Operation Oli

It’s difficult to be blogging in my usual inane and whimsical way about my usual subject of Florida after what happened this week. I cannot imagine the grief, terror and heart-break that an event like this inflicts on those involved.

I could rant for hours about the lunacy of the US gun laws and the orange appendage that’s running the show, and his “God fearing”, truck driving, yeehaw mates who think that assault weapons have any place in the hands of a member of the public…but I won’t. I have however spent the latter part of this week getting angry at strangers on the internet.

So in my own little world, this week has been a busy one. There was a Mustard rehearsal on Monday night, and then a medical drama on Tuesday night.  I arrived home to find Louise in the bathroom with her fingers down Oli’s throat. He had got part of a chew stuck down there and he was having a real problem breathing. So we threw him into the back of the car and set off for the nearest vets. It wasn’t our vets but that didn’t matter.  The fact that it was closed did.

So we called our vets to find them closed too and then headed for the out of hours emergency vets their answer machine message directed us too. Oli was in a bad way and they had to immediately put him under to get it out. A fraught forty minutes or so and a hefty claim on our pet insurance later and he was OK. They suggested he stayed in overnight for monitoring, so we went home as the adrenaline faded from our bodies.

About 11pm, I saw the vets number pop up on my mobile, and in a panic I answered. He was fine, but a bit stressed and as they felt he was now out of the woods they asked if I wanted to take him home. So off I went, to find the entire motorway network in Manchester closed, resulting in a forty-five minute journey each way when it should have been twenty. I collapsed into bed after midnight hoping that day would never be repeated.

He’s been fine since, with his only visible scar the ridiculous band of missing fur around his leg where they shaved him to give him the anaesthetic.

Aside from that drama, the week was fairly normal with too much work in the middle and it ended with a couple of days down at Head Office in Marlow. Louise finished her latest ridiculous working marathon and had Thursday and Friday off after working ten days straight. We’ve had a rare weekend where Louise isn’t working and I’m not gigging. We spent a rare Saturday night watching The Hitman’s Body guard with Ryan Reynolds. It was nice of him to pop round.

During the week there was also a moment of panicked realisation that our ability to book ADRs is right around the corner. For someone who has been as often as I have, sometimes my knowledge/memory of how stuff works is appalling. The 180 day window for ADRs consistently surprises me and as of the first week of March we’ll be trying to secure what we want. It’s at that point that plans probably will have to change. If we can’t get what we want, when we want, or an opportunity pops up to get something we didn’t think we would, flexibility will need to be the order of the day. The plan isn’t laminated yet for that very reason.

Having previously said all confident like, that we aren’t doing many ADRs and it won’t matter that much, a quick glance at the current plan shows the first three days of the trip all involve on-site dining. Bugger.

Whispering Canyon, Beaches & Cream and Via Napoli are the eateries in question and there will be some concentrated app usage trying to bag those. Remember when we used to phone up for this stuff? Happy times. I’m sure we all miss the experience of talking to an actual American Cast Member and being wished a magical day after booking a table or two.

The other big news last week was the opening date for Toy Story Land being announced as June 30th.

Having just missed Pandora’s opening (not a euphemism) last year it’s nice to know that it will be open when we get there and hopefully some of the post opening madness may have died down. What that does do is put us into a FastPass tail spin. Usually our FP choices for DHS are pretty simple. Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror and Rock n Rollercoaster, closely followed by Little Mermaid or she gets upset!

With new rides in play, it’s a whole new ball game. Good problems to have. Hopefully, having more stuff available will spread the crowds a little more…wishful thinking maybe. It’s as if I’ve learnt nothing since 1980.

Till the next time……


Going Commando

For all you WDW veterans, you will know that in the time leading up to each trip it is all about certain milestones. Well, we passed one yesterday with our countdown slipping almost unnoticed below 200 days. There are far more significant milestones further down the line as we get to the stage where we can book ADRs (dining reservations…Louise always tell me off for not explaining all this acronym nonsense for those who read this and aren’t WDW saddos) and then sort FastPasses.

At some point we’ll need to sort our ESTAs. I think everyone still has one from our last trip, so it’ll just be for Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and Mikey, but before that we have to get Freddie a passport. Lots to do. As I always say, this isn’t, to quote a fellow Boltonian, a booked it, packed it, f***ked off type of holiday. You need to work at it, and generally you reap what you sow.

What I’m trying to sow for this trip is a magical first time for pretty much everyone. Of course, for Mikey and Tom it really is their first visit and we need to be mindful of that and give them the time and space to take in what we may take for granted and sprint by. Freddie too is a first timer but he won’t remember this one. No matter, we will and it is everyone’s first time in taking a grandchild, nephew, son etc and that is bound to make this a very different experience.

Alongside that desire to have the first timers see and do everything (impossible I know) I also need to make sure we accommodate the fact that a baby slows us down, Rebecca takes about three weeks to get ready and Louise enjoys a sunbathe, hence the large amount of rest and late starts you saw in my plan. So the main thing I will need to do is to turn off my theme park commando demon which rages through my body once I get within a few miles of a theme park. Right there, much more than the issue of dealing with a toddler on a long haul flight, is the biggest challenge that lies before me. I need to take up yoga and meditation between now and the end of August.

