Man With A Plan

Last week felt like a long one didn’t it? Or was that just me? It may not have helped that I had a life threatening cold for most of it. It’s always surprising to rediscover just how bloody awful you can feel with just a cold.

As I sat in the office sniffing and coughing up vital organs, all I could hear around me was colleagues doing the same thing. The first day of summer seems to have brought with it a plague that is sweeping through the nation. Apart from fighting off a deadly virus last week was fairly quiet. Oh apart from the political infrastructure collapsing, friends and family turning on each other and Facebook becoming a more dangerous battle ground than Afghanistan.

I’ve never done politics here and won’t start now but by Christ what a mess we seem to have found ourselves in. Good luck to those now charged with sorting it all out.

Whilst the voting was going on we had a band rehearsal. We are pretty much reinventing our whole set as we find ourselves having to replace a member of the band. It’s a gentle and amicable hand over so we’re taking the opportunity to make some big changes to the songs we do as they have been largely the same for some time now. It’s good fun learning new stuff, although when you are musically barely competent as I am, the main panic when someone suggests a song to do is the fear that you won’t be capable of playing it. Although the only thing worse than that is when you have learned a song and then it’s discovered that we need to do it in a different key and then my tiny brain has to move everything I just learned to new places on the fret board. I envy those with real musical ability!

This weekend I have been employed as a Disney planner. Naturally, as this was for Rebecca and Tom, there was no fee involved. They had thought of holidaying somewhere exotic and beachy, such as Bali, but with some more thought and of course encouragement from me, they have moved their plans to Florida. It made perfect sense (to me anyway) as their requirements were sun, stuff to do, great food in large quantities and a flight time under double figures.

Tom is an eater of epic ability. He has never been to Florida and I suspect he may never return to the UK as it is surely his spiritual home. Due to their age, hiring a car becomes expensive so I have suggested an on-site package, with Magical Express at a value resort. Between Disney buses and Uber they can get where they want to get to for a lot less than the very high surcharges hire car companies tend to charge for those under 25.

disney site

The free memory maker now included in these packages is quite handy when travelling as a couple, otherwise you struggle to get photos of the two of you together.  However, the dining plan offer has never really appealed to me and I have passed that prejudice on in my advice. Rebecca wants to take Tom to the places we have always loved such as Applebees, Teak, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze etc and so the restriction of always eating on site wouldn’t really suit them.

Anyway, their planning is in early stages and they may change destination entirely, but again it seems the pulling power of the Sunshine State is strong, especially if you ask me for holiday advice!!

On the subject of the plans for Louise and I in March, I haven’t done a great deal more than pencil in a rough sketch of the theme park days and of course where to eat on those days. Most of our trip is beach based so the planning requirements are less demanding. There’ll be more to do once the ADR window opens up in September and then FP+ in January. Hopefully the dollar rate will rally between now and then, but my breath is not held.

So it seems my use as Taxi Dad is not what it was, but I still come in handy when it comes to holiday planning. I think that’s not a bad deal!

Till the next time…..

Full House

It’s been an odd time of late. I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a funk for a while without really knowing why. I suppose we’ve been through an unusually high number of changes and challenges as a family recently which may be the root cause. For all the crap I do share here, anything that’s really personal, I tend not to. That rule was made even stricter by the incredible trolling, vitriol and in some cases the very real and personal threats messaged to us after Emily’s first go at working for Disney was cut short. If you think I’ve been radio silent about that whole experience since, you now know why.

Anyway, much water has passed and if I’m to continue to bother blogging at all (and at times it’s been a close call) then I should return to sharing as I used to or what’s the point? This thing started as a personal diary anyway, so if I don’t document what’s going on then when I read it back it will be worth little.

I digress. I suppose the largest reason for this feeling of funk may be the all too familiar empty nest syndrome. You may recall that as we returned from holiday last September we did so to find two empty bedrooms where the two largest parts of our lives used to be. For anyone, that can take some getting used to. It had been coming a while, but as we left one daughter in America and waved another off to her new home with her boyfriend we just sort of got on with life. Don’t get me wrong, in some ways it was great, peaceful, less stressful and definitely cheaper, but after giving so much of our time, hearts, wages and attention to two other human beings, not having them around was an adjustment and a half.

It’s as clichéd as the mid-life crisis to document the ins and outs of that empty nest experience so I wont.  Some ten months on from that return from holiday and as inevitably as my waistline increasing year by year, things have changed once again. In that time we’ve experienced a couple of things with the girls that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but life doesn’t let you choose and after these events knock a bit more stuffing out of you, all you can do is dust yourself down and attempt another run at stuff. Personally, I’d say those two things have been the toughest things I’ve (as yet) had to deal with but that’s my job I suppose. Pardon the lack of detail. If you knew those details you would understand.

