The Winners in the World

Thanks to everyone who has already read my latest article for The Dis. My Country Needs Me is all about the UK pavilion in Epcot, so if you haven’t yet please do have a look. Having only recently done so myself, I would also recommend liking their Facebook page as all the latest news is there for you plus of course some very talented contributors!

I never truly understood the scale of the Dis to be honest, but if these figures are true, and I don’t see how they can be, surely I am pretty much famous now? I think they represent the whole section rather than just my little post!

dis shares

Having waved January off with two fingers, February is upon us, and we chalk off one more month on our countdowns. I use the plural as the three I have in mind are, (in chronological order) Louise starting work, Emily going to WDW for her year and then of course our trip starting in August. Wedged in the midst of all of those is Rebecca’s 18th birthday. Rebecca’s countdown to that started just after she turned five I think. She’s excited. Not that we have a great deal planned for it. Her trip to WDW is most of her present, as it was for Emily, although with May and August being so far apart it is not ideal and I’m sure we’ll do what we can to make the actual day as special as possible.

Anyway, following on from last week’s post, where I listed stuff I have never done in WDW, it would appear that these list things are quite popular blog wise as I had a good few comments, and most of you buggers read and run every single week!

So, on the theme of my Dis post above, where I whinge about the UK pavilion being a bit short on stuff to entice us in, it got me thinking about my favourite pavilions in the World Showcase, so here (imagine Fluff Freeman music at this point) are my top five….

5. Norway. This one gets points for effort as it has a ride, and probably the most intense one in the whole showcase, which I know isn’t saying much. It has a bakery which always scores well with me and the pavilion tends to be staffed by young female blondes who have no choice but to be nice to me. What’s not to like?

4. Mexico.  This pavilion scores very highly for theming. The night-time all the time interior is excellently done and no holiday is complete without shaking my maracas in public and the trying on of a big hat. The restaurant is also one our favourites in the World Showcase with the candlelit tables and moonlit backdrop doing a great job of replicating al fresco dining. Mexico would have been more of a contender for top spot had they not changed the fabulously kitsch 70’s film on the boat ride for the Donald Duck thing that is there now.

3. China. The food here of course has an influence as I love a Chinese, although the restaurant here isn’t the best example in the world. The counter service option is superb though and we’ve over ordered and over eaten there several times. I mark this one highly for the entertainment value. The frequent shows from the acrobats both amaze and shame me, as I wonder how two bodies, built basically the same way can be so different. These acrobats can perform feats that I would get inured just watching. As much as I do not like too much shopping, the shop here is always worth a good look around as it always has interesting items to browse and not buy.

2. America. Size isn’t everything but the scale of the place is impressive. However, my appreciation for this pavilion is based upon the unbelievably good Voices of Liberty. The soprano regularly communicates with dolphins with her high notes and when they start singing the patriotic American songs I want to invade a small country under the star spangled banner.

1. Canada. The song alone wins it for me. As you know I am likely to be in tears at the opening bars. If I were actually Canadian I don’t think I could cope with listening to it all the way through such is the effect it has on me. Add to that of course the excellently humorous film with Martin Short and one of the better eateries on property, and you have a clear winner.

My affection for the World Showcase is of course evident from all the birthdays I have spent there, and no doubt my top five will change based upon our next set of experiences in the summer, but those are my current favourites.

You may have noticed that I am trying to block out the reality of these cold winter times with thoughts and blogs about sunnier places and happy travels. Next week, as I did this, I have less happy travels down the wintry motorways to Head Office. As I scrape the ice from the windscreen at 5am on Tuesday, I shall be humming O Canada and closing my eyes hopeful that when I open them I will be stood in shorts and T Shirt in the ultimate happy place. I’m sure that will work!

Till the next time……

So You Want to Work for the Mouse?

This week, I was asked by a Dibber, if Emily would mind giving some advice to their daughter, as she was hoping to apply for the Cultural Representative Programme, as Emily has. Of course, she was happy to help, as it wasn’t long ago that she was doing the same, asking those who had been down that road for similar tips, hoping to get an advantage in what is a very competitive process.

I’m not sure what Emily advised, but my biggest learning from going through the process with her, is that the thing you need most of is patience, and lots of it. This is not something with a quick turnaround. I sort of understand why, as they literally have to travel and scour the globe to find suitable folks for each pavilion, do endless admin and allocate those they want to a suitable role.

Having said all of that, it takes too long, and I’m sure many of the 45 people who attended that face to face interview with Emily in London last March have since had to drop out, move on and give up. Yes, it has been six months since Emily attended her final face to face interview, and there haven’t been very many days in that time when we haven’t thought or talked about it. When things drag on like that, you start to wonder if it will ever happen.

Sometimes though, good things come to those who wait.

Disney email
We have a Cast Member in the family!

Yes, Emily’s date has come through, and she if off to work in the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida on the 7th of April 2015. We are delighted, proud, relieved, and of course dreading her leaving us for a year too. Knowing every detail of the arduous application and interview process inside out, I am so proud of Emily for getting through and being offered the job.

She has wanted this for many, many years, but deep down I think we all thought that the fact that she isn’t naturally one of life’s extroverts might stop her realising her dream. Seeing how she carried herself and how driven she was during the process, her success is all the sweeter. We have now already started the many and varied admin tasks required, with much form filling, plans to make, flights to find and excitement to enjoy. There’s a Visa to get too, which will mean another trip to London no doubt and room mates to find. This process is not one for the fickle and fainthearted. It requires dedication, patience, tenacity and as a certain Michael Bolton once said the ability to Go The Distance!

As you probably know it doesn’t take much for me burst with pride at anything Emily or Rebecca do. The fact that I produced them is and always will be the proudest achievement of my life, but when they do stuff like this, it is on a whole new level. I can’t over egg the effort and the journey outside of Emily’s comfort zone this has required.

Of course, we may, yes, may have to plan a trip to visit her during her year too. I’m sure there are some Cast Member discounts we can look into!

She will be working in the UK pavilion, in quick service food and beverage, which translates to the fish and chip place we assume, although it does say she will be asked to undertake a wide variety of roles. This doesn’t seem real to me yet, so who knows how Emily is dealing with all of this. I’m sure she’ll be blogging again very soon, now she has this news. There wasn’t a great deal of point in her blogging regularly about waiting for her date. We were all pensive enough without her having to write about it.

For any of you that are connected with Emily on Twitter and Facebook, can I ask that if you contact her, you do so discretely, via DM or Messenger. She has people from her current job on both, and of course, she’d rather they did not know about this just yet. Your discretion is appreciated!

So she has 190 days at home with us before her adventure begins and of course we need to make the most of those. She’s probably started packing, and who can blame her!

Till the next time…..

That Book What I Wrote

What is this madness?  A blog from me on a Saturday?  Crazy I know, but these are not normal times we live in.  For a start, it feels like a Sunday due to the Goodness of the Friday I just had.

What is the reason for this earth shattering deviation from the comforting grip of routine and normality?  Well, I’ll tell you.

Some weeks ago, I undertook a detailed and extensive teaser marketing campaign, as I said…

“As some sort of teaser marketing campaign, I shall …..erm…tease you by letting you know that I am working on a “secret project” at the moment and at some point soon I may reveal it to you.  As an added bonus one or two of you might even give a toss.”

All none of you picked up on this, and I was inundated with absolutely no enquiries as to what I was up to.  As teaser marketing campaigns go, it may not have been the most successful in the history of advertising.

Weighed down by the massive sense of expectation this campaign created, I have been working hard on this project, and can now reveal all to you.

As I said at the time, sadly it is not the annual booking of our holiday.  If it were that would be the least surprising reveal since Duncan from Blue announced he was gay.  It is holiday related, and is in fact the news that I am now a published author!

That sounds grander than it actually is, as frankly anyone can be a published author as long as you can figure out the labyrinth of complexity involved in Amazon’s self publishing programme.  But still, published I is.

So it is with great pleasure that I can reveal to you all my first (and probably only) book, Mkingdon’s Tales of Family, Food and Florida.

Book Image
Mkingdon’s Tales of Family, Food and Florida

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to fund our next trip with the sales of this book.  Believe me, once Amazon and the tax man have had their share I would need the population of China to buy a couple each to be able to fund more than the taxi to the airport!

It is more that I have been meaning to do this for a while now, mainly to preserve them forever on somewhere other than a certain Disney forum.  Who knows when that might blow up or self-destruct in a fire-ball of reclining seats, tipping and right-wing views?  If it did, all the work I had put into these would be lost and I couldn’t have that.  I spend less and less time on there now, so felt that I needed to reclaim them for myself, and of course if I sell a couple (I have already bought one copy, so just one more sale to reach my target) at the same time then that would of course be lovely.

It’s a big book, and should represent decent value for the (random) price. (Amazon’s pricing engine is slightly more complex than space travel).  With ten year’s worth of holidays in it, the page count is as impressive as the photo quality isn’t.  Amazon’s file size restrictions mean they have to be a thumbnail of a thumbnail!

Some of the grammar and spelling will not win any awards.  I have tidied them up a little, but you will still find typos and the like, but hey, that all adds to the charm, doesn’t it??

So, please tell your friends, and even your enemies that such a thing exists, and if any of you are kind enough to invest in a copy, that in itself would be incredible, but should you even enjoy it, then that is what the review system is for on Amazon so don’t be shy to add one!

So there we go, I finally got my arse in gear and created a book from stuff what I wrote.  Enjoy!  We all enjoyed making the holidays that are in it.

Till the next time….

The Disney Do is Done.

So it’s only taken the two months, but yesterday saw the 2012 trip report finally put to bed.  During those two months, it has at times felt like a millstone around my neck.  With the new job and new house it has had to take its place behind those two things.  However, literally as I put the last full stop on the last sentence, it made me a little sad.

As ever finishing these reports absolutely puts the holiday to bed, and that is sad of course.  Naturally a holiday forever sits in our memories adding interest to our nostalgia assets for years to come, and it does seem that a holiday just had can take a few months or years to be fully appreciated.

As well as those thoughts, I of course always regret having dashed several days off in a hurry, and wish I could go back and do them again without time being against me.

I mentioned in the final thoughts of the final day that this trip report may be the last one, and I’m sure that was greeted with scorn and derision, as of course for a decade now we’ve not been going next year.  This year’s threat seems to be the closest I can remember to becoming a reality though.  Even with unlimited funds I highly doubt Louise could be tempted to do another WDW based trip.

I agree to a certain extent.  Naturally should someone shove four plane tickets in my hand and point me in a Trans-Atlantic direction I would gladly go and do WDW all over again.  However, we are being drawn to other spots in the US.  Should we be blessed with a lottery win I would whisk the family away on a Stephen Fry style tour of all the states, taking in the diverse nature of the various parts of the US.

Back in reality I suspect as and when funds become available we’ll do the West Coast thing next.  So expect that trip report any time in the next decade.

Away from holidays and their associated reports I have been unable to avoid DIY this weekend.  Parts of the kitchen need decorating.  The previous residents had an unhealthy obsession with sauna style wood panelling, and I am attempting to turn it white.  Two coats in, plus the assistance of my Dad and there is still no real sign of an end game.

