I Got The Muzak In Me

I Got The Muzak In Me

In a week when it all ended….the World Cup dream and for some, the glorious weather, it could be easy to feel a bit down. But, you know me, I am a constant beacon of positivity and unrelenting joy, so you won’t be finding that here.

The genius of the timing of our holiday this year is that just as everyone else will be lamenting the end of the summer holidays and grappling with the buying of school uniforms and the horror of doing the daily lunch box again, we shall be shedding the worries and woes of every day life and jetting off to kill ourselves with artery clogging amounts of food.

Having watched a bit of the Trackers this week, I have to say that WDW seems to be really upping its game on the food front, especially from a quick service point of view. There are not enough minutes or notches on my belt to fit in all the fantastic looking stuff I am seeing. It is a challenge I am willing to take on of course, and one that I feel the years of training on previous trips has prepared me for.

With a real risk of peaking too soon, WDW fever and excitement arrived bigly in the Mkingdon household this week. This visitor from the US was probably the most welcome one the UK saw, but that isn’t difficult. It’s a sign of how fevered said excitement is when Louise joins in. As enjoyable as she finds the trips, she does not share the obsession levels of the rest of us, but, at times, such as these, she’s all in. We’re ready!

There’s little that can happen to peak my excitement levels. They remain on a constant throughout the year, rising by small increments the closer we get to the next trip. Sometimes though, something sneaks up on you. It grabs your heart-strings, tumbles your tummy like a drop on a coaster and shoots fresh adrenaline through your veins. This is not some class A drug, well, not as everyone else understands that. It is something random, a smell, a memory, a feeling or in this case, some music.

Emily was up in her bedroom, working her way through her WDW play list yesterday afternoon. I was up and the down stairs packing all my band gear into the car for last night’s gig when I heard some familiar strains drifting down from her penthouse (converted attic). O Canada was the first. I cannot over document my affection and admiration for that song. I would sell my home and all its contents and give the meagre proceeds to any random Canadian citizen after hearing the first few bars.

On my next sweaty trip up the stairs to collect some other heavy musical object, it happened. My stomach flipped, the dizziness came and I was instantly transported to another place. It wasn’t last night’s food rebelling against me, no. It was this…

Now, there’s five hours of that thing so I apologise for ruining any plans you might have had for your Sunday. I chose to start that at a certain point for you, which was the theme that I heard Emily playing. I can’t begin to describe how tangibly that particular piece of music put me in Epcot in that second. I could feel it, smell it and touch it. Countless memories of so many trips, the heat, the bright sun, the torrential rain, the twinkling night-time lights, the excitement of the first Epcot day of the trip and the gut wrenching sorrow at the last. All of these, brought sharply to mind by one simple piece of music.

It’s a part of me, it’s a part of us. An immovable, unavoidable building brick of our family history. All of that from one small section of what some might call “muzak”. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right!

See what I mean about peaking too early? I have to go back to work tomorrow and pretend I’m both OK and actually interested in what’s going on. Surely if I played that to my boss and explained he’d be fine with me just not working until we go away? No, I suspect not. He’s never been. He was thinking about going once and asked my advice. I think I frightened him to death with the word document I just so happened to have on my laptop with detailed planning advice. I find it saves time.

In the end he went to California and did a road trip with three kids under ten. He didn’t go to Disneyland either. It was probably for the best. As other colleagues over the years have done, he may have returned underwhelmed and then I’d need to find a new job.

Till the next time…..

Breakfast Epiphanies

I didn’t have room/time to tell you last week, as I was too busy moaning about how I was absolutely in the right to be obsessed about a holiday. So, I’ll tell you now.

It would appear that I made a planning mistake!

I know, I know. I didn’t believe it either. A man of my experience, knowledge and girth does not make planning mistakes. The plan knows better than to include one. However, out of the blue Rebecca messaged our group chat thing (see how down with the kids and fly I am?) asking if the plan included a character breakfast.

By now, I know the plan. I don’t know it in absolute detail yet. I haven’t allowed my memory to retain all its glory yet as there is still the possibility of change until FastPasses are secured, but I know the general gist. So I referred to the plan, without referring to it….

I checked it twice.

It would appear that the plan did not contain said character breakfast, and for all the reasons already stated, this must be correct and as I had planned it.

Rebecca then pointed out that at some point in the past she had asked if we could do one, for Freddie’s sake. This rang a bell now, including the thin veneer of an excuse that this was to be for Freddie’s benefit.

Drat.

