to make your way to food.

We arrived at 6.05 and checked in for our 6.15 reservation.

This is a buffet affair and so what followed was bordering on warfare. There are no photos as what happened was not pretty. Having gone all in on the superb food, dessert was not an option, but to be fair, the corn bread was cake anyway.

As we left we spent a little bit of time talking to the horse bloke. I suspect that isn’t his official title.

As we waited for the boat back to Magic Kingdom my favourite time of day, in my favourite place happened and for once my camera did a half decent job of capturing it.

Dusk in and around Magic Kingdom is just lovely.

The beauty of those photos were stark contrast to the absolute chaos that we found on Main Street. The first parade was about to happen and it was just madness. Keeping a party of seven together was a challenge but we somehow made it all the way to Thunder Mountain and used our FastPass.

By the time we had done that it was 8.45 and we headed for Main Street again to try and find an inch of space to watch Wishes and the parade. It was brutal. Busy does not describe it. We found a spot literally half way up Main Street in the middle of the street.

About here…

I have long since given up trying to capture Wishes on camera and we just stood and watched full of all sorts of emotions. Emily cried throughout.

Afterwards Louise and I had to battle the shops to buy gifts for everyone we hadn’t yet whilst everyone else went to find somewhere to watch the parade. That shopping experience wasn’t pleasant. The shops resembled a crowd scene from Ghandi but somehow we gave Disney a large amount of money and left to find the others.

By some miracle they had managed to secure a spot up on the balcony near the train station. After a ten minute wait the parade started and from the few hundred photos I attempted here are the few worth sharing.

Leaving the park was expectedly chaotic and we opted to take the resort monorail as the normal one was just madness. The trams were also packed and after a fair bit of waiting we finally got on one and got back to our car at 11. As we had sat on the tram waiting for the 612 safety announcements and checks there was a family in the queue going absolutely mental at the family sat in front of us. It was all in Spanish so I don’t know what they were saying, but they were clearly upset that they had not been able to board. As the family in front of us didn’t speak Spanish either most of the tirade was wasted. Everyone was tired and emotional at this stage.

We stopped off at CVS on the way home for water and some throat spray….yes I was STILL ill. We were in bed by 12 completely spent.

Till the next time……