The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Six

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Six

Our decision to skip the Magic Kingdom last night was, it turns out, a wise one. Freddie set the tone by sleeping for a full twelve hours and I think we all needed that early night and some extra sleep. Of course, being decidedly middle-aged I didn’t benefit too much as my days of sleeping for twelve hours ended sometime in the early 90’s when the girls destroyed my ability to sleep beyond 8am or have a positive bank balance.

We were all up, dressed and out by 9.30am and unusually so early in a trip, heading for a second day at Animal Kingdom. In its early years you’d be lucky to get a full day out of this park but now it’s all grown up and a place you can spend multiple days with no issue.

Unlike our last visit, we had some useful FastPasses and after arriving and taking the obligatory “I’m at Animal Kingdom” photos….

our stroll brought us to Everest for around 10.20 to use our first FastPass of the day.

With baby swap sorted, Rebecca and Tom rode first and I took the chance to play the “Ready Steady Go ” game again with Freddie over by the wall. The rest of us then rode taking more obligatory photos and screaming in a way that might call into question my masculinity.

It seems that everyone else in our party has forgotten how to do things of a morning. Only I had prepared for maximum touring efficiency by having breakfast in the villa so now we needed to feed people. This will not be tolerated on a long term basis.

We wandered over towards the area near the safari looking for something suitable. As testament to how long it has been since we sought food in this area, we approached Tusker House. In years gone by this was counter service style (I think) and you could sit out back and listen to someone washing up. If you know, you know.

However, now it appears to be a high-end dining experience at $55 per head for lunch, which they were now taking seating for. This was not what we were looking for so we snuck away and went next door to the little bakery thing and ordered some sweet stuff and drinks. I mean, as if any idiot would blow that much cash on a walk-in last-minute lunch in a theme park. Seriously, what sort of fool……I can’t imagine anyone being so silly…..anyway, onwards……

I appreciate that I had already eaten breakfast but if you think I was going to sit and watch everyone else eat without tucking in, then where have you been all these years? The danish thing above was lovely.

I have to be honest, I don’t remember what this is, or who ate it. It looks veggy friendly so probably Emily.

This photo doesn’t do justice to the size of this thing. A phrase I have never used before.

So we sat and ate our stuff for a bit, forming a nice sweat in the ludicrous heat.

Hopefully, you can still see Freddie there despite his camouflage.

Like a hungry chick, he awaits his chunks of Mickey-shaped goodness.

Having wasted vital touring minutes with non-essentials such as eating, we finally moved on to the gorilla trail thing. I accept that may not be the attraction’s formal name.

I apologise now for the nakedness in this next photo.

Freddie found these little chaps fascinating and a kindly cast member allowed him under the rope so he could go right up to the glass for a better look. I promised I wouldn’t tell anybody.

At this point, after a good breakfast, inevitably, we encountered turtlehead.

Whilst Freddie dealt with that, I “toad” him I’d be just next door with this chap.

We continued our tour of the various animals…..

At one point coming face to face with my future reality.

I made a mental note perhaps to skip dessert this evening.

One more photo from the Freddie with animals series…..

These were impressive Zebras….

but next to them were mere cats, so I didn’t take their photo.

We spent a good amount of time watching the gorillas as they were all close to the window and one of them had a newborn. I took several photos, all of them failing to capture it.

I assumed that the baby’s head was that hairy thing inbetween the Mum’s legs. I didn’t want to contemplate the possibility that it wasn’t!

Onwards further along the trail and to the silverback, avoiding decent photos of himself since 1997.

As we exited the trail we had fifteen minutes to kill before being the allowable ten minutes early for our safari FastPass. We spent that time in the shop, browsing and not buying. Some liquids were onboarded though.

We needn’t have bothered killing that time as when we tried to enter the ride via the FastPass queue the signs to the stroller parking for FastPass guests were so confusing and incoherent that it took about twenty minutes to find it. Moist, mad and middle-aged, I harrumphed my way back to the queue.

Eventually, amidst my many tuts, we boarded our truck.

A more paranoid person with hang-ups about their weight may have felt the universe was talking to them….

Overall, with this being almost the middle of the day, we’ve seen more on other safaris, but we did OK.

If you like giraffes this will be your favourite trip report day ever.

Our guide told us that giraffes only sleep for about twenty minutes at a time. That took me back to Rebecca’s newborn days. Clearly, she is part giraffe.

Freddie with his, “why is Grandad taking all these photos” face.

and this may be the most anyone has seen of the lions on any AK safari in living memory…..

It was now 12.55 which left about four and a half minutes to get the next Lion King show. We used all of the available time and just took our seats as the show was starting, with the benefit of not having to learn the hand jive stuff whilst we waited.

I did some more Facebook live-ing here….so if you want to watch it, and why wouldn’t you, here you go.

We left the show high on the joy it always brings and headed for Pandora. We had a Navi FastPass at 13.55. See how our touring experience seamlessly flows when I don’t have to re-plan it on the day.

On our way there, we decided we needed a drink. Normal families might alight at a drinks cart and get some water and cokes and spend about $3.50 each. Not us. We spotted the new Nomad Lounge next to Tiffins and decided to have a look. As I approached the cast member out front, my tired, weary legs spotted the plush looking banquettes (this place is too posh for just sofas) and as soon as the cast member confirmed we could bring a napping Freddie in, still in his stroller, I was sold.

This place is lovely. Very comfortable seating, top class service, lovely cocktails (and the diet coke is fine) and a lovely setting. It’s odd that it is right in the middle of a theme park yet somehow they have managed to make it feel secluded and peaceful.

We chose from the menus, not only ordering cocktails at the price of a weekly shop back home but also some “light bites”. If they want us to keep visiting this place they should reconsider their marketing messaging of their food.

The cocktails arrived first….

Hmm, diet coke…..

Then our lunch.

Those were the sliders, and these the chicken satay….

I had the bread service, because, presented with that as an option, why on earth wouldn’t you?

We spent over an hour here and enjoyed every second. We also Facetimed my Mum & Dad back home….all this and WiFi too! It was peaceful, relaxing and with lovely food and drink. So yes, with multiple rounds of cocktails, we blew $200 on a walk-in last-minute lunch in a theme park, but that figure, which would horrify me back home, meant little. We work so hard to get on these trips that every now and again you have to do things like this and I loved it.

Our relaxing time here meant that we had just gone past our FastPass for Navi. We decided to head there anyway, hoping the ten minutes grace period would save us and it did. Between getting from the front entrance and down the path to the queue, the heavens opened, and we got a few seconds of a drenching, which wasn’t all that unwelcome, other than we were then stood in air conditioning for a few minutes.

This isn’t a thrill ride by any stretch but it’s interesting, and one that everyone can go on, and Freddie spent it pointing at stuff that I wondered how his little mind was making sense of.

With all our FastPasses spent as we left the ride I fired up the app and secured another for the Rapids. restrooming happened and we made our way over to the ride as the time slot for our FastPass was nowish.

On our journey there we stopped to watch some dance party stuff going on but still managed to arrive at the Rapids ten minutes early. Our bands got the magic bleep anyway and we were in. Louise volunteered to sit out with Freddie. We looked with appropriate disdain at anyone wearing a poncho in the queue. That’s like having some soup at home before going out for a large meal so you won’t eat too much. The whole point is that you get yourself wet.

One thing I noticed was the waterproof cover thing in the middle is gone, so if you have anything with you that you would normally put in there, you can’t and it will get wet. Having said that, compared to the mother of all raft rides, Bilge Rats at Universal, this is nothing. Sure, we got a bit splashed, but nobody comes off Bilge Rats without feeling like they sat in a bath for an hour.

At this point, we headed for the exit. We wanted to get back to the villa for showers before heading out to eat. We were home around 5pm and I spent all the time other than the five minutes it took me to get ready resting and watching TV. We left the villa close to 7pm and headed up the I4 to Lake Buena Vista and Bahama Breeze.

The roads felt unusually quiet, perhaps brought on by the incessant TV coverage of everyone’s impending doom at the hands of Dorian, and the restaurant too was pretty empty. We chose to sit outside.

We ordered some drinks, an appetiser combo and a goat’s cheese dip thing.

I had a mocktail.

Tom ordered what I think was called the Dell Boy.

The ladies had stuff like this.

I had a Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad (the hippos today clearly having a subliminal effect on me).

Rebecca and Louise had the Jerk Chicken Pasta

Emily, the Black Bean Tacos

Tom had the Taste of Jamaica

and Freddie the Chicken Tenders.

I sacrificed my Virgin Bahamarita to Freddie who loved it.

As was becoming a tradition now, Freddie laid his hands on the camera and started randomly pressing the button. To be fair, if I hadn’t told you that, you probably wouldn’t have noticed much difference to my photographic skills.

Hippos be damned, I had a Key Lime Pie and Tom had a Chocolate Cake thing. The Key Lime Pie is excellent here and Tom cleared his too, but to be fair that can’t be used as any sort of comment on quality as he always tends to do that.

The bill, driven by a lot of cocktails was a slightly pricey for off-site, $250. The service wasn’t the best tonight, not bad, but we’ve had better, so I only left 15%. I tend to overtip all the time in my attempt to assure US servers that Brits aren’t always destined to leave no or little tip, but when the service isn’t that deserving I will knock a bit off.

Once again, our full bellies and heavy eyelids scuppered our best intentions of going to Disney Springs and everyone just wanted to go to bed. We did so by 10pm allowing our bodies to convert today’s calories into fat nice and early.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Four

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Four

There’s a long history of me being fortunate enough to spend my birthday in WDW. I can’t remember a bad one and today’s events, as yes, it was my birthday, ranked very high on the all-time list.

Touring World Showcase has been a regular event to celebrate my body ageing and resembling a deflating balloon just a little more, and again, we had Epcot planned. Today, however, had a little more meaning than usual, as this would be the last time that I would be watching Reflections of Earth on a birthday.

ROE has been a huge part of our family trips over the years. Indeed, it started on October 1st 1999, which was just a few days before the first visit for the girls, so for that, and many other reasons it has taken on a very special place in our lives and of course our trips.

This birthday started regrettably early at 5am. I refused to leave my bed until 7, reading and internet browsing until that time. I made my way downstairs eventually to be greeted with cards and presents and some football on the telly. I enjoyed some breakfast and Man United failing to win in equal measure and at around 9am, Facetimed my Mum & Dad back home.

