Positively Positive

Wow, last week was just jam-packed with positivity and good news.

No, really it was. OK, well not jam-packed, but it had some good stuff in it…OK in the grand scheme of the usual shit show of recent weeks and months, it wasn’t as bad as all the others. Look, a couple of things went well….let’s leave it at that.

Early in the week my Mum & Dad were invited for their vaccines. They went yesterday and that’s another weight off my mind. That weight has of course transferred to my stomach.

Then on Thursday, Louise had her first jab too. So a good number of our immediate family are (almost) protected and that’s got to be a good thing. Nobody has grown a second head or lost a limb, so all in all, I’d say getting the vaccine is a good thing to do. As someone who has made the odd negative comment on the government’s handling of this pandemic, I am obliged to say that the rollout seems to be going well. All that can stop it now are the “Bill Gates” fearing crowd refusing the vaccine for non-sane reasons.

I think that will be it for vaccines in our family for a while. The rest of us are some way down the priority list. I’ll be next, based on my advancing years, but I suspect that won’t be until the summer at the earliest. The kids are well down the pecking order but I read yesterday that every adult should have been offered their first jab by September.

It is of some comfort and reassurance that each week hundreds of thousands of folks are getting vaccinated now in the UK. With the arrival of a sane leader in the US next week and his promise to do 100 million in 100 days then, and I hate to say this out loud, but could international travel be on the distant horizon?

I have to say I still think our mid-June plan is a flip of a coin. If it does go ahead then it was pretty much confirmed this week, that as I thought, you will need to have a negative test within 72 hours of departure to be allowed to fly. Or I suppose you could show proof of vaccination, but, other than a flimsy bit of card, I’m not seeing any tangible, electronic record of that which could be produced.

Of course, if you test negative three days before you fly, then you could still be positive by the time you board the plane. Everyone needs to be responsible and observe all the common-sense rules between taking such a test and flying. You could make an argument that everyone should take one of those rapid test things at the airport but for folks like us can you imagine investing all the money, time and emotion into a trip to WDW and then rocking up to the airport still not certain you are going to be able to travel?

If this remains in place and we do somehow get to go in June, we’ll be getting tests right on the 72-hour window. You know by now, I am a “need to know” certainty craving idiot.

Each year, I am taken by surprise by spring. I am not good with winter. Then each year, there tends to be a watershed weekend, where the weather suddenly changes and the world just seems a much better place all of a sudden. I am crossing everything that this spring/early summer will be the mother of all that and we will emerge not only from the shitty weather and being cold at all times, to the sunlit uplands of spring, an easing of restrictions and the opening of borders. I am not naïve enough to think everything will go back to how it was, but I am hoping very hard for a step-change in all this as we round the bend out of winter.

To continue this abundance of positivity and joy, Rebecca and Tom get the keys to their new house on Friday. They are overjoyed to be getting onto the ladder and having somewhere of their own. They won’t move in immediately as there is some work to be done first, but they can at least get their furniture in, get the work underway and look forward to getting settled in very shortly.

We have had no such news just yet but we have to be close, right? My prediction of us moving on the same day as Rebecca and Tom now seems very unlikely, which is probably a good thing as we have a shit ton of packing still to do, but I suppose whenever we have to be ready, we will be.

So after such a gloriously positive(ish) week, for the first time in a long, long time I have some belief at least that our June trip might happen. Much will depend on the US of course. It is a country of contradictions, with Florida more or less fully open and the Senator hiding the stats and arresting folks who want to publish them compared to California, with Disneyland never having opened since the first lockdown. The latest rumours/thinking about travel to the US seem to be centred around May. That is, of course, cutting it very fine for us and in the back of my mind, I am already thinking about a “what if” plan for new dates should they be required.

All in all though, with a vaccine rolled out to as many that will have it, as we get into the second half of 2021, we have to be able to think about being able to book a holiday and actually going on it. Imagine that. I am very much imagining it and as all good planners do, my tentative plans for the trip after next is already on the back burner in my overtaxed tiny mind.

OK, that’s my limit for positivity. I need a lie down to recover.

Till the next time…….

If The Stress Doesn’t Give Me A Heart Attack, This Doughnut Will.

For those with the ability to remember all the way back to last Sunday and the much smaller subset of folks who care enough about the moan-fest that was last week’s blog, I should give an update. Mary, Louise’s Mum did get her second vaccine jab on Tuesday. That’s good news of course and hopefully by around now her body is much better equipped to keep her safe from the virus.

In less better news I am still no wiser as to what the actual policy is for vaccinations. Are folks going to get the second one three weeks later or is it twelve? I have no qualifications to dispute either approach but whatever has been decided for heaven’s sake communicate it clearly. My Dad had his letter about his vaccine late in the week so it would be nice for him to know what to expect. But, let’s focus on the positive, that folks are getting some protection at least. Looking at the figures, we desperately need it.

In a world ravaged by a pandemic and where one of the globe’s superpowers repelled a coup attempt last week, you might think that the trivial matters troubling me may have been put into some sort of perspective. You might think that if you have never read this blog before, but of course you’d be wrong. I am troubled by world events. However, my own little world is a busy one and my mind is a whirling mess of all the stuff that is going on.

The putting of our house into boxes has begun. I feel better now a start has been made, but at points during that process, I have stepped back and forlornly looked around at the sheer scale of the task and felt as powerless to affect things as I do with global events. All we can do is plough on and hope that at some point we actually do get to move. After all this time it feels like the day will never come. There has been a little bit of significant progress as we now have the contracts to sign for the sale of our house and we will be doing the signing of those over some form of a video call with the solicitor during the week to come.

There are a million other things to do. They are all little things, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but nonetheless, they play on my mind. From the sorting of broadband for the new place to telling every company I give money to that we have moved, the more I think about it, the more things I come up with that need doing and it can feel overwhelming. If only I were one of those people that couldn’t eat when stressed. Alas, I am the opposite and if this carries on much longer the removal men may well be carrying me out of the house with the aid of a winch and pully system.

This is where the grown up, buried deep within me tells me it will all be OK, things will get sorted and it will all be worth it in the end. Good pep talk, now back to the stress headaches and lack of sleep.

In other house news, you may remember me mentioning weeks ago that Rebecca and Tom were house hunting? Well their purchase is progressing about as quickly as ours. Despite them being first time buyers moving into an empty property, they too are sat waiting for legal folks to collect various bits of paper before they can get in. What is the betting that we get the same moving in date. It’s one of those odd quirks of fate that I can see coming.

So, I could do with a holiday. To be honest, I’d settle for the knowledge that I was going to get one as planned. On that note, I still don’t have my refund from Virgin. After a full week of trying to extract some sense from their automated text system, I think I did get an actual human to respond, who just said they have referred it to a supervisor who will chase the refunds team and they can give no timescales. Well, I don’t know about you but that makes me feel loved and all warm and fuzzy inside. I am desperately trying not to take out my stress and frustration at other stuff out on someone just doing their job.

Let’s end with something not related to a global pandemic, the breakdown of democracy or my own petty little stresses about everyday life, shall we? Remember the old days when I would blog about holiday plans and food. Let’s take a small step back in that direction. This last week or so saw two new places open in Disney Springs. Gideons and Everglazed. The former is a cookie place and the latter, doughnuts. Those two acts in themselves have made the world a slightly better place. I have watched a vlog or two about Gideons and it looks great. The shop is wonderfully themed and the cookies look amazing. I did see that it had to temporarily close again but I am ignoring that for the time being in this hunt for normality.

One thing that really caught my eye was from Everglazed. Long time readers will know of my fascination and love for the Doughnut Burger at Teak, so something about that sweet and savoury mix pleases me greatly and along those lines I saw this…The Grilled Cheeeeeese

A grilled cheese sandwich on a doughnut seems all kinds of right to me. The article reviewing all the menu items, from which I pinched the image above can be read here. There’s nothing like a little bit of food porn to brighten your Sunday.

Let’s quit whilst we are ahead on that slightly positive note and reconvene next Sunday to see if I have had a stress-induced stroke.

Till the next time……

New Year, Snow Change

I’m probably not alone in feeling that 2021 is a little to similar to 2020 so far. After a very different Christmas and New Year, and mostly not for the better due to the current situation, we all slid into 2021 hopeful of better. It will take some time of course and luckily I am extremely patient and laid back so this is no problem.

I am fighting every urge in my ever-expanding body to not piss and moan about the abject and endless incompetence we are suffering on a daily basis from the government. The fact this paragraph exists suggests I have lost that fight. The latest goal post moving on the vaccine, along with the usual hokey cokey approach to policymaking around schools is just another apparent attempt to make this shit show last as long as possible. I know this is hard and unprecedented but we are ten months into this now. At some point, you have to wonder if those making decisions are just incapable of competence.

I know this isn’t the place you come for real-world stuff and political opinion but this is beyond politics now. Ultimately all this affects my ability to holiday and is relevant to the core focus of this blog, but before all that, we have to stop people dying.

Where is the communication? Why is all this vaccine uncertainty being allowed to gather momentum, cause confusion and undermine confidence in the only way out of this mess? Louise’s Mum is due to go back for her second jab on Tuesday. Or is she? At 89, with no internet access, her news sadly comes from the Daily Mail and the news on the telly. She literally has no clue whether she should keep her appointment. She hears that the second jab is perhaps now at 12 weeks but she has had no contact from her GP, who will no doubt be bombarded with incoming calls about this, giving them no chance to make any proactive calls to either reschedule or reassure those due to have their second dose.

Luckily, she has family who can try to find out for her, but what about the thousands of other octogenarians who don’t? This latest act of wilful neglect will cost lives and prolong the pandemic. My frustration is indescribable. Sigh………

Louise has worked for most of the festive period. This, alongside the six-figure salary, is one of the main perks of being a nurse. She has not enjoyed it. If you ever come across some comments online about the pandemic being over-exaggerated and the NHS being quiet and not struggling, please, do not believe it. Every day is a horror show, with staff constantly off ill or self-isolating, leaving those still standing to pick up the pieces and ever-increasing demand. Louise has finally been issued with some PCR rapid testing kits that she has to do twice a week. I’d like to slow hand clap that, as it’s only been the ten months that Louise has been working with COVID positive patients on a regular basis.

I blame my impending return to work for the unexpected ranting today.