The decorating is an evil necessity as we are to host the family for Christmas this year.  So that totals twelve folks.  Louise made this kind and generous offer at the wrong end of a bottle of red, and despite the fact we can seat six for dinner at a push with some emergency chairs, twelve it is.  Add in a four stone sheep dog and our house should be an adventure come the big day!

Once I have finished painting the sponge like walls there is also some wallpapering to do, and the dreaded glossing.

On a different note you may remember me bemoaning a journey home from Marlow on a Friday afternoon?  You may also recall me swearing an oath never to leave myself in that situation again?

So on Friday I had to drive home from Marlow.  It was pretty much unavoidable.  I left a little earlier but it did little to ease the pain.  The M6 was gruesome and the M40 joined in too, not wanting to be left out.  I crawled out of the car some five or so hours later, defeated by some bitumen or should that be bitch-umen.

I will make no similar vow that such a thing won’t happen again, but I’ll try really hard not to make the mistake again, and if I do, definitely not to moan about it again here.

M6 toll
It certainly took it

I don’t think I’ve done a family update for a bit so you can have one.

Last week saw me attend Rebecca’s Parent’s Evening.  Despite the fact that appointments are booked every time, they are then systematically ignored by everyone, and it is just a case of grab a teacher your child recognises as soon as the seats at their desk become free.

She is doing OK.  She could pass the whole lot at GCSE, but the recurring theme is she needs to apply a little more effort.  I tried my best at motivational speaking as we walked home again afterwards.  I suspect it will have little effect as Rebecca was just too cold to listen to me.  This was because she didn’t listen to me earlier when I told her she’d need her big coat on as it was really cold even though it is only a five-minute walk.  The trials of fatherhood.

She also has the distraction of her Tom.  If Tom tells her she needs a coat it would be accepted without question!  You can but advise and guide, as they don’t listen much anyway.

Emily is progressing well with her driving, being told by her instructor to concentrate on her theory now as she needs to get that sorted and passed as by that time she should be ready for her test.  It really does feel odd watching her drive off in a car for her lessons.  This week was the wonders of the roundabout.  After being extremely nervy to begin with she seems to have found her confidence now, and is enjoying her lessons.

In her spare time she has taken to sheep dog fancy dress!

Nurse Oli
Nurse Oli
Oli Bra
Roger Wilco!

Louise finished her first placement in a hospital on Friday much to her relief.  It has been hard work, fitting in shifts and coursework as well of course as the grueling work of a nurse on a hospital ward.  Some of the tales she tells of tubes, puss, vile body parts and in some cases viler patients confirm my conviction that I absolutely could not do that job.   She is back to the less intense University elements of her course now until January.

Onto the wider family, and my Dad is still wrestling with the insurance company over his non-holiday with us.  I am not one to suggest that these insurance companies use delaying tactics, but they have written back (by snail mail) half a dozen times to request extra and different snippets of information that they could have requested on the original claim form.  Some of their clients might just give it up as the effort is too big, but they are fighting a losing battle with my Dad.

His persistence is only equaled by his retired free time, so they may as well just write the cheque and have done with it.  We are also keeping him nice and busy with our DIY requirements.  He’s in the middle of a project to un-damp our cellar which should keep him going for the next few weeks!

Mum is doing better.  She’s had a couple of relapses into pain, but generally she’s doing OK.  She saw a consultant last week who seems to have settled on a  diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which was pretty much what we all thought before the dozens of tests and weeks of pain.  Anyway, she’s on the relevant medication now, and we’ll see how that goes.

So that’s it I think.  I had considered another vitriolic rant about the ways of the world, but thought better of it.  The ending of the last/latest trip report is worthy of a mention both in appreciation of the time and effort spent on it and as a nod of respect to what could be the last of its kind.  What do you mean you don’t believe me????

Till the next time…..

An Over Sentimental Sign Off

So dear readers this looks like the last blog before we embark on our latest American adventure.  This time next week, we shall be airborne over lots of water, full of barely edible food, anticipation and good spirits.

This will not be new news to you unless this is the first time you have stumbled this way.  Certainly if you have the misfortune to encounter any of my social media outpourings, then surely by now you will be sick to the back teeth of smug countdown tweets and over excited nonsense.

As most of you will know, the smaller the countdown gets, the slower time goes by.  The last month has been turgid, and now with just a week to go, it stretches out ahead of me like an endless runway of meh.

I don’t know if this is just us, but when we are deciding whether or not to book these holidays, we tend to tell lies to ourselves, such as, we won’t need to spend a fortune on holiday clothes, and we’ll just make do with that we have.

If I lived with three men, rather than three females then this may be doable. It would also be a weird type of family unit!  So over the last few days we have been ticking off the essentials of the items required for such a trip.

Blinded by the light

Of course for me this must mean the purchase of some trainers that can be seen from space.  I am complete.  Other than that though I shall be rocking the same holiday clothes that I have enjoyed for the past decade or so.  Why change a classic look?

We’ve done a couple of Trafford Centre trips to get the girls sorted with their staple items of denim shorts and T-shirts.  In my next life I am going to be a denim short seller…seriously how much????

Rebecca is so excited that she has more or less packed with a full week to go.

A case of premature packing

Whilst I was taking that picture of Rebecca’s case in her room, I noticed some of the snaps she has on her shelves, and it brought home just how much history we have with these holidays, and what a massive part the place has played in our lives.  I can only imagine what that’s like for the girls as it is all they have known really.

I took some pictures of the pictures, so apologies for the quality.

A big Pooh
chip n dale
Who knows which is which?

This next one is (I think) one of the earliest we have, from 1999, when Rebecca was just two.

I think I’d been drinking

We shall not be attempting a reconstruction of this photo this year!!

So many memories, and it is about this time in the countdown that I try to remind myself to enjoy every second.  Even the boring bits like the flight.  Who knows what memories we will make this time, and which of those will stick with us for the years to come.

Each year is different with the girls at different stages of course.  As young adults now, I look back on memories of them in the photos above with great fondness.  The strollers, the extortionate and endless Princess dresses we bought them, and their wide-eyed delight at every character encounter.

We’ve worked so hard for this trip in so many ways, and in equally as many ways we shouldn’t be going.  We booked in a rush of blood and crossed fingers, and events have done their best to conspire against us at every turn.

We have dodged every one as best we can, and still we sit here, seven days away from departure still able to go, and determined to have a bloody good time.  What happens when we get back….well we’ll deal with that then I suppose.  I’ve been working on something that may make those long winter months and credit card bills less depressing, but more of that some other time.

I had a thought earlier this weekend, caught up in the euphoria of Mo Farrah’s incredible race and second gold medal.  The country is currently experiencing some of the atmosphere and magic that us Disney idiots revel in.  The shared and overwhelming feelings created by an event like this, the massive crowds, the shared focal point of everyone’s attention and goodwill, is much of what the crowds leaving Magic Kingdom after Wishes will feel.  When you see photos of a line of Police doing the “Mobot” as the crowds leave is the equivalent of seeing the Cast Members waving you goodnight as you follow the crowds out towards the monorail.

Close your eyes, imagine the perfect heat of an Orlando night, the tiredness in your legs from a full day of touring, and that post Wishes lump in your throat as the perfect background music carries you on a cloud to your exit plan of choice.

Then, the endless twinkling magic of the resorts through windows as you speed past them on the monorail with *that* voice telling you what you know already about staying clear of the doors and which resort you are approaching.

These are a few of my favourite things.

I apologise for the cloying over sentimental tosh, but you will have to forgive me.  I am a week away from a trip, not knowing if it may be the last for some time, and I intend to eek every last drop from it, and then some.

Before that of course I have to endure every painful moment of five endless days at work.  It appears insurmountable from here, but I’m sure somehow it will pass.  Won’t it?

So from a blog perspective I shall see you on the other side, as I cannot imagine updating this whilst over there.  We probably will have a laptop with us, but I think the most I will muster is an odd tweet or Facebook update just to remind everyone where we are and where they aren’t.  It pleases me.

Now, I have to go and be over excited, over emotional and overweight somewhere else.  In this state, the Olympics closing ceremony may well have me in tears, but I suspect that will be for the wrong reasons when the Spice Girls take to the stage.  Watching them?  I won’t Wannabe!

Till the next time……







Take me out to the ball game.

There are times when writing down what is going on in the real world is simply not an option.  Having to live through it day to day, and then write it down of a weekend is just adding insult to considerable injury, so this week I am going to block out the real world from these ramblings and instead, do a random blog about something I do want to write about.

The premise upon which many of you come here each week is the ever loosening connection between this blog and Florida.  For most weeks of the year, it is hardly mentioned, and then most years, around springtime, we raid a symbolic piggy bank and book another trip, and for those few months, these pages are crammed to the rafters with my self satisfied smugness as I trot out all the things that we are planning to do.

I doff my blogging cap to those proper Disney/Florida bloggers who stay true to their original theme, at all times, and can write article after article that actually helps people plan a trip or at worst enjoy one vicariously.  So as I need to not write about last week, this blog will attempt to be a “proper Florida blog”.

Now, there are millions of Disney blogs, and with a casual glance at google I suspect there is not a piece of Disney property that has not been blogged to death.  With this in mind I have chosen my subject carefully, and I hope that it can therefore actually be useful to some readers, as it may be something they have never thought of doing, or didn’t know where to start.

When you’ve been a few times, you start to look outside the gates of Disney for other attractions and activities, especially if your partner threatens to confiscate your crown jewels if she has to watch Spectromagic again on the next trip.

With this as motivation, I can get quite creative.  Many folks who are multiple Florida visitors, first of all fall in love with the razzmatazz of Disney, but over time there comes a realisation that it isn’t only those forty odd square miles that hold you in their spell.  The magic extends, first to off property eateries, and other theme parks, and eventually to an admission that your love affair is with the atmosphere and excitement of the US itself.  Now I know that us visitors to Florida are not seeing the real America.  Still, my generation were raised on a staple diet of US TV shows that have engrained comforting stereotypes into our minds, so that when we encounter them for real, we are once again that eight year old boy sat in front of The Streets of San Francisco in his pyjamas, marvelling at the sheer scale of the country and Karl Malden’s nose.

One way we have discovered to unearth a little of the real America, is to attend a baseball game.  We have not yet attended a major league affair, preferring instead to get closer to the action with a minor league game.

With a non sport friendly wife, and two teenage girls who would rather eat their own earwax than watch sport on TV, I must admit, my main driver for selecting a minor league game over major was that the cost per ticket was $7 each rather than something like $50.  Should they get bored after the first innings then I would have no issue in abandoning the event without having to sulk for the rest of the holiday.

However, I am very happy with that choice as the atmosphere, and family involvement is excellent, and we have had an absolute ball (pardon that pun) on every occasion.

On our first visit we chose the Daytona Cubs as our team.  Admittedly this was driven by our location, as we were spending a couple of days by pool and sea at Daytona, but the choice was a good one.

If you want to see which team suits your location, then The Official Site of Minor League Baseball is the place to go.  Here you can see all the teams, their schedules and book tickets.