Half an hour later everyone was loaded into the van and we made our way to Epcot and Discover 12. It was a short tram ride to a drop off point that led to a walk to the entrance which was longer than the tram ride. Once through security and the finger scanning I took the chance to commemorate the occasion with an “in front of the ball” photo with Freddie.

Today’s FastPasses, having not been made on the morning of our park visit, were in much better shape, represented by Soarin’ being our first. We set up baby swap and Rebecca and Tom sat out first having a drink and some cake in the food court in The Land.

The rest of us made the long walk to the ride.

I have never used the standby line for this ride so I always try to see, with interest, what the interactive stuff is over in the muggle line. I am interested, but not enough to actually queue up to ride.

We enjoyed, as we always do, Patrick’s safety briefing and then the new film for Soarin’. It’s just an excellent ride.

We took over care of Freddie, finished off the cakes Rebecca and Tom had bought, and Louise got some breakfast having failed to prepare by getting some back at the villa. It was a breakfast croissant and some potato things, the latter of which Freddie ate most of.

Once we were all reunited we made our way out over to Nemo. Walking out of The Land, I did so with Freddie walking beside me, holding my hand. It’s these lovely little things that stick in my mind.

It was a walk-on and a welcome sit down. We had a look around the fish and stuff, which I suspect are not their formal Latin species names.

By the time we left, it was 11.50 and time to execute my extra cunning piece of very cunning cunningness that I teased in a pre-trip blog weeks ago. I do fear that I oversold this as some stroke of planning genius, but I shall reveal all now, as long as you promise to keep it to yourself.

One thing that we don’t enjoy about watching Reflections of Earth is the crowded shuffle all the way down to the main entrance, followed by a wait for a tram or a long walk to the car. With that in mind, we always try to tie a viewing of the fireworks at Epcot with a dining reservation somewhere around the Boardwalk so that we may park there. This allows us to leave Epcot via International Gateway, which is not only better than the other option, it is actually a pleasant experience and a lovely stroll.

This year, on this birthday, having lunch or early dinner in any of those locations was not an option as we very much wanted and had booked to eat at Via Napoli. So, bending the rules ever so slightly, I made a rogue ADR for two at Ale and Compass at the Yacht Club.

The idea was that, now, Emily and I would power walk back to the car, drive it round to the Yacht Club, using our ADR to get access to the parking, and then walk back into Epcot to continue our day. Doing this of course does mean that there is a fair chance that you may get charged the $10 per person for missing your ADR, but frankly, that cost is bearable for the six of us to be able to have a leisurely stroll back to the car after ROE, rather than the battle to the main entrance with a stroller and a tired Freddie.

So there you go. If you want to use that trick you can, although, I did find a better trick that we used later in the trip. If I tell you now, you will have no incentive to keep reading, so try not to lie awake thinking about it.

When we arrived at the little house where the security guards live at the Yacht Club, I had my photo ID to hand, and a quick scan of my Magic Band confirmed to him that I did indeed have an ADR and we were waved through. It worked better than we thought as the self-parking at the Yacht Club was pretty full, and he directed us to the Beach Club parking which is that little bit closer to International Gateway.

As we always do when visiting here, we take photos as some sort of homage to how much we love it.

I think this photo has featured in more trip reports than I have.

When I’m having to endure a cold, bleak, work-filled day at home, sat in meetings that make me question my career “choices”, that photo above is where I wish I was instead.

It’s open now of course, but at the time, I had to lift my camera above my head and the boarding to sneak a photo of the new Skyliner station just outside International Gateway.

We discovered that everyone else was down near Mission Space so Emily and I made our way down through the UK and Canada to meet them.

It was a skin crisper today. Not so much hot, as human barbeque.

In another example of ninja levels of planning, just as we met up with everyone, our FastPass for Mission Space, booked 30 days ago, became active. I’m not saying I am good at this stuff, I just let my record speak for itself.

Louise sat out in the unbearable sun watching Freddie who was having a snooze in his shady stroller. As we often tend to do, we waited a little longer than we should have due to some lightweight leaving their lunch all over the ride. We entered, praying that we weren’t sat where the vomit just was.

After a successful mission, and a moment’s silent mourning that we no longer see the wonder that is Gary Sinese’s hair in the now-departed briefing video, we left to find Louise and Freddie.

It was very much lunchtime now and because we knew it was about to get bulldozed, we chose Electric Umbrella just in case it never returns. I didn’t mobile order here for some reason and instead stood staring at the board like it was the first time I had seen words, or food, blurting out numbers to the order taker. Yes, I’m one of those that order here by number.

Alas, the number I got wrong was the members of our party and when we got to our table, I realised, that as I often do in these situations, I had ordered for everybody other than myself. I really couldn’t be arsed queuing again so Louise and I shared a cheeseburger and a few choice words about my incompetence levels.

To make amends, as everyone was finishing up, I left the table and power walked around the corner to the Joffrey’s coffee stand and got us some dessert in the shape of three doughnuts. They are a size of which I approve.

Rest assured, Freddie shared that with his Dad and that means he didn’t get that much of it. These things are awesome and delicious in all sorts of ways. Get some.

We did some wandering around Mousegear and then made our way over to Journey Into Imagination. It will not surprise you to learn that this was a walk-on. After riding I finally had to admit defeat and go to a restroom. I can only hold it so long. The rest of the party took Freddie up to the dancing water fountain things, with which he was fascinated.

Our next FastPass called now, at Spaceship Earth.

It was a walk-on. I await my refund from Disney for this insult.

After riding, Tom went to retrieve the stroller from the ride entrance and Freddie did some modelling whilst we waited.

Onwards to Turtle Talk with Crush next.

I captured some photos of the area, knowing that it was about to be changed forever in just a few days.

Freddie enjoyed Crush and sat through the whole thing pretty well. With that done, it was time to make our way up to World Showcase. The plan now was to say our goodbyes to O Canada, as we had recently heard of an impending revamp and I was very much not OK.

I had checked online before leaving the UK that it would still be open on my birthday and I had, I’m sure, seen that it would be. Upon arriving, a cast member was stood at the top of the steps informing guests that it was now down for refurbishment until January.

I rugby tackled him to the ground and opened several cans of whoop-ass all over him. It made no difference and he point-blank refused to open up the show just for me. I have to say that I was very upset not being able to see this one last time. Please, just give me a moment…….and please appreciate one more time the glorious majesty of this song.

We continued up to the UK and across the bridge towards France as we were now on our way to Via Napoli. As some sort of representation of my distress, we experienced one of the weirdest rain storms we have ever seen in Florida. The skies cried at the demise of O Canada. We’ve seen all sorts of rain over the years but most of it gives you some sort of warning of its impending arrival. This one, as we were halfway across the bridge, came on as if we’d turn the shower on. There was no slow build-up or a few drops at first, but instead a complete downpour of torrential rain from nothing. We started at speed in search of cover. I wrestled the two umbrellas I had liberated from the villa out of Ryan and handed them out.

We sheltered eventually outside the perfume shop in France but by that time we were already soaking wet.

It lasted for about fifteen minutes, just long enough to mean that we now had to get a wriggle on and get to Italy asap, without stopping anywhere on the way.

Those familiar with a Floridian summer will not be surprised to see this next photo and how unrecognisable it is weather-wise from the previous ones.

I power-walked ahead a little, allowing others to restroom and checked us in. We were seated as soon as everyone caught me up.

We ordered various cocktails and with it being my birthday I even ordered myself a beer flight.

To start we ordered some salad and garlic bread.

It pleased us.

But not a much as the pizza did.

Louise, Emily and I ordered individual pizzas, but Rebecca, Tom and Freddie shared the half metre pizza……and it was good.

Emily’s looked like this

Freddie looked excited…..

and we all tucked in, delighted with our choices. This is good pizza.

Service was a little slow, but we honestly didn’t mind. We were just enjoying the sit-down, the lovely food and drinks and making the most of my birthday. To pass the time, Freddie got his hands on the camera and took about three hundred photos that I would need to delete later. He managed a couple that survived the cull.

We ordered some desserts even though we were full beyond all bounds of sensible eating.

Whilst we waited Freddie enjoyed one of his favourite films.

That was quickly abandoned as soon as his ice cream turned up.

I shared a Tiramisu with Emily.

I was so busy eating it that I didn’t take any photos as Louise enjoyed some large chocolate balls. Probably for the best. Tom had ice cream too. If you hadn’t noticed yet, he is quite keen on the odd ice cream.

The bill was large as expected, but worth it. We loved it again. We waddled out into the dusk of World Showcase, which as you know, is one of favourite times and places on the earth.

Inevitable restroomery meant that we loitered here for a while and I didn’t mind one bit. During the meal, I had managed to secure us a Test Track FastPass so we made the long walk there now. It was only as we got within earshot of the ride that Emily pointed out the lack of the distinctive ride noise. I consulted the app, and yep, it was down. Collective weeping at the wasted energy our legs had exerted transporting our very full bodies ensued. It was, of course, my fault and I was forced to walk back up to Mexico, naked, whilst Louise rang a bell shouting “Shame”.

To try and rescue the situation I took us into Mexico as the ride there is just as good as Test Track, right?

Well, Freddie thought it was great!

We then started our journey around the lagoon to our traditional ROE viewing spot on the bridge between France and the UK.

We got there with half an hour to spare and spent that time just being there and loving it.

My camera fails to capture this as do my words.

As I was stood looking out across the lagoon, with *that* music playing, a warm breeze blowing making the temperature just perfect, the lights twinkling aside the flaming torches, this, I recognised, was one of those moments.

All sorts of memories and thoughts came to me, brought to mind no doubt by pizza, beer, my birthday and the impending loss of Reflections of Earth. All the years I have stood here with the girls at various ages, the thought that my Mum & Dad wouldn’t see it again and alongside all of that, the anticipation of what’s to come, the possibilities of Freddie’s life in front of him and all of the trips, experiences and memories we would make together. My heart and belly were full, and that’s the way I like it.

I captured a few moments of it here…

Then, the torch was extinguished and the fireworks began. I captured that too.

There were tears at the end of course. Emily cries at everything, but even Rebecca shed a couple tonight, but I just had something in my eye and I think that pizza had caused the lump in my throat.

