Yacht Club Or Bust.

This will be brief. We have so much to do that I can’t be spending too much time papping on here. As things stand, with mere hours until our flight leaves, we are going. That could change of course.

Mary was in very poor health on Thursday evening and we thought we may not be going, and for the sake of our mental health, I guess we have to stay in that frame of mind until we are airborne.

The home she will be in is absolutely equipped with everything and everyone needed for any eventuality, so it’s just a case of her remaining fit enough for us to take her in and us getting on the plane. I appreciate that might sound a little odd, but we need this break.

We’ll be dropping her off early this afternoon and have booked about six removal trucks to do so. She’s taking a fair bit of kit with her.

The last week at work has been a constant stream of meetings that I had to drag myself through. I feel like there are a million things I haven’t done, and that I am bound to forget to do something crucial like check-in for the flight online. Someone remind me!

On Thursday I went to the Post Office to grab a few dollars in cash. The least said about the exchange rate the better. It was borderline offensive.

So the plan for the rest of today is to take Mary in, stay with her for a few hours to make sure she is settled, and then meet Tom, Rebecca and the boys for some tea so we can say our goodbyes, before coming home so Louise can hoover the ceilings and re-pave the front drive, as is the tradition if we leave the country for two weeks. It is going to be a busy pre-holiday day.

Emily and her boyfriend Mikey are house and pet-sitting. With the zoo that we have this is a full-time job so please wish them good luck. With two dogs, three cats and a number of rats that I have lost track of they may have to sleep in shifts.

As ever I will be sharing stuff during our trip on the Mkingdon Facebook page so if you haven’t “Liked” that already, what on earth are you thinking? Go ahead and do that so you can see pictures of a lot of food. On our return, I will be doing some blogging around the trip of course but I’m not sure two weeks of pools and food will make for the most interesting reading. We’ll see.

If all goes to plan, in a few hours (well, a good few) we’ll be enjoying views like this, so keep your fingers crossed for us, please.

Image pinched from disneytouristblog.com

I have been watching my emails like a hawk for Aer Lingus emails, paranoid they are going to cancel the flight. I even checked availability on the Virgin flights tomorrow in case we end up in the lurch and need an alternative. As of yesterday, there were some seats left. Crazy, right?

I am reluctant to say it but it looks like we may actually be going, but I stand ready to be corrected on that.

So enough waffle, there are things to do and flights to check in to.

Till the next time……

Travel Tribulations

Number of days remaining until holiday – Low

Stress levels – High

Confidence levels that we will get on the plane – Low to Moderate

It has been a stressful old week. Work has been ridiculous but more importantly, until late afternoon on Thursday, we had no respite care booked for Mary. If this were as easily obtainable as hen’s teeth, dipped in unicorn semen, we would have fared better. Louise has spoken to every care facility in the North West, and each one had some new and interesting reason why they could not help us, or it was a dump. We were getting worried.

Anyhow, on Thursday I got the call from Louise that her lastest and last visit to a nursing home had paid off, and Mary was booked in. With this news in the bag, I allowed the release of the suitcases from whichever dark hole they had been stashed into since January and the packing has begun, I am led to believe.

The limited belief that we might go away has risen slightly but not to any level that allows excitement to build. This may be the case until we are wheels up from the runway, at the obligatory half an hour later than the take-off time planned. How I long for a holiday that can be booked with the confidence that it will actually happen. It will be a fraught week to come, as we keep everything crossed that Mary remains in a state of health conducive to going on her holidays to the nursing home.

I am getting so paranoid about travel now that every news event is considered a potential barrier to it happening. Of course, I have persistent low-level fear that the airport will be packed and queues horrendous, and/or the airline will cancel our flight at the last minute, but yesterday when the Queen’s funeral was announced for the day we should be travelling, I spent a panic filled few minutes on google trying to figure out if some ancient custom would mean flights might be affected. I know it’s silly, but I am scarred by the last three years of uncertain plans.

These restrained levels of excitement have probably played a part in my resisting making any more ADR bookings. It is one less thing to cancel should it come to that. I would make an exception for O’hana still, as I would like to tie that in with an evening on the Poly beach watching some fireworks and maybe some Trader Sam’s, but the respite care of the North West had more availability it seems. I am getting a bit weary of having to try so hard to “do things” on Disney property. I yearn for the days when all you had to do was pay a small fortune.

In other news, Freddie completed his first week at school and enjoyed it. More importantly, Rebecca is now past the trauma of him going to school for the first time! There were tears.

Dougie rolled over for the first time and has teeth incoming, and at this rate will be at University next week, and I completed ten years of service at my current employer. I arrived home from the office on Thursday to a huge Fortnum and Masons hamper. It is a lovely place to work, assuming you have to work somewhere (and I do), and Louise was very excited, not so much by the contents of the hamper, but more the hamper itself becoming a high-class repository for our Christmas decorations for years to come.

My Dad is coping OK following his release from the hospital but isn’t in the best of health and our work of course is still not complete, with the eternal promise of “tomorrow” being the completion date. That “tomorrow” should have been Saturday and then today, but naturally is once again “tomorrow”.

We have a bit going on as you can see, and if we ever exist in a chaos-free world again, I’m not sure I would know how to deal with it.

Still, on the plus side, only one more week of this unbearable wailing in blog form to endure before we all know either way. I’m off to rock back and forwards in a corner for quite some time.

Till the next time……

Cautious Countdown

Firstly, thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes last week. They were all read and appreciated. The day was spent at work, so it will not rank in my all-time top 10 birthdays, but I got to spend the evening with these dudes and eat some pizza, so all was not lost.

Present wise, recognising I am a bugger to buy for, I did very well. A new iWatch (my other broke a few weeks ago), a huge pack of Pick n Mix, some cash, clothes, a very posh neck pillow for the plane and some dollars for spending on our (hopefully) upcoming trip.

On that note, having endured most of 2020 and 2021 reading these posts each week where I would prattle on about a trip to Florida that wasn’t certain and usually did not happen, I can only imagine your delight that we are back there again now. At least it can only last for a few weeks this time and relies on the health of some parents and not some global pandemic inflicting grief, misery and destitution on the world.

My Dad is home from the hospital as of Friday, and Mary carries on carrying on. As we stand, the trip is on but excitement levels are low, to avoid what could be likely disappointment.

Having talked about how I was going to go with the flow and not plan anything, last week, with all of you already knowing that I was lying, I caved and booked an ADR. I would have booked two had there been any availability on any evening of our entire trip for O’hana, (what’s going on with that?) but there was not and so we just have the one, so far, at Sanaa. That bread service is like a tractor beam.

For those times when we may wish to eat on site, I have been doing some “same day booking” tests with the app. For several days I have fired it up and looked for places to eat that evening and there has been plenty to choose from. So I am trying to hold firm and not tie us to specific times if I can help it, so we can just make plans once we know when we want to eat. Then I can give Louise three hours to get ready, having lied about the actual time of a booking by at least half an hour so that we may only set off half an hour late.

You know we have many off-site places we have to go to, so our on-site culinary adventures may be limited. Having had a quick look at some options around the Swan & Dolphin and noticed that Shula’s steakhouse has a $155 steak on the menu, then it could be McDonalds for many meals!

Our off-site list, as if you haven’t seen it a million times before, will probably include…..

  • Bahama Breeze
  • Olive Garden
  • Romano’s Macaroni Grill
  • Teak
  • Applebees
  • Cowfish
  • Cheesecake Factory

The last of those probably being the standout of our January trip. We have declared them the server of the world’s best Nachos and I will not be taking questions or entering into a debate about that. As Louise is the world’s biggest lover of Nachos, it stands to reason that we return to let her sample what she missed earlier this year.

I had a number of very understandable comments on last week’s post doubting my ability to resist going to the WDW parks, particularly Epcot, as we will be staying so close for half of the trip. My resolve is strong, but of course, all I have seen in my Disney social feeds since booking this trip is how empty the WDW parks are right now and folks are being paid to go on the rides….well, not quite.

There are no plans to change our plans, as we need a relaxing break and the extra cost and complexity of us attempting the Disney stuff is just not compatible with that. I’m not saying my brain is 100% comfortable with that stance, but it’s what we’re doing!

It does feel like everything park related is going to take a good few years to settle down. Perhaps by then, we’ll have been able to ride Remy and Rise?

I was delighted to realise that many of the hoops we had to jump through in January to get on a plane are no longer a thing. Using the VeriFly app this time was much easier, simply uploading our vaccination QR codes and attesting that we had a passport and that was it.

So we’re two weeks away, don’t know if we’re going and doing much of the prep to do so at the same time. It’s the Schrodinger’s Cat of a holiday.

And of course, the work in the garden isn’t finished.

