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

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…….

Lockdown Life

Thank you for all your comments, messages and well wishes last week. I am much better now. The cough is slowly subsiding and the only remaining symptoms seem to be that I have become 87 and need to be in bed by 9.30. I literally can’t keep my eyes open. The tiredness is real. A walk of the dogs has me spent and breathless so I won’t be posting one of those “inspirational” home workout videos anytime soon.

I’d rate my illness level at about 7 out of 10 compared to all other forms of illness and flus I have experienced. Two days were touching an 8, with most others being a 6 or 7. There appears to be no tangible end in sight for the country as yet and indeed I think the next few weeks will see things get a lot worse before they get better. I am still annoyed and frustrated at the lack of testing and the preparedness of the NHS, but I’m not going to soapbox that here.

Rebecca is recovered but now Tom has the symptoms, which is not surprising. He has had a high temperature and a cough for a few days. I guess it is inevitable that if you put several people in the same house as someone who has symptoms, they will too.

Having said that, neither Emily or Louise have had any tangible signs of the virus. Louise has had a feeling of a temperature from time to time, but nothing she would consider out of the ordinary. She is, like many, convinced she had the thing about three weeks before I did, as she had a week of struggling to breathe with a terrible chest. Hopefully, an antibody test will be available to soon to give us all a clue.

As weird as things currently are, I have to say, I am not yet missing the commute. I’m sure as the weeks and months go by I will yearn for my usual three hours a day in the car, but right now, my work-life balance actually exists and I feel less “murdery” after a day’s work and the drive home.

We’ve been occupying ourselves as best we can. My daily dog walk is now something to look forward to, rather than a chore I used to dread. That is for two reasons. Firstly, it’s my one time out of the house every day and a token nod towards any form of exercise and secondly, I usually walk the dogs after my commute home and recently in sub-zero temperatures and sideways rain, so the better weather and lack of the drive home has improved the task no end.

We have been watching a lot of stuff of course and if you aren’t yet watching The Imagineering Story on Disney+ I can’t help you. That is right in my sweet spot and ticks all of my Disney geek boxes. It has also, if possible, elevated Roy Disney to a new level of hero status in our household. He never gets the credit he deserves, other than from Emily, who cried last night when his management of the Magic Kingdom construction and subsequent death was covered.

It was Louise’s birthday yesterday. Obviously, it was a strange one but hopefully, we made it as nice as it could be in the circumstances. There was a lot of relaxing, a Zoom quiz in the evening hosted by my brother and sister-in-law and a huge amount of takeaway Indian food. In a gesture of huge irony, I had a couple of Coronas.

Rebecca’s wedding is now pretty much re-arranged for early July. All the suppliers were able to move with us apart from the DJ who we will need to replace, and all we can do now is hope that by that time wedding venues are open and we have some sort of ability to go out of the house again.

These are very strange times and right at the bottom of every list of priorities are upcoming holidays. I have no idea if the world will have returned to any form of normality by late August or indeed if the airline industry will still exist, but all I can do is this….

and try to pretend that everything will be fine by then. Of course, should the gimp in the White House get his way, the US will be re-opened at Easter and annihilated by June, which would render our trip null and void.

In the spirit of trying to keep some sense of normality in these weird times, I have continued to book our ADRs, and I’ll share here how we’ve done, knowing all the while that they may not happen at all. I don’t know if talking about something as trivial as where we might eat is appropriate with everything going on, so if you aren’t in the right place to read that sort of stuff, now’s the time to pull the ripcord.

Overall, we did OK and got what we wanted. The major changes are around my actual birthday with California Grill not offering any times that worked for us, but in a way, it may have worked out for the best. I’ll come to that shortly.

Our first ADR is for our first day fittingly enough. We are being bold and assuming that at the end of the magical first day in Magic Kingdom we will be awake enough to do Ohana. I have booked it nice and early at 5.35, so we should be able to make it that far. Should we really be “on it” who knows we may spend some time down on the beach after dinner watching the sunset. It’s funny how simple things like this sound so appealing right now.

We are eating off-site for the next few days at the likes of Teak Neighbourhood Grill and Bahama Breeze before going to one of our traditional regulars at Animal Kingdom on day five. Yak & Yeti, at an OAP-tastic early hour of 4.30, is booked. We might do Rivers of Light, or we may not. This is just part of my flexible, devil may care approach to trip planning.

This brings us to day six and my birthday. So the original plan was to have a character breakfast, do some World Showcase and then have dinner at California Grill, ending with a balcony viewing of the fireworks. The breakfast was straight forward. Cape May Cafe is secured, with the added bonus of facilitating parking at the Beach Club rather than Epcot’s main car park. However, California Grill was only offering times that wouldn’t work with our plans. Neither 5.30 or 9.30 suited us. A 5.30 reservation would mean us having to head back to the villa around 3pm to allow for showers and makeup with me sat on the couch waiting for everyone to get ready. This is not how I wish to spend my birthday. The later 9.30 slot would be too late for Freddie.

This forced a bit of a re-think of the whole day, and whilst not having the “glamour” of Cali Grill, in a way I feel better about the new plan. It’s a traditional one and due to that is tried and tested.

Breakfast remains at Cape May Cafe at 10am. We shall then wander into Epcot just after World Showcase opens and spend a relaxed day touring the pavilions. Rather than then leave the park and waste a large part of the day driving and waiting for folks to get ready, we shall remain in Epcot, with dinner now booked for La Hacienda de San Angel at 7.30. We ate there for my birthday the year before last and really enjoyed it. Hopefully, we can secure a table seat again and we can play it by ear whether we watch the fireworks from the restaurant or find a spot outside.

The idea is that we have a day without too much queuing or stressing about getting on stuff or the logistics of being places at set times and just enjoy being in one of my favourite bits of the planet.

We are then at Univeral for the next few days, so there is no need for ADR bookings. We return with a bang on day 11 with a booking at Sanaa for all of the breads. I’ve gone for 6pm, hoping to get there a little early, see some animals and then eat.

Day 12 saw another ADR failure I’m sad to say. Homecoming was the ambition, but the only slots were late in the evening so again, I have simplified things, and kept us in the park of the day rather than travelling out to eat.

After a break of what must be almost twenty years, we are returning to the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom as that is where we are spending the day. Freddie was very much in my thoughts as I think he will love it. It also gives us another shot at Rivers of Light if we haven’t done it at this point.

Day 13 sees us back at Epcot and an ADR for what is becoming a regular and a firm favourite. Via Napoli is booked for some fine pizza at 6.40. Hopefully, we shall emerge from the experience feeling overly full into the glorious embrace of World Showcase at dusk.

With that, we are done. The remaining days are scheduled to be off-site eateries and then we come home, assuming we actually get to go in the first place.