We slowly made our way out towards the Beach Club. After such a beautiful, magical evening, it was only fitting that we ended it by waiting half an hour for Louise to have a poo in the Beach Club.

I drove us home. It won’t be the last birthday I spend here, but if it were. it would have been a good way to finish.

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…..

We Could Be Churros……

I was going to start with a common moan that this week has been a busy one. It has, and most are. It involved a visit to London which is hardly ever welcome and/or pleasant. With apologies and cap doffing to those of you who live and work there. It’s not for me.

I am ever grateful for the Pendolino that allows me to have my visits resemble some assault on a foreign embassy holding hostages. I boarded a train at 7am, was in Euston by 9am and sat in my meeting by 9.25. Despite this meeting containing some of the most ludicrous business speak I have ever encountered (and I’ve been doing this a while now) the day whizzed by and I was sat (backwards…bleugh) heading north on the 3pm out of Euston. I was home earlier than I usually am after a day in my normal office.

So that, added to the usual collection of drudgery, mild panic, problem solving and the odd minor success made the week a busy one. So as I said I was going to start by moaning about that. Then, I remembered that at some point during last week, courtesy of Twitter I learned that Toy Story Land had been added to the maps on the My Disney Experience app. So I abandoned whatever world-changing task I was buried in, opened the app, walked to Emily’s desk and we spent the next ten minutes zooming in and out, looking at the rides, pondering on how Star Wars Land was shaping up and then looking at wait times for all the rides.

 

So I feel a little guilty, bemoaning my lack of spare time, but hey, everyone needs a few minutes during the day and if it can contain some Disney it’s all the better.

Prep continues for our trip nicely. Everyone is trying to shed those few pounds to give us the freedom to put them back on before we get off the plane at Orlando and small but essential purchases are being made. Rebecca bought her park rucksack yesterday. This may seem trivial, but, as you know, these are strategic, long-term decisions as this one will now be going with her on trips until Freddie is a Dad.

It hasn’t been named yet. That is only a matter of time of course. As much care and thought must be given to that as they did to naming Freddie and they need to be given time to do that.

I still haven’t had Ryan mended yet so I must get round to that as failure is not an option.

The other thing of note this week (look, it is significant to me as it is food related) is the appearance of this heavenly creature.

Image credit to disneyfoodblog.com

That is an absolute game changer. There is no other substance on the planet that contains more sugar than a churro. Not even sugar, so to enhance it with ice-cream is a stroke of genius, and if it is possible to FastPass that, I will, and I’ll be heading for it at rope drop on the first morning. I’ll have been awake for about four hours by then so I’ll be due elevenses. Now you see why I’m trying to lose a few pounds.

It may be apparent that I am ever so slightly pining for this trip? Well, I’m ready. It’s already been some 14 months since we were on Floridian soil and even then we only had four days at WDW, so my body, brain and other bits are all ready for a break now. Such is the eternal struggle of a Brit with a WDW obsession.

OK, I have chores to attend to, as Louise is working all weekend, some football to watch, dogs to walk and if time allows some indulgence in some Disney vlogs to distract me from the imminent arrival of yet another Monday. Enjoy your Sundays.

Till the next time…..


Discount Disney Tickets

My Fantasmic Package

In the hurly burly of the last few weeks the act of planning has been a casualty to my lack of free time. This shall not stand.

You may remember, no, you will remember as the contents of this blog are of course your top priority and every syllable uttered is burned into your consciousness every week, that I wanted to book the Fantasmic Dinner Package at Hollywood Studios. See, I said you would remember!

At the time of ADRness those packages were not available on the app/web site so I just booked a meal at the Brown Derby instead. We knew we wanted to eat there anyway, as clearly we have more money than sense.

During a recent five second break from the daily madness this came to mind and I fired up the web site to see if this oversight from Disney had been corrected and if my multi-million dollar law suit for my emotional distress had been replied to. One of those had been addressed and I was now able to secure our seats in the amphitheatre. I know deep down that we probably don’t need to reserve seats in this manner but a few factors means it made sense (to me).

  1. It is Labor (for a country which starts with a U, I don’t know why they insist on omitting them from words that need them) Day on this day in question.
  2. We have a toddler with us and standing in a queue for 60 to 90 minutes may not be the best experience of the trip
  3. The package costs no more than just dining at the Brown Derby.

The Labor Day thing is an odd one. Any public holiday usually sees me making plans to being in a different state or continent to the theme parks. Those days like New Year’s Eve or Thanksgiving, when the parks shut due to hitting capacity are the few of the year when I wouldn’t automatically rather be in them. Louise especially does not do well in a packed theme park. Those nights when we have had to go to Magic Kingdom to see Wishes and a parade as it was our last night were always a struggle for Louise.

Anywho, a little bit of research about Labor Day reassured me sufficiently to allow us to attempt a park on that day. Several blogs and vlogs are of the opinion that Labor Day is not on the same scale as other public holidays, as it is just the one day, and historically crowd levels have been normal, if not a little quieter than usual. What could possibly go wrong?

So, on the off-chance that those blogs are wrong (not something you will ever find here my friends!) and Louise is close to murdering someone, specifically some fat bald bloke with a rucksack, we know we have a lovely meal booked and a seat in Fantasmic without waiting. Add in out three Fastpasses and a couple of shows and that should do the trick.

All of that could of course be totally irrelevant due to our track record with this Fantasmic Dinner Package. My memory is probably playing tricks on me, but it feels like every time we have booked this thing at vast expense the show has been cancelled due to rain. Now I could find out if that is the case quite easily by reading all of my trip reports but who wants to do that? In fact why don’t you all do that this week and report back to me next Sunday?

In other news I am ill. This is not Vitamin D related, this is a proper manly, visible, and understandable illness that I can wear like a badge of honour. I feel dreadful, can’t sleep, can’t really function and there are even signs that my appetite is slightly diminished. The latter being a real cause for national concern. It is just man flu of course and the odds are I will pull through but let’s not take that for granted.

Last night we had Freddie over for a few hours whilst Rebecca and Tom went to the cinema. Being infected and infectious sadly I couldn’t be too hands on but it is always lovely to have him around.

I shall leave you now to tend to my illness. I had a long to do list for today so let’s see if I can medicate myself sufficiently to get any of it done.

Till the next time….

Full Of Freddie

I promise that I will try not to become a grand chlild bore each week bombarding you with nothing but Freddie stuff.  However, this week is not the time for that. It’s felt like a long week, and a tough one for Rebecca and Tom as Freddie was in hospital for pretty much all of it.

He wasn’t feeding too well and was generally taking a while to recover from the trauma that is birth. Frustrated at wanting him home and at the same time worried that he’d be OK, after probably the longest week in the world, Rebecca and Tom were finally able to bring him home on Friday. They were a little naughty and just turned up at our house with him out of the blue having told us earlier that day that they hadn’t heard anything about him coming home.

With him being in special care until this point I hadn’t been able to hold him so this was a special moment which I celebrated by growing an extra chin.

So putting that week of stress and worry behind them, he was taken home so that his parents could then start a whole new phase of stress and worry about important things such as poo, eating and sleeping, which sounds like one of my normal weeks.

That new phase of stress and worry for Rebecca and Tom, I shall needlessly point out, will never end!

There have been lots of gifts and stuff purchased for the new family unit. One thing I gave them was something I wish we had been lucky enough to have. It is free but yet priceless. I set up a YouTube channel for Freddie. I know he won’t be vlogging for a while (if at all) of course, but the idea is that it is somewhere to put as many videos as possible of him, so when his Mum & Dad become middle-aged nostalgia machines they will be able to look back at any given point in his life and watch it all over again.

To make this easier we also got them a vlogging camera. Now, I have no idea if that channel will be made public, that’s up to his parents, but that isn’t the point. Our memories of the kids are scattered across photo albums, trip reports (thankfully) and other stuff crammed into drawers. With technology as it is, this won’t be the case for young Freddie.

So we’re all getting used to our new life with another member of the family in place. Even Rebecca said it felt surreal and unreal but within a very short period of time it will feel like he’s always been here I’m sure. We are all absolutely smitten with him and when you look at these photos, you will probably see why. I say that with not one hint of grand parent bias of course!

He’s a sleeper so far, which is a blessing. He’s already doing six hours or so through the night in between feeds. That’s better than I do! That all may change over time, but it sounds very much like Emily who we had to prod whilst asleep to make sure she was still alive. Nothing has changed there to be honest and if left to her own devices would only wake to be fed and then go back to sleep.

So with very few apologies there ends an entire post dedicated to having a Freddie. It may happen again but I will try not to be the online equivalent of that bloke who keeps showing you the photos of his grand kids in his wallet. Maybe….

Till the next time….

A Right Royal Driveby

I met the Queen this week.  She came to Manchester on Friday to see me.  See….

Queen
It is her!!

Admittedly our conversation was brief and a little one-sided, but we’re both busy people!  In case you are wondering, yes there is writing all over the windows.  It is highly technical gubbins that I draw on the windows to reinforce the perception that I understand what I am doing.  Little do they know I copy it all from Google!

So it is pretty tough to top a visit from Royalty, but there is more important news to report.  I have been ill!!  Yes, I know you will all be shocked, worried and guilty that you were not on hand to nurse me back to health.  That honour fell to Louise.  I completely missed Saturday in a blur of bed, dizziness, escaping liquids and Murder She Wrote.  The latter was the worst.  I was simply too weak and frail to raise the remote and turn the channel!

I have rallied somewhat today, and appear to be somewhere close to match fitness, having just eaten my first meal since Friday night.  You will appreciate now the severity of my condition if it kept me away from food for almost 48 hours!  I hope it only increases your guilt.

Before I was struck down so cruelly by this life threatening condition last week I did manage to write a new article for the WDW Dads site.  It covers (some of) my tip-top tips for a visit to WDW.  All of you buggers with a trip booked should have a read on the off-chance I haven’t bored you with them already.  The pain I went through to write that, knowing a trip for us is anything but imminent was unimaginable.  My hankering for the place is physically painful.

So being as weak as a kitten today, I haven’t done a great deal.  I have enjoyed the sunshine, and I’m told it was sunny yesterday too, but all I saw was the inside of our blinds, the toilet bowl and Angela Lansbury.  Right there is one rock and roll sounding party.