No matter. I rolled up my sleeves, fired up the laptop and got to work. It was a welcome distraction from Love Island to be honest which has now been on TV longer than Coronation Street.

As I was logging on to the laptop and stuff, Emily chipped in that if we were going to do one then she’d like it to be O’hana. Bloody demanding these daughters.

It only took a few minutes until I was satisfied. Wahey, that’s like the good old days when I wrote mildly amusing trip reports. Have it!

I had to identify a day in the plan with a morning that looked relatively free. I scanned the rest days we had planned and spotted a likely candidate. The morning when we would be doing MNSHHP in the evening had been designated a non-park day, with a lunch at Miller’s Ale House. As much as that is a nice place to eat, with O’hana now in play it was dumped quicker than Adam’s partners in Love Island. What? I am forced to watch the bloody thing every night. I can’t help absorbing some of the detail.

So we have secured a 9.20am breakfast on the 9th of September. I estimate this means that we will need to be up some time around 4am to make it on time.

In other news, with fifty odd days to go, Louise took it upon herself to let me know that I’m a fat bastard and drastic action was needed. She has got us both membership at the local gym for the next six weeks. Now, I have been eating more healthily for a week or two already so my body fat index is now close to 50% anyway, but the odd work out won’t do any harm I suppose. I have been every day this week, and felt close to death on each occasion, so I think I’m doing it right.

I mainly do cardio, as I don’t want to take my now naturally muscle-bound body and turn it into some sort of intimidating freak show by doing lots of weight work. I just want to lose a pound or fourteen. The fact that I can see no actual difference yet is not at all upsetting or demoralising. If I were to eat excessively for the same time period I would surely see the rewards of that by now. There is no justice.

So bear this in mind when you are shaking your head in disbelief at the amount of food I’m getting through on holiday. I will have earned every artery clogging mouthful. Don’t judge me!

I talk a lot about milestones, and another enjoyable and familiar one happened this week. Our theme park tickets dropped through the front door. For those interested, I used Floridatix. They have a deposit option which helped me order the 14 day ultimates at £350 each when they had a sale on a few weeks ago.

Here is the mandatory photo of our precious arrival…

It was pleasing to see that most of them sported a character that the girls could fight over (them being almost 23 and 21 changes nothing) and now we need to dig out all our magic bands from previous trips and go through the exercise of linking tickets to bands. Getting man on the moon was simpler and I implore Disney, in the name of Gary Sinise’s hair on Mission Space, to make this stuff easier.

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We also got our MNSHHP tickets, which were surprisingly not flimsy paper based things, but rather sturdy plastic affairs that one could easily mistake for a theme park ticket. Not that a man of my experience might……anyway moving on.

We’re getting closer folks.

During last week I was inundated with a message from a blog reader asking if I was going to do a trip report for this holiday. With a surge of demand like that, who am I to say no? As it has been the case for the last few, I’ll be posting it here, probably one day per week, so it will last roughly half the time of the current series of Love Island and will contain me sporting my “Love Island” physique, after my gym exploits.

So spread the word, tell your friends, tell your family, tell all those folks who used to go on The Dibb! This is where it’s at. If you think “it” is a middle-aged bloke recounting another Florida trip with the odd knob gag shoe horned in. Build it and they will come….

Till the next time…..Save on Orlando's Best Theme Parks!

Bar Bar Bar, Bar Barber Rant.

Bar Bar Bar, Bar Barber Rant.

Before we go any further, you of course will know that today is Canada Day. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you will understand my enormous affection for Canada based purely on my experience of the pavilion at Epcot. This does not me make me shallow and puerile!

As I do every year, join me as I commemorate the occasion the only way it should be….

If Mikey and Tom are reading this, as folks who have not been yet, that video will make absolutely no sense whatsoever, but don’t worry it soon will. Suddenly we find ourselves under 60 days away from the start of our trip and the thought of being able to experience that in person is getting to fever pitch.  This weekend has seen some significant milestones pass, mainly in the form of paying the balance on stuff.

Theme park tickets, Not So Scary tickets and the hire car are all settled up and  next week will hopefully see the very exciting event of the park tickets arriving through our door and everyone choosing the character they want to be, despite the fact that these days Magic Bands make that a little superfluous. Somehow, the holiday seems a lot closer. We go next month, the weather has been Florida-esque and there has been a real buzz (pun intended) around the opening of Toy Story Land. We’re all experiencing a level of excitement a few notches up from where it was just last week.

