Travel Tribulations

Number of days remaining until holiday – Low

Stress levels – High

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time……

I’m “Enjoying” Your Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time……

Dig, Doug, Dougie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Can You Dig It?

Brace yourselves.

The conservatory…….is finished!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

An Officer and a Moaning Man

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

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

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

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

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

This is what the old conservatory looked like.

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Conservatory…Still Loading.

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

He’s coming tomorrow. Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time……

I Missed A Bit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Punching Kevin McCloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…….

A Postcard From Chaos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Look, I Am Your Father

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…….

Do It (To) Yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time……

Would Ju-Believe It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

He Wouldn’t? Woody?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Dougie, Doggies and What We’ve Been Doing

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

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

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

Here is the moment they met.

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

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

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

So that’s a delight and a relief!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…….

Say Hello….

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

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

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

Please say hello to Dougie.

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

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

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

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

Till the next time….

Wham Bam, Gran Can, Let’s Plan

We are back in the country and I have no clue where to start with this blog post. I’m still in that odd limbo of a post holiday arrival home, anxiously girding my loins for the horrors of work tomorrow.

There will be no trip report. This was the first holiday in two decades where I didn’t make notes about what we did or photograph any food so there can be no detailed tales of what went on.

You wouldn’t want it anyway. Eating, sunbathing, eating and then sleeping repeated many times does not make for an entertaining read to be honest.

I enjoyed the holiday. That said, it does seem that we do one of these types of holiday every twenty years or so just to reconfirm that we’ve been doing the right thing by going to Florida every year. Even Louise has conceded defeat and said that Florida cannot be beaten unless of course we can go on a “beach” holiday to somewhere like The Maldives. Believe me we can’t.

I enjoyed the sunbathing and doing nothing more than I thought I would. I was the one probably most worried about not enjoying that but I think I had the highest tolerance for it. Others were bored of it long before I was.

The All Inclusive element was a blessing and a curse. Of course unlimited drinks helps but the food did get a little repetitive pretty quickly so there was some eating out and extra expense but we enjoyed that of course.

Gran Canaria was nice. At this time of year it was one of a few places with the required heat levels. It looks stunning as it is very “cliffy” (yes that’s absolutely a real word) but that means you can’t really stroll out anywhere as most hotels, like ours, are perched up high and you need transport to get anywhere.

The hotel was lovely with just the odd descent into what I consider to be the worst of these types of holiday which normally involves bingo and some of the worst “entertainment” in the evenings I have ever seen. Honestly some of it defies explanation. It was the lack of options and things “to do” that really hit home how great Florida is for always having options, whether you want the chilled out sun worshipping or full on entertainment filled days and nights. We had it confirmed that it delivers on all levels and it will be another long while until we stray again I think.

I’m not going to get on my soap box here, but something that really struck us was how everywhere and everybody were still doing things to control Covid. Masks are used everywhere without complaint, and overall there are still lots of visible signs that the pandemic isn’t over. Case numbers in Spain are ten times lower than here. I know the testing undertaken is higher here but hospital admissions and deaths see the same ratios. We are headed for a tough winter if we continue with the “do nothing because we did some vaccines” method.

The flights felt like a doddle. Decades of being conditioned to nine hour flights meant the under four hour flights felt like nothing.

Anyway, despite constant illness and injuries including Tom breaking his foot and Freddie getting tonsillitis, it was a nice break. I do plead guilty to thinking about the next holiday whilst on this one but that will not shock you. Before we move on to that next holiday here is a photo dump of the trip just gone.

The main thing that was planned from our sun lounger or more accurately from a chat Louise and I had on our balcony one morning is that we decided we can’t go to Florida and not do Universal. For all kinds of reasons, we do not know when we will get back and Tom and Freddie have yet to experience those parks so we are going to shoe horn it in by making the girls accept their Universal tickets as their present this Christmas. To keep costs down we won’t do an on-site stay and will buy the 2 day, 2 park tickets and do two full on twelve hour days to get as much done as we can. January might lessen the need for the front of the line perks we won’t have, he said hopefully.

Of course the huge news that broke on our last day in Gran Canaria was the announcement of the date when the US will allow us back in. As ever we still await some details around testing requirements and how unvaccinated kids will be dealt with but all that will be resolved before January of course.