Whilst sat out in the garden today, Louise and I casually arranged the weddings of both the girls.  Don’t worry, you haven’t missed the arrival of new boys into their lives and a proposal each this week.  We were just planning ahead.  It will not surprise you to know that both girls WILL be getting married in Florida.  We checked that this would be OK with Rebecca, and she said yes.  We did ask her about her future husband, and what if he had no desire to get married there.  I can only tell you that he doesn’t know what he’s letting himself in for, and he’d better like Mickey Mouse!

Those of you who are foolish enough to have anything to do with me on Facebook or Twitter will have no doubt seen that Oli has been to the barbers this week.  He did look cute with the long hair, but he was getting a bit luggy and also quite warm, so we took the chance to get him his first close crop.  He did not enjoy the experience one bit, and the lady doing the deed no doubt earned every single penny of her fee.

He went from this…

Oli bath
All nose and hair

oli ice lolly
FEED ME!!

 

To this…..

Oli haircut
The expression says it all

Oli with Pumpkin
Cat worrier

Oli's blue eye
Just try that again!

It has been like having a different dog, and it is only his well-known habits, and the look in his eyes that has convinced us we got Oli back.  We’re so glad we had him done though as he would not have survived this mini heat wave over the weekend.

So all this typing has drained my fragile energy levels, and I need to go and lie down in a room that does not contain Angela Lansbury.

Till the next time….

Studio Here We Go!

Despite a very tiring day on Saturday, we embraced the theme park commando ethos, and Adam made a point of setting his iPhone alarm for 8.00am.  However, with the whole clocks going back thing, this all went wrong, as Adam manually adjusted his phone before going to sleep, only to find the iPhone then adjusted itself during the night.

All this confusion meant that when his alarm went off it was actually 9am, and not 8am.  As welcome as the extra hour of sleep was, this now meant that all our plans of getting to the Studios early lay in tatters amongst our twisted duvets and dirty clothes.

However, we did not do anything stupid, like miss breakfast.  After quickly showering, dressing and packing, we made our way down to the restaurant to find a fairly long queue to get in.  This was a worrying sign for the day ahead.  We were soon shown to a table, and unleashed on the crepery etc once again.

After checking out, we joined the cast of Ghandi outside the hotel, who were all waiting for the next bus to the parks.  As it arrived, Adam trampled several small children and got on, but alas, I was trapped behind people who were quite frankly bigger than me, so I could not get past them.  No matter, the next bus was only five minutes away, and I met Adam at the train station, after he had checked that France actually had trains running today.  Luckily, today was one of those special non strike days in France.

Once again, the scrum to enter the park was large and unorganised, and we had to do it twice, once to get into the Disneyland park, and check our luggage in Guest Services so we didn’t have to cart it round all day, and then again to get into the Studios next door, as the latter has no facility to hold your luggage.  When checking in my bag I put my receipt in my back Jeans pocket, along with my mobile phone (which now has a full charge!).  That might be important later!

 

RC Racer
Don't get RC with me!

Adam was keen to try to ride the RC Racer ride first, as it was new.  Having not arrived at the park at first opening our fears for the queue situation were large and valid, as the posted time was 75 minutes.  As it was only likely to get worse, we decided to give it a whirl, and were then delighted to spot a single rider line.  We clambered through and over a couple of barriers to get to it, and waited around 15 minutes for me to get on first, shortly followed by Adam a few minutes after.

I took a video of Adam’s go, which is both the wrong way around, and the reason I then had minimal battery for the rest of the day again!

The ride itself was another one of those that looked less intense than it turned out to be.  I wouldn’t say I would wait 75 minutes for the two minute experience, but it was good fun, and worth the 15 minutes we waited.

Adam was not keen to ride Tower of Terror, and wanted to take some photos of the new Toy Story area, so I toddled off, VIP Fastpass in hand, to ride it solo.  I couldn’t spot the Fastpass entrance initially, as it had a queue all of its own.  I was shocked to realise that this queue was (mainly) French folk, waiting to speak to the CM, and see if they could get in now with a 2.30pm entry time!!  I floated gracefully to the front, with my timeless, uber Fastpass, and endured the hatred as I was allowed into the hallowed halls.  Once inside, I used local knowledge (from Orlando!) to stand at the right place in the library, allowing me to leave first and get to the loading area.

The ride itself is a good one.  There is no forward moving section as there is in Orlando, but the droppy stuff is just as good.

After meeting up with Adam in the gift shop, we made our way over to the Rock n Rollercoaster.  Another 75 minute wait is thankfully avoided with the magic pass, and again, a ride similar  to Orlando, yet different.  It was very good indeed, and brought out similar shrieks and screams all the way round.

Frank Father of the Bride
Hello Mr Bonks!

Next, was one of my favourite attractions of the weekend, Cinemagique.  This to me is a great example of what Disney does best.  I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone yet to experience it, but it is a live action and film show, brilliantly executed, and thoroughly entertaining.  As an added bonus for me it stars Martin Short, who I love in O Canada, and no matter how many times I see them, makes me howl with laughter, as Franque in the Father of the Bride films.

I did some extensive gift shopping in the area where last night Cast Members were “attacking” guests in a ghoulish manner.  Today was business as usual really, and in a typical Dad type shopping session, we are were quickly in and out of the shop area, equipped with two suitable presents for the girls.  Job done!

Having largely done the park now, in addition to what we covered last night, we headed for the exit, and across to the other park.  You may have noticed a complete absence of food since breakfast, so we remedied this at this stage with a welcome Hot Dog at Caseys.

Suitably refueled, it was time to do battle on Buzz Lightyear.  Being honest, my expectations of victory were low, bearing in mind Adam was a veteran of 35 previous visits.  We got through the first battle, which was the usual congregation of confused French folk around the Fastpass entrance, trying to negotiate with the CM, that it really was time for them to go in.

With a wave of our “golden ticket” we were in, but still had a 10 minute queue or so before loading.  As expected Adam wins easily, however he was very gutted that we both achieved the same level (Level 4) even though our scores were miles apart.  I counted that as a creditable draw, and quickly moved on.

Star Tours was next, and this was almost identical to the one I am used to, apart from, of course, the fact that the pilot does the whole thing in French.  No matter.  Having ridden it countless times I knew the script anyway.

Castle
Dragon's Den

Next, we wandered to the castle.  It was very pleasing to see that they have actually used it for something more useful than just a restaurant, and a place for Tinkerbell to jump off.  There are shops of course, in which Adam bought a Christmas bauble, but they also have an area you can wander around, and do some sort of walking tour, plus in the basement, an impressive dragon in its lair.

After watching a few minutes of the show currently in progress in front of the castle, it was time to make our way out, and head for the train station.  Upon collecting our bags, I discovered that my receipt must have fallen from my pocket upon me taking out my phone to see how little battery I had left somewhere in the park.  Luckily, with some ID and a description of my bag, it didn’t pose a problem.

At the train station, Adam discovered that his original train was delayed by an hour, which would have meant he missed his flight, so after a quick review of the time-table he realised he had to take the train leaving, sort of nowish.

So a rushed thank you (from me) and good-bye, and he was off to his train.  This left me with nearly two hours to kill until my train, so I set off for a wander around Disney Village.  Having my bag with me, I was wanded at the entrance.  Beggars can’t be choosers!!  A touch more shopping happened, in which I picked up a present for Louise, and then had a general mooch.

Disaster was narrowly averted, when in a crowded shop, I turned around only to hear the bag on my back bash into a load of Disney mugs hung up in the aisle.  I closed my eyes, and prayed that no further sounds followed, which would signal the smashing of the mugs, and either a quick getaway or a painful use of the credit card.  Luckily, nothing fell to earth, and I quickly moved on.

Having exhausted my interest in retail, I went back across to the train station, bought a drink and sat outside people watching for quite a while.  I then wandered around the station, and frustratingly discovered a source of power for my phone in the waiting room, about ten minutes before I was due to board!!   A quick injection of juice, a tweet bemoaning the shocking battery performance of my phone, and it was time to go to the platform.

I won’t bore you with the details of the train journeys home, as everything was on time, and pretty uneventful.  I will comment on the delightful food I endured on the Eurostar leg, which was basically a microwaved pitta bread with a slice of dairylea and wafer thin ham.  It only cost me around £7, with a soft drink!

The walk from St Pancras to Euston was brisk, as the time between trains was short, but I made it quite easily, and took my seat in First Class (this is very cheap at 8.30pm on a Sunday night!!), and settled in for the last leg.

Louise picked me up just after 11pm, and I was more than happy to find my own bed about half an hour later.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the weekend, and would once again like to thank Adam, Juz and Craig (the DisneyBrit Podcast folk) for their generous prize, and of course to Adam for looking after me all weekend.

Having never really fancied or planned a trip to Disneyland Paris, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.  Once inside the parks, they are of the same quality of the Orlando parks, and indeed some parts are better!  For me, my obsession is not just with the Disney parks, but now I realise it is with the whole Florida experience.  The whole place feels like a theme park!!  In Paris, I felt that once outside the gates, the “magic” did not pervade.  I’m not saying anyone was rude, or we had bad service by any means.  It is an intangible thing, that you just feel.

The one thing that did strike me was that unless you are careful, a weekend at DLRP, with the family could get very expensive very quickly.  With flights (or trains), hotel, park tickets, food etc you could easily be into a couple of grand.  I’m sure you can do it for less of course, with knowledge and experience, just like Florida, but I’m not sure I would want to invest that sort of cash into such a short break.

If money was not an issue I would gladly return, with the family, and have a really good time I’m sure.

Thanks for reading these unusual blog posts, and with these travel journals providing a break from sheds, garages, work and general Meldrew style moaning, normal service shall be resumed next time around.

Till the next time…..

They think it’s all over….

It is now.

We’re back, jetlagged, already sick of work, and sneakily taking a look at options for our next holiday, but don’t tell anyone.

The Trip Report has started with Day One now up on The Dibb. There is a link to it on the Trip Reports Page.

This isn’t a proper post, as with work, trip reporting and being fed up, I don’t have time, but I just wanted to say hello to everyone now we are back in the UK.

I’ll probably do a blog post this weekend if I can, as I have some inner rage to expel on some theme park behaviours I encountered that made my (usually calm) blood boil.

