Pouting and Parties

It’s been an eclectic week as they go. Last Sunday was great fun. We did a band photo shoot with James Lloyd. I have to say I wasn’t looking forward to it before hand. The thought of being photographed in normal life isn’t one of my favourite things, so having to do it for promotional purposes, in broad daylight, in the middle of the Northern Quarter was a bit daunting. For those who don’t know the Northern Quarter is the world capital of converse, beards and thick rimmed glasses. It is a super cool area of Manchester with great restaurants and more hipsters than you can shake an avocado at.

To the enormous credit of James he did a great job of putting us at ease and it wasn’t long until we were laughing a lot and hopefully getting a decent photo or two. Now, it may surprise you to learn that we aren’t the prettiest band around, so James really had his work cut out.

We haven’t seen the results as yet. Photoshopping that many chins out of each photo really does take some time, but here’s one we’ve had as a taster.

Thanks to James and I’ll share a few more for your merriment as we get them back.

The week just gone was another busy one. Work was an inconvenient and unwelcome dominant presence, including a trip to Marlow. The traffic both ways was absolutely shocking and Friday was a bit of a blur after arriving home late on Thursday with a life threatening cold.

Saturday was all about Rebecca and Tom’s Baby Shower. To their enormous credit, having only decided to throw one a few weeks ago, they worked really hard to secure a venue, catering, DJ (me, using Mustard’s PA) and a million little details to have the room looking a lot nicer than it did when we first turned up in the afternoon.

Drinks were had, Bolton’s famous and finest, Carr’s Pasties were consumed and kids slid across the dance floor on their knees and chased each other until they were balls of dripping sweat. So a traditional family do in a function room.

On the subject of parties, I also want to wish a happy 25th anniversary to our friends Steve and Di. They had their celebration yesterday, and because I’m an idiot and can’t read or manage a calendar, we were unable to attend. We know you will have had a great time and we are so sorry we couldn’t be there.

So Rebecca has just a few weeks to go now. She’s had enough of being pregnant, but to be honest that has been the case for about 30 weeks now. It is weird to think that in the next thirty days or so Freddie will be here. The poor little soul has no idea that he already has a holiday planned for him.

Speaking of which, last week’s post caused me another planning conundrum. Morag and Nathalie threw a spanner into my works with their comment that we should try Keke’s Breakfast Cafe.

Knowing what the result would be, like a fool, I looked at the web site and read the menu and about thirty seconds later, I knew I had to find a slot in the spreadsheet for it…..and I did.

Some highlights of that menu for you….

Banana Split Waffle
Banana, pineapple, fresh strawberries in glaze, chocolate fudge syrup & pecans 9.99

Banana-Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Bananas and Hershey’s® milk chocolate chips cooked in the pancakes 8.49

Turtle Stuffed French Toast
Pecans, caramel, chocolate and cream cheese topped with powdered sugar 9.99

So, as you can see, I had no choice. So now, on one of our days, we do Keke’s for breakfast and Cowfish for dinner. Pray for us.

After all of that varied madness over the last few days, today will be filled with as little as possible especially after the very tiring effort of writing these few hundred words.

By the way if you are going to suggest any Orlando eateries that I will have to fit into my plan I love and hate you in equal measure. So be mindful of the pain you may cause…

Till the next time……


A Peak At Planning

Right, let’s get the stuff you aren’t so bothered about out-of-the-way. I wrote a chapter this week. I appreciate that is not in the same prolific league as James Patterson, but with everything going on in my daily life that is a step forward and hopefully a catalyst for more. What I really need if I’m honest, is a good chunk of time to re-read what I’ve written to date and then do the book plan. I know that I have everything in my head somewhere, I just need to formalise it into some sort of structure, decide on the outcome of the book (no spoilers here) and that should enable me to write more freely once I know where I’m going.

I feel better about the whole thing now that I’ve broken the ice again.

Sadly, that huge investment of time did not leave me much (any) time for the planning of WDW stuff. All my plans start in the same format and always have. As soon as I know our dates I create a simple template of those dates in Excel with blanks to fill in…

There are some givens that go in before anything else happens…like the travel days and the fact that we’ll be in Magic Kingdom on the first and last day.

Then, I make a list of all the eateries we want to do. I appreciate that this may seem strange to some, but the importance of the food on our Florida trips cannot be over estimated. The challenge with this list is fitting in all the places we have fallen in love with and want to do again, whilst also trying all the new places that I’ve heard good things about. For this trip, with Tom being a first timer it has more of a greatest hits vibe as we want to take him to all of our favourites….and it looked like this…

Next, I try to allocate one of those dining choices to a day on the plan, bearing in mind how I want the theme park days to flow. Over the years we seem to have established a routine as to how we tackle the parks. We of course start with Magic Kingdom as this is the law, we then do Epcot, Hollywood Studios and finally Animal Kingdom. I suspect that this being the order in which they opened was not an accident to my subliminal planner self.