Just a note on the level of faff required for the trip we just did. Luckily a lot of the testing requirements were dropped shortly before we left the UK so all we needed to do was the test when we got back home. The passenger locator form was a bit of a faff. As with most government websites and forms it was not the most intuitive thing in the world and a lot of the info they asked for they must surely have from your passport number which they capture on this form, but overall it wasn’t too bad.

The testing is obviously open to abuse. There is nothing to stop someone running the swab under the tap or have someone else do it if they felt they had symptoms. Clearly that is massively irresponsible but impossible to prevent. I wonder how long testing can be a part of international travel. It would be interesting to see the stats on how many actual cases are being found that way.

It almost doesn’t feel real yet that we will actually go on this WDW trip after all this time. We are only seventy odd days out now which adds to the surreal feeling of it all. But now my full attention turns to WDW, as if that is ever not the case. To be honest the day by day plan, aside from exactly where the two freshly added Universal days will fit, is in place. This is because it is roughly the same plan for the trip booked back in 2020.

ADRs open up in a few weeks and that always has the potential to affect the plan so it won’t be close to final until then. Anyway, it just feels so good to be talking with some level of certainty about a trip. You will be delighted to learn that more detail on that plan will be forced upon you here. Try to contain yourselves.

So with one holiday just behind us we are fortunate enough to have another on the horizon. Having holidayed elsewhere and having not seen WDW since mid 2019, I suspect it will feel like coming home more than ever. I am ready!

Till the next time…..

50 (Ab)Cent

Before we begin I need to wish a happy 50th to a close personal friend. I am so sorry I could not be with you at this time, but that decision was taken from me, several times.

From 1980, you have been a constant obsession, drain on my finances and welcome distraction from real life. A source of lovely memories and good times, with hopefully more of both to come. We have both come a long way in those passing years…

Have a great party. We’ll be a bit late, but we’re coming.

On to more immediate matters, sure, I’m going on holiday tomorrow, and yet I have spent nearly all my free time last week thinking about and planning the one after that. What of it? Did you expect anything else?

One sad note on the holiday happening next week. My Mum and Dad were due to come with us to Gran Canaria, but have had to cancel. My Dad is having some leg trouble and doesn’t feel able to get around sufficiently well to enjoy it. This is a real shame and is upsetting for all of us. Fingers crossed he can get it sorted soon.

I have done stuff to prep for the first holiday of course. I dug our suitcase out, and piled all the stuff I needed to take onto the bed next to it. Surely now those things will magically find their way to where they need to be. Money, endless forms, our house and pet sitters, airport parking…I’ve sorted it all, but to be frank I have spent a lot of time and brain space trying to find us accommodation for the last two days of our Florida trip in January.

I reported last week that the DVC folks from whom I rented our points were saying that there was not one DVC room available for our dates, and we need two. Thanks to some helpful folks who read this blog, this lack of availability was confirmed and I have had to be creative. The DVC rental folks are also Disney travel agents so were able to apply my credit note with them to a cash booking. The “value” for that credit note amount was obviously a bit less than it would have been but after several very long chats with them, I have managed to find something suitable.

We will be spending our last two days at Coronado Springs. I still know very little about the place if I am honest, but a couple of vlogs and some online reading tells me it’ll be fine for the short time we need it. We secured it for just under the value of our credit note so it cost me nowt (I’ll tell myself anything). If anyone has knowledge on the resort I would welcome the sharing of it.

With that in place the rest of the plan (of course that means where we will eat) can begin to fall into place. I will of course share that plan with you at a future time once it is a little more firmed up. The next priority was to get the park reservations sorted. By the way, my long held belief that those are here for the foreseeable seems to be correct. That makes my record 1 to 6751 in that regard.

The lack of DVC room availability in January was a slight worry, potentially indicating some higher than usual crowd levels, so I would only feel better when those were sorted. The planets aligned to see our latest set of park tickets arrive on Friday so I spent a small part of Magic Kingdom’s 50th birthday securing our park reservations for January.

As ever, my planning of eateries, the bedrock of any Mkingdon plan, is that eternal quandary of wanting to return to the places we love but also always wanting to find the next one. Usually, the former wins, but if anyone has any humdingers we should try then do feel free to let me know. Our usual list of “greatest hits” goes something like….