Till the next time…..

Respite Our Best Efforts

Of course the work isn’t finished, why would you even ask? A bit of activity happened, some no shows on a few days followed due to random “issues” and we still plod on towards the inevitable end or my death, whichever comes first as a merciful release.

Anyway, this is not something I wish to focus on this week. I have news. As a side note, you should be very grateful that I do have news, otherwise this week you would be reading an endless moan about drain blockages, leaking pipes (separate incidents on consecutive days) and the enormous stress and expense of resolving them.

One day last week, I think it was Tuesday, Louise appeared in my office/conservatory having made a decision.

She had been thinking, having been confined to bed for many hours with the Covid (yes, she has been stricken but luckily I remained uninfected this time). We needed a holiday she declared, and we could not go on indefinitely without one. She would find suitable respite care for her Mum and we were to go away, immediately, if not sooner.

I was tasked with finding something suitable and again, you may think my first port of call would be a trans-Atlantic flight but it was not. I spent a little while looking at European options, such as Greece and the like and presented a few options to Louise.

To cut a long story short, (it wasn’t that long, she just turned down all the non-Florida options and told me to book Florida) she forced me to go to Florida again. This was mid-morning on Tuesday. By that evening I had researched, planned and booked everything, right down to fast lane security at Manchester and airport parking and had checked into most of the hotels online. I am very good at this.

It may be a popular misconception that our continued patronage of Florida is all my doing, but if you consult the history of our trips, you will find that Louise is often the catalyst.

This will not be our usual trip. Firstly, it will just be Louise and me. Secondly, we will not be frequenting any WDW parks. I know this may shock you, or maybe not. This holiday is mainly for relaxing and the recharging of batteries, so the concept of having to be awake at 7am to battle for things just isn’t something we want to contemplate. I know I will inevitably plan more than I should, but this will be a much more relaxed affair, with pools, going with the flow, relaxing and eating lovely food being the watchwords.

It is a double-edged sword, as I know I will miss the WDW parks when we are adjacent to them, but equally, going to them without the girls, Tom and the boys would be very strange too. We will especially miss World Showcase and I suppose we could shell out for a day ticket, but then we have to worry about getting a park reservation and it’s just a hassle we don’t need.

We are going to stay in some nice places, enjoy the resorts and sneak in some Universal Front of Line park time towards the end.

So what is the plan? Well……assuming we get to go with the health issues of Mary and my Dad, (I have made sure everything I have booked is cancellable until as late as possible)…..

We fly on the 19th of September with Aer Lingus from Manchester. Due to work stuff I could not get out of, this was the earliest date I could come up with. It gives me just over three weeks to lose four stone though.

Our first three nights are at the Yacht Club. You probably know that this is one of my favourite places on the planet and some days spent around Stormalong Bay, and strolls around the Boardwalk with some added Jellyrolls will kick off the relaxation.

Then, despite not going to any WDW parks, we head to Port Orleans Riverside for five nights. I know little of this resort, but to be frank, at this late stage there was very little still available. I consulted a couple of those DVC resort availability websites, thinking I may rent some points, but there was literally nothing available for any of our dates. I had wanted to go to Vero Beach for a few days but there was zero availability.

Anyway, Port Orleans looks lovely and has a lot of eateries and activities along with the required pool(s). There is also the boat service to Disney Springs which will come in handy too.

Then we move to Universal and another stay at the Royal Pacific Resort for three nights, to do more pool stuff and to get our park fix, with the essential Front Of Line, which means we can dip in and out as and when we like, without worrying about lines, wait times or any of the overly complex nonsense that a WDW park now requires.

We end the trip with three nights at the Dolphin. We have never stayed at this resort or the Swan, but again location is the major draw here.

We fly home on the 3rd of October.

I have promised myself and Louise that I will not over-plan this thing. I may make the odd ADR but I really just want to be able to eat when we’re hungry and not have to be looking at the time and getting stressed about Louise making us late for everything! We’ll see how that goes!!

Excitement levels are low at this stage, as we know a lot can happen between now and then, but we are past masters at not knowing if we are going on a trip until the last minute, thanks to the pandemic, but we are both very ready for the break.

I am sure it is psychological but ever since I pressed the button to book, I seem to have succumbed to absolute apathy for anything work-related. I had been hunkered down ready for the long haul through winter without a break and now I know we might be going away, I feel exhausted and can muster very little enthusiasm for anything related to what I do to pay the bills. I am a mard arse as I only went away in January, but it’s been a tough old time in many ways since. Well, that’s my excuse anyway.

It’s funny how our shortest countdown ever feels very far away right now.

Who knows by the time we get back in early October the work in the garden may be finished?

Till the next time…….

I’m “Enjoying” Your Holidays

It will not be a huge shock to you that the ongoing work at the back of our house is still exactly that. Some progress was made, followed by a delay awaiting more materials, then some more progress. My guess last week, that aiming and hoping for completion around the end of August seems sensible, and it remains a possibility for now at least. There was crazy talk from our builder of being finished by next Tuesday or Wednesday but this isn’t my first rodeo.

I bemoaned the fact last week that this time in August has always been our WDW time. My social media confirmed that this is also the case for almost every Dibber and blog reader I am connected to on “the socials”, as every bugger was getting on a plane and walking up Main Street with little to no regard for my feelings on the matter. You are all selfish and should be ashamed of yourselves. As if you’re reading this claptrap if you’re in WDW.

Watching the parks as other folks do them feels weird. As you all know, because I keep bleating on about it, I have a strained relationship with them right now, but seeing Main Street and the rest of it stirs up the deeply rooted longing to be there. But I suppose I want to be back in the parks that I remember pre-pandemic and Chapek.

All these folks in WDW did also start to fuel my persecution complex as everyone there seems to be posting stuff like “Wow, the new Guardians is awesome, we rode it 76 times in a row with no queue” whereas on our last trip we struggled to get on the monorail without a fifty-minute wait.

As Chapek reads my blog every week of course, he’s probably blackballed me.

Back in the real world, Mary continues to battle on despite her health issues and now my Dad has joined in, not being very well for the last week or so and having to spend some time in hospital. I don’t like this and it can stop immediately, thank you. He’s only allowed one visitor, so I’ve only managed to talk to him on the phone a couple of times, but he does seem to be slightly better now and with a plan in place over the next few days to hopefully see some further improvement.

Woody the wiener continues to settle into the family unit. (Not a euphemism). I wouldn’t say he is fully house trained yet, but will now hold things until you take him out, if you take him out regularly enough. He’s doing OK. He is especially good at annoying the other animals in the house, and he has many to choose from.

His other speciality is causing carnage around the house and then falling asleep in it. Exhibit A.

He has had a weekend away this weekend, with Emily taking him over to Liverpool to her boyfriend’s. Nobody has enjoyed that more than our Cocker Spaniel Bean, who has not had to compete for attention for a few days.

Speaking of other pets, Loki our huge Maine Coon cat had to go to the vet recently as one of her already huge paws had blown up to the size of a baby’s head. The discussions led to talk of a CT scan, to see the root cause. Prices started at around £2000 for that so instead, we opted for £160 worth of pain killers and anti-inflammatories and the ability to continue eating. I suspect the talk of CT scans at thousands of pounds is just a softener so you feel like paying £160 for some Calpol is a bargain.

The paw does seem to be getting better/smaller and I wonder whether the bloody idiot got stung whilst tormenting some insect. It would be some form of cosmic retribution for the huge number of small rodents she has massacred and brought to our back door.

So the absence of any holiday plans continues and I’ll be honest, it’s beginning to sting a bit, much like Loki’s paw. You can tell my booking finger is itching to see some action as I seem to be watching endless episodes of A Place In The Sun just to see some sunshine, sea and beaches. My hiatus from vlogging continues but is softening as I have watched the odd Tracker video recently. This is all leading to some inevitable Veruca Salt moment at some point in the not too distant future when I stamp my feet and declare at loud volume that “I want a holiday and I want it now!”.

For now, we gird loins and other body parts and hunker down through the Groundhog days ahead of us and the relentless mediocrity of going to work every day.

Still, all our work on the house will be finished by the middle of next week…..right?

Till the next time……

Dig, Doug, Dougie

Apologies for the lack of blog last Sunday. We had a lot on and let’s face it, nobody cares.

I was inundated with one message asking if I was still alive, so thank you.

I doubt there are many other blogs where you can receive regular digging updates. It’s a niche market, but I’m happy to tackle it.

More digging has happened. We now have two “tiers” to complete the many other tears all this work is driving us to. To be fair, it has been relatively painless so far, for us at least. The digger driver did have a couple of interesting/terrifying moments in the smaller digger he used to do the final bits of shaping etc, as he traversed the moonscape that is currently our back garden, but the digging, at least involving the big machinery is done. Anything else will be done by hand now.