Anyway, to avoid this whole post being one big digression, I can now report that we find ourselves with a full house once again, because as of a few weeks ago, Rebecca returned home to complete the set after she and her boyfriend decided that this house renting lark was all too expensive and was severely restricting their fun and shopping activities. So we are not only back up to the full complement of Williams’s, we have an extra one for luck in the shape of Tom, Rebecca’s boyfriend, living here too. So much for that empty nest.

As much as the battle for the bathroom is real, it’s no real hardship having the house full again. Ultimately, if they are both happy, healthy and settled then despite all of our huge parenting mistakes, dropped balls and abandoned good intentions over the years, it’s all we can hope and aspire to. It doesn’t stop me fretting, faffing and fiddling in and around their lives and I don’t suppose I ever will. It also doesn’t stop us having those head in hands moments at some of their decisions, choices and cock ups but as adults now, those are theirs to make. My priceless advice to the girls is normally greeted with the same attention as a party political broadcast. I give it anyway as it will at least allow me the odd “I Told You So” somewhere down the line.

On the subject of advice, I can often be found boring any new parent to death about two things –

  1. As your kids get older, the problems and stress don’t decrease, they just change into different problems and stress.
  2. There is no ideal age to take your children to Disney World. Only worry when you can’t take them, and at any time you can, you should.

These new parents don’t even have to ask for that advice. I force it upon them, àpropos of nothing, uninvited with great gusto.

At least now with everyone back at Casa Williams, there may well be content worthy of some blogging which will save you all from my weekly moans about all sorts of oblique nonsense that nobody cares about.

So to bring everyone totally up to speed with happenings in the World of Williams, Louise has a new job, working in operating theatres at a local hospital and has now been a qualified nurse for over a year, Rebecca, as well as being back at home is doing really well in her apprenticeship at a local nursery and Emily has a full-time job too and is actually lucky enough to work with me now, learning lots, mainly about how absolutely shite my commute has been all these years.

I continue to work for far too many days a week, whilst not having sufficient time to research holidays, play bass in my band or write that second book which still sits there taunting me with its incompleteness.

So to end this post, with some appropriate Father’s Day advice, if you are one of my younger readers, do yourself a favour and listen to your Dad (and Mum) every now and again. We’re not always right but the percentages are high and whilst you’re at it, clean your rooms, run the Hoover around without being asked every now and again and take less time in the shower.

Till the next time……

The Top Three Things I Hate About Blogging – You Won’t Believe Number 3!!

Did you click that link to find out what number 3 is? I don’t hate blogging of course. Imagine someone using a blog post title to encourage clicks. These days it seems that everyone has a blog. Most seem to have one or two posts on them from 2011  before they realise that it’s actually quite difficult to think of something to write on a regular basis.

It is only my compulsive, task driven, incompletion averse personality that compels me to write this thing every week. I don’t really consider myself a normal blogger, mainly as I don’t have a theme. I’m definitely not a Disney blogger although many of my posts talk about it. A Disney blogger, to me, is someone who has the patience and time to find out everything that is going on in that world and write informative, fact based posts that help others keep up.

I don’t have the time or inclination to do that to be honest and so my Disney content is only personal to me and what is relevant to my next trip. I could never keep up to date with everything going on and I’d never be able to publish that before the four trillion other Disney bloggers do. Most of my posts are just me moaning about the twists and turns of my average, middle class, middle of the road life with hopefully enough humility and bits of humour to keep them readable.

Anyway, I do have a few pet peeves about blogs in general, so let’s see if I can get to three…

  1. Click bait titles – If you see one, (like the one I used) then click it with the knowledge that it’s being used for a reason. Every blogger wants views. Although I don’t blog to get a certain number of views I am pleased when a post I write gets more than usual. Everyone likes that sort of pat on the back. I don’t monetise my blog with ads (if you see any, they are placed by WordPress and I don’t see a penny), but for those who do, then these types of teaser titles are mainly looking to drive numbers up and page impressions mean ad views which ultimately means more cash.
  2. Quitters – Blog or do not, there is no try. I understand this is due to my Type A personality, but if you’re going to announce to the world that you’re going to be blogging and sharing your wisdom and wit, don’t pack it in after the traditional “Hello World!” post.
  3. Over promoters – Look, I blogged, read it, like it, share it. Everyone does different stuff to attract readers to their blog but there is a limit and if I see the same post tweeted out forty-seven times a day, I tend not to read it on principle.

I’m a moaning git aren’t I? Of course these days, blogging is a bit last decade and the big thing is vlogging. The rise of the YouTuber (along with smartphones, tablets and smart TVs) will continue to revolutionise how we watch content over the next few decades. We’re already seeing big time YouTubers crossing over now on to mainstream broadcast media and in the Disney community there are thousands of them. The Trackers are the only ones I watch semi-regularly as they produce enjoyable, interesting and engaging content presented nicely.