House wise, almost everyone involved has had the audacity to take the whole of the festive period off. Imagine doing such a thing. So not a lot has happened. We have not started any of the packing we desperately need to do. It is just too hard and I suspect we will need the looming presence of a deadline to force us into action. Never had I wanted a day to be over more than the one on which we eventually move house. Over the Xmas break, we have had the results of our Home Buyer’s Report back from the surveyor. There are no show stoppers, but there are it appears about a million things that could go wrong and cause us issues at some point in the future. We are assuming this is the standard form of these things with the surveyor covering his arse just in case those aliens do land and sabotage our electrics and roof.

So as the working world wakes up again next week, I’ll be looking to get a decent update from our solicitor about how quickly we can now get this done. It feels like we have been “moving” forever and I just want to get that ominous cloud from over us.

In cheerier news, as is the law, I must report to you that we have had some snow over the last few days and for the first time ever, Freddie has been out playing in it. In his previous short years, he has either been too young or the snow has not been substantial enough. He loved it.

As for my weekly ever-changing moods on any chance of international travel, well, this week it has ebbed to a pretty low point, even for a mid-June departure. As the UK government continue to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, over in the US the outgoing abomination is determined to leave things as badly broken as possible to show his successor in the worst possible light. Add to that, the Florida governor, who is falsifying death rates and taking what could be politely called a “laid back” approach to vaccine distribution and that is not a recipe for the quick resumption of holidays to the US.

Virgin currently aspire to resume flights to Orlando on the 18th of March, but in a similar way I aspire to wear 30″ waist jeans. Right now, I’d settle for Virgin processing my promised refund from my altered booking that was “guaranteed” to be with me by the end of last year. I am currently in yet another endless wrestle with their infuriating automated text system.

At times I do wonder if I will just endlessly blog about a holiday that I constantly move back and never actually have. It’s a form of planner’s purgatory.

So it’s nice to start the new year in the right frame of mind I find. Happy New Year?

Till the next time…….

Rescued by Rennies

Greetings from the no man’s land of extra pounds, empty Quality Street wrappers and cheese and biscuits. For those like me, lucky enough to be off for the duration, these are the lost days and you are lucky (or unlucky) that I have remembered that today is Sunday.

Our 2020 style festivities were as lovely as they could be in the circumstances. We didn’t hug, we stayed as far away as possible from each other and the day was shorter than usual. Louise’s Mum was wrapped up and put next to a radiator to combat the breeze from the open window and the switch to a buffet, rather than a “sat down really close to each other” meal was great. Our fridge is still bulging with the leftovers. I think I should be able to stop onboarding Rennies by early March.

As the older generation left us to get “seckled” for Call The Midwife etc, those left ended the night with a disturbing game of Cards Against Humanity and a decent amount of alcohol.

Freddie of course had the time of his life, opening presents for about eight hours solid.

He still has a number of unwrapped presents boxed and pristine here which will need to be opened and played with whenever he can return. He was a little superstar all day as he always is (yes I am biased) and it was just lovely to spend that time with him.

Louise was working on Boxing Day so my day involved making Eggs Benedict for those not working, (it’s one of our little Christmas traditions) and a little bit of tidying. Our house was unrecognisable, buried under the chaos of the day before, so there was a little bit of reconstruction, but not too much as the exertions of the day before had taken its toll on my age ravaged body. I had a little play of one of my new PS4 games, which was 90% waiting for stuff to download and 10% playing.

So the last Christmas day (barring disasters) in our current house was a nice one, but I think it’s fair to say that we are all looking forward to all those to come in our new one. It is a bit bigger and more able to host what can hopefully be larger groups, with no restrictions in years to come.

A number of my gifts were new house related. Louise got me a lovely map of WDW to hang in what will be my office, along with a very good quality pair of proper Wellies as we are of course becoming landed gentry with a little chunk of land out the back of the new house. They will be essential for the walking of the dogs on it. Louise also put a huge amount of time and effort into finding an exact replica of Ryan the Rucksack. As the original is well over twenty years old then that is very impressive. We’ll now have two “Ryans” to travel with us. As if the OG is going to be retired!!

In the same vein, I got Louise a picture/painting she had admired in a shop we ordered our new couch from a few weeks ago. It will look lovely wherever Louise tells me to hang it in the new place.

One of Emily’s gifts was a large mirror for her new bedroom and Rebecca and Tom’s main gift was also new house-related, with us contributing to some improvements they want to make as soon as they move into their new place. It’s fair to say that we are all focussed on these new beginnings coming early in 2021.

The focus for me over the next week is one of recharging and relaxing if I can. I think there will need to be a start made to the packing up of stuff and with that in mind, we have been collecting boxes for weeks now. Many of those boxes have come from us trying one of these meal delivery services recently. We had fallen into the trap of eating the same meals every week, and as I got a healthy discount for a trial period via work, we gave it a go. So we’ve had some nice meals in recent weeks, which has been a lovely change and each cardboard box will be ideal for moving. They keep pestering me to recruit other folks to their service so if you were thinking about it you can get £20 off using my special code thing. Believe me, this is in no way sponsored. No bugger gives a toss about my blog enough to be giving me paid promotions.

I hope your Christmas was as good as it could be. I will improve it a little by putting a stop to this rambling drivel now. My brain is semi-disengaged and this post is proving that. By the time we meet again, 2020 will be behind us. I still think we have some tough times to endure in the early parts of the new year. I don’t think New Year’s Eve will be any form of an immediate watershed between bad and good (are they ever?) but let’s keep our fingers crossed that as we move into Spring and Summer, 2021 gives us back some form of normality.

Please accept best wishes for the new year from myself, Louise, Emily, Rebecca, Tom and Freddie and if there is one thing to cling to it is that the atrocity that is Mrs Brown’s Boys is now behind us. The only way is up.

Till the next time……

Tiers Of A Clown

Well, where to start? Perhaps with a genuine question. How are you doing?

If you just want to rant, have a moan, or just get off your chest how you are feeling, then feel free to do so in the comments here. It is very unlikely I’ll be able to help of course. I’m just a portly middle-aged bloke stumbling through all this like everyone else, but, as I find with Twitter, it can sometimes help just to get things off your chest.

Yesterday saw the year rounded off with a crescendo of incompetence. A tribute to the constant litany of dither, delay, and mixed messaging that has seen the UK spend the most per capita on the pandemic and still have the worst death rate in Europe and the worst economic outcome. It isn’t the measures that piss me off. I’m usually on the side of supporting measures designed to restrict the spread of the virus and will fight that corner in the trenches of the Facebook comments section on an ever more regular basis, but as ever, despite all evidence to the contrary, the government make announcements that they think will make them popular/less hated and then right at the last minute, snatch hope away from millions with a U-Turn and a reversal to a policy that was obviously the correct thing to do anyway.

I know this is an unprecedented situation, but it is for every government and every country and yet we still set new standards in ballsing it up on a daily basis. This latest last-minute U-Turn saw hundreds of folks at London train stations last night trying to head north, spreading that lovely new strain of the disease to the parts of the country that currently aren’t seeing too much of it.

Being relatively unscathed by yesterday’s nonsense, sitting here in a consistent Tier 3 for weeks, I can only send sympathies to anyone who has just had their plans ruined at the last minute. If we had locked down longer and harder in the last few weeks to prepare for Christmas, and done a whole host of other things that would not have thrown away the relatively solid situation we were in during the summer, things may have been different again. That may have allowed some sort of Christmas. How much easier would coming to terms with just one day of limited relaxing of restrictions for Christmas have been had we known weeks ago? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, but there have been experts saying this for weeks now. How often can you consistently make the wrong calls?

All we can do I think is cling to the hope of the vaccine that is being rolled out and the others that will hopefully be approved shortly to save us from further acts of incompetence. As of yesterday, I believe 350,000 people have had their first jab. Of course, the Health Minister promised “millions would be vaccinated by the end of the year”, but I think we just need to ignore this sort of stuff now and just see how things pan out.

On that subject, last Tuesday I took Louise’s Mum for her first jab. Mary is in her late eighties now and as is your absolute right at the age, has some pre-existing conditions. These have meant that lockdown has been pretty grim for her. So she called her GP to make sure she was one of the first in line, so off we went.

I was very impressed with the setup, to be honest. It was incredibly well organised with a mixture of clinical staff and volunteers corralling lots of old people into the various stages of the process. There was, and I know this sounds odd, a nice atmosphere. One of community spirit, pulling together and finally hitting back against the virus. It was great to see the place so busy, full of people doing their part in trying to get us out of this mess. In the interests of balance, from my limited experience, it is being executed efficiently and quickly and if that is the case, the government deserve credit for that.

Mary has to go back, three weeks to the day, for her second jab and then will be “protected” about a week or so after that. I am of course no expert on any of this, but I do try to read as much stuff as I can from trusted sources, and I came across an article that gave me some comfort and encouragement last week, so I clung to it like a drowning man to a raft. I offer you the same raft here.

It said something like if we vaccinate the over 75’s, which is about 9% of the population, then, based on the demographic of deaths we’ve seen so far, they estimate the death rate would reduce by about 70%. This would protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, which has always been the government’s main aim (they say), and that may well then allow many of the restrictions to be lifted. With younger folks much more able to get the virus, have a few shitty days and not go and die, then life may be able to edge back towards normality. I know people of all ages have died of this thing, but I’m talking generally of an approach that may see us escape most of the worst restrictions before the summer. Not just for the sake of our holiday, which seems more irrelevant than ever right now, but I hope that is the case because it really is something we’ve all now had enough of I’m sure.

In what has been a busy news week, the virus made an appearance in our little world last week too. Tom tested positive last Tuesday, along with his Mum and his brother, who all work together. This was not good news, and it meant all of us went into a period of isolation as we had seen Tom, masked and socially distanced when helping out with Freddie. We all had tests and thankfully, nobody else returned a positive result and we hope it stays that way. Tom has since had a negative test result.

At the same time, my brother messaged me to let me know his wife had tested positive too. Thankfully, she and Tom were not seriously ill with it and it is just a case of riding it out. This entire thing is, as they say, a shit show. Our collective isolations end around the 22nd or 23rd of December, and with us all testing negative and pretty much self-isolating between now and Christmas Day, we plan to stick to the Tier 3 rules of three households briefly getting together.

To make the gathering as safe as possible we have abandoned plans for a sit-down meal, replacing it with a buffet. Windows will be opened as per the advice, and folks shall be distanced, banned from hugging and generally told to stay away from each other. Is it the right thing to do? I have no idea. We have taken every precaution to make sure we are all negative, made the set up of the day as safe as possible and balanced the risks against the prospect of seeing mine and Louise’s parents sat on their own on Christmas Day, as they have for pretty much every day since March.