That is a relief in itself as just getting that sort of heavy machinery into position had the potential to upset the neighbours, damage property and see our field make an appearance in our kitchen.

We spent all week awaiting the delivery of all the materials so the reconstruction could begin. As with everything else in the country these days, building materials have become akin to precious metals and bugger all happened until yesterday as we awaited the delivery of rare commodities like wood and sand. The builders estimate about a week of work to get things complete once stuff arrives, so let’s say two and hope we’re somewhere close to done by the end of August. It’ll be lovely to look out at our new outdoor space through the drizzle and fog of Autumn.

The other news since we last “spoke” was our wedding anniversary on the 3rd. Twenty-six years of marriage and twenty-eight together. People often say things like “where has the time gone” in these circumstances. I know where it has gone. Mainly working, many lovely holidays and the usual mix of ups and downs. Literally, cest la vie.

In other news, and the latest “you couldn’t write it” episode of my life, one evening last week as I returned home from walking the dogs, I spotted some movement near our kitchen bin. What followed was twenty sweaty minutes of Louise and I trying to catch a mole that no doubt one of the cats had brought home and then lost or got bored with. It’s at times like these that you realise how much furniture you have, as the poor little bugger scuttles from one piece to another. Eventually, I threw some tupperware over it and took it outside to hopefully find its way home and not to another cat. We named him Doug. It felt appropriate.

To complete the Dig, Doug, Dougie trilogy, the latter has been a little unwell this week but a visit to the docs confirmed it was nothing serious. He was off his milk, which based on his track record to date, was very unusual. Anyway, he is on the mend and back to staying awake all day, smiling at everyone and eating.

With it being mid-August now, by rights I should be boring you to tears with the detailed coverage of our last-minute preparations for a WDW trip. This time of year has, more often than not, been our time of choice to visit Florida. It isn’t possible this year at this time for many reasons and for Louise and I, we just don’t know when it may be again with Mary needing the care she does. Respite care is not an option as the worry whilst away wouldn’t make for a relaxing time.

I’m not sure I’m ready to tackle WDW again yet anyway to be honest. It seems the more time that passes since our January trip, the less I feel inclined to combat the complicated mess that is visiting a WDW park. It’s like some mild form of Genie+ PTSD. Maybe it is better now? If you’ve been recently I’d welcome your feedback.

The CEO this week confirmed the one call I got right during the pandemic. The park reservation system is here to stay. As I guessed, this is just too useful to Disney in terms of their planning, cost management and ability to staff the parks, or perhaps more relevantly, limit the number of guests aligned to how many CMs they have available.

I don’t mind this too much. As someone who plans their days months in advance, mainly so we can eat where we want to, the chances of us rocking up to a park that’s full and having no reservation are slim to none. What I do object to is having to be awake and on-line around 6.30am to fight for the chance to pay extra money for Genie+ to have any chance of riding anything that resembles a headliner.

With a good number of new rides open or about to, this is only going to get worse. It may be years before folks get to ride a “new ride” even if they visit annually.

With no prospect of a holiday any time soon, the main reason I need to get one booked is that it is typically the only reason and motivation to lose a few pounds and let’s just say I should book about a dozen holidays to generate the weight loss required right now.

Let’s reconvene next Sunday with hopefully, news of a very nearly finished back garden. What could possibly go wrong?

Till the next time…..

Can You Dig It?

Brace yourselves.

The conservatory…….is finished!

Well, I say finished…the workmen have left for the last time so they are done. I have a few small DIY tasks that I have to do (badly) which fell in between all the various trades that worked on it. I have some floor edging stuff to do on the stairs and some beading around the wooden cover for the electric box. This is the sort of detail you need of a Sunday I know.

That happened on Friday. All week we’d been braced for the start of the groundwork at the back and despite a promise of Tuesday, a brief visit to check a few things out on Wednesday it wasn’t until Friday that we were told they would definitely be coming. Of course, it had to happen that despite all the available days, both sets of workmen had to be coming on the same day!

Well, thanks to a fire on the M6 our groundwork chaps sat in traffic for four hours before giving it up. So all that happened on that day was the delivery of the digger and dumper truck.

Do not worry, the next day they were here bright and early and things got going. To access the back of our house, there is a ramp around the side and Saturday morning was the first morning since living here that someone had chosen to park in front of the gate that leads to it. So I spent much of early Saturday knocking on neighbour’s doors, asking if they owned said car.

Long story short, we did not get that car moved, but we did find the owner of the one next to it who moved it and allowed the machinery to squeeze past up onto our field.

Naturally, being peak summer, it rained all Saturday whilst they were working, and in the early stages there were definitely some “what have we done?” moments.

It was better for my mental health not to watch too much, to be honest. By the time they left they had made decent progress with only one minor scare when the digger driver thought he was heading for our conservatory.

You can now start to see the shape of what we are trying to do. One big terrace level at the bottom for a table and chairs etc and one smaller terrace above it mainly to stop the field coming into the kitchen and for flower pots and other stuff that I will not be involved in sourcing.

The thing that concerns me most right now is the photo above shows where the digger was left. It has rained for 24 hours and I have visions of the rain eroding….

the earth beneath it and the digger coming down the hill at speed into our only just finished conservatory. I’ll be very glad when they are back tomorrow to move it. They are bringing a smaller digger tomorrow to get down onto the respective new levels to square them off etc. Hopefully, by early next week, we’ll be past the digging bit and into the putting it back together bit.

This is the worst part of any job for me with my aversion to mess and disruption. It still has to get a little bit worse before it starts to get better. Anyway, this huge investment in our outdoor space will be well worth it so that we can enjoy these endless summers we are experiencing so frequently in the UK!

It has been a while since this blog brought you news of any Florida adventures, but that changes today. Last week, Rebecca and Tom booked a holiday for next April and they are, quite rightly, very excited about the whole thing. They are doing ten nights at Animal Kingdom and then four nights Royal Pacific at Universal. They are in the very early planning stages and it will be weird for them having to plan stuff for themselves and even weirder for me to not to take over and try to plan stuff for them! I am trying to strike the balance between helpful advice and meddling idiot. I think we all know which way that may go.

I shall leave you now, as I have a mound of muck with a digger on top of it to stare at for the rest of the day. If you hear on the news about a fat lad up North getting crushed to death by heavy machinery in his conservatory then you’ll know what happened.

Till the next time…..

An Officer and a Moaning Man

What sort of idiot would I look like if we still hadn’t got the conservatory finished?

Our chap came on Monday, did a bit, said he needed his helper and would return on Tuesday. He did, with his helper. Then he declared it too hot (it was 34 degrees to be fair) and his silicone was all runny, so he couldn’t finish off. He’s due back tomorrow. By the time this thing is finished, we’ll need a new one.

Anyway, I moved my “office” into the conservatory on Friday, unable to wait any longer. The bits left to do are largely outside and what passes for my office (a chair and a desk) won’t get in the way. Louise isn’t keen on my less than sexy office furniture messing up her lovely new room so they may be in for a swap out at some point.

That blue wing-backed chair doesn’t officially live there but I wasn’t moving it to take a photo! You can see that outside is still in a state of flux too, awaiting the next phase of work.

Nothing has a permanent home outside yet, hence the random covered things strewn around the place. Once we get the next bit done, we can restore some order.

This is what the old conservatory looked like.

What was my office upstairs will be inherited by Emily as a dressing room/bedroom overflow, in an attempt to see what colour the carpet in her bedroom is for the first time since we moved in. She needs the extra space.

On the first day in my new office, it happened to rain for the first time in about two weeks. Of course with the last few jobs outstanding being the final bits of guttering, it was akin to water torture with the many and various drips. Still, it’s a much more pleasant environment to spend 8 hours a day, four days a week in. I spend the other day in my “proper” office in Manchester. Every time I make that journey now, I marvel at how I tolerated doing that commute for five days a week for nearly a decade, and other similar ones for decades before that, without blowing my brains out. It’s funny how what once appeared normal can now feel ludicrous and unnecessary. There was a very large part of my working life where I wore a suit and tie every single day too, and as ridiculous as that concept is to me now, it went unquestioned at the time of course. These days, the most formal I get for four days of the week is to replace my slippers with trainers to walk the dogs. Having to wear jeans for my office day is barely tolerable!

I am braced for the start of what will be some significant groundworks starting this coming week. The mess is isolated to the rear of the garden but I am still not looking forward to it, knowing it will bring mess, unforeseen complexity and stress. A couple of weeks of that and I really hope we can then say goodbye to workmen, disruption and angst for a good while.