Of course, tradition dictates that our first meal on arrival day is The Outback at Formosa Gardens if at all possible, so that goes in first and the rest follow like this….

For this trip, due to the touring party make up, it’s a WDW only affair so there are many more rest days than there may have been for an adults only trip. This means we can have two days in each park and if needed do extra visits on the afternoon of rest days. It makes for an easier planning experience. However, it doesn’t solve the issue you can see at the bottom of the plan. Where on earth do I put Sanaa? We may have to just eat more on some days! I do have a gap for dinner on our first day. I’m reluctant to put anything in there that we need an ADR for as there is no way to know how young Freddie will be adjusting to the time difference and long flight so we may need to be flexible. I know Rebecca would just be happy with some corn dog bites from Casey’s.

On that note, we are going to try something new on our last day in Magic Kingdom. I have it down as a snack day. We’re going to take the opportunity to eat all the stuff available in and around the parks as snacks and counter service, such as the stuff at Casey’s and a couple of things we’ve never had in all these years, a turkey leg and a dole whip. Funnel cake may also be on the agenda.

So this is where I’m at right now.The only other piece of the jigsaw tentatively in place is the intention to do MNSSHP on Wednesday the 4th of September. Having had glowing reports from all last week, it looks like we have no choice but to do it and much of the advice centred around not doing it too early after it starts and not to do it on a weekend.

What happens now? Well, over the coming weeks and months I shall tinker and mess about with the finer details. At some point I typically transfer it onto the Vacation Planner tool on The Dibb. I don’t use the forums over there any more but that tool is useful. It is helpful as somewhere to record all your booking references, ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations), flight details and that jazz.

What is bound to happen over the coming months is that I will come across some new dining experience that I desperately want to do and I shall wrestle with what to drop out of the plan….or of course there’s always the option of extending our stay! The latter won’t be a viable option this time due to the work/holiday restrictions of Louise and Tom so something will have to give should that be the case. I have already made the heart breaking decision to take Romano’s out of the plan and replace it with The Cheesecake Factory.

So there you go, this post turned unintentionally into a look at how I actually plan. I’m sure everyone has similar yet different methods. Let me know how you go about it so that I may shamelessly steal your great ideas.

Now, I must leave you as I’m off to a photo shoot this afternoon with Mustard. No, really, I am.

Till the next time….
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Scary Stuff

Well what do you know, it’s October. At this rate we’ll be heading to the airport in about ten minutes. Speaking of which my niece and her fiancée have done exactly that this morning as they head to WDW for their long-awaited holiday.

Have a great time Sarah and Tom!

However, not one moment of last week was spent planning due to the great inconvenience of having to work. Now, when I say there was no planning, that only means that I didn’t at any point sit down in front of a spreadsheet and the internet and formally plan stuff to do. Of course. subconscious planning happens at all times. For example, in the middle of some very tedious work related stuff, it popped into my head that Sanaa wasn’t currently on our plan. This is a grave issue. We love Sanaa, specifically the bread service, but as it stands there is simply no room for it unless we sacrifice something else.

To be honest my thinking is that for Tom’s first time and with a small child at the table, Whispering Canyon and 50’s Prime Time feel more relevant and suitable. There will other times for Sanaa.

Even though we will be flying out in August, as WDW tend to do, by the time we get there Halloween will be in full swing. We are very used to the parks transforming into an autumnal pumpkin fest towards the end of our previous August holidays. In the past we’ve been pretty much on our last day when this happens, but next year we’ll be just arriving. As such, I suspect MNSSHP will be happening. For anyone not in the WDW nutter club, that stands for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. We’ve never done this so it makes sense that we take the chance to do so.

mnsshp

Being in about three thousand WDW related groups on Facebook means that I am bound to get some mixed reviews of this event. For anyone who has done it, would you say it is worthwhile? My gut feel is yes for two main reasons.

  1. In all these years we never have.
  2. It will at least stop us having to leave the park early.

The tickets this year seem to start at around $74 each. That seems OK to be honest. In fact, in candy alone, Tom will break us even in the first hour.

If we go, then I don’t know if we’ll dress up. Again, any feedback on whether that is worth it or not would be welcome.