Of course, current uncertainty is robbing us planners of much of the joy of the build up to the trip. It is a problem that deserves hardly a mention or consideration in the context of what is going on, but, it’s OK to be a little sad about it. We have the capacity to be sad about multiple things at the same time on many different levels. If reading this nonsense distracts you from the proper stuff for a few minutes then that’s good.

I don’t wish to add to anyone’s woes, and I’m not saying the world is ending, but it appears to be snowing at the moment here in Bolton, at the end of March…….

Till the next time…….

My Corona

My Corona

As far as I know, I got the coronavirus last week. With no testing, of course, I can’t say for sure, but I had the classic symptoms of a dry cough and a high temperature so I will assume that I did. I thought it would be of interest to document my week for anyone who may suffer the same fate in future. I caveat everything with my absolute lack of knowledge about my condition. This may have been something else and I guess I’ll never know unless I get it at some point in the future.

If you can’t be bothered to read the below, and I don’t blame you, just take one message from this.

YOU DO NOT WANT THIS DISEASE.

For the love of whichever God you prefer, follow the advice, stay at home whenever possible. The thought of any of my more elderly relatives getting this is terrifying, and as much as you might very well ride this out, if you directly or indirectly infect somebody who won’t, that is a bit more important.

Today is Mother’s Day, and if you don’t live with your Mum, the best gift you can give her is to NOT visit her today.

I wrote this at random times as this week went on, so I apologise for the illness impaired quality. It’s a car crash of mixed tenses and half-formed thoughts. Having re-read it, some of it is all over the place but I’ve left it as is, as a warning to anyone taking this lightly. This is how badly your thought process can work if you get this thing. It also demonstrates how quickly things have changed in just one week.

Friday

I decided to work from home and offered the same option to all my team even though the government and company advice wasn’t to do so. I felt a bit crap and with no face to face meetings to do that day, thought it better to be safe than sorry. I had no cough and no temperature as far as I could tell and pretty much carried on with life as normal.

Saturday

No real symptoms as yet. I wasn’t feeling 100% but that could of course have been for any number of reasons. I was heading down hill a bit as I unusally felt the need to have an hour in bed in the late afternoon before heading out to a Mustard gig. Being very conscious of the virus I kept myself to myself, didn’t buy a drink from the bar, concerned about the diligence of the bar staff’s hand washing and instead drank my bottle of water. I felt fine all evening with no corona symptoms at all apart from some mild brain fog towards the end of the night which led to a few less than perfect notes. But hey, that’s no different to any other gig.

However, upon arriving home I had a cup of tea and then took the dogs out the back for their pre-bed time wees and poos and whilst outside I suddenly felt dreadful. I began to violently shake, feeling incredibly cold and went to bed where I didn’t sleep for a good few hours as I just couldn’t get warm. I fell asleep in the early hours for a little while and woke up mid-morning feeling pretty dreadful.

Sunday

The cough had appeared and when I took my temperature today, for the first time it had gone over 38 degrees. At all times prior to this, it had been 37. I had to nip next door to help my Dad with something. I was very mindful that this wasn’t ideal and I took something to open doors without me touching any surfaces and washed my hands as I entered their house. I was taking paracetamol and Ibuprofen every four hours and now as it came to the end of those four hour periods my temperature returned with a vengeance and I felt pretty bad. At around 11pm I HAD to go to bed as I felt so bad. It took a while to get to sleep, but I did and then slept until about 4am.

Monday

I was downstairs popping pills and drinking coffee at an early hour when Rebecca messaged me with a picture of her own temperature reading of 39 degrees. Clearly, working in a nursery, she needed to stay at home. At this point, for the first time, I went to the NHS 111 web site and it confirmed that we both should stay at home for at least 7 days. What I couldn’t find was any advice for family members in a household where one member has the symptoms but they do not. Should they also stay home? I had to resort to asking Twitter for help, which, being frank was piss poor. There seemed to be a huge black hole around detailed help and advice.

I felt a little rough, but as my job is not a manual one I did feel OK to work so set out with the intention of working from home.

I managed to get through the day operating at less than my usual 1000% work ethic. Towards the end of the day, the government updated (created) their advice that family members should also stay at home if one person has symptoms. Whilst it wasn’t welcome news at least there was clarity.

Louise also had no symptoms and Emily was doing her own isolation up in her loft bedroom trying in vain to avoid two weeks away from her boyfriend! Louise did have a very bad chest infection/cough about two weeks earlier and she was beginning to wonder if that had been “it” and this was why I wasn’t infecting her.

It was clearer at this stage what an absolutely catastrophic effect this was going to have on the economy and the country. Pubs, restaurants, football and anything but a supermarket are all going to be losing huge amounts of income. With the advice that “at risk” people should avoid social contact for up to 12 weeks, this cast doubt over Rebecca’s wedding date on the 23rd of May, so we attempted to contact the venue to see what our options were.

Some binge watching happened in the evening and as was the case last night, as it got later I felt a lot worse. I had been awake since 4am of course so at around 10.30 I had to go to bed.

Tuesday

I slept better I think. I must have been asleep by 11.30 and didn’t wake until around 6.30. I awoke feeling like I desperately needed my pills, so I went downstairs to hunt out the paracetamol and Ibuprofen. Everything ached, and I had a serious headache.

I spent some time on social media, trying to get my head around what was happening and of course failed. I read about something called super spreaders, who it seems are all the bell ends on the news and Facebook still going to pubs and concerts.

I also watched a video sent to me by a Florida resident (thanks Steven) of a deserted WDW. It was strange to watch it, not knowing when it would re-open and if our August trip would be on.

This morning was the worst I had felt so far. It felt like the fever had gone up a notch, with earache, headache and entire body ache now being in play. It was also around this time that I read some stuff about Ibuprofen perhaps not being advisable with coronavirus. Now, because I couldn’t get tested, so didn’t know whether this was THE virus or just some other thing, and having got the news from Twitter about Ibuprofen, I made the conclusion that healthcare seems to be some sort of lottery and in years to come, surviving generations will be studying history to see how not to die. Seriously, where is the co-ordinated, official communication on this shit?

During the evening Louise facetimed with two ex-colleagues, community nurses and their experiences were truly terrifying. Of course, they HAVE to go and see all their usual patients, even those with symptoms, however, they have zero PPE (protective gear) and neither the patient or the nurse can be tested. This really is a scandal and a massive failure in preparation for something that’s been coming for months. My ill health was, at this stage, adding to my exasperation and despair.

I collapsed into bed early at around 9.15 with a headache that cannot be described. I also had a lot of neck pain, a fever and a cough. I was cartwheeling downhill quickly. I managed to sleep for two hours, waking up with a head pumping with the beat of my bloodstream. I was some time from my next pills and this upset me greatly. I went downstairs and watched all sorts of crap on TV whilst being outstandingly ill.

This was proper tackle. I tried to go back to bed around 3am, but from nowhere my cough went into overdrive and my fever was causing minor hallucinations. Having kept Louise awake for a nice amount of time, I gave up and went downstairs again. Back to bed at 8.30am for two hours.