Vlogging is not for me. I don’t have the personality or delivery to carry that off so I salute those who do it well. For me, beyond being engaging on-screen and knowing how to deliver to camera well, the real skill with vlogging is editing. If I can get through someone’s vlog without wanting to fast forward huge chunks of it I’m pretty likely to watch future videos.

On the flip side, some more traditional celebs have taken to YouTube to engage with their fans and they are becoming almost as well-known for that as they are for their original career. Tom Fletcher falls into that category and he and his extended family have always seemed very switched on to potential of social media.

I’m not an expert blogger by any means. I probably make loads of mistakes on a regular basis, but for me it’s not that important as I don’t make money from it, I don’t live or die by how many people read this guff and you, dear reader, tend to be very loyal and forgiving of some of the crap I churn out. For me, it started out as an experiment to better understand blogs (which back in 2009 were still fairly new) and a bit of a diary to track what happens as life flashes by at a million miles an hour. I do dip into the archives every now again to read in great detail what I was whinging about in 2011.

If you’ve thought about doing a blog, maybe started one and stopped, I would encourage you to give it a go. For me, and in my very own personal worthless opinion, you have to write for yourself first about stuff you care about or are just thinking about at the time and see if anyone else likes it too. I am sure over the years I’ve purposefully written stuff I know would appeal but I suspect that’s a symptom of having to think of a post every week! If any of you do blog, or are going to, send me a link and I’ll happily share it out here in a future post which may send my reader your way!

Till the next time……

Driven to Despair

It’s been one of those odd weeks where I’ve been very busy but now as I sit down to write about it, there’s not a lot I can tell you! That isn’t, as you may have spotted, an auspicious start to any blog post.

Having been stung by over sharing historically I tend to share less of our weekly goings on here these days, not that anyone would be enthralled by news of my ten miserable commutes to and from Manchester anyway, but you never know who reads this stuff and so the content tends to be a little different these days.

The one outstanding event of the week came on Friday afternoon, and I use the word outstanding to mean that it stood out from the rest of the week, not necessarily that is was good. Having been a blatant criminal recently and driven at 47mph in a 40mph zone, which was I should say a three lane dual carriageway, recently changed from a  50mph zone, I found myself with a lovely letter from Greater Manchester Police.

I had three choices –

  1. Three points and fine
  2. A speed awareness course and a fine
  3. Go to court and fight my case based upon the mitigating circumstances above and the fact that I was driving to work and I couldn’t see the signs through my tears.

Sensibly and predictably I took option 2 and Friday was the day. Very quickly, I was debating with myself if three points really would have been such a bad thing. Firstly the weather was tremendous and having sacrificed half a day’s holiday there were better uses of it I’m sure. Secondly, the clock in the room was faulty. How else can it be explained that the scheduled four hours took nine and a half days to pass?

Thirdly, the entire content of the course could have been summarised into about ten minutes of “driving fast isn’t a good thing so don’t” and then had us read the relevant bits of The Highway Code again. I am not of course stupid enough to think that me going over the speed limit is a good thing and generally I am a safe and conservative driver. Again, it was a THREE LANE dual carriageway (as denoted by the central barrier…they told me that on the course, but I knew anyway!) that had been 50mph since time began, but the tortuous pace at which the course was delivered was only made worse by the other participants reciting back key phrases to the instructors like some motor based group of Moonies.

Sitting through four hours of –

“Do we think that an extra five miles an hour can make a difference if we hit someone?”

Then to endure a few more minutes of folks agreeing that yes it can…”cos you’re like, going faster, and it will hurt more like and that’s bad” soon became old…..after about twelve minutes.

“Now, as a group, discuss the things that make you drive over the limit”.

Dear God, I’d rather burn my car right here in the car park and walk to work. It would be quicker anyway.

The last ten minutes of the course were tortuous. I gazed out of the window at those lucky enough to be driving past (over the speed limit no doubt) whilst the clock I was watching went backwards. I suppose the deterrent is that I NEVER want to have to sit through one of those courses again…ever…in my lifetime or the next.

I’m sure I benefited in some way and for the next few days/weeks/months I’ll no doubt think more whilst I’m driving. It’s hard to concentrate though when you have a tweet to finish and your sandwich is falling apart in your lap.

So kids, the message is, don’t drive faster than you should. It’s a bad thing. Mainly as you lose four hours of your life and have to sit next to Cockney Ian who doesn’t have an inside voice or any sense of personal space who wants to tell the whole group about how he got caught speeding despite the fact that his ten minute story is expanding the length of the course and shortening his potential life span as I contemplate implanting my free pen into his neck.

Oh and if a road has street lights on it, it’s a 30mph speed limit. So you now know everything I learned!

Till the next time…..