This time last week I said I had 20,000 words of the second book done. Well, this week I have a few less. Still that’s progress. I found about half an hour to open it and read some of it. This resulted in me editing out some words. So in this case I suppose less really is more. Having not looked at it for so long it was weird. It was like reading something that somebody else had written.

So not the most productive of weeks, outside of the stuff I am actually paid to do.

Louise is working again this weekend. It really isn’t fair. That means I have to do all the washing and tidying up. It really is rather inconsiderate of her. She knows I’m always a bit tired after gigging and Crumpsall lies in tatters this morning after Mustard blew it to pieces last night. She can make it up to me when she gets home later after eight days at work.

Right, I have to go, Liverpool are on TV shortly…erm, I mean I have lots of housework to do.

Till the next time…..


Standard home 300x250


Much A Blog About Nothing

The week just gone was bereft of any WDW planning. With so little time before we go this is very remiss of me. I should be able to pull it back, but that’s because I’ve been a few times and I know what I’m doing. I don’t suggest any newbies attempt this reckless approach to their Florida holiday.

That tardiness was in no small part down to series 3 (or season if I aspire to the American culture) of Narcos. The first two seasons were excellent and centred on Pablo Escabar, or Emilio Estaban if you’re Louise. Spoiler alert – He dies at the end of season two, which meant that I was a little worried that the next season may suffer. If anything it was better. It centres this time on the Cali Cartel and it was gripping from start to finish. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading right now and go and binge watch all three.

The world of Mustard is also keeping me nice and busy. We’re back from a summer break and into a solid period of gigging now, along with rehearsing a good chunk of new stuff. Our next session to reinvent the world of music is tomorrow when we’ll be improving several classics and sending our versions to the original artists to show them how it’s done.

Over the summer we did mange to record some stuff in the studio (hark at me all Dark Side Of The Moon).

The intention was to create a short promo video to show to potential clients. So should you have any wedding, function or party band requirements then you know where I am!

Last night saw us blowing minds in Burnley. On the evidence of a couple of the audience members, there wasn’t that much to work with. Still, we went down very well which always makes it enjoyable.

You see some odd behaviour in some of the places we play. Last night’s highlight was one “excitable” chap who seemed obsessed with being on the stage with us. I tip my hat to Graham our singer who diplomatically and non violently encouraged him off again about a dozen times. This chap’s other obsession was shaking hands with each member of the band. That’s lovely, however he insisted on doing this mid-song. Most of the time we need both hands to be doing what we’re doing but he didn’t seem able to work this one out. Bless him.

So after such a night of gigging Sundays tend to be a restful affair. I suspect our hand shaking friend from last night may well be needing a little more resting than I.

In other creative news, about a thousand years ago I self published a novel. Several people even read it (thank you) and I am currently about 20,000 words into another. To be honest, I have been 20,000 words in for well over a year and haven’t looked at it in ages. Time to do so has been in short supply. I am calling myself out for this piss poorness in an attempt to get me back into it. Now, roughly 19,000 words of those are likely to be absolute crap, but unless I make the effort to open the bloody thing and crack on, nobody will ever know.

Encouraging me to get this done may not be in your best interest as if it ever gets done I’ll be bugging you all to read it.

So there we go, a half decent job of blogging about nothing. Watch and learn aspiring social media wannabees!

Till the next time….

Living La Villa Loca…..

I know that at times it is hard to tell me apart from rock Gods like Jon Bon Jovi. We look so alike that this is understandable. However, one major difference is how feel right now. Mustard were out gigging last night after a few weeks off for our summer holidays (that I didn’t have!).

Getting to bed at 2am after a full on night of hard rocking, fierce funking and more importantly lugging several tonnes of equipment in and out of the venue, my body hates me. I don’t imagine Mr Bon Jovi is sat in his dressing gown in front of Sunday Brunch nursing a non alcoholic hangover. Middle age is a bitch.

Louise has been working all weekend and by the time she gets to the end of Monday she will have worked nine days straight. That is, frankly, a bit shit so if you are having your wounds dressed, injections given or wounds packed anywhere near us, be thankful to the kind soul who turns up to do it. They will be over worked and under paid.

So, as promised, let’s turn to the embryonic plans for Florida 2018. Whilst writing the last few posts of the last trippie, I was multi-tasking very impressively by giving brain space to our next visit. We should of course be waiting a bit until Freddie is older and can do things like go to Jellyrolls with us, but all in good time, for now, we’ll be the idiots with the 11 month old on the plane.

Another strong reason not to wait is that our future son-in-law Tom has never been to WDW and as a lot of you will appreciate, taking a first timer is a joy and a pleasure. He is already, quite rightly, giddy with excitement. Of course, despite a good amount of internet research and us boring him to death about everything on offer, until a first timer goes there can be little appreciation of what will be encountered.