Speaking of excitement. I went for a hair cut last week. I know it may come as a shock to many of you that this is a requirement for me but hair grows sporadically and often in places one wouldn’t wish it to, so it must be attended to.

Having spent the usual couple of hours with my “stylist” discussing options, we dismissed the idea of a fringe as it wouldn’t suit me and I finally took my place in the chair and he began to work his magic.

As ever, that awkward conversation started. I’d rather sit there in silence to be honest, but he feels obligated and I have to pretend to be tolerant of people for the several hours it takes to craft my current hair style.

We have nothing in common. He rides a motorbike, vapes, and judging by his chat with other customers before me, spends his time at 90’s themed dance festivals and bike rallies. So once we had exhausted common ground in the first seven seconds, he was spent and had to resort to the stereotypical conversation that hairdressers are renowned for. Yes, he dresses my hair, stop singgering!

“Are you going away this summer?” he asks, not really caring about my holiday plans.

“Yes, we’re going late August”.

This distracted him. It clearly reminded him that he was closing for a week mid-August and keen for me not miss my pre-holiday hair appointment spent the next few minutes telling me about said closure and why he decided to close up for a week. I didn’t mind. I thought this distraction had prevented me giving him any details of my upcoming trip.

A few more minutes went by cloaked in uncomfortable silence.

“So…..where are you off to?” he asked as if interested.

Inwardly I groaned. Should I lie and tell him Majorca or Greece? Knowing my luck he’d be an expert on both and I’d be speared on my white lie within seconds.

“Florida.” I said, hoping that might be the end of it.

“Ohhhhh, Florida” he said in a way which suggested I might not enjoy the next few minutes.

He went on.

“Have you been before?” he asked.

What do I say now? “Yes, I have been going since 1980 and have spent huge swathes of every waking moment thinking about going, planning each meal like a military operation and writing about it for strangers on the internet”.

“Yes, a few times” I say instead.

The pain was not for abating.

“Yeh, we went in 2009. Didn’t do Disney of course as it was just four adults….”

“We did Busch, Sea World, Universal and Wet & Wild.”

My forced smile just about held up.

“So you like all that theme park stuff then?” he continued.

Now at this point I can either come up with some pithy response or batter him to death with his shaver.

“Yes. We’ve done all sorts over the years, but this time it’s all Disney. We’re taking our Grandson for the first time”.

Why do I feel the need to justify this to him?

“My idea of hell that.” he said with a lack of regard for another person’s feelings I can’t fathom. I never understand folks with a point of view so ill-formed yet so forcibly expressed. Mind you, have you read my tweets?

“We’ll have to go back” he says, as if he’s referring to a colonoscopy and not a holiday. “My daughter’s getting to that age where she’ll appreciate it now”.

Thankfully, my “look” was complete at this point, and I went through the ludicrous routine of looking at the back of my head in the mirror he was holding up and saying something like..

“Yep, looks great thanks”. The last time any part of my head looked great was sometime in 1993.

We parted ways with an exchange of monies for his efforts in creating the masterpiece which I now sport and he reminded me when he would be closed in August so I didn’t miss my holiday hair cut.

I can’t wait.

I know Florida isn’t for everyone, I know out of the two of us he’s the “normal” one, and I know holidays probably shouldn’t be an obsession, but I’m still absolutely right. I know we’re a strange breed and should I ever have to confess the true level of the obsession and the efforts that go into each trip I may be barred from his and all hair establishments in the area. Still, if they insist on asking predictable questions like that, it’s their own fault.

Anyway, 59 days…..

Till the next time…..


Discount Attraction Tickets

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

Toddler Transport Tackled

I don’t want to calculate how many blog posts I have written since this nonsense started in November 2009. It’s too early on a Sunday for that.  It’s a good number I imagine. In that time seldom have I had a reaction as I did to last week’s post! Forget writing novels, doing trip reports or any family event. Chat about transporting babies around and my comments blow up. I love it.

Thank you so much to everyone who responded to last week’s post. Not only was there a lot of it, but the quality was tremendous. You have sorted us right out, educated me on my woefully poor thinking on some points and I can now say we are well and truly sorted.

It became clear very quickly that the best way to go would be to take our own gear. Many folks suggested very good rental options for strollers, but the overwhelming theme was that having the stroller with you at the airport at both ends was the only way to go. Beyond that, I even got many suggestions for the stroller to go for. In the end, we went for this one which arrived this week….