See you then, and of course, till the next time…..

Hurry up and wait.

I’m knackered.

The weekend has been less than restful, and it is only now that I have planted my backside on the couch, found an episode of Two and a Half Men I have only seen about twelve times, and commenced the me time.

Yesterday saw me tackle a task that has been festering at the back of my mind for months.  I threw the back seats down in the car, ready for the trek to the tip,  took a deep breath, and ventured into the garage.  Someone once said that it is crazy that we leave thousands of pounds worth of car on the drive, and stuff the garage full of worthless crap.  We had indeed, and it took many, many hours to get to a stage where you can now walk through the garage without striding over stuff.

To put the level of work into context, in one box we found the photo from the twelve week scan of Rebecca!  Rebecca is 13 years old.

So with two trips to the local tip, we said goodbye to stuff we had kept for years, under the illusion that we would need it someday.  Sod’s law says that we will next week.

The afternoon, as last week, was spent at the gym, and then Asda.  I truly am living the dream.

This morning saw me wrestle with the downstairs loo.  By that I mean that Louise had started to decorate it this week, and it was therefore my job to finish it.  The room, as you might imagine, is small, so why is it then that it took me bloody hours, and it still isn’t finished.  I ran out of wall paper just before I ran out of patience.  There are so many nooks and crannies in there that not one piece of paper went on in one piece.  The complexity of wallpapering is directly related to the level of bad language.

Pleased to have a reason to stop, I did.

So, that explains my opening sentence!

Countdown
Keep going....

This week saw me produce a pre trip report, which was perhaps a little premature, but hey, such is the story of my life.  I’m not a big pre trip writer, and have only done one a couple of times, as I’m never really sure what to put in there.  Anyway, with my countdown racing to a conclusion, I felt obliged.

As a result of posting this, there may be a few new readers here at http://www.mkingdon.com so welcome to you if that is the case.

I don’t know if anyone else feels like this, but when we get as close as this to a trip, I try to tell myself to enjoy having a countdown, and in some way, fear the holiday racing past all too quickly, and then I’m sat back here staring a bleak winter in the face, wondering when the next trip will be possible.

So for now, it seems I can think of nothing else than the upcoming trip.  I am looking forward to so many things it would be difficult to list them all.  These things are not necessarily the big events either, it is also the silly things.  For me, the sheer joy of the morning of the outward journey is pure magic.  For once, no-one minds getting up at silly o’clock, and the drive to the airport is a jolly affair.  Even the hours spent at the airport are special, and somehow I don’t mind paying over the odds for an average breakfast, and if the girls are looking to get anything bought for them, this is a good time to get me!

I don’t think Louise enjoys this as much though, as her fear of flying is pretty bad.  I wouldn’t say that I enjoy the flight, but mainly due to an over eagerness to get to the front of the car hire queue.  Louise however, is genuinely afraid of the entire thing.  I suppose it shows how much she enjoys the holiday that she puts herself through it every year.

Seat plan
Two by Two

This year, I’ve booked seats right at the back of the plane, based on the assumption that if we hit any mountains then we’ll be OK, as you never hear of any planes reversing into these things.  The layout of the plane is typically 3-3-3, but right at the back it narrows to 2-3-2.  This means we don’t have to worry about one of us (me of course) having to sit with another family, and we can just concentrate on annoying each other.

In years gone by one of the grown ups (yes, that includes me) would have sat with one of the girls, as we would have had Polly Pockets to dress, and food to cut up, but these days the girls can sit together, share iPods, films and their opinions on any boy unfortunate enough to wander by.

The films on board look pretty good, with the latest Shrek, Iron Man 2, Valentine’s Day and a few others I can’t remember available so these should pass a few hours.  For me, the worst part of the flight is just after the food, drinks and duty free have been around, and things settle down.  It is at that point that I realise that we still have about six hours left, and the girls start asking me how long to go!

The big kid in me just wants to get there, beat everyone though immigration, be the first to get the car, and be free of the airport and en route to the villa.  I will remind myself now, to savour every moment, even those that I find boring and frustrating, as they are all better than being back at work!!

I don’t usually deal with queues and people particularly well.  You may wonder then why I continue to go to the one place on earth guaranteed to inflict both on me.  I can’t answer that really, but I do know that this peaks on the outward journey, with a multitude of tuts heard at every stage, from the check in desk to the restaurant we have breakfast in.  I promise to restrict my Meldrew-esque moments to a minimum Louise!!

Oh yes, I just remembered.  A historic event happened yesterday.  You may remember in a previous post my disdain at Louise’s suggestion that I may need some new shorts.  I made the point that I only wear them for two weeks every year, so in effect, regardless of the fact that they are older than the kids, they are almost brand new.

Anyway, I bought some new ones!  They should see me right till my 50th now!

I’m waffling now, so I should stop.  My excitement is over-riding my ability to edit myself.  If you think this post has been a winding piece of nonsense, lurching from one thought to another, all holiday related, just wait until next weekend, when it will be my last blog post pre holiday.

I’m not sure yet if I will be tweeting from Florida, I need to ask the IT chaps at work if my phone tariff will inflict thousand of pounds worth of data charges by taking it to the US.  In a way I hope it does, as it will mean two weeks away from email.  On the other hand, I could do with my phone to act as sat nav, mobile internet look up, and tweeter whilst away.

I really will stop now.  Till the next time…..

Bingo, Balls and Bloody Tesco.

Have I mentioned that I’m working my notice?  Maybe once or twice.

Now of course this has not affected the level of professionalism, dedication and commitment I exude at all times….much.  Well it has a bit, and this was demonstrated on Thursday when I attended a meeting in Sheffield.  Firstly, I was quite impressed with myself that I could motivate myself to go, and not delegate it to someone who gives a sh…I mean one of my guys who would benefit from the learning and development opportunity.

You see, there we have an example of the first thrust of this here blog post.  Corporate bull$hit.  Please do pardon my French but it is called for I feel.  The business world it seems is littered with people who have been brainwashed into using it, or even more scarily, actually use this stuff and believe it.

Looking back at my notes from this meeting, it seems I didn’t make a great deal of them, as I got bored relatively early on, which in any other circumstances would have been risky, as the attendees where chock full of cheese.  We had to do that cringeworthy round the table introduce yourself thing, which inevitably turns into a battle of the job title.

There were a couple of MDs (one of them mine), many Heads of (yep, regrettably I had to cough to one of those), and many other job titles that I still don’t know what they mean.  Most like I, just said our name, job title and company, but there is always the odd one or two who launch into a ten minute monologue on their responsibilities, experience and how they were a prefect at school.  You see now why I was bored so early on?

So rather than watch the powerpoint slides I started to capture all the bull$hit bingo terms that I heard.  There were many of the common ones that I hear all the time….

Model, best fit, and my personal favourite, synergy!  One of the guys was obviously a serial meeting attendee, and revelled in the concept, insisting on capturing the “Expectations” of the meeting before we started.  My contribution of “Finishing early enough so the M62 isn’t the bag of spanners it is at rush hour” didn’t make it to the flip chart though.

I see one entry on my notes underlined and ringed a few times.  It is a new entry in my dictionary of dreariness.  Are you ready?

Glide Path.  Yep, you read that right.  What the bloody hell does glide path mean?  I know what he wants it to mean, but why not just say it??  It was right up there with another classic, Helicopter View.

Reginald Perrin
Is that you CJ?

In terms of popularity, there was no competition, it was the term “piece”.  In nearly every sentence you heard it.  How?  Like this.  How do we tackle the “insert any topic here” piece?  Have we thought about the “insert any topic here” piece?  To me this is like someone dragging their nails down a blackboard.

It was like living in an episode of The Office or Reginald Perrin (for the older readers).  I do feel like I don’t belong in this universe of Austin Reed open necked shirt wearing, ego waving, sanctimony, but alas I must as I have a mortgage, kids and an addiction to expensive holidays.

So we move onto the end of the week, and the World Cup started.  We are “beaming” matches throughout the office for all staff to enjoy.  Beaming may be over egging the technology, but it sounds impressive when explaining this to people.  In truth, we have scattered a few tellys, and a couple of projectors around the place, securing the best stuff for the area close to my desk of course.  There is no point in managing the IT department if you don’t get any perks is there?

So on Friday we watched the opening game, (whilst obviously working a full speed as well).  A good game, and it whetted the appetite nicely for our opening game last night.  After the usual over the top build up by the media, the millions spent on advertising cheap beer and crisps by the supermarkets, the country wakes up this morning to a massive hangover, and a sense of deflation.  Only a 6-0 win would have matched the expectations of the nation, and 1-1 draw leaves everyone feeling a little let down.

You can never enjoy watching England to be honest.  However I thought there were a lot of positives, and I’m sure we will get better as we go.  Frankly the next two games should be formalities and should give us some confidence for the next phase.

Now, what would one of these be without a bit of a rant?  Luckily it just so happens I have one.  Saturday afternoon saw us at Tesco, against my better judgement.  I had done the “big shop” late on Friday night at our local 24 hour Asda, and it was a dream.  It was basically me and a load of people with the munchies or who had run out of beer, and it was great to hold up about twenty people with just two items whilst I checked out a full shop!

Anyway, back to Tesco.  We needed ” a few bits” which is female talk for stuff we could do without, but absolutely won’t.  We had a hand basket, and all the checkouts were crammed full of England tops buying cheap beer and crisps, so we went to one of those self-serve things.

Tesco Self Serve
Amen!

My God, what an abomination.  It took us about twenty minutes to check out a dozen items.  The assistant patrolling the area may have well have just done the whole lot for us as she was over every other item, entering her password.  It took her a while to believe that I was over 25 for the alcohol purchase, but other than that we couldn’t find Lemons on the alphabetic list of fruits (so that went in the bag for free), and nearly every other item became an “unexpected item in the bagging area” or just wouldn’t scan.

Technology at its best!  I left with high blood pressure, a desire to never darken Tesco’s door again, and a free lemon!  So, I’d call that a result.

Till the next time…..

Under 100 days to go….time to do some planning.

As we sneak under the 100 day marker, I thought I’d just post a brief update as to the plans etc.

As you can see from my Dibb Planner (and by the way these planner things are excellent) our plans for August are starting to come together.

Daytona Cubs Stadium
The only diamond Louise will see this year....