We arrived early on game night, and were welcomed despite our accents and lack of baseball knowledge like one of the locals.  We noticed right away that these games were a big community event.  Everyone seemed to know each other, and we soaked up the pre-game build up eagerly, looking out onto the empty diamond.



The players began to warm up, the girls picked out which ones were “fit”, and I suddenly realised how ridiculously fast they threw that ball!

What became apparent very quickly was that the ball game itself was almost a side-show to the endless flow of entertainment and games laid on to keep everyone happy.  You will know that US sports all take at least seventeen hours to complete, and all the breaks in play were used expertly with games of all sorts.

There was a burrito eating competition.  If only I had known beforehand, I could have claimed glory for the UK!


At times the game itself broke out, and we all enjoyed that too, with my rudimentary run down of the rules being enough for the women folk to take an interest.


Every end of innings brought ever more creative games onto the field, with the most surreal being three Dads having to catapult sponges at the floodlights whilst watched by two girls from Hooters.  The Premier League have much to learn.


With a couple of beers from a passing vendor, and every food stuff you can shake a stick at on sale, you want for nothing.  The atmosphere is friendly and fun, and the result of the game pretty irrelevant from what we could see.

Towards the end of the evening, all the kids gather at one end of the field, and then when given the signal they “run the bases”.  This looked like great fun but I fear I just missed the age cut off.


The evening went on for hours, with more and more fun as it went.  With us needing to drive back to Orlando, and a touch of raining coming in we decided to leave as the game went into extra time tied at…well, I have no idea what the score was, but we were all smiling as we left.

I remember that drive home being one of the worst experience of my life, as torrential rain and pitch black roads made for a tense hour and a bit.  I think I went the whole journey without blinking or talking.

So if you have a spare evening in your plans and want to sample just a little of the life outside of the sterilised walls of the theme parks then I would heartily endorse a night at the ball game.  However, one word of warning.  On our second visit, to a different team, the following year I bought myself a pretzel.  If they ask if you want it with salt say no.  There was an inch think layer of the stuff all over it, and I was thirsty for about three weeks afterwards.

Other than that, enjoy the game!

Till the next time…..

Sunshine, Lollipops and a Westlife!

This week has been full of shit.  Pardon my French, but this statement is true in more than one way.

There comes a time when you get past annoyance, self-pity and a persecution complex and just resign yourself to being on the wrong end of life’s stick with brown stuff on it.  Of course, my trials and tribulations are just normal day-to-day ones, and as ever I doff my virtual cap to those folk facing real problems in life.

So the week started with bad news on the house move front, which to cut a long story short simply cost us a load of money we were not expecting.  Whilst a body blow, I suppose you always have to expect these things, and it will make life tougher for a while.  I entered into an enormous sulk at this point as this is clearly what sensible mature chaps of my age should do in these circumstances.

As punishment that very evening I was stricken with an illness of a magnitude to match my immaturity.  At around 4am on Wednesday morning I was awoken by a rebellion in my body.  I then spent the next several hours doing my best to evacuate said rebellion from all and any orifice through which liquids could pass.

My body’s ability to surprise me in this regard is endless.  Even in the strongest of wretches or strains at some level I was impressed with my body’s ability to expel something that it didn’t want in it.

Wednesday was therefore a complete write off.  I should have been in Newcastle that day and the next, but I was just as likely to make it to the moon in the state I was in.  Louise was concerned enough to phone the doctor, and I was even more concerned to hear that he would be coming out to see me, which immediately made me think my condition was a lot worse than even I thought!

He prodded a bit, from a distance, whilst telling me he’d seen an outbreak of these cases recently, and that I should live through it.  With a couple of prescriptions left behind he made his exit and I continued to be a passenger to my body’s own exit strategy.

I spent Thursday at home too, having stopped ejecting stuff, but still unable to take anything more than water in either.

The days following have been interesting.  I have mainly eaten toast, fearful of incurring the wrath of my innards again, and maybe this has led to a complete reversal of fortune in the bodily functions department.  That issue persists, and although I have lost a pound or two, I suspect when that event comes to pass I may set a new Weightwatchers record for weight loss in one week.  The need to “evacuate” is getting to a worrying point, and I am in desperate need of a Westlife, maybe even a Westlife and a half.   If you don’t know what a Westlife is, well, all I will say is “four stools”.

westlife stools
I need a Westlife like you wouldn’t believe

Hmm, that was a much more detailed a description of this week than I had anticipated.

So back at work on Friday still not feeling terrific, Louise called me with the great news that I had a speeding ticket, from my last visit to Newcastle.  Great, another £60 down the swanny.  However, the Gods diddled on my chips a little more when I got home to read that in fact I had two fines…four minutes apart.  Having taken a wrong turn, I had obviously been zapped going the wrong way, and then again four minutes later going back the right way!  Both times I was eight miles an hour over the limit.  How the plods must have chuckled.

At this point the only choice was to accept my fate, and resign myself to a spiritual shafting.  This isn’t like me at all.  I have a highly polished persecution complex, but I think it was just the fact that I could not comprehend all this crap at once, and have this weekend, been relatively sanguine about things.  The alternative was that at some point over the weekend I’d be stepping over dead bodies loading a fresh clip.  The fact that I have no idea how to load a clip was probably instrumental then!

Louise may tell you that I have had my moments though.  Since selling the house, we have all been holding our collective breath that the house would stop breaking, and that it would remain standing until we complete.  Don’t get me wrong, it is structurally fine, but the little things inside it seem to be on a mission to self destruct.  We have had wooden trim come loose in the hall, and the upstairs shower came close to blowing up earlier today.  Just a few more weeks house, that’s all I ask!

I do claim a small victory in one event this weekend.  Randomly my key fob for the car stopped working for no reason this week.  To get a dealer to fix that, and empty my empty ashtrays was looking like the wrong side of £100.  However, armed with a new £1 battery, and google, I have successfully reprogrammed the bugger, and my jump in the air with full fist punch on the drive may have raised an eyebrow or two in the neighbourhood.  I take my wins where I can.

To redress that balance, Emily is trying to print off her Photography coursework at the moment, and the printer and computer, who are obviously friends with the upstairs shower are playing up like you wouldn’t believe.  I dislike computers a lot.

To distract myself from these horrors, I spent a little bit of Friday evening on some holiday planning.  It may not surprise you to know that the focus was on eating.  It dawned on me that we always eat at the same places, and whilst we still will do our favourites, I felt it was time to look for fresh fields.  A bit of Dibbage with a sprinkle of Google led me to a couple of places that we will try.

orlando ale house
You’d better stock up!

Mannys seems to be a popular choice of lots of folk, so that is on “the planner” and having salivated all over my laptop at their menu, the Orlando Ale House is another that I have decreed that we shall try.  The amount of pleasure taken from this planning activity is abnormally high, but there you go.

As Louise often tells me, I just need to “deal with stuff” so that is what I am doing.  Hopefully, if there are swings and roundabouts the coming weeks will bring a few ups, and I don’t mean the contents of my stomach.  Until then I am googling how to load that fresh clip.

Till the next time…..


Battles, Bruises and Baxter.

It’s been a bit of a week really.

I think both Louise and I feel pretty battered and bruised by the last seven days for different reasons.  I have done a mini UK tour, taking in London on Tuesday, which is always a chore and never a pleasure, and then Newcastle over Wednesday and Thursday.

I always find traveling for work, especially when mixed with overnight stays tiring and laborious, especially when the venue for said overnight stay is the very glamorous Premier (you must pronounce it Pree-Meer) Inn.

After a one meeting jaunt to London on Tuesday I drove up to Newcastle on Wednesday morning to open our new office there.  There was no gathering of local dignitaries unfortunately.  The grand opening was pretty much just me, carrying a new PC, and our new starter.  To his credit he settled in very quickly, and the two days passed without much incident.

One highlight of the stay was dinner with Steve, my ex-colleague, but thankfully not ex-friend.  He was in Sunderland on that day so we had arranged to meet up.  Every day is indeed a school day as when we came to order our pre-dinner drinks in the exclusive Pree-Meer Inn bar, the two Guinnesseseseses we ordered were served up from a tin, looking all flat and uninviting, but then they were placed on some contraption, in a little pool of water, and as if by magic, agitated into a fully fledged perfectly acceptable pint.  It was as if I had just witnessed the invention of fire!

Food wise dinner was OK, but it was great to catch up with Steve, and I only rubbed it in a little bit about our recently booked trip.  I have to be gentle with Steve as I never know when we will next need loan of some DVC points or a dog sitter!

Towards the end of dinner, we were delighted to hear the dulcet tones of the fire alarm.  Of course everyone sat looking at each other for a good few minutes hoping to not have to move, but alas the staff ushered us outside.  Now, up in Newcastle I am classed as a southern jessy, and I confirmed that status by coming close to death whilst stood outside in the sub-zero temperatures of an early May evening.  It was bloody freezing, and of course being a resident of the hotel my nice warm coat was enjoying itself up in my room watching some channels it shouldn’t have been.  Well, that’s my excuse for them appearing on the bill!

newcastle fire engine
It was too cold for snow!

Eventually, the fire engines came and went, and we were allowed back in to thaw out.  Steve set off for home and I watched crap telly in my underpants.  Don’t worry I did go to my own room first!  It truly is a showbiz lifestyle I lead.

Homeward bound…..

So there you have my bruising week.  Whilst I was living the Vida Loca by the Tyne Louise was having all sorts of fun and games with the vendor of the house we are buying.  This fun and games was made all the more interesting as she is “family”.  I won’t go into details here, frankly as we are all now absolutely sick of talking and hearing about it.  In summary the survey on our new house flagged some issues, and these had a material impact on the valuation the bank gave to the house, and in turn to the amount they would lend on it, and so began two days of heated debate about us trying to “rip her off” etc etc, when it was absolutely nothing to do with us.

That is the tip of that iceberg but it shall remained submerged here.  All I will say is that you would not believe some of the goings on if I wrote them here anyway!  Suffice to say, we ended the week in a position where we can progress, and the move is still on.  This was not the case for some of the week, so it has been a bit of a roller coaster.

So we arrived at the weekend, thankful to hear the bell for the end of the fight, and for the extra day off, and needing a good sponge down, running repairs to a couple of cuts, and some words of wisdom from Buster Meredith. (He was in Rocky(s))  Excellent use of brackets there!

Holiday wise, there hasn’t been much time to drool over Disney websites or plan too much, but I did manage to book the minivan, and start to put a plan together.  The plans so far involve a meet up with Jakki, Steve and the kids whose names I dare not try to spell.  We have arranged a golf day for the men folk where Steve and I will be easily beaten by a man in his mid seventies.  I love golfing in Florida! Then that same evening, the Cooper and Williams clans will convene at a suitable Applebees for feasting before invading Epcot for fireworks and frivolity.

The only other thing we’ve committed to do is return to Daytona to watch the Cubs play baseball whilst we eat!