Freddie popped round to test drive it and gave it his seal of approval. For anyone considering a similar purchase, it is an iSafe Visual 3 Apple Slice Three Wheeler Stroller. Not that it had any bearing on the buying decision, but it has a slot in the hood for an iPad so that when he is chilled out and lay back he could watch his favourite programmes. We added a rain cover to it as we’ll encounter some for sure and we can use it whilst the stroller is parked up to protect against any sudden down pour whilst we are off doing stuff.

We will also be taking Freddie’s car seat with us, and my  original plan of taking a bin bag to put it in was upgraded with this recommendation.

This is a Baby Caboodle Car Seat Travel Bag.

It is, as you can probably see just a huge rucksack. Whilst no competitor to Ryan, it is impressive in its size. Should you ever need to dispose of a dead body then this may be the buy for you.

Look at the size of it….

So Freddie’s transportation needs are taken care of, thank you dear reader. I can’t say I am really looking forward to collapsing that stroller and getting it onto the tram into the parks. That of course will be Tom’s job but I’ll be watching in a supportive manner. Freddie makes that small hardship worthwhile of course.  He’s a little ever smiling superstar and I can’t wait to show him our special place. He literally has no idea what is coming his way.

All of these planning details are being nicely ticked off as we edge ever closer to departure. Next of course will be our FastPass+ stuff, which, being inferior off-site folks this time, will only be done at 30 days out. I suspect some tough choices will need to be made and some rapid changes to the plan may be required to maximise our options, but I am ready for this challenge.

I paid the villa balance last week. It is one of the few purchases of that magnitude that I pay for with glee (and money). I took the opportunity to revisit the villa online to get me through a turgid few days at work and if you wish to as well then fill your boots by clicking the image below.

Emerald Island Vacation Rental

Is it only me that does that looking at the villa thing in times of need?

We also sorted out the doggy day care for Oli and Bean last week. Our nephew Jack will be staying at our house with the demanding duo. Between now and departure I need to write down all of their quirks, habits, routines and foibles. If I start right now, I may be able to email it to him from the plane. They are a cosseted, spoiled and special couple of dogs and he will have his work cut out for sure.

Is it August yet?

Till the next time…..

Planes, Babies and Automobiles

I have a recurring dream, or more accurately, nightmare. It probably originates from the huge sense of responsibility I feel when planning a WDW trip for everyone I allow to join me.

It goes something like this.

It is the end of a Florida holiday and somehow, for reasons that never become clear, we’ve done nothing. None of my plans have come to fruition, and we are about to head for the airport to go home. The feeling of having had a holiday slip through my fingers turns my stomach and brings me out in cold sweats.

It is a subliminal reminder to make the most of every second of these holidays of course and is probably some important message about life in general that I am missing the point of. I only mention it as I had a week off last week and I sit here on the cusp of returning to work feeling exactly like that. It vanished in a puff of smoke before I knew it was happening. I didn’t have any plans for my week off and that was intentional. Well, my plans were to do as little as possible to be honest, and bearing that in mind it was a success and yet I still feel that I’m only now ready for the time off and I need another week to do it properly.

I did manage to finish the West Wing and felt actual grief that it was over. I think I was one of the last few people on the planet not to have watched it, so if you are one of the others then do give it a go.  If you don’t fall in love with Martin Sheen then you should see a doctor.

We’re in June now somehow and this holiday hurtles towards us at great speed. I took the opportunity last week to get one of the final pieces of the jigsaw sorted by booking the hire car. As ever, I used US Rent a Car, mainly as you can secure it with a small deposit and pay fully a few weeks before. With the size of our party I have of course booked a mini van thing. When we get sent to the row of cars to choose from we’ll be looking for the one with most room of course as we have six adults and a car seat to cram in plus all our luggage. Those journeys to the airport and back are always hot and sweaty fun with suitcases on knees.

I think the plan is to take a car seat with us rather than rent one from the car hire folks. I’d appreciate any advice from those having done it but this seems to make sense for a few reasons…

  1. We will need it in the taxi to the airport at this end and on the journey home
  2. It costs an arm and leg per day to hire one
  3. You can’t be sure of the quality of whatever you rent

My thinking is that we will have Freddie in his normal car seat in the taxi to Manchester airport and then once at the airport we will label it up and send it through with the luggage. Am I missing something here which makes that a bad plan?