Most days are now mapped out, a few ADRs booked, and most recently we’ve decided to spend a day at Daytona Beach, then that evening watch the Daytona Cubs baseball team.  We’ve been threatening to do so for a few years now, so we’ve finally taken the plunge.

I looked at the Tampa Rays, who are Major League, but we’ve plumped for a minor league game (as it is about ten times cheaper) but also as a bit of research suggests these minor league games have a great atmosphere.  At $33 for the four of us, if ten minutes in the females are bored to death I don’t mind leaving.  Had we paid the $70 each for Major League I would have nailed them to their seats till the bitter end!!

ADR wise, after saying I wouldn’t be booking (m)any we have ended up with –

    Yak And Yeti, to round off our day at AK
    Kouzzinna on the evening of my birthday
    Captain’s Grille for an unfeasibly large breakfast
    California Grill for the last night of our hols.

      We last did Cali Grill about ten years ago, and the kids, having spent what we thought would be a rest day at Blizzard Beach, were knackered, and spent the meal either moaning, asleep, or trying to go to sleep, and we didn’t exactly appreciate the ambience etc.

      Now with the girls being 15 and 13 at the time of this trip, I suspect it will be the other way round.

      Hopefully with a 7.50 reservation, and Wishes at 10pm, we might be able to see the fireworks at the end of the meal.  I remember hearing something about the viewing of fireworks having changed at Cali Grill…anyone know for sure what the score is?

      Anyway, there isn’t much else to plan.

      I’m just waiting for the dollar rate to behave itself so I can book my tickets and get some spends.

      Till the next time…..

      A postcard from Drayton Manor

      As my trepidation filled previous post outlined, we were off to Drayton Manor on Saturday, and this meant a fairly painful early start to the day.  I was personally up at 6.30, and after a quick shower I was then stuck with the job of waking up Emily, Rebecca and Nat (Rebecca’s friend) in an attempt to get to the park before lunchtime.

      They were pretty good to be honest, and we left the house at 8am, only half an hour later than I felt would be ideal.  The SatNav predicted just under two hours, which should be fine for a 10am opening.  Indeed yes, we arrive at 9.40 (what do you mean I must have broken the speed limit?) and with a complete lack of queue, caused by the sub zero temperatures and what turned out to be constant drizzle for the entire day, we are into the park just before 10.

      Girls
      Medieval Fringes

      How happy I was to learn then that the rides did not open until 10.30!! So we wander about a bit and try to kill some time and get our bearings. With the cold starting to turn apendages blue, we seek out an indoor space to cower in for half an hour.  A hot drink each sets us back the best part of a tenner, and we wait for stuff to be open.

      We then wander outside and see rides starting up, and decide to do a nice gentle one to get everyone warmed up.  It was a sort of Octupus style thing, but with Mexican Hats!!  Yes, I know.  A decent enough ride, apart from the fact that the bucket seats were filled with an inch or two of rain.  When asked if they were going to wipe the seats down, the “cast member” shrugged and walked back to the hut he started the ride from.

      So with moist bottoms, we endure the ride as the wetness made its way north.  Nice start.

      Apocolypse ride
      The Terror of a Tower

      Rebecca has turned into an absolute fear free zone in theme parks, and is not happy to realise that Nat, and to some extent Emily are less than daring with every ride.  This also impacts on me as I am now dragged onto the Apocalypse ride with Rebecca.

      Don’t get me wrong, I like most rides and fear very few, but I am less than keen on the ones that take you up a couple of hundred feet and just drop you to the floor.  Indeed, as we find ourselves walking straight on to the ride, and making our way up the tower (how bloody high does this go???) I did turn to Rebecca and tell her that I hated her!!

      She looked less than convinced that this was a great idea, but of course it was all too late now.  Sat at the top of the tower, having left my glasses with the attendant, I can make out rough shapes below, and it seems Louise was one of them, waving with a very wicked smile on her face.

      Those few seconds before realease were pure hell.  What few muscles I possess, I had them tensed.  Then, the fall happened.  My God.

      Feeling just a little sick, we stagger back to the other cowardly lot, and mentally make a note that we don’t need to do that ride again.

      The rest of the day is spent trying to avoid hyperthermia, and the heaviest of the rain.  They have some decent rides, like G Force, although the loading capacity is shocking, and the ride very short.  The girls enjoyed the pirate ship thing too.

      It is very obvious that someone from Drayton has been to Florida.  There are some things that have been lifted almost directly.

      They have the shark hanging upside down thing, just like Universal, and a couple of rides are sort of “own brand” equivalents of US rides.  The Happy Feet 4D cinema thing is sort of like Philharmagic/Shrek 4D, but just less good!  As an example, during the show it won’t surprise you to learn that the seats move, and some water is sprayed on you.  We sat on the front row, and I wondered why every time the audience screamed at getting wet I was wasn’t.

      As I left the show I realised why.  The jet of water was aimed perfectly at my crotch.  A large target area I grant you, but I spent the rest of the day looking like I had poor bladder control.

      The ultimate rip off though is the Pirate’s Adventure ride.  The attempted similarities to Pirates of the Carribean are beyond uncanny, from the entrance/queue, to the boats, even down to the scenes as you go around.  The scene with the dog holding the keys is identical, although the dog at Drayton is a goat….yeh, we couldn’t work that out either.

      It really is a complete rip off, scene by scene, just on a crapper level, with much poorer execution.

      Bearded Dragon
      Is that lamp portable, I'm freezing?

      The zoo is OK.  The highlight of the day was the reptile house.  The reason being it was lovely and warm, and we spent a long time in there!

      I am aware that my level of negativity isn’t good, and it might sound snobby to say that if you hadn’t been to WDW, you might not have the same opinion.  Snobby it may be but I think it is true.  I can’t help that really.

      As expected the staff were young kids, with little or no interest in the guests, just going through the motions.  This is the essence of the difference between the UK and US experience.  No-one was rude really, just bored, cold and looking forward to going home, which spookily is how we felt too.

      To be fair, Rebecca enjoyed the rides, so in terms of her birthday outing it was fine, and gladly she and Emily took it all in the right spirit.  Yes, we know it isn’t Florida, but we’ll make the best of it.  Maybe some day they can teach me that level of maturity!

      I tweeted a couple of times during and after the day, and I was mildy impressed to find that Drayton Manor has replied to one tweet where I said…

      “Back from Drayton Manor, kerrriiiist it was cold!! Dominos ordered, heating on. If I say I’m going to a UK theme park again, shoot me”.

      They said…

      “That seems a little drastic, maybe just wait for the summertime when it’s warmer?!”

      Rebecca and Nat
      Girls just wanna have fun....

      I’m sure a warmer, drier day would make all the difference, but then again, that would mean higher crowds, and the prospect of a long queue for the rides there would just upset me more!  Alas, the weather is not the issue really.  It is the fact that all UK theme parks (that I have visited) are tacky, a bit dirty, have surly staff and charge more than their US counterparts, which are none of those things.

      This I think also contributes to that glazed, knowing expression you see on people’s face when you tell them you are going to Florida (for the umpteenth time).  The lack of comprehension is palpable, and it is clear they try to reconcile their knowledge of UK themeparks with flying for nine hours to spend two weeks in one.

      It is like saying you are going watching the local Sunday League footy match, when you’ve been a season ticket holder in the Premiership.  The concept is the same, but the standard and the execution is woefully inferior.  This of course doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the Sunday League match, but given a choice most would choose the Premiership…especially if it was costing you the same to watch both!!

      I fear I am a lost cause, probably not representative of most visitors to a UK theme park, and looking at their Twitter feed, they do indeed have lots of positive feedback from customers after their visits.  So maybe the quality of the park is not the problem, maybe it is my expectations?

      Oh yes, we always had some sort of political event this week too, but I don’t have the time, knowledge or will to comment on this trivia when a major event like a chance to slag off a UK theme park has presented itself!!

      All I will say is that I have found the events quite riveting, which is probably quite sad….anyway…

      Till the next time…..

      Alice, Archie and a Sugar Rush

      You do not find me in the happiest of places.

      I stare at my diary for the week, and my heart is filled with dread and horror at the utter nonsense I have to get through this week.  Presentations, disciplinaries (three of them!!) and generally stuff I really resent wasting my life on.  The desire for sunshine is immense right now, but alas not quite as immense as the gaping hole where my bank balance should be, so on I trundle, countdown-less.

      Peter Capaldi
      Angry Man!

      The weekend shot by in record time it seems, and I find myself back at my desk again, tired and unrefreshed.  Last night however I did watch a superb film, which I caught by accident.  In the Loop was brilliant, witty, frenetic, and seemed to be over in about ten minutes.  A sure sign of a good film.  The character played by Peter Capaldi was pure genius, and is surely how everyone wants to behave at work, just for one day!!

      Sunday also saw me escort Rebecca to her friend’s house to visit their new puppy Archie.  He’s a Bichon Frise (small white fluffy dog), and has cornered the market in cuteness.  Rebecca in turn adopted her puppy eyes in a desperate attempt to get one of her own.  Not a chance!!  We tried the puppy thing a few years ago, with a lovely Basset Hound called Truman, but heartbreakingly we had to rehome him as we just didn’t have the time he needed, as we both worked full time at the time.

      I am never going through that again!!  In no way did I get emotional at the time, and “get something in my eye” as I handed him over.

      Archie the dog
      Cuteness be thy name

      In what is sounding like an action packed weekend we also went to see Alice in Wonderland at our local cinema.  What a kerfuffle!  With our usual detailed advanced planning we decided to go about thirty minutes before it was due to start.  I tried in vain to book tickets on the website, and only encountered errors.  I even tried the quaint method of phoning them up, but still problems intervened.

      In the end we just jumped in the car and drove there.  The queue we encountered was of WDW proportions….on New Years Eve…..for Soarin’.  Still, if I ran a cinema how could I have predicted such a large attendance on the weekend of the launch of one of the biggest films of the year!  Add to that, all the ticket collection machines were down too, so everyone had to join the queue, even if they had booked on the error ridden website!!  With this in mind it should have come as no surprise that only three staff were serving.