The rides and attractions are of course something he is looking forward to, but, like someone destined to become part of our family, he LOVES his food. Unlike me, Tom turns that love into muscle at the gym, so he’s a big lad but in a positive way…

His appetite is astounding and this is coming from me who could eat himself to death in one sitting. So the food on offer is a major focus for him. That’s handy of course as you know my planning starts with where we’ll be eating every day. He and Rebecca have already spent a good amount of time studying the menus of our planned eateries and in some cases pre-selecting his dining choices. I think he’s in for a good time.

But I get ahead of myself. I should give you an outline of the plan as it stands. Well, the first thing to say is that we shall not be making the mistake of not having enough time at WDW this time. With two first timers in tow, ALL we are doing is Disney. Recognising of course what a different trip this will be with a very young child in the party, there seemed very little point in attempting Universal at the hefty expense of an on site stay and other thrill ride heavy parks like Busch similarly made little sense.

Taking in to account the size and make up of our party, on-site accommodation didn’t really make sense. After our last visit, frankly we’d want to be staying at the Beach Club or similar and two weeks in multiple rooms just becomes very, very expensive. Along with that, for Rebecca, Tom and Freddie especially two weeks crammed into one room would be tough, so we (I) decided we’d be doing a villa.

Now, selecting a villa is a double-edged sword. It is lovely to be scouring the internet for that perfect place of course, as it means you know you are returning. The downside is that there is so much choice that a few hours in you get villa blindness. They all start to look the same. However, we (I) had very specific requirements. In previous visits compromises have been made, mainly due to budget, which haven’t really detracted from the trip, but niggled at me from time to time.

Our needs were –

Location – Suspecting we’ll be doing partial days in the parks with Freddie in tow, being close to WDW was a must. Knowing that every villa in Florida says they are fifteen minutes from Disney, I ignored those claims and used my local knowledge. The villa had to be in or around the Formosa Gardens area. Villas here are so close to Animal Kingdom you can smell the elephant dung.

Pool size – Rest days will be plentiful and vital so we wanted a lager than average pool and lanai. This meant going for a villa a bit larger than we actually needed. It should not be overlooked, and be south-facing to satisfy Louise’s sun hunger.

We needed two master suites.

Beyond those, I was just looking for villas that caught my eye. Things I look out for are poor quality photos and/or photos clearly taken a long time ago, suggesting the villa may not be quite as nice now as it once was.

It took a while, but eventually I found one that ticked all the boxes. I was delighted that it is situated on Emerald Island. We have never stayed there, but have driven past those dolphins many times whilst staying in the area.

The fact that this development is literally round the corner from our favourite arrival day dining tradition of The Outback is just the cherry on top of a nice cake.

The villa itself is called Simba’s Pride.

Click the picture to see details of the villa…..

A deposit is paid, which means we are definitely going. That feels good.

Flights won’t be booked for a while. I’ve never not booked the flights first, but with Freddie still being in Rebecca right now, there was no choice. Well, we could have waited to book the villa, but where’s the fun in that?

The main part of the planning now will be learning how to do WDW with a youngster under one. There’s a lot I don’t know about that.

The only other thing which has already been planned is the restaurant list. That includes some places you HAVE to take first timers to, such as Whispering Canyon and 50’s Prime Time.

The bad news is that between now and the 29th of August 2018, yes, I forgot to mention when we were going, you will be subjected to every tweak, development and booking. The timing of the trip is a mix of impatience and various work related challenges and commitments. We *could* have gone in a more off-peak time, but that would mean waiting longer. Flying out at the time should be OK as most folks limited to school holidays will be coming to the end of their trips and of course the US schools will already be back.

Irma has of course reminded us that this is very much hurricane season so we can only hope we continue our lucky streak in that regard.

So, enough for now. There will be time aplenty to blog about this in future for which I apologise.

Till the next time….


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Irma God!

Florida is in my thoughts more often than it isn’t. Usually, that involves me wishing I was there. Right now that isn’t the case due to the horror that is Irma which is bearing down on my favourite destination.

We have been there at this time of year, hurricane season, a lot. We’ve been very, very lucky and (touches wood) have never been impacted by more than an impressive storm. In 2004 we missed hurricane Charley by a few hours, arriving just after it had hit and we saw very clear evidence of its power at our resort (Cypress Pointe) and on the golf course we played with many of the villas around the course being without their pool covers.