Maybe this is the answer? 🙂

Stroller wise I think we’re still in two minds. One option is to not take one and at the airport poor Tom will transport Freddie around in a harness, risking permanent damage to his back as Freddie is going to be a bundle by that time. We would then either use the one provided in the villa or buy a suitable one from a supermarket for day-to-day use. The other option would be to take a lightweight one with us and keep it until we get to boarding at the gate. I can see the benefits of that as Freddie can have a kip before we get on the plane if he needs it and we’d have it from baggage reclaim at Orlando too.  Hmm, not sure on that one. What is your advice dear reader?

Steer us in the right direction please if you have handled these logistical challenges.

Having had two gigs this weekend, resulting in two very late nights I am going to sign off now and rest my weary bones. As I type this nonsense, I am enduring Love Island as Emily is catching up with the previous episodes in preparation for the new series tomorrow. It is probably best that I don’t start expressing my views on this programme as I have to go to work tomorrow and I’d end up being short of time. My blood pressure may also suffer.

Have a good week.

Till the next time…..

A Sentimental Journey

Thanks to everyone for your best wishes for my Dad. He came out of hospital on Monday, feeling a million times better than when he went in, with a new collection of pills to add to his daily intake.

An unexpected planning milestone happened last week. There I was minding my own business after work on Friday, contemplating how on earth I had made it through the endless week just gone, and looking forward to the week off I had booked for next week, browsing some social media. A post appeared about a Floridatix sale on theme park tickets, so I gave it a click, expecting to be baited and switched as is often the case with these promos.

Whilst the saving won’t be changing my retirement plans, the discount was worth an earlier than planned investment. Our 14 day ultimate was priced at £350 (until the end of Monday if that helps anyone) and after browsing some competitor sites and seeing them at anything from £390 to £365 I took the plunge. It was helpful that they could be reserved for a tenner each and so we’re done for tickets nice and early with the balance to pay in July. Lovely stuff.

Did I mention that it’s been another long, weary week? This business of not having holidayed for over 12 months now seems to be taking its toll. We should never do that again. It is a default position of course, but I am missing the comforting embrace of Florida. As the doctor recently confirmed, my body is yearning for its orange ball of Vitamin D to warm my bones and ease my cares. My cholesterol levels are in danger of dipping back into normal parameters, so I need at least two weeks of calorific carnage to avoid that at all costs.

At times, as I sit in another one of *those* meetings, attempting to convince everyone, but mostly myself, that I am interested and engaged, I can find myself drifting mentally to a certain scenario. It differs, I guess depending upon my mood or memory, but usually it is something like this.

It is just after dusk. I am on the monorail as it glides silently past the Grand Floridian stop, heading for the Magic Kingdom. The sky is still a little red, burned with the after glow of the sunset, and all around the Seven Seas Lagoon lights twinkle, giving the scene a magical glow.

Inside the monorail, the familiar bings and bongs sound and the chocolate voiced announcer wraps me up in the comfort his familiar words.

We all exchange a knowing glance to recognise the significance of that random phrase.

The early evening atmosphere of the just gone dark gives the place a whole new feel. The doors open now as we alight at the Magic Kingdom and more lights twinkle as we wander down the ramp towards the promise of a night of memories and mice. There’s a hint of as yet unrecognisable music drifting on the breeze towards us. The still warm temperatures relax my body as unusually it does not need to tense against a chill and the world feels full of wonder and possibilities.

The walk up Main Street is a familiar one and the castle draws us in like a tractor beam, changing colour behind the endless procession of folks taking those photos that will stand on mantelpieces and desks the world over. This visit is a relaxed one, it feels like it is later in the holiday, we’ve done the commando stuff earlier in the trip and the rides have been done. This is all about soaking in the place, absorbing it into our blood streams, saving it up for protection against the grey, cold winter months away from this place. We inevitably end up at the partners statue and take yet another photograph to add to all the others. All of this is familiar and unique in equal measure, and that may well be the ethos and appeal of WDW in one short phrase.

A moment is taken to just sit and watch. Every person passing has this going on. They may not know it yet, but all this will come back to them in a meeting, in a moment of grief or in a conversation with a friend. I’ll be part of it, a small cog in what made their trip what it was, and they part of mine. Families of all shapes, sizes and nationality experiencing the same thing in their own unique way.

Of course, most of them will be doing it wrong, but hey, what can you do? 🙂

All of this is a mashup made up of a hundred memories from different times. As Rebecca reminded me the other day, this trip will be her 18th. Even I hadn’t imagined the number to be that high, but I am more happy than ashamed of that! I can’t begin to compute my total, well I could, but it would take a while.

I told you I was missing it. You’d never know it though would you?

Till the next time….