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.

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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…….

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?

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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…..

Freddie, Football and Fatigue

This will be rushed and make less sense than usual. I know that sounds like a challenge but I am on Freddie duties this weekend so my typing time is restricted. Louise is out working so he has been entrusted to me and me alone. My parenting memory muscles are being tested along with my stamina.

Supervising little humans is literally a full time role as this weekend has reminded me. The fact that I did my step target yesterday without leaving the house other than a walk to the local shop demonstrates the physical exertions of making sure he hasn’t got his fingers in something he shouldn’t.

He’s been good though, as he always is. He is ever pleasant, tantrum free ( so far) and a joy to be around. There’s a reason I had kids in my twenties though. I had more energy then!

I have of course fulfilled my duties as Grandparent to spoil him and feed him stuff his Mum and Dad might not. Here he is enjoying his Scooby Do gingerbread biscuit.

It has been a manic week all round. Work has been a million mile an hour maelstrom full of pressure, problem and pricks and then I was out gigging on Friday night over in Bispham, which meant a very late night, followed by an early start on Saturday as Freddie duties commenced.

Louise arrived home just after six, giving me just enough time to walk the dogs before settling in for the football. Now, typically I avoid blogging about a few things that I feel strongly about and football is one of them. The easiest way to stop either of my readers from turning up each week would be to wang on about my favourite team. Same goes for Brexit.

You probably know that I support Liverpool so last night was kind of a big deal. It’s been a terrific season but the thought of ending it with nothing tangible to show was not a good one and I was, as I always am before big games, anxious, edgy and knowing I wouldn’t actually enjoy the game itself until the result was beyond doubt.

The game itself was awful, and with Liverpool holding a slender 1-0 lead from the first minute, the game was on a knife edge for the next 86 minutes and it was not an enjoyable experience. Then, in the 87th minute a second goal brought sweet relief and a grown man to his feet in the living room, shaking his fists at the TV. If you get football, that won’t sound tragic but if you don’t then of course it will and I don’t mind either way. It’s best I don’t tell you about how emotional I got at the final whistle. It cannot be explained if it needs explaining to you.

If you have no idea what the game was, just know that winning the European Cup for the 6th time is a big deal and the pleasure almost equalled the relief felt as the cup was hoisted aloft by the players.

I retired to bed just before midnight preparing myself for day two of Freddie fun. He’s currently crawling through his pop up tunnel thing on our living room floor. It isn’t clear it is a floor at the moment as it cannot be seen for toys. If it ever stops raining we shall head out to the park for some swing action but the forecast does not look great.

This evening will be spent relaxing for sure, readying myself for another five days of mayhem at work. A casual glance at my diary for the week confirms it is chock full of meetings I don’t want to go to, people I don’t want to deal with and more work than I know can be fit into the amount of time available. It pays for the holidays I suppose.

OK, I have to go and see what Freddie has been doing outside on the road for the last half an hour. That’s a joke Rebecca!

Till the next time…..