Aside from me stressing about minor inconveniences, in more important news, it is Emily’s birthday on Tuesday. Allow me to make you all feel old by telling you she will be 27. The fact that our last workmen thought she was 16 is funny, and I keep telling her that it won’t be long until she enjoys looking so young.

Have a great week and brace yourself for what could be an armageddon of moaning next week if the work goes as I expect it to. Who knows, the conservatory might be finished too.

Till the next time…..

Conservatory…Still Loading.

Imagine if we’d gone a whole other week and still had no progress on finishing the conservatory.

He’s coming tomorrow. Sigh.

Phase 2 of the garden stuff starts a week tomorrow, so by the time the Christmas adverts start in October we should be close to done. We’ve been working hard out in the garden, and I know it’s hard to imagine what could be left to do, as we have no grass now, but the more we do, the more mess we seem to make. Ultimately, until phase 2 is done we’re not going to be in the settled state of the end game.

Louise tended to an unruly bush yesterday and that was long overdue. Today she is planting some flowers in our newly exposed flower bed (it was hidden by said unruly bush) and I spent Saturday tidying up all the mess the various tradesmen have left us with. Broken tiles, window frames, old radiators, doors and a smorgasbord of detritus in various outdoor locations were gathered, bagged and stacked ready for a tip run during the week. I may be a lot of things, but I am not stupid enough to attempt the tip at the weekend.

Rebecca and Tom are in their new place now and it’s lovely, with a much more suitable amount of space for the new size of their family. They’ve been doing what everyone has to do when moving house, namely shifting stuff from one house to another, cleaning and going to Ikea. I popped round to have a look and Freddie gave me the guided tour, full of the excitement only four-year-olds can express. As for Dougie, well it’s safe to say, he changes every day at the moment and there are signs that his character is starting to emerge.

For those of you persisting to read this tripe, over a decade in now, I do offer an apology that there is little of substance at the moment. Yeah, I hear you, when was there ever? With Louise (willingly) tied to Mary’s care, which only becomes more involved and demanding, there are no holiday plans to “entertain” you with, and our lives are a little Groundhoggy right now. Luckily, we have all this work on the house to keep us and you entertained, right?

The joy of listening to some idiot whinge about his first-world problems every Sunday is the very foundation upon which the “success” of this blog has been built on.

The news for most of last week has been full of heat wave warnings and clips of folks eating a Solero, yet up here in the frozen north, we’ve had very little of it, to be honest. It’s been “pleasantly warm” at times, but nothing worthy of uncovering the now many and varied pieces of garden furniture strewn around our new flags. You’d hope, at some point this summer that we might get a chance to use our newly enhanced outdoor space?

I’m sure the temperatures tomorrow and Tuesday are going to be dangerous in places so please do take the warnings seriously and sit in a cold bath with the obligatory Solero. I await the call from the conservatory man to declare the weather too hot to do what he needs to do and we’ll continue to be stalled at 98% completion of the conservatory.

Having worked hard all last weekend and all of this so far, I am now going to make some lunch and attach myself to the couch and watch some of the golf. Who said there was no glamour in this blog?

Till the next time……

I Missed A Bit

It turns out those 67 coats of the conservatory ceiling were still not enough and it probably needed one more. Did I mention my hatred for painting freshly plastered ceilings?

We’ve had a frustrating lack of activity on the whole getting things finished this week. Our conservatory man had van issues early in the week and then tested positive for COVID, so he won’t be with us until next week. The angst of being at about 95% completion is like waiting for those last few percentages to load for your new Play Station game when you have average broadband speed like in our front room.

Life continues to be busy and chaotic and we aren’t choosing to just take one day at a time, we just have no choice as we don’t have time to think any further ahead. We are dropping balls all over the place, not speaking to parents as often as we should and not spending time with the girls and grandkids as much as we’d like. Mary has not been well this week and has needed a lot of TLC and more basic and less pleasant attention for a stomach upset, and of course, we continue to try and integrate little Woody into our house. He’s doing OK and finding a routine but he still needs a lot of attention.

Yes, he has his own Instagram account. Blame Emily and Louise for that.

Rebecca and Tom are moving house this weekend. Of course, I feel for anyone going through that experience, as those scars are still very real for me, some eighteen months after we did it. I am hopeful their experience will be better as their move isn’t one all being done in one day so they have got some time to move their stuff over time. They got a lot done yesterday so hopefully, the worst is behind them now.

Dougie is doing well. He recently slept from 10.30 till 5.30 which is better than I normally manage. Obligatory Freddie/Dougie photo incoming.

They were at our house on Friday and I had the pleasure of being able to feed Dougie. Whether it’s wind or an actual smile is there anything more lovely than a baby smiling at you?

I spent all day yesterday painting the conservatory. I know painted windows may be an odd look but we are going with it. Of course, the painting was not of the glass but instead the seemingly small areas of plaster and wood that I thought might take an hour or two but I started at 10 and finished around 5.30. Even after doing two days of the same last weekend. That involved one more coat of the ceiling and two coats of the walls. Thankfully Louise has chosen a darker colour for the walls so just the two coats seem to have done the trick.

Today there were more “finishing touches” to do before we get the last of the construction done by our hopefully soon-to-be COVID-free builder one day next week. As another sign of my surprising DIY prowess, I used a drill this morning and there was no fire, hospital visit or damage to property.

Then it took me another hour to clean all the frames and windows of all the dust, crap and plaster that had happened to them during the construction process. All that work and a long-overdue visit from my Mum and Dad are the reasons for the late hour of posting this thing. I won’t speak of the time spent cleaning all the paint speckles off the floor tiles. I had put covers down but somehow this stuff found its way to the floor.

So with time a precious resource that’s the lot for this week. I’m going tp nip over to Rebecca’s new house now to have a look around. Louise went on Friday as they started the move and will have to stay home with Mary today as she needs 24/7 care.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your sunny weekends and endured less painting than I did. There surely can be nobody on the planet who has spent more of their weekend painting than I? Persecution complex? Never!

Till the next time…..

Punching Kevin McCloud

You’d have thought the chaos and stress had peaked last week, looking at the photos I shared, but no. Early this week went to another level, and I don’t mean some mildly successful R&B boy band from the early 2000’s.

This week saw Magic Mike and his mates doing all the cutting of the flags to fill in the bits around the edges. Endless noise (sorry neighbours) and a dust cloud suggesting a volcano had gone off not too far away made for a lovely time.

Sporadic rain also made the endless treks of workmen through our kitchen all the more muddy and lovely and all in all, as with any job of a decent size, you find yourself wondering why you started.

They finished (this phase) on Friday and aside from the wall at the back that looks like a bomb site until phase 2 gets done, (avoided in these photos) the results are below.

Clearly, we have yet to make it all pretty and stuff but at least the “construction” phase is complete.

At the same time, we edged closer with the conservatory, with the plumber coming to change our old radiator to a new one. I’m not saying I am an expert at all things DIY, but I had to show the plumber how to refill our boiler. Just before we moved in, the previous owner fitted a boiler just slightly less advanced than the space shuttle and the plumber had never seen one like it before. Amazingly this sharing of expertise resulted in no discount.

The tiler finished the floor last Sunday and aside from blasting the caked-on dust all over the outside of it, caused by the cutting of the flags, we have some painting to do before we can start to move furniture in and begin to use it. Is there any DIY task more soul-destroying than painting a freshly plastered ceiling? By the looks of the first coat that I applied yesterday another 67 should do the trick.

We have one more day for the builder to do next week, finishing off some guttering, downpipes and snags before a job I thought would take a couple of weeks at the end of April might get done before the end of July.

If Kevin McCloud were to turn up now and have the post-project chat with us, at the point he asked us how we were doing versus our original budget, the only response would be to punch him in the face. These last couple of weeks especially have taken it out of us, whatever it is.

We’ve spent the weekend cleaning up outside and painting, driven by the desire to have some normality back in our lives. If we don’t get some decent weather now I may ring Magic Mike and ask him to come back and return it all to how it was.

As much as the new layout at the back of the house looks better, mainly as the dogs had ruined the lawn by peeing on it, and it was a bit untidy and overgrown, the largest benefit beyond having some lovely outdoor space now is that it is one less patch of grass I have to mow. I have a Flymo going spare if anyone needs one? Only used about a dozen times and is useless to me now for the “big mow” on the field as that one needs the petrol thing we’ve got.

So I must leave you now, as I have a date with destiny in the conservatory. That ceiling won’t paint itself another 67 times. Who knows, by the time we meet again next week we may be approaching something that looks like completion. As much as that will be a relief to all of you reading about endlessly, I know I will be significantly more relieved.

Till the next time…….

A Postcard From Chaos

Not one to be prone to exaggeration, but this week I have mostly been living in the Apocolypse.