I know it is hardly worthy of any consideration right now, but on the subject of our frequently rearranged holiday, it appears I was right to move it when I did. When you are right as seldom as I am, I will bask just a little to say that I have started seeing posts in the various Disney Facebook groups about flight operators now cancelling flights for March and beyond. Having already gone through the pain of the reschedule, I’m pleased I don’t need to worry about that….yet. June is by no means guaranteed of course, more now than ever.

It seems trite to wish you a Merry Christmas as I cannot fathom where everyone’s head is at right now. Make the best of it you can, do take up my offer of having a rant and a moan if it will help and let’s just hope things get better as quickly as possible. As pissed off and bored as you might be, and lacking in faith that all and any government advice is not worth listening to, adhering to the basic rules as much as possible will accelerate that so I hope you can and will.

All the best to you all from myself and the family. x

Till the next time…….

I Should Be So Lucky……

As the week has gone on, the number of pricks all over the news has increased. But, I promised myself I would never blog about Brexit, so instead let me celebrate the start of the vaccine rollout. Indeed, Louise’s Mum is off to get her first dose next Tuesday. So after her second jab and a brief waiting-period, she should be “sorted” in early to mid-January. As much as she will need to remain vigilant, it should allow her to leave the house, which is something she has only done a handful of times since March.

I think it is fair to say that she is over the whole pandemic thing and has moved beyond stir crazy. So it shouldn’t be too long before she can re-enter the world and do crazy things like join us for Sunday tea. Hopefully, my Mum & Dad won’t be too far behind as they too are very much done with the whole thing.

As 2020 staggers towards its end, I begin my countdown to finishing work for my traditional extended Christmas break. One week people, just five little days until I get two weeks away from work. Technically, with my “desk” being the dining room table it means that I won’t be away from it at all, but I am looking forward to not having to join any video calls for a good period of time. I say this with full recognition that I am not digging ditches or saving lives, but I am knackered and in need of some down time.

Louise has Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off which is a nice change from recent years and she too is in need of a break, much more than I am, I would imagine. I can’t share with you some of the horrific incidents and fluids she deals with on a daily basis. If you knew, you’d immediately support a quadrupling of nurse’s salaries just to never hear of them again. To prevent Louise from spending her two days off shopping and cooking we have ordered in a buffet for Christmas Day. Most of us would prefer the more traditional sit down do with all the trimmings but, knowing how much time and effort goes into making that most years, we have decided not to play that game this year and be kind to ourselves.

So the plan is that sometime after lunch we lay out the buffet and let the very few folks in attendance graze at their leisure for however long they wish. As a double bonus, it should also reduce the amount of stuff to cram into the dishwasher and instead we can settle down to watch the glorious array of delights scheduled on the telly for the big night. I mean who doesn’t want to sit back and watch Call The Midwife and Mrs Brown’s Boys? In normal circumstances, I would sneer with derision at the numpties and their “Defund the BBC” nonsense, but looking at their output for the festive period, I could be tempted.

In the interests of balance, ITV does not escape my wrath. What, in the name of national lobotomy, is “The Real Full Monty On Ice”? How are we still being force-fed the endless rehashing of the “minor celeb learns a new skill” format? There are a species of “celebrities” that no longer actually do anything, apart from appearing on this endless round of gravy trains. Having said that, they are the showbiz elite compared to the dregs of society that appear on nothing but “Celebs Go Dating” abominations. I’m looking at you Callum Best. He is now in his mid-fifties (surely) and should know better. The other ex-Love Island desperados are perhaps understandably seeking out their six minutes of pseudo fame in the hope of getting a Misguided discount code named after them, but it should all be set on fire and replaced with the test card. Anyway….

A good few weeks ago we did hold out a very slim hope of getting into our new house for Christmas. It would have been lovely as it is a house seemingly purposely built to host the festivities, (not that we could actually host very many folks this year of course) but the glacial speed of solicitors, surveys and searches put paid to those hopes some time ago. Our buyer is ready now, but we are still some way off being so, as our searches seem to be being undertaken by Bob Cratchet with a quill and parchment, rather than in the 21st Century using the technology available to all. I’ll say it again, how can the process of house buying and selling still be so slow in 2020?

In better house news, you may remember me mentioning some weeks ago that Rebecca and Tom were also house hunting. Their struggles to board the property ladder have been enormous, but it does look like they are almost there. They have found a house, had an offer accepted and just last week, after jumping through more hoops than an agility dog, had their mortgage approved. It’s testament to their determination and hard work that two folks of that age can make that happen. They will almost certainly be in before we are, hopefully very early in the New Year.

So inevitably, at this time of year, thoughts turn to the future, as if the transition from one day to another at the end of December is actually that significant. This year, more than most, I suppose everyone will have high hopes for the year to come. That is of course based mainly on the absolute shit show that has been 2020. For us, as I’ve said a few times, we have been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. Thankfully Emily and I work for a brilliant company that is run extremely well and we have been protected from any financial impact. Louise of course is more in demand than ever, but she has had an incredibly busy and stressful last nine months. Nursing is always like that, but the dial has been spun a few times since March.

Rebecca works in a nursery, at our local hospital, so has had a busy time looking after the children of all the folks working in the hospital, so again has not suffered any risk of losing any income but has had a busy time. Tom has been broadly unaffected. He works for a company that designs and builds windows, bi-folds and conservatories etc and they have seen demand go off the scale. So for all my moaning, I know we’ve been lucky.

So for next year, some more of that luck would be good, with a lot less pandemic, so that Louise’s job may become close to tolerable at some point, and with a large dollop of holiday right in the middle of it. Hopefully starting the year in a new house, in a new town is an exciting prospect which lays down a marker for a new standard of good stuff coming our way.

Look at all that positivity and gratefulness. Don’t worry you are at the right blog. I am just (apart from on Twitter) ignoring the elephant in the room that is coming on January 1st at the hands of the idiots in charge. You will not find an equivalent act of national self-harm in modern history and I cannot fathom any upside whatsoever. Sigh.

So with loins girded for one last push of the grindstone, I shall see you here next week for the start of the festivities. For anyone not enjoying an extended break or any of the luck I have described above, I wish you well and hope things improve quickly for you.

Till the next time…..

A State Agents

In an effort to keep my blood pressure and stress levels nice and high, just as the major drama, activity and worry about changing our holiday settled down a bit, I have very cleverly replaced it with aorta threatening levels of stress by trying to find somewhere to live.

The last week has been a blur of swiping right or left on Rightmove and wandering around stranger’s houses mixed with large dollops of disappointment and frustration. With our “sale” having been in the bag for a little while now, the pressure to find somewhere to go is increasing.

We did find a house last week that we liked. As with everything we view, as soon as something decent goes on the market, the vendors have 73 viewings on day one and around 72 offers to consider. After making our first offer on something on Friday morning, we were sad to learn that we had not been successful. Silly us for only offering the asking price!

Even in the short few hours between viewing and hearing we hadn’t got it, emotional investment and attachment had happened. Plans had been made, which in Louise’s case always includes where the Christmas tree would go. It’s difficult to move on but move on we must and we have viewed two further properties that are contenders. We have upped our game in terms of aggression and speed with both, recognising the current market is no place for timidity or sloth.

What has completely bamboozled me is that in a market that is so competitive and fast-moving most estate agents take Sunday off. So for 50% of the time that most folks can search, view and make offers on houses, their offices are shut. I cannot tell you how completely frustrating this is. I know folks need time off but surely you need to operate in the hours that your customers do, like Louise does who has been driving around dressing, injecting and de-soiling folks she looks after all weekend.

In fact, the market is so competitive that second viewings are an alien concept. As Louise has been working all weekend, one of the houses we have now offered on was one she hasn’t even set foot in. Rebecca and I had a look at it yesterday and we were empowered to decide whether or not it would be suitable. That’s like picking your fiance’s wedding dress, but only if she then had to wear that dress every single day for the next decade.

So as Saturdays go, I have had less stressful ones. The fact that we now have to kick our heels for all of Sunday without an update or opportunity to find out where we are up to is not ideal. Regular readers will recognise that I do not deal well with uncertainty, wishy-washy responses and not being in control of my own destiny.

The two current contenders offer very different pros and cons and we would both be happy with either, but with lessons learned we are continuing to search for others whilst proactively harassing, chasing and cajoling estate agents to be competent, but right now I’d settle for them being open.

As often tends to happen in our world, several things converge to make things interesting. Rebecca and Tom are also in the market for their first house after renting for some time. They were also out house hunting yesterday so helping and advising them was also very much a thing. I wouldn’t have it any other way and as first time buyers I hope and expect them to be sorted before we are.

It will not surprise you to know that there wasn’t a lot of holiday thinking done last week. There was some, clearly, as it is who I am, but it is back burnered to some extent as other matters are more pressing. As I don’t have a clue what will happen, it seems silly to spend too much time worrying about it, but if you think that’s what will actually happen then clearly you don’t know me at all.

So it’s been a bit of a week, but of course, as ever, something comes along to remind me that I’m a big girl’s blouse, living a fortunate and privileged life that I should be grateful for.

Firstly, 28,000 cast members lost their jobs this week. I follow a few on social media and it was very sad to see them reacting to the news. To their credit, they all handled it with grace and dignity and that probably goes a long way to explain why they were excellent CMs in the first place. It is a tragic day for them and for what those cuts may mean for the future of the parks and resorts. We can only hope that as things get better they may be able to return should they wish.

Then just as I was just about to post this blog my Mum phoned to tell me that my Aunty Dot died last night.

She was my Mum’s sister and well into her nineties. She had been in a care home for a couple of years and in many ways had left us then, but still, the sadness of losing someone is still there and she was an absolutely lovely lady who played a large part in my childhood.

So with our current “trials” pulled into sharp perspective I’m off to give myself a stern talking to about over-dramatising stuff to folks on the internet.

Till the next time…….

Do Two Wrongs Make a Flight?

In my extensive array of skills, being wrong seems to be right up at the top of the list. It was only seven days ago that I came out with this whopper.

“My expectations of being able to go next March change on an almost daily basis. Right at this moment, I’d say I am slightly leaning towards it being possible. I can’t really articulate clearly why I feel that way. We have what is going to be a very challenging winter ahead of us and anything could happen, but ultimately it feels like as time goes by the world is learning to live with this thing a little more. You may remind me of this unusual optimism when I am undoubtedly proved wrong.”