The weekend so far still has not yielded too much time for Disney planning as we’ve been busy with other things.  There is still tomorrow of course but that is Rebecca’s birthday, so much, no, all of her day will be spent readying herself for her birthday meal tomorrow evening with five friends, and Louise and I will be on taxi duty.  I hope they eat well before they come!!  Rebecca has a new outfit, shoes, jewellery and enough make up to keep the cast of Chicago going for months.

After spending this afternoon at a steam fair I shall be doing similarly exciting and sexy things tomorrow no doubt.  Garden Centres, Stannah stairlift demonstrations and walk in bath showrooms will not be safe from me.

To be fair we had a nice afternoon at the Last Drop Village.  We met up with Mum and Dad, and my brother and his wife, who took their dog Baxter.  Much hilarity ensued as he and Oli spent about an hour chasing each other and playing like things possessed.  I think they tired each other out so it has been a peaceful evening.

He’s eaten a whole wheel of cheese.

We entertained Louise’s Mum for tea, and then spent our evenings watching films we’d seen before or browsing the internet.  Louise was looking at stuff we can’t afford for our new house, whereas Emily was watching YouTube videos of the Fantasyland expansion to see if anything new would be open when we go.  Not much will be it seems, but my obsessive planning ways seem to have made it down the family tree well enough!  My work here is done.

Speaking of which…

Till the next time…..

Man vs. Disney

Ding, ding!

In the blue corner, all the way from Pragmatic Town, in the county of Prudent is the challenger, “stay at home this summer”.  In the red corner, from Rash Decision USA, is the reigning champion, with over ten years of victories under his belt, you all know him, it’s “sod it, we’re going no matter what the consequences!!”

In the battle outlined above, we have seen some very one-sided contests over the past eleven years, with the challenger, never really troubling the scorers.  This year as you are all painfully aware has been a much closer fight.  With a house move, to a house that needs work doing, me just two months into a new job, and Louise giving up work to take the easy option of becoming a nurse (I mean really get a proper job!), you can see how the odds were heavily stacked against the reigning champion.

The fight has been bloody and painful, with all of the family taking some real body blows from the realisation that defeat looked very much on the cards, and our summer would be more tent in the back garden than the Garden Grill.  With Emily’s constant playing of Disney music at high volume, and Louise posting angst on Facebook most days, it has only been Rebecca and I that have managed to keep a lid on our feelings!

Out of the four of us I think I was bearing up the best, if you can imagine that, and I was hunkered down for a summer of work, crap weather, and not having to bother to lose weight!  We have a house move to organise, and it was during some activity related to this that this week’s major news unfolded.  Louise was clearing out the Narnia style wilderness that is our “under the stairs” ready for the move.

I was at work, working.  I say that as in the past at this time of year, I would pretty much either be spending eight hours a day on flight websites, or if already booked, indulging in some other crucial planning activity.  With no such pleasures to distract me, it was left to a text from Louise to do that.

Here is how the conversation went….

Louise Williams    19th April – 10:21am. 

I want to go to Florida

Craig Williams    19th April – 10:21am

Me too!

Louise Williams   19th April – 10:22am

Well pull your finger out and make it happen

Craig Williams   19th April 10:30am

Oh I can make it happen no problem.  Are you OK living in a tent?

Louise Williams   19th April  10:30am


Louise Williams   19th April 10:33am

Still tempted though! How can we make it happen then?

Craig Williams   19th April  10:40am

OK, it’s booked!

Louise Williams   19th April  10:41am

Don’t joke.  I’m not joking, all I need you to say is sod it, let’s go in August.

Louise Williams   19th April  10:45am

Stop working and pay attention to me!!

Louise Williams    19th April 10:59am


Craig Williams    19th April  11:07am

I was having a (word removed for decency purposes)

Louise Williams    19th April  11:10am


Craig Williams    19th April   11:11am

I’m looking at flights!

So you can see the terrific fight I put up there.  From there, began several days of deeper, more intelligent conversations about how we could manage to go, once I’d discovered that flights were indeed bloody expensive, and some of those conversations were even done face to face rather than text!

I can confirm that I did use up all of the internet for those few days, and if a website was capable of spitting out a flight price to Florida, I was on it, completing a spreadsheet with every conceivable permutation of dates.  This in itself was complicated enough.  With Louise starting Uni, but having not yet started (at the time) we were not sure of what her holiday dates would be.  We had to wait several days to get absolute clarity on that.

Then the logistics of going away on holiday when you are stupid enough to have three cats and a dog is something similar to organising the D-Day landings, especially when all the family members likely to do pet sitting duties had the nerve to have booked a trip to France right in the middle of the dates we had in mind.  This thought process and the asking, leading to begging took a few further days too.

Oli on park
It's a good job he's cute

Once Louise had her dates confirmed, and we knew the extent of the costs, we were down to the nitty-gritty of actually doing something about it.  Louise’s confirmed holiday dates did at least help us slightly with animal fostering as they were after the return of my Mum & Dad, and Emily’s friends return from her holiday who we had volunteered to feed our cats.  I told you this was complex.

At this point I called my Dad to ask him if he’d like to adopt some form of pet for a while this summer, as now we were looking to leave the day after he got back from France…unless, I said, you want to turn right around and come with us?  Never for a second thinking that they would consider or afford that.  To cut that part of the story shorter, that evening my Mum & Dad came to our house to have a chat about it, and within around seven minutes of them arriving, we had booked the flights.  Honestly, my Dad has less will power than I do in these matters!

So there you have a brief summary of what has been around a week of stressful searching, organising and strategising.

Now I am sure many of you are wondering if we have sacks of money lay under the bed.  If you had seen our bed and the age of it, you would know that is not the case.  What I have outlined above is purely the undeniable tractor beam that is WDW and Florida working its magic once again.  Over the years we have sacrificed many things to get there, and this time our sacrifice is that the work that needs doing on our new house will be undertaken, in the main, by us, (and my brother and my Dad, but they don’t know that yet) rather than taking the easy option and throwing lots of money at someone to take the pain away!

Anyone that knows my views on DIY will know the level of sacrifice this represents for me.  It is one step down from losing one of the twins!  Speaking of which, Oli lost both this week, and has hardly blinked or even noticed.  But I digress.  This is a WDW only zone this week.

So finally we get to the details of this upcoming trip.  With Louise fairly and squarely now to blame for two things –

  1. Booking this holiday
  2. Not doing Disney at all last year, and then halfway into the holiday announcing that she missed it.  How we laughed!

I can assure you all that the ONLY thing we will be doing this year is Disney, in terms of theme parks anyway.  It also helps keep the costs down.

Our flights were OK, price wise, when compared to the majority of flights I had seen in horror, for most of my searching.  We ended up paying £598 each for indirect flights on the 19th of August.  I had spent far longer than was healthy on the internet looking for flights, but ironically, we booked off-line through a company my Mum found with one Google search, Fly and Save.  Other than them having the right badges on their website, I suspect they operate out of a shed somewhere on the outskirts of Walthamstow.  Until I had the confirmation number and was able to select our seats on the Delta site I was mildly concerned that our cash was being laundered through the Eastern Bloc, but it seems all is in order after all.

Accommodation wise, simplicity is the key this year.  In past years we have done all sorts of multiple moves, and enjoyed them, but this year it is one villa, for the two weeks, no messing about.  Again, costs being a factor too.  We have chosen a lovely looking four bedroom villa on Silver Creek, off of the Dibb of course.

You can have a look here….

2012 villa
Our house, in the middle of our street...for 2 weeks...

The minivan is booked, and we’ll sort out park tickets much nearer the time.  We’re also going to go back to Daytona, to watch the Daytona Cubs baseball team.  We might tie that in with a drive up to St Augustine, I’m not sure yet.

No matter, the facts are that we’re booked, we have some vague plan for paying for stuff, and all the animals are housed for the duration!  Hurrah!

Phew, it has been a right old-time.  Add to that, a house move, a new job, two teenage daughters, too many animals, and if I don’t have a heart attack before I’m 50, I deserve a medal.

So I can now settle into a few months of planning, spreadsheet writing and most importantly some Disney food porn.  It is half the fun of these things, but hey, if you’re reading this you probably know that anyway.

So if you are still with me after what has turned into a long, long blogathon, well done.  You have witnessed first hand the absolute power of Florida and more specifically WDW.  It is so powerful that it has now infected Louise, who just a few short years ago would want to do silly things like decorate the house or re-do the kitchen before booking such a holiday.  Now, we just have to do both!!  Fair enough.

Let the countdown, and the diet begin.  Since booking I keep getting little jolts of excitement as I remember something we can do, now that we’re going, that I had safely locked away in the “don’t remember that, it’s too painful” part of my brain.  In that list so far…..

  • A kitchen sink
  • Jellyrolls
  • A long list of restaurants
  • Baseball

and the rest are pretty much food related.

The adventure begins, and this time, we’re taking the parents!!!

Till the next time….

Proms and Pre Trippies

Another milestone came and went this week, not only in the countdown to our holiday, but in Emily’s high-speed non stop journey to adulthood.

Thursday was Prom night, and in one way or another we’ve been building up to this for quite some time.  Those with good memories will know that we bought Emily’s dress some months ago, and those with a sympathetic nature will recall my recent horror and devastation when buying the shoes that went with it.

Luckily, Louise’s day off each week is a Thursday, so this meant that it was the ultimate girlie day, with visits to the hairdressers, and about four hours of getting ready.  For once, for me being at work wasn’t the worst place to be.  Rebecca chipped in by helping out with the make up, and by the time I got home at around 6pm, stress levels were high, and the house was full of dressed up teens, and a large collection of relatives, who all turned up to get the photos and wave them off.  The departure point was our house of course!

However, stress and crowds aside, the end result was impressive.

Emily Prom
Prom diddly om pom

I have to say a formal thank you to my sister in law’s brother (no idea what the official title for that is!) for providing the transport.  I shall just say he works in the motor trade, and was able to select and drive a suitably glitzy Mercedes.  Really nice of you Dave, cheers!  So we waved them off at around 6.30, and I shall award absolutely no prizes whatsoever for guessing who was due to go and pick them up at the end?

Yep, the trusty old Mondeo is fine for picking up under cover of darkness!  The scenes outside the venue at around 11.30pm were a little chaotic, with a mixture of the tired and emotional, hyper and those simply more than ready to get the tight dresses and crippling shoes off, and that was just the boys!  My pick up party emerged with balloons, a photo or two and smiles, so all seemed well.

As the last few moments prior to them leaving had been, quite frankly, a chaotic nightmare with seemingly hundreds of grown ups all over the house taking photos and giving out hugs, I made Emily pose for a photo or two more when she got back, hence the darkness outside on this one, taken in a spot familiar to many of you.

Emily prom 2
A famous door

I could not be more proud of Emily.  Beautiful, sensible, funny, bright and far too good for any male on the planet!

The sight of the second most famous door in the country (the other one has a 10 on it), brings me onto the darn right imminentness (yes, it is a word) of our holiday now.  That very same door will be seeing more photo action in just over two weeks now, in the traditional start of the holiday pose that the girls enjoy so much!!  This led me this weekend to put fingers to keyboard and squirt out the pre trip report for this year’s jaunt.  I always say that I don’t quite get the concept of these, but I had a go anyway.