The conservatory build drags on endlessly and to add insult to chaos, we also had Magic Mike and his mates turn up to start turning our back lawn into a patio. I’m not saying good looks go a long way in life, but when the chap came to quote us for that work, he could have said he’d be setting fire to the house as part of his work and Louise would have agreed to go ahead. Apparently, he looks like a young Elvis but with an eight-pack. How do I know he has an eight-pack? Well, thanks to the warm weather he and his mates walked up our drive drenched in baby oil, with their budgie smuggler shorts on ready to start work.

Despite the warm weather I have had to keep my top on as I did not want to intimidate them.

In a normal house, turning a lawn into a patio is fairly simple. But when the access to the back of your house is via a near-vertical hill then it becomes challenging. The comedy show of watching them trying to get a mini digger down that incline was too horrible to watch.

Almost as horrible as the scale of their quote, but we’ve been trying for a year to find someone brave enough to take it on, so needs must.

My aversion to chaos is peaking this week as all this and the conservatory is coming to a head simultaneously. We’ve had electricians here, plumbers not here (coming next week, honest), tilers and the builders finishing off, all whilst The Chippendales are romping around the back garden causing absolute destruction to my property. At one point one of them was doing the boy band thing under our hosepipe. No wonder I am constantly objectified as a piece of meat just because of the way I look!

Wandering around where our garden used to be, when it is still in the “destroy” phase is just horrifying to me. My brain is looking for completion, tidiness and a lack of chaos and it cannot even foresee a time when that might be the case again. It causes me anxiety and stress like nothing else.

I’ll remind you that we have a new cat who can’t go out yet (perfect with workmen in and out all day) and a puppy not yet house trained. So every day we are herding them into various rooms to avoid them running out and simultaneously trying to find somewhere the puppy can pee that isn’t our living room rug. I’m so stressed my hair is growing back.

Then, to add to my wonderful week, on Tuesday I tested positive for Covid. I had felt rough for a little while and it was getting much worse on Tuesday, so I tested. I was genuinely shocked to see the double lines and spent a few days feeling ill.

Then on Wednesday evening, our lovely neighbour popped round on the verge of a mental breakdown/arrest hurling all sorts of abuse at us because some soil from our digging had gone into his garden. To cut a long story short we told him where to go in very direct terms and not long after, he came to apologise to me and has since sought Louise out to do the same. He has a track record for this stuff and despite his sheepish apology, I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last such episode.

I cannot wait for a time in the hopefully not too distant future when we have our house and lives back. My kingdom for some normality.

In a way it is fortunate we have no travel plans as the current chaos there would perhaps tip me over the edge. It seems we now live in a country where doing things like going on holiday is too complex. I’d ponder how we got here, but you get what you vote for I guess. If I keep expressing my views on the shower in power then I may be able to get myself on a flight, but to Rwanda rather than Florida. I have heard it is simultaneously lovely there, so nobody should have an issue with refugees going there and at the same time so awful that it will deter refugees from coming here. Makes perfect sense.

Here’s to a calmer week to come. Hopefully the garden should reach the “putting it back together” stage and we can make some tangible progress getting the conservatory habitable. What could possibly go wrong?

Till the next time…..

Look, I Am Your Father

As with all parents, we have had our fair share of trips to A&E, worries and mishaps. Being the parents of two girls may have lessened the frequency of our trips to A&E a little but probably not too much.

Last week saw some signs for Rebecca and Tom that they may not be so fortunate. With two boys now, and with Tom capable of being a third child in shenanigans and roughhousing, I can see a fair amount of bumps and bruises in their future.

Last week Freddie spent time at A&E after an accident at home. After some initial panic, he was fine and will suffer no long-term effects. If you are a parent of boys it may not surprise you too much to learn that this visit to the hospital was actually nothing to do with the video below.

This took place a few days after his accident and did not result in any injury. To his great credit after a hug and some encouraging words, he got right back on the thing and had a great time. The only thing more shocking than Freddie falling off the bike was the speed at which Tom’s brother moved to get to him!

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of all-action stuff for kids, of course, it is all a part of growing up. It’s just the stress and worry inflicted on parents that may also result in a need for medical treatment. As Rebecca said when she sent us this video, “these boys will be the death of me”. Indeed.

As today is Father’s Day it’s a good time to reflect on all things parenting and although we may be beyond the fear of one of Emily or Rebecca falling off a swing, slide or even mini motorbike, the shape of worry just changes. At times, I would go back to scraped knees and the odd trip to the hospital for a minor injury but I certainly would not go back to the late teens angst of boyfriend drama and some of the horrendous choices they both made at that time. If you’re coming up on that phase with your daughters then, you have my best wishes.

At my stage of life, we then move into the role reversal of looking after our own parents as they inevitably start to succumb to the perils of old age. Whether that be the physical care of Louise’s Mum of course, for which I tip my hat to Louise, or whether it is telling your Dad not to click that link in that dodgy message on Facebook as it is a scam, it is all done without a second thought as it is just returning the favour from all those years ago.

Being a full-time carer as Louise currently is, needs a certain type of person. It can be relentless, exhausting and heartbreaking. It’s a necessary but not necessarily pleasant part of the circle of life.

My own Dad (and Mum) are coming round later for a Father’s day meal, along with Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and Dougie. Three generations of Dads around the table. I wonder how many hours in A&E we have clocked up amongst us and how many more Tom might have to endure. If you are celebrating your Dad today, or anyone who has that role in your life, I hope it’s a good one and hopefully they can all have a stress-free, non-hospital-based 24 hours. It’s probably the best present they can get.

Till the next time…….

Do It (To) Yourself.

As if we are once again in some days gone by, transported back to the latter end of 2021, I bring you important travel news that you will all be aware of already. The need to provide a negative COVID test prior to departure for the US ends today, at least for those fully vaccinated.

There’s a weariness to this news as if a long exorcised ghost has returned to haunt us once again. I mean, imagine if all these years after the vote we were still talking about sorting Brexit out? Right? I suppose with COVID our weariness does not defeat the thing.

With no travel plans in place, I feel like I have lost all touch with what may be required to go on holiday but with testing now gone, at least some of the anticipation and excitement can return in the countdown to a trip. The ever-present sword of Damocles of that last-minute test I know was a huge source of stress in our countdown, so being rid of that, hopefully for good, is a positive step. One small move in the direction of re-capturing some of the magic that we all used to treasure.

From my brief scanning of social media around the Disney experience, that seems to go from bad to worse. I also saw that there were some boardroom shenanigans at Disney recently, with the CEO coming under some pressure. I have no clue if he is directly linked to the poorly perceived park experiences, or whether those calls are made further down the hierarchy, but ultimately I suppose he is responsible and needs to carry the can. It does seem that a lot of the Disney internet community blame him completely for the state of things. The Disney share price is in the toilet, but I suppose as long as crowd levels are high and revenues up, he will probably be OK for the time being.

It is very strange to not have that absolute compulsion and obsession to return. I have not been without that for decades. I am still of the feeling that, for now, the cost and complexity of attempting WDW parks are too high. The squeeze is not worth the juice. As a man who loves a plan that seems silly, but having to be up at 6.30am to fight for the privilege of buying Genie+ and then hoping to get some decent use out of it does not feel like a holiday. As for the best rides, well, as long as we don’t stay on-site, those experiences will be denied to us, even if paying around $10 each to do so were acceptable, which is quite frankly, a disgrace, and Walt should be spinning in his cryogenic chamber.

Recently I have found myself, when asked by those who know I have done a bit of Disney over the years about going for the first time, trying to put them off. They look at me quizzically at first but as I begin to lay out the levels of complexity and planning required to go to a theme park, it starts to make sense to them. That is all before the cost of everything is laid bare.

It feels like a loved one is currently held hostage and I just hope and pray they are returned to us at some point and we can resume the relationship we have had for many decades. Driving massive crowds to parks with limited availability and huge queues by continually adding accommodation without expanding the parks or adding a new one or two is not sustainable in my view. Especially when those excessive crowds are then denied the previously free method of getting on a ride or two and made to pay extra for the “privilege”. Yes, investment is being made in new attractions, but they are typically replacing old ones and will only serve to increase the crowds and demand even further. That fifth gate is desperately needed.

I’d have had more empathy for Disney if they had come out and said COVID has been hard for us and we need to do a ticket price increase beyond the norm to keep the experience as you expect it. Adding $10 a day to everyone’s ticket would have generated much more revenue and pissed off fewer guests in my view, leaving the free FastPass+ system as it was.

Before posting this I was watching one of those House In The Sun programmes whilst breakfasting. A family were looking for a holiday home and of course, considered properties all around the places we all know so well. Of course, with these programmes you know they could have been made at any point between the 1990s and yesterday and with that in mind, it is not too shocking to hear that it stirred a yearning for the “that” Florida. Whilst I am currently not on the best terms with the WDW parks, I miss Florida and how I feel when I am there. Our return is inevitable but as yet unplannable.