Within 48 hours of that nonsense, I was indeed proved wrong and it now feels like I could not have been wider of the mark had I tried. With the incompetence driven second wave and lockdown seemingly all but inevitable, and new restrictions being in place possibly for six months, then our March 1st trip seems less likely than ever.

It’s just so sad. There is no other word for it. The seemingly endless woe is getting to us now, and even though I dread most winters, this one is going to be a doozy. I don’t know about you, but we’re all feeling the darkness of the tunnel which currently seems to be without an end for there to be light at.

As we watched various “leaders” from different parts of the UK deliver their addresses mid-week, it really did feel like we were watching some far fetched disaster movie. How we took stuff for granted pre-COVID.

Then, later in the week, Florida went all Florida and announced that COVID is apparently over in the sunshine state and all restrictions were being lifted. We can only hope that people keep up the stuff they have been doing to stay safe. Theme parks, I am putting my faith in you to keep the rules you currently have. Increase capacity if you must, but for all our sakes, keep the masks and distancing.

Let’s hope they realise that the numbers of sensible folks who recognise it’s worth taking precautions to increase the chances of folks not dying outweigh the number that drive to the parks in a car wearing seatbelts and on the correct side of the road to avoid death, but think that a face-covering suggests their lives aren’t their own. I think if they lifted all the current safeguards they may lose more visitors than they gain.

So in one week, I may actually have (and not for the first or last time) been wrong twice. The UK put rules in place, potentially for six months, that suggest I’m going to no further than the kitchen till April and then Florida ripped up the rule book and kicked off a COVID party. You can perhaps see why my thoughts around our holiday taking place change on a regular basis.

In other news, you may also remember last week me telling you how we had put the house up for sale? We went “live” on the internet on Monday evening. We had three viewings on Tuesday and accepted a very pleasing offer on Wednesday morning. Other than not knowing where we are going to live next, this is a mighty relief and shows that a pandemic seems to be a good thing for the property market. I suspect the current stamp duty exemption offer is driving a lot of activity. The joy at knowing we don’t need to go through the superhuman efforts of getting the house that clean and tidy again is lovely.

Not one to dwell on pleasing things, my mind is now crammed full of all the things that could go wrong and the horrors of physically moving all our crap to a new location. Before it can be half full, I need to find a glass.

So now we find ourselves looking for a place to live in a property market where everything is selling within 48 hours for more than the asking price. We have two viewings today and if neither of those work out then, based on the current stuff for sale in our area and budget, I may be shopping for tents and portable heaters.

So, leaving the inconsequential nonsense of where we might live and returning to the more crucial subject of our Disney trips. All of you out there with trips booked, no doubt having already moved them once or twice, how are you feeling now? Do you think the lifting of restrictions in Florida is another step towards overseas tourists being allowed in? Will it matter what the US do if the shit show in the UK continues?

These questions are going to be repeated for us all for many motnhs I fear.

Till the next time…..

A Moving Post

With the holiday that wasn’t now out of the way and my significant birthday behind us, it feels like this could be a watershed moment. A very welcome chance for me to stop bloody moaning about the same stuff and try blogging about something else.

Well, OK. But let me just say that being back in a form of lockdown and not being able to see Rebecca, Tom and Freddie sucks the largest of hairy ballsacks. The growth of my sense of resentment about that is only beaten by the rate of knots by which the number on the scales is increasing.

With that being said, we can move on. Literally.

Back in the old days, there were times when I would blog about “normal things”. These weekly posts weren’t just me ranting about cancelled holidays and inconvenient viruses. Anyone remember that?

In the spirit of that moving on, I can report to you today that, not content with battling a pandemic, rescheduling a wedding (twice) and losing out on a holiday, we have decided to move house too.

A few weeks ago I reported that we were wrestling with the dilemma of either moving or improving our modest abode. For the last few weeks, maybe months, we have literally been flip-flopping between the two options. Endlessly scrolling through Rightmove, pointlessly looking for a house we were in no position to buy, mainly to judge whether, if we did sell, would there be something we could afford that would get us what we want, alongside looking at photos of houses that had “extended” in the way we planned to.

We did venture down the improving route for a while, but the costs involved could have built the US/Mexico border wall twice over and for a house not worth that much in the grand scheme of things, that size of investment for “a bit more kitchen” just didn’t make any sense.

So the decision sort of made itself, and we have recently been through the process of readying our place to go on the market. All those DIY tasks that you ignore if you didn’t plan to sell needed to be done and after a variety of valuations, some comedic at both ends of the scale, on Friday our For Sale board went up. Yesterday we had our photos done and hopefully, in the next couple of days, we shall appear on the internet.

Having moved house just three times in my adult life, that is more than enough to have me dreading every second of the process. These early days seem to involve looking at the same twenty houses on the internet that match your search criteria and getting stupidly excited when a new one appears. Seconds later, when it is dismissed as not suitable you are back to scrolling through your regulars again. Should we sell quickly, the fun and games of finding somewhere to live will really begin.

What do we want?

Ideally, a 4 bed, with a large drive, garden and one of them cliched family-style open plan kitchens. If it can be within five minutes of where we live now that would be a bonus too. Shouldn’t be too hard, should it? You will, without doubt, be told how hard or easy that turns out to be in glorious detail as the weeks go by.

I like to offer variety here and the anticipation you must feel, not knowing if you will get moaning about the virus, not going on holiday or moving house is almost spoiling you.

I bet you wish I was still papping on about the holiday now, right?

Speaking of which…you knew I couldn’t resist. My expectations of being able to go next March change on an almost daily basis. Right at this moment, I’d say I am slightly leaning towards it being possible. I can’t really articulate clearly why I feel that way. We have what is going to be a very challenging winter ahead of us and anything could happen, but ultimately it feels like as time goes by the world is learning to live with this thing a little more. You may remind me of this unusual optimism when I am undoubtedly proved wrong. Hopefully, we’ll at least be in our new house by then with all that horror behind us!

Till the next time……

Being 50 Is A Beach…..

You may have noticed that I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with excitement about my imminent birthday. Firstly, as a milestone, it was one that just confirmed I was old(er). Secondly, of course, I was in the wrong country. However, in a turn of events that bucks the trend and tone of recent weeks, I had a really lovely day.

It started as planned with a round of golf with my Dad. Having played about three or four times this summer, there were actual signs that I knew what I was doing in short bursts and it was very enjoyable. The weather was glorious, and as we sat out on the patio outside the clubhouse enjoying a post-round beer, my brother phoned me from France, where he has spent the summer at his cottage. He was just about to set off on the long drive back to his imminent quarantine and he called to wish me a happy birthday.

On my return home, everyone had gone to a lot of trouble to make the day as lovely as it could be. There was a US themed lunch laid on, with almost as many calories involved as I may have eaten had we been in WDW. Hot dogs, cupcakes, cheesecake, Danish (is that the plural?) and all sorts of other wonderfully unhealthy snacky delights were on offer alongside this glorious cake.

So I spent the afternoon eating food and receiving gifts, which is always a decent way to spend your time.

There was everything from cash (always welcome) to useful stuff I needed like clothes, alongside lots of really thoughtful stuff that blew me away. Rebecca and Tom put together a really lovely photo collage which had been framed and will take pride of place somewhere in the house once it gets moved from its current location on the mantlepiece. Louise had the absolute nerve to buy me a new rucksack, suggesting that it might be time for Ryan to be replaced. Do I want to replace Ryan? As Rebecca said when I’d unwrapped it….

Cut It GIFs | Tenor

Amongst the many things my Mum & Dad got me, the highlight was this lovely keepsake. This will be worn as I walk Rebecca down the aisle next year and generally looked after as a lovely memento of turning 50.

Emily had put together a photo/music presentation, (in addition to getting me some Vans cos I am a cool and trendy Dad who is well down with the kids) which it turns out mainly included photos of me with food all over my face. It chronicled our trips over the years and the ever-increasing number of my chins, but it was lovely, and at the end, there was “just one last thing”…..

The final photo bore the caption….. The Beach Club was looking forward to welcoming me back.

Lousie and the girls know this is my favourite resort. No, that’s an understatement. It is one of my favourite places on the planet. They have arranged a night there during our trip in March for Louise and I. The fact that they had the absolute nerve to amend THE PLAN was forgiven. Having very sneakily got access to it without my suspecting a thing a few weeks ago, they have expertly dropped this addition in, without too much disruption and I can’t wait.

All in all, I was overwhelmed with everything and the huge efforts everyone had gone to in order to stop me sulking like a huge man-baby.

Of course, as soon as the “festivities” were over I had to fire up the laptop, dive into the plan and make sure the new addition was properly catered for. I am not known as a complete control freak for nothing.

They had done well to be fair. It bodes well for the years when I am no longer able to do all the planning and just need to be wheeled between meals and fireworks shows. Our stay is on the night of what would have been my birthday had we been there now, with that day seeing us in Epcot with (ADRs permitting) brunch at Beaches & Cream and dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel at the Mexico pavilion. So being able to wander back to the Beach club afterwards works well. Tom will have to assume driving duties and transport everyone else back to the villa.

The next day was marked as Volcano Bay, but it would be wasteful to leave the Beach Club early in the morning to do so, so that has been sacrificed so that we can spend the day at the resort. The others will spend a leisurely morning at the villa before joining us at some point for some rest time at one of the quiet pools there. That evening has hopes of dinner at Whispering Canyon, before the next two days being spent at the Hard Rock at Universal. This detailed level of planning pleases me greatly.

So after a lovely bank holiday Monday, I have spent my week off work mainly eating all the glorious leftovers from the celebrations. I have eaten more high-calorie crap this week than I may have done had we been in WDW. A bold statement, but the scales back up this claim. There has been some unavoidable unpleasantness in the form of DIY, but overall, so far being 50 has gone quite well.

As evidence of some sort of acceptance, I don’t even know where we should have been on this day had we been in WDW. If that isn’t a demonstration of maturity and personal growth, I don’t know what is. Being 50 might be good for me.

Till the next time……

Fifty Shades of Beige

I’m sick of moaning. You’re sick of me moaning. I get it. This week’s post could very easily be a shit fest of self-pity and woe is me. Let’s face it, most of my posts are, but in a week where every day I am thinking where I should be instead, it would be a miracle if it were not.

I will desperately try to perform that miracle.

FYI though, so far this week we should have eaten at O’hana, Teak Neighbourhood Grill, Bahama Breeze and today would have been Yak & Yeti.