Wednesday

The morning found me a little better than last night but that wasn’t hard. This was still next-level stuff. Please, do not underestimate this thing. Again, I caveat that with the fact that I had no idea if this was COVID-19 or not.

Four days in, and I was praying that I had ridden the worst of what the beast had to offer, but there was no sign of this going away.

The rest of the day was a fairly consistent level of shitness, sprinkled with a couple of episodes of high fever, which had me shaking violently. The main symptom, or the worst at least, was my headache. It was a lovely migraine style throbber and when I coughed it felt like my head was a balloon and any particularly violent cough would see the top of my head splattered on the ceiling.

I spoke to my GP on the phone in the afternoon. That was a coincidence and a pre-booked follow up to some recent blood tests for a non-pandemic related condition. Once we’d covered that I told him I had the plague and although being understanding, and confirming that it did very much sound like COVID-19, there was little he could do. If I became “worryingly breathless” I should release the big guns and call 111. Ideally, I’d like to be tested so I know if I have had it and can then relax a little armed wth my immunity and be free to visit and help our parents.

Imagine how well prepared the UK might have been if we’d seen this happening in another country in December 2019. No test for me, because there aren’t any available.

Having had zero sleep last night, I made it until 8pm before falling asleep, but only managed three hours until I was awake and chugging down paracetamol to stop the shivers. I had realised by this stage that trying to do anything crazy like lie horizontally in bed resulted in my lungs attempting to leave my body by any orifice they could find. So, with that in mind, I slept in a “very comfortable” slumped position on about 23 pillows.

Once the pills kicked in, I did pretty well though, sleeping from around midnight until 5.30am.

Thursday

Paracetamol. My lifeline. They were swallowed within seconds of being awake, noticing that we were getting low now my only thought was that if we can’t find any more, then I will be resorting to burglary to get my fix.

Salvation. Paracetamol was sourced from family members and delivered through the front door. Life was worth living again. I honestly thought that today I would need to finally admit defeat and actually be off work ill. There was just one call I had to do first thing and then I could retire.

Well, that one call led to one of the busiest and more stressful days of recent times and when you’re operating at a good way below your normal 1000% sparkling best, that’s not good.

Weirdly, I felt a little better come the afternoon. My headache was still bad but it had morphed now into more of a neck and somewhere near the ear pain. Louise diagnosed it as an aneurism and said I would be dead by morning…probably.

Work was full on until around 5.30, I walked the dogs, slowly and then collapsed a bit and had a half an hour lie down until our tea arrived, a no contact pizza delivery.

The cough was still around, but it felt like my temperature was improving if only I could shake this head pain. I managed to stay downstairs until my normal bedtime and slept almost normally for about six hours.

It was today that Rebecca and Tom made the decision to move the wedding. Hopefully, the new date in July will be far enough out to be viable. Everything is a guess and gamble at this stage.

Obviously, they were both upset, but it seemed the obvious and sensible thing to do. Luckily, Freddie was blissfully unaware and was enjoying his time at home with Mum & Dad.

Freddie in a blanket

Friday

The cough was still there, and in fact a little looser/worse, but the temperature seemed to be going away now. The decent sleep seemed to have helped the pain in my head and neck, which, on reflection may have been caused by having to sleep at a right angle on Wednesday night.

I was still having hot flushes. As I type this, my dressing gown is open to the waist and if anyone comes to the front window it may take their sight.

I felt OK through most of the day, to be honest. I was able to be half decent at my job, which is often as good as it gets. I was in that semi-euphoric “I think I might survive after all” phase that comes as you start to recover from a grotty illness. I, of course, did too much, peaked at about 6pm and went downhill quite quickly afterwards.

I lasted until about 10pm I think and slept initially until around 2am, and was then up for an hour before sleeping again until 8am.

Saturday

Upon waking I was again immediately scrabbling for the pain killers as the migraine style headache was back. I rested, waiting for them to kick in for half an hour until the Asda delivery guy turned up about 40 minutes early and I had to spring into action and some clothes very quickly. The headache was that bad I was navigating the route from the front door to the kitchen using memory and a sense of smell, as everything looked blurry.

My favourite substitution was definitely this.

The headache cleared after another hour or two and the cough was still around and yet again a bit looser.

I was definitely on the mend today with just some tiredness to cope with. I walked the dogs with Emily and enjoyed not doing much else to be honest.

I slept OK, from around midnight until 5am, and then managed to get off again until about 7.30.

Sunday

The headache/pain in the neck is back. (Insert your own joke). I don’t know if it is sleeping position induced or some other issue but I can’t bring myself to bother anyone in the medical profession with it right now, to be honest.

I don’t know if my perception of this crisis is tainted because I’ve been ill, presumably with “it” as the week has unfolded, but I have been constantly astounded by so many people not giving this the attention and respect it deserves and demands. In my ill state, I have watched some horrific things on social media, with some of the footage from Italy’s hospitals being absolutely terrifying. To then follow that up by watching a couple of gormless gimps in the their twenties stood drinking in a pub, shrugging this off as something less important than a pint of lager fills me with rage.

Perhaps they won’t be smiling when they aren’t able to attend their Nan’s funeral that they caused by being absolute dicks.

I’ve been a bit preachy over on Twitter so will try to restrain myself here. What terrifies me most about all this is that we seem to be stumbling into a hurricane with a dustbin lid and fly swatter hoping to defeat it.

The question I got asked the most when I told anyone I thought I had COVID-19 was along the lines of “When do you get your test results?” or “Are you getting tested?”. This is just not an option. There are not enough tests to offer to anyone but the critically ill. They are not even testing frontline NHS staff who are battling this thing without the required basic equipment. The claims that all the Personal Protective Equipment has suddenly turned up isn’t true. I don’t say this stuff for dramatic effect, I just want you to stay home. It’s the only thing that gives us any chance to avoid tens of thousands of deaths.

The illness I had last week was relatively mild. It wasn’t pleasant, but nothing worse than other flus and illnesses I’ve had. That isn’t the point. For many others it will kill them so you need not to give it to them.

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home.

Till the next time……

The Andrex Apocalypse

There is, of course, only one topic that I could blog about this week. It’s one of those situations where any other topic would be ridiculous and yet I am neither qualified or grown-up enough to write about it. In a situation that if it appeared in a film, might get dismissed as unbelievable, the world seems to be making its way to the hot place in a hand cart.

Working life has been dominated by the C-word all week. Every meeting inevitably comes around to the one subject, planning for worst-case scenarios and wondering if and when it will be the right time to have everyone work from home. For me, it is always the right time to work from home, but money still needs to be made and business needs to carry on, as much as it can. However, I think it is now just a matter of time until those that can, do.

As the working week drew to a close the bombshell dropped that Disney parks were closing around the world. It makes absolute sense really as if you were to design the perfect method of spreading a virus, a few hundred thousand folks crammed into theme parks in a tropical climate would be right up there at the top of the ideal scenario list.