  • Teak
  • Bahama Breeze
  • Hash House A Go Go
  • Olive Garden
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Sanaa
  • Cowfish
  • Via Napoli
  • Yak & Yeti

I have Ford’s Garage in for one night when we need to eat close to the villa, and that will be a new one for us. Outback and Applebees have been on that list previously and we love them, but with a vegetarian in our party and their very limited options for them (or they were the last time we went) we have had to look elsewhere.

Of course, us WDW nerds still await the detail around the US border re-opening and what hoops we will need to jump through to get in. Although I did rue the irony of November being the re-opening schedule having booked a different holiday, rather than move our October WDW plans to November, right now, that would have been another stress filled stage of that holiday. I suspect we would have moved it exactly one month, to early November and now all the chat is around when in the month we will be allowed in. I suspect it won’t be the 1st and we would of course have been booked to go the day before we were allowed to. So I guess, in the end things didn’t work out too badly.

Right, I should go. There are things to do. Ryan is prepped and ready. Bless him, he’s only ever been to the US so he’s going to get really confused tomorrow. We have such an early start that I needed to go to bed ten minutes ago. I very much doubt there will be bloggage from the beach whilst we are away so for that everyone can be grateful.

Enjoy your break as I enjoy mine and we shall reconvene in mid October for some proper WDW planning stuff, but this time, with a tan and some certainty.

Till the next time….

Booked It, Packed It 2 – The Return Of The Fat Guy

It won’t surprise anyone reading this to learn that I have a well developed persecution complex. Most weeks, despite living a largely untroubled and privileged life, I can find something to moan about. I often trot out the phrases “you couldn’t write it” or “you couldn’t make it up” to bemoan whatever the latest minor upset might be. However, after what has been a troubled couple of years holiday wise, the events of the last week or so really have been comedic.

Having moved our Florida trip four or five times (I have honestly lost count) when the last cancellation happened I did jettison my toys from the stroller a little and instead of moving it, I cancelled everything. Breaking the habit of a couple of decades, off I went and booked a holiday to another country, crucially nowhere near the US. What could go wrong?

Within a few days of doing so, a volcano in The Canaries that has laid dormant for half a century suddenly became active. Sure, it doesn’t currently seem likely to affect our plans but we don’t know for certain and my head shaking was incessant at the “you couldn’t write it” aspect of this.

Whilst licking those wounds, and lay on the couch Facetiming Rebecca chatting no doubt about our upcoming trip not to America, Emily cried out at some news she had just seen on her phone. I did indeed feel a disturbance in the force.

“The US border is opening in November”. she relayed.

Once that had sunk in after a few seconds, my stomach churned and those special words escaped my lips. “You couldn’t (expletive) write it”.

After a family chat including phrases such as “It is what it is” and “It’s too bloody late and hard now to cancel The Canaries”, I entered into a mild sulk. I did fire up a couple of apps and checked out flight prices to Florida for 2022. Having laughed long and hard at the prices for anything close to summer my mind began to whir.

My inner Verruca Salt kicked in. I told myself things like….

“You work really hard (highly debateable) and deserve the holiday you really want”

“I still haven’t had my 50th trip and I deserve that too”

My mind began to do its work, thinking about when we may be able to get over there. I won’t bore you with all the details, but the logistics of getting six of us (at least) away at the same time, balancing everyone’s work, life plans, other commitments and of course finances is on a par with undertaking a moon landing.

After much analysis and discussion (including Tom persuading his Boss to be very flexible with his holidays) a very small window of opportunity emerged. Flights were checked, research was done, chats were had with the owner of our villa of choice and it was decided.

We are returning to WDW on the 3rd of January 2022.

This would not be our ideal time of year of course. Temperatures will be much lower than we prefer but at this point that does not matter. Again, for reasons I will not trouble you with, if we were not to take this chance, it would be very unlikely we could fit a trip in during 2022 and having not been since mid 2019 this would be very upsetting indeed, indeed probably totally unacceptable.

Appreciating the absolute carnage that is probably ongoing now in the rush for UK tourists to book stuff, I feel quite smug that we have pretty much everything in the bag for prices we can tolerate.