On the plus side…..erm……I don’t have to go to work next week. When cancelling my annual leave I retained a week just to not be at work for a bit. I have been working hard and I haven’t had a break since before lockdown so I need to be away from it for a bit. The fact that we are currently in the middle of decorating a couple of bedrooms is the perfect metaphor for 2020.

Tomorrow is my actual birthday. Unlike in the alternate universe in which I would be in Epcot, I have no plans other than I am playing golf with my Dad in the morning. I’m not very good but I enjoy it. I have given very strict instructions that there should be no elaborate celebrations. Of course, we aren’t allowed to be together in groups larger than….I mean on a Wednesday, if it’s raining, I can see six members of my family….erm, every other week, if I close my eyes I am allowed to sit outside with…..

No, I haven’t got a clue what we are allowed to do, but I know that a large family gathering, even if I wanted one, is not allowed. I know it makes me an ungrateful grinchy knob, but I just don’t feel in the mood for big celebrations. I’m sure I will see everyone that matters at some point, at whatever the currently allowed distance is and that’s all that counts.

I did pick up my car on Thursday. It’s nice. It’s like my old one, but silver and a bit newer. It has a lot more gadgets though including voice commands. I need to sit in it for several hours learning what everything does so that I can use my voice to do things and concentrate all my efforts on moaning about my commute, should I ever do that again.

Still, at least the weathers’s been nice.

A Collection of House of Cards' Best Frank Underwood Side-Eye GIFs | Frank  underwood, Kevin spacey, Redes sociales

A lot of the angst we are feeling is due to the fact that the rescheduled dates in March feel very shakey too. For a family used to having a concrete countdown, this does not work well. How’s Florida doing? Better, if you believe the reported numbers. I don’t so much.

Ever since the reporting of numbers was moved from the CDC to the Whitehouse, amazingly, the numbers of cases have immediately and drastically declined. Even if those numbers were true then case numbers of around 3,000 per day and deaths of over 100 still do not make great reading for the state….never mind what’s really happening.

So I still cannot foresee borders being opened, certainly not before the election over there. With the new (please!) President not taking office till January, any lifting of travel restrictions to the US from the UK is going to be close to the wire for a 1st of March trip I think.

So as this descends into another moan-fest I should slap myself, count my blessings and stop being an annoying douche bag, right?

I have reached 50, all of my family are here and healthy, we are not living in poverty or hardship and I have a car that I can talk to. I am like some sort of portly, older Marty McFly, living in the future we all dreamed of….apart from the highly contagious deadly disease and the fact that there’s no Huey Lewis in Bolton. Swings and roundabouts and I need to watch Back To The Future again.

Anywho, as I live through the last few hours of my forties I suspect I won’t feel very different when I wake up in my 50’s tomorrow. As I plan to live to at least 120, my mid-life crisis isn’t due until I am 60. The coming decade of my 50’s holds the hope of it being better than my 40’s. We went through a lot during that time. Louise returning to study to become a nurse was a challenge, there was also some “nastiness” right at the start of my 40’s that saw my, to that point stellar, career hit a few bumps. (It wasn’t at all stellar and hasn’t been since either). Those and other financial challenges were tough and hopefully behind us. There were all sorts of dramas involving the girls, but this is par for the course and I expect nothing less in every decade to come to be honest, but hopefully, as they get older these shall be less frequent and less traumatic.

Of course, Freddie joined us in my 40’s and that would be the highlight of any decade. I hope to spend however many decades I have left spending as much time as possible with him, whenever possible, in Florida.

Some of you reading this will have been with me through all of that and in some cases, for many years before. I first started over sharing stuff about my life and family online around 2003 on various forums (remember those?). I don’t even find my own life that interesting so I can only applaud in awe your tolerance for mediocrity and average writing. We’re approaching twenty years of me papping on and both of you that read this every week are still here.

I am away now to spend the last day of my 40’s doing a bit of decorating. At some point, at a time totally of my own choosing, I will also walk the dogs. The fact that I should, by rights, be in Animal Kingdom won’t be on my mind at all.

Till the next time……

Living La Lockdown Loca

I am blogging to you now, live from lockdown in the North West of England. As we all try to familiarise ourselves with yet more disinformation and confusion designed to allow the government to shift the blame to others, we can no longer see other households unless we are spending money at the same time.

This whole mess is just soul-destroying and the incompetent handling of it is just prolonging everyone’s agony. I watched in horror as Johnson, like some rotting haystack of incompetence, was on my telly doing his own Trump-style cognitive test, spouting shite about face, space and hands. The announcement of this lockdown, with about twelve minutes notice, via social media, where are all the vulnerable, elderly folks are hanging out at close to midnight has resulted, as you might expect, in there being absolutely no discernable difference in behaviour as far as I can see.

To be honest, lockdown makes little difference to me. Since March I’ve been to the local Sainsburys three times and played a couple of rounds of golf with my Dad. Who is or isn’t in your bubble now, if a bubble is still a thing, is anyone’s guess and I suspect most people are completely ignoring whichever flavour of government advice is currently on the telly and doing what they think is sensible and safe.

It is, to use one of my favourite words, an absolute shambola.

I have no issue working from home. I get more done, am less angry (that’s what the commute does to a person) and the joy of closing the laptop at whatever time I finish and being home and ready to do nothing of an evening is very welcome.

However, it would be nice to be able to go out gigging with Mustard again at some point. There is absolutely no chance of that happening any time soon in my view, but when we can, that will be welcome. I’d also like to have a holiday, but that’s waaaayyyy off in March, so that’ll be fine right?

Those of you who have been with me a while will know the “fondness” I feel for Disney Facebook groups. Some are great resources for information and chatting with like-minded folks. Others are a cesspit of power-obsessed whack jobs who I would cross a multi-lane motorway to avoid. Maybe we should start our own dear blog readers?

Anywho, this week I joined one called Vintage Disney World and it’s great. Granted I haven’t been there long enough to know for sure that it isn’t full of power-obsessed whack jobs who I would cross a multi-lane motorway to avoid, but the early signs are good as I have not yet been banned.

I posted a few photos from my first WDW experience in 1980 but other than that I have very much enjoyed seeing some posts from others, some going back as far as 1972. This was one of the 1980 photos I shared.

It’s incredible how much has changed of course. Take a look at the group if it sounds like your thing. (I am in no way sponsored, paid or in a position of power in this group). That isn’t to say that if a brand wishes to shower me with cash and/or gifts I am not prepared to whore myself out and give you a mention as often as you like. Bring it on!!

The one thing that a group like that reminds you of is the constant change at WDW. Even over the course of the time the girls have been going, the number of changes is impossible to count or remember. This will always be the case. However, the worry now is that the current desperate circumstances may force some decisions onto Disney that it may not have taken or at least not yet.

With revenues so low and no sign of that improving, bad news may be inevitable. As evidence, I present you this rumour which has struck horror deep into the heart of the Mkingdon household today.

I know Disney is having all sorts of challenges with the actors that feature in these type of shows and I can only hope that things can be sorted out to the satisfaction of all parties and we don’t lose absolute classics like this show from the parks.

I know, in the midst of a pandemic, that the impact on a theme park may not be a top priority, but at some point, it will be over and I can’t help wondering what might be left for us at that point.

Sigh.

Next, if you will allow me to abuse my very small platform, I wonder if any of you may feel inclined to sign this petition for Emily. She is incredibly upset about what she saw at this place yesterday. I have no idea if anything can be done but she is determined to make a difference and if you feel like you wish to support her she would appreciate it massively.

I shall end this week by wishing Mrs Mkingdon a very happy 24th wedding anniversary for tomorrow. I salute her for entering into the commitment all those years ago, to go to WDW on holiday every year. I am a joy and delight to live with so try not to be too envious of her for getting to do that for over a quarter of a century now.

Till the next time…..

Birthday Bonanza

This week, in an attempt to reassure my bosses that I am competent I spent most of it reciting five random words. Several of them were not even swear words. I await my pay rise with tepid anticipation.

The world has indeed gone completely bonkers and I stare, mostly at Twitter, in a catatonic state of disbelief for large parts of my day. I need to get out more…oh wait….

Today is not a day for morbid bemoaning of world events, and political incompetence, instead, it is the time to celebrate the fact that I have had a daughter for a quarter of a century and am clearly very, very old. Emily’s birthday is today and probably much like you, I cannot quite fathom how she has the gall to be 25.

If there is anything to be thankful for about that, it is that of course that we are no longer infected and inflicted with a house full of noisy kids having a sleepover where nobody, including me and Louise, ever slept. I do remember one such event “fondly” which involved me trying to make our brand new kitchen floor less sticky for a good few hours after one lovely hyper child spilt a full two-litre bottle of coke all over it. Hello to Simon, wherever you are.

Instead, Emily is, of course, spending her day with her boyfriend and we are wishing her well electronically. As ever, this is the circle of life. Happy Birthday pud!

It also means that today is Oli’s birthday too. It is spooky that they share a birthday, but of course, Oli is not yet 25. We got Oli for Emily when she passed her GCSEs and I have walked him ever since. He and I are showing signs of age now of course and the walks that we do are more of me dragging him along rather than what was the opposite for many years. Bless him. He will probably never forgive us (well it was Louise technically) for introducing Bean to his a life a few years ago. She is the annoying younger sister every elder sibling loves to have.

Right now, Oli is spending his birthday in the the only way he knows how.

Next in line for a birthday in the household is me. As you can imagine, my anticipation of it has diminished considerably of late and I am contemplating just emulating Oli’s approach to it as I cannot be in my location of choice.

In the world of holidays, not much has changed. Florida, along with most of the US, seems to be embracing the Walking Dead approach to controlling a pandemic. With each passing week and each notch of the graph over which new records are set on infections, my hopes of our March trip take a bit of a dive. I cannot make any sense of it.

With our trip some time away, and with half of me expecting that we won’t go anyway, my interest in happenings in the parks has dimmed a little, but from the small snippets I have seen online, they look quiet. Very quiet. It has to be a worry that this can’t be financially sustainable for the theme parks. I’m not sure whether they were losing more money when shut or now that they are open. Whilst infection rates soar there can surely be no chance of international visitors being allowed in, even assuming anyone wanted to, and as if 2020 hasn’t been surreal enough, it is not beyond the realms of imagination that some parks don’t survive.

I don’t think Disney is at risk of that. I don’t know of course, but surely they have enough backing and other revenue streams to survive, I hope, at least, but some of the smaller ones could be in trouble. This, of course, must be the case across multiple industries and makes the unbelievably irresponsible inaction on the whole thing in large parts of the US unfathomable.