I know that there are many more important issues linked to this virus, but that is a tangible benchmark as to how serious this stuff is getting. These parks only close when they absolutely need to. My heart breaks for those who have spent large amounts of cash and time preparing for their WDW trip only to find the parks closed for the rest of March at least. In the scheme of things, a ruined holiday is nothing and may seem even more insignificant as this thing escalates, but people are absolutely allowed to be upset.

I was particularly upset to hear the College Programme was cancelled and all the kids sent home. That would be heart breaking for all those who worked so hard to earn their place on that.

Of course, these are all the very definition of first world problems and goes to show how much of a cosy and untroubled existence most of us normally lead. Shit, as they say, is about to get real, and life as we know it will have to go on hold.

Our own personal concerns beyond the health of our family members include Rebecca’s wedding at the end of May, which I guess is at risk currently only as we just don’t know how things will play out over the coming weeks. Of course, we also have our WDW trip at the end of August, which, we’d have to hope will be OK, but with Trump at the helm over the pond, who can really know how the land will lie then.

So a global recession, a pandemic claiming thousands of lives and a toilet roll shortage lie ahead. You never see The Walking Dead address the issue of a lack of means to wipe your arse, do you?

To those of you who work in healthcare, I wish you nothing but good luck, good health and endless gratitude. This is going to be a testing time as if your normal duties are anything but!

Whilst this infection for most of us would, it seems. only mean mild symptoms, I wish you all the luck in the world in avoiding it but more importantly, look out for your elderly relatives and friends. It’s going to be an impossible balance between staying away so as not to potentially infect them and looking after them in what could be a lengthy lockdown.

On a lighter subject, it’s likely to be a few weeks or months of film and box set binging so do let me have your favourites. There may be little else to do for a while. I’ll also be up for your vlogger suggestions, but as you know my tolerance for those is fairly limited so they have to be top-notch. 🙂

Stay safe, stay sane and let’s try to get through this the best we can.

Till the next time…..

Bad Things Happen To Good Places

Bad weeks happen all the time, all over the world, to varying degrees. Even the places that are supposed to be the happiest on earth have them too.

Whilst you all had a great week last week as I did not blog, the place that is never supposed to have bad things happen suffered a bit recently.

Safety whilst in the parks is not something that ever crosses my mind to be honest, but it just goes to show that even the most perfect of places can have an off day or three. In recent times WDW has been in the wars.

It started with the sinking of a Jungle Cruise boat a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know how long that ride has been around and it’s not even worth googling. It’s been a long time and as far as I know incident free. So I suppose the law of averages state that something was bound to happen at sometime. Thankfully of course nobody was hurt apart from some moistness and mild shock.

Then just days afterwards , there were reports of two people mover trams “slamming into each other”. Now, slam may be an over exaggeration knowing the speed these things travel at, but I can bet it wasn’t pleasant.

With photo credit to @wrightculpepper on Twitter you can see the evacuation taking place after the event. Again, if you had to pick two of the safest rides in WDW, Jungle Cruise and People Mover would be up there I suppose, but to quote the greatest philosophers of our time, shit happens. Of course, there was also a very public issue with the new gondola system shortly after go-live which after all the testing we saw happening for such an extended period was very shocking.

So those relatively minor incidents in quick succession were oddly out of place with what to the casual observer may seem like a fairly blemish-free accident record. I’m sure that’s not the case and you don’t have to spend too long on google to see rumours and reports of lots of other accidents and incidents.

One of the most quoted rumours about WDW is that “nobody dies on WDW property”. We’ve all heard the tales of folks passing away but not being declared so until they are safely away from WDW. I don’t know if that were ever true but putting those two minor bumps into sharp insignificance was the horrendous news out of the Contemporary Resort where it appears someone committed suicide by jumping from the building. That is just horrific in every way and it shows even in places like WDW people can do the darkest and most tragic of things.

It feels a bit grubby even writing about it so I won’t share any links etc, as I’m sure you all saw the news anyway, and I apologise for inflicting such horridness on your Sunday, but I guess sometimes, real life is like that and not even WDW can help.

My thoughts are with the poor woman and her family and anyone else who was involved in that horrible situation.

There’s no jovial coming back from that, so I won’t attempt any light-hearted sign-off. I know this is supposed to be a place of trivial nonsense, and it nearly always is but that struck a chord with me, being the most tragic of events against the “happiest” of backgrounds.

If anyone is struggling, as we all do from time to time, then please use the help that exists.

Till the next time…….

Nursery Nopes

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling absolutely “over” winter. The recent weather has been like an endless Lewis Capaldi song, miserable, depressing and all too frequently experienced. Every dog walk sees me gearing up like some Arctic explorer and returning moist in places that have no right being so.

As I type I am looking out at sideways rain and a situation I do not want to be taking the hounds out into later. Spring cannot be far away now right? I need some sunshine, warmth and less moistness.

Last week was spent helping and advising Rebecca to navigate her return to working life. She had already secured herself a role in a nursery a couple of weeks ago, but shortly after starting found herself with two other offers to consider, both considerably closer to home which would alleviate the 6am starts she had been enduring.

Nobody could have predicted the difficulty of choosing between those two nurseries. It gets more complex as built into the decision is the fact that Freddie will be attending the same nursery so it has to be right on more than one level.

I won’t bore you with the tortuous deliberations, but it took a while and there were even a couple of twists and turns after making a decision that meant things turned on their head at the last minute. Anyway, she seems sorted now and will probably start a week tomorrow at the nursery at our local hospital, so she’ll be looking after the kids of the nurses and doctors who work there. She’s had to give two other nurseries a polite no, one of which mainly because even for a member of their staff they insisted on all of Freddie’s fees upfront for the first month. That’s just a big fat nope for someone just returning to the workforce like Rebecca!

In a strange twist of fate, Louise will also be back working at the same hospital, starting around the same time, so that will be handy. It’s funny how things work out.

I was astounded at the fees involved for Freddie to attend full time nursery. Safe to say that the majority of whatever Rebecca earns will be eaten up by those, at least until he turns three and they get some free childcare. In the meantime she gets back to the career she loves and wants to pursue and Freddie gets into a lovely nursery.

The other major event on the horizon is Rebecca’s hen party next weekend. Emily, as maid of honour, is in last-minute prep mode, making sure that everything is in place. I cannot say too much, as I do not wish to spoil any surprises, but I played my part yesterday by purchasing some items for the event online. I cannot tell you what they were, but safe to say my online personalised adverts will be something to behold for the foreseeable future. Of all the sacrifices I have made for my children over the years, this is right up there. May my cookies rest in peace.

Yesterday I was trying my best to do what we are probably all familiar with these days, in attempting to herd decades of photos into one “safe” place. Having lived long enough to take photos before digital cameras and the internet, sadly some are lost, but others are spread across different parts of the cloud and various devices. That is to say nothing of the video that still sits on old fashioned tapes in a bag somewhere that we MUST transfer into the internet before it gets lost.