I think everything is now in place, with the dollars ordered and received, and all the relevant paperwork printed off and stored in my special planning folder.  You see, if I am not careful I run the risk of making myself sound a little sad here.  I care not.  A colleague of mine said to me this week that my approach to holidays is “out of the ordinary”.  I think he wanted to call me a sad OCD freak, but as he works for me he probably thought better of it.

I stand by my obsessive planning, as these trips are not normal holidays.  They are for folk who actually enjoy doing a lot of the DIY booking stuff, researching things for hours, and then making an informed choice.  They are not your one trip to Going Places and forget about it till the airport type things.  Well they aren’t for us anyway.  Writing the pre trippie this week reminded me just how much work goes into the planning and research, never mind the mind bending amount of actual work to get the money to fund them!!  This adds months of enjoyment of course, if you are that way inclined (and I am), but it can also add a large amount of pressure to the holiday.  After all that hard work you can be so wired about the whole thing that you forget to enjoy the bloody thing.  Don’t worry, I think I’ve cracked that one by now.

I will not be the only liked minded soul to cast a thought to a holiday for next year, before this years has even taken place.

As we get this close, it gets to stage where you don’t even mind weekends slipping by, as you know it is all gravy in the snail-like countdown to lift off.  Weekends now are spent buying the last few bits of clothing required by each of us.  In my twenty year rotation of the shorts collection, I have completed the usual addition of a couple of pairs this year, and will make the heartbreaking decision as we pack which two will be left behind.  It will be a heartbreaker, we’ve been through so much together.

Yes I know it is simply amazing that the same shorts still fit me after so many years.  It is simply a matter of eating right and regular exercise.  You know those two come naturally to me.

We’re entering the home straight folks.  It will drag more than a Coldplay gig, but it has to get here sooner or later.  I may become unbearable between now and then, particularly if you work with me, and don’t appreciate daily updates on the number of days remaining.  Steve, I apologise here and now!

Till the next time……

Forgetting to remember, and some fighters who are Faux.

It happens every year.  Right around now, eight weeks out from our holiday, things conspire to remind me that we are actually going.  Having booked stuff months ago, written up a plan of sorts, and other than the daily subliminal knowledge of the trip getting me through every stinking day at work, it is filed away, out of focus.

So when things happen like, getting a reminder that the balance is due on my car hire, and then realising that I needed to send the cheque off for the villa balance last week, the trip is brought sharply and quickly back into focus.  Minor issues like, wondering where the spending money is coming from, who will look after the dog, his snot, and the gaggle of cats are front and centre after being ignored since we booked the trip.

In fact this wake up call started late last week, when Tom, the kind soul letting us rent his DVC points, emailed me with a confirmation of our reservation, and an offer to check us in ten days before arrival, but on Friday I was still in the eye of the storm at work, and it wasn’t enough to pull me out of it.  Work is a maelstrom of change right now, and that change has landed a whole load of new people and problems on me, for which I have received a massive pay rise, oh wait, no, that last bit is wrong.  However, in the relative calm of a three day weekend, I have luxuriated in the writing and sending of cheques for large sums of money, and even begun to consider the reality of going somewhere we love, and being warm for more than three days on the trot!

So after a very busy week, comprising of long days at the office, followed by starting work again at home in the evening, all the changes happened, things went pretty smoothly, and so far I’ve been able to avoid any work for nearly all of the weekend.

On Saturday night, we went to our local pub (I say local, it is too far to walk, and guess who drove?) to watch a band.  They were the Faux Fighters, not surprisingly a Foo Fighters tribute band.  We went with my brother, sister in law and niece, and took our girls and one of Rebecca’s friends too.  It was a shame I was driving, as I needed a stiff drink after paying £6 each to get in (we actually negotiated a £1 discount each based on the sheer volume of people in our party).  I once watched Go West at the Manchester Apollo for less than that.  Granted that was in 1986 but still!!

faux fighters
Fee Fi Faux

They were pretty good.  My brother and I, being seasoned musos of course, were a little disappointed with the drummer, but apart from that they sounded like the real thing pretty much which is all you can ask for a tribute band, and they certainly got the crowd going.  So much so that one berk, whilst dancing and jumping around launched his beer over half of the audience, including myself and Emily.  Sweet retribution came to him later though as he was ejected from the pub, and soon after arrested for fighting outside (not faux fighting, real fighting!).  Top night son, well done!!

Rebecca enjoyed herself by harassing a couple of teachers from her school.  I say teachers, but apparently they were “technicians” who run the events, sound systems and all that stuff (it is a media college so they have sound studios, TV studios and all that jazz, although I don’t think they are limited to just jazz!!).  These poor lads had come out for a bit of a pogo and a drink only to find two fourteen year old girls dancing next to them.

Now these technicians are only young, I’d say in their early twenties and one of them, according to Rebecca is, “dead fit”.  Conscious of the need to avoid a court case or newspaper scandal I had my eye on her all night.  I wasn’t worried about him!!!

The gig finished late, and by the time we got home, got everyone to bed, and I’d had my tea and toast whilst catching up on the Champions League final, it was nearly two when I got to bed.  This led directly to an event, again not seen since about the time I went to watch Go West for £6.  On Sunday I had a lie in until lunch time.  Granted, I was not technically asleep for all that time, but the sheer joy of lying in bed and not having to get up for that amount of time was superb, and probably a reflection on the sheer hard slog the last few weeks at work have been.

Having wasted half the day in bed, Louise and I then wasted the rest of it by lazing around (aside from Louise driving the girls to a music festival in Darwen) and then going to see the Hangover 2 at our local Cineworld.  Let’s get the important stuff out of the way.  Yes, it was an ice cream and pick n mix bonanza again, but I have to admit that I felt very sick before I’d made any sort of dent in the latter, and had to on board a few of Louise’s nachos to counter act the limitless amounts of sugar coursing through my every shrinking arteries.

Hangover 2
Monkeys and Man Sex.

The film itself was very good.  It of course followed very closely the same formula as the first, but unless my memory of the first is unclear, this one is much darker, ruder and has loads more sex and swearing in it.  Top drawer!!

Once I had quelled the urge to vomit, found some insulin and necked half a bucket of coke (diet) the film had quite a few laugh out loud moments, and not many films can say that.

So after picking the girls up from their festival (Louise did that), we had a late tea (no dessert, I’m not an animal), crashed on the couch, and watched some Man v Food.  Luckily, I had overcome my aversion to anything with sugar in it by the time he rolled out the deep-fried cheesecake on a stick.  My powers of recovery are such that given half a chance, at that point I could quite easily have done a fair slice of that.

I often curse my slow metabolism as being the reason that I am prone to pile on a few pounds, because as you know, my eating habits are beyond reproach.

So with Monday here, and no work, another day of not doing a lot meanders along.  We’ve had two of the girl’s friends sleeping over this weekend of course, nothing changes there, and as soon as I’m done here I shall be having the daily chat with Emily about how much revision she has/hasn’t/will/won’t be doing today.

Eight weeks and counting, or if you prefer, 58 days.  Count with me?

Till the next time……



And that’s Magic!

With a new trip booked, we are all, to varying degrees, (me more than most I admit) thinking about another journey to our favourite state, Florida.  Even the girls, who can be ambivalent to the (what seems to be an) annual event, have been chatting about it, and last Sunday night, Rebecca asked if we could watch “the Florida DVD”.  This happens to be from our 2001 trip, which shamefully is the only one I have actually spent the time on to “cut it” into as working DVD, with music and everything.

So, not needing much encouragement to wallow in some magic we put it on.

Wow!  Back in 2001 the girls were 6 and 4, and of course looked very different.  There was a distinct lack of eye liner for a start!!  I have to admit to feeling a little emotional about the whole thing, and of course Louise and I made the usual comments about time whizzing by, and understanding why Grandparents take such delight in their Grandkids, having missed their own kids growing up in a blur of careers, housework and day-to-day nonsense.

Rebecca Beaches and Cream
I need a spoon Daddy!

The DVD itself contained scenes from The Garden Grill, Fantasmic, and two lovely scenes, one from Beaches and Cream, where Rebecca’s face is a picture of wonderment contemplating the milk shake in front of her that is bigger than her head, and lastly, a scene in our All Stars Music hotel room, where the girls re-enact the parade, in their Cinderella and Belle dresses.  I’m sure I’ve told you about this stuff before??

Emily had the Princess wave down to perfection, and was for those brief moments a Princess.  You could see in her face that she absolutely believed it, and was beyond happiness.

Now in the context of just having booked yet another trip, and worrying ever so slightly about the creative ways in which we shall be affording such an extravagance, within the space of a few seconds of each other, both Louise and I said exactly the same thing, in slightly different words.

“Worth every penny!”

To be fair, I think Louise was referencing the ridiculous cost of the dresses we had bought them (and did every year until they got too big).  For me, it was bigger than that.  With every passing year, that DVD becomes more powerful.  By the time they leave home, turn 21, or get married, I shall be a weeping uncontrollable mess before anyone presses Play!

Even uber cool Emily, at 15, updated her status on the bible of teens, Facebook saying that “Disney made her happy!”  It does.  I don’t know why.  The whole brand wraps you in cotton wool, whispers in your ear that everything will be OK, and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.  This state is how they get you to hand over such huge sums of money with a smile on your face.

Magic Kingdom
Man, Mouse, Magic!

I think that no other brand on the planet has this impact on its customers.  Universal, in many ways very similar in terms of product, comes nowhere near the experience.  Don’t get me wrong, Universal do lots of things very well, but it is just different.

As a brand, Disney get into the physce of their customers in a way that blows the mind.  Add to that a product of such quality that no-one can compete, and it is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped.  At a top-level, they do a few things very well –

  • Exceptional customer service as a given
  • Cater for all ages equally
  • Ensure things are always clean and neat

However that is moving towards far too clinical an analysis.  If you start digging too deep into the theory of Disney, then you run the risk of unmasking the ugly corporate beast that lies beneath.  From the very beginnings of the company, Walt was renowned as ruthless and incredibly focussed on success, and even today, the power of Disney is legendary.  You only have to witness any sort of minor fall or accident in a park to see the “machine” in operation.  Out of nowhere, multiple Cast Members appear, with audio ear pieces and walkie talkies, surrounding the “victim”, and whisking them away from the public gaze as quickly as possible.

This of course is no doubt the first stage in an operation to remove any risk of the member of the public suing Disney, but should the worst happen (from Disney’s point of view), then the aggression and quality of their legal power is again something of legend.

Remember, nobody dies on Disney property!!

I am open to the suggestion that my kids (and me) have been brainwashed in the past twelve (or 30 in my case) or so years, and that they are not a good stick by which to measure this, but I don’t think this totally explains the whole thing.

What this experience has reminded me is that –

a) The money on these trips is an investment to be repaid in later years.

b) I really must get my arse in gear and “do” the other half-dozen lots of video into a DVD.