No matter what I do, put me at rope drop and I smell blood. Competitive Dad emerges and I am knee capping ten year olds and shoulder barging octogenarians to get to that first ride ahead of the masses. That also typically means that the rest of our party arrive fifteen minutes later with Louise giving me a look that tells me I’ve done it again. I’m not too proud of that behaviour but sometimes needs must. I remember one morning arriving at Animal Kingdom (pre Everest) and being on the “get on the safari” mission. The girls were in strollers and we were motoring. As we rounded a corner one of the girls screamed in delight as Lilo and Stitch were out meeting guests and with it being early, there was no queue.

“Look Daddy, it’s Lilo & Stitch!” yelled an excited daughter. I couldn’t tell you which one as I was in the zone.

Suffice to say, as I draw a veil over what happened next, no meet and greet happened that morning and ten minutes later we were sat on one of the first safaris out of the traps, seeing  many animals that would be sheltering from the heat a few moments later. Sure, the girls were cradling their crushed dreams the whole way round as they didn’t get to meet those characters but in later life they came to appreciate my wisdom….I think.

Don’t worry, I redeemed myself later.

It’s all about balance I think. There’s a time to smell the roses and a time to get your head down and get somewhere. For clarity, the time for the former is NOT at park opening when you can get several rides under your belt before half of Orlando are out of bed, and the time for the latter is when you’ve done a few things, energy levels might be dropping and you need a breather.

Hmm, ridding myself of this theme park commando demon doesn’t seem to be off to a good start does it?

Till the next time…..

 

My Way

I quite often get asked to give advice to folks considering a Florida trip. I’m sure this is the case for many of us that have been a few times. I do my best, but often find that a lot of what I offer is pretty much ignored. It’s fine…no honestly…IT’S FINE!!

Everyone is different, and even when you get to some level of expertise, everyone does it differently. Everyone else is wrong of course, but you knew that anyway. So that could well be the reason that my wise words are not followed to the letter. Either that, or it could be that those asking for advice are expecting a couple of sentences about how to book cheap flights, the best places to stay and the best time to go, but what they get is an indexed, fully formatted word document with a word count just a little lower than the Brit’s Guide To Orlando.

I like to be thorough, and there are angles that I cannot leave uncovered. That risks them doing Orlando wrong and I can’t be having that.

By the nature of the request most of these folks are first timers and at the risk of sounding really patronising over what in reality is “just a holiday” they have no concept of what they are asking. The sheer scale, complexity and endless nuances of a trip to WDW and beyond is (in my opinion) incomprehensible to people who haven’t been. There are a couple of chapters in my word document about acronyms, so they know to get a FP for BTMR before  heading to Epcot for ROE.

The frame of reference for first timers is typically Alton Towers and when you drop the bombshell that WDW is the size of Greater Manchester you get a knowing smile and a look that tells you they think you are bullshitting.

It’s not their fault they haven’t been before, of course, and you often see questions on these Facebook groups like “Is Disney Springs easily walkable from (insert location)?”

The answer to that is of course that nowhere is walkable from anywhere. It’s a tough ask to walk to the car park of most things, never mind to a whole other location.

We’ve taken a few newbies in recent years and we have some more coming along this time. We’ve tried our best to explain what things are like and what to expect before we go. We’ve spent evenings sharing what we think are relevant vlogs and stuff, but in themselves, with no context, I guess it is hard to grasp what is going on.

So I think I spotted a gap in the vlogger market (Hey Guys!). This may well exist already, but the three minutes of extensive searching I had the patience for has surprisingly failed to find what I’m looking for. What is needed is some sort of beginner’s guide. An overview of the whole thing, outlining the scale etc, then a dive into each park and attraction and then maybe further down the line, some more advanced level stuff about the Magic Band, My Disney app, etc etc etc. This may be a whole series of vlogs due to the amount of stuff to cover. It could be a dream topic for a UK based vlogger as it doesn’t necessarily need them to be in WDW, but it does need a good knowledge of stuff.

So this is where I know get bombarded with such content with messages suggesting my searching skills are slightly worse than my patience levels with YouTube.

So come on, who has done a “So you’re thinking of going to Disney for the first time” vlog? If not you, have you seen one you thought did the trick? If not, why not make one purely for my benefit so I can share it with folks who ask me what it’s all about!

I know there are lots of vlogs based on lists such as the top ten things to do etc etc, the top ten things not to miss and all that. But I’m looking for a explainer video, which starts with a map view of the whole place, a little history, a bit of background on the climate through the year, a bit of on site vs offsite debate…you know, a short concise video that condenses decades of experience and expense into a digestible form.  Can’t be too much to ask surely?

I wait your links and disdain for my lack of patience and poor searching skills.

Till the next time…..