There are still so many “memories” floating about that I need to get to, but I made some progress. You know what happens now through right? You get bothered with some of them. You have no doubt seen them all before, as I have I, but you don’t take photos to look at them just once.

It was particularly nice (and terrifying) to see a couple where Rebecca is Freddie’s current age. It also made me tragically aware of the damage the stresses and strains of the intervening twenty-odd years have done to me.

Oh and I also found one of the photos from my first ever trip to WDW in 1980.

You can tell it was our first time as I am holding a park map. Nowadays…

Christ, I look dreadful in that last one but still about 3000% better than I do today. Oh look, the rain has eased to a mere downpour, time to start layering up for the dog walk.

Till the next time…..

Meet Pie

Meet Pie

Often, when there isn’t much to report on the WDW planning front I will regale you with “edge of your seat” updates on the exciting life that I lead. I will often look back on the week just gone and select just a smattering of highlights from the many to choose from.

I’d like to do that now, but I was in a meeting. Yep, all week. It was one of those weeks in which events conspired to see me busier than a busy thing from start to finish. It was not enjoyable. As is the way of the working world these days, many of those meetings were “virtual”, either via an online “thingy” or video conference. I checked the calendar and it is 2020 which makes me wonder why these things are still, at times, absolutely bobbins.

“Hi, who just joined?”

“Can you see my screen?”

“I think he’s joining now.”

“Sorry, can you go on mute, there’s a load of background noise!”

Round and round on this carousel we go, discussing things that, given a choice, we probably wouldn’t, over sub-standard audio, and often, whilst on mute, not really listening and instead waging war on the endless shite pouring into your inbox.

I’m not sure this is the pinnacle of civilisation envisioned by those phoenicians half way up Spaceship Earth. Recognising this, the weather Gods expressed their distaste for my woeful week and my Ark is coming along nicely.

Last night, Mustard were taking yet more steps along the showbiz highway in Earby. If you haven’t heard of Earby, don’t worry, the people who live there haven’t ether. It’s out in the hinterlands around Burnley and the weather on the drive to and from the gig was underwear threatening. Sideways torrential rain, gusting gales and heart stopping puddles of water on the motorway reminded me of one of those drives many of us have had along the I4 during a Florida thunderstorm when the wipers just won’t go fast enough. There are fingernail shaped dents in my steering wheel as concentration levels were high.

In other, non moany work related news, Rebecca’s wedding draws ever nearer. Louise took Rebecca for her hair trial yesterday and by all accounts it went very well. I’m not sure when my hair trial is, but I hope it’s soon.

It’s only two weeks until the hen do. They are off to Liverpool for the weekend and Emily, to her enormous credit has worked tirelessly to arrange a full programme of events and activities that they will all have to tackle from behind huge hangovers. This hen do has been a labour of love for Emily for many months and I’m sure it will be a huge success. I shall be spending that weekend in glorious peace and quiet, missing them all, surrounded by take away containers and the PS4.

Planning wise, there has been time for none of that. We are hurtling at surprising speed towards our ADR window. At the end of this month we can begin the process of determining where we are going to eat in several months time. All of those plans are already set as you know.

One thing I did find a few seconds to notice last week (so I can’t have been that busy after all, right?) was one email. On our last trip, I signed into the Perkins WiFi during our breakfast trip there. One of the conditions of that was, it seems, signing up to them spamming me every day with their promo emails.

That can be annoying and it’s easy enough to unsubscribe, but when they send you content like this, why would you.

I have thought of little else since receiving this email. Indeed it saw me through one particular conference call which ran for six hours. Sucks to be me right?

Till the next time……

That Was The Week of Woe

Often of a Sunday evening, the black dog will find me. The looming presence of another Monday steals a part of my weekend and I spend more time than I should “fearing” going back to what I’d rather not.

Most times, of course, this is silly and unfounded and the worst thing I have to contend with is the commute and having to make my own brew. I then promise myself I won’t be so foolish in future until it all happens again the next week.

Last Sunday, following a tremendous two-week break, and the opportunity to almost totally unwind, this Monday phobia was strong. In the back of my mind I was assuring myself it was all unfounded and all would be well.

I was wrong. Holy moly, the week just gone was a struggle. Physically and mentally it felt like I was dragging myself along on my xmas inflated belly towards the finish line of the end of each day never mind the weekend. Monday, with the clock only having edged to 12.30, saw me seriously wondering how I would actually make it until 5.30. It was not good. My brain struggled in a similar manner, and I felt like I had been parachuted into my seat and told to do a job I had never heard of never mind done before.

Muscle memory kicked in around Thursday and I began to feel that I wasn’t stealing a living and no doubt things will bet “better” next week. It all went to confirm that as fortunate as I am to have the job I do, with probably the best company to work for possible, this is not my calling, and should my lottery numbers drop at any point you will not see me in the local paper declaring that I will continue working. I will be emailing my resignation from my first class Florida bound seat within hours of the cash hitting the bank.

So with that horror now hopefully behind me, the new year has brought into focus two priorities for the year. Our holiday of course, which celebrates my 50th, but first, and more importantly, Rebecca and Tom’s wedding in May.

Stuff is organised and even paid for mostly. There is nothing major left to do, find or fund, but now we are into the detail. Guest lists, confirmed numbers, table plans, favours (whatever they are) and the little bits and bobs that I would never have guessed were part of a wedding.

Luckily, I have somewhat of a track record for planning stuff and Rebecca has inherited enough of that to be making a good job of things. The hen do plans are ticking along in the safe hands of Emily and I’m sure everything will fall into place helped by the huge efforts of all of us.

Yesterday, as Louise wrestled with her latest assignment deadline for her midwifery course, and Tom went to do his Ju-Jitsu, Rebecca, Freddie and I went for a wet and windy walk around what’s known as The Jumbles. It’s a country park/reservoir which holds a dual role in my mind. Now, it’s a lovely place for a walk right on our doorstep but formerly it was a place of horrors as this is where my school would make me do cross country in PE lessons. Tell me how it makes sense that because it was raining we weren’t allowed to play football but were allowed/forced to run miles around some water.

We spent some of the time going over what’s left to do, so that helped and things seem clearer now. We spent the rest of the time waiting for Freddie to pick up stones every three steps.

We saw a 17 week old Old English puppy which I immediately fell in love with and a Great Dane that was more horse than dog. We said hello to the ducks and got rained on quite a lot. A lovely afternoon.

So after a grim work week, the weekend has helped. Friday night was the Mustard Christmas do. Having had a very busy festive period, my bandmates and I went out for a curry and some dirty beer. We also took the chance to watch a couple of local bands as that’s something we seldom get a chance to do. Alas, they weren’t very good, but at least it made us feel better about what we do!