What I fear is that I shall become an over emotional, weeping wreck whilst doing so.  God help me if and when we ever have Grandkids.  I will indeed be leading the charge up Main Street to Splash Mountain with young Gerard and Hayley (I’m guessing the girls will name their kids after their current musical heroes), with Louise raising her eyebrows and giving me her knowing look which tells me I am going all Chevy Chase again.

Well, bring it on.  As long as the girls don’t bank on me leaving them any cash once I’ve gone to the big castle in the sky then all is well.

All of this may seem like an odd outburst for someone who is claiming that they won’t be stepping foot into a Disney park this year.  Well, maybe, but I am confident we won’t.  In fact to prove my resolve, it is probably timely to share our plans for our upcoming jaunt.

We fly out on the 28th of July at 8.30am.  That’s an early flight at the best of times, but as we flying from Heathrow, it would be a little testing to make it from Bolton.  So on the 27th we’ll load up the Mondeo and head on south to the luxurious Travelodge Heathrow Central.  At an extravagant £27 for the four of us, I can safely say this will be the cheapest night of our plans.

I have booked parking at the Long Stay thing at T3, and handily that is where we fly from.  A few hours later we touch down in Toronto, and after a couple of hours, we complete the journey down to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at around 5.30pm local time.  One of the quandaries I have been wrestling with recently has been what to do upon arrival.  I did not know whether we should hunker down in Fort Lauderdale for the night and then drive down south(er) the next morning, or to bite the bullet and endure a matchsticked eyelid drive down to Key Largo.

I have gone for the latter, embracing a “He who dares wins” attitude, and hoping for the usual adrenaline filled euphoria fuelling my body for the drive.

Hilton Key Largo
Lots of Hilton, no Paris!!

At Key Largo, we are booked into the Hilton.  This was primarily driven by our lovely experience at Daytona last year, some good reviews on Trip Advisor, and the fact that it was on the beach.  This is crucial for us throughout this trip, as the four of us have different tastes between pool and beach and it is lovely to have both next to each other so each can do their own thing.  We have three nights there, and during that time we will drive down through the Keys to explore what is has to offer.

This takes us through to the 31st of July, and we then make the journey cross-country to Naples.  Again through a mixture of google, trip advisor and inordinate amounts of time on the internet, I have plumped for Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club.  This again is right on the beach front, and hopefully is as nice as it looks.  With five nights there, it had better be.  During that time we are off to a baseball game on one evening.  We are this time supporting the Fort Myers Miracles.  Again, the value is incredible, at $8.50 each!  Other than that we have loose plans to perhaps visit the zoo, but mainly, we will relax!

After these two new experiences we then head off to more familiar territory, with the next two nights at Vero Beach.  Although we are not DVC members this place truly feels like coming home.  Hopefully if the waves are performing I shall be showing off my world-renowned boogie boarding skills.  You have been warned.

Then finally, we head “home” again, with our last five nights in Orlando.  We have a villa booked now, at Lake Davenport, courtesy of course of yet another kind Dibber.  Shamefully my planning for those last few days is centred mainly around our favourite eateries, and we should just have time to squeeze in –

  • Applebees
  • Bahama Breeze
  • Olive Garden
  • Romanos

We have also made arrangements to meet up with Jakki, Steve, Aodhan and Niamh, as is becoming a tradition now (probably much to their regret).  As nice as it is to see them, this year, the fact that we can watch Wishes from BLT with them adds to the occasion!!

So as you can see we have no theme parks planned, and certainly nothing Disney on the cards (OK, OK, Wishes is sort of Disney but we’re cadging it for free courtesy of Jakki and Steve!!).  We MIGHT go for Universal if funds allow nearer the time, as it would require a night at the Hard Rock, as we just couldn’t do it without FOTL I’m afraid.  We’ve been spoilt.

So there you go, if your internet has been a bit slow over the last few weeks, that would have been me using it all up, reading and researching these new things and areas we are visiting, and I have a bit more to do.  However, it is nice to have the basics in place now.

For anyone not able to go this year, I can can only apolgise for the planning orgy!!!

Till the next time…..

Hospital, Hearts and Horror Stories

It has been another quiet, uneventful week in the World of Williams.

I am of course being sarcastic, as the major event was a worrying turn of events for my Dad.  He went into hospital on Wednesday for a routine operation, which involved a bit of keyhole, his liver and some graphic detail best skipped over here.  All appeared to have gone well, and he was back on the ward recovering.

You always know when your phone rings at 2.20am that the news isn’t that good.  My Mum phoned me asking if I would mind taking her to hospital, as they had just phoned her, saying that he was having some chest pain, and had been taken to the coronary care unit.  Dad has a history of heart issues, and has had a stent fitted in the past.  Fearing the news to be less than good, we travelled the few miles to hospital in double-quick time, and once on the ward had both the nurse and doctor tell us that it looked like he was having a heart attack, and that he would be going across to Manchester Royal Infirmary to have an angiogram.

Being full of morphine following his op, Dad was pretty oblivious to everything but the pain he was having, and we were advised to go home, let him go and have the procedure and call in the morning.

To cut to the chase, it turns out his stent had moved and/or got a bit blocked, hence the heart trouble.  They sorted this, and he was fine.  So he’s staying in over the weekend, but looks good to come home early next week, and begin his recovery from his operation.  As I said, another quiet week then!

Dad blending in

Many of you will “know” my Dad if you have read the trip reports in which he features.  Whether it be The Six Gain Flab in Disney Tour (2004) or The Back, Sack and Hi-Jack Tour 2005 or the more recent The Chronicles of Nana (and Grandad) in 2008 you will have gathered that he is somewhat of a character, and a gold mine for someone like me looking to find amusing incidents to write about.

Hopefully then with this operation out of the way, and his stent fixed he can get himself right for the upcoming golf season.

I have to say, seeing my Dad in that situation is not going to make it into my all time Top Ten things.

Speaking of holidays (what a seamless segueway), I haven’t done that much planning this week, other than reading a few trip reports from others who have done the Keys, Naples thing.  I also thoroughly enjoyed Bonzo’s report which was based in and around Orlando, but still flagged up something we will hopefully do in our few days in the area.

Bonzo made me aware of a Segway tour of Celebration which looks great.  I had half an idea to visit Celebration again anyway, so the added attraction of doing it on some sort of big boy’s toy has sealed the deal.  I mentioned this to the girls, and they burst into hysterical laughter.  Once they had composed themselves enough to talk, I asked why they found it so funny.  A simple answer….”The thought of Mum doing it!” they said, and again collapsed in laughter.

Anyone who saw Louise’s attempts at boogie boarding at Vero Beach may indeed agree that the potential for calamity when you mix Louise and a Segway is quite large.

Emily was glad of the light relief as she is currently buried in coursework for her GCSEs.  This week, the main thrust was Media Studies, as she had to have all that submitted for Friday.  I will say that her planning skills and time management left something to be desired, but she somehow got it done and in just in time.

One of the main things she had to do was to film, edit and produce a film trailer.  Being a big horror film fan, it will not surprise you to see the work of art below courtesy of YouTube.  It stars Emily’s friend Kirsty as the main character (victim) and Rebecca as “the baddie”.

Bless them, it took hours of filming in freezing temperatures to get enough footage to make the minute and half’s worth of trailer.  It also involved Rebecca wearing a lovely mixture of jam and water all down her face for hours on end!  My O Levels were slightly less interesting, with me spending weeks learning about truncated spurs and the French Revolution!!

So here is to a quieter week next week, with Dad home and healthy, and I’ll settle for work being tolerable.  Emily is moving on to her English essay, and I shall moving onto her back to make sure she doesn’t leave it until the last-minute again.

I hope all yours are healthy dear reader, and as usual,

Till the next time……

My Daughters are the new Paxman!

It’s been a bit of a week all things considered.

It seems a little trite and inconsequential for me to witter on about the unimportant events in my life, with the catastrophic events in Japan and beyond this week.  It is something I can’t really get my head around, and so I can only express my horror about it all, and send my thoughts and best wishes to anyone connected to these tragic events.

Returning to banality, much has happened in my little world this week.  I shall quote myself from last Sunday.

“For now I have resigned myself to a sort of defeat on the flights front.  I have not given up, and will not of course, but March brought with it an increase to the already silly prices.  I had been banking on Thomas Cook, but they have put their prices up, and even when they were lower, by the time you click-through to book and find that you need to add-on those optional extras like luggage allowance and in flight oxygen, they were not much different from everyone else, albeit direct.

So I’m playing the waiting game, holding my nerve until either I or the airlines blink.”

Who then could have predicted the strange events of the following day?  There was I sat at work minding my own business, when an email lands in my Inbox from Ocean Florida.  I had asked for a quote a few days earlier, and chuckled at the returned prices, as they were in line with the other silly ones I had seen.

This email promised much, but as I get lots of emails that do that, I was about to delete it along with the ones for those blue pills, and the claims to make things longer.  But wait, it said there was a one day only sale, and they had unbeatable prices for all July and August dates.  Expecting to fall foul of the usual trick where the actual price quoted is three times that in the email, I called anyway, as it was either that or do some work.

Air Canada Logo
Canada, O Canada!

When I called, the staff at Ocean seemed genuinely excited, and a bit busy.  After a bit of chat it seems that they suspected some sort of system blip, with prices available that were just unheard of for school holiday dates.  We threw some options around, but at the end of it all, I had a price that started with a 5 for a flight into Fort Lauderdale for fifteen nights.  We could have gone into Orlando, but it suited us not to, as we want a different trip this time.  We fly back out from Orlando on the way home though.  Both legs have connections in Canada, Toronto on the way out and Montreal on the return.

A slight drawback is a departure from Heathrow, but even with the now booked Travelodge (£27) the night before and some petrol, it made sense.

So confronted with a price that I knew was fantastic, and a chap on the phone telling me that these seats were literally vanishing before his eyes, I bit the bullet and went for it.  Job done.  Funny how things can change in 24 hours then.

So Monday was eventful enough then, without what then followed that evening.  Emily and Rebecca had been asked to film a question for David Cameron whilst they were in Manchester on Monday evening.  They had gone in as a last-minute decision trying to get a wristband for a One Direction signing.  Emily is obsessed with one of the anonymous haircuts within their number.  Whilst waiting (fruitlessly it turned out) a Producer approached them and they committed a question to camera, after only a dozen or so takes.  The giggles took hold!!

So after signing a quick consent form on Tuesday, we waited to see if they made the final cut on The One Show that evening.  Having had to endure nearly all of the show, we had almost given up on it, and then, right at the last moment, they were shown.

A small gathering had, well, gathered upstairs as the girls and friends huddled round a TV upstairs.  As the clip began, the screams were heard, and what sounded like a herd of elephants danced around above us.  Once the hysteria calmed down, Sky+ was hammered as they played it back a few times.  Fame at last for them.  Dibbers around the land also recognised the girls it seems, and I suppose their fame has now progressed from the internet to TV!

So a hectic start to the week.  Like many of you Florida obsessives out there, throughout the week, having secured flights, I have been pulling together the bare bones of a plan, and with this trip taking place right outside of my comfort zone, it is proving  a little tricky.  Research has been the name of the game, but here is the work in progress.