In real-life news, my Dad has spent a few days in hospital this week. I won’t go into the details but he had some treatment that seems to have massively helped and hopefully he will be home in the next few days. One major downside of getting old is that parents do too and inevitably incur health issues. I do not like this, so if that could stop I would appreciate it.

Louise’s Mum, Mary, continues to bounce back from a recent suspected minor stroke a couple of weeks ago. She too went through a bad time a month or so ago with a prolonged hospital stay, with pneumonia, but is thankfully now making good progress in recovering from both of those things. She is a tough old boot as they say.

Rebecca is making her own recovery too from her C section, with her scar causing some concern and trouble. I suppose having a baby freed from your stomach is apparently quite a big thing and your body does not appreciate it. Dougie and Freddie are both doing very well and are very much welcome positive beams of light in our lives.

I am hopeful that the week to come may be the final week of conservatory disruption. The builder doing it had the absolute gall to go on holiday for a week last week, so it has been stood progress-less for that time, and my OCD-driven hatred of tasks being incomplete has been rife for that time. Luckily just as this work is coming to an end, we are “hoping” to have someone start flagging our back garden. I can’t wait!

As Radiohead once said, you do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts.

If you can’t end a blog post with an oblique song lyric, are you even trying?

Till the next time……

Would Ju-Believe It?

I can’t be sure but I think I heard something about some royal celebration? Did I get that wrong? I turned on the telly and I couldn’t see much about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the Queen. I thoroughly enjoyed The Crown, I have bought many of her stamps over the years and I’m sure she brings in a few quid for the country, but I have reached Jubilee fatigue now. If I see one more interview with a “member of the public” recounting a six-second meeting with the Queen a few decades ago I may have to gouge my own eyes out.

None of their “meeting Queenie” stories can top mine of course. In 2012, I had a deep and meaningful encounter with Her Majesty, as you can see here.

There can’t be many folks who can claim the Queen did a driveby on them. This picture was taken from my then office in Manchester. It was during the hipster start-up phase of my career, which mainly involved writing on windows, not selling very much and the owner changing his mind every six minutes. I returned to the comforting monotony of corporate life some six months later.

A lack of respect for the Jubilee this weekend is probably about as popular as my tweeting about Sunlit Uplands, but as much as I wish her well, it’s all got a bit much. I’ve appreciated the four day weekend of course. I’ve had no work to get in the way of puppy minding. It will not shock you to learn that my weekend has involved some mowing, but only on the regular lawn and not the big field. I mowed that for the first time this year three weeks ago and I think I just made it angry. It has grown back with a deep and meaningful vengeance. I may decide to leave it as a nature supporting, wildflower meadow this year. The only trouble with that idea is that Woody’s little legs can’t cope with blades of grass above a couple of inches high and he has very much enjoyed his times on our field so far. I can see another three to four hours with a mower in my not too distant future.

Anyway, away from committing treason, most of my week has been spent outside waiting for Woody to wee. His first few days here were blessed with November-like weather, which was especially pleasant. I struggle to relax with a puppy in the house, treating them as a ticking time bomb, and mentally counting down from the last time he emptied himself. So I tend to be outside with him on the regular.

It is too early to say, but there are signs that he is starting to get the message now and if he’s anywhere close to ready he will immediately wee as he gets outside. Don’t get me wrong, there have been 45-minute battles of will under an umbrella, with him darting to the back door every two seconds and me telling him we aren’t going in until he wees. I’ll let you guess who has won these battles to date.

He sleeps well though. We’ve not had any nights yet where he has cried more than a minute or two before settling down and despite a slightly earlier rise than normal it hasn’t been too bad.

Hades, our newly inherited cat, has settled pretty well too. He’s had the occasional forlorn wailing session but we suspect it is because he still has his bits and bobs and there are two (neutered) female cats in the house. He will be “done” soon. What a welcome to the household! Here he is looking as if he knows what I just typed.

It’s raining again today here in the Costa Del Darwen, so more fun and games with Woody and his weeing. Wishing you a more pleasant Sunday than that!

Till the next time…..

He Wouldn’t? Woody?

Last week’s post saw me bemoaning all my stresses, strains and tribulations. In the context of how bad some folks have it, of course, it ain’t so bad, but busy and stressful it is.

So it would make perfect sense then in these circumstances to go out and get a puppy right?

With my usual level of input on things we commit to for about a decade, Louise brought Woody home last week. We have of course been considering getting another dog at some point in the future for a while. Whilst I did not agree that this was that point, here he is.

He is a Daschund. The fact that I am not sure how to spell that highlights my involvement so far. He is of course a cutie and seems to be settling in pretty well. My great fear when getting a new dog is always the horror and pain of house training. It stresses me out and I find myself dragging the poor bugger outside every ten minutes telling him to do something he has no clue about.

In the few days we’ve had him he’s been doing OK. He usually does what he needs to outside and on the odd occasion we don’t have him out at the right time he’s finding a puppy pad.

The other big worry with a new puppy is of course nighttime. It is very early days there too, but so far, with not too much whimpering, he’s then settled down for long enough for us to get some kip.

As we can never have enough pets, it seems we may also be adopting Rebecca’s cat, Hades. He’s a hairy thing and they fear all that fur is causing issues for Dougie. When we bought a farmhouse it seems we knew what was coming.

In other news, the frames and glass for our conservatory turned up and, miraculously and thankfully, the next day so did the chap who was fitting them. So they are in and the room exists again and we are water tight and secure at the back of the house again. There’s a good number of days of work yet and then we have to get the floor tiled and do some cosmetics but there is (a lot of light) at the end of that tunnel.

I’ll share some photos once we are done. It will be a huge cosmetic improvement of course but the old one may not have have survived another winter and it was that magical mix of freezing in winter and sauna like in summer and often less than water tight in heavy rain. The new one has a “proper” roof and better glass so hopefully it will be somewhere in the middle now.

Time for blogging is at a premium so apologies for the brevity but it’s time to stand outside for twenty minutes again until Woody has a wee.

Till the next time…..

Dougie, Doggies and What We’ve Been Doing

This is the first non-holiday blog in forever so let’s see if I can remember how this works.

Let’s start with the obvious update. Last Sunday morning little Dougie joined us and due to an arduous birthing process and one that we should not repeat please Rebecca, he and his Mum did not come home until Wednesday.

The thing that Rebecca had been yearning for was to introduce Dougie to his big brother who had been patiently waiting at home unable to visit the hospital, along with the rest of us apart from Tom, due to Covid regulations.

Here is the moment they met.

It’s fair to say they have been inseparable ever since.

Rebecca is recovering well after her emergency C section and thankfully all the drama of that is behind us. For those eating and/or a little squeamish that is all we shall say about that.

We got our chance for a hold and a squeeze of Dougie on Thursday evening and it was glorious.

So that’s a delight and a relief!

The last time I wasn’t doing trip report things here, we were just about to go away to Florida (maybe, depending on Omicron…remember that?) and Louise’s Mum suffered a stroke. She went into hospital in late December, which led to Louise staying home to look after her. Mary came out of the hospital in early January and came to live with us, under the expert care of Louise who has given up her job to look after her Mum.

It would take too long to go through all the ups and downs of this past almost six months now but safe to say it has been a mix of good times and tricky ones, both in terms of Mary’s health and the challenges presented in caring for her. She was back in hospital recently with pneumonia but is home with us once again now.

Outside of that, just to add some spice to life, we are halfway through getting our conservatory replaced and you all know how I love having jobs done around the house with all the mess and disruption that goes with them.

There is some sad news since we last “spoke” about our lovely Old English Sheepdog, Oli. Sadly we lost him unexpectedly in late January and we were all incredibly upset. Time helps, but I still get overcome with it at points when things remind me. Everyone says it, but he was truly a special dog and a huge part of our lives. It still hasn’t really sunk in that we won’t see him again. It happened so suddenly that I still feel traumatised by the events of that evening. All these months later I still find myself expecting to see him in his favourite spots around the house.

Our other dog, Bean, has been soaking up all the extra affection and attention (and food) since we lost Oli. In her bereaved state, Louise finally let Bean up on the couch and she seems quite happy about that situation.

In other animal news, and we have a lot, you may remember that Emily has pet rats? Well, there have been turbulent times there too with three of those sadly passing away in recent times. They all have a forever resting place in our field now and Emily has added a couple of new babies to her collection. They really are lovely pets and cute little buggers and if only pets didn’t pass away that would be great.

So with all that and my work being especially busy and stressful in recent times, it has not been a time of great peace and quiet, but when is life ever?