Today hasn’t a lot that I need to do, which is always the plan but seldom the reality for a Sunday. I have a small DIY job to do at Louise’s Mum’s house, but then the afternoon is mine to do as much or as little as I like….once I’ve walked the dogs…..and tidied the kitchen……

With that horror-filled first week back at work done, the wedding plans firmed up nicely, at some point between now and May I need to rid myself of the post-xmas paunch and should time allow later today I will fire up the Florida plan and start to put some flesh on the bones of our daily activities.

I shall probably share the current state of that with you all next week unless I forget or something more interesting happens in the meantime.

Till the next time…….

Christmas Is Over. Give War a Chance…

I’m going to keep this brief today otherwise it will just turn into a return to work moanfest and there’s enough negativity around without me adding to it.

I was desperately in need of a break as Christmas approached and I do feel better for my time off. Another few weeks away from the rat race would be nice if I’m honest for me to really feel the benefit but that won’t pay the bills so tomorrow I will resume my battle to beat the traffic and feign interest.

Our New Year’s celebrations were lovely if subtle. We enjoyed an excellent Indian meal at a restaurant called Akash in Darwen with Rebecca, Tom and Freddie. They went on to a family party at Tom’s brothers and Louise and I rolled home to watch Jools Holland, desperately trying to stay awake until midnight. I made it, just, having enjoyed the night.

So it’s been a traditional festive period, involving all the things you’d expect. There was a visit to the tip, impressive weight gain, and a chocolate mountain that we’ll be staring at until Halloween as we can’t now eat it as of course we need to lose the pounds that have found us in the last few weeks.

I’m not a fan of the whole new year, new you stuff. In a way, the new year thing feels a little bit like the most Mondayish Monday of all Mondays, and I rail against the stark U-turn in advertising from indulgent foodstuffs to gym memberships, weight watchers and fitness equipment. It all feels a bit too predictable and controlling for my liking.

The world seems to be sharing my dim view by getting 2020 off to a wonderful start. Australia is on fire and it is absolutely heartbreaking to see what’s going on there, and the man-baby in the White House seems intent on starting a distracting war to stop people concentrating on his illegal actions. As re-election campaigns go, it’s a bit predictable and it will certainly be expensive in all sorts of ways. I did say there was a good amount of negativity knocking about.

In brighter news, we are just 253 days away from our next trip and assuming we aren’t at war or on fire, we have some fine plans, almost exclusively (at this stage) involving food but you’d expect nothing less. Standby to be told about each and every element of that plan in excruciating detail in coming weeks.

I did say I’d be brief so let me keep that promise so I can soak in my last few hours of freedom before reentering the real world tomorrow. Once the horror of the first week back is done I may be in a more jolly space and able to blog at you more positively.

Till the next time……

Notes From No Man’s Land.

Greetings. Having spent the last fifteen weeks or so using my weekly blog to report on our latest US adventure, I find myself trying to use my now flabby and out of shape blogging muscle to somehow come up with something to write that isn’t based on rides and food. Bear with me as I ease myself back into the weekly discipline of thinking of something to write.

I am slap bang in the middle of a glorious two-week break from work. It felt needed, and of course, by the time I’ve relearnt how to do nothing, I’ll be heading back into the daily grind once again, rueing not spending the downtime more wisely by doing even less than I did.

Our Christmas has been gloriously unspectacular. We hosted on the day, somehow catering for nine, with only about eight hours of hard labour in the kitchen required and our house still hasn’t recovered, with pots, plates and presents still strewn about the place like the aftermath of a particularly wild party at Mary Berry’s.

I could post ten minutes of video here, showing Freddie ignoring every present but one at our house on Christmas morning, but it wouldn’t be fair to expect anyone not related to us to sit through that.

OK, I’ll post one of the clips at a mere five minutes or so which outlines the chaos of the unwrapping process with two dogs and the glories of the Bolton accent. Louise will love it…..

The dogs did, of course, get their own gifts, courtesy of Emily so it’s only right you see that too. There’s nothing like quality content and….well, you can complete the punchline.

Other than that we have had some lovely lazy days, doing not much more than hoovering up leftovers and clearing the fridge of all the stuff we overbought whilst binge-watching stuff. It’s what God and the baby Jesus would want.

I know I spent much of my trip report bemoaning illness, and in some ways, I have never fully recovered from that since my return to the UK. I have, it seems, been snotty, coughy and achy ever since. However, over the festive period, most of the family, and it seems most of the UK, have been struck down by cold-related illness, Freddie included, and it’s fortunate that we are off work to enjoy our respective conditions to the fullest.

If I were a proper blogger who spent time planning what spews onto the page this post would be a glorious retrospective review of the past year and indeed past decade, a decade for which I have blogged almost every week in its entirety.

Instead, I am stumbling around this Twxitmas no man’s land in a tired daze, wondering if it’s possible to eat yourself to death. Of course, should you wish to occupy your downtime in this festive wasteland, there are something like 450 blog posts from me you could wade through. That would save me having to apply any brainpower to looking back at all that time.

Having started blogging in November 2009 I have documented all manner of crap in that time. The decade about to end has, like with every one of you reading this, delivered some highs and of course some heartbreaking, soul-crushing lows. On the negative side, I will remember the decade for two of the most upsetting episodes in my life, which I won’t be sharing here, but, as you must, you suck it up, deal with it and move on. Of course, things could have been worse and we are blessed in many ways that I undoubtedly don’t appreciate enough.

Of course, one of those blessings has been the arrival of Freddie into our lives. It can be incredibly tedious to listen to someone pap on about their kids and grandkids, but hey, I’m not about to break the habit of a lifetime, but it has been THE highlight of this or any recent decade. What a fun-filled, joy-giving bundle of perfection he is and I apologise for my past and future Freddie related gushings.

A feature, and of course highlight of the last decade (or two) have been our Florida trips. We’ve been fortunate enough…no bollocks to that…we’ve worked our absolute arses off and endured all kinds of soul-crushing stuff to be able to afford them, and we’ve done all manner of glorious things and eaten all kinds of filthy nonsense. They have defined the childhood’s of the girls in many ways, and, fingers crossed they will continue to do the same for them and Freddie in the years to come.

So that’ll do for today. Hopefully, the new year and decade of blogging will see a glorious return to the incredible content I am renowned for producing.

Image result for spacey side eye gif

Look, I know I overuse this gif but it is useful in so many ways.

I hope the new year celebrations and whatever follows them are kind to you and yours and your WDW trips are frequent and glorious. Seasons greetings and best wishes for 2020 and beyond from everyone here at Mkingdon Towers.

Till the next time…….

Mormons, Makeovers & Memories

The recent horror show at work led me to take drastic action last week. On Tuesday I booked Friday and Monday off. My body was telling me I had to. It was also telling me I’m a fat get, but I can only deal with one thing at a time.