      We resolved to queue but get tickets for the 7pm show, and adjourn to a local eatery to while away the intervening hours.  You can see how this was turning into a very expensive trip to the cinema.  Frankie and Bennys received our custom, with all the waiting staff in fancy dress to “celebrate” the launch of Alice in Wonderland.  If they knew about it, how come the cinema didn’t?  A steak ciabbatta later and we’re back at the cinema (via a swift detour to Asda to secure cheapo sweets as I needed petrol anyway), and lo, another queue to enjoy.

      So after a lovely thirty minute wait we watched all the people we were queuing with earlier exit the film, and look at us in a weird way, wondering how and/or why we were in the queue for the film that they saw us queue up for earlier, with them.

      Eventually we enter, and having queued we bag a good seat, and the pick n mix begins.  The film passes in a haze of fried eggs, chocolate raisins, white mice and mini eggs, and I hit a sugar induced coma just as the Jabberwocky appears.  Who said the drugs don’t work.  The film itself was better than I expected if I am honest.  I have never watched any version of an Alice film all the way through, from the animated Disney one to the cruelly low budget ones, such as a dreadful 70’s version with Fiona Fullerton.

      I was pleasantly surprised to get into it (after what felt like a slow start) and actually enjoy it.  Good job, saying the whole trip cost north of £100!!  Tight, me, never!!!!

      The other main theme of the weekend was Louise coming over all spring cleaner on us.  Apparently it was required that we and Emily swap bedrooms, which Louise did more or less unaided on her day off on Thursday, but the weekend meant a massive clear out of years of crud which we have accumulated nicely.  Needless to say a trip to the tip was in order, and about seven hours of pulling stuff out of wardrobes, looking at it, and then trying to push it back in again ensued.

      No wonder the weekend went quickly!!  How I managed to fit in a good few hours of Call of Duty I will never know.

      I also received a lovely email from a Dibber, who had spent the weekend reading my trip reports.  He was very complimentary about my ramblings which is always lovely to hear.  My ego knows no beginnings!!

      This was an extraordinary email which really touched me (something in my eye again), as it outlined their own personal battles to get to Florida after Travel City went bang, and many other challenges seemed to be attracted to them.  Needless to say the troubles were overcome, they went to WDW and it changed their lives.  As the message ended with him telling me he’d just booked again, I lost all empathy and cursed the swine for being able to go this year when I can’t!!!  🙂

      For clarity that was an attempt at humour.

      Till the next time…..

      My Brain is a mixed bag

      It really has been a very varied week this week, and I seem to have a thousand thought streams coursing through my brain.

      Louise finally came home on Monday, and despite not having anything as handy as a diagnosis, she is much better, and is slowly getting herself back to normal.  Thanks for all the concern, best wishes and messages.

      The over riding theme of the week has been time, and a lack of it to be honest.  I have oft tweeted recently about the appalling state of the roads on my joyful commutes to and from work, and this seemed to reach a peak of crapness this week.  Not only are the roads between my house and work being used as a traffic cone showcase, when I do find a stretch of road free from obstacles, I appear to be driving behind cars that don’t posses a fourth gear, and cannot travel over 25 mph.

      My usual sunny dispostion was stretched beyond breaking on Tuesday (I think), as a long and tortuous drive home ended with me picking the girls up from my Mum’s, having to call at the shop for baking ingredients for Rebecca’s Home Economics lesson the next day (she prepped in plenty of time as usual), only to find the supermarket had no caster sugar, so we had to then drive to other retail establishments to procure some.

      Reading that back it doesn’t quite capture the absolutely valid reasons for my stress levels.  Anyway, I’d had a tough day, and crap journey and just wanted to get home.  All this faff meant it was after 7pm when I did, and my sense of humour and good nature expired at around 6.15pm.

      I should add that Rebecca was then inconsiderately ill for the rest of the week, didn’t go to school, and therefore didn’t need the bleeding ingredients after all.

      This leads nicely onto the next theme of the week.  Homework.

      Not mine of course, but the work given to the girls from school.  It does seem to me that there is a expectation that parent’s won’t just have to ensure that homework is completed, no, they have to take an active, and often leading role in it.  This week, I have tackled –

      • The Great Fire of London (not literally)
      • The Nitrate Cycle
      • Percentages
      • Made a time capsule from the 1660’s
      • Built a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in a shoe box (I kid you not)

      Nitrogen Cycle
      Not a Raleigh Cycle..a Nitrate one.

      Now, I’m sure the girls are not at prodigy levels, and neither are they dullards, but looking at the tasks set, there really is no way they could get this stuff done unaided.  I work hard enough at my own job, thank you very much, without having to come home and tackle any of the above.

      Of course none of this is helped by the girl’s uncanny knack of leaving every peice of work until the last possible moment.  Those of you that know me at all, will perhaps realise that I like things to be planned and organised as much as possible.  Examples of this are not allowing responsible grown ups in our travel party to keep hold of their own passports and/or theme park tickets, as I KNOW they will lose them.

      Therefore this last minute Larry approach doesn’t do for my stress levels.

      Next on the list this week…..we watched District 9 one night.  I think it was Wednesday.

      I had heard quite a bit of buzz about this film, but wasn’t sure of it’s contents.  It really was excellent.  I would describe it as….

      Unusual, original, touching, thought provoking, entertaining, relatively action packed and enjoyable.  Jonathan Ross has nothing on me!! (Apart from a few million quid).

      District 9
      An Alien Concept

      Courtesy of another seamless link, Jonathan Ross leads me nicely onto the next topic buzzing through my head.  It won’t surprise many readers drawn here via a Disney web site to know that the topic is Florida. (Ross is a big fan, and regular visitor).  First it is important for me to point out that there is absolutely no chance of us affording a trip this year, however, this does not stop me pining for one.

      Having had a trip to plan every year (once I had two) for, more or less the past decade, I am going through a sort of grieving process at my loss.  Louise isn’t helping.  Having not had the best start to the year, she is in “I need a holiday” mode, and she was in fact responsibe for me spending large chunks of the week, (absolutely not when I should have been working) checking flights, hotels, villas and all things Florida.

      You see how Louise needing a holiday instantly prompts Florida research.  There was no requirement for a discussion around destination.  That ship has sailed…about a decade ago.  Alas, said research only confirmed my thinking that a trip will be beyond us.  Damn that Atlantic that we need to fly over.  Flights are just not findable for the £7.50 my budget will allow.

      Still, we shall not write things off completely at this stage.  The event for which such a holiday would take place is a siginificant birthday for me, and that is in August.  So many weeks exist between then and now, where a lottery win could appear, or maybe some kind benefactor (maybe a Mr J Ross?) who maybe stumbles across this rambling and sends me a nice chunky cheque as gratitude for passing a few minutes of their lives in fine fashion.

      So a busy week then, and I even managed to go to the gym three times!  A record for recent times, and my waistline is a constant reminder.

      However the most stressful part of the past two weeks has not been coping with the house and kids alone whilst Louise was busy being ill, it was keeping Louise’s bloody Cafe World going on Facebook!!  A sign of the times.

      Now, which flight web site have I not checked yet?

      Till the next time……

      Blinked and missed the week.

      Having been a single parent all week, I can’t believe how busy I’ve been, and therefore how quickly time has flown since last weekend.

      Louise is still in hospital, waiting for anything like a decent diagnosis, and is pretty fed up.  My car knows the route to the hospital without any assistance from me, and the days seem to fly by in a dizzying routine of work, visiting, eating crap, and collapsing into bed.

      Work was nothing notable, although I did have a very interesting meeting with a lady called Suw (yes it really is spelt like that), to discuss the phenom….phunom….new thing that is social media and how we should be using it as a company to communicate with our customers.  Few things work related capture my interest these days, but this meeting was one of them.  The fact that things such as social media consultants exist blows my mind, and it echoes what the headmaster said at the girl’s school recently.  Apparently 40% of the pupils now in school will do jobs that don’t exist yet!!

      Wham
      George Michael is gay??? Really???

      I believe that, as when I was at school, and Grange Hill was on TV, Wham in the charts and you could buy cans of Quattro, the idea of having a job that involved managing web sites would have been crazy, mainly as no-one would have known what a web site was!!  Anyway, that is what has happened to me, so goodness knows what the girls will do for a living.

      Having just made myself sound about 206 years old, I should point out how young, credible and hip I am by telling you that I managed to actually purchase an item of clothing for Rebecca today, without her being there, that she likes and is willing to wear.  Fo Schnizel…as the young folk tend to say.

      Forgive the brief nature of this entry, but my brain is frazzeled, my body weak, and I need to consume some mindless TV and/or play copious amounts of mindless X-Box games in an attempt to relax and unwind.

      I shall hopefully post again during the week with news of Louise’s return home.  Fingers crossed.

      Till the next time……

      A&E and a few other vowels.

      Louise is in hospital.

      As we speak (well technically, we are not speaking, unless of course you are speaking whilst reading this, which is impressive muti tasking, and pretty unlikely, but I think you know what I mean) Louise is on ward F5 of the Royal Bolton Hospital.  I have no idea what makes a hospital Royal though, as I certainly don’t think any royalty have graced it.

      Anyone who has known Louise for a period of time will know that this set of circumstances isn’t the most unusual in the world.  Indeed our annual passholder car park pass is again coming in handy, and it is always nice to be greeted by your first name and a wave as you enter A&E.  She has had a plethora (that in itself isn’t an illness) of ailments and operations over the years, and we are very well rehearsed at the trip to A&E scenario.

      Friday saw another one.  I was at work, and Louise sent me a text that she was on her way to A&E having spent Thursday night in incredible pain.  As routine as this type of thing is, I was still less than happy that she had driven herself there.  Anyway, I left work and made my way to A&E, where we began the well known routine.

      Step 1.

      Try to explain to the thirteen year old doctor a forty year history of operations and procedures, guessing at dates, and wishing we’d written all this down.

      Step 2.

      Wait

      Step 3.

      Finally, Louise gets some proper pain relief and colour returns to cheeks.

      Step 4.

      Wait

      Step 5.

      Blood tests and Xray.

      Step 6.

      Wait.

      Usually once the pain is managed and they can’t find any real reason for it, Louise is sent home, and wished well until the next time.  However this time she was admitted, as sometimes happens, for tests and stuff.

      That was Friday.  Sunday morning has arrived and there has been little action to be honest, and the promised scans etc look like taking place tomorrow.