As mentioned towards the end of the trip report we unusually have zero holiday plans. Louise especially is in need of one, but that isn’t possible for now. I have finally watched a vlog now though. Only one, and perhaps it is quite telling that it was a Universal one, but maybe the urge to return is slowly starting to awaken from its slumber. However, the more I read and remember about the WDW park situation now, the more that cost and complexity just make me reluctant to go through that stress. I have enough of that in real life. We all know we’ll return at some point of course. I can only hope by that time it is recognisable as the WDW we love so much.

So there we go, a whirlwind recap and you are up to date I think. I have no doubt forgotten some stuff but that’s enough for anyone on a Sunday.

Till the next time…….

Say Hello….

Hello again, it’s been a while since there has been any non-trip report bloggage. I hope you are all well.

Even before we went away, the previous seemingly endless months were just me making inaccurate guesses and predictions about travel restrictions and moaning about having to rearrange a holiday four hundred times.

So today would be the post where I would typically catch you up on everything that has been happening in the four months since we got home. I’ll probably save that for next week as today, with absolutely perfect timing, we have a new arrival in the family.

Please say hello to Dougie.

He arrived at 5.56 this morning weighing an eye-watering 9lbs 15oz. We are so relieved proud and in love all at the same time. Much like almost all of the pregnancy, his delivery was not straightforward, but all that matters now is that he, Rebecca and Tom are through it and everyone is safe and well.

It looks like Rebecca and Dougie may be staying in for a few days so I’m not sure when we will get to meet him yet but obviously we can’t wait. He has cheeks that just need a good squishing!

So that’s all I wanted to say today. This is Dougie’s post on his special day. A huge well done to Rebecca for getting him here and for Tom for getting her through it. Freddie will be an excellent big brother I’m sure and becoming a Grandad for the second time is just too awesome for someone as average at writing as me to convey.

Be braced for Dougie photo spam in the coming weeks. I make zero apologies.

Till the next time….

The “Why’s It Taking Long” Tour 2022 – Day Sixteen

So it’s Tuesday January 18th now. The holiday is on its last legs and I now get to document that tricky travel home day. It shouldn’t take long.

I awoke at 7am, probably the latest I had slept all holiday. Alanis Morrissette has a song all about that. I did want to go back to sleep but could not, so instead, I checked us in for our flight home and rested in bed until about 8.30.

I showered, dressed and finished the packing with Emily up and about around 9am. With precision timing we walked out of the room at 10.58 no doubt much to the disappointment of the housekeeping staff. We met Rebecca, Tom and Freddie at the car and somehow got all the luggage to fit with room left for us all to sit down.

The first order of business was gas. With all the food we’d been eating it wasn’t that shocking, but I also needed to get some petrol into the car. I don’t know why but I detest filling the car up and last night had ignored the low fuel light which I now regretted as I had no idea if what we had left would get us to a gas station.

I fired up the in car sat nav and searched for gas stations, setting off to the nearest one which looked to be just a few minutes away. That journey was fraught but it looked like we were going to make it. As we approached our destination there was a distinct lack of gas station where the sat nav said there should be one. I swore quite a lot.

Cursing the in car sat nav and the relatives of everyone who was involved in its construction, we headed for another, a worrying distance away. We ended up down on the 192 and for the second time arrived at a piece of land that should contain a gas station but did not. Abandoning technology in favour of my eyes, I spotted one over the road and with everything crossed that the fumes in the tank would get us there, I headed that way.

We made it, I filled up and reflected on a needlessly stressful start to the day.

With that pressing need satisfied, we moved on to the next one which was of course food. I pointed the car towards Lake Buena Vista and another visit to The Cheesecake Factory. It took twenty minutes to battle a busy I4. We arrived at 12.05 and it was surprisingly busy for that time on a Tuesday. We were seated immediately though.

We of course started with Nachos.

Nachos are probably one of Louise’s favourite things on the planet and as if she had sensed their presence from across the Atlantic she called just as they arrived with absolutely no consideration for us being hungry.

I sneakily passed the phone to Emily so I could eat.

We were also presented with a lovely bread service. It didn’t last long enough to be photographed.

Freddie ordered Chicken Strips

With apparently much improved camera skills, Rebecca and I had the Fried Chicken Sandwich.

They did not persist for Tom’s Chicken and Avocado Sandwich.

Emily had the Impossible Burger.

Again, everything was superb.

As we were just finishing our meals, Rebecca cried out in pain, complaining of very strong shooting pains in her stomach. I briefly had visions of missed flights, hospitals and a grandchild born in the US, but thankfully, they passed before desserts arrived, as I was not missing my cheesecake for anything!

Emily and I shared a Tiramisu one.

The bill was $164 and I somehow expertly managed to spend every last dollar on my Caxton card. It’s a life skill.

Unavoidably we now had to head to the airport. We stopped at a nearby bin to dump all the “trash” accumulated in the car and then set the sat nav for MCO. Knowing this sat nav we would be in Key West by sun down.

We arrived at the airport safely and the car drop off was very simple. We also dropped off our toll tag thing which had worked a treat. Our bag drop experience was probably the easiest ever with no queue at all.

Security is always grim at MCO and it looked to be horrific, but once we had been through the passport check, we were through in fifteen minutes or so. We monorailed to the gate and found some seats. The queue for a Starbucks was worse than security but we got one eventually.

An announcement that boarding was starting at 4.30 was made, which was odd as we were not due to take off until around 6pm. We got to the gate and were surprised to be allowed on immediately with no queue at all. Once we were on the plane we realised why. The thing was empty. I would say there were twenty people on the flight.

Boarding was complete by 5pm and we were airborne by 5.30. This is the time you really just want to be home, but for me, this time, even more so even though I was dreading work and the scales.

The prospect of the cold, grey UK is never one I relish but clearly, this time, none of that mattered and I just needed to be home.

The flight (pardon the pun) flew by. This was easily the quickest and most pleasant journey home we have ever had. We all spread out of course, so had loads of room which made the whole thing very, very tolerable.

Despite still being full from our lunch, I demolished the food provided and soon enough we were on the ground in Manchester. Nothing of note happened on our arrival. Immigration was OK and our bags appeared fairly quickly as there weren’t many on the flight at all.

We drove home to find Louise had locked us out by putting the security bar on the front door so we had to knock her out of bed. We were home.

I have shared a lot of (negative) thoughts throughout the trip already, so there’s not a lot left to say here, however that probably won’t stop me doing so. I have to add for balance that real life, since returning has been stressful, odd, worrying and busy and this may have impacted upon my writing style/mood too. Because it has taken so long to write this thing, at times I honestly couldn’t remember how we really felt beyond the brief notes I made too, so perhaps I have done the odd disservice here and there.

We did enjoy lots of the trip of course and we will look back on it with fondness in the future I am sure, but it definitely was not the same as we have enjoyed in the past. As such we have no immediate plans to return, or have any idea when we might. This is driven a little by our recent experience but also by real life stuff such as Louise’s Mum’s condition and required care and the fact that Rebecca is literally just about to give birth and that new arrival will need to grow some before we could consider a trip to WDW with them.

It’s weird not to have that burning desire to return that I normally have once back in the UK. A tangible sign of my apathy is that, despite now being best friends with high profile Florida vloggers, I have not watched one vlog since our return. Of course, life has been busy, and a post trip slump can be normal, but to me that seems weird. I do think that many first timers now may get home and feel the same way and be back in Magaluf the next summer.

In recent days, I can almost sense the distant rumblings of interest in another trip stirring, but they are some way off yet. It feels like some time is needed for WDW to sort itself out a bit. Post COVID staffing levels will be a big factor and getting those back up to where they are required will help them to re-open everything which in turn will hopefully spread out the crowds and reduce waiting times. My mind has considered a Florida trip with no/less parks too. Strange times indeed.

So in summary, Genie+ is a shit show, or at least it felt that way due to the long wait times. Whether Genie+ is the cause of those, I don’t know, but WDW need to get to grips with the crowd levels and whatever is impacting the guest experience so badly. It was simply not as enjoyable to be in the parks this time compared to literally every other time. The two new/different things in the mix are the COVID impact and Genie+.

Aside from the operational impact of replacing FastPass with Genie, which doesn’t seem to have improved the experience, there is also the feeling of indignation of being forced to pay extra for things that were included in your ticket price. I was very offended by this and felt ripped off when shelling out for LL and/or Genie+. This is not something that will endear visitors to WDW for the long term and any short term uptick in profits will be countered by a longer term loss of loyalty. In case I have not been clear, Genie+ is an affront, ineffective and something that will discourage us from visiting WDW in the future.