The decision was initiated by the fact that on Friday evening Louise and I were going out to watch Book of Mormon in Manchester. This was our glorious Christmas present from Emily and we’d been looking forward to it ever since. My commute being what it is, battling my home, to then turn right around and head back to half a mile from where I started seemed silly, so the day off made sense on many levels.

I didn’t do a great deal with it I am pleased to report. It was nice to take a breath, enjoy the nice weather and set off nice and early to avoid rush hour stress.

Our plan was to eat in Manchester pre-show, and despite our first choice being too busy we had a lovely Indian before heading into the show. It was fantastic. This might be the musical for people who may not feel that they like musicals. It isn’t your traditional, boy meets girl, love song driven affair. It is incredibly funny, fast paced, original and of course full of great songs. I think (and don’t quote me on this) it was written by the creators of South Park with the bloke who wrote Avenue Q. From that you may work out it is irreverent and rude, but for me that just makes it better.

I give it five stars and a Freetime thumbs up (ask your Dad).

This week has also seen some significant news coming from WDW. Whatever is going on at Epcot, it’s big. We already know that the entrance area is being rid of those Leave a Legacy things, but it seems the work and transformation also reaches all the way up to Club Cool and the fountain area. Institutions such as Electric Umbrella and Mouse Gear are to be closed, either temporarily or for good perhaps in some cases, and as with all major WDW changes that brings a mix of emotions.

Now, I am old enough to remember standing in front of a monitor in the area beneath Spaceship Earth and talking via video to a cast member to book our meal for later that day at China in World Showcase. That was in the early 80’s I think and that’s probably as good an example as you would need that things do need to change with the times. That blew our collective minds at the time and unless Epcot is going to fully embrace the retro modern motif, then I guess change is inevitable. Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom sort of has that going on, and bearing in mind what Epcot stands for, then with technology having changed so much since 1982 when it opened transformations like these make sense.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t had time to read up on what might be coming to Epcot. Honestly, if you are relying on my blog for up to the minute and accurate WDW news then I don’t think you’re doing it right! I’m not sure I’d even class whatever this is as a Disney blog, and I salute those bloggers who are always up the minute on the latest changes, rumours and announcements. I just wish I had more time to read them.

Whatever is on the way will need to be accepted, not that I have a choice, and trust has to be placed in the Imagineers doing all of this. I do appreciate the constant reinvention though. We all pay a lot of money for our time at WDW and it would be easy for them to sit back for a few years and watch that money come in, but they do seem to be constantly investing our hard earned into significant changes and upgrades. Of course, that’s a big driver for footfall. Many folks will go back specifically to see the latest new thing, but, then at times, many more will go to watch something before it vanishes forever.

Reflections of Earth is one of those. That thing has a really special place in our hearts. We’ve watched it on most of my birthdays over the past twenty years of course, but it’s more than that. So our final viewings this year will be a special time. There’s something special also that Freddie will see it with us. He was there last year of course but was too young to take it in. This year, as we say goodbye to it, he will take it in for the first time. The circle of life metaphor doesn’t need making.

Change is constant, time stops for no-one and Emily might still be crying on the flight home after saying goodbye to ROE. WDW is expensive, but very few holidays get you like that and I suppose that’s why we all keep going, right?

Till the next time…..

Yaks, Yetis and Yew Tree

You’ll have had enough work based whinging by now I imagine? Well, on the bright side I retire in about twenty years so not long to go now.

I was “darn sarf” for most of the week at Head Office. I was in meetings to kick off one large project whilst literally at the same time overseeing the delivery of another. Relaxing it was not.

Anyway, with one off my plate now, and team members back from holidays, the next few weeks look more tolerable. Wait, is that the countdown home straight I can see just around the next bend? I think it might be. 58 days folks. One more pay day. I can almost smell it.

The car hire balance was paid off on Friday and that’s the last chunk of expense to be paid apart from the spending money. Out of interest, how much spending money should I take for two weeks?

Unimpressed Over It GIF by Vulture.com - Find & Share on GIPHY

Ah, the memories of that question being endlessly asked on Disney forums and no doubt still being asked today if I went on any to look.

Summer has arrived, Wimbledon is imminent, as is the Open Golf and these are all welcome tell tales signs that we will shortly be off on our adventures. After 73 weeks of rain, I intend to enjoy the lovely warm weather before autumn starts next week. Bear in mind, that right about now, somewhere in the UK, the John Lewis marketing team are pulling all nighters trying to decide which acoustic maudlin version of a song they are going to play over their Christmas ad this year.

Summer of course also means festival season. Glastonbury is on my telly showing several young folks I don’t recognise talking over music that nobody on stage is actually playing. Mustard have their own festival season as well which lasts over the space of the next two weekends. Today, we are off to Yorkshire to play at the Ravenknowle’s Children’s Gala. We are sharing the billing with Mr Zoot, a children’s entertainer and the Wrenthorpe All Stars. The latter being a majorette troupe and the former a Yew Tree court case waiting to happen. They may not sound all that but both will be better than Janet Jackson was. I believe this gala is similar to Glastonbury in that most of the crowd won’t have heard of us either. Still, if you are in the area, that being Huddersfield, then come along, take lots of illegal drugs and pee in a bottle but don’t throw it at the stage whilst we are on.

Then next weekend, specifically the 7th of July, we are playing at the Tottington Big Day Out. That, it won’t surprise you to learn, is in Tottington. We’ve played this one before and it is a fantastic day out as well as being Big of course. Again, come on down if you’re local. We are on from around 2pm I think. I cannot confirm if Mr Zoot or the Wrenthorpe All Stars will be appearing at that one so you’ll just have to take your chances.

I am still fighting the urge to books ADRs but forgive me, I have done another. One place that we have to eat at, as we rate it so highly, is Yak and Yeti. There’s little competition in Animal Kingdom of course for a sit down do, so it made sense to secure a table. With a party of six, walk ups are harder to come by and if we miss out on this eatery Louise would be very, very upset. It is one of her absolute favourites.

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So that is done for the 6th of September at 6.45. That’s our second day at DAK, the first being Labor Day. Expecting that day to be busy I suspect we may not last all the way to Rivers Of Light, so on our second visit, we shall eat and see if there is room in Rivers of Light after the meal. I doubt there will be if we rock up at 8.15, but it is what it is. See, I told you this trip is trying to be a more relaxed take it as it comes thing. Look, I know you won’t believe it, and I’m not sure I do, but I’m trying.

Time to go, I have a “festival” (gig in a field) to get to.

Till the next time……

Woody and Wedding Dresses

After the last few weeks where these posts have been more a cry for help than a blog, you might expect me to start once again by whinging about my week at work. Well, you are absolutely spot on. It’s been another relentless tsunami of shite that I don’t wish to repeat but alas the lack of a lottery win means that I will have to.

Friday ended like one of those skids you have in your car in icy weather when you almost crash but somehow manage to avoid any large hard objects, but only just. With heart racing, pulse racing and bearing the battle scars of a war I’d struggle to call a draw, the weekend began.