Having said all that about being disinterested in how the parks are doing and pessimistically downplaying our chances of going in March, it has not stopped me from performing some surgery to the plan. That surgery involved me cramming more food into our trip, like an LA plastic surgeon cramming triple DDDs into their client. Like them, I think I want it, but everyone else knows it’s just a step too far. (What? I have watched the odd episode of Botched!)

Somehow, ADR permitting, Beaches & Cream now sits on our plan. I am of course curious to see what it looks like after the recent extension but more than that I want a kitchen sink for brunch. Both are at least equally important.

Maybe I need to do more of this and employ the technique of positive thinking rather than moaning about stuff? We WILL go to WDW next March, there WILL be a working vaccine in place and we won’t need to wear masks and social distance and I WILL not put on a stone in two weeks due to massively overeating. I suspect I am being too aspirational with the last one of those.

I’ll let you know how I get on with that!

Till the next time…..

Defeated and Demoralised

Let me get the obligatory “first world problems” caveat out of the way. We are all healthy, housed, clothed fed and safe. I understand most folks have it worse than me and I know I am a snivelling gimp for what is to about to happen. With that said, I am about to unleash both barrels of my moan-gun all over this blog.

On Friday the decision was made to postpone our upcoming trip.

I am very much not OK about this. Yes, it was a special trip for my 50th and that hurts a bit, but more than that, I just miss the place, need a holiday and was really, really looking forward to spending some time with the family in nice weather with nice food. (I refer you again to paragraph one above).

Why did we take that decision? Well, for many reasons I suppose.

First, of course, is our own safety. Whilst this is our primary concern it isn’t the thing that I feel is the highest risk or the main reason to defer. I am pretty confident I have had it, along with Tom and Rebecca. Louise suspects she had it very early in the outbreak but of course none of us knows for sure. Hopefully, that affords us some protection. None of our party is particularly at high risk, but of course, we need to protect ourselves as much as possible. However, we are no less likely to catch it here than in the US, to be honest.

In reality, the procedures outlined by Disney for their re-opening were the straws that broke this camel’s back. I woke on Friday to the news that all my ADRs had been cancelled as I suspected they would be. You can’t socially distant in restaurants that are full. It also became almost clear that there would be a reservation system to get into Disney parks. Being off-site scum, without a valid park ticket (yet), I assumed we would be some way down the pecking order in getting those. That would make the investment in a 14-day ticket unjustifiable.

Add to that the fact that masks would be mandatory for Freddie and there would be no parades or fireworks, then for us, I felt the effort and investment to get over there, didn’t feel like it would be worth it. I am not moaning about Disney doing any of this. They need to do what they need to do. In a way, I feel they want to deter visitors, certainly in the first few weeks.

There is still much for Disney to outline, flesh out and confirm of course but for us, with park tickets to buy in the next few weeks, there is too much uncertainty around gaining entry to parks for us to go ahead and do that, with the seemingly unavoidable risk that we may not get a reservation to get into a park on some days.

Secondly, I don’t want to get into political discussions on here, that’s what my Twitter is for, but all I will say is that I have very limited confidence in the respective governments of the UK and the US getting their countries out of this any time soon. Neither have a test, track and trace scheme in place and neither are seeing their infection and/or death rates coming down as other similar countries are.

It is spikey, but the above shows the new cases in Florida. The trend just isn’t going down. Even if international travellers from the UK were allowed into Florida by the end of August, that may only add to what seems to be a second wave forming from the limited re-opening the state has allowed already.

As for the UK. I do despair. Our trend looks better, but we haven’t opened up things like restaurants, gyms and hairdressers yet as Florida has. Yet we do seem to think it’s OK to send the kids back to school whilst the test and trace scheme so crucial to ending lockdown was “launched” prematurely with all the hallmarks of success we have come to expect from the response to the pandemic so far.

With gatherings of up to 6 being allowed alongside schools going back and with large parts of the country citing Dominic Cummings as an excuse to do whatever the hell they like, my confidence in us avoiding a second wave, or more accurately a prolonging of the first, is not very high. That, in the context of our holiday, might mean non-essential travel not being allowed any time soon. That also brings up fears of the sustainability of airlines like Virgin who are currently sitting on a good chunk of money.

I understand many of you may feel differently about the approach and “success” so far and I respect that. I’m just outlining some of my thinking whilst trying to avoid too long a stint on my soapbox.

So, for those and many other reasons I won’t bore you with, it was with a heavy heart and massive sulk on that I emailed Virgin on Friday and requested our booking be moved to the 1st of March. I haven’t had a response yet and I do have a fear deep down that this change won’t go as smoothly as their website claims it will, but if all goes to plan that is when we will be going.

I have emailed the villa and they are holding our new dates until Virgin confirm the change and then I can swing into action and sort out everything else.

Now that the decision is made my worry can be transferred onto the topic of whether or not things will be any different in March. My main hopes there are that there might be a vaccine so that things like masks and social distancing won’t be needed as much, but I just hope stuff is more back to “normal” than it would be in three months from now.

I am most definitely not OK. The dread of facing a whole other winter before getting back there is horrifying. As for how I will feel on the 26h of August, our intended departure date and my birthday a few days later are not worth thinking about.

Inevitably, even before the new flights are confirmed I am doubting the decision. I think (and hope) that is just driven by how much I miss the place. I watched a vlog of someone wandering Disney Springs yesterday, and despite the masks and distancing, it was still that beautiful dusky time of the evening, lovely and warm and full of that twinkly light Florida loveliness and my heart broke.

I wonder if I have gone too early and with three months before we would have arrived, might things have improved/changed in the parks by then? If I am sat watching folks enjoying stuff without too much disruption in early September I will be very hard on myself. I also constantly wonder if we should have just abandoned the parks and gone for a “relaxing break” on a beach somewhere in Florida but that isn’t the first choice of holiday for a few of our party and the rejigging of accommodation would inject quite a lot of extra cost into a trip with a lot already invested.

More than anything I am just horrified at the prospect of how much work is stretching out before me now until we get to go on holiday. That’s a whole lot of stuff I don’t want to do and I am very sad, probably in more ways than one.

Till the next time……

That Was The Week The Wedding Wasn’t.

Before I move on to more important matters let’s get the angst-ridden holiday waffle over with.

There has been a lot happening this week. I’m sure some of it is positive and some negative but I have no idea which is which.

I was very surprised to see Universal announce they will open on June 5th. That’s a whole month ahead of when I thought that might happen. Once again, proof, as if you need it, that I have absolutely no clue. That feels early to me if I am honest but I refer you to my last sentence.

Disney Springs opened last week too. I watched some vlog footage of that and it looked very, very quiet so it’s hard to make any sort of judgement on that so it is one to watch I suppose.

Disney seems to be keeping their powder dry as to when their parks may open. I think there might be a couple of factors here. They may have been waiting to see what Universal announced and I think the discussions for them to host the rest of the NBA season at WDW were also a factor. That seems to be happening in July which may suggest their resorts and perhaps the parks might be open then too.

Then the 14-day quarantine was announced for folks entering the UK from June 8th. It may seem odd that the country with the worst record in Europe is starting that this month, long after other countries did, but little shocks me right now. There is no clue as to how long that will last for, but I think there’s an exception if you somehow manage to drive to Durham on your return to the country. Of course, if that were in place at the end of August, assuming entry into the US were allowed (and it currently isn’t) that would be another reason we won’t be able to go.

All ends up, we’re not really any further forward on knowing what will happen for us. The only real change is that I am more accepting of what will be I suppose. I don’t feel driven to be moving the thing right now as I was last week and I am fairly comfortable with seeing how things pan out. My own personal view right now is, should we be allowed and able to travel on our dates then I would be happy to go to have some form of holiday.

What I think will happen is that we won’t be able to travel and that will mean we should be able to cancel our villa booking without losing our chunky deposit and then I can then rebook the whole thing on the best dates for us rather than being tied to when that villa has availability. Having spent days (literally) finding that villa, that will be a bitter pill to swallow, but there is no perfect outcome here.

I think flights to the US will start running around our dates but I have a strange feeling that they will start from early September, discouraging those with kids from taking their summer holidays as schools may be open to some extent. Boy, am I glad my two are out of school. I do not envy any parent that decision of whether to send your kids to school. If my prediction is right (and there is no precedent for that) then our departure date will be a few days the wrong side of flights starting up and we will be rearranging.

We’re still three months out and things are changing rapidly now so who knows.

In more important news, yesterday should have been Rebecca and Tom’s wedding. They have, of course, been upset this week. It didn’t help that we couldn’t all be together to help them through it, but everyone rallied round as best we could to make the day as tolerable as possible. Flowers, afternoon teas, posh takeaways and all sorts of other treats were bestowed upon them from all sorts of folks and all things considered they had as nice a day as they could.

Rebecca made this lovely video for Tom which sums up how they feel about the whole thing.

It is no consolation but the weather yesterday would have made the day an interesting one with gale force winds for most of the day. Hopefully, next July will see better conditions.

I, like you no doubt, am very much over all these ruined plans and hope that we can return to some kind of certainty soon. A large chunk of my life is spent planning stuff so these conditions are not my natural habitat.

Till the next time……

Teams & Tantrums

Rebecca turned 23 on Thursday. Many of you still may think of her as the “little girl” from the trip reports, as do I, but time waits for no man and she has, without any regard for my feelings on the matter, gone and turned into a fully grown human.

It was, of course, frustrating that the best we could manage was a brief socially distant giving of presents in her back yard, but this week I shall be doing all I can to refrain from moaning like a big baby so instead, I shall be grateful for that and for the fact that as a family we are so far relatively unscathed in this crisis.

We got her a Nintendo Switch with Animal Crossing which is a throwback to the game she and Emily played a lot as children. Emily bought herself the exact same set up so they can now “visit each other’s islands” and there has been group chat about gifting fruit and ladders. I don’t know what that is but if it takes Emily’s mind off the fact that she can’t see her boyfriend still then it’s a good thing.

In the continuing search for positives, the four day week was very welcome. Despite the fact that all I have done for the last couple of months is work and walk the dogs, I am very tired. Not having to sit on my laptop for work all day on Friday was a joy and instead, I could sit all day on my laptop looking for news on things that may affect our holiday.

The highlight of my work week (unless my employer is reading this) was finding out that in Microsoft Teams (for those who might not know, this is a software programme that allows for online collaboration and video chat etc) you can upload custom backgrounds that can be used when you are on video calls. It means you don’t have to worry about where you are sat in the house and what folks might see behind you.