Most of the first week will be spent in South Florida, based in Key Largo for two days, then five days in Naples.  The first booking to be made was for Vero Beach, a place we have all fallen in love with, and courtesy of Tom , yet another kind Dibber, points were rented, and two nights booked.

After that we drive up to Orlando, for the last five nights, and I am just in the process of securing a nice villa off the 27.  There shall be no Disney theme parks this year, for two reasons.

1.  It costs a fortune and we are on a budget

2.  We’ve done it to death, and need a break.

We might do a night at the Hard Rock, and a couple of days in the parks there, but we’ll see how the funds go.  The main focus of this trip will be sand, sea, pools and relaxing.  Oh and food!

Getting in the way of vital planning and research this weekend was the arrival of our wardrobes!  They took four weeks to come, and just so happened to arrive on the same day as Rebecca’s new bed.  The bed was trivial when compared to the weight, hassle and complexity of the wardrobes.  With spotlights, full mirrored doors and the weight of a small tank, it took me all of Saturday (literally) and then needed my Dad to help me finish, as the lifting needed more than little ole me.

They look good though.  I on the other hand am an old aching mess.

It is funny how the arrival of one piece of furniture can trigger a chain reaction of things in the house.  Rebecca’s new bed means that I had to dismantle, move and then rebuild her old bed into our (now) spare room, in preparation for “her German” in a few weeks.  This meant that the PC and desk in there had to go up into the loft (plenty swearing…imagine camel and eye of needle stuff), and a general clear out of the wardrobes in the spare room, which was Rebecca’s room…still with me?

I’m tired just typing that lot.

So the weekend passes in a blur of Alan keys, screwdrivers and bits left over, followed by the obligatory trip visit with enough cardboard to construct a small village.  I am off to bed now to see if I can somehow get to sleep despite the excitement of another week in work!

Till the next time…..

Fly my pretties. Not at those prices!!!

It is a constant inconvenience that I live on the wrong continent.  Yep, you guessed it, the annual addiction has kicked in, and both Louise and I have reached the “Goddam it, we need a holiday” point simultaneously.

I have therefore spent my week using a Kayak, and I don’t mean one of these.

Not this

It is therefore a thorn in our collective sides that there is a huge piece of water between us and our desired destination.  Well I say our…I may have conceded that another trip to Disney is not on the cards, but my continent of choice is still North America.  When asked why, I can only shrug my shoulders, reference the TV programmes Benidorm, and Shameless, and explain that if I wished to live in either, I am close enough to the dodgier parts of Manchester to do so.

This chunk of water is a right pain, as it takes an even bigger chunk of cash to sling shot our collective frames across it, and this, at this point seems to be a blocker.  The complete lack of any budget at all is also a slight blocker, but still it doesn’t hurt to look does it?  Well, I’ll tell you it bloody does hurt, as it rubs your untanned nose in it, that you have no chance of getting to your desired destination unless you either take the kids out of school (let’s not have a debate!) or simply leave them at home.

Should we be able to overcome the budgetary crisis and aviate ourselves to the US, our tentative, yet futile plans are quite loose.  We are considering either a West Coast trip, or a return to Florida, but bypassing the routine of theme parks for a jaunt further south, to the beaches of the East Cost, and maybe the Keys.

Anyhow, I may as well be planning a quick trip around the moon.  Both are equally likely.

In terms of the flight prices we are seeing, well the average is around £750, which when you times it by four is just north of way too much for us.  I don’t know why I do it to myself, but if I nudge our dates out by a day or two, until just after the girls have to be back at school, the prices fall mockingly into our “that’s reasonable” bracket.  Education is over rated I think, however, at the ages they are, there is no longer the option to take them out of school.  Emily will be starting sixth form next September (Yes, I know, incredible!) and Rebecca Year 10.  Back when they were at Infant and Junior School I think we did take them out for a day or two, and they managed to catch up with the colouring in OK.

Louise is less precious about the destination, and just wants some sun and relaxing.  I’m up for that, but I fear we have created a monster with the girl’s expectations of a holiday, and after about four days “sun bathing” they may be climbing the walls, and be on the verge of mass murder for an internet connection.

A quick look at other cheaper, non US options shows that a private villa in somewhere like Spain would be do-able, but I think even Louise would admit that this is a definite Plan B, and one we shall keep as that until all other avenues are exhausted.

Another Saturday night has passed without the correct sequence of balls (this is merely a lottery reference!!), and so we trundle on, battering the internet, hoping that some combination of inputs may make the page throw up some numbers that start with an acceptable figure.  Perhaps if we fly into Alaska and drive down??  Believe me, I have looked at flight options similar to that.

Am I hopeful that we shall find what we need?  Not really.  I fear the flights will price us out of a trip this time around, and as much I will absolutely grumble, I shouldn’t.  We’ve had a good run, and a year off would not be reason enough to herrumph through the year, spitefully cursing the financial crisis, rising fuel costs, and my lack of lottery win.

201 people can't be wrong!!

Finally, in other better news, I passed a Twitter milestone this weekend, and hit 200 followers.  I appreciate this is not Stephen Fry like, but I am pleased nonetheless.  If you follow me, thank you, and if you don’t, that’s probably wise, as the next few weeks may be full of flight price induced rage.

So if anyone spots a flight from Manchester to anywhere vaguely American, sometime in late August, that starts with something less than a six, give me a shout??

Till the next time….

Let me explain…or at least try to.

Girls with Mickey
Three of my favourite things

I have been incredibly lucky. Don’t get me wrong, at times I have also been incredibly unlucky, but the luck I refer to being good is that since 1999 I have been able to go on holiday to my favourite place more or less every year.

So in some respects, each year follows a similar pattern as the countdown does exactly that. Depending on how early we book, I mentally tick off certain landmarks of the year as they pass. If we booked nice and early, then this mean Christmas, Easter, and then as we get into summer, the passing of Rebecca and Emily’s respective birthdays in May and July tell me that we are getting close.

During a countdown that is usually months long, some weeks I don’t really think about our holiday. I know it is there, like a long term promise, don’t get me wrong, but other life stuff takes over, and I am swept along with it. The business of life doesn’t really impact this, as some other weeks I can do little else but think about our upcoming trip, even if I am rushed off my feet at work.

I suppose this is the main difference between “normal” holiday makers and those who see it as more than just two weeks away. A trip to Florida is pricey. You can’t get away from that, but to coin a phrase, it is the holiday that keeps on giving.

With the level of preparation and planning required over things like –

  • Flights
  • Accommodation (often several different places each trip)
  • Park Tickets – A million different combinations
  • Dining Reservations
  • Car Hire

and a host of other things, it can be, and some days is, a full time job.

Then upon returning to the UK, if you are so inclined (and I am) you can then continue to enjoy the holiday for weeks and months to come. This, for me, takes the form of writing my trip reports. This takes a while, and I usually don’t finish mine until late October.

Then, often the cycle starts again, as the next trip begins to cross my mind!

I know that many of you visiting my blog do so (very kindly) as you have read and hopefully enjoyed some of these trip reports. This means that all this will probably make sense to you. I do of course understand that there are those outside this “club” that simply don’t get it.

Holidays for those not of this mind set, can be a very simple affair, and they certainly would never dream of writing about it when they got back!! That’s OK. I am not in any way criticising anyone for this. I fully understand that I am not normal!

I have given up trying to explain to non believers what this is all about. Disney is only for young kids, it is a theme park (singular) like Alton Towers, and isn’t something that adults could enjoy for two weeks, with or without kids. I have heard this a million times. As I say, no point arguing. Besides, the more people who don’t get it, the shorter the queue for Soarin!!  If someone calls the Florida version Disneyland then you know they don’t get it at all!!!!

Last week has been one of the weeks when I have been thinking about the next trip. Aside from stressing about the abysmal exchange rate, I have been fine tuning the plan, and browsing various web sites, trying to inject a little of the Disney magic into an unseasonably cold and windy UK week.

I am re-reading for about the four hundredth time a couple of the Disney books we have hanging around. This all helps.

But why? What is it that keeps drawing us back?

Well, if I could put my finger on that, I could sell it, and make a fortune. All I can do is perhaps try to express how the place makes you feel.

In my rational mind, I fully understand that Disney is very much a for profit organisation. I can see the business elements hidden behind the magic, even as I hand over my handful of dollars, which I know is probably inflated for the privilege of spending them on their hallowed turf, but I don’t mind at all.

Magic Kingdom 1980
And so it begins....

Disney is built on nostalgia, on the legacy of generations, and of course family. It is a haven from the madness of the real world, and a sanctuary for a family to escape to, and make some memories.  The beauty of their business model is that we market to ourselves. For me, I was hooked early. I first went when I was ten, in 1980. We actually stayed in Miami, but drove up Orlando to spend two days at the Magic Kingdom, and the rest is history.

Now, WDW is a common language spoken by the extended family. I am by far the most addicted, but we’ve invested thirty years and unimaginable amounts of money in the place, and this means that every time we go back, we stumble across a memory, a half remembered episode of a previous trip that sparks a warm glow, or in some rare cases a shudder!! But the latter are very few and far between. Disney have somehow found a way, like childbirth, of having their guests forget about the time when they queued for Dumbo for two hours and had a one minute ride, or spent a day in a park when it was so busy you couldn’t see the pavement below your feet.

The special memories, and the place they hold in the hearts of my family are unique, emotive and unforgettable. I may be an extreme case, but I feel many things as I step onto Disney property –

  • Safe
  • Comfortable
  • Happy
  • Relaxed
  • Privileged
Magic Kingdom Castle
A heck of a pull.

I don’t have a favourite park, but the essence of the experience for me is the Magic Kingdom. Every penny that a trip costs is paid back on the first morning stroll up Main Street. The castle seems to draw everyone up Main Street towards it like some sort of friendly tractor beam, using smells unique to this one place on earth, sights that are both familiar yet ever exciting, and perhaps this is the crux of the experience, friendly, engaging, welcoming and highly professional Cast Members.

If you read any of the many books on the market that talk about some of the behind the scenes elements to how all this works, you know that the level of detail, and the attention to it is a massive part in the chasm between WDW and UK theme parks. Every smell, note of music and each blade of grass is there for a reason, and is controlled to be exactly as they want it to be.

This is where the detractors can be heard to bemoan the manufactured sterile nature of the place. I can understand that point of view. To be honest though, I live fifty weeks of the year in the non manufactured, natural, uncontrolled environment, and frankly, most of the time it sucks. With that in mind, I can suspend belief and normality quite easily and allow myself to be swept along with the magic.

I also think that there are two (well, there are hundreds, but bear with me) main types of holiday to WDW. Both are wonderful, and can honestly be a once in a lifetime (every year!), but they are different. This is where my Disney snobbery raises its head, be warned.

The first type of holiday is the one most probably undertaken by everyone going for the first time. If you haven’t stumbled across one of the many Florida planning forums you will still have a great time, but perhaps only skim the surface of the place and I have known people return from this type of trip and be less than impressed. One family we know were a case in point.