Universal was good. We were, of course, spared most crowd issues and long wait times due to staying on site and we really enjoyed it. It remains an occasional thing for a couple of days rather than the main stay of our trip, but we loved our time there. We do it infrequently because the front of line is expensive. It feels WDW may be heading the same way.

A definite huge positive from the trip was our villa. The best we have stayed in by some distance and we will return without doubt.

So there we have it. A weird trip for lots of reasons. We will absolutely go again. It won’t be for a while I would think, and in that time I hope things settle down and we can return to an experience worthy of the increasingly huge investment needed to be there.

Thank you as always for coming with us on the trip via these posts. Your patience and endurance is astonishing and appreciated.

Till the next time……

The “Why’s It Taking Long” Tour 2022 – Day Fifteen

It’s the last full day and traditionally one of sadness. There was some of that, but tempered very much by a desire to get home now. Still, we could not bring the flight forward so it was our job to make the best of the time ahead of us.

Our story today starts in the very early hours. I was asleep, unusually, but I remember (gracefully) leaping from my bed in a startled yet sleepy state, deeply confused. As my flab rippled under such odd activity, I stood in the dark of the room, wondering, where I was and what was going on.

I couldn’t see much but I could hear faint music, coming from I did not know where. I had dark and disturbing thoughts of some murderous clown coming for me in the night accompanied by some weird theme music.

This unpleasant confusion lasted a few more moments before I saw Emily move in her bed and look towards me, with a look on her face that questioned my sanity. As she did so, she removed her ear pods from her ears and the music suddenly became a lot louder.

Turns out she had been listening to music to try and drown out my snoring in an attempt to get some sleep. Add this to the “a villa suits us better” list. I sheepishly returned to bed, hopeful of a few minutes more sleep. What sleep I got was fitful and it ended around 7am. I immediately booked Genie+ to allow us to actually do some things on this our last day and as I was doing so got a message from Rebecca. She had been awake until 4, not due to Emily’s music, but more to do with pregnancy aches and pains. She was very tired and was letting us know our planned early start was off the cards for her.

Emily and I pressed ahead with the plan, after getting the stroller from the car and dropping it off at Rebecca’s room so they could join us later. We drove to Magic Kingdom and found ourselves in Hook again. The lack of trams persisted and we walked into the park whilst Facetiming Louise.

It was good to see our last day would be a consistent experience with all the others.

In our monorail compartment was an odd chap. Now I know, to some, certainly ased on last night’s ear pod experience, I would be odd, but this guy was in his early forties, yet dressed like Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. He had two mobiles on the go, constantly checking both, and he was sweating profusely whilst coughing over everyone. It was weird. He had his wife and two kids with him and spent the journey talking very loudly at them all. He shouted at his kids to get up from where they were sitting making a huge performance of it, telling the whole monorail that “Boys can stand”, unlike of course girls who cannot I assume. I convinced myself he was a drug dealing, Covid spreading idiot, and I felt sorry for his kids. Not that I am one to make snap judgements about people based on a brief encounter. Still it passed the journey to the Kingdom of Magic.

We got into Magic Kingdom around 10.30. Moans, odd blokes on the monorail, issues and Genie+ aside there are few better sights than this.

This too is a lovely sight, there are just a few too many people in the way of it. We planned to get breakfast at Sleepy Hollow. The huge queue there put paid to that so we went to the stall thing near the stocks and got a banana instead. We ate that as we walked over to Carousel Of Progress. It had no wait time unlike everything else in the park.

Today was Martin Luther King Day, but I don’t think he was there, not that the parks needed any excuse for them to be busy.

This show provided an oasis of calm from the crowds outside.

It will not shock you to learn that our bananas did not complete us, so we mobile ordered a pretzel with soft cheese from The Lunching Pad and collected it as we left Carousel.

We shared that in what were cold and windy conditions today, relatively speaking, for someone who lives in the North of England.

I restroomed.

Next we had a LL booked for Buzz but we needed to kill some time in Star Traders before that rolled around. We rode and then walked down to Main Street to do some more handbag shopping for Louise.

A cavalcade happened.

We consulted on Louise’s gifts with Rebecca, virtually, before making a final selection but deferred actual purchase till later in the day so we wouldn’t need to carry them around.

We spotted the Dapper Dans on the train station so we stopped to watch them, going live on Facebook to share that with you all.

It was now time to make our way over to the Contemporary for our lunch ADR at Steakhouse 71. Rebecca, Tom and Freddie were to meet us there.

We were early so had a look around the resort and shops.

Emily bought a hoodie and some gifts in the shop there and we met up in reception at 1pm. I checked in and we were seated five minutes later.

We got some drinks….

and then ordered….

Freddie – Burger and mash

Emily, a grilled cheese…

Me, a Turkey Club Sandwich….

Rebecca, a very poorly photographed burger….

Tom, a steak suffering in a similar way…

All of the above were great. Great service too.

The whole point of coming here, if I am honest, was the huge chocolate cake so we ordered two of those and a Crème Brulee to share between us all. Both were incredibly good.

Freddie of course had ice cream.

We all felt a bit like this after all that food.

The bill was $190 including tip and it was now 2.35pm. I had booked a LL for Big Thunder that ran out at 3.10 so we were up against it. Again, it always take far longer than you think to get from one place to another as we were about to prove.

We hurried to the monorail and the journey around the resort loop took an age, with the driver having the absolute nerve to stop at each resort. For some reason we sat outside the Grand Floridian for ages. All this meant that we only got to the entrance of Magic Kingdom at 3.05. We were clearly not going to make it to Big Thunder in five minutes, with or without a pregnant one amongst us. I cancelled our LL as if we had been late/refused entry we could not book it again that day.

Queues were looonnnnggg everywhere. The People Mover was “only” twenty minutes so we did that. Freddie then wanted to ride Buzz so we joined a 45 minute queue which only took 25. I rode with Freddie, who employed the “no look” aiming method which led to another crushing defeat at my hands.

During all of the past few hours I had been stacking LL bookings for later in the day with Genie+. One of those, for Pirates was now due so we made our way there.

More world class photography took place.

Spotting that Small World was only at 20 minutes we walked there and rode with a 10 minute wait.

Marginally better photography took place.

This took us nicely to our next LL for Peter Pan’s Flight….see….

As we boarded at 5.45, the standby wait was 110 minutes! After riding we got a drink in the Pinocchio place. At this point Tom and Freddie went off in search of more rides whilst the rest of us headed for Main Street to complete the handbag and purse purchase for Louise.

With that done, we headed over the road into the Emporium where everybody in Florida was currently shopping. We left quickly and our LL for Ariel’s ride was now due. Rebecca declined the walk all the way over there and said she would find somewhere to sit and wait for Tom and Freddie. Emily and I dodged people and speed walked over to ride.

This quick fire series of rides felt good and what we had been missing for much of the trip. During this trip it had only been possible a handful of times where we had bought Genie+ and managed to “stack” reservations for later in a day.

Emily and I now walked back to Main Street to take up a position for the fireworks. It was busy and we had no clue where everyone else was so we messaged to find out. We were stood near the bridge over to Liberty Square, with Rebecca not budging from a seat she found near Crystal Palace. Tom and Freddie were AWOL, it turned out half way round Space Mountain. Their desire to get to ride that meant they did not make it back in time for the fireworks which Rebecca was a bit upset about.

This was mine and Emily’s view.

Some trees made it less than perfect but arriving at this late stage it was good enough.

Allow me to share my photographic skills once again.

OK, this is a bit better….

An enjoyable show, but at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it ain’t no Wishes.

We met up with Tom and Freddie outside Sleepy Hollow and we all made our way across to our final LL booking at 8.40 for Haunted Mansion whilst Rebecca told Tom off for missing the fireworks.

More epic camera work. I actually have a pretty good camera, I’m just really rubbish.

There’s something odd about knowing you’ve done your last ride. We exited into the now very cold evening, a mixture of all kinds of emotions. We strolled out, having our customary last look up Main Street.

It was less blurry than this.

You can see the crowds had really died off by now!

As ever we took the resort monorail, with even that having a ten minute queue. That wait was nothing compared to the one for the tram (yes, they do exist). I fell on my sword and walked back to the car so that everyone else could fit on one row. We all arrived back at the car at the same time.

We had not eaten for many hours now and so a search began for somewhere that was open. Again. this felt weird and unusual or is it just me? Struggling to find an open eatery or take away at around 10pm on the 192?

We found a McDonalds but as we had found all trip they had zero options for Emily. Everything had meat in it or was cooked in non-veggie oil. The rest of us got some of that and we continued what turned out to be a fruitless search for other non-meat options for another half hour or so. With Emily less than impressed we arrived home around 11pm, and those able to, ate something. We were all in bed for midnight.

Till the next time…….