      Rebecca at Hospital
      Fringe with iPod

      We visited last night, and took Louise the essentials.  Not Lucozade and flowers.  More like Clarins face wash, moistureiser and two Toffee Crisps.  Louise hadn’t eaten since mid Friday.

      As this is week 2 of her Weight Watchers campaign (losing a healthy four pounds in Week 1) this nil by mouth apart from two toffee crisps should see further impressive results!

      The girls took their own essentials, however Emily forgot her iPod earphones so they had to share.  We all have to make sacrifices at times like these I suppose.  The girls lasted a full ten minutes at bedside before becoming too loud and annoying for a very tired and morphine filled Louise so they were despatched to the shop for their own safety.  I lasted about an hour before I had the same effect, and was sent home.

      So we’ll have to wait and see just how long Louise will be in, and in the mean time I am becoming a black belt at the washing machine, and will be ironing and stuff later.  Not that I don’t do this stuff normally of course!!

      Add in the fact that I have to do the “big shop” too, and I could play the woe is me card.  However, it could be worse, I could be the one lay in hospital next to some less than dazzling company, from, (allow me to be a snob for a second) less celubrious areas of town, not knowing what is causing all this pain, and wondering what will happen next.

      Plus how rubbish must it be to be in hospital at the same place you go to work everyday!!  Anyway, at least it means Louise’s boss can easily make sure she really is ill and not swinging lead or any other heavy metal.

      Emily at Hospital
      Other fringe with iPod

      So as Sunday morning drifts into Sunday afternoon it is time to get the girls out of bed, unload the washer, load the dryer, hand out random chores to the girls, make sure they are doing that homework they have said they were doing all last week, then go to the supermarket, come home, put shopping away, make the girls some tea, have a row as they haven’t done that homework still, then go and visit Louise, and try not to get on her nerves too much, and come home.

      Plus somewhere in all of that I have several hours of XBox to fit in.  I really don’t know how I shall!!

      It’s not about nappies anymore…

      There are certain times in a parent’s life when you see a definite shift in your relationship with your kids.

      You know the sort of thing…when your twelve year old daughter gets pregnant and runs away with a forty three year old circus hand from Wakefield.  Thankfully, (touches wood, and I don’t mean anything smutty here) we haven’t come close to anything of such magnitude, but still this week a less shocking wake up call caught me off guard.

      I have talked previously about Emily’s boyfriend, and my extreme regret that I did not hate him.  Well, sadly this relationship came to an end this week, and I had to endure the sight of Emily’s upset, knowing that no amount of kind words, tea and sympathy would make any difference.  There are no pills for a broken heart!  This sort of event has really snuck up on me, as in my mind Emily is still a little girl.  I appreciate that most fourteen year olds have a drug habit, mixed race child and a council house these days, but Emily is (perhaps in my rose tinted view) still a young fourteen year old.

      So landmark events like a break up can bring home the reality that –

      a) I am getting old

      b) The girls are too, and are developing their own lives.

      However, other very small things can also hit home too.  On Thursday the girls went to Manchester, on the train, on their own, straight from school.  Not a life changer, I admit, and indeed they have been before under their own steam, but I don’t know why but this sort of cemented the fact that they are quite capable of reading a time table, and not falling beneath a train!!

      All Time Low
      They wore more at the signing

      Anyway, they went to attend a signing at a record shop.  They met All Time Low and The Blackout.  As some sort of weird contradiction, I have indeed heard of both of these, and can even claim to have some ATL (see, I talk in abbreviations I am so hip) on my iPod.  As I was driving home from work on Thursday I sent them both a text to

      a) make sure they were still alive

      b) see how they were getting on

      Rebecca called me back.  Well, I think it was Rebecca, as that is the name my phone showed me.  The voice on the other end was somewhat drowned out by a thousand pubescent girls screaming random names.  Rebecca herself spoke to me in a voice so high one of my ear drums burst.  Just as I thought she could not get any higher she moved up a gear, in both pitch and volume, I think, telling me something about (insert name of ATL lead singer) saying “Hi” and telling her he liked her T Shirt.

      Emily, being all cool, replied to my text in abbreviations I’m not sure I fully understood to tell me she had met The Blackout and they had all signed her schoolbag.  I am writing to their management to request a full reimbursement!!!

      Anyway, back to the small event….you remember???

      After picking them up at the train station (and dropping their friend off, why is it always us who do all the running round???) I stopped at the local chip shop so they could get a healthy and nutricious meal.  On auto pilot I park up and start to get out of the car.  At the same time they did the same, and look at me in a  ‘We are quite capable of getting our own chips” way.

      So they did, and as I watched them cross the road, and walk to the shop I realised

      a) just how tall they are getting

      b) that I almost didn’t recognise them with their masses of hair, fringe and that loping teenager walk.

      So after realising that my worth to them is diminishing with every day, and planning just when to get my mid life crisis sports car delivered, I consoled myself with the fact that twenty four hours earlier I had sat on Emily’s bed, with her hugging me tightly whilst the tears flowed.  Emily was also quite upset about her break up, and I didn’t cry for too long!!!

      So maybe my usefulness is just changing.  No longer do I need to change nappies full of brightly coloured nuclear waste, and wander zombie like into the kitchen, in just my underwear, at some silly hour to warm a bottle of milk.  However, I do run a decent taxi service, can (almost) fund their dizzying social life, and every now and again be a shoulder to cry on when disaster strikes.

      So I’ll keep doing that until I have to remortgage the house to fund their weddings (in Florida….it is my only condition), and hunt down and destroy any other spotty little herbert who thinks he has the right to break either of their hearts.  Frankly, there isn’t a boy in existence worthy of either, so good luck trying lads.  I’ll be watching.

      Till the next time……

      iPad, iPod…really iCan’t be arsed.

      So this week saw the long awaited launch of the latest thing with an i in front of it from Apple.

      Working for a company that sells this stuff I really should give more of a toss, but I can’t seem to muster the enthusiasm.  I have caught a few soundbites about this new thing, and really the thing that sticks out more than any of the product features is,  just how high is Steve Jobs’ voice?  Imagine Mickey Mouse on helium.

      Only dogs can hear him

      I’m a bit confused by this iPad thing to be honest.

      Firstly, it sounds like some sort of sanitary product, with built in wireless.  Now that can’t be a good thing.  Secondly, I was pretty sure that the world had decided that tablet PCs were, well, rubbish, and having seen sales peak at about seven worldwide, they had been consigned to the bottom drawer of the IT industry.

      However, it seems if there is an i in front of the name, then it instantly becomes the MUST have product of the decade.

      Don’t get me wrong, I type this here rambling on a shiny silver laptop with a picture of fruit on the lid, and my phone has the symbolic i in front of it.  Both items however are supplied by work, and I would never be able to justify the expense, heck, the inflated expense of the Apple logo from my own pocket.

      My iPhone is superb, no argument, and how I lived without that App which tells me where the nearest Starbucks is I will surely never know.  This laptop, again is fine and dandy, but to the intense chargrain of many an Apple freak I am running Windows on it.  I know I will be hunted down by the Nerd Army for such blasphemy, but I just can’t get used to an Apple OS after being brought up on that there nasty Windows.

      iPad
      A big iPhone, without the Phone bit

      Anyway, I think I shall write to Mr Jobs, as I have already developed the next big Apple release.  This week, I made the mistake of handing in my perfectly functioning 3G iPhone, tempted by the carrot of a new 3GS.  Upon doing so, everything worked perfectly….apart from the Phone bit.  So I could browse the internet, receive emails, and via a suitable App and the magic of Twitter see what several minor celebs had for breakfast.

      Unfortuantely for the best part of this week, I could not text or phone anyone.  Having two girls of 12 and 14, this cut off their primary form of communication with me.  So my iPhone turned into a very small laptop.

      So, with that in mind, and the new iPad thingy, my new device idea is…..wait for it…..

      an iPad Mini!!!

      All Steve has to do is turn off the phone bit of an iPhone and Bob’s your uncle.

      So if Mr Jobs happens across this here little blog, my terms are very reasonable, and I hereby copyright said idea until your big fat cheque lands on my doormat.  Don’t bother phoning me Steve, as likely as not, it will be broken again, and even if it isn’t I won’t be able to tell what you are saying unless Henry my Cocker Spaniel is around to translate.

      Till the next time…..

      Why is it called rush hour, when you do everything but….

      Today’s entry will be a mini (or more relevantly, a mondeo) rant.

      I have been massively frustrated since xmas at the ridiculous levels of traffic on the roads.  Did everyone get a new car for xmas or something??

      It seems that leaving of a morning at our usual time is no longer good enough, and I don’t think I’ve been on time for work this year.  Naturally, being of such seniority and immense import that no-one dare question this is handy!!  The main reason for the morning time delays are Emily and Rebecca, who just won’t get up.  No strike that, Rebecca will get up, but then spends just five precious minutes too many on preening, straightening, foundationing and all round beautifying.

      So after soaking Emily with cold water, physically dragging her from her bed, and playing music at full volume, we always leave just those few minutes too late to avoid the stomach wrenching stress of not quite being able to arrive on time.  What do you mean you don’t get that feeling?  Are you trying to suggest that I am in some way wired a little tightly in that area?  As if.

      The return home has been even worse!!  I can see no reason for these hold ups.  If I am to sit in traffic for any length of time, I expect at least some crumpled metal and a few severed limbs to gawp at as I rubber neck my way past said obstacle.  Alas, no.  It just seems to be sheer volume.

      Then, as I leave the towny bits, and wind my way through the country bits of my journey home, I seem to be held up by driver after driver who think that human beings suffocate over 20mph.  If you seen the film, The Truman Show, you may know the scene when he is trying to escape the “set” and car after car suddenly appears in front of him, thwarting his progress.  Whether you know the film or not, this is what happens to me, I am convinced.

      I know I should be calm in heavy traffic as I can do little about it, and getting stressed won’t help any.  However I have scientific proof that driving two inches from the bumper in front, visibly shaking my head in disgust, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel and throwing my hands up in disbelief at every half competent manouevre makes all the difference.  Well, it makes me feel better anyway.

      So, if you are ever in front of a bright red Mondeo, with a balding, strangely attractive, yet stressed to hell bloke behind the wheel, spare a thought for my ever growing ulcer and either put your foot down or get out of my way!!

      Thanks!!

      Till the next time…..