Having had the Aer Lingus refund for several hours, I gave it all back, booking flights with them again. Let’s not dwell on the fact that I could have got a voucher for our flight price plus 10%. This whole thing is already a shit show of incompetence and bad decision making, let’s not make it any worse.

Our villa of choice was thankfully just about available. We will have two days at the end of the trip for which we need to find somewhere to stay as the villa was booked for those. On that note I did think we would use our DVC credit notes (remember those?) to stay somewhere nice on-site to end the trip. Having spoken to the DVC rental company, they tried our dates and there was not one DVC room available on any property in Orlando. What the f…..??

I have no idea what is going on there, as I am not a DVC expert. I am hoping over time things settle down and something does come up that we can use. I am as we speak in “talks” with the folks I have my credit notes with to try and source something suitable.

Having not had our refund from Floridatix of course, and now needing some tickets (I know, I know…) I contacted them. Amazingly they were able to use some of my refund and move that to a brand new booking within minutes, but yet, it looks like I still have another month at least before I may see any sign of monies owed to me. Funny that. These new tickets should arrive any day now so I can do our park reservations….again.

So all of a sudden we have two holidays in close succession and our holidaying budget will be well and truly drained, but after the last couple of years I give not one shit. There is still much to know of course. There has been no formal announcement on the exact date in November when borders will open and what tests will be needed and how kids fit into all of this. By the time our dates roll around I am sure….no, I am hopeful that will all be sorted.

Needless to say I have resumed vlog watching, actively seeking out some from January to see how bloody cold it might be. We have been once before at that time, back in 2005 into 2006 but memories fade over time. I seem to remember the days being fine, but fleeces being required at night. I have a vague memory of buying the girls gloves and woolly hats to watch Fantasmic.

Whatever it is, we shall make the most of it. The reduced heat should make for less weariness and getting more done. We have had to sacrifice Universal which is very upsetting, but the budget just won’t stretch to the extra thousands involved in tickets and an on-site stay. Next time. That cash is sitting now with TUI for our October trip. Water parks will probably also be out of bounds and indeed closed in January? I can’t remember, but we will just go eat instead! Any thoughts of using our DVC credit notes for Vero were scuppered after watching a vlog or two from that time of year, with folks on the beach wrapped up as if they were in Blackpool in Autumn.

Having ignored most of the Genie+/Lightning Lane stuff, hoping it would go away, I am also hoping that in early January, in what historically has been one of the quietest times in the parks, we will not need them. All bets are off I know, post pandemic, and there could be three hour queues for everything, but I’ll take my chances in a more positive frame of mind on that than if we were going next August. I suspect things will take a couple of years at least for crowds and travel patterns to settle again.

So Florida looks to be re-opening for us and normality is returning. On that note I went back into the office for the first time on Friday. It was not something I was looking forward to and all I will say is that it lived up to expectations. It is only right and patriotic of me now though to support our glorious Brexit cause and conserve petrol by not driving to the office again for quite some time. Until of course they work out a way to put all our sovereignty into petrol tanks.

It seems most of my colleagues are on board with this plan already. See the bustling environment I was working in by 9.30 on Friday morning.

Anyway, all that matters is that we have a plan and a countdown and I can now try to use them to block out all the real world shite that is going on. Balance has been restored to the force.

Till the next time…….

Booked It, Packed It….

It’s done. We are booked for an overseas holiday and surely with just two weeks to go, not even the raging incompetence of our government can scupper those plans now? I mean, according to their latest “dead cat” nonsense leak to the press, I may have to convert my GBP to Pounds, Shillings and Pence before then paying for some Euros if they have their way, but by hook or by crook (and they are all that) we should be on that plane.

Oh, so I got my refunds then?

Nope. Well yes, I have now, from Aer Lingus at least, but when we booked last Monday I had not. That refund only hit my account yesterday.

The second Aer Lingus promise of “about a week” did not happen and I was still waiting for the funds to hit my account after a third chase of them this time via their Twitter account. They confirmed the refunds had been processed and should be in my account in 5-7 days. It’s a familiar story, and I admire their consistency. I can never fathom how and why refunds take over a week to make it through the banking system. When I paid for these holidays they got their money the moment I clicked the button on their website. Having worked in banking a million years ago, even then funds did not get sent by steam packet. Sigh.