I was supposed to add to my library a range of branded company ones but instead, I just chose a load of my favourite WDW photos from over the years and loaded those in. Now, when I’m sat on two-hour video calls that should have been an email, at least my colleagues can marvel at the night time shot of World Showcase or my slightly blurry castle photo that I am sat in front of.

Indeed on one call yesterday, a colleague with a similar WDW obsession and I spent a good portion of the meeting discussing exactly from where I took the shot of World Showcase. It was time well spent.

It was this photo.

Here are some of the other backgrounds I will be discussing boring stuff in front of in the coming weeks. They will give folks something to look at as we inevitably circle though the unavoidable shite like….

“Who just joined?”

“Can you see my screen?”

“You’re on mute!”

“We’ll just give it a couple more minutes for people to join” despite the fact that I had the courtesy to turn up on fecking time.

“Sorry, you broke up a bit then….what did you say”?

“He just dropped off I think……”

You will know, due to it being a fantastic photo, that I did not take the one above.

Or that one…..

The shame of it is that I will be sat in front of these glorious backdrops blocking the view, but frustratingly, it is a condition of getting paid that I actually attend meetings.

To capture my current thinking on if and when we may ever see these things again, let alone in August, I would say my expectation of being able to do our holiday as planned has worsened since last week. That isn’t saying a lot as my “likelihood rating” was almost zero. You all knew I couldn’t resist papping on about this again, right?

Despite Virgin trying to make plans to stick around for a while, unless you want to fly from Gatwick or of course unless you are one of the 3,500 staff affected, that slight ray of hope seems almost irrelevant as the overall situation seems to be worsening on a daily basis.

Disney Springs and City Walk are both opening up in the coming weeks with very limited capacity and lots of new rules, which could be the first step on the journey back to normality. The fear, of course, is that a second wave ensues and the US is back to square one very quickly. To be honest, I’m not sure “second wave” is the correct term as I don’t think they are through the first wave yet. So whilst that and news the Shanghai are also opening their park soon is in one way welcome, my hopes still aren’t high or indeed existent.

It’s clear from comments made by senior Disney folks at a recent shareholder meeting that they are working very hard on how to make things safe(r) and how they can get some folks back onto property anytime soon. That’s slightly encouraging but I am still in a big man-baby sulk that my 50th trip is in serious jeopardy and just because that is a trivial concern in the midst of a global pandemic, spreading death and destruction upon the human race, it won’t stop me, in some small way, stamping my feet a bit every now and again. Unfortunately for all of you, that tends to be here every Sunday.

There was news yesterday that it seems the wearing of masks/face coverings will be mandatory when the parks reopen. I’ve seen stuff from some airlines too, suggesting they will be required on flights. Freddie aside, I don’t see a mask as too much of an issue on a flight for a few hours but they are less than ideal in a park all day.

All in all, I’m very much in the headspace of just trying to figure out what the best outcome will be of the holiday not going ahead at the end of August. Can we reschedule, how much cash will we lose, will things even be noticeably better later in the year? And for that reason, I am more than a little sad. To reassure you that I’m not a one-trick pony, I have other emotions too of course, such as……

If you or anyone you know were involved in the conga or a rendition of Oops upside your head that were reported during VE Day street parties on Friday, you’re an idiot and you are contributing to people dying and this thing dragging on for longer than it needs to. The fact that you are bored and have had enough of the lockdown would seem, to an intelligent person, a reason to keep to the advice rather than break it. I understand that government advice has all the consistency of blancmange but we are able to make our own judgements and you should strive for good ones.

See, I set out on this post trying my best not to moan about a holiday and in a few hundred words I have not just failed, I have ventured into berating people I don’t know and have never met. This is what happens when a shallow knobhead like me can’t get his holiday.

Till the next time……

Black and Hacked Dogs

Another week, another chin added to the collection. They now ripple, like my moods, ever-changing in the bizarre existence we find ourselves in.

I think it’s fair to say for one reason or another, the overall mood at Mkingdon Towers dipped slightly this week. It is inevitable I suppose with so much uncertainty, worry and added to all that, recently a bereavement. Having already heard of the sad passing of two extended family members on Louise’s side of the family since lockdown, a few days ago Louise’s Aunty passed away too.

It wasn’t, as far as we are aware, Covid related, but the fact that Louise couldn’t console her Mum when the news came through certainly was virus related. It was very upsetting of course. Louise struggled with that as it only added to the obvious worries about her elderly Mum who has been alone since this whole thing kicked off. Add to that, the fact that Louise is having a tough time at work and I know she’s feeling low at the moment.

I have to admit that I too have been feeling a little “down in the dumps” for no specific reason. It is probably just a combination of everything that is and isn’t going on. Acknowledging my personality traits, and on top of the predictable worries everyone has right now, I understand this, for me, is also about a lack of certainty, unanswered questions and an inability to “get things sorted” until time passes, and I don’t even know how much time that will be.

I don’t share my low mood that to garner sympathy, more to admit to it and suggest it’s probably normal and OK to have ups and downs at the moment. I’m no mental health expert but I suppose it’s better that way, rather than bottling everything up which is my trademark.

Onto more trivial (and no doubt easier to read) matters, the eternal sway between the possible, various holiday outcomes, last week brought some news. I don’t know whether it was good or bad news, but there was some news.

For clarity, just to keep a track of my thinking as time passes, right now, my expectations and hopes of being able to do any holiday at the end of August rate at low to zero.

I think it was on Thursday when I watched the Governor of Florida outline the plans to “re-open” the state. There were no huge surprises in his announcements, but despite the fact that I should have known better, there were some surprises in the comments that were cropping up on the Facebook live. I’ll summarise them as “Freedom, liberty, I own a lot of guns, it’s just like flu and/or a hoax and I need a haircut”.

Phase 1 of the re-opening basically just reinstated elective surgeries and allowed shops and restaurants to open at 25% capacity. All we can do now is watch what happens as restrictions are lifted but as I say, I am not hopeful of our yearned for trip being realised. Whether Florida gets out of Phase 1 or needs to lockdown again is the first thing to watch for and then we can maybe start to think about any moves to later phases. With theme parks at best in phase 3, the rumoured June plans to re-open them in some capacity seems fanciful at this stage.

Layer over that Virgin Atlantic teetering on the edge of collapse and the very bleak prospect of no holiday this year might just be the root cause of some of that glum stuff I mentioned earlier. I fully acknowledge the silliness of that, but, for me, these trips are an important anchor and focus around which I function. A Virgin collapse (that would be a great name for a band) would bring the added bonus of probably losing the money paid out for our flights and longer-term if Virgin cease to exist then the prospect of any Trans Atlantic holiday in the future also looks unlikely. Wow, I am a fountain of joy and positivity this week aren’t I?

I should count myself lucky really as Oli has suffered a much worse fate than maybe not getting a holiday. He has had half a haircut. Having not been attended to since early winter, his locks were flowing in all the wrong ways and directions and he was struggling with the warm weather. So a combination of Louise and Emily, over a series of days has made him cooler, but only in temperature, not necessarily in looks. The clippers we normally use have long since been in their prime and hacking with the scissors had to be resorted to.

As you can see, he’s looked better. He does feel better though as the day after this was done, out on our walk he was charging round with Bean in a way not seen for months. He must have felt about a stone lighter!

He will not let us touch, never mind brush or cut the fur on his legs so as you can see he has these very dapper bushy legs when compared to the rest of his body. At some point, hopefully soon, we’ll be able to get him to the groomers and make him look presentable.

Ending on a much needed upbeat note, the relative gloom and doom were lifted greatly yesterday when we had a socially distant visit from Rebecca, Tom and Freddie. Being able to see them in the flesh, and interact and play with Freddie, even from a distance, brought welcome smiles to our faces. We quickly developed a game where he threw pebbles at me across the garden. He is at that stage that each time we do see him, the mere fact that he has a whole range of new words in his vocabulary brings an involuntary smile to our faces. If nothing else, being able to do that normally and safely at some point in the future is something to look forward to.

If you got to the end of it, apologies for the “black dog” tone to most of this week’s ramble. It is what it is and no doubt next week will be back to normal, with me just moaning about stuff in my usual sunny manner.

Till the next time…..

New Dates and Doubts

In the recent scheme of inactivity, this week has been a right old hive of occurrences with some things actually happening outside of work, dog walking and going to the recycling bins 412 times a day.

The week began with Louise having a high temperature on Monday night, along with aches and general unwellness. This meant of course that she had to stay home from work as they have enough unwell people in the hospital already apparently. The symptoms were mild but the rules are the rules. By Wednesday she had been contacted to attend a COVID-19 test at a local health centre, which she did on Thursday. Yesterday she had the call to say that the result was thankfully negative and she will be back in work tomorrow. She feels better now so clearly it was just a “run of the mill” bout of illness and that test has saved her having to spend another seven days away from work.

In other COVID related news, after much thought and deliberation, Rebecca and Tom have decided to postpone their wedding until 2021. They had moved it already from late May until early July this year, but they felt that was still too risky, and the countdown to the date would be dominated with talk of the lockdown, with lots of stress and worry attached. Hopefully, 2021 will behave itself a lot better than 2020 is doing and they will have a trouble-free time before their big day.

I think it’s the right thing to do, for what it’s worth. The lockdown may well be a little more relaxed by early July this year but there is absolutely no guarantee that wedding venues would be open by then and with a good number of more mature guests the last thing they would want is for anyone to be concerned about attending their celebrations. Dates for next year were, as you can imagine, being snapped up very quickly with lots of couples in the same position no doubt so to bag a prime July Saturday was good going and a small positive to take from what is a rubbish situation.

With the important stuff done, thoughts and this post can turn to more trivial stuff. On the subject of our late August holiday, my thinking veers from certainty of it going ahead to dark realisation that there isn’t a chance. At the moment I am definitely in the latter camp, thinking that there is so much that needs to change in order for it to be unaffected that there is little chance.

Watching what appears to be a car crash happening in slow motion in the US right now, I am finding it hard to be positive about our chances. I was looking at pictures of Florida beaches re-opening on the same day that the state recorded it’s highest number of new cases in a day with my jaw sitting on the floor at the sheer stupidity of it all. If this sort of things continue I’m not too sure there will be much of a state or country to visit by August.

I am already formulating rough plans for what new dates we might try to reschedule for. We are lucky in a way that we are not confined to school holidays so should we need to the hopefully quieter autumn/early winter dates might be the best option. In fact, the compulsive planner in me has November in mind so that we can experience the Christmas stuff in the parks without encountering the seasonal crowds. Of course, that is assuming things will be “normal” even by that time.