Again riding our luck we were the last flight out of Sanford at the end of that holiday as the airport closed for another incoming hurricane.

As you can see, the damage from Charley that we saw was relatively minor (ignore the wrong dates from my camera!). Having said that a quick google search tells me that 15 people died in Charley and it cost $16 billion to repair all the damage. I guess Orlando has typically escaped major damage in the past as it is very central but to see parks closing shows how serious Irma could be.

You’ll probably know that the weather in Florida can be an obsession. There is a weather report on TV every sixteen seconds with all sorts of analysis of every weather front. For us, none of the nasty stuff that was being tracked during our time there ever turned into anything of note. They either broke up or veered out to sea. We’ve had some serious rain at times but nothing on a scale that could be as bad as Irma looks. I just hope that the ever present weather obsession doesn’t make folks complacent that Irma will also prove to be less than predicted.

Irma looks so different. Its track has looked like going right through Florida for days and there seems to have been no last-minute deviation or reprieve.

It can only be hoped that the incredible damage seen by the islands already hit by Irma isn’t replicated in Florida. Having been to the Keys, I really fear for them down there. The buildings, beautiful as they are, just don’t look strong enough to withstand a hurricane of this magnitude.

This seemingly very active hurricane season is especially interesting to me as we will be in Florida this time next year. It has made us think, what would we do in such circumstances. Of course an interrupted holiday is nothing compared to what residents may be facing but we can only hope, for our own selfish reasons, that this year isn’t repeated next year.

It seems wrong to start waffling on about our plans for next year with all this in mind so I’ll save that for a later post. I’ll just say that our dates are sorted, a villa booked and a plan forming which ONLY involves Disney.

So I send my thoughts to anyone in Florida right now, resident or visitor and hope that this passes with the best possible result for all.

Next week hopefully, this can be a less sombre place and I can begin to bore you with every tiny detail of a holiday you won’t be going on or probably care about. It’s what I do!

Thanks to everyone for your comments last week. It was nice to chat with you all and hopefully there’s more of that to come. My throw away comment about killing this blog with fire was tongue in cheek. I wasn’t fishing for pleas to keep blogging but I thank you for your kind words and encouragement all the same. You are stuck with this nonsense for the foreseeable I’m afraid.

Till the next time….


Summer Summed Up

Hello again. It’s been a while hasn’t it? Value for money is making your holiday last from early April to the start of September!

I’m going to ease myself back into this normal life blogging gently with a short catch up if that’s OK?

When we last spoke, our bathroom and other renovations were 99% complete. They got finished off whilst we were away and every day life is better for it. It should be for level of the investment made both in financial and disruption terms. We have a stunning bathroom now even if I say so myself and our parking situation which was, frankly a pain in the arse previously is now a joyous and more secure experience.

What else? We have a new sofa and chair as of a few days ago too. We are finally tackling all the house stuff that our holidays have prevented previously. Every decade or so Louise has to have her way I suppose.

The major news is that Rebecca is getting quite large now. She’s 30 weeks pregnant as of yesterday and looks radiant and blooming. She doesn’t feel like that to be honest. She’s uncomfortable most of the time and just wants the whole thing to be over, but that’s a lot to do with her Veruca Salt tendencies and she just wants young Freddie to be here NOW!!

Here he is…

They have been busy moving into a new house, and then re-decorating with a little help from me. That’s love for you. Me voluntarily doing DIY isn’t something I do lightly. His room is ready, all the major purchases made and now we’re just waiting. I have to say the thought of my daughter going through childbirth isn’t something I’m looking forward to. Knowing pain is coming her way and I can’t do anything about it isn’t something I can be comfy with, but it can’t be avoided.

Work has also begun on our next trip to WDW. It is a first in that I’m currently planning for someone who isn’t born yet, but I have the necessary skills. It looks like we’ll be going in late August 2018 and I’ll bore you with more details of that in the coming weeks.

The accommodation is sorted and that’s about it, so much is still to be done.

Oli and Bean are good too. Since we last spoke Bean is a little less womanly than she was. There shall be no Oli/Bean miniatures now thankfully. Her brief time in the cone of shame wasn’t pleasant.

I still need to work for a living I’m sad to say. The less said about that the better. Louise too is still a slave to her meagre NHS salary.

So there we go, that’s five months updated in a few hundred words, well, the shareable stuff anyway. How are you all? Please do let me know. One thing that I wouldn’t mind more of are your comments and feedback. You were all very shy during the posting of the trip report, so please feel free to add a comment, telling me what you’d like to hear about, whether you want to kill this blog with fire and never write another word ever again or what you’re up to.

I thank you.

Till the next time…..