At least Floridatix were brazenly upfront in telling me it will be “up to” 60 days before I see any of my money back. So I haven’t been chasing them. If I see a penny before day 59 I will be truly gobsmacked.

So having flexed my credit facilities to book the thing, I was hopeful that this time Aer Lingus would be true to their word. We had to get stuff booked as the admin to actually have a holiday now is similar to buying a house and you all know how much we enjoyed that experience. Leaving it any later would add to the not inconsiderable stress that booking it actually was. We have to fill out what looks like a Spanish ESTA, but cannot complete it until we are 48 hours from departure, arrange tests of course and then before returning to the UK, complete a passenger locator form, but not until 48 hours before our return. The latter should be fun on a mobile phone with “free” WiFi in the hotel.

In the flush of post booking excitement I went crazy and bought some new shorts. Madness. as I have several perfectly acceptable pairs that I have only had for 20 years.

Our travelling party is quite a large one for this trip. Louise and I are of course going, joined by Rebecca, Tom and Freddie (who are traveling out a few days earlier than everyone else), Emily and her boyfriend Mikey and my Mum and Dad. It is a mini-invasion of Gran Canaria.

Whilst we have done some time at a beach on several occasions over the years in Florida, we haven’t been on a non US beach type holiday for over twenty years. We did an All Inclusive to Alcudia, I would guess around 2002 and the experience was so average we’ve done Florida for every holiday since. Having read the reviews for the place we have booked I am very hopeful of better this time around. Am I as excited about going away on this trip as I would be for a WDW trip. Don’t be silly, but it will still be nice to be away with the family in the sunshine, eating stuff and not working.

We now have to start the prep seriously. We are very rusty at this leaving the house thing, never mind going abroad. Last week we had tickets to go and watch Jonathan Pie at the King George’s Hall in Blackburn. Firstly, we almost got the night wrong, thinking it was on Friday and it was only an email reminder from the venue on Thursday that prevented us from missing out. Then we couldn’t find the tickets. So with minutes to go before having to leave the house, having located some proper outside trousers, we were frantically working out if we could get in or not.

Thankfully, the box office were able to reprint them and we got in, but it did feel like we had forgotten how to operate in these matters. This does not auger well for the logistical exercise of getting to a different country with everything we need.

Anyway, we are currently as prepared as we can be I think. I have three pairs of new shorts and Louise bought a bottle of P20. What else could we need? Rumours started circulating towards the end of the week that the traffic light system and things like tests on returning home could be scrapped soon. The irony of this happening so shortly after we had ordered our tests was not lost on me, but I will take the financial hit to be rid of some of the faff involved in having a holiday.

I have to say though, via a link from the TUI website to one of their partners, as long as you are fully jabbed, for Spain/The Canaries, the testing was much cheaper than I expected. We don’t need a fit to fly, just the vaccine and then we (at the time of booking) needed a test before flying home and another two days after landing. That package only cost £20 per person. I resent any extra cost but that is a round of Starbucks at the airport money, so it is tolerable I suppose.

With the changes announced late last week, that test before flying home is now not required and we just need to do the one within two days of arriving home. At least now the risk of being stranded overseas due to a positive test is removed, although of course we would not travel with COVID should we actually have it!

Trip wise pretty much everything is sorted. I am unused to this package lark, where you book everything in one go with one company. Where’s the fun in that? I have to sort transport to and from the airport UK side still but other than that, we’re good. Our flight out leaves at 7am. That will involve a very early get up and a very brave and willing taxi person to do the honours. We could be hitch hiking there. Similarly our return flight touches down at 1.25am. That’s a grim taxi ride home too. We may end up doing the airport parking thing instead. We’ll see.

I can’t remember if I posted details of our hotel previously so I will do so now. We are staying all inclusive at the Riu Vistamar in Gran Canaria.

It has decent reviews, sunshine, pools and buffets. That’s all I need to know really.

With a nod to the elephant in the room of any potential return to the US. We are no nearer it seems. There have been some vague noises out of the US about plans being made to facilitate and allow international tourists but it still feels like a 2022 thing to me. Watching the odd vlog, and I have only managed to watch exactly that number recently, I feel very distant from the place. I’m sure that’s temporary but it is of concern nonetheless. It does feel like whatever place we will eventually return to may never be the place we used to visit.

Anyway, in two weeks (tomorrow) we will be at the airport once again, having a holiday and that is not to be sniffed at. All that remains now is to pack, lose two stones and remember how to leave the house.

Till the next time……

Aering My Grievance

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear some positive upbeat holiday news around here? News of refunds effortlessly winging their way to my bank account and our new alternative holiday being booked without any hiccups and us having a countdown of sorts to a much needed getaway.

Yep that would be lovely.

Of course, no such thing has happened. Aer Lingus are not covering themselves in glory in relation to their 5-7 day “promise” for that refund. It was requested on the 27th of August and here we sit drumming our fingers still.

I chased them about three days ago. Sure they are busy and no doubt have a lot to get through but I did check in with another affected Aer Lingus customer and blog reader who requested their refund after mine and of course there’s arrived very quickly and without faff.

Sigh.

Anyway I feel much better and totally reassured as I was told that the refund request would now be passed to their Priority Team who would deal with it urgently. Firstly it’s always nice to know you weren’t a priority in the first place and secondly when I asked how long the refund would take now it sat with the Jedi Masters of refunds I was told they could not give me a timescale but maybe within a week or so. I think we need a chat about the word Priority.

For someone who plans holidays in advance, being a few weeks away from our potential departure and not being able to book is an alien concept but here we are. I can feel my ire rising (not a euphemism) and I shall be having a chat with my Irish flying friends very early next week.

Away from the will they won’t they of our holiday (listen to those cheers), it has been brought to my attention this week about some Disney vlogger drama. This is actually the second week in a row this has happened.

Last week I caught wind of some UK Youtubers who had sparked controversy by getting to Florida by first spending two weeks in, I think it was Crotia and the Disney online community had gone berserk at them. I think what they did was called “not reading the room”.

There was a lot of anger at them doing this with everyone else suffering cancelled plans and having no hope of getting there anytime soon. I didn’t care very much about this as I had never watched any of their videos and probably never will but I put it down to that age old demon where some folks start getting some attention and traction for their online activity and they begin to crave it and do stupid things.

At its most extreme I’ve heard of some (non Disney) Youtuber having a bath in bleach to generate views. That did not end well. In this case I suppose they thought being the first UK folks out there would bag them a lot of attention. Well it did but in the form of anger, unsubscribes and vitriolic comments.

I don’t really know how that little storm ended but hopefully it involved those folks getting a little perspective about online attention and the drug it can become.

This week’s drama involved The Trackers. Apparently they have been dropped from the media event list by Disney and Universal due to some “content” they posted a decade ago. It’s not really about that as far as I can see. As ever it seems there is someone or someones out there on a mission to bring them down and they have been bombarding Disney and Universal via multiple email addresses insisting they cut their ties with The Trackers due to this content that they say is not in line with Disney’s/Universal’s values. There are rumours of who that is but I won’t share those as there is no proof but suffice to say the theory is another vlogger is trying to knock them off their spot and take their place.

Success in any sphere attracts trolls I suppose. I mean I get bombarded all the time with jealousy and sabotage about my blog which has had pretty much the same number of readers for a decade. You can’t buy that sort of consistent mediocrity.

When you are The Trackers and are getting more views than quite a few TV programmes now you are always going to get divided opinions. It’s clearly too simple to say if you don’t like them don’t watch them it seems. They are and have been a consistently excellent source of information for Florida travellers over the years. Sure some of their content won’t please everyone, but how sad do you have to be to spend your time trying to destroy what somebody else has achieved.

Hopefully they will be reinstated soon but in the meantime I hope they will be laughing all the way to the bank in their Tesla and giving that troll(s) the finger as they drive by.

Shall we reconvene here next week, when my refund will absolutely have happened and our new trip will be booked, just in time for the October lockdown to drive a coach and horses through it? October lockdown? Well, the government have both not ruled it out and said they have no plans for one so I think that’s crystal clear as usual. Two days ago vaccine passports were happening but in the 48 hours since they have seemingly reviewed all the factors, that presumably they lost down the back of the couch on Thursday and now they are “definitely not going ahead with those”.

It’s the hope for competence that kills you.

Till the next time……