We were booked to see Toy Story 4 at 7pm, so the transition from work to weekend was a rushed one for us all, and we arrived at Middlebrook (extensive retail park next to Bolton Wanderer’s stadium) again in that car crash, sweat on brow, pulse racing mode, with seconds to spare. There was barely enough time to secure a life threatening amount of Pick n Mix before settling into our ever so posh reclining leather seats.

Not having the time to adjust my brain to leisure mode properly and having missed the 45 minutes of adverts and trailers, the opening moments of the film passed me by a bit as I just wasn’t mentally prepared for what I was about to see.

Soon enough the adrenaline started to subside and the enjoyment of the film kicked in. This will be a spoiler free zone of course so my review will be brief. It’s very good. All the stuff you want in there is present, with jokes that work on many levels, a good story line and of course the heart tugging emotion, and they all come together to make it another film that will entertain families for decades to come.

The emotional bits, I suppose, work best for the likes of our viewing party. The Toy Story quadrology (hey, I may have made that word up, but it works) has been with us as a family as a constant. Sat there with the next generation in the form of Freddie, when Emily started crying her eyes out, at the time when Freddie taking his turn on her knee, it was no surprise. The thing that happens, that I won’t spoil, is a symbol, once again, of time passing, new generations taking over and things often never being the same again. Having swallowed too many sugary snacks, I had to work extra hard to swallow the large lump in my throat.

Freddie, at 18 months old, behaved fantastically. Beyond the occasional “Quack Quack” at the appearance of a duck like toy which made our row chuckle if nobody else, he didn’t make a peep and broadly sat captivated throughout. It augers well for the watching of shows in WDW in 65 days time. Ooh see how I crow bar a countdown update seamlessly into a post.

He was on a massive snack and sugar overdose which helped but that’s how the cinema works, so he deserves all the credit.

Speaking of important family milestones, time passing, and kids growing up. Remember, Rebecca? The little girl you’ve seen in my trip reports over the years….

Well, yesterday Louise and Emily watched her choose her wedding dress. If the themes and motifs of the Toy Story films are ever more accurately mirrored in my life at any other time, I will be amazed.

Yes, yes, I don’t look old enough to be the father of the bride. That’s just my natural athleticism, classic good looks and military grade fitness regime, but it’s happening nonetheless.

I haven’t seen the dress. Rebecca wants me to see it for the first time on the day and that’s fine. Mine and Louise’s job is just to deliver the day she wants. She is delighted with it, and, as the cliche goes, she knew it was the one the moment she tried it on. I had a similar experience last week in Matalan trying on a new pair of jogging pants. Just the bills for those two items were different.

So at the risk of being THAT patronising person who thinks they know it all about parenting, if you are taking your young kids to watch Toy Story 4 anytime soon. Enjoy it. Despite the perpetual exhaustion, financial woes, never ending work and day to day struggles, drink it in. Next week you’ll be planning a wedding and bouncing your grandchild on your knee. That’s great too of course, and I spend every moment in Freddie’s presence with a smile on my face, but just smell the roses of today, take a million photos, write endless trip reports that capture your holidays. Otherwise you’ll blink and miss it.

Here endeth the eyebrow raise inducing faux wisdom.

At the risk of not heeding my own advice, I have to go now and spend the rest of my Sunday fighting the dread of the impending Monday.

Till the next time…….

Binging, Bean and Bonkers Behaviour

Remember when it wasn’t raining? Good times, good times…..

The weather has been a meteorological metaphor for my past week at work. Each raindrop representing some element of my working week that washed away my energy, resilience and will to live.

With no immediate end in sight to the current madness and a diary chock full of things I don’t want to do with people I don’t want to do it with, I am clinging onto sanity by looking at my fridge door on a regular basis. Why? Because that’s where our countdown sits.

Evenings have been a vegetative state of binge watching, with Louise similarly busy, it’s all we can muster. Last week we polished off the new Killing Eve in two nights, caught the first episode of the new series of Handmaid’s Tale and then, whilst surfing around Netflix, Louise chose Dr Foster. We are always on the cutting edge of new releases. I probably wouldn’t have picked it to be honest but it was largely good. The end of series 2 seemed to be a case of the writers losing it a bit and letting the whole thing get away from them, but it was very watchable for the most part.

I was out gigging last night at a wedding in Tottington/Bury and Louise took the opportunity to binge watch all of the current series of Love Island. This has to happen when I’m out of the house otherwise I have to set the TV on fire.

Away from exciting TV related news, that I know you live for in these blogs, yesterday Rebecca started her wedding dress search. She, Louise and Emily went to a couple of shops where apparently you now need to make appointments. Clearly I am not involved in this process and will not see the selection until the day, but she has not yet found “the one” but did try a few on which she really liked and found it helpful.

The cake has been ordered now and lots of other things are being looked at and selected. It’s full on this wedding lark isn’t it?

During the hurly burly of my working week I got wind of utter madness going down in Orlando. I have to say it did fill me with a bit of horror and dread for what might be in store with the opening of Galaxy’s Edge. I didn’t have time to read too much detail of what was going on, but for the opening of what (it seems to me) is the re-theming of a fairly standard roller coaster, folks were waiting over ten hours. Ten. Hours!!

I barely tolerate a flight shorter than that to get to Orlando never mind to ride one thing. Come on folks, have a word with yourselves. Apparently the park had to shut the gates at 10am after reaching capacity, and the queue literally filled the whole park.

I mean, I have a soft spot for this ride already. For those paying attention, it was the announcement of this ride that forced Louise into wanting to go back, (next year) to ride it. Sure, another trip then got shoe horned in this year but still, it has played its part in our Orlando obsession. But, look, just, look….

Look at how happy they look. Ten hours…….ten hours!!

I would go so far as to say, despite all my work related moaning that I probably would rather spend a day at work than queue for anything for ten hours. That is the level of my disdain for this stupidity.

Before I go, I need to mention two occasions of note. The first, as Emily would be upset if I didn’t give it a “shout out”, is Bean’s third birthday. She’s a pain in the arse at times, but can also be a loving, funny ginger nuisance. Happy Birthday Bean.

The other of course is Father’s Day. With both of my daughters having the audacity to be spending this morning out of my house with their respective partners, there was no breakfast in bed and I had to source my own bowl of Shreddies.

Having said that, I live next door to my Dad and I didn’t make him breakfast either so I suppose that’s fair enough. I shall pop round later Dad with a gift that will in no way reflect what you deserve for everything you’ve done for me, Louise and the girls. Happy Father’s Day to my Dad, all of yours and of course to those Dads who aren’t here to receive their gifts in person. Louise’s Dad is in that category so a special mention to him.

Oh, and it’s 72 days folks. I don’t know if I’ll remember to give you a weekly update on that but I hope so!

Till the next time…..