Maybe I’m just being too pessimistic and you can remind me of that when we’re sat at the airport in late August. I hope you can.

On a more pleasant note, our voracious appetite for stuff to watch lead us to an unforeseen gem this week. Disney+ provided us with a night of escapism in the shape of Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings.

It is, of course, a very long advert for Disney’s wedding services, but if you like to see the Disney parks and lose yourself for a bit then this is for you. At one point Louise was googling how we could apply for a vow renewal, assuming that if you get on the programme such things are funded by the programme-makers. I suspect we are not quite glamorous enough for their selection criteria. Well, I certainly am not.

We continue to miss folks we can’t be with, and with at least another three weeks of this stuff to go, it’s becoming harder. It’s lovely then to see photos and videos from Rebecca and the latest seem to suggest that Freddie has become a teenager since all this started.

I hope you are all finding ways to muddle through this as best you can and that these weekly ramblings provide a few seconds of distraction, if only by marvelling at its very low quality and lack of any value whatsoever.

Till the next time…….

Ramblings From A Glass Case Of Emotion

Everyone OK? If you’re anything like me you may be starting to feel a bit odd. At the risk of making this all about me, I do feel a little strange. See how I asked how you were just so I could launch into a rant about me and how I feel?

I’m a weird human cocktail of intermittent lethargy, anger, worry, bouts of industrious activity and frustration. At the same time, I have to admit to preferring working from home, at least for now. I guess as time goes on this groundhog day thing may become a bit of a thing. I suppose you could say….

Physically too, I feel pretty useless. All I see online and on our road is an endless stream of sweaty people exercising and working out, whereas I take the dogs on a thirty-minute stroll and I need a lie-down. I’ve been doing the odd ten minutes here and there on the rowing machine kidding myself that this will burn off my isolation diet.

I am eating well, but “well” in that sentence has the same meaning it does when someone tells you that you “look well”. We all know that means you’ve packed some timber on and my diet is currently delivering on that count.

If the internet is reading this, I’ve seen enough work out videos now, thank you.

As evidence of my distance from normality, I regrouted our shower floor on Friday. I had to order the kit I needed online several days earlier, watch some YouTube videos on how the hell you do it and then inevitably still do it wrong. These are strange times indeed if I am seeking out DIY tasks.

My worries are many and varied, and in no particular order and only focussing on my immediate domestic ones, include Emily, who is incredibly fed up with being stuck at home with us and not being able to see her boyfriend, whilst at the same time shouting at folks through the window who are out and about, who she knows are potentially lengthening the lockdown. I worry about Rebecca, Tom and Freddie, more out of missing them, and not having a hands-on relationship with Freddie is heartbreaking when he is too young to have any clue why we aren’t with him a couple of times a week as we normally are. The selfish worry that he might “forget us” is real.

I worry a lot about Louise working in hospital every day and of course the more elderly members of our family who must be lonely and bored out of their minds.

I know countless others have many more worries in both number and magnitude, but I’m playing the deck I was dealt for better or worse.

At the very bottom of my worry list is, of course, our trip in August. Sure, it’s trivial and not at all important in the scheme of things, but I’m allowed to give it some thought. Will it go ahead? If it does, what restrictions and procedures will be in place? If it doesn’t go ahead can we re-book without losing the family fortune (about £7.50) on dates that we can all do?

My anger, well, I won’t go into that here. Have a look at my Twitter feed if you want to get a feel for that. I’m losing followers there more quickly than Boris Johnson is getting through Sudoku puzzles, but I need to vent and Twitter is getting it.

With no end in sight to the lockdown (for all the right reasons), I suppose it is easy to fall into a bit of a mental tizzy, but as we have ten Hillsborough tragedies happening every day currently, plus all the care home deaths not being reported, feeling a bit weird is a small price to pay as we live through a proper real-world catastrophe. This far into a lockdown might be the time that people really get fed up of the strictness, as evidenced on my dog walk yesterday when the local school playing fields looked like a Saturday afternoon at Glastonbury, but hopefully, in the coming weeks, the benefits of what we’re doing now will start to show. We need it to, as currently, our stats are the worst in Europe, which normally only happens once a year at Eurovision.

I really don’t want these posts to become a place of negativity and preaching, but please remember, those poor souls dying today were infected around three weeks ago. I do wonder why government sources are starting to talk about curves being flattened and infection rates slowing. That is not the message people need to hear. Things will still get worse before they get better and as much as we might need to hear some positive news as a reward for our (lack of) actions, please don’t get complacent.

I hope my binge list helped a bit last week. Do go back and read the comments on both Facebook and the blog itself as others threw in their own suggestions. We’re burning through box sets more quickly than NHS staff are going through PPE if they are lucky enough to have any. As an example, on Friday we stumbled across Brassic (Sky One on demand), enjoyed it, and boshed the whole first series in a night.

It seems that the Sky Movie channels are running all of the Star Wars films on an endless loop and I’ve watched a lot of those in bits and pieces. Similarly, there’s a channel showing all the Harry Potter films. There are hours to be spent right there.

Yesterday felt more like a Sunday than every other Sunday ever didn’t it? Our Saturday that felt like a Sunday was brightened immeasurably by a socially distant visit from Rebecca, Tom and Freddie. They were out on their daily walk and spent a little while sat at the end of our front path whilst Freddie played with the fine collection of stones in our front garden. Having only seen him via video recently, of course, as children of his age do, he had seemingly grown up relatively speaking, with new words in his expanding speech repertoire. It was lovely to engage with him at least visually and from a safe distance and get the chance to make him laugh and him us. We miss him a lot.

So we stumble to the end of a blog post seemingly without theme or point, and nothing is new there, right? I suppose the best I can rescue from the wreckage of the previous few paragraphs is that it’s probably OK to feel a bit odd, low, lonely, worried, angry or lost. For those of you like me, who thrive on certainty, plans, structure and order, having very little of all of that is not an easy adjustment to make.

My response seems to be that unlike 99% of the internet, I’m not exercising for 23 hours a day, cooking, learning a language or crafting an extension on the back of the house out of spit and cat hair. I’m just sitting around, trying to remember what it’s like to wear a pair of jeans and wondering if my car will start whenever I drive it again. I hope you are finding ways to get through this as best you can.

Stay safe, stay at home and see you next week.

Till the next time…….

Binge Baby Binge

Let’s get my sanctimonious, unqualified preaching out of the way first.

As this lockdown continues it’s going to get really hard to keep to the rules. The weather will improve, the boredom will increase and the temptation to soften the adherence will be huge. I don’t want to bring any unwanted negativity to your Sunday, but all I will say is that based on the very few snippets Louise has shared about what is going on in hospital right now, please gird your loins, embrace the tedium and stay at home. It’s hard to see a tangible benefit of doing so, as we’ll never know who didn’t die because you did the right thing, so just do it and believe that will happen.

It’s easy to become numb to the numbers you hear on the news when at other times any event which killed hundreds in a day would be seen quite rightly as a catastrophe. Again, not wanting to darken anyone’s mood, those numbers will, in reality, be higher than those reported, as deaths in care homes (as an example) aren’t being included in those figures. Sorry, just stay at home.

We are fairly big bingers in normal times, and that has increased as other options have been removed so let me try to help with some suggestions of stuff to watch. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here, so you may be aware, but here we go –

We have just finished series 3 of Ozark. That is excellent and has got better with each series so do try that. It stars and is directed by Jason Bateman, and on that subject, Arrested Development is a cracker too.

We are long time Breaking Bad superfans, so we are of course currently watching Better Call Saul, an excellent spin-off and one with a different style and pace to most other Netflix stuff.

Other things that you may have missed from the recent past include The Umbrella Academy, Daybreak, Goliath (Amazon Prime), Inside Number 9 and Schitt’s Creek. However, if you have got to today and still haven’t watched what was probably the first “binge-worthy” series, Breaking Bad, then now is that time. We have never experienced anything that demanded you watched the next episode at the expense of sleep and real-life happening like this did. It is perfect lockdown viewing.

If you really want to mop up some time, then you could treat yourself to The West Wing.

That one isn’t on Netflix but is on Amazon Prime, and I think you need to pay for it. A cheaper solution would be to just buy the box set off Amazon or eBay. You will find a second-hand box set for not very much money. Just wipe it down when it arrives. You will fall in love with Martin Sheen and wish that you were watching reality rather than fiction. It oozes class, quality and superb acting.

For something along similar lines, but less serious, The Thick Of It is glorious and Malcolm Tucker will become your new hero. That one has some spectacular language in it, so that’s one for when the kids are in bed.

We have followed the herd and started to watch Tiger King. It is gloriously weird and almost unbelievable but entertaining nonetheless. It reminds me in a way of Making A Murderer, which is another Netflix series to get into.

I have now watched all three of the available Imagineering Story on Disney+ and cannot recommend that enough. The Mandalorian is on our list to watch when a viewing slot crops up in our busy schedule.

There will be others I have forgotten, but I will offer those up in the weeks to come as they return to my memory. You might need them. Of course, if you have some suggestions, leave them in the comments for the benefit of others too. It can be a virtual library of stuff to occupy ourselves with.

Don’t worry that all this watching will affect my athletic frame. I am also finding time to do some rowing (we have a machine, not a lake) and I walk the dogs every day too so my six-pack is safe. We also played a game of virtual bingo last night on Zoom with friends and family.

I hate bingo, driven by the years I sat through it when Louise was a club singer and more recently on the odd occasion that Mustard do one of those clubs, but it was lovely to see some familiar faces again and it passed a couple of hours.

Emily is missing her boyfriend a lot which is understandable, and despite regular video contact, to say we are missing Rebecca, Tom and Freddie is an understatement. It’s very hard not to have them here on a regular basis and watch Freddie continue to grow, develop and more importantly make us smile as he always does.

I have trimmed my own hair this week. Not an onerous task as you might imagine, but still, the fear of running those clippers over my head was real, but thankfully, nothing disastrous happened and my reverse Mohican remains in fine fettle.

Another highlight of the week was trying to unblock one of Louise’s Mum’s outside drains. Getting elbow deep in unpleasant stuff passed another hour. It wasn’t successful so I assume there is a dead body, hopefully, animal, or some huge stone so far down the pipe that it cannot be reached and it will need proper attention when possible. It comes to something when DIY tasks are seen as a decent way to spend some time.

I hope you are all well and continue to be so. The best way to increase those odds is, yep, stay at home.

Till the next time…….