I spent not an inconsiderable amount of time writing up a series of tips, recommendations and things to avoid, all of which they seemed to ignore. Their main priority seemed to be that the hotel had a bar!! Having holidayed in the Med for years, their holiday focussed on the pool and as much alcohol as they could imbibe. Wow, I do sound snobby here, but let me explain.

Ironically had they read my tips, they may well have discovered an angle to Disney that not many do. One of the multiple faces of Disney, in their unending ability to morph themselves into the exact experience you are after, is the night time entertainment at places like Jellyrolls or Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney (which was still open when they visited).

As I type this, Louise is in the kitchen pursuing her hobby of ironing, and whilst she does she has Meatloaf blaring out. Right now the song playing only means one thing to me, and that is Jellyrolls. Paradise by the Dashboard Light is not a song I was really aware or fond of earlier in my life, and Meatloaf is by no means a regular on my iPod, but having had a couple of fantastic nights at Jellyrolls, this song now takes me there, and I can almost smell and taste the place, right here on my sofa in Bolton.

Disney even make getting drunk slightly magical, and classy, and you don’t really see that advertised on the telly…but it’s there if you know where to look.

So this second type of holiday is the one that sees the extra bits of Florida, the slightly more hidden gems of WDW, and you only tend to find out about these from –

  • Someone who has been there and discovered them
  • Knowledgeable folks on the internet
  • Guide books

For me it was a mix of all three, but I was pointed in the right direction by a colleague who had been a DVC member for years. He dropped the bombshell that you can wander around Disney resorts whether you are staying there or not. This opened my eyes, and the door to many hours of doing just that. With appetite whetted, my thirst was quenched with endless hours of internet use and book reading, and like most things, you only realise what you know when you try to explain it to someone else.

In the case of the family I gave the tips to, I wish I hadn’t bothered.

As my colleague often quotes now, using a Star Wars analogy, back then I was the young Jedi to his Obi Wan. I have since spent many metaphorical years in the swamps with Yoda and I am now the one telling him about new things, and old, which I have discovered, and we can easily spend too many hours in the office swapping stories and experiences from our trips.

The real trick that Disney, and of course the rest of Florida have up their sleeve is that there is still so much to discover that despite all my trips and research, I still don’t know what I don’t know yet, and if I went every year for the rest of my life (what do you mean if!!) I would still find new things every time.

I’m not really sure why I have felt the need to write this post. I think it is undoubtedly part of the countdown process, and a rock to cling to in the seemingly unending passage of days to the next trip. I still don’t feel that I have managed to explain any part of why I feel like I do, and that is eternally frustrating.

There we have it I suppose. If what Disney did was easy, then everyone would do it. For their attention to detail, unending pursuit of excellence, insistence on quality, and the undefinable essence of magic, I salute them, thank them, and ask them to put the kettle on, as we won’t be long now.

Till the next time…..

Under 100 days to go….time to do some planning.

As we sneak under the 100 day marker, I thought I’d just post a brief update as to the plans etc.

As you can see from my Dibb Planner (and by the way these planner things are excellent) our plans for August are starting to come together.

Daytona Cubs Stadium
The only diamond Louise will see this year....

Most days are now mapped out, a few ADRs booked, and most recently we’ve decided to spend a day at Daytona Beach, then that evening watch the Daytona Cubs baseball team.  We’ve been threatening to do so for a few years now, so we’ve finally taken the plunge.

I looked at the Tampa Rays, who are Major League, but we’ve plumped for a minor league game (as it is about ten times cheaper) but also as a bit of research suggests these minor league games have a great atmosphere.  At $33 for the four of us, if ten minutes in the females are bored to death I don’t mind leaving.  Had we paid the $70 each for Major League I would have nailed them to their seats till the bitter end!!

ADR wise, after saying I wouldn’t be booking (m)any we have ended up with –

    Yak And Yeti, to round off our day at AK
    Kouzzinna on the evening of my birthday
    Captain’s Grille for an unfeasibly large breakfast
    California Grill for the last night of our hols.

      We last did Cali Grill about ten years ago, and the kids, having spent what we thought would be a rest day at Blizzard Beach, were knackered, and spent the meal either moaning, asleep, or trying to go to sleep, and we didn’t exactly appreciate the ambience etc.

      Now with the girls being 15 and 13 at the time of this trip, I suspect it will be the other way round.

      Hopefully with a 7.50 reservation, and Wishes at 10pm, we might be able to see the fireworks at the end of the meal.  I remember hearing something about the viewing of fireworks having changed at Cali Grill…anyone know for sure what the score is?

      Anyway, there isn’t much else to plan.

      I’m just waiting for the dollar rate to behave itself so I can book my tickets and get some spends.

      Till the next time…..

      Best laid plans….

      So, with all the excitement of having a new trip booked, this week has been a flurry of activity and research, finalising all the details of our itinerary.

      This was tricky, as I had the inconvenience of having to go to work every day, which seriously impacted on my ability to do important stuff, like find villas and hotels.

      Somehow, I have managed to come up with a workable plan, and my what a plan it is.  To say I am happy with it would be….well, it would be absolutely accurate.

      First job was a villa.  There are one or two villas knocking about on the internet these days, so choosing one can get a little tiresome, after you’ve looked at the three hundredth website.  My criteria were simple –

      • 3/4 bed
      • Decent sized deck round the pool for Louise to burn herself stupid
      • Located in Sunset Lakes/Lindfields areas
      Living la Villa Loca

      A few hundred hours of interent use later and a suitable villa is located.  It is a marvel to me that not only can you see exactly what you are getting via the internet, but within a few minutes you can actually walk down the street via the wonder that is Google Street View.  I now know exactly where it is, and the best way to get to the 192 etc.  This is of course helped by the fact that we’ve been so many times that I know the area as well as my own street at home!

      The next step was the quickest and easiest.  Booking a night on site at Universal is pretty straight forward.  Having now tried the Royal Pacific and the Hard Rock, the clear winner for us was the HRH, so a few minutes of keyboard tapping, and we’re in.

      I mentioned last week that our DVC friends were contemplating their needs, and in the end it turned out that they did indeed require their points this year.  Despite this mightily selfish act, I agreed to continue our friendship on a trial basis, for now.

      So now, the tricky stuff starts.  Without the magical (and cheap as chips) DVC points, how are we to round off my “special” trip?  Well, in steps Jakki (TinkTatoo off of The Dibb).  We had been chatting via email about our plans, as we usually meet up whilst in Florida.  As at this stage I was unsure of what points if any I might have at my disposal she very kindly offered to call Disney and see what might be available for the dates I was after.

      Rather cruelly, my wish list options were available, which sort of made the whole waiting to hear about the points all the more unbearable.  Being female, Jakki then used subtle and clever mind tricks to get me to tell her which of the options she had investigated would be my preference.  The technique used was “So which of those options would you go for, if you got the points?”  See, how am I to compete with such witchcraft?

      Having told her, she then prompty offered me the use of the required number of points from her “banked” allocation for next year, at a price that could not be obtained anywhere else.  I was slightly, ever so, taken aback by the act of kindness, and I think I have thanked Jakki enough times to make her more than a little uncomfortable.

      So, what did we get.  Well, to tell this tale properly I have to rewind a few years, to a previous trip, and the four of us are sat in World Showcase at Epcot, having a drink.  We are sat in the corner bit where the African outpost thing is, and I’m looking over the Lagoon across to the Yacht and Beach Club.

      Beach Club
      Where them millionaires stay!!

      “When we come for my fortieth” says I, all confident that we would be, “We’ll do it in style and stay at one of them there posh places, that only rock stars and millionaires can afford”.  Yes a slight exaggeration, but it makes the story mildly more interesting.  The family give me a knowing look, and continue to take on board enough fluids to avoid a collapse somewhere around Norway.

      So, just over a week ago, I’m thinking that my ever so bold statement was to lie in ruins, due to us not going at all, and here I am a few short days later, on the brink of achieving said ambition.  There was a very nervy half an hour whilst Jakki, now having my instructions and wishes has to phone up Mr Disney to secure it.

      Sensing my nervy anticipation, Jakki does the right thing, and rather than go and collect the kids from school, she leaves them stranded at the side of the road whilst she makes that call instead.   Apologies to Aidhon and Niamh (I work on the premise that the more variations of spelling I use for for Jakki’s kids, I am bound to get it right sooner or later) for making you hang about, it was for the greater good.  The deed was done, and I got some odd looks as I did a little jig around the office.

      Just tell us where the bloody hell you are staying, I hear you cry….if anyone is still reading/caring at this point.

      We have four nights at the Beach Club Villas.  All that build up for a nine word sentence???  Well, yes.

      Kitchen Sink
      That sinking feeling

      The location is, in my opinion, perfect, the hotel itself a delight, and the pool is epic, and the girls will love that.  The added attraction of having a Kitchen Sink every day also appeals on some level.

      So with all the basics now in place, I’ve also made a couple of ADRs.  Kouzzina (the place where Spoodles used to be) for the night of my birthday, and Yak & Yeti at the Animal Kingdom as this is a firm favourite with Louise.

      All this hard work this week reminded me how much the art of booking a holiday has changed thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web.  When I watched my Dad book holidays, it was either a trip to the local travel agents to watch them tap away at their VDU for a couple of hours to tell us that the hotel in the brochure wasn’t available, but there was one almost built next to it that was.  Or, in later years, on the phone (with the appropriate teletext page on Hold) only to find out that the fly drive for three bob and a conker was actually ten times the price on screen.

      Now, holiday makers, if so inclined, can plan every detail of their trip, and, as with most shopping experiences now, crucially get advice from like minded travellers on the quality and suitability of things well before you arrive to find the top three floors of the hotel unfinished, and the pool full of wildlife.  Being a border line control freak, this appeals, and long may it continue.

      You might think with all this activity that not much else had happened this week.

      Well, outside of holiday planning world, work has been just another notch up on the busy scale, and I visited hospital for a change, but this time to visit my Dad, who has since been home and gone back in again.  He has had a minor operation to remove around three pints of “stuff” from a cyst on his liver (I hope no-one is eating whilst reading this!), and as soon as I have finished writing this I’m off to see him again.  He’s been in pain for weeks with this, so hopefully this will get him back to normal, and crucially for his, and my Mum’s sanity, back playing golf.

      Emily has done her mock GCSEs this week, and how she has done is anyone’s guess really.  The few utterings to come from behind the fringe suggest she thinks she has done OK, but we’ll just have to wait and see.  I attended school for both the girl’s parents evening type things, and was relieved to find that they are both hard working and not mentally sub normal (they get that from me!!).  Rebecca says it doesn’t matter though as she is going to be a rock star.  Fair enough.  By teaching her to play bass I am more than entitled to the large mansion once she goes platinum.

      To round off the week, on a hopefully happy and more relaxed note, we are off out tonight to celebrate Louise’s birthday.  The four of us are off to a local Chinese to see if we can eat them out of crispy duck.  I have the big pants washed and ready to go.

      Next week sees me on my travels with work to the exotic lovelieness that is Bristol and Stroud, so with the upcoming Good Friday holiday, I only have to endure two days in the office.  Happy Days.